THE 'rebel' councillor who scuppered the Silver Hill scheme in Winchester has been suspended from the new body tasked with coming up with new ideas.

Kim Gottlieb has been relieved of membership of the Central Winchester Regeneration Group by council leader Stephen Godfrey following complaints from senior city council officers and the outgoing chief executive Simon Eden.

Cllr Godfrey said suspension was needed to "stop the situation escalating."

The Chronicle has seen several emails including a hard-hitting one from Mr Eden, who retired last Thursday, (Sep1) strongly criticising Mr Gottlieb with allegations of inappropriate and "bullying behaviour".

Mr Eden wrote that Mr Gottlieb had privately discussed a new leisure centre with Wilmott Dixon and with a private company to repair Friarsgate multi-storey car park, allegedly "outside the rules."

He said Cllr Gottlieb, in emails to members of the planning committee, seeks to "directly undermine the advice of the council's own professional advisors."

Mr Eden cited recent comments in Estate Gazette magazine: "Quite apart from the direct reputational damage to the organisation and the city, this is also a very public attempt to undermine the credibility of those of our staff working in this area in a journal read by many fellow professionals. As such, it is completely unacceptable.

"The catalogue of behaviour I outline above is both out of keeping with the conduct we should expect of an elected member and beyond that which we should expect officers to tolerate. By his repeated actions Cllr Gottlieb has made it acceptable for others to publicly criticise, even be personally offensive towards, council officers in their roles as public servants - witness many of the letters to the Chronicle or presentations to Cabinet in recent months. In my view that represents a new low in the conduct of political debate in Winchester.

"It is absolutely vital that there exists trust between officers and members. There must also be a mutual respect for each other’s role and professionalism. Without that, the council simply cannot function effectively. In my view we have reached a point where that trust and mutual respect does not exist with regard to Cllr Gottlieb. I and my senior colleagues no longer find it possible to be asked to work with him so long as his bullying behaviour towards us and our colleagues continues."

The chief executive called on Cllr Gottlieb to apologise.

Mr Gottlieb, whose self-financed legal action led to the High Court finding that the council has acted unlawfully over the procurement of the £150 million Silver Hill scheme, has been critical of senior officers at the city council and has called for Mr Eden to resign.

Following his suspension, in an email he accused Cllr Godfrey: "You cannot act as accuser, judge and jury, and I question your right to obstruct me acting as an elected councillor, or to permit any officer not to deal with me."

Asked whether he would accede to Mr Eden calls for him to apologise, Cllr Gottlieb told the Chronicle: "I have got nothing to apologise for."

Mr Eden, speaking to the Chronicle on his last day at work before retiring, denied it was a parting shot to settle a score: "There is genuine concern I have on behalf of my staff. I have a duty to report to the leader whether it is the day before I leave, the month before, or whenever."

To complicate things Cllr Gottlieb challenged Cllr Godfrey for the leadership of the Tory group in May.

Cllr Gottlieb said: "I'm the one who feels bullied. If you saw all the correspondence. I'm the one constantly harried and bullied. It is the pot calling the kettle black."

Cllr Gottlieb said: "It is all rubbish. Not being involved in the first meeting (of the Central Winchester Regeneration Group on September 13) is a huge disappointment. The idea I criticised the officers is a nonsense. We had good ideas coming forward. This is another opportunity missed.

"I called for Mr Eden to resign because I thought it was the appropriate thing to do having regard to the fact that he was in charge when Silver Hill hit the buffers and the council was found to have acted unlawfully. Most people in his position would have thought his position was untenable."

Of the Friarsgate refurbishment issues, he said: "Nobody had bothered to find out what the cost of refurbishment would have been."

Complaints against Cllr Gottlieb are being investigated by the standards committee.

Cllr Godfrey said: "The email from Mr Eden was one of many reports I have received over the last few weeks, including from other councillors, required me to take action which I had hoped to avoid."

He said he had gained credit by appointing Cllr Gottlieb to chair the Central Winchester Regeneration Group "so I am reluctant to lose any such credit but unfortunately as the situation is I think I have a duty of care to officers and to councillors to suspend Kim until the dust has settled."

Cllr Godfrey said officers were feeling "sensitive and the consequence of that being they find it difficult to respond (to Cllr Gottlieb) in a professional manner. I need to ensure the council can operate effectively without bringing about avoidable incidents. It's to reduce the risk and stopping the situation escalating."