Mayor questioned by council chief executive over romance with planning boss

Mayor Catriona  Morris
Mayor Catriona Morris

THE relationship between the city’s Mayor and its top planning officer was under the microscope yesterday.

Conservative Councillor Catriona Morris met with Milton Keynes Council’s chief executive officer about her romance with assistant director of planning Nick Fenwick.

Miss Morris has been living with Mr Fenwick for more than a year, and, she says, has always been perfectly open about the relationship.

But some opposition councillors are concerned the alliance could prevent Mr Fenwick from working in an unbiased and professional manner.

Labour’s Nigel Long said: “The Mayor’s personal life is up to her. But this is an unusual situation and we must have confidence that everything is above board and squeaky clean with our officers.

“There is nothing to suggest unprofessional behaviour but I am aware there is a disquiet about the implications of this relationship.”

And Lib Dem leader Douglas McCall said: “It is the responsibility of the chief executive to make sure council members have confidence in all senior officers.”

Miss Morris, 45, confirmed chief executive David Hill spoke to her on Wednesday lunchtime about Mr Fenwick.

“It was an informal talk. There were rumblings from councillors and we just went over guidelines already laid down,” she said.

“I feel sad that the conversation had to happen. I would have hoped people know me better than to ever think I would be unprofessional.”

Miss Morris said Mr Fenwick booked leave to be her unofficial consort at occasional functions.

“As far as politics is concerned, I am non-political as mayor. It makes no difference that my partner just happens to work for the council.”

All officers have a code of conduct to be non political.

A council spokesman said: “Close personal relationships between members and officers of the council are discouraged because of the potential sensitivities arising, but if they occur there are protocols in place to maintain the appropriate boundaries between their personal relationships and their official positions.”

Meanwhile Conservative leader Andrew Geary praised Catriona’s ability as mayor.

“She continues to have both mine and the Conservative Group’s full support.

“To my knowledge Nick Fenwick has always acted in a proper, impartial and apolitical manner.

“If members of other political parties are questioning this then I suggest that they need to supply the evidence to back up those suggestions.”