A COUNCILLOR who was ousted from her cabinet position took the fall over a blunder which could cost taxpayers’ hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Councillor Julie Craig was stood down from her position as cabinet member for highways and transport at Redcar and Cleveland Council by the council’s leader Mary Lanigan.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands that the decision to relieve the Skelton East member of her duties was partly down to the chaos that resulted from a sewer pipe being accidentally damaged by a contractor working on behalf of the council at Saltburn’s Cat Nab car park, along with the perceived poor performance of her department.

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The sewer pipe damage last month resulted in raw sewage spilling into the North Sea and lengthy and extensive repairs being carried out by Northumbrian Water.

The water company has confirmed it is seeking to recover its costs for the engineering work, which lasted more than a month and forced the closure of the car park with the public warned to stay away.

Council chiefs fear the bill could run anywhere up to £750,000 and an investigation has begun into events which will be overseen by Patrick Rice, the local authority’s corporate director for adults and communities.

Asked to comment on the costs, a spokesman for Northumbrian Water said: “We continue to work with Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council to establish where responsibility for the bill lies.

“So, at this stage, it would be wrong for us to comment on the costs associated.”

The contractor employed by the council, who it hasn’t identified, had been removing top soil on the North side of Saltburn Gill as part of preliminary works associated with a planned extension of the car park.

The investigation is likely to look at what plans were shared with the contractor by council officers in terms of the underground infrastructure that exists in the area and what on site supervision took place.

It’s not known to what extent Cllr Craig was involved with the project, but the LDRS has been told “she had to go” since it was her department that commissioned the work and she had overall responsibility as the portfolio holder.

Cabinet members get a ‘special responsiblity’ allowance at the council amounting to more than £9,000 a year, which Cllr Craig will now lose.

The former Conservative member previously said she had “upset” Cllr Lanigan and been told she ran the “worst department in the council”.

Cllr Craig has quit the independent group, which runs the local authority in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, and said she would be an “independent independent”.

Her portfolio is temporarily being covered by veteran East Cleveland councillor Steve Kay, cabinet member for for health and welfare, until a replacement is confirmed.

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