THE chief executive of Forest Heath District Council has defended its conduct after £40 million of cocaine was found at one of its premises.
David Burnip also criticised Cllr Tim Huggan for his remarks in last week’s Bury Free Press that security checks at council units should be stepped up.
Cllr Huggan raised fears that criminals would target Forest Heath units after police seized a record haul of cocaine from a council-owned unit in Highbury Road, Brandon.
At a meeting of the council on Wednesday night, Mr Burnip said: “The public allegation, made by this councillor, that this would not have occurred if we had carried out more checks is not only incorrect and misleading, it also damages the council’s reputation in circumstances where this is completely unjustified.”
Mr Burnip went on to say that the council has no authority to carry out tighter checks on the units.
“Firstly, our officers do carry out checks, but they do not have access to search warrants or have the same powers of search as the police.
“Secondly, we know from what was found in the premises that, from a police perspective, our officers would never have found the drugs,” he said.
Cllr Huggan said a report shown to councillors just weeks before the seizure showing that a number of council-owned units were in a poor state of repair, should have been a warning.
“Security in Forest Heath units was not as good as it should have been. My comments were not to compromise the police investigation but to make sure we are managing the properties that we are involved in,” he said.
Councillors had also been told not to talk to the press about the incident by Andrew Claydon, strategic director, as the council was not certain if it owned the unit in question or not, according to Cllr Huggan.
Cllr Bill Bishop apologised to the council for his comments in the press that he was ‘not surprised’ at the find because Brandon ‘never gets looked after’.
Police seized the cocaine from a council-owned unit being run by 24/7 Import Export. The company’s director, Terrance Smith, was arrested in connection with the seizure.
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