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Solicitor becomes interim chief executive at North West council after predecessor departs following controversial tweet

Tameside Council has appointed its Borough Solicitor, Sandra Stewart, as interim chief executive after the council's longstanding chief executive, Steven Pleasant, stepped down over a derogatory tweet about the Conservative party.

Stewart has been appointed to the role for at least the next 12 months.

She is a solicitor and has been working at the council for almost three decades, having joined in 1994. Prior to her recent appointment, she was the council's monitoring officer, Borough Solicitor and the Deputy Chief Executive.

She was admitted as a solicitor in 1996 and has practised administrative and public law, advocacy, children, construction, employment, and planning law.

Her predecessor, Mr Pleasant, left the council earlier this month after a tweet published on his official council Twitter account said of a Conservative voter interviewed on television: "She was good. Tory voter with compassion and empathy for others. Who knew!!"

An ensuing report that was conducted by Stewart as monitoring officer noted that the post of chief executive is politically restricted under the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, and so Mr Pleasant should not have appeared to have tried to affect public support for a political party.

There was also a breach of section 2 of Local Government Act 1986 - Prohibition of political publicity, which was aggravated by the proximity of the breach to the May elections, for which Mr Pleasant was returning officer.

Mr Pleasant apologised to opposition group leader Doreen Dickinson, which Ms Stewart said was accepted.

Adam Carey

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