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Council chief quits following newspaper investigation

A council chief executive has quit her £218,000 a year job following an investigation by a regional daily which revealed she cost the taxpayer £1.1m during her three years in the job.

In what Ipswich Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover called ‘a good, honourable, journalism investigation’, the newspaper revealed that £1,400 had been spent on photos of Suffolk County Council chief Andrea Hill and £12,000 had been spent on coaching sessions for her.

When she stood down this month the Evening Star was the first paper to break news of her resignation and printed an eight-page spread covering her time at the council based on information obtained by Paul Geater, local government correspondent for the paper.

Earlier this year, Paul was temporarily banned from the council offices for having published the original story in an incident that became dubbed as ‘Geatergate.’

Said Paul: “She had been making news at the county council since she started so there was a lot of material”

He said stories began to emerge about her last year when communities secretary Eric Pickles declared that he wanted chief executives of councils to take pay cuts.

When Paul heard rumours in October about some expensive pictures being taken of Ms Hill he put in a freedom of information request to Suffolk County Council.

It took a total of four FOI request to get the information he needed, with each returned request raising more questions. Then in March the paper ran a story about £12,000 being spent on coaching sessions for her.

The story was followed up by the national press and led to an angry phone call from the council banning Paul from speaking to them, although the next day the authority denied the ban ever existed.

The following month Ms Hill went on holiday and failed to return to the council.

Said Paul: “Going back to 1 May it was revealed Andrea Hill hadn’t come back from a pre-planned holiday. This led to speculation about her future.

“We ran an extra edition on Thursday lunchtime and distributed it around the town centre, it said speculation was mounting that she had not returned.

He added: “We have had a lot of reaction from readers for the fact that she has left and is being paid a year’s wages. She is clearly somebody who was good copy.”