BURY Council’s leading lawyer has left the local authority after 28 years.

Jayne Hammond, who was the council’s monitoring officer and solicitor, left the town hall in June and has been replaced on an interim basis by her deputy.

The local authority’s head of legal services, Janet Witkowski, has stepped up to the statuory role for now and was officially appointed earlier this month.

Bury Mayor Tim Pickstone told councillors that Mrs Hammond, who was the assistant director of legal and democratic services, no longer works for the council.

He said: “I know Jayne has provided members with support and professional guidance for nearly two decades and I’m sure that members will want to agree that we note our thanks to Jayne formally as a council.”

But Conservative councillor Bob Caserta said his group did not wish to be associated with the comments made by the mayor at the meeting on July 8.

He said: “I have to tell you, we in the Conservative group note your comments about Mrs Hammond and also the chief executive’s email today and we do not wish to be associated with those comments.

“Mrs Hammond’s years in post at Bury MBC resulted in hundreds of thousands of pounds of costs to the people of Bury.”

Cllr Caserta’s comments went unexplained as he was interrupted by the mayor and told it was “not appropriate” to talk about a “human resource issue” in the public forum of a council meeting.

He declined to discuss it further following the meeting.

Mrs Hammond was suspended by Bury Council in 2017 together with the then chief executive and another senior officer after a review found that the implementation of child safeguarding procedures were delayed when allegations about a Labour councillor first came to light years earlier.

This came after former Tottington councillor Simon Carter was sentenced to a three-year community order in September, 2015 after pleading guilty to 16 counts of making indecent images of children.

Ex-chief executive Mike Owen resigned as council chief executive on the eve of a disciplinary hearing and director of children’s services Mark Carriline resigned after a disciplinary panel recommended that he should be sacked.

But the allegations against Mrs Hammond were resolved by the panel after it was found that she did not have direct responsibility for child safeguarding.

An independent report did not find that Mrs Hammond’s legal advice had been wrong and concluded that there was no evidence of an ulterior motive at work.

A council spokesman said: “Jayne left the council in mid-June for personal reasons after 28 years’ service.

“Her role as monitoring officer is a statutory one, and we have had acting-up arrangements in place since her departure, and are drawing up proposals for a permanent replacement.

“Chief executive Geoff Little thanked Jayne for her loyal service and wishes her well for the future.”

Mrs Hammond was invited, through Bury Council, to respond to comments made by Cllr Caserta at the meeting.