Norwich housing scandal boss speaks out
PUBLISHED: 17:00 06 February 2010 | UPDATED: 07:58 02 July 2010
The former Norwich City Council housing boss sacked for her part in the 'homes-for-staff' scandal has admitted she was wrong to move into the sheltered accommodation at the centre of the controversy.
The former Norwich City Council housing boss sacked for her part in the “homes-for-staff” scandal has admitted she was wrong to move into the sheltered accommodation at the centre of the controversy.
Speaking publicly for the first time since she was sacked from her £62,000-a-year job as head of neighbourhood and strategic housing, Kristine Reeves said she had made a mistake, but had paid a heavy personal price for it.
Ms Reeves, 39, found herself at the centre of controversy in December 2008 after she and partner Graham Ross, a fellow council housing officer, moved into a bungalow at Greyhound Opening after elderly tenants had been moved out, paying just £47 a week rent.
She had played a key role in the decision to demolish the housing scheme and build 100 affordable “eco-homes” on the site.
She said: “I just needed somewhere temporary to stay for a few months. I sought clearance from a manager, got it and moved in. I didn't think anything of it; made no absolutely secret of it at all.
“I do really regret the decision to move in and I'm very sorry I made it. I can see why people said there was a conflict of interests which I didn't spot at the time. A lot of time had passed and I suppose in my naïve brain I didn't see back to the time that the decision was made.”
But she added: “There was nothing untoward about it. I'm not a nasty person. It wasn't about personal gain, greed, deception or anything like that.”
Ms Reeves also told how the affair left her feeling publicly humiliated, ruining a successful career and turning her into a virtual recluse.
“I didn't go out for about six or seven months. I suffered from really bad paranoia - I actually probably got a bit agoraphobic. It was the most horrendous public humiliation and it felt really unjust. It still does,” she said.
But she defended the original decision to demolish the “terrible, cold and tiny” homes and re-house the elderly tenants.
“The decision to demolish and the work that went on to move the old people out - I'd do that again in the morning. That was the correct decision.”
On the subsequent decision to allow council staff to live in the homes ahead of their demolition, taken without councillors' agreement, she said: “With hindsight, given how controversial it became, it would have been so much better had it gone to executive and had formal approval.”
Ms Reeves also spoke of her feelings at being sacked for gross misconduct.
“Part of me was relieved that I'd got through that awful process of a disciplinary hearing and all the rest of it, but I felt absolutely wretched,” she said.
Ms Reeves, who settled her unfair dismissal claim against City Hall for a figure understood to be £41,000, including £17,000 in legal fees, accepts she will never work in housing again.
“I was completely committed to the city and with my teams we did some amazing work,” she said.
“I was really happy in my career. It came very naturally and I was really good at it, so it's a real shame. It's awful to think you can put 10 years' effort into something and it all collapses.”
Ms Reeves, who married Mr Ross in April, is now studying for a career change. She said she had also decided to leave the city.
“Living here will never be the same for me again. I couldn't stay in Norwich - I'm just biding my time,” she said.
“I am starting to feel a bit better now, slowly. I feel I can move on.”
Her solicitor Paula Lawn said: “I'm delighted that Leathes Prior were able to help Kris and act on her instructions. I found her to be highly professional throughout all my dealings with her and she impressed me greatly.
“I'm delighted that the case settled. It was clearly going to attract more media attention and I'm glad Kris can now draw a line under this and move on.”
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