CANVEY Town Council could be forced to pay out thousands of pounds in compensation to its former clerk.

Julie Abel, who resigned in June, has lodged a claim against the council and plans to take the case to an employment tribunal.

Neither the council nor Mrs Abel would disclose the grounds for her claim, but it is understood they relate to the level of pressure she was placed under by councillors.

The council could be forced to pay her thousands of pounds, on top of legal fees and additional costs, if it loses.

Mrs Abel spoke of her sadness about what had happened.

She said: “I am disappointed for the people of Canvey, and this is not something I feel happy about.

“However, the council is an employer and it has a responsibility to comply with employment law.

“I have six years’ experience as a town clerk and had considered working as first officer for Canvey Town Council as an exciting prospect.”

Mrs Abel had been off work for two months because of stress before she resigned on June 5. She submitted the claim for constructive dismissal on July 3 and gave the council a month to respond.

She was the most senior of the three members of staff employed by the town council, at its office in Canvey High Street.

Mrs Abel took sick leave a few days after clashing with councillors at a town council meeting. The spat was over whether the council should hold celebrations for Armed Forces Day.

Councillors were behind staging an event, but Mrs Abel felt it would be impossible for herself and her part-time assistant, the only two members of staff at the time, to dedicate sufficient time to make the day a success.

Mrs Abel joined the council from Ongar Parish Council in January last year, almost 12 months after the town council was set up in May 2007.

About 3,000 people signed a petition calling for Canvey to have its own council.

John Anderson, vice chairman of the town council’s personnel committee, said: “She was off with stress for a couple of months. We kept in touch with her during that time and tried to make sure she was coming back.”