Exclusive: Council leadership candidate at centre of new storm over alleged abuse of power

PUBLISHED: 15:12 30 December 2009 | UPDATED: 09:27 02 June 2010

councillors and public at planning meeting fenland hall 30.08.08
Simon king

councillors and public at planning meeting fenland hall 30.08.08 Simon king

By John Elworthy ONE of the main candidates for the leadership of Fenland District Council today found himself at the centre of allegations by a town clerk of abusing his power . The claims were made by Wisbech town clerk Erbie Murat against Fenland cou

By John Elworthy

ONE of the main candidates for the leadership of Fenland District Council today found himself at the centre of allegations by a town clerk of "abusing his power".

The claims were made by Wisbech town clerk Erbie Murat against Fenland councillor Simon King, a Cabinet member and also a Cambridgeshire County Council.

Until earlier this year Cllr King was also a member of Wisbech Town Council but was stripped of office after missing a series of meetings.

Mr Murat has compiled statements from three town councillors and forwarded details of the allegations to the monitoring officer at Fenland Hall, Sandra Claxton.

In an email, leaked to the Cambs Times/Wisbech Standard, Mr Murat believes Cllr King "is abusing his power, having served on the party selection committee to threaten democratically elected members with de-selection. His reason for doing so is alleged to be because they did not vote with him in a vote some months ago."

Mr Murat adds: "He appears to be quite deliberately trying to bring the integrity of Wisbech Town Council into question without justification because 14 members of his own Conservative group on Wisbech Town Council did not agree with him."

The town clerk says in addition to the three councillors from whom he has obtained statements, "several others who wish to remain anonymous have told me that they will not attend local party meetings, and that they seriously considered standing down at the next elections as a result of his behaviour and his attitude towards Wisbech Town Council and its leadership. Some of these councillors have ceased to be active in groups in the town, again because of Cllr King's appalling behaviour."

Mr Murat's letter of complaint has received a reply from Fenland Council's legal officer Ian Hunt who said "it is anticipated" the complaint will go to an assessment sub committee of the standards committee on Monday.

Mr Hunt says the committee will be considering if there has been any alleged breach of the code of conduct and will decide what, if any, further action should be taken. The committee could throw it out, refer it for further investigation or in exceptional cases refer it to the Standards Board for England.

Cllr King is one of a number of candidates believed to be throwing their names into the hat to become the next leader of Fenland Council. He was unavailable for comment today.

Town councillor Neville Frusher, one of those I have identified as being among the three to complain, said the incident referred to happened in the summer and "he called me some names, and I told him what to do with his job".

Cllr Frusher believes the incident has been blown up out of proportion following discussions over Cllr King's removal from the town council.

"You don't fall out over something like that" said Cllr Frusher who is yet to decide if he will contest his town council seat in 2011.

A spokesman for Fenland Council confirmed there was a meeting on Monday but declined to provide any more details. The meeting was confidential but any decisions "will be published in due course and in the usual way".

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