FENLAND: Angry exchanges as leader and councillor disagree over standards findings

PUBLISHED: 12:25 20 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:03 02 June 2010

geoff harper fdc

geoff harper fdc

Story by: JOHN ELWORTHY FENLAND Council leader Geoff Harper s claim to have been cleared of wrong doing in the bribes for vice chairmanship inquiry have been challenged by the councillor who made the allegations. Cllr Harper said on Monday he had been

councillors and public at planning meeting fenland hall 30.08.08 Mark Archer

Story by: JOHN ELWORTHY

FENLAND Council leader Geoff Harper's claim to have been cleared of wrong doing in the 'bribes for vice chairmanship' inquiry have been challenged by the councillor who made the allegations.

Cllr Harper said on Monday he had been cleared of allegations that he offered the vice chairmanship of the Fenland Council to Councillor Mark Archer if he refused to stand against him in the county council elections.

A standards committee sub committee met last Thursday in private and decided there was no case for their leader to answer.

Cllr Harper said the allegations were "a serious matter. I lodged a robust protest against this silly claim - a mere political stunt but one that could have damaged my reputation."

He added: "The standards committee has now notified me that it has dismissed the accusation. I am really disappointed that a member of Fenland Council would stoop to this level."

However Cllr Archer said he had questioned the sub committee's findings "and it now subject to a review which should take place within the next 20 days.

"At no point did the committee look at the actual allegation and they have made no judgement on whether that it is true or not," he said.

"Therefore Cllr Harper has not been cleared of any wrong doing and I still stand by my complaint and will be pursuing it.

"I was offered the position of vice-chairman of Fenland District Council as a bribe not to stand against Cllr Harper in the county council election for the Forty Foot Division and I did receive a threat that if I did stand 'I would be finished in Fenland'.

"I know what was said to me in my own home by one of his councillors; my version of events is the truth, what Cllr Harper is saying is something completely removed from that truth.

"Cllr Harper goes on to say that he is 'really disappointed that a member of Fenland Council would stoop to this level', well whatever level I am at I am looking down on him from way up high!

"He has thrown himself in the gutter in an attempt to pervert the outcome of an election in his favour by abusing his position as leader of the council, and it is he, by these actions, that has destroyed his reputation not me.

"As a recipient of his outrageous behaviour I am trying to prevent this happening to others and feel it is my duty to inform people of what kind of person we have leading us in Fenland."

Cllr Archer added: "It is also a sign of his utter arrogance that he views allegations of bribery and threats as 'silly' and a 'political stunt'.

"These are amongst the most serious allegations that can be levelled against any politician. His attempts to bribe and threaten me were silly, foolish in the extreme, insulting to both me and the people I was elected to represent and just one in a series of stunts that he is using in an attempt to hold on to his seat."

Cllr Archer said he had been "kicked off" a policy group and Cllr Harper was also refusing to allow him to attend local government conferences and training seminars.

"He is trying to freeze me out," he added.

However Cllr Harper re-iterated this week that he was in no position to offer the vice chairmanship to anyone since it was a decision of the whole council.

"In any event there would be 38 Conservatives in front of him," said Cllr Harper.

He denied Cllr Archer was being "frozen out" and said he had retained two key council committee memberships.

So far as attending seminars was concerned, this was usually permissible for opposition groups or parties, which Cllr Archer was not.

"We have spent £3,000 training him and that's caused me some problems with other councillors who asked why we were spending it on him first," said Cllr Harper.

"If he wants to stand as a candidate, that's his business. If he wants to play political stunts he can."

Perry Holmes, the council's legal officer, refused to comment.

FULL LIST OF CANDIDATES FOR FORTY FOOT

n Archer, Mark Ian (Independent)

n Ashby, Bill (Labour)

n Baynes, Len (UKF)

n Benford, Roy (Liberal Democrat)

n Duffy, Callum Francis (UKIP)

n Harper, Geoffrey Farrar, (Conservative)

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