Disgraced Fenland councillor ‘exiled’ for six months but should he have been expelled? Your chance to say what you think

FDC leader Chris Seaton (l) and the expenses-gate finale: his colleague Simon King (right) has been

FDC leader Chris Seaton (l) and the expenses-gate finale: his colleague Simon King (right) has been suspended for six months. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Conservative councillors voted last night to exile disgraced Wisbech councillor Simon King for six months but stepped short of pursuing his expulsion.

It means Cllr King – sanctioned following the ‘expenses-gate’ hearing at Fenland Hall – will be free to contest his Octavia Hill ward seat on Fenland Council next May.

A statement from the Conservative group confirmed they met last night to discuss disciplinary action against Cllr King following the findings of the conduct committee.

Council leader Chris Seaton said: “Whilst deciding not to expel the councillor, the most serious option open to them, members overwhelmingly decided to suspend him until May 7, 2019, the maximum suspension period allowable.

Cllr Seaton said: “The options open to the group were limited.

“Expulsion is generally reserved for serious criminal matters and the maximum suspension period of six months was deemed to be the most appropriate way of dealing with the issue of Cllr King.

“I would stress that this action is by the Conservative group on the council and not by the Conservative Party. “That is a matter for the North East Cambs Conservative Association (NECCA)”.

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The outcome means that although Cllr King will be excluded from monthly meetings of the Tory group he will be free to context the next district council elections on May 2 next year and, if successful, will be welcomed back into the Tory fold five days later.

Cllr King always insisted he was innocent of the accusation that he had breached the councillors’ code of conduct over inaccurate expense claims for mileage.

However the conduct committee agreed with an external investigator’s report that felt the evidence was clear cut that Cllr King had falsely claimed excessive mileage for some of his journeys.

Cllr King has repaid the council £1,511.10 – the sum of the alleged irregularities - to “avoid any impression that I was benefitting improperly from FDC,” he said after the proceedings began last year.

Cllr King, who is also a Cambridgeshire county councillor, had denied all wrongdoing and declared himself “completely innocent” and was confident of being cleared.

He said: “I accept that some of the claims may have been outside the officers’ interpretation of the terms of the members allowance scheme policy and I accept that some of the claims may have been for greater mileages than the shortest distance between the start and end points of the journey as shown on Google maps.

“I do not accept that mileage claims are properly limited to the shortest route in every case, for the following reasons - neither the policy or claim form state that the route must be the shortest route.

“It is not always possible or desirable to travel by the shortest possible route. This can be due to traffic, road closures etc.”