Local government watchdog to be asked to consider complaints against two senior councillors

By John Elworthy THE country s top local government watchdog is to be asked to rule on complaints made against two senior Fenland district councillors- including the former deputy leader Confirmation of the decision to ask the Standards Board of England

By John Elworthy

THE country's top local government watchdog is to be asked to rule on complaints made against two senior Fenland district councillors- including the former deputy leader

Confirmation of the decision to ask the Standards Board of England to rule on the complaints came today from the Standards Committee of Fenland District Council.

Although an initial sub committee ruled against applying sanctions against former deputy leader Fred Yeulett and Councillor Steve Garratt, portfolio holder for leisure, a review committee has decided there may be a case for both to answer.


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The review committee decided that because of the number of councillors involved in making the complaints, the Standards Committee felt it needed to go the Standards Board of England for further investigation.

The ruling follows a troubled few months for Fenland Council and the allegations against both councillors follow their role in the email gate scandal which led to the resignation of former leader Geoff Harper. He was excluded from the complaints made by a group of councillors following his decision to fall on his sword and resign.

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Frederick Gerstner, chairman of the review committee, said the Standards Board for England was not bound to take charge of the case and had the discretion to refer it back to his committee or decide that no further action need be taken.

The board has 10 days to decide what to do but Mr Gerstner said his sub committees "believes that the number of members involved would make it difficult for the authority to deal with the complaint".

The complaint, he said, had been made by Councillors Jan French, Florence Newell, Mick Speechley, Peter Tunley, Phil Webb and John West.

In a second ruling Mr Gerstner announced that they had investigated a complaint made against Councillor Martin Curtis, chairman of Fenland District Council Planning Committee.

The complaint focused on his role in chairing a planning committee which debated the controversial decision to convert the former Queen's Hotel, Wisbech, into a hostel for the homeless.

Mr Gerstner said the complaint arose over Cllr Curtis "making introductory and partial remarks" on the application prior to its debate by the planning committee.

It was decided that Cllr Curtis be given "a coaching session by the monitoring officer on chairing meetings and on the code of conduct on planning matters." Mr Gerstner said this needed to happen within the next two months.

In another ruling Stuart De Prochnow, chairman of the initial assessment sub committee, ruled there was no case to answer following a complaint made against Councillor Kit Owen over his chairmanship of the licensing committee.

A complaint had been made by Dave Patrick, chairman of the Wisbech Taxi Drivers Association, that Cllr Owen had brought the council into disrepute by closing and then re-opening a committee meeting discussing the relocation of the Horsefair taxi rank.

As this complaint referred to "procedural issues" the committee felt no breach of the code of conduct had occurred.

However Mr Patrick now has 30 days to appeal the decision.

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