Standards Board could be abolished before Melton case if Tories win General Election

By John Elworthy A STANDARDS Board of England inquiry into the conduct of newly elected Fenland District Council Alan Melton may not be resolved until July at the earliest. But if the Tories win the General Election they must hold before then and go ahead

By John Elworthy

A STANDARDS Board of England inquiry into the conduct of newly elected Fenland District Council Alan Melton may not be resolved until July at the earliest.

But if the Tories win the General Election they must hold before then and go ahead with their manifesto pledge to abolish the Standards Board, there's a chance no ruling will ever get published.

The prospect of a drawn out inquiry raised its head today after officials of the Standards Board confirmed that an inquiry was under way into Cllr Melton's comments made in a private email to Cabinet colleagues.


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A spokesman for the board confirmed they had received a request from an official of Fenland Council (known to be chief executive Tim Pilsbury) and the complaint was referred to an ethical standards officer on December 16 to begin an investigation.

The spokesman: "We don't accept all referrals, we make decisions on merit."

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What happens now is that an investigator will be appointed to conduct interviews and then make a finding which will be considered by the board at a later date.

There are four possible options:

• The case is dismissed; with an acceptance there is no failure to comply with the code of conduct

• There has been a failure but no further action is necessary

• Referral to the council's monitoring officer to look at locally (unlikely since this could have happened anyway but is still a possibility)

• Referral to an adjudication panel, a separate organisation, for determination. Sanctions include possible suspension.

"In terms of time frame, it tends to vary" said the spokesman. "In 90 per cent of our cases we reach a conclusion within a six month period, obviously it depends on factors of the case."

The email, about the need for leisure facilities in Chatteris, was sent to a handful of councillors by Cllr Melton and in it he expressed a personal view of those who should be involved in a study group to consider the issue.

However Councillor Fred Yeulett got hold of a copy and, accompanied by the then leader Geoff Harper, took the email to Mr Pilsbury.

Councillors reacted badly to their move, ousting Cllr Yeulett as deputy leader on the same night Cllr Harper decided to resign.

Mr Pilsbury has made little public comment on the matter, but he did tell councillors in December that both Cllr Yeulett and Cllr Harper left "with their heads held high".

Mr Pilsbury also called for a "return to the mutual respect between officers and members, and between members themselves."

He added that he wanted the matter of the email removed from the public arena and the "collective flairs" of all used for what matters, the advancement of Fenland taxpayers.

Cllr Melton, meanwhile, is yet to Mr Pilsbury since his appointment as leader last Thursday and there remains a chance the chief executive will, for the sake of harmony, press the Standards Board to drop their investigation.

Tory Party leader David Cameron said last year: "We will scrap the Standards Board for England. This is the body that judges the performance of Councils and Councillors. That's what the voter is supposed to do.

"By abolishing the Standards Board, we will save �9.5 million.

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