Friday, February 29, 2008

Lib Dem Councillor - Second ban for drink driving

SHAMED councillor Tony Rounthwaite has been caught drink-driving again.

The Liberal Democrat who represents Jesmond North on Newcastle City Council was more than twice the limit when he was arrested last Thursday.

In 2006, he was marginally over the required level and banned.

Now he has been convicted of being over the limit for the second time in two years - this time without a driving licence.

Rounthwaite resisted calls for him to quit as a councillor after his previous court appearance.

But he is facing a further political storm following his conviction last Friday at North Tyneside magistrates’ court.

Coun Nick Forbes, leader of the opposition Labour group, said: “To commit an offence like this once is bad enough. To do it again shows a lack of respect for the law and a lack of regard for the consequences of his actions.

“If he doesn’t have the decency to resign, the Lib Dems should throw him out.’’

The 57-year-old, of Queen’s Road, Jesmond, was stopped on February 21 in Longbenton.

He appeared before North Shields magistrates the following day, where it was said he had 82 mgs of alcohol to 100 mls of breath - 35mgs is the legal limit.

Rounthwaite was convicted of drink driving and fined £200 with £43 costs.

Magistrates disqualified him from driving for three years and ordered him to complete a drink-driving rehabilitation course before 2010.

A police spokesman said: “He was convicted for driving above the limit and without a licence, fined £200 with costs, ordered to attend a drink drive rehabilitation course and disqualified from driving.”

Following his previous drink-drive offence, Rounthwaite, was forced to resign from three prominent posts.

He stepped down as the city council’s executive member for neighbourhood management and community, chairman of the Safe Newcastle Partnership and as a member of the Northumbria Police Authority.

His car was written-off in an accident eight days before May’s local elections.

Then he was driving along the A189 towards Blyth, and said a plastic bag blew on to his windscreen as he drove at about 60mph and he veered off the road.

No other vehicles were involved. Police also attended, and after the breath test proved borderline, he was asked to provide a blood sample at a police station.

He said at the time: “I’d had two glasses of wine. I certainly didn’t think I was over the limit or I wouldn’t have dreamed of driving.”

The resignations cut his income to just a quarter of his outgoings and a court was told then he may have to sell his home.

He refused to resign as a councillor and insisted it was business as usual .

Today Rounthwaite was unavailable for comment.

Coun John Shipley, the council’s Lib Dem leader, said: “Group officers have met and agreed to instigate disciplinary procedures and a hearing will be held.”


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Labour Officials guilty of vote rigging

A SECOND Labour party official has been found guilty of trying to rig an election.

Maqbool Hussein (52) had hoped to get himself elected in Peterborough's Central Ward in local elections in June 2004, by abusing the voting system.

But instead of getting into power, he succeeded only in getting himself into a mess.

The once prospective candidate, of Ledbury Road, Netherton, Peterborough, stood in the dock at King's Lynn Crown Court on Monday a shamed man.

Convicted of four counts of forgery by majority verdicts after a four-month trial, he was joined in the dock by disgraced former mayor Mohammed Choudhary who has already been found guilty of four counts of forgery.

Their attempts to rig the election have left their reputations in tatters.

The court has heard how detectives launched an investigation into the elections after people began complaining that they were unable to cast their votes when they went to a polling station.

Police were also suspicious about the high turnout of voters – 61.7 per cent.

While the sheer number of votes cast by post – 2,900 – seemed "out of all proportion" when compared to the rest of the city.

During the trial it was claimed police discovered the men had "hijacked" ballot papers, directing them to core addresses, in a botched attempt to rig the Central ward elections.

The pair were also said to have registered "away" postal votes.

Choudhary even used his own daughter's address, in Cobden Avenue, Millfield, for 15 postal voting forms to be directed to.

Hussein, and Choudhary, along with Tariq Mahmood, were accused of abusing the system whereby voters can choose an "away" address, instead of their usual home address, to cast their vote from, if they happen to be away from home on business, or on holiday, at the time of an election.

The court heard how the victims of the fraud fell into two categories – those who had not seen their ballot papers, and those who had handed over their papers to someone else.

Some voters were said to have given their papers to a third party because of cultural reasons – where the head of the family is in charge of the family's poll cards – literacy problems, those who did not understand English, and those who were unaware of how the voting process worked.

Hussein had denied eight counts of forgery during the trial, while Choudhary had also pleaded not guilty to the 10 charges he faced.

Jurors are still deliberating over further counts of forgery relating to Mahmood (40), of Clarence Road, Peterborough, who was Labour party secretary at the time of the elections.

He faces 14 counts of forgery.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Lib Dem - Call for police probe into Lib Dem letters

CONSERVATIVES are calling for a police investigation after Liberal Democrats repeatedly used Sheffield Council post to send out political literature at taxpayers' expense - in party leader Nick Clegg's constituency.

Enclosed with letters to residents in Dore and Totley were yellow papers praising the "good results" of their "local Liberal Democrat team" - Coun Keith Hill, Coun Mike Davis and Colin Ross, who is standing for the party against sitting Conservative Coun Anne Smith in the May elections.

Under council rules, and the law, only serving members can issue letters in the council post to residents in their ward - and only provided there are no references to their political party.

But the Tories have revealed offending papers were enclosed in three separate mailshots, including when Coun Hill mailed residents in November and December about public transport in Totley.

They were signed by all three men, giving updates on their campaign to retain the 97 bus service.

Lib Dem leader on Sheffield Council Coun Paul Scriven has issued a public apology for what he said was a "genuine mistake".

He told The Star the £56 total cost of the postage would be repaid.

But Sheffield Conservative Association chairman David Pinder said: "We believe an offence may have been committed of attempting to obtain pecuniary advantage by deception.

"Therefore, we have written to the police to request an investigation, and are taking the matter up with the District Auditor and the Standards Board for England.

"This is, of course, in party leader Nick Clegg's constituency and, while he has been whiter than white in Westminster, he is clearly not keeping an eye on what is going on in his own backyard."

Conservative Party leadership and the Tories' shadow local government spokesman Eric Pickles have also been informed about the matter.

Coun Smith said: "It's a sad indictment of the Liberal Democrats when they have to stoop this low to take my seat. I've looked after this ward for eight years.
"This kind of behaviour from any political party demeans us all in politics."

Independent Coun Martin Davis, who joined with Coun Smith to form the Sheffield Group on the council, led a successful campaign for changes to rules governing council post.

Alterations agreed last month banned councillors sending letters to more than 20 households, after Coun Martin Davis raised concerns about mass-mailshots at taxpayers' expense.

Councillors must now also only write to residents who have contacted them directly about issues in their ward.

Coun Martin Davis, who is also fighting the Lib Dems to hold onto his Stocksbridge seat in May, said: "They will get in the gutter to do anything to take a seat off an experienced councillor."

Coun Scriven has not taken disciplinary action against Couns Hill and Davis, or Mr Ross. Speaking on their behalf, he said: "This was a genuine mistake and I apologise.

"Like all Liberal Democrat councillors, we don't want taxpayers' money being used for party-political purposes."

Nick Clegg added: "This is an entirely innocent oversight for which we have already apologised."

Council leader Jan Wilson did not want to comment on the controversy.
But Liz Bashforth, the authority's assistant chief executive, said: "The issue of using council post has been raised with us, and we have already clarified the position with members. We believe that this matter has been resolved."


Hat tip: Sheffield BNP

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Lib Dem Councillor in porn allegation

A COUNCILLOR is being investigated over allegations that he showed pornographic images to a policewoman.

Denis Whittle is due to meet Rochdale council chief executive Roger Ellis with his political future hanging in the balance.

A female officer made a complaint after going to Coun Whittle's home last month to discuss reports of repeated anti-social behaviour in the area.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said there was no suggestion Coun Whittle had done anything illegal.

But the council is now investigating the allegation.

Coun Whittle was summoned to speak to the council's Liberal Democrat leader Alan Taylor and asked to give his version of events.

The pair will now meet the chief executive to discuss what action is taken.

Coun Taylor hit out at the actions of the policewoman.

He said: "I am amazed at the way she has handled this and am absolutely appalled that she went to the media before coming to us."


He added: "I am aware of the serious allegations that have been made against Coun Whittle.

"Myself and Denis met to discuss them and we will both be meeting the chief executive.

"If the allegations are proved to be correct then the Liberal Democrat whip will be removed from Coun Whittle and he will be asked to stand down.

"The behaviour of any representative of our group should be beyond reproach.

"We will not tolerate any behaviour that brings the role of a councillor into disrepute."

Coun Whittle, a father of three, refused to discuss the matter when contacted by the Manchester Evening News.

Margaret Carney, the executive director of Rochdale council, said: "We have received a complaint, which is being investigated."

Coun Whittle, who was first elected in 2001, has made his name as an outspoken critic of anti-social behaviour among youths in the area.

In 2006, he said: "I have received eight death threats, threats to burn my house down, two of my kids have been beaten up, my dog has been severely injured and I have received other threats.

"I will not give up my crusade to clean up my streets of this filth, though."


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Conservative Councillor denies handwriting fraud

A POLITICIAN, who ousted a Labour councillor from her seat after 23-years, has denied that bogus postal votes were written in his handwriting.

Conservative’s Eshaq Khan, who ousted the Labour councillor of 23 years, Lydia Simmons, for the Central ward in the local elections in May last year was in the witness stand today (Tuesday) at an election petition into alleged fraud.

The hearing, at Slough Town Hall, heard how
a number of bogus postal voters voted for him in Richmond Crescent, Indian Road and Diamond Road and that some of the application forms to register the postal votes were filled out by someone who had very similar handwriting to Cllr Khan.

Addressing Cllr Khan, Richard Mawrey QC, the commissioner presiding over the hearing, said: “It is suggested that these are bogus votes with your handwriting on. Before you is a very serious allegation.”

However, Cllr Khan replied by saying he did not know how this came about.

The hearing began on Monday last week and was called by Mrs Simmons. It is scheduled to last two weeks.

If anything untowards is found then a by-election could be called. Labour would need to win that and form a coalition with another councillor independent of the party to retake control it lost in 2004.



Councillor guilty of voting fraud

A Tory councillor has been found guilty of using bogus postal votes to ensure he was voted into office.

Eshaq Khan beat Lydia Simmons, an ex-mayor of Slough, Berkshire, by 119 votes to win the council's Central Ward in last year's local elections.

But a special election High Court, in Slough, convicted Khan and his agents of corrupt and illegal practices.

They are related to applications for registering to vote and postal voting. He was banned from standing again.