Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lib Dem Councillor Assault allegation

A COUNCILLOR has been suspended by his party for an alleged assault - just days after returning to the UK from three months in India.

Police have spoken to Blackburn Liberal Democrat Coun Yusuf Sidat following an alleged incident involving a woman in Bradford on Sunday evening.

Coun Sidat, who represents Queen's Park ward on Blackburn with Darwen council, said the claims were his "private matter" and refused to comment.

He has not been arrested and insisted he would stay on the council.

His party leader, Liberal Democrat David Foster, said Coun Sidat had been suspended "pending an investigations into allegations of inappropriate conduct that could bring the group into disrepute."

Coun Sidat recently faced calls to quit after it emerged he had been in India since December and had only turned up to half of his council meetings in the past year.

Labour councillors have now renewed calls for Coun Sidat to quit the town hall.

His suspension is the latest twist to the borough's political scene. The opposition Labour group now has 31 councillors compared to the Conservative, Lib Dem and For Darwen coalition's 30. So the council's three independent councillors, including Coun Sidat, hold the balance of power going into the May 1 elections.

But one of those three, Coun Arif Waghat, who represents Shear Brow, has indicated his support for the coalition, and Coun Sidat's vote would give it enough to hold power with mayor Coun Maureen McGarvey's casting vote.

Labour could technically try to grab control at next month's full council but this is thought to be unlikely.

Neither council officials nor party colleagues were able to contact Coun Sidat during his time in India. If he did resign, it is likely a by-election would take place after the May 1 elections.

Party leader David Foster said: "He has returned from India but an alleged incident has occurred since his return that gave us cause for concern."

His future in the party would be decided at a group meeting, Coun Foster added.

Coun Sidat said he had returned to the UK from India, where he had been caring for his ill mother, on Saturday.

He said: "I do not want to say anything about my private life.

"But I will try my best to give more time to my constituents. I will apologise and go to every house if I need to.

"Plenty of councillors go abroad three or four times a year. There are three councillors in Queen's Park ward so if people want to make contact they can go through them.

"Why should I resign? I have been elected for three years because I do good work for the people of Queen's Park."

Labour group leader Coun Kate Hollern said: "There are obviously personal issues that need resolving.

"He's had lengthy absences from the borough. He's been uncontactable and it's only fair to the residents of Queen's Park that he steps down."

Council leader Colin Rigby said: "It makes life interesting, but I really don't know anything about what's happened."

A Lancashire police spokeswoman said: "There has been an allegation of assault from outside Blackburn. Any criminal proceedings would take place through Bradford."


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lib Dem - Councillor on Fraud Charge

Linda Rhodes-Clayton
Linda Rhodes-Clayton

A LEEDS councillor claimed £8,000 in benefits illegally, a court heard.
Linda Rhodes-Clayton (Lib Dem, Hyde Park & Woodhouse) claimed the cash for more than a year after she was elected in June 2004, even though she was receiving up to £13,000 a year Leeds City Council allowance.

She allegedly swindled £5,298 in income support, £2,445 in housing benefit and £678 in council tax benefit between June 2004 and October 2005, despite strict rules banning councillors from claiming benefits.
The 55-year-old, of St Wilfrid's Avenue, Gipton, received a basic allowance of £9,576 in her first financial year as a councillor and £13,445 in her second.
Prosecuting, Laura Addy told Leeds magistrates that Rhodes-Clayton had failed to declare that she was a councillor on any benefit forms.
Rhodes-Clayton, who denies two counts of benefit fraud, was suspended from the Lib Dems in August last year.
The court heard her deception was uncovered in November 2005 when computers were searched for benefits claimants who were also on the council payroll.
She was interviewed by the DWP, but failed to attend a second interview in March 2006 and refused to take part in any further questioning.
The councillor, who says a parachute accident left her with leg and spine injuries, started claiming income support in 2003.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Conserative - councillor Max Drury arrested

A CITY councillor has been arrested on suspicion of breaching an harassment order.

Cllr Max Drury, 60, of Clifford Drive, Chester, who represents Curzon & Westminster, was arrested on Sunday.

The incident is understood to relate to a dispute with a former employee of his company, Chester Mobility Ltd, based on the Sealand Industrial Estate which sells aids for the disabled.

A police spokeswoman said: “I can confirm that on March 2 we arrested a 60-year-old Chester man for breaching an harassment order.”


UPDATE 25 May 2008

A Chester councillor denied harassing two people when he appeared in court.
Conservative councillor Max Drury, 60, of Clifford Drive, Lache Lane, Chester, denied harassment at a brief appearance at Chester, Ellesmere Port and Neston magistrates court.

During a 15-minute hearing in front of District Judge Nicholas Sanders Drury pleaded not guilty to harassing James and Joanne Meadows between February 25 and March 1.

A trial, expected to take a day, was set for July 31, to be presided over by Judge Saunders.

Drury struggled to hear because of an impairment and had to ask solicitors to repeat what they were saying.

When the trial date was being organised, Drury said: "I do not wish to inconvenience anybody but I'm worried about it."

Judge Sanders said he would take on the case because he did not know Drury as a councillor.

The judge said he lived in East Cheshire and would not have any prejudice towards the case.

Drury, who represents Curzon and Westminster ward on Chester City Council and was elected on May 1 to represent Overleigh divisional ward on the new Cheshire West and Chester Shadow Unitary Council, owns Chester Mobility Ltd, based on the Sealand Industrial Estate, which provides aids for disabled people.

Witnesses called for the trial include two workers from the company, Ken and Peter Griffin, James and Joanne Meadows and two police officers.

Drury was granted bail on the condition he does not communicate withi or contact James or Joanne Meadows unless it is by way of an accountant or solicitor.

He was also told not to go to Longfield Avenue, Upton.


UPDATE 22 August 08

A CITY councillor who told police “I’m a councillor not a yobbo” is being investigated by Chester City Council following a complaint to the ethics and standards committee.

Deputy Labour group leader Bob Rudd has made an official complaint about Cllr Max Drury to head of legal services Charles Kerry, alleging the former Tory has brought the office of councillor into disrepute.

Cllr Drury was found guilty of harassing his former business partner, James Meadows, and Chester magistrates heard that when challenged about his conduct the councillor claimed he was above suspicion because of his position as councillor.

Mr Kerry has replied to Cllr Rudd to say he will “arrange to take this forward” and “confirm the process in due course”.

Cllr Drury, who represents Curzon and Westminster on Chester City Council and has been elected to serve on the new Cheshire West and Chester Council, is refusing to comment about the issue.

As he was being arrested by PC Lewis Jones for breaching a harassment order, Cllr Drury, said: “You are wrong, the chief constable will hear about this and you have done a wrongful arrest.”

When interviewed, he said: “I’m a councillor not a yobbo. I’m not going to intimidate myself.”

The court heard that on one occasion Cllr Drury, who has since resigned from the Conservative Party, turned up at the victim’s house and threatened: “My brothers from Wrexham are going to come down and kill you.”

Mr Meadows said he would call the police, to which he heard Cllr Drury respond: “I’m a councillor. They can’t touch me.”

A harassment order was served on Cllr Drury by police officers but he refused to read or to sign it. PC Mark Hughes said: “He said that as a councillor he should be treated differently to everybody else and that he was above suspicion.”

Cllr Drury was fined £350, told to pay costs of £600, ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge and made subject to a two-year restraining order which means he cannot contact the Meadows.

Sentencing him, District Judge Nicholas Sanders said: “It’s been a matter of surprise to me that Mr Drury’s reaction was to resort to relying on his status as a councillor in this matter when in reality it had absolutely nothing to do with anything in this case.”

All councillors must follow the Code of Conduct, a binding set of guidelines instructing members to adhere to the highest standards in public office.