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."


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