Report by Samantha Pope
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
ACCUSATIONS of lies and skulduggery have been made by angry North Somerset Conservatives after two top Tories were removed from their posts after ‘serious allegations’ were made against them.
"Many members expressed disgust they should be lied to."
At a heated meeting of the North Somerset Conservative Association on Friday, members condemned the treatment of the association’s former president and North Somerset councillor Carl Francis-Pester and former chairman Christopher Allcock.
Earlier this month, they were removed from their positions after accusations were made regarding the purchase and resale of a minibus and the hiring of a room at the Nailsea Conservative office.
On Friday, many supporters of the pair shouted down area chairman, Peter Wright, who tried to explain the reasons behind their removal and Richard Chalk, sent from the party’s central office in London, did not fare much better.
Councillor Don Cameron from Portishead was at Friday’s meeting and has accused the association of lies and skulduggery. He said: “It was apparent to all that these reasons were spurious and the real reason for the draconian measures was not being disclosed. Many members expressed disgust they should be lied to.”
"In a court of law your accuser will be made public. Clearly we are not going to get that.
Whatever one thinks about the substance of the issues, clearly the matter has been processed with a degree of ineptitude very rarely seen.
Some have speculated the complaints were made to scupper the chances of Cllr Francis-Pester, a North Somerset Councillor for Easton-in-Gordano and a Clevedon town councillor, regaining his seat in May’s local elections.
Cllr Francis-Pester said: “I wouldn’t want credit who ever made the complaint with such organisational prowess.
“What looked like an easy hit initially has now become a lot more complicated for them.”
At Friday’s meeting, members refused to ratify a list of candidates for the forthcoming elections when it became clear Cllr Francis-Pester’s name had been omitted.
Cllr Francis-Pester has since confirmed he will stand for re-election if allowed and he hopes to resume his duties as North Somerset Council’s executive member for the environment by the end of this week after temporarily stepping down.
However, Cllr Francis-Pester has been told the unitary authority leader Councillor Nigel Ashton has approached a Portishead resident to ask if they would contest Cllr Francis-Pester’s seat in May’s elections.
Since the complaints were first made against Cllr Francis-Pester and Mr Allcock, the Tory association has been accused of acting unprofessionally. The person who made the accusations has also remained anonymous.
During Friday’s meeting, Cllr Ashton and fellow North Somerset councillor Felicity Baker were asked if they had made the complaint. Both said no.
Cllr Francis-Pester said: “In a court of law your accuser will be made public. Clearly we are not going to get that.
“What is of great concern is that we are not fully aware of what it is we are actually answering.
“Whatever one thinks about the substance of the issues, clearly the matter has been processed with a degree of ineptitude very rarely seen.”
Cllr Francis-Pester and Mr Allcock believe they have fully explained their decisions and hope the matter has been resolved. Despite this, it is not yet known if and when the men will be reinstated by the association.
* Cllr Ashton and the Conservative association could not be contacted in relation to this story.