‘Corruption’ allegation names 59 councillors

PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 December 2010

ALL bar two of North Somerset’s 61 councillors have been named in a formal allegation of misconduct, which their accuser claims could have cost the taxpayer up to £12million.

The authority has received an official complaint from former councillor Bob Coleman, which accuses current members of turning a blind eye to errors in waste-monitoring legislation in 2008.

Mr Coleman – through fraud investigators Crimeproofing Ltd – says he believes there is ‘strong evidence of criminal corrupt practice’ in the way the council monitors and records trade and domestic waste.

But he says councillors, who were duty-bound to investigate the matter when procedures were voted on two years ago, instead ‘simply accepted’ assurances of validity from council officers.

And Mr Coleman’s complaint names 59 of the 61 people who currently sit on the council, exempting only councillors Erika Blades and Mary Blatchford as they did not attend the meeting in question.

A four-page complaint submitted to North Somerset’s monitoring officer on November 5 cites ‘possibly disingenuous evidence’ and calls for a ‘full-scale, independent and specific investigation’.

The complaint asks: “Did the relevant members attempt to cover up allegedly corrupt practice to save political and personal reputations?”

It goes on to question 10 different areas where it suggests councillors could have breached standards of office, including ‘objectivity’, ‘deviousness’ and ‘integrity’.

The complaint is now in the hands of council investigators, who will convene an assessment panel to decide how it should be handled.

The group will have four options when deciding the next step, including launching an in-house investigation, referring the complaint to a higher body, or even dismissing the allegations.

No firm date has yet been set, but the panel is obliged to meet within 20 working days.

North Somerset Council declined to comment on the matter, but it is expected that councillors will contest any allegation of misconduct.

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