Councillor hits back in Tory letter row

PUBLISHED: 16:00 27 January 2012

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A NORTH Somerset councillor has denied being the source of allegations which created a huge divide among the district's Tories.

Councillor Felicity Baker has refuted writing a letter to the Conservative party’s Somerset chairman Peter Wright making allegations against two of its members.

The Mercury has seen a copy of a letter seemingly sent to Mr Wright and signed by Cllr Baker dated from October 2010.

It suggests she made allegations of misconduct against the then Conservative association president, Carl Francis-Pester, and chairman Chris Allcock.

Last year, the two men were removed from their association posts after a formal complaint was made against them regarding use of office space at the group’s Nailsea headquarters and the hire of a minibus during the 2010 General Election.

Councillor Francis-Pester was also removed from his role on North Somerset Council’s executive. Despite this, he continued with an unsuccessful challenge against Councillor Nigel Ashton for the leadership of North Somerset Council.

It has never been revealed who made the formal complaint against the two men.

A letter which came to light this week and seeming to bear Cllr Baker’s signature, says: “I am writing to confirm the basis of the complaint against Carl Francis-Pester as it is now obvious he is seeking to undermine Nigel by challenging him for the leadership of North Somerset Council.

“The two main complaints are that he is using the association’s premises in Nailsea without a proper arrangement being in place for rent and also that he and Chris Allcock used association money to buy a minibus for the General Election, which will prove to be a reckless waste of money as cheaper options were available.”

It later says: “When this matter is dealt with it will give Nigel the opportunity to take appropriate action regarding Carl’s council responsibilities as well.”

However, Cllr Baker denies writing the letter. She said: “I have never written to Peter Wright. It is quite clearly a forgery.

“You can tell they have looked at my signature and tried to copy how I write certain letters.

“I have written to the party hierarchy and they are happy I didn’t write it.

“The person who did write it has left themselves open to a lot of ridicule.”

On Friday, Cllr Francis-Pester showed a copy of the letter to council solicitor Nick Brain, who says he will not be taking any further action as it is a party political issue.

However, Cllr Francis-Pester has submitted a complaint claiming the letter had breached the council’s code of conduct by bringing the council into disrepute, undermining its leadership and affecting the professional conduct of another council member.

If the council decides the letter is a fake, Cllr Francis-Pester will take it to the police for investigation.

He said: “I don’t know who has sent the letter out, and why now. It contains some phrases which are consistent with interviews that Peter Wright did with members of the management team when we had already been removed from office.

“Right up until now we have not seen any evidence of the formal complaint made against us.”

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