Hunts former council chairman resigns

A PARISH council chairman who was accused of two breaches of the councillors’ code of conduct has escaped the risk of sanctions – by resigning from the council.

David Paine, who was not re-elected earlier this year as chairman of Upwood and the Raveleys Parish Council, had faced two complaints to the monitoring officer at Huntingdonshire District Council.

He was to have been investigated over claims that he breached the councillors’ code of conduct by making a loan from parish council funds to the then clerk.

The other complaint was that he failed to declare a proper interest over allocations of council allotments. In that instance, HDC had said he should receive training and for that training to be offered to the parish council as a whole.

But the more serious matter had been referred by the monitoring officer, the council’s chief lawyer Colin Meadowcroft, for independent investigation.

If found proved, the maximum penalty that could have been imposed by the district council was six months’ suspension from office. Lesser penalties would have included censure or a requirement for training.

If the matter had been considered more serious, it could have been referred to the First Tier Tribunal (Local Government Standards of England) which can disqualify a councillor for up to five years. The tribunal also considers appeals made by councillors against a decision of a standards committee of a local authority.

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But by resigning from the parish council at the weekend Mr Paine escaped any sanction.

“If the person [complained of] is no longer a councillor, the likelihood is that the committee would decide to take no further action,” said a spokesman for HDC.

Mr Paine confirmed that he had resigned, adding: “I’m not going to make any comment.”

The former clerk is under police investigation in relation to the council’s finances.