March 7 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Two UKIP Suffolk county councillors are set to be investigated after a voting irregularity in the authority’s vital budget debate on Thursday.
Brandon councillor Reg Silvester was at his first full council meeting for several months after suffering a serious illness – but had to leave early before the final vote was taken.
His party colleague Bert Poole, from Oulton, near Lowestoft, used his voting card to register his support for the Conservative administration’s budget.
The move was spotted by Liberal Democrat group leader David Wood.
Mr Poole admitted the double vote and the vote was retaken. The budget was passed by 45 votes to 20 with one abstention.
Now there is set to be a full inquiry which could result in sanctions being taken against Mr Poole and Mr Silvester.
In 2009, former Labour council leader Jane Hore was disqualified from sitting as a councillor for a year after she was found to have used a colleague’s voting card after he had left a meeting. She had already left the council.
Council leader Mark Bee and Labour group deputy leader Bryony Rudkin have lodged formal complaints about the voting with the monitoring officer. The case is now set to be investigated by the monitoring officer from another authority.
Mr Wood said he drew the attention of the chairman to what had happened to ensure the vote could be retaken.
He said: “I didn’t name the councillor involved. I hoped he would admit what he had done, which he did. We had to have another vote because the first one would have been null and void and technically the council could have ended up without a budget.”
Mrs Rudkin said she had lodged the complaint because she felt it was important that it was fully investigated.
Both Mr Poole and Mr Silvester were first elected to the authority in May last year, and some councillors feel the incident simply showed a level of naivety.
Mr Silvester said the UKIP group as a whole supported the budget, and he felt the administration had done a good job.
He had voted to oppose a Labour amendment that would have reduced the level of the council’s reserve, but had to leave before the second vote was taken.
He said: “I don’t know about this problem. They (the monitoring officers) will have to do what they have to do.”
UKIP group leader Bill Mountford said Mr Poole had been advised by the monitoring officer not to say anything about the incident until the investigation had been concluded.
He said: “I tried to stop him voting a second time, so did the chap sitting next to him. It was a serious error of judgment on Bert’s part – we had all discussed the budget before the meeting and were all in agreement on how to vote.”