Councillor cleared of complaint

A STANDARDS body has thrown out a complaint against an Ipswich councillor accused of making controversial comments to further his political career.The Standards Board for England ruled that a complaint against prospective parliamentary candidate Paul West, who is also a Conservative member of Ipswich Borough Council, had no grounds for an investigation.

A STANDARDS body has thrown out a complaint against an Ipswich councillor accused of making controversial comments to further his political career.

The Standards Board for England ruled that a complaint against prospective parliamentary candidate Paul West, who is also a Conservative member of Ipswich Borough Council, had no grounds for an investigation.

The complaint, made by Labour councillor John Mowles, followed comments made by Mr West in a Conservative newsletter about the approval of a 23-storey building on Ipswich's Waterfront, in which he questioned whether ordinary members of the public faced a different set of planning rules to developers.

But the standards board said: "Councillor West believed that the council had created a dangerous precedent by granting permission for a 23-storey building and contrasted this with people who encountered problems getting planning permission for their own homes, with the implication that there might be double standards."

In revealing its decision that Mr West had not breached the council's code of conduct, the board ruled: "It is considered that he is entitled to comment on local issues, even if this might imply criticism of the local authority.

"The proposed erection of a 23-storey building is likely to generate interest and Councillor West's opinion on the matter and on the town planning system in general is considered to be fair comment in the circumstances."

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The decision was welcomed by Mr West, a councillor for Stoke Park, who stood by his comments.

He said: "All I was doing was expressing a view that had been expressed to me by the public, that's who councillors are supposed to represent.

"It would be a dark day for democracy if councillors were scared of speaking out for fear of being referred to the Standards Board."

He added: "Whilst I don't think the council has double standards I think it was right to question controversial decisions when they come up."

The comments followed the council's July decision to allow a proposed conversion of the Cranfield's Mill site and associated garage and lorry park in College Street, including the construction of a 23-story tower block.

In his submission to the standards watchdog, Mr Mowles alleged that Mr West was using his platform as a councillor to advance his political career.

Mr Mowles said he was surprised and disappointed by the board's decision and he pledged to investigate whether the issue could be referred to Ipswich Borough Council's own standards committee.

He said: "The bit that got to me said many people who struggle to get a planning permission for their own home will wonder whether there are two sets of rules.

"That puts doubt on the impartiality and integrity of the council's planning officers."

N What do you think of the decision by the Standards Board for England? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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