Duo await slap on the wrist

TWO community leaders are waiting to see if they get a "smack on the wrist" after defying a gagging order.Mike Ninnmey and Dot Paddick failed to declare an interest in a debate on the south seafront development – and should have left the room and taken no part in the discussion.

TWO community leaders are waiting to see if they get a "smack on the wrist" after defying a gagging order.

Mike Ninnmey and Dot Paddick failed to declare an interest in a debate on the south seafront development - and should have left the room and taken no part in the discussion.

But despite the gagging order to prevent them talking about Felixstowe's biggest project, the pair decided to stay and may now face sanctions.

Mr Ninnmey said they would have to meet the monitoring officer at Suffolk Coastal council to talk about their decision not to declare an interest.

"What is the worst they can do to us - ban us from the council for a couple of months?" said Mr Ninnmey.

"The situation has just got plain ridiculous. Hardly any Felixstowe councillors are allowed to speak on an issue which affects the town enormously, the biggest project we have had before us for probably 20 years.

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"Every time it comes up in the council chamber, virtually all the Felixstowe councillors have to leave the room.

"It is a denial of the representation of the people. It makes you ask what we have been elected for as councillors if we are not allowed to voice the views of the people who elected us. Surely we are elected because we have an interest in local issues!"

Mr Ninnmey and Mrs Paddick were deemed to have a prejudicial interest in the project as former members of the task group responsible for it.

But after taking advice from the Standards Board of England, they decided the interest no longer applied, even though Suffolk Coastal said it did.

"The Standards Board has told us that because the current plans for the project have been rejected by the council, that particular application is dead and so the prejudicial interest no longer applies," said Mr Ninnmey.

"There are no plans on the table at the moment upon which the council can take a decision - if there is an appeal, it will be a government inspector who takes the decision, and as yet there are no new plans submitted."

The pair decided to attend a meeting between Felixstowe Town Council and Suffolk Coastal leader Ray Herring and project officer Bruce Laws and not leave when required to do so.

"We are told it is up to us to decide how to interpret interests. Now we have to wait and see if we get a smack on the wrist," added Mr Ninnmey.

Decisions on prejudicial interests have to ensure councillors are seen to be "whiter than white" in dealing with issues where they may have conflicts.

n What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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