Reverend to face panel over council role

A SUFFOLK clergyman is due to appear before councillors later this week accused of improper behaviour while a member of a parish council.Rev Chris Jowett, from East Bergholt, is accused of four offences stemming from his failure to declare an interest in a debate while he was a member of the village's parish council.

A SUFFOLK clergyman is due to appear before councillors later this week accused of improper behaviour while a member of a parish council.

Rev Chris Jowett, from East Bergholt, is accused of four offences stemming from his failure to declare an interest in a debate while he was a member of the village's parish council.

The dispute arose at a meeting on September 9 last year when a proposal to restrict parking in the village was discussed.

The area under discussion was very near The Manse, where Mr Jowett lives, but he failed to declare an interest in the matter and proposed that new parking restrictions should be introduced.

He remained in the room while the item was discussed, he is alleged to have influenced other members and failed to enter The Manse in the council's register of interests.

Now he has been called to appear before Babergh Council's standards committee on Friday .

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The matter was reported to the district council after an investigation by the Standards Board for England.

Mr Jowett is pastor of the East Bergholt Congregational Church and is a former chairman of the governors at Holywells High School.

He has since resigned from East Bergholt parish council, which means that the only option open to Babergh if they feel rules were broken is to reprimand him.

Mr Jowett has written to the council to say that although he lives at The Manse, it is owned by his church and he has no financial interest in the property and is expected to use it for work as well as his home.

He said his interest in the property is akin to "squatter's rights".

Mr Jowett said he had proposed the car parking restrictions not to gain personal advantage, but to try to improve road safety.

He told The Evening Star that he was not sure whether he would appear before the committee because he felt Babergh had acted improperly by releasing details before the meeting was held.

The instructions about declaring an interest in a property said you had to own it, be a tenant, or hold it under licence from a council.

He said: "So far as The Manse is concerned I don't do any of those things. I don't pay council tax or water rates - that all comes from the Church."

He added: "My resignation from the council was not related to this hearing, I had simply over a period of time lost respect for it and felt local politics was not for me.

"I suspect that so far several thousand pounds has been spent on this case. You might ask, when it's all over, whether that's a good use of public money."

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