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 Labour Candidate Challenges Lib Dem Leaders over Inaction

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Last night’s final Sutton Council meeting before local elections in May 2014 saw Lib Dem leaders challenged over inaction by Emily Brothers, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Sutton and Cheam. Ms Brothers continued to question how Lib Dem leaders have handled the recent conviction of Councillor Stephen Fenwick for racially aggravated assault. She said:
“I’m disappointed that my request to refer Councillor Fenwick to the Standards Committee was refused and my efforts to hold Lib Dem leaders to account were received with a wall of bureacracy. They deny that their policies are little more than paper tigers, so that leads us to conclude that Lib Dem leaders themselves are the paper tigers.
“I’m pleased to have influenced the strengthening of the Council’s Code of Conduct, but it doesn’t go far enough. I think it needs to be better aligned with equality policy, to ensure that the Council’s response to prejudicial or discriminatory behaviour is more robust.
“Whilst I accept that the legal framework lacks clout, Councillor Dombey failed to take up my request to make representations to Government about strengthening public accountability and transparency.
“I’m generally concerned about the Lib Dem approach to people’s conduct in public office. Inaction by Sutton Lib Dem leaders in this case has been matched by their colleagues in Yeovil, following the conviction of Councillor Peter Brock for stealing £1,231 from the local poppy fund, yet he also remains in public office.”
The Council meeting held on 31/03/14 agreed to remove Councillor Fenwick from various committee responsibilities due to resigning the Lib Dem whip, not as a sanction in response to his behaviour.
At Sutton Council’s meeting held on 31/03/14 Ms Brothers asked Councillor Dombey, Lib Dem Leader: “What steps has the Liberal Democrat run Council taken in deciding not to investigate or act on the conviction of Councillor Stephen Fenwick for racially aggravated assault, rendering the Code of Conduct and Equal Opportunities Policy little more than paper tigers?”
Ms Brothers’ question to Councillor Fenwick was not allowed and he did not attend the meeting. She had asked: “Please explain the circumstances surrounding your conviction for racially aggravated assault, why you have failed to respond to questions on this matter and why you consider it right to remain in public office?”


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