Swindon councillors cleared in row over Stratton parish

6:30pm Wednesday 28th November 2012

By David Wiles

TWO Swindon councillors have been cleared of allegations that a leaflet they distributed contained misleading information about Stratton Parish Council.

The parish council submitted an official complaint to Swindon Council after councillors Dale Heenan and Richard Hurley (both Con, Covingham and Dorcan) sent around a leaflet in September during the ongoing community governance review into parish boundaries, urging residents in Lower Coleview and Nythe to break away and form their own council.

The parish council claimed they had broken the members’ code of conduct in six areas: Disclosure of confidential information, preventing access to information, bringing office or authority into disrepute, using an officer to confer or secure an advantage or disadvantage, using council resources for improper purposes, and regard for local authority code of publicity.

However the borough council’s standards assessment panel, chaired by Coun Dave Wood (Lib Dem, Eastcott), concluded there was no breach and no further action was needed.

in his decision notice, Coun Wood said: “In summary, the panel concluded that the code of conduct did not apply as the members concerned were not acting in their capacity as members of the authority when publishing and distributing the leaflet complained of.

“Having considered the detail of the complaint, the panel also determined that, even had the code applied in this instance, the complaint did not have the potential to breach any of the paragraphs of the code of conduct which had been identified.

“The panel suggested that to avoid any appearance of acting in an official capacity, councillors should be reminded by the monitoring officer to be careful not to allow the title of councillor to be used in reference to them in any leaflet, when they are not acting as councillors.”

After the hearing, Coun Heenan said: “Richard Hurley and I have run an effective local, and non-political, campaign to save every household in Coleview and Nythe £70 a year by forming a local Coleview and Nythe Parish Council and splitting away from Stratton parish.

“Our campaign used information given to us by Stratton and we knew they would try something to get their way, but we didn’t expect this level of grubby dirty tricks.”

The complaint by the Labour-run Stratton Parish Council to Swindon Council against Richard Hurley and I has been unanimously rejected by a panel of Labour and Liberal Democrat borough councillors.”

Coun Hurley said: “The Labour-run Stratton Parish Council have said they will do everything they can to prevent change happening.

“They have approved a £10,000 campaign to keep the status quo, banned the public from attending parish meetings when the issue is being discussed by parish councillors and now they hope throwing mud at Dale and I will make a difference.”

Commenting on the decision, Coun John Foley, the chairman of Stratton Parish Council, said: “It doesn’t surprise us. These are the sort of things that happen in politics. We don’t think he should have been exonerated.”

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