'They want to silence me': Formal complaint lodged against Shropshire councillor
An outspoken Shropshire councillor has had a formal complaint lodged against him.
Councillor Andy Boddington, who represents the Lib Dems on Ludlow North ward of the council, is now being investigated after a complaint was made by council leader Councillor Peter Nutting and councillors Lezley Picton and Steve Charmley.
They allege that he has broken the council's code of conduct after posting comments online about Ludlow Assembly Rooms.
Following a council meeting which was heard behind closed doors where a decision was made to award the Assembly Rooms £1.3 million to allow renovation works to continue - yet cut the lease from 125 years to three - Councillor Boddington detailed the issue on his blog.
Now he claims the Tory-led council is trying to 'silence' him.
"The council leadership want to silence me on this. This is no more than a political complaint," he said.
"I am confident that I have not released financial information that is not already available in the public domain from grant funders that are committed to openness and transparency and other sources. The other information I have released is covered by public interest rules. These rules protect our democracy. Our freedom of speech. Our freedom to challenge political leaders."
The formal letter outlining the complaint, which Councillor Boddington has also put on his blog, says: "I am writing to tell you that an allegation that you have failed, or may have failed, to comply with the Code of Conduct of Shropshire Council has been received from Councillors Steven Charmley, Peter Nutting and Lezley Picton, of Shropshire Council.
"It is alleged that, in an article posted on your website, you have published information which had been obtained from a report to Cabinet that was exempt from publication. It had been agreed that the information contained within the report was exempt from publication in accordance with paragraph 3 of schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1072 as it contained 'information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information)'.
"The allegation will be considered by the Monitoring Officer based solely on the information provided by you and the complainant along with any relevant information readily available such as minutes of Council meetings. Once a decision has been made you and the complainant will be told about the outcome and what will happen next."
Councillor Boddington said: "It was always going to happen. The Tories that dominate Shropshire Council can’t take a word of criticism. This shows just how far Shropshire Council fails to understand that an open and challenging democracy is fundamental to way our country works. But in Shropshire, criticise the leadership and you are threatened with retraining, suspension or worse. We are an open and challenging democracy.
"We disagree a lot in Shropshire Council meetings. But it seems that once Shropshire Council’s leaders are on dodgy ground, important matters are slapped into pink (confidential) papers. That allows the council leaders to take an exemption from telling the public what they are doing."
Claire Porter, Shropshire Council's director of legal and democratic services, said: “We will never confirm or deny if an allegation has been received about the conduct of a councillor.
“As a general rule, if a complaint is received this will be dealt with in accordance with the council's arrangements and will only be confirmed after the conclusion of any investigation due to the risk that the process may be compromised.”
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