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Letter to the Staines Guardian about the Standards Board for England

March 21, 2006 6:24 PM

Text of a letter from Spelthorne Liberal Democrats about the Standards Board for England

To: The Editor

Staines Guardian

Dear Sir,

Ken Livingstone estimates that his case before the Standards Board for England cost more than £200,000. Can Spelthorne Council tell us the cost of reporting Councillor Ian Beardsmore to the Standards Board last year? In that hearing it wasn't a case of an abusive remark and a refusal to make an apology, it was a councillor doing his best for those who elected him. He alone on the planning committee pointed out the problem of increased air pollution the development at Kempton Park Racecourse might bring. For his pains, and because he lives opposite the course, he received a reprimand from the Board - the least they could impose for a technical breach of the standards code. But even the Board acknowledged that Councillor Beardsmore is "a hard-working and conscientious councillor highly regarded by his constituents." And that was underlined by the presence of so many local residents'groups supporting him at the hearing.

The way the Standards Board works is yet another example of the controlling mania of this Labour government, and the Board itself admits the system needs overhauling to stop vexatious referrals going forward.. As a former member of Spelthorne's Standards Committee I know Councillor Beardsmore's case could have been dealt with adequately at a local level, but in fact the independent chairman of that committee was not even given the courtesy of being informed of the case when it was referred to the Board. As the Livingstone case shows, the system endangers local democracy, putting power into the hands of an unelected quango and away from us, the people who take the trouble to go out and vote for our representatives. And it also makes one question the motive of the complainant among the Tory ruling group on Spelthorne Council who made the costly, time-wasting complaint against Councillor Beardsmore in the first place.

Yours sincerely

Tony Crabb