Councillor disqualified

A COUNCILLOR from Suffolk who branded two rivals 'proven liars' has been disqualified from politics for one year.

Simon Tomlinson

A COUNCILLOR from Suffolk who branded two rivals 'proven liars' has been disqualified from politics for one year.

Ian Mason was found to have treated fellow Needham Market Town councillor Josephine Lea and assistant clerk Kelaine Spurdens with disrespect.

The accusations re-ignited a dispute stretching back nearly three years when Mr Mason was suspended from office for allegedly bullying Mrs Lea when she was town clerk.

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Mr Mason is said to have made the remarks towards the pair while Mrs Lea was being elected as Town Mayor at a council meeting in May last year.

Following an investigation by Standards for England, an independent judicial panel ruled that the 64-year-old had breached the Code of Conduct.

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An ethical standards officer said Mr Mason had questioned the integrity of councillor Lea and made expressions of personal anger during an important occasion for the council.

Mr Mason, himself twice a mayor in the town, last night said he resigned immediately before last Tuesday's judicial board meeting and said he “didn't want much more to do with” Needham Market Town Council.

He added: “I am far from being innocent. I see things in black and white and say what I feel.”

But he vowed to go to next month's meeting as a member of the public and did not rule out a return to the council after his disqualification.

He also called for an inquiry into the dispute, which centres on his accusations that the council co-opted a new councillor allegedly in an improper manner in December 2005.

Dr Robert Chilton, chair of Standards for England, said: “While it is only right that members are entitled to challenge their fellow councillors and officers about their work, they have a duty to respect other people.

“In failing to do this, councillor Mason has undermined confidence in his office and the council as a whole, and the one-year disqualification reflects this.”

In November 2006, Mr Mason was suspended from his post for three months after saying he was engaged in a “war” with Mrs Lea, claiming that because she held the pen she had the means to “blacken” him.

Mr Mason served as a Conservative district councillor for Mid Suffolk from 1983 until 1990, when he resigned over a poll tax dispute.

He went on to stand against his former colleagues as a UKIP candidate in a by-election in 2004.

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