Councillor faces corruption quiz

A FORMER chairman of Tendring District Council was last night being quizzed by detectives after being arrested on suspicion of corruption.

Roddy Ashworth

A FORMER chairman of Tendring District Council was last night being quizzed by detectives after being arrested on suspicion of corruption.

Councillor Peter De-Vaux Balbirnie was detained at his Great Bentley Home by Essex Police yesterday morning as part of a police investigation.

Mr Balbirnie, who recently returned to the council chamber after a three-month suspension in connection with another unrelated matter, was then taken to Chelmsford Police Station for interview.

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The 64-year-old Tendring First councillor, who also sits on Weeley Parish Council, Great Bentley Parish Council and Little Clacton Parish Council, was arrested in connection with claims about finances at Tendring District Council (TDC).

A police spokesman said: “A man has been arrested in connection with an allegation of financial irregularities at TDC.

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“Police arrested the man at his home address in the Clacton area on suspicion of soliciting a gift as a member of a public body in accordance with the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act of 1889.

“The investigation is centred around historical offences.

“Essex Police will not be releasing any further information at this time to ensure the investigation is not compromised in any way.”

Mr Balbernie, a former member of TDC's planning committee, was earlier this year suspended from the council after swearing at a planning officer.

A TDC standards committee meeting in March found he had failed to treat former council employee Andrew Tyrrell with respect in September 2006.

As a result of Mr Balbirnie's three month suspension - and subsequent inability to vote at council meetings - the Conservative Party at the town hall was able to take over control of the administration, removing Tendring First from power.

When told by the EADT of the arrest yesterday David Lines, leader of the Tendring First group at TDC, said: “I am astonished to hear this news.

“If Peter has broken the law then he must face the consequences however long ago this happened, but in fairness to Peter I will wait to hear the full story from him.”

Neil Stock, leader of the council, said: “If there is an allegation of wrong-doing that the police believe warrants investigation then of course we are keen for that to go ahead.

“However, at the moment it would be inappropriate to comment while any such investigation is ongoing.”

A spokesman for TDC said: “We cannot make any comment, and any inquiries should be directed to Essex Police.

“Clearly we will fully co-operate with the police if they require us to do so.”

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