Jackson quits as council leader

A COUNCIL leader was persuaded last night to quit his post over a "spoof" letter he wrote to a fellow councillor's daughter.Dale Jackson resigned as leader of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration on Ipswich Borough Council – after earlier suggesting he was intent on staying in the post.

By Jonathan Barnes

A COUNCIL leader was persuaded last night to quit his post over a "spoof" letter he wrote to a fellow councillor's daughter.

Dale Jackson resigned as leader of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration on Ipswich Borough Council - after earlier suggesting he was intent on staying in the post.

But, with a potential clash with his fellow Conservatives looming, Mr Jackson decided to stand down at last night's full council meeting.

The 40-year-old has been reported to the Standards Board for England over a letter he wrote to a fellow councillor's teenage daughter more than two years ago.

The note, which Mr Jackson claimed was "a spoof and a joke", was recently passed on by the girl's father to borough council chief executive James Hehir, who reported the matter to the Standards Board.

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Mr Jackson originally announced his intention to resign last week after being asked to do so by his party, but then insisted he would not sign an official resignation letter and wished to fight to clear his name.

That prompted his party to suggest they would bid to have him removed as leader at last night's full council meeting.

Following the meeting, Mr Jackson said he had decided to quit for the good of the party.

"I'm quite happy to go. It took a lot of thought, but I'm a loyal Conservative and it's in the best interests of the Tory party. I hope to come back and still be a councillor and I will do my best for the Tory cause," he added.

Mr Jackson insisted the note at the centre of the furore was "innocent" and "non-sexual".

He is now waiting to hear if the Standards Board will launch an investigation into the matter, but refused to reveal the contents of the letter until then.

"It will come out what was in the letter. I don't have a problem with it - it's nothing untoward. It was a spoof, a joke," he said.

But Mr Jackson confirmed the letter was written to the girl as if it was from Mr Hehir.

Liz Harsant, who was voted in to replace Mr Jackson as council leader, said: "I'm relieved - I think Dale has done the right thing.

"We have been on and off the phone and in meetings and he realised it was the correct thing to do for the party."

She added the letter in question had "a schoolboyish, prankish air" about it, but would not discuss its contents.

Following Mr Jackson's resignation, a Tory motion to keep Mr Jackson on the executive committee was defeated.

The Liberal Democrat group failed to support the motion, while Labour councillors voted against it.

David Ellesmere, deputy leader of the Labour group, said: "They should be kicking him out of the Tory party - not giving him the consolation prize of the executive committee. I don't think any of us can quite believe it."

jonathan.barnes@eadt.co.uk

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