Russell complaint dismissed

AN allegation that a council leader brought his authority into disrepute following a conversation with a developer has been formally thrown out.John Jowers, the Conservative leader of Colchester Borough Council, was accused by the town's MP, Liberal Democrat Bob Russell, of “improperly conferring an advantage on another person and thereby bringing his office and authority into disrepute”.

AN allegation that a council leader brought his authority into disrepute following a conversation with a developer has been formally thrown out.

John Jowers, the Conservative leader of Colchester Borough Council, was accused by the town's MP, Liberal Democrat Bob Russell, of “improperly conferring an advantage on another person and thereby bringing his office and authority into disrepute”.

The complaint was referred to the Standards Board for England, the national body set up in 2001 to investigate allegations made against public representatives, in June this year.

The board yesterday published its findings into the matter and decided that Mr Jowers had not brought his office or authority into disrepute and that “no action” needed to be taken against him.


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Mr Russell last night refused to comment on the findings of the board.

Mr Jowers said: “This has wasted everybody's time and was unpleasant. Why doesn't the MP for this town put his energies into helping the town - after all, his role is to represent this town in Westminster.”

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The report said: “It was alleged that Mr Jowers gave a developer premature permission to start work on a road. This permission was allegedly given before the council had finalised the planning agreements with the landowners.

“Mr Jowers was an acquaintance of the developer and spoke to him at a social function.

“The developer said he was concerned to start the preliminary work of clearing hedges on his land before the bird-nesting season began. Mr Jowers expressed his own view that it would be acceptable to start this preliminary work. Mr Jowers was not a member of the planning committee and did not approach planning officers about the developer's comments.”

The report also stated that planning officers, although aware that preliminary work was being carried out ahead of full planning permission being granted, were not concerned in the circumstances.

The board's ethical standards officer found that Mr Jowers was not a friend of the developer and nor did he have any personal interest in his work.

There was also no compelling evidence that Mr Jowers' remarks to the developer were regarded as permission from the council to start works that would be in breach of planning law, the ethical standards officer decided.

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