Worlingham: Pressure on Tories to take action against drink-drive councillor

PUBLISHED: 06:00 25 August 2011

Councillor Andrew Draper

Councillor Andrew Draper

PRESSURE was growing last night on Conservatives to take action against a shamed councillor convicted of drink-driving and assaulting a police officer – a move that could shift the balance of power on a Suffolk council.

Colin Law, Conservative leader of Waveney District Council, insisted he was standing by Andrew Draper, who admitted driving three times over the legal limit and kicking a police officer after his arrest.

But opposition politicians questioned whether Draper, 37, who represents Worlingham, near Beccles, and was a “youth champion”, was still fit to serve as a councillor.

If Draper was to resign or be suspended by his group, it would throw the political make-up of the council into turmoil again.

The number of councillors is deadlocked at 23-23 between Conservative and Labour, but the Tories have clung to power since May’s elections as the chairman of the council, who has a casting vote, is a an independent councillor, Peter Collecott, who sides with the Conservatives.

Julian Swainson, leader of the Labour group, said: “I am sure Councillor Draper’s constituents will be disappointed to learn of his conviction at the magistrates’ court and it is a matter for them to decide whether they continue to have confidence in him as a Waveney district councillor.

“It is also for Councillor Colin Law to decide whether or not he is prepared to allow Councillor Draper to continue as a member of the Conservative group.”

He added: “It obviously puts the Conservative group in a very difficult situation. We have been concerned since the council AGM that they have been acting as if they are still a majority administration but they are clearly not. This demonstrates the fragility of their position.”

Labour Euro MP Richard Howitt said: “It is for Councillor Draper and his Conservative colleagues to decide if they feel it appropriate for him to continue to represent the people of Worlingham and to think about what message this sends out.”

Mr Law said Draper had resigned from the cabinet and relinquished his role as a youth champion on the council, but the group leader backed him to continue as a councillor.

“This is a private matter with the police and the courts. He is suitably contrite and humble and has apologised – he couldn’t be more embarrassed about the situation,” he said.

“He will now have to try twice as hard as everybody else for people to renew their faith in him.

“He is a good councillor and has been well received in his ward.

“I stand by him as a councillor and naturally, going forward, we will have to see how it pans out.”

Mr Law said he “fully expected” accusations from the Labour group over the motivation for supporting Draper and added: “I would ask how they would react if the shoe was on the other foot.”

Michael Culyer, chairman of Worlingham Parish Council, said: “This is only a personal view but I feel that if you’ve been convicted of drink-driving and assaulting a police officer there is a big question whether you should be in public life.

“You should set an example for other people to follow and I would question whether the Conservative group should be supporting him.”

When contacted by the EADT yesterday, Draper said: “No comment. Thank you.”

Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court heard on Tuesday how Draper, of Martin Close, Carlton Colville, was arrested on August 12 after he was seen “accelerating hard” in a car in Lowestoft.

After he was stopped, he asked officers “do you know I’m a councillor?” and became agitated in the police car on the way to the station after his arrest. He kicked an inspector in the chest and knee when the officer tried to put handcuffs on him, after which spray was used to calm him down, the court was told.

Draper was banned from driving for two years and told to pay £815 in fines, costs and compensation.

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