Yesterday, Cllr Esmond Jenkins – Cotswolds anti-corruption campaigner and Liberal Democrat councillor – was cleared of all but a small number of complaints which had been fired at him by a property developer and Cotswold District Council’s planning manager.
Mike Evemy, Chair of the Cotswolds Liberal Democrats made this statement in reaction: “The Standards Committee’s decision shows that Esmond Jenkins has fought for local residents robustly but fairly to uncover the truth surrounding Keynes Country Park. The attempts to smear his character by a major developer and the Council’s own Head of Planning have utterly failed. Cotswold District Council has wasted thousands of pounds of council taxpayers’ money on this vindictive attack on a councillor who stood up for the people who elected him and challenged the cosy relationship between council planners and a holiday home developer. “
“The Chief Executive, who oversaw the Council’s audit of its dealings in the Water Park which turned into an investigation of Councillor Jenkins, should resign. He has made huge misjudgements over this and other matters, such as the motivational magician, which have brought our Council into disrepute. His Head of Planning must go too – she launched this complaint, based upon hearsay and trivia, and leads a department which has completely failed to stand up to a holiday home developer that has been allowed to breach planning consent and make hundreds of thousands of pounds in the process. The Conservative administration has been happy to see this happen and it should hang its head in shame.”
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Churn Valley), leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on CDC added, “The fact that Esmond has been cleared of most of the charges suggests that the process that led to the hearing was far from satisfactory. What concerns us in particular is that the investigation lasted many months, cost a fortune in taxpayers’ money and, at the end of the day, the standard of much of the evidence presented was far from satisfactory, mainly because it was gathered by Standards Board investigators who were not required to test its veracity before sending it back to the council in the form of 1,500 pages of evidence.”
“It is also deeply disappointing that Esmond was forced to defend himself without any financial assistance from the council while the Standards board employed an expensive barrister to present their case. It was hardly a fair process from that point of view.”
“Having sat through 4 days of a Standards Board hearing at Cotswold District Council this week against a whistleblowing councillor I can honestly say it has made me incensed at the lack of democracy here – it is a total waste of everyone’s time and our money. I thought we lived in a democracy? Not here in the Cotswolds where someone’s different opinion leads to their character being blackened. This corrosive culture cannot be allowed to continue.”