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Challenge to MP Pickles on former Tory Mayor's actions

July 29, 2008 10:00 PM

Brentwood's Liberal Democrats have challenged local MP, Eric Pickles, Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, to state his views regarding the conduct of Planning Chair and former Conservative Mayor, Cllr Frank Kenny, on a planning application made by his "very good friend", Cllr Brandon Lewis. Cllr Lewis is a Director of Woodlands School, the subject of the application, Leader of Brentwood Council and Parliamentary Candidate for Great Yarmouth.

The application, for two outdoor classrooms, followed applications in 2006 and 2007 to extend the school and was recommended for refusal by the council officers. It was approved by the Conservatives with only the Liberal Democrats voting against.

The Liberal Democrat group are challenging Mr Pickles to comment on his local party colleague's actions and ask him to explain:

1. Why Cllr Kenny did not declare a personal and prejudicial interest, as required in the council's Code of Conduct, on Cllr Lewis' application given their close friendship? (Cllr Lewis publicly stated that Cllr Kenny was "a very good friend" at the Annual Council meeting in May).

2. Why Cllr Kenny continued to preside over the determination of Cllr Lewis' application when Brentwood Council's own code of conduct states that you should withdraw from the chamber where the matter is regarding "any person with whom you have a close association"?

3. Why Cllr Kenny dismissed a Liberal Democrat member's planning considerations and refused to allow a Labour opposition councillor to speak?

4. Does he support this development on green belt land, which was given the go-ahead by Conservative members, when it is a departure from the Brentwood local plan?

5. His views on Cllr Kenny's behaviour towards opposition councillors; showing a lack of respect to a committee member who had sought to discuss Cllr Lewis' retrospective application on planning grounds and his refusal to let another speak on the issue at all.

Cllr David Kendall, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said

"Eric Pickles is a high profile member of David Cameron's shadow cabinet and is always very quick to attack the opposition on their local government policies. I am sure that he would be the first to question any opposition councillor who failed to follow an accepted planning code of conduct.

"Will he be so quick to condemn the behaviour of his own councillor in his own constituency?

"If not, I would suggest that he only has his and his party's political ambitions at heart rather than the interests of his residents".

Cllr Kendall has reported the former mayor to the Standards Board. Cllr Frank Kenny has also been roundly criticised by objectors to the application and on his actions and conduct.