Somerset County Council has issued a devastating report tonight on misbehaviour by a Tory councillor. David Huxtable has resigned from the county cabinet in the face of the findings. Labour says it shows the Tories cannot be trusted with decisions over an asset that is vital to tourism in West Somerset.
The report – by a hearing panel of the standards committee – concerned allegations that Huxtable took sides in discussions over the possible sale of the county council’s freehold on the West Somerset Railway. Two bodies are involved in the running of the railway – a plc and a supporters association. Leaked emails showed that when the county was planning to sell the freehold, Huxtable favoured the supporters.
Bringing the council into disrepute
Today’s report says Huxtable (Tory councillor for the King Alfred division-that’s Middlezoy,Ashcott, Burtle, Mark and Wedmore) breached the code of conduct for councillors, because he failed to meet these conditions:
Not to use or attempt to use your position as a member improperly to give yourself or any other person, an advantage or disadvantage
Not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or the Council into disrepute.
The panel agreed to recommend a list of sanctions. It said Huxtable should be:
Removed from the cabinet
Removed from outside appointments
Banned from County Hall, except for meeting rooms
Huxtable responded by resigning from his cabinet post. The sale of the freehold on the railway was abandoned when the scandal over Huxtable’s interference came to light.
Councillors should ‘act with integrity’ says Labour Leader
County Labour Leader Leigh Redman (Bridgwater South) says “This whole situation is disappointing. The members of the standards ctte did a sterling job under the circumstances. Councillors are elected and have a responsibility to act with integrity . I am glad Cllr Huxtable has acted swiftly in resigning from cabinet”
Andy Lewis of West Somerset Labour Party said: “The West Somerset Railway is very important for tourism in our district. Its ownership is something that should be decided in a fair and impartial way. It is shocking that Councillor Huxtable was clearly biased towards one side.His misbehaviour has now been exposed. But the fact this could have happened exposes the fact that the Tory administration knows little and cares less about West Somerset.”