A bid failed to stop former police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite from being co-opted to a £140 a year role as a member of the conduct committee of Fenland District Council.
Cllr Ablewhite, now a parish councillor at Benwick, was one of only two applicants for the role when it was advertised to town and parish councils.
Both he, and Cllr Martin Field, were duly nominated for the two vacancies but at Monday’s meeting of full council a challenge was made to Cllr Ablewhite’s appointment.
It meant the council chair taking advice and agreeing to vote for each nominee separately.
Cllr Gavin Booth said he wanted the vote taken separately because having looked at one of the candidates “I have real reservations about supporting them to the conduct committee”.
Clearly referencing his disquiet over Cllr Ablewhite, he said it was because of reasons why the ex-police and crime commissioner had “resigned a prominent political role in the county”.
Cllr Steve Tierney, who along with council leader Chris Boden had supported Cllr Ablewhite’s application, said: “I did wonder whether somebody would raise this issue.”
He said: “My personal view is sometimes people make errors of judgment or mistakes in the past and then they can move on with their lives.
“We have a member sitting on the conduct committee right now who was found against by the conduct committee for a fairly serious issue, but I think we understand that we all make mistakes and then we can move on.
“And it doesn’t bar their entire life. None of the individuals standing as far as I know have a criminal record or even a conduct complaint against them, so I don’t know the truth of the allegations.
“But I do know that when life moves on if somebody’s got a lot of experience and is a current sitting councillor there should be no reason why they can’t be appointed.”
Cllr Booth said: “I do not really know that individual; I know what I’ve seen in the press, and I know that I believe it was a complaint put to the conduct committee for where they were politically elected to.
“But what I don’t see in this report is that they resolved those issues. All I know is what’s in the public domain and how is it that they moved on at this moment in time I have concerns.”
Cllr Boden had presented the report to full council explaining that it would normally have been the chairman Cllr Steve Count, but he was absent.
He pointed out that all town and parish councils were invited to find volunteers and submit CVs to the chair of the conduct committee before being passed to the committee.
However, there were only two expressions of interests for two available places.
“So, it was deemed by the chairman of the conduct committee that both were more than suitable in terms of the CVs which they put forward, so it was agreed and recommended to the conduct committee that it be recommended to full council that the two individuals be appointed.”
During the debate Cllr Boden said: “What was really noticeable in this particular case where we’ve asked for candidates is to read the CVs of the two candidates and particularly the CV of the candidate to whom I believe Cllr Booth is referring.”
He said that given the candidate’s experience within the standards regime (he referred to the former national standards committee which no longer exists) he felt it was a good appointment.
“Given the level of experience that he’s got, he is undoubtedly the best qualified candidate we ever will have had either from members or from town or parish councillors on the conduct committee.
“If he is selected today, I am quite confident he will prove to be an exceptional member.”
On being put to the vote, 26 voted in favour of Cllr Ablewhite, six against and there were two abstentions.
On the vote for Cllr Field, 33 were in favour, one against and one abstention.
Cllr Field in his application had previously told the conduct committee he wanted to join as “I think it is essential that we can account for the good conduct of our elected representatives.
“It is necessary that this committee represents a broad spectrum of the community and not be wholly made up of representatives of one political party where the public may question the independence of the decisions made”.
Cllr Field’s application was endorsed by Nigel Spencer MBE and Cllr Gary Christy
In his application, Cllr Ablewhite informed the committee that he had extensive experience within the local government arena for over 22 years.
“I believe I can bring experience, impartiality and duty to the role,” he said.
Cllr Ablewhite also told the committee he had been involved in the original set up and consultation of the Standards Board of England and Wales “albeit in a different guise, now, I can appreciate the need for an effective and fair process”.
Cllr Ablewhite is a former Mayor of St Ives, executive leader of Huntingdonshire District Council and chairman of the East of England Local Government Association.
He served as police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire from 2016-2019.
Cllr Ablewhite’s departure from the post followed an inquiry by The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
Cllr Ablewhite’s application was endorsed by the leader of Fenland Council Chris Boden and by Wisbech councillor Steve Tierney.
A conduct committee earlier this month was the first since December 2020. Nine scheduled meetings of the committee since then were cancelled.
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