Probe into conduct of councillor

Claims are 'absurd' - Coun Alan Skidmore
Claims are 'absurd' - Coun Alan Skidmore

A top Ripon councillor is under investigation by the borough’s standards body for comments made at a meeting about the former Mayor’s arrest.

City Coun Alan Skidmore (Con) had asked the then-Mayor of Ripon, Coun Andrew Williams (Ind) at a city council meeting on April 8 if he wished to comment on the issue of “an elected member of the council being arrested and released on police bail”.

Now fellow city Coun Peter Horton (Ind) has lodged a complaint with Harrogate Borough Council’s standards committee, accusing Coun Skidmore – who is also deputy leader of Harrogate Borough Council – of breaching the city council’s code of conduct, with subsequent news reporting of the question tarnishing its reputation.

Coun Horton has declined to comment on the nature of the complaint. “The matter is in the hands of the borough council. It is a confidential matter,” he said.

The Gazette understands it accuses Coun Skidmore of breaching sections five and seven of the city council’s code of conduct, thereby disclosing information given in confidence or of a confidential nature and bringing the city council into disrepute.

But Coun Skidmore has branded the complaint “absurd” and said he raised the issue because he was “actually protecting our reputation”.

“The issue was already in the public domain and members of the public were coming up to me to ask me about it,” he said.

As the Gazette exclusively reported in April, Coun Williams was arrested in February on suspicion of the alleged theft of council funds in June last year. He was re-bailed again by police this week.

Under section five of the code of conduct, councillors can disclose confidential information if it is in the public interest and made in good faith.

“It must be in the public interest, especially when the public are talking about it and it concerns public money,” said Coun Skidmore.

He added that by raising the issue at a city council meeting where a reporter was present from the Gazette, which subsequently reported the arrest, he was protecting the reputation of the other 14 city councillors.