Complaint over Chichester District Council leader’s A27 email is dismissed

Tony Dignum, CDC leader

Tony Dignum, CDC leader

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A complaint over comments made by Chichester District Council leader Tony Dignum in an email on the A27 has been dismissed.

Earnley Parish Council had complained over a private email, sent by cllr Dignum on January 1, 2016, in which he said: “Rest assured I have given all the assistance I can to the mounting campaign against any northern bypass short of a public statement (not just because it would pass 250 metres from here!).

One of two draft options for a northern A27 bypass, which were dropped in March this year, just before the public consultations

One of two draft options for a northern A27 bypass, which were dropped in March this year, just before the public consultations

“I’ve arranged with Charles March for all the CDClls to visit the estate on 13th January.”

Earnley argued that cllr Dignum should have abstained from the district council’s discussion and vote on the A27. In September the council voted to back Option 2, with a number of amendments, after any northern options had been dropped.

Earnley claimed cllr Dignum’s behaviour ‘fell short of the standards of a Chichester district councillor or indeed the council leader’.

The complaint was looked into by Nicholas Bennett, CDC’s most senior monitoring officer, who dismissed it.

He said because of the 2011 Localism Act, ‘the law is now far clearer that councillors are entitled to express opinions or views and that is not, of itself, predetermination.”

Cllr Dignum had properly declared hospitality at Goodwood, Mr Bennett stated.

Responding, cllr Dignum said: “Most people within the district will have their own personal opinions on the A27 options, I am no different.

“I sent the email complained of by Earnley Parish Council to a friend on January 1 this year to express my thoughts at that moment in time. “As the complainant acknowledged, the northern options were discounted by Highways England just over two months later in March.

“As a consultee, the council was asked to put forward its preference out of the options put forward by Highways England in July.

“Those options included only options along the existing route.

“Councillors were given a full briefing on all the options. Council officers recommended Highways England’s Option 2. Cabinet accepted that recommendation but subject to a number of substantial mitigations or amendments. This recommendation was put to Council which decided on the basis of a completely free vote; there was no Conservative whip of any kind.

“The council also asked Highways England to publicly explain why the northern bypass option had been discounted.

Cllr Dignum added: “I declared I had received hospitality from Goodwood through attendance at events there.

“However, the events attended were all outside the period when northern routes were known to be possibilities.”

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