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West Norfolk councillor Simon Nash refuses to stand down from committees despite pleas from leader Terry Parish

A renegade West Norfolk councillor who broke the authority’s code of conduct is refusing to stand down from its committees, despite repeated pleas from its leader.

Simon Nash, 52, has defied three requests from Terry Parish to resign from the roles, with the leader admitting he is unable to compel him to quit.

The stand-off is the latest twist in an astonishing nine-year feud between Mr Nash and his own council, which began before he was even elected and has seen him classified as a ‘persistent complainer’ by staff who blocked his emails.

Cllr Simon Nash
Cllr Simon Nash

Committee stand-off

The dispute – which started in 2015 when Mr Nash became embroiled in a disagreement with officials over his mechanics business – saw him officially reprimanded earlier this year for sending hundreds of emails to staff accusing them of corruption and malpractice.

As part of the reprimand he was required to stand down from his roles on the standards committee and the investigations and disciplinary committee, which he set up.

West Norfolk Council’s headquarters on Chapel Street in Lynn
West Norfolk Council’s headquarters on Chapel Street in Lynn

But the rebel councillor, who represents West Winch as an independent, insists he will not budge as he claims his hearing in January was conducted “unlawfully”.

“I have refused to step down as the hearing was conducted unlawfully and contrary to the council’s constitution,” he said.

“I became a councillor to make sure they did the right thing but it is proving somewhat of a challenge – although I can’t just leave.

“It feels like I am banging my head against a brick wall. I seem to be a lone voice.”

Legal row

Mr Nash has lodged a complaint with the Local Government Ombudsman following his conduct hearing.

His criticism stems from the panel’s refusal for him to have a ‘McKenzie Friend’ present at the hearing – an independent person who provides moral support during court proceedings.

He says this has broken Article 6 of the European Human Rights Act – a right to a fair and public hearing and the Local Government Association’s guidance for standard hearings.

“They cannot make me step down,” he said, adding: “The assumption is the council will give a fair hearing but this was not the case.

“I have told the leader to read the guidelines – it is there in black and white that the council must follow article 6 of the Human Rights Act.

“By going against this, it surely brings the council into disrepute.”

Out of options?

At a recent meeting, Conservative councillor Brian Long challenged Terry Parish as to why Mr Nash remained on the committees by referencing a quote from the Spider-Man movies.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” he said. “When are you going to use your great responsibility?”

Mr Parish said he had asked Mr Nash three times if he would leave these positions but that he “could not actually remove them if they refuse to go”.

He suggested that the situation could change in May when committee positions will be up for election again.

However, Mr Nash has said he will nominate himself for these posts and believes there are few other councillors with his knowledge of the council’s constitution.

“The irony is if I am removed from these committees, I am probably the only councillor who understands the rules they are meant to uphold,” he said.

‘Persistent complainer’

Mr Nash’s nine-year feud with West Norfolk Council began in 2015, four years before he was elected, when his garage lost a contract with the council for testing taxis after a cab driver was given penalty points for allowing his licenced vehicle to be driven by a mechanic.

He was put on a ‘persistent complainer’ list after sending more than 50 emails to the council in a 10-month period.

This led to his messages being blocked – an act he describes as a “gagging order”.

In 2018, Mr Nash won an ombudsman ruling against the council over his treatment.

This perceived injustice spurred him on to become a councillor, as he hoped he could help change the council from the inside.

But his tenure has been fraught with bad blood between him and the authority’s officers and he believes the misconduct complaints were part of a backlash at his attempts to pursue bringing “more accountability” to the council.

He worries this is reflective of a culture that dissuades whistle-blowers from coming forward out of fear of career harm.

But there seems to be no prospect of smoothing his relations with the council on the horizon.

A West Norfolk Council spokeswoman refuted his latest suggestions his misconduct hearing was unlawful or that it breached his human rights.

She added the council has not received a direct formal challenge to the decision of the hearing.

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