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West Norfolk councillor facing rap in standards probe

GV of the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk, King's Court Hq, Chapel Street King's Lynn
GV of the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk, King's Court Hq, Chapel Street King's Lynn

A West Norfolk councillor is facing disciplinary action after a standards committee concluded he had committed multiple breaches of the authority’s code of conduct.

Details of the findings against Patrick Rochford were released by the borough council yesterday, following a hearing conducted in closed session at Lynn’s town hall last week.

The panel recommended that Mr Rochford should be reported to full council and formally censured for his behaviour. The next full council meeting is scheduled to take place in late January.

It also concluded that he should be removed from all committees and outside bodies of which he is currently a member and be forced to return all council technological equipment given to him with immediate effect.

The latter sanction is to remain in place until the end of his term in office, which is due to be in May 2019.

However, Mr Rochford, a Conservative who has represented the Gaywood Northbank ward for the past two years, has indicated he intends to contest the decision.

He said: “I disagree with the findings of the Standards Board and will welcome the opportunity to discuss this at full council in January and with my colleagues at the next group meeting.

“In the meantime, I have been looking to refer the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman.”

Meanwhile, council leader Brian Long declined to say whether any disciplinary action was to be taken, saying it was an “internal matter”.

A four-page decision notice on the case was published on the borough council’s website on Monday morning, following the hearing which took place last Tuesday.

It said: “The panel found that there was a course of conduct over a period of time that demonstrated behaviour towards an individual that was targeted.

“The behaviour in the view of the panel fell short of those standards expected of an elected member and this was a breach of the respect provisions of the code.”

Although the complainant has not been named in the report, the remarks are thought to have referred to another councillor, Sandra Squire, who has herself been suspended from the party following allegations against her.

Mrs Squire has now resigned from the party over the affair and is continuing to serve as both a borough and county councillor as an independent, becoming deputy leader of a new independent group at County Hall.

She said yesterday that she felt some “vindication” from the verdict, adding: “I quit the party over ongoing bullying issues and I’m looking forward to carrying on as an independent.”

Mr Rochford was found to have breached the council’s code through the posting of a number of tweets in May and August of this year relating to Mrs Squire that were deemed to have publicly undermined her position.

The posts were all made from his account, which listed him as a councillor.

He was also deemed, “on balance”, to have breached the code by engaging in intimidatory behaviour during a meeting in late August.

The panel’s conclusions followed the findings of an independent investigation which was completed in October.

Its members included two former borough mayors, Barry Ayres and Colin Manning, as well as another Conservative councillor, Sam Sandell.

Earlier this year, Mr Rochford stood as an independent candidate in the Norfolk County Council elections, having previously stated he was resigning from the Conservative group.

However, he was subsequently re-admitted to the party after finishing last of the five candidates to contest the Gaywood North and Central division.

The official Conservative candidate, Sheila Young, was elected.

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