South Kesteven District Council: Councillor accused of misleading authority

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A senior South Kesteven councillor has refused to apologise after he was accused of “unintentionally misleading” the authority and called on to step down as its police representative.

Councillor Phil Dilks made the claim about Councillor Ray Wootten, in relation to a previous motion on police funding.

He said it was declined after Councillor Wootten, who sits on the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel, told members there would be no further staff cuts and that the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones was to receive £10 million funding.

It later transpired that Mr Jones had in fact received just £1.8 million, and that there will still be 50 police officers lost by the end of this year.

Councillor Dilks said his previous motion, in which he called for the authority to push for better funding for police after raising “serious concerns” about rising crime in his area, was turned down on “false information” and that the authority had been “seriously mislead”, though he acknowledged it was “unintentionally”.

A previous meeting also called on Councillor Wootten to apologise, but Councillor Dilks said the former had been “bobbing in and out of the meeting” resulting in him not being there for the request.

“We must be able to have confidence that announcements made by  those representing us on such important bodies are accurate, fair and tell the whole truth,” he said.

Councillor Wootten has also since clarified that the £10 million in extra funding has been achieved through both tax rises, savings and extra funding by Mr Jones in the years since he was elected in 2016.

Councillor Dilks’ motion also called for Councillor Wootten to be replaced as the council’s representative on the Police and Crime Panel, of which he is vice chairman.

In the meeting, Councillor Wootten said: “The information I gave to full council on May 23 was, as always, given in good faith, based on the information I was given.

“I never have and never will deliberately mislead this council, or the residents we serve.”

He said the motion a “character assassination”, a “slur” and an “unwarranted attack.”

He called on Councillor Dilks himself to apologise and other councillors to show respect.

He also denied saying there would be no further staff cuts, referring instead to funding cuts.

In response to other points on the motion, Councillor Wootten praised the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promise of 20,000 extra police officers and £1.1 billion funding.

Several other councillors also called on Councillor Wootten to apologise, though others criticised it, with Councillor Philip Knowles accusing it of “missing the point” over the three meetings it had appeared in and becoming the “Dilks-Wootten show.”

Councillor Charmaine Morgan said: “There’s no shame in apologising,” she says, admitting she herself has had to previously.”

An amendment offered by Councillor Morgan, on the proviso of him apologising was withdrawn when he continued to refuse to do so.

However, a further amendment which will see the council leader write to Lincolnshire’s MPs to push for fairer funding, and invite Mr Jones to a meeting to discuss crime in the district was passed.

Daniel Jaines , Local Democracy Reporting Service