on Harlow District Council
Cllr Lorna Spenceley (home 324676,
mobile 07930 337596)
Monday 12 January 2004
Liberal Democrat Group excludes
Cllr Matthew Shepherd
Harlow Council's ruling Liberal
Democrat group has excluded Cllr Matthew Shepherd from its ranks
pending the outcome of matters reported in the local press regarding
the use of council-provided computer equipment and monitoring
of internet use.
The unanimous vote came at a
special group meeting on Saturday 10 January. All members of
the group were present, with the exception of Cllr Shepherd,
who had been invited but did not attend.
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr
Lorna Spenceley said:
"This decision has been
regrettable but necessary. We would have preferred Matthew to
remain a member of the Liberal Democrat group, stepping aside
voluntarily as Chair of the Licensing Committee while the matters
recently reported were resolved. This would have been the appropriate
way forward, and it is disappointing that Matthew repeatedly
declined this offer. The external, independent advice we received
was that his refusal left the group with no option but to exclude
"None of what has happened
is intended to prejudge the outcome of any investigation or legal
action. Nor does it deny Matthew's undoubted abilities and the
contribution he has made to the council and the town. Indeed,
the loss of these makes the decision we have had to take all
the more regrettable.
"Over the last few months
Liberal Democrats, including Matthew himself, have gone on record
calling for two Conservative committee chairs to step aside when
their positions became untenable. Indeed, when they did not
do so, we passed votes of no confidence in them. We would expect
to apply the same standards within our own Group as to any member
of any other Group on the Council."
In the last few days Cllr Shepherd
has announced that he has chosen to report the entire Liberal
Democrat Group to the Standards Board. The grounds he has given
for this referral are that the action of the Liberal Democrat
Group in seeking to exclude him are likely to prejudice his legal
action against the Council. As of Friday 9 January, Harlow Council
has received no formal notification of any such legal action.
It is therefore hard to see how any decision by the Liberal
Democrat group could be said to prejudice legal action of which
there is as yet no evidence.