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NEWS RELEASE
from the Liberal Democrats
on Harlow District Council


 Contact Cllr Lorna Spenceley (home 324676, mobile 07930 337596)
 Release 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 him.

"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.

ENDS


 

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