ALIAS GATE: Councillor let off the hook by investigators

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Controversial Councillor Richard Robinson has been let off the hook after being found guilty of breaching Broxtowe Borough Council’s rules.

At a Standards Committee meeting on April 14, councillors were presented with an independent report investigating his actions.

The report concluded: “In seeming to encourage an individual to make representations using an alias Councillor Robinson was guilty of an offence under the Code of Conduct. I have emphasised that I consider this to be very much a technical breach and recommend that no sanctions are imposed.”

Conservative Paul Simpson, on the committee, said they could agree to meet the recommendations, despite Mr Robinson being guilty of breaching the council’s Code of Conduct.

He said: “We basically agreed with the findings.

“He (Cllr Robinson) admitted what he’d done, but he quite clearly in his statement said that he regretted it.

“Because there was no confirming evidence that disputed Councillor Robinson’s version of events there was no choice but to agree to the recommendations.”

The investigation carried out by Bevan Britton LLP addressed complaints, although none made officially, against Labour’s portfolio holder that in the course of discussing the generation of positive press around the proposed Kimberley Tram extension, he encouraged “out of towners” to use local aliases so their petitioning letters had greater impact.

Mr Robinson previously admitted on BBC Radio Nottingham that he had said to David Cockle of London-based construction management firm Leewood Projects: “get your comments in, if you have to use your aliases...”.

Cllr Simpson, who is also nominated for re-election for his ward in Nuthall, added: “He attested that he had no knowledge of this guy and didn’t know of his existence.”

Mr Robinson, who is also nominated for re-election for Kimberley, said in his open letter responding to the report: “I would like to issue a sincere apology for the impression that I have conveyed through the response I sent to correspondence received from Mr Cockle.

“As the report outlines I have not and would never bring the Council into disrepute by deliberate action and/or inaction. I am sorry that my actions, though inadvertent, caused people to question the integrity of the role occupied by Councillors.

“I completely accept the findings of the Investigator and do not seek to challenge the recommendation. While no further action is recommended I am happy to issue this correspondence as a way to make clear my sincerest regret in unintentionally failing to abide by the Code.”

Mr Robinson also stated that he “did not find a request to use aliases unusual as many people do this to protect their anonymity and express strong views.”

The committee had powers to decide if they would issue a formal warning, instruct training, recommend to the Labour leader that he be removed from all committees, or potentially recommend he be removed from all outside appointments – namely his seat on the cabinet.

Cllr Robinson told investigators the criticism that followed was incredibly stressful.

The investigator, Olwan Dutton, wrote: “He told me that he was deeply upset by the events and how he had been portrayed. The comments made about him had seriously affected his family life; describing it as being “very upsetting” for him and his family. In particular, he had received two threatening phone calls which involved someone shouting down the telephone line asking why he had lied and why he had not resigned.

The report also found that Cllr Robinson did not know the recipient of the email, David Cockle, and so would not have known he may have had a material interest in the project.

The committee also discussed that the constitution of the Borough Council be amended to make solid that all councillors must never use aliases under any circumstance, said Paul Simpson.