Councillor cleared on slander charges

A KIMBERLEY councillor who faced Broxtowe Borough Council’s standards board for saying the town’s farmers’ market was ‘illegal’ has been cleared.

Cllr Ken Rigby was hauled up against the board after market organiser Cllr Richard Robinson reported him for slander, saying the claims were untrue and claiming he had breached the council’s code of conduct.

But the board unanimously cleared Cllr Rigby, saying he could be ‘forgiven for believing what he thought was true, even though it was, in part, inaccurate’.

Cllr Rigby said: “They (the board) accepted my explanation that I am not a qualified lawyer.

“They accepted my use of the word was an innocent mistake.”

An argument broke out about the legal position of the farmers’ market when it was set up 18 months ago and Cllr Rigby said market organisers were not paying the correct fee each month.

An old charter law says anyone holding a public event within seven miles of Ilkeston, must pay Erewash Borough Council £286. The law was put in place to protect Ilkeston’s market.

But Kimberley farmers’ market pays the council £38 each month – the fee Cllr Rigby says is strictly for charities.

Cllr Rigby said it was not fair the Kimberley pram race and the Christmas light switch on events are charged at £286, and he wanted a ’level playing field’.

But Cllr Robinson said he was told it would be a £38 fee because it was a small market.

And he said when Erewash Borough Council reviewed the charge in early 2010, he once again received a letter saying the price would be staying at £38.

The standards board concluded that Cllr Rigby made the inaccurate allegation in good faith based on a conversation he had with Erewash Borough Council.

Cllr Robinson, who also represents Kimberley on the borough council, did not want to comment.

The comments were made by Cllr Rigby in a Focus leaflet, distributed to about 3,000 houses around Kimberley and Cossall.

If he had been found guilty he could have faced a six month ban from office.