A Liberal Democrat councillor in Sutton has resigned his seat after allegations of misappropriating client funds were made against him. According to the leader of Sutton council, the matter is being considered by the police.
Alan Salter, elected as a councillor for Carshalton Central in 2010 and, until very recently, the chair of the influential scrutiny committee on the council, stood down a week ago.
Sutton LibDems failed to announce the move immediately.
It is probably only coincidence, but the incinerator-friendly LibDems who control Sutton and who are so opposed to using landfill on this occasion appear to have managed to “bury bad news”, so that it did not overshadow the borough-wide celebrations which followed the news that the council leader, Ruth Dombey, had been awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours.
A terse statement posted on the Sutton LibDem website says: “Alan Salter has resigned from the council following financial allegations made against him.
“He is seeking legal advice on the allegations made.” The statement omits to mention that the matter is in the hands of the police.
Although Salter resigned on Monday June 13, Sutton Council did not bother to tell other councillors – that is, the opposition Tories – until last Friday. The news was included in a weekly bulletin to councillors issued at the end of the working week.
“It was inserted almost as an afterthought, and was not a headline notification,” according to a Sutton source.
This failure to inform has been acknowledged as a mistake and an oversight by the council. Somewhat conveniently for Dombey’s LibDems.
A council by-election will now have to be held. The LibDems control Sutton council with 44 seats to the Tories’ nine and one Green-leaning independent councillor. Carshalton Central, which sits within MP Tom Brake’s parliamentary constituency, should be a safe enough LibDem council seat: in 2014, when the local elections were held, they had 37.8per cent of the vote, to the Tories’ 25.2per cent, with Labour on 9.3 per cent.
Niall Bolger, the Sutton Council CEO and therefore the election chief returning officer, is away on leave until tomorrow. But it is understood that an application to hold a by-election in Carshalton Central has already been made; the vote has to be held within 35 days, which suggests July 21 or 28. The Sutton LibDems will undoubtedly want as short a campaign period as possible to avoid the obvious embarrassment of the situation.
LibDem-run Sutton is fast deteriorating in one of the rottenest of rotten boroughs.
Salter is the third councillor to slip through the Sutton’s LibDems’ control in just two years. In 2014, Stephen Fenwick resigned as a councillor, though only after he was found guilty of racially aggravated assault. The LibDems retained his seat on the council with an alternative candidate.
Last year, Dombey’s LibDems moved to strip Nick Mattey of his party membership over the councillor’s outspoken criticism of the Viridor incinerator at Beddington. Mattey remains as an independent councillor.
Salter is a retired accountant who as well as holding a position on the council’s scrutiny committee (he was recently, quietly, demoted from the chairmanship), was also vice-chair of the council’s audit committee.
Inside Croydon understands that an anonymous accusation against Salter over some non-council business was received by Sutton Council in autumn 2015, but no action appears to have been taken then. It is believed that Salter’s resignation follows serious allegations made on social media regarding the handling of tax refunds on behalf of local residents.
In an email exchange yesterday with other Sutton councillors, Dombey said, “I have always found Alan to be courteous and fair and I am very concerned about the allegations that have been made and that have prompted him to decide to resign.
“I have been told the matter is now in the hands of the police so we will wait to hear the outcome.”
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