December 30, 2020 9.30 am This story is over 41 months old

2020: The year of disgrace for these Lincolnshire councillors

Councillors on the naughty list

Several elected councillors across Lincolnshire have found themselves on the naughty list in 2020.

Local authority members have a duty to behave themselves while in office, and if they breach the rules, then it is right they should be investigated.

Sometimes this leads to a suspension, others purely an apology. Here are some of this year’s notable blunders.

Giles McNeill – West Lindsey District Council

Giles McNeill | Photo: Daniel Jaines for The Lincolnite

Investigations are understood to still be ongoing in relation to the former leader of West Lindsey District Council.

Councillor Giles McNeill stepped back as West Lindsey District Council Leader on September 13 after an investigation was launched by his party.

Some 15 days later, the 38-year-old was arrested by Lincolnshire Police under what were understood to be fraud offences, and he was released the same day.

However, on October 14, he officially left the leadership role with the baton being taken up by his deputy Councillor Owen Bierley.

He also left his role as a communications manager for Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh but remained a district councillor for Nettleham Ward.

2021 should bring more clarity into the specific allegations as the investigations unfold.

David Brown – Boston Borough Council

Councillor Brown checks the video feed several times while his vehicle appears to still be moving.

Another councillor still under police investigation is the former portfolio holder for Tourism, Arts and Culture at Boston Borough Council, who was caught driving while attending a virtual meeting.

Councillor David Brown stepped down from his role on Friday, September 11, after admitting he “shouldn’t have joined” a virtual cabinet meeting the Wednesday prior.

The meeting was live-streamed and the video in full later appeared on the council’s YouTube channel.

In the footage, the vehicle Councillor Brown is sat in is clearly moving.

Councillor Brown has his hands on the wheel, however, on several occasions he fiddles with the device he is using to attend the meeting, moving it closer to his face and readjusting its position.

This goes on for 20 minutes before Councillor Brown disappears from view. When he reappears it looks like he has parked up for the rest of the meeting.

The incident sparked several reports to Lincolnshire Police and Boston Borough Council.

On December 14, a council spokesman said the authority would not comment on “live police investigations”.

It is understood the incident has been passed to another force due to the driving taking place in another jurisdiction.

Police have issued no further updates.

Paul Howitt-Cowan – Slandering developer

Councillor Paul Howitt-Cowan.

Returning to West Lindsey District Council, it was a rocky start for the new leadership.

Just two months after Councillor McNeill leaving, on December 14, it was revealed that the recently installed deputy leader, Councillor Paul Howitt-Cowan, was told to apologise for his comments regarding a planning application in the district.

Councillor Howitt-Cowan told Hemswell Parish Council that he feared Alan Morris might illegally demolish a former blacksmiths forge in the area as part of plans to build a new one-and-a-half storey home.

He had also suggested residents spy on Mr Morris because “he might try to be naughty”.

The house builder had complained to the authority that he had been labelled a “serial criminal” after Councillor Howitt-Cowan said he had a “history of doing this in other parts of the country”.

Mr Morris denied demolishing any building and said he was “livid”.

Councillor Howitt-Cowan was also banned from serving on the planning committee for the rest of the civic year, and had his access to council officers restricted.

John Fenty – Business with a fraudster

Councillor John Fenty, former deputy leader and cabinet member for regeneration, skills and housing at North East Lincolnshire Council. | Photo: North East Lincolnshire Council

Up in North East Lincolnshire, revelations about the deputy leader’s new company with a convicted fraudster led to the resignation of Councillor John Fenty.

Conservative Councillor John Fenty, who was also cabinet member for Regeneration, Skills and Housing, had set up a business with Alex May, who was previously convicted and jailed for six years for his part in a multi-million pound scam.

Councillor Fenty said the pair were no longer business partners. The company they had set up, Town Centre Living Ltd, had not even started trading yet and an application would later be made to dissolve it.

Labour Councillors have called for an independent investigation with leader Councillor Matthew Patrick saying the news had “shaken trust in the council to the core”.

Humberston and New Waltham councillor Stan Shreeve has since been appointed as his replacement as the new deputy leader of the council.

Grimsby Town FC, who Mr Fenty is a majority shareholder of, also announced it had rejected a bid by Mr May to acquire £1,000,000 of shares which would have been used as a contribution towards the cost of a new training facility for the club and local community.

They denied the application was a bid to acquire the club itself or a controlling interest in it, however the team manager also resigned after the scandal.

Some fans have also called for Councillor Fenty to step back from the club.

Rob Barlow – Chief Executive shares “sexist” posts

Chief executive of East Lindsey District Council, and now Boston Borough Council, Rob Barlow.

It’s not just councillors who have been in trouble this year, after historic Facebook posts by East Lindsey District Council Chief Executive Rob Barlow were brought up shortly after he began sharing his role with Boston Borough Council.

Barlow took over from Boston’s former chief executive Phil Drury under a new alliance hoped to save millions.

However, former Boston Borough Councillor Helen Staples complained to the leaders of both authorities after seeing posts from 2014 shared on Mr Barlow’s Facebook page which she said: “showed a total lack of respect for women”.

The posts included the lines “The art of smiling and nodding when all you want to do is slap that b**ch in the face” and “a wife is for life, not just for Christmas, think before you propose this year”.

Mrs Staples later withdrew her complaint after the posts were removed, however, current Councillor Anne Dorrian then picked up the baton and called for a full investigation.

Mr Barlow apologised for the posts and his Facebook page was either removed or made private.