October 1, 2021 4.00 pm

Lincolnshire councillor guilty of £31k fraud won’t be kicked out until he’s sentenced

Councillor McNeill is still an elected member despite guilty pleas

West Lindsey District Councillor Giles McNeill, who has admitted a number of fraud offences, will not be forced to step down until after he is sentenced.

Ex-Conservative Councillor McNeill on Thursday admitted eight theft, fraud and forgery charges totalling £31,201.04 from his own party, over a period of six years, and was sent to Crown Court for sentencing at a later time.

Several readers questioned why Councillor McNeill was still in his position on WLDC and continues to be listed as an Independent member for Nettleham on the authority’s website.

Liberal Democrat Trevor Young says his party wants a full investigation into Councillor McNeill’s actions and how it will impact on the authority.

“We don’t think there’s enough assurance given. We want it fully investigated because we believe it’s relevant in terms of his behaviour in those two positions.”

Councillor McNeill has been asked if he plans to step down, however, no response had been received by the time of publication.

West Lindsey District Council said it is not linked to the current case in any way, and was conscious that proceedings were still active.

However, a spokesman said: “A councillor cannot be disqualified until sentence has been passed. There would also be a period for lodging an appeal.

“No councillor can be disqualified until both the above requirements have been met. Until a councillor is disqualified, they are entitled to continue to fulfil their role as a councillor including attending meetings, taking part in debates and voting.”

According to Section 80, 1, D of  the Local Government Act 1972, a person “shall be disqualified for being elected or being a member of a local authority” if he “has within five years before the day of election or since his election been convicted in the United Kingdom… of any offence and has had passed on him a sentence of imprisonment (whether suspended or not) for a period of not less than three months without the option of a fine”.

If Councillor McNeill’s sentence meets the requirement, his disqualification as a councillor will be automatic, however, if he then appeals the sentence, he will continue as councillor until a further decision is made.

The council confirmed any changes to Councillor McNeill’s position would be reported and followed by a new election process.

After the court proceedings Thursday, a spokesman for Gainsborough Conservatives, which was one of the victims of Councillor McNeill’s actions, said: “We are encouraged by the guilty pleas, but this is obviously still an ongoing legal process so we are not able to comment further other than to point out that when irregularities were found in the Association records we immediately reported our findings to the Police and have worked with them to carry out a full investigation.

“It is important that we continue to respect and do nothing which may compromise the legal process.”

McNeill was leader of the council from May 2019 until announcing in September 2020 he was stepping back from the role for “personal reasons”.

He was also organising secretary and communications manager for Gainsborough Conservative Association and was employed in a similar role by the constituency MP Sir Edward Leigh. He stepped down from both positions last year.

McNeill became the council’s youngest member when he was first elected to represent the Nettleham ward at a by-election in September 2012, at the age of 30. After stepping down as leader he left the Conservative Group but continued to sit as an Independent councillor.

Spotted an error? Please notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.