A WAR of words has broken out between political groups on Pendle Council after an investigation cleared a senior Labour councillor of abusing her position to secure the tenancy of a cottage in Nelson.
In the run-up to the council elections in May, both the Conservatives and British National Party sent out leaflets across Pendle accusing Coun. Kathleen Shore of wrong-doing in applying for a property while she was a trustee of the governing body.
This led to BNP councillor Brian Parker calling on the council’s deputy chief executive, Mr Philip Mousdale, to carry out an investigation as to how Coun. Shore came to be granted the tenancy.
This found that an original application from Coun. Shore had been rejected by Coun. Parker, who was also a trustee at the time.
When a second cottage became vacant several months later, by which time Coun. Parker had stepped down as a trustee, it was decided not to advertise and to reassess previous applicants. Coun. Shore stepped down as a trustee and was granted the tenancy.
The investigation found that while Coun. Shore was not a trustee when she was allocated the property, she was wrong to apply for a tenancy while she was one.
She said this week: “I was very angry that both BNP and Conservatives had made out that I was a liar and a cheat. In my decades of service to the people of Pendle, I have never abused my position and never will”.
The leader of the Labour Group, Coun. Mohammed Iqbal, who had called for the investigation, added: “I am publicly calling upon the local Conservative Party and British National Party leaders to do the decent thing and apologise to Coun. Shore. It has been proven that she did nothing wrong. They were wrong to print lies and should now apologise to her publicly.”
Conservative council leader Coun. Joe Cooney said the investigation had questioned the appropriateness of Coun. Shore’s actions, described the actions of the Labour trustees as “unfortunate” and concluded “she was wrong to make an application while a trustee”.
He said: “The Conservative Party are very happy to stand by the comments we have made on this issue. The fact remains that Coun. Shore was a trustee when she made an application for this property and also when the other Labour Party trustees decided not to advertise the vacancy. It was therefore totally reasonable for us and the public to ask serious questions about Coun. Shore being allocated a low-cost property, by her Labour colleagues behind closed doors.
“We have never accused Coun. Shore of breaking the law, just raised questions about whether she and her Labour colleagues behaved in the kind of fashion people would expect from their local councillors.
“Clearly, Coun. Iqbal feels that because the report shows that technically the law was not broken, his Labour colleagues have done nothing wrong. That perhaps says all we need to know about him and his Labour colleagues. Personally, I think the public should expect and deserve better.”
BNP councillor Brian Parker said: “ We consider Philip Mousdale’s report excessively charitable and stand by everything which was said in the leaflets we distributed – a case of the establishment looking after their own.
“Had the positions been reversed and I applied for this self-same property as a residence, do you think the Labour Party would not have raised hell about it? It both would and should.
“I doubt not that some Labour councillors privately feel a good deal of misgiving at the way Coun. Shore, in coveting this property and going to any length to secure it, marred her record of service. It will be interesting to see whether any of them will break ranks in defending a colleague whose conduct is really indefensible.
“Town Councillor John Rowe drafted and takes full responsibility for the leaflets giving the facts about the Labour Party’s councillors’ behaviour which were distributed last May in three Pendle wards and expects to put out more at the May elections next year.
“He says nothing in those leaflets was other than true or fair comment. If the Labour Party is so foolish with all the money it has available to it, John Rowe invites it to finance a claim for defamation on Kathleen Shore’s part.”