The leader of Leicestershire County Council, David Parsons, broke the councillors code of conduct over his expenses, a committee has decided. The authority's standards committee has backed a report into money claimed for official trips to Brussels. It found he did not promptly repay expenses initially covered by a publicly-funded body called East Midlands Councils (EMC).The story goes on to quote Dr Sarah Hill, deputy leader of the Lib Dems on the county council (and my county councillor as saying: "Mr Parsons has to accept that his position as leader is now completely untenable."
The council's standards committee will now decide what action to take and has the power to censure the council leader. But any further punishment is up to the Conservative group.
Thus far that group has shown a mulish determination to defend Parsons, as was seen when there were earlier concerns over the free use he had made of the chauffeur-driven car provided by the county council. That determination has not done the Conservatives any favours.
One of their senior councillors, David Sprason, found himself obliged to apologise for misleading the council, apparently out of a desire to defend the conduct of his leader. And they have been reduced to politicising one of the council's civic posts.
Perhaps the most damning aspect of today's events was the defence offered by Parson's solicitor. The BBC reports that he said Parsons is "a busy man who took little attention as to the detail of his own financial matters".
That hardly fills you with confidence, given that Leicestershire spends more than £400m every year.
I am reminded of the words of the words of Lord Hazlerigg, a Leicestershire Tory grandee of an earlier generation, when it was suggested that county councillors should be paid expenses:
“If a man hasn’t the brains to earn his own fare once or twice a month into his county town, I don’t think he’d be much help in administering the spending of a million of money.”More and more, you suspect that the Conservatives' determination to cling to David Parsons has less to with loyalty than with the shallowness of their pool of talent in the county.
Later. Parsons has issued a laughable statement: "I now intend to draw a line under the matter."