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Probe launched over Tory councillors who voted for plans in Pendle
COUNCIL chiefs have launched an investigation into Tory councillors who voted through a controversial planning application despite the party receiving a donation from the firm behind it.
Libra Textiles, parent company of Boundary Mill in Colne, made the donation to Pendle Conservatives last June.
But Tory chiefs hit back saying the donation was ‘completely transparent’.
Last month, five Conservative councillors helped to vote through plans for a new garden centre at the retail outlet at the end of the M65, which will create 300 jobs.
A sixth, Coun Paul White, declared an interest and didn’t take part in the debate.
He told the meeting that the donation was to Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson’s election campaign, of which he is manager.
But Labour group leader Mohammed Iqbal lodged an official complaint with the council against Coun White and the other five councillors — Graham Waugh, Joe Cooney, Margaret Foxley, Neil Butterworth and John McBeth — who took part in the debate and voted.
“There is a perception from the public that councillors and MPs are in the pocket of big business,” said Coun Iqbal.
“I think these councillors need to consider their position in light of this.”
Joe Cooney, leader of Pendle Conservatives, said: “We welcome the opportunity to prove that nothing untoward has gone on, and are confident that this investigation will prove that.
“We have always been open and honest about this donation.”
David Brown, chairman of Pendle Conservatives, said: “Donations to political parties are completely transparent, and published online, as was this one.
“The donation was made by Libra Textiles to support the re-election of Andrew Stephenson MP. Andrew has no influence in the planning process, so for Pendle Labour to draw that conclusion is misleading at best.”
Philip Mousdale, deputy chief executive at Pendle Council, said: “I have consulted with the independent person and have decided that I should now carry out an investigation of the complaint.
“I would stress that this should not be taken to imply that at this stage I have come to any view as to whether there has been a breach of the code of conduct.
“However, the complaint raises a number of complex issues, both as regards this case and of wider application.
“The complaint has also already been the subject of considerable publicity and public comment and I consider it is in the public interest that it is investigated fully. I expect that the investigation will take several months to complete.”
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