Hearing into 'door kicking' allegations against councillor halted

Pendle Council standards committee hearing into complaints against Coun David Whipp, seated front row with back to camera, far right
-Credit: (Image: LDRS)


A standards hearing into accusations that a leading Pendle councillor broke a code of conduct over his behaviour at meetings has been delayed, after a number of witnesses were unable to attend a meeting because it clashed with Eid celebrations.

Lib-Dem Coun David Whipp, Pendle Council's deputy leader, faces accusations that he broke a councillors' code of conduct in October 2022 by kicking a Nelson Town Hall door with force, which allegedly physically impacted on other councillors, and in July 2023 by shouting at an opponent councillor and waving paper close to his face.

Conservative councillors David Albin, Jenny Purcell, Ash Sutcliffe and Kevin Salter claimed Coun Whipp behaved badly regarding the door being opened and closed at the 2022 full council meeting. Ash Sutcliffe made a separate complaint about the 2023 executive meeting. Two reports into the complaints have been written by an independent officer called Sue Ward.

Coun Whipp has disputed the 2022 door-kicking allegation in his version of events, contained in written statements so far. He has denied showing disregard for other councillors regarding force used on the door. He said it had previously shown resistance and then 'flew open' unexpectedly. He has not responded to the second complaint so far, according to the report.

Pendle Council held a Standards Committee hearing this week into the allegations. But it was adjourned because various councillors were not there.

Coun David Whipp
Coun David Whipp -Credit:LDRS

Melvin Kenyon, an independent person with no link to Pendle Council, was the chairman for the hearing. He introduced himself and asked councillors, council officers and the independent investigating officer to introduce themselves.

Christmas Day comparison

Coun Whipp introduced himself and then said: "It is Eid today and I have several witnesses who would be here tonight if they had not been engaged in the Muslim equivalent of Christmas Day.

"I note that a number of regular members of this committee who are from the Independents group are absent. So I am asking the officer, in all fairness, for the meeting to be put back to another day which is not the Muslim equivalent of Christmas Day."

The committee went to a back room to discuss the request. On return, Mr Kenyon asked Coun Whipp for the names of the different councillors who are witnesses for the two allegations.

Coun Whipp gave the names and said almost all the councillor witnesses he had asked for were at Eid celebrations. One or two others had declined for reasons such as being members of the council Standards Committee. Another councillor was in hospital.

Councillors Yasser Iqbal and Naeem Ashraf were at the meeting but Coun Ashraf had to leave early. Coun Tom Whipp was there too and available.

The panel had more private discussions. After returning, Mr Kenyon said: "After careful consideration, the committee has decided that the hearing should be adjourned. However, as chairman I would like to make the point that there are people around this table who have travelled long distances to be here, including me. "

He said he understood Coun Whipp was invited to supply a list of witnesses before the meeting but had failed to do so. He asked: "Is that not the case?"

But Coun Whipp replied: "I don't believe that is the case."

Mr Kenton replied: "OK, if so then I am misinformed. But that is what I've been told. I will leave that hanging. However, can we be certain that when this is rescheduled that everyone's diaries are in-line. It's important that with 12 people there is no doubt about the availability of witnesses. That there is no lack of clarity about who is going to be here and when. I think we have to declare this meeting adjourned."

But Coun Whipp said: "I have previously requested for this to be postponed on more than one occasion."

Concern over time-scales

After the meeting formally closed, some councillors including complainant Ash Sutcliffe and David Whipp himself raised questions about the meeting's date, witness arrangements or the length of the investigation with a top Pendle Council officer, Howard Culshaw, who has a role in complaint investigations. But these were informal comments.

In her formal written report, investigator Sue Ward mentioned the time the investigation has taken. She states the council's chief executive, Rose Rouse, gave details about time-scales in producing the final report and a subsequent delay in issuing it to councillors, due to a pre-election period.

Earlier this year, Pendle Council said other factors including staff changes and availability of independent people to chair standards meetings had impacted on time-scales. But it had the systems in place for all complaints against councillors or staff to be investigated, it emphasised. A new date will be arranged for the next meeting.