COVENTRY council leader George Duggins has been accused of misleading the council – after threatening to personally charge individual opposition councillors for staging Tuesday’s Extraordinary General Meeting about the 60,000 city centre parking fines debacle.
Opposition councillors have today tweeted a written response from the council’s own lawyers which states such a move is not possible.
As we reported, Coun Duggins, his deputy Abdul Khan and city services cabinet member Jayne Innes refused to apologise or admit serious errors during the broadcast EGM.
It followed a damning ruling by national experts at the Traffic Penalty Tribunal that the city centre Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) has “confused” and “misled” fined motorists since 2012 with sparse and inadequate signage and yellow lines removed.
The council leadership’s continued defence of the RPZ – and counter-attack on tribunal chief adjudicator Caroline Shephard’s report – came despite them quietly sending out council workers over the last two weeks to erect at least 101 new road signs to inform motorists about the parking zone.
Coun Duggins – amid his and colleagues’ personal attacks against individual Tory councillors – accused them of wasting council taxpayers’ money by calling the EGM, which he estimated to cost £3,000.
He said he had “considered” personally billing them for it, and warned he would consider doing so again for any similar moves in future.
The EGM meeting – which have in the past also been called by Labour councillors – had been called to seek an apology from Coun Innes for ‘misleading council’, a claim she angrily denied.
The Tories also called for her resignation and more answers about the parking zone furore. They claimed the EGM was also necessary as important questions had been ignored and swerved by council cabinet members and officers.
Opposition leader, Gary Ridley, this afternoon tweeted the following written advice, which he said had come from the council’s legal team.
“Dear councillor, I do not think there are any powers to recover costs for the holding of a meeting from councillors.
“A complaint could be made under councillor code of conduct – but even if as a result a breach of the code was found, there are no sanctions that can seek financial reimbursement from any councillor for that breach.”
Coun Ridley tweeted: “Labour’s Leader recently threatened to bill @CVConservatives for calling a meeting to hold them to account. Today Council’s legal team confirm there’s no legal way of doing that. What sort of regime is @coventrycc becoming?”
Coun Tim Mayer, who had led on the EGM motion and was the subject of attempted Labour smears during it, tweeted: “One where our council leader has just misled the group, the full council, the media and worst members of public. @CoventryLabour leader has a lot of explaining to do.”
Coun Duggins responded by saying simply that he stood by his words, and that the meeting had wasted officers’ and councillors’ time.
We have requested a further council response regarding the legal matters.