July 12, 2007

BNP man's cash gifts broke rules

A BNP councillor breached a strict code of conduct by sending £5 notes in Christmas cards to pensioners, a probe has found.

The Standards Board for England has ruled that Queensbury Councillor Paul Cromie's actions could be considered to be an "inducement" for votes. Coun Cromie was reported to the Board after he gave the cash to more than 200 people living in sheltered housing in his ward last December - only months before his wife Lynda was elected as a BNP councillor for Queensbury with a slim 155 majority.

The Board, which enforces ethical standards, has ruled that Coun Cromie's actions brought his office into disrepute. But its decision to take no further action against him has been criticised by political group leaders in Bradford.

Coun Cromie has always insisted the donations were made as a goodwill gesture from his councillor allowance and was not made aware on any problems when he checked with Council officers.

It follows an incident earlier last year at the same housing complex where Coun Cromie was reported to the police over claims he bought votes by paying £100 for a Christmas party. It led to allegations the Conservative candidate was later turned away from the home during canvassing for last year's local election as a direct result.

Coun Cromie refuted the "votes for treats" allegations and the police later confirmed their probe came to nothing. But the Board referred to these allegations in its report, released yesterday, saying: "The ethical standards officer concluded that an objective member of the public, with knowledge of the relevant facts, could well view Coun Cromie's donation as a reward for turning away the Conservative councillor or an inducement to vote for the BNP in the forthcoming elections."

The Board also said that it was "inappropriate" for Council members to link their continuing position as a councillor to a resident's direct financial gain - Coun Cromie had signed the cards in the second incident using his official title and included his Council business card and the BNP party logo,.

It happened only months before the local elections in May when Coun Cromie's wife Lynda, was standing as a BNP candidate. The board report states: "As the gifts were directly linked to the name and to the party, they could have also been considered as an inducement to vote for Coun Cromie's wife.

"The implication that any member might have been elected because of gifts to voters erodes confidence, not just in that member, but in local democracy."

Mrs Cromie was elected to the same ward earlier this year, polling 1,718 votes and defeating Conservative Councillor Stuart Hanson by 155 votes. The report then refers to a conversation Coun Cromie had in July last year when he told a senior Council officer about giving £500 to a local church. He also promised a donation of £50 a month from his allowance through his term of office. He had asked whether he needed to inform the officer every time he gave money to a worthy cause, the report says. And the officer said this was not necessary - which "contributed to Coun Cromie's confusion about the manner in which a councillor may give gifts".

Councillors are free to make donations to anyone as a private individual.

Today Labour group leader, Councillor Ian Greenwood, said: "I think he's been extremely lucky that the Standards Board has been so lenient when it is clear he breached the code of conduct. My view is that it is totally unacceptable to send money to voters if you are an elected member."

Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Jeanette Sunderland said: "I am surprised that the Standards Board has not recommended some form of suspension or his removal. I think Coun Cromie has shown extremely poor judgement in terms of his own personal behaviour."

The Council's ruling Conservative group did not want to comment.

Michael Bowness, the Council's interim head of legal services, said: "We note the findings of this report and following this case we are drawing up clear guidelines for members regarding donations, charitable or otherwise."

Responding to the report's findings, Coun Cromie said: "I did e-mail the Council and said I would be making donations throughout my time as councillor and was simply told there is no criteria for notifying them of gifts. Otherwise I would not have done it. I have been donating to Queensbury charities for 30 years and am not going to stop now. Obviously I will be careful and make sure it is done within the code."

It is not Coun Cromie's first brush with the Board. In October last year he was investigated over an e-mail containing pornographic images - and was later cleared of breaching the code.

Telegraph and Argus


Anonymous said...

What a crook.

James said...

"what a crook."

Labour: Gizza bit a cash and we'll give you a knighthood.

Looks like this BNP candidate isn't the only crook

Anonymous said...

BNP:" Give yus a few nutters with a bag of rice and we'll make you a bomb".

Anonymous said...

Looks like Nick Griffin's sleaze has rubbed off on his millionaire friend Cromie, who thinks its okay to buy votes...

Why oh why the BNP get let off time and time again by the electoral commission, is beyond belief, bearing in mind the BNP have failed to submit accounts on several occasions......

This and Robert Cottage escaping terrorism charges.

Someone, somewhere, approves of Nick Griffin's leadership of the BNP, one might read into all of these trials, stretching back to the Nick Griffin trial, if one (like Robert Cottage) is a believer in conspiracy theories.

Antifascist said...

'Looks like this BNP candidate isn't the only crook'

Nobody said he was the only crook. Still, it's nice that you acknowledge that he's a crook.

Anonymous said...

"Someone, somewhere, approves of Nick Griffin's leadership of the BNP"

It's a state run operation going nowhere which is why Griffin is allowed the helm.