BREAKING NEWS: Councillors decide Owen’s fate as crucial votes are counted in deputy mayor poll

Cllr Kit Owen.

Cllr Kit Owen. - Credit: Archant

BY a narrow margin, March Town Council has decided to keep Councillor Kit Owen as deputy mayor elect despite a campaign to have him removed.

In a poll conducted by town clerk Clive Lemmon, councillors voted by six votes to five to take no further action and for Cllr Owen to stay.

“The mayor and I have spoken with Councillor Owen and he has indicated his willingness to remain as deputy mayor elect and, therefore, he would also vote for that scenario,” the town clerk told councillors today.

“This would, obviously, increase the number of votes in favour of him remaining as deputy mayor elect from 6 to 7.

“This is obviously not the end of the story because ouncillors will have the opportunity to make their voices heard again in March 2014 when the positions for mayor and deputy mayor are decided for 2014 / 2015.”

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Mr Lemmon added: “Even though there has been a full democratic process, I realise that this creates a clear division within the council, with a significant minority not approving of the decision, but I trust that councillors will now find it in their hearts to go forward and work together in harmony for the benefit of the community.”

The campaign to have him removed was started by Councillor Steve Count, who is also a Cabinet member at Cambridgeshire County Council.

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Cllr Count says he has “reviewed the evidence” of the Fenland Council conduct committee which decided to take no further action against Cllr Owen for innocently downloading pornographic images on his council owned laptop.

“I wish to let you know what I have discovered before letting the mayor know my position and perhaps you may wish to revisit your positions in view of this,” Cllr Count has told fellow town councillors.

His intervention caused consternation at March Town Hall and prompted the mayor, Councillor Jan French, to give councillors until mid day today (Wednesday) to decide what action to take.

Cllr Owen was appointed deputy mayor elect earlier this month but four days later appeared before the conduct committee for breaching internet usage rules.

The committee felt that since he had already resigned his Cabinet post they should take no further action.

However since then the ruling Tory group at Fenland Hall has suspended him until at the earliest the end of next month and now he faces similar additional pressure from town councillors.

Mr Lemmon – on the instructions of the mayor- has collated responses.

“This is the first occasion in which this situation has arisen at town level,” he says.

He has told councillors that the mayor has been anxious to ensure “all procedures are followed correctly and, similarly, that you find my involvement fair and transparent.

“This is a new experience and I am duty bound to remain neutral in this matter. I would certainly adopt a similar stance in dealing with complaints against any one of you.

“Favouritism and personal opinions will not come into the equation, and I have been assured that any sanctions that are deemed necessary after this consultation will be acted upon without delay.”

One of the points raised by Cllr Count is this newspaper’s summary of the conduct committee which found he had no case to answer

Cllr Count says the committee’s reckoning that since Cllr Owen had already lost his Cabinet post and the fact he would have to face the public “is considerably different to having no case to answer”.

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