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PUBLISHED: 11:00 17 March 2006 | UPDATED: 21:46 28 May 2010

Councillor John West

Councillor John West

PARTIALLY deaf Fenland councillor John West has been suspended for a month after raising his voice during a meeting with a council officer. The council's standards committee said it viewed very seriously indeed" his failure to treat the officer, Donella

PARTIALLY deaf Fenland councillor John West has been suspended for a month after raising his voice during a meeting with a council officer.The council's standards committee said it viewed "very seriously indeed" his failure to treat the officer, Donella Benbow, with respect.Margaret Tozer, chairman of a standards sub committee, said it took into account Cllr West's immediate recognition of his actions and the fact he had written immediately to the chief executive to apologise and to ask for those apologies to be passed on.She noted the fact the case had been hanging over Cllr West for nine months, that he had been stripped of membership of the council's planning committee during that time and had been removed from the chairmanship of Fenland Licensing Committee. Mrs Tozer ordered Cllr West to write a second letter of apology to Ms Benbow after hearing that his initial letter of apology had not been passed on.The case arose after the March North councillor went to Fenland Hall to question Ms Benbow over a two-week delay in receiving paperwork for a meeting.As a result a complaint went to the Standards Board of England which undertook a six-month investigation. Its 150-page report formed the basis for Wednesday's hearing.The board concluded Cllr West had breached the council's code of conduct and recommended the case be referred back to Fenland for a decision.Barrister Tim Buley presented the Standard Board's findings to the Fenland panel and claimed Cllr West had used "an inappropriate bullying tone of voice" when discussing the issue with Ms Benbow.He accepted Cllr West apologised early on "and that is entirely accepted". And he added: "He did try to apologise. It was unfortunate it did not get through to Ms Benbow."Mr Buley also said Ms Benbow's state of mind at the time may be relevant in determining if there was a breach."People vary as to how they can take criticism," he said. "It might be a factor to take into account."Mr Buley concluded that Cllr West did not try to cover up his actions. His partial deafness needed to be considered. He had suffered already as a result of sanctions imposed by the council, and that if Ms Benbow "had not been in a emotional state she might have reacted differently".Cllr West told the hearing he stood firmly by his statement that there was drilling noise in the building "and if you bring 100 people to say differently I will tell you simply that this was what I experienced".Cllr West said had Ms Benbow's manager contacted him about the difficulties and pressures she was experiencing at the time, he would not have sought contact with her."When Ms Benbow started to cry I immediately went to Norman Eighteen, the monitoring officer. I realised I had upset her. I apologised - it was the right action to take," he said."I also offered a personal apology - which I sent to the chief executive, Tim Pilsbury, and I was asked not to contact her direct. Mr Pilsbury said he would pass on my apologies. Clearly he did not."The committee took no action on a second charge that Cllr West had failed to notify Fenland within 28 days of his election to Cambridgeshire County Council.

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