Innocent councillor tells of his court fight

Date:

22/12/2006

Author:

Kate Davies

Source:

Ham & High

Matter:

Woodrow - Kings Cross

A CAMDEN councillor has spoken of the two-year battle to clear his name which has left him ill and around £10,000 out of pocket.

Councillor Brian Woodrow, former head of the planning committee, was cleared of allegations of bias against Argent's £2billion King's Cross redevelopment on Wednesday.

He was reported to the Standards Board by former council solicitor Alison Lowton in 2004.

"I am pleased that after so long and so much stress, I have been so fully vindicated," he said.

"I have pains in my shoulder which I am getting medication for. In March I had arthritis which meant I was walking with a stick and using a wheelchair. I have kept attending events and smiling because I didn't want the buggers to see me down.

"I have this problem as my mother always told me to stand up to bullies so I always do.

"I just think it is wrong in local government where elected members have officers trying to take control of them all the time."

During the case Cllr Woodrow accused Ms Lowton and her fellow officers of blocking councillor's attempts to get information on the scheme because of a "sinister obsession" with the benefits that could be gained from it.

He was cleared of all charges except one of telephoning English Heritage to discuss plans. The panel ruled this was against the councillors' code of conduct but didn't need formal sanction.

Mr Woodrow had to hire a lawyer and a QC for the case which had a hearing in October and another last week.

He is now talking to lawyers about how he can get his legal costs back from the council as well as compensation.

He said: "I had so many letters saying what a good guy I was and it was very touching - people didn't have to say anything.

"I have been offered loans by people to pay off the legal fees but my wife and I went into this with our eyes open, we knew the costs, so we don't want to accept charity - but it is still nice that people are thinking like that."

The hearing has added to the furore surrounding the Argent scheme to redevelop the King's Cross Railway Lands.

The plans which were finally approved last month have been opposed by local campaigners who are considering applying for a judicial review.

Diana Shelley a member of the campaign defended Councillor Woodrow. She said: "He was presented as being too close to the King's Cross campaigners but I have watched Brian in action on the committee and there is nothing that clouds his judgement.

"We need elected councillors to ask questions of plans and any attempt to stop that is completely wrong."

A Camden Council spokesman said: "The Standards Board independently considered the council's concerns and in turn saw fit to advance the case on to a second stage - following an interim report from their ethical standards officer - by referring it to the adjudications panel.

"The adjudication panel made no criticism of the council or its officers in their handling of the Kings Cross Development in their decision. The council strongly refutes the allegations made during the hearing by Cllr Woodrow about council staff. The council has concerns about the fact that the hearing process does not allow any right of reply to these accusations."