The Conservative leader of Norfolk County Council stepped down with immediate effect last night in an extraordinary new twist in the build-up to a standards inquiry into his conduct.

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Derrick Murphy is to be brought before his own council’s standards committee over his role in the sending of an email which appeared to undermine a fellow Tory council leader.

He said he was “confident” over the outcome of the standards hearing and that he would soon be back as leader.

He said he remained chairman of the Conservative group and, following a positive outcome for him at the standards hearing, he would call a meeting of that group to seek their support for him to return as leader.

But a statement from County Hall said that in line with the party constitution, deputy leader Bill Borrett would be acting leader until such time as a new leader was appointed by the council.

Mr Murphy said it was his hope and expectation that his stepping-down would be temporary. If he won his case at the standards hearing, he would have to seek re-election.

In a day of drama Mr Murphy decided, after talks with senior colleagues, to step down as leader until after the standards hearing which he hopes will take place within the next fortnight.

In a statement sent to officers at the county council and fellow councillors, he said: “I am writing to inform you that it is my intention to step down as leader of the county council until the standards committee hearing takes place into complaints against me which were highlighted in the Eastern Daily Press on January 8.

“As you may imagine my preparation for the standards committee hearing is taking a considerable amount of my time and attention at a time in the year when as leader I should be focused on working with my cabinet to prepare for the 2013 Budget.

“It is my hope and expectation that I will clear my name and return to the position as leader, but in the meantime, I am standing down as leader of the county council with immediate effect, for what I regards as a temporary period of absence.”

A second county council statement said Mr Murphy, council leader since October 2010, was stepping down as leader with immediate effect to concentrate his efforts on fighting the Standards Committee hearing, expected to be within a matter of weeks, into complaints brought against him.

It added: “In line with the constitution, the Deputy Leader, Councillor Bill Borrett will be Acting Leader until such time as a new Leader is appointed by Council. This will happen in due course.”

Mr Murphy said he would not be involved in cabinet matters, would be foregoing his leadership allowance but continue to deal with issues which arise in his division.

The complaints surround an email sent by Kevin Vaughan, then political assistant to the Conservative group at County Hall, to BBC Radio Norfolk last April.

It was sent two days before West Norfolk Council leader Nick Daubney was to appear on Nick Conrad’s show to discuss the King’s Lynn incinerator, long a source of tension between West Norfolk and Norfolk County Council.

It suggested it might “be pertinent information” for the broadcaster to know that the borough council leader was facing “a serious leadership challenge” and that his authority had failed to procure alternative technology to the plant.

When the email came to light it sparked an independent investigation at County Hall, which concluded last summer that Mr Vaughan had acted on the wishes of leader Mr Murphy.

Mr Vaughan later resigned as the political assistant to the Conservative group and seven complainants – John Martin, Ron Cornell, Jenny Perryman, Joy Franklin, Christine Hall, Mark Russell and Stuart Wilkie – have alleged that Mr Murphy had failed to treat both Mr Daubney and Mr Vaughan with respect and that he had brought his office or the authority into disrepute.

Barrister Jenni Richards, QC, was appointed by the county council to compile a report and concluded she believed Mr Murphy did have a case to answer, which led to the scheduling of a standards hearing.

Mr Murphy, who represents Freebridge Lynn, is allowed to call witnesses to support his case at the hearing, and has said Mr Vaughan has agreed to appear on his behalf.

He said: “My advocate contacted Kevin and asked if he would appear as a witness for me and he said he would. Read into that what you will, but here’s a person these third parties are complaining I have behaved badly towards, willing to be a witness on my behalf.”

He added he wanted the hearing to be in public – a decision which will rest with the standards committee.

He said: “I think it’s very important that it is in public. There’s a lot of evidence I want people out there to know about. Justice needs to be done and justice needs to be seen to be done. That’s why I’m keen that it’s a public hearing.”

The standards committee consists of seven county councillors. Five, like Mr Murphy, are Conservatives, one is Liberal Democrat and one is Green. If the hearing concludes there has been a breach of the code, the committee could recommend to the council that Mr Murphy be removed from his position.

Other sanctions available to the committee, should it find a breach, include the option to reprimand or censure him, to order training in ethics or standards or to prevent him from having access to council premises.

dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

29 comments

  • Dont worry jaroldcanary Norwich will get one and so will other places in Norfolk, it will be interesting to see if they complain as west Norfolk has. Now DM has gone he should stay gone.

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    Sweet cheeks

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Another very clever move from a very clever man. Brilliant !

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    Dickens

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • The sad fact is today that a vote at the elections for conservatives would be a vote for Tory Wheelabrator waste incinerators to be built across Norfolk. Cotishall would be prime location for one so you are warned.

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    Jack

    Friday, January 11, 2013

  • Is the advocate the same man as the one who is acting as Murphy's agent and a member of the South Norfolk DC who selected him over Jon Herbert?

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    maryjane

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Will Cllr. Borrett get an Oscar for all his acting?

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Are we any closer to finding out when this hearing will take place and whether it will be public...?

    Report this comment

    Scooby

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • I wouldn't trust any of them to don my pair of yellow rubber gloves and direct the ring road traffic!

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    Marigold

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • To asign our future waste to incineration will mean loosing out on expertise in modern recycling, jobs in a future cutting edge technology and a polluting expensive and wasteful burning process. Cllr. Murphy has refused voters mandate to reduce, reuse and recycle, and has set himself above modernity. Have Norfolk's taxpayers had enough of his single mindedness? Looking at the responses and inquiries into his handling and conduct, it should be obvious to any observer.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Maryjane, I would put my money on Murphy's advocate being one C J Kemp of South Norfolk District Council and South Norfolk Conservative Association, solicitor of that parish. By the way, did anyone notice in today's EDP a report of the appointment of one of the members of the NCC Standards Committee to the post of deputy Cabinet member? That carries £6k a year in additional allowances.

    Report this comment

    Nemesis

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • This is the perfect opportunity to 'nip in the bud' the growing resentment held towards the NCC and the Conservative Group which is felt across Norfolk. The lack of integrity shown by the NCC has not just been caused by the Incinerator issue in North West Norfolk, but more to do with the lack of governance around the processes by which decisions were made. These processes, and the mistakes made, may have been repeated with respect to the purchasing of RAF Coltishall, and maybe in other areas(?) Surely, the Conservative Group must be very aware that time doesn't get any better than now, to take up the opportunity to rid itself (and thereby the NCC) of this negative press, in a definitive way. It is time to put into practice a well governed set of processes, rather than cut corners, put into place leaders that can manage, run, and deliver prudently and effectively, and regain the respect of the electorate that put them in office in the first place.

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    Scooby

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Norfolk's very own Terminator.

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    Peter Watson

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Cllr Murphy is keen for the hearing to be public, can we take it that he is also keen for the full report from the QC be made public, I'm sure there's plenty of evidence in there we'd all be interested in seeing - in the name of transparency of course.

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    Honest John

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

  • With hindsight Derrick Murphy or any West Norfolk County Councillors should not be allowed to stand as leader while negotiations to build an incinerator at Kings. He was elected County Councillor for Freebridge June 2009 and became leader October 2010 when anti-incinerator campaigns were in full swing and he should have put the interests of his constituency first. This action has potentially ruined many West Norfolk County Councillors careers by being associated with Derrick Murphy style of leadership. Listening to Derrick Murphy on BBC radio Norfolk this morning, the last member of the public to speak said he was an arrogant man and would have been sacked if he were in outside industry. The truth is NCC thought Derrick Murphy would steamroller the incinerator through but with their inexperience has had the reverse effect and may see the end of Tory party domination in Norfolk.

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    Emma Miller

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Oh Derrick, what a card you are! Calling Kevin Vaughan as a witness on your behalf - isn't this the man that lost his job because you overstepped the mark? The man who was subsequently paid 'shut up' money by NCC, the details of which we aren't allowed to know about because you had NCC make them confidential? I trust a rep from nplaw will also be there, on hand with a frilly hanky because this has all the hallmarks of a circus in the offing. I wonder if the Committee will even remember that it's YOU that has a case to answer and not Kevin?

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    User Removed

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Can the electorate have any faith that the committee assessing this are any more than a bunch of "rubber-stampers"?Ultimately it is a decision of his party as to whether they want to go into an election with him as their leader as it is the leader who embodies the policies and gives them public expression.He is the face of Norfolk's nasty party.

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    Peter Watson

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Don't bank on it

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    Jacob Burns

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Well if the QC puts the case forward the standards board will not have the abillity to challenge her even if they have been got at.

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    Sweet cheeks

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • What a naughty boy !!! You have your equal in Breckland DC. I have just had a case against a "High Ranking, yes I did say R------ Cllr" , I think he is the lowest of the low, at Breckland DC what a farce. I, a member of the public receives a humiliating insulting letter from a Watton Town Cllr who is also on Breckland DC and Breckland "Standards" say "No Case". So Breckland must condone writing to MOP's insultingly. They really do think they are above COMMON DECENCY. This will be just the same a farce!!!

    Report this comment

    Sandra Osborn

    Monday, January 14, 2013

  • Tut Tut who has been a naughty boy then !! If the Standards regime at NCC is anything like the Standards regime at Breckland DC it will be an utter farce. How can a council instruct an "Independant" person to investigate a case when the Council pay them ???? Game Keeper Poacher comes to mind yet again. I have recently been through the Standards system against a Very Senior Breckland Cllr. I received a rude humiliating letter but he got off. You know who you are. Come on speak up or step down!!

    Report this comment

    Sandra

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • If NCC Standards are the same as Breckland DC Standards then Murphy has no worries. I have just had a Case against a very senior Breckland Cllr go through what an utter farce. He sent an insulting letter to me, a member of the public, & Breckland DC say no case. How can Breckland arrange an INDEPENDANT investigation when they pay the investigator??? Game keeper poacher seems the game!! But it aint over till the fat lady, or grey haired lady in my case sings. Come on "Weasel" make my day.

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    Sandra Osborn

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Now can the council re open the incinerator debate and have a proper one please? If the technology is safe put the thing in Norwich !

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    jaroldcanary

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Are we any closer to finding out when this hearing will take place and whether it will be public...?

    Report this comment

    Scooby

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Dont worry jaroldcanary Norwich will get one and so will other places in Norfolk, it will be interesting to see if they complain as west Norfolk has. Now DM has gone he should stay gone.

    Report this comment

    Sweet cheeks

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Back with a vengance no doubt.

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    Whiley Boy

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • With that political make up it's gonna be a white wash exercise, he says it himself he is confident and expects to be cleared. Maybe the Committee should concider whether it is independant enough to make this decision? Expect this comment to be removed though!

    Report this comment

    City Boy

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Nemesis, you can't possibly be suggesting that one of the standards committee Tories has taken a bung? There's no doubt that he'll be back. It will help if you think of the group meeting, at which he and the rest of the tories cooked up this little scam, as a script writing session for the standards hearing. The overriding objective being to get this put to bed ASAP with minimal fall-out and well in advance of the NCC elections, thereafter the EDP will lose interest. Starved of the oxygen of publicity this will be nothing more than a distant memory for the vast majority of voters. For example look at the PCC elections recently - you could hardly say the winner was elected because of his outstanding record as NPA chairman. More a record that was swept under the carpet and kept there.

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    Police Commissioner ???

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Let it not be forgotten this is the man who thinks it acceptable policy to have riot police hiding at county hall for a student protest.There have been demonstrations of many types which have taken place in,around City Hall and The Forum with need for a very limited police presence.Police horses are highly effective as an alternative as they seem to react better to people rather than riot police.

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    Peter Watson

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Will Kevin be paid?

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    maryjane

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Councillor Bill Borrett will be "acting" leader

    Report this comment

    Marigold

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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