Former Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy decides not to stand as a councillor in May elections
The former leader of Norfolk County Council has announced he and his wife will not be standing for election in May.
Derrick Murphy, who was found to have breached the council’s code of conduct at a standards hearing last week, had already quit as chairman of the Conservative group and ruled out any attempt to return as leader.
Mr Murphy, who currently represents Freebridge Lynn, had still been due to stand as a councillor in the Forehoe division in May’s county council elections, but announced today that he would not be doing so.
And he said his wife Janet, who represents Gayton and Nar Valley, but had been due to fight for a seat in Clavering, would also not stand.
At a standards hearing on Friday Mr Murphy was cleared of six out of seven alleged breaches of the council’s code of conduct.
The single breach he was found to have committed was for bringing his office into disrepute after he asked his political assistant to claim it had not been Mr Murphy’s idea to send an email to the BBC last April.
Mr Murphy said today: “We made the decision ages ago but have announced it today. We felt that people would be taking pot shots at us and what I want is for the Conservatives to get as many seats as possible in the elections.
“If Janet and I got elected and the Conservatives did not get a majority that would not be satisfactory. But if we stand down, people concentrate on the policies and the Conservatives win then I will be happy.”
The committee had imposed three sanctions on Mr Murphy: A letter of censure will be sent by the committee to Mr Murphy; a report of the breach will be made to a meeting of the full council and Mr Murphy will be required to undergo training in ethics and standards.
The controversy surrounded an email sent by Kevin Vaughan, the political assistant to the Conservative group at County Hall, to BBC Radio Norfolk, in April last year.
It was sent two days before Nick Daubney, leader of West Norfolk Council, was due to appear on Nick Conrad’s show to discuss the King’s Lynn incinerator, which has long been 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 in the summer that Mr Vaughan had acted on the wishes of leader Mr Murphy. Mr Vaughan later left the council, with a pay-off.
Following the independent report, seven people complained about Mr Murphy’s behaviour and the county council asked Jenni Richards, QC, an expert in local government, to investigate.
She concluded Mr Murphy should face the standards hearing, with her investigation finding he had asked Mr Vaughan to lie about who asked him to send the email and, in conversations with the council’s chief executive about the issue, Mr Murphy “gave answers that were misleading, evasive and lacked candour”.
That, she said, meant he did not treat Mr Vaughan with respect, amounting to a breach of the councillor code of conduct and bringing his office and the council into disrepute.
A major revelation came when Mr White told the hearing that, on April 27, he had secretly recorded the conversation he had with Mr Murphy about the sending of that email.
Mr White had told the hearing he had recorded that conversation and had part of it transcribed because he had feared further down the line it could be his word against Mr Murphy’s.
But the committee cleared Mr Murphy of six of the seven claims and said Mr White’s evidence was “unclear and incomplete”.
See tomorrow’s EDP and Norwich Evening News for more on this story.