Shamed councillor leaves Tory group in Waveney

Shamed Waveney District councillor Andrew Draper quit the authority's ruling Conservative group yesterday following his conviction for drink-driving and assaulting a police inspector.

However, Mr Draper refused to resign from the council and said he would stay on as an independent councillor.

Yesterday's decision means Mr Draper could still play a crucial role at the council: as an independent councillor for the Worlingham ward he can keep the balance of power in favour of the Tories.

The Conservatives now have 22 seats to Labour's 23 but the Tories should be able to rely on the support of chairman Peter Collecott to win crunch votes if they are supported by Mr Draper.

Last night the leader of the Labour group Julian Swainson criticised Mr Draper's move and questioned whether he will in practice remain a Tory rather than an independent.

And in a separate development yesterday, it also emerged that Mr Draper has been reported to Waveney's standards committee for failing to declare a financial interest following his election.

It is claimed that he failed to disclose he worked on a casual basis in Lowestoft for the Sentinel Trust, which runs leisure services across the district.

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Mr Draper, 37, of Martin Close, Carlton Colville, had come under fire after last week's hearing at Lowestoft Magistrates' Court where he admitted driving while three times the legal limit and twice kicking a police inspector.

He was ordered to pay more than �800 in fines and costs and was banned from driving for two years.

After resigning from Waveney's cabinet last week, he was given the full support of the council's Conserv-ative leader Colin Law, who yesterday spoke of his regret at seeing Mr Draper leave his party group.

In a statement released yesterday morning Mr Draper, a self-employed residential landlord, said: 'It is with great regret that I must announce my resignation from the Conservative group on Waveney District Council. I do this with a heavy heart, having been proud to stand as and win as a Conservative in May.

'In all, this is a deeply regrettable incident, which I want to put behind me and move on from. I intend to remain as a councillor on Waveney, now as an Independent representing my ward.

'I see it as an opportunity to put something back into the community.'

Reacting to Mr Draper's decision, Mr Law said he felt it was a 'noble' move.

Mr Law, who represents Oulton Broad, said: 'I regret losing someone like Andy Draper.

'It has tarnished what could have been a promising role on the council. Clearly driving whilst under the influence is not acceptable behaviour by anyone.

'I do think that Andy has been very noble in now seeking to take this upon himself and express the regret that he has done, and not wishing to damage the reputation of the Conservative Party in Waveney.'

Describing Mr Draper's independent role Mr Swainson, said: 'Clearly this arrangement would allow the Conservatives to let convicted councillor Draper to sneak back into the Tory group when they think everyone has forgotten the crime he committed, and of course to rely on his vote meanwhile to attempt to maintain their administration.

'It will be hard for councillor Law to show Waveney residents that he is not still putting his own party's interests before their proper concerns about the integrity of councillors elected as Conservatives.

'I understand that many residents both in Worlingham and throughout Waveney have grave concerns that their councillor plans to remain in office in spite of being convicted of drink driving and assault of the police.

'These concerns are not addressed by a change of party allegiance.

'Many Waveney residents have expressed their anger that councillor Draper was not immediately dismissed from the Conservative Party upon conviction. I remain concerned about the judgment of Colin Law, leader of the Conservative group, who appears to many people to be putting party interest before public interest.'

Last week the EDP reported that Mr Draper was arrested for drink-driving in Beccles Road, Carlton Colville, on Friday, August 12.

On his way to Lowestoft police station, Mr Draper 'became agitated and volatile' as he tried to make a mobile phone call and when Insp Stephen Bunn got out of the police vehicle to try to put handcuffs on him, he resisted and 'kicked out' twice hitting the inspector in the chest and knee. Pava spray, a type of pepper spray, was then used by the police.

Peter Aldous, Waveney MP, said: 'Drink-driving and violent behaviour is completely unacceptable and it should be condemned wherever it occurs. With regard to councillor Draper and his future on Waveney District Council, that is a matter for him and also a matter for the council to decide.'

mark.boggis@archant.co.uk

Andrew Draper's statement

It is with great regret that I must announce my resignation from the Conservative Group on Waveney District Council.

I do this with a heavy heart, having been proud to stand as and win as a Conservative in May.

I have brought shame upon myself, my family and my party. This is not something which can be allowed to continue for too long. I deeply regret driving whilst under the influence of alcohol. I have not done this before and this has blemished an otherwise clean record. I do not want to drag the Conservative Party or the group on Waveney District Council through this any more. Colin Law is an excellent leader of the council and the administration here are doing good work. This is an unnecessary distraction from that.

I must also state that it is not in my character to wilfully attack police officers. I was not resisting arrest, or in any way acting violently. I had been pepper sprayed at close range whilst in the back of the police vehicle. My hitting out was an involuntary act of self-defence. I have always and will continue to respect the work of the police in Suffolk.

In all, this is a deeply regrettable incident, which I want to put behind me and move on from.

I intend to remain as a councillor on Waveney District Council, now as an Independent representing my ward.

I see it as an opportunity to put something back into the community.

Andrew Draper

In response to the letter, a Suffolk police spokesman said: 'The circumstances in which the officer was assaulted was subject to court proceedings where Mr Draper pleaded guilty to assault.

'The investigation and court appearance gave him ample opportunity to present a case of self-defence. Officers are regularly trained in the appropriate use of Pava spray and this appears to have been followed on this occasion.'

Andrew Draper reported to standards committee

Andrew Draper has been reported to Waveney District Council's standards committee for allegedly failing to declare a financial interest following his election, it was confirmed yesterday.

It has been alleged that Mr Draper failed to declare he worked on a casual basis in Lowestoft for the Sentinel Trust, which runs leisure services in the Waveney district.

It emerged during his court case last week that Mr Draper worked over the 13-week summer season as a beach lifeguard for the organisation, which took over the running of several Waveney assets, including the beach lifeguard service, in April this year.

A Waveney council spokesman confirmed that a complaint was made to its standards committee last Friday regarding Mr Draper's declaration of interests.

Asked to comment on the matter, Mr Draper stressed that he no longer worked for Sentinel.

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