Former Harrogate Lib Dem faced second disciplinary before party switch

An experienced Liberal Democrat councillor who sensationally broke away from the party this week was facing a second disciplinary enquiry in a year over his behaviour.

Thursday, 12th May 2016, 10:59 am
Updated Thursday, 12th May 2016, 12:05 pm
John Fox

Coun John Fox was one of five Lib Dems who decided to turn their back on the party this week and become Independent councillors, arguing they had become ‘disillusioned’.

However, the leader of Harrogate’s Lib Dems, Coun Pat Marsh revealed that the Granby ward councillor was facing a second disciplinary inquiry at the time of leaving.

Coun Marsh revealed that the second disciplinary was regarding his recent behaviour towards a fellow Lib Dem councillor. This amounted to a ‘serious breach’ of standing orders.

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Harrogate and Knaresborough Liberal Democrats’ constituency chairman, Geoff Webber, was on the panel of four members in the hearing and said Coun Fox would likely have been suspended from the party.

He said: “There was a complaint made by a member of the Lib Dems regarding Coun Fox’s behaviour and it was a serious complaint so a disciplinary committee was formed to work out what to do about it.

“This group found that his behaviour was contrary to what we would have expected and asked me to start procedures to revoke his national membership on Tuesday night (May 10).

“It was a serious breach of Lib Dem standing orders and what is expected of their behaviour. The second breach started in April and there was a very real chance he would have been kicked out if he hadn’t left.

“We are in a position where we have not been left with much room for manoeuvre.”

Coun Fox, who has spent 45 years with the party, admitted that he had been disciplined by the party but refuted Mr Webber’s claims that he ‘jumped before he was pushed’.

He said: “I simply failed to follow procedures and that’s why I have been disciplined as it were. Instead of complaining to somebody I should have gone through the council group first. That is the procedure and I short circuited it.

“I admit I did that but I had already been thinking about going Independent for several weeks before this came up and had other discussions with councillors about doing it.”

Jennifer Travena (Granby), Andrew Goss and Bob O’Neill (Woodfield) and Val Rodgers (Bilton) have all now switched allegiances, leaving Lib Dem councillor numbers depleted.

Coun Marsh said: “Whilst the remaining Lib Dems very much regret the decision made by these five Councillors to leave our group we have to maintain certain standards and those councillors who reject our democratic process are probably better off as Independents.”