Paul Flowers: Bradford Council kept quiet over reason he quit 'to spare embarrassment' (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Paul Flowers: Bradford Council kept quiet over reason he quit 'to spare embarrassment'
6:00am Wednesday 4th December 2013 in News
The truth behind Paul Flowers’ resignation from Bradford Council was not made public at the time to spare him “any personal embarrassment”, a new Labour report has confirmed.
The scandal-hit Methodist minister stepped down as a city councillor in 2011 after adult material was found on his Council computer, but at the time family and work pressures were cited publicly.
The truth was only revealed in response to questions asked by the media, including the Telegraph & Argus, last month.
Council leader David Green has now thrown his support behind the actions of his predecessor, Ian Greenwood, who was in charge at the time, saying the decision not to reveal the truth at the time was made “with a degree of compassion”.
But the leader of the opposition, Councillor Glen Miller, said he would be making a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman about the way the matter was handled. Last night he said: “To me, it stinks.”
Yesterday, two new reports were released into the Rev Flowers’ resignation, one by city solicitor Suzan Hemingway into the actions of Council officers, and the other by Coun Green into the Labour group’s actions.
The political report reveals that current Labour group chief whip, Councillor Sher Khan, and then-Council leader Ian Greenwood both knew the real reason behind Mr Flowers’ resignation.
In his report, Coun Green said: “There has been some concern expressed both by individuals and in the media that the reasons given for Rev Flowers’ resignation were not fully explained to the public and were somehow ‘covered up’.”
But he said as no law had been broken and no formal inquiry had established who had downloaded the material on to Mr Flowers’ computer, the decision to cite work and family pressures was based on “human grounds to spare Rev Flowers any personal embarrassment”.
Mr Flowers, who quit as chairman of the Co-operative Bank in June this year, faces a police investigation into alleged drug offences. He has also been accused of incompetence during his chairmanship of the now-troubled bank and inappropriate expenses claims at a drugs charity, among other matters. He has been suspended indefinitely from his position as a Methodist minister in Bradford.
Many commentators have suggested that if different organisations had shared the information they had about Mr Flowers, he might never have risen to such a high-profile position. In response, Coun Green said revealing to others what had been contained on Mr Flowers’ computer could have been a breach of data protection laws.
Coun Jeanette Sunderland, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said the report had left her with unanswered questions, such as why Mr Flowers had not been suspended from Labour and why there had been such a long time between the material being found on his computer and his resignation.