The Courier

Anger as ethic watchdog clears SNP councillors of any wrongdoing over Damacre Centre spat with community council

Community Council members Douglas Murray, Steve Dempsey, Jill Scott and Susan Barr at the Damacre site.

A community council has been left “appalled” after SNP councillors were cleared of any wrongdoing by a watchdog.

Brenda Durno, Alex King and Bill Duff were the subject of a complaint to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland by Steve Dempsey from Brechin Community Council.

© DC Thomson
The Damacre Centre is making way for new affordable homes

However, an investigation threw out the complaint made about their conduct at January’s meeting of the development standards committee in Forfar after a failed community bid to halt a housing project on the site of the town’s Damacre Centre.

Mr Dempsey said people who were at the meeting were shocked and appalled at how the councillors behaved and the community council was considering where to take the complaint next.

He said: “Councillor King said the local residents should be ‘ashamed of themselves’ for contacting their local councillors to raise concerns about the housing application and they were ‘disgraceful’ for contacting their councillors.

“Councillor Duff mocked the number of complaints raised about the planning application.

“He commented that 19 out of the population of 7,000 people in Brechin was not representative of the population.

“He made no reference to the nature or content of the complaints.”

Mr Dempsey said Ms Durno had also sent a private message to a Brechin resident, telling them ‘we’re building new houses not a nuclear waste plant’.

“People who were at the meeting were quite shocked and appalled at how the councillors behaved,” he added.

“We were quite frankly appalled by the outcome of the investigation by Ethical Standards.

“There is no appeal. We were left feeling the councillors can do and say what they want.”

Mr Dempsey said the community council would “keep our tinder dry as to where we go next”.

“In short, we think can and should expect better from their elected representatives,” he added.

The community representatives had urged the committee to delay the planning decision to allow further consideration of its future under the Community Empowerment Act.

However, their 11th hour bid to halt the project failed and work started on clearing the site at the start of March.

The Damacre Centre closed in early 2016 following the opening of the £26 million community campus in the town, despite a petition from 20 groups to keep the building open.

A statement from Councillors Durno, King and Duff said: “We were pleased with the decision of the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland to reject the complaint made against us by Mr Steve Dempsey of Brechin Community Council.

“The Commissioner found that we had not contravened the Councillors Code of Conduct at Angus Council Development Standards meeting of  January 4 and on subsequent social media posts.

“We are deeply concerned that it would appear that a statutory body such as Brechin Community Council do not accept a decision taken by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland after a thorough investigation.”