Deputy Leader suspended for sending texts under different names

It wouldn’t happen here would it …. and if it did, would the Monitoring Officer report the offender to the Standards Committee if he were the Deputy Leader of the majority party?

Paul Shotton [Deputy Leader, Stoke council] contributed to debates on BBC Radio Stoke both supporting the council and criticising the opposition over a period of six months. Staff rumbled the councillor after he sent text messages from the same mobile number under names such as Alison, Jean and Dave. He also pretended to be from different areas of Stoke-on-Trent, including Fenton and Smallthorne.

Mr Shotton yesterday admitted sending the texts and will now face a council standards board hearing. He said: “I apologise fully for my actions. They were plain stupid. I will never do anything like this again.”

BBC Stoke presenter Tim Wedgwood warned listeners recently that DJs at the station can see the phone number of people texting the station. A BBC spokesman said: “Audience interaction is an important part of our programmes and we read out texts from listeners in good faith but we are reliant on the audience being up front and honest about who they are. “In this case, we became suspicious after recognising the phone number and then referred the issue to the council.”

The Labour party has now launched an investigation into the incident after suspending the councillor. A spokesman said: “The Labour party takes these matters very seriously. Councillor Paul Shotton has been suspended pending an investigation.”

Mr Shotton is cabinet member for economic development and a ward councillor for Fenton East. He recently fought off a challenge to his position as deputy leader from Janine Bridges, cabinet member for housing.

Mr Shotton was not at a meeting of the council’s cabinet held last night, but it was reported that Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Mohammed Pervez has taken on his cabinet responsibilities. Mr Pervez, said: “I was informed of the issue yesterday and immediately contacted the Labour party. The Labour party suspended councilor Shotton pending investigation.”

Gerry Clarke, the council’s deputy monitoring officer, said: “We have been alerted to allegations made against the deputy leader of the council. On the basis of information that has been provided, the council will initiate a standards board process to enable the facts of this case to be investigated.

“We understand an internal investigation is also being undertaken by the Labour Party, and it would therefore be inappropriate for the council to comment further until such investigations have been concluded.”