Drink-driving councillor leaves Conservative group - but will serve as an Independent in Waveney
DISGRACED councillor Andrew Draper has quit Waveney's ruling Conservative group following his conviction for drink-driving and assaulting a police inspector – but he is refusing to resign from the council.
Since his appearance in court last week, Mr Draper, 37, has come under fierce criticism from opposition politicians and members of the public amid calls for him to resign from the authority.
But in a dramatic twist yesterday, he announced to The Journal that he was quitting the Tories, but he had chosen to remain on the council to represent Worlingham ward as an Independent.
In a separate development, it also emerged that Mr Draper has been reported to Waveney's standards committee for allegedly failing to declare a financial interest following his election. It is claimed that he failed to disclose that he worked on a casual basis in Lowestoft for the Sentinel Trust, which runs leisure services across the district.
Mr Draper, of Martin Close, Carlton Colville, had initially 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.
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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, he was given the full support of the council's Conservative leader, Colin Law.
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However, his decision to remain a councillor has prompted a wave of criticism, with an ex-council chairman and a former mayor of Lowestoft among a number of people who have written to The Journal expressing their disgust at his behaviour and at the Conservative leadership's decision to give him its backing.
Yesterday, Mr Draper, a self-employed residential landlord, issued a statement to The Journal.
He 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.'
He added: '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 told The Journal he felt it was a 'noble' move.
'I regret losing someone like Andy Draper,' he said. '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.'
But Julian Swainson, Waveney Labour Group leader, was angry that he had only learned about the resignation through The Journal. 'I have learned from the local press that councillor Draper has resigned from the Conservative Group. Unfortunately councillor Draper did not have the courtesy to inform members of the council directly.
'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,' Mr Swainson added. '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 judgement of Colin Law, leader of the Conservative Group, who appears to many people to be putting party interest before public interest.'
The Journal reported last week that Mr Draper was arrested for drink-driving in Beccles Road 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 and put handcuffs on him, he resisted and 'kicked out' twice hitting the inspector in the chest and knee. Pava spray was then used by the police.
Responding to Mr Draper's statement yesterday, a police spokesman told The Journal: '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.'
A Waveney District Council spokesman confirmed yesterday that just weeks before his arrest by police, Mr Draper had joined his fellow Worlingham ward councillor and Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee at Buckingham Palace, joining thousands of guests at one of the Queen's garden parties.
Prior to yesterday's developments, Waveney MP Peter Aldous told The Journal: '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.'
However, the TaxPayers' Alliance condemned Mr Draper's actions. Robert Oxley, the its campaign manager, told The Journal: 'Councillor Draper cannot claim to be a credible representative for the community he wishes to serve following his recent convictions for drink driving and a assaulting a police officer.
'The public have a clear interest in the character and behaviour of their councillors; they receive taxpayer-funded allowances and expenses and are meant to be leaders within the community.
'Councillor Draper should do the right thing and resign after he has apologised to local residents.'
• 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.
• What do you think of the latest developments? Write to Postbox, The Journal, 147, London Road North, Lowestoft, NR32 1NB or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org including your name and address.
My 'shame' - Councillor Andrew Draper's statement in full
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.