Waveney District Councillor vows to win back public trust

SHAMED councillor Andrew Draper remained defiant this week as he ignored growing calls for him to resign from Waveney District Council – and pledged to win back the faith of the public.

Following his conviction for drink-driving and assaulting a police inspector, Mr Draper, 37, has faced a wave of criticism from opposition politicians and demands that he step down from the council.

But after quitting Waveney's ruling Conservative group last week, he has chosen to remain as a councillor and has opted instead to represent his Worlingham ward as an Independent.

This week, amid renewed calls from many Journal readers for him to 'do the decent thing' and resign, Mr Draper insisted he would remain on the council and fight to restore his reputation. He told The Journal yesterday: 'It will not be easy to regain the faith of the Worlingham residents that elected me, however I am determined to put this matter behind me and be an asset to them and to Waveney District Council.'

However, in another week of controversy for Mr Draper, it emerged that he had been in trouble with the law again just a day after his court appearance last month, when his dog bit a postman. He was given 'strong words of advice' by police following the incident near his home in Carlton Colville on Wednesday, August 24.

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The events of the last fortnight have left the council on a political knife-edge, as the Conservatives now have 22 seats to Labour's 23. But the Tories should still be in control of the council as they rely on the support of chairman Peter Collecott to win crunch votes, if they are also supported by Mr Draper.

Waveney's Labour Group leader Julian Swainson has called for voters to be allowed determine Mr Draper's future saying he had 'lost credibility' with the people of Worlingham and suggesting there should be a by-election.

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He added: 'We 've said from the start that it is not for us to say, but for the electorate. If you change party allegiance, you should resubmit yourself to the electorate. It's difficult to say how he can retain any credibility with the public.'

Mr Swainson also claimed that the Conservative council leader Colin Law had shown 'very poor judgment' in giving Draper his full support after resigning from Waveney's cabinet. 'We are concerned their leader seems to be putting party above the interests of the public,' he said. 'I was shocked to read him describe Councillor Draper as 'noble' in not wishing to damage the reputation of the Conservative Party in Waveney.'

But Mr Law immediately hot back and said his party was 'moving on' and would contest the seat if necessary.

'If there were a by-election, of course we would,' he declared. 'The fact of the matter is that councillor Draper is an independent and any decision he made was his own decision.

'He thought it necessary because he felt it was damaging to the rest of the party. There is not really any bad feeling from the group, which remains solid, and it has been left to me to wrestle with the issue. At no stage was I in a position to sack him. I could remove the whip but, at the end of the day, he is still a councillor.'

The latest developments follow Mr Draper's appearance at Lowestoft magistrates court on Tuesday, August 23

Mr Draper, a self-employed residential landlord, of Martin Close, Carlton Colville, admitted driving while three times the legal-limit and twice kicking a police officer. The court heard he was arrested in Beccles Road on August 12 after his intial breath-test reading was over the legal limit. However, he later became agitated in the police car on the way to the station and as Insp Stephen Bunn tried to handcuff him, he kicked the inspector in the chest and knee.

Mr Draper was banned from driving for two years and told to pay �815 in costs, fines and compensation.

Following the court case, he resigned from the council's cabinet and gave up his role as 'youth champion'. He was later dismissed from his seasonal job as a beach lifeguard with the Sentinel Leisure Trust in Lowestoft.

After being initially backed to remain as a Tory councillor by Mr Law, Mr Draper announced last week he had resigned from the Conservative group – although he would remain on the council as an Independent.

It also emerged last week that Mr Draper had been reported to Waveney's standards committee after he allegedly failed to disclose he worked for the Sentinel Trust.

Re-iterating his shame surrounding the recent events this week, Mr Draper told The Journal: 'I do, and will continue to, regret my actions that evening which, as I said previously were completely out of character. I have never been in trouble with the police before and have the utmost respect for the very difficult job they do.'

• What do you think about Mr Draper's decision to remain on the council? Write to Postbox, The Journal, 147, London Road North, Lowestoft NR32 1NB or email tim.warner@archant.co.uk

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