Ex-council leader David Parsons may be suspended from Leicestershire Conservative group
Former county council leader David Parsons could be suspended from the Leicestershire Conservative group for six months if an investigation finds he broke party rules.
The Tory politician was censured for breaking Leicestershire County Council's members' code of conduct in June over his European Travel expenses.
Yesterday, his successor as county council leader, Nick Rushton, revealed he had launched an internal investigation into the matter.
Coun Rushton has instructed the party's chief whip, Councillor Tony Gillard, and his deputies Jackie Dickinson and Bill Liquorish, to look at all the evidence surrounding the case and judge whether party rules have also been breached. Opposition Liberal Democrats said the move comes "months too late" given Coun Parsons' censure in June for not promptly repaying cash he owed to the county council which he claimed for European business trips.
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They said other Tories called before standards committees had been quickly suspended in the past.
Coun Rushton said: "I won't take criticism from the Liberal Democrats on how we should deal with internal discipline.
"David Parsons has gone from being one of the top local politicians in the country to a backbencher in a month and that has happened under a cloud. That is a punishment in itself.
"He gave us a number of very good years as leader, so you may say it is cutting him slack.
"If the three man panel finds he has breached party rules then there is the sanction of a three-month or six-month suspension.
"That could have very serious consequences for him because someone who is suspended cannot be selected to stand in an election and we have an election coming up in May."
Coun Rushton conceded Tory party rules were similar to the members' code of conduct Coun Parsons had already been found to have breached, but he said the internal investigation was still needed.
He restated the need for the council to rebuild the reputation that had been damaged by the expenses case.
Liberal Democrat group leader Coun Simon Galton said: "I can't see how they can find he hasn't breached party rules.
"In our opinion, he should have been suspended long ago when the standards committee found against him.
"Everyone would agree, for the benefit of the council's reputation, a line needs to be drawn under this but it is dragging on and on.
"I have been at the Lib Dem conference this week and lots of people from all over the country have been saying 'Leicestershire? That's the place with the leader and the expenses'.
"It's not what we want to be known for.
"If David Parsons is suspended it could be the end of his political career in Leicestershire."
Coun Parsons will be asked to appear before the panel which is to report back to Coun Rushton at the end of October.
Coun Parsons told the Mercury it was not appropriate for him to comment on the matter.
He is facing a continuing police inquiry into his expenses, as well as a separate standards investigation into his use of the council's civic car during his time as leader.