Writing exclusively in today’s County Times newspaper, Christian Mitchell leads calls for a less secret Horsham District Council.
And he says it is vital an independent investigation is held into claims that fake letters had been submitted supporting Horsham District Council’s proposed local plan.
Last week, the council’s vice chairman Christian Mitchell - who was controversially deselected as the next chairman in an unprecedented move by his Tory group - said two letters from non-existent residents were still on the council’s consultation website even though he highlighted the issue months ago.
Writing in today’s County Times, Mr Mitchell says: “In the name of transparency, there needs to be an independent inquiry set up into the fake letters I revealed last week on the local plan consultation. These letters, which abjectly supported the council’s position, came from fabricated names yet they have been included on the consultation website despite my flagging up the issue months ago.”
His call is echoed by the leader of the Lib Dem minority group on HDC Frances Haigh. She says: “Questions do need to be asked about the issues that Cllr Mitchell has raised in the WSCT; false letters, secret trials, whatever next? Democracy is indeed dead in Horsham.”
Mr Mitchell said he had been deselected for standing up for his residents over plans to dump thousands more houses in North Horsham. He detailed a secret ‘trial’ he had been subjected to by his group in the autumn, presided over by leader Ray Dawe and deputy Helena Croft, after he robustly campaigned on behalf of his constituents.
Since the story went public, there has been a huge outpouring of public support for Mr Mitchell - with an unprecedented number of letters, calls and e-mails received by the County Times backing the stand he had taken.
There were demands from readers that he become the ‘People’s Chairman’ and some who wanted to see him stand at Horsham’s next MP in May 2015.
Mr Mitchell said: “It is time for a change. As Tories we should meet and discuss issues so we can form a collective view. But that should not preclude us from speaking or voting in public as we believe our constituents would wish - especially on something as momentous as the local housing plan. We should also be free to write to the County Times about our personal views without requiring advance approval from the leader, just as a Member of Parliament doesn’t have to have his or her letters and articles approved by the Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition.”
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