Parking exclusive hits national headlines

Free parking
Free parking

A HORSHAM district councillor has featured in a number of national publications after being the subject of a County Times exclusive front page article last week (WSCT “Councillor who didn’t pay to park” 15/3/12).

Andrew Dunlop (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead) admitted using a council pass to park for free ‘on a limited number of occasions’ while not on official council business.

In a full and frank statement to this paper he confirmed instead he had caught the train to London ‘to attend a new full time job’ - where in transpires he was working for Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Dunlop apologised unreservedly and has said he will pay back the parking fees as well as referring himself to the council’s standards board.

It is the nature of this work in London, that has prompted headlines in a number of national titles over the past week – not least in Scotland where Mr Dunlop has become a major topic of debate in relation to devolution.

On Saturday, The Mirror devoted page 9 to the story with the headline “Cameron’s aide and the park arts of politics” – the pun alluding to Mr Dunlop’s work as a communications expert operating at the heart of Government.

With a picture of David Cameron sporting a furrowed brow alongside, the article read: “The father of two was seen leaving his £30,000 Jaguar XF in two council-run car parks near Horsham railway station last month, before catching his train to London where he works at Downing Street.”

The Mirror asserted, later reported by a number of other titles, that Mr Dunlop who lives in Jolesfield Partridge Green is the Prime Minister’s new advisor on Scotland.

This revelation was seized upon by newspapers north of the border with the Daily Record running the headline “David Cameron’s new right-hand man in Scotland lives closer to Paris than Holyrood.”

The article started: “Desperate David Cameron has appointed a right hand man on Scotland – a millionaire Thatcherite who hasn’t lived here for more than 20 years.”

It went on to say that the appointment of the ‘wealthy lobbyist’ has ‘already blown up in Cameron’s face after it emerged that Dunlop was abusing a council perk’ on his commute to London.

Meanwhile other papers dragged up Mr Dunlop’s earlier associations with the Thatcher Government and the controversial implementation of the poll tax.

On Sunday the Express said: “The Scottish Sunday Express can reveal that he was a member of Margaret Thatcher’s policy unit, specialising in tax and Scotland, when the Community Charge was introduced in 1989.”

The article went on to highlight Mr Dunlop’s links to the ‘discredited Atlantic Bridge charity run by Liam Fox’s friend Adam Werrity’.

The Mail on Sunday’s James Forsyth in his regular In the Corridors of Power page also stated Mr Dunlop’s role as the PM’s Scottish advisor, but did not draw on the parking issue.

Instead it refers to the Horsham district councillor as a ‘genuine grey beard’ who is ‘several years older than the Prime Minister’.

It continued: “Dunlop will play a key role in devising the Government’s response to Alex Salmond’s efforts to break up the United Kingdom.

“But Dunlop’s appointment has raised eyebrows. Some Tories wonder whether a man who lives in West Sussex is the ideal choice.”

Closer to home Mr Dunlop has received some support from fellow Horsham councillors in relation to the parking issue. Leader of the opposition David Holmes (LDem, Horsham Park) said: “I do not know the extent to which Cllr Dunlop has been using his pass inappropriately but clearly that is being looked in to.

“He has made an error of judgement in using his pass in the way that he has done. However I would comment that in terms of commitment to the role of Councillor he has been one of the best of the new Members.

“In particular he is to be congratulated for very effectively carrying forward the work that began when I was chair of the Business Improvement Working Group before him, to introduce much tighter procedures around the use of consultants within the Council.”

Others have also echoed Mr Holmes’ sentiments, especially on our website www.wscountytimes.co.uk, where the story had attracted 25 comments by Wednesday this week.

However, criticism of Mr Dunlop’s parking has also been widespread, including from a former district councillor who says when they received a parking permit from HDC it was made very clear when it could, and could not be used. (Letters page 10)

There have been plenty of comments on the story online at wscountytimes.co.uk.

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