A GOVERNMENT minister will be dragged into a row over whether town councillors should have extra training after some were accused of rudeness.

Ledbury Town Council is to write to the Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles MP, with concerns about the way Herefordshire Council handled a complaint.

Town mayor Councillor Phill Bettington told a town council meeting last week proper procedures had not been followed by the county’s standards panel, in finding Coun Tony Bradford guilty of being rude to a local resident.

Coun Bettington said no enquiries had been made prior to the panel finding Coun Bradford guilty, with no comments in support of Coun Bradford being sought by the panel beforehand.

He said: “I don’t believe the correct procedures were followed in that case.”

He reached his conclusion after a meeting with John Jones, Herefordshire Council’s monitoring officer.

Coun Bob Barnes said to Coun Bettington: “The pillar of a just society is that you are innocent until proven guilty. There was no ‘proven guilty’ in this case.

“I ask you to write to Eric Pickles requesting his ministry investigate the procedures that Herefordshire Council are using.”

He accused Herefordshire Council of acting in a “dictatorial way”

and said of its panel's recommendation: “This needs to be torn up and thrown in the bin.”

Coun Bradford was accused of being rude in a planning meeting.

Coun Jayne Roberts said she had e-mailed her account of that evening to Herefordshire Council “but it never got anywhere”. She too called the procedure “rubbish”.

As we previously reported Mr Jones upset the town council by stating: “There have been a number of standards complaints about the behaviour of Ledbury town councillors over the past few years”. He went on to offer training to all town councillors to reduce the number of complaints made.

Town councillor Rob Yeoman said he was upset by the generalisation and called it “guilt by association”.

He said he had asked Mr Jones for further details but was disappointed notto have a reply.

Coun Bettington agreed to send “a strong letter” to both Herefordshire Council and Mr Pickles.

A Herefordshire Council said: “I can confirm that John Jones met with mayor and deputy mayor of Ledbury Town Council, and that correct procedure was followed.

“We have offered training to Ledbury Town Council, but they are yetto accept the offer.”

Coun Bradford has always denied the accusation of rudeness, and he is seeking legal advice.

He did not attend last week’s meeting, and said: “I feel that my whole agenda as a councillor has been halted, because I am worried about my freedom of expression.”