Councillor apologises for misleading voters

A Bersted councillor has been forced to apologise for misleading voters in a recent election campaign.

Lib Dem Simon McDougall also has to pay out probably more than 1,000 to fund a public act of contrition for his error.

The money will fund advertisements in newspapers in the district in which his mistake about the battle against development off Chalcraft Lane will be detailed.

It will also pay for a letter to be delivered to the 340 households around Bersted who received his original leaflet.

His actions were agreed by Arun District Council after Cllr McDougall stood before its members and said sorry for his actions. He also withdrew his offending statement.

"I apologise unreservedly to the council and the Conservative group for making a statement that was incorrect," he said.

"I take full responsibility for the statement I made and I do not expect the taxpayer to foot the bill in any way for my actions.

"I realise there were legal implications for the council because of the statement which I made and I am quite happy to correct it."

But he said the final decision about the location for thousands of homes had to be made by the council in spite of its moans about the government's housebuilding targets.

Mr McDougall was severely criticised by several Conservative councillors for his blunder.

It is extremely rare for a councillor to have to apologise at any of the council's meetings.

But he had to act after complaints from Conservative members about a leaflet he delivered before last month's county council elections.

Mr McDougall retained his seat with 992 votes ahead of the 873 for his main rival, Conservative Ann Smee.

In the offending leaflet, Cllr McDougall said: "While she is sympathetic to no development of this site, the Conservative party at both Arun and West Sussex do favour development of this site.

"I have no such pressure and have the proven track record to keep representing you on this issue."

His gaffe was to say the district council had predetermined the issue of housing on farmland north of Chalcraft Lane.

The council has decided the site should be among those in an option which contained the most merit for future development.

But councillors made it clear at the time one of the two other options could equally be chosen.

They stated they could even decide upon another mixture of sites altogether.

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