Suspension after gay porn dispute

Simon Renwick

Simon Renwick

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A COUNCILLOR at the centre of a gay porn row has been hit with a six-month suspension after committing a serious breach of the code of conduct.

It was the longest suspension Fylde Council had the power to dish out to Coun Simon Renwick, who was found to have pornographic images on his authority-owned laptop.

Coun Renwick – who did not attend yesterday’s meeting of the consideration and hearing sub-committee – denied it was him who looked at the images, but accepted he’d failed to look after the laptop properly.

In a letter to the committee Coun Renwick, who will not fight May’s local elections, said: “I will hold my hands up to not taking proper protection of the computer when I left my former matrimonial home.

“As such, for a period of around two weeks, the computer was not in my possession.”

The Wesham councillor, who works as chief of staff for Blackpool North MP Paul Maynard, claims it was during this period the pornographic images were viewed, but Local Government Standards investigator Claire Lefort told the committee she could not be sure who had looked at the images.

“I just want to be clear in respect of who put the images on the laptop computer, I was unable to establish,” she said.

“I couldn’t find evidence to say who searched the internet and looked at these images.”

The committee heard Coun Renwick, the former head of policy at the council, had suffered “serious difficulties in his mental health” after the allegations came to light.

He added: “Despite the pressure and the unbearable strain on my health over this, I have learnt lessons. I have become very acutely aware of password and computer security. A hard won lesson.”

But the committee decided despite Coun Renwick claims he did not look at the images, he was in breach of Fylde Council’s code of conduct because of his failure to secure his computer.

The committee chairman, Mr D D E Birchall, said: “We believe the breaches need to be taken seriously. The laptop computer and the internet connection were provided out of public funds for specific purposes, which were the purposes of Coun Renwick’s role as a councillor.

“To mark our strong disapproval of the actions – or inactions – of Coun Renwick that led to the security of the laptop being compromised, we have decided to suspend Coun Renwick from Fylde Council for six months, which is the maximum sanction available.”

The report criticised Fylde Council’s handling of the investigation, and Mr Birchall said procedures would be reviewed.