Cornwall

Cornwall Council's Alex Folkes 'child risk' claim to be probed

Alex Folkes
Image caption An independent inquiry will be held into the handling of allegations made against Alex Folkes

An independent inquiry will examine a council's handling of allegations that one of its members was a "risk" to children, the BBC understands.

Cornwall Council warned schools and clubs in Alex Folkes' Launceston ward not to allow him near children.

Mr Folkes has denied any wrongdoing and said he was cleared by police in 2006 after his credit card was cloned.

Political leaders at the council said it had now been agreed to launch an independent inquiry into the affair.

The allegations by Cornwall Council followed the resignation of Liberal Democrat Mr Folkes on 4 November from a cabinet position citing "personal issues".

Private briefing

On his blog, Mr Folkes, who remains a councillor for Launceston, has said he was "bullied" out of office and Cornwall Council had not shared information regarding the claims made against him.

He said the council had been alerted to a 2006 Metropolitan Police probe launched after his credit card was linked to a child pornography website.

He said his card had been cloned, he had been cleared by police and had "never viewed any such images".

Fiona Ferguson, leader of the Conservatives at the authority, said a "private briefing" had now taken place for the leaders of all political parties.

She said: "I still feel there should be an independent person looking at the way in which the council handled this issue.

"I believe that they (party leaders) did agree with that and that will now happen."

'It looks strange'

Following Mr Folkes' resignation John Pollard, Independent leader of the council, initially paid tribute to his work as portfolio holder for finance and resources.

Mrs Ferguson said: "How it's been dealt with does look strange and it's why I started asking questions about it in the first place."

She said it had been agreed to ask the Local Government Association for advice regarding who should carry out the independent inquiry.

On his blog, Mr Folkes said: "I cautiously welcome this acceptance by the council that there are significant question marks over the process they have followed.

"The inquiry will be able to review the process by which decisions were taken behind closed doors and judgments reached without my having the chance to read and respond to the allegations against me.

"I am told the inquiry will also look into the decision to make accusations against me in letters to local schools and sports clubs, and the decision by the council to press release this. I hope that it will also cover data protection issues."

He said he expected to be given the chance to have his say and that he looked forward to doing so, adding: "I thank the many hundreds of people who have been in touch with me to offer their support and good wishes."

Cornwall Council did not respond to questions regarding plans for an independent inquiry.

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