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Porn probe Lib Dem steps down

The councillor at the centre of a town hall porn probe in Preston has stepped down from his party, it emerged today.

Lib Dem Alan Valentine, who is under investigation by the National Standards Board amid allegations that he misused Preston Council's computer facilities, revealed today he has left the group.

He refused to explain his decision, which will see him continuing to represent Preston's Riversway ward as a Liberal Independent.

Coun Valentine said today: "I have decided in the light of the Standards Board investigation to step down as a Lib Dem councillor, until I am cleared of this allegation.

"I will sit as a Liberal Independent.

"I have made an official complaint to the Standards Board, after taking legal advice, about the conduct of Preston City Council senior officers who apparently knew about this matter in August 2002, but only made a complaint to the Standards Board in January 2003."

The complaint against Coun Valentine centres on a laptop computer which it is believed was used to access premium porn websites through the city council's Internet server.

The alleged misuse came to light last August when the police confiscated computers while investigating Coun Valentine's partner Bill Chadwick. Chadwick, who lives with Coun Valentine on Avenham Road, Preston, was fined 1,000 at Liverpool Crown Court last month after admitting 18 charges of downloading pictures of naked infants from the Internet.

Coun Valentine's decision to step down comes amid increasing anger among rank and file Lib Dems, who feel betrayed by a minority of the group who have dragged the party's name through the mud.

Today, the city's Lib Dem leader, Coun Ron Marshall, said: "I think Alan has done the right thing in the circumstances.

"I believe he came to that decision himself and I received an e-mail directly from him last night.

"All I know is from past experiences of councillors leaving parties that it doesn't affect their status and they can call themselves independent."

Coun Valentine's Riversway seat is not up for grabs in next month's local elections.

The National Standards Board, which will carry out a full investigation, enforces the new national code of ethics for councillors, with the power to disqualify politicians from office for five years.

Further trouble is on the horizon for the Lib Dems.

The rival Conservatives are to issue a politically-charged Notice of Motion just seven days before the elections.

The Tories will ask the Lib Dems to condemn former leader, Bill Chadwick, and suspend any other members of the group who are under any "suspicions."

 
 
 

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