Police raid councillor's home and office in fraud probe

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THE home and office of a Lothian councillor have been raided as part of a fraud investigation by police.

Action To Save St John's (ATSSJH) councillor Gordon Beurskens is being investigated over alleged planning fraud.

Officers swooped on his home and workplace at West Lothian Council's headquarters in Livingston with warrants just after 6am on Tuesday.

It is believed computers were taken for further examination.

Mr Beurskens denies all allegations of wrongdoing.

He said: "This operation was fully expected as part of the investigation. I have repeatedly made clear there is nothing to hide.

"The more fully the investigation is carried out, the more robustly we will be able to deal with those who have made these unfounded and defamatory allegations."

Councillor Beurskens was first reported to police by council chief executive Alex Linkston in December following complaints from opposition Labour councillors.

He was also reported to the Standards Commission for alleged financial irregularities and discussing live planning applications, amid other allegations, which are strictly against planning laws and breach the Code of Conduct for Councillors.

The allegations centre on an 8 million development site at Whitrigg, East Whitburn, for a hotel, 100 houses and a care home, which was recommended to be refused by planning officers.

Mr Beurskens was the consultant for the site's applicant, Aftondale Ltd, and despite the recommendation, the application was passed by councillors.

Labour councillors believe Mr Beurskens abused his position to help get the application passed.

On the day the decision to grant permission was taken, Cllr Beurskens was absent from the meeting as he had declared a financial interest in it.

ATSSJH colleague and nominated substitute at the meeting, Ellen Glass, took his place and voted in favour of it.

A number of other councillors, including leader Peter Johnston, have also been reported to the Standards Commission over claims of planning irregularities.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: "Police carried out a search at the business and residential property of an individual in West Lothian on Tuesday. One other residential property was also searched."

A West Lothian Council spokesman said: "This is a police investigation and it would not be appropriate to comment."