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Conservatives launch inquiry into disgraced former leader Derek Osbourne
Kingston Council's new Conservative administration will launch an independent inquiry into disgraced ex-Liberal Democrat leader Derek Osbourne’s years in power, it has been announced.
Council leader Councillor Kevin Davis said he wanted to draw a line under "the most shaming thing the borough’s ever faced".
Osbourne, 60, is serving a two-year prison sentence for downloading and distributing indecent images of children, animals and women being violently and sexually abused.
At the time of his arrest in June last year, he was the public face of the council’s children’s services improvement plan, following the damning 2012 Ofsted inspection.
He was also a vocal supporter of the Rose Theatre, and its youth theatre group.
Coun Davis said the inquiry would not be a "witch hunt", but rather remove the shadow of Osbourne’s tenure once and for all.
He said: "I’m holding it in the hope that it uncovers absolutely nothing, because that's what we all want.
"I hope we’ll come out with a clean bill of health, but if that’s the outcome it doesn’t mean the inquiry has been a failure.
"We’re not on a witch hunt."
The previous Lib Dem administration resisted Tory calls for an inquiry, citing a Met Police investigation which found Osbourne’s crimes were unconnected to his council role.
Coun Davis said: "The police were concerned about aspects of the charges brought against him.
"But what is illegal and what is inappropriate is something the inquiry needs to examine."
Coun Davis said the inquiry would examine Osbourne’s decision-making regarding funding, in particular youth groups, as well as his behaviour toward young people he came into contact with through his various public duties.
The chairman of the inquiry, who is yet to be appointed, would be independent "but understand how Kingston works", Coun Davis said.
He or she would be allowed to decide the scope of the investigation, with councillors from all three parties overseeing the process.
Coun Davis said he hoped to have a draft report of findings ready by autumn.
He also accepted the inquiry would cost money, but could not provide a figure. Former council leader Councillor Liz Green said the idea of an inquiry was discussed by the Lib Dems, but ultimately rejected.
She said: "My heart said yes we should have an inquiry, but my head said we weren’t going to achieve anything.
"I think they [the Conservatives] want to keep this going for as long as they can, and I think that’s the motive for wanting to do it, which is unhealthy for the council."
Labour's new Norbiton councillor Linsey Cottington said: "We have to make sure this isn't politically motivated, that it is in the best interests of children's services and is going to make a contribution to radically improving a service that needs radically improving."
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