The Conservatives are facing questions over why they have not suspended a councillor who is facing tax fraud charges.

Colin Dingwall, who represents Hailey, Minster Lovell and Leafield on West Oxfordshire District Council, is facing three charges of failing to notify of a change in circumstances that would have affected his entitlement to a reduction in council tax.

He has been dropped by the Tories as a candidate in the May local elections but not suspended from the party or resigned as a councillor.

He was due to stand trial on February 5 at Oxford Magistrates’ Court but will now stand trial on March 22 after he changed his guilty pleas.

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Meanwhile he has been released on unconditional bail.

Witney Gazette: Alaric Smith

Alaric Smith, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: “Suspension by a political party until found guilty or not guilty is a common approach when a councillor is charged with an offence, and doing so is without prejudice.

"However, Cllr Dingwall has now changed his plea twice, thereby delaying his trial and any possible sentencing arising from it.

"It is extraordinary that he has not been formally suspended as a member of the Conservative Group while his trial is pending.

"It has to be in the public interest for him to step aside while that process takes place."

It is alleged that Dingwall, 72, of Foxburrow Lane, Crawley, failed to provide information about wayleave income from Scottish and Southern Electric between March 21 and 30, 2021.

It is also alleged that between April 21 and June 25, 2021 he failed to notify West Oxfordshire District Council that his capital, savings and investments increased above the prescribed limit.

And the third count is that between February 8, 2021 and February 6, 2022, he failed to report that he was in employment with Community Communications Partnership Limited.

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In a joint statement Conservative Leader Michele Mead and Deputy Group Leader Liam Walker said: “We thank Cllr Smith for suddenly showing an interest in this case but due to the ongoing legal proceedings it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment at this stage.

"As he will be aware Cllr Dingwall isn't standing for election again in May and we hope that local champion Paul Eaglestone will be elected to continue with Cllr Dingwall's work in the Hailey, Minster Lovell and Leafield ward particularly on planning matters." 

A long-serving member of the council, Dingwall was most recently re-elected in May 2021.