Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mayor Resigns to Fight Claims

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mayor Resigns to Fight Claims

Article excerpt

North Tyneside's elected mayor last night dramatically quit his post, saying he wanted to fight full time to clear his name over the child pornography and indecent assault allegations against him.

Chris Morgan, who strenuously denies the allegations, said he was resigning the pounds 50,000 a year post "with great sadness" but the nature of the accusations against him had made his position untenable.

The 33-year-old Conservative, who became one of the country's first elected mayors last May, was arrested at his home on Thursday and questioned over an allegation involving computer child pornography.

He had previously been arrested in March over the alleged indecent assault of a 15-year-old girl. Police have said the two allegations are unrelated.

The mayor, who lives in Whitley Bay with wife Nikki, was bailed on Thursday evening.

Yesterday afternoon, after a day of speculation about his future, his solicitors released a statement saying he was standing down to protect the integrity of the council and the mayor's office.

Mr Morgan, whose narrow election in the Labour

stronghold came as a shock to many, maintained his innocence on both allegations but said their nature could damage reputations even before any evidence was produced.

The statement said: "Mr Morgan believes that he cannot continue in office with such accusations casting a shadow over him, North Tyneside Council and the residents of North Tyneside at large."

Mr Morgan, whose 11 months in office were marked by a series of budget struggles with the majority Labour group, will now be devoting his time to fighting the allegations.

Deputy Mayor Lawrence Goveas will take on the mayor's responsibilities in the short term and a new mayor may not be elected for three months.

Last night, politicians on both sides welcomed Mr Morgan's decision and said he could now concentrate on clearing his name.

A Conservative Party Central Office spokesman said: "While we cannot comment on the allegations because it is a legal matter we think he has done the right thing in standing down."

Coun Goveas said: "It means that as Deputy Mayor I have to carry on the work of the Mayor until a new Mayor is elected by the people of North Tyneside in an election to be held shortly. …

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