Scrutiny panel leader resigns over council ‘blocks’ to Ashya King probe

Cllr Alistair Thompson. Picture: Paul Jacobs
Cllr Alistair Thompson. Picture: Paul Jacobs

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THE chairman of a scrutiny panel which was investigating Portsmouth City Council’s handling of the Ashya King affair has resigned.

Councillor Alistair Thompson, 36, of Eastney, said he had stepped down in frustration over his attempts to investigate the case.

Ashya King, five, arrives for pre-cancer treatment examinations at the Motol hospital in Prague

Ashya King, five, arrives for pre-cancer treatment examinations at the Motol hospital in Prague

Mr Thompson said the investigation had been unfairly blocked within the council.

He said: ‘The council officers were not allowed in any shape or form to be involved in the review,

‘That, in my mind, makes my position as the head of scrutiny of the panel void.

‘We need to check that we obeyed the rules and applied them correctly.’

Cllr Thompson said the scrutiny panel had not been given enough leverage to investigate the handling of the affair.

He added: ‘The council is supposed to be member-led. The members are supposed to represent our residents, but in this case the office has been put above both the residents and members.’

Council leader Councillor Donna Jones said she was ‘not surprised’ Mr Thompson had resigned.

She said: ‘I know he has time constraints as I know he works in London.

‘As far as I’m aware the investigation into Ashya King has been absolutely appropriate. I’ve spoken to Alistair about other jobs he can do at the council.’

Cllr Jones said she would appoint a new chairman in the next few weeks.

The council found itself at the centre of a storm over a legal order preventing five-year-old Ashya, from Southsea, from having crucial treatment for a brain tumour.
The authority obtained an order making the UK’s High Court the boy’s legal guardian the day after he was taken by his parents from Southampton General Hospital.

This order was later lifted and wardship was returned to Ashya’s parents, Brett and Naghmeh King.

But supporters of Ashya said it is a ‘disgrace’ the council did not demand the legal barrier be lifted after Ashya was reunited with his parents.

Ashya is now in Prague, where he is undergoing a 30-session course of proton beam treatment.