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Tory rejects claims of a 'double life'

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 02, 2014

By TRISTAN CORK

Peter Heaton-Jones serves north Swindon as a councillor but  wants to be the next North Devon MP

Peter Heaton-Jones serves north Swindon as a councillor but wants to be the next North Devon MP

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tristan.cork@b-nm.co.uk

Voters in two different communities at either end of the West region are asking a local politician how he is managing to work for both full-time.

Peter Heaton-Jones serves the people of north Swindon as a borough councillor – with the Conservative politician telling the voters of the Wiltshire town that he lives in the recently-built St Andrews Ridge suburb of the town.

But the Tory councillor has aspirations to be North Devon's next MP, and told voters there that he lives near South Molton "in the heart of the constituency", and spends "95 per cent" of his time there. One Ilfracombe resident has spoken of his "concerns" at Mr Heaton-Jones' apparent double life, questioning a campaign leaflet he received from the Tory candidate.

"I thought it was strange he said he was living in North Devon," said Toby Ebert. "I knew he was a councillor in Swindon, so I went on their website where it says he sits on various committees and owns a property there. I don't think it is right to tell one set of people, 'I live in Swindon', while telling another, 'I live in North Devon'," he added.

The round trip from Swindon to Barnstaple is 250 miles and five hours on a good day, although the would-be Tory MP – who is looking to unseat senior Lib Dem stalwart Nick Harvey at the 2015 election – tells North Devon residents he lives in Bishops Nympton, which is closer to the M5 and a mere four-hour round trip.

The North Swindon Conservative website hails Mr Heaton-Jones' attendance at monthly meetings and surgeries in the sprawling new suburbs of the Wiltshire town, his work with local Tory MP Robert Buckland and his membership as chairman of the Economic, Environmental & Sustainability Overview and Scrutiny Committee at Swindon Borough Council, his vice-chairmanship of the scrutiny committee and his membership of both the licensing committee and the Forward Swindon Commissioning Board. He also states he is the editor of the North Swindon Conservative councillors' website.

Mr Heaton-Jones said he suspected the Liberal Democrats in North Devon were behind the allegations of a double life, but described his work as a councillor in Swindon as "a previous commitment".

"These are issues the LibDems have raised before, and I imagine that's where they've come from again," he said.

Mr Ebert also raised the fact that Mr Heaton-Jones had only attended four council meetings in Swindon since July. But Mr Heaton-Jones responded: "There have only been four full council meetings since July, and I have attended every one.

"Ninety-five per cent of my time is spent in North Devon," he added. "But, as with virtually all parliamentary candidates, there are previous commitments you have to honour. It's a matter of public record that I was a borough councillor beforehand, and I don't believe in letting down the people who have elected me. I've always said I will stand down as a councillor at the earliest opportunity and focus completely on North Devon, and I will," he added.

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