THERE is “insufficient evidence” to prosecute Bournemouth council leader John Beesley, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) says.

CPS Wessex said the file it had received from Dorset Police did not amount to enough evidence to justify Councillor Beesley’s prosecution for either misconduct in public office or failing to properly declare his business interests.

A senior figure in the Conservative Party told the Echo the CPS had decided it was “not in the public interest” to prosecute Cllr Beesley for the latter offence.

Dorset Police has now ended its investigation, but the initial complaint against the leader made by 10 Conservative councillors remains unresolved.

Cllr Beesley was invited to comment but has yet to reply.

Bournemouth council has yet to reveal what form its own inquiry will take, although in June last year a spokesman said “there will be a formal council process conducted by an external assessor regardless of the outcome of the police investigation”. Town hall sources have speculated that the council intends to follow its usual standards board complaints process.

One of the 10 complainants, Cllr Don McQueen (left, top), has said the inquiry must be handled by an independent party. “I am disappointed and surprised that the CPS has come to that conclusion,” he said.

“There absolutely now has to be an independent investigation into the code of conduct complaint and Cllr Beesley’s actions. This must be entirely separate from, and in addition to, a standards board investigation.”

Cllr McQueen said the investigation should be “independent and transparent” since the allegations “concern questions of transparency and independence at the council”.

Senior party figures are understood to have been concerned the police inquiry would drag on through the election campaign for the new unitary Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, casting a shadow over the party.

The Bournemouth West Conservative Association, of which Cllr Beesley is a member, is soon to select its candidates.

Bournemouth and Poole town hall sources claim concern over reputational damage is why Cllr Beesley’s bid to be appointed leader of the shadow executive committee – a likely stepping stone to leadership of the new unitary – did not gain traction and Poole council leader Janet Walton was chosen instead.

The original councillors’ complaint was sparked by the £394,000 redundancy of former Bournemouth council chief executive Tony Williams in March last year.

In the House of Commons that month, Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope (right) speculated that Mr Williams had been made redundant to derail an alleged investigation into Cllr Beesley’s business activities.

Cllr Beesley, leader since 2012 and previously planning board chairman, is self-employed as leisure sector consultancy firm Hospitality Solutions. In 2016 he was employed by developer Fresh Lime over scheme for the Belvedere Hotel site in St Peter’s Road.

Sir Chris claimed this represented a conflict of interest. “[Cllr Beesley] encouraged them to go along and make their pitch, the planning department knowing of his involvement as a consultant, although of course not being influenced by the fact he was a leader of the council.”

Cllr Beesley denied Sir Chris’ allegations, and colleagues slammed the MP for “abusing parliamentary privilege”.

However within weeks the formal complaint had been filed, alleging that Cllr Beesley had failed to properly make declarations of pecuniary interests (DPI) as required under the Localism Act 2011, and had breached the council’s code of conduct.

With the former allegation a criminal offence, on which East Dorset District Council leader Cllr Spencer Flower was found guilty and handed a conditional discharge at Bournemouth Magistrates’ Court in 2015, the complaint was referred to the police. Cllr Flower stepped down from the leadership when charged, although he has since been reappointed leader.

With three officers working full time on the 17-month-long investigation, Dorset Police interviewed several Conservatives and former council employees.

The civil inquiry will consider the original accusations concerning DPI and the code of conduct. On the former, council guidance states that members must make public any “employment, office, trade, profession or vocation – carried on for gain or profit, including the name of any person or body who employs or has appointed you”.

Cllr Beesley’s register of interests lists his role at Hospitality Solutions but does not contain any information about his clients or contracts. He has said he has followed the advice of the council legal department on what to declare. He is also alleged in the complaint to have bullied people, to have attempted to compromise the impartiality of officers and to have brought the council into disrepute.