Councillor ’slept through debate then voted’

Outspoken independent councillor Peter De Vink left colleagues stunned after apparently nodding off during a crunch debate – only to wake up just in time to vote.

His ill-timed slumber came as members of Midlothian Council discussed changes to recycling. Witnesses said Cllr De Vink suddenly roused from his nap and promptly shot his hand into the air to side with his coalition partners, even though it appeared he hadn’t heard any of the debate. Labour’s Adam Montgomery, who was so angry he complained to the council’s chief executive, said: “I don’t want to sound pompous, but I think something like that is an affront to democracy.

“He’s an old man, but you should always be paying attention if you’re representing people.”

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The incident happened during talks over a motion proposed by Labour’s Russell Imrie, which called on council officials to investigate the possibility of offering larger or additional blue recycling bins to households.

The motion was rejected on a 10-8 vote, with Councillors De Vink and Ian Baxter of the Greens voting with the SNP-led administration.

Claims he fell asleep during the debate have been rubbished by the maverick councillor himself, who said he had merely closed his eyes so he could focus on what he branded bankruptcy-threatening losses created by the council’s recent PPP/PFI contracts. But the explanation was rejected by Cllr Montgomery, who said: “He was sleeping – there’s no question about it.

“He was actually sleeping when the SNP councillors were nudging him to vote. He woke and stuck up his hand without knowing what it was he was voting on. If he can listen to a debate and decide how he’s going to vote while he’s asleep, then he’s a better man than I am.”

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But Cllr De Vink rejected Cllr Montgomery’s account as “drivel”.

He said: “It’s all just so ridiculous. You have a bunch of irresponsible and ignorant people who are so keen to talk about waste and I had just let my thoughts wander to the actual waste that they are responsible for creating.

“Can you imagine that schools can be built for £60 million and by the time the debt and interest are paid off, you’ve actually paid £345m?

“That’s what’s important here. Not this rubbish about blue bins and green bins.”

A doze of drama

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COUNCILLOR De Vink is no stranger to controversy and drama.

In July last year, he was summoned back from holiday in Amsterdam after the shock resignation of SNP councillor Lisa Beattie threw Midlothian’s newly-formed coalition administration into chaos.

The retired financier’s six-hour return was enough to see Bonnyrigg councillor Bob Constable elected as leader during an emergency meeting. After being rushed back to the airport following the vote, the 70-year-old was back in the Netherlands in time for a dinner engagement in The Hague with his cousin, former Dutch MP Joost van Iersel.

In December, he was accused of relieving himself in a council car park - only days after it was said he voted in favour of closing public toilets.