Councillor's drink driving arrest

A VETERAN councillor's political career hangs in the balance today after he was arrested on suspicion of drink driving.

Coun Eddie McAtominey, one of the longest-serving members of South Tyneside Council and South Tyneside's representative on Northumbria Police Authority, was arrested after a crash in Victoria Road West, Hebburn, on Monday night.

Today, Labour Party chiefs refused to say whether he would be suspended from the party while the police investigation is carried out.

However the Gazette understands an emergency meeting has already been called between Coun McAtominey, chief whip Coun Jim Perry and leader of the council Coun Iain Malcolm to discuss his situation.

Coun McAtominey, representative for Hebburn South, was travelling along Victoria Road West towards his home in Sullivan Walk, Hebburn, when he was involved in what police called "a minor crash."

He was arrested on suspicion of drink driving, and he was taken to South Shields police station.

But Coun McAtominey today denied the allegations and said he'd 'fight' them.

He said: "I have been arrested, but no charges have been brought. I will fight these allegations.

"I'm still an active member of both the Labour Party and the Police Authority.

"I've got no further comments to make at this time."

Senior members of Labour North, including regional director Fiona Stanton, are known to be following the situation from Crewe, where the party is fighting a crucial by-election.

A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Area Command, said: "We can confirm that a 62-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of driving above the alcohol limit following a minor crash in Victoria Road West in Hebburn on May 19.

"He has been bailed pending further inquiries."

Coun McAtominey will answer police bail next month.

Coun McAtominey is married to fellow Hebburn South councillor Nancy Maxwell. It is unknown whether anyone was in the car with him at the time.

His arrest means that there are now two members of South Tyneside Council currently on police bail, following Coun Rob Dix's arrest in April on suspicion of racially aggravated disorder.

Coun Dix is currently suspended from the Labour Party while his investigation continues.