A CONTROVERSIAL Tory councillor has been suspended for six months for bullying a senior council officer.

Outspoken Bill Sharp, 62, has been found guilty of a long-running campaign of harassment and intimidation against top official Ian Burchill.

Mr Sharp, of Softwater Lane, Hadleigh, was also found guilty of backing a plan for a hotel by Benfleet’s Sadlers Farm roundabout, put forward by a developer friend.

Six months is the maximum a councillor can be suspended without being removed from office. Yesterday, the council's standards sub-committee was told Hadleigh councillor Mr Sharp had repeatedly undermined director of environment Mr Burchill.

James Findlay QC, for the council, said: “This is indicative of a campaign of intimidation against Mr Burchill. It’s the worst form of intimidation and brings Councillor Sharp into disrepute.”

Yesterday’s hearing found Mr Sharp guilty of five allegations: l Bullying Mr Burchill and treating him with disrespect l Undermining him professionally l Intimidating him by calling for his dismissal l Failing to accept advice which, by law, he could not ignore l Seeking an advantage for himself and others by pressing for the hotel plans to be included in a key council planning strategy document.

His friend and associate Brian White was behind the plan, the hearing was told.

Mr Findlay said: “He continued to lobby for a site in which he clearly had a significant interest.”

The panel heard there was a history of conflict and animosity between Mr Sharp and Mr Burchill, going back to the councillor’s time as planning chairman.

In her report, Karen Shorter, the official who investigated the allegations, said: “Matters were personalised and he was determined to undermine Mr Burchill’s professional expertise at every opportunity.”

Mr Sharp was not at the hearing, but later said: “I am not guilty. I think it’s much better to question, if you have an opinion. I believe I was doing what the electorate wanted.”

Last July, he was suspended for eight weeks for insulting Mr Burchill and breaching planning rules.