Ex-mayor Brian Silvester fined £45,000 over bedsit fire dangers
A FORMER mayor has been fined £45,000 for putting tenants' lives at risk by breaching fire safety laws.
The bedsit rented out by Brian Silvester and his brother Colin was branded 'dreadful' and an 'accident waiting to happen' by a judge at Chester Crown Court yesterday.
A catalogue of failings were found at the property, including broken smoke alarms, loose wiring, overloaded electrical sockets, a fire extinguisher which was last inspected in 1994 and combustible materials in the corridors.
There were also holes in the ceilings and roof and insufficient exit points.
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One tenant, John Masters, was so concerned about the risk of fire that he kept a rope, hammer and gloves in his room, ready to escape through the window should he need to.
The published author, who lived at the property for 18 months, today called for Brian Silvester, aged 60, to resign as a councillor.
He said: "I've stayed in some of the poorest slums in Bombay through my charity work and the conditions in accommodation there were better than this.
"The property was in a disgusting condition but when you complained to Brian, he thought it was normal and didn't see what was wrong with it.
"When the fire brigade came to the house, a firefighter told me he wouldn't spend more than half an hour in the property because it was so dangerous."
Former Crewe and Nantwich Mayor Brian Silvester, who currently represents Willaston as a councillor on Cheshire East Council, and his brother, who lives in Bury, both admitted 11 fire safety breaches at the building. They also pleaded guilty to failing to obtain a licence for a house of multiple occupation in relation to the property at Shavington House Farm, Crewe Road, Shavington.
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, which shut the building down in January after deeming it too much of a fire risk, said it was one of the most serious breaches of fire safety regulations in living accommodation they had ever come across.
Tenants were forced to move into temporary accommodation while the faults were rectified.
As well as being fined £45,000, Brian Silvester, who has been suspended from the Conservative Party since April, was also ordered to pay £20,000 to Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and £2,000 to Cheshire East Council in legal costs.
His brother was fined £37,500 and must also pay £22,000 in costs.
The men must pay the money within two years or face 18 months in jail.
The court heard that the rental income from the 10 bedsit property, which the brothers inherited from their father in 2000, was £58,000 in 2010/11.
Councillor Silvester refused to answer questions about his future on the council as he left court following the sentence.
Kim Ryley, Cheshire East Council's interim chief executive, said: "Had the property been registered with the council, the necessary health and safety checks would have been carried out and these serious breaches could have been prevented. This is an important example of how the council protects our residents.
"Councillor Brian Silvester will not be disqualified as an elected member as, in accordance with section 80 (d) of the Local Government Act 1972, he has not been given a custodial sentence exceeding three months."