At a meeting of East Staffordshire Borough Council’s Standards Committee [yesterday] on 20th December, Councillor George Allen and Councillor Sue McGarry were both found to have brought East Staffordshire Borough Council into disrepute by breaching the Code of Conduct for Councillors and the Planning Code for Councillors.
The Committee was called for the purpose of hearing six complaints against Cllr Allen and three complaints against Cllr McGarry. One of the complaints against Cllr Allen concerned his behaviour in relation to a planning application for a residential development at land off Westlands Road, Uttoxeter and in that case the Committee found that Cllr Allen had breached the relevant Codes by failing to declare an interest in a property close to the development site and that he had breached the general obligation of Openness by failing to act and take a decision in an open and transparent manner.
All of the remaining complaints, against both Cllr Allen and Cllr McGarry, concerned a planning application for a residential development at Hazelwalls Farm, Uttoxeter.
It was alleged that both Councillors had failed to disclose that:
- they were part of an organised pressure group protesting and campaigning against the proposed development; and
- that they had attended private meetings of that group unbeknown to officials, been involved in the production of campaign leaflets and had engaged in lobbying as part of the campaign group rather than simply representing residents.
In all those cases the Committee found that both Councillors had breached the relevant Codes as a result of their involvement with the campaign group and that they had failed to uphold the general obligations of Openness, Selflessness and Objectivity
The Committee imposed the following sanctions:
- That its findings be published on the Council website and in the form of a press release;
- That its findings be reported to Council at a meeting on 21st December;
- That the Monitoring Officer arrange training for the two Councillors on the Code of Conduct for Councillors and the Planning Code for Councillors. Such training to be undertaken by 31 January 2019; and
- That neither Councillor should be allowed to sit on Planning Committee until the training referred to at 3 above has been completed.
Note to editors: Openness is one of the Nolan Principles – the Seven Principles of Public Life – applicable to all holders of public office and forming the basis for the ethical standards required of those people
Note to editors: Two more of the Nolan Principles. Selflessness: Councillors should act solely in terms of the public interest. Objectivity: Councillors must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.