A pecuniary conundrum

26 Jun

The post below is NOT a legal opinion, simply for discussion.

The document HERE is the latest guidance published by the government in April 2013 on councillors’ personal and pecuniary interests.  It contains a couple of interesting paragraphs.

Firstly it says:

2 The independent person

Section 28(7) of the Act requires local authorities to appoint at least one independent person to advise the council before it makes a decision on an allegation. There are restrictions on who can be appointed as the independent member; in general the independent person cannot be a councillor, officer or their relative or close friend.10 Former members of standards committees can be appointed as the independent person until 30 June 2013 as part of transitional arrangements to the new regime.

How can Councillor Salter of Newton Poppleford have been reported to police (possibly by another councillor) unless EDDC’s Independent Person has ruled on the allegation?  As far as we are aware, this has not happened.

Secondly, there is a paragraph that  makes it clear what a pecuniary interest covers:

Pecuniary interests cover the member’s ’employment, office, trade, profession or vocation’, any ‘sponsorship’ of the member, including contributions towards their election expenses, any ‘contracts’ between the member and the authority, any ‘land’ the member has an interest in and lies within the area of the authority, any ‘licences’ the member holds to occupy land in the area, any ‘corporate tenancies’, and certain ‘securities’ the member may hold.

This could (and should) be interpreted as  meaning land OWNED or CONTROLLED by the councillor.  This is obvious because when councillors list their interests on the document required by the local authority they include their homes and any other property they own within the district of which they are part.  THEY DO NOT INCLUDE LAND SURROUNDING THEIR PROPERTIES AND RECEIVE NO GUIDANCE THAT THEY SHOULD DO SO.

Have you seen an instance of any councillor in any council in the country registering a pecuniary interest in land AROUND the property they own but not actually owned by them?  If so, every councillor would have to list every piece of land, however small, bordering every property that he or she owns in a district.  This is not done.

An interesting conundrum!

5 Responses to “A pecuniary conundrum”

  1. stoneleighblogger June 26, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    It looks like the EDDC have been wasting police time, and not following correct procedure. Maybe an FOI request is required here to see if a Codes of Conduct have been breached, and by whom.

  2. Shan Merritt June 27, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    Seems to me that there is likely to be a prejudicial interest, rather than a specific pecuniary one. Any prejudicial interest (e.g. ownership of land adjoining an application site) should also be declared.

  3. sidmouthsid June 27, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    But a prejudicial interest would not be reported to the police – it would be a purely internal situation to be dealt with by the Monitoring Officer and the Independent Person surely?

  4. Tim Todd June 27, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    As I understand it a new offence of failing to declare a peculiarly interest has been created. It is the only criminal offence and thus the only one of interest to police. Failure to declare other interests are matters for council. As I understand it, the councillor concerned did declare other interests.

  5. Not A Developer June 27, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    Peculiarly interest – Freudian slip there!

    Seriously, the difference in treatment between Salter and Brown begs many questions. The police should not be wasting their time with the former and should be taking the latter much more seriously.

    However, it is possible that our local police have no experience of this new offence which may go some way towards explaining their apparent confusion. Perhaps they should now be examining it more closely so they target the right people and use their resources more sensibly.

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