County & District Councillor’s Registers of Interests
- an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, reporting on some apparent discrepancies relating to the requirements of the Localism Act 2011 on the part of a rather high-profile Ryedale District Councillor and North Yorkshire County Councillor. (District and Borough elections – though not County – will be held on 7th May 2015, alongside the General Election).
Pursuant to an anonymous tip-off, I have been examining the public record Registers of Interests of one Lindsay BURR – a North Yorkshire County (NYCC) Councillor and Ryedale District (RDC) Councillor, who has recently abandoned the LibDem Group and presently sits as a Independent member. The circumstances of the split are not entirely clear, though Councillor BURR is reported (by the Gazette Herald) as stating that, after circa 20 years as a LibDem, her values are no longer aligned with those of the party. Councillor Lindsay BURR is a committed opponent of fracking – and for that, I salute her.
It is not known whether or not the LibDem party considers that its values remain aligned with those of Councillor Lindsay BURR – or, indeed, whether or not they are happy to see the back of her. I do not know the political persuasions of my anonymous informant.
An examination of Councillor Lindsay BURR’s Register of Interests at Ryedale District Council, immediately followed by an examination of returns posted on the CompaniesInTheUK.com website, quickly drew my attention to the following apparent discrepancies.
I refer readers now to the following URL-links (Companiesintheuk.com):
The former lists a Lindsay BURR as having been (and continuing to be) a Director of Intuitions Ltd, from 1st September 2011 until the present day.
The latter lists a Lindsay BURR as having been (and continuing to be) a Director of Kirkham Henry Performing Arts CIC, from 24th January 2011 until the present day.
In both cases, Lindsay BURR is listed at the following address:
Local residents assure me that this identifies Lindsay BURR as the Councillor of Ryedale District Council, and this is confirmed by the information provided on the RDC web-site at the following URL-link:
Neither of these Directorships appear on Councillor Lindsay BURR’s current RDC Register of Interests, as displayed on the RDC web-site.
Section 30 of the Localism Act 2011 requires that:
30 Disclosure of pecuniary interests on taking office
(1) A member or co-opted member of a relevant authority must, before the end of 28 days beginning with the day on which the person becomes a member or co-opted member of the authority, notify the authority’s monitoring officer of any disclosable pecuniary interests which the person has at the time when the notification is given.
Section 34 of the Localism Act 2011 requires that:
(1) A person commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse, the person—
(a) fails to comply with an obligation imposed on the person by section 30(1) or 31(2), (3) or (7).
However, this seemingly black-and-white area of law is slightly muddied by the terms of Section 29 (1) & (2) of the Localism Act 2011:
29 Register of interests
(1) The monitoring officer of a relevant authority must establish and maintain a register of interests of members and co-opted members of the authority.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Chapter, it is for a relevant authority to determine what is to be entered in the authority’s register.
I have not, as yet, been able to establish the precise terms of under which Ryedale District Council has determined entry rquirements for the authority’s Registers of Interest. However, the DCLG Guidance on “Openness and Transparency on Personal Interests” states that:
A person’s pecuniary interests are their business interests (for example their employment, trade, profession, contracts, or any company with which they are associated) and wider financial interests they might have (for example trust funds, investments, and assets including land and property).[my emphasis]
For this reason, I have written to RDC CEO Janet WAGGOTT requesting a diligent investigation of the circumstances described above.
In doing so, I would expect that I have now identified myself as the devil incarnate. But, in my view, Councillors who break the law in respect of their duty to declare disclosable interests risk bringing their respective Councils into disrepute. On that basis, one might reasonably expect Monitoring Officers to welcome the assistance of citizen investigative-journalists.
I have also submitted an FOIA request for sight of Councillor Lindsay BURR’s historical RDC Register of Interests, so that I can compare it with her Companies House public record, in order to establish whether or not it has been the practice and policy of Councillor Lindsay BURR to fail to declare disclosable interests.
I may be wrong, but to the best of my knowledge and belief, the RDC Monitoring Officer is none other than the SBC Monitoring Officer Lisa DIXON. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have received neither acknowledgement nor response from RDC, or from Monitoring Officer Lisa DIXON. Quelle surprise.
I will not bore the reader with the minutiae of the closely parallel set of circumstances obtaining at NYCC, where County Councillor Lindsay BURR’s Register of Interest also appears to be at variance with her directorships, in respect of the same two companies.
Consequently, I have written to NYCC Monitoring Officer Barry KHAN requesting a diligent investigation of the circumstances described above.
I have also submitted an FOIA request to NYCC for sight of Councillor Lindsay BURR’s historical Register of Interests at North Yorkshire County Council, so that I can compare it with her Companies House public record, in order to establish whether or not it has been the practice and policy of Councillor Lindsay BURR to fail to declare disclosable interests there.
NYCC’s Monitoring Officer Barry KHAN has acknowledged my request (indicating that “this is a matter solely for the police to investigate as it is not within the remit of the Standards Committee to investigate potentially criminal offences”).
The NYCC FOIA department has acknowledged my FOIA request.
I hope (and expect) to be able to report further on these concerns in due course.
I have a right to scrutinise the conduct of elected and paid public servants, and to express an opinion on my findings in any medium, regardless of frontiers. (Article 10, Human Rights Act 1998) – a right I exercise in the public interest, without fear or favour.
Meanwhile, it is important to remember the vitally important principle of the presumption of innocence, as defined under Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
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