“It’s politically motivated’ – county council leader dismisses claim he failed to properly disclose interest in planning policy

Cllr Spencer Flower

Cllr Spencer Flower

First published in News
Last updated
by

THE leader of Dorset County Council has dismissed as “politically motivated” a claim that he failed to properly disclose an interest in planning policy.

Cllr Spencer Flower said he was “not a bit concerned” about the allegation, which has been passed to the police.

The row relates to Cllr Flower’s previous role as leader of East Dorset District Council and the debate about its major planning document, the Core Strategy.

Christchurch firm REIDSteel – whose technical director Rollo Reid is a UKIP activist – commissioned solicitors to advise whether Cllr Flower properly declared an interest in the strategy.

The resulting report, by James Goudie QC, examined whether Cllr Flower had a prejudicial interest because he was director of Zebra Property Solutions Limited, a commercial subsidiary of Synergy Housing Limited.

It concluded that Cllr Flower had been in breach of East Dorset’s standing orders and standards regime and the Local Government Act 2011. It said there should be an investigation .

But Cllr Flower said the allegations had been raised before and council officials had established there was no case to answer.

He said: “It’s entirely politically motivated. I’m not going to answer it at all. I will leave it in the capable hands of the monitoring officer. I’m not going to rise to the bait.”

He added: “I’m not a bit concerned about this because there’s nothing to answer.”

A spokesman for REIDSteel denied the allegations were politically motivated.

“We have an interest because traffic jams in Christchurch are very substantial and are affecting our business,” he said.

Cllr Flower said East Dorset had referred the issue to the police and he expected to hear back soon.

A district council spokesman told the Echo: “The matter is being dealt with in accordance with the council’s procedure.”

The allegations

SPENCER Flower was leader of East Dorset District Council from 2008 to 2013 and has led Dorset County Council since May 2013.

The REIDSteel report relates to February 2013, when councillors approved the Core Strategy for submission to the government.

It noted that Cllr Flower had recorded in the register of members’ interests that he had an interest in Synergy Housing Limited, but it said he had not declared he was a director of the commercial subsidiary Zebra Property Solutions Ltd, which was set up to fund affordable housing.

Cllr Flower has said Zebra Property Solutions had by then been “mothballed” without a meeting for nearly two years.

But the report by James Goudie QC argued that Zebra Property Services was a commercial entity with an interest in district council planning activities and Cllr Flower therefore “had a personal and prejudicial interest” and the council had a duty to investigate.

Cllr Flower said those discussing the Strategy would have taken a broad view of housing.

“You do not debate, and are totally unaware of, any ownership of any land involved in that,” he said.

He said he would have withdrawn from the debate if an issue relating to Synergy or Zebra had come up.

Cllr Flower added: “I used to be on the standards committee of East Dorset so I do understand the nature of these things and I’ve been scrupulous in my declarations all the years I’ve been in local government.”

Comments (14)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

6:37am Wed 5 Mar 14

Jetwasher says...

Its no great surprise there all on the fiddle !
Its no great surprise there all on the fiddle ! Jetwasher
  • Score: 9

9:02am Wed 5 Mar 14

Burtongreenandpleasantland says...

So you were in charge when the core strategy suggested building hundreds of homes on Burton’s green fields, and thousands of homes on rowshot hill whilst you had an interest in a commercial building development company, and it escaped your mind to declare your interest ?

There be fairies on those green fields Councillor Flower. Cross the bridge between truth and lies and there be an ugly troll waiting for you - its called The Laws of England and Wales.
So you were in charge when the core strategy suggested building hundreds of homes on Burton’s green fields, and thousands of homes on rowshot hill whilst you had an interest in a commercial building development company, and it escaped your mind to declare your interest ? There be fairies on those green fields Councillor Flower. Cross the bridge between truth and lies and there be an ugly troll waiting for you - its called The Laws of England and Wales. Burtongreenandpleasantland
  • Score: 13

9:22am Wed 5 Mar 14

BoscVegas says...

How come nobody 'forgets' to disclose when the sit on the board of a charity?
How come nobody 'forgets' to disclose when the sit on the board of a charity? BoscVegas
  • Score: 8

10:09am Wed 5 Mar 14

Letcommonsenseprevail says...

When is a conflict of interest not a conflict of interest? Oh, of course, when a senior local councillor is a director of a company directly contracted by the council.......
When is a conflict of interest not a conflict of interest? Oh, of course, when a senior local councillor is a director of a company directly contracted by the council....... Letcommonsenseprevail
  • Score: 12

10:24am Wed 5 Mar 14

speedy231278 says...

About time almost every councillor from Dorset was locked up for fraud and cooking the books, seem to be almost none that aren't lining their own pockets through the back door! If Joe Public behaved in the same way, we'd all be strung up before the beak in double-quick time!
About time almost every councillor from Dorset was locked up for fraud and cooking the books, seem to be almost none that aren't lining their own pockets through the back door! If Joe Public behaved in the same way, we'd all be strung up before the beak in double-quick time! speedy231278
  • Score: 10

1:00pm Wed 5 Mar 14

Tictock says...

If it looks like a rat, smells like a rat, leaves dropping like a rat - - - time will tell if it is a mouse or something?
If it looks like a rat, smells like a rat, leaves dropping like a rat - - - time will tell if it is a mouse or something? Tictock
  • Score: 0

1:07pm Wed 5 Mar 14

TSP Dorset says...

Firstly, I am currently a councillor and can confim this is NOT politically motivated. It is really in the interest of the 'general public' that this matter is now in the news. Almost 18 months ago I recived an anonymous letter, along with nearly 50 other councillors, informing us that Cllr Flower had breached the Code of Conduct with regards to Zebra. I made some comments of disgust at the time to fellow Cllrs and superiors. I too am a Conservative. So this was not in my Political interests either as Spencer is also a Conservative. However, regretably, nothing was done. In a nutshell it was hushed up. The issue was 'sensitively' dealt with by the legal officer in favour of the council too. (KM you too should be ashamed...)? There is a duty to declare interests of your wife and vice versa as a councillor. Unknown to most public, and even many councillors, because they do not use the same surname, Cllr Toni Coombes, is Specer Flowers wife/partner too. She also should have declared HIS involvement, as like any wife, I am sure she would have known 'everything' her husband is up to? Towards the end of last year I recieved another 'anonymous' mailing providing clear evidence of Spencer Flowers involvemnetr with Zebra through the many years of his involvemnet with the Core Stategy which would build thousands of homes that his company, Zebra, could potentially profit from. His involvemnet is now public information available on the web for a small fee to the many business monitoring companies online information services, including Companies House. I am aware that SF also recieved the anonymous info... and surprisingly suddenly resigned form Zebra in March 2013, the day he got the anonymous info? Odd action for an innocent man? I dont think. So in my view, having reported only facts here, I feel someone has been coaught Red Handed with there hand in the till... so come on Dorset and East Dorset Councils, lets own up and get the public back onside, for your sake and mine! This is a long shadow that will only get longer until it affects and tarnishes us all, unrepairably. TSP
Firstly, I am currently a councillor and can confim this is NOT politically motivated. It is really in the interest of the 'general public' that this matter is now in the news. Almost 18 months ago I recived an anonymous letter, along with nearly 50 other councillors, informing us that Cllr Flower had breached the Code of Conduct with regards to Zebra. I made some comments of disgust at the time to fellow Cllrs and superiors. I too am a Conservative. So this was not in my Political interests either as Spencer is also a Conservative. However, regretably, nothing was done. In a nutshell it was hushed up. The issue was 'sensitively' dealt with by the legal officer in favour of the council too. (KM you too should be ashamed...)? There is a duty to declare interests of your wife and vice versa as a councillor. Unknown to most public, and even many councillors, because they do not use the same surname, Cllr Toni Coombes, is Specer Flowers wife/partner too. She also should have declared HIS involvement, as like any wife, I am sure she would have known 'everything' her husband is up to? Towards the end of last year I recieved another 'anonymous' mailing providing clear evidence of Spencer Flowers involvemnetr with Zebra through the many years of his involvemnet with the Core Stategy which would build thousands of homes that his company, Zebra, could potentially profit from. His involvemnet is now public information available on the web for a small fee to the many business monitoring companies online information services, including Companies House. I am aware that SF also recieved the anonymous info... and surprisingly suddenly resigned form Zebra in March 2013, the day he got the anonymous info? Odd action for an innocent man? I dont think. So in my view, having reported only facts here, I feel someone has been coaught Red Handed with there hand in the till... so come on Dorset and East Dorset Councils, lets own up and get the public back onside, for your sake and mine! This is a long shadow that will only get longer until it affects and tarnishes us all, unrepairably. TSP TSP Dorset
  • Score: 0

1:45pm Wed 5 Mar 14

UKIP4U says...

TSP Dorset if you are any of the lib lab con councillors then this is politically motivated,why deny it? the politics come from 3 parties who think they can do what they want across the countryside, Dorset needs more traffic and housing like we need another lib lab con government, the number of times i have heard at planning meetings "we have to obey housing directives", translated..means NO control at a local level.e.g.THe Dorset wide plan will put 1000's of un-needed new homes across parley and christchurch and the complainant is correct, adding 2-4000 cars from wimborne to highcliffe WILL bring gridlock and who benifits,the developers !! If you are who you say you are you will not hesitate in coming forward and providing the evidence at the forthcoming hearing.
TSP Dorset if you are any of the lib lab con councillors then this is politically motivated,why deny it? the politics come from 3 parties who think they can do what they want across the countryside, Dorset needs more traffic and housing like we need another lib lab con government, the number of times i have heard at planning meetings "we have to obey housing directives", translated..means NO control at a local level.e.g.THe Dorset wide plan will put 1000's of un-needed new homes across parley and christchurch and the complainant is correct, adding 2-4000 cars from wimborne to highcliffe WILL bring gridlock and who benifits,the developers !! If you are who you say you are you will not hesitate in coming forward and providing the evidence at the forthcoming hearing. UKIP4U
  • Score: 1

4:02pm Wed 5 Mar 14

RolloR says...

Dear TSP, Thank goodness there is at least one honest councillor in the County. Are there any more like you?
Rollo
Dear TSP, Thank goodness there is at least one honest councillor in the County. Are there any more like you? Rollo RolloR
  • Score: 0

5:30pm Wed 5 Mar 14

O'Reilly says...

I'll add 'Politically Motivated' to my lexicon of: anti-semetic, homophobic, racist, self hating Jew -that's a good one - wing nut, tin foil hat wearer and all the rest of the boll*x they try to beat us around the head with.......
I'll add 'Politically Motivated' to my lexicon of: anti-semetic, homophobic, racist, self hating Jew -that's a good one - wing nut, tin foil hat wearer and all the rest of the boll*x they try to beat us around the head with....... O'Reilly
  • Score: -2

6:53pm Wed 5 Mar 14

Say-It-Like-It-Is says...

Come on Mr Flower. Not only did you sit on the high profile Core Strategy development with its significant new housing development element but you were also an influential committee member of the East Dorset District Council Planning Committee during the time you were a director of Zebra Property Solutions. You say that Zebra was for funding affordable housing. This is a comfortable version indeed. If you read the 2011 and 2012 Zebra Company Reports it makes it clear that Zebra is a commercial company set up to deal in property for profit!! As a senior local government figure, you of all people should know the need to be open and honest about potential conflicts of interest. It seems that you failed to do this so can you be trusted?
Come on Mr Flower. Not only did you sit on the high profile Core Strategy development with its significant new housing development element but you were also an influential committee member of the East Dorset District Council Planning Committee during the time you were a director of Zebra Property Solutions. You say that Zebra was for funding affordable housing. This is a comfortable version indeed. If you read the 2011 and 2012 Zebra Company Reports it makes it clear that Zebra is a commercial company set up to deal in property for profit!! As a senior local government figure, you of all people should know the need to be open and honest about potential conflicts of interest. It seems that you failed to do this so can you be trusted? Say-It-Like-It-Is
  • Score: 5

7:07pm Wed 5 Mar 14

retrogeoff says...

Spencer Flower is fond of historic quotes...refer to his latest budget speech. There are several he has never offered up to those who pay his wages: "A half-truth is the most cowardly of lies." –Mark Twain

Just Google in Zebra Property Solutions Ltd (Company Number 06265109) and for free read about the membership and purpose of the that company. I do not want to be governed by anyone with a lack of respect for democracy; the law; or spirit of the law.

TSP Dorset has provided a succinct situation report. Let the police and the democratic system get on with the job. Our local media have at last provided some details. Judgement will be made in due course by the law and the public. Not before time.
Spencer Flower is fond of historic quotes...refer to his latest budget speech. There are several he has never offered up to those who pay his wages: "A half-truth is the most cowardly of lies." –Mark Twain Just Google in Zebra Property Solutions Ltd (Company Number 06265109) and for free read about the membership and purpose of the that company. I do not want to be governed by anyone with a lack of respect for democracy; the law; or spirit of the law. TSP Dorset has provided a succinct situation report. Let the police and the democratic system get on with the job. Our local media have at last provided some details. Judgement will be made in due course by the law and the public. Not before time. retrogeoff
  • Score: 2

9:10pm Wed 5 Mar 14

lanalt says...

This all sounds fishy to me. I had heard a rumour that other Conservative councillors knew about SF's connection with Zebra, but did nothing about it, thus tarring themselves with the same brush. Even if this rumour is untrue, it seems incredible that Cllr Coombes did not know, living, as she does, in the same house as SF.

When one reads about the shenanigans by some Conservative councillors on Christchurch Borough Council in their dealings with developers who "accidently" damaged trees that were subject to Tree PreservationOrders, it raises legitimate concerns about the integrity of our rulers.
This all sounds fishy to me. I had heard a rumour that other Conservative councillors knew about SF's connection with Zebra, but did nothing about it, thus tarring themselves with the same brush. Even if this rumour is untrue, it seems incredible that Cllr Coombes did not know, living, as she does, in the same house as SF. When one reads about the shenanigans by some Conservative councillors on Christchurch Borough Council in their dealings with developers who "accidently" damaged trees that were subject to Tree PreservationOrders, it raises legitimate concerns about the integrity of our rulers. lanalt
  • Score: 1

10:15pm Wed 5 Mar 14

Loyal2AFCB says...

A vast new housing estate planned on green belt in Christchurch and not a murmur of opposition from one single councillor in Christchurch. We all know why now!
A vast new housing estate planned on green belt in Christchurch and not a murmur of opposition from one single councillor in Christchurch. We all know why now! Loyal2AFCB
  • Score: 1

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree