“It’s politically motivated’ – county council leader dismisses claim he failed to properly disclose interest in planning policy (From Bournemouth Echo)
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“It’s politically motivated’ – county council leader dismisses claim he failed to properly disclose interest in planning policy
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.”
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.”
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