Standards Sub-Committee – 5 November 2009
Chair: Mr W Harvie
Venue: Function Room 2, Pittwood House, Ashby Road, Scunthorpe
Time: 2 pm
Please note: The sub-committee may consider any applications submitted for the exclusion of the public under 1(i) below, and then may decide to exclude the public from the meeting for consideration of the following item on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in appropriate paragraphs of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended).
- To conduct a hearing into allegations that ex Councillor Christopher Howarth, of West Butterwick Parish Council failed to comply with and breached the Parish Council’s Code of Conduct.
- Procedure at hearings.
- Legal Advisor’s summary.
- Report of Sarah Monaghan – Investigating Officer.
- Code of Conduct.
Note: Any responses from ex Councillor Howarth will be reported at the meeting.
Hearing Date: 5 November 2009
Re: Reference Concerning Possible Failure To Follow The Code Of Conduct
Respondent: Councillor Christopher Howarth
Relevant Authority: West Butterwick Parish Council
Mr Wayne Harvie (Independent Member) (Chair)
Councillor Yvonne Aubrey (Parish Member)
Councillor Steve Swift (Member)
Councillor Andrea Davison (Member)
1. The Referral from the Standards Board for England
1.1. The Sub Committee considered a matter referred to the council by the Standards Board for England (reference SBE 20669.07). Miss Sarah Monaghan (Legal) had investigated the complaint and produced a report.
1.2 The Respondent (represented by Mr Steven Hardy of Burton & Dyson, Solicitors) had been provided with a copy of the investigating officer’s report and had been given an opportunity to respond.
Miss Monaghan attended and presented the report.
The sub committee was advised by the Monitoring Officer, Mr Mike Wood.
Mr Hardy represented the Respondent who was unable to attend.
3. The Complaint
3.1 A complaint had been received that the Respondent had breached the Code of Conduct by failing to declare a personal and prejudicial interest, seeking improperly to influence a decision, and bringing the council into disrepute.
3.2 The complaint had been made by Mr Brian Kitson, Clerk of West Butterwick Parish Council on behalf of the parish council.
4. Submission by the Respondent
4.1 There was no submission for excluding the press and public.
4.2 The Respondent’s representative was given the opportunity to comment and address the sub committee throughout the hearing.
5. Submission by the Investigating Officer
5.1 The Investigating officer submitted an account of the investigation, the interviews which had been undertaken together with her findings and conclusions.
6. Findings/Failure to comply with the Code
6.1 The Respondent had attended a meeting with Mr Broadmeadow (Rural Housing Enabler) and Mr Phillips (South Yorkshire Housing Association) on 27 October 2006 at which the provision of affordable housing in the parish had been discussed together with the carrying out of a further survey to update the one which took place in 2000/2001 so as to establish that a need currently existed.
6.2 At that meeting an area of land owned by the Respondent at the end of Paddock Lane (Park View Terrace) had formed part of the discussion and had been visited.
6.3 The Respondent had attended parish council meetings on 13 November 2006, 11 December 2006, 8 January 2007 and 12 February 2007 when items relating to affordable housing and the carrying out of a housing needs survey were discussed.
6.4 The Respondent had not declared an interest of any nature at any of the meetings.
6.5 The Respondent had helped to distribute questionnaires in connection with the housing needs survey.
6.6 Although at the parish council meetings affordable housing and a needs survey were considered in general terms the Respondent was aware on those occasions that arising out of his previous discussions land owned by him was already in the contemplation of those who would carry out the process which was being initiated by the decisions being taken at those meetings.
6.7 In those circumstances it was incumbent on him to declare a personal interest (as the decisions could reasonably be regarded as affecting his well being/financial position to a greater extent than others).
6.8 That personal interest became a prejudicial interest when ‘the member of the public test’ was applied.
The sub committee reached the following decision having considered written and oral contributions from the investigating officer and the Respondent’s representative.
7.1 That the Respondent had failed to declare a personal and prejudicial interest at the meeting of the parish council on the dates indicated.
7.2 That no findings are made as regards the other allegations.
7.3 That in view of all the circumstances including him ceasing to be a member the Respondent be censured.
8.1 The Respondent may apply to the Adjudication Panel of England for permission to appeal against the decision within 21 days of receiving written notification of the decision.