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Sam Blewett, Reporter
Friday, February 14, 2014
Two opposition councillors have referred the entire Conservative group on the planning committee to legal officers for not declaring their financial interests.
During last week’s planning committee, councillors were told to declare their interests by Cllr Russell Quirk, member for the Brentwood First Group, as they were to debate a development put forward by Tory donor and Brentwood resident Bill Ives.
The steel tycoon donates in excess of £500,000 nationally and £10,000 locally to the Tory party.
Lib Dem leader, Cllr Barry Aspinell, and Cllr Quirk have asked monitoring officers to query whether the Tories had pecuniary financial interests that they should have disclosed and could therefore not adjudicate over the planning application.
The Tory councillors argued that Mr Ives’ donation was to the local party and therefore not a pecuniary interest.
In the meeting, on February 4 at Brentwood Town Hall, Cllr Aspinell said: “If what Cllr Quirk is saying is correct, it’s not a planning consideration, it’s one on our ability and our credibility of making an unbiased decision.
“I’m trying to save your necks because if you do stay and vote, you will be in trouble.”
Conservative Cllr Keith Parker responded: “We as individuals have had no personal income to help with any of our expenses.”
Cllr Parker also spoke of a resident’s email to him. He said: “There was one email that I took offence with which suggested that this council was in the pay of a particular resident and we should be disqualified. I take umbrage to that and am quite happy to sit here and make a decision.”
Council leader Louise McKinley said: “This is yet again a spurious allegation against the Conservative group by a desperate opposition who continue to lower the standard of politics.”
Cllr Quirk said: “In the end, they voted against it.
“I have asked the monitoring officer to point me in the right direction to where it says payments should be direct to the individual. It doesn’t say that anywhere.”