Cross party condemnation for 'declaration of interests' scandal

The Liberal Democrats, Conservative Party and Labour Party have all condemned Janet Blake's actions, and AVDC have launched an investigation into matters.
The Liberal Democrats, Conservative Party and Labour Party have all condemned Janet Blake's actions, and AVDC have launched an investigation into matters.

The Liberal Democrats, Conservative Party and Labour Party have all condemned Janet Blake's actions, and AVDC have launched an investigation into matters.

With AVDC remaining tight lipped over whether Janet Blake will be sanctioned for voting to approve planning applications from a firm she has her financial interest in, AVDC Conservative group Chief Whip councillor Chris Poll has suggested an investigation may be launched into the matter.

A letter received from the Bucks Herald from Aylesbury Conservative Society reads: “It is of the utmost importance that members of AVDC are transparent with regard to any personal interests, financial or prejudicial, at all times.

“An accusation has been made that one of our members failed to mention a financial interest prior to a planning meeting held at the Gateway, Aylesbury despite these being declared on the register of members’ interests.

“I will therefore be calling for the Conservative group of AVDC to consider whether an investigation should be launched in to this matter.”

Llew Monger, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Winslow said: “Regrettably actions such as those reported on this matter tend to bring all councillors into disrepute in the eyes of the public when the vast majority work hard for their communities.

“For those of us on planning committees there is a simple solution. Rather than argue the detail as to whether or not one has a ‘pecuniary interest’ we should all address these situations as a moral issue.

“If a councillor has the remotest connection to an application they should declare that at the start of the meeting.”

Group Leader for the Liberal Democrats at Aylesbury Vale District Council, Anders Christensen, has called for Conservative councillor Janet Blake to resign.

He said: “Investing in a local developer is always going to give a conflict of interest.

“Councillor Blake’s comments are that she is sorry, and she’s undertaken not to do it again, but that doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.

“This is undermining the trust in the council, it’s bring the council into disrepute; she has to consider her position now.”

Mark Batemen from Aylesbury's Labour Party said: "Since becoming a member of this Council Janet Blake has always been courteous and respectful towards me as a political opponent.

"I wish to show no animosity towards her personally.

"The 'however' here is very clear though. We all know the rules and Janet has broken them.

"She is also a local Cabinet Member and the wife of the Leader of the Council. In this capacity I do believe that ALL other Members and the residents in all wards of the Council would expect far better judgement than this. It is very clear from the comments made by AVDC Chief Executive , Andrew Grant, that Cllr Blake should have disclosed her interest in this matter:-

“Under the Code of Conduct a decision in relation to the business of the Council that could reasonably be regarded as affecting the wellbeing or financial position of the councillor could be regarded as a “personal interest”.

“Where a councillor has a personal interest in any business of the Council they may also have a “prejudicial interest”. This is where a member of the public with knowledge of the relevant facts could regard that interest as likely to prejudice their judgement of the public interest. This is a judgement to be exercised by the councillor in each situation.

“Councillor Janet Blake chose to voluntarily disclose her interest on her register for the sake of transparency but was not obliged to do so. Failure to declare a personal interest was not, therefore, unlawful. However, under the Code of Conduct we have now clarified that in respect of the Rectory Homes planning applications considered by Committee, Councillor Janet Blake should have declared the purchase of the bond as a personal interest at each of those meetings.”

"It is very disappointing to say the least. I welcome any inquiry that is put in place to look at this further and because this is a matter of judgement from one of our Cabinet Members, I also believe that Janet should consider her position within the Council

In response, Janet Blake said: “This was completely unintentional and for that I of course apologise.

“As someone who’s represented the Vale’s residents for 12 years, upholding the highest standards has always been extremely important to me – as I believe my long track record shows.

“I’ve never made any secret of the small investment bond I hold in Rectory Homes – in fact, I publicly registered this interest almost two years ago, even though the Monitoring Officer advised at the time that this was not necessary.

“I will, of course, adhere to the advice given by AVDC and because the matter is being reviewed by the Monitoring Officer I am unable to comment further.”

AVDC however have a said that they are not making any changes to the rules.

A spokesman said: “With regard to Cllr Janet Blake, the council has now received a formal complaint, which will be considered by the Monitoring Officer in accordance with the Councillor Complaints Procedure published on the AVDC website.

"We are not able to comment further at this time.”