Councillor Janet Blake SHOULD have declared her personal interest in the Rectory Homes developer before voting on planning applications in its favour the council’s chief executive has said.
Andrew Grant, chief executive of Aylesbury Vale District Council spoke out today following Bucks Herald revelations that, despite having purchased a bond in Rectory Homes - the prominent council cabinet member had voted on planning applications for homes in Aston Clinton and Long Crendon.
50 homes in Aston Clinton and 90 in Long Crendon went through as a result of the strategic development management committee meetings in 2016 - during which Mrs Blake debated and voted on the applications.
In a statement issued to The Bucks Herald earlier this week Mrs Blake denied any wrongdoing.
Mr Grant said: “There is a statutory definition of what interests councillors are legally obliged to disclose in their Register of Interests, called ‘Disclosable Pecuniary Interest’. Councillor Janet Blake sought advice from the Council’s Monitoring Officer and was advised that the purchase of a bond from Rectory Homes did not constitute a disclosable pecuniary interest and therefore she was not legally obliged to disclose that interest on her register. However, the Code of Conduct for Members does refer to Personal Interests which are declarable at meetings.
“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.”
Responding to Mr Grant’s comments Mrs Blake told The Bucks Herald this morning: “I acknowledge the statement from AVDC and will in future adhere to the advice given therein.”