Too many of us no doubt believe that Councillors are a law unto themselves in our District. This in part could be supported by the fact the Monitoring Officer of Folkestone & Hythe District Council Amandeep Khroud, (pictured) may do too little monitoring of our Cllrs. But to be fair she must rely on Cllrs being honest and informing her if there is a change in their Register of Interests.
Back in Dec 2015 we brought to your attention and to the Monitoring Officer’s attention, the fact that our Council Leader – David Drury Monk – had failed to register his interest in a company which he is a director – All Health Matters Ltd.
So it was a surprise for us when we discovered that former Councillor Peter Simmons failed to report to the Monitoring Officer his involvement in a local company called Open House Coast & Country Ltd, which acts as an Estate Agents locally in Cheriton.
Now former Councillor Peter Simmons (pictured) was found wanting after the Shepwayvox Team discovered serious anomalies in his expenses claims, sparking an investigation into his claims. In January 2016 a report was released demonstrating Simmons had indeed overclaimed on his expenses (he paid it all back).
Yet just four months after the expenses report former Cllr Peter William Simmons sets up a company with a one Ms Kelly Parker (who has done NOTHING wrong we stress). Simmons according to the incorporation documents registered at Companies House is the company secretary. That remains the case.
Now according to Folkestone & Hythe District Council Constitution Part 9 Annex 2 page 9-14, Simmons ought to have declared this fact. But according to the Register_Of_Interests downloaded on May 15th 2017, former Cllr Peter Simmons failed to declare his interest as Company Secretary, or the fact that he had set up an office for the company.
The company secretary is required to establish and maintain a registered office for official communications. Now it is clear Open House have an office in Cheriton as the picture below undeniably shows. Also was former Cllr Peter William Simmons being remunerated for his role as Company Secretary or was he doing it out of the kindness of his heart? It’s a fair question.
So why did former Cllr Peter William Simmons fail to declare his interest in this company, four months after he was investigated and found wanting for his expenses claims? Does it show the moral character of the man?
Councillors are not it appears informing the monitoring officer when their Register of Interests change. Cllr David Monk had the same issue, as we said earlier. Relying on Councillors to tell us the truth about changes in their circumstances is clearly not working. So what can be done. Should the monitoring officer monitor our Cllrs 24/7?
In January 2018 the Committee on Standards in Public Life launched a review of the Standards Regime instituted by the Localism Act (2011). Now the sad thing about this review was ordinary members of the public WERE NOT ALLOWED TO COMMENT.
The lack of sanctions for breaches of codes of conduct is “continually problematic”, explained one monitoring officer, a view echoed by many respondents. This is “a frustration – and an astonishment – to complainants,” said another, adding that “councillors worry that colleagues who bring the reputation of all elected officials into disrepute remain unpunished”.
So even our elected officials seem to imply they wish Cllrs to be punished, but alas it happens all to infrequently. We just hope that any recommendation made by the Committee on Standards in Public Life are taken up by Parliament and implemented at the earliest opportunity. As the evidence above shows Councillors at Folkestone & Hythe District Council all to frequently forget to inform the monitoring officer of a change in their Register of Interests, demonstrating they cannot be trusted to police themselves.
Finally it is clear that former Cllr Peter William Simmons lacked the qualities one needs to be a Cllr in our humble opinion. But how can people like him be weeded out during the selection process, to prevent the abuses set out above? Any answer pop them on a postcard and send them to shepwayvox@riseup dot net
The Shepwayvox Team – Dissent is NOT a Crime.