54 out of 81 Kent County Councillors are currently committing a criminal offence. This is equivalent to two-thirds of the KCC chamber (66.66%). This has been the case since they were elected in May 2017, – 33 months ago – according to documents published on Kent County Council’s website.
These include the leader of Kent County Council, Roger Gough (Con) and five other male members of his Cabinet; the Leader of the opposition Labour Group – Dara Farrell (Lab); and the opposition leader of the Lib Dems, Rob Bird.
These 54 Cllrs are responsible for services across the whole of the county, like:
fire and public safety
Council Tax precept
After elections, those who are elected as councillors to Kent County Council (KCC) are required by law, because of section 30 of the Localism Act 2011, within 28 days of their election to notify KCC of any disclosable pecuniary interests.
These include a category called “Sponsorship” which is defined in the Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012 (with the same description used in KCC Cllr code of conduct
“Any payment or provision of any other financial benefit (other than from the relevant authority) made or provided within the relevant period in respect of any expenses incurred by M in carrying out duties as a member, or towards the election expenses of M.
This includes any payment or financial benefit from a trade union within the meaning of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.”
This is KCC Leader Roger Gough’s entry under sponsorship.
Cllr Dr. Laura Sullivan (Lab) sponsorship form is a good example of how it should be done.
A councillor not declaring a disclosable pecuniary interest is deemed to be committing a criminal offence if the councillor knows the information is false and misleading or is reckless as to whether the information is true or misleading. Taking part in a meeting or voting, when prevented from doing so by a conflict caused by disclosable pecuniary interests, is also a criminal offence – so two separate offences. This applies only to pecuniary interests, not to any breaches of the other elements of a code of conduct. Either offence is punishable by a (level 5 fine – currently an unlimited amount), and an order disqualifying the person from being a member of a relevant authority for up to five years. A prosecution must be brought within 12 months of the prosecuting authorities having the evidence to warrant prosecution, but any prosecution must be brought within 3 years of the commission of the offence and only by or on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
54 KCC Cllrs have declared “None” or “N/A” in the Sponsorship category in their Register of Interests (just a reminder that the Sponsorship category includes “any payment or provision of any other financial benefit … towards election expenses). So in the May 2017 elections, they are all saying nobody paid towards their election expenses, not even their party. Nobody paid for any leaflets etc, not even themselves – if they stood as independents.
Below is a list of the Cllrs currently committing the criminal offence.
It is known that their political parties contributed towards each of the candidate’s election expenses, as for the Independents, they had to declare his own election expenses. So how is it these 54 Cllrs haven’t disclosed? There is “no reasonable excuse“ for the above mentioned Cllrs not to know that some, or all of their election expenses, were paid for them by their respective political parties (or as individuals) unless of course, all 54 Cllrs cannot read.
What this demonstrates is that the KCC Monitoring Officer, Benjamin Watts, is NOT monitoring these matters. In return for not monitoring what he is responsible for he is paid £115,356.
As it is one of three responsibilities for the monitoring officer to start the process in bringing criminal cases against the above Cllrs; and disqualify them from office, we ask him to begin with gusto. This might necessitate fresh by-elections, which might mean new Cllrs, ones who would not commit a criminal offence from day one in office, but truly, realistically, this is very unlikely to happen.
This is not just peculiar to KCC. There are literally thousands of Cllrs not declaring their disclosable pecuniary interests across the UK, especially the Sponsorship category which includes:
“any payment or provision of any other financial benefit … towards election expenses”