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Deputy mayor slams change to laws
MALVERN’S deputy mayor has slammed new localism legislation that “makes a mockery” of promises to remove red tape and make life simpler.
Councillor John Jordan has written to Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government, hitting out at changes that are seeing councillors voting to give themselves “special dispensation” each time they discuss any financial matters.
They feel the legislation means that if they do not so, they will be breaking the law by creating a conflict of interest.
The issue has come up in several local town halls over recent weeks, with Ledbury Town councillor Keith Francis causing a stir when he declined to give himself special dispensation – meaning the council’s budget discussions had to be put off until a later meeting.
Coun Jordan resolved to write to Mr Pickles after Malvern Town Council met to set its council tax precept.
He said: “I, like my colleagues and members of similar town and parish councils, give my time freely and without any form of remuneration in trying to do my best for the community in which I live.
“However we have this year come up against a section of the new localism legislation which to us is completely inappropriate, and makes a mockery of the government pledge to remove red tape and make life and legislation simpler.”
He added: “We all live in the town which we serve. We all carefully complete the declarations of interest which may possibly intrude on our duties as councillors.
“However, in order to discuss and agree a budget for next year’s precept, we now have to vote ourselves a dispensation to do so, because of a conflict of interest, or otherwise break the law?
“The only reason that we serve on the council is because we live here, and we care about the town in which we live. To have to go through a process of telling ourselves this is surely unnecessary.”
The Government insists the special dispensation is unnecessary, but admits it will be updating its guidelines in a bid to stamp out confusion.
A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: “A councillor, as a council tax payer in that parish or borough, does not automatically give rise in itself to a disclosable pecuniary interest. This is because decisions on council tax precepts affect all local residents, whether or not they are councillors.
"The new arrangements introduced in the Localism Act are intended to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy.”
They added that the department would be updating its guide entitled Openness and Transparency on Personal Interets to make the process “explicitly clear”.