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Councillors still concealing interests

A number of Councillors representing wards in north Luton are actively concealing their interests online, despite a Council motion tabled by the Liberal Democrats earlier this year, urging publication, being agreed in principle by all three party leaders.

All councillors have to declare in a Council-held Register interests such as their home address, properties they own in the Borough, the nature of their work, employer, sources of income and any bodies or societies they belong to that could influence or possibly prejudice the way they vote on issues. This Register is held by the Council and is open to inspection.

But some councillors have refused to allow their personal or business interests to be published on the Council’s website, despite a strong public wish for full disclosure of interests following scandals such as Margaret Moran’s expenses claims.

Two recent Labour Mayors, Limbury councillor Norris Bullock and Saints ward councillor Mohammed Riaz, have refused to disclose ANY of their personal or business interests online – deciding instead to withhold all details such as property owned and by whom they are paid.

Morel Benard, another Saints Labour Councillor, has refused to name her employer online.

And Tory councillor John Titmuss has decided to conceal online details of any land or property addresses within Luton in which he has a direct beneficial interest.

Sundon Park Liberal Democrat Councillor, Anna Pedersen said:

“Given the clear steer from all three party leaders that councillors should be fully open about their interests, it’s a shame that several councillors seem to think they should be exempt from scrutiny. Visiting the Council’s web site is the most convenient way for thousands of Luton residents to view the information.”

“It was said in the debate on this issue that refusal to publish interests would reflect badly on those concerned. Now we know the results. The daft thing is that these councillors are only drawing attention to themselves, as any member of the public wanting to know can visit the Council’s legal department during office hours and view the Register without needing an appointment.”

“Residents must be able to be confident that personal interests are not affecting decisions being made, within or outside of the Town Hall. I hope the Labour and Tory Group Leaders will now put pressure on those few councillors who are letting the side down to be fully transparent, so people can feel assured this isn’t the case.”

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