At the meeting of the Court of Common Council in July, Alderman Ian Luder put a “question” to the Chair of the Standards Committee that attempted to cast a slur on my character by insinuating that I was engaging in some kind of criminal activity.
His “question” was as follows:
“Could the Chairman of the Standards Committee confirm the rumours that a Member has made a claim for rights of light arising from the construction of COLPAI. If so, has the claim been settled, and would the Chairman agree that this indicates a disclosable pecuniary interest is engaged?”
The answer should have been that a member’s “pecuniary interest” is only relevant if it is “engaged” when a member participates in a discussion or vote in a Court or committee meeting about that matter. It is not relevant to a member claiming or receiving compensation from the Corporation in a private capacity.
The Standards Chair, however, gave an opaque answer, having first provided sufficient detail to the Court for me to be readily identified as the member who was the subject of Alderman Luder’s “question”.
The rules governing meetings of the Court did not allow me to make a statement in response to his “question”, but did permit me to ask a supplementary question, which was as follows:
“I’m the unnamed member to whom the question refers.
I would like to thank those members who warned me about this question by our most senior alderman, who did not check the facts with me before speaking.
My interest in my flat in Golden Lane Estate was duly registered upon my being elected.
I have not yet received any compensation for the loss of light to my flat resulting from the Corporation’s COLPAI development. I was advised by letter from the Corporation that I may be able to claim compensation, and am seeking to do so.
Any compensation that I may receive will be due to me in my private capacity, and unconnected with my public office.
COLPAI rights of light has only been raised in one committee meeting I have attended. It arose as a procurement issue in the meeting of the Community and Children’s Service Committee on 8 February this year. As the minutes of that meeting show, I made a declaration, and did not speak or vote, this being a rare matter in which I had an actual - rather than imaginary - pecuniary interest.
I believe in democratic representation and transparency. My question to the Chair is whether she will make these the guiding principles of the reform of our standards regime?"
The Standards Chair, in response to my supplementary question, did not confirm that she would make democratic representation and transparency the guiding principles of standards reform.
Following the meeting, I wrote to Alderman Luder asking him to explain why he had asked the “question”. Why, in particular, did he insinuate - in the most public forum possible - that an identifiable fellow councillor might have engaged in criminal activity when he had no ground for believing this?
He has not replied.
I have since made a complaint about Alderman Luder’s conduct to Alderman David Wootton, Chair of the General Purposes Committee of Aldermen, and asked him:
- to identify any other member who has made such a remark, and extend the complaint to anyone identified;
- why no Alderman present at the Court meeting had spoken out to dissociate the Court of Aldermen from their colleague’s behaviour
- whether, at the Aldermen’s private meeting before the Court, any Alderman tried to dissuade Alderman Luder from putting his “question”.
I have also written to the Standards Chair, Councillor Ann Holmes, saying that I think her opaque answer gave the impression that there was substance to the implication of Alderman Luder’s “question”, and that this cast a slur on my character as well as his “question”.
I have asked her to make a statement at the next Court meeting on 12 September to set the record straight.
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