By Richard Wheeler
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Two senior Norwich Labour Party members are blaming an administrative error after it emerged they were not recorded as declaring an interest when awarding a charity a near-£37,000 grant.
Steve Morphew, former Norwich City Council leader and Labour’s police and crime candidate for tomorrow’s election, and current council leader Brenda Arthur did not make a declaration when Voluntary Norfolk was approved for a grant during a cabinet meeting in March 2011, according to council papers.
Ms Arthur is married to Voluntary Norfolk’s chief executive Brian Horner, while Mr Morphew works as a freelance consultant for the group.
Mr Morphew said: “Voluntary Norfolk was consistently listed on my register of members interests and I was always careful to declare an interest in meetings. I have written to Norwich City Council and asked that the minutes of the 2011 meeting be checked and corrected.”
Ms Arthur could not be reached for comment last night but she earlier told the BBC she believed she had declared an interest at the time.
She added if she had made a mistake, it was not spotting the minutes had not recorded it.
In March 2008, it was agreed Voluntary Norfolk, then known as Norwich & Norfolk Voluntary Services, would receive £40,481 in 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2010/11. It was one of 15 voluntary or not for profit groups to receive a share of £154,646, approved by the authority’s Labour executive.
Mr Morphew declared a prejudicial interest in the agenda item and withdrew while it was considered. Ms Arthur was not a councillor at this time.
Donations to charities were discussed in the following years, but Voluntary Norfolk did not appear on the list again until March 2011.
It is at a meeting on March 16, 2011, where Mr Morphew and Ms Arthur are not recorded in the minutes as having declared an interest.
Fellow Labour cabinet member Julie Brociek-Coulton did declare an interest because of her Norwich in Bloom membership and left the meeting during the discussion on the report, introduced by Mr Morphew.
Voluntary Norfolk was approved to receive £36,614 out of a total of £415,909, split among 19 groups.
The next opportunity to discuss and correct the minutes of this meeting arrived on June 1, 2011 – after the May election, in which Mr Morphew did not stand as a candidate.
Ms Arthur did, however, declare an interest and left the room in March 2012 when the cabinet was asked to approve the latest grants to voluntary and not for profit groups.
Voluntary Norfolk received £42,000 out of £155,260. In total, 14 groups received money for 2012/13.
Ms Arthur also told the BBC yesterday she would not have been required to leave the room during the 2011 meeting for such a personal interest, and she had never made any secret of the fact she is married to Voluntary Norfolk’s chief executive.