Council failed to publish register of interests for almost a year after councillor’s election
- Credit: Archant
A council failed to publish a councillor’s register of interests for almost a year after she had been elected, it can be revealed.
North Norfolk district councillor Liz Withington’s register of member’s interests was not published to the council’s website until eleven months after her election in November last year.
The issue emerged after Jon Payne, a former town councillor in Sheringham, noticed the form wasn’t visible on Ms Withington’s North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) councillor profile.
Failure to declare a register of interests is a criminal offence under the Localism Act, subject to fines and risk of disqualification.
Mr Payne said he wrote to Steve Blatch, head of paid service at the council, to query the matter and was told Ms Withington had been reminded about the declaration.
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In a formal complaint Mr Payne submitted to the council, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), he said: “It is quite astonishing that such a declaration of interests has not been provided by Cllr Withington, and equally astonishing the matter has not been pursued by NNDC until I raised it.”
But an NNDC spokesman said the councillor had submitted the form following her election.
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He said: “She maintains she completed and submitted all of the relevant paperwork following her election on November 28, 2019.
“We are investigating the concern raised and also whether there has been an administrative failing on the part of the Council in recording this declaration.
“Once this matter was brought to our attention, Ms Withington immediately re-submitted.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Ms Withington said: “I stand by the fact it was sent in immediately. As soon as I was made aware it wasn’t uploaded, I resubmitted.
“There’s nothing to investigate.”
Liberal Democrat council leader Sarah Butikofer said: “The councillor returned her interests papers with the rest of her papers when she was elected.
“I have absolutely no reason to believe that isn’t what happened.
“If I had a councillor who wasn’t prepared to declare I would say that is unacceptable.
“Liz has shown she’s willing to respond and has my full support.”
She said she could not comment on the police investigation.
A Norfolk Police spokeswoman said: “We have received a report and are currently assessing the information provided to us.
“Our enquiries continue.”