|Council Leader Cleared of Wrong Doing|
Follows investigation into involvement in politician's planning application
Ealing's Council Leader has been cleared of impropriety following allegations that he breached protocol in dealing with the planning application of a senior Labour politician.
The accusation related to Labour Councillor, Julian Bell, who had organised a meeting for GLA member Dr Onkar Sahota with council officers over a controversial application for the redevelopment of his Haven Green house.
Planning officers recommended approval for the application - but it was rejected at committee stage. Dr Sahota said he would appeal the decision.
Cllr Benjamin Dennehy (UKIP) complained about the Council Leader's role and believed he had breached established protocol.
An investigation was conducted under Chapter 7 of the Localism Act 2011, and has found in the Council Leader's favour.
The report by independent investigator Alex Oram looked into the details surrounding the meeting and concluded:
'' It is my view that Councillor Bell should have given more thought to how his presence at the meeting might be perceived by others; members should always try to avoid putting themselves in a position that could leave them open to criticism.
''Having said that, great care must be taken to separate speculation and inference from the actual facts of the matter.
''Having carefully studied those factsand interviewed the key decision-makers in the process,I do not consider that Councillor Bell’s involvement could be described as improper.
''I have found no evidence that through his attendance Councillor Bell sought to confer, or inadvertently secured, an improper advantage for Dr Sahota.
''I accept Councillor Bell’s account that he attended the meeting to make introductions and to ensure that any potential application was dealt with effectively by the Council and in a way that would avoid political embarrassment.
''Councillor Bell’s role at the meeting was limited to his making those introductions and then simply observing what happened. His presence at that meeting did not influence the way that Dr Sahota’s application was processed or determined and had no direct involvement in the planning process subsequent to its submission.I do not therefore consider that Councillor Bell failed to comply with paragraph 7 of the Code.''
Read report in full here
31st October 2013