Councillor suspended for code breach

Councillor Colin Brown.
Councillor Colin Brown.

There has been a call for Forfar councillor Colin Brown to resign following his suspension from Angus Council business.

Mr Brown has been suspended for two months following a hearing conducted by the Standards Commission for Scotland which found he had been in breach of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct

He was reported for an alleged breach of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct by failing to declare an interest during discussions surrounding the sale of Angus Council offices at The Cross in Forfar to pub chain JD Wetherspoon.

A recent hearing in Forfar found that, during meetings where the matter was discussed, Mr Brown failed to declare the financial interests of a relative involved in the local licensed trade.

While his apology and admission of failure were noted, the panel maintained it was Mr Brown’s responsibility to comply with the code despite his assertion the failure was due to a misunderstanding rather than an attempt to mislead.

Councillor Iain Gaul, administration leader, criticised Mr Brown’s actions which he said were “a disgrace” and have damaged the reputations of the local authority and councillors.

He also said that Mr Brown has misled constituents and should resign.

Mr Gaul said: “I’m disappointed that an elected member of Angus Council could let down the people who put him in office, and if he had an ounce of decency he would resign.

“He put his family’s interests before those of the people he was elected to represent. As to his defence, he was a senior councillor and a member of the administration for four years, and he was quoted in the press saying that when he was no longer bound by the Code of Conduct he would make a statement about the sale. He is a disgrace.”

Mr Brown this week pointed out he had acted on behalf of the “very many” constituents who contacted him regarding the possible effects on their businesses and that he has “no thoughts of resignation”.

He said: “These were not just licensed premises but cafes, restaurants, pub owners and members of the public. The interest I failed to declare was that my son-in-law runs a licensed premises in Forfar. I do not have anything to do with that business. I accept I should have declared an interest but I was only trying to represent my constituents, something I’m elected to do. I had no intention of breaching the code but I accept that my acts amounted to a breach.”

Delivering the hearing panel’s decision, convener Ian Gordon said the importance of declaring all relevant interests, financial or non-financial are emphasised to all councillors

He continued: “The declaration of interests, including financial interests of a close relative, is a fundamental requirement of the Code. The failure to declare such interests removes the opportunity for openness and transparency in a councillor’s role and denies any member of the public the opportunity to consider whether a councillor’s interests may or may not influence the decision-making process.

“Whenever a councillor is considering potential declarations of interest, account must be taken of the ‘Objective Test’, which is set out at 5.3 of the Councillor’s Code of Conduct.”