Calls for “openess and accounability”

CIVIC chiefs say councillors are meeting their requirements when it comes to registering interests after calls for more “openness and accountability”.

Town resident Fred Corbett called on Hartlepool Borough Council to publish a “comprehensive record” of all councillors and their relatives who receive money from any organisation that receives funding from the local authority.

It comes after the recent Peer Review raised concerns over transparency of the council’s commissioning and grant-funding arrangements given the “strong links” between some elected members and the voluntary and community sector.

But senior councillor Paul Thompson, portfolio holder for finance and corporate services, said it is up to individual members to make clear their own interests, all of which is published on the council’s website.

Peter Devlin, the council’s chief solicitor, said the online register of members’ interests meets the requirements.

Speaking during public questions at a recent full council meeting, Mr Corbett referred to the Peer Review in his question: “Anxieties have been expressed regarding the effectiveness and transparency of the council’s commissioning and grant-funding arrangements for the voluntary and community sector, which generates a specific risk given the strong links between some elected members and this sector.

“Additionally, there is a perceived lack of rigour around the declaration of interests that has established a widely held view that some elected members are focused on the pursuit of self-interest.”

Mr Corbett asked: “The two points above have been expressed by the Peer Review Group in their report to Hartlepool Borough Council, my question to you is who are the councillors that are considered by the Peer Review Group to be the focus of the above?”

Coun Thompson said the review team had met with people from inside and outside the council and said any comments made were not attributed.

He added: “It would therefore be pure speculation as to who they are referring to.”