IMPORTANT UPDATE BELOW IN RED
Tonight there is an important vote at the Council on the Abbotts Depot. In the papers there is a Monitoring Officers report which covers the subject of Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPI) and whether or not a councillor can seek dispensation to speak and vote on an item when they have made a disclosure.
Below is the text from the Monitoring Officer's report which you can read here What it seems to be saying is that even though Cllr Dean Cohen has made a DPI for the Abbotts Depot because he acts for a client who occupies part of the site, he should still be allowed to speak and vote because without his one vote the matter would be tied.
Now when there was a dispensation granted for councillors who owned rented properties voting on housing matters that argument had some traction as there were so many conservative councillors who owned rental properties and there was not a direct link between their individual properties and the policy matter under discussion.
This matter is quite different. In this matter it is just one councillor and he has a direct financial link to the matter because he is paid by a client who occupies part of the site. It also set a precedent as in future; with a majority of just one vote surely the same rule will apply whenever there is a risk that majority will be lost. I think the Monitoring Officer has made a fundamental error here and if this is allowed to stand may leave the council wide open to further legal challenge.
Dean Cohen needs to make a choice who he takes his money from; the Council or his client, but not both. This is also a serious reputation matter and if this is allowed to stand do not be in the least bit surprised to see it feature in Private Eye's Rotten Boroughs page next week.
Richard Cornelius needs to do the honourable thing here and overrule Dean. As for the Monitoring Officer their judgement seems seriously and irrevocably flawed.
1.3 An application to stay, speak and vote has been made by Councillor Dean
Cohen in respect of agenda item 14, Motion in the name of Cllr Kathy Levine,
on Abbotts Depot.
1.4 Councillor Dean Cohen is declaring a disclosable pecuniary interest in that in
a business capacity, he acts for a client who occupies part of the Oakleigh
Road South site.
1.5 The Monitoring Officer has confirmed that, under her delegated authority as
Monitoring Officer, she has considered the application against the tests set
out in the Localism Act and Members’ Code of Conduct and concluded that,
given the political balance of the Council, the representation of different
political groups on the body transacting the business would be so upset as to
alter the outcome of any vote on the matter, and has therefore granted a
dispensation for this item.
2. REASONS FOR RECOMMENDATIONS
The Monitoring Officer has considered the application against the tests set out
in the Localism Act and Members’ Code of Conduct and concluded that, given
the political balance of the Council, the representation of different political
groups on the body transacting the business would be so upset as to alter the
outcome of any vote on the matter.
It has been brought to my attention that at item 12.1 of tonight's council agenda Appendix F there is a request for the Council to "Note the designation of Davina Fiore as the Monitoring Officer". It also mentions that she was appointed as the Director of Assurance and Monitoring officer at the Council meeting in April. In fact the minutes say something different in that she was appointed merely as the Director of Assurance as you can see here.
As such this looks awfully like the monitoring officer isn't the monitoring officer at all in which case her decision to grant a dispensation to Dean Cohen is void until she has been duly appointed. This a matter of grave importance especially given the debacle the council suffered under the previous but one Monitoring Officer.