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Deputy leader of Lichfield District Council admits failing to declare directorship of development company

The deputy leader of Lichfield District Council has been told to undertake training on the code of conduct for councillors after admitting failing to declare that he held a directorship of a company for seven years.

Cllr Ian Pritchard, who is also the Cabinet member with responsibility for development services, has apologised after it was discovered that he had held the position at Chard Development Ltd between 2010 and 2017, when the business was dissolved.

Cllr Ian Pritchard
Cllr Ian Pritchard

The information came to light after a complaint from a local resident over the directorship not being declared on the council’s register of interests.

In a written response to the complaint seen by Lichfield Live, Cllr Pritchard admitted he had not flagged up the role – but said he was not aware it had to be recorded.

“I don’t challenge this complaint,” he said.

“In mitigation, after forming the limited company my circumstances changed and the need to use the limited company no longer existed.

“Chard Developments Ltd did not trade at all and was eventually closed.

“As it was not trading and never intended to trade in the area covered by Lichfield District Council, I,  misguidedly, thought there was no need to include it in my declarations of interest.

“I can only apologise and say there was never any intention to mislead anyone.”

“No further action is necessary”

A sub-group of the council’s audit and member standards committee met to discuss the issue last month.

The panel, made up of three Conservative councillors, a Labour councillor and an independent member, stopped short of launching a formal investigation, insisting training was a better option.

The panel’s response to the complaint regarding Cllr Pritchard

In a written response, the panel said: “We do not support the statement of Cllr Pritchard’s that his company would not trade in the Lichfield area, as the nature of the business is that it should be taken where it arises.

“However, we fail to see what benefit there would be in a formal investigation given that Cllr Pritchard has admitted the breach and apologised.

“Training is a proportionate response to the issue whereas the utilisation of taxpayers money in a formal investigation would, in our view, be disproportionate given the likely outcome.”

Bal Nahal, monitoring officer for Lichfield District Council, said Cllr Pritchard had now updated his register of interests.

“The audit and member standards (review) sub-committee has reviewed the complaint and found that, while Councillor Pritchard has not been involved in any council decisions relating to Chard Developments Ltd, he should have declared his role as a director of the company.

“Cllr Pritchard has apologised to the council and has updated his register of interests.

“Given his apology, the committee has advised that no further action is necessary.”

Cllr Pritchard told Lichfield Live: “The company never traded which is why I wrongly thought I did not need to include it in my register of interests.

“I never intended to deceive anyone.”

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14 Comments

  1. wilf

    15th January, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    Hold on…let me get this straight.

    So the second most senior member of the council, with responsibility for development services didn’t know that he’d have to declare a directorship of a company…in development?????

    He’s either thick as two short planks or something doesn’t add up. I’m not sure which is the most concerning given he’s supposed to be second in command.

  2. AnnS

    15th January, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    I would concur with your thoughts @wilf and further wonder why create the company in the first place if he never intended trading? Mrm!

  3. Joanne Grange

    15th January, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    I am aware of the background to this complaint, knowing the resident who raised it, and what stunned me was the way LDC tried to brush it under the carpet. It was only as a result of the tenacity of the resident involved that anything happened at all because the initial response from LDC was that there was no case to answer. There clearly is a case to answer given the Localism Act 2011 made it a criminal offence to fail to disclose a pecuniary interest. Being a director of, and holding shares in, a company can be nothing other than a pecuniary interest – why would you set up a company and make yourself a director if not to make try to make profit? Regardless of what the company was actually used for, and regardless of Cllr Pritchard’s changing circumstances, Cllr Pritchard was a director and shareholder and clearly had an intention it would trade or why go to the bother of setting it up? At the point the Localism Act came into force, this surely would have been an event where Cllr Pritchard should have sought guidance on the need to disclose rather than unilaterally making a decision on the interpretation of new statute.

    It is also interesting that LDC feels it alone can make the decision on whether a criminal offence needs further investigation. I would have thought this was a decision for the police or the CPS. This smacks of an attempted cover up – indeed LDC’s response that “a formal investigation would, in our view, be disproportionate given the likely outcome” also suggests a predetermination of what an investigation might have found should one have been undertaken. There might be other matters that Cllr Pritchard isn’t aware need to be recorded, or indeed other councillors who haven’t made the necessary disclosures. It will certainly be interesting to watch the LDC website to see which other registers are updated over the coming days…

    Given the current low regard for politicians, both local and national, more than ever trust and integrity are critical, and where a politician has admitted a criminal offence I’m not sure an apology and training (presumably at the council payers’ expense) is sufficient. Perhaps Cllr Pritchard, if he isn’t going to resign, would consider using some of his allowances to fund his own training?

  4. LetsGiveItASpin

    15th January, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    Tip of an iceberg , then will now be a rush of councillors amending their register of interests !! Also should be forced to include officers/senior management…..

  5. Darryl

    15th January, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    He has my sympathy, it’s only the other day I realised I wasn’t just a simple analyst, but held a secondary role as the stand-in Pope.

    Who knew!

  6. Steve

    16th January, 2019 at 7:48 am

    It’s nice to see there are no double standards.

    I forgot to make 2 council tax payments on time due to ill health.

    They sent me a lovely letter, threatening to cancel my plan, take me to court, send baliffs to my home. Nice to see we are all equal.

  7. AgitatorofPeople

    16th January, 2019 at 10:04 am

    The local Conservative party have previous history of this which has been “conveniently” ignored they have held business directorships in St Marys church which received £1.2 million of public money to turn part of it into a library and resulted in the sale of a publicly owned building to developers. The following is from the facebook pages of Save Lichfield Library.:

    It started with Councillor Alan White, showing a declaration that he was a Cathedral committee member, so is Robert Hope-Urwin a member of Lichfield Diocese and cathedral committee member who was also a former director of St Marys Church businesses, on further investigation Councillor Janet Eagland (Lichfield Rural North) and SCC chairman has also held a “former” directorship, as has Councillor Christopher Spruce (Lichfield St John’s) and another less well known but crucial Tory figure that held a recent directorship is Nick Sedgewick the former Conservative electoral campaign promoter for Cllrs Alan White, Janet Eagland and Christopher Spruce.

    A number of those councillors, who vociferously shouted down a petition signed by over 5000 Lichfield residents made no mention of their involvement with the local diocese and directorships they had held.
    How many undeclared interests are involved in the planning and construction companies involved in the new and old library, or infact any other project?this one only came to light after a complaint by a member of public.

    A weak response from a council more interested in preserving its image than its duty to the people it serves.

  8. Nodge

    16th January, 2019 at 11:08 am

    It should come as no surprise that the Tories are looking after each other, their business interests and political careers. The most amazing thing, here in 2019, is that they seem to be able to do whatever the hell they like. They’ve spent years rigging the system to support each other in whatever way they can – making them untouchable.

  9. letsGiveItASpin

    16th January, 2019 at 11:45 am

    Anyone noticed that the company was dissolved at the same time as friarsgate was being wound up!

  10. wilf

    16th January, 2019 at 11:51 am

    If it looks like a Tory, smells like a Tory and acts like a Tory then chances are it is a Tory.

    All for one, and one for themselves.

  11. Harold

    16th January, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    What a song and dance about nothing. Chard Developments was worth £5 ( five pounds). The Councillor appears to have set it up to trade, but it never did anything, it appears it was a dormant company ( ie it never traded ) so l fail to see a conflict, and then it was wound up. So big deal.
    Clearly the Councillor was naive in not declaring it but he has learnt his lesson, Clealy he had no intention to deceive. I accept he broke the rules.
    Whoever created this stink needs to get a life.

  12. wilf

    16th January, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    Harold, there’s a few reasons why this song and dance is worth humming along to.

    1) This is a councillor who has broken the rules of his own organisation (and the law if you taking it to the full degree).
    2) This is the deputy leader.
    3) This is the Cabinet member for development services holding a role with a company that had planned to deal in development. Even a dormant organisation would have surely meant the councillor would have had some conversations with the sector before deciding to set up. It seems a little odd that ironmonger from Pelsall would suddenly decide to move into development with no links or knowledge of the sector? Therefore was Cllr Pritchard using his connections gained through LDC in a bid to develop an interest in the sector? Even if he didn’t use them ultimately, there are serious questions about a business springing up in an area the councillor is responsible for.
    4) If Lichfield District Council’s leadership and officers aren’t keeping a watch under their own noses, what else is slipping through the net? Who else is keeping things hidden? And if we found out might that shed light on some of the highly questionable decision making this administration has carried out in recent years? Remember, this was a council that tried to hide the Friarsgate mess behind the council chamber doors and given it a new name to pretend no-one is seeing them sweeping it under the carpet (or behind painted hoardings).

    Local politics has long been dominated by (in the main) self-serving individuals who get something out of the role, either financially, through free lunches and a chauffeur if you get on the chain gang, or through the connections it opens up. Relying on them to self-police is simply not acceptable. If this turns out to be the surface being scratched (which I and others feel it will be) then Lichfield District Council needs to have an independent panel to scrutinise it, rather than those who benefit from the total lack of scrutiny.

  13. Deb

    16th January, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    Harold – this company was not Dormant it was ACTIVE both terms have very clear definitions under business rules. If Cllr Pritchard, as he claims never intended for it to trade he should have made the company dormant but he actually, over the 7 years submitted all of the legally required documentation, including filing company accounts, to keep it active. These filing are not free and so it seems very peculiar to continue to provide them for a company you have no intension of using. Maybe a convenient excuse to cover being found out????

  14. Victor

    21st February, 2019 at 10:28 am

    “Harold” is either too thick to understand what’s really going on here, or is choosing to ignore it. Both are inexcusable, and both contribute to the perpetual hoodwinking of Lichfield taxpayers by this council.

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