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Former Conservative councillor calls on leader to outline standards taxpayers can expect from elected members at Lichfield District Council

A former Conservative councillor has said taxpayers deserve to know the standards they can expected from elected representatives.

Joanne Grange and Mike Wilcox
Joanne Grange and Mike Wilcox

Joanne Grange resigned from Lichfield District Council in a row over the way planning guidelines were being enforced.

But she has now voiced her concerns after Conservative leader Cllr Mike Wilcox said he would not apologise to residents after being found to have used his official email address on a website trying to rent out his holiday home in Menorca.

Cllr Wilcox described the breach of policy as a “minor infringement”.

But Miss Grange said he needed to be clear with taxpayers about the standards they can expect from their elected representatives.

She said: “As we are clearly now operating under a new set of rules, it would perhaps be useful for Cllr Wilcox to publish these so we can all see the standards to which we can expect councillors to adhere.

“It might also be useful to get a full definition of ‘minor infringement’ and which breaches of the rules are considered ‘minor’ and hence don’t require apologies, and for which a little slap on the wrist or extra training is considered the appropriate sanction.

“Will there also be a cumulative measure for infringements? Perhaps three ‘minor infringements’ equalling a ‘full infringement’? And would this operate only on an individual basis or should we look at this cumulative measure along party lines?

“And who will be the arbiter? Will councillors self-police and decide whether their behaviour meets the new definition of minor infringement? Or indeed in some cases, such as undeclared directorships, whether the ‘rules’ actually apply to them at all?”

Cllr Wilcox said the issue had been dealt with when questioned at a meeting of Lichfield District Council earlier this week.

The holiday home rental website which carried Mike Wilcox's official email address
The holiday home rental website which carried Mike Wilcox’s official email address

“I do not feel that this minor infringement requires any further apology than the one I have already issued to the council,” he said.

“I can confirm that following my warning for this breach of policy I apologised to our head of legal services for this infringement.

“I stated that at the time back in 2011 a web page was created which should not have quoted my council email address alongside my personal email details, which I did not at the time realise was a breach of policy.

“The page has remained dormant since 2011 and I was only reminded of this by a tweet appearing on a local social media platform recently. Once I was made aware of this, the site was suspended and I am endeavouring to get the page removed.

“Out of interest, the property is now not advertised for rental anywhere as far as I am aware.”

But Miss Grange said councillors should be seen to be setting an example.

“The culture set at the top is clearly one in which minor infringements are nothing to worry about, and there’s no need to make a fuss over minor indiscretions,” she said.

“Lichfield District Council’s Draft Environmental Crime Strategy suggests that a zero tolerance approach to dog fouling and littering will be used – presumably because it is believed this will be effective in driving standards?

“It seems a shame that the same zero tolerance approach isn’t to be applied across the board.”

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