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An independent Lichfield councillor has said there is “no excuse” for errors on elected members’ registers of interests.
Joanne Grange’s comments came after Cllr David Leytham was found to have breached Lichfield District Council’s code of conduct by failing to declare his wife’s business.
An investigation was launched after Cllr Grange – who was elected in May after previously stepping down as a Conservative councillor – highlighted inconsistencies on a number of declarations from elected representatives.
Cllr Leytham has now been told to undertake training on the code of conduct, while the council has now introduced an electronic register of interests rather than handwritten forms.
“There really is no excuse now for forms to be out of date or incomplete,” she said.
“The completion of register of interests forms was covered at the recent induction day for councillors. The advice from officers was very clear – disclose everything.
“There was not a single example raised in the room where the answer from officers was that disclosure wasn’t necessary.
“Updating register of interests forms is now an online process that takes less than five minutes to complete. I know this because I’ve updated mine twice already since the May elections.”
“Challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs”
Cllr Grange – who made the complaint against Cllr Leytham while she was not a councillor – said elected representatives should expect people to challenge their behaviour.
“I am aware of a number of residents who regularly review register of interests forms and conduct checks against other publicly available information,” she said.
“As councillors we shouldn’t be surprised that this happens given the issues that have been highlighted over the past nine months or so, but it is important that we all embrace this responsibility.
“The 7th Nolan Principle of councillor conduct requires that we actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
“If there are any more failures of disclosure it could be that we are all seen to have failed to apply the right level of challenge. This would not sit comfortably with me so I will continue to drive transparency and take up concerns which are brought to my attention.”
Cllr Leytham said he had never set out to mislead anyone with his register of interests.
“I fully accept their [the hearing commitee’s] findings,” he said.
“While there was never any intention to mislead, I understand that as an elected councillor I should have been more rigorous in highlighting the business dealings of my wife, regardless of whether any profit was made.”