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Lichfield District Council House

Councillors in Lichfield and Burntwood have been told they must declare if they are members of the freemasons.

The update was given to members of Lichfield District Council by monitoring officer Christie Tims.

Her email revealed that councillors should be able to “declare all of their associations with confidence and without fear of prejudice”.

The monitoring officer added that she could see “no reason” for members not to declare their membership.

She told Lichfield Live that recording the information would avoid potential conflicts of interest.

“We have written to all district councillors to confirm that if they are freemasons, they should declare membership of their freemason lodge on the register of interests and disclose if they come into contact with a lodge member while conducting council business as a personal interest.

“This will help to make sure conflicts of interest do not arise and that council business is conducted in an open and transparent way.”

Christie Tims, Lichfield District Council

Cllr Brad Westwood, Labour member for Boney Hay and Central ward, said he was pleased to see the council making it a requirement for membership of the organisation to be declared.

“I believe transparency and openness is vital to good governance, and part of the Seven Principles of Public Life.

“Having received news that there are some members who have not declared their memberships of outside bodies in their registry of interests, I would think it best practice to acknowledge and publish all such details to the public.

“If there is no ill doing, there should be no reason to hide such matters.”

Cllr Brad Westwood, Lichfield District Council

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49 Comments

  1. Sounds like someone got black balled and didn’t get in. If the council got their thumbs out of their posteriors and did their jobs they were elected to do instead of worrying about who and who’s not a freemason. Then lichfield would be a better place. And not Staffordshires forgotten city.

  2. So a councilor who is a member of WWF or BASC etc etc has to log it in the records. Then the anti this anti that brigade will know who to target.

  3. Thought declaration of interests included “all associations & memberships, etc”. It does elsewhere! & is updated annually. So LDC need to catch up.

  4. Nod, nod, wink, wink, say no more…know what I mean?

    Perhaps the Masons on LDC should wear their full regalia during the video meetings? Kill two birds with one stone, we can easily identify the Masons and I’m sure Cllr Cross would like how smartly turned out they all are without a woman or child in sight.

    In respect of full openness, I am not a Mason but some of my closest friends are.

  5. If the people who see it as a problem took the time and effort to understand what Freemasonry is about they might realise that a basic tenet of the Craft is NOT to use membership to personal advancement to the detriment of non members, by a solemn oath. Shouldnt our elected councillors be spending their time more productively? Or is that the people who are wasting time looking for ‘reds under the beds’ are being paid from council tax payers contributions. Shameful either way.

  6. Is it legal to make such demands on privacy? Is the next requirement to give details of membership of the WI?I suppose not. It sounds like another attack on Freemasonry. Look up how much masons give to charity then pass comment.

  7. On the face of it, it looks a bit pedantic, a bit like declaring an interest in St Mary’s church no harm in that you would think. But if enough councillors have been part of for instance St Mary’s in directorships and later also land up as county councillors, and a planning decision comes along that offers £millions to renovate said church by flogging a library and it gets approved over local opposition then I would say thats a conflict of interest. It’s not so much the organisations, it’s the people in them and their buddies, important decisions taken on a “Its not what you know, its who you know” principle

  8. Are you going to ask Rotary members to declare if they participate in Rotary or if they belong to the local train enthusiastic group or how they vote or if they support Man Ltd. All possible conflicts of interest.

  9. The European Court of human rights declared such declarations illegal. By all means ask that councillors declare membership of all outside interests but it is illegal to single out freemasonry.
    By the way, membership is not secret.All Masonic provincial administration offices publish lists of members.if however a Mason decides to keep their membership private, thats another matter.

  10. Lichfield are acting illegally.
    There was an attempt to do this nationally several years ago, by the then Home Secretary. It was deemed illegal. They may ASK for voluntary info, but cannot insist on it as it is discriminatory.
    Why don’t they get members of the local golf club to declare membership? Freemasons subscribe to moral rectitude as a condition of membership…members of a golf club do not.
    If any employee refuses and is discovered to be a Freemason, Lichfield would be well advised NOT to take disciplinary acyion as they will most certsinly lose. The compensation would be better spent on the local area.

  11. A few comments on the debate so far.

    @Mike – yes, a councillor who is a member of WWF would need to register that membership. This is section 10 of the register of interests form which requires disclosure of membership of any body directed to charitable purposes. BASC seeks to influence public opinion or policy through their campaigns so membership would be captured under section 11 of the register of interests form.

    @ M Jones – yes, the WI should be disclosed (section 10 – charitable aims). The requirement to disclose is not an attack on Freemasonry – it is simply a clarification that membership of this organisation with charitable aims is no different in the requirement to disclose from any other membership of an organisation with charitable aims. Three LDC councillors already disclose their membership.

    @ Marcus Cash – Rotarians should disclose their membership of an organisation with charitable aims (section 10). Train enthusiasts and Man Utd supporters don’t need to disclose – nothing that comes under the heading of public nature, charity or seeking to influence public opinion or policy in these groups.

    @James Jefferson – RAOB – charitable aims so disclosure under section 10 of the register of interests form, golf club members – no requirement to disclose (not charity, public in nature nor seeking to influence opinion), Oddfellows, Rotary, Lions – yes, all have charitable aims.

    @Michael Bayes – it’s not singling out Freemasons, it’s bringing the disclosure in line with all other charitable memberships and dealing with a discrepancy where some Freemasons already disclose membership on their register of interests forms but some do not. As councillors we are covered by the Local Govt Act and the Council’s code of conduct and agree to abide by their terms. If people don’t want their extra-curricular activities to be in the public domain, the simple solution is to not stand for election!

    @Anthony Christie – as above, as councillors we agree to abide by the code of conduct which requires disclosure of many aspects of our lives. Golf club membership does not need to be disclosed as it’s not covered by the 4 categories detailed on the register of interests forms.

  12. If councillors declare affiliation and membership of ALL organisations, clubs, charities etc then we will have true openness and transparency from our elected members. Isn’t that common sense and the least we can expect from the people who have been voted in to office?

  13. Joanne Grange, I don’t think the issue is about declaring membership, it is about Singling out Free Masonry, which is illegal as per European Court of human rights declared when a council tried to stop employees becoming Masons You cannot be surprised if Masons are sceptical about what is behind this given all the unfounded allegations that have been made. Anyway I thought councillors are supposed to declare if they have a conflict of interest whether they are a member of a particular organisation or not. So this instruction seems to be unnecessary. I am a proud Mason and I don’t care who knows I am.

  14. @mel price I suggest you read Joanne Grange’s reply. If the knitting circle is a charity, public in nature or seeking to influence opinion, yes. If the knitting circle is not charity, public in nature nor seeking to influence opinion, then no.

    Quite simple really.

  15. Majority of Freemasons are quite open about their membership, but will not be happy at this move to single them out by implying membership could sway a decision! It’s also been deemed illegal to demand this info. Will the Council also ask people to declare membership of golf clubs, women’s institutes, train spotting groups, knitting circles etc?

  16. Ok, since The Lions, Round Tablers, Rotarians, Royal Antidiluvean Order of Buffaloes and Oddfellows are societies with secrets also, do they need to declare their membership.
    There are many many more clandestine clubs in the world and in this country with much more evil and undemocratic agendas than any of those listed above.

  17. @Andrew – Freemasonry is not being singled out. It was a clarification issued about this particular organisation given there appeared to be discrepancies in disclosure between individual councillors. I think you might be seeing a conspiracy where none is intended. You are completely correct about disclosing specific conflicts of interests at meetings where these arise, but this is a slightly different matter from the completion of the register of interests.

    @Paul – there is no singling out. It was merely a clarification about a particular organisation. If a question had been asked about membership of the WI I’m sure the monitoring officer would have issued something with the same wording. There was also a subsequent email to all councillors confirming the same applies to all similar organisations and hence the point is not just about Freemasonry.

    @Mel – yes, see points above. And if the monitoring officer is asked questions about specific organisations I’m sure she’d issue responses about specific organisations.

    @Ben – no, it’s not. Councillors agree to abide by the Local Govt Act and the council’s code of conduct which both require disclosure of outside activities. This note from the monitoring officer was, I believe, clarification to address discrepancies where some Freemasons do disclose on their register of interests and some don’t. Given the comments above by masons about being proud to be part of the organisation it beats me why this is seen as such an issue.

  18. @Robert – once more, Freemasons are not being singled out. Membership of any organisation with charitable aims needs to be disclosed by councillors. The note issued to councillors was a clarification of this. In effect it’s ensuring being a Freemason is treated no differently from membership of any other organisation.

  19. Joanne Grange – you say that masons should disclose their memberships but members of other clubs (you gave
    Train enthusiasts and Man Utd supporters as examples) don’t need to. And the reason you gave is that “nothing that comes under the heading of public nature, charity or seeking to influence public opinion or policy in these groups”.

    As masonic lodges are not registered charities, nor is their principle aim charitable objectives, and neither do they seek to influence public opinion or policy, then I fail to see why you are singling out masons and not golfers, train enthusiasts, players in a brass band, metal detectorists, am-dram members, etc?

  20. @ Simon – please do not think this is my decision – I am simply trying to explain why I believe this isn’t a decision that singles out Freemasons and why the status of the examples given by others on this thread would, or would not, require disclosure. Equally the reasons I gave weren’t my reasons – they are the reasons that certain memberships would require disclosure on register of interest forms.

    However, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (reg charity number 1164703) states on its own website it is funded entirely by Freemasons and many of the commentators above quote the charitable works. Note that the requirement for disclosure is not stated as charitable aims being “a principle aim” as you suggest but rather “any body directed to charitable purposes”.

  21. Membership of any club or organisation creates bonds on friendship between like minded people. That’s why you join an organisation for the social interaction and friendship that ensues. This is true in Freemasonary as it is in WI, bowls club, knitting circles, your local pub or religious meeting place.
    Those bonds of friendship are all potential conflicts of interest which could lead to ‘dodgy dealing’ as someone said, however as the worlds press are constantly on the look out for something dodgy going on between masons they are the group less likely to become involved in such dealing. Perhaps the worlds press should be spending more attention looking at what goes on at the local WI who knows what international espionage stories are being missed.

  22. As each individual masonic lodge is NOT a “body directed to charitable purposes” then there is no need to disclose membership any more than ANY club that might have a raffle.

  23. Does this include membership of the Lions, local golf clubs, the rotary club, etc etc? Masons are not allowed to let their membership of the Craft affect their outside interests, 8so why are the masons being specifically targeted? Obviously someone has been turned down and they are jealous

  24. Wow. How many times does Joanne have to point out that Masons are not being singled out, but that they’re being included in a long list of organisations that Councillors have to declare?
    Like it or not, the Masonic society has a longstanding reputation for being an “old boys club”. For all I know it might not be true, but the point is that it is very much the perception of very many people. Why is it an issue that they should declare it in the interests of openness and transparency along with other organisations?

    The outrage voiced by many on here does nothing to ease my perception that if there was nothing to hide, no-one would care.

  25. There seems to be a lot of Masons in Lichfield as they are all suddenly commenting.

    Thank you Cllr Grange for your patient attempts to explain what is happening. Sadly your clear and concise explanations appear to be falling on deaf ears judging by the amount of times you are saying the same thing.

    Maybe it is because you are a woman?

    Perhaps Masons need of a dose of mansplaining to get the message across?

    Although of course they aren’t in any way misogynist. That is a fallacy peddled by the media.

    Is it also a fallacy then that Masons only attract the most successful, informed and educated chaps to their ranks? As all of you seem incapable of accepting a simple explanation.

  26. Very clear explanations given as why this needs to be declared with other similar memberships. Clearly some of our councillors still needed to be reminded what a conflict of interest is and that it is declared. Not entirely surprising given previous issues with this matter. Clearly declarations regarding Freemasonry are a particular problem with LDC which needs to be sorted out. Over reacting that it’s an attack on Freemasonry is nonsense.

  27. As a Derbyshire Freemason I have no problem declaring my membership, I also have no problem declaring my membership of PROBUS Club & Past Round Table Club know as 41 Club. I think that to single out Freemasonry as if it were a criminal organization is wrong and I believe it is an illegal demand.

  28. it’s not being “singled out”. Why the outrage? It a declaration of interest, in case their is a clash. If you were a member of a say, the Executive Committee of a local scout group, you’d declare the interest (the scouts may want grant off the council or may own or lease land and ask for planning permission). It’s the same principle. There is no shame in being a Mason, is there?

  29. Thank you Jennifer Palfrey for your sexist contribution.

    If a comment was made about women the way you made yours about the men, how would it be viewed? You ‘suggest’ it is because the responses are by a woman (with no evidence), you mention ‘mansplaining’ (poorly used but you wanted to get it in there I guess having sowed the sexist narrative) which is insulting. Then you use misogynist (for some reason). Then attack their intelligence. Classy. I am not a Mason and agree with the Cllrs responses by the way.

  30. Absolute rubbish, apart from against all Human Rights. Where’s the common Sense gone.
    I wonder if all Councilers are required to declare their Golf Mebership, or the Scout Association Membership, or if their in a fishing Club ….this could seriously impact on planning or grants.
    Political Correctness has gone mad.

  31. Perhaps you have been misrepresented. The article shows that only Freemasons should declare their membership. Have you only asked this group of men as the article suggests or have you asked all the other groups as well? If you have not asked all and I mean all the other groups then you could be breaking the law and your reasons could be seen as an excuse. At the moment you seem to be targeting Masons. On 6/4 2006 Mr Justice Newman made a declaration stating that someone else’s attempt to do just this was illegal. If you would like to look up the case and pass comment I would be interested in your reply.

  32. Steve, I have not said anything here that has not already been said other than stating case law. I have not, as others have done been sarcastic or insulting to others who have posted opinions. I have just pointed out the law and said who declared it. If the Council wish to think that they are acting lawfully in targeting one group then so be it. Decisions as to the legality of such actions have been made in the High Court not by me. The Human Rights Act protects all of us not just Masons. My complaint is that the law is apparently being ignored and broken. I hope that you never have to feel that an organisation is illegally targeting you or a member of your family. Please take the time to look the judgement up before making comments. The only question is ‘should the law be ignored or obeyed’. If you think not, how many other laws can be ignored? If you ever feel that you are the target of an illegal act will you want protection?

  33. It would be interesting to know how many complaints LDC has received from the public regarding this issue.
    There seems a lot of strong feelings being expressed on here against this decision, just wondering if they have been expressed to the council itself too.
    After all, this is just an independent news website. For a complaint to have any impact it should be addressed direct to the council, shouldn’t it? Rather than keep on making the same point over and over on here and pretty much ignoring the one (female) councillor who attempts to explain LDC itself made this decision rather than as a result of a members vote, maybe the authority should be approached by those wishing to complain.
    So, if it was me feeling my human rights have been so cruelly violated (sic), then I would complain direct to the counciil that made the decision.
    I wouldn’t think it was worth making the same point over and over and over on the independent news website that is merely reporting a decisiion made by officers of LDC (not voted by members).
    I would complain direct to that council.
    If it was me.

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