Lib Dems are left reeling after their motion submitted for debate at Full Council later this month has been withdrawn by senior officers following a complaint from the Conservative Leader of the Council, Kevin Davis.
The motion highlighted concerns raised by many local people and sought to ask the Leader of the Council to choose between his role as Leader of the Council and his employment as Chief Operating Officer of a public affairs company that works with property developers.
In an email received from a senior council officer, Councillor Liz Green, Leader of the Liberal Democrats was informed,
“The primary concern is that publication by the Council could expose the Council to a claim for damages for defamation by Cratus Communications. The implication from the wording of the Motion (though this may not have been intended) is that Cratus is somehow involved in manipulating Council decision making processes for its own ends, and those of its clients.”
Councillor Liz Green said:
“I think it’s appalling that we have been silenced and cannot discuss this very important issue that residents are raising with us.
"We are not saying the Leader or his company has done anything wrong and he has made a public statement that his company does not do work in Kingston anymore. Nonetheless, it is all over social media and the letters page of the Surrey Comet and very clear that the public perception is that the probity of planning decision-making in the Royal Borough is severely compromised by Cllr Davis’s dual role and that therefore probity of the whole Council is being called into question.
"It is obviously critical that as councillors we have a duty to ensure the planning system is effective and retains the confidence of all. It is therefore vital that these matters are debated in public and not swept under the carpet as inconvenient to the Conservative leadership."
The motion titled 'Time to choose' read:
This Council notes:
RBK has a duty to ensure that all decisions made by councillors are transparent and accountable to local people.
Since May 2014, the Liberal Democrat Group has openly challenged the potential conflict of interest for the Leader of the Council who was Co Founder and remains employed as Chief Operating Officer of a public affairs company. Cratus Communications gives political advice to clients/developers on how to get a planning permission through Council committees.
This Council believes:
Local people are now raising these same concerns regarding the Leader being a lobbyist for developers, their perception being that he is not working for the best interests of the borough.
This Council resolves:
It’s now time to choose! Councillor Kevin Davis should resign either as Leader of the Council or as Chief Operating Officer of Cratus Communications and sever all links, particularly financial, with them.