Councillor Objects To Declaring Partner’s Interests

Councillor Gordon Bilsborough

St Mary’s councillor, Gordon Bilsborough, says he would refuse to pay a fine and is prepared to go to jail for not declaring his wife’s financial interests.

The Secretary of State has issued guidelines for councillors about openness and honesty. New rules require elected members to list the financial or significant interests of civil partners, spouses, wives or husbands.

Gordon told councillors last night he won’t comply and that could mean getting banned from the Council for 5 years.

Gordon wanted the Council to write to the government and object to the changes. No other member felt that strongly and he failed to gain any support last night.

Fred Ticehurst challenged Gordon asking, “you don’t expect you will change it, surely?”

Fred thought it would be a waste of council money and officers’ time and David Pearson agreed, stating that only parliament could amend the rules.

David said councillors could write personally but Gordon didn’t believe that would have so much clout

Fred told Gordon he shouldn’t stand for council if he didn’t accept the legislation that goes with that position, but Gordon said that was defeatist.

He referred to the repeal of an 1882 law, which gave a husband ownership of his wife’s property.

He believes this new rule amounts to the same thing. Laws, he said, could be repealed and once you could be hanged for stealing a loaf or burned for being a witch.

Administration officer Sue Prichard brought matters back into the 21st century and explained that the UN Ethics Committee rules were even tighter, as they had to declare partner’s and children’s interests.

After a long debate, councillors voted to accept the government’s new legislation ruling and review it in 12 months.

But Gordon refuses to comply. He says his partner Jane is “absolutely opposed” to him declaring her interests “when there is no need” describing it as a “point of principle.”

He added, “someone needs to make a stand on this.”


5 Responses to Councillor Objects To Declaring Partner’s Interests

  1. Lawrence Upton September 13, 2012 at 8:44 am

    I wonder what is meant by “Administration officer Sue Prichard brought matters back into the 21st century”. This seems to be an editorial comment; but it is not very useful. Everything reported is happening in this century.
    The comment seems to disparage the councillor’s example without making an argument.
    The councillor’s reference to the 1882 law is an extremely good example; and I say that though I disagree with his position. Ms Prichard’s remark that some regimes are more demanding is quite irrelevant.

  2. Todd Stevens September 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    At present, there is a more important issue out there Gordon that this community need councillors like you to be working on to get a satisfactory resolve. Maybe let this one go?

  3. JeffEastick September 12, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Surely , the point of principle in question is to make sure that any decision voted for by any councillor does not result in any pecuniary advantage to his/her family.
    If a councillor cannot accept this then they should not be a councillor in the first place.

    • IanT September 16, 2012 at 11:58 am

      Having mentioned this decision to several friends they have all reacted with ‘ You must be joking’. Surely the normal procedure of ‘declaring an interest’ is all that is necessary. A spouses financial interests are not necessarily known and are legally her/his business and nobody elses, surely.

  4. Jenny September 12, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    The legislation refers to signifcant interests. Who determines what is significant?
    This is about transparency in public life and the potential abuse of a Councillor’s position by their partner’s interests. There have been a number of cases whereby the partner of a Councillor received lucrative contracts and questions about influence were asked.
    A great shame if Councillor B goes to prison, as the nearest prision is Exeter and partners do not have their fares paid when they visit.