Standards Committee Has ‘No Teeth’ Says Chairman

Cllr Gordon Bilsborough

Cllr Gordon Bilsborough

The Council’s new chair of Standards says his committee has “no teeth” and is powerless to overturn decisions made by independent investigators.

Gordon Bilsborough was elected unanimously to the role at last Wednesday’s meeting, although he says his suitability was challenged by Cllr Fred Ticehurst, who disagreed with his stance on declaring partner’s interests.

Under new rules, elected members must list the financial interests of civil partners, spouses, wives or husbands. But Gordon has publicly stated that he is prepared to go to jail rather than declare his wife’s financial interests.

Cllr Sheila Thomas was voted into the vice chair position.

The previous chair of Standards, Cllr Brian Lowen, resigned his position last October after an investigation was launched, when he handed out a printout of an email to the media outside a Council meeting. Some people named within it, including fellow members and Council officers, alleged it included false statements, which damaged their reputation.

The complaint was handed to Cornwall Council who ruled that Cllr Lowen should undergo media training.

Some complainants say they are unhappy with that outcome and want the judgement re-evaluated, but Gordon has been told that the Standards Committee can’t do anything about it.

“In other words,” he says, “the Committee has no teeth.”

But he also says Cllr Lowen has resigned and he can’t see any point in proceeding now anyway.

Gordon says the committee needs the power to overturn decisions if they feel it right, and he says they should take that fight up with the government, who sets the rules.

And he doesn’t accept that a more powerful Standards committee would make councillors less likely to speak up on matters they feel strongly about.

He says every member is required to read and understand the code of conduct, and as long as they stick to that, they shouldn’t be scared.