Councillor could face investigation
HADDENHAM Liberal Democrat Councillor, Pauline Wilson, who dug in her heels and refused to leave a debate over a decision to cut the arts grant, could land herself in trouble. Cllr Wilson was ordered out of East Cambridgeshire District Council s overview
HADDENHAM Liberal Democrat Councillor, Pauline Wilson, who dug in her heels and refused to leave a debate over a decision to cut the arts grant, could land herself in trouble.
Cllr Wilson was ordered out of East Cambridgeshire District Council's overview and scrutiny committee as members took a vote on the move to slash £70,000 from the arts funding.
But as her colleagues on the community services committee, who had voted in favour of the cut at their meeting got up to leave she refused to budge.
Now the incident is being investigated by council officers and Cllr Wilson could be reported to the Standards Board of England which could investigate the matter.
The board is responsible for promoting high ethical standards and investigating allegations that members' behaviour may have fallen short of the required standards.
Cllr Wilson was told she must leave the debate because she had a 'prejudicial interest' in the issue.
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She argued, however, that there was no need for her to leave the room because she didn't have voting rights on the issue.
"I didn't feel I had a prejudicial interest," said Cllr Wilson. "It would have been a different matter if I were a voting member.
"I told the committee that I wasn't going out. It wasn't for anybody to tell me whether or not I had a prejudicial interest."
Cllr Wilson claimed she had taken advice from the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and believed her judgement was legally correct.
"This was an absolute sham and now I could find myself up before the Standards Board," she added.
Jeanette Thompson, East Cambridgeshire District Council's head of legal services, said: "The Members' Code of Conduct states that a councillor has a prejudicial interest in a matter before an overview and scrutiny committee if they sat on the original committee that made the decision.
"Having reviewed the code and the national guidance from the Standards Board of England, the only way to enable such councillors to speak on the item, was to allow the public the same rights.
"Under the code, however, once the councillor had exercised his right to speak and answer questions he should leave the Chamber. This advice was given to protect the members concerned from accusations of breaching the Code of Conduct.
"Officers are now considering the issue.