11:00am Tuesday 18th December 2012
By Adam Richards
CONSERVATIVE colleagues of former Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council leader Andrew Finney applauded after he gave a public apology for breaching the councillors’ code of conduct.
As reported in last Thursday’s Gazette, Cllr Finney was told to apologise to the full council after a standards investigation found that he failed to declare that his wife was a member of Basingstoke Golf Club where members may profit from a multi-million-pound land deal.
The senior Conservative, who led the ruling Tory administration from May 2008 to December 2011, and is still a member of the decision-making Cabinet, was found to have breached the code of conduct by failing to declare a personal and prejudicial interest when he voted at Cabinet meetings in October 2011 and January 2012 to include the golf club site in a blueprint of land which should be developed for housing over the next 15 years.
In November 2011, more than 70 per cent of the golf club members voted to offer the 43.4-hectare site for sale as a potential housing site. The club members could gain a collective multi-million-pound windfall if their land is sold to a housing developer, once planning permission has been granted by the borough council.
Addressing last Thursday’s council meeting, Cllr Finney said: “Throughout my term as a councillor, I have always sought to work in the interests of this council and the residents of this borough with dignity and integrity.
“I regret, however, that I am human and like all humans, prone to error. This (standards) report identifies I made the wrong judgement call and took part in two meetings where it would have been preferable, in order to remove any questioning of my integrity, if I had declared an interest and not taken part in the meeting.
“I do take my personal integrity seriously so it’s with personal sadness that I find myself having to apologise to the members of this chamber, and to residents of Basingstoke and Deane for my error. And all I can do is apologise and say I will do everything in my power to rebuild the trust which I hope people are able to place in me.”
Outside the meeting, Labour group leader Cllr Laura James, who initiated the standards investigation by registering a complaint after she learned Cllr Finney’s wife was a member of the golf club, reaffirmed her belief that the Oakley and North Waltham councillor should resign from his decision-making role in the Tory Cabinet, where he serves as member for economic strategy and development.
“It was right that he made a public apology,” she said. “I personally think that he should resign from the Cabinet.
“He was the leader of the council, and he voted to support the development of the club site when he had a prejudicial interest, and that’s a resigning matter as far as I am concerned.”
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