Councillor resigns from board amid ‘lack of transparency’ claims

PUBLISHED: 08:05 09 December 2019 | UPDATED: 08:05 09 December 2019

Uttlesford District Council. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

Uttlesford District Council. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

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The Green Party has accused the district council’s ruling administration of lacking transparency after one of its councillors stepped down from a board that oversees millions of pounds worth of council investments.

Left to right: Councillor Paul Fairhurst and Cllr John Lodge. Photos: CONTRIBUTED.Left to right: Councillor Paul Fairhurst and Cllr John Lodge. Photos: CONTRIBUTED.

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) has hit back at the claims however, accusing the Greens of "abandoning"' the board at a "vital time".

The spat came following an Uttlesford District Council (UDC) investment board meeting on November 25.

A spokesman for the Greens said R4U leader, Councillor John Lodge, "elected himself" as chairman of the board during the meeting, but R4U has rejected the claim as untrue, saying Cllr Lodge picked the role up on an interim basis when Councillor Paul Fairhurst defected from R4U to the Greens.

The board oversees the council's portfolio of investments to ensure the money being spent is in the best interests of residents in Uttlesford.

The Greens say Cllr Lodge acting as chairman meant the board was effectively reporting to itself and added the board should be about skills and investment expertise, not political proportionality.

The Greens also hit out at the decision to appoint Councillor Patrick Lavelle to an interview panel that forms part of the board, replacing Cllr Fairhurst, with Cllr Lodge using his casting vote as chairman to confirm the appointment.

Consequently, Cllr Fairhurst resigned. In a statement, he said: "All boards must have good governance, be transparent and have resident-based accountability. This is, unfortunately, no longer the case for the investment board and is a direction which I cannot, in good conscience, support."

In a statement, Cllr Lodge said: "We need to reduce the risk to the taxpayer with stronger independent governance and expertise. That is why R4U set up an all-party investment board into which we are bringing independent external investment experts. The board voted to select two R4U and one independent councillor to help screen the candidates.

"It is disappointing that the Green councillors have decided that they do not want to participate in the investment board unless they lead things. I firmly believe that council working groups and committees should represent the actual composition of the council."

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