Friday, 4 October 2013

Thanet Council Agrees “Charter for Corruption”

Green Party Councillor Ian Driver has condemned Thanet District Council’s revised Planning Protocol as a “Charter for corruption in public office”.
The Protocol (1), approved by an overwhelming vote at a meeting last night (3 October), allows councillors to accept gifts and hospitality from planning applicants of more than £100, provided they are noted in the Register of Members Gifts and Hospitality which is not available for inspection by the public (2).
The £100 figure has been increased by a staggering 400% on the previous Protocol which was agreed just over a year ago in July 2012 which had a limit of £25(3).
Whilst allowing councillors to accept what many people might see as inducements or bribes to support and speak in favour of planning applications, the new Protocol prohibits council planning officers from accepting any gifts or hospitality whatsoever. 
Previously planning officers, like councillors, were allowed to accept gifts and hospitality provided anything worth more than £25 was declared (4)
Furthermore the new Protocol also includes further unjustifiable preferential treatment for Councillors involved in submitting planning applications.
For Council officers - if someone submits a planning application on their behalf or if a planning application in which the officer has a financial interest is submitted this must be declared and is then specially determined by the Planning Committee (5).
For a Councillor - if someone submits a planning application on behalf of a Councillor, or if a planning application in which a Councillor  has a financial  interest in is submitted it does not need to be declared and the application is processed in the normal was (6).
Said Driver “These new rules are outrageously corrupt. They legitimise the procurement of expensive gifts and hospitality from planning applicants and provide encouragement for councillors to pimp out planning permission in exchange for booze, meals, tickets to shows and costly gifts”.
“I am disappointed that the vast majority of councillors – both Labour and Tory – voted like pigs with their snouts in the trough – to approve these rules. The actions of these greedy politicians has brought the Council into disrepute.”
“I am also amazed that rules for council officers involved in planning were massively tightened up. But the rules for Councillors have been relaxed. Why is this? What can’t they be treated the same?
“In my opinion nobody, officer or councillor, should be allowed to accept any gifts or hospitality from people submitting planning applications, not even a cup of tea.  And planning applications submitted by councillors or officers should be treated in exactly the same way”.
“These news rules are disgraceful. They have damaged the Council’s reputation. The councillors who voted for these rules last night   have also behaved in a shameful and disgraceful way. They should be thrown out of office at the next election”


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