Remember the disgraced ex-Councilor Graham Brown scandal?
Well, it refuses to die.
The Sunday Times today (page 29, main paper) mentions it in passing in an article entitled “Bricks, Bribery and Planning – the flaw built into our planning rules” (full text to follow shortly).
“But the depressing truth is that corruption is endemic in Britain’s bureaucratic planning system. In every corner of the country, you can fund stories of bribery, with local councillors and officials rigging the planning system for their own gain.
Doncaster, Enfield, Greater Manchester, EAST DEVON – these are just a handful of local authorities where corrupt practices have been discovered in planning departments. In other words, the corruption is systemic and it’s caused by the inadequacy of Britain’s property rights”. …”
Brown, at various times, headed up the East Devon Business Forum, was also highly influential in the early stages of the Local Development Plan (which wasted two years or more mostly visiting big development sites owned by prominent businessmen and which had to be abandoned and re-started under the later chairmanship of Councillor Philip Skinner).
Brown held many other posts throughout his long career as an EDDC councillor, mostly related to planning, while running his local planning consultancy business – a fact of which other Tory majority party councillors and officers were very well aware, but did not perceive as not being a conflict of interest – until the Daily Telegraph sting.
His only censure was to be kicked out of his local Tory party – local police refused to be involved with an inquiry due to insufficient evidence. Were local planners and councillors – or even the Daily Telegraph or Anna Minton – asked for evidence? We have no idea.
Brown features (as does East Devon generally – a whole chapter) in the Anna Minton expose “ Scaring the Living Daylights Out of People: The Local Lobby and the Failure of Democracy” (Section 3: The Local Mafia: Conflicts of Interest in East Devon”) :
Click to access scaring-the-living-daylights-final.pdf
As a final insult to injury, after his departure from EDDC he attempted to get the agricultural tie lifted from the farmhouse in which he lived (which would have greatly increased its value by up to 40%) until a local investigation (led by East Devon Alliance) uncovered the fact that he had been receiving EU farming subsidies to the tune of at least £850,000 throughout the period he said he was no longer farming:
Yes, despite having signed a formal, legal affidavit that he had not farmed for several years and submitted this as part of his formal application to get the agricultural tie lifted from his farmhouse, and despite having been provided with evidence that he had been receiving EU agricultural subsidies during this period, EDDC apparently did not think it appropriate to refer this potential case of fraud to the police for formal investigation.
It appears to me that there are only two possibilities here:
1. Either he was farming, in which case his affidavit was fraudulent; or
2. He wasn’t farming, in which case his claims for agricultural subsidies were fraudulent.
There doesn’t appear to be any other possible explanation.
So why did EDDC not refer this to Devon & Cornwall police or Action-Fraud? And what messages does this send to local citizens about EDDC’s attitude to fraud and corruption?