Owl says: what is happening to Westminster council’s Monitoring Officer, Leader and Standards Committee? Nothing, so far.
And NO-ONE should be Chair of a Planning Committee for SEVENTEEN years!
“The deputy leader of Westminster city council has stepped down after it was revealed he had received nearly 900 gifts and hospitality packages over six years.
Robert Davis, a Tory councillor, was the chair of the borough’s planning committee until last year.
He has stepped aside as deputy leader and cabinet member for business, culture and heritage as an independent QC investigates his conduct.
Councillor Robert Davis has referred himself to the City Council’s monitoring officer and has decided to stand aside as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Business, Culture and Heritage while the investigation is undertaken,” said Nickie Allen, the leader of Westminster City Council.
“Our residents need reassurance that the planning process is not only impartial, but is seen to be impartial,” she said, adding she had “asked the council’s chief executive to look at all aspects of the decision-making process to ensure planning is, and is seen as, an independent and impartial process.”
The Guardian revealed Mr Davis had received gifts and hospitality invitations 893 times over the last six years, which frequently came from property developers who were seeking planning permission.
Gifts and hospitality packages worth more than £25 must be declared and some of the items and invitations received by Mr Davis exceeded the figure.
The Cambridge graduate is the longest serving member of the council, having been elected in 1982. He was voted Conservative councillor of the year in 2014 and given an MBE in 2015 for his service to local and government planning.
“I think it’s important to recognise Robert Davis remains a candidate for the May election,” Adam Hug, leader of the Labour Group, told The Independent. “He remains a councillor.
“This move has been described as standing aside, with a clear view that if no legal wrongdoing is found he may return to his post. As he remains a candidate it is clear that the Tories believe what is known and not disputed is acceptable for them.”
He added: “Westminster Tories knew this was going on, did nothing for decades, and it is clear that unless legal wrongdoing is found, he may return to his post.”
In a statement, Mr Davis said: “Due to the ongoing interest and wrongful assertions regarding my time as chairman of planning I have decided to step aside from my roles as deputy leader and cabinet member for business, culture and heritage whilst the council investigates.
“In 17 years as chairman of planning committees which granted hundreds of applications and resulted in the council receiving substantial sums for affordable housing, public realm and other public amenity, I have at all times acted with the independence and probity required by my role.
“My desire to rigorously declare all meetings and hospitably, regardless of its nature, underpins this transparency and independence. It is trite to confirm that within these 17 years, I have got to know many of the developers and associated professionals who work in the city and help to develop Westminster into one of the most important economic centres in the country and home to over 280,000 people. Any suggestion or implication that I have done anything other than to further the interests of the city and its residents are baseless and strenuously denied.”