I have been quiet for the past few weeks due in part to internet problems, a major garden project, nearing completion I'm pleased to say and a bit of ill health.
But something has been troubling my mind over the past few weeks also, “Members Register of Interests”, doesn't sound to interesting does it, but I do know that it has been troubling a lot of councillors and locally at least two I know of have decided to resign over it, with a further one refusing to complete the form, so what’s going on?
The background, as a councillor you have to complete a form detailing how you earn any money, who you work for, any land you own or have an interest in, companies you hold shares in, companies you control, all good stuff. This form is then filed away in the clerks’ office and is available to anyone who wishes to see it. I have never heard of a councillor having a problem with this and indeed you can’t serve as a councillor after an election until the form is complete.
But, and it’s a big but, the rules have changed, under the Localism Act, the form has to be completed as before but must also include the same details for your partner, this seems to be the area that has raised most concerns with other councillors and I can understand their position.
This really does raise a few concerns for councillors, myself included, firstly the current Mrs Pz01 is not very happy about this, is not a elected member of a council and derives no benefit from my being a councillor, I should also point out neither do I, in 12 years for my work as a councillor I have received £0 in expenses and £0 in any other way, I did receive a small allowance for my two years as Mayor.
This information then has to be published on the Town or Parish website (if the Town or Parish have one) along with being published on the appropriate unitary authorities’ site (in my case Cornwall Councils).
This is the area that raises the most concerns for me, firstly the current Mrs Pz01’s employer is not very keen at all on employees detailing who they work for on the internet and due to the very nature of the job neither is Mrs Pz01, I have been told that her name can be removed if the monitoring officer agrees, all very well if your name is Richards or Smith perhaps but it doesn't work too well with ours.
No, it’s the very act of publishing this information on the internet that I have a problem with, I'm very careful as to what information I publish on the internet, having spent many years working in IT I'm very aware of the risks, once its on the internet it is available for any casual observer anywhere in the world to access this information, whereas in the past if you genuinely felt that I or any other councillor had broken the rules you had to make the effort to go to the office and ask for the information, thus dissuading the casual observer.
In the spirit of we are all in this together I thought that I would look up my MP’s register of interests, I suggest you give it a try and remember many Town & Parish councils are dealing with sums of money that are less than a single MP’s allowances and expenses.
In conclusion will I be complying with this? The honest truth is I don’t know, I’m not very happy with the way council work in Cornwall is going at this moment, dealing with Cornwall Council is like mud wrestling a tank full of eels and I'm not sure I want to continue, this may well be the stone.