Councillor resigns over 'Big Brother' interests row
COUNCILLORS who refuse to publish their partner's financial interests as part of a government drive for more transparency could face criminal charges, it has been revealed.
One councillor yesterday resigned over the ruling which required registering 'disclosable pecuniary interests'.
The Localism Act 2011 means councillors have to register their interests, plus those of their spouses, civil partners or "any person living with the member as if they were a spouse or civil partner" – where those interests are known to them.
All of these details would then be published online.
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But the requirements have drawn the ire of many councillors, who consider the levels of disclosure to be 'grossly intrusive'.
Asked what a councillor who refuses to disclose could expect to happen to them, Cheltenham Borough Council's legal team said in 'certain specified circumstances' failure to comply 'may result in criminal proceedings'.
Councillor Paul Ryder, the chairman of Leckhampton and Warden Hill Parish Council, yesterday resigned over the declaration of interest issue.
He believes that no councillor should feel as if "big brother is looking over their shoulder".
He added: "I resigned as a councillor and as the chairman and 75 per cent of the decision was about the declaration of interest issue.
"I don't get paid to do this, I do it on a volunteer basis.
"My family's business is my family's business and I am not going to bow down to anybody on that.
"I didn't get into this to tell the world what I do and put it on the internet. I feel that strongly about it."
There is currently no deadline for councillors to declare everything, but government guidance in August encouraged members to register their interests "as soon as possible".
Any councillor elected or co-opted after July 1 this year, however, is supposed to register everything within 28 days.
Councillor Andrew Chard (Leckhampton, C) is vehemently against the added requirements.
He said: "An awful lot of us feel that while we have to declare our own interests, declaring an interest of a spouse or a partner is grossly intrusive and sometimes even husbands and wives don't know what the other has in assets and things.
"To assume we are all liars is what really gets to me in this further extension of the nanny state.
"I don't know why Joe Public should know what a third party does all day, someone who has never stood for public office. I just find it very offensive. I think it is taking a sledge hammer to crack a very small peanut."