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Shropshire Leader apologises for code breach over conflict of interest

The Leader of Shropshire Council has apologised for breaching its code of conduct, after he failed to formally disclose a conflict of interest at board meetings for the authority’s wholly-owned trading business ip&e.

The breach was revealed following a meeting of Shropshire’s Standards Sub-Committee last week (20 November 2015).

The committee considered a report from the council’s monitoring officer regarding the outcome of an investigation into allegations against Cllr Keith Barrow.

Shropshire said members of the committee had had regard to the acceptance by Cllr Barrow of the findings that he had offended against the principles of integrity, honesty and leadership set out in the council’s code of conduct.

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Cllr Barrow had agreed a proposed apology with the monitoring officer in consultation with the Independent Person in the following terms:

“Councillor Keith Barrow apologises to the Council for failing to formally declare a conflict of interest when making a decision at ip&e Ltd.

“An investigation into an allegation about the conduct of Councillor Keith Barrow has concluded that he failed to comply with the Code of Conduct of Shropshire Council by failing to formally disclose a conflict of interest at meetings of the Board of ip&e Ltd.

“Councillor Barrow apologises to the Council for failing to disclose at those Board meetings his personal and business relationship with a director of the company eventually appointed as accountants and auditors of ip&e Ltd. Councillor Barrow accepts with hindsight that he should have formally disclosed the nature and extent of his interest at the meetings and confirms that he will attend training to make sure he is fully aware of his responsibilities on such matters under the Council’s Code of Conduct and to ensure such oversight is avoided in the future.

“Councillor Barrow would also like to add that he has resigned from his position as Director of ip&e Ltd in order to prevent any future risk of such conflicts of interests arising and because it is the right time for the appointment of a Chairman independent of the Council.”

The Standards Sub-Committee noted also that the complainant considered the proposed apology to be an acceptable outcome.

According to Shropshire, members of the committee “expressed concern regarding the seriousness of the matters which were highlighted during the investigation. They considered that Councillor Barrow ought to have been aware of the need to disclose his interests in all matters whilst conducting the business of the authority.”

However, the members also decided that they were satisfied that the proposed apology and commitment of Cllr Barrow to undertake training represented a reasonable outcome without the need to hold a formal hearing.

“Members considered also that the public interest in maintaining the exemption of the report from public inspection was no longer greater than the public interest in publishing the report. This was considered to be of great importance in order to reassure the public that the matter had been the subject of a detailed and thorough investigation and that the process was open and transparent,” the council said.

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