by Rebecca Elliott, Solicitor
Ahead of the upcoming local elections I have spent some time looking at the interests that members are required to declare upon taking office. These are requirements of Parish, town and District Councillors.
Section 30 of the Localism Act 2011 states:
“A member or co-opted member of a relevant authority must, before the end of 28 days beginning with the day on which the person becomes a member or co-opted member of the authority, notify the authority’s monitoring officer of any disclosable pecuniary interests which the person has at the time when the notification is given.”
Not only does this cover the member’s own interest but also the interests of their:
-Spouse of civil Partner
-Someone they are living with as spouse or civil partner
Pecuniary Interests are defined in the Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012 and include the following:
-Money received towards expenses either acting as Councillor or election expenses
-Contracts with the Council which you have beneficial interest in
-Interests in land in your Council’s area
-Licences to occupy land within your Council’s area
-Tenancies where your Council is the landlord
-Beneficial interests in securities of a body where –
- That body has a place of business or land in your Councils area; and
- Either –
- Value of securities exceeds £25k or 1/100 of the total issued share capital of that body; or
- if the share capital of that body is of more than one class, the total nominal value of the shares of any one class in which the relevant person has a beneficial interest exceeds one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that class.
Failure to register pecuniary interest is a criminal offence and may be punished by a fine of up to £5,000 and/or disqualification for up to 5 years.
Where the requirement to register a pecuniary interest is also included in your Council’s Code of Conduct, your Monitoring Officer may also take corrective action as a result of a breach of the code. A challenge may be mounted against any decision made that the failure to declare could effect.
There are sometimes items that fit within the list above that a Member may feel they do not wish to disclose where to do so could lead to them being subject to violence or intimidation. For example if their partners employment was a Police Officer.
With the Monitoring Officer’s agreement these can be treated as sensitive interests. They still have to be kept on the Council’s register but would be omitted from any copy of the register which is open to members of the public.
Non pecuniary Interest
In addition to the requirements of the legislation, Councils will detail other interests that if feels need to be disclosed for transparency. These are often referred to as non-pecuniary interests. The requirements to disclose are usually found within the Council’s Code of Conduct.
Failure to disclose interests in accordance with the Code of Conduct could result in corrective action being taken by the Monitoring Officer. Further a challenge may be mounted against any decision that this failure could affect.