Investigators have cleared a councillor caught up in accusations of dodgy lobbying.
Liberal Democrat Greg Stone (North Heaton) will face no further action from Newcastle Council after he was secretly recorded by a national newspaper offering “tricks of the trade” on how to get planning permission.
The councillor, who works as a lobbyist, faced calls to resign as two Labour politicians put in complaints over Mr Stone’s role.
Further questions were raised by Newcastle East MP Nick Brown, who discovered emails he says showed Mr Stone had contacted the council’s chief executive to raise the concerns of “business interests” over the council’s refusal to grant an alcohol licence to the proposed Tesco Store on Grainger Street, Newcastle.
Mr Stone offered to put the chief executive in touch “with the parties concerned”, but was told the council would be fighting plans for more city drinking. Since then Newcastle Council has granted the Tesco store a smaller drinks licence.
Labour MP Mr Brown called for a tougher investigation because Mr Stone’s employers at Indigo Public Affairs have worked for Tesco in the past. In a statement put to the council as the investigation continued last year Mr Stone lists 10 possible reasons why he might have been sending the email to the chief executive.
Further questions regarding the Tesco lobbying were put to Mr Stone, who then said he was asking on behalf of the Lib Dem group.
Mr Stone said: “This investigation arose as a result of unethical reporting, which failed to fairly reflect the context of my comments, and complaints from opportunistic political opponents.
“I have maintained throughout that I have acted properly in my professional and council roles.
“I am therefore unsurprised by the finding that I did not breach the code of conduct, and I am glad that this protracted process has been resolved in a very clear way.”
A council spokesman said: “The council received two complaints against Coun Stone that he had allegedly breached the Code of Conduct for members. These complaints were thoroughly investigated. The investigating officer concluded that there had been no breach of the Code of Conduct. The council’s monitoring officer was satisfied with the conclusions in the investigating officer’s report and therefore closed the matter.”
Mr Brown said questions remained unanswered over the council’s licensing policy.
Source – Newcastle Journal 01 April 2014