Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Where there's smoke, is there fire?

The scandal-plagued Brighton and Hove Tories seem to have got themselves in a bit of a legal pickle again: this time they've been accused of corruption on the planning committee.

Back in February the Tory members of the planning committee shocked everyone by agreeing to let a developer get away without making a single contribution to the community.

The decision - to just let the firm concerned off from making the so-called £145,000 'Section 106' payments made to fund transport facilities and public art - flew in the face of both council practise and the law of the land.

It all seemed a bit strange at the time. Green councillors were horrified of course. We believe that profits from development should be shared with the community - and that local Council Tax payers should never be left facing the bill for the costs of development - while property-owners make millions.

But now it has been alleged that the real reason for letting the developer dodge £145,000 worth of community contributions could be a £2,000 'dodgy donation' to the local Tory party.

The whole saga is being investigated by the council's standards board, and until they report later this year, no-one will really know what happened, and if any of the Tory councillors acted improperly or illegally.

I think we urgently need a completely independent inquiry - and I think the police are the best agency to carry it out quickly, locally and efficiently.

In the meantime, I'm with Green Group convenor Bill Randall, who today called on Brighton Tories to help clear the air and protect the city council’s reputation by immediately donating £2,000 to a local charity, and that the planning permission should be put on hold.

"The Tories have serious questions to answer," he said.

"The public needs to be reassured that the £2,000 donation to the Conservative Party and the decision to remove the £145,000 community contribution from the planning permission, against the advice of the planning officers, are nothing more than an unhappy coincidence."

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