Barnet GLA member Andrew Dismore is calling on Barnet Council’s leader to step down as the chairman of a panel that will rule on an investigation into the borough's mayor.
Conservative Councillor Hugh Rayner is under investigation by Barnet Borough Council’s monitoring officer for failing to declare the fact that he is a landlord when voting on housing policies.
Fellow Conservative and council leader Cllr Richard Cornelius, who is due to chair the panel to determine Cllr Rayner's fate, has previously supported the mayor and denied he should resign.
In a statement, Mr Dismore, who logged the original complaint against Cllr Rayner, said: “In these circumstances, Cllr Cornelius cannot be seen to be impartial so far as I can see.
“There is a de facto Conservative majority on the panel. Conservative legislation removed the compulsory requirement for an independent chairman, but the council could have one if it wanted.
“It seems to me, that is what should happen. A Conservative member should agree in advance to abstain, so no one party has a majority.”
When the Times Series asked Cllr Cornelius about the initial complaint against Cllr Rayner, he said: “I don’t know, it doesn’t sound illegal.
“If it’s something that’s illegal it’s something that shouldn’t be done. It depends on what you mean by illegal?”
Cllr Rayner, a Hale councillor, owns 15 properties in the Colindale area with his wife, Susan, and four more under his firm’s name – S&H Housing Limited.
Mr Dismore’s original complaint included how Cllr Rayner failed to declare he receives housing benefit directly from the council on behalf of his Barnet Homes tenants when voting on housing policies.
He also raised concerns about how he turned up unannounced “pressuring” for a lease to be signed at 10pm, and drafting 12 month contracts permitting rent increases without warning – which Cllr Rayner has since apologised for.
However, the authority’s monitoring officer has since disallowed these parts of the complaint on the grounds they do not fall under the Members Code of Conduct.
Instead, the panel will only consider Cllr Rayner’s non disclosure of interests at council and committee meetings and the improper use of his position as councillor in dealing with council officers.
Mr Dismore said: “The monitoring officer has done this with very minimal explanation, followed by an absolute refusal to even consider very detailed and closely argued representations as to why this is wrong.”
The monitoring officer told Mr Dismore that Cllr Rayner’s dealings with Barnet Homes is irrelevant because Barnet Homes is a separate body from the council.
However, Mr Dismore has argued the social housing provider is owned and funded by the authority.
He also logged a Freedom of Information request asking the council to disclose e-mails between Cllr Rayner, Barnet Council and Barnet Homes, among others, but this was rejected because it was judged too time consuming to search for.
The panel is due to make a decision about the allegations on September 3 – a date Mr Dismore has argued is unfair as he is on holiday.
It is unclear at this stage whether the press and public will be allowed to attend.
He said: “It looks like the ‘defendant’ will be there, but there will be no ‘prosecution’.”
A council spokesperson said: “The council cannot pursue complaints that are not covered by the Members Code of Conduct. Those parts of Mr Dismore’s complaints that do relate to matters covered by the Code will go before the Group Leaders Panel.”