Barnet Borough Council was advised not to throw out complaints regarding Mayor of Barnet

Hugh Rayner

Hugh Rayner

First published in News
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This Is Local London: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

Barnet Borough Council ignored advice to hear all complaints relating to Mayor of Barnet Hugh Rayner at a disciplinary panel, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

The Hale councillor was cleared of failing to declare his landlord status when voting on controversial housing policies and of abusing his position at a leader’s panel on Wednesday.

The complaints, brought by GLA member for Barnet Andrew Dismore, related to five budget meetings and business overview and scrutiny meetings between 2010 and 2014.

Cllr Rayner owns a total of 19 properties across Barnet, and the original complaint detailed how he drafted 12 month contracts permitting rent increases without warning.

It also accused him of turning up unannounced and “pressurising” a tenant to sign a lease, and that he failed to declare he received rent on behalf of tenants on housing benefits directly from the council.

However, the authority’s monitoring officer, Maryellen Salter disallowed these parts of the complaint on the grounds they do not fall under the members code of conduct.

But according to a Freedom of Information request, Stephen Ross, an independent person consulted on the matter, disagreed with this view.

In an e-mail to Ms Salter, he said: “The detail and complexity of the allegations needs to be carefully considered with any relevant information in the additional evidence that has been offered and taking into account all the factors, including that this allegation has been placed in the public domain.

“To maintain credibility, I recommend it should proceed to a formal process.”

Cllr Rayner amended his register of interests after the complaint was made to include the fact that he rents out to social tenants – a disclosable pecuniary interest.

Mr Ross said: “This is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted and has not satisfied the requirements of the code of conduct.”

However, in a reply, Ms Salter wrote: “Each member is required to complete a new register of interest form once they are elected within 28 days of taking office.

“Given he had a complaint regarding his register of interests he took advice on what to include in the new form. That of course doesn’t correct the old form as that was in place during the time of the complaint.”

Mr Ross said this did “not change his opinion”.

He added: “Cllr Rayner’s business activities appear so close to Barnet’s housing provision on what I have seen, to make me uncomfortable enough about the allegations to believe it should be taken further.”

Cllr Rayner refused to comment.

A statement from the council said: “The monitoring officer sought all necessary advice before coming to a conclusion about whether Mr Dismore's complaints were applicable under the code of conduct.

“This includes seeking legal advice and communicating with the independent person on the panel.

“The statutory responsibility for deciding whether a complaint is applicable under the code is the Monitoring Officer's alone.

“After discussion with the independent person the monitoring officer came to the conclusion that three of Mr Dismore’s eight complaints were covered by the code and should be put before the group leaders panel, whereas the other five did not relate to Cllr Rayner’s activities as a councillor, or the code of conduct was not applicable

“All three complaints that did go forward were rejected by the panel on 2 September.”

 

Comments (5)

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11:49am Fri 5 Sep 14

BarnetTrader says...

Whitewash, hogwash, Rachmanwash .. It looks as though the council's monitoring officer is up to her armpits in this bucket of mire too.

This council need to be put under special measures while the drains are dug up. Wherever you look there's some grisly scandal waiting for proper investigation.
Whitewash, hogwash, Rachmanwash .. It looks as though the council's monitoring officer is up to her armpits in this bucket of mire too. This council need to be put under special measures while the drains are dug up. Wherever you look there's some grisly scandal waiting for proper investigation. BarnetTrader
  • Score: 15

7:39pm Fri 5 Sep 14

Barnet Parker says...

Who monitors the Monitoring Officer?

Clearly incompetent or biased. Resign!
Who monitors the Monitoring Officer? Clearly incompetent or biased. Resign! Barnet Parker
  • Score: 16

9:05am Sun 7 Sep 14

Adele Winston says...

We need transparency. Why is the mayor not anxious to clear his name?
We need transparency. Why is the mayor not anxious to clear his name? Adele Winston
  • Score: 11

10:54pm Mon 8 Sep 14

Cadwallader says...

Because he thinks he's immune. They all do, like Brian Coleman did.

He's going to have to maul Helen Michael's boob on CCTV before they'll pay any attention.
Because he thinks he's immune. They all do, like Brian Coleman did. He's going to have to maul Helen Michael's boob on CCTV before they'll pay any attention. Cadwallader
  • Score: 0

8:58pm Tue 9 Sep 14

Exasperated Cynic says...

Anyone who needs whitewash had better stock up now... A shortage is likely.
Anyone who needs whitewash had better stock up now... A shortage is likely. Exasperated Cynic
  • Score: 2

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