Thursday, February 03, 2005

Whitby's Poodle

When I got on the Council a few years back the legal officers were crawling all over us like a rash to make sure we declared any interest, financial or otherwise, in any matters under discussion. They were particularly concerned in respect of planning applications, for obvious reasons. So it came as something of a surprise to read that the Tory Leader of Birmingham City Council, Mike Whitby, had participated in planning committee debates about mobile phone masts, without declaring that he had over £2,500 worth of shares in vodafone! Now I have no reason to believe that Mike Whitby intended anything by this failure to declare, and in fact he stood a couple of times for election in this Ward before he "crossed the border" into Birmingham, and everyone round here speaks well of him. The interesting thing for me is how quickly his Lib Dem Deputy John Hemming was diverted from his main political obsession of counting the cost of the carpet in the Labour Group room to jump to His Masters defence and rush off a letter to the newspapers defending his boss because "his shareholding is too small to require a declaration." I suppose if you are a millionaire like Hemming, most amounts are of little consequence.... but most right-minded people would agree with the Ombudsman who said "Where a member has got a pecuniary interest in any matter they need to declare and withdraw from proceedings."