Council leader denies claims in police probe

Dorset Echo: Council leader in police probe Council leader in police probe

DORSET Police has confirmed it is investigating an allegation made about Dorset County Council leader Spencer Flower.

The probe relates to claims that he failed to properly declare an interest in a key planning policy when he was leader of East Dorset District Council.

Cllr Flower has denied the allegation and said the succession of complaints about the issue “feels like harassment”.

Christchurch firm REIDSteel, whose technical director Rollo Reid is a UKIP activist, commissioned a legal opinion earlier this year on whether Cllr Flower properly declared an interest in East Dorset District Council's major planning document, the Core Strategy.

A report by James Goudie QC argued that Cllr Flower had breached the district council's standards regime and the Local Government Association code of conduct.

Council officers passed the issue to the police when a complaint was made to them.

A statement from Dorset Police confirmed the force was investigating an allegation.

It added: “This meticulous and impartial investigation may take some time to complete, so we won’t provide any details that may prejudice the enquiry while it is ongoing.”

The complaint centres on Cllr Flower’s role as a director of Zebra Property Solutions Ltd, a commercial subsidiary of the housing association Synergy Housing Limited.

Cllr Flower had recorded in the council’s register of members’ interests that he had an interest in Synergy.

But James Goudie’s legal opinion argued that he had not declared himself to be a director of the subsidiary, which was set up to fund affordable housing.

Since Zebra Property Solutions was a commercial entity, Cllr Flower had a “personal and prejudicial interest”, the report argued.

Cllr Flower has said Zebra Property Solutions had been ‘mothballed’ at the time the Core Strategy was considered in February, 2013 and had not held a meeting for almost two years.

He has said he had always declared any interests scrupulously and that the allegations were politically motivated.

Cllr Flower told the Echo: “This is the third time this has been looked at.

“I’m fed up with responding to the same things over and over again.”

He said he had not been interviewed by police and the issue was being dealt with by council legal officers.

“A lot of it is because people don’t understand the code of conduct. I’m fed up with it. It feels like harassment,” he added.

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