Questions asked on nuclear industry role in setting council leader’s rise
Last updated at 11:17, Thursday, 10 May 2012
COPELAND Tories are probing reasons why Sellafield had a senior public affairs representative on an independent panel which gave the thumbs-up to borough council leader Elaine Woodburn’s £6,000-a-year rise.
The Conservative Association is formally demanding answers to questions surrounding the make up of the three-person independent panel. They were Shirley Williams, Sellafield Ltd’s head of public affairs; Whitehaven solicitor Judith Crisp; and John Mackay, retired head at Thornhill School.
But because the council leader’s pay increase was linked to her nuclear role, the Tories want to know why Sellafield’s operators are represented on the panel which recommended the increase.
One of the questions asked is: “What processes are in place to prevent appointments which may give rise to allegations of bias or the appearance of bias?”
The association says it might refer the issue to the District Auditor if it fails to receive satisfactory answers.
Stephen Haraldsen, Conservative Association chairman, said: “An independent review panel has to be absolutely independent. It is vital for the good running of councils, and to be sure ratepayers get best value, that a council follows a strict and above board process. At a time when trust in politics and politicians is at an all-time low, it is vital that councils do everything they can to be transparent and honest.
“Copeland Council’s independent review panel has some questions to answer in the interest of public confidence and good local government.”
Coun Haraldsen said: “I don’t think it is proper to have a representative of the nuclear industry on any panel which is supposed to be independent given the big decisions coming up. If proper declarations have not been made and due process not followed I will take this further.”
The independent review panel’s recommendation to give the Labour leader an increase of £6,606, pushing her annual special responsibility allowance up to £25,534, was passed by the council by 27 votes to 11.
The Tories’ letter says: “The justification given by the panel for increasing the allowance were based heavily on the role of the leader in decisions relating to the nuclear industry. Therefore it seems highly inappropriate for Sellafield Ltd to be represented on the panel.
“With the possibilities relating to Mox, reprocessing, power generation, breeder reactors, waste disposal and more, the representation on the remuneration panel of a nuclear industry employee seriously calls into question the panel’s independence and therefore the independence of its recommendations.
“We believe a panel which was one-third nuclear industry employees... is not independent and in fact borders on self interest.”
Six questions have been put to the council:
Is there a written process for the panel to follow when coming to its recommendations? How were the posts advertised and how many people came forward? Who chose the panel and rejected other applicants and on what criteria? What processes are in place to prevent appointments which may give rise to allegations of bias or the appearance of bias? Were any declarations of interest made at any meetings and what were they? And what evidence did the panel take before coming to its most recent recommendations?
Coun Haraldsen says: “We would like to believe that the council followed a strict and above-board process but given Copeland’s track record we feel these questions must be asked.”
Copeland Council chief executive Paul Walker said: “Recommendations on the remuneration of all Copeland councillors are made by a fully independent remuneration panel.
“This panel is appointed with statutory requirements and any recommendations it makes to councillors are considered and ultimately approved by full council.”
Sellafield Ltd said yesterday: “It is inappropriate for us to comment.”
First published at 11:08, Thursday, 10 May 2012
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
Have your say
Lets not forget Tory leader David Moore takes a Â£6K handout each year for chairing the West Cumbria Site Stakeholder Group, a sum set by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. So whilst the Tories are correct to point out the obvious conflict of interest, they need to learn that when they point the finger there are two fingers pointing back at themselves. The public will only have confidence in local government, regardless of the integrity of Cllr Moore and Cllr Woodburn, when the many dependencies the nuclear industry public affairs machine has set up with local councils and more alarmingly, elected Cllrs on both sides of the political divide are dismantled. This is not an issue about Cllr Woodburn, it is a much bigger issue and one that extends beyond Copeland Borough Council.
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