P-05-845 End Conflict of Interest in Local Authority Constitution – Correspondence from the Petitioner to the Committee, 04.12.18


Dear David,


I must convey how disappointed I am with the reply from the Cabinet Secretary, Alun Davies, on the matter of this petition topic.  What I am proposing, on behalf of the public, is simply to introduce measures to prevent conflicts of interest from occurring when those holding full time public roles are also working in private firms.  Such conflicts leave the system open to abuse, such as ‘revolving door’ corruption which can be extremely hard to prove after the fact.  This is not tolerated in the private sector and as I have previously stated, we demand higher standards from those charged with serving the public interest. 


While I am aware that there are provisions in local authorities to report and record any conflicts of interest, what disturbs me is the lack of any legislation following on from this.  Mr Davies points out that members of the public can report breeches of this code to the Public Ombudsman for Wales, or even to the police in more criminal matters.  Even, should members of the public be able to conduct a full investigation to find the evidence needed in order to approach an authority, the Ombudsman is flooded with such complaints and often cannot investigate further due to a lack of resource.  


In effect, in order to facilitate extra private earnings for those officers and councillors already in well paid full time public roles, public money and resource is being spent on recording and monitoring these conflicts of interest with little power or legislation to investigate such incidences further.  While it is reassuring to know that the Welsh Authorities use the English Government counter fraud and corruption strategies as guidelines, again I point out that there is no legislation from our own Welsh Assembly to enforce anything.  In the case of the Planning Authority, this is a major flaw in the system.  Surely, by disallowing these conflicts of interest to exist, we are not only protecting the public but also those in public roles, especially in Planning, who are unelected and wield a vast amount of power?  Such officials can be called in to a Judicial Review, but only in a 6 week window which favours professionals such as property developers rather than disorganised and ill-informed members of the public.  Once such a window has passed, there is no authority that will step in or investigate any complaints, if Council Leaders refuse such requests.


I would argue that allowing conflicts of interest to continue is detrimental to the reputation of our local authorities, facilitates the potential for fraud and corruption in key roles, increases the workload of the Public Services Ombudsman and Audit Committees and uses public resources to track and monitor said conflicts.  Running a private firm in the same professional field as in a public role cannot avoid such conflicts, utilising the very same ‘inside’ knowledge, contacts and training. This surely also serves to undercut other professional firms who do not have this edge, regardless of geographical boundaries.


 I urge you, the Welsh Government, to consider this issue on our behalf and hope that you will conclude that the arguments we present for a much needed change, outweigh the benefits of keeping the ‘status quo’.  Again, I feel I need to point out that I am looking to amend this generic code of conduct policy to prevent conflicts of interest from taking place.  Mr Davies seems unsure of whether conflicts of interest even exist despite also defending the system that records them:


“There is no evidence to suggest this creates a conflict of interest and in any case, local authorities already have in place a system for recording and tracking conflicts of interest.”


For interest, I enclose further media articles from the Daily Telegraph on planning officers ‘for hire’ which highlight how controversial, albeit legal, this subject is.


Yours sincerely

Emma Eynon