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Council officers’ actions compared to North Korea in Bucks unitary authority debate

Stephen Delahunty

Stephen Delahunty

Council officers’ actions compared to North Korea in Bucks unitary authority debate

Cllr Roger Reed

Three district councillors walked out of a South Bucks District Council (SBDC) meeting on Monday after one compared the actions of council officers to North Korea.

The row erupted after council officers sent an email to South Bucks councillors who also sit on Bucks County Council (BCC) warning them about personal and prejudicial interests in the debate surrounding the county’s move to a single unitary authority.

The email, seen by the Advertiser, was sent by the joint democratic and electoral services team and says: “If a member only has a personal interest they can remain in the room and take part in the decision.

“Members may also have a prejudicial interest to declare if they have supported the county’s proposal for a single unitary authority.

“For example if a member attended a county council meeting and voted to support the county’s proposal, those members would have to declare this personal and prejudicial interest at the meeting, leave the room and not take part in any discussion on the item.”

Speaking at the meeting in Denham, Cllr Dev Dhillon (Con, Cliveden) said he had ‘been very upset’ since he had received the email  and described it as ‘completely undemocratic’.

He added that even with dispensation to discuss the issue he would not take part in the debate.

“Last time I checked this was not North Korea,” said Cllr Roger Reed (Con, Denham).

Cllr Lin Hazell (Con, Farnham Common and Burnham Beeches) added: “It’s an erosion of my democratic rights.”

Principal solicitor for SBDC, Sue Malcolm, attempted to defend the decision, but Cllr Hazell said she was confused about how taking part in previous discussions at a district or county level would amount to a ‘personal and prejudicial’ interest.

All three councillors walked out before declarations of interest were made.

The rest of the district council agreed an initial budget of £20,000 to support a number of potential actions in response to the announcement by Communities and Local Government Secretary, Sajid Javid, that he was ‘minded’ to implement a single council for the area, including seeking expert legal advice and communication campaigns.

The district council has previously submitted a proposal for two-unitary authorities to rival BCC's plans for a single unitary authority.

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