Glasgow & West Scotland

Council leader Mark Macmillan given non disclosure 'ban'

Cllr Mark Macmillan Image copyright Renfrewshire Council
Image caption Mr Mark Macmillan has apologised for not declaring an interest before the meeting

A council leader has been given a four week ban from attending a committee after he helped approve a £25,000 award to a group run by his employer.

The Standards Commission for Scotland said Renfrewshire Council leader Mark Macmillan breached the code of conduct by not declaring a financial interest.

The watchdog accepted the breach was "an oversight and was not intentional".

Mr Macmillan said he made "an honest mistake and that was borne out in every aspect of the hearing's decision".

The commission's ruling followed a decision of the council's Economy and Jobs Policy Board on 20 March 2013 to award £25,000 to the social enterprise charity Kibble Works.

According to the minutes of the meeting, the cash was to pay for "a town centre hit squad in Paisley to deliver training to young people for a six month period".

The group, which would have been managed by Kibble Works, would have tackled "eyesore sites" in the town.

Conduct breach

The minutes note: "There were no declarations of interest intimated prior to the commencement of the meeting."

It later emerged that Mr Macmillan, a Labour councillor, works for Kibble Education and Care Centre.

A complaint was made to the Standards Commission on the basis that he had failed to declare an interest at the outset of the meeting.

Following a hearing on Tuesday, the commission ruled that Mr Macmillan had breached the councillors' code of conduct.

The head of the hearing panel said: "The councillor not only failed to declare a financial interest and participated in a vote on the motion but also spoke to and seconded the proposal in its favour.

"Councillor Macmillan is an experienced councillor, who is the leader of Renfrewshire Council, with additional responsibility as a role model for others.

"The general public has a right to expect due diligence from its councillors when it comes to checking the content of council meeting papers."

The commission suspended Cllr Macmillan's entitlement to attend meetings of Economy and Jobs Policy Board for four weeks with effect from 6 March.

The head of the hearing panel added: "In deciding on the sanction the hearing panel took into account the fact that Councillor Macmillan had acted swiftly on realising what had happened and apologised for his actions.

"The panel also accepted that Councillor Macmillan's responsibilities as council leader meant that he was very busy and the breach had occurred because of an oversight and was not intentional."

Mr Macmillan said he accepted the commission's decision and welcomed the recognition that his action was not wilful or deliberate.

'Honest mistake'

"I made a mistake, but it was an honest mistake and that was borne out in every aspect of the hearing's decision," he said.

"The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life has made it clear in the findings that the breach had been an oversight and was not intentional.

"I would point out that it was me who raised the issue of my participation in the discussion at committee with senior council officials minutes after that meeting ended.

"I then publicly apologised for the error at the next council meeting and throughout this investigation I have co-operated fully."

Mr Macmillan said the sanction imposed by the commissioner meant he would now miss one meeting of the Economy and Jobs Policy Board.

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