Councillors quit over refusal to declare spouses’ financial interests

THREE parish councillors in Fenstanton have quit in protest at new rules which require members to register their spouses’ financial interests.

Anne Boyd, Maureen Tilbury and Tracey Jacob all quit after a new code of conduct which would have forced them to register Disclosable Pecuniary Interests relating to them and their partners was brought into effect by the Localism Act 2011.

The councillors said they were not prepared have details about their husbands’ lives published on the internet, despite assurances from Huntingdonshire District Council that they could exempt sensitive matters that might lead to violence or intimidation.

Colin White, chairman of Fenstanton Parish Council, said the new rules were “flawed” as they had forced a trio of good community servants to stand down and potentially put off others who would otherwise be good parish councillors from putting their names forward.

It had significantly reduced the capability of the parish council and its committees, he said, as well as potentially cost the authority money to hold new elections.

“How many other parish councillors have found this condition to be intrusive?” he asked. “It is not what the Localism Act was designed for.”

Mrs Tilbury, who had served on Fenstanton Parish Council for 15 years, it was a “very, very difficult decision” to stand down.

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“I did not want to go,” she said. “However my husband and I were not happy that these things were going to be published.”

She stressed that she had “nothing to hide” but that the new rule was “wrong” because it was “very intrusive”.

“I am quite happy for them to go to HDC and see it but if it goes on the internet, it stays there forever,” Mrs Tilbury added.

Mrs Boyd declined to comment when contact by the Hunts Post.

A spokesman for HDC said councillors could apply the Monitoring Officer for exemptions to the Register of Interests requirement if the declaration might lead to violence or intimidation.

Mrs Tilbury also said the council told her it would black out items like signatures.