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LEWISHAM INQUIRY CLEARS TWO MEMBERS

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An independent inquiry into Lewisham LBC's abortive attempt to recruit a new chief executive has cleared two counci...
An independent inquiry into Lewisham LBC's abortive attempt to recruit a new chief executive has cleared two council members of corrupt practices and failing to declare a pecuniary interest. A report into the handling of the appointment of Tony Lear and his subsequent withdrawal was presented to the council this week by Sir Robert Calderwood.

Sir Robert, the former chief executive of Strathclyde RC, was appointed in December to investigate whether two members who sat on the appointment panel should have declared an interest. Members Dave Sullivan and Ian Arnold have business dealings with Tony Lear in his job as executive director of environmental health. 'I can see nothing in the circumstances relating to the Lewisham procedures or on the facts as outlined which prompts me to think there has been any corrupt practice in the appointment of Tony Lear, either on his part or on the part of anyone associated with it', Sir Robert's report says.

But it concludes the two members breached the national code of local government conduct, which says members should never do anything they cannot justify to the public and must avoid the suspicion or appearance of, as well as actual, impropriety.

The council was due to discuss the report as LGC went to press. It is understood Mr Sullivan and Mr Arnold would make statements which would be accepted as an appropriate response to the report. Recommendations contained in Sir Robert's report were expected to be accepted by the council.

The allegations and criticisms which arose surrounding the appointment procedure were rooted in part in the rivalries between political factions within Lewisham's large Labour group, the report said. Mr Sullivan runs a consultancy business, the Agency for Public Service Development, which has done work in Brent on national vocational qualifications and Investors in People. Mr Arnold is an employee of the company.

Sir Robert concluded neither Mr Sullivan or Mr Arnold could benefit financially from Mr Lear's departure from Brent and it could be argued such a move would be to APSD's disadvantage. He concludes neither had a declarable pecuniary interest.

'I again repeat that if any pecuniary interest existed it was one which was to the disadvantage of APSD and therefore to the financial disadvantage of Councillor Sullivan', says the report.

Sir Robert says Mr Sullivan and Mr Arnold should have taken advice on their responsibilities under the code of conduct and Mr Lear 'would have been wise' to have advised the panel or the council's chief personnel officer, Susan Thomas, of Brent's contracts with APSD. He also recommends the council reviews the size and composition of its recruitment panels.

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