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Westminster's former deputy leader resigns after gifts investigation

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A former deputy leader of Westminster City Council has stepped down as a councillor with immediate effect after an internal investigation found that he breached the council’s code of conduct.

The independent investigation found that Robert Davis (Con), who also chaired the authority’s planning committee for 17 years up to January 2017, had “not promoted and supported high standards of conduct through leadership and by example”.

Mr Davis stepped down as deputy leader in March after The Guardian reported he had accepted hospitality or gifts valued in excess of £13,000 since 2015.

Sir Stephen Lamport, who led the council’s investigation, said Davis’s “acceptance of gifts and hospitality from developers before or after a planning decision may … have placed him in a position in which people might seek to influence him in the performance of his duties.”

Following his resignation, Mr Davis said: “My approach to declarations has always been to be honest, open and transparent. I have nothing to hide.

“I registered all my hospitality and it was posted by officers on the council’s website. I have been making such declarations since 2007 when the requirement was first introduced.”

Mr Davis, a solicitor by trade, once served as the youngest ever Lord Mayor of Westminster in 1996-1997 and was awarded an MBE in June 2015 for services to local government and planning.

Westminster City Council leader Nickie Aiken (Con) said that Mr Davis had “made the right decision to step down” as the planning process “must be, and be seen to be, impartial”.

“When I became leader I took immediate action to improve how planning decisions are open to scrutiny, making sure all meetings about planning applications take place in council offices with officers present,” Cllr Aiken said.

The council expects to announce reforms to its planning process following the results of an independent review which was commissioned earlier by the leader earlier in the year.

 

 

 

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