Breach-of-conduct councillor slams verdict as biased

Councillor Michael Levy
Councillor Michael Levy. Image: Hackney Council

A Conservative Hackney councillor has rejected the council Standards Committee ruling that he broke codes of conduct by failing to declare an interest in a planning application, saying that it is “open to allegations of bias.”

Michael Levy was found guilty at a Standards Committee hearing of breaching two separate protocols when he took part in both the deliberation and vote on an application in which he had a personal and prejudicial interest.

The councillor claimed he had not been involved in any wrongdoing, and noted the time taken to bring the complaint forward.

“If a resident asks me to represent them in a planning sub-committee meeting I’m happy to support it.

“The whole process was prejudicial to me. If you were asked to remember something from 18 months ago … it’s obvious it has a material impact on the defence I put forward.”

He argued that the Standards Committee should not be representative of the Labour-dominated Council.

“I think the makeup of such a committee leaves itself open to allegations of bias.

“If you had a court case with a third party and you knew the plaintiff was related to the judge or jury, you’d feel uneasy. I think members of the public would feel equally uneasy,” he said.

Mr Levy was found to have breached paragraph 11.3 of the Council’s Code of Conduct, which states councillors cannot be in a meeting when they “have actively engaged in supporting an individual or organisation on the matter”.

He was also found guilty of breaching paragraph 6.4 of the Planning Code of Conduct.

The hearing investigated a complaint made by Vincent Stops, chairman of the Planning Sub-Committee, who alleged that in a committee meeting on 1 February 2012 Mr Levy had failed to declare an interest.

In 2010, Mr Levy had made his interest public in an application for a property in Leabourne Road, Stamford Hill, after speaking in support of it.

However, when an identical application for the same property was put forward last year, he said he had no prejudicial interest.

Mr Levy will now have to undertake mandatory training on the Code of Conduct.