Exclusive: Councillors reveal their financial interests

Councillors have to complete a brief form
Councillors have to complete a brief form

Trust and test. It's a fundamental principle of democracy.

Trust and test. It's a fundamental principle of democracy.

Councillors have to complete a brief form

Councillors have to complete a brief form

We trust our elected representatives. Quite rightly. But we also test if they deserve our trust.

That's why members of Brighton and Hove City Council formally have to register their financial interests. "Pecuniary" is the actual word used.

The Local Government Act 2000 sets out the law in relation to this requirement - which is summarised for councillors in government guidance. It is also set out in detail in the city council’s constitution.

The government guidance is clear: "When you are first elected, co-opted, or appointed a member to your council or authority, you must, within 28 days of becoming a member, tell the monitoring officer who is responsible for your council’s or authority’s register of members’ interests about your disclosable pecuniary interests."

On Thursday (August 6) – a whole three months after the council elections on May 7, but less than 48 hours after Brighton and Hove Independent intervened - detailed declarations were put online on the council's website (www.brighton-hove.gov.uk) for all 54 councillors.

Well, not all 54. There is still no declaration by Councillor Adrian Morris, a first-time Labour councillor for Queen's Park. (Note: All that is required is completion of a straightforward two-page form, covering 10 simple questions.)

From today, you can easily check the latest declarations for yourself.

Previously, you would - like Brighton and Hove Independent journalists on Wednesday - have had to make an appointment to visit the council's King's House headquarters, where you would be guided through the corridors of bureaucracy to a room containing a lever-arch file, the contents of which you are, strangely, not allowed to photocopy. (The taking of notes is allowed.)

And what would you have found? Nothing untoward, it seems. Not, at least, from a brief glimpse.

Read full details of the interests declared by 53 of the 54 members of Brighton and Hove City Council

Here are some bullet points:

Councillor Julie Cattell, the Labour chair of the council's planning committee and planner with East Sussex County Council, is the director and sole shareholder of CJ Planning Ltd, a planning agency, "which will be wound up in the next six months". (A quick check with Brighton and Hove City Council's planning register currently shows a total 231 records of applications involving CJ Planning.);

Councillor Jayne Bennett, a Conservative councillor for Hove Park, appears to have the biggest property portfolio, listing six properties: 27 Hill Brow, Hove; 22 Eaton Court Hove; 2A Bentham Road, Brighton; 7 Viaduct Road, Brighton; 166A Springfield Road, Brighton; and 74 Kemos Road, Portslade;

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, leader of the Conservative Group, is not far behind. The "land and property" he has comprises: 44 Dyke Road, Brighton; 28, 29 Ship Street, Brighton; 146 Preston Drive, Brighton; and 26 Warren Road, Brighton.

Three councillors - Councillor Robert Nemeth, a Conservative councillor who lists himslef as owner of RS Nemeth Estates Ltd; Councillor Pete West, a Green councillor; and Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, convenor of the Green Group - exercise their right under the 2011 Localism Act not to give an "address/description of land".

The records show: "The Member or co-opted Member has declared an interest in relation to this section, the details of which are withheld pursuant to Section 32 Localism Act 2011."

Basically, they apparently fear they might be subject to "violence or intimidation".

In case you have not read this particular piece of legislation recently, it states that details need not be disclosed if "the nature of the interest is such that the member or co-opted member, and the authority’s monitoring officer, consider that disclosure of the details of the interest could lead to the member or co-opted member, or a person connected with the member or co-opted member, being subject to violence or intimidation".

There’s much more. And, from today, you can test and trust to your own satisfaction.

See full details of the interests declared by all councillors - except Councillor Adrian Morris