• Brown must resign says East Devon LibDem

    12th March 2013 | News | Claire
  • A Tory councillor in Devon has been suspended after being reportedly caught on camera boasting about his ability to secure planning permission “at the right price”.

    East Devon councillor Graham Brown was said to have told undercover reporters posing as overseas investors he had “access to all the right people for the right clients” and said: “If I can’t get planning, nobody will.”

    The council’s Conservative leader, Paul Diviani, said Brown had “brought himself, the party and council into disrepute with his comments”.

    “This was not conduct becoming of a Conservative Party member, and as such I think it is only appropriate to suspend councillor Brown from the party and seek a resolution from members that he should no longer be welcome as a representative of the East Devon Conservative Group,” Mr Diviani added.

    Councillor Brown, who was removed as Member Champion for Business and Tourism, yesterday admitted being “embarrassed” by the video and “shocked” by the subsequent action of his party.

    However, he refused to step down as member for Feniton and Buckerell, despite calls for his resignation, claiming he had done nothing wrong and was “taken out of context”.

    He appeared on video, clandestinely captured during an investigation by The Daily Telegraph into “councillors for hire” in light of relaxed planning laws, saying he did not “come cheap” but did jobs for between £1,000, and £20,000.

    “I have access to all the right people for the right clients,” he added.

    “If I turn a green field into a housing estate and I’m earning the developer two or three million, then I ain’t doing it for peanuts.”

    Long-serving Liberal Democrat councillor at East Devon District Council Geoffrey Chamberlain, who sits on the planning committee, called for Coun Brown to go, claiming he “should have resigned a long time ago”.

    “I believe in integrity 100 per cent,” he added. “It all looks so bad if you have a councillor with his ear to the planning community – I am going to speak to the standards officer.”

    Coun Brown, who runs Grey Green Planning Ltd, denied there was “any conflict of interest”, insisting he was simply advising what he thought was a foreign client.

    “I am definitely not going to resign though I can understand people being upset,” he told the Western Morning News. “I was turned over… I have been duped in what was an act of entrapment.

    “I am embarrassed for my colleagues at East Devon council and I will live to regret it… I was appealing to a client and it has been exposed as me doing something corrupt, which I haven’t been.”

    The council said Brown was not on the planning committee and therefore “free to practise his profession”.

    However, it also said it would be “looking at the allegations” and whether they “fall within the rules of what we can investigate”.

    In a statement, it said it was “not aware of any improper influence” on planning.