• EDDC to investigate Cllr Brown following Telegraph sting

    11th March 2013 | News | Claire
  • The actions of a councillor who has a business as a planning consultant are being investigated by East Devon District Council (EDDC).

    Councillor Graham Brown told an undercover reporter “If I can’t get planning, nobody will”, adding that his services “don’t come cheap”.

    EDDC said it would look to see if Mr Brown’s actions “fall within the rules of what we can investigate”.

    He claims his business is “completely separate” from his council work.

    Mr Brown, the Conservative councillor for Feniton and Buckerell, was secretly filmed by the Daily Telegraph claiming he had “access to all the right people for the right clients”.

    “I don’t come cheap. If I’m turning a green field into a housing estate and I’m earning the developer two or three millions, then I’m not doing it for peanuts – especially if I’m the difference between winning and losing it.”

    ‘Quite open’
    Mr Brown, who is is also chairman of the East Devon Business Forum (EDBF), told the BBC: “I’m not on the planning committee, I don’t try to influence councillors.

    “It’s a legitimate business that I run. I don’t do anything that I would be ashamed of.

    “I’ve been quite open about it. It’s not a surprise to anyone because I’ve been doing it for years.”

    The council said in a statement that monitoring officer Denise Lyons would be working with the standards committee to see if the content of the Telegraph’s report meant there needed to be an investigation into whether Mr Brown had broken any rules.

    It said: “We are not aware of Councillor Brown having any improper influence on the planning process and he has declared his interest as a professional planning consultant.

    “Councillor Brown does not sit on the committee which decides planning applications and there are no local or national rules which prevent him being a councillor because of his profession.

    “Similarly, he is free to practise his profession whilst also being a councillor.”

    The council’s code of conduct says councillors “should never improperly confer an advantage or disadvantage on any person or act to gain financial or other material benefits for yourself, your family, a friend or close associate”.

    In December EDDC created a scrutiny body, the Task and Finish Forum, “in response to public concern about what impact EDBF had on the Local Plan”.

    Mr Brown welcomed the creation of the forum and said he would support the provision of information to it.