• Hilary Benn MP lobbies Pickles over planning scandal

    12th March 2013 | News | Claire
  • Letter to Local Government secretary Eric Pickles from Shadow Local Government secretary Hilary Benn
    Rt Hon Eric Pickles
    Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
    Eland House
    Bressenden Place
    LONDON SW1E 5DU
    11 March 2013

    Re: Councillors who are paid to lobby on planning matters

    I am writing following the report in today’s Daily Telegraph about councillors who run or are paid by consultancies to advise developers about planning applications.

    I think this highlights a particular loophole in the current system which seems to allow councillors to get paid to lobby for or advise on planning decisions in their own authority. I am not saying that being a councillor should not in itself preclude you from working in lobbying at all, including advising on planning applications going to other authorities, provided their interest is publicly declared.

    However, I hope you will agree with me that it is not right for a councillor to take on paid consultancy for clients seeking to influence the local authority on which they serve. It is a clear conflict of interest and the rules need to be tightened to stop it happening.

    In doing so we should follow the example of Parliament where we already have a rule which bans lobbying for reward. I think the same rule against paid advocacy in their own authority should apply to all locally elected representatives, and I would therefore urge you to take action immediately to bring in a similar rule for local government.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP
    Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government