Luton councillor 'dealt with internally' after supporting planning application from someone he knew

Luton town hall. PIC: Tony MargiocchiLuton town hall. PIC: Tony Margiocchi
Luton town hall. PIC: Tony Margiocchi
But investigation found ‘no compelling evidence’ he had contravened council’s code of conduct

A Labour Luton borough councillor supported a planning application from someone he knew instead of declaring a prejudicial interest and leaving the room, according to a report to the borough council.

Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain and three party colleagues supported plans for a four-bedroom house on land at the back of 68 to 76 Wardown Crescent. The application was refused on the casting vote of the development management committee chairman.

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“While an independent investigation found ‘no compelling evidence’ that councillor Hussain contravened the council’s code of conduct, it concluded that it appeared likely he went into the meeting with a predisposition to support this application,” said the report.

“There were questionable behaviours and a lack of probity in the making of certain decisions at committee meetings in the recent past. Pressure was brought to bear on officers to look favourably on these proposals.

“The interest shown by some councillors in the project went beyond what was normal and probably stepped over the boundaries of propriety,” added the report.

“It appears very likely he and others were lobbied, and put under some pressure, with a view to assuring a favourable outcome for the development when it was considered by the committee.”

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Councillor Hussain was one of four Labour councillors subject of a complaint made after the meeting in August 2022 by Liberal Democrat councillors David Franks and Lee Bridgen, and the ex-Conservative councillor Gilbert Campbell. The other three are Raja Ahmed, Kashif Choudhury and Summara Khurshid, who ceased to be Labour councillors after the May local elections and are no longer subject to LBC’s code of conduct.

This issue was examined by an adjudication panel of the council’s standards committee, which decided its decision be reported to a full council meeting, from which councillor Hussain was absent.

Councillor Bridgen said: “As one of the complainants, I support the outcome of the adjudication panel. One of the frustrations is that in terms of sanctions the process is relatively toothless. But local political groups aren’t toothless. What actions are the Labour group planning to take or have taken against councillor Hussain?”

Labour Northwell councillor Amy Nicholls, who chairs the standards committee, replied: “I believe it has been dealt with internally within the party.”

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Councillor Hussain is no longer a member of the development management committee.

An amendment to a recommendation to note the panel’s report was proposed by Labour council leader and Lewsey councillor Hazel Simmons.

She suggested its wording should also say “the report of the independent investigator confirmed in his conclusions that the said members didn’t have a prejudicial interest at the committee in August 2022”.

The Liberal Democrats were denied a second amendment after Stopsley councillor David Wynn explained: “For the purposes of balance here it should be equally clear the panel’s outcome was that the members concerned were predecided, rather than having a prejudicial interest.

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“This should be quite evident in terms of balance in anything contained in the recommendation.” He was told that his amendment needed to be submitted in advance of the meeting. The Labour proposed amendment was agreed.

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