Complaint Number: LA/EL/2039
Date case started: 16 Jun 2017
Decision issued: 11 Aug 2017
Allegation against: Councillor Paul McLennan
Complaint Category: 3.16
Nature of allegation
Breach of the provisions in the Councillors’ Code of Conduct set out in section 3 (General Conduct – Use of Council Facilities) of the Code.
Decision by Commissioner
Decision that the matters raised against Councillor Paul McLennandid notamount to a contravention of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.
Complaint no. LA/EL/2039 concerning an alleged contravention of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct by Councillor Paul McLennan of East Lothian Council
1. Complaint number LA/EL/2039 alleged a contravention of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct (“the Code”) by Councillor Paul McLennan (“the respondent”).
2. It was alleged that the respondent hadcontravened the Code, in particular, the provisions on set out in paragraph 3.16 of the Code.
3. The person complaining (“the complainer”), alleged that in arranging for the holding of pre-election meetings at the Bleachingfield Café, Dunbar, on Wednesday, 26 April 2017, and the Votadini Café, East Linton, on 27 April 2017, the respondent, as a candidate standing for re-election, used Council facilities for political or campaigning purposes.
4. The respondent has been a councillor since 2008, representing the Dunbar and East Linton ward as a member of the SNP group. He holds ward surgeries in the Bleachingfield Community Centre, Dunbar. In April 2017 the respondent stood successfully for re-election at the 4 May poll. A fellow SNP candidate, Ms Isobel Knox also stood for election in the same multi-member ward but was unsuccessful in the poll.
5. The Bleachingfield Community Centre is owned by the Council. Part of the premises are leased to an independent body known as The Ridge. This is a community enterprise which operates a café independently of the Council as a training facility. Bookings for use of the café are co-ordinated by The Ridge and are unregulated by the Council.
6. The Votadini Café, East Linton is a privately owned establishment and not being a Council facility falls outwith the scope of the Code.
7. The Council maintains a list of properties, including the Bleachingfield Community Centre, which may be used for pre-election purposes. Candidates were advised that they were entitled to use publicly maintained accommodation for public meetings in support of their candidature between receipt of the election writ and the day preceding the date of the poll.
8. As part of their election campaign, the respondent and Ms Knox proposed to hold a ‘meet the candidates’ meeting to be held on the evening of 26 April at the Bleachingfield Café (more accurately termed The Ridge Café). A leaflet advertising this meeting (and another to be held the following day at a café in East Linton) was distributed.
9. The premises at the Bleachingfield Community Centre were booked by Ms Knox and paid for in cash directly to The Ridge Cafe on the night of the meeting there. The respondent was unable to attend the event.
10. Sections 95 and 96 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 (as amended) permit the use for election purposes of rooms maintained wholly or mainly out of public funds, subject to the defrayment of expenses by the person by whom or on whose behalf the meeting is convened. Local authorities are required to maintain a list of such rooms and the Bleachingfield Community Centre was so listed. No such statutory authority is required for privately owned or leased premises.
11. Accordingly I was satisfied that the arrangements for the use of the Bleachingfield Centre as a whole, and specifically The Ridge Café, for the meeting on 26 April were in accordance with the legislation, and that the Code was therefore not engaged.
12. Having considered the information that arose from my investigation, I concluded that, the matters raised againstCouncillor Paul McLennan could not amount to a contravention of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.
91 Haymarket Terrace
11 August 2017