Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Inquiry into Councillor over Firm's Vote Forecast; Company Says 'No Active Involvement'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Inquiry into Councillor over Firm's Vote Forecast; Company Says 'No Active Involvement'

Article excerpt

Byline: Adrian Pearson Regional Affairs Correspondent

ASENIOR Newcastle Liberal Democrat is at centre of an investigation after documents emerged which appear to show the company he works for profiling likely voting patterns of the council's planning committee.

Greg Stone, a former executive member for development and regeneration, works as a consultant for Indigo Public Affairs, which represented clients seeking to build student housing in the Shieldfield area of the city.

When he took the position, he stepped down from his regeneration role and was warned by Lib-Dem bosses he must have nothing to do with Newcastle planning applications to avoid any conflict of interest. But in documents seen by The Journal, Indigo has compiled detailed profiles of all 16 planning committee members, including their likely voting intention.

Councillors are forbidden from revealing their voting intention before any quasi-judicial planning meeting. While there is no suggestion that any member has revealed their decision, the committee assessment boldly states which councillors will vote for and against.

Last night Indigo managing director Richard Patient said Coun Stone "had no active involvement" in the application and "had no contact" with committee members on the issue.

As well as voting patterns before the decision to approve the student housing last September, the document also includes profiles of all members. Coun Stone's fellow Liberal Democrat Gerry Keating is described as "cerebral, iconoclastic and invariably dishevelled" and believing "that unless he knows differently, his job is to uphold the officer recommendation. Will therefore support".

Committee chair Bob Renton is described to potential developers as "steady and reliable, if unspectacular".

Coun Veronica Dunn is accused of voting based on her friendship with the Labour group leader while Lib-Dem Marc Donnelly is dismissed as "meek and mild". Doreen James also comes in for criticism, with the Labour councillor summed up as "grandmotherly" and "quiet and unremarkable". …

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