A councillor who tweeted a decision on an issue before Cabinet had made it breached Calderdale Council’s code of conduct.
Members of Calderdale Council’s Standards Committee heard Coun Paul Bellenger (Lib Dem, Greetland and Stainland) had breached the code by posting on social media site Twitter that a decision about a council loan to the Holywell Community Pub Ltd, which was being considered by Cabinet on March 19 this year, had been made.
The case was heard at the committee’s hearing panel, an agenda item which was not open to the public, in September and its decision that the panel found he had breached the code was reported to the committee this week.
As a result of the panel’s decision Coun Bellenger had administrative privileges provided by the council – including using normal council email or photocopying facilities – withdrawn for two weeks.
Coun Chris Pearson (Con, Greetland and Stainland) made the complaint that Coun Bellinger had tweeted the decision had been made at 7.09pm, about an hour before Cabinet discussed it and made a decision.
The report was an item from which the public were exempt from attending and Coun Pearson alleged that in his opinion Coun Bellenger’s intention was political gain for his party colleague in the then upcoming May 2018 elections.
Coun Pearson alleged Coun Bellenger’s action could have damaged HCPL’s ability to finalise a deal with the owner of the premises where negotiations were sensitive, said the report to the panel provided to the committee this week.
Coun Bellenger disputed Coun Pearson’s account and said it was a genuine misunderstanding.
He told the panel he and ward party colleague Coun Marilyn Greenwood had met with Leader of the Council Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) ahead of the Cabinet meeting to seek further details about the loan proposal and commercial basis for the transaction and that following the discussion thought the matter was approved and therefore there was no problem tweeting about it during the Cabinet meeting.
In response to it being pointed out that while discussions can take place with the Leader it should have been understood the decision sat with Cabinet to make a formal collective decision,
Coun Bellinger said he had genuinely misunderstood this.
But Coun Pearson was not satisfied with the explanation and wished the matter be heard by the panel, which agreed the code of conduct had been breached.