You know what Thanet District Council (TDC)’s property boss did weeks after she was appointed to the job? She became the director of a private company handling commercial property issues. Does that sound wise to you?
It sounds like a shocking breach of the council’s code of conduct to me.
It may not be. There may be a loophole. She may have had it signed off by someone profoundly unwise. I can’t answer that as the council’s press office hasn’t responded to my request for comment, despite having had four days to do so.*
Edwina Crowley—Thanet District Council’s Head of Economic Development and Asset Management—was appointed to the role in June 2013. She overseas sites including Dreamland, Arlington House, Fort Road Hotel and more.
Strategic commercial property management guidance and estate management plans.
The other director is a Mr Richard Crowley. The company’s website says it handles:
Strategic Commercial Property Management Consultancy; Estate Management Plans; Service Charge construction and review of existing accounts; Service Charge dispute resolution
In my opinion that represents a clear risk of reputational damage to the council, as well as a potential source of conflicts of interest. She holds the portfolio as TDC is selling of a significant number of properties amid a large asset disposal programme.
When the Local Government Association conducted a peer review of Thanet District Council (TDC) last year, the team’s six key messages included these three:
- The council’s reputation is of critical importance
- Work to improve trust, respect and visibility
- Clear messages – well communicated
Does a senior council officer having commercial interests in the property sector, no matter how well she might argue they are separated by a firewall that prevents any conflict of interest, strike you as conduce to improved trust and reputation?
TDC has an unfortunately rich history of—in my opinion—extremely poorly handled development deals. As a result, I for one would like to see its officers concentrating solely on their jobs at hand.
TDC’s Code of Conduct, clearly states under Article 7:2 that any additional employment undertaken by officers ‘must demonstrably not conflict with, or in any way weaken public confidence in, the conduct of the authority’s business.’
That a senior officer is moonlighting like this certainly weakens this member of the public’s confidence. TDC – Code of Conduct also states:
7.4 Employees above Local Grade 6 shall normally be expected to devote their whole time service to the work of the authority and shall not engage in any other additional employment without the express consent of the authority.
Again, given TDC’s failure to respond, I can’t answer whether she is above Local Grade 6 or has express consent. If she has the latter, I would like to know who signed that off and why they thought it was appropriate, because I certainly don’t.
Margate resident Dan Thompson, who first noted her role in the company, said: “Margate has reinvented itself as a modern seaside resort, and the expansion of the tourism industry is going to be based on finding new uses for old buildings.
He added: “The council needs to be seen to be fair, honest and straightforward in its property dealings; I am unconvinced that this officer’s private business interests and online presence are conducive to the reputation that the council would desire.”
Margate Central Green Party candidate Louise Oldfield and I will be writing to the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive today asking for an investigation. View our Facebook page here #MargateSpringClean
*And many close to the council have the temerity to complain that they receive too many Freedom of Information requests!
** Duedil shows it to have been incorporated on August 9th, 2013