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Updated: #EdenWalk: Conflict of interest on Development Control Committee?

James Giles

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It has come to the attention of this newspaper that the newly-appointed Vice Chair of Development Control Committee, Roy Arora, may have a conflict of interest in sitting on DCC, which determines whether future development plans in the borough can go ahead.

Councillor Arora was the director of ‘Coombe Hill Investments Ltd.’, the nature of which is defined by Companies House as ‘development and [selling] real estate’. This company, of which Councillor Arora and his wife were directors, was marked as ‘dissolved’ in 2012.

When Councillor Arora was elected in 2014 he declared himself as being self employed and trading as ‘Coombe Hill Investments’, the nature of this business being ‘Project and Asset Management’.

UPDATE: We have been informed that “‘Coombe Hill Investments Ltd’ and ‘Coombe Hill Investments’ are two entirely different organisations and separate legal entities. The former was a Limited company, which ceased trading and dissolved in 2012 (as stated above); and the latter is a sole trader, which is still active and Cllr Arora’s current employment. It is purely coincidental that the two have almost identical names – they are not the same organisation.”

A Kingston Councillor told us: “You couldn’t possibly get a conflict of interest closer to development! Councillor Arora certainly should not be sitting on Development Control Committee. Is this a Conflict of Interest or what?”

A Council spokesperson said:

“Members of the Council are obliged by law and a local Code of Conduct to disclose their financial interests, including their employment, in statements which are available to view on the Council’s website. These financial interests, together with any other personal interests that might arise, must be also be declared at any Committee meeting where a matter is discussed which might be relevant to them. There is, however, no requirement to declare any previous employment and no conflict of interest would generally be expected to arise in connection with a Members past working history.”

In the opinion of our editor, it is also questionable whether, should #EdenWalk pass by a single vote, whether the public would continue to have confidence in the committee and this administration given this potential conflict of interest from its Vice-Chair. Our editor feels that in the name of public trust, should it be proven this is a conflict of interest, Councillor Arora should stand down from his position on the Development Control Committee. Only then can this administration retain public trust that the committee will put planning above politics and pecuniary interests and ensure that there is no potential for any conflict of interest in any future development plans for our Royal Borough

What do you think? Comment below or e-mail the news desk at newsdesk@coombemonthly.co.uk

James Giles is the Editor of the Kingston Enquirer, covering local news and events in Kingston, New Malden, Surbiton, Tolworth and Chessington.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Coo

    25th May 2016 at 11:55 pm

    I have no trust in Kingston’s officers or councillors. The officer’s report tonight was completely biased in favour of the developer. It was well rehearsed but not factual.It was full of opinions that had no solid foundation, and with opinion often presented as fact. It was overly prepared and delivered arrogantly not in the humble manner of a public servant wanting to do her best for the people of her town.The committee of Councillors failed to ask even one question of the objectors and many seemed to kowtow to the developers. How many council officers and councillors have development interests outside of their day job? How many are supporting Eden Walk out of political ambition rather than true convictions that it is right for the long term future of Kingston and its residents, not just for short term economic gain? Anyone with any ability to make money out of developers outside of their job or in any role with Kingston Council should step down immediately. If they all have to go – GREAT. There are many – no doubt poorer – people with strong moral values – who can replace them. I used to think that England was not a corrupt country, that we had values, and valued our communities and our heritage. How naive was I. We are no better than any other corrupt country or greedy people but worse because of our pretence at cleanliness and superiority and a stiff arrogance that we know best. Kingston’s councillors had no mandate from the people of Kingston for this development and have engineered the situation – in cahoots with the developer – so that they could approve it today. But residents are no longer blind, and were never stupid. Your days as our representative are hopefully numbered because you are not representing us. You will need to live with the the way you voted tonight, especially when you are putting political expediency above the interests of Kingston’s residents and the town’s heritage. The GLA said that they want Kingston to become a mini Hong Kong and you are pushing through their ambition with no care for the people who voted you in to power. The difference between us and Hong Kong is that at least in Hong Kong there was no ancient heritage to spoil and harm, whereas look at the harm you have agreed to do to our ancient town for uncertain economic gain. Your days as representatives of the people of Kingston should be numbered. As Wilson said in The Great Gatsby “God sees everything”.. Let’s hope that he does. And let’s hope that he sends a situation to us that will mean that this development never gets built.

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Headlines

Stop cuts to schools and special needs children

James Giles

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The Council last night (7th February) passed the ‘SEND Transformation Plan’, despite local residents making clear that they had not been properly consulted.

The plans, which include raiding a potential £5 million from the budgets of mainstream schools, were put out to consultation over the Christmas Holidays, which resulted in a response rate of less than 2% of those with special needs children.

SEND Family Voices, a group who until recently worked with the Council on special needs matters, have described the plans as ‘fantasy’, saying: “The risk of legal challenge is now high; the risk of Tribunal rates going through the roof is also now extremely high. The Plan is unachievable & the savings suggested are completely fabricated.”

If 100 residents sign the ‘call in’ below, the decision is sent to Scrutiny Panel for an investigation.

Please sign to ensure that our schools and special needs children get the education they deserve. We demand better for SEND children.

CALL IN: SEND TRANSFORMATION

We, the undersigned, call in all recommendations from the 'SEND Transformation Plan' from the Childrens and Adults Care and Education Committee for review at Scrutiny Panel for the following reasons:

- Councillors were misled by officers who presented the item, who claimed the consultation was sent to all SEND parents, school governors, publicised on the website and via social media, which is gross distortion of the facts.
- The consultation was not published on Kingston Council's consultation portal until 3rd January, leaving less than three weeks for the public to reply through this forum.
- The 'easy read' consultation was not published until after most schools had broken up.
- The consultation did not meet government guidelines on good consultation.
- Out of Borough schools which have Kingston SEND pupils attending were not consulted on the proposals
- SEND partners and parents were not consulted before the plan was published
- The consultation only had 96 responses. There are 4,000+ CYP with SEND in Kingston - at best, the response rate was 2% and in reality, lower, which suggests there was a major flaw with the way in which consultation was carried out, leaving the Council open to legal challenge.
- The committee wilfully held the authority's constitution in contempt by agreeing to the sending the Written Statement of Action to Ofsted a mere two working days after the committee, despite the constitution being incredibly clear that a decision cannot be fully implemented until expiration of a call-in period.
- The risk of legal challenge is now high; the risk of Tribunal rates going through the roof is also now extremely high.
- The Plan is unachievable & the savings suggested are completely fabricated.

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260 signatures

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