Watchdog rules out interest clash probe

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

A local government watchdog has refused to investigate Wigan Council over allegations that two councillors failed to register their financial interest in two properties.

The town hall conducted a probe last year when the two ward representatives didn’t notify the authority of the possible conflict as required.

But a complaint made to the Local Government Ombudsman by “Mr X” about the town hall’s response to the claims has been dropped after the authority was considered to have dealt with the matter appropriately after its own probe.

The watchdog decided that there were no grounds to take the complaint any further as “no injustice” had been done to the complainant nor any other party.

An ombudsman report read: “The council investigated and advised the councillors that the interest in one property should be registered. It says the failure to do so was a misunderstanding.

“I understand the council’s view of the second property is that the interest is not yet registerable.

“On 11 June 2018, the council wrote to Mr X and advised him he could report the alleged offence to the police.”

Mr X claimed the authority “failed to investigate” his complaint about the two councillors who failed to declare their interest in the properties.

He told the LGO that the officer who handled the matter should also be investigated and that the council should report the failure to declare interest to the police, as it is a criminal offence.

But after looking into the matter, the watchdog ruled that it would not be in the public interest to inquire further as it would be “unlikely to find fault”, that the fault “had not caused injustice” or that if there were any injustice it would not be “significant enough” to justify its involvement.

The LGO concluded: “The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint for the following reasons.

The Ombudsman cannot investigate the actions of the councillors who were not acting in an administrative

capacity.

The Ombudsman investigates fault causing injustice. The council has not caused Mr X a personal injustice.

“Mr X can report the case to the police if he believes there was a criminal offence.”