Inside Croydon has obtained an email sent from a Croydon councillor to a leading firm in the building industry, seeking work based on their “planning expertise” at a time when the councillor was serving on the Town Hall’s planning committees.
We reported earlier this week about the fall-out from an investigation by the Daily Torygraph into “councillors for hire”, local elected officials who abuse their position to line their pockets, or purses, from commercial businesses keen to get an inside track on the local planning process.
The email, which we reproduce below, was sent from Councillor Clare Hilley, using her official Town Hall email address. Attached to the email is a copy of Hilley’s CV.
It was sent in December 2010, barely six months after Hilley was re-elected as councillor for Waddon ward.
At the time, Hilley was a member of the council’s planning committee and strategic planning committees.
We have redacted some details from the email to protect our source, but the email was sent to a leading firm of London architects. In the CV, Hilley states her home to be in Purley (rather than the address in Waddon that she submitted when contesting the council election).
Hilley provides the potential employer with two references, one of whom is the Croydon South MP, Richard Ottaway, someone who a year earlier had himself been subject to an investigation by the Telegraph over his abuse of the parliamentary expenses system.
Ottaway and Hilley are known to associate regularly within the local Conservative party, but it is not known whether Ottaway was aware that Hilley was using his name to support her efforts touting for jobs based on her position on Croydon Council.
In her email, Hilley states that she is “currently a local Councillor in Croydon
with a specialism in planning. I am wondering if you have any roles available that might be suitable for me.”
She signs off by giving her position as a Waddon councillor.
From: George-Hilley, Clare [mailto:Clare.George-Hilley@croydon.gov.uk]
Subject: Account Manager Role
Please find enclosed my CV for the role of Account Manager at your company.
I am a public affairs professional with twelve years involvement in the Conservative Party and am currently a local Councillor in Croydon with a specialism in planning.
I am wondering if you have any roles available that might be suitable for me.
I look forward to hearing from you and please do not hesitate to
contact me if you have any questions.
Thanks and kind regards,
Councillor Clare George-Hilley
London Borough of Croydon – Waddon Ward
Tel: 020 8654 2463
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Not long after this letter was sent, Hilley found herself a new job outside the Town Hall, with building industry PR firm Hard Hat.
Hard Hat’s clients include house builders Barratt and developers Redrow.
When Inside Croydon reported Hilley’s new job and questioned whether working for the lobbyists represented a conflict of interest with Hilley’s public role on the planning committees at Croydon Council, the councillor responded with threatening letters from legal rottweillers Carter Ruck.
On that occasion, Hilley and her lawyers backed down and withdrew their threats.
In their correspondence to us, Hilley’s lawyers said that “there are clear rules in the Council’s Code of Conduct regarding the registration and declaration of interests and the need where appropriate to withdraw from meetings”. Their client, they said, “assured Inside Croydon that she has at all times adhered to the Code and will continue to do so”.
The Croydon Council Code of Conduct is issued to all councillors, and requires them to “have regard to the following principles – selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, leadership and undertake to observe this Code when acting in your capacity as a member”.
The Code also demands of councillors: “You must not place yourself under a financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence you in the performance of your official duties.”
Following the reports by Inside Croydon, on advice from senior members of the local Tory party which controls Croydon Council, Hilley stood down from both planning committees.
At the time of publication, Hilley had failed to respond to Inside Croydon‘s request for a comment on her email.
We are now referring the Hilley job application email to Julie Belvir, the borough solicitor, for an opinion on whether this is in breach of the Town Hall’s code of conduct.
- Get your HardHat on: Councillor Hilley gets a new job
- Conflicts highlighted before Tory councillor left committee
- Racist article by councillor’s husband is widely condemned
- Planning investigation: you may have broken law, councillors told (telegraph.co.uk)
- ‘Don’t come cheap’ councillor probed (bbc.co.uk)