A Sutton councillor who for nearly three years failed to declare her directorship in a registered business has been let off with just a warning by her Liberal Democrat group leader, Ruth Dombey.
Nighat Piracha is a LibDem councillor for Beddington North ward, which borders Croydon. First elected in 2014, Piracha went until last week failing to provide details of her company directorships, as is required under the councillors’ code of conduct and the Nolan Principles for conduct in public office.
Piracha’s directorship of KMCNR Properties Services Ltd, according to the official records listed at Companies House, pre-dates her election as a councillor.
Piracha got round to adding details of her directorships to the official Sutton Council declarations of interest just two days before Christmas. Her sudden discovery of this important principle of public office only seems to have occurred shortly after questions about her various business interests had been directed to Sutton’s executive officials.
It seems odd that such an important matter should have slipped Piracha’s mind: she lists with Companies House that her occupation is “company director”, and according to the most recent accounts filed, she is one of two directors of a business with assets valued at more than £700,000.
However, as well as the councillors’ code of conduct, Piracha is in danger of also breaking company law. Her company, KMCNR, is more than eight months late in filing its accounts, according to Companies House.
Today, according to a spokesman for Sutton Council, “The monitoring officer has reminded all elected members of their responsibilities under the councillors’ code of conduct.” They confirmed that absolutely no disciplinary action is to be taken for Piracha’s failure to declare her business interests.
Inside Croydon contacted Piracha to see what excuse she could offer, but we have received no response.
“That’s hardly surprising,” one figure at Sutton Council told Inside Croydon.
“Let’s face it, there are really only two possible explanations: either Piracha’s been keeping her business a secret from the council deliberately, which raises all sorts of questions about her position in the LibDems and the council; but if she wants us to believe that she ‘just forgot’, then it just shows her to be an incompetent administrator who cannot be trusted to handle public affairs.”
Piracha has been given a serious responsibility since her election to the council, with her LibDem group leader Ruth Dombey having appointed her to chair the council’s appeals committee.
Piracha’s failure to make a declaration of her business interests for almost three years is just the latest embarrassment for Dombey’s LibDems, who last year discovered that one of their colleagues, Alan Salter, was defrauding a local charity for the elderly. That wasn’t something which LibDem councillor Salter “declared”, either, until he resigned his seat just before his arrest by the police.
Tim Crowley, the leader of the opposition Tories on Sutton Council, told Inside Croydon that Piracha’s failure to declare her business interests, while not a criminal act like Salter’s, is nevertheless an important breach of trust with the Council Tax-payers in the borough.
“As members of the council, it is important that all interests are disclosed so that allegations of ‘dodgy dealings’ or ‘impropriety’ can not be levelled at members when making decisions with public money,” Crowley said.
“We do not know who KMCNR Property Services have contracts with, nor if they have any links with any of the committees that Councillor Piracha sits on. How is it possible for anyone to decide on Councillor Piracha’s probity when we do not know what other secrets she may be hiding?”
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