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Council leader Nickie Aiken: Robert Davis “made right decision” to quit

Former planning chief wants to 'draw a line' after hospitality and gifts investigation

10 October, 2018 — By Tom Foot

 

Nickie Aiken, far left, with Robert Davis, second from right

THE  leader of Westminster Council has said her former planning chief was right to resign following an internal investigation into the gifts and hospitality he received from developers.

Cllr Nickie Aiken said tonight (Wednesday) Robert Davis  had appeared to to have “breached the code of conduct” required of councillors holding public office.

Cllr Davis resigned earlier in the day saying he had “nothing to hide” and that he had always taken an honest approach to declaring hospitality.

He said nothing he had done was “unlawful” and none of the declarations or hospitality had “influenced decisions I took as a councillor”. He disputed claims his actions had created a “negative perception” of  the council.

Despite this, Cllr Aiken said: “I believe Councillor Robert Davis has made the right decision to step down.  Our residents rightly expect the highest standards of those in public office. It is clear from the report that Councillor Davis breached the code of conduct.”

She said the planning process “must be and be seen to be impartial”, adding that she would soon set out a raft of “reforms to our planning process at the conclusion of an independent review I commissioned earlier this year”.

Cllr Davis was the longest serving councillor at Westminster after 36 years dating back to the 1980s and the era of Dame Shirley Porter. A representative with considerable influence, for many years he was considered  the “real leader” of  the council.

The Extra had reported on his extensive hospitality register in September 2017, revealing how he had wined and dined with rich and powerful developers. The Guardian newspaper ran a story in 2018 that linked the hospitality to planning applications his committee had collectively approved.

He has always maintained that he acted with probity and that had perhaps fallen victim to being too honest in his declarations. While he made hundreds of entires to the register over a few years, his colleagues on the council have declared little, if anything, at all.

In a statement  sent to the Extra tonight, Mr Davis said: “Earlier this year there was some press coverage concerning the hospitality I received during the course of my duties. To avoid this becoming an issue in this year’s elections, I agreed to refer myself to the monitoring officer and stand aside as deputy leader while an investigation was carried out. My approach to declarations has always been to be honest, open and transparent. I have nothing to hide.

An inquiry has been completed by the council. They have confirmed that none of the declarations I made or hospitality I received influenced decisions I took as a councillor and that nothing I did was unlawful.

However, they have concluded my actions nevertheless created a perception that was negative to the council. While I dispute this, I wish to draw a line under the matter. It is now time for me to move on to the next stage in my life and for the next generation of councillors to lead Westminster.”

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