An investigation has cleared Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn of any wrongdoing after it was claimed he failed to properly declare an interest in a company chosen to run the council’s alcohol and drug recovery service.
Coun Blackburn had taken up a position with Calico, the parent company of Delphi Medical, an organisation chosen in 2016 to operate the rehabilitation service.
Conservative group leader Coun Tony Williams lodged a complaint in response to concerns raised with him.
A police inquiry has now cleared Coun Blackburn and said the tendering process was ‘robust’.
But the council has been advised to improve its training to ensure councillors are fully aware of their responsibilities when it comes to declaring a pecuniary interest.
In an email to Coun Williams, detective superintendent Simon Giles said “although no criminal charges have been committed I think this matter highlights a potential vulnerability.”
A Blackpool Council spokesman said new measures had now been implemented.
He said: “We are committed to ensure that all councillors are fully aware of their need to declare and be transparent about personal interests to maintain the integrity of their role.
“A range of additional measures were recommended by the Standards Committee in July 2017 to further enhance the robustness of the existing procedures.
“These include mandatory training and further guidance on interpreting the requirements of interest registration. These measures are now being implemented.”
The contract with Delphi was awarded on December 21 2016 but the potential conflict of interest only came to light at a full council meeting on March 29 2017 when the decision was included in an executive report.
Coun Blackburn said: “I am pleased that this matter, triggered by me standing up and publicly declaring my directorship of the Calico Group to the entire council, in a webcast meeting, at which journalists were present, has concluded, that there was found to be no case for me to answer, and that the council as a whole is tightening up procedures.”
Coun Williams said he raised the complaint after being alerted by residents.
He said: “Coun Blackburn did verbally declare his interest during a full council meeting when the contract was discussed.
“However I then subsequently found out he had not declared this on his official declaration of interests form which is a legal requirement.
“I had a duty to respond to the residents’ information and the possible serious implications of the situation and immediately reported the issues to our head of democratic services.
“While I am pleased to learn the investigating officer has decided no criminal acts have actually occurred, I think it still demonstrates the importance of elected members’ accountability in regard to their involvement with outside companies whether they are being privately reimbursed or not.”