Former council leader breached rules over free passes to Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Blackpool’s former council leader Coun Simon Blackburn has been forced to apologise after Blackpool Pleasure Beach gave him and his family free season tickets for rides on the park.
Coun Blackburn got into hot water with town hall bosses when he failed to declare the gift of four passes in 2019 and three in 2020, thus breaching the council’s code of conduct.
A meeting of the authority’s Standards Board found him guilty of failing to register the passes, currently worth around £125 each.
But a further allegation the passes were to thank him for help in securing multi-million pound loans from the council was thrown out by the panel.
Coun Blackburn, who fully accepted the findings, has had to apologise and a full report will be made to the next meeting of the full council.
Following the hearing, he said: “I’m obviously pleased that the board came to the conclusions they did.
“With the benefit of hindsight, I should have declared the Platinum Passes, and will do so in future. I am pleased that my apology was accepted by the board.”
Documents published along with the decision say Coun Blackburn had “explained his long standing relationship with the Pleasure Beach and the importance of the Pleasure Beach to the economy of the town.”
He said building good business relationships with organisations such as Blackpool Pleasure Beach was important in his then role as council leader.
Councillors must declare any gift or hospitality within 28 days of receiving it if the value is £25 or more.
The Standards Board heard Coun Blackburn – who made a so far unfulfilled election pledge in 2019 to give residents free tickets to resort attractions – used the passes on just one occasion in 2019 with two family members.
The Standards Board investigation concluded in relation to loans made to Blackpool Pleasure Beach “these were some time ago, no issues had been raised at the time and the decisions were all notified within the public domain.
“Coun Blackburn had not been present at the executive meeting in April 2017 and the two decisions taken by him in May 2018 followed recommendations for approval by the council’s Business Loans Panel, which comprised of key council officers who had undertaken due diligence in relation to the reports.”
In 2017 the council’s executive agreed a £12m loan from the Business Loans Fund towards the construction of the Boulevard Hotel at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, repayable with interest over 12 years.
In 2010/11 the council loaned the park £5m towards the development of Nickelodeon Land which was due to be repaid by last November.
Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative group on Blackpool Council, said: “I think the real irony here is that when Coun Blackburn was managing Labour’s last local full election he promised to give every resident free attraction tickets as part of their campaign.
“Two years on Labour still haven’t delivered and shockingly the only person to get free attraction tickets is Coun Blackburn himself.”
It is the second time Coun Blackburn has been investigated for allegedly failing to declare an interest.
In 2018 he was cleared 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.
He had taken up a position with Calico, the parent company of Delphi Medical, an organisation chosen in 2016 to operate the rehabilitation service.
Coun Blackburn stood down as council leader in June last year when he was suspended by the Labour Party nationally amid allegations which are still under investigation, with Coun Lynn Williams taking over the role.
In March he announced he would not be standing again at the next local elections in 2023 when he will have served for 20 years on the council.
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