Councillors for hire who give firms planning adviceThe story begins:
Councillors across the country are offering themselves for hire to property developers who are hoping to take advantage of relaxed planning laws which come into effect within weeks, a Daily Telegraph investigation reveals on Monday.
Local government politicians are trading on their inside knowledge of the planning system to receive fees of up to £20,000 for advice on how to get developments approved, it can be disclosed.One Liberal Democrat councillor is amongst those named by the Telegraph (although it points out that “All the councillors said their activities had been appropriately declared.”):
The Daily Telegraph’s investigation also looked at the activities of Indigo Public Affairs, a lobbying company, with offices in London, Newcastle and Manchester.
Its brochure for clients lists the current and former councillors it employs and sets out how the company “helps our clients achieve planning committee approval”. The firm claims it works with major firms and developers including Tesco, Barratt Homes and Taylor Wimpey.
In Newcastle, Greg Stone, a Liberal Democrat councillor who works for the firm, boasted that the company had “a good chance that via our network someone will know someone who knows somebody” at every council.
“Tricks of the trade” used to gain approval for developments included making sure planning committees included “friendly faces”, he said.Greg Stone explains some of these “tricks of the trade” in this video interview. The Telegraph provides more background to the story here.
I suspect we will be hearing rather more about this story before the week is out.
Update: Our prediction was correct. There was more about this story.