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Tory councillor to ‘stand aside’ during probe into gifts and hospitality

Investigation under way as deputy leader of Westminster Council insists he has acted with ‘independence and probity’

09 March, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Robert Davis: ‘Any suggestion or implication that I have done ­anything other than to further the interests of the city and its residents are baseless and strenuously denied.’

COUNCILLOR Robert Davis MBE DL said this week he was stepping aside from his roles on the cabinet and also deputy leader following what he described as “ongoing interest and wrongful assertions” regarding his time as Westminster’s planning chief.

National news organisations have been probing the large number of ­declarations on Cllr Davis’s gifts and hospitality register that were first revealed in the Extra in September last year.

The leader of the council, Nickie Aiken, said Cllr Davis would “stand aside” while its internal investigation took place.

Cllr Davis did not respond to requests for comment on the recent Lord Ashcroft polling predictions for Westminster or make a statement on whether he intended to stand again for re-election on May 3.

Instead he sent this statement: “In 17 years as chairman of planning committees which granted hundreds of applications and resulted in the council receiving substantial sums for affordable housing, public realm and other public amenity, I have at all times acted with the independence and probity required by my role. My desire to rigorously declare all meetings and hospitably, regardless of its nature, underpins this transparency and independence.

“It is trite to confirm that within these 17 years, I have got to know many of the developers and associated professionals who work in the city and help to develop Westminster into one of the most important economic centres in the country and home to over 280,000 people. Any suggestion or implication that I have done anything other than to further the interests of the city and its residents are baseless and strenuously denied.”

Cllr Aiken said: “Our residents need reassurance that the planning process is not only impartial, but is seen to be impartial.”

She said she had brought in changes to planning protocol that now meant an officer was also present at meetings between senior councillors and developers.

Labour group leader Cllr Adam Hug said “While we welcome this step forward, more needs to be done. As Cllr Davis remains a candidate for Lancaster Gate ward it is clear that, on the basis of the information in the public domain and not under dispute, Westminster Conservatives do not consider his behaviour to be inappropriate. We do and if elected in May Labour will take action to repair the broken culture at the heart of Westminster Council’s approach to planning.”

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