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16th July 2012

Parish councillors, financial interests to be published online

Under provisions of the Localism Act 2011, which came into force on 1st July, all parish councillors must declare their financial interests, including the interests of their spouse or partner, on a public register.

Controversially, this information is also to be published online on the relevant district or county council’s website, as well as the parish council’s website (should one exist).

In a move designed to avoid conflicts of interest, the new rules require councillors to provide details of any “employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain” by them or their spouse/partner. A councillor must also disclose any contracts made with the relevant council as well as any property held within the parish. The Act makes it a criminal offence to withhold or deliberately misrepresent a financial interest, with fines of up to £5,000.

Many parish councillors have expressed concern over the rule changes, arguing that they are disproportionate and give rise to the risk of identity theft and other frauds. Councillors wishing to minimise their exposure to such risk might want to consider closing down their parish website or taking advice on the extent of the information they are required to disclose.

For further information please contact Jack Thorogood on 01223 532845 or via email jackthorogood@hewitsons.com

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