A fascinating and revealing series of emails between Cllr Paul Moon and Cllr Adrian Owens emerged last night and ended a day of exposures of how and why the Wyre Tory Cllr Paul Moon came to the West Lancashire Council chamber to represent Hesketh-with- Becconsall Ward. As you will see, Moon uses a series of terminal inexactitudes to explain his stance.
Email – 22nd October 2016 from Cllr Adrian Owens to Cllr Moon
I am writing to you for an explanation of the fact – revealed by this blog post (link below) on the site West Lancashire Record run by an Aughton resident – that you are a councillor on both Wyre Borough and West Lancashire Borough councils. https://westlancashirerecord.com/2016/10/22/meet-the-councillor-elected-to-two-seats-on-two-councils-with-three-homes-and-two-allowances/#comment-5662
I knew you had moved to West Lancashire shortly before May’s elections when you were first elected, but to learn that you had been and still remain a councillor in Wyre was a shock. How can you represent residents adequately in both Boroughs? Did you make the electors of Hesketh with Becconsall aware that you were a Wyre councillor when you stood for election in May and that you intended to continue to remain as one? As the next local elections in Wyre are not due until May 2019, should you not resign from your position there, so that the electors of Hesketh-with-Becconsall can have your undivided attention?
I look forward to your explanation and response to my questions.
Regards, Cllr Adrian Owens, Our West Lancashire Councillor
1st Email response – 22nd October 2016 from Cllr Moon to Cllr Owens
As an explanation to you as what I hope will be a friendly correspondence it is as follows.
Yes your [sic] right I am a councillor on Wyre council and have been a very effective one since 2003. At the last election for Wyre I was resident there in my house on Park Lane. Since then I have moved to Hesketh Bank which has allowed me to apply for the council at West Lancashire. I also have a property in Preesall which I rent out from which I supplement my pension as a retired firefighter.
When the opportunity to apply for West Lancashire came available I asked the question if I could stand. I asked Gary Payne the CEO and legal department at Wyre, the conservative association and Kim Webber at West Lancashire who all said the circumstances although unusual they are in order. I haven’t heard anyone complain or question the legality of the situation and is it not very similar to a councillor being both borough and county.
I hope this is a suitable explanation but please feel free to chat with me anytime. You can reach me on 07763930989. As for meeting attendance the only ones I’ve not attended are for holidays that were booked prior to the election in May.
As for my political view point I am a conservative as you know and the more people that are opposing labour the better as far as I’m concerned.
Kind regards Paul
2nd Email response – 22nd October 2016 from Cllr Moon to Cllr Owens
Sorry I accidentally missed answering your questions. 1 I do and will continue represent the electorate to a very high standard on both councils, [even when wearing underpants on my head]. 2 This wasn’t a requirement of the election process. 3 When the elections are due in Wyre in 2019 I will assess the situation and the election protocol at that time, however I will be giving my best effort to every resident I represent, wherever they are.
Kind regards Paul
Email – Evening of 23rd October 2016 from Cllr Adrian Owens to Cllr Moon
Thank you for your two responses. I have reflected on your response and consulted with the Our West Lancashire committee. I have also corresponded with a few Hesketh Bank residents.
It seems untenable for you to be simultaneously a borough councillor in both West Lancashire and Wyre. There are numerous conflicts of interest, not least in the allocation of resources. If Lancashire county council releases more money for road repairs, do you lobby for Hesketh Bank or for your ward in Wyre? When Government announces rate support grant to local authorities who are you focused upon – West Lancashire or Wyre?
Then there are the internal contradictions. Wyre Council Conservative group are against a Lancashire Combined Authority while West Lancashire Council Conservative group are in favour of the Combined Authority. On 3 March 2016, you voted at Wyre Council for the council budget and IN FAVOUR of a £30 charge for green waste collection. On 19 October 2016, you voted at West Lancashire Borough Council AGAINST the introduction of a £30 charge for green waste collection! Exactly where do you stand on these issues and how can the electors of Hesketh with Becconsall have confidence in what you say on these issues at any moment in time?
Then there are the diary clashes: On 12th May 2016 there were full council meetings in both West Lancashire and Wyre. How could you possibly be in both places simultaneously? On 30 June 2016 you had another clash – an Executive Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting in West Lancashire and a Licensing Committee meeting in Wyre – on this occasion you attended in West Lancashire and gave apologies in Wyre. On 29 September 2016 you had another clash – an Executive Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting in West Lancashire and a Licensing Committee meeting in Wyre – on this occasion you attended in Wyre and gave apologies in West Lancashire.
This will likely happen many times more up to May 2019 and is surely unsustainable. There is also the fact that there may be times when you should be representing your Hesketh Bank residents as ward councillor at West Lancashire Planning Committee meetings and yet your duties at Wyre will prevent this. Already a meeting you had to attend in Wyre on 28th July 2016 clashed with West Lancashire’s planning committee.
Of most significance though is your complete lack of transparency over this matter. You confirmed in your response to me that you did not make residents of Hesketh with Becconsall aware that you were a member of Wyre Borough Council when you stood for election in May. Nor did you make them aware that you intend (as you confirm in your reply to me) to continue to be a councillor in Wyre until at least 2019.
This lack of transparency means that the electors of Hesketh Bank were not able to weigh up in their own minds the conflicts of interest and internal contradictions I describe above, nor reflect on your ability to represent two different areas in different parts of Lancashire at the same time, BEFORE they cast their vote in May’s elections. One Hesketh Bank elector has described your actions to me as “dishonest – we feel deceived by this underhand act.” Another, Mr Max Gilbert (@mgilberties) has tweeted “My thoughts are what a conflict of interest and how misleading not to disclose this to anybody.”
This does not relate to any narrow legal point; but to your judgement and the high standards in which a councillor should be held. Residents have wrongly been kept in the dark on an important and relevant matter. In all the circumstances, I believe that as you have said you will remain a councillor in Wyre, that you should resign as a West Lancashire Borough Councillor with immediate effect.
Yours sincerely, Cllr Adrian Owens, Our West Lancashire