Councillor missed housing vote after Facebook friendship with developer revealed

Echo: The motion was put forward by Tory councillor Andrew Sheldon The motion was put forward by Tory councillor Andrew Sheldon

A COUNCILLOR reluctantly left a crucial vote over plans to build a mini-town alongside the A127 after it emerged he was Facebook friends with the prospective developer.

Tory Bill Sharp argued he should still have been able to take part in a debate over proposals to build 1,500 homes on the site, between the A130 and A127 behind the Blinking Owl Cafe, despite being advised to declare his connection to Benfleet businessman Ray Dove.

Following a tense exchange with Castle Point Council monitoring officer Andrew Roby Smith, he reluctantly agreed to step aside.

It has since emerged Mr Roby Smith spent two days before the meeting insisting Mr Sharp declare the friendship and not take part in the vote after being sent a tip-off about the pair’s online connection.

He was sent details of Mr Sharp and Mr Dove’s Facebook accounts which listed each other as friends.

Echo: Bill Sharp -  planning system is "undemocratic and blatantly flawed"

I hardly know him: Bill Sharp

Hickfort, a company run by Mr Dove, 65, who also owns Benfleet’s Manor Trading Estate, are the developers behind the plans for the Blinking Owl site.

Mr Sharp argued he had not spoken to Mr Dove for five years, had no idea he owned the land, and “knew nothing” about the local businessman.

Mr Sharp told the council: “I am advised I have a personal interest.

“Evidently one of the people on my social media network group is known as supposedly a landowner, which I was unaware of, haven’t spoken to the bloke for five years. I just recognised the name and pressed accept.”

Mr Roby Smith said: “I am happy to explain my advice to councillor Sharp, which I had already given to him before the meeting, and also in writing.

“Councillor Sharp needs to disclose a non-pecuniary interest in the matter. On his Facebook site he has a friend who is a developer who has expressed an interest in developing that site and on February 14 this year the head of regeneration and homes held a meeting with the developer and that is a person who is known to councillor Sharp.

Echo: Ray Dove - wants to build 2,400 homes on green belt land in Thundersley

Housing plan: Ray Dove

“He needs to declare an interest under the code of conduct.

“My advice to him is he should leave the chamber and take no part in the debate.”

Mr Roby Smith said it gave the appearance to any resident that Mr Sharp’s decision making on the item could be influenced.

Mr Sharp replied: “I have been slated. Everybody now thinks I have a financial interest in something I don’t know anything about.

“I will leave the chamber which is great shame because I am very supportive of the motion.”

Following fierce opposition from many councillors the motion to consider the site for inclusion in a draft local plan for the borough for the next 20 years was approved.

Echo: Bill Dick

Followed on Twitter: Bill Dick

The debate prompted a series of tongue-in-cheek social media declarations from members.

Councillor Simon Hart was met with chuckles after saying: “I would like to declare a nonpecuniary interest that I do have a Facebook page and do know lots of people.”

Councillor Colin Riley said: “I have an interest as my name may be used on Facebook or Twitter and other social media sites in connection with landowners not known to me.”

Councillor Bill Dick added: “I might as well declare I have quite a few followers on Twitter and they might be landowners.”

Councillor Neville Watson joked: “I think we have all got an interest, but please come on mine, because I have only got one and a half friends.”

Councillors called for advice for social media sites following the fierce debate.

Echo: Fears - Neville Watson overlooking the Thames Estuary

Few friends: Neville Watson

Mayor Maryse Iles said: “Do you look at everyone’s Facebook page? I have about 800 friends on my Facebook page which I am very concerned about now.

“I only play online games with them, I do not have a relationship with them.”

Andrew Roby Smith explained Bill Sharp’s situation was different as he knew Mr Dove was a developer with an interest in land he was about to vote on. He added he had a duty to look into any allegations.

Echo: Hopes - Norman Smith, Castle Point councillor for regeneration, believes a masterplan can be used to revive Canvey

Training please: Norman Smith

He said: “If there is the name of someone you are aware of as having business interests you have duty to declare it. Madam Mayor, it is your Facebook account, you manage it, you know them, you admit them and you have a duty to manage that and identify any issues that may conflict with your council business.”

Mr Sharp said: “Has he spoken to Bill Dick’s 180 Twitter followers?

What about all these friends in here who are friends of mine on Facebook, presumably that makes them a friend of the other people. I am just concerned this social media problem may expand and get ridiculous.”

Councillor Norman Smith added: “Can I suggest with our officers we have training on this particular issue about social media? It is obviously something that has come up and councillors have got concerns about.”

Comments (14)

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8:30am Tue 1 Apr 14

poortaxpayer says...

In Thurrock they just ignore the rules

https://www.youtube.
com/watch?v=MTau7lBo
7oc

https://www.youtube.
com/watch?v=-jdX7QD6
l6Q

https://www.youtube.
com/watch?v=wcFgsjCb
OK4

https://www.youtube.
com/watch?v=05Q2Frrm
rkU
In Thurrock they just ignore the rules https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=MTau7lBo 7oc https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=-jdX7QD6 l6Q https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=wcFgsjCb OK4 https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=05Q2Frrm rkU poortaxpayer
  • Score: -1

8:55am Tue 1 Apr 14

Kim Gandy says...

Facebook again.

All you get for being on Facebook is being surrounded by idiots and trolls. People who rip off your page, clone it, hack it, then impersonate you.

A bit like this website really.

But then, EVERYTHING I have said about social networking and online trolls and character assassinations has been proved right, over last weekend, when I had some idiot on here pretending to be me.

I wouldn't put my life on Facebook if you paid me.

It's a playground for liars, cheats, hypocrites, nutters, sociopaths and the terminally delusional.
Facebook again. All you get for being on Facebook is being surrounded by idiots and trolls. People who rip off your page, clone it, hack it, then impersonate you. A bit like this website really. But then, EVERYTHING I have said about social networking and online trolls and character assassinations has been proved right, over last weekend, when I had some idiot on here pretending to be me. I wouldn't put my life on Facebook if you paid me. It's a playground for liars, cheats, hypocrites, nutters, sociopaths and the terminally delusional. Kim Gandy
  • Score: -1

9:02am Tue 1 Apr 14

DogsMessInLeigh says...

Farcebook strikes again, the downfall of many...Oooo lets get the biggest friends list and show everyone how popular i am...even if i don't have a clue who they are.
Farcebook strikes again, the downfall of many...Oooo lets get the biggest friends list and show everyone how popular i am...even if i don't have a clue who they are. DogsMessInLeigh
  • Score: 8

9:09am Tue 1 Apr 14

profondo asbo says...

got peak facebook? great gramps even has a faecesbook account these days
got peak facebook? great gramps even has a faecesbook account these days profondo asbo
  • Score: 2

10:34am Tue 1 Apr 14

Howard Cháse says...

DogsMessInLeigh wrote:
Farcebook strikes again, the downfall of many...Oooo lets get the biggest friends list and show everyone how popular i am...even if i don't have a clue who they are.
Pretend and invisible friends are probably all these individuals can drum up.
[quote][p][bold]DogsMessInLeigh[/bold] wrote: Farcebook strikes again, the downfall of many...Oooo lets get the biggest friends list and show everyone how popular i am...even if i don't have a clue who they are.[/p][/quote]Pretend and invisible friends are probably all these individuals can drum up. Howard Cháse
  • Score: 4

10:39am Tue 1 Apr 14

ThisYear says...

DogsMessInLeigh wrote:
Farcebook strikes again, the downfall of many...Oooo lets get the biggest friends list and show everyone how popular i am...even if i don't have a clue who they are.
You sound like you are speaking from experience..bet you have lots of 'friends' on FB
[quote][p][bold]DogsMessInLeigh[/bold] wrote: Farcebook strikes again, the downfall of many...Oooo lets get the biggest friends list and show everyone how popular i am...even if i don't have a clue who they are.[/p][/quote]You sound like you are speaking from experience..bet you have lots of 'friends' on FB ThisYear
  • Score: -3

1:31pm Tue 1 Apr 14

marshman says...

I don't believe it's up to the council's monitoring officer to decide which members can take part in a debate and those who can't. It's up to the individual member to decide if their interest is significant enough to declare and decide if it influences their decision in anyway. Who's running the council? Certainly not the members.
I don't believe it's up to the council's monitoring officer to decide which members can take part in a debate and those who can't. It's up to the individual member to decide if their interest is significant enough to declare and decide if it influences their decision in anyway. Who's running the council? Certainly not the members. marshman
  • Score: 3

1:59pm Tue 1 Apr 14

Sensible Man says...

The answer to me seems perfectly obvious. NO Councillors at all should under any circumstances be voting in support of ANY further large-scale shoebox development in Essex. ESSEX IS RAMMED!!!

Just tell the shoeboxers to sling their hook - NOT WANTED HERE!!!!

Or do they really want their grand-children to grow up in a filthy concrete urban wasteland???

How can ANYONE support more development? It beggars belief. The answer - get to grips with the insane population growth in this country and - in the meantime - force the shoebox lovers to use brownfield sites only.

DO SOMETHING CAMERON!!!!!
The answer to me seems perfectly obvious. NO Councillors at all should under any circumstances be voting in support of ANY further large-scale shoebox development in Essex. ESSEX IS RAMMED!!! Just tell the shoeboxers to sling their hook - NOT WANTED HERE!!!! Or do they really want their grand-children to grow up in a filthy concrete urban wasteland??? How can ANYONE support more development? It beggars belief. The answer - get to grips with the insane population growth in this country and - in the meantime - force the shoebox lovers to use brownfield sites only. DO SOMETHING CAMERON!!!!! Sensible Man
  • Score: 6

3:31pm Tue 1 Apr 14

ThisYear says...

Sensible Man wrote:
The answer to me seems perfectly obvious. NO Councillors at all should under any circumstances be voting in support of ANY further large-scale shoebox development in Essex. ESSEX IS RAMMED!!!

Just tell the shoeboxers to sling their hook - NOT WANTED HERE!!!!

Or do they really want their grand-children to grow up in a filthy concrete urban wasteland???

How can ANYONE support more development? It beggars belief. The answer - get to grips with the insane population growth in this country and - in the meantime - force the shoebox lovers to use brownfield sites only.

DO SOMETHING CAMERON!!!!!
"DO SOMETHING CAMERON!!!!!"

He is...
[quote][p][bold]Sensible Man[/bold] wrote: The answer to me seems perfectly obvious. NO Councillors at all should under any circumstances be voting in support of ANY further large-scale shoebox development in Essex. ESSEX IS RAMMED!!! Just tell the shoeboxers to sling their hook - NOT WANTED HERE!!!! Or do they really want their grand-children to grow up in a filthy concrete urban wasteland??? How can ANYONE support more development? It beggars belief. The answer - get to grips with the insane population growth in this country and - in the meantime - force the shoebox lovers to use brownfield sites only. DO SOMETHING CAMERON!!!!![/p][/quote]"DO SOMETHING CAMERON!!!!!" He is... ThisYear
  • Score: 0

3:42pm Tue 1 Apr 14

iknowbetter says...

He should not even be on the planning committee full stop. Bill Sharp was suspended from council back in 2009 for influencing a planning decision in favour of hIs developer friend back then so why are we to believe him this time. He must think voters were brought in on the last bananna boat.
He should not even be on the planning committee full stop. Bill Sharp was suspended from council back in 2009 for influencing a planning decision in favour of hIs developer friend back then so why are we to believe him this time. He must think voters were brought in on the last bananna boat. iknowbetter
  • Score: 10

4:42pm Tue 1 Apr 14

marshman says...

iknowbetter wrote:
He should not even be on the planning committee full stop. Bill Sharp was suspended from council back in 2009 for influencing a planning decision in favour of hIs developer friend back then so why are we to believe him this time. He must think voters were brought in on the last bananna boat.
But why stop there?

Go back further and you'll find he was found guilty by the ombudsman for failing to declare his interest and withdraw from meetings which gave planning permission to developers who were Freemasons in the same lodge as him (and other members).

Add to that suspensions for bullying planning officers and fisticuffs a couple of times with members of the public and I don't think he should hold any public office let alone be on the council. But it's still his choice to declare an interest or not, not the monitoring officers, and if he fails to do so then action should be taken against him. Why pull out all the stops and twist his arm up his back to make him declare and leave the chamber?

Public interest would have been best served if he'd stayed in the chamber, supported the application from his friend and afterwards been referred (again) to the ombudsman. This time he may have been barred from public office for life.
[quote][p][bold]iknowbetter[/bold] wrote: He should not even be on the planning committee full stop. Bill Sharp was suspended from council back in 2009 for influencing a planning decision in favour of hIs developer friend back then so why are we to believe him this time. He must think voters were brought in on the last bananna boat.[/p][/quote]But why stop there? Go back further and you'll find he was found guilty by the ombudsman for failing to declare his interest and withdraw from meetings which gave planning permission to developers who were Freemasons in the same lodge as him (and other members). Add to that suspensions for bullying planning officers and fisticuffs a couple of times with members of the public and I don't think he should hold any public office let alone be on the council. But it's still his choice to declare an interest or not, not the monitoring officers, and if he fails to do so then action should be taken against him. Why pull out all the stops and twist his arm up his back to make him declare and leave the chamber? Public interest would have been best served if he'd stayed in the chamber, supported the application from his friend and afterwards been referred (again) to the ombudsman. This time he may have been barred from public office for life. marshman
  • Score: 10

5:51pm Tue 1 Apr 14

iknowbetter says...

marshman wrote:
iknowbetter wrote:
He should not even be on the planning committee full stop. Bill Sharp was suspended from council back in 2009 for influencing a planning decision in favour of hIs developer friend back then so why are we to believe him this time. He must think voters were brought in on the last bananna boat.
But why stop there?

Go back further and you'll find he was found guilty by the ombudsman for failing to declare his interest and withdraw from meetings which gave planning permission to developers who were Freemasons in the same lodge as him (and other members).

Add to that suspensions for bullying planning officers and fisticuffs a couple of times with members of the public and I don't think he should hold any public office let alone be on the council. But it's still his choice to declare an interest or not, not the monitoring officers, and if he fails to do so then action should be taken against him. Why pull out all the stops and twist his arm up his back to make him declare and leave the chamber?

Public interest would have been best served if he'd stayed in the chamber, supported the application from his friend and afterwards been referred (again) to the ombudsman. This time he may have been barred from public office for life.
Like you Marshman, I dont think he should ever have been re-instated it makes a mockery of the Council system in my eyes. But the voters have spoken and it would seem for those living in Hadleigh at least they dont seem to mind someone that has been suspended from office for unscrupulous actions.
[quote][p][bold]marshman[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]iknowbetter[/bold] wrote: He should not even be on the planning committee full stop. Bill Sharp was suspended from council back in 2009 for influencing a planning decision in favour of hIs developer friend back then so why are we to believe him this time. He must think voters were brought in on the last bananna boat.[/p][/quote]But why stop there? Go back further and you'll find he was found guilty by the ombudsman for failing to declare his interest and withdraw from meetings which gave planning permission to developers who were Freemasons in the same lodge as him (and other members). Add to that suspensions for bullying planning officers and fisticuffs a couple of times with members of the public and I don't think he should hold any public office let alone be on the council. But it's still his choice to declare an interest or not, not the monitoring officers, and if he fails to do so then action should be taken against him. Why pull out all the stops and twist his arm up his back to make him declare and leave the chamber? Public interest would have been best served if he'd stayed in the chamber, supported the application from his friend and afterwards been referred (again) to the ombudsman. This time he may have been barred from public office for life.[/p][/quote]Like you Marshman, I dont think he should ever have been re-instated it makes a mockery of the Council system in my eyes. But the voters have spoken and it would seem for those living in Hadleigh at least they dont seem to mind someone that has been suspended from office for unscrupulous actions. iknowbetter
  • Score: 12

6:10pm Tue 1 Apr 14

iknowbetter says...

I know Bill Sharp views these pages so come on Bill how about a comment on this subject.
Why should people believe you now when it is well documented that you were suspended for 8 weeks for influencing a planning vote in favour for your friend?
I know Bill Sharp views these pages so come on Bill how about a comment on this subject. Why should people believe you now when it is well documented that you were suspended for 8 weeks for influencing a planning vote in favour for your friend? iknowbetter
  • Score: 10

1:05am Wed 2 Apr 14

jayman says...

all politicians are corrupt. Tory politicians even more so.
all politicians are corrupt. Tory politicians even more so. jayman
  • Score: 2

Comments are closed on this article.

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