Rap for Argyll & Bute depute council leader

Depute leader Gary Mulvaney.
Depute leader Gary Mulvaney.

The depute leader of Argyll and Bute Council has been censured for contravening two elements of the code of conduct for councillors. 

Councillor Gary Mulvaney was subject to a hearing last month in relation to the introduction of new parking restrictions near a sheltered housing development run by Dunbritton Housing Association in Cardross.

The Standards Commission for Scotland found that Cllr Mulvaney – who is still a member of Dunbritton’s board – had failed to declare an interest when the parking limits issue was discussed by the council’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee in December 2017.

A report by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (ESC) prompted a hearing held in Helensburgh on January 18. The hearing panel decided to censure Cllr Mulvaney, although the panel also noted his long service to public life as a councillor and were satisfied he had made no personal gain.

The panel’s report is due to be put before this week’s full council meeting on Thursday, February 21.

The report states: “The ESC advised that a development of sheltered housing managed by the housing association was located at Scott Gardens, Cardross.

“The development was accessed via a cul-de-sac off the main road in Cardross. The ESC indicated that when the development was built, a layby on Main Road, Cardross, at the junction with Scott Gardens, had been retained without any parking restrictions.

“The ESC stated that, in 2016, a manager and tenant of the housing association had made representations to Argyll and Bute Council about parking in the layby causing difficulties in terms of the sightlines and egress from the development.

“The ESC advised that it was not in dispute that the respondent [Cllr Mulvaney] had not declared any interest in the item, and, further, had spoken in support of the recommendation to permit a no waiting restriction in the layby.

“The ESC noted that the area committee agreed unanimously, at the meeting on December 21, 2017, to permit the no waiting restriction and to have the layby marked with double yellow lines.

“The ESC noted that there would have been no need to declare the interest if it had been so remote or insignificant that it could not reasonably be taken to fall within the objective test.

“The ESC argued, however, that in this case the respondent should have considered that a member of the public, with knowledge of the relevant facts, may have reasonably concluded that the respondent would act in the best interests of the housing association and its tenants.

“The ESC argued, therefore, that the respondent should have declared the interest, withdrawn from the room and taken no part in the discussion and decision-making on the item.”

The proposal to bring in new parking limits was unanimously backed by the area committee.

According to the panel’s report, Cllr Mulvaney told the hearing there was no mention of the housing association or its manager having made any complaint in the report before the area committee.

He also said he had no discussions with the housing association or any individuals about the matter before the meeting, and did not know any of the tenants of the Scott Gardens development.

Describing the case as “finely balanced”, the report said Cllr Mulvaney should have “erred on the side of caution” by declaring a non-financial interest.

Cllr Mulvaney said: “In practical terms this was an issue whether the council put double yellow lines in a layby, which is adjacent to a small number of Dunbritton homes. The hearing panel accepted that the matter was clearly one of road safety and that I was trying to act in the overall public interest. They agreed that I had a finely balanced judgement to make and that I was diligent in applying the code and acted in the proper manner.

“However, in what was for them a finely balanced decision, they considered that when faced with such a fine judgement call, I should have erred on the side of caution and withdrawn. That is something I accept and will bear in mind in the future.”