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Councillor ends judicial review claim over standards committee finding

A councillor has withdrawn his judicial review claim against East Staffordshire Borough Council over an adverse finding of its standards committee in 2012.

Cllr Andrew Riley's withdrawal of the claim came shortly before the Administrative Court was due to hear the case. According to the local authority, he has agreed to pay a "substantial contribution" towards its costs.

The dispute stemmed from a finding by East Staffordshire's standards committee that Cllr Riley had breached its code of conduct by disclosing confidential information.

The committee had decided not to impose any sanction. It also agreed not to publicise the findings "for Councillor Riley's benefit due to the particular circumstances", the council said.
East Staffordshire said the member's subsequent decision to challenge the decision had brought the issue out into the public.

The councillor had claimed that:

  • The information he disclosed was not confidential;
  • The committee's decision interfered with his right to freedom of expression;
  • The committee was not politically neutral and was not an independent and impartial tribunal, in breach of the Human Rights Act.

Cllr Riley had also called on the Administrative Court to make a declaration that this part of the Localism Act 2011 was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The council and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government strenuously defended these claims," East Staffordshire said.

Cllr Riley told the Uttoxeter Post and Times that he did not know that the information he had divulged – relating to the sale of a car park – was private. He said the Labour group had stopped the judicial review proceedings because of "spiralling costs".

In December 2013 a member at the London Borough of Ealing, Cllr Benjamin Dennehy, lost a judicial review over a decision by its standards committee that he had breached the council's code of conduct.

Cllr Dennehy has vowed to appeal in a case that relates to comments he made about Southall residents on a blog.

James Findlay QC and Zoe Whittington acted for East Staffordshire Council.