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Moray Council convener censured for 'inadvertent' breach


By Sarah Rollo

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THE convener of Moray Council has been censured by the Standards Commission after falling foul of the councillors' code of conduct.

A complaint was made after Councillor Shona Morrison failed to declare a formal interest as a paid member of the board of NHS Grampian during a meeting of the local authority last October.

The hearing panel, which met on October 12, accepted that Cllr Morrison's failure to comply with the code was "inadvertent and an oversight".

Moray Council's convener, Councillor Shona Morrison. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Moray Council's convener, Councillor Shona Morrison. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

Paul Walker, Standards Commission member and chair of the hearing panel, said: "The panel heard that Cllr Morrison did not declare a formal interest when an item of business on the agenda relating to a formal response from the council, which was to be sent to the chief executive and the chair of NHS Grampian, regarding a consultation on the future of children’s services at a hospital in Elgin was to be discussed.

"While Cllr Morrison stood down as chair while the item was being discussed, she did not leave the chamber. The panel determined, however, that Cllr Morrison’s conduct did not warrant a more severe sanction than censure.

"This was because there was no evidence that she had attempted to conceal this interest or that there was any personal gain.

"Furthermore, if Cllr Morrison had registered and declared the interest as required, the specific exclusion in the code which applied would have allowed her to take part in the discussion and decision-making."

Cllr Morrison, who represents the Fochabers Lhanbryde Ward in Moray, was nominated to sit on the board of NHS Grampian during a meeting of Moray Council in 2018.

She said: "My position was noted on the council website under Outside Bodies, albeit without a note that it was remunerated.

"I should also have added that information to my Register of Interests, which appears in a different tab under my name on the website. I am personally responsible for amending my register.

"Subsequently it was highlighted at a meeting of Moray Council in October 2019 that I had not registered this interest. I took advice from the council’s chief legal officer and vacated the chair for that item.

"Immediately after the meeting, I corrected the Register of Interests and issued an apology to all councillors. However, a complaint was made about the failure to register the interest and what happened at the meeting."

Cllr Morrison said it was a "regrettable oversight" on her part, adding: "I am happy and relieved that the Standards Commission accepted my position, as the process has taken nearly a year.

"They were obliged to impose a censure as the minimum sanction allowed under their rules."

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