Barnet Mayor Hugh Rayner failed to declare interests when voting on housing policies

Cllr Rayner during his mayor making last month

Cllr Rayner during his mayor making last month

First published in News
Last updated
Times Series: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

Under fire Hugh Rayner failed to declare the fact that he is a landlord when voting on controversial housing policies, the Times Series can reveal.

Barnet’s Mayor has caused controversy over allegations he acted “illegally” to tenants recieving housing benefits living in the properties he owns.

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Instead of charging them at market rate – which would be between £989 and £1,186 per month – he charged six out of seven residents on housing benefit between £1,350 and £1,846.

Cllr Rayner is the former chairman of the business management overview and scrutiny committee, where councillors voted and debated the council’s housing strategy.

Despite receiving the subsidy directly from Barnet Borough Council, he did not make his colleagues on the committee aware of this.

At a meeting in June 2010, the authority’s housing allocations policy was called in but despite voting, Hugh Rayner made no declaration.

The housing strategy, which was considered by his committee, states: “We now house more housing applicants in the private rented sector than in social housing.

“The draft allocations policy will set out an approach that complements this shift by recognising that an offer of private rented sector housing provides a positive solution to housing need.”

The following month in July 2010, there was a call-in of cabinet’s decision to change the housing allocation’s policy and the committee set up an ad hoc panel to review the decision.

However, Cllr Rayner made no recorded declaration.

In December, the same committee discussed and recommended the final scrutiny panel report into housing allocation changes but Cllr Rayner made no declaration.

When voting on the budget at full council meetings from March 2010 to March 2013, he also did not declare any interests.

However, during a meeting in January 2014 he did declare a non-pecuniary interest when voting on issues.

GLA member for Barnet Andrew Dismore has since made a formal complaint about Cllr Rayner to Barnet Borough Council.

He accused him of a string of illegal practices during the Mayor’s Question Time at the London Assembly last Wednesday.

His complaint, which cannot be published for legal reasons, raises a number a number of issues, including turning up unannounced at 10pm “pressurising” a tenant to sign her lease.

He also drafted 12 month contracts which permitted rent increases by any amount during any time of the year, used children as translators and overcharged them to the “detriment of the public purse”.

Mr Dismore has also made a complaint against fellow Conservative Cllr John Hart, who pre-signed the lease without the tenant being present.

Mr Dismore said: “By his own admissions so far , Cllr Rayner has a case to answer concerning the way he conducts his business. Last week, I wrote to him, putting a number of other additional issues and asking for his response, which has not been forthcoming so far.

“We need to see an early ruling upon one way or the other promptly.

“For my part, I have made clear to the monitoring officer that I am available to explain the detail to the council of the complaint and to produce the evidence I have in support of the complaint.

“I hope that Cllr Rayner will offer his full co-operation, too.”

Cllr Rayner told the Times Series: “It is difficult to comment on any complaint made about me by Andrew Dismore as I am not aware of any such complaint.

“Please note that housing benefit is a national scheme that the council administers and so housing benefit levels are set nationally. For clarification – councillors take no part in setting these levels.”

The Times Series is awaiting comment from Barnet Borough Council over whether Cllr Rayner should have declared such interests.

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Comments (2)

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5:40pm Mon 16 Jun 14

Don't Call Me Dave says...

This latest revelation appears to remove the benefit of any doubt to which Hugh Rayner was entitled. It is still not clear whether he has acted unlawfully, but he has certainly conducted himself in a manner unbecoming of an elected representative and First Citizen of the Borough.

I am advised that there is no formal mechanism to remove a sitting Mayor against his will, but he should certainly stand aside whilst the complaints are investigated. I rather suspect that Conservative Central Office will need to take action with regards to the whip, as they did when Richard Cornelius dithered over Brian Coleman.

The complaint against John Hart is unlikely to succeed. He has acted stupidly, but as these tenancy agreements did not need to be witnessed, his signature neither validated nor invalidated them.
This latest revelation appears to remove the benefit of any doubt to which Hugh Rayner was entitled. It is still not clear whether he has acted unlawfully, but he has certainly conducted himself in a manner unbecoming of an elected representative and First Citizen of the Borough. I am advised that there is no formal mechanism to remove a sitting Mayor against his will, but he should certainly stand aside whilst the complaints are investigated. I rather suspect that Conservative Central Office will need to take action with regards to the whip, as they did when Richard Cornelius dithered over Brian Coleman. The complaint against John Hart is unlikely to succeed. He has acted stupidly, but as these tenancy agreements did not need to be witnessed, his signature neither validated nor invalidated them. Don't Call Me Dave
  • Score: 0

11:47am Tue 17 Jun 14

Barnet Parker says...

Doesn't the council have a precedent for dealing with a failure to declare pertinent matters and then going on to vote. Surely if Cllr. McQuirk's case was forwarded to the police for investigation in a similar situation, it follows that Mayor must also be dealt with in the same way.
Doesn't the council have a precedent for dealing with a failure to declare pertinent matters and then going on to vote. Surely if Cllr. McQuirk's case was forwarded to the police for investigation in a similar situation, it follows that Mayor must also be dealt with in the same way. Barnet Parker
  • Score: 5

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