A cabinet member accused of spending a “disproportionate” amount of money in repairing streets in his own ward made decisions which were not “as transparent as they should have been”.
Golders Green Councillor Dean Cohen has been cleared of all bias after a complaint to Barnet Borough Council’s monitoring officer Maryellen Salter.
However, an investigation did highlight a catalogue of errors made by council officers, as the decision was not sent to cabinet for formal approval.
Cllr Cohen, the former cabinet member for environment, allocated £800,000 of the authority’s £7m annual budget for 2013/2014 to his own ward – more than any of the other 20 electoral districts.
In a complaint to the council, Labour leader Alison Moore also accused Cllr Cohen of “favouring” his Tory colleagues when allocating the £4m figure.
However, although the top ten funding recipients show Conservative wards benefited more, the report, by legal firm Sharpe Pritchard, said there was “no political bias” involved in or during the decision making process.
It said: “There was no basis for concluding the list was compiled or altered for party political motives.
“The schemes are not allocated in such a way as to ensure that an equal amount of expenditure is allocated to each ward.
“This would be an illogical approach and would no doubt result in schemes being prioritised because of an area in which the roads were situated, rather than the need for repair.”
Although Barnet Borough Council originally thought taking such a decision was in the scope of Cllr Cohen’s powers under delegated authority from cabinet and three area environment committees, the report pointed out that this is not the case.
They agreed he had a right to be involved in drawing up the list, but said he breached the council’s constitution in not sending the decision higher.
The report said: “The consequence was that the decision making in relation to the list was not as transparent as it should have been.
“Whilst this lack of transparency is regrettable, it is probable the outcome would have been in the same if the final list of schemes had been subject to a formal decision making process.
“The investigator did not think there was a need for wider consultation about the proposed list of schemes, since the object was to prepare a list based on need.”
Councillor Daniel Thomas, deputy leader of the council, said: “As the report makes clear, the spending on the borough’s roads and pavements was made on the basis of need.
“However, it is also clear we could have been more transparent in publishing decisions earlier on the allocation of highways spend.”
The report does not make any recommendations as the cabinet system has now been scrapped in favour of a new cross-party committee system.
Defending the figures, Cllr Cohen told the Times Series earlier this year: “It is based on need. We have a list of roads that are a high priority and that is constantly reviewed.”