Readers will remember the news we ran last week that a written question submitted by Cllr Bacon over Cllr Pugh’s involvement with lobbying firm, Cratus, was rejected by the legal department for inclusion during the full council meeting.
Cllr Bacon told On The Wight, “I submitted my question in good faith out of concern for what seems to be a potential conflict of interest between David Pugh’s role as leader of the Council and his employment with a Media Communications company that appears to be connected with a number of controversial projects on the Island.
“I was surprised that the question was rejected as it would seem to me to be an important question of policy what activities senior members of the Council can acceptably engage in. I also hoped that an answer might put an end to rumours which might have the effect of tarnishing the Council and other Council members more generally.”
Question put directly to Pugh
Cllr Bacon was advised by an officer to pose the question directly to Cllr Pugh. Following the question being rejected he emailed the following to the leader.
“Last week it was noted in the media that Councillor Pugh is employed as an account director for a media consultancy called Cratus. The report noted that one of the company’s clients is Infinergy, which was the applicant in the planning application for the Wellow Wind Farm.
“As there are many rumours doing the rounds could the leader state whether Cratus is currently engaged, or has in the past been engaged, to act in respect of the application to build a new Asphalt plant, the PFI contract, Academy Schools on the Island and/or the Ecoisland project.”
Pugh advises Bacon to ignore ‘rumours’
Cllr Pugh responded by email, saying, “Below is the answer I would have given at Full Council.
“It is my role here this evening to answer questions relating to Isle of Wight Council policy and budget. It is not within my remit to answer questions about who may be the clients of a private company, just as it wouldn’t be within your remit to answer whether BPP Professional Education (BPP Law School), of whom you are an employee, has any clients engaged in activity on the Isle of Wight.”
Treat rumours as such says Pugh
He went on to say, “I suggest that you contact the company directly should you have any enquiries about who their clients are. In the meantime, you should treat the ‘many rumours’ to which you refer as just that – rumours.
“You will recall that there were ‘many rumours’ about my conduct when you made a series of false allegations about me three years ago. These allegations were found, during the investigation, to be without foundation. They were just rumours, so in dealing with this latest set of rumours I would urge him to heed your past experience in such matters.”
Conflict of interest a matter of judgement, says Pugh
He finished by denying any conflict of interest, “In response to the second part of your question, I consider it is a matter of judgement for individual members to reach a view as to whether any employment they engage in creates a conflict of interest.
“I have considered the facts in this case and am satisfied that there is no such conflict.”
“Pugh seems to prefer to let the rumours continue”
Unhappy with the response he received from the leader of the council, Cllr Bacon told On The Wight, “I was disappointed by his answer as he seems to prefer to let the rumours continue rather than say whether the company has any connection with the issues and areas identified or deny it if in fact it does not.
“I do think this is an issue that should be addressed. I think the concern is heightened as on the company’s website David Pugh has a profile which implies that his position as leader of the Council is inherent to the abilities he has to offer to clients”.