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Local Councillor

Updated: 15 March 2004

Our local councillor.

Ward
Newhills (Ward No 8)
Party
Liberal Democrat Councillor

COUNCILLOR PETER STEPHENS

Contact Details

Address:
11 Coldstone Avenue, Kingswells, Aberdeen AB15 8TT

Home Tel: 744607

Work Tel: 522260

Email: pestephen@aberdeencity.gov.uk

Surgery Details

Every

Day

Location

Start

End

Second

Thursday

Kingswells Primary School*

19:00

19:30

Fourth

Thursday

Newhills Primary School*

19:00

19:30* Term-Time Only


Biography

Peter Stephen

Place of Birth Aberdeen

Educated Sunnybank Primary

Robert Gordon's College

Qualifications M.C.I.B.S. Member of Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland

Occupation 1953-1991 Union Bank of Scotland which became Bank of Scotland, retired as Senior Branch Manager, (broken only by 2 years of National Service).

1992-1996 Self employed Business Consultant

Professional Membership M.C.I.B.S.

Special Interests Many and varied but usually community related

Leisure Interests Family, caravaning, walking, gardening, horses, dogs and bowls


Committee

Post

Description

Environment & Infrastructure

Member

The Environment & Infrastructure Committee's role is to ensure an effective and co-ordinated response to the Environmental and Infrastructure needs of the city. These include clean air and water, sanitation, transport and waste disposal.

Standards & Scrutiny

Member

 

The Standards & Scrutiny Committee ensures good stewardship of the Council's resources, ensures absolute probity, deals with breaches of these and monitors service delivery at highest level.

Planning

Member

The Planning Committee determines all planning applications and applications for building warrants.

Sub Committees

Aberdeen City Alliance

Aberdeen City Centre Association

Aberdeen City Licensing Board

Accord Card Task Group

Cowdray Hall Committee

Fairtrade City Working Group

Lemon Tree Trust

Older Peoples Working Group

Pensions Panel Committee

Service Monitoring Panel

Tenant Participation Working Group

The 3Rs

Outside Bodies

Description

Lemon Tree Trust

Provide facilities in the interests of social welfare by undertaking responsibility for the care, maintenance and management of the Lemon Tree as a facility of performing arts in the sity of Aberdeen. Also to undertake responsibility for other such venues at the request of the city council

Marguerite McBey Trust

North East Agriculture Advisory Group

To act as an advisory body to the Councils in North East Scotland on all rural affairs with particular interest in agriculture and rural employment, farm incomes, farming policy, conservation, diversification of farming, including forestry, tourism and farm industries, the implications of change in farming practice and land use and the provision of infrastructure, services and facilities in rural areas.

Oakbank School of Governors


Registered Interests

This information is taken from the Register of Interests form completed by each elected member and held by the Director of Legal and Democratic Services in the Town House. The information on this website has been screened for Data Protection compliance and as a result may not be an extact account of the information on the Register of Interest form.

Gifts and Hospitality Gifts or hospitality received by elected members where they have acted as a Councillor, including representing the Council on official business. The term 'gift' includes benefits such as relief from indebtedness, loan concessions or provision of services at a cost below that generally charged to members of the public. Such gifts or hospitality are recorded by elected members at the time of receipt by letter to the Corporate Director of Legal and Democratic Services. These letters can be inspected by visiting Legal and Democratic Services, Town House, Union Street, Aberdeen.

Remuneration None

Related Undertakings None

Contracts with the Authority None

Election Expenses None

Interests in Shares and Securities None

Houses, Land and Buildings Occupier of 11 Coldstone Avenue, Kingswells, Aberdeen, AB15 8TT Timeshare for 1 week in Madeira

Non-Financial Interests Member of Bon Accord Indoor Bowling Club Member of Dyce Indoor Bowling Club Member of Weekend Bowling Club Member of Aberdeenshire Cricket Club Member of Aberdeen Civic Society


Updated 15.3.2004


28th December 2002-12-28

Dear Claire,

As we pass a Christmastime, and look into another year ahead, I am aware that these are early days as Councillor for this Newhills ward, and that I am still in a learning curve.

Having knocked on so many doors during the by-election canvass, and from the numerous responses to my Focus newsletters, I was left in little doubt as to what my priorities should be . Thus, speaking for the Kingswells part of the ward, my efforts are currently being directed towards the following:

Monitoring Planning Application A1/1845 &endash; (Football stadium /commercial dev at Kingswells)

A split site overcrowded school.

The proposed Western Peripheral Route , meantime being treated as a priority, and the merits of which , many appear not wholly convinced

In addition , numerous ongoing matters include:

Traffic/road safety improvements incl Newhills Road junctions/ shopping centre etc

Improvement to paved and other areas which have suffered from lack of maintenance.

Arrangements for gritting, snow clearing, dog and litter bins and street name signs.

Possibility of improved Bus timetables and new shelters

The needs of both the younger and the older age groupings

Finally I have to say that your initial query on the matter of litter strikes a chord with me. Some allowance can be made for children who are guilty, but regrettably it is not always the children. Kingswells is a beautiful place to live and bring up a family, and most of the residents have a certain pride in keeping it that way. It is unfortunate on occasions that complaints are justified, but solutions have to be found.

Should you wish to incorporate this communication on the Kingswells web, I have no objection.

Kind regards.

Cllr Peter Stephen

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT WINS ABERDEEN BY-ELECTION: Liberal Democrat Peter Stephen has won the Aberdeen City Council by-election in the Newhills Ward. The result was as follows:

Peter Stephen (Lib Dem) 1181

Posted 8.11.2002

CONDUCT OF ELECTED MEMBER COUNCILLOR MATTHEW DUNCAN

Report by Crawford J. Langley, Monitoring Officer of Aberdeen City Council.

The following report will be discussed by the City Council Standards and Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, September 19.

As members will recollect, in the report which I presented to the Council on 21st August 2002 in relation to the activities of ex Councillor David Maitland, I indicated that I had concerns as to the propriety of the action of Councillor Matthew Duncan in recording a conversation with David Maitland and that I would be reporting these concerns to this Committee.

In presenting these concerns, I would wish to reiterate certain points which I hoped had been made clear in my previous report, but which still appear to be misunderstood by certain sections of the media and the public.

These are that

David Maitland did not attempt to influence Councillor Duncan. The conversation related to David Maitland's views on Councillor Scott Cassie's position following the meeting of the Planning Committee;

There is no problem with the statement (which could be corroborated) by Councillor Duncan as to the substance of David Maitland's conversation with him. It is only the tape recording which presents a potential problem; and

Quite apart from the ethical questions which are the proper business of this Committee, I had reservations about the legality of using as evidence a tape recording obtained by covert means. I did not research this point fully because the tape did not contain any material which I had not already obtained in clearly lawful ways, and David Maitland, in tendering his resignation did not seek to deny the allegations. Had I considered that the tape would achieve something which could not be achieved by other means, I would have fully considered its admissibility. This was, however, unnecessary.

The facts are absolutely straightforward.

On Thursday 8th August 2002 immediately prior to the meeting of the Planning Committee, Councillor Scott Cassie contacted my Assistant Director, Hazel Spalding discussed the matter with me and we agreed with Councillor Cassie arrangements for investigating his allegations. The timetable for this took into account that he was about to go on holiday.

Prior to contacting Mrs Spalding, Councillor Cassie had raised his concerns with certain of his colleagues in the Liberal Democrat Group and he was advised to contact either Mrs Spalding or myself.

While Councillor Duncan was not one of those consulted by Councillor Cassie, he was present in the room and heard the conversation. By his own admission, he started thinking as to how he might record such an approach as had been made to Councillor Cassie and devised a method of using a mobile phone to communicate with an answering machine which would record anything picked up by the phone.

The following Monday, Councillor Duncan contacted Mrs Spalding to say that David Maitland had said certain things to him at a civic function to mark the end of the Aberdeen International Youth Festival at the Beach Ballroom on the Friday evening (i.e. the day after Planning Committee meeting) and that he had a recording of the conversation.

This altered the timescale for the investigation and necessitated Mrs Spalding and myself travelling to Aberfeldy to interrupt Councillor Cassie's holiday and take the statement which had been arranged for a few days later.

In addition, we interviewed every member of the Council over a period of little more than 2 days.

The outcome of the investigation was contained in my previous report.

The issue for this committee to consider is whether the actions by Matthew Duncan contravene the accepted Codes of Conduct for Elected Members.

There are, I think 3 basic questions to be addressed.

Did Councillor Duncan do anything improper in becoming involved in the investigation?

Did Councillor Duncan do anything improper in obtaining the tape recording and

Did Councillor Duncan do anything improper in relation to the subsequent issues which arose as to possible publication of the contents of the recording.

Taking these in turn:-

It must be remembered that Councillor Duncan was not the person who raised the initial complaint.

He intervened in an investigation which was already underway and by using loaded questions took the opportunity to encourage David Maitland to admit or imply certain things when he was in a state of considerable intoxication.

There is, however, no evidence that he actually orchestrated events so as to 'happen' to be in the company of David Maitland. Had he done so there would have been a serious risk that he would have imperilled the whole investigation.

I am satisfied that, leaving aside the issue of the recording, Councillor Duncan did nothing wrong in principle in passing on information relevant to an investigation to the appropriate authority.

There is no doubt that technological advances in recent years have led to a huge increase in the amount of overt surveillance. It is second nature to accept that there will be CCTV cameras in streets and in shops and that in telephone banking and the like where a contract is made by telephone, the telephone conversation will be recorded. The emphasis is, however, on the fact that such surveillance is obvious and the individual who is the subject of it knows that is happening.

Simultaneously, however, greater controls have been imposed on covert surveillance by the Regulation of Investigating Powers Act, 2000. The Council is one of the bodies whose investigatory powers (primarily Environmental Health and Trading Standards) are covered by the Act and a complex set of authorisations require to be followed if covert surveillance is to be undertaken. Surveillance undertaken in accordance with the Act is protected against challenges under the Human Rights legislation which it would otherwise infringe. There is no provision for 'amateur' attempts at activities which would be covered by the Act and consequently no protection against challenge from the subject of the surveillance.

I have discussed the action taken by Councillor Duncan with the Office of Surveillance Commissioners which is ultimately responsible for oversight of activities under the 2000 Act.

That discussion has confirmed by initial view that (a) had I as the investigating officer done what Matthew Duncan did it would have been covert surveillance in terms of the Act. (b) if I had not secured the necessary approvals in advance, the value of the recording as evidence would have been extremely limited. (c) Councillor Duncan's recording was not and could not be authorised under the Act and (d) any use of the recording by myself or any other investigatory authority would have required to be so circumscribed by caveats and declarations of impropriety that it could readily have been challenged by David Maitland.

I have no alternative therefore but to conclude that Councillor Duncan's actions in making a clandestine recording (however well intentioned he may have thought he was being in obtaining evidence of improper behaviour) was outwith what is permitted by law.

While there is no criminal sanction for a breach of the Act by an individual, it is clear that use by the Council of the material obtained would have been contrary to law and certainly maladministration which are matters on which I have a statutory duty to report.

I must also consider the fact that the subject of the improper surveillance was a fellow member of the Council and that the surveillance took place at a civic function hosted by the City Council.

It is a frequently remarked fact that relations between members of all political groups and between members and officers are very good within the Council and that this ethos of mutual trust allows issues to be discussed informally without these discussions being founded on in any subsequent debate.

Such an arrangement is by no means uncommon in public affairs and is recognised as the basis of the Chatham House Rules.

If it were to become recognised practice that such conversations might be taped and subsequently used for political advantage, the whole ethos of the Council would be altered.

This point is also covered in the National Code of Local Government Conduct promulgated in 1989.

Para. 26 states that 'As a Councillor ÖÖÖÖ you necessarily acquire much information that has not yet been made public and is still confidential. It is a betrayal of trust to breach such confidences. You should never disclose or use confidential information for the personal advantage of yourself or anyone known to you or to the disadvantage or the discredit of the Council or anyone else.'.

The Councillors' Code of Conduct issued by the Standards Commission for Scotland under the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000, largely repeats these provisions but, significantly, sets out in Section 2.1 a number of 'key principles', one of which is Respect. You must respect all other Councillors and all Council employees and the role they play, treating them with courtesy at all times'.

and adds (para 2.2) 'You should apply the principles of this Code to your informal dealings with the Council's employees, party political groups and others no less scrupulously than at formal meeting of the Council and its committees and sub-committees.

Taking this with the key principle of duty set out in (para 2.1) 'Duty: You have a duty to uphold the law and act in accordance with the law and public trust placed in you'.

I have no option but to conclude that Councillor Duncan's actions amounted to a breach of the Code of Conduct.

As members may be aware from reports in the media, David Maitland raised an action of interdict against Councillor Duncan to prevent the publication of the contents of the tape. I understand that the action has been settled, although I am not aware of the terms of the settlement.

I am aware, however, that by their own reporting, certain sections of the media had knowledge of the detailed contents of the tape prior to the interdict action.

This is the area in which Councillor Duncan's conduct gives most cause for concern.

As in the case of Councillor Maitland, it is not strictly necessary for me to consider the question of motive, Councillor Duncan has, however, indicated that his action in recording his conversation with David Maitland was motivated by a desire to secure evidence of what I found in my previous report to be a blatant infringement of the Code of Conduct by David Maitland and which at the time Councillor Duncan considered was possibly criminal.

While as indicated above, such a 'the end justifies the means argument' does not in my opinion overcome the fundamental breach of the principles of the RIP Act and the Code of Conduct, it is at least understandable as being motivated by some ill defined idea of public interest.

I find it impossible, however, to see any basis on which it could be argued that publication of the recording could secure any purpose other than satisfying public curiosity and causing embarrassment to political opponents. Potentially discussing the contents with the media could have compromised the investigation into David Maitland's activities which I was undertaking.

From the paragraph of the Code in relation to confidentiality and duty which I have already quoted, it will be clear that I again have no option but to conclude that there has been a breach of the Code.

In conclusion, therefore, I would summarise my findings as follows:-

The action by Councillor Duncan in recording his conversation with David Maitland was outwith the law. That is not to say that it was actually an illegal act by him. The Council could not, however, lawfully use the material which he obtained.

Councillor Duncan has breached the Code in relation to respect and duty, albeit that he may have thought that he was acting in the public interest.

To the extent that he participated in publishing or attempting to publish the contents of the tape, he was clearly in breach of the obligations of confidentiality in the Code.

Having established that there has been a breach of the Code, my function in the matter is really concluded and it is a matter for the Committee to establish what sanction, if any, to impose. Without wishing to trespass on the Committee's discretion, members may find it helpful to note the following:

It is well established that a local authority has no power to suspend a member from attending meetings of the full Council for a specific period, nor from attending meetings of committees or sub-committees of which he/she is a member.

To do otherwise would undermine the basic principles of democracy that the Councillor is elected to represent the interests of constituents and if the member is suspended, those constituents would lack a voice. Clear legislation would be required to create such a power.

It is, however, within the power of the Council to determine the membership of its own Committees, so long as the principles of political balance are met. It would, therefore, be competent to restrict committee membership, (as opposed to committee attendance) of a member whose conduct has breached the Code.

 

The Standards Commission has at its disposal a wider range of penalties authorised by statute (these are set out in the Appendix), and the legislation envisages that relevant matters may be referred by a Council to the Commission.

The Commission is not yet fully operational but, it may be willing to accept references at present.

ANNEX A

SANCTIONS APPLIED BY STANDARDS COMMISSION FOR BREACH OF THE CODE

Censuring the Councillor

Suspending, for a period not exceeding one year, the Councillor's entitlement to attend one or more but not all of the following:

all meetings of the Council; all meetings of one or more committees or sub-committees of the Council; all meetings of any other body on which that councillor is a representative or nominee of the Council; suspension, for a period not exceeding one year, if the Councillor's entitlement to attend all meetings of the Council, and of any committee or sub committee of the Council; and of any other body which the Councillor is a representative or nominee of the Council; disqualifying the Councillor, for a period not exceeding five years, from being or being nominated for election as, or from being elected as, a Councillor.

A period of suspension under (b) or (c) above which would continue until or beyond an ordinary election will come to an end at the beginning of the day on which that election is held.

Disqualification if a Councillor has the effect of vacating that Councillor's office and extends to the Councillor's membership of any committee or sub-committee of the Council, any joint committee, joint board or other body on which the Councillor is a representative or nominee of the Council.

Where a Councillor is also a member of a devolved public body (as defined in the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000), other than as a representative or nominee of the Council, or is the Water Industry Commissioner, the Commission may also remove or disqualify that person in respect of that membership. Full details of the sanctions are set out in Section 19 of the Act.


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