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Lib Dems question 'conflict of interest' over new cabinet appointment

May 15, 2020 10:50 AM

Jeremy Hilton and policy planningThe Liberal Democrats are questioning the appointment of a Gloucester businesswoman to lead the city's economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

They are concerned about a perceived conflict of interest that could undermine the city council's reputation.

Councillor Dawn Melvin has joined the ruling Conservative administration as the cabinet member for economic recovery.

As well as being the Tory city councillor for Westgate Ward, she is also the owner of Dr Fosters bar and restaurant at Gloucester Docks.

In her city council declaration of members' interests, Councillor Melvin also declares she owns securities in the ground floor and first floor of the Kimberley Warehouse, the ground floor and first floor of the Philpotts warehouse and the rear retail unit of the Merchants Quay at Gloucester Docks.

The economic recovery portfolio will include:

- Economic development

- City centre management

- Licencing and environmental health

- Night-time economy

- Markets and street trading

As the cabinet member for economic recovery, Councillor Melvin will also be liaising with business support organisations such as GFirst LEP, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Gloucester Business Improvement District, the Licenced Victuallers Association and others.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, leader of Gloucester Liberal Democrats, has written to council leader Richard Cook asking him to reconsider the appointment.

"I am concerned that Councillor Melvin has a perceived conflict of interest in relation to her own business interests, including running a popular city night spot," Councillor Hilton said.

"This may require her to declare that interest too many times to enable her to serve effectively in the cabinet in spearheading the economic recovery of Gloucester.

"There are three areas where this conflict of interest is most evident, which are city centre management, licensing and environmental health and the night-time economy.

"There is no doubt this economic recovery role is much needed in Gloucester as we slowly come out of the coronavirus lockdown.

"But I believe the city would be better served if the cabinet member did not have to spend so much of their time declaring their business interests when overseeing their portfolio and managing policies on licencing, the city centre and the night-time economy."