Ex-Caerphilly council leader probe concludes after 17 months – but ‘the saga goes on’
Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter
An investigation into whether the former leader of Caerphilly council breached the members’ code of conduct by allegedly not properly disclosing personal interests in relation to a major investment has concluded.
Caerphilly councillor Dave Poole resigned as leader in September 2019 and referred himself to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales over the issue.
The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales has now confirmed that its investigation has concluded, but the matter is still to be determined after 17 months.
A spokeswoman for the Ombudsman said on Thursday: “Our investigation into whether Caerphilly councillor David Poole has breached the council’s code of conduct has now concluded and we have referred the matter to the Adjudication Panel for Wales to make a determination.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”
The Adjudication Panel for Wales is an independent tribunal which determines alleged breaches by councillors against their authority’s code of conduct.
‘Hanging out to dry’
As leader of the council from May 2017, Cllr Poole was also a cabinet member of the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal, which in September 2017 agreed to buy the former LG Semiconductor site at Newport’s Imperial Park and lease it to the tech firm IQE.
Cllr Poole’s register of interests, submitted to Caerphilly council in June 2019, state he was a “shareholder of IQE”.
The reference was crossed out in September after he sold the shares.
Cllr Poole is reported to have said he bought the shares in the autumn of 2018 and was advised he did not need to declare an interest.
A Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) cabinet report last year said that Audit Wales concluded that a cabinet member did breach the members code of conduct by not disclosing personal interests.
“The correspondence from WAO (Audit Wales) received by the City Deal office highlighted that neither CCR officers, regional cabinet nor the accountable body’s monitoring officer were made aware of a cabinet member’s personal interests in relation to a City Deal investment, their conclusion was their non-disclosure breached the member code of conduct,” it said.
Cllr Colin Mann, leader of Caerphilly council’s Plaid Cymru group, has raised concern over the length of time of the investigation.
“When you think of the time it has taken, I do not think anybody would want to be left hanging out to dry like Cllr Poole has been,” he said.
“After 17 months they have come to a conclusion which has not settled the matter, as they have passed it to a different body to make a decision.
“The saga goes on and the uncertainty just continues.”
Caerphilly council has been contacted for comment. Cllr Poole declined to comment.