Councillor steps down over code of conduct
A PENZANCE councillor has resigned over a row about declarations of interest.
Margaret Freeman has become the latest councillor to make the dramatic move, slamming the new system which pushes members to reveal not only their own, but their spouses', details online.
By refusing to declare any interests the councillor says she has been "criminalised" and left with no choice but to stand down.
"To ask unpaid volunteers to provide personal and searching information which will be published on the internet is in my opinion a step too far," she said.
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As part of a new policy within the Code of Conduct, councillors must declare their employment or business and any property interests within the council area. The legislation also calls for their spouse or civil partner's details to be recorded. This information is then available online by logging on to Cornwall Council's website.
Breaching the rules is a criminal offence and councillors can be fined up to £5,000 and disqualified from being a member of the local authority for up to five years.
"Even though I have no spouse or partner and no property interests in Penzance, I object in principle and will not be signing the form," she said.
"I would be putting myself in breach of the law and criminalising myself which as a law-abiding citizen I have no wish to do."
Ms Freeman, a member of the town council since 1995, said her decision had not been taken lightly.
"I have nothing to hide but I object strongly to this," she said. "It is using a sledge hammer to crack a nut as far as I am concerned."
Adding that she would miss her time at the council, Ms Freeman said she had no choice but to stand up and be counted.
"It is very sad," she said. "This has been part of my life for 15 years.
"If the forms were just going to go in the town clerk's office as they are at the moment, that is bad enough but it is the fact that they are going on the internet along with people's partners and spouses."
She is not the first west Cornwall councillor to speak out against the Code of Conduct changes. In July St Just stalwart Francis Angwin resigned, saying the policy was a serious invasion of his privacy.