COUNCILLORS have been told they can no longer be nominated to decision-making positions at Bracknell charities, despite concerns over the council’s support for voluntary sector organisations.

The new rule was approved by a council committee because of worries about potential conflicts of interest between the authority and local charities.

However councillors will still be able to act as a representative of the council at local charities and councillor Mary Temperton was keen to stress that this decision should not mean organisations will get less support from the council.

She said: “My feeling on this is that actually, the residents and the people who are part of that organisation value the council’s input and this gives them the feeling that the council cares.

“I think we need more publicity for the voluntary sector.”

Councillor Peter Heydon said: “We should stress we are not leaning away our support for the voluntary sector.”

Cllr Nick Allen added: “What we are trying to avoid is a conflict of interest.

“Since I have been a councillor there has been so many times where people have had to declare an interest as a (charity) board member.”

The new ruling was set to be agreed in the summer but it was pushed back after officers decided the wording of the recommendation was not sufficient.

And councillor David Worrall expressed his concerns on this issue, telling the governance and audit committee they should “send back” the report outlining the proposals because of unclear wording regarding what positions councillors are allowed to take at charities.

The proposals were approved with all but Cllr David Worrall, who chose to abstain, voting for the recommendation.

Councillor Clifton Thompson requested a minor change to the wording in the report which helped to make clear the positions councillors can take.

A report produced for the committee outlined that two councillors currently hold management positions at local charities.

Councillor Dr Gareth Barnard is on Keep Mobile’s management team, a transport charity which currently receives £85,000 a year from the council.

The report also stated Cllr Clifton Thompson is a trustee for Age Concern, but he made clear at the meeting that he had resigned from this position in August.

Councillors are already forbidden from being trustees at South Hill Park because of a prior “perception of a conflict of interest” and the report continued “it is difficult to see what advantage there is to the council in nominating to the position of a trustee/director since the individual must act in the interests of the board anyway.

“Their primary responsibility will be to the organisation itself, to advance its interests, as opposed to acting as a representative of the Council.”

However, councillor Tony Virgo is still a trustee at South Hill Park, which was awarded £200,000 by the council in 2017 despite its £244,000 annual funding being cut.

He is the only remaining councillor holding a trustee position at South Hill Park, after councillors Malcolm Tullett and Robert Angell resigned from their positions in previous years.

Although Cllr Virgo claims he holds this position as an indiviual, rather than as a councillor. 

Councillor Temperton expressed her concerns about these resignations, saying: “I know when people resigned from South Hill Park people thought he council was growing away from it.”

The changes were recommended by Bracknell Forest Council’s audit and governance committee meets on Wednesday, October 31.

The council will discuss the recommendations at a full council meeting in the coming months.