No action taken against clergyman
A SUFFOLK clergyman has been told he should have declared an interest before taking part in a parish council debate on parking near his home.But a panel considering the case decided against taking any action against him because they felt he had been given inadequate advice.
A SUFFOLK clergyman has been told he should have declared an interest before taking part in a parish council debate on parking near his home.
But a panel considering the case decided against taking any action against him because they felt he had been given inadequate advice.
Rev Chris Jowett was a member of East Bergholt parish council when the question of parking near the village store was discussed at a meeting last September.
He lives in The Manse which is just behind the village store.
After a referral to the Standards Board for England, Mr Jowett was called in front of Babergh Council's standards sub-committee yesterday to answer claims that he failed to operate within the council's code of conduct.
He has since resigned from the parish council, so the only sanction the district had was to reprimand him.
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Although the standards sub-committee felt he had breached the code of conduct, they decided against reprimanding him and decided to take no further action - except to advise the parish to update its advice to councillors on declaring an interest.
Mr Jowett told the sub-committee he had not declared an interest in The Manse because he did not feel he had an interest in it under the terms of the Code of Conduct.
He said: "We were given a sheet telling us how to fill in the register. It said we should fill it in if we owned, rented, or held a property under licence from the local authority.
"I'm not in that situation with The Manse. It is owned by the church and I live there because it is in the interests of the church that I live there.
"The Inland Revenue acknowledges that position, and I'm not liable for council tax or rates - they are paid by the church.
"I don't think I have a licence to live there at all, certainly not from the local authority."
Barrister Keith Lewis, representing Babergh council and its monitoring officer Pauline Macbride said the advice was wrong - and property held under licence for longer than 28 days should be included.
Mr Jowett did not feel he had a licence of more than 28 days.
He said: "If my church fires me, I'm expected to get out immediately.
After the hearing Mr Jowett said he was considering lodging an appeal on the issue of the basis he occupied The Manse.
He said: "They seem to suggest by not issuing a reprimand that I had not knowingly acted improperly and I am pleased about that.
"But the situation under which I occupy The Manse needs to be clarified - I think this could have ramifications for ministers across the country."
Although the decision could cause a change in the way non-conformist ministers occupy their homes, it will not affect thousands of vicarages and rectories around the country.
A spokeswoman for the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich said Anglican church houses were allocated on a different basis to those of other churches.
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