Spencer Flower has stepped temporarily aside as leader of Dorset County Council, following police charges over alleged failures to declare an interest in a property company.
Cllr Flower will formally remain as leader but for the next few weeks his deputy, Cllr Robert Gould, will take on leadership responsibilities.
This will allow Cllr Flower’s colleagues to remain focused on leading the authority in its important work transforming services at a time of unprecedented budget reductions.
Cllr Gould will take up his new duties immediately, and will chair the council’s Cabinet meeting today (Wednesday, 19 November). Cllr Flower will not attend this meeting.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in Wessex has authorised Dorset Police to institute proceedings against Cllr Flower with three offences under section 31 and 34 of the Localism Act 2011. This Act requires members of a local authority to disclose certain financial interests on taking office and to refrain from participating in council business which will affect these interests. These offences relate to Cllr Flower’s involvement with East Dorset District Council and Dorset County Council.
He will appear before Bournemouth Magistrates’ Court on 2 December.
Cllr Flower remains a member of Dorset County Council and will continue to fulfil his role as a local member representing Verwood and Three Legged Cross.
Cllr Gould, who represents the Sherborne division, said: “I have taken on county council leadership responsibilities for a period of up to six weeks. This arrangement is similar to what would happen in the case of illness or absence, and is in line with our constitutional rules. It will allow us to continue the vital work of the county council, at an extremely important time, with the minimum of disruption.
“The county council requires the highest standards of probity and compliance from its members, and takes such matters extremely seriously. We hope this will be resolved as quickly as possible.”