By Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Esson
A Thanet district councillor has been referred to Action Fraud for allegedly not declaring a settlement agreement with the council.
Cllr Steve Albon (Lab), cabinet member for cleansing and coastal services at Thanet District Council (TDC), was referred to the fraud reporting service by the authority’s standards assessment sub-committee.
Three complaints have been made against Cllr Albon by resident Ian Driver in connection with the register of interests.
TDC leader Cllr Rick Everitt says the matter relates to a “minor payment” made to Cllr Albon as part of a severance agreement when he stopped working for the council in 2016 – three years before he was elected.
He added the matter was referred to Action Fraud “simply as a precaution” and described the suggestion Cllr Albon has done anything wrong as “absurd”.
The complaints are summarised in a document seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), which outlines the decision from the sub-committee.
The first complaint alleges that Cllr Albon “failed to complete his register of interests form to include mention of a settlement agreement which related to his former employment status with Thanet District Council”.
The second alleges that his register of interest form did not mention a settlement agreement which related to his spouse’s former employment status with the authority.
The final complaint alleged that he “failed to disclose his and his spouse’s conflict of interest in matters revolving around former chief executive officer Madeline Homer, whilst sitting as a member of the council’s general purposes committee and the general purposes investigations and disciplinary sub-committee”.
Madeline Homer was chief executive at TDC for seven years, leaving in 2022.
Councillors must register their interests with local authorities after being elected, including the relevant interests of their spouses.
This includes financial interests, occupation, property ownership, shares and directorships, and contracts – especially contracts involving the local authority itself.
On issues relating to their interests, councillors are usually not allowed to vote.
The decision notice, dated August 24, says members reviewed the complaints, local assessment procedure and the councillors’ code of conduct.
It was unanimously decided that the matter be referred to the police to investigate, and TDC appointed an independent investigating officer to examine the matter further.
TDC later confirmed that the matter had been referred to Action Fraud. Kent Police is not investigating.
Action Fraud is a reporting service run by the City of London Police and National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), which does not have investigatory powers.
The NFIB assesses reports made to Action Fraud and decides whether they should then be referred to local police forces for investigation or not.
The council decision notice added that the discussion “revolved around the existence of a non-disclosure agreement agreed upon by Councillor Albon and whether or not this agreement would conflict with the register of interests form required by members to complete”.
Cllr Albon did not respond to a request for comment.
But in a statement provided to the LDRS, Cllr Everitt said: “This matter is solely concerned with a minor payment made to Steve Albon as part of a severance agreement when he left the council’s employment in 2016.
“He was not elected to the council until 2019.
“Councillors are required to declare live contracts to provide the council with goods or services, which Steve reasonably concluded was not the case here.
“It was a one-off payment at the end of his employment seven years ago. Indeed, the matter was referred on simply as a precaution because the council itself had not been able to ascertain that any offence has been committed despite taking external legal advice.
“In my opinion the idea that Steve has done anything wrong here is absurd.”
Action Fraud has been contacted for comment.