Complaint lodged against leader of Sunderland City Council

Sunderland Civic Centre.
Sunderland Civic Centre.

A complaint has been lodged against Sunderland City Council’s leader Graeme Miller in relation to his involvement with a housing firm.

Coun Miller was listed as a director of private firm Ashcore Homes Ltd between January 27, 2017 and August 30, 2018.

Leader of Sunderland City Council Graeme Miller

Leader of Sunderland City Council Graeme Miller

The company remained dormant since it was formed in 2016 and  applied to be removed from the Companies House register this month.

In recent weeks, Sunderland’s Liberal Democrat opposition group have raised questions about the Labour leader’s business dealings with the firm.

A question, submitted to the council by group leader Coun Niall Hodson, asked whether the firm had been involved with, or connected to, any contracts with Sunderland City Council.

It also asked for reassurance that all of Coun Miller’s current and previous employment, offices and trading relationships had been declared fully on the register of members interests.

Leader of Sunderland City Council's Liberal Democrat Group, Niall Hodson

Leader of Sunderland City Council's Liberal Democrat Group, Niall Hodson

A written response from the council leader confirmed that complaint was being processed in relation to the issue, adding “it would not be appropriate to comment at this time.”

Coun Miller has maintained he has no undisclosed business interests and will comment fully when the complaint is resolved.

But opposition councillors have said answers from the council have been “less than clear” and that the questions about declaring interests should be clarified “as soon as possible”.

“The people of Sunderland need to know whether their council leader has broken the rules, as a matter of transparency,” Coun Hodson added.

Coun Miller, responding, said: “I have no undeclared business interests as is being suggested, and as I tried to explain in my written answer to councillor Hodson’s question, it is inappropriate to comment any further while this complaint is being considered.

“I look forward to this matter being resolved and will be happy to comment fully at that time.”

Question submitted to full council on Wednesday, September 19, 2018

There has been a great deal of public speculation regarding the leader’s involvement with a firm by the name of Ashcore.

Can he advise whether this firm has been involved with, or connected to, any contracts or other business with Sunderland City Council, and if so what his own relationship with it has been – if any?

Can he reassure the council that all of his current and previous employment, offices and trading relationships whilst a city councillor, have been declared fully on the Register of Members’ Interests.

Written council response

Whist I would like the opportunity to address the question submitted, this is currently the subject of a complaint that is being processed through the relevant complaints procedure, therefore it would not be appropriate to comment at this time.

Caption: Leader of Sunderland City Council Graeme Miller (featured image)

Caption: Leader of Sunderland City Council’s Liberal Democrat Group, Niall Hodson

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service