New Dorset Council Leader Appointed

Current deputy Robert Gould has been named as the new Dorset County Council leader.

Spencer Flower stepped down from the role last night (Tuesday 2 December), after pleading not guilty to charges of failing to declare an interest in two property firms. The 72-year-old from Verwood was charged by police last month.

He faces a one-day trial on 24 April 2015.

The council says a special full council meeting was called to vote on this issue after it became clear Cllr Spencer Flower was unable to continue with his leadership duties.

Cllr Gould is taking the role on a permanent basis and he has named Cllr Peter Finney as his deputy.

Cllr Gould is the Conservative county councillor for the Sherborne division. He was the deputy Leader and Cabinet member for corporate resources. He is also Leader of West Dorset District Council. Cllr Finney who represents the West Moors and Holt division is the county’s Cabinet member environment and economy.

Cllr Gould said:

“It was essential for the council to act quickly to deal with this issue and it is a great privilege to take up the role. I intend to continue in the clear direction we have established for our important work to help boost the economy of the county and promote the health and wellbeing of Dorset residents.

“I will be considering the make-up of the Cabinet to ensure we have a strong leadership team for the vital work of transforming services at a time of unprecedented budget reductions.”

John Locke, Senior Crown Prosecutor for the CPS Wessex Complex Casework Unit said:

"I authorised Dorset Police to institute proceedings against Councillor Spencer Flower for three offences under sections 31 and 34 of the Localism Act 2011, which imposes a duty  on members of a local authority to disclose certain pecuniary interests on taking office and to refrain from participating in council business which will affect these interests unless dispensation is given.

"It is alleged that whilst Cllr Flower was leader of East Dorset District Council he failed to declare his interest in Zebra Property Solutions LTD (ZPSL), a company for which he was a Non-Executive Director.  It is also alleged that he failed to declare his interest in the same company to Dorset County Council.

"The third allegation relates to Cllr Flower failing to disclose his interest in Synergy Housing Ltd (SHL), a company, in which he was also a Non-Executive Director, before a meeting of Dorset County Council on 25 February 2013 at which its Core Strategy for the provision of social housing was discussed. It is alleged that Cllr Flower participated and voted during this meeting.

"I carefully reviewed all the evidence provided to me by Dorset Police and was satisfied that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that it is in the public interest to prosecute Cllr Flower for these three offences."

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