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‘I take full responsibility’: Barking councillor apologises for not declaring rented homes

PUBLISHED: 17:00 22 November 2018

Cllr Laila Butt apologised after breaching the council's code of conduct three times. The Abbey ward councillor who had been responsible for punishing rogue landlords failed to declare an interest in two properties in Barking. Picture: LBBD

Cllr Laila Butt apologised after breaching the council's code of conduct three times. The Abbey ward councillor who had been responsible for punishing rogue landlords failed to declare an interest in two properties in Barking. Picture: LBBD

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A Labour councillor who failed to declare an interest in two properties her husband rents out when she was responsible for punishing rogue landlords has apologised.

Cllr Laila Butt with council leader Darren Rodwell pictured in March this year. Picture: LBBDCllr Laila Butt with council leader Darren Rodwell pictured in March this year. Picture: LBBD

Cllr Laila Butt breached Barking and Dagenham Council’s code of conduct three times after failing to register financial interests in properties in Strathfield Gardens and St Awdry’s Road, Barking.

The first property did not appear on a compulsory private landlord register, breaching council requirements.

Cllr Butt said at a council meeting on Wednesday: “I am apologising willingly and believe it is the right thing to do.”

The local authority’s standards sub-committee recommended the councillor for Abbey ward take an opportunity to apologise and carry out training in the code of conduct.

It found that Cllr Butt had made “misleading statements” in a meeting in April with council leader, Darren Rodwell, and Barking and Dagenham’s monitoring officer, who is responsible for upholding standards.

But at Wednesday’s meeting, Cllr Butt denied meaning to make the “misleading” remarks saying she felt devastated at the time.

“I did not attempt to mislead the monitoring officer and the leader of the council.

“As I understand it, this issue arose at one meeting where I was very distraught and devastated, leading to incoherent answers.

“I take full responsibility for my mistake,” she added.

Barking and Dagenham Council launched their investigation after it emerged in the spring that Cllr Butt failed to list the Strathfield Gardens property – owned by her husband Shahid Hussain Butt – on her register of interests.

It is a criminal offence for a councillor not to declare their own or a spouse’s financial interests within 28 days of taking up office.

But Cllr Butt, first elected in 2010, said in her apology she didn’t realise the need to register properties was an ongoing requirement.

“The declaration of pecuniary interests was not an attempt to deceive or personally gain. I should have kept up to date with various requirements that councillors have to fulfil. I did not do this, hence why I’m standing before you,” she said.

She ended by thanking Barking and Dagenham residents for their support and vowed to continue as a backbencher.

She stepped down from her Cabinet role in May.

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