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Fit & proper person to be a Cheshire East Council portfolio holder?

Following the revelation that Cllr Sam Gardner is currently disqualified from being a director of a company, Labour councillors are calling for the council rules to be updated so that a person who has been disqualified from being a director cannot be a Portfolio Holder in Cheshire East Council Cabinet.

If you’re disqualified you can’t:

  • be a director of any company registered in the UK or an overseas company that has connections with the UK
  • be involved in forming, marketing or running a company

If you’re disqualified, you might not be able to:

  • sit on the board of a charity, school or police authority
  • be a pension trustee
  • be a registered social landlord
  • sit on a health board or social care body
  • be a solicitor, barrister or accountant

However, the rules do not specifically prevent a person subject to a disqualification order from being a councillor or being a Portfolio Holder in Cheshire East Council Cabinet. So a person who is unfit to be a company director, a school governor, a charity trustee or a committee member of a registered social landlord is held by the Conservatives fit to be a councillor, fit to be deputy finance portfolio holder and fit to be Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Open Spaces.

Sam Gardner was disqualified from being a director on 25/6/13 for 4 years for conduct whilst acting as a director of Fomfest Ltd. Fomfest Ltd was set up to run a music festival near Macclesfield and went bust shortly after the festival leaving numerous local businesses unpaid.

Brian Roberts, Labour Councillor for Crewe West, said, “Being disqualified from holding a Directorship due to business failings or incompetence is a very different from being a Director of a business which goes into liquidation due to market forces. Disqualification is not a corporate failure issue but a statement of one’s personal lack of competence or integrity. Disqualification is a statement that the person is not fit to hold a further Directorship and prevents the person from doing so.”

Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “So someone who is not fit to be in charge of a small company has been put in charge of a multi-million pound portfolio by the Conservatives! No wonder Cheshire East Council seems to lurch from crisis to crisis.

“Sam Gardner blames the failure of Fomfest Ltd on ‘bad weather and the recession back in 2011’, but this does not explain why he was disqualified as a director. Action is only taken to disqualify directors of failed companies if there has been ‘unfit conduct’. If the failure of Fomfest Ltd was just due to bad weather and the recession then I would not expect any directors to be disqualified.  If Sam Gardner wishes to clear his name then he should publish the report of the Insolvency Service into the failure of Fomfest Ltd and their explanation of why he was disqualified from acting as a director.”

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