Bristol PCC accused of conflict of interest over Lloyds branch
BRISTOL’S police commissioner has been accused of a conflict of interest after failing for years to disclose her husband’s position on the board of a major shareholder in Lloyds – despite long-running claims of malpractice by the bank.
Sue Mountstevens did not announce the connection until last year, seven years after she was first elected as Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset.
The force has long been dogged by accusations it failed to properly investigate claims that Lloyds’ Bristol unit destroyed customers’ businesses. Ms Mountstevens is responsible for hold- ing it to account.
Her husband, Stephen Robertson, has been a non-executive director of Hargreaves Lansdown since 2011.
The Bristol-based investment platform has almost £500m of Lloyds shares, held on behalf of its customers rather than on Hargreaves’ own account. Kashif Shabir, a property investor and former Lloyds customer who claims his business was bankrupted by Lloyds Bristol, said the link was only disclosed after he made a complaint.
The Bristol restructuring unit has been described as a “mortuary” where viable small businesses were forced into insolvency so Lloyds could slash lending as it scrambled to survive after the 2008 financial crisis. A senior police source said: “There is a conflict of interest if her husband is closely involved as a major investor in Lloyds.”
A spokesman for Ms Mountstevens said she goes beyond what is required to be open and transparent in her declarations of interest. He said an independent panel had reviewed the PCC’s management of accusations the police mishandled allegations against Lloyds and concluded there is no evidence that calls into question her integrity or reliability. The spokesman said Thames Valley Police (TVP) reviewed claims the police mishandled the investigation, but found it had been appropriate.
Avon and Somerset Police concluded that new evidence received by TVP showed no evidence of criminality.
Lloyds has said it found no evidence to support claims of misconduct or that it fraudulently robbed customers of their businesses. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Mr Robertson or Hargreaves Lansdown.
Banks have been fighting to improve their image since the 2008 financial crisis, although the industry has continued to be tainted by scandal. Britain’s biggest ever bank fraud took place in the run-up to the crisis at the Reading branch of HBOS, before Lloyds’ disastrous takeover of the lender in 2008.