Mys­tery over coun­cil­lor’s £1,500 Kiev con­nec­tions

The Herald on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Paul Hutcheon

A former SNP coun­cil­lor in Ed­in­burgh has been se­verely rep­ri­manded by a tri­bunal for ac­cept­ing £1,500 in cash from a Na­tion­al­ist col­league.

The In­sti­tute of Char­tered Ac­coun­tants in Eng­land and Wales (ICAEW) also or­dered Jim Orr to pay £6,000 in costs after rul­ing he breached in­tegrity rules over the money re­ceived from former coun­cil deputy leader Steve Car­downie.

He was sanc­tioned even though he re­paid the sum to Car­downie and pub­li­cised the pay­ment him­self. In 2012, Orr, pic­tured right, at that point an SNP coun­cil­lor in the cap­i­tal, lost a spe­cial al­lowance as vice-con­vener of a lo­cal au­thor­ity com­mit­tee.

He did not con­sent to the re­moval of the ex­tra pay­ment and his coun­cil in­come fell from £22,000 to £16,000.

Car­downie, who com­bined the roles of deputy coun­cil leader and SNP group leader, of­fered to help make up the short­fall by giv­ing the char­tered ac­coun­tant £1,500 from his own pocket.

Orr, who was re­luc­tant to ac­cept the cash, said he would agree to the ar­range­ment so long as Car­downie gave it di­rectly to a fam­ily in Kiev he knew.

Car­downie de­clined and Orr ac­cepted £1,500 in £20 notes from the deputy leader in Jan­uary 2013, after which Orr him­self trans­ferred the money to the fam­ily. The deputy leader later re­called: “I was help­ing a col­league who had lost his SRA [al­lowance]. It was a gen­uine at­tempt to help Jim Orr. He was one-and-a-half [£1,500] short.”

How­ever, Orr re­gret­ted agree­ing to the Car­downie pay­ment and later re­turned the money to him, de­spite al­ready hand­ing over the orig­i­nal sum to the fam­ily in Kiev. He ac­cepted £1,500 from an­other coun­cil­lor, which he also re­turned.

After Orr, who re­signed the SNP whip in 2014 and sat as an in­de­pen­dent coun­cil­lor for the re­main­der of his term, made de­tails of the pay­ment pub­lic, a com­plaint was made about him to the ICAEW.

Ac­cord­ing to the ICAEW web­site, a tri­bunal of the body’s dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee up­held a com­plaint that Orr breached the in­tegrity sec­tion of their ethics code by ac­cept­ing the pay­ment. The tri­bunal or­dered that “Mr Orr be se­verely rep­ri­manded and pay costs of £6,000”.

Orr is no longer a coun­cil­lor or an SNP mem­ber. Speak­ing to The Her­ald on Sun­day, he said: “Ex­plain­ing the cul­ture and prac­tices of Ed­in­burgh Coun­cil to a panel of Lon­don bar­ris­ters and ac­coun­tants is not some­thing I’d want to do twice in my life.

“For ex­am­ple, although gifts of cash and al­lowances were ex­changed from time to time be­tween coun­cil­lors, and this is rarely a good idea, it was gen­er­ally sup­ported by of­fi­cer ad­vice – but never for­mally in writ­ing.

“Per­son­ally I had col­leagues en­cour­ag­ing me to take cash gifts or com­pen­sa­tion within a few months of my elec­tion. I fought alone against ev­ery as­pect of such pay­ments and re­turned the money as soon as prac­ti­ca­ble each time

“But just han­dling it was, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, con­sid­ered wor­thy of a se­vere rep­ri­mand. The city cham­bers was any­thing but a safe space for those of us with valu­able rep­u­ta­tions to pro­tect.”

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