A VETERAN councillor has been accused of a serious conflict of interest after he chaired a meeting which approved plans for a coal mine after accepting an overseas trip worth hundreds of pounds from the developer. Protesters who oppose the Dalfad opencast mine near Cumnock were angered last month when East Ayrshire Council's local planning committee recommended the project for approval despite serious concerns lodged by environmental experts.
But documents on the council's website reveal that Kelly, councillor for Ballochmyle for almost 20 years, accepted a three-day junket to Spain in 2008 from the mining company, with a free hotel room, flights and tickets to the Barcelona v Celtic Champions League football match.
The same year, he also received a Christmas hamper from the firm, which wants to build the mine on a peat bog which environmentalists claim is essential for natural carbon storage. Last February he was the guest of the company at a fundraising dinner in Cumnock Town Hall.
Greta Roberts, secretary of the campaigning Mining and Environment Group Ayrshire, said she believed Kelly should have informed attendees at the meeting of his interest in the firm - and followed his colleagues in stepping aside.
"It is just not right," she said. "He accepted hospitality from the company and is then chairing a planning committee making an important decision about their development. The other councillors realised the fact they have links to Scottish Coal was enough that they should declare an interest - why did he not do the same?"
My comment: Unfortunately this is typical of many councillors today.
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