Blackpool MP Scott Benton facing separate investigations relating to his conduct and finances

Blackpool’s newest MP Scott Benton is facing two separate investigations relating to his conduct and his finances, The Gazette can reveal.

Tuesday, 3rd November 2020, 1:51 pm

Blackpool’s newest MP Scott Benton is facing two separate investigations relating to his conduct and his finances, The Gazette can reveal.

Mr Benton, who became the Conservative MP for Blackpool South almost a year ago, has admitted to “an admin error” that meant his income from Calderdale Council - where he remains an elected councillor - was not properly declared.

The matter is being looked into by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, while Calderdale Council has received what Mr Benton has called “vexatious and deeply unpleasant” complaints about his conduct.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Scott Benton said it was due to an 'admin error' that his financial interests were not properly declared.

Mr Benton said: “I have no doubt that the complaints... made about me to Calderdale Council and the Parliamentary authorities will be found to be without substance.”

He continues to earn more than £800 a month for around eight hours work with the Yorkshire district authority, where he has attended two out of the 12 council meetings in the last 12 months.

While it is not against Parliamentary rules to hold both positions at the same time, MPs are required to report such income within 28 days.

Records show on June 25 Mr Benton reported allowance payments from Calderdale Council totalling £2,756.29 dating back to January.

Mr Benton has been a councillor in Calderdale since 2011 (Pictured in 2015)

And in an update in September, the figures were revised to reveal he was in fact paid £4,737.62 in that time and that he expected to receive £879.92 a month from the council “until further notice”.

Mr Benton, who now lives in South Shore, said: “All of my financial interests have been properly registered with the Parliamentary authorities.

“Due to an admin error on my part, some of the details of these have since been updated.”

Professor Rebecca Boden, who made the complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards said: “As a member of the public I am alarmed that an elected representative – and one who is no stranger to the rules of Parliament – can behave in this way.”

Mr Benton has said the cash he gets from the West Yorkshire authority is given to charity – though he refused several times to say which one - and said he plans to give up his seat over the border “as soon as an election can be held to elect a replacement”.

“Due to Covid, this hasn’t been possible yet,” he added.

Mr Benton could have forfeited his position by skipping council meetings for a six-month period but he attended a briefing in May as well as a meeting last month, though he missed a number of others, according to authority records.

Josh Fenton-Glynn, a Labour member of the council, said: “A lot of people in Calderdale and in Brighouse, where [Mr Benton is] supposed to represent, feel quite aggrieved that he hasn’t been coming to meetings.

“He went to one informal briefing, which he attended online, and I think he asked one question in that but other than that I don’t believe I’ve seen him.

“He doesn’t get his leader’s allowance but he still gets around £10,300, which I think is the basic allowance. And he has, I understand, said that he’s giving it to charity – but I don’t believe he’s told us what charity.”

Council records showed Mr Benton missed four key meetings in December, two in January, and one in February, though a spokesman said he did attend a cabinet meeting on December 2 – 10 days before he became an MP – and an all-member briefing held online on May 20.

No meetings were scheduled from April to August, the records added.

Mr Benton, said: “I am a full-time MP working for the people of Blackpool South.

“All of my time is spent as an MP and I have completed no engagements as a councillor since being elected as an MP.”

Prof Boden, a former tax lawyer who now works part-time at Tampere University in Finland, also complained to Calderdale Council about Mr Benton last year.

It related to the fallout from an online spat between the pair. She alleges that he reported her to police and her employer, and although no further action was taken against her, she claims that he took advantage of his position of power to do so.

Mr Benton denies any wrongdoing and said he was confident the complaint against him would be “completely rejected”.

West Yorkshire Police did not respond to requests for a comment.

Ian Hughes, head of legal services at Calderdale Council, said: “Any code of conduct matter for any member of this authority remains confidential until the matter is concluded.”

And in relation to Mr Benton’s continued involvement with the authority since becoming a Blackpool MP, he added that “no councillor would be expected” to attend all meetings.

He said: “All councillors at Calderdale Council have attended the requisite number of meetings with no gap of six months between them.

“Any councillor not doing so would cease to be a councillor.”

A spokesman for the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards said the Commissioner no longer confirms nor denies whether a complaint has been made about a named MP.

However, once an inquiry is completed into an alleged breach of the rules, a report will be published, he added. No timescale was given.

Thank you for reading this article on the Blackpool Gazette. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is only £1 for your first month. Please give it a try today by clicking here.