A deputy Lord Lieutenant who secured thousands of pounds in election funding from fellow representatives of the Queen must clarify his position, an MP has said.
Durham MP Kevan Jones said he wants to know why Kingsley Smith is also paid to be the secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, when in councils across the country the tradition is for a chief executive to do the job.
The Labour MP has written to Durham County Council asking it to explain why the former chief executive kept his secretary role after moving on, and how much it is costing the tax payer.
His questions come amid revelations that, Mr Jones said, a bid by Mr Smith to be elected police commissioner was not as independent as it seemed.
In 2012 Mr Smith ran as an independent candidate for the Durham police commissioner post. He came second, and spent more than £30,000 seeking office. This week Mr Jones released election accounts showing Mr Smith was backed by at least three other deputy Lord Lieutenants, including former Newcastle united owner Sir John Hall.
Mr Jones said that has paid out Sir John’s £300,000 in donations to the Conservative party in recent years and that this should have been known to voters.
Other Deputy Lord Lieutenant donors include John Elliott, a businessman who helped lead to the No Campaign in the North East Assembly referendum, bringing the large inflatable White Elephant to the debate.
There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on behalf of Mr Smith or his donors, with all spending declared by the candidate after the election in accordance with national rules.
Last night the MP said: “The financial backing by a major North East Tory donor exposes Kingsley Smith independent stance to be a myth and raises questions about the neutrality of the Lord Lieutenant’s office.”
In his letter to the council he adds: “I am aware that the new Lord Lieutenant has re-appointed Mr Smith as the Clerk to the Lord Lieutenancy, and I would like to how this was done.”
Susan Snowdon, the Durham Lord Lieutenant, has said Mr Smith has valuable experience which greatly helps her carry out her role.
In a letter to MPs she has offered to meet them individually to go over her recent appointment.
Mr Smith has pointed out that many deputy Lord Lieutenants are also members of the Labour party and do political work alongside their county role.
He said funding for his bid to stand in 2012 came from friends who were also deputy Lord Lieutenants but did not compromise his independence.
He added: “There are 11 areas I think where the local chief executive is not the clerk to the Lord Lieutenant, so it is not that unusual.
“I have been kept on because having done the job since 1990 the current Lord Lieutenant decided I would bring some helpful experience to her role.”