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Former Worcester Mayor in 'conflict of interest' row
ONE of Worcester's best-known politicians is embroiled in a "conflict of interest" row surrounding huge cuts to trading standards in the county.
Councillor Lucy Hodgson, a former city mayor, was elected to Worcestershire County Council last year and now sits in the Conservative cabinet.
The high-flier is also chairman of a special committee which oversees Worcestershire Regulatory Services, the county's version of trading standards which tackles issues like dodgy restaurants, crooked off-licenses and 'Del Boy' style market sellers.
This year the money it is getting from the county council plunged by £700,000, taking it to a record low of just over £1 million.
Cllr Hodgson's cabinet role, called 'localism and communities', includes oversight for trading standards.
The Conservative leadership at County Hall is looking to save around £100 million by 2018 by slashing its spending.
During a full council meeting, Labour politician Councillor Richard Udall said: "Should she actually be doing both roles, is there not a conflict of interest here?
"Trading standards is facing big cuts to its budget, cuts she caused as the cabinet member.
"You can't cut one day and then protest about it the next."
During the criticism Cllr Hodgson admitted she had been asked about a potential conflict of interest "on a number of occasions", but defended her position.
The chairmanship of the joint committee overseeing Worcestershire Regulatory Services expires annually, meaning she will step down in June for someone else to take over.
She said: "Clash of interest? It's a question that has been asked of me on a number of occasions, and the answer is no there isn't.
"At no time have I said my role has been compromised (at the county council), I see them as going side-by-side. I have no problems in that role."
During the debate she also won support from Conservative Councillor Marc Bayliss, who said the budget is "set by full council" rather than individuals.
The council wants to reduce the funding it gives Worcestershire Regulatory Services 85 per cent by 2017, by which time it will be just £250,000.
The body, which also gets funding from the six district councils in Worcestershire, has a budget of around £3 million.
Its activities extend as far as tackling noisy neighbours, keeping a register of small traders and awareness of doorstep crime.
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