A NORTH-EAST councillor has denied his work for a lobbying company is a conflict of interests.

Councillor Greg Stone told undercover reporters for a national newspaper that “tricks of the trade” could be used to help developers gain planning permission.

The Liberal Democrat councillor, who sits on Newcastle City Council, said contacts could be used to substitute difficult members of a local authority planning committee with someone who might be more favourable towards an application.

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“I wouldn’t say dark arts but, but, there is, there is sort of tricks of the trade," Coun Greg Stone reportedly told undercover reporters from the Daily Telegraph.

Coun Stone, who was the Lib Dem candidate at the 2007 Sedgefield by-election, works for development lobbying company Indigo Public Affairs, which has an office in Newcastle.

He said in a statement that the investigation had misrepresented the issue.

He added: “The Telegraph’s story contained no evidence of improper activity on the part of Indigo Public Affairs.

“My work for Indigo Public Affairs requires me to devise and deliver effective stakeholder engagement processes with local councils, councillors, and communities, allowing greater dialogue and understanding of local priorities.

“I adhere strictly to the council's code of conduct and my employer's code of conduct, which exceeds all legislative and regulatory requirements, which prevents me from working on projects or influencing planning decisions taken by Newcastle City Council.”

Coun David Faulkner, leader of the Lib Dems at Newcastle City Council, said he was not aware of any conflict of interest “nor anything inappropriate about Coun Stone’s role as a planning consultant and how he carries is out”.

But Sue Pearson, Newcastle Council Labour chief whip, said Coun Stone’s behaviour “clearly fell below the ethical standards expected of a councillor”.