Statement of Thanet Green Party Re Council Standards Committee meeting 21 November
Thanet Green Party condemns the shameful and unacceptable response by the two main political parties to the critical report aimed at improving Thanet councillors’ conduct.
The four independent members of the council’s Standards Committee, who produced the report, resigned immediately after the committee’s meeting on Thursday when the party leaders and councillors angrily denounced the report’s findings.
The walk-out by the independent group followed these attacks and a decision by the committee to ask the authors to rewrite the report giving more evidence of their findings.
Green councillor Ian Driver, who attended the meeting, said: “The resignation of the four independent members was hardly surprising considering the sustained and unfair bullying and browbeating they were subjected to by Labour councillors.
“This unfortunate event will serve to strengthen the public perception that Thanet councillors do not listen to their constituents and are out of touch, unresponsive and defensive. Instead of being an opportunity for Thanet Council and its councillors to move forward and become more open and democratic, the meeting last night took a big step backwards.This was a classic case of shooting the messenger.”
The report’s authors report are non-party political and have broad range of expertise and experience in the world of business, the public sector, management and communications. Their role is to act as “critical friends” to the council and provide advice about the development and management of ethics and conduct.
Pulling no punches, their report published earlier in the week, said that the council was seen as secretive; that councillors appeared to be out of touch; did not engage with or listen to residents and community groups; and there was local suspicion of corruption. The report also cited examples of councillors being rude and abusive towards each other and on occasion making threats to members of the public. The report pointed out that some councillors have disobeyed council rules.Despite its highly critical findings, the report had intended to present and honest picture of public perceptions. Unfortunately, most of the councillors at the Standards Committee did not see it this way and were extremely angry and defensive.
Labour Leader Clive Hart, his deputy Allan Poole and Cabinet Members Iris Johnston and Michelle Fennel, attacked and verbally bullied the report authors in a quite extraordinary way. Instead of seeing the report for what it was – a starting point for an important debate and overdue change – they regarded it as personal criticism which it clearly was not.
The views of Conservative Leader Councillor Bob Bayford, who had pledged to support “steps which will change the public perception of council affairs”, were clearly not shared by his party colleagues.Thanet Green Party noted that some councillors attempted to divert blame for the council’s poor reputation on Councillor Driver, who faces disciplinary action for taking pictures of council meetings— a practice allowed by most councils in Kent.
The Green Party supports Councillor Driver’s principled efforts to force more transparency and openness on to Thanet Council in his campaign to allow the public the right to film meetings.Councillor Driver has been campaigning tirelessly against corruption, incompetence and secrecy at Thanet Council. He was the first councillor to raise concerns about Pleasurama, the secret £3.4 million TransEuropa debt, and the mismanagement of the Royal Pavilion lease disposal.
Councillor Driver made an audio recording of last night’s (Thursday) Standards Committee meeting. The Thanet Green Party is happy to publish this recording. It can be accessed below.
Although the recoding may have been made in breach of council rules we believe that there is overwhelming public interest in making this recording publicly available. Let the people of Thanet judge for themselves how well served they are by their councillors.