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Sunday, 17 November 2013

Thanet Council Standards Committee Says Councillors Don't Have Any!

Sorry but this is going to be a much longer post than usual.
A few days ago I wrote about a press release issued by TDC (Abuse on the Rates)   which improperly named and, by implication, criticised a local businesswoman. I said at the time that this press release was symptomatic of a long and well established culture of bullying and disrespect at the Council which is dangerous and damaging. 

Well imagine my surprise when I read the report produced by the Independent Members of Thanet Council’s Standards Committee. This brave and long overdue report, which will be discussed next week, mentioned many of the things which have been on my mind for a long time. In effect the report of the  Council's Standards Committee is saying that Councillors don't have any (standards).
I have copied a link to the report below, but here are some extracts as a taster.

“The Council is held in low regard by the public”.  “There is a local suspicion of secrecy and corruption”. “Many personal attacks taking place between members during debates”. “The overwhelming view from members of the public that the councillors are not serving the public by whom they were elected”. It gets worse --
 
“Correspondence published in the local press, including official press releases and the columns written by the leaders of the main political parties, include personal attacks, between members, and on some occasions towards individual members of the public”. “A Council whose members are distrustful of each other, and of the public. “There appears to be a ‘siege mentality’”.  And finally – “The Council has the appearance of a dysfunctional organisation whose behaviour and internal squabbles adversely affect the delivery of services, capital projects etc. to the residents of the local district”.

 I agree with all of these sentiments and applaud this report for firing a well-deserved rocket up the jacksies of Thanet Councillors for sitting back and  allowing a culture of bullying, secrecy and personal abuse to thrive.

But the truth is that the behaviour of some Councillors is even more appalling than this outspoken report portrays. I am personally aware of examples of some Councillors using their influence and connections to destroy the businesses and livelihoods of members of the public and other councillors with whom they have fallen out or disagree with. I have personally been threatened by a senior Council Officer at the behest of the political leaders no doubt, of having an injunction taken out against me and legal costs made against me which could have resulted in my bankruptcy. Councillor and officer misbehaviour is not just about name calling and verbal abuse, its much deeper, more sinister and nasty than the report describes.

 
The only part of the report with which I have disagreement is the criticism of Councillors who knowingly break the Council’s Code of Conduct and refuse to be subject to the ensuing disciplinary process.  One of those Councillors followed this path because he was subject to an intolerable level of homophobic abuse by other Councillors including a voice mail from Conservative Councillor Ken Gregory hoping he would get  Aids!

video
There then followed a series of  politically motivated complaints against this Councillor, from Conservative TDC members which, in my opinion, were motivated by homophobia. Sadly  the Standards Committee, in a shameful capitulation to prejudice and bigotry, decided to investigate these baseless claims. No wonder this Councillor took the decision not to be bound by the Standards process, because the Standards Committee  was complicit in a homophobic campaign against him. See this video clip where that Councillor speaks for himself.
 
 
The other Councillor to opt out of the Code of Conduct and Standards process is me. I am sorry if my decision to do this may have caused upset to some people, but I feel that I have been forced into this position because of the secrecy and lack of

transparency which prevails at Thanet Council. This is why I openly published, copied and distributed secret documents about the Pleasurama development. My act of publication was motivated by what I believe to be the public interest and by revealing these documents I played an important role in forcing a Scrutiny Committee investigation into this scandal and promoting a wide public debate. I have also broken the rules twice about filming and photography at Council meetings. Why? Because I believe that the public have a democratic right to  film their councillors at work and take photographs of incidents such as Councillor Rick Everitt squaring up for a fight with Councillor Mick Tomlinson.  
 I am a staunch believer in openness, transparency and accountability in public affairs and I’m sorry, but if the only way I can raise these issues is by breaking some of the petty, old fashioned rules used to cover the backsides of politicians and officers  then I will continue to do so whatever the consequence might be.

 Having said that, I am committed 100% to being respectful to the public and trying to behave in a reasonable and fair manner. It’s not easy when, like me, you are passionate about local affairs and politics. I know I have not been perfect in this respect and there is one item of  unfinished business I must deal with. That was my attack on the Great  British  Pizza Company for publishing what I now recognise was a well-intentioned article about the problems faced by Margate and its residents. For this I am  profoundly sorry and will be contacting the owners of that business privately to make a formal apology.

 A few final comments, the Standards Committee is made up of 4 independent members, 7 Thanet District Councillors and 2 Parish Councillors, For this Committee to do its job properly  I think that all politicians should be excluded from membership and  it should be made up entirely of Independent Members.  Furthermore politicians should have no role in deciding which people are selected as  Independent Members of the Standards Committee.

 I welcome the proposal for compulsory Councillor training as a way to improve behaviour and relationships and I will be first in the queue to sign up – but sadly I don’t think this will make a big difference.  The problem with Thanet politics is its long tradition of political tribalism and family dynasties which have dominated for far too long. The political structures are also old fashioned and not fit purpose and contribute toward the secretive, incompetent  and morally corrupt   local government we enjoy in Thanet.  I will be blogging on these issues  shortly.

 One thing is for certain a lot of councillors need to go. They have been in office far too long, and  achieved remarkably little. It’s time to engage new people in Thanet politics and Thanet Council. People with new  ideas and new ways of doing things. People who are honest, open and committed to democracy and public engagement. In the months to come the Thanet Green Party will be hosting  discussions with people  who want be part of this solution in readiness for elections in 2015 when we can do something about it.

 This report from the Independent Members of Thanet Council’s  Standards Committee is incredibly brave and important. It clearly demonstrates that it’s time for a change. No more same old, same old.  I’m with Russell Brand on this one, people are seriously pissed off with politicians. We need a political revolution in Thanet, but not of the UKIP scapegoat and victimisation variety.  Come and join the Revolution! Make your voice heard!
 
You can read the report here
 Here is a song which is quite apt

 

16 comments:

  1. If you refuse to be bound by the standards committee, is it not hypocritical to then support it when it makes a finding which you believe suits you?

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    1. Hi Anon. I have explained why I have chosen to knowingly flout some of the rules. I do not break all the rules just a few rules I deem to be inappropriate. I also break this rules openly, unlike others who secretly leak documents. This is not being hypocritical its called being open and transparent - something the Council is not.

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    2. An interesting view. So you consider openly flouting the rules of the body that you then support when they condemn others, and choosing which rules you intend to follow, whilst you consider that everyone else should comply with the view of this committee to be acceptable?

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    3. So it's up to you to decide which rules can be broken? If we all took this arrogant approach, there would be no rules! I think it's inappropriate that there are 20mph speed limits in towns. Does that mean it's ok for me to ignore them?

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    4. Progress is made by challenging outdated and unfair rules, or rules that work against openness and transparency. Where would be without the Suffragettes braking rules, or Nelson Mandela or Ghandi. However there are many rules that I respect and adhere to like being polite and respectful and behaving in an open and honest manner.

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    5. In other words, we have to draw the line somewhere. But what makes you think you are the person who should decide where that line is?

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  2. A good report and fair summary Cllr Driver - although it has taken far too long and ignores the fact that many of the officials are are deceitful and corrupt as the councilllors. What is happening with Sue MacGonigal for example?

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    1. The report does not look at officers. I think it should. Some senior officers behave, in my opinion, politically when they should not. Some senior officers would not be my choice to be in control of large public services. This could be addressed by changing the structure of local government in East Kent such as abolishing TDC altogether, which I will blog on later

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  3. Dear Cllr Driver. i know many of the people on this committee and they are not homophobic. AGAIN on the attack mode. Chill. This is what that report is all about. Please don't apportion blame. Its widespread. . They are actually trying to help you.

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    1. I agree the report is very helpful and it was a brave things for the Independent members to do. However, no-one is perfect, and there is no doubt in my mind that in pursuing baseless claims against Cllr Worrow, the Standards Committee allowed itself to become involved in a particularly nasty witch hunt. That doesn't mean that the members of the Standards Committee are individually homophobic, I am sure that they are not, but that Thanet Council is institutionally homophobic. But my main point is that the report as whole is a good thing which hopefully will be a wake up call to the politicians and some senior officers. Although the cynic in me tell me it will soon be forgotten and ignored

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  4. Well at least the report finally says things that the people of Thanet are actually thinking.

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  5. Wetherspoon. I'm not sure it helps any for local bloggers to regularly spell things incorrectly (see your poll, for example). http://www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk/

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  6. Can the public write directly to independent members of Standards ? Such as when the monitoring officer, Harvey Patterson, refuses to search and avail certain TDC records fao Standards deliberations. You know there was a history repeating itself recently. It emerged that a Standards process 12 years or so ago sat whilst a cllr and officers concealed 3 strands of evidence. This history was at issue again in a recent complaint against Simon Moores. What happened ? Harvey stated that it is not his duty to obtain the TDC records because if they reveal crime he is under no duty to report it. The independent members need to know about this because to condone a fool is to purchase his folly.

    As it happens all three strands of evidence concealed are subject of Terrorism Act 2000 mandatory duties to report. As you know I cite this history in a report to the QC reviewer of Terrorism Law. Recommending that new legislation is needed to bring all duties to report (making silence an offence) into one act. Common Law Misprision, Resurrected Misprision of Felony and Terrorism Act duties.

    As it happens new information reached me whilst I was writing the submission. It concerns Dungeness A and backup generators. I have reported this historical information to the Nuclear watchdog who have referred it to their site inspector. I doubt I will be told the findings. But it rather looks as if the call for inquiry made by Kent Police Authority in 1997 had been obeyed by Chief constable then the Nuclear Watchdog would or may have been called in when Dungeness A was still operational.

    The still unanswered question is what TDC and KPA Cllr Hayton told the High Court on oath in 1998 at the Mortlock v Tory Vice Chair Maison libel case.

    Did he tell the High Court there was no process of inquiry ?

    Cllr Hayton in 1998 was purportedly representing Bill True (neighbouring landowner who closed down 6th Thanet Gun Range) and John Allen (Chair of a Residents Assn).

    The knowledge Cllr Hayton acquired in 1998, through Bill, John and myself, created a duty to report when the Terrorism Act 2000 came in. Including the matter of Middle Easterners at the 6th Thanet Gun Range. By the time of the first Standards complaint it was known, by press reports and by Scotland Yard press releases, that such middle easterners were a line of inquiry in post 9 11 inquiries.

    As I wrote before the Standards Cttee sat without evidence and thus exonerated Cllr Hayton.

    Simon Moores in the fullness of time blogged that there were no Al Quedda suspects training at a Thanet Gun Range. Simple then. Cllr Moores merely had to take his evidence to the independent members of Standards to allow them to make up their own mind whether a duty to report knowledge exists under the Terrorism Act 2000.

    But what happened ? Harvey refused to disclose the TDC records to Standards. FOI requests to disclose were all stymied.

    And a smaller point. Crime and Disorder Act duty to liaise with Parish councils. Did TDC liaise with parish councils at Birchington and for Broad Oak ? Harvey ??


    Rick

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  7. "Harvey refused to disclose the TDC records".... "FOI requests to disclose were all stymied"

    Haven't you heard 10:30, the Freedom of Information Act doesn't apply to Thanet Council, it is but a sop for public consumption and not enforced by the Information Commissioners Office . I suggest you ask your MP to inquire as to what the ICO are being paid to do.

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  8. Thank you 15.46. Now we wait to see if Harvey will be away to pastures new. ECR's listening post seems to think that may be an imminent event.

    In this case TDC, for example, have no record of Cllr Barry Coppock doing the right lawful thing. Handing in ordnance evidence, from 6th Thanet Gun Range, to Police. Happily I still have Cllr Coppock's letter of the time. The point I think is that evidence was processed to police, in accordance with law, via a Head of TDC Dept on the direction of Cllr Coppock. Yet TDC have no record ?

    If TDC have no record I naturally wonder what evidence Cllr Moores could have for the position he took in denying that Al Quedda suspects trained at the range. For example was he aware that evidence to the contrary would not feature in TDC archives ? When asked what ranges he used in pursuit of his own shooting hobby he refused to answer. Which seems extraordinary as one would expect that to have been a disclosure he should have made to the Standards process. If he was a user of that range was he a member when it twice lost its range licence for irresponsible operation ? And was he a member later when neighbouring landowner Bill True went over TDC and Kent Police heads to Home Office and MOD and got the range licence withdrawn for the third and final time ?

    The local police licensing inspector stipulated that former members of the range could only fire at other ranges with strict supervision by the host ranges. So did this stipulation apply to Cllr Moores if he was a range user ?

    Or was Cllr Moores never a user of that range ? In which case what was his evidential basis for making statements about what didn't go on there ?

    I have reported to Lord Carlile and to the independent QC who monitors the effectiveness of Terrorism law. NOT to raise any investigative action but to argue for amendments to Health and Safety at Work Act and Terrorism Act. And to argue for new legislation on the basis that the existing definition of terrorism (involving ideology and intent) is not helpful to the compelling objective of defence of the realm.

    Associated with the matters paramilitary in the history is the history of nil actioned crime complaints re sabotage of backup generator installations.

    To be clear the new information re Dungeness is technically complex and historical. It is a very strange technical situation. The Nuclear watchdog has asked me to get more detail from my source but I have said that first I think they should make a site inquiry. I don't want to talk again to the source without some idea of what nuclear watchdog initially finds.

    Rick



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  9. Vote for a new set of honest councillors at the next election. Use democracy to rid the place of corruption. It is up to the electorate of Thanet. You get the government you deserve.

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