“A Christmas Carol(e)” – with Lisa & Jeremy

Whitby --> News --> “A Christmas Carol(e)” – with Lisa & Jeremy

“A Christmas Carol(e)” – with Lisa & Jeremy

“A Christmas Carol(e)” – with Lisa & Jeremy

An ‘In My View’ article – by Nigel Ward

IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST

  • “Weeks turn into years; how quick they pass. And all the stars that never were are parking cars and pumping gas”. (“Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” – Burt Bacharach & Hal David)

On Christmas Eve, my mind went back to a lengthy and wide-ranging telephone conversation with the Leader of North Yorkshire County Council, Councillor John WEIGHELL (Con.), in the summer of 2009.

John conceded to me that he, too, was deeply concerned about democratic representation and governance in Whitby and the rest of the Borough of Scarborough – which he described as the ‘most troubling’ of the District/Borough/City Councils within his North Yorkshire purview. Try as I would, I was unable to draw him into elaborating on his quite obviously well-informed and decidedly adverse opinion.

I believe I now know why.

It is always difficult, in local politics, to point a finger at fellow Councillors or paid public servants; there is the future to consider. What goes around may all too easily come around; and a week, as they say, is along time in politics. So it was always clear that Cllr John WEIGHELL would steer well clear of allegations of corruption – particularly if they involved fellow Conservatives; which they do, though not exclusively.

As regular readers will know, the Corruption Busters have been making a very careful study of the Public Record in relation to Declarations of Interest, Allowances/Expenses, Company Directorships and other forms of vested interests.

There are others whose remit it is to examine such matter; the Monitoring Officers.

The Monitoring Officers have an advantage over members of the public when it comes to examining the Public Record; they have absolute ease of access. They do not need, as we do, to invoke the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in order to identify evidence of Malfeasance and Misconduct in Public Office – an offence at Common Law, defined as follows:

  • noun. improper and/or illegal acts by a public official which violate his/her duty to follow the law and act on behalf of the public good. Often such conduct is under the guise or “colour” of official authority.

Indeed.

Details of the offence are set out in November 2007 guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS):

Principles

The elements of misconduct in public office are:

  • a) A public officer acting as such.
  • b) Wilfully neglects to perform his duty and/or wilfully misconducts himself.
  • c) To such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder.
  • d) Without reasonable excuse or justification.
  • (Councillors and Officers of Councils, like members of the Police Force, are ‘office holders’).

This offence is far from trivial; upon conviction, it may attract a penalty of an indefinite period of imprisonment and an indefinite fine.

How are we to reconcile these requirements of the law with the conduct evinced by the Monitoring Officers of NYCC, SBC and the NYPA in recent times?

Clearly, with some difficulty – because all three seem to have acted ‘beyond authority’* in their handling of complaint and requests for information during the past year.

[* – the legal term for acting beyond one’s authority is ‘ultra vires’, and ultra vires actions are addressable by the courts. Surprisingly, training to go ‘beyond authority’ is frequently provided by Local Authorities to their Officers, through Common Purpose, at the taxpayers’ expense].

On 1st July 2012, all of our Local Authorities assumed responsibility for conducting Standards Complaint investigations in accordance with the terms of the Localism Act 2012. This introduced a number of measures; notably:

  • The abolition of Standards for England (previously Standards Board for England)
  • A requirement to promote and maintain high standards of conduct
  • Local codes of conduct
  • A requirement to register pecuniary and other interests
  • The creation of a new criminal offence of failing to register relevant interests

The Act requires Local Authorities to have in place mechanisms to investigate allegations that a member has not complied with the Code of Conduct, and arrangements under which decisions on allegations may be made.

On the face of it, this would appear to be a step towards the enforcement of higher ethical standards amongst Councillors, Council Officers and Police Officers.

It is a mirage.

In the immediate aftermath of these new requirements, Monitoring Officers Carole DUNN (NYCC), Lisa DIXON (SBC) and Jeremy HOLDERNESS would all appear to have evaded their respective duties and exceeded their respective authority – with apparent impunity. (Carole DUNN featured in the second of three Private Eye articles about corruption in North Yorkshire Councils within her purview – all three in the last half year).

One or all of them (or their minions) has withheld information; ignored formal Complaints; colluded with Defendants and with one another in the preparation of Defence Statements; failed to report crimes, and breached the terms of employment contracts.

What is not yet clear is whether they have done so at their own prerogative, or in compliance with, and obedience to, orders ‘from above’. This makes it difficult to determine against whom charges of Malfeasance and/or Misconduct in Public Office should be brought.

An interesting aspect of the revised Code of Conduct is that Councillors and Police Officers are now required to declare membership of the Ancient & Accepted Masons – the Freemasons – within their respective Registers of Interests.

This is perhaps because the very first of the Three Great Principles of Freemasonry may all too easily stand in conflict with the duty to report crime:

  • “BROTHERLY LOVE – means that every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and will behave with compassion and understanding to his fellows.

Historically, this ‘compassion and understanding to his fellows’ has extended to the injunction to bring ‘no harm or woe’ upon fellow Freemasons. Clearly, the prospect of ‘whistle-blowing’ on fellow Councillors who happen also to be Brother Freemasons presents a serious dilemma for the would-be ‘whistleblower’.

The Third Great Principle is also a potential cause of conflict:

  • “TRUTH – Freemasons strive for truth both in their view of themselves and in their dealings with others. Masonry requires high moral standards and its members endeavour to uphold these principles in their public and private lives.

At SBC, only one of the Councillor has, to his credit, declared membership of the Freemasons; relative new-comer Councillor David CHANCE, Conservative member for Mayfield Ward in Whitby, (where he is joined by Councillor Jane KENYON).

Unfortunately, if membership lists passed to me are genuine – and there is no reason to believe otherwise – Councillor David CHANCE is not alone amongst Councillors in his membership of the Freemasons; which means that the Code of Conduct has been breached yet again. We can only hope that membership will be declared very soon . . .

Who_will_help_the_widows_son

So how frequent and serious have been the various breaches of the Code of Conduct in recent times?

That rather depends upon how seriously one views such breaches as:

All this would be disgraceful enough. What is even more despicable is that some of the offenders have been heard to gloat about the way that the Monitoring Officers have exculpated them, about how they have no fear of the new Standards regime, and about how they have ‘done nothing wrong, really’ – they have, after all, done only what Councillors have been doing unhindered for years and years; availed themselves of the privilege of Office, without regard to their responsibilities as bearers of the public trust.

In my view, that is unforgivable.

I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year.


  • “Bear in mind that Brag is a good dog, but Holdfast is better. Bear that in mind, will you?” repeated Mr Jaggers, shutting his eyes and nodding his head at Joe, as if he were forgiving him something. (“Great Expectations” – Charles Dickens)

Post Scriptum“A Christmas Cracker” – Following the usual felicitations, one of my Christmas cards included in its message this question; “Did you ever get a response from Tom Fox on that question you posed on 1st July?”

The answer is NO.

The question was:

  • “Are you currently satisfied with your appointment of the present Portfolio Holder for Finance, Procurement and Legal?”

PrivateEyeChristmasIssue

About the Author:

Website Admin for the Real Whitby Website. All authors of the Real Whitby Website have access to publish on the website. Individual authors will usually sign off their articles with their own names.

13 Comments

  1. Jon Risdon December 26, 2012 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Well done Nigel, another well-researched and incisive article that goes right to the heart of the matter: once the bonhomie of the festive celebrations has receded, the recidivists should feel the cold sweat of realisation that the game is well & truly up – they’ve been rumbled!

  2. Richard Ineson December 26, 2012 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    This is what the Rt.Hon. Eric Pickles, Communities Minister had to say about this on the 28.10. 2012. “l I think it is really massively important to ensure that we have freedom of press in this country. Something that characterises the British press is that it is good at exposing corruption and it is good at going to places where other press wouldn’t and I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said that for a free society to operate then the river of a free press had to flow without restriction. So I think that given that I think the press are looking towards finding ways, the end result of offering a good way in which people have got a legitimate complaint can find a resource, then that’s right.”

    I cannot see where Eric Pickles says “Except in Whitby”.

  3. Robert L December 26, 2012 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Everything OK, Nigel?

    You’re disappearance from FB has been noticed.

  4. sue jones December 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    Was concerned to see your FB account vanish and your poast. Have you been censored or sanctioned on FB? Would you let us know you are ok ? Hoping you are .

    Best wishes
    Sue

  5. kathleen parker December 26, 2012 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    Well put Mr Ineson never a true word.

  6. Richard Ineson December 26, 2012 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    It has always seemed strange to me, that although the main Councils in this area SBC and NYCC are controlled by the Conservative Party, they do not seem, in relation to matters of openness and transparency in government, which are frequently espoused by senior Conservative politicians and, presumably are the policy of the Coalition government, to support these worthy principles. I have drawn the attention of the public, on many occasions, to the iniquitous practise, utilised in this area, of using STAKEHOLDER STEERING GROUPS the members of which are anonymous,unelected, unaccountable and unmandated, and whose meetings are unminuted and to whose secret meetings, the public are not admitted, to make decisions which are then rubber stamped by the relevant committee of the Council. The members of these groups do not have to declare any vested interests, as would be the case if they were elected Councillors, a very bad system of government which mirrors the ‘rotten boroughs’of yesteryear, and which was supposedly abolished by the Reform Act of 1832

  7. Richard Ineson December 26, 2012 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation. Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through. But, I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying now. Do not listen to the seductions of Lord Woolton. He is a very good salesman. If you are selling shoddy stuff you have to be a good salesman. But I warn you they have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse than they were.
    Speech on 3 July 1948 at the Bellevue Hotel by Aneurin Bevan

  8. kathleen parker December 26, 2012 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    Here here! They are rubbing our noses in it and hope to make us squirm! We need a radical change.

  9. kathleen parker December 27, 2012 at 12:15 am - Reply

    Has your article hit a nerve Nigel? I think it just might have! But hey ho it makes us think more and we are still behind you, don’t let em grind you down.

  10. David Mccann December 29, 2012 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    Very interesting article…good job, keep it up!

  11. Nigel Ward December 29, 2012 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    CORRUPTION BUSTERS 2012 AWARDS in recognition of extraordinary corruption in North Yorkshire. On-line tomorrow, Sunday 30th December 2012. Nominations still open until midnight tonight, Saturday 29th December 2012.

  12. Dave Red January 2, 2013 at 11:03 am - Reply

    This is what the Rt.Hon. Eric Pickles, Communities Minister had to say about this on the 28.10. 2012. “l I think it is really massively important to ensure that we have freedom of press in this country. Something that characterises the British press is that it is good at exposing corruption and it is good at going to places where other press wouldn’t and I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said that for a free society to operate then the river of a free press had to flow without restriction. So I think that given that I think the press are looking towards finding ways, the end result of offering a good way in which people have got a legitimate complaint can find a resource, then that’s right.”

    I cannot see where Eric Pickles says “Except in Whitby”.

    The above was posted by Richard Ineson. A free press is laudable, I’m sure everybody would agree on that except, some people may not. Not easy to understand exactly what Eric Pickles is saying. One would think that a man in the position of Eric Pickles would make his written and spoken word easily understandable by the general populace unless he had a reason for not making it easy to understand or it was just for the sake of saying something or writing something without actually saying anything meaningful.

    This in particular, I find difficult to understand what he is on about. ” So I think that given that I think the press are looking towards finding ways, the end result of offering a good way in which people have got a legitimate complaint can find a resource, then that’s right.”

    Can anybody decipher this?

  13. Dave Red January 2, 2013 at 11:11 am - Reply

    Richard Ineson. You are making too much of the apparent difference between the Labour and the Tory parties. In 1948 it may have been discernable but now the lines are completely blurred. An objective may have been achieved. Divide and conquer. Labour and Conservative lines drawn up, that is, as far as the man in the street is concerned but in reality…? In reality, where is the difference? I used to think communism and fascism, left and right wing, were different. Then a very wise man (not Nigel Ward…sorry, I jest) pointed out to me that there is no difference. Both are merely tools to control the populace.

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