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Nigel Ward Letter To Mike Cokerill SBC – Re : Scoresby Monument

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Whitby Scoresby Monument - Blown Down In April Storms 2012

Whitby Scoresby Monument

I must begin by declaring a position on the Scoresby Monument at Dock End, deep in the heart of Whitby. The fact is, I did not think much of it. It always looked to me like nothing more than a surplus telegraph pole with a tub and a fibreglass figure strapped to it – poor fare, indeed, in comparison to the Captain James Cook statue overlooking the Harbour mouth. It always struck me as being nothing more than a piece of old movie-set; actually a B movie-set.

Nevertheless, it stood as a monument to a notable pair of Whitby mariners. It will be missed by many.

It was just about 9:30pm on the evening of Tuesday 3rd April 2012 when I received a FaceBook PM from a friend of mine whose spouse happens to be Whitby Town (Parish) Councillor Sean Rixham-Smith. The message read, “Apparently Scorsby statue outside tourist information has blown down”. I asked for confirmation, and this was supplied by the Chair of Whitby in Bloom, Cllr Mrs Amanda Smith. In due course, I learned that Cllr Rixham-Smith was at the scene. The report was true.

Presently, it occurred to me the SBC’s Whitby Harbour Board Chair Cllr Mike Cockerill (SBC & NYCC) was the man who most needed to know this information, so I emailed him on his private email address, which I received, by the way, directly from Mike himself – at the time of the appointment of the Whitby Town Clerk, Mike was anxious to make certain information available to me. (Mike was subsequently the subject of a Standards Committee complaint – allegedly, he ‘leaked’ information already in the public domain!). No further action. Same old, same old.

At 11:18pm, Mike emailed his response, saying only “Evening Nigel. Thanks for the info. Mike”.

Perfectly civil.

But let me go back a little way. In September 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron offered the nation his pledge for transparency and accountability at all levels of government. I am no fan of David Cameron, but I appreciated his commitment on this fundamental building block of our democracy:

“For too long those in power made decisions behind closed doors, released information behind a veil of jargon and denied people the power to hold them to account. This coalition is driving a wrecking ball through that culture – and it’s called transparency.” – [David Cameron – September 2010]

So I emailed all fifty Scarborough Borough Councillors and the eleven Executive Officers, and also the nineteen Whitby Town (Parish) Councillors and the Town Clerk and Deputy Clerk, asking if each of them personally upheld the Prime Minister’s position. Of those eighty-two people, only fifteen replied in the affirmative. The very first ‘I DO’ came from Mike Cockerill:

—– Original Message —–
From: Cllr.Mike Cockerill
Sent: 24/09/10 06:34 PM
To: ‘Nigel’
Subject: Re: TRANSPARENCY and the public interest

Hi NIgel  I DO uphold the PM’s statement calling for transparency.  Cheers Mike

Note that capitalized ‘I DO’ – Mike’s capitals, not mine.

Now. Back to Tuesday night.

Reports kept coming in. Apparently, the mast had broken off near the ground. The timber on each side of the break was reportedly wet and rotten. An eyewitness stated that a passer-by had experienced a very close shave indeed.

On Wednesday morning, I visited Dock End, equipped with my camera and a 12” nail or spike.

I examined the timber – soft as a rotten pear – and took some pictures of the timber with my spike pushed in by my hand, to a depth of over half its length.

I started thinking about the great good fortune that nobody had been hurt. One hesitates to imagine the terrible consequences if the monument had toppled on Easter Sunday or bank Holiday Monday, with huge crowds milling around the plaque that stands before it, describing the Scoresbys and their considerable achievements.

So next morning, I emailed Mike Cockerill once more, asking if there was a liability issue here; were there maintenance logs kept? Risk Assessment matrices, etc? – quite informally, just to get some idea of the surrounding circumstances.

Mike replied, as follows:

—– Original Message —–
From: Mike Cockerill
To: ‘Nigel’
Sent: Wednesday, April 04, 2012 6:53 PM
Subject: Re: Scoresby down


Thanks for the photos

I’ve had a report about the damage.
Options will be discussed.


Very polite, but dodging my questions.

But why? What could he possibly wish to conceal?

So I emailed again, suggesting that it really need not go as far as a formal Freedom of Information request; surely the people of Whitby are entitled to know if there is any substance to the rumours that the Scoresby Monument has been inadequately maintained, and, as a result of that, the Council’s public liability insurers may seek to withdraw indemnity, either for the damage itself, or for Public Safety – with all the likelihood of an ensuing legal action, funded from the public purse. This is surely a matter of public interest.

In plain language, Mike stiff-armed me. Here is his one-liner response: “Sorry Nigel I’m not entering into any more dialogue but I do appreciate you informing me of the incident last evening Cheers“

Now call me a cynic, but what I take from that is that Mike really does not want me to have any information that could find its way, through Real Whitby, into the public domain – for the very probable reason that it would once again demonstrate the almost inconceivably gross negligence and incompetence that has characterized SBC’s inaction on Whitby Harbour matters, over three or four decades.

And this is the man who capitalized his “I DO uphold the PM’s statement calling for transparency”.

I wonder now if Mike’s omission of the word ‘accountability’ was intentional.

Let is now consider two issues.

Firstly, if Mike Cockerill is entering into dialogue on this subject with anyone other than me, he is, ipso facto, exercising discrimination against me. Why would he want to do that?

Could it be, perhaps, because I have been emailing him in his official capacity at his SBC email address, asking him to explain how it is that he appears to have accepted an allowance from NYCC to finance his broadband connection whilst at the same time (and for the same broadband connection) accepted an allowance from SBC for the same purpose? He has not responded to these emails. In fairness, Mike is not alone in this little jig. Ten of the 13 ‘two-hatted’ Councillors appear to have done the same. It has every hallmark of being one of those ‘perks of the job’ situations – oddly reminiscent of the MPs’ expenses scandal. And Mike Cockerill does not respond.

Or perhaps it is because he is inimical to me for having pointed out that two of his appointed members on the Whitby Harbour Board have admitted to having written defamatory emails, on SBC letter-headings, to Whitby Town (Parish) Council and to the Town Mayor, Cllr John Freeman – clearly a flagrant breach of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct – a subject I have addressed elsewhere. The then Monitoring Officer of SBC, Ian Anderson (now with Hull Council), and his acting successor Ms Lisa Dixon, have also completely ignored my emails on this subject. Clearly, there is no will whatsoever in SBC to uphold the PM’s pledge for transparency or accountability, or to reuiore that members adhere to the Code of Conduct.

And, secondly, one cannot avoid the conclusion that the Whitby Harbour Board has once again shown itself to be a body signally lacking in both expertise and integrity. Our Piers and Extensions are in danger. We have lost two footbridges (to the Extensions), due to negligence – though one is scheduled to be replaced. Both of our Lighthouses are in appalling repair, closed to the public, and susceptible to collapse in extreme weather conditions. The Swing-Bridge is always a concern. And the poor old Scoresby Monument has quite literally already bitten the dust. The word from a WTC Councillor this morning is that it is not to be repaired. Perhaps it will be replaced, one would hope by something more dignified – and permanent.

And, really, Mike could so easily have replied, “No worries, Nigel. Everything is in order. I will have one of my staff forward the docs. Cheers. Mike.” He could have – but he did not. Why not?

So I will be submitting a formal Freedom of Information request to Scarborough Borough Council – and my information is that I will be far from alone in doing so. I will post it here in due course.

I have said it before: ‘accountability’ is not about blame. It is about acknowledging errors of judgement – learning from mistakes. The first step, Mike Cockerill, is to own up about them. Are you big enough to do that? Will your Officers allow you to?

You are the Chair of the Whitby Harbour Board, Mike. The buck stops with you. Unless, of course, you can shunt it off to someone else.

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Posted by on April 5, 2012. Filed under Arguments Yard. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

15 Responses to Nigel Ward Letter To Mike Cokerill SBC – Re : Scoresby Monument

  1. Tony Barlow Reply

    April 5, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    To be honest why waste your time on something like this. How about you spill the beans on what sounds like fraudulent expense claims. Sounds much more exciting.

  2. Nigel Ward Reply

    April 5, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    @TB: That will be coming soon to a computer screen near you. Meanwhile, every issue counts . . .

    —– Original Message —–
    From: ‘Nigel’
    To: Brian Bennett
    Sent: Thursday, April 05, 2012 5:07 PM
    Subject: FOIA request

    Mr Brian BENNETT – Head of Tourism & Culture and Harbour Supremo – SBC


    Freedom of Information Request – 5th April 2012

    Following the
    collapse of the William Scoresby (father & son) Monument on the evening
    of Tuesday 3rd April 2012, please provide the following information
    under terms of the FOIA:

    1) e-copies of all inspections and/or
    maintenance logs in respect of the Monument, since its erection.

    2) e-
    copies of all Risk Assessment documents, including matrices, since its

    3) a detailed accounting of all cost incurred maintaining
    the Monument, since its erection.

    4) e-copies of all specifications
    for use by tender bidders or any other parties.

    5) an e-copy of the
    Terms & Conditions of SBC’s public-liability insurance in respect of
    liability in the event of inadequate maintenance and RA arrangements.

    Please provide an acknowledgement of this request, together with a
    designated FOIA Number. Thank you.

    This FOIA request expires on
    Tuesday 8th May 2012.

    For the record, I have attempted to elicit this
    information informally from Cllr Mike Cockerill (Chair: Whitby Harbour
    Board – SBC), with a view to pre-empting the burden of an FOIA request
    on the public purse. He has refused further dialogue.

    Kind regards,


    • Nigel Ward Reply

      April 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm

      Councillor Tom Brown has just shared with me his email to Brian Bennett in support of my request for information in the public interest. Thank you, Tom.

      —– Original Message —–
      From: Tom Brown
      To: Brian Bennet
      Cc: ; david. ; ; ; cllr.sandra.turner ; CAMERON, David ; Whitby Town Council ; Cllr.Dorothy Clegg ; Nigel ; Richard Ineson ; Jon Risdon
      Sent: Sunday, April 08, 2012 7:39 PM
      Subject: Nigel Ward

      Hello Brian

      I dont know if you consider yourself fireproof but will you respond to FOIs as the law requires?

      There is a conspiracy in Scarborough Borough Council to deny the due rights of the electorate.

      I doubt that Jim Dillon will even read this but you can be sure that David Archer will even though his email address constantly eludes me.

      Everybody in the town desires the answers to these questions.

      The words of Nigel Ward!

      The fact that Nigel Ward is one who asks questions that desire full answers which is totally in order; I as a town councillor I find
      Nigel’s in-terminate but apposite questions cannot be ignored. His questions ‘targeted on me’ as his ward town councillor makes me address my own reasons for being a ‘town councillor’ which, given the reasons for my existence, forces me to react in a democratic matter.

      I personally have nothing to hide and as such will promote his legal right and proper ‘Freedom of Information Questions’ and so I view any
      prevarication to any such questions as ‘Something To Hide’.

      Please recognise his rights as those of a ‘bona fida citizen’.

      Failure to do this leaves any recipient guilty a failure of adherence to the EXTANT law.

      Cllr Tom Brown
      Not just a mere town councillor but one that is not paid ergo not controlled but approachable for reasons of democracy.

      • Nigel Ward Reply

        April 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm

        FOIA acknowledgement in:

        “a referral has been made to the responsible officer to collate a response” – that would be Head of Tourism & Culture and Harbour Supremo Brian Bennett – with whom the responsibility clearly rests. So why jas he lumbered Karen Crosier with this? But what the hell – let’s give Nigel the runaround.

        —– Original Message —–
        From: Karen Crosier
        To: Nigel
        Sent: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 1:55 PM
        Subject: FOIA2006 – William Scoresby (father and son) Monument

        FOIA No: 2006
        Date of Receipt: 10 April 2012
        Last Date for Response: 9 May 2012
        File Ref: CP01/00000137

        Thank you for your written communication of 10 April 2012. The information that you require is not included within the Council’s formal publication scheme and a referral has been made to the responsible officer to collate a response.

        You may expect to receive a response to your request by 9 May 2012, that is within twenty working days of its receipt by the Council.

        In some circumstances a fee may be payable and if that is the case, we will let you know. A fees notice will be issued to you, and you will be required to pay before we will proceed to deal with your request.

        Please ensure that any further communication in relation to this matter is sent by you to the Freedom of Information Officer at the above address quoting the reference in the subject line of this communication.

        Kind regards

        Freedom of Information Officer

        • Allan Roberts Reply

          April 14, 2012 at 3:20 pm

          Nigel,Tom, FLC, et al, Dont hold your breath for a reply from Mr Bennett, below is the strategy he told me he uses to deal with his correspondence.

          “ I get about 80 odd e-mails a day, most days I dont read most of them, what I tend to do is look at those that stand out and it can go for weeks before I read some of them some of them I probably dont even read at all. I look at who its from and the title and I think well if its that important they will come back and ask, and if its not then eventually they just get deleted”

  3. Tom Brown Reply

    April 5, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Sadly taxi drivers have (while waiting near to the aforesaid disaster)said that ‘What could you expect when the mast was surrounded by a collar of wet soil’
    This could point to Whitby Town Council and its ‘Whitby in Bloom’ interests.

  4. Tony Barlow Reply

    April 5, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Why look for blame Tom. It fell down, so what. I dont believe your wasting your precious time on something that really doesn’t matter. What are you going to achieve even if your given every last detail.

    • F L C Reply

      April 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm

      I don’t know you sir, but I can say with certainty that these people are short-sighted. They spend lots of money, taken from John Q Taxpayer, and that money seems to be wasted on a grand scale.

      It is long past time that this wasteage stopped. Long past time that the people who claim to be ‘responsible’ did the honourable thing and took the blame for their shortcomings.

      From: FLC
      Subject: To Brian Bennett and Mike Cockerill – Request for information related to Public Property
      Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2012 19:13:58 +0100

      Dear Sirs,

      Following the collapse of the Scoresby ‘Crow’s Nest’ in Whitby recently, I would like to inquire and request information from one or both of you (or whoever might be appropriate) for the following:

      1) The Risk Assessment documents/matrices since 1/01/2001 for the installation and maintenance of the ‘Crows Nest’

      2) The inspection reports 1/01/2001 for the same

      3) List of costs, and details of preventative maintenance measures 1/01/2001 for the same.

      4) Cost of repair of the monument and report(s) prepared in relation to the same for what measures shall be taken to prevent future ‘incidents’ of this nature.

      I will anticipate your responses and look forward to them.

      In sincerity,


  5. Nigel Ward Reply

    April 6, 2012 at 8:30 am

    @TB: The Whitby Harbour Board is required, by law, to meet in public. It does so quarterly. At the last meeting, Cllr Cockerill opened the meeting atr 2:02pm. He breezed through the first five Agenda Items without interruption., the Harbour Master Ian Vesey read out his report, Cllrs Tindall and Turner made a couple of innocuous remarks, Jon Whitton (as Chair, at the time, of the WHUCG) made the only coherent comments of the afternoon, then Cockerill wrapped it up. It was 2:42pm.

    It is painfully obvious that a huge concern like Whitby Harbour, in a state of considerable dilipadiation and dereliction, cannot conceivably be managed by means of a 40-minute ‘show’ meeting once every three months. Equally obviously, the real decisions are being made at secret meetings other than those scheduled and open to the public. The law prohibits secret meetings, but these arrogant Councillors and Officers think they are above the law. You should see my extensive correspondence with Ian Anderson (SBC ex-Head of Legal), in which he ties himself in knots trying to deny that secret meetings take place – without actually denying it.

    Whitby Harbour deserves Trust Port status – out of the hands of this corrupt and incompetent Council, as the Government instructed in its 2002 White Paper. The WHB is only a ‘pilot’ body, with a life expectatation of two year – more than half of which has passed. It is a facade. Have a look at the following:

    And don’t worry about the double broadband fiddle. We will come to that, very soon.

  6. Jon Risdon Reply

    April 6, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Without wanting to comment on the intrinsic value of the ‘monument’ in question [like the man said: "you can't please all the people......."], I feel it is worth mentioning, and Tom Brown’s comment is very relevant here, that, from my admittedly not encyclopaedic knowledge of timber, it could well be that the choice of wood for this type of use, notwithstanding any lack of or insufficient maintenance, was inappropriate? The reason for this is probably not too hard to come up with; the old favourite: cost. If the usage of the support post was changed from that envisaged for its original specification [speaking with my designer's hat on now] by the addition of a collar of damp soil, as Tom Brown avers, then surely, a suitably amended maintenance programme should have been initiated as a matter of necessity as well as priority?

  7. Richard Ineson Reply

    April 9, 2012 at 7:20 am

    The column which supported the Scoresby memorial looked just like the telegraph posts which you still see all over the U. K.
    These posts are impregnated with some creosote like substance,probably under pressure, and last for many years – I know of one which is still in good condition at the side of an abandoned railway line which closed in 1965.
    So why, if these telegraph posts can be made to last, many years, without regular maintenance, did this post, rot away and break off after a few short years?
    I think that we should be told.

    • Nigel Ward Reply

      April 9, 2012 at 7:45 am

      My friend Howard Foster, formerly head of Customer First at SBC, told me that before his grievous error (joining SBC) he had been in Customer Relations with BT. We were at the time at the top of the West Pier Lighthouse. It was Howard who took my profile pic. I asked him if he happened to know when it was last inspected. He did not know, but was able to share with me the information that telegraph poles are inspected annually. BT is, of course, managed by competent professionals.

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