“Fox’s Cabinet of Curiosities”

An ‘In My View’ article – by Nigel Ward

IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST
Following the recent national media exposure in Private Eye, uPSD and many of the leading political blogs, several readers have been expressing curiosity regarding the composition of SBC Leader Councillor Tom FOX’s Cabinet of Curiosities at Scarborough Borough Council (SBC).

Though it is far from commonly known, SBC was almost abolished in 2007, following North Yorkshire County Council’s bid for Unitary status being short-listed only to fail at the last hurdle.

This followed closely on the heels of the HighPoint-Rendel sea defence Procurement corruption scandal in 2005, which resulted in the demise of then-CEO John Malcolm TREBBLE. The scandal also marked the end for then-Leader Councillor Eileen BOSOMWORTH.

Despite these ‘hiccups’, and following an almost invisible ‘public consultation’ in 2010, in which 42 of the 50 respondents favoured the ‘Elected Mayor’ system – a majority rejected unilaterally by SBC CEO Jim DILLON, who unilaterally deemed the result to be ‘unrepresentative’ – Scarborough Borough Council now operates under the so-called ‘Strong Leader’ system, in which Councillor Tom FOX, having been elected ‘Strong Leader’ for a four-year term, is at liberty to select his fellow Cabinet members entirely at his own prerogative.

The time has now come to examine the prudence of his choices.

Including Leader Councillor Tom FOX, the Cabinet originally consisted of nine elected members, reduced to eight as one of the austerity measures following the Comprehensive Spending Review. I will update the list of Cabinet Portfolio Holders now, with a short resumé of each of their respective performances in recent times.

THE SBC CABINET

SBC Leader Councillor Tom FOX (Con.) is

Chair of the SBC Cabinet

In recent months, he has faced allegations of:

  • misleading the Cabinet, the Council, the press and the public in regard to the true costs of the provision of i-Pads to members.
  • misleading Cabinet, the Council, the press and the public in regard to the true costs of the projected move of the Scarborough Town Hall out to Eastfield.
  • exploiting the BBC to misinform the Cabinet, the Council, the press and the public in regard to his statements in a ‘live’ Radio York interview to the effect that his Broadband Allowance legitimately covered stationery and computer ancilliaries. It does not.

Councillor Bill CHATT (no political affiliation) is

Portfolio Holder for Housing, Property Maintenance, Health & Sustainability (and also an NYCC Councillor)

He has made the news three times recently, when;

  • he was ejected from the Independent Group, after having been contacted by his group leader, Cllr Peter Popple, to order him to either resign his Cabinet position or face being excluded from the group. Councillor CHATT elected to retain his Portfolio.
  • he has been shown to have been ‘receiving’ Broadband Allowances from both NYCC and SBC (ie. ‘double-dipping’).
  • he was the subject (in company with SBC Councillor Colin HADDINGTON) of a Standards Complaint to both SBC and NYCC (where Councillor CHATT is also an elected member) in regard to highly inappropriate abusive, insulting and threatening remarks made in an email to a member of the public.

Councillor Jane KENYON (Con.) is

Portfolio Holder for Finance, Procurement & Legal (and also an NYCC Councillor and Chair of the NYPA)

Widely discredited following a series of disastrous financial and human resources decisions in her position as Chair of the North Yorkshire Police Authority;

  • regular readers will be familiar with the details of the thirty years of financial mismanagement, non-declaration of interests and other impropriety covered in two recent issues of Private Eye, in uPSD8 and uPSD9, and in a number of Real Whitby articles.
  • faces grave allegations of exerting undue and improper influence in a number of North Yorkshire Police investigations, only one of which has yet been made public.

Councillor Mike COCKERILL (no political affiliation) is

Portfolio Holder for Harbours, Land and Project Management (and also an NYCC Councillor)

Also has a conspicuously poor record, notably;

  • refusing to take address complaints regarding insulting and defamatory letters directed against Whitby Town Councillors and Mayor by Whitby Harbour Board members Tony HORNIGOLD and Edwin BLACK.
  • criticism over his widely reported failure to address the appalling infrastructure negligence in and around Whitby Harbour, in his capacity as Chair of the Whitby Harbour Board. (His predecessor in that rôle was Councillor Peter POPPLE – another NYCC/SBC member and alleged ‘double-dipper’, who has just been publicly humiliated, having had a complaint against the Scarborough News to the PCC repudiated. Councillor POPPLE (a member of the NYCC Standards Committee) replaced Councillor Janet JEFFERSON – yet another NYCC/SBC member and alleged ‘double-dipper’
  • he has been shown to have been ‘receiving’ Broadband Allowances from both NYCC and SBC. (ie. ‘double-dipping’).
  • he is at the centre of a serious accountancy issue soon to be exposed on Real Whitby.

Councillor Derek BASTIMAN (Con.) is

Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Strategic Planning and Community Development (and also an NYCC Councillor)

  • was exonerated by the SBC Standards Committee in respect of allegedly prejudicing a Planning Application by disseminating false information. Standards conceeded that “while the statistics he had quoted may have been incorrect, he had not been deceitful if he reasonably believed these statistics to be correct”.

Councillor Penny MARSDEN (Con.) is

Portfolio Holder for Human Resources, Performance Management and ICT (and also an NYCC Councillor).

Has a generally good reputation as a Ward Councillor – but;

  • was formerly a committed Independent, until she defected to the Conservatives at the last election, accepting the Portfolio from her fellow Weaponess Ward Councillor – Tom FOX.
  • she has been shown to have been ‘receiving’ Broadband Allowances from both NYCC and SBC (ie. ‘double-dipping’).

Councillor Brian SIMPSON (Lib/Dem.) is

Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhood Renewal, Community Involvement and Partnerships, Democratic Services, Customer Services and Safer Communities (and also an NYCC Councillor).

He is arguably the most unpopular SBC/NYCC Councillor, having switched from Labour to LibDem as a ‘flag of convenience’, and is widely regarded as ‘flakey’ and unreliable.

  • he has been at the centre of a storm of protest in connection with various financial inadequacies at Eastfield Parish Council, of which he is Chair. Standards complaints against him have habitually been white-washed or ignored, with the sole exception of an Appeal to the Standards Board for England, where Councillor Carole Gerada’s complaint was fully vindicated.
  • he has been shown to have been ‘receiving’ Broadband Allowances from both NYCC and SBC (ie. ‘double-dipping’), having first published a statement of denial, subsequently retracted.

Councillor David CHANCE (Con.) is

Portfolio Holder for Theatres, Entertainment, Museums and Art Galleries, Parks, Beaches, Sports Facilities and Tourism.

  • he has already succeeded in offending many of the local interest groups with his high-handed, ‘I know best’ emails. He replaces Councillor David JEFFELS (also a NYCC Councillor and Standards Committee member, who has himself shown to have been ‘receiving’ Broadband Allowances from both NYCC and SBC – ie ‘double-dipping’). He is new to the area, having formerly served in various entertainment posts around the country; it remains to be seen whether or not he can live up to the high opinion of himself that he clearly holds – and holds forth. Let us say that he is auditioning for higher favour.

If one were to stop a hundred people at random, on the streets of the Borough, and ask them to name the SBC Cabinet Members and identify their respective Portfolios, I doubt that more than a handful could achieve even a 50% success rate.

Yet these are the people who have been shaping our communities.

Any informed observer can see, at a glance, that this Cabinet is a catalogue of incompetence, disingenuousness and self-interest. With the possible exceptions of Councillor David Chance (for whom it is too soon to know), and Councillor Penny MARSDEN (whose remit is essentially ‘in-house’), not one of them can be credited with having made a positive impact on the Borough, all are sullied by more than a whiff of odium and (perhaps worst of all) most are manifestly more autocratic than democratic.

As discredited former NYP Chief Constable Della CANNING might very easily have said, “What a shower!”

For over three months now I have been asking Councillor Tom FOX to respond to a series of simple questions. For whatever reason, he has gone to ground.

These are the questions:

  • “Are you currently satisfied with your appointment of the present Portfolio Holder for Finance, Procurement and Legal?”
  • Are you currently satisfied with your appointment of the present Portfolio Holder Housing, Property Maintenance, Health and Sustainability?”
  • “Is it your intention to retract remarks made by you regarding your Allowances in a recent Radio York ‘live’ interview?”

Councillor Tom FOX’s continued silence bespeaks his own recognition of the fact that his Leadership has utterly failed. He has surrounded himself with sycophants and braggarts who, in the end, have shown themselves to be unfit for the office that they have jointly and severally brought into disrepute.

Mr Robert GOODWILL’s recent remarks, lauding Councillor Tom FOX’s administration to the rafters, can be taken with the same pinch of salt as one would apply to his assurances (if ever he were to give them) that, “as a capitalist, and as a British Conservative”, he will always serve his constituents’ interests rather than his own.


This Article Was First Published on Real Whitby Oct 11th 2012