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Scarborough Cabinet – worst in the UK?

“Fox’s Cabinet of Curiosities”

An ‘In My View’ article – by Nigel Ward

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.


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

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  1. I’m no lover of Jim Dillon but do you really believe that an Elected Mayor system should have been introduced on the strength of 42 people wanting it. I’m afraid I have to agree with Jim’s decision in this case because retained the nearest approximation to the status quo.

    A committee system is easily the most democratic but cumbersome.

    • I often agree with you Cliff, but not in this case. Only 42 people agreed with this but only 8 didn’t. If we had the Australian system where you have to vote it means, there would be 1,000s of abstentions but we don’t. How many people voted for Cameruin to be Prime Minister? Over 50% of the people voting in the Conservative Party? Yes,after a bit of massaging of the figures. Over 50% of the electorate? No, not by any amount of massaging. Over 50% of the constituencies? Ditto. The fact that Clegg threw his votes behind Cameruin is one of the biggest political stitch-ups that this country has ever seen. The Lie-Dems put forward and got their votes on a left of centre manifesto only to ditch it completely and join with a right of centre party in coalition on the right of centre party’s terms at least where important things mattered, once they saw a way into power. It was clear to anybody with political nouse that Clegg was rather to the right of his own party when he became leader, and it is only since this Government’s policies became unpopular that he has started making faint left of centre bleatings again.

      We have no history of ever needing 50% of the voters to vote for anything in our system, it is only important that 50% do not vote against.

      I have the misfortune to live in the Eastfield ward and here about 12% of voters turn out for most elections. Winning Borough councillors sometimes get just over half of the votes, in other words, maybe 7 or 8% of people vote for them. Do we therefore assume that 92% are against them? In reality, I think that is probably close to the case but more likely they cannot see how their lives are affected so don’t give a monkey’s. That doesn’t stop these people taking office though, and grabbing what they can, because the law says they can. If you ask the voters a question and 84% of them say they want something then that is a majority. There is nothing in our constitution to say that a minimum number must vote or the decision will be left to the senior bureaucrat. ‘The voting was :- FOR – 84%, AGAINST – 16%, ABSTENTIONS – OODLES. So the casting vote goes to the guy who can more easily control an appointed Cabinet than an elected Mayor and the ‘NOs’ have it. ‘It’s democracy Jim, (I’m glad about the name – lol) but not as we know it.’

      I did not express a preference myself but I do believe that if you lay down rules and then it doesn’t work out as you expected, then TOUGH. You made the rules and you can’t change them after the event, what are you, a Lie-DEM? Or maybe, in Scarborough, you can.

    • quite right no one elects these councillors and it’s not democratic most of them are masons voting for fellow masons their should be a register by law saying who is a mason but that wont happen as most of them would be out of a job

  2. More intersting is the comment from STAG – Scarborough Town Action Group – posted on the Facebook page (see above);

    “Having dealt at close quarters with our Council over the last year, and with my Management Education and Training, and operational and organisational Management background, I have reached the conclusion that most of the problems stem from the inadequacy of the Council Officers whose incompetence has been proved with the Town Hall debacle, the I-Pad mess and now the Scarborough Entertainment and theatres fiasco. They have failed to apply the basic principles of organisational management with all of these issues. At their salary grade these should be second nature to Dillon, Archer and Co. The Councillors, whatever their individual shortcomings which Nigel has researched diligently, naturally assume and expect their Officers to be competent in basic management areas for which they are responsible. I can safely say they are not. It is not the Councillors job to manage SBC, it is their job to act as leaders, and to tell the Officers what their citizens and voters expect and to monitor that the Officers are carrying out their and the people’s wishes. I am trying to educate our Cllrs to this effect, and in my view, they do seem to have started taking notice, but it is not going to be an overnight change.”

    That sounds like the understatement of the year to me, though I’m a little hard of hearing in my old age.

  3. I have this morning recived a letter from SBC Monitoring Officer Lisa DIXON, in which she states:

    “Further to the letter and decision notice sent to you on 24 July 2012, please note that the Preliminary Hearing will be held on Thursday 18 October 2012 at 10am in the Council Chamber at the Town Hall, Scarborough.

    Please accept our apologies for the delay on the distribution of the agenda as the report is still to be finalised but will be sent out to you as soon as possible.”

    Note the extraordinary ‘dragging-of-heels’. Six months, in all, and still no ‘report’ – even though the necessary evidence is all on the public record and has been provided to both Councils months ago and in minute detail. The lawyers have struggled long and hard to devise a form of words that will exculpate profiteering. Do they not know that the age of the cover-up is drawing to a close?

  4. Just a few points for clarity.

    The Local Government Reorganisation to which Nigel refers was, at the time, widely publicised, as were the various possible outcomes. As may be expected Joe Public took not a bit of notice.

    It’s stretching a point to suggest that SBC was almost abolished in 2007 in favour of a unitary authority based on NYCC.

    Given the principles the Government of the day had set out, none of the three possible options ie. the unitary based on NYCC, SBC as a unitary (too small) or the Gemini option (Ryedale/Scarborough) were really considered likely to be approved as they failed to fit the model.

    As anticipated we got the status quo.

    There was, of course an extremely ill-advised local campaign in support of the NYCC unitary bid which was, in my view driven more by a desire, that was rampant at the time, to split Whitby from Scarborough.

    Any of the unitary options would not have achieved this. Scarborough would have remained a very influential part of whatever was created and a larger central base would have been created elsewhere in the county, certainly not in Whitby. Most probably in Northallerton or even Harrogate if the NYCC option had succeeded or Scarborough or Malton if the Gemini option had been favoured.

    Anyone who believes that Whitby representatives would have increased influence is very very mistaken because the proportion of representation in either option would have been dramatically reduced and the general view elsewhere.

    The further south and west you travel in North Yorkshire the more the people look west and south so that some areas of North Yorkshire identify with West Yorkshire much more than the coastal strip.

    Having said all that I agree the Cabinet, together with most that have gone before them are pretty poor as a whole.


      In 2007, the borough was threatened with extinction. In March of that year, North Yorkshire County Council was shortlisted by the Department for Communities and Local Government to be a unitary authority. If the bid had been successful then the Borough of Scarborough would have—along with all other districts and boroughs in the present county of North Yorkshire—been abolished. The bid, however, was unsuccessful and the districts remain as they were previously constituted.

      • Richard, why was the bid unsuccessful, personally I would like to see the Borough Council abolished and with Parish/Town Councils reporting to a unitary authority. Not having the privilidge of residing in a Parish/Town council area I am curious as to know more, thank you

  5. Interesting though your post is, issues of public decency, honesty and integrity appear not to be part of your brief. Corruption and integrity are the issues in question and no amount of training of officers will eradicate this. The endemic corruption of our elected officers deserves exposure and they deserve to be outed in order that the public can make its decision at the ballot box. Then we can start to deal with in-house incompetence.

  6. If Chief Whip Andrew Miller has to go, where does that leave Councillors Fox, Chat and Haddington? Is the word ‘pleb’ in the heat of the moment that much worse? I think these councillors have behaved far, far worse.

    • In the best of all possible worlds, Jane, I agree with you but in this world it is not only how fishy the character is but how big a fish. As far as public interest is concerned there is no comparison between a cabinet member and a local councillor. When Peter Jaconelli (a good friend of the abominable J. Savile by the way) died and somebody scrawled a few home truths about him on the wall of St. Peter’s Church in Scarborough, I think only the SEN mentioned it, and then only to abhor the vandalism. SBC and/or the church had the graffiti covered up and later removed, and there was never, nor ever likely to be, an investigation. The voters of Scarborough, and I am sure Whitby to a lesser extent, knew about his penchant for young boys, but continued to elect him, and nowhere else knew him at all, or cared. It is sad in a way that this is the case but apparently the secret is that if you are going to indulge in illegal, immoral and/or anti-social behaviour make sure that you are rich and powerful enough to get away with it in your lifetime and obscure enough to get away with it after your death.

  7. I agree with your views on Clegg. He sold his party’s values and integrity for a taste of power. The result has been a disaster for his party which they will see (I hope) at the next election.

    The democratic system as operated through the British electoral process has resulted in a minority party wielding a disproportionate amount of power.

    The consultation exercise that was carried out in relation to how the Council should be run was something entirely different. The object being to assess public opinion not to award a win or a lose by a simple count as happens in an election.

    The outcome as you know was an overwhelming majority of a very small population favouring a particular outcome.

    Such results can be easily swayed by a small number of people organising themselves to influence the vote. Since the vote was for a very specific and significant change it is important that the results are representative. This can only be considered statistically valid if a sufficient number of people respond.

    Like him or not, Jim Dillon was right in this case.

    • Cliff, (sorry if calling you Cliff offends, like many of us you don’t use your real name) if we apply the chi square (x2) test to these figures, based on an observed 42 to 8 split and on a predicted split of 25 to 25 (the best we can estimate under the circumstances) then x2 comes to a figure of 11.56 which means that the vote, unless deliberately fiddled, was extremely statistically valid, x2=2 being the estimated optimum. Now I know that there are lies, damned lies and statistics but, as statistics are used for just about everything by government organisations, quangos and NGOs nowadays I think that this is more valid than a senior bureaucrat making his own guess. Now, it is possible that there was a conspiracy to swamp the vote with ‘elected mayor’ but, if there was that much concern amongst the Borough voters then 50 would have been a ‘blip’ if thousands had voted. So I must still hold to my belief that, despite the dismal vote, the council had no alternative other than to accept the statistically valid figure. As I said, I have no axe to grind, not being particularly in favour of either. If we’d got an elected mayor who was like the Mayor of Doncaster, then I think I would have been very upset but I am currently extremely upset that the vote was over-ruled in favour of the ruling clique, by the ruling clique. Mr. Dillon knows which side his bread is buttered.

  8. I’ve no objection to you calling me Cliff Sarra. You raise an interesting and possibly valid point, generally, about chi square testing of results. However, as I’m sure you are aware, applying chi square is only appropriate if the data is valid. To be valid it must, as accurately as possible, represent the views of the population whose views are being sought. This, if we were talking about a research project would depend on the quality of the elicitation of information and the method of sampling adopted. A simple consultation exercise, involving a diverse population can never achieve this.

    In this case it may be argued that a scheme of sampling was unnecessary because, by definition, the consultation exercise was a census, in which everyone entitled to a view was, theoretically, able to express it. (Was everyone asked, did everyone know they were asked and did everyone who knew they were asked understand what they had been asked?)

    It is extremely unlikely that everyone entitled to express a view was able to do so. Socio economic, demographic, ethnic, physical and educational factors, amongst others are each likely to have impacted on the level of respondents, with certain groups greatly under represented.

    The success/failure criteria of the outcome of the exercise were not, as far as I am aware, stated. Presumably it was a simple count in which the numerically greatest number of votes would win the day. In such circumstances it is not easy to say what level of return should be regarded as acceptable but the number should have greatly exceeded the number of members of the council.

    Sadly many decisions in the public sector are made today on the basis of the questionable interpretation of poorly designed research. As a result it will always be possible for switched-on, politically aware, self interested groups to have their way.

    In the case in point I have to ask whether you really believe that the tax paying population of the borough as a whole knowingly wished the change to take place.

    I am not in favour of the current system but I still believe that Jim Dillon, in the face of such a low return, did the right thing in retaining, what was effectively, the status quo.

    • I think that this one is one of those where we could go round in circles ad infinitum, with both of us making valid points on opposite sides of the debate but neither being able to prove (or entirely believe in) their own point totally. Therefore, I shall quietly (me – quiet!!) withdraw from this discussion, admitting that your points are a valid opinion but disagreeing with the way this exercise was conducted and coming down, on balance, on the other side of the argument. Nice to have had a debate that was somewhat above the, all too common, insults and slanders though.

  9. I agree Sarra. A valuable discussion.

  10. Democracy for Whitby people does not exist and it never has existed, the NHS trust consulted local people about closing services at Whitby Hospital, we made our feelings and opnions very clear – then they went ahead and closed the services.

    The people of Whitby do not like been a part of “The Borough of Scarborough”, we do not want to be part of Scarborough and never have, opinion polls conducted by the Whitby Gazette have conclusively proved that local people detest been part of Scarborough Borough – no one listens, we are still part of Scarborough.

    What exactly does democracy mean ?

    • A bit off topic but I don’t blame you for bringing this up here, after all, where are you going to complain about it?

      Democracy for anybody doesn’t really exist Dave. If it suits the ‘powers that be’ then that is what we get. I live at Eastfield and we are not very happy with being part of Scarborough, the only difference being that Whitby is more of a viable historical and economic unit than Eastfield. But we are also totally ignored as a large group of people. Many of us can’t see why Whitby and Scarborough are part of the same Borough, or even Filey and Scarborough, let alone Filey and Whitby. Apart from the fact that all three towns are on the Yorkshire coast, we have very little in common with each other. Our economies are totally different and certainly our social organisations are streets apart. Whitby looks more to the North, Scarborough to the West and Filey to the South. But some Whitehall mandarin, years ago, decreed we should be one administrative unit, presumably to suit their own convenience. We are not going to be asked if Scarborough should be broken up and it is doubtful that, even if we continue bleating, anybody will listen. So, whilst you probably have the agreement of about 70% (estimated) of the people of the entire Borough, it is not just Whitby that the bosses ignore.

  11. There have been three acts of parliament since 2002 to encourage the towns to take back responsibilities from the boroughs, by agreement.

  12. —– Original Message —–
    From: Nigel
    To: FOI ; david.kitson
    Sent: Saturday, October 20, 2012 8:39 AM
    Subject: Re: QUESTIONS – c/t/a/d/interests-discrepancies [8]

    Mr David KITSON – Senior Solicitor – SBC



    I hope you are well.

    I imagine that you will be aware that I have had no response from your Leader, Councillor Tom FOX, to my questions over recent months.

    Could I ask you, please, to remind him that his response is well overdue?

    And would you please be so good as to convey a new question to him on my behalf? Thank you.

    The question is:

    “In the light of the somwhat belated resignation of the Chief Whip, the Rt.Hon.Andrew MITCHELL MP, in consequence of his unacceptable disrespect in addressing a policeman as a ‘pleb’, do you anticipate that your Portfolio Holder for Holder Housing, Property Maintenance, Health and Sustainability will do the honourable thing?”

    Thanking you for your most diligent assistance in this matter,

    I remain yours, with very kind regards


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