NYCC: The Stamp(s) of Authority?

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NYCC: The Stamp(s) of Authority?

The Stamp(s) of Authority?

An ‘In My View’ article – by Nigel Ward

IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST

Back on 2nd December, Real Whitby published an article of mine entitled “Double-Dipping double-talk – a ‘frank and honest’ statement?”.  Three days later, a member of the public posted a ‘comment’ that aroused my interest:

Frank Chalmers

December 5, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Interesting article, and one that I’m not surprised to see Councillor John Blackburn on.

A good friend of mine once recounted a discussion with himself and Cllr Blackburn..

In this discussion Cllr Blackburn was talking about the postage allowance. This is where NYCC distributes a certain number of postage stamps to each Cllr, for use on official letters and so on.

Cllr Blackburn stated that he saw it as “appropriate” to use these at later dates such as sending out election letters, and campaign materials, or for Christmas cards and so on.

My friend then talked about how Cllr Blackburn mentioned he had a “stock” of these stamps at home – effectively hoarding them.

This is corruption pure and simple.

So much for official business when our money is being spent like this.

I have never had the pleasure of meeting Frank Chalmers; but I know someone who has.

It was, therefore, a simple matter to ascertain the identity of the individual who is reported to have witnessed County Councillor John BLACKBURN’s rather rash remarks. I was able to interview that individual and I quickly recognised that the alleged conversation had in fact taken place with others present. In such circumstance, a frivolous or fictitious allegation can safely be ruled out.

Many readers will be aware that the law pertaining to the misappropriation of resources and/or money from the Council by an elected member has been clouded recently by the determination of Scarborough and North Yorkshire County Council Monitoring Officers to cover-up matters that have been identified as breaches of the Fraud Act 2006.

The use of Council-provided resources for the purposes of financing an elected member’s electoral ambitions are no less serious.

So, on 6th December, I emailed NYCC Head of Legal & Democratic Services and Monitoring Officer, Carole DUNN, copying in Mr Jim DILLON (Electoral Officer) raising a number of concerns – amongst them:

  • “Given that County Councillor John BLACKBURN was elected on 16th July 2004, the very real possibility exists that stamps freely provided, or appropriately reimbursed, by NYCC for use at that time (with a then value/price of 28p) have not been used as intended and, rather, have been hoarded for conversion at a later date (up to and including the present day, when the value/price is 60p). This would appear to suggest profiteering”.

I also pointed out that:

  • “It is important to note that, should the allegations prove unfounded, Councillor John BLACKBURN may feel himself to be the victim of a defamation. It would then be at his own prerogative to instigate legal action for libel by appointing legal representation at his own cost.”

I asked a number of questions:

(1)   Please advise me, for possible future reference, on the correct category or categories of the Code of Conduct within which these actions could be most satisfactorally and comprehensively addressed. Thank you.

(2)   It may be a matter for the Electoral Commission. Would you please clarify for me whether or not such is the case? Thank you.

(3)   It may also be a matter for the Conservative Party. Would you please clarify for me whether or not such is the case? Thank you.

And I included for Carole DUNN the text of my intended email to County Councillor John BLACBURN, offering him the customary right of reply, which I subsequently despatched (including the text of the above-referenced public allegation against him):

County Councillor John BLACKBURN

John,

Ahead of publication of an article addressing, inter alia, a number of allegations that have recently come to light, I write to offer you an opportunity to comment on the following public posting on a local internet newsblog, the text of which I reproduce below this email, for your convenient reference.

If you wish to make a statement of any kind, please be so good as to email your text to me at your very earliest convenience.

Kind regards,

Nigel

I have had no response whatsoever from Carole DUNN.

And I have had no response whatsoever from County Councillor John BLACKBURN – who, readers will recall, is one of the Broadband Allowance double-dippers.

A cursory search of the NYCC website left me in some doubt as to the regulations on these issues, so I checked a number of other County Councils, and this is what I found:

  • 9. Use of County Council Resources
  • 9.1. The County Council’s Code of Conduct for Members prohibits councillors using County Council resources for party political purposes.
  • 9.2. The use of County Council resources for party political purposes covers not only publication of campaigning material but also any other activity intended to promote purely party political interests. The definition of County Council resources includes but is not limited to IT, telephones, fax machines, photocopiers, stationary and headed notepaper, postage, transport and staff time.

So beyond doubt or discussion, the use of postage stamps provided by the County Council for ward/constituency correspondence for purely personal or Party use, for personal profit, or for party political electioneering purposes is a grave misuse of the public purse.

It is perfectly legitimate to question the failure on the part of Monitoring Officer Carole DUNN to respond to correspondence outlining yet another very serious public allegation of impropriety when to do so is without doubt one of her principle duties as Monitoring Officer.

It may be that, in the fullness of time, Carole DUNN informs me that elected members have an ‘entitlement’ – as she maintains in respect of their double-dipping of Broadband Allowances – to profiteer from the Stamp Allowances and/or to finance their electoral campaigns at the taxpayers expense. And I wonder, too, why Carole DUNN has not ‘joined the dots’? The same faces keep cropping up; could it be that these County Councillors are cluing each other in to the ‘safest’ and most exploitable opportunities to milk the most from their perceived ‘entitlements’? Is Carole DUNN turning a blind eye? Are they really ‘all in it together’, as we have repeatedly been assured?

But what puzzles me more is this:

  • Why has County Councillor John BLACKBURN elected to rely on his right to silence, when, surely, good conscience and the commitment that he has made – as a Councillor and a member of the Conservative Party (resolutely committed, we are assured, to open, transparent and accountable Government and a total opposition to sleaze) – should permit, nay, require him to avail himself of the opportunity to publish a denial – or to ‘come clean’?

So what is your position on this, County Councillor John BLACKBURN?

I think we should be told.


Related reading:

Double-dipping articles

01_cllr_john_blackburn

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8 Comments

  1. kathleen parker December 16, 2012 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    Yet again we see our money being misused,its a disgrace,and you can bet on it they’re all at it!why no reply? They’re hoping you’ll go away simple as!

  2. Tom Brown December 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    WE ARE NOT GOVERNED,WE ARE SUFFERING FROM CONQUEST BY STEALTH AND EU GOVERNMENT BY ASSUMPTION EVEN THOUGH 78% OF US SAID NO!!! COUNCIL WORKERS EVEN NOW DO NOT REALISE THAN THEY ARE NO MORE THAN COLLABORATORS, OUR SO CALLED COUNCILLORS ARE MILKING THE SYSTEM OK its only a conspiracy theory and I will not be political prisoner.

  3. Frank Chalmers December 17, 2012 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    It comes as no surprise that the “powers that be” have remained silent.

    I have asked various questions over the years only to be given plenty of impressions that I “wouldn’t have a clue if I were given an answer”, or that it was “none of my business”.

    These people are supposed to be authorized to act on our behalf, not to take advantage of us.

    Perhaps they could begin by explaining why the “transparency” isn’t quite so transparent as it should be.

    Then they could answer why it is that they never deal with the issues important to the community.

    Lip service isn’t the same as serving the community. I wonder if they’ve realised that…

  4. Nigel Ward December 18, 2012 at 12:15 am - Reply

    SBC is like my allotment; full of leaks. I now have word back from a former Officer friend of mine. He points out a very salient point:

    “”Without diluting the main thrust of the argument or providing support for the parties involved, I take note of the stupidity of the Councillor in question by crowing about his ‘achievement’. In fact, I would guess that there is no NYCC policy in place to deal with this situation. Definitely the Blind Eye syndrome here as the problem is too far down the food chain to warrant officer time to administrate – i.e. – it is cheaper to let it go on than to chase it up.”

    We have apparently reached the point where moral principle is a luxury willingly sacrificed to the financial expediency of saving money. And the Monitoring Officers are drawing their own handsome salaries not to Monitor the Councillors, but to turn a blind eye.

    There is a hypocrisy there. And a fallacy. Why pay the Monitoring officers at all? That would leave all the more for the corrupt Councillors to pilfer at will – and still serve the financial expediency of saving money.

    Get outa here! Some things are worth more than money.

    Integrity, for example.

    Honesty.

    Candour.

    Honour.

    You cannot fiddle those qualities on your expenses, Councillors.

  5. Nigel Ward December 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    UPDATE:

    I emailed NYCC Monitoring Officer Carole DUNN on 6th December 2012, requesting guidance and information on how best to proceed with the allegation, by a member of the public, against County Councillor John BLACKBURN, specifically requesting information regarding the ramifications with regard to the necessity of reporting the matter to the North Yorkshire Police and/or the Electoral Commission.

    I specifically did NOT lodge a complaint, and I specifically did NOT make any allegations. I have today (nearly two weeks later) received Carole DUNN’s quite bizarre response.

    From: Carole Dunn
    To: ‘Nigel’
    Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 9:16 AM
    Subject: RE: Public allegation [03]

    Dear Nigel

    I acknowledge receipt of your complaint against County Councillor Blackburn and it will be considered in accordance with the Council’s procedures for the handling alleged breaches of the Member’s Code of Conduct.

    Will you please complete the attached complaint form recently agreed by the Standrads Committee. I must ask you to provide all information that you wish to be taken into account in the initial assessment of your complaint.

    If you consider that the subject matter of your complaint is of relevance to any other agency, it is open to you to refer it to them accordingly.

    The form includes a copy of the County Council’s Member Code of Conduct which will be considered in relation to your allegations.

    Yours sincerely

    Carole Dunn

    ~~~~~~~~~~~

    No attempt has been made by Carole DUNN to address my reasonable and polite requests for guidance and information. My email has been quite arbitrarily and unilaterally treated as a complaint and a direct reference has been made to my(non-existent)allegations.

    Pure prevarication and obfuscation 0r sheer incompetence. You decide. And I now learn that ‘stamp fiddling’ has been considered ‘fair game’ by certain Councillors for years. Yet the NYCC Monitoring Officer does nothing but play games.

    There is certain to be much more on this topic.

  6. Nick H April 29, 2013 at 9:47 am - Reply

    Wow! That’s going back a few years.

    This was at one of the meetings for County elections, last time round I think.

    Who’d have thought it would be an issue still….

    Wow.

    • Nigel Ward April 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm - Reply

      @ Nick H:

      I have an idea that you know how to contact me. If not, please could you email me via the Real Whitby webmaster, marked for my attention:

      realwhitby@gmail.com

      I have the impression you may be able to help me.

      Thanks,

      Nigel

  7. Nick Henderson April 29, 2013 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Hi!

    Check your email… 🙂

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