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County Elections: What sort of a County Councillor?
– an ‘In My View’ article by Nigel Ward.
The four-yearly vote to elect County Councillors will take place in around seven weeks time, and even though the ink is still wet on the nomination papers, some candidates are already out on the campaign trail.
As Real Whitby has reported, some of the present County Councillors have shown themselves in a very poor light throughout the past term, attracting local and national press criticism regarding a variety of corruption issues, so now is as good a time as any to consider some of the qualities that make for a candidate who is actually worthy of election.
We could do worse than to begin with the Lord Nolan’s Seven Principles of Public Life, reproduced here with their respective FreeDictionary definitions:
Human nature being as it is, strict adherence to these Seven Nolan Principles may be hard enough to find in any one human being; they set a high standard – as they should. Nevertheless, as electors, we have every right to expect that those chosen to represent us in the administration of the public purse over the coming four years should at least be able to make a good fist of most of them. They must honour the public trust.
It is a lamentable fact that some of the present County Councillors can lay no credible claim to achieving anything approaching such standards.
Of the present 72 County Councillors, 37 (or 75%) of the 49 who also sit on ‘second-tier’ District or Borough Councils (as well as the City of York Council) have knowingly accepted Broadband Allowances from both the County Council and their respective for a single Broadband connection – ‘double-dipping’.
(From Scarborough Borough Council, only County Councillor Herbert TINDALL emerges with credit, having accepted only one Broadband Allowance. Regrettably, the word on the Conservative grapevine is that he has declared his intention not to stand again).
In doing so, these ‘double-dippers’ have actually been selfish, unethical, dishonest, secretive, unaccountable, biased and presented a very poor example – the diametric opposite of the standards defined by the Seven Nolan Principles.
Moving on . . .
What can you say about a County Councillor who wrote a deeply insulting and illiterate tirade to a member of the public? Lord Nolan would have been utterly appalled, but (quite incredibly) the NYCC Chief Exec Richard FLINTON and his Monitoring Officer Carole DUNN say that it is none of their concern.
And what can one say about County Councillors who, with the benefit of restricted information – acquired solely through the privilege of their positions – have tipped off friends, colleagues or family members (by blood and/or by marriage) to such profiteering opportunities as the infamous Extended Schools “Me Too!” Voucher Scheme, in which selected beneficiaries were able to profit from the sloppy design of the system and attempt large scale plunder of the public purse?
The Freedom of Information request responses that will support numerous allegations of gross abuse by some County Councillors in respect of the mileage claims they have submitted – Car Allowances – have yet to materialise. That is another example of Officers bending the rules to defend County Councillors’ wrong-doings, compounding their clear determination to conceal the identities of the culprits until after they have been safely re-elected.
And what about the car-sharing – where a single petrol bill can be claimed three or four times over, according to the number of people in the vehicle? Clearly, some of the present incumbents have entered public life not to serve the public; rather, to serve their own pockets.
And what of those County Councillors who, according to County Councillor Mike JORDAN, have falsely manipulated their attendance records (thereby wilfully misrepresenting the extent of their devotion to duty) by signing-in for Full Council Meetings (a full day’s commitment), then slipping away quietly (after a free lunch), and not bothering to attend the afternoon sessions.
One Councillor takes his wife to Northallerton to shop, signs in for Council, then leaves Council mid-morning when she texts to tell him she is ready to be picked up – thus saving the public purse the price of his free lunch. His attendance record, however, does not reflect his clear contempt for the duty he owes to the electorate who rely on him to represent their interests. He is an impostor.
But those who cause me the greatest concern are the Councillors who have engaged in blatant forgery of documents, including bank loan and company fraud, using the perceived power and influence of their positions to quite literally ‘con’ both institution and some of the more vulnerable members of the public – the same public whom they were elected to represent.
All of the above examples share one common denominator – total betrayal of the public trust.
Only the abject failure of malleable (or corrupt) Monitoring and Legal Officers to diligently apply the standards regulations – and, in some cases, to actively collude in cover-ups – has thus far prevented their prosecution.
In particular, NYCC Monitoring Officer, Ms Carole DUNN has accepted or confabulated the most implausible excuses and has been pilloried in Private Eye for her bizarre predetermination that Councillors are “entitled” to be reimbursed for the same expenditure twice!
It is a matter of the gravest concern that some of these County Councillors may be considering standing for re-election on the 2nd May – with many allegations remaining unresolved, since they have not been subject to anything remotely approaching a normal level of scrutiny, having been ‘investigated’ by Officers who have ignored and manipulated the requirements of the Standards legislation to secure Members’ exculpation. In a commercial organisation or any other Council in Europe, they would have been removed – and very likely prosecuted.
In a week’s time, we shall find out which of the incumbent Councillors have decided not to seek re-election, some of whom have been the subject of much speculation – County Councillor Jane KENYON in particular.
Those who choose to stand again without providing a full explanation of their conduct may confidently anticipate CORRUPTION emerging as the principal issue in this election.
What sort of a County Councillor do you want to represent your interests at the County Council?
The opening paragraphs of this article may serve to remind readers of the standards we have a right to expect.
We must thank Lord Nolan for his efforts, whilst recognizing that, thus far, his Seven Principles of Public Life read less like a benchmark and more like a wish list to the Tooth Fairy.