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When the deputy mayor of
Tower Hamlets council referred to a Vexatious Fascist Blogger,
confirmed by two witnesses and a newspaper report, I emailed an objection. Mayor Rachael Saunders
replied to the effect that she wasn’t talking about me , it was Michael
Barnbrook who she had in mind. Her information had come from Bexley council.
If a councillor refers to a member of the public in particularly derogatory terms, especially when it is wrong, there is probably grounds for complaint.
Bexley council has already said it will not accept complaints from Michael Barnbrook, having labelled him vexatious, so there was not a lot of point in complaining to Bexley. They would have rejected the complaint as they have previously rejected far more serious complaints. Complaints that became police matters for example.
However there was no reason not to send one to Tower Hamlets and they referred it to their Monitoring Office for investigation and possible reference to their Code of Conduct Committee.
Can you imagine that happening In Bexley? And it’s Tower Hamlets which is supposed to be the corrupt council.
Bexley council is expert at getting around the law and not so long ago they came up with a new trick. When the Boundary Commission proposals were due to be discussed in public at a General Purposes Committee meeting and there were things they’d rather keep to themselves they came up with the idea of a Working Group and discussed the matter there. Working Groups have no legal status within the council so they are free to hold it in secret or the saloon bar of a public house, there’s nothing any resident can do about it.
Bexley council seems to have pulled a similar stunt with the Code of Conduct Committee. Bexley’s Code of Conduct Committee was set up in 2012 under the Localism Act to replace the Standards Board. Its basic rules are to follow the recommendations of the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life. There are seven principles. Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership. Anathema to Bexley council obviously.
What could be done about that?
There aren’t many complaints against councillors that get past the Monitoring Officer. As Labour leader Alan Deadman said when the Committee was set up, it puts the Monitoring Officer in “an invidious position” and sure enough most Code of Conduct meetings are cancelled for lack of work to do. But it’s potentially a problem. On 20th May this year a solution was proposed.
Run the Code of Conduct Committee under council rules rather national rules by establishing a Complaints Sub-Committee. Genius eh?
On 2nd December a meeting of the main Code of Conduct Committee referred a complaint to its Sub-Committee and sure enough it was ruled that the public must be excluded. A 203 page Agenda with all but eight of them blank. And what were those Nolan Principles again? Integrity, Openness and Honesty. Where did they go?
Three members of the public decided they would turn up anyway for the privilege of being unceremoniously flung out. Their preliminary report makes amusing reading and when Bexley responds to the formal complaints the subject will make a reappearance here.