Category Archives: Code Of Conduct
Finally got the result of the 100-page-long Conduct Complaint against me put by Cllr Alan Lay and ex-Cllr Paul Clapp, which sought to demonise years of blogging and social media use by me and made a series of really nasty allegations.
Complaint was heard in the pre-sift entirely by Independent people.
The outcome of the pre sift is that ALL elements of the complaint have been DISMISSED and the matter is now closed.
Thank you all for your support. It’s good to put the nonsense to bed. I wont hold my breath for an apology from the Usual Suspects or their pet editor (whose newspaper waited a full three days from me becoming the Mayor of Wisbech before publishing some Virginia Bucknor spin on its website.) Nor do I expect the same treatment Alan Lay got previously, with all the coverage of how his complaint was not found against him. Heck, I expect the Wisbech Standard will either ignore it entirely, or find a way to attack me anyway. The Voices appear to have become whispers. Oh well. Never mind. Vindicated. Time to move on.
Three Standard Committee Complaints Against Me
I now have the details of the three Standards Committee complaints against me. Last time when UKIP tried to silence me by means of Complaint, I published it all transparently here. The case never made it to the Committee because there wasn’t anything valid in it.
I am doing exactly the same again. I have checked with the legal fellows at FDC, the same as I did last time, and they confirm that I am entirely within my rights to publish this information if I wish to do so. I DO wish to do so. The main reason is because I simply do not trust one of the local newspapers, who seem to take every opportunity to attack me and every opportunity to support UKIP and the Independents (personal opinion.) Although I cannot prevent them running a story with a particular bias, I can publish the facts here and try for at least some transparency.
So here are the three complaints. I’ve published them exactly as I received them. I’ve made no attempts to correct grammar or spelling – any errors are errors that were there when I got them, so don’t blame me. :)
Cllr David Patrick’s Complaint:
Yesterday evening (Monday 19th May) I was in attendence at a meeting of Wisbech Town Council. The meeting started at 7.30 pm. Our rules allow 15 minutes at the start of the meeting for public participation. On this occasion there were 3 people wishing to speak as participants, those people being County Councillors Paul Clapp and Alan Lay as well as Dean Reaves re an agenda item.
As Cllr Lay got up to speak Cllr Tierney turned his phone and proceeded to film him speaking with the phone being placed just a little way from Cllr Lay’s face. He had not sought permission to do so and we as a council do not have a policy of filming or taking audiable recordings of meetings (although I appreciate it’s Government policy). It is my belief that this was being done intentially to intimidate and try to embarrass Councillor Lay. ( I am aware that there has been a previous complaint of Councillor Tierney’s behaviour towards Cllr Lay.)
I therfore believe Cllr Tierney’s behavior was improper and unbecoming in his role as a Councillor. It is my belief that he was being intentionally discourteous and disrespectful and deliberately intimidating towards a person who was wishing to speak during Public Participation time.
As the filming was taking place I called a point of order to the Mayor. After some discussion Cllr Tierney asked if it was wished that he should cease recording to which the Mayor’s reply was yes. Cllr Tierney then placed his phone on the table.
Cllr Tierney has a blog site and has made comments re last nights issue which you may find useful below
– My response.
Yes, I did wish to video Cllr Lay’s speech. He is a County Councillor acting in his official capacity, speaking at a Public Meeting on an issue of public interest. County Council have a strict policy of allowing and encouraging filming of all sorts and I expected that this would mean Cllr Lay would be used to being filmed and would not mind me recording his speech so that the wider public could hear his words. As it happened, Cllr.Lay and Cllr. Patrick objected to the filming taking place. I asked the Chairman if I should turn my phone off, the Chairman said he would prefer if I did. I did so immediately. David Patrick’s “belief” that I was being discourteous and disrespectful and intimidating is just that – his belief. Of course that is not the case and I struggle to see how the simple act of wanting to film a public elected representative making a speech could possibly be deemed any of those things. If Cllr. Lay did not want people to see him give a speech, I think politics was an odd road to walk.
In reply, I would say that these baseless attempts by Clapp, Lay and Patrick are actually an attempt to bully and intimidate me. But I won’t be making a complaint about it. Because I don’t find them intimidating at all.
Cllr. Patrick refers to Wisbech Town Council policy about video. The Council’s Standing Orders say (in number 70): “there shall be no audio or video recording or photographs of the meeting without the express approval of the council”. I would point out that this was the first item of business and the speakers were not on the agenda so we could not know in advance who they would be. I therefore had no opportunity to request permission, and got no opportunity to do so since the objections were immediate. Upon my asking for instructions from the Chairman, I immediately complied in the proper way and turned the video off. This is entirely proper behaviour under the circumstances and is not a breach of the Code of Conduct.
I’m glad Cllr Patrick reads my blog and refers to it – please feel free to check it and let me know it anything in it breaches the Code Of Conduct. Since it simply deals with facts and personal views, I don’t believe anything in it does.
Cllr. Paul Clapp’s Complaint:
I went to a meeting of the Wisbech Town council on Monday night as I wished to speak on one of the items on the agenda. I arrived and I had to tell the Mayor what it was I wished to speak on. Cllr V Bucknor stood up to speak and there was laughter and joking going on between Cllr Tierney Cllr Hoy and Cllr Clarke. I have not seen this sort of behaviour in a council chamber before. It was rude and the behaviour was unbecoming of a Councillor. WE could not hear what was being said by Cllr V Bucknor. Yo be perfectly honest it was like being in a school playground.
Cllr Tierney waited for Cllr Alan Lay to speak and he thrust his mobile phone at him to record what Cllr Lay said. Cllr Hoy stated that they are allowed to record meeting. I said you are but not on a Cllrs mobile phone I asked the Mayor as a point of order that yes you are allowed to record meetings but the CAMERA must be manned by a person who is qualified to do this task. The Mayor said that I was perfectly correct and could Cllr Tierney switch his mobile phone off.
Cllr Tierney has done everything in his power to dis credit Cllr Lay. I am asking you not to brush this instance under the carpet but to deal with this man. In my opinion he is a liability to the Conservatives and is doing more harm than good for the people of Wisbech. I would hope that common sence will prevail and you would wish to de select Cllr Tierney as what he is saying at the moment in my oppinion is at least slanderous and if this is how Cllr Tierney gets his kicks then in my oppinion he is mentally ill and should not be a part of Wisbech Town Council.
I look forward for your co-operation with this delecate matter.
County Councillor Paul Clapp
– My response
Cllr Clapp refers to conversations between Councillors. I don’t recognise his description, but would point out that if the Chairman felt there was too much noise he would have asked the Councillors involved to be quieter. He did not do so and therefore I presume the noise level and the conduct of Councillors was acceptable. Cllr. Clapp will surely know that Councillors are not expected to sit in silence like automatons – and they do not do so in any Council I’ve ever visited. We do our best to be respectful when people are speaking, but with issues of some fiery debate we do all sometimes get a little noisy – and it is the Chairman who lets us know when we are out of order and asks us to quiet down. But most interesting of all – WHO THE HELL is Cllr Clarke? We don’t have a Councillor Clarke on Wisbech Town Council. If that doesn’t speak to the accuracy and truth of his complaint, I don’t know what does.
Cllr Clapp uses colourful metaphors, however I can assure you I did not “thrust my mobile phone” anywhere. I simply held it up, as you do, when you want to record something. Cllr Clapp’s next comment Is just plain wrong. There is no statement in the Public Bodies (Admissions to Meetings) Act 1960 or the forthcoming new Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 that says anything at all about: “the CAMERA must be manned by a person who is qualified to do this task.” He appears to have just made that up!
I asked for clarification of this last week from the Houses of Parliament Library, Parliament and Constitution centre. This is what they said:-
The 2014 Act permits the Secretary of State to make regulations permitting filming. Draft regulations have been made, but they have not yet been approved by either House of Parliament. In the meantime, therefore, access to and reporting of proceedings at parish and town councils is governed by the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960.
Councils cannot currently be required to allow filming under this Act: conversely, the Act does not oblige councils to ban filming. Therefore, under the law as it stands, it is for the town council to decide whether or not to permit filming at council meetings.
The councillor also said that another attendee at the meeting stated that councillors were not permitted to film other councillors. The 1960 Act does not distinguish between councillors and other members of the public regarding the right to report on or film town council meetings: the town council has the final say in either case. Likewise, there is nothing in the 2014 Act, or the draft regulations (see below) which would prevent councillors from filming other councillors in a meeting.
The Government published guidance in June 2013 regarding filming of council proceedings. The guidance states:
Council meetings are public meetings. Elected representatives and council officers acting in the public sphere should expect to be held to account for their comments and votes in such meetings. The rules require councils to provide reasonable facilities for any member of the public to report on meetings. Councils should thus allow the filming of councillors and officers at meetings that are open to the public.
Finally, Cllr Clapp seems to be confusing the powers of the Conduct Committee and a local party. Perhaps you could inform him that only the local Conservative Party and it’s members can “deselect” me? (And even then, I’d still be a Councillor, just not a Conservative one.) I doubt they would do so simply because UKIP people don’t like being under scrutiny – but that would be for them to decide. He says I am “slanderous” and yet, as usual, specifies nothing I’ve said which is slanderous. If he could state which things I’ve said are “slanderous” then I could respond, but I am not a mind-reader.
As for him calling me “mentally ill” – that is certainly libellous. It’s also rude, and offensive to people who do actually suffer from that type of illness. So much so that after speaking to their legal advisors, Fenland District Council went to lengths to express that by giving me the email they do not support or endorse the comments in it. But luckily for him – I don’t run crying to the Standards Board each time somebody says something I don’t like.
And finally here is Cllr. Alan Lay’s Complaint:
I once again have to bring to your attention the unbecoming behaviour of Town Councillor Steve Tierney
Last night at the Wisbech Town meeting I was mentally abused by Mr Tierney. He has written in his blog what I call a long diatribe of wasted words
about my appearance at the meeting. In fact his writings took longer than my short talk about a plan to reduce to 20 mph within Wisbech minor roads.
His continual verbal abuse is not called for and as far as I am aware I fulfil my obligations. His blog of a week or so ago infers that I have called for the people of Roman Bank to be hung !!!
This is another outrageous statement that I take to be a breach of his undertakings as a Councillor.
I request that his attitude towards my self and UKIP be looked at and if found to be out of order, that he be brought before the Standards Committee.
As you know this will be my second time of questioning his irrational behaviour.
Alan Lay CCC
– My response
Much like last time he tried to stop me writing stuff with a Standards Board Complaint, this is full of allegations and no actual points. He says I “mentally abused him”. He is referring to the fact that I held a camera up for 10 seconds hoping to record an Elected Councillor making a public speech on a public issue, then immediately turned it off when he and the Chairman asked me to. If that constitutes “mental abuse” then the definition must have changed a lot since I last worked with Public Health.
He refers to my blog as a “long diatribe of wasted words” – to which my response would be “Well don’t read it then. It’s a free country. Or it used to be, before you started trying to silence people who said things you didn’t approve of.”
He refers to be my blog entry “Bad News For Roman Bank” and suggests that I “inferred” that he called for the people of Roman Bank to be hung. In fact, he wasn’t mentioned anywhere in that blog post. It was about a UKIP candidate called Gordon Ferguson and made reference to an article in the Daily Telegraph, which was fully linked in the post. There is nothing in that blog post that in any way is a breach of the Code Of Conduct and anything he thinks was “inferred” is a construct of his imagination, not anything I said.
He says I have “verbally abused” him – but does not specify how, where or when. I don’t believe I ever have. I’ve only spoken to him twice, and both times it was fairly cordial.
Like his Colleague, Cllr Clapp, he also does not seem to understand the process of a Standards Complaint. He calls for you to find me “out of order” and bring me “before the Standards Committee.” In fact, only the Standards Committee themselves can find me “out of order” and I will be happy to come before them and demonstrate that nothing I have said or done breaches the Code Of Conduct in any way.
Finally, he points out that this is the “second time” he has complained. Given that the first complaint got nowhere because nothing in it represented any sort of breach of the Code Of Conduct, the fact that this is the second time he has tried it is hardly supportive of his case.
I have been advised that given some of this content I should go straight to a solicitor and sue. I wont be doing that. Because I don’t do that. I take the high road. Lay, Clapp and Patrick can suggest stuff, infer stuff and call me names. I think that reflects badly on them more than it does on me. And it’s stick and stones that break bones, if I recall. Not words.
The Case For The Defence
PLEASE NOTE: Before publishing this blog I have sought advice from the Chief Monitoring Officer and Deputy at Fenland District Council in order that I could be sure I was not breaking any rules in publishing complaints information at this stage. I have today been assured that it is entirely up to me if I want to publish a complaint against me in full on my blog and that no rules will be broken. Accordingly, as promised, I am doing so.
As you may have heard, dear reader, local UKIP Councillor Alan Lay has decided to bring a complaint against me via the Conduct Committee at Fenland District Council. The reason FDC hear the complaint is because as a Wisbech Town Councillor we agree to work beneath that organisations umbrella for these issues. The WTC Wisbech code of conduct 2012 can be read here, so you can see the code Councillors agree to operate under.
Cllr. Lay’s complaint takes the form of two separate documents that I have been supplied. The first, a lengthy PDF document which features bits and pieces of my blog and Twitter feed with different things circled or highlighted. Cllr. Lay doesn’t say precisely what he is complaining about or under which section of the Code of Conduct he feels he has been wronged in any of the information I have been given, but I have nonetheless responded to each of his highlighted pieces separately.
The second part of the complaint features two pages of Twitter comments, which are again highlighted. This time Cllr. Lay does explain what his problem is. Once again, I have responded to each item separately. I will include here on the blog the pieces he has complained about, what he has said (if anything) and what my response was.
I am laying all this information out and in public for two reasons. The first is that I believe this is a misuse of the Complaints procedure and Cllr. Lay seeks to try and prevent my use of free speech and free expression where no part of the Code Of Conduct has been violated. I believe he simply doesn’t like the things I am saying, but if that were a reason to complain then political folk would never be able to say anything. The second reason is that transparency is an antidote to inherent bias which, sadly, I’ve come to expect as the norm from one section of the local media.
This is from my blog, under the heading “This Is Now”
A statement of a personal position, no councillor or party is named in the sentence that is highlighted and it is clearly referring to my personal view on a public issue. If a reader takes meaning from that sentence which is not implicitly stated then that is their view, not what I said.
Page 2, A highlighted entry from a blog post. (Also an email, but only the date is highlighted.)
Not sure what the problem is here? My email was accurate. My comments were also accurate. The statement referencing Cllr. Lay was phrased as a question and was not a statement or accusation.
Note: This refers to an issue where Cllr Lay was suggesting (in notices, posted in public locations) that I hadn’t offered him any help on an issue. I demonstrated the exact email where I had offered him what help as I was able tol. Even so, I didn’t accuse him of anything and tried to be polite despite his somewhat aggressive manner. Funnily enough – despite writing these notices himself and there being a full page spread including comments from him in the Wisbech Standard in May 2013 about the issue concerned – he continued to to make denials about the issue as recently as last month on ShapeYourPlace. It is not me that is tying myself in knots with contradictory statements, is it?
Page 3, Various highlighted sections of a Blog Post I wrote.
Again, what’s the problem? Nothing rude, no accusations. Comments are clearly opinion, political views and items phrased as questions. The final piece is actually phrased as a compliment, for Goodness Sake. Or do UKIP want to outlaw sarcasm and irony as well?
Page 4, A highlighted section of my blog
Another paragraph of what is clearly opinion. No accusations, all facts are accurate. Alan Lay may view them in a different way, and that’s his prerogative, but he cannot tell me how to view them. There are one or two statements which are clearly opinion. If there is a statement of fact which is untrue then I cannot see it. Cllr. Lay can write a response if he likes, or write his own blog, but he doesn’t get to censor mine just because he finds the style uncomfortable.
Page 5, A section of my blog
All true. Notice that in order to qualify the sentence I have added “It seems” which makes it patently clearly that I am not claiming to make a statement of fact, but a view which I and others share.
Page 6, A section of my bio, on my blog.
Alan might not like me expressing my view about him and his party, but I am entitled to do so. I have not used foul language, I have not told any lies, my comments are clearly expressions of my personal opinion. Notice the phrase “No doubt” and “he might” and “he SEEMS to think” which in each case clarify the issue as supposition and opinion rather than statement of fact. This is entirely the proper way to word this sort of opinion in a public forum. Perhaps Alan thinks my supposition that as a UKIP councillor he might blame things on the European Union is unfair? Well, I am entitled to my view, but a quick glance at some of UKIP’s recruitment literature is enlightening. Wasn’t my opinion a reasonably fair one, then?
Page 7, A Tweet
Twitter is an open forum where people speak to one another in an informal way. My Twitter feed has a clear statement that my comments are personal views only by stating that all tweets are in a personal capacity. Here it is:-
The phrase that has so upset Cllr. Lay is a gentle tease – which should be clear by the SMILEY : ) which immediately follows it. I do not believe that the word “lazy”, spoken humorously, is a dire insult or a terrible breach of the Code Of Conduct. It follows a lengthy debate where I try and explain that Cllr. Lay could have reported an issue himself and moved it forwards instead of just writing a letter to one of the two local newspapers. I give examples of what method he could have used and how the issue could be seen to apply to his County role. He has never made a response to any of the facts and ideas I present – and I take that to mean that he is unable to. Consequently, a complaint was issued to try and silence me. Good luck with that.
It also seems odd that the comment from Richard Humphrey has also been highlighted. Is Cllr. Lay attempting to complain about a member of the public too? Will he complain about everybody who doesn’t think he is God’s gift to local politics? I think that might go beyond the remit of the Conduct Committee. : )
(8 – 13)
The following six pages of PDF have nothing highlighted and nothing circled. So it appears that either Cllr. Lay didn’t have an issue with them (in which case, why send them?) or he just didn’t bother to highlight anything. I am definitely not suggesting he was too lazy to highlight anything. Nope. No chance of that. I wouldn’t dare. : )
My actual response:-
Page 8 through 13, Nothing
There doesn’t seem to be anything circled or highlighted on these pages so I have no idea what Cllr. Lay’s problem with them is. I suspect it’s probably more of the same and I expect my responses will be more of the same. Which boils down to the fact that I haven’t been rude, I haven’t told any lies and all my views are clearly expressed as just that – my personal views. The purpose of the Conduct Committee is not to silence normal free speech and expression and as political blogs go, mine is fairly tame. I always tread very carefully to avoid the pitfalls of such writings and as such I am confident that no law has been broken and that I am well within the acceptable standards of speech that can be reasonably expected of an elected councillor in their public life.
(14) UKIP Declaration
I’m not sure what value I’m supposed to put on an internal UKIP document, particularly one that appears to be unsigned and undated. What has this to do with the complaint? And why isn’t it signed or dated? Really, this series of rambling and empty accusations gets stranger and stranger.
Following the initial complaint there was a follow up with seven further “complaints” all concerning Twitter comments. Here are the scans with the highlighted bits that Cllr. Lay has an issue with. The scan quality I was given as part of the complaint is very poor so I’ve “translated” the text for you below in case you struggle to read it. I struggled to read it too, but since I wrote the tweets I’m better positioned to remember what they said! : )
Again I refer to my right to an opinion and free speech within the law and my clear Twitter statement that all views are my personal views. My response to these is as follows:-
(1) Tweet: “Wisbech gridlocked again. Somebody remind me which level of councillor is supposed to challenge/organise this stuff?”
Cllr Lay complains: Concerns the complete resurfacing of the main road through Wisbech. A decision in which no Councillor is, or can be involved.
I respond: This comment does not breach the code of conduct in any way. It mentions no individual. Nothing to answer.
But even though that is the case, his comment has left me flabbergasted. He is the County Councillor and he believes that he cannot be “involved” in discussions concerning highways through the town? Really? It is absolutely the responsibility of County Councillors to deal with highways issues. I wonder what the Area Joing Committee was for then? Or the myriad highways meetings and scrutiny meetings and full council meetings that County Councillors attend? Sure, some of the major roads are under Highways Agency control, but they don’t operate in a vacuum, do they? Councillors are involved in lobbying, debating and developing policy all the time. And even so, the one in question in this tweet was under County Council control. It beggars belief that he thinks: “no Councillor is, or can be involved.” I tell you something, there’s a darn sight more chance of a County Councillor having input into Highways issues than there is into Immigration issues, yet the UKIP election literature told us that their councillors were “fighting for an end to Open Door Immigration.” Didn’t it?
(2) Tweet: “Still no sign of the Standards Board complaint. All mouth and no trousers? Perhaps it was a load of bull? Or just slow/lazy?”
Cllr Lay complains: I leave you to read and mull over.
I respond: This comment does not breach the code of conduct in any way. It mentions no individual. Nothing to answer. But I’d also add that Cllr. Lay seems to be struggling to understand the nature of a “complaint.” You don’t get to ask the officer to “read and mull over.” It’s not the officer making a complaint. You need to state what your issue is. It’s not a guessing game.
(3) Tweet: More UKIP people switching to Conservatives in Fenland. The mixture of reasons “why” is interesting. Welcome all!
Cllr Lay complains: He implies that more UKIP people are switching to the Conservatives in Fenland, He must have reliable evidence to state this, otherwise it is unsubstantiated and deemed “Hearsay” and could be heading towards the libel status.
I respond: No individual named. Nothing derogatory stated. Nothing to answer. Not sure why he thinks that I need “reliable evidence” to state a personal view on Twitter, nor why he thinks I need to provide it to him in any case. But he should probably go take some legal advice. If Cllr. Lay thinks there is “libel” in this statement then he should phone his lawyer. (There isn’t.)
- 1.LAWa published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation; a written defamation.“he was found guilty of a libel on a Liverpool inspector of taxes”
synonyms: defamation, defamation of character, character assassination, calumny,misrepresentation, scandalmongering;
(4) Tweet: Most of the ones around our area used to be Lib Dems. Not that I think they believe in much of anything really.
Cllr Lay complains: For no reason he ridicules the Lib/Deems.
I respond: I don’t know why a comment about the Lib Deems (sic) would form part of a complaint made by a UKIP councillor. Nor do I think it’s likely that ridiculing the Lib Dems breaks the Code Of Conduct, otherwise virtually every Conservative on Earth would be in leg irons. However, I was actually referring to the ex-Libs who have switched to UKIP, which is fairly clear if you view the whole thread. Making a complaint without reading the whole thread could be considered a little lazy, but again I am definitely not suggesting that. Nope. My view is clearly personal opinion of the type stated by councillors of every party, all the time. Particularly since the last two words: “I think” make clear it is a personal view. In any case, no individual named, no foul language, no breach of the code of conduct, nothing to answer.
Now if you want to see somebody who really ridicules the Lib Dems then check out the master.
(5) Tweet: “I’d leave the EU tomorrow. I just think UKIP are bad news, a mixture of protectionist lefty economics and soft racism IMHO.”
Cllr Lay complains: Again “sour Grapes” towards UKIP and without any foundation and against what UKIP stand for. He call us racist, and implies that we are “Lefty Economists”
I respond: I am entitled to a personal opinion about UKIP. I am entitled to “sour grapes” if I want them too, though actually my comments are about the perceived failings of an elected councillor, not any sort of grapes. UKIP are seldom shy in sharing their opinions about other parties. My comment finishes with IMHO which stands for “In My Humble Opinion.” No individual is named, no foul language is used, personal views are expressed. No breach of the code of conduct and no case to answer.
Oddly, when Cllr. Lay went on his anti-immigrant rant earlier in the year Cllr Martin Curtis (Conservative) said: “As a candidate he should not be allowed to hide racism behind anonymity” and Cllr Dave Patrick (Liberal Democrat, then) said he had been: “abhorrent and antagonistic” and UKIP’s Ken Perrin said he had overstepped the mark and they would have to “have a quiet word with him.” It’s all here. All these people (even the UKIP one) are entitled to their personal opinion in the same way I am.
(6) Tweet: “I’ve written several about UKIP. The guinea pigs one or the red-faced one?”
Cllr Lay complains: From this “tweet” I have to question his sanity.
I respond: I often question my own sanity : ) But seriously, what has him calling me names got to do with a complaint against me? Picking a random piece from a long conversation will often make the piece look strange, without the surrounding context. What has that to do with anything?
(7) Tweet: “I’m told that I am “Fenland UKIP Enemy No.1” It’s like being hunted by very angry guinea pigs. They should #jointhequeue : ) “
Cllr Lay Complains: Again attacking UKIP and self appointing as to his status within the fenland political horizon.
I respond: Again, what is the problem? The tweet is clearly a bit of fun, has smileys to demonstrate this, there are no lies, it mentions no individuals nor does it use offensive language. No code of conduct breach. Unless a new “Thou Shalt Not Say Anything Nasty, Funny or Sarcastic about UKIP” has been added to the Code Of Conduct recently? As for “self-appointing as to my status within the Fenland political horizon” – I don’t think there’s any rule against that either. But if there is, then issuing a gigantic complaint full of six months worth of “internet stalking” and weird comments probably isn’t the best way to prove I’m not considered Fenland UKIP Enemy No.1. Just saying.
This is the actual final letters of complaint that Cllr. Lay sent:-
Dear (Officer’s Name)
As each and every day pass, I find more unjust and inane ramblings coming from Mr. Steve Tierney’s “tweets” The enclosed were brought to my attention from
two different political Councillors and an eminent local person.
I have to deduce from his irrational and illogical writing that he brings the role of a Councillor into disrepute,
and that in so doing he proves himself incapable and unfit to continue in the role of a Councillor.
I comment on the items highlighted on the enclosed “tweets” of Mr. Tierney.
You asked me to reconsider my position with regards to the writings of Mr. Steve Tierney.
I have done so, and also taken advice, my decision is that Mr. Steve Tierney should be asked in front of the investigating conduct committee to explain why he continues to make derogatory, insulting and nasty statements on his “Tweet” sites in regard to myself.
He has issued wrongful accusations about me and his conduct lowers the integrity and standards of a Councillor.
He calls me “Lazy Lay” in those two words he is insulting and infers wrongly that I do very little, that statement I regard as damaging to my reputation.
That he should be examined as to his status of attempting to stand for any form of council position in the future.
The two other Councillors that have contacted me* are frustrated and annoyed at his “Tweets” with his disparaging and offensive remarks, and that he should be curtailed from continuing .
That if he is allowed to proceed in this vein then a legal challenge could be issued.
He also thinks that I have a comrade as the editor of the Wisbech Standard. That is very far from the truth, an editor that seems to take sides is not doing a fair job.
Lastly, that Steve Tierney is made to issue an apology to me.
CCC Alan Lay.
* Hey – I wonder who the “two other councillors”, unnamed, might possibly be? Curiuser and curiouser. : )
And, dear reader, if you have lasted this long through this (in my opinion) rather ridiculous litany of complaints then here is the conclusion of my response:-
I have looked through the code of conduct that Wisbech Town Councillors are expected to follow. I cannot see what part of this Cllr. Lay is claiming I have breached. The only thing which seems applicable is the short section which claims that Members should treat others with respect. I do not believe the intention of that section is to stifle criticism, comment, free speech, debate or political banter. Were that the case then a great many things that all local and indeed national politicians say to one another every day would be cause for complaint.
In local politics councillors are faced with the cut-and-thrust of debate between each other and political parties. In my view this debate is both healthy and valuable. I strongly believe that it is the duty of local activists and councillors to speak out and make their views known. I strive to make sure everything I write is factual, or is clearly a matter of personal opinion.
It seems odd to me that a party like UKIP, which makes such claim as to how it values free speech and frank opinion, would make such a series of vexatious and in most cases blatantly silly complaints. I suspect this is an attempt to silence criticism from an opposition councillor and I believe his complaint in its entirety is an abuse of the Conduct procedure.
I do not believe I have breached the Code Of Conduct in any way and I stand by my responses as presented in this letter. I will not withdraw my comments, I will not apologise for my comments and I invite Cllr. Lay to take such legal action as he thinks necessary if he feels I have acted illegally. I would also advise that he grow some thicker skin because my blog and twitter feed are tame in comparison to some.
Let me make quite clear, dear reader, that the only way I will stop expressing my personal view on issues that I care deeply about will be when I am in my grave. Cllr. Lay and his “two mystery councillors” can take a hike if they think they will be able to stop me pointing out what I perceive as failings and wrongdoings and if they think I have broken the law then the Police, or a solicitor, would be in order. They can gang up with each other, and a certain local newspaper, and attack me all they like. I will continue to do what I believe is right come Hell or high water. I have broken no rules and I will continue doing what I do. To paraphrase Charlton Heston: “They can take my keyboard when they prise it from my cold dead fingers.” : )
Changes To Standards Board System
When the previous Standards Board System was axed, this is what was said about why it was happening:-
Serious misconduct for personal gain will be a criminal act, while petty local vendettas will no longer get a hearing as the unpopular standards board regime is axed, Communities Minister Andrew Stunell announced today (20 September 2010).
Mr Stunell said the top-down regime set up by central government to monitor council conduct had become a vehicle for malicious and frivolous complaints. For example, 1 authority had to fork out £160,000 after receiving over 170 complaints from the same person. Each 1 had to be examined, but only 3 were considered worth investigating and after investigation all were dismissed.
Local Standards Committees investigated 6,000 complaints in the first 2 years – of which over half were judged not worthy of any further action. The government is axing the entire Standards regime including the central board, which costs over £6 million a year; with investigations of complaints costing thousands of pounds each.
Genuine corruption in local government needs to be rooted out and the new government is legislating to make serious misconduct a criminal offence dealt with by the courts not committees. Councillors will have to register certain personal interests in a publicly available register.
Ministers believe these changes will give voters the confidence that councillors who misuse their office will be effectively dealt with. While councillors themselves will have the confidence to get on with their job knowing they won’t be plagued by petty allegations.
Public will decide councillors’ fates
Under new plans the public will also have greater confidence to challenge poor local services. The government intends to give the Local Government Ombudsman, the established body for investigating public complaints over the way they have been treated by their council, real teeth. For the first time local authorities will be legally compelled to implement the Ombudsman’s findings.
Andrew Stunell said:
The Standards Board regime ended up fuelling petty complaints and malicious vendettas. Nearly every council had investigations hanging over them – most of which would be dismissed but not before reputations were damaged and taxpayer money was wasted. Frivolous allegations undermined local democracy and discouraged people from running for public office.
That’s why we are axing the unpopular and unelected standards board regime. Instead we will legislate to ensure that if a councillor is corrupt and abuses their office for personal gain they will be dealt with in the criminal courts. If a councillor behaves ineffectively or irresponsibly then it’s a matter for the electorate not an unelected quango.
This government is freeing councillors from central prescription and top down bureaucracy so they can get on with their job. In the future councillors must expect to be judged at the ballot box by an electorate with real access to their accounts and personal interests in a new transparent era.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles added:
The standards board regime became the problem, not the solution. Unsubstantiated and petty allegations, often a storm in a teacup, damaged the reputation and standing of local government, as well as wasting taxpayers’ money.
Sadly, I’m not sure much has changed with the new system. The issues the changes were meant to prevent have continued.
They Brought It On!
The much-heralded Conduct Committee complaint has finally arrived. I’ve got a bundle of “evidence” (essentially, bits and pieces of my blog and Twitter feed with big circles around them) supplied by my old UKIP pal who seems to think that he can stop me saying things he doesn’t like or approve of by issuing a Complaint.
Given the lauded and infamous UKIP championship of free speech and expression, I find this batch of issues hypocritical and silly. I don’t personally believe he has a leg to stand on with any of them and I intend to contest his complaint vigorously.
It’s very sad that the local UKIP fellows don’t agree with my personal view or the things I write. But they don’t get to censor me or silence me simply because they don’t agree. I strive to always be factual, and when I am expressing personal opinion this is always clear. I am always extremely careful about what I write because I am experienced enough to know where “the line” is and how to stay clear of it. I’m sure UKIP would prefer to live in a world where their opponents were silenced and they could just spout off anything they like without scrutiny or challenge but this is not that world and no amount of vexatious complaints will make it so.
I think that the fresh air of transparency will be a valuable tonic here, particularly since I anticipate the usual bias from the usual suspects. Once I have checked with Fenland District Council that its within the rules to do so (and presuming they agree) I will publish the entire “complaint” here with all evidence and notation and I will publish my entire response also. Then you, dear reader, can make your mind up who is in the right from a fully-informed position.