Councillors Puzzled Over Statement

Council Chambers at the Old Wesleyan Chapel

Councillors looked puzzled at last week’s Policy and Resources meeting when an unscheduled statement was read out at the start of the proceedings.

Vice Chair of Council, Marian Bennett, told attendees, “The Council acknowledges that a comment was made at the meeting of this committee which took place on 21st July 2011.

“No offence was ever intended in relation to that comment and if any such offence was taken then the Council offers its sincere apologies” she said.

No further explanation was offered as to who may have been offended or by whom.

Councillor Richard McCarthy asked why, if the Council had authorised this statement, he had not seen any paper or report on the matter.

He said if he and other Councillors were in the dark, how could the statement be read out in a public meeting?

Marian passed the matter quickly over to Chief Executive, Philip Hygate, who said a member of staff had been concerned about comments made by someone in that meeting.

The matter was then taken up by a monitoring officer in Cornwall and legal advice offered to both, said Philip.

Marian said the issue was about “Standards and Code of Conduct.”

However, Richard pressed on, saying this needed to be brought back to Council to be discussed which the assembled members eventually agreed upon.

The details were further obscured by the lack of information on the statement being available on the Council’s website and last Thursday’s webcast suffering a technical malfunction on that evening.

We have looked back through our records made during the meeting in question last year, which we attended, but could find no point at which a Council Officer complained about comments from a Member. There is also no record in the meeting minutes.

The complaint must therefore have taken place behind closed doors after the meeting.

ScillyToday asked Marian if she could shed light on the matter and explain what the statement was about, but she said our request had been passed to a solicitor in Cornwall and we should talk to the Monitoring Officer, Philip Hygate.

We contacted Philip’s office but have so far had no response.

Under the new Localism Act, the Government is doing away with the Standards regime which some feel has been used to victimise individual Councillors rather than deal with serious offences by members.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said last year, “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.”

However, our own Council has ignored that advice, continuing with their Standards regime and is in the process of increasing its remit even further.


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