Posted by: westlancashirerecord | January 14, 2018

Currie Stands For Himself and Downholland, Not For Aughton

The idiotic stance taken by Cllr Currie is that nearness to the ward represented by a councillor is crucial to being fair to those living in the ward. In which case why are so many councillors representing wards they don’t live in, or are near to, quoting Cllrs Stephenson, Westleys, Hodsons, Hennessy, Moran, Savage, as examples?

Also as idiotic is the apparent right of Currie to complain about other councillors from Labour raising the issue of respect “failing to treat the mayor with respect by not stopping speaking when asked, and also of bringing his office or the council into disrepute” all of which indicates simply a lack of good manners, not to mention integrity towards the electorate by walking out of a Council meeting. “Come along children, keep in line”…the Party line, that is!

Of course Currie could look back four years, when WLR asked “Do Halsall, Aughton, Burscough, and WLBC have “Councillor Accountability” and what is its value? In a case of considerable interest to observers of “elected councillor accountability” a striking example occurred in Halsall during the course of the Local Plan through its consultations on proposed residential developments on New Cut Lane.

A number of alleged incidents relating to the conduct of Parish and once, for reasons unknown the Borough Deputy Mayor, Councillor Doreen Stephenson , a current Currie colleague, were reported. They included various complaints of her alleged failure to comply with the Code of Conduct; alleged breach of the Principles of Openness and Accountability; alleged lack of Accountability and Integrity; alleged lack of Honesty, Openness and Integrity. These incidents allegedly occurred in July, August, September, and October 2013 at parish and public meetings and were witnessed. They became the subject of a formal complaint relating to four issues.

In essence, the formal complaint was relative to the Councillor’s alleged conduct as parish and borough councillor and her alleged attitude and responses to the public. It sought removal of the Councillor from all public office. At the October meeting of the Halsall Parish Council it was alleged, recorded, and reported the Councillor shouted “I am glad that woman has left” in response to the Complainant being upset by a previous alleged remark that “I will not be pushed out and if you had all handled the situation differently the outcome would have been different” in reply to a question in respect of her not representing residents’ views.

In the Official Response there is included a particular reference made by the Monitoring Officer that “…however, the comment that the Subject Member is alleged to have made when the Complainant left the room is likely to be a breach of the respect provision in paragraph 3.1 of the Code”. I do not consider that the four issues raised in the complaint could reasonably be dealt with by local resolution, e.g. by way of an apology or other remedial action.

“Having regard to the Complaint, the seriousness of the allegations as set out at (i) and (ii) above, balancing the interests of good governance in undertaking or completing an investigation into these four issues in the complaints and all relevant matters the Monitoring Officer in consultation with the Independent Person has decided that no action should be taken on these allegations. In determining this, regard was had to the significant cost of an investigation against the “value” of a finding of breach which, in these circumstances under the current standards regime, would provide limited available sanctions to the Standards Committee. It is noted that the remedy sought by the Complainant is not a sanction that is available to the Standards Committee under the current regime”.

So WLR then asked “Does that mean our councillors should pick their offences carefully so as to avoid a sanction, apart from the ballot box whenever that might be for them as individuals and could be one/two/three years away? How many ways can this WLBC defend its alleged recalcitrant councillors? Cost, as it applies to the public cost for who else pays council tax for events such as this, is a new excuse for insulting the public…”significant cost of an investigation against the “value” of a finding of breach”. Well, we must give them the answer to that. Whatever the cost, whatever the sanctions, councillors must be judged properly. A breach DOES have a value. Good governance is indispensable and critical to the values we, the public, set ourselves.

And WLR suggested “Our council values its council tax funded councillor hospitality; it values its council tax conservation grants; it values its generous conditions for its employees; it values its denial of travel help for disabled immobile residents; it valued its poor management of its Housing Division. These “council” values should be open to challenge because they are not OUR values and we see breaches of them all too often. This particular alleged breach should be vigorously appealed by the Complainant. An alleged comment that’s described as “likely to be a breach of the respect provision” is equally likely to have consequences. After all, a bland conclusion that “does not merit further action” decision merits further public consideration in the ward and parish where the alleged offences occurred.

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