Principles in Rotherham Public Life?

– a local guide for the Rotherham Politics reader …

Readers of “Rotherham Politics” are always a canny bunch of citizens with an acute political awareness and deep sense of what’s right and what should be right among those in public life who supposedly serve us and not themselves.

The Seven Nolan Principles were established to govern standards of behaviour of those in public life –

  • Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
  • Integrity – Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
  • Objectivity – In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
  • Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
  • Openness – Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
  • Honesty – Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
  • Leadership – Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.

Reference: Wikipedia

You are  now invited to read on and check how many of those simple standards have been observed or simply ignored by local politicians … good luck counting …

Kindly supplied by a reader of this blog. Too good to leave just an introduction to the Leader Files – Roger Stone.

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Rob Foulds writes again on woeful RMBC website – FOI 372

Rob Foulds has enquired further when the promised improvements still do not work!

“Dear Mr Waller
For your advice the records of the Standards Committee Review Panel are still not appearing under the Council’s website page ‘Meetings, agendas and minutes’ in spite of your acceptance of the need for this to be the case.
It is noticeable however that the references on that web page, to the Standards Committee, have been altered since our previous correspondence and whilst links are offered to a would-be enquirer, these have been devised to result in the production of no useful information whatsoever.
This is the link to the page where I’m supposed to be able to find the records > http://moderngov.rotherham.gov.uk/ieListMeetings.aspx?CId=919&Year=2011 and you will see for yourself that there is nothing there of relevance to the Review Panel Hearings. In fact, why that page should offer me a link to Declarations of Interests, I really don’t know; furthermore it offers to provide me with the Interests of Cllr Cutts, for instance, and as you will know that should be (emphatically) “Mr Cutts”.
Yours sincerely
Robert Foulds”

Thanks to Rob Foulds, for keeping us updated on this particular saga. Anyone with a tale to tell on this issue, please tell us with a comment. Alternatively contact RikiLeaks  in confidence.

An appeal for information? From RMBC

Been thinking about the situation in Rotherham regarding Freedom of Information requests, given that Rob’s FOI 372 is the 372nd request for information in 2011, I assume.

There is the very real chance of unnecessary duplication. especially for the more contentious areas of public policy.

How about RMBC making all FOI requests and appropriate responses available on the, all singing, all dancing, website of theirs?

Talking of which, the website search is not improving, documents are not properly indexed, missing or so out of date as to render them useless. Resorting to FOI’s because publicly available information cannot be found, will only make things worse! My advice to who ever is responsible for this woeful website should, get a grip, pronto!

Friend of Old Rotherham brings us these two stories that will amuse you!

Firstly this very revealing story, in Yorkshire’s national daily, the Yorkshire Post, from 2003:

Fresh blow for council rocked by scandal

Published on Sunday 26 October 2003

THE new leader of a council tainted by a major sleaze scandal has admitted making a false expenses claim over a trip to Scotland – but insists it was a genuine mistake.

The claim, by Rotherham Council leader Roger Stone, was discovered during a police inquiry into an anti-poverty organisation run by Garvin Reed, the disgraced former deputy leader of the authority who is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for his part in stealing 172,000 of public money. Read on….

And this link to a piece of the jigsaw of the history of Rotherham from the same time:

ROTHERHAM BOROUGH COUNCIL
REPORT TO CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF THE STANDARDS COMMITTEE

Available as a pdf, here.

A timely reminder of the tendency to corruption, fraud and worse that seems to occur wherever  Labour rule without effective opposition!

Thanks to ‘A Friend of Old Rotherham‘, for bringing these links to our attention.

A selection of stories featuring Roger Stone from the Yorkshire Post can now be found in:

The Leader’s Files – Roger Stone

Rob Foulds probes further? FOI 372 – update on developments

Rob Foulds, has received a response from Richard Waller, I reproduce it below:

“On 27 September 2011 12:26, Waller, Richard <Richard.Waller@rotherham.gov.uk> wrote:

Dear Mr Foulds

I am writing in reply to your e-mail dated 15 September in which you state that you wish to make a formal complaint about the Council’s failure to make information about Standard Committee review panels freely and clearly available to the public.  You suggest that the Council has hidden this information from the public.  The reason is rather more mundane. 

 Save for written summaries, documentation in connection with meetings of the Standard Committee’s assessment and review panels is not available to the public by virtue of regulation 8 (application of the Local Government Act 1972) of the Standards Committee (England) Regulations 2008.  Regulation 8 (5) (a) of the 2008 Regulations disapplies Part VA (access to meetings and documents of certain authorities, committees and sub-committees) of the Local Government Act 1972 in relation to access to meetings and documents of the Standards Committee’s assessment and review panels.  Statutory guidance published by Standards for England explains why:  “Such meetings may have to consider unfounded and potentially damaging complaints about members, which it would not be appropriate to make public”.

However, in accordance with regulation 8 (5) (b) & (c) of the 2008 Regulations, a written summary of the hearing is published and can be found in the Standards Committee pages of the Council’s website in the Council and Democracy section under Standards Committee.  If you had clicked on that page you would have been able to access written summaries of assessment and review panel meetings (see the bottom of that page: Code of conduct complaints process – written summaries). 

 I agree however that the relevant page of the  Agenda, Reports, Minutes pages of the Council and Democracy section of the website should be cross-referenced to the Standards Committee page and shall arrange for this to be done.  I apologise for any inconvenience caused.    

If you are not satisfied with this internal review, you can appeal to the Information Commissioner. Contact details are: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire. SK9 5AF.  Telephone 01625 545700.  Alternatively go to www.ico.gov.org.

Kind regards

Richard Waller”

Clearly not content with this as an adequate response to his enquiry and replied in the following terms:

“Dear Mr Waller
The second-last paragraph of your response therefore agrees that my formal complaint is justified and you confirm that you will arrange to rectify the failings of Rotherham Council.
The analogy is simple: if I call in at Rotherham Library and seek a copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, I think it would be reasonable to find it in the classic fiction section thereof. And I would certainly not expect a librarian to ultimately advise me that it was “publicly available”  in the geography section, under Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, and thereafter provide me with an abstract explanation of why it was so filed.

In spite of your protestation of mundanity and voluminous quotes from various legislation, the real truth is that the records to which I refer, used to be filed under Agenda, Reports, Minutes and someone at Rotherham Council deliberately removed the records from that logical location and only after receiving a formal complaint, as usual, does your Authority decide to apply appropriate ‘standards’ of administration. By the way, there is still a major lack of information pertaining to the Standards Committee on the Agenda, Reports, Minutes web page.
Finally, it is notable that you have treated my formal complaint as an “internal review” of my original Freedom of Information request – again, the well-worn standard RMBC tactic of manipulation is employed. Surely to God, you must have realised by now that there are some members of the public who can see straight through your Authority’s manoeuvrings.
Yours sincerely

Robert Foulds”

Further developments on this FOI and others, visit The FOI Register.

Information kindly supplied by Rob Foulds, to whom we are grateful! Readers might like to have first go at highlighting the lessons this email exchange illuminates!

From RikiLeaks inbox – RMBC playing unprofessional games?

The RikiLeaks inbox contained this little missive, to none other than Martin Kimber, complaining about the thoroughly unprofessional conduct of senior members of the officer force.

I reproduce it as it was received:

Mr M Kimber   CEO
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
Doncaster Gate
Rotherham S65 1DJ

24th September 2011

Dear Sir,

I wish to make a formal complaint regarding the action of Tom Sweetman, Media spokesperson for Rotherham Borough Council.

During recent consultations, Mr Sweetman has  invited himself into the homes of members of the Save Our Greenbelt Campaign Group.
He has discussed details of his private life at length with some members, this is totally unprofessional and he has used his situation to garner sympathy and manipulate Senior Member of the Group, to the point that they were asked to report activities of the group, directly to him, please read enclosed email communication.
At the consultation session at Masbrough Community Centre, Mr Sweetman was observed again approaching a different Senior Members of the Group, inviting himself to the gentleman’s home for a cup of tea, so he could discuss ‘in private’ the  plans to develop  Bassingthorpe Farm , giving his  email and telephone contact details. When I challenged him that this was inappropriate behaviour, he was belligerent and annoyed.
I rang Mr Sweetman, the following morning and asked that he refrain from approaching people who have every legal right to oppose and voice their objections regarding the Councils proposed plans and that inviting himself into people’s homes was a form of harassment and bullying.
Within minutes Mr Sweetman had emailed the two Senior Members of our group to inform them of our conversation and in fact had embellished our conversation and complained about the fact I had phoned him. The gentleman he emailed then rang our Chairperson insisting that I was rebuked for my actions. The Chairperson congratulated me for alerting him to the duplicity of Mr Sweetman’s actions and concerns we had about his involvement with these members.
At the Arts Centre consultation on the following Wednesday, Mr Sweetman approached me and asked if he could speak with me and insisted we left the room. He asked me what he could say to me to persuade me to ’come on board’ and refrain from objecting to the plans. This is totally unacceptable, it is outside of his position as a Media person for the Council, it is a form of harassment.
I and the citizens of Rotherham have every legal right to object and raise concerns. I must ask the question, is this, a consultation for the people of Rotherham, or is this, a complete sham by RMBC, who have no real intention of listening to the people as previous evidence would suggest.
I had printed off the email one of our Senior Members had sent to Mr Sweetman, within an hour of our AGM on the previous Sunday evening. I was unaware of this email until Tuesday after my phone call. I gave the email to him to read and asked him to please explain. Mr Sweetman could not answer
I informed him that I would be making a formal complaint to you, the Chief Executive, regarding his manipulative activities and went back into the meeting room.
Mr Sweetman and the couple he had, and I use this word with some irony,’ befriended’ left the Arts Centre.
I and the Save Our Greenbelt Action Groups, believe that the Strategic Planning Team and in particular Karl Battersby, have purposely infiltrated our group and we have further evidence to support this claim. We are not , at this point, prepared to divulge our evidence, until we have received further advice.
I will expect a letter of confirmation that you have received my letter of complaint, within 5 working days and expect a full written response to my complaint within 28 days.

Yours Sincerely

Thanks to our source for this.

I have actually seen most, if not all, of the correspondence referred to in this letter of complaint and it seems to me that the evidence does lead to the inevitable conclusion that the author, at the very least has a point worth making!

These two questions below would appear to be somewhat problematic for them to answer and may expose enough of their modus operandi, to ensure that future campaigns remain truly independent and are not deliberately infiltrated in the future. I quote:

‘At the Arts Centre consultation on the following Wednesday, Mr Sweetman approached me and asked if he could speak with me and insisted we left the room. He asked me what he could say to me to persuade me to ’come on board’ and refrain from objecting to the plans.’

‘I and the Save Our Greenbelt Action Groups, believe that the Strategic Planning Team and in particular Karl Battersby, have purposely infiltrated our group and we have further evidence to support this claim.’

The responses should make interesting reading, if anyone would oblige RikiLeaks , when available.

Nearly forgot, the cabinet member with responsibility for this? Why, it’s our old friend, Gerald Smith!

Rik

Top Ten Posts last week – Total 1874 page views

This weeks record total of 1874 page views is all down to our readers, contributors and commentators, a huge thank you to you all!

Home page 608
Specially for Independents thinking of standing next May! 219
Gerald Smith case goes international – Swedish ‘Kristdemokraten’ picks it up! 202
New life breathed into Scum Labour post 95
Arthur Newey still fighting 10 years on! 69
MacShane saddened – How does he think we feel? 53
Old Labour – New Labour – Scum Labour in Rotherham’s Stone Age! 49
Déjà vu – Has anything really changed? 42
Special South Yorkshire Police Authority 23/09/2011 11:30 – Isn’t technology wonderful! 36
Planning reform: what are the facts? from fullfact.org! 34

Our all time most popular posting, Gerald Smith case goes international – Swedish ‘Kristdemokraten’ picks it up! Has now notched up a total of 839 hits and still counting!