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

When the spin doctor becomes the story?

Tom Sweetman by now must have realised that his activities have become the issue!

As ‘spin doctor in chief’ for Rotherham MBC his job was to manage the presentation of information, not to be exposed as manipulative, mendacious and less than straightforward in his dealings with opponents to RMBC’s proposed LDF.

Rotherham Politics have seen copies of emails that clearly indicate in detail, this duplicitous approach from Council Officers. The fact is that they have been rumbled and further attempts at Machiavellian manipulation will not work.

Time for an apology from Sweetman, I would have thought?

 

Why do the Council want to censor campaigning websites? No 3 – The plot thickens further!

A further set of emails show the mood changing and some of Tom Sweetman’s frustration or perhaps anger coming through, very revealing! I will let them speak for themselves:

“From: saveourgreenbelt [mailto:simon@saveourgreenbelt.org.uk]
Sent: 09 August 2011 12:41
To: Sweetman, Tom
Subject: Joint press release

Hello Tom,
Just to give you an update. We voted on the issue of a joint press release at our meeting last Sunday.
The joint press release was unanimously rejected by the group.
Regards
Simon

From: Sweetman, Tom
Sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 9:16 AM
To: saveourgreenbelt
Subject: RE: Joint press release

Good Morning Simon

Many thanks for the quick response from the group to our proposal. I am sorry that the group were unanimous in their decision not to wish to issue a joint statement. I was genuinely trying to find some common ground between us and we were / are very open to changing any of the wording of our side of the statement. I have to say I think this is a missed opportunity as my personal belief is that by working together there may be a solution here that is beneficial to both parties.

Since the beginning I have tried to avoid the whole metaphor of a war as I believe strongly that local people know their area and know their feelings and we must listen to those feelings and benefit from that experience. The aim of the press statement was to try to say that although we have differences we are actually listening to one another. I am certainly seeing flexibility on our side now that we are getting to know the group more and that is something I would wish to encourage.

I would be delighted to come along to meet with the group at any time ( preferably a Sunday due to home commitments ).

Karl Battersby would also be delighted to attend.

I know I work for the Council but in all honesty there are people here who are trying their utmost to make sure that Rotherham gets the best deal. I don’t think that the alternative of not having a plan and having one forced upon us would benefit anybody. An excellent outcome would be a plan that we have worked together on. Something that both sides can say they did their best to find common ground on. Your

I have to say I am confused by the statement that you have added to the release

The saveourgreenbelt group have been approached by Rotherham Strategic Planners to issue a joint Media release.

Whilst we appreciate that after 2 years the Strategic Planning Office has agreed to engage in consultative meeting with our group, at this time we are still very much in the ‘dark’ about their proposals and until such time that we have more in depth details of the carnage of greenbelt land we cannot comment.

Please let me know why you feel ‘in the dark’ about proposals as I don’t think they could be clearer. If the group really do not know what we are proposing then I want to put that right.

Secondly I really think that by no stretch of the imagination could the current proposals be referred to as ‘carnage’ and if they are then that is precisely the reason we need to continue talking.

I do hope there is a way that we can come to a solution that we can both be proud of.

All best wishes

Tom

Tom Sweetman

“Senior Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Marketing
Chief Executive’s Directorate
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

TEL 01709 823917
MOBILE 07717224640
tom.sweetman@rotherham.gov.uk

To provide integrated local services so that:
People can exercise choice, retain their independence, be offered protection and have equality of access.
Communities are active and shape local services to meet their characteristics and needs.
Neighbourhoods are safe, free from crime and places to be proud of.

Think before you print – please consider the impact on the environment before printing this document.

From: saveourgreenbelt [mailto:simon@saveourgreenbelt.org.uk]
Sent: 10 August 2011 10:25
To: Sweetman, Tom
Subject: Re: Joint press release

Hello Tom,

I agree working together is beneficial to both sides.

We don’t however see what our group will achieve by sending in a joint press release.

What do you think we will gain from this press release?

Simon

From: Sweetman, Tom
Sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 10:29 AM
To: saveourgreenbelt
Subject: RE: Joint press release

Think it shows that we are talking and that your views are being heard. Also identifies you as the main organised group that are influencing the consultation.

I think folk here are genuinely listening to you and the aim would be to really minimise the greenbelt that ends up on the table.

Maybe a press release from yourselves that we are then invited to comment on.

I get why you would be wary Simon I really do but I genuinely think we could do something pretty historic here

Would be only too pleased to come out and talk to you. All I want from our side is that folk don’t see this as a done deal – because its not

Tom Sweetman

Senior Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Marketing
Chief Executive’s Directorate
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council”

Thanks go again to our source Simon for providing this insight into recent events.

Why do the Council want to censor campaigning websites? No 2

Further evidence has come to light of attempts at censorship of The Save our green belt campaigns website! I quote from an email sent by Tom Sweetman to Simon Collett and copied to Karl Battersby as evidence of attempted interference:

“From: Sweetman, Tom
Sent: Tuesday, September 06, 2011 2:03 PM
To: saveourgreenbelt ;
Cc: Battersby, Karl
Subject: RE: Joint press release

Good afternoon Simon

Karl has had an email from a lady who was expressing her thoughts on the LDF process

As part of her enquiry she said

I have read that Sheffield Council has paid Rotherham Borough Council to build more houses to cater for it’s overspill, allowing it to retain it’s own greenbelt land at the expense of ours.  This would be a despicable act and if it were true Rotherham Borough Council should be thoroughly ashamed for it’s appalling betrayal of it’s own people and I personally would never vote again.

Karl’s response was

One point I do not understand however is the reference to Rotherham being paid by Sheffield Council to house its overspill.
This is absolutely not the case, and I would be grateful if you could let me know where you got that information from so we can correct it.
The plan is about catering for Rotherham’s needs for the next 15 years, and indeed we have halved our housing requirement to reflect a local target rather than the current regional target.
The figure of 12,750 homes over the next 15 years is not an inflated figure to cater for Sheffield overspill, quite the reverse.

The lady responded

Thankyou for your reply Mr Battersby,

The information you refer to is on the Save Our Greenbelt website. I’m very pleased to hear it isn’t true, thankyou for confirming that.

You may recall that at our Town Hall meeting this was asked as a very specific question by your group. Our response was that this was not the case and this was confirmed in the minutes that were sent to you on 25th July.

I have checked the website this morning and you are still saying

FACTS
The Government’s projections show that the vast majority of the internal migration into Rotherham will come from Sheffield in order to “take pressure” off Sheffield, which is projected to experience a large increase in population.

Could we please ask that this statement be removed from your website as it is incorrect

Regards
Tom Sweetman”

The plot thickens indeed! The facts were as known at the time the post was originally made. To change it now would be to try to change the past! Quite outrageous that Officers would be so presumptuous!

More later and a huge thank you to our source Simon, for this information.

Why do the Council want to censor campaigning websites?

The Save our greenbelt campaigners thought it would be a good idea to ask some clarifying freedom of information questions to ensure Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council had done their homework.

The response was provided as FOI No 198, Download their response here, pdf.

This blog has been made aware that the Council now want their own response deleted from the internet, why? Quite extraordinary! The plot thickens?

See also: LDF Consultation – leaked emails speak volumes?