Wednesday 24th July 2019,
North Yorks Enquirer

7 Samurai – Persistently Reasonable Complaints

7 Samurai – Persistently Reasonable Complaints

Enquirer regular contributor TIM HICKS persists, entirely reasonably, in his attempt to engage in a productive dialogue with Scarborough Borough Council ‘Strong’ Leader, Conservative Councillor Derek Bastiman.

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Dear Derek,

Hope this e mail finds you well and recovering from the Christmas excesses.

As you know, some SBC Councillors send electronic Christmas Cards in the modern way (I prefer to send mine on by post). So I am writing to thank you for asking Lisa (Mrs Lisa Dixon, Borough Solicitor and head of the Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) Legal and Democratic Services Department) to ensure she read all my Christmas Cards and sent them on in good time, so they all arrived by Christmas Eve.  As you know we have had our differences in the past over the issue of the Legal and Democratic Services Department putting journalists and anyone that criticises them under surveillance, declaring them to be vexatious and threatening them with legal action. So I thought it was very magnanimous of you to intervene on my behalf. Thank you so much!

I am worried that Lisa may have a lot of people under surveillance and have a backlog of e mails to get through. This causes me some concern. I hate to think of Lisa and her colleagues spending night after night sitting up late in the office reading other people’s e mail.  Would it be possible to provide some extra people for the Legal Department, or better still, to restructure it into an entirely new “Legal and Democratic Covert Surveillance Services Department”? This would give you the manpower you need to conduct covert surveillance operations, suppress legitimate criticism and prevent media oversight, without distracting SBC’s lawyers from their normal duties or threatening anyone that criticises SBC or Council officers with legal action.

On this topic, I am a firm believer in the principle that there is no such thing as bad publicity. So I am sure you will have been pleased to read that SBC has again featured in the national media over this subject.

I must say, SBC has had a very good run in Private Eye over the years. No other Council I am aware of has featured in “Rotten Boroughs” so often or so prominently over such a wide range of issues, including harassment of local journalists, victimisation of whistle-blowers, concealing the Jaconelli/Savile paedophile scandal, misuse of Council funds, concealing fraud, much of it exposed or publicised by the NYE. It is no wonder SBC is smarting because of the scandals local journalists and contributors to the NYE are exposing.

For a full list of Private Eye articles about SBC, please click on the link SBC Private Eye collection.

Concerning the subject of the above article: Whilst I have no knowledge of Mr Westwood’s case, I would observe in passing that my experience of SBC’s Legal and Democratic Services Department when I wrote for the NYE’s predecessor Real Whitby was the same as his. It will not hesitate to threaten legal action against those that criticise it.  Or try to shut down local media outlets that report on issues it would prefer were not discussed. BBC investigation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-i3sW-795k

Please see below the “Confidential” e mail sent by Lisa to all Councillors. You will see Mr Westwood is featured as one of the “seven vexatious ones”:

FROM: Lisa Dixon Lisa.Dixon@scarborough.gov.uk
DATE: 2 October 2018 at 14:36:39 BST

TO: Councillors Email Group <CouncillorsDG@scarborough.gov.uk>,
Noticeboard <Noticeboard@scarborough.gov.uk>
CC: Jim Dillon Jim.Dillon@scarborough.gov.uk, Nick Edwards
<Nick.Edwards@scarborough.gov.uk>, Richard Bradley
<Richard.Bradley@scarborough.gov.uk>, Carol Rehill
<Carol.Rehill@scarborough.gov.uk>
SUBJECT: PERSISTENT AND UNREASONABLE COMPLAINANTS – CONFIDENTIAL

CONFIDENTIAL

 All,

Please note the following decisions made in accordance with the Council’s Persistent and Unreasonably Persistent Complainants Policy. 

1.       Mr A be designated as a persistent complainant 

2.       The following continued to be designated as persistent complainants: 

  Mr B

  Tim Thorne (NYE community journalist)

  Nigel Ward (NYE community journalist)

  Mr E

  George Westwood (See attached Private Eye article)

  Tim Hicks (NYE community journalist)

That the following be de-designated:

 Mr H

  Mr I 

Kind regards 

Lisa Dixon

Director 

Scarborough Borough Council 

Monitoring Officer”

(My annotations in brackets)

I would observe that of the seven people singled out as ”vexatious”, three are local community journalists (43%), one is a former Council Officer with an apparently reasonable complaint about the way SBC has handled a case in which it has a conflict of interest (14%). Making a total of 57% of the cases designated as “vexatious”, where there is no reasonable basis to designate them as “vexatious” or take any action against them.

It would therefore appear to me that SBC Officers have designated them as “vexatious” because they have criticised SBC Officers and some Councillors. Thereby conveniently evading any obligation to respond to their concerns.

I would welcome any response you may have to my views and will try to have them published in the NYE if you wish.

With all best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2019 to you and all of your colleagues.

Love from Tim

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