Dear Tony, Have You Heard About Prudence?
- an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, reporting directly to Lincolnshire County Council Chief Executive Tony Mc ARDLE; a gentle heads-up to the duties of his office.
I write to you about Prudence.
It is with regret and, I confess, a measure of sadness, that I discovered that I had failed to elicit any senseful response to my Open Letter to you of 16th August 2014. I regard that as an opportunity missed on your part. The response that I did receive from you, on 19th August 2104, was empty of any discernible substantive meaning.
Nevertheless, I did take the time to respond to you, and, if you recall, I included in my comments the following pearl of wisdom:
“The first legislation that Tony McARDLE must (yes, must) consider is his responsibility under the terms of the Human Rights Act 1998. The Act provides that it is unlawful for a public authority to act in such a way as to contravene the European Convention on Human Rights.”
You are, of course, already aware of that. But I write to a wider readership (amongst whom I am pleased to include members of your Legal department), whom I hope to inform and entertain.
Like you, they are (no doubt) punctilious in their consideration of Human Rights legislation. Unfortunately, there appears to have been a significant oversight.
The Human Rights Act 1998 is quite clear on the subject of ethnic minorities:
Article 14 Prohibition of discrimination
The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.
Page 5 of this document offers some very helpful guidance in respect of law enforcement.
I would suggest that your Legal department, no doubt in response to the highly-sensitized matter of ethnicity, has overlooked the importance of establishing a clear understanding of what is meant by the term “ethnic minority”. Please join me for a moment in an inspection of the ramifications in respect of motor-home owners and overnight parking – or “camping” as your colleague Executive County Councillor Colin DAVIE prefers to term it.
Consider these definitions, provided in the Joint Agency Protocol for Responding to Unauthorised Encampments:
Our present concern is with that last grouping – ‘New Travellers’. But who exactly are these ‘New Travellers’? I have more than a suspicion that they are users of motor-homes, Tony, and Lincolnshire County Council must respect their rights – whether it sits well or ill with Executive county Councillor Colin DAVIE and his cronies. Indeed, many of those who have stayed on Huttoft Car Terrace for extended periods have now confirmed that they are, and indeed have been for a number of years, New Travellers – an acknowledged ethnic group.
It would appear obvious and indeed fundamental to the very concept of human rights that those who have elected to pursue an itinerant or nomadic life-style have done no more than exercise their right to live a legitimate way of life. They are entitled to the same protection under the law as everyone else – free from harassment, with equitable access to services and with a full measure of respect for their legitimate choice of lifestyle.
So it is difficult to see how it will be lawful for them to be prevented from entering the Huttoft Car Terrace on the basis of their ethnicity, or on the basis that their mobile-homes exceed an arbitrary height-limit of 1.9 metres, or indeed that they should be prohibited from using the Car Terrace during the same hours as, say, sea anglers – who are not an acknowledged ethnic group.
And has the County Council considered the implications of its duties in respect of Children’s Services?
The byelaw that the County Council has seen fit to enact is entirely inappropriate to the County Council’s purpose:
LINCOLNSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL
BYELAWS FOR PLEASURE GROUNDS, PUBLIC WALK AND OPEN SPACES
ARRANGEMENT OF THE GROUND, ITS WILDLIFE AND THE PUBLIC
5. No person shall without the consent of the Council leave or cause or permit to be left any motor vehicle in the ground between the hours of 10:00pm and 6:00am.
7.2 Nothing in or done under these byelaws shall in any respect prejudice or injuriously affect any public right of way through the ground, or the rights of any person acting lawfully by virtue of some estate, right or interest in, over or affecting the ground or any part of the ground.
And then we must consider this:
I hope you will now grasp the difficulty, Tony.
Not only do New Travellers now stand to be discriminated against by a byelaw invoked under legislation appropriate to quite other purposes (namely, regulating “pleasure grounds, public walks and open spaces” – and not, you will note, Car Parks), they also stand to fall victim to a discriminatory byelaw whose very existence is prohibited by law.
Moreover, any arbitrary height-barriers that will “injuriously affect any public right of way through the ground” will further infringe upon the rights of the New Travellers, whose right of way is as sacrosanct as that of any other member of the public.
Together, these fundamental errors on the part of your Legal department add up to what my poor old dad used to refer to as “a prize cock-up”. Whilst abhorring my father’s chosen terminology, I find that I have to concur. What about you?
Clearly, unless the County Council intends to disregard the requirements of law, it will be necessary to reconsider the steps it has taken – and reputedly intends to continue to take – to address its legitimate concerns regarding “the impact on residents in the area as they are being subjected to noise, nuisance, excessive litter, fires from campfires, and verbal abusefrom some of the peoplecamping”.
Back to the drawing-board, Tony. Time for a little prudence. Keep the noise down, please. Try not to be a nuisance. Spare the public purse the unjustifiable expense of illegal height-barriers (and spend a small part of the savings on a couple of part-time jobs picking up excessive litter and providing a couple of fire-extinguishers to curtail any danger to the public arising from fires, and, above all, no more verbal abuse, please – and I refer, of course, to Executive County Councillor Colin DAVIE [Con.] and County Councillor Stephen PALMER [Ind.] (a member – I note, no surprise – of the Community and Public Safety Scrutiny Committee, no less) and their use – on television and in the press – of the extremely offensive and pejorative term “freeloaders” in reference to an acknowledged ethnic minority – the New Travellers.
Tony, please explain to me how it is in any way acceptable for County Councillors to refer to New Travellers as “freeloaders”? To what vocabulary do they resort when referring to people from other ethnic minorities? If I learn of any inappropriate references to Yorkshiremen, I can tell you now that there will be a negative impact on their public personae. Not ‘alf, t’o’d flower!
Could I ask you to teach them the rudiments of respect, please, Tony? The first Nolan Principle? And please do me the kindness of informing your Monitoring Officer that I hereby lodge a Formal Complaint against Executive County Councillor Colin DAVIE and Councillor Stephen PALMER in respect of their flagrant and utterly unforgivable breaches of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct. FREELOADERS, indeed. I am shocked and horrified that such experienced public servants could even contemplate such offensive language in reference to an acknowledged ethnic minority. Not only is it crass and insensitive; in an election year it is tantamount to political suicide. It certainly reflects very poorly on their respective political affiliates. Resignation would appear the most diplomatic option – and the most honourable. I trust you will exercise Prudence and lose no time in formulating a tactful form of words to point them in the right direction.
In short, please demonstrate to the people of Lincolnshire that the £207,378 per annum that they invest in your salary is not entirely ill-spent.
There’s a good chap.
PS – I am so concerned about the ‘value for money’ and ‘fitness for purpose’ aspects of the Legal Services department that LLC maintains in partnership with Boston Borough Council, East Lindsey District Council, North Kesteven District Council, South Holland District Council and West Lindsey District Council that I have submitted an FOIA request. You are very welcome to view it here: