Friday 23rd October 2020,
North Yorks Enquirer

Eskdale UKIP Governor – Dramatic New Twists!

Eskdale UKIP Governor – Dramatic New Twists!

  • an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, up-dating the press and the public on the latest moves in the “dirty war” that has thrown North Yorkshire County Council into a very unwelcome spotlight, now that last month’s “Hatchet-Job” on MIKE WARD (no relation), the erstwhile Chair of the Eskdale School Board of Governors, has rebounded on the perps. Big-style.

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Sharpening The Long Knives

On Sunday 9th November, I published an article entitled “Political Hatchet-Job 2015: Double Discrimination”, describing these circumstances in considerable detail, and expressing my suspicion that there lurked, behind the outward appearances, an ulterior motive. I had already hinted as much in an earlier article 0n 31st October 2014, entitled “Halloween: The Redaction Game [02] – Riddles & Rhymes”.

On Wednesday 12th November 2014, the “real” newspapers caught up on the outward appearances, but not the root causes:

Yorkshire PostNorthern EchoScarborough News and even the Whitby Gazette.

On Thursday 13th November 2014, the story went national:

Daily MailDaily ExpressThe Telegraph – and even the Breitbart News.

UKIP Leader Nigel FARAGE commented, “It’s atrocious that Cllr Mike Ward, a long standing, conscientious and dedicated School Governor, has been forced to resign as a Governor of Eskdale School, a school he deeply cares for, just because he is a member of Ukip.”

I would have preferred to hear Nigel FARAGE add that it would have been no less atrocious if Mike WARD had been forced to resign as a result of becoming a member of any other registered political party.

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The Incident

This is what happened:

On 10th October 2014, Sue WHELAN (Headteacher at Whitby’s 11-14 Eskdale School) took the extraordinary action of stepping well outside of her remit to force the resignation of the Chair of the Board of Governors for the past five years, Mike WARD (no relation to me).

Ostensibly, Sue WHELAN’s motivation for this was that Mike WARD, a Scarborough Borough Councillor, had recently joined UKIP and thereby embraced policies that set him in opposition to the school’s ethos and aims – though nothing in the party’s policy conflicts with the school’s position, as set out in a document signed off by Mike WARD himself.

In short, Sue WHELAN chose to unilaterally discriminate against Mike WARD (without consulting the Board) on the grounds that he had adopted views that, in her judgement, bound him to position in which he could potentially discriminate in the future. He has never been bound by a party line – and UKIP is alone amongst the leading parties in not to practice the Whip system – so no UKIP member is ever bound by the party line. Sue WHELAN got it badly wrong and the irony of her action will escape few readers.

BUT IT WOULD BE A MISTAKE TO BELIEVE THAT SUE WHELAN IS THE PRIME MOVER IN THIS PURELY POLITICAL PIECE OF SKULLDUGGERY.

It is a complex story so, before I begin, I would like to offer two facts that have not yet been exposed in public:

  • As I write, Mike WARD’s resignation has been formally accepted ONLY by Headteacher Sue WHELAN – who had no authority to accept it. That responsibility rests solely with the Board of Governors, as a properly constituted body. It would appear that, legally speaking, Mike WARD is still – albeit unknowingly – the Chairman of the Board.
  • On 13th October 2014, Sue WHELAN was a co-recipient of a ‘thread’ of emails between Mike WARD and ALL of the Board of Governors, in which he explained the circumstances in which Sue WHELAN demanded his resignation. It follows that Sue WHELAN has had over a month now in which to correct, qualify or rebut Mike WARD’s version of events – and she has NOT done so. She has therefore, by default, accepted Mike WARD’s statement of events.

Taken together, these two facts mean that Sue WHELAN has no option now but to resign the minute she reads this article. No doubt she will be generously compensated – that is the public sector way.

For those readers who are interested in further information surrounding this extraordinary affair; please read on.

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Background

Pete DWYER, Corporate Director for Children & Young People’s Services at NYCC, (the Local Education Authority), first became aware of Sue WHELAN’s unauthorised action on 13th October 2014 – and did precisely nothing. Why? It is a valid question because, Pete DWYER has already conceded to me that “it is not for the Headteacher to decide who chairs a governing body”.

That is quite correct. But all along, there has been one “fly in the ointment” to the best laid plans of NYCC – Mike WARD. What might have persuaded Sue WHELAN to step over the line to squeeze Mike WARD out?

Headteachers’ can reach a salary of between £42,232 and £114,437 per annum. It is not known whereabouts  on that spectrum Sue WHELAN sits, so it is hard to know what scope there may have been for any inducements. But any appreciable pay-rise would surely have necessitated a move to a bigger school. We will need to look further for our explanation.

PETE_DWYER

Even without the lame twaddle about Mike WARD’s newly discovered potential to discriminate, the fact of Sue WHELAN going “beyond authority” should have sufficed to ensure that Pete DWYER acted immediately to suspend Sue WHELAN, pending an impartial and diligent investigation. The fact that he took no such action speaks volumes. It will be interesting to learn exactly when Pete DWYER apprised CEO Richard FLINTON of Mike WARD’s “resignation”; he may be a culpable party to Pete DWYER’s failures.

RICHARD_FLINTON

Under Mike WARD’s able guidance, Eskdale School has been resisting strong corporate pressure to join the newly federated Caedmon College (comprising the former Caedmon School and Whitby Community College).

This has been strongly opposed by Pete DWYER, whose corporate intention it is to first absorb Eskdale School into the federation (thus depriving Whitby parents and children of any choice of schooling, on the grounds that, with three schools, there are more available places than pupils to fill them) then, at a later date, close Eskdale School and sell off the site for yet more housing development in Whitby.

How do I know this? This information has been well known by Governors and some parents for quite some time now, and I have known it myself since the summer of 2010, when certain Governors of another school (whose sense of the public interest outweighed their deference to the questionable practice of holding Governors’ meetings under the Chatham House Rule) made me aware of it because they felt then, as now, that there may be dirty tricks in the pipeline.

CHATHAM_HOUSE_RULE

{ I might here mention that it was the same school Governors who confirmed to me the dramatic failures and abuses of the £1.7-million Extended Schools “Me Too!” Voucher Scheme (to provide free extracurricular learning activities for children of deprived families). Briefly, that scheme was rolled out by Pete DWYER’s predecessor, Cynthia WELBOURN. Reliable sources, indeed. It soon went pear-shaped, with no accountability at any level, and Cynthia WELBOURNE departed soon thereafter from NYCC, without sanction. So poor was the project-design that vouchers were easily (and frequently) forged, and accepted not only for extracurricular learning activities, but also for retail goods. Some approved service-providers were allegedly given advanced knowledge of the opportunity to avail themselves of what amounted, quite literally, to a licence to print money. One Whitby outlet alone, whose proprietors are related by marriage to County Councillor Joe PLANT (a member of the NYCC Children & Young People Scrutiny Committee) drew £113,822 from NYCC.}

But I digress.

Cynthia WELBOURN, which is to say NYCC as a body corporate, was always strongly opposed to the Academy route for Eskdale School. Though the school did not succeed in its bid for Academy status, the parents and Governors are still actively campaigning to extend its age range from 11-14 to 11-16, to eliminate the unfortunate necessity of switching schools in the run-up to GCSEs.

But Pete DWYER is opposed to that, too. A stand-alone Eskdale School is just not part of the bean-counter’s vision. He has admitted as much to the Whitby Gazette:

  • “We are concerned about the potential impact caused by such a dramatic reduction in pupil numbers (and therefore budgets) at Whitby Community College.”

Pete DWYER wants Eskdale pupils absorbed into the Caedmon College federation. It is the “economy of scale” theory all over again. “Never mind the quality, feel the width”.

Caedmon College Headteacher Keith PRYTHERCH also wants Eskdale’s pupils absorbed into the Caedmon College federation, if only for personal pecuniary reasons.

KEITH_PRYTHERCH

So the info ‘leaked’ to me by concerned Governors back in 2010 turns out to have been rock-solid; NYCC does indeed want to close Eskdale School and sell off the site for housing development. Somewhere in County Hall there must be documentary evidence of that. Now is the time for NYCC to do the honourable thing and spit it out – without the necessity of me (no doubt after recourse to the Information Commissioners’ Office) having to wring it out of them through the Freedom of Information Act.

Make no mistake, it is Mike WARD and the Board of Governors – with the full support of the parents and kids – who has been working to preserve independence and freedom of choice in the Whitby education arena.

In sharp contrast, NYCC are simply looking to turn Eskdale School into hard cash. The best interests of the pupils form no part of that intention. Cherchez la monnaie.

This present scandal has nothing to do with UKIP. It has nothing to do with immigration. It has nothing to do with children. It has plenty to do with money. It is always about the money.

But it is also about the May 2015 elections at Scarborough Borough Council.

So now the leading question is this:

  • Did Sue WHELAN take the extraordinary action of unilaterally demanding, and unilaterally accepting, Mike WARD’s resignation of her own volition – or could she have been, as I have already hinted, used as a pawn in a scheme of grander design?

Unfortunately, Sue WHELAN has declined to comment to the media or the public. Why?

She has not denied demanding Mike WARD’s resignation. That is a de facto admission – there is a moral imperative to deny, where denial is necessary to truth, and Sue WHELAN remains silent. In the absence of a denial, why has Sue WHELAN not at least attempted a justification for her actions? Without even an attempt at a justification, Sue WHELAN invites speculation that she acted not alone, but in common purpose with others.

It is interesting to note that the nearest Sue WHELAN has come to a denial is her husband’s invitation to Mike WARD to retract his testimony – an entirely inappropriate action on the part of Dr Nicholas WHELAN when he must know that an investigation is in progress. In any case, even this proxy denial falls a long way short of Sue WHELAN providing an open and transparent statement. Were she alone in this, she would have no good reason to evade doing so. But she cannot do so without calling Mike WARD a liar. It is supremely significant that she does not do that. It is a broad hint that she does not fully stand behind her own actions and was acting at the behest or prompting of a third party.

What we do know, so far, is this:

  • Mike WARD is an impediment to NYCC’s plan; and
  • The Conservatives at Scarborough Borough Council are running scared of UKIP now that the party is attracting experienced local politicians of unimpeachable integrity. (How long before UKIP’s two other recent SBC converts – Councillor Colin HADDINGTON and Councillor Roxanne MURPHY – fall victim to attempted “dirty tricks”?)

Potential Culprits

Which Conservative SBC Councillors should we consider, when it comes to the “dirty tricks” department?

Well, I expect readers will already know that when Tory movers-and-shakers hit the smear trail, they invariably delegate the swinging of the hatchet to some expendable party “bottom-feeder”, whilst themselves staying well clear of any potential backlash. That is politics.

As stated above, Councillor Joe PLANT is a member of the Young People Overview & Scrutiny Committee, which addresses the interests of young people, including Education, Care & Protection, and Family Support.

This is the same Committee to which, for fourteen months, he failed to declare his personal and prejudicial (and for all we know, pecuniary) interest in a certain “Me Too!” provider’s business for fourteen months – finally doing so at the very time that I began my investigation.

Former NYCC Monitoring Officer Carole DUNN (who, like Cynthia WELBOURN has since, mysteriously vanished from NYCC) worked over-time to clear up that little mess for Councillor Joe PLANT. He must have been very grateful. He certainly ought to have been. And he certainly delivered for NYCC on the Park-&-Ride/On-Street-Parking stitch-up, as any faithful protegé can surely be relied upon to do.

JOE_PLANT_P&R_ALONE

But what (you ask) makes me think that County Councillor Joe PLANT, whose wife (according to his Register of Interests) is employed by NYCC (under Pete DWYER), might take the side of Pete DWYER against Mike WARD and the Eskdale parents and Governors? A nod and a wink from his party elders, perhaps?

So, to see where County Councillor Joe PLANT stands, let us take a look at his Twitter account in the aftermath of the Yorkshire Daily having Tweeted him the news of Mike WARD’s under-duress resignation (to be read from bottom to top):

PLANT_TWEETS

Pretty cheap, eh? As crass an example of a less than astute political foot-soldier shamelessly rushing to make political capital out of an opponent’s misfortune as ever I have seen. What a blunder.

SBC Councillor Joe PLANT sits in the Whitby West Cliff ward, where Mike WARD was first elected in 2007. Following the dramatic reduction in Councillor Joe PLANT’s majority at the NYCC elections in 2013, he may well be worried about his prospects of re-election next May.

But let me state unequivocally that Councillor Joe PLANT is NOT the “master puppeteer” who pulled Sue WHELAN’s strings. Oh, no. More like a dispensable pawn in a much larger game.

I will be examining that game presently.

Meanwhile, here is a key question which nobody seems willing publicly to address, though I have no doubt that Nigel FARAGE has been giving it much consideration these past few days:

  • Is this an isolated incident, or is it part of an organised nation-wide Tory campaign to undermine UKIP influence in public bodies of all kinds throughout the land?

Answers on a polling-card, please . . .

UKIP Out

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