Lincolnshire County Council – Counting The Cost Of Mendacity
- an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, reporting on a response from Mr Tony McARDLE, the Chief Executive Officer of Lincolnshire County Council (LCC), to my own OPEN LETTER to him, Leader County Councillor Martin HILL and Executive County Councillor Colin DAVIE – in which I demonstrated the consummate dishonesty of a number of Council spokespersons, including Executive County Councillor Colin DAVIE.
A week ago, I challenged Lincolnshire County Council Chief Executive Officer Tony McARDLE and Leader County Councillor Martin HILL, in an Open Letter, to mobilise their powers of LEADERSHIP and rein in the paid public servants in their Council who are proven liars on the subject of the stand-off over Huttoft Car Terrace.
Predictably, only Tony McARDLE has responded – and he has sunk to the occasion with a weasel-worded pseudo-response.
In sharp contrast, the Enquirer’s readership response to my Open Letter, both from members of the public and from elected members of several Councils, has been one of deep concern that the public face of Lincolnshire County Council should have been exposed in great detail as a face of shameless dishonesty.
Essentially, a series of emails showed that, from Executive County Councillor Colin DAVIE down to the front-line spin-merchants of the Council’s Legal department, a raft of untruths has been propagated in an apparent propaganda campaign designed to justify the waste of over £150K of the tax-payers money – to uphold a flawed bye-law.
I reproduce LCC Chief Exec Tony McARDLE’s ‘response’ here, interpolated with my own comments, on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis, for ease of deconstruction:
On 19th August at 16:48, Tony McARDLE wrote to me:
I refer to your email communication of 16 August.
It is clear from your open letter that you are fully aware of the Council’s intent in respect of the operation of its Car Park at Huttoft, and of the bye-laws that have been put in place to give effect to this.
I am, indeed aware; and I will address the matter of “the bye-laws that have been put in place” later in this article.
I note the comments of the Executive Councillor responsible and of various Council Officers in respect of the Council’s position and the actions that have taken[sic] to protect the public interest. It seems to me that as a consequence of these, no reasonable person could be left in any doubt as to what is permitted at the site and of the consequences of any action taken in defiance of that.
“Defiance”, eh? Quite the little martinet.
It would appear to me that Tony McARDLE remains unrepentant regarding the astonishing waste of tax-payers money that the Council’s various attempts to discriminate against lawful users of vehicles exceeding 1.9 metres in height (he means motor-homes) has already incurred.
Tony McARDLE also appears unrepentant regarding the outrageous evasion and untruth practised by his Legal staff and an Executive Councillor. Quite how he proposes to “protect the public interest” by supporting the practice of repeatedly lying to the public remains unclear to me.
I note, too, his oblique insinuation that I am not a reasonable man. Presumably, Tony McARDLE takes the view that reasonable men are perfectly comfortable about being lied to repeatedly by paid public servants. I will return to just how well paid they are at the foot of this article; for the moment, suffice it to say that the three gentlemen in receipt of my Open Letter are also happen to be in receipt of over a quarter of a million pounds per annum, between them – £207,378 of which goes to a man who cannot compose a coherent letter – much less shoulder this responsibility for the welter of lies heaped up by LCC Legal staff in defence of the original lies of County Councillor Colin DAVIE. It is noteworthy that Secreatary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric PICKLES has commented on this topic thus: “No council chief executives should be appointed on a salary greater than the Prime Minister’s £142,500”. Leader County Councillor Martin HILL reckons that his colleague Tony McARDLE is worth 50% more than the Prime Minister. How cosy.
The Council is clear in its responsibility to the very many legitimate users of this car park and to local residents and is resolute in its determination that the facility will be operated accordingly.
I understand that you have previously been advised of the Council’s complaints procedure. This procedure remains available to you if you continue to be dissatisfied with the Council’s actions.
That is the entirety of Mr McARDLE’s email to me of 19th August 2014. It is artless blather, unworthy of the dodgiest of used car salesmen.
Operate the facility ‘accordingly’, by all means, Tony; but without discrimination, please.
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 – by discriminating, for example, according to gender. For example, Lincolnshire County Council issued well over a hundred Overnight Parking Permits to ‘Fishermen‘, which breaches the gender discrimination clauses of the HRA ’98. The correct gender-neutral terminology would be ‘Anglers’.
This is all semantic petty-fogging, of course; but semantic petty-fogging is what lawyers do. Well-paid lawyers usually do it impeccably. Not this shower.
Returning to the Council’s Complaints procedure: Tony McARDLE knows – as everyone knows – that the Complaints Procedure is not fit for purpose – just as the North Yorkshire Police and the IPCC Complaints Procedures, County Council’s Complaints procedures are not fit for purpose – according, that is, to North Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner Julia MULLIGAN.
As an example, North Yorkshire County Council received 37 Formal Complaints in a recent five-year period. One was fully upheld, and one only partially. The offending County Councillors were asked (that’s right, asked – not required) to make an apology and submit to a 15-minute ‘re-training session’ with the Monitoring Officer. The other 35 were exonerated. Nothing to see here, folks. Keep shopping.
Tedious though it is to jump through the hoops of the local authority’s internal gobbledygook, the honest complainant may wish to point out to the Council the errors of its ways. Hopefully he (or she) will.
But to lodge a Formal Complaint against Executive County Councillor Colin DAVIE would incur considerable burden on the public purse, often amounting to well in excess of £10K. Tony McARDLE’s suggestion that I may wish to seek redress under the Council’s Complaints Procedure is not an attractive proposition; the transgressor gets to enjoy a cup of coffee with Monitoring Officer Richard WILLS, whose duties include “ensuring that the County Council acts and operates within the law. He or she has a duty to report to the whole Council if the Council has broken or may have broken the law” – while circa ten grand of the public purse is squandered in service of the complainant obtaining no satisfaction whatever. A familiar enough tale.
Thanks, Tony – but no thanks.
And I wonder when Monitoring Officer Richard WILLS will fulfil to his “duty to report to the whole Council” that “Council has broken or may have broken the law”?
For Tony McARDLE, that notional £10K on a Standards Committee hearing would be money well spent, since it would formalise the conclusion that Executive County Councillor Colin DAVIE has done nothing wrong in lying to press and public. Equally, Corporate Complaints against the lying Legal Officers who attempted to cover for him will also prove futile. And of course, it is not Tony McARDLE’s £10K; it is the public who must foot the bill.
So, thank you, Tony – but I prefer to prosecute my case in the court of public opinion, where you will be damned as a spineless human shield for despicable liars. The choice was yours. You could have demonstrated your qualities of LEADERSHIP and dealt with the matter with integrity and honour – if you had any. Instead, you have admitted nothing; and you have omitted everything that matters.
What Mr McARDLE omits
Mr McARDLE omits a great deal.
Mr McARDLE omits to apologise on behalf of Executive County Councillor Colin DAVIE, who lied – and has been shown irrefutably to have lied – to the media. Come to that, Colin DAVIE has not granted me the courtesy of any response at all, much less the apology that he owes to me and to the wider public.
Mr McARDLE also omits to apologise on behalf of his Legal staff, who lied – and have been shown irrefutably to have lied – to me. If he sees no reason to assume the rôle of corporate groveller – and, in the £200K+ salary-band that Mr McARDLE inhabits, corporate grovellers are thin on the ground – he does have the authority over his staff (though not over anyone else in this land) to instruct them to provide appropriate apologies. But no. He is quite content to stand behind their lies.
We can only conclude that there will be no corporate “Hands up, guv. You got me bang to rights. Lessons have been learned”
- Yet they lied when they told the media there had been “hundreds of complaints” about motor-homes on the Huttoft Car Terrace. Pure fiction. The Council’s own records confirm that there were only sixteen.
- They lied when they told the media that “forty summonses” had been issued. Pure fiction. The Magistrates’ Court has confirmed that no summonses have been issued at all.
- They lied when they stated that a “legal process” was already underway. Pure fiction. No papers have been laid before the Court.
These overpaid, under-talented, unaccountable mediocrities have lied relentlessly – and remorselessly.
The legal issues
LCC has sought to impose a prohibition on motor-homes parking over-night at Huttoft Car Terrace by the application of a bye-law – and this despite the fact that the the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) must be satisfied that “the council has taken any measures short of seeking a byelaw to remedy the problem in question”. In fact, the Council cannot create a byelaw that duplicates national legislation.
The LCC Principal Solicitor has justified the Council’s attempt to prohibit motor-home owners via the spurious creation of a byelaw, thus:
- “There are continuous problems – mainly throughout the warmer season – with people camping (with motor homes etc) and parking overnight. This is having an impact on the residents in the area as they are being subjected to noise, nuisance, excessive litter, fires from campfires, and verbal abuse from some of the people camping”.
But the truth is that no evidence has been tabled that would indicate that any of the alleged “noise, nuisance, excessive litter, fires from campfires, and verbal abuse from some of the people camping” is in any way attributable to motor-home users in particular – and certainly not to them alone. On top of which, LCC wishes to prohibit all motor-home owners as a measure to curtail the above-mentioned transgressions, which it attributes (without evidence) to only “some of the people camping”. That is akin to banning all cars from the highways on the grounds that some drivers exceed the speed-limit.
Nevertheless, someone at LCC has seen fit to create a new bye-law – despite clear guidance from central government that byelaws must in no circumstances duplicate existing legislation.
Other legislation exists that adequately addresses “noise” and “nuisance” and “verbal abuse”. (LCC must be aware of the by-now infamous ASBO – Anti-Social Behaviour Order).
As for “fires from campfires”; to quote the Gov.uk website: “There are no laws against having a bonfire, but there are laws for the nuisance they can cause.” It follows that LCC may draw upon such laws – without the creation of a new (illegal) bye-law.
So with “noise”, “nuisance”, “campfires” and “verbal abuse” already covered by existing legislation, there remains only the allegation that motor-home owners are (solely) responsible for any “excessive litter”, to the exclusion of all others who use the Huttoft Car Terrace.
The reality is that the vast majority of littering takes place during daylight hours – not between 10:00pm and 6:00am. In any case, as stated above, the Council cannot create a bye-law to prohibit the dropping of “excessive litter”, since it is already prohibited under existing legislation and byelaws may not be created in duplication of existing legislation. (I know; you already got that. Why didn’t they?).
Amusingly, LCC has actually confessed to breaking the law in this case; they have failed to ensure their land (Huttoft Car Terrace) is “so far as is practicable, kept clear of litter and refuse”, and their recourse to an illegal bye-law for that purpose simply highlights the extraordinary incompetence of their Legal department. Remind me – what rhymes with ‘bankers’?
To summarise; this whole overblown extravaganza of ineptitude was designed specifically to target motor-home users – who have not been identified as the sole perpetrators of “noise”, “nuisance”, “fires”, “verbal abuse” or the leaving of “excessive litter”. In fact, and as far as I am aware, no motor-home owner has even been charged (much less convicted) of any of these transgressions.
LCC has illegally created a bye-law that seeks to exclude, between the hours of 10:00pm and 6:00am, ONLY those vehicles that exceed 1.9 metres in height (meaning motor-homes), and the grounds cited for doing so are all entirely spurious.
On top of which, LCC has lied profusely in defence of this arrant nonsense.
The Real Reason Behind The LCC Motor-Home VENDETTA?
Why (you ask) would a County Council embroil itself in a monumental waste of public money and a humiliating catalogue of flimsy lies – just to prevent motor-homes from being used for the purpose that they were built and (sold) to fulfil?
I know what you are thinking; “There has to be a vested interest”.
The word on the dunes is that there is indeed a vested interest.
Sandilands Golf Course, which abuts the Huttoft Car Terrace, is presently in the ownership of the Grange & Links Hotel – where business is less than buoyant. In fact, according to the local newspaper – the Louth Leader – the business has been placed into administration:
“A buyer is still being sought out for the premises and could be sold as a full package with both the hotel and golf course included or there could be an option of selling the two off separately. Although negotiations for the sale of The Grange and Links is still in its early stages.”
That was in January 2014. Those “negotiations” are a little further down the road now than they were back in January. And a few well-placed phone calls have confirmed that a Lincolnshire consortium is looking not at the hotel, but at the golf course – with a view to a massive caravan site development. When the right strings have been pulled, Huttoft Car Terrace will conveniently be swallowed up by the march of ‘progress’ – and no ‘freeloading’ bunch of motor-home owners will be suffered to stand in its way.
A Lincolnshire consortium, did you say? An influential Lincolnshire consortium? Hmmm.
So I would say that Mr Tony McARDLE is a damned fool.
For the price of a few kindly words of apology, he has bought into the Lincolnshire consortium coming under d-e-e-p-e-s-t scrutiny. I have no doubt that Executive County Councillor Colin DAVIE will be highly delighted.