Wednesday 29th May 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

CYC/NYC Mayoral Hustings – Whitby

CYC/NYC Mayoral Hustings – Whitby

  • – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, reporting on the recent Mayoral Hustings in Whitby – and a glimmer of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

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I consider myself fortunate to have taken the trouble to attend the Mayoral Hustings for the election of a “Peoples’ Mayor” for the City of York and North Yorkshire Council Combined Authority.

It was informative to hear four of the candidates – Keith TORDOFF MBE [Ind.], NYC Cllr Paul HASLAM [Ind.], NYC Cllr Felicty CUNLIFFE-LISTER [Lib.Dem.] and NYC Cllr Kevin FOSTER [Grn.] – respond to a series of set questions presented by Chair, Mrs Marie McCRONE (ably assisted by her husband Rob, acting as timekeeper), followed by a further series of questions submitted, in advance, by members of the electorate.

The Hustings lacked for completeness because two candidates – arguably the anticipated ‘front-runners’ – did not attend. NYC Cllr Keane DUNCAN [Con.] apparently had a prior engagement (although I understand he received his invitation at the beginning of February) and David SKAITH [Lab.] was diverted by a ‘family emergency’.

I am aware that the ‘cut and thrust’ of the responses to these set questions have been covered elsewhere in the local media. However, I intend to constrain this series of reports (hopefully, one for each candidate) to a matter which I regard as being fundamental to elections in general and to regional and local elections in particular. Specifically, the degree to which their words and deeds can be relied upon to embrace honesty, transparency and accountability and the other mandatory requirements of Lord NOLAN’s Seven Principles of Public Life – which form the basis of the Codes of Conduct to which elected (i.e. entrusted) democratic representives are bound by law, within the terms of the Localism Act 2011.

In my view, Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness and Honesty should be taken as ‘givens’ when men and women put themselves forward for public office. They are integral to the public trust. Without these qualities, how should we ever be able to trust them?

But it is the seventh Principle – Leadership – that has, for me, always been the foundation stone of these Principles – especially that second clause, which demands that those on positions of trust:

“… should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.”

I have been challenging “poor behaviour” since March 2009.

So when the opportunity arose for me to ask the candidates a question at last Monday night’s hustings, I raised the matter of ethical standards in public life.

I spoke briefly about how an FOIA response from NYC had elicted the fact that, from its inception on 1st April 2023 until the week before Christmas 2023, the Council received 111 Code of Conduct Complaints, not one of which was UPHELD. The details of this disturbing discovery were covered in my article “NYC Standards? Anything Goes!”.

I went on to describe how a reader had submitted similar FOIA requests to some thirty County and Unitary Authorities around the country, with the result that North Yorkshire Council had more than double the number of Code of Conduct complaints as its nearest pursuer – the others having responded with a whole year’s worth of figures. The details of this even more disturbing discovery were covered in my article “Accountability: NYC & WTC”.

To these woeful accounts of endemic breaches of the Codes of Conduct and the NOLAN Principles, I then posed the following question to the four available candidates:

“Which of you will work with me to the end of elevating ethical standards in public life, here in North Yorkshire?”

Cynical readers may regard this a a ‘trick’ question – for it would have been political and electoral suicide to respond You’re on your own, Nige. Obviously, public servants should be free to behave as badly as they please!”. (And, as we have seen, plenty of them do!).

So I am pleased to report that all four of those candidates who turned up were unstinting in their commitment to the NOLAN Principles.

Following the meeting, and again the following morning, I conducted a brief ‘straw poll’ amongst attendant members of the public, seeking their reactions to the candidates’ respective performances. Naturally, opinions varied. Overall, though, there seemed to be a general consensus that Keith TORDOFF MBE displayed the most comprehensive grasp of the Mayoral role and the least party-politically oriented attitude to serving the public, unfettered by party ideologies.

The following day, I decided to email the candidates (Cc:ing the two non-attendees) providing further background material to my question – details published in my two articles – and requesting a more considered statement for publication, in writing, to present to Enquirer readers, along with each of the respective candidates’ electoral material.

At the time of writing, I have heard from three of the four who attended: NYC Cllr Kevin FOSTER (acknowledgement, but no statement yet), NYC Cllr Felicity CUNLIFFE-LISTER (just an auto-response read-receipt) and Keith TORDOFF MBE:

KEITH TORDOFF MBE

Keith has submitted the following statement:

Following your question at the Whitby hustings to the candidates standing in the election for Mayor of York and North Yorkshire and follow up email I respond as follows. 
 
I am not in a position to comment on any of the 111 formal complaints made to North Yorkshire Council as I am not a Councillor.
 
I do find it almost inconceivable that out of that amount of formal complaints not a single one was upheld.
North Yorkshire Council have signed up to abiding by the Lord Nolan seven principles of conduct in public office which I would expect to be followed.
 
As an Independent candidate in the election for Mayor of York and North Yorkshire if elected I can pledge to liaise with you to discuss your concerns.
 
If elected I pledge there will be openness,  transparency and accountability from me as Mayor and all public servants.
I will serve the public not politicians or the political parties. The Nolan principles will of course be adhered to.
 
If I become the first elected Mayor of York and North Yorkshire it will be an opportunity to bring in a new era of how politics is delivered and help to bring back the trust in publicly elected officials which for many has been lost. 
 
Keith Tordoff MBE
 
INDEPENDENT Candidate for Mayor of York and North Yorkshire: www.keithtordoff4mayor.co.uk

As promised, I here present Keith’s electoral material:

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