Saturday 21st September 2019,
North Yorks Enquirer

Not a Man of his Word

Not a Man of his Word

  • an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, expressing disappointment in the new Leader’s evasion of a reasonable and courteous request on behalf of victims of sexual abuse – and other disgusting disappointments.

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My Request

On 31st July 2015, during the third year following my first public allegations against former Scarborough, Councillor, Mayor and Alderman Peter JACONELLI [Con.] (11th November 2012) and over a year after Scarborough Borough Council’s belated action to strike his name from the Roll of Honour (12th May 2014), I paid a visit to North Yorkshire County Council Leader, Councillor Carl LES, at County Hall in Northallerton with would-be parliamentarian Mike BECKETT [Lib.Dem.], to finalise a North Yorkshire County Council statement regarding JACONELLI.

It is often forgotten that JACONELLI was also a County Councillor, but Councillor LES was swift to recognise that JACONELLI’s predatory sexual abuse of youngsters rendered him entirely unfit for public service. He had made a mockery of the County Council’s Duty of Care.

Councillor LES provided me with a statement for publication, the significant passage of which I would like to quote here:

“I have every sympathy with all those affected by abuse. I extend my deepest sympathies to adults who were the victims of abuse in their childhood and I admire their courage and determination in ensuring that historic allegations are not simply swept under the carpet but are highlighted and investigated. I am sorry for the hurt that has been caused to the victims, survivors and their families.

I am aware of the statements made by the police concerning Peter Jaconelli and that they have received details of a number of alleged offences over a period of years. Whilst he is not alive today to face the full force of the legal process, I regret if there is evidence to show that he was not a fit and proper person to be a County Councillor.

We regret the impact on all those affected and can assure them that should they still want to make any disclosures, support will be provided to them and they will be listened to seriously and with sympathy”.

I draw readers particular attention to the sentence:

  • “I am sorry for the hurt that has been caused to the victims, survivors and their families. ”

I was, and remain, profoundly grateful to Carl for his humanity and his humility in uttering that long-overdue expression of regret – “sorry”. For the victims/survivors of JACONELLI’s abuse, it was all the closure they were ever likely to obtain.

On the 18th December 2014, Assistant Chief Constable of the North Yorkshire Police echoed Councillor LES’s sentiments:

  • “On behalf of North Yorkshire Police I am sorry, I am truly sorry we did not respond more effectively, we did not investigate those allegations early on,” he said.

 

I draw readers particular attention not only to those key words – “sorry … truly sorry”but also to the tacit admission that NYP did not investigate victims’ allegations when JACONELLI was alive and continuing to abuse youngsters, both alone and with his co-rapist ‘friend’ Jimmy SAVILE, under the noses of Scarborough Police and Scarborough Council. 

There followed numerous requests, from myself and other more prominent commentators, to the then-Leader of Scarborough Borough Council, Councillor Tom FOX [Con.] who, it will be remembered, was a Scarborough Police Officer throughout three decades of JACONELLI sex offending (and the commanding Officer of Scarborough Police at the very time that JACONELLI was awarded his Aldermanship) and must therefore be included amongst ACC Paul KENNEDY’s “we did not investigate” admission, to join Councillor LES and ACC Paul KENNEDY in saying “sorry” to the victims, survivors and families.

Silence . . .

In May 2015, Councillor FOX was replaced as Leader by fellow Conservative, Councillor Derek BASTIMAN. He, too, received a number of requests to say, on behalf of SBC, a public “sorry” to JACONELLI’s victims/survivors.

Silence . . .

Following the local elections of 2nd May 2019, Scarborough Borough found itself in the hands of a new Leader – Labour Councillor Steve SIDDONS – to whom many (myself included) looked for a fresh start and a clear path to the moral high ground.

After allowing a reasonable period for Councillor SIDDONS to return from his vacation and pick up the reins of office, I wrote to him (on 23rd May 2019) politely requesting the same word of apology that Councillor Carl LES and ACC Paul KENNEDY had provided (but Leader and Mayor Tom FOX and his successor as Leader, Derek BASTIMAN, had not) – “sorry” – in a public statement at the next available meeting of Full Council:

Silence . . .

Note that “the next meeting of Council” that Councillor SIDDONS attended (excluding the Mayor Making – 5th June 2019) was the most recent meeting – the meeting of Full Council of 1st July 2019.

So, on 11th June 2019, nineteen days after my first letter – and nineteen days before the next meeting of Full Council – I wrote a polite reminder to Councillor SIDDONS.

My expectation was that, like my first letter, my ‘reminder’ letter would be most probably be ignored by Councillor SIDDONS. But I was wrong; the following day, 12th June 2019, a response (of sorts) was forthcoming:

That was six weeks ago and, regrettably, Councillor SIDDONS has not kept his word to give me “a more meaningful response”.

Regrettably, he did not keep his word to “respond more fully”. In fact, since that email, Councillor SIDDONS has offered not another word. Not even a one-line holding email – e.g. “Nigel, I have not forgotten your request. Please convey my assurances to those on whose behalf you write that I am on the case and will come back to you within the next 20 working days.” Nope.

Silence . . .

In fact, that “in due course” of Councillor SIDDONS has come and gone – on 1st July 2019, when our new and very voluble Leader had plenty to say at Full Council, but nothing entailing use of the word “sorry” to JACONELLI’s victims/survivors and their families.

I find this inexplicable and inexcusable. What would it cost him to set Scarborough Borough Council on an even footing with North Yorkshire County Council and the North Yorkshire Police? Alternatively, what would it cost him to come back to me and state that he had decided, for whatever unimagineable reason, against doing so? Is such non-responsiveness disrespectful? That would be a breach of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.

My reasonable and courteous request has been dismissed with a FOX-like, BASTIMAN-like . . . Silence!

I am loathe to believe that, like former Councillor John NOCK [Con.] (who told fellow Councillors that JACONELLI was not really a paedophile at all – only a mere “hebephile”), and like Tom FOX [Con.] (the only copper in Scarborough who claims to have had no idea what JACONELLI was), and like Councillor Derek BASTIMAN [Con.] (who has always steered well clear of the JACONELLI scandal), Councillor SIDDONS is also unwilling to express the Council’s regret and say a collective “sorry” to JACONELLI’s victims/survivors. Is it a condition of office at Scarborough Borough Council that one has to come across in public like a paedo-sympathiser? Or has the tail been wagging the dog?

Openness and Transparency

But I now bring to mind Councillor SIDDONS’ holier-than-thou rhetoric last year when he led the Labour Group’s boycott of the Mayor Making, maintaining that – on point of principle – Councillors had no business accepting a free vol au vent in times of austerity.

This year, Councillor SIDDONS’ point of principle went out with the cat litter and he and his Labour Group turned up en masse for the free “junket” (I use Councillor SIDDONS’ word). Rank hath its privileges, don’tcha know? I begin to understand the Enquirer’s “False Flags” Photoon of 8th June 2019.

And the new Leader is the man who, a couple of months before the elections, was telling fellow Councillors that he was “counting the days” [and I quote] to the end of his four-year stint on the Council (for which he attended only 32% of his expected meetings) and would most definitely not be standing for re-election on 2nd May. Some of the members of his own Group were astonished to see his name come up on the ward Nominations – and even more surprised to learn that he had thrown his hat in the ring for the ‘Leader of the Council’ role before the elections. Dark horse, eh?

Those “mischievously” leaked CVs

Most disturbing of all is the fact that despite Officers subjecting Councillors to ‘robust’ interrogation regarding the leaking of the CVs of the applicants for Jim DILLON’s vacant position as Chief Exec and Head of Paid Service, and despite Councillors’ (and my) unrelenting insistence that the leak be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office, Councillor SIDDONS is pretending that there is no cause for alarm, there has been no potentialt data breach and the whole episode amounts to nothing more than “mischief” on the part of a certain Councillor – for no other purpose, apparently, than to spare the Council a huge fine – and Human Resources Manager Elaine BLADES and Director of Legal Lisa DIXON (who together, we remember, bore the brunt of HHJ Humphrey FORREST’s criticism of the “complete whitewash” of the MARRIOTT corruption allegations) from further embarrassment.

“Openness and transparency” rules okay, eh, Steve?

Councillor BASTIMAN has confirmed that 10 days after SBC’s alleged internal investigation into the leaks was declared closed by Jim DILLON, he himself was subjected to questioning.

The Argos Building Demolition/Regeneration

And on the subject of Councillor SIDDONS “openness and transparency”, we have now witnessed an Extraordinary Meeting of Full Council, including debating and voting on the Leader’s  Report (Officer drafted) on the future of the old Argos buildingwith the likelihood of an exclusion of press and public right there in black-and-white on the Agenda.

But, and I quote:

2. CORPORATE AIMS/PRIORITIES AND THE COMMUNITY PLAN
2.1 The scheme will contribute to all Aims of the of the Council’s Corporate Plan

People:

To have a safe, happy, healthy population, with people who feel valued and included . . .

Councillor SIDDONS must have been reading my mind. In the event, the debate went ahead with press and public present – but with all commercial and financial details (i.e. the information without which the press and public would remain in a state of ignorance and thus be unable to arrive at an informed opinion) studiously avoided. In short, press and public were excluded from the nitty gritty.
Thanks to Enquirer editor Tim THORNE, who has published the ‘secret’ Report, we now know why. The Council has voted in favour of entering into another huge long-term £22M loan (40 years) with only the first ten years of income (less than £1M, even in the unlikely event of full occupancy) assured . What could possibly go wrong?
Councillor Sam CROSS [Ind.], Leader of the Independent Group propping up the SIDDONS administration, whose professional background is in finance and development, spoke and voted against the deal – as did Councillor  Michelle DONOHUE-MONCRIEFF [Ind.], formerly a Portfolio Holder, and Councillor  Mike COCKERILL [CIM], formerly Portfolio Holder for Major Projects. What would they know? But the twenty ‘newbies’ all voted in favour. How should they have known any better? Had they even read that Report?
There were no abstentions – but a number of notable absentees, all well-placed to recognise a bum deal when they see one: Councillors Helen MALLORY [Con.] (former Finance Portfolio Holder), Phil TRUMPER [Con.] (former Chair of Planning), Roxanne MURPHY [CIM] (Licensing Committee Chair) and Alf ABBOTT [Con.]  (Licensing Committee) – who will all be able to say, hand on heart, “Not me, folks. I never voted for the next great white elephant. Count me out!”.
The Scarborough News has been all over this Council decision like a cheap onesie. Not one, not two, but three articles swiftly followed TIM THORNE’s scoop disclosure. Yorkshire Coast Radio also covered the ‘leak’.
Public comments have been instructive – and typical:
A round-up of social media comments confirms that the broad consensus is that the deal sucks. Worse, it has been smuggled through behind the backs of the public – with the acquiescence of those Councillors who either did not read the Report or who are too inexperienced or ignorant to understand it, but who have tacitly agreed to keep their electors in the dark. The following Facebook comment fairly summarises the general view:
There also seems to be some credence in the Facebook rumour (I stress, rumour) that Mr DILLON may have fallen into a plum sinecure with the NHS – no discernible conflict there, ahem. Perhaps Councillor SIDDONS would care to comment?
Councillor SIDDONS has been quick (too quick) to insist that criticism of his brand of “openness and transparency” is flawed; he maintains he has been open – with ‘his’ Councillors. Of course, borrowing £22 MILLION on the public’s behalf without telling them the consequences is none of their impertinent, proletarian business, is it, comrade?

2. CORPORATE AIMS/PRIORITIES AND THE COMMUNITY PLAN
2.1 The scheme will contribute to all Aims of the of the Council’s Corporate Plan

People:

To have a safe, happy, healthy population, with people who feel valued and included . . .

“Openness and Transparency” Redux
So, for me, the underlying problem here is that it is all very well for Councillor SIDDONS to stand up before the cameras in the Council Chamber and disport himself in the local media, soliciting support for his Leadership Nomination by promising “a new era of openness and transparency”, then whining like a petulant little baby when the Enquirer delivers exactly that “openness and transparency” on his behalf.
He has now instigated a full (but frivolous) investigation to identify the ‘leakster’ of the Argos Report. While they are about it, ‘his’ Officers may as well attempt to track down the ‘leakster’ behind the disclosure of the CVs of the applicants for Jim DILLON’s old job. They might even stumble across the Officer at the heart of the MARRIOTT corruption allegations who connived a new bathroom and a new kitchen (plus a carport) or the former Councillor who was, I hear, “thrilled” with his bargain barn conversion.
As to the Leader feeling “disappointed and disgusted” – how does he think the rest of us feel? In that same ‘Leadership’ speech, Councillor SIDDONS spoke of engaging with the public. He has refused to engage with me, despite the best efforts of Councillor Tony RANDERSON [Lab.] (his Deputy), for four years now. It would appear that he has now extended that non-engagement policy to the entire population of the Borough.
Cabinet 16th July 2019
The meeting consisted principally in the delegation of responsibility to unaccountable Officers. Once again, the Leader made a lengthy statement, this time addressing the complexities of Council procedures in relation to the Futurist site, indicating that much was beyond the influence of Cabinet. Mea non culpa.
Not Sorry
Setting aside the merit, or otherwise, of the Argos Plaza deal, and viewing the entire exercise as a seminal example of the new Leader’s proudly proclaimed  ethos of “openness and transparency”, the Leader has allowed another opportunity to say “sorry” to JACONELLI’s victims/survivors and their family connections to go begging. And he has still not “responded more fully” to my request,“in due course”, for an apology to the JACONELLI victims/survivors and their families.

So I am sad to say that my disappointment and disgust is red-lining and I am rapidly approaching a very distasteful conclusion:

Steve SIDDONS is not a man of his word.

Just my opinion, of course, but prove me wrong, Steve . . . the burden is upon you. You have not made an auspicious start to your four-year term. You need to do better. Much, much better.

Or move on.

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