A Voice of Reason
- – an Open Letter to SBC Head of Paid Service & CEO, MIKE GREENE, by NIGEL WARD, offering an opinion on the last remaining honourable route to a return to good order.
Mr Mike GREENE – Head of Paid Service & CEO – Scarborough Borough Council
Cc: Rt.Hon. Robert JENRICK (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government)
IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST
Once again, I begin by expressing my regret that I cannot engage with you, in any meaningful way, either in person or by private email.
Your Council’s interception of (my) emails is legally, ethically and morally indefensible. It is also counter-productive; it denies us an avenue through which we might spare the Council a great deal of public embarrassment.
I will not bore either you, myself, or my readers with counsel’s opinion as to why the Officers’ interception of emails has no legal authority; I simply reproduce a few lines from the Home Office, whose authority should suffice to carry the point:
Scarborough Borough Council is a local authority. It is not an “intercepting authority”. It holds no warrant. The Council is committing an offence.
You will now instruct your rogue Officers to abandon the unlawful interception of my (and others’) emails, forthwith. Thank you.
I must also express my regret that you have felt it appropriate to ignore my invitations to meet with you. You seem to be following advice to the effect that I may be treated as some sort of second-class citizen – which I am not; I am as good as the next man. We are all equal under the law – as the former Chief Constable assured me.
You will discern the irony of Officers without courtesy or integrity treating a common man, well-endowed with both, as a second-class citizen.
For background, you may find it helpful to know that I have been scrutinising Scarborough Borough Council for over a decade now. By contrast, you are, if I may say so, a mere ‘Johnny-come-lately’.
When I began my research, nobody I encountered in Whitby could tell me what or who, exactly, is a Monitoring Officer, an s.151 Finance Officer or a Head of Paid Service.
Now, the names of SBC’s statutory Officers – Lisa DIXON, Nick EDWARDS and Mike GREENE – are household names throughout (and beyond) the Borough – and for all the wrong reasons.
I have been borrowing (and publishing) the term “the tail is wagging the dog” for some time now. In the meantime, it has become clear, from the emails you have been receiving from senior Councillors, that the penny has finally dropped – some have expressed a loss of all confidence in the Monitoring Officer. Social media is awash with allegations of lies, cheating, betrayal – and worse.
In my recent articles on the subject of the Whitby Harbour accountancy ‘errors’, I have expressed my opinion of your s.151 Finance Director Nick EDWARDS’ performance and the reasons I have arrived at that opinion, in a way that closely parallels the conclusions of your External Auditor and the Fight4Whitby Group, as well as the legal advisors (Lupton Fawcett LLP) of Scarborough businessman, entrepreneur and property developer, Mr James CORRIGAN – the eponymous ‘Voice of Reason’ – whose treatment at the hands of the Mayor (and his predecessor) has been disgraceful.
Please log and acknowledge my Formal Complaint against the present Mayor in respect of his conduct at the meeting held on Monday 6th September 2021, at Scarborough Spa, on grounds of gross disrespect contrary to the terms of Lord NOLAN’s Principles, as set out in the Localism Act 2011, which the Mayor embraced when he accepted office. Thank you.
And please have another read of my recent articles on the Whitby Harbour irregularities:
You will, of course, note that my articles are invariably supported by a sufficiency of documentary evidence – from ‘official’ bodies; private correspondence with leading protagonists, and other irrefutable sources. They have not been challenged by the Council.
I imagine (but cannot be certain) that you are aware that Councillor David CHANCE [Con.] has written to the Leader on the subject of Officers’ apparent attempts to subvert the resolution passed by Full Council on 23rd July 2021, requiring the Council to apply to the Court for Judgment on the extent of the Harbour Lands, etc. To quote Councillor CHANCE:
“The resolution of Council is what the Officers should be working to, not seeking to circumvent.
The resolution of Council is the final instruction to Officers.”
I do not intend to characterise Councillor CHANCE as a ‘dog’; though he succinctly pins ‘the tail’ in its place – firmly affixed to a donkey’s ass.
When (or if) answers are forthcoming, I will be happy to oblige the Council by submitting the full text of Councillor CHANCE’s questions (and the Leader’s answers) for publication in the North Yorks Enquirer.
I have three letters for Mr EDWARDS; MRP.
I do not propose to expend many words on the subject of your Commercial Director, Mr Richard BRADLEY. Yesterday’s Yorkshire Post front page lead story may well have informed the entire County of the nonsense created by the Council’s support for Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District (YCBID). Further reportage on the inside pages (6 & 16) adds meat to the innumerable articles published in the North Yorks Enquirer. My article “DBID: Bonfire of the Vanities”, comprehensively demolished the credibility of YCBID Chair Mr Clive ROWE-EVANS; it was never rebutted (though I am assured legal advice was sought and paid for – from YCBID coffers). No action against me was forthcoming. Yet your Council ignored the implicit caution, perhaps in defence of Mr BRADLEY’s spurious ‘advice’ to the then-Leader, Councillor Derek BASTIMAN [Con.], and his then-Deputy, Councillor Helen MALLORY, to cast the Council’s ‘votes’ in favour of establishing YCBID on behalf of unoccupied Council-owned premises (car parks, toilets, masts, etc).
In my view, the Cons were conned.
And then there was ARGOS.
The saga of the Leader’s vanity/legacy project – the ‘regeneration’ of the former ARGOS building (another BRADLEY disaster) – forms only the recent background to the steps by which I have arrived at my opinion of your Monitoring Officer and Director of Legal & Governance Services:
Historically, evidence which seriously undermines the credibility and probity of the Monitoring Officer has been published in the Enquirer from the very early days of her unfortunate appointment, most infamously when she wittingly misled (in common parlance,”lied to”) the BBC Inside Out producers:
I am aware that another elector (coincidentally, also on the “vexatious” list – the fate of all who ask penetrating questions) is presently pursuing a Formal Complaint to the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority over allegations that your Officers have provided false testimony in a Court case. This is unsurprising to me, since I, too, hold similar evidence, pertaining to an entirely separate though similar Court case – both matters, you will be relieved to learn, were antecedent to your own appointment.
Also preceding your tenure, there was the occasion when Mrs DIXON stated, in Full Council, that she had taken “external legal advice” before granting the then-Leader, his spouse and each of his Cabinet Portfolio Holders “special dispensation” to vote on a matter in which they all held a personal, prejudicial and pecuniary interest. Under FOIA, the then-Deputy Monitoring Officer revealed that the Council was unable to disclose the “external legal advice” (on grounds of legal privilege, which I acknowledge) but, in any case, the alleged “external legal advice” (from Bevan Brittan LLP) was allegedly sought and given over the telephone and no record was held by the Council (apparently, telephone logs were not maintained!). Curiously, the Council’s records show that the alleged “external legal advice” was never invoiced, nor payment discharged. Legally, it never existed.
Read all about it, here:
The former Deputy Monitoring Officer soon left the Council – and joined Bevan Brittan LLP. It is indeed a small world.
With reference to last Monday’s meeting, the unfortunate ‘miscount’ of the vote on the motion proposed by Councillor Heather PHILLIPS [Con.], seconded by Councillor David JEFFELS [Con.] – and notwithstanding Mrs DIXON’s claimed excuse of having been suffering from “an ear infection” (which, if true, confirms that she was unfit for the purpose of taking a count in a room with execrable acoustics, faulty ‘loop’ system and much ribaldry):
I am sure you are by now aware that elected members and members of the public are opining that the ‘mistake’ was an act of deliberate bias – some say another act of deliberate bias. I do not know. Some elected members and members of the public are asserting that they have no confidence in the Monitoring Officer. The record shows that I have refused to engage with the Monitoring Officer – as has more than one elected member.
On the subject of bias – this is trivial, but salutary – you cannot defend the bias with which the Monitoring Officer, relying on the assent of the ‘Independent’ Person, but without convening the Standards Committee, has rejected Formal Complaints from elected members regarding the use by Councillor Subash SHARMA [Lab.], in a publically accessible Zoom meeting of Council, of the ‘F-word’ – yet has upheld a complaint by the Leader (would that he were worthy of that title) against Councillor CHATT [C.I.M.] for accurately characterising, in private correspondence, the Leader’s absurd East/West LGR proposal as “a load of crap” (which it is) – and ordering an apology.
This is why members call it the Double Standards Procedure.
Regrettably, the efficacy of the Standards Procedure has been totally subverted by this persistent bias in favour of Councillors who happen to be members of the incumbent administration, with the result that even death threats to elected members (of Opposition Groups) and members of the public have been ignored; the ‘leaking’ of the supposedly ‘Highly Confidential’ ARGOS documents (alleged by the Monitoring Officer to amount to the offence of Misfeasance in Public Office) has resulted in “No further action” by the North Yorkshire Police, and no action whatsoever by the Standards Committee, to whom the Monitoring Officer has declined to refer these matters – no doubt with the ‘assent’ of the ‘Independent’ Person. At the meeting of Full Council on 6th September, the Mayor allowed the perpetrator of these extreme examples of iniquity free reign to inflict a ten-minute verbal assault on Councillor Heather PHILLIPS – a repetition of the offence for which the same perpetrator was convicted of a verbal assault in Scarborough Magistrates’ Court, in April 2018.
You will oblige me by logging and acknowledging my Formal Complaint against the Mayor, again at the meeting of Full Council held on Monday 6th September 2021, for sanctioning, aiding and abetting this verbal assault on Councillor PHILLIPS, which I demand to be heard by a meeting of the Standards Committee. You may also wish to consider the remarks uttered with some venom by Councillor Janet JEFFERSON.
Please be clear that for the Monitoring Officer, given her record, to assume omnipotence over Standards matters confirms, in my view, her unfitness for public office.
And I could go on. And on.
Returning to the meeting of Monday 6th September 2021 – in particular, to Councillor PHILLIPS’ motion – your present ‘solution’ is not lawfully sustainable. I ask you to direct me to the Article within the Council’s Procedure Rules (4.1 of the Constitution) that confirms the Monitoring Officer’s assertion that members may not correct a vote misheard or cast in error, and to offer your explanation as to why such correction of votes has taken place in the past, on more than one occasion (albeit, only in favour of a members of the dominant Group), without intervention by the Monitoring Officer. Surely, precedent carries some weight?
In regard to the alleged meeting between the Leader, the Leader of the Opposition (Conservative) Group and at least one member of Paid Service, at which it was allegedly agreed that the consequences of the resolution (which the Monitoring Officer insists was defeated) would be that the review of the ARGOS business case would take place as required by the resolution, I demand your solemn assurance that such meeting did, in reality, take place. Your silence on this matter will be read as confirmation that it did not.
It is obvious that the entire meeting must now be declared NULL & VOID, on the following grounds, and revisited in due course:
1) the acoustics of the meeting room rendered meaningful debate impractical for some members;
2) the ‘loop’ system – as Councillor RANDERSON [Lab.] and others confirmed – was faulty, disadvantaging the hard-of-hearing and thus rendering the meeting in breach of the terms of the Equality Act 2010;
NB: The Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhoods, Councillor Tony RANDERSON [Lab.] – and not only he – has confirmed the above two points in Full Council.
3) the vote was taken and counted by an Officer who, by her own admission, was suffering from defective hearing, in consequence of an alleged “ear infection”, and therefore unfit for the task before her;
4) as confirmed by, amongst others, former Leader and Mayor Councillor BASTIMAN [Con.], a corrected vote by then-Councillor Tom FOX [Con.] (another former Leader and Mayor) set a precedent that the Monitoring Officer found fit to ignore and the corrected vote stood;
5) a post-meeting agreement held on the morning of Tuesday 7th September 2021 – between Senior Officers, the Leader and the Leader of the principal Opposition Group – had no authorisation to countermand a resolution of Full Council defeating Councillor PHILLIPS’ motion (based the Monitoring Officer’s mis-count).
What remains is to reconvene the meeting, at another time and in another place.
At such meeting, members will surely recall that the Leader has already affirmed his support for Councillor PHILLIPS’ motion. As have you (though that is inconsequential).
Despite my best efforts, the good standing of Scarborough Borough Council has now ebbed to its deepest nadir since the High-Point Rendel fiasco (fifteen years before your time), which resulted in the necessary and entirely appropriate departure of the then-Leader (Councillor Eileen BOSOMWORTH), the then-CEO (Mr John TREBBLE) and other rogue Officers.
This present embarrassment is hardly a feather in your cap. On the contrary, it is a black, black, black, black mark.
I note, with a degree of interest which (I have no doubt) will resonate amongst other diligent observers, that the Council’s Appointments Committee will meet on Tuesday 14th September 2021, at 3:00pm, to consider the appoinment of a Deputy Chief Executive – a position which, at this moment in time, one may imagine to be unlikely to attract a far-sighted external applicant of appreciable merit.
Equally, Committee members may baulk at a pay-grade enhancement for pension-related purposes. (That old chestnut!).
Let us hope that prudence prevails . . .
You have been cautioned by me, on several occasions, and by other (more influential) commentators, that you should be looking to bringing your rogue Officers under control. That has thus far proved beyond you.
Please take note of the fact that I have always constrained my criticism of members (with the exception of former Mayor/Councillor Peter JACONELLI) and Officers to their performances in their official capacities. I have not published revelations about their private vices, such as:
(i) extramarital affairs and/or illegitimate progeny;
(ii) disreputable business dealings, e.g. the manipulation of limited company status;
(iii) defaulting on debts to tradesman and suppliers of materials;
(iii) addictions (gambling, alcoholism and/or the abuse of prohibited subtances);
In short, I have respected their right to privacy in their private lives.
In particular, I have also respected your privacy in private life; I have not published your curriculum vitae. I believe that it is accurate and reads very well, though I fear any reference to a s.114 Notice during the the process of up-dating it will cause you rueful discomfort.
I remind you; I am not an elected member. Clearly, you have considered this fact reason enough to ignore me. So I will conclude by reminding you of the hierarchical nature of British democracy.
1) I am an elector of Scarborough Borough; I share in the responsibility for electing Councillors;
2) In turn, these same Councillors share in the responsibilty for the appointment of statutory Officers, including the Head of Paid Service (you);
3) In turn, you bear the responsibility for the probity of the actions of your statutory Officers – the s.151 Finance Director and the Monitoring Officer.
Thus, I stand (with thousands of other electors) at the apex of the democratic hierarchy in this Borough. It is from this position that I now hand you your instructions.
You have presided, for two years now, over an organisation widely-held to be a cesspit of lies, deceit, malpractice and (some say) corruption.
Councillors, business leaders and members of the public are describing you as a “wet lettuce”, a “pussy cat” and a “lump of plasticine”.
Prove them wrong, Mike – get your house in order. Be the light at the end of the tunnel. I repeat my offer of assistance.
Yours, with very kind regards,