Monday 20th May 2019,
North Yorks Enquirer

To our Leader, with Compliments

To our Leader, with Compliments

by Tim HICKS, following up on the Private Eye coverage of the ticket privileges accorded to SBC personnel.

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Dear Councillor Bastiman,

Britney Spears Concert, misappropriation of tickets by SBC Councillors and employees 

I hope this e mail finds you in good health and looking forward to an exciting 2019.

I am writing to congratulate you on getting 2019 off to a good start, with yet another mention in Private Eye for SBC. Thus maintaining its outstanding reputation as the Council most often mentioned in the Rotten Burroughs column of Private Eye,

I can well imagine how happy you and your colleagues are that local community journalists from the NYE are doing their stuff and holding public bodies to account over malpractice. This illustrates the importance of having a strong and vibrant free press in North Yorkshire.

The above article in Private Eye appears to me to allege that:

  1. SBC abused its position by giving SBC Councillors and/or Council employees preferential access to confidential information so they could buy tickets for the Britney Spears concert before everyone else.
  2. SBC Councillors and/or Council employees then abused their positions by buying tickets using privileged information revealed to them on the basis that they would use it for personal use only, but then used it for personal commercial purposes, to enrich themselves at the public’s expense.
  3. SBC Councillors and/or Council employees purchased all or most or many of the tickets using the preferential information supplied to them by SBC thereby denying the public access to tickets at the official face value.
  4. Then SBC Councillors and/or Council employees sold the tickets off to ticket touts for just under 800 a pop, thereby collectively making secret profits for themselves from this abuse of trust and allowing ticket touts to rip off the paying public for an even higher amount. I am not able to estimate how many tickets or how much money was involved. However, as you know, the concert was packed and the Scarborough Open Air theatre has a capacity of 8,000 people. Therefore the amount that the public were ripped off for could potentially amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds, which went to ticket touts.

If this interpretation is correct, then this appears to be a corrupt act, an abuse of trust by multiple SBC Councillors and/or employees and a very serious matter. Some ticket touts have been involved in serious and organised crime. Some have been involved in financing terrorism. SBC Councillors and employees should not be having dealings with them.

In my view SBC should initiate a corruption investigation, identify those that were involved in this affair and take formal disciplinary action against them. Please can you confirm what your view is and what you intend to do about this.

As you are aware, I have submitted a Freedom of Information Request on this issue.

Please can you confirm:

  1. The name of the person that arranged preferential access for SBC Councillors and employees to tickets for the Britney Spears Concert referred to in the Private Eye Awards.
  2. The name of the person that distributed the on line link notifying SBC Councillors and employees of the availability of preferential tickets via the website referred to in the Private Eye Article.
  3. The text of the e mail the e mail notifying SBC Councillors and employees of the availability of preferential tickets via the website referred to in the Private Eye Article and if this e mail made it clear that the tickets were for private use only, not re-sale.
  4. The names of the SBC Councillors and/or employees that accessed the website using their SBC computers at the time the tickets were available. This information can be obtained by using the Council’s surveillance powers to review activity on its server at the relevant point in time.
  5. Which SBC Councillors and/or Council employees bought tickets, how many were bought and which of them attended the Britney Spears concert. This can be ascertained by circularising all SBC Councillors and employees and by contacting the official ticket sellers.
  6. If SBC conducted a misconduct investigation when these allegations first surfaced in August 2018?
  7. If SBC considered that the SBC Councillors and/or employees who sold the tickets to ticket touts may have committed an offence of misconduct in public office and/or fraud by abuse of position, or took legal advice on it, and if so, what the outcome of its deliberations were?
  8. If SBC considered that the SBC Councillors and/or employees who sold the tickets to ticket touts had committed an offence of gross misconduct by abusing access to confidential information to make a personal secret profit for themselves and by pursuing a course of conduct that has brought SBC into disrepute in the press?
  9. SBC’s justification for circulating a website address to SBC Councillors and employees allowing them to purchase tickets before the paying public.
  10. Was North Yorkshire Police informed of this matter and if not why not?
  11. What is SBC’s policy on (i) staff obtaining preferential access to tickets and then (ii) selling them on?

I hope this is helpful and I look forward to your response in due course.

Kind regards,

Tim


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