Thursday 18th July 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

WTC Clerk/RFO mislays the ‘plot’

September 1, 2023 Whitby Town

WTC Clerk/RFO mislays the ‘plot’

  • – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, reporting on an inexplicable (and inexcusable) deviation from acceptable standards by the Whitby Town Clerk and Responsible Financial Officer, Mr Michael KING, who seems to imagine that his surname affords him the powers of a hereditary monarch.

~~~~~

Being mindful of the forthcoming Town Meeting/Assembly, scheduled to be held on Monday 4th September 2023 at 6:00pm, I set the scene by noting the following observation.

Readers may recall a Town Meeting/Assembly convened by the then-Mayor/Chair (Councillor Linda WILD) held on 22nd March 2023. This was the meeting at which Councillor WILD tabled the Proposal that Whitby Town Council’s membership should be reduced from the present complement of 19 members to 12-15 members. I was happy to Second that Proposal and, in due course, the Council wrote to the then North Yorkshire County Council (now, since 1st April 2023, the unitary North Yorkshire Council).

Interestingly, notice of the March 2023 Town Meeting/Assembly appeared on the Meetings Calendar of the Whitby Town Council website:

 

Noteworthy is the fact that no notice of the Town Meeting/Assembly scheduled for Monday 4th September 2023 appears on the Meetings Calendar:

The question arises: Is this omission merely another example of the Clerk/RFO’s lack of attention to detail and/or propensity for forgetting to update the website – or is there, perhaps, a more sinister explanation?

One possible explanation is that Monday’s Town Meeting/Assembly, unlike the March Meeting/Assembly, was convened by Councillor Rob BARNETT and Councillor Alf ABBOTT, not by the (present) Mayor/Chair, Councillor Bob DALRYMPLE. (Readers will recall Councillor BARNETT’s contribution to the Letters page of the North York Enquirer published on 20th August 2023).

Sched. 12. Part II, s.15(1) of the Local Government Act 1972 states:

15(1)A parish meeting may be convened by—

(a)the chairman of the parish council, or
(b)any two parish councillors for the parish, or
(c)where there is no parish council, the chairman of the parish meeting or any person representing the parish on the district council, or
(d)any six local government electors for the parish.

Thus, six local government electors for the parish may convene a Meeting/Assembly whenever they wish.

Sched. 12. Part II, s.18(4) states:

4)A poll may be demanded before the conclusion of a parish meeting on any question arising at the meeting; but no poll shall be taken unless either the person presiding at the meeting consents or the poll is demanded by not less than ten, or one-third, of the local government electors present at the meeting, whichever is the less.

Thus, it needs only ten electors for the parish to demand a Poll and it MUST take place – whether the ‘old guard’ wish it or not.

Councillors BARNETT, ABBOTT and a number of others, are attempting to drag the Council into the 21st century. They are not popular with the so-called ‘old guard’ (a reactionary bunch of under-achievers who have contributed nothing of note to the well-being of the town in donkeys’ years and who have assiduously curried favour with the Clerk/RFO ever since they appointed him in 2019).

The ‘old guard’ – those Councillors who vigorously oppose the Question for Poll on next Monday’s Agenda – should, perhaps, consider how much of the taxpayers’ money they wish to sacrifice on the altar of their own apparently limitless hubris.

There is a recent precedent to all this – at Thornton-le-Dale Parish Council – where their ‘old guard’ are fighting (and losing) a losing battle to maintain their precious hold om imagined power.

The Question for Whitby is:

Should the present members of Whitby Town Council resign en masse to facilitate the democratic election, by ballot, of a fully mandated representative Town Council for Whitby?

The back-story behind this seemingly innocuous Question is that not one of the 19 members of the present Council (in office since May 2022) actually received even a single vote from the electorate, having been “elected unopposed” – or co-opted thereafter.

When Councillor BARNETT stated this well-documented fact (at the Extraordinary Meeting of 15th August 2023) he was shouted down – one member, forgetting the requirement to address members ‘through the Chair’, even shouted out “That’s not true!” (but, of course, it is true – all too true).

I cannot be sure, but I seem to recall that this was the same member who shrieked “If you don’t like Whitby Town Council, GO PLAY SOMEWHERE ELSE!” at the same meeting. Toxic meltdown.

The rest have been co-opted (more on which in a future article).

One has to wonder what such members were thinking when they signed up to the National Association of Local Council’s “Civility & Respect Pledge”:

Presumably, their innate sense of entitlement blinded them to the glaringly obvious.

On a brighter note, I can confirm that the failure of some Councillors to comply with most of the above bullet-points is presently under the watchful eye of bodies whose statutory duty it is to oversee local Councils. They must be appalled.

It is far from unreasonable to share Councillor BARNETT’s view that a Council whose membership is wholly without a democratic mandate cannot reasonably be considered to represent the views of the people who never had an opportunity to go to the Polling Station and elect its membership.

But, on the subject of standards, as set out in the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, established under the Localism Act 2011, I have recently learned, verbatim, from an insider source, that the Clerk/RFO has lodged a Formal (I would say ‘malicious’) Complaint against a member of the body who employs him – a Whitby Town Councillor – for having passed information to what the Clerk/RFO wrongly calls “the North Yorkshire Enquirer” – another lapse of attention to detail; this website is, in fact, the North Yorks Enquirer.

The curious thing about this unfounded complaint is that it apparently hinges around a matter over which I gave the Clerk/RFO a ‘Right of Reply’ (three months ago, in an email dated 12th May 2023), quoting the following text of a STOP PRESS report in the North Yorks Enquirer:

If you would be so good as to inform me which elements of the five paragraphs of this report you feel to be inaccurate, I will do my best to arrange for your comments to appear in the Enquirer, under a ‘Right of Reply’ heading, as soon as possible.

I look foward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Nigel

Mr KING responded:

Subject: RE: Right of Reply
Date: Fri, 12 May 2023 08:07:22 +0000
From: Michael King <town.clerk@whitbytowncouncil.gov.uk>
To: Nigel Ward

Nigel,

Good morning to you. Thank you for the offer. I don’t think there’s anything written there that I need to add to at this stage.

Regards

I hope the Clerk/RFO will be able to provide an explanation as to why he imagines that anyone (let alone one of his own employers – who, by the way, was not the source of my information; a fact to which I would feel duty-bound to attest, under oath, at a Standards Panel Hearing, should that opportunity ever arise) sharing with me information (which he himself, when offered the opportunity, expressed no objection to the Enquirer having published) in any way justifies a Standards Complaint.

If the Clerk/RFO imagines that he holds evidence to the contrary, then I expect him to produce it – or, as Martin RIGGS (Mel GIBSON’s character in “Lethal Weapon”) famously said:

Finally, this is not the first time that I have received reports of the Clerk/RFO’s overbearing style of ‘leadership’ – a style that some have asserted made them feel ‘bullied’:

I would not hesitate to assert that the Clerk/RFO has evinced quite a number of those characteristics in his correspondence with me – and I am happy to reproduce examples if challenged to do so.

I should hope that readers will agree that ‘bullying’ is not acceptable in or out of public service.

‘Bullying’ has been defined as:

“Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. Bullying can be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or any personal characteristic of the individual, and maybe persistent or an isolated incident. The key is that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient.

[my emphasis in bold type]

My understanding is that the Clerk/RFO’s Standards Complaint relates to an incident that took place during or after a meeting held in the Clerk/RFO’s office on 9th May 2023, when three members of the Council raised concerns over the very matters revealed in the STOP PRESS report cited above – and in my May 13th 2023 article “WTC: Mayoral Mix-Up” – i.e. that the process carried out to elect the new Mayor was likely unlawful and that the appointments to Committee membership almost certainly were.

Two of those members are male; one female.

If my information is correct (and, as always, I stand to be corrected), the Clerk/RFO has raised no Standards Complaints against the two male members, reserving his hostile action to the sole female member present at the meeting.

Readers may recall that it was former North Yorkshire Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner Julia MULLIGAN who, in May 2017, proudly introduced the inception of ‘Hate Crime’ status within the North Yorkshire Police to “bullying behaviour” against women.

Subsequently – and ironically – in October 2018, a complaint of “bullying behaviour” was UPHELD against former Commissioner Julia MULLIGAN herself. According to the BBC, the report stated in its  conclusion:

  • “While the PCC may not have deliberately set out to bully [REDACTED], the behaviours as perceived both by [REDACTED] and the supporting individuals exemplify characteristics of bullying behaviour.”

The threshold is low. One can only wonder whether or not the Clerk/RFO will perceive the prudence inherent in preserving his country-wide reputation by withdrawing either his Standards Complaint or his services – or both.

So why do I take in interest in all this Kindergartenpolitik?

Well, as I stated in a recent email to the Mayor:

“On a more personal note, having lived and worked in many countries – in many, many towns – in the end (like you) I have chosen to live in Whitby. Naturally, I want the best Town Council in the land. This aspiration relies on the fundamental principles of the sovereignty of the people, the integrity of their elected representatives, the obedience of Officers of Paid Service and a strict adherence to proper procedure.”

This should not be too much to ask.

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