Tuesday 21st September 2021,
North Yorks Enquirer

“Cllr. Riley Exposes Himself . . .”

“Councillor Riley Exposes Himself – to Ridicule”

A Letter to the Editor from a very defensive Independent Councillor, Paul RILEY, expressing his resentment of criticism and general lack of political ‘savvy’. With a view to untangling his misconceptions, the editor has asked Nigel to offer an opinion, by annotation, on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis.

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Dear Sir,

I was grateful to North Yorkshire Enquirer[sic] for publishing a letter to introduce myself as a candidate nearly two years ago.

The Enquirer has often provided a useful commentary on developments in our region. However, I deprecate some of the recent output, much of which amounts to little more than ad hominem abuse towards the leadership of Scarborough Borough Council and I fail to see any justification for that.

Three points here:

1) Councillor RILEY, you have stepped off on the wrong foot by your facile error in mistaking the title of this news magazine: it is the North Yorks Enquirer.

2) Thank you, Councillor, for acknowledging the part played by the Enquirer in securing your election by publishing the ‘manifesto’ from which you have long since departed. You might also have acknowledged that the free publicity you obtained was augmented by the Enquirer’s exposure of the grand follies of your Conservative rivals.

3) Thank you for endorsing our “useful” commentaries. There has been no “abuse towards the leadership”. There has been copious well-documented criticism of the patent lack of leadership, through both absence and plain inadequacy.

Perhaps you might allow me to respond to one or two points in your rather confused post on 1st February.

By all means – though it may be disadvantageous to your future electoral prospects.

I do claim to be Secretary of Scarborough and District Civic Society: mainly, on the basis of my election to that position in March 2018 and in subsequent years. I did not feel the need to speak out about the sneaky boundary move by the Tories to exclude the Futurist from the conservation area because that move and the decision to demolish that building preceded my involvement with the society.

It is regrettable that neither in your rôle as Secretary of the Scarborough & District Civic Society, nor in your somewhat limited capacity as a Parish Councillor (Parish Councils are normally offered an opportunity to comment on major Planning issues), you were either unaware or too shy to comment on a matter so dear to you – the Conservation Area boundary changes. Perhaps you never noticed?

The conservatives have a poor record on care for our heritage, in particular with their failure to progress a proper appraisal of the Scarborough central conservation area. They even allowed the lovely old building on Huntriss Row housing their own headquarters to fall into wrack and ruin. As a longstanding member of the Victorian Society, I was pleased when the façade of the Old Con Club was saved by the last minute intervention by the VS to list it.

None of this unsolicited comment has any bearing on the article to which you purport to reply. You seem, like your ‘running mate’, to be using the Enquirer as and when suits, as a platform to further your own relatively trivial agenda. Does your membership of the Victorian Society permit you to comment on wider issues – such as murder threats, cover-ups, fake identities, leaks of confidential documents and the like?

It is curious that you should expect me to back last week’s move, which would have put the Conservatives back in control of the borough council – presumably to give their sneakiness free rein – in view of their poor record on matters I care about.

“Last week’s move” – by which I assume you mean the Vote of No Confidence – was very far indeed from being an attempt to re-instate the Conservatives. Did you not notice that all five signatories to the Requisition were Independents? The objective was to achieve a Leader worthy of the title and an opportunity to implement a Rainbow Cabinet comprising the best-on-merit members for each Portfolio. As a ‘newbie’, perhaps such details may have flown over your head?

Party politics are a fact of life. I have voted for all the major parties in recent years, although in elections these days, I tend to vote for the individual rather than for the party label. You seem to imply that, having been elected as independents, and even though the 14 of us elected as such were only a minority on the council and could not agree amongst ourselves, we should then all just refuse to engage with the political parties.

Party politics are indeed “a fact of life” – at local level, a damaging, dishonest and potential corrupt “fact of life” in which loyalty is bought and paid for with blandishments, Committee Chairships and delegations to far-flung outside bodies (facilitating exaggerated Mileage claims). Party politics at local level is insidious, invidious and the root of all of the disastrous decisions that have plagued this Borough for decades. Yet you, a nominal Independent, continue to prop it up.

In the event, ten of us took the mature decision to offer support to Cllr Siddons, when he was the only member prepared to put his name forward to lead the council for the next four years.

Councillor SIDDONS was the only member foolhardy enough to imagine that, with a secure following of only thirteen fellow Labour members, he could lead a Council with 20 ‘newbies’ to accommodate. Events have demonstrated the sheer naïvety of his ambition.

In my view the partnership running the borough council have[sic] shown they[sic] are putting community above ideology for the common good. There has been a proper review into Futurist and now careful cross-party consideration is being given into how the council can maximise the potential of this key strategic asset. I am glad that this administration will be conducting the difficult negotiations to make sure we make the most of the North Bay assets. I fully support the consultation exercise which lead to the Better Borough report. I know the administration has supported both Scarborough and Whitby in their town deal applications and sought to ensure Filey is not overlooked with officer time being provided to work on a Filey Investment Plan. This is not an exhaustive list and when something is put forward which I cannot support, I may well vote against it.

You view is myopic. The Castle Ward community has been abandoned. The Futurist site is home to … a fairground ride. The negotiations over the North Bay assets were compromised by the rash remarks uttered by Councillor SIDDONS in his ‘acceptance of Leadership’ speech. The administration has been entirely Scarborough-centric. You will vote against its proposals only when you obtain a better understanding of how local politics actually works. On your present performance, that may take some time.

With respect to the Argos building, that was an example of cross-party agreement for the long-term good of the borough. The previous administration is to be commended for developing the Town Centre Strategy and the Argos proposal was the first major opportunity for the new administration to build on that platform.  Every member of the Conservative and Labour groups supported it along with the majority of the independent councillors.

The “cross-party agreement” you claim supported the ARGOS regeneration was not supported by your far more experienced ‘running mate’, to the degree that she was vociferous in her objection to it, even to the point of ensuring, in the public interest, that its “Highly Confidential” documentation found its way into the Enquirer (and thus, the public domain) – an offence, according to the Monitoring Officer, of Misconduct in Public Office. I trust you were not in any way party to that offence?

It should cement in place a key relationship with Coventry University, who will surely pay[sic] a key role in providing the sort of practical training needed for young people to make a success of their lives. It addresses the sad phenomenon whereby a large proportion of the 16-25 year-old demographic feel they have to leave the borough to obtain qualifications and then they never come back.

Coventry University may indeed play a key role in providing practical training; it plans to do much of it on-line. Even if it were viable to provide accommodation, the ARGOS site is a very poor choice. Well-informed members of the Civic Society have commented on their preference for the old Comet site, which does not fall within the (Tory-revised) Conservation Area.

Of course, the financial metrics are unattractive and many of us voted for the scheme despite our misgivings. I perhaps allowed myself to be persuaded after listening to Cllr Bastiman’s passionate and eloquent exhortation not to let this “golden opportunity” to slip from our grasp … to rid the town of one of its most unattractive buildings and kick-start the regeneration of a deprived ward.

So are you for it or against, Paul? Are you anti-Conservative, or pro? And you are being most disingenuous here. Councillor BASTIMAN’s negotiations over the ARGOS building were unconnected with CU – that was the brain-child of JD, in search, it is widely understood, of an Honorary Doctorate.

The council is, of course, reviewing its whole regeneration policy after the disappointment of not securing Future High Street Funding. Wrenbridge are still working to put a proposal before the planning committee which will serve their needs and at the same time respond to the rich mixture of heritage assets, many of them listed, surrounding the site on three sides. I fully concur with the careful approach the council is taking as articulated by Cllr Colling in her statement during last week’s debate.

The “disappointment” of failing to secure the Future High Street Funding is entirely a function of believing that a worthless proposal (scrabbled together by a man far better qualified to empty the waste-paper baskets in the Council Chamber) ever had a hope of impressing central government – any more than it impresses local business leaders, landlords and residents. The “careful approach” with which you so graciously “concur” is nothing other than a tactical withdrawal, otherwise characterised as a headlong retreat.

In my brief intervention in the debate last week, I alluded to the toxic atmosphere which seems to be orchestrated by outside forces seeking to exploit the current situation where the pandemic has restricted normal positive interaction between members.  The email I alluded to had precious little positive to offer, being little more than a ragbag of innuendo, petty animosities and attempts to warm up past controversies.  Having learned nothing from the fiasco of the failed coup the previous year, the proponents of the NCV were still unable to put forward any sort of program or even let us know who the new council leader would be. In the event, 25 of us had the good sense to vote down the proposal.

The “toxic” atmosphere to which you have referred, in Council, is almost entirely due to members rightful intolerance of threats and anonymised hate mail. Would you not agree that refering to campaigners/journalists as “pathological” is itself “toxic” (and a certain breach of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct) – to say nothing of the irony inherent in raising that subject when pathology bestrides Hertford Ward with impunity? It is not from the Enquirer that threats have been issued. I was privy to the discussions between those who supported the No Confidence Vote. Unanimously, they sought an open (i.e. not whipped on party lines) Leadership contest (a so-called ‘beauty contest’) and a Rainbow Cabinet to replace the present Leader and his hybrid hodge-podge Cabinet – half Labour, by his own appointment, and half Independent, by Councillor JEFFERSON’s. In the event, with the notable exceptions of the Labour-biased nominally Conservative Mayor and the recently disaffected Councillor MORTIMER, the vote divided on party lines. Business as usual. Yet you are willing to embrace such scurrility as “a fact of life”? My advice to you is to learn something about how things works in the Town Hall. Your present grasp is deeply flawed to the point where you are exposing yourself as being green as grass.

Regards,

Cllr Paul Riley

Hunmanby[sic] Ward

I believe you will find, Councillor RILEY, that your seat is in Hertford Ward. Thus, your first and last words were erroneous. Farewell.


Addendum: In fact, I  am belatedly reminded that when the Ward boundary changes took place before the 2019 local elections, the number of Wards in the Borough was reduced  from 25 to 20. Among those being lost or renamed were Hertford and Central Wards, which were merged and renamed Hunmanby Ward. My apologies to Councillor RILEY on that one point.

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