Saturday 24th September 2022,
North Yorks Enquirer

A Convenient Lapse of Memory

A Convenient Lapse of Memory

  • – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, illustrating exactly why the freedom of an investigatory and campaigning local press is vital to a democratic society. Without it, public servants will never stand accountable for their self-interest, incompetence and lies – and announcing a very necessary (and welcome) resignation.

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Many of those who enjoyed (or endured) the Extraordinary Meeting of Scarborough Borough Council on 28th July 2022 – either in person (c.100) or on the Council’s YouTube Channel (c.350) – have expressed puzzlement at the apparent lack of leadership on the administration’s side of the Chamber.

True, Councillor Alex BAILEY [Lab.] trotted out his ‘Toad of Toad Hall’ impersonation, and Councillor Liz COLLING [Lab.Co-Op.] blustered her way through her predictable opposition to Councillor CHATT’s NO CONFIDENCE Motion.

But Councillor Steve SIDDONS [Lab.] – the Council Leader – remained silent throughout. Leadership from the rear. Follow me – I’m right behind you.

Only when the Leader scurried across the Chamber to support Officers’ efforts to dilute the second Amendment to the original substantive Motion (tabled by Councillor Bill CHATT [C.I.M.]), which Councillor John NOCK [Con.] had successfully raised (despite the Mayor’s best efforts to ignore him) did the Leader convince observers that he was not a refugee from Madame Tussauds.

The Leader rushes to join the action

On 8th August 2022, however, in response to an email from Councillor Bill CHATT to Mike GREENE (SBC’s outgoing CEO and Head of Paid Service), seeking answers to the $64,000 Question, the Leader has now laid sound claims to being the dummy in question.

The $64,000 Question is:

“Given the outcome of the unanimous vote in favour of Councillor NOCK’s Amendment, how could it be possible that SBC Commercial Director Richard BRADLEY (widely know as ‘the Binman’, in deference to his vast experience in waste management) should remain as a Council-delegated member of the YCBID Board of Directors?”

For those who have forgotten Councillor NOCK’s form of words, the key resolution was to:

“Pass a Vote of No Confidence in the Yorkshire Coast BID governance arrangements and representation of local businesses on the Board.”

[my emphasis, underlined]

Councillor NOCK’s Amendment carried unanimously, remember.

The consequential requirements of Councillor NOCK’s successfully Amendment, and natural concomitants, are perhaps best brought into sharp focus through the words of a solicitous friend of mine, who said:

“Only a half-wit could support Officers of Paid Service – or Councillors, for that matter – taking part in the governance of a company now terminally condemned by two Councils. SBC’s Richard Bradley, NYCC’s Karl Battersby, NYMNPA’s Michael Graham and ERYC’s Cllr Jane Evison all need to pull out, with immediate effect.”

Heigh-ho! It seems we may have a candidate for that half-wit role!

Enter Councillor SIDDONS, stage left, responding to Councillor CHATT’s email:

Councillor CHATT’s response:

Councillor CHATT is not renowned for his literary eloquence. His memory, however, is second to none. Nevertheless, I always check these things for myself. Councillor CHATT is exactly right; the Decision to enter into the Operating Agreement (contract) with Yorkshire Coast BID Ltd was taken not by the previous administration (as Councillor SIDDONS would have us believe) but by his Portfolio Holder for Economy, Communities & Commercial, Councillor Liz COLLING [Lab.Co-Op.], at the last possible moment on Wednesday 31st July 2019 (the day before the BID began billing on 1st August 2019) – without the approval of Full Council:

The complete document, in all its faded glory, is available here:

So, for the avoidance of any doubt (or blatant lies), the Decision to enter into contract (via the Operating Agreement) with Yorkshire Coast BID Ltd was NOT carried out by the previous administration (invariably SIDDONS’ scapegoat for his own shortcomings – as it was in the case of the abortive ARGOS ‘regeneration’ proposal) but by a Portfolio Holder of the present administration.

So Councillor COLLING’s petulantly huffy opposition to Councillor CHATT’s Motion was actually nothing more than an attempt to cover her own ass.

To be clear, were it not for that flawed Operating Agreement (thanks, Lisa), Yorkshire Coast BID Ltd would not now be attempting to brazen out the NO CONFIDENCE Motion.

It would not be billing businesses for another £1+ million.

It would not be peddling (in the two remaining years of its worthless existence) extravagant and implausible promises to preserve the Yorkshire Coast for all posterity.

The Yorkshire Coast has survived and evolved without the services of the highly dubious Mr Clive ROWE-EVANS since dinosaurs walked the earth in the Jurassic period (150-200 milion years ago). And speaking of dinosaurs, Mr ROWE-EVANS was born on Monday 19th July 1943. Retirement beckons, or what!

Whatever. One piece of populist tripe is as good as another. But how does YCBID’s re-inebtion as eco-warrior sit with its Mission Statement?

Core sentiments like “working in partnership”, “strong voice on behalf of BID businesses”, “increase footfall”, “remove unnecessary duplication” ring hollow enough after three years of empty promises and determined secrecy, without resorting to a sickening bout of virtue-signalling “eco-friendliness”. It is supposedly a BUSINESS Improvement District, Clive, ffs! Not a tree-huggers’ jamboree.

Councillor SIDDONS, in his finger-pointing email to Councillor CHATT, appears happy to overlook the true sequence of events leading up to Councillor COLLING single-handedly authorising the Council’s commitment to the Operating Agreement with YCBID.

Certainly, on Friday 1st March 2019, at the final meeting of the previous Council, Councillor SIDDONS was already highly sceptical of the BID. He sought and obtained the assurance of the then-Leader (Councillor Derek BASTIMAN [Con.]) that “the matter including the next steps the Council should take based on considered advice, would come back to full Council for determination. Perhaps he was merely posturing?

On Thursday 2nd May 2019 came the elections and Councillor BASTIMAN lost control of the Council.

On Tuesday 7th May 2019, Councillor SIDDONS became the new Leader of the Council.

At any time during the 12 weeks between then and Councillor COLLING signing off the flawed Operating Agreement on Wednesday 31st July 2019, it was in the new Leader’s gift to schedule a Motion to reconsider the BID, or to schedule an Extraordnary Meeting to consider a Motion to defer the BID – or even to take one of his many Urgent Leader’s Decisions to reject the BID entirely pending a re-ballot in which the Council would, quite properly, desist from exercising – on the Binman’s advice – 38 votes in favour of the BID (on behalf of toilets, car parks and a radio-mast), by which means the BID could have been packed off to join Welcome to Yorkshire in the great quango graveyard in the sky.

But in SIDDONS’ world of fantasy, the present shambles is all the fault of the Tories.

I prefer to rely on the Public Record, as set out above. Fortunately, Councillor CHATT is not alone in pointing out that the emperor is stark bollock-naked. Councillor Clive PEARSON lost no time in cutting to the bottom line:

You may hope as much as you wish, Clive, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link; a Council is no better than its weakest Leader.

I believe I can feel another Vote of No Confidence coming on . . .

Meanwhile, I am encouraged to learn that outgoing CEO Mike GREENE has evinced a good deal more sense than the leader:

The Council’s Director on the YCBID Board is, of course, Richard ‘Binman’ BRADLEY, pictured below:

One down, three to go.

I imagine Karl BATTERSBY, Michael GRAHAM and Councillor Jane EVISON [Con.] will not take long in following suit.

That will bring YCBID’s Board down to six, from a full complement of twenty.

Is that even a quorum?

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