SBC: Ignorance is Bliss
- – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, sharing a one-sided correspondence which raises the question: Where lies the distinction between “ignorant” (as in “lacking the knowledge”) and just plain “ignorant” (as in “pig ignorant”)? Read on – and learn something about integrity at the Town Hall, where (they tell me) a new statue is being planned.
Regular readers and fellow scrutineers of Scarborough Borough Council will perhaps recall my article “When is a Market NOT a Market?”, published by the Enquirer on 2nd March 2022.
The main thrust of my article was centred around a Public Question raised in Full Council on Friday 25th February 2022.
Scarborough businessman and entrepreneur Mr Peter LEE found his questions about seafront parking and the Scarborough Market Royal Charter summarily deflected by their intended recipient, the Portfolio Holder for Corporate Resources, Councillor Janet JEFFERSON [Ind.], and fielded (i.e. stonewalled) by the Leader, Councillor Steve SIDDONS [Lab.], who stated:
“Thank you, Mr Lee, for your Question. Erm. I am advised by our legal colleagues that this is . . . that this is a complex issue . . . and it will be best to provide you with an answer in writing, to make sure that all the various elements are included. I hope that’s satisfactory to you.”
A week went by and Mr LEE, having heard nothing from the Leader, emailed all Councillors seeking some sort of progress on the matter of obtaining an answer to his Public Question. Apparently only one Councillor bothered to respond – Councillor Bill CHATT [C.I.M], to his considerable credit – whose response was this:
“I know the council leader has promised a written response after your question on the day. But if this is not forthcoming, please contact me, and I will pursue the answers for you.”
Having spoken to Mr LEE shortly before this article was submitted for publication, I can assure readers that, despite Councillor CHATT’s intervention, the promised “answer in writing” has yet to materialise.
I can also report that, on 3rd March 2022, Mr LEE wrote a gentle reminder to Councillor SIDDONS (also without acknowledgement or response) which he now wishes to place before the Court of Public Opinion:
Dear Councillor Siddons,
I hope you will agree with me that this Council should be made up of representatives fighting for, and caring for, the residents, the fishermen and all the businesses it represents. It should be honest, open and transparent. It should consult properly with ALL of its stakeholders – and it MUST listen.
It should communicate, deliver its manifesto and – importantly – it should welcome scrutiny of its decisions.
You, I am sure, agree completely with this assessment; I am confident of this because the text is compiled using your own Manifesto which, by the way, is largely very good and could well be supported by usall. I have attached a copy for your convenience of reference. It is well worth you re-read it.
Alas, in practice you are promoting exactly the opposite of what it promises and, in some of its better aspirations, a pitiful zero has actually been acheived.
I offer some scrutiny for you to welcome. I hope you will embrace it.
As a long-time resident and business-owner in Scarborough, my own personal experience of our Councils (of every persuasion) is one of clandestine practices throughout.
Over my 30+ years here, I have been lied to, cheated and deceived by them all.
Recently, with this present Council, I have been treated with ignorance and contempt.
I am led to understand that you see me as an irritation and mostly an irrelevance; a local fool who can’t stop your outrageous plans.
I have always prefered to keep a low profile here as it is my home. I am now an older man in semi-retirement, living my latter years with a simple lifestyle. But all this nonsense is too destructive to Scarborough for me to ignore any longer.
So if you think I am an irrelavence and a fool, let me offer you my credentials:
Although comparativly small, my businesses in Scarborough have contributed over £1 million directly to the Council coffers.
I spent all of my early years in markets. I know more about markets than all your Councillors and advisors put together will ever know. I love markets. I stood market in every weather, in every Yorkshire and Lancashire town you can bring to mind. I helped return many old and tired markets back into thriving, bustling community assets.
I pioneered Sunday markets back in the early 1970s and won lots of battles against Councils trying to close us down with their misinterpreted Sunday Trading regulations.
How ironic, then, that I was prevented from having my own market here by this very Council. I had no defence against the same legally binding historic Market Charter that you now want to conveniently ignore, so you can put your own market and events like Seafest on the West Pier.
I went on and built, from scratch, a £45million per year chain of 46 High Street retail stores, from London to Newcastle. I was its CEO for 30 years, heading a boardroom of 6 directors and 2 non-executive directors responsible for over 550 members of staff.
Doug Barrowman (Google him) was my Financial Director and right-hand man for a number of years and remains an associate.
Later, I had a 50% shareholding and was joint Managing Director of a multi-million pound importing company, operating two 60k sq.ft. cash-and-carry warehouses, with Paul Beverly. Paul continues with his own company, PMS International, the biggest importers out of China into Europe.
To establish for you my seafaring experience; for 6 years, I ran a private charter cruise company out of Gocek harbour in Turkiye. I operated a fully-crewed 35 meter 3 mast sailing gulet taking guests round the Greek islands in the Mediterranian Sea.
I hope that is enough for now to demonstrate to you that, although I may not look the part, thank you very much, I am no fool!
So why is the whole of your seafront community so vocal and so very, very cross?
Well, what did you expect?
You may have charmed the odd fisherman with your well used divide and rule practices, and nepotistically rewarding a trader with uncharacteristically long leases, but you have totally alienated (and simultaneously united) everyone else.
The West Pier is for the benefit of existing Scarboreans, not for a Council slush fund.
The fishing industry needs some substantial viable space and room to manouvre. It should have purpose-built buildings to suit their individual trades and, aside from this, a whole new opportunity existsfor them to benefit from the visitors.
We need more and more and yet more parking spaces, not less. Electric cars, hybrid cars and hydrogen options are coming. The more affluent demographic we would all like to attract more of will simply not comeby bus or by train to your projected transport hub.
WE HAVE TO ACCOMODATE THE DEMANDS OF OUR VISITORS OR THEY WILL GO ELSEWHERE:
Your continuous removal of a dozen parking spaces here and a dozen parking spaces there soon adds up to an awful lot of inconvenience and frustrations to our customers old town resident who suffer with the increase in demand for the limited on street parking in Castle Ward.
Since you told me last week it was your intention to minimise the amount of lost public spaces, the truth has come out and it has now been leaked. It is now known that you intend to preside over; A TOTAL LOSS OF EVERY PUBLIC CAR-PARKING SPACE on the Pier, also HALVING THE REMAINING PERMIT-HOLDER SPACES.
I asked you; “Where will the cars go?”
Your answer to me on this was to fob me off with: “It isn’t an issue. The cars will be absorbed into the surplus capacity in the remaining South Bay car parks”.
If you really believe this, you are deluded and you stand alone. If you don’t believe it, then you are trying once again to deceive me; we all know that the car parks are full by 10.30am every single day.
A further example, the indoor pool site on the North Bay could have been a very important parking asset, but is to be yet another new hotel in direct competition with local accommodation providers as we emerge from the rubble of the pandemic making the parking problems even worse.
And let’s not forget what is next. We are to lose all the on-street parking on Eastborough with your secret plan of widening the pavements, part of your original 3 part Argos- West Pier Masterplan. Yet again putting on old town and Castle Ward on street parking.
Now to the MARKET STALLS:
How do you think we feel when you take OUR own money from the dubious and equally secretive BID company (which you installed illegally) only for you then to spend it on stalls to be used, also illegally, against us by a whole mass of newcomers in direct competition, exploiting our best trading times (when we make all our money), bang in the middle of the best possible prime site where we work.
Then, when the season falls quiet, we are expected to survive the winter, staying open in the cold and the rain, supporting our staff, paying our Council Tax and losing money. Oh, dear!
When I arrived at the Council Meeting, I was told to expect an answer from my own ward Councillor Janet Jefferson. She avoided this responsibility by use of a spurious Declaration of Interests which I have yet to understand.
It was passed over to you. After giving plenty of notice of the question, as required, so you could prepare a suitable response, it was very surprising and disappointing to me to hear you claim that you couldn’t respond because the answer was too complex for me to
It may appear to you that we are your nemesis – and it may well turn out that way. In fact, we should be working together with a common desire.
There is a so much better option for the West Pier which would suit and help everyone, including the Council, but your apparent hubris, and that of our ward councillor prevents engagement and prevents its potential from being understood and, ideally, being realised.
As I am always the optimist, I would rather hope there is at least a chance for some potentially more amicable genuine discussion between us, rather than we all resort to the lawyers, the barristers and court injunctions.
In the meantime, you promised a written answer to my question. I have heard nothing from you, nothing at all.
I do require an urgent and complete response. When can I expect this, please?
One would have hoped that the Council would be grateful for the input of such a worldly and successful businessman, from whom much could be learned.
But I am unsurprised by the disdain shown to Mr LEE. The Leader has previously demonstrated the fact that he is unable to deal with “complex” Questions without ‘guidance’ from his Senior Officers. I wrote to him twice shortly after his election to the Leadership (on 23rd May and 11th June 2019). His belated response concluded:
I am not fully aware of the detail behind the issue you raise and before I can give you a meaningful response I must seek further advice on the background. Please bear with me. I will respond more fully in due course.
He never did.
More recently, I wrote to the Leader (on 11th and 22nd December 2021) offering him the opportunity to confirm the authenticity of a document which, if genuine, could form the keystone of an article revealing pertinent information about his business acumen.
Again, no response.
It would appear that the Leader deals with challenging questions by ignoring them.
It is understandable, therefore, now that a fortnight has elapsed since Mr LEE’s Public Question – and still no reponse from the Leader – that Mr LEE would next address himself for a second time to each and every Councillor, in the hope that someone other than Councillor CHATT (who seems to be anathema to the Leader) would provide the courtesy of an acknowledgement and/or a response, if not a substantive answer.
Sadly, but unsurprisingly, Mr LEE tells me, only Councillor Bill CHATT [C.I.M.] (again) and Councillor Guy SMITH [Y.C.I.A.] – all credit to these two independent members not aligned with Councillor JEFFERSON’s nominally Independent Group (colloquially and collectively known as “Slippery Sid’s Sycophantic Seven”), who have evinced the good manners to provide a response. Neither could report any progress on the quest for an answer.
The Leader has apparently gone to ground again.
Mr LEE’s second email to all Councillors is short and to the point. It reads:
To all Scarborough Councillors
At the last full council meeting I asked my question;
“How can the council propose to have a market on the west pier when the royal market charter protecting the market hall prevents any market setting up within 6 miles of the market hall?“
I was promised by Councillor Siddons an answer in writing but I have had no response.
It appears I have a legal right to ask a question but no corresponding right to an answer.
I sent an email to Councillor Siddons chasing an answer to my question, together with a critique of his last nonsense answer to me regarding the lost parking spaces from the pier. A copy of which I have included for reference. [see above]
As I have been totally ignored by Councillor Siddons with no response at all, not even an acknowledgment, I now open this up to all councillors, would anyone else please answer my question.
Also, explain why ‘Seafest’ has not been cancelled by the council knowing it to be illegally contravening the market charter?
I understand as our ward councillor, Janet Jefferson is the officer who should be enforcing the Royal Market Charter against ‘Seafest’ to stop it taking place.
In fact, she is actually heading it up. Surely an unacceptable conflict of interests?
Conflicts of interest have been looming large lately, with five Labour members (not least, the Leader) under external investigation for non-declaration – potentially a criminal matter under the terms of the Localism Act 2011.
As stated above, only the good graces of Councillors Bill CHATT and Guy SMITH have accorded Mr LEE the courtesy of a response, albeit without an answer, to his Public Question. The very act of responding to Mr LEE will probably earn them a Standards Complaint from the mental health contingent in the south of the Borough. But more of that next time . . .
Meanwhile, I conclude this report with a comment from a good friend of mine, a Councillor from the western extremes of North Yorkshire, who tells me that SBC is known over there as “Subterranean Borough Council” – it cannot sink any lower.
Mr LEE is entitled to arrive at the same conclusion.