OPEN LETTER to the Mayor of Whitby
An Open Letter to the Mayor of Whitby, pointing out some ‘procedural improprieties’ which, if promptly rectified, may spare the public purse the cost of further Audit Investigation Fees.
Councillor Bob DALRYMPLE – Whitby Town Mayor
IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST
I write to thank you sincerely for your attendance at what the Scarborough News has referred to as “a Whitby Town Assembly”:
Though I can speak (of course) only for myself, I have no doubt that members of the public would wish to join me in this expression of gratitude. To represent, one must first engage.
Whilst deferring to your explanation as to why the Public Meeting on Monday 8th January 2024 could not be ‘officially’ designated ‘a Town Meeting/Assembly’, I stand by my suggestion that when first the Clerk/RFO drew your attention to (arguable) departures from the requirements of s.15 of Sched. 12, Part II of the Local Government Act 1972 (in the way in which the Notice of Meeting was published/issued), there was nothing to prevent you, in your capacity as Chair/Mayor, from convening the Meeting/Assembly on your own prerogative, in such a way as to comply with the requirements of the Act – and thereby dignifying the Assembly with your official ‘imprimatur’. In my view, that would have gone some way towards rehabilitating your public reputation.
And it would have had the effect of allowing the Meeting/Assembly to receive ‘official’ sanction and enter the public record. Since you were present and identified yourself as ‘Mayor’, you would have been legally bound to preside.
This would have signalled a genuine willingness to engage with the people whom the Council is intended to represent – which would surely have been preferable to ducking and diving in the middle of the ballroom, ever on the defensive.
No matter – next time, perhaps.
But since the exact letter of the law has been invoked by the Clerk/RFO to suit one specificoutcome – namely, that the Meeting was denied ‘official’ recognition – I am sure you will take no exception to me citing a similar Item of legislation which gives rise to a very grave concern, in the hope that it is not too late to remedy a rather serious error.
After all, the Council can hardly pick and choose between those Items of legislation that support its chosen conduct and those that do not.
I draw your attention to Sched.12, Part II, s.10(2)(a)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972 (URL-link and screenshot below):
The reference which causes real concern here hinges around the matter of the (arguably) incorrect publication/issuance of the Notice for the Town Meeting/Assembly; namely “notice of time and place of the intended meeting”.
I refer, of course, to the publication/issuance of the Agenda for the meeting of Full Council on 9th January 2024 – the all-important and hotly-debated Budget Meeting:
As you will see, this Agenda is erroneously dated Tuesday 9th November 2024 (eleven months off into the future):
Clearly, this plain error renders the Agenda unlawful – ultra vires – since it stands in clear breach of the legislation cited above.
To be perfectly candid, I downloaded the Agenda Pack again on Thursday 11th January 2024, half expecting to find that this ultra vires Agenda would have been “doctored” – revised (or repaired) after publication – as were the Approved/Ratified Minutes of the meeting of Full Council held on Tuesday 7th November 2023, which I reported to you (and others) on 10th November 2023 (I am still awaiting appropriate action) and, in due course, featured in my article “WTC: Docs Doctored”, published on 1st January 2024.
The legal consequence of this latest unfortunate breach of the Act would normally be that the Budget Meeting itself (and all Resolutions passed at the Meeting) was ultra vires – null and void. The error over the date and time of the meeting means that it was not ‘called’ in accordance with the requirements of s.10(2)(a)(b) of the Act and therefore does not qualify as a lawfully convened meeting – in the same way that the Public Meeting of January 8th 2024 was ‘ruled’ ultra vires.
One might reasonably contend that, in the case of arguably the most important Meeting of the Council year (second, perhaps, only to the AGAR/AGS meeting in May), one could interpret this rather slipshod error as a mere ‘typo’ – the consequence of the Clerk/RFO having suffered a ‘bad day at the office’ and hurriedly copy/pasted without recifying the date and time.
To err is human, as the saying goes.
However, that contention could stand up IF – and only IF – it sought to excuse a single or extremely rare example of careless copy/pasting.
In fact, turning to pages 57 to 60 of the Agenda Pack for the Budget Meeting on 9th January 2024 (archived here), we find, amongst the lists of membership of the WTC Committees, the following:
I expect that you are aware that Councillor Peter CROFT resigned from Whitby Town Council in September 2023 – four months ago – though this would appear to have escaped the notice of the Clerk/RFO – and, indeed, the Clerk/RFO’s twofold inclusion of an ex-Councillor on the current Committees memberships lists would appear to have escaped your attention, too – and that of all those Councillors who attended Tuesday’s meeting. Apparently, the entire Council was having ‘a bad day at the office’.
I struggle to dismiss these oversights as trivial examples of ‘human error’, given the following catalogue (or comedy) of errors throughout the past year:
But first, please consider the HUAMN[sic] RESOURCES COMMITTEE meeting on 25th July 2023, (archived URL-link and screenshot below):
In this case, not a matter of careless copy/pasting. Just plain carelessness. That said, I make enough typos myself. Then again, my work id voluntary – I am not on £84,214 per annum plus on-costs (full local government pay scales here).
The Whitby Town Council Meetings Calendar for July 2023 (archived URL-link and screenshot below) omits any mention of a Human Resources Committee meeting on Tuesday 25th July 2023:
Searching the Council website for further record of this ‘invisible’ HR meeting of 25th July 2023, we find the following entry (archived URL-link and screenshot below):
The entry labelled ‘Draft Minutes – Human Resouces Committee 2023’, dated Tues. 25 Jul 2023 (bottom right), is returned here (archived URL-link and screenshot):
The business conducted by the Committee remains ‘invisible’ to Councillors and members of the public alike.
Moving on: a more diligent search reveals a formidable list of invalid – ultra vires – postings on the WTC website:
Planning Committee: – 14/03/2023, but marked as 14/02/2023:
Finance Policy & General Purposes Committee: – 07/02/2023, but marked as 07/02/2022:
Planning Committee: – 15/11/2022 – listed in the Meetings Calendar, but no Agenda Pack linked:
THIS MEETING TOOK PLACE despite the absence of the Agenda; Minutes are on website:
Finance Policy & General Purposes Committee: 04/10/2022 – but marked as 04/09/2022:
Planning Committee: – 30/08/2022 – listed in the Meetings Calendar, but no Agenda Pack linked:
WAS IT CANCELLED? We cannot know – there are no Minutes.
Planning & Development Committee: – 14/06/2022 – listed in the Meetings Calendar, but no Agenda Pack linked:
WAS IT CANCELLED? We cannot know – there are no Minutes.
Town Development & Improvement Committee: – 25/04/2022 – but labelled as 25/04/2021:
This is sloppiness on an unacceptable scale.
EXPLANATORY NOTE: I have taken to archiving all WTC URL-links since it became apparent (as reported to you and on the Enquirer: http://nyenquirer.uk/wtc-docs-doctored/) on 10th November 2023 – that there exists compelling evidence that the Clerk/RFO unlawfully amended Approved/Ratified Minutes two days after publication. Thus, the above URL-links are safely secured and beyond post facto tampering.
It really is no wonder that people are asking what kind of an event Whitby Town Council could run in a brewery.
To offer a motoring analogy, if one were to purchase a clapped-out LADA for £150, one could hardly complain about a string of MOT-failing faults.
Conversely, for the princely sum of £84,214, one expects one’s brand-new BMW to be a paragon of automotive excellence.
As with cars, so with Clerks. For that kind of money, one has a right to expect nothing short of perfection.
You may have noticed that I left Tuesday’s meeting before its conclusion (due to ill-health). However, Councillors have since reported to me that although Proposers and Seconders were properly secured for each individual element of possible reduction in the 2024/25 Budget – and votes duly taken – there was apparently no Proposer or Seconder – or vote – to Resolve the Adoption/Ratification of the whole revised Budget in its entirety. Please confirm whether or not such is the case – or provide a URL-link to the video recording of the meeting (which will settle the matter).
However, this catalogue of ‘weaknesses’ (as they are called in Auditor-speak) may not really matter too much, IF – but only IF . . .
I offer you the following suggestion. In order to pre-empt the possibility of a number of ‘eligible’ Objections to the 2023/24 AGS/AGAR (if the AGS were not to be completed accurately or with evidenced information), it would perhaps be prudent for you to convene an Extraordinary Meeting of Full Council at the earliest possible opportunity in order to re-visit the Adoption/Ratification of the revised 2024/25 Budget in a lawful manner.
Finally, it comes to my attention that one of your members has circulated a ’round robin’ email to selected Councillors containing the following misguided drivel:
“Of course we are all aware that the current financial difficulties are caused primarily by what could be described as the vexatious behaviour of a few individuals and possibly members.”
For the avoidance of any doubt, the Council’s current financial difficulties are not caused by “the vexatious behaviour of a few individuals“, but rather are a direct and avoidable consequence of rampant mismanagement or maladministration, as demonstrated above. A “few individuals” are working very hard to set this Council back on the rails – and being much maligned for their efforts.
Your misguided fellow member goes on to state:
“The meeting [5th December 2023 Finance Policy & General Purposes Committee] tasked Mr Michael King with the job of assimilating[sic] all the responses [from Councillors] and I am happy for him to do so as I have long been impressed by his fairness, attention to detail and equity in all his work”.
Well. You know what they say:
Not all of us are fooled.
Whose side are you on, Mr Mayor? The fooler or the fooled?
The wise man considers the evidence.
All the best to you, Bob. Come and have a coffee.