Sunday 03rd March 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

“Potto Circus”

A Letter to the Editor from ADAM TAYLOR, an eagle-eyed Potto-watching Enquirer reader, pointing out a telling omission from Enquirer correspondent NIGEL WARD’s most recent report on the extraordinary conduct of Potto Parish Council.

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Dear Editor

I’ve been an avid reader of your well researched and really interesting fact-based articles about Potto council for some months now. Thank you for your diligent work. It has inspired some research of my own.
I was astonished to read in the most recent article, Potto Pandemonium, about the council’s seemingly limitless audacity, never ever admitting fault and always blaming any and everyone else for its catalogue of troubles.
How can a tiny group of unelected councillors be so obtuse and antagonistic? No wonder the Public Interest Report identified so many blatant deficiencies – far more than any other council in the country, at least over the past decade or so.
I almost missed the significance of that first external auditor’s ‘sticky note’ you published, confirming that ‘Sheena’ (Chief Officer at Yorkshire Local Councils Associations) ‘has raised  concerns about the level of engagement of the Council’. That’s quite some understatement. It’s more than clear to me now that the council is deliberately refusing to seek advice from the YLCA, so as to prop up and deny its own wayward behaviour.
I think you could’ve elaborated a bit further about the council’s longstanding differences of opinion with YLCA, the organisation it pays an annual subscription to for expert procedural and legal advice.
This excerpt from the November 2021 minutes typifies Potto council perfectly – it disagrees, as ever, with all expert input that may hinder its own wayward views.
It’s obvious to me the Chair, Councillor Andrew Wilde, thinks he knows much better than all the legal and governance experts at the YLCA and the external auditors.
Finally – and this is a clincher – the council has repeated, on the 5th of May ’23 in this FOIA response [https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/information_to_verify_if_the_17#incoming-2305411], the following persistent out-and-out denial of FACTS established by the external auditor and published in the Public Interest Report last July…
The external auditors detailed the following FACTS which I quote verbatim:
  • ‘a policy for handling correspondence and communications is not available’
  • ‘correspondence log is not available’
  • ‘Standing Orders not adopted’
  • ‘Financial Regulations not resolved’
  • ‘FOI policy inadequate’
  • ‘Complaints Procedure is non-compliant and inadequate’
  • ‘meeting minutes not adequately structured’
  • ‘dates of claimed training sessions with YLCA not available’

I could go on…

But Potto council still insists that “none of Potto Parish councils policies and procedures were found to be defective or inadequate in the 2022 PIR”. Black is white! That’s what it states in that 5th of May ’23 FOIA response!

On top of which, the Information Commissioner has published many Decision Notices [https://icosearch.ico.org.uk/s/redirect?collection=ico-meta&url=https%3A%2F%2Fico.org.uk%2Fmedia%2Faction-weve-taken%2Fdecision-notices%2F2022%2F4021461%2Fic-157306-s8z9.pdf&auth=2aLt6720K8YunAMpGz1jaA&profile=_default&rank=1&query=potto+parish+council] stating the council’s procedure for handling information is routinely unlawful.

North Yorkshire Police recognised the council’s policy for contacting residents was unlawful and provided the council with advice.

Judge McKenna struck out the council’s inept appeal because its procedure for handling these very matters is fundamentally defective.

So, in the face of abundant authoritative evidence in the PIR, reinforced by further feedback from the external auditors, the YLCA, the Police, the Information Commissioner and the Tribunal Judge, Potto council is still swearing blind that everything is in order and seems incapable of accepting that its policies and procedures are defective and wholely inadequate.

Give me strength!

I sometimes wonder if the Chair’s last employment was as a clown at some third rate circus.

Yours wearily,

Adam Taylor

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