Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Yet another piece of New Labour nonsense?

Vociferous local activist Mark Hellyer has been in the newspaper again complaining about the process for making complaints about the conduct of councillors; in particular independent councillor Julien Parrott.

Without going into the details of Mr Hellyers 'complaint' (I have read the story twice but don't fully understand what exactly Mr Parrott did except ignore Mr Hellier, making him even angrier than usual, which I'd have thought many people would applaud) the question that this story has raised once again is who are the 'Standards Board of England' and what are they for?

This from their website:

"The Standards Board for England provides an independent, national overview of how local authorities promote and improve the ethical behaviour of their members.

We assist local authorities in this work by providing support and guidance, as well as investigating cases which it is inappropriate for authorities to deal with themselves. We are a non-departmental public body, set up by an Act of Parliament."

So the whole function of this quango of appointed people (appointed by the Secretary of State, with no democratic oversight whatsoever) is to re-enforce a system whereby appointed officers on a council can sit in judgement of the councillors elected by local residents; to enforce ethical behaviour.

OK I can accept that there may be some need to ensure that local councillors don't, for instance, have a conflict of interest over a planning application but we already had the best system ever devised for monitoring this - it is called "an opposition".

Add to that another very active form of local scrutiny called 'the press' and the need to have an expensive, Government controlled network of enforcement of ethical behaviour seems both pointless and undemocratic.

If a councillor; or other elected representative such as a mayor really did behave in an unethical way then you would imagine that quite soon the political opposition would raise the issue in public and then, at some point, the voters would be able to judge whether this was what they want from their elected representatives and presumably they would chuck the offending councillor out; without any help from the 'Standards Board'.

Of course what the Standards Board is increasingly being used for is trivial complaints designed to cause political damage to the accused. Often (as in this case) the complaint is being made by someone who is not standing for election or elected and therefore is not themselves covered by any code of conduct whatsoever.

This is of course at the heart of the problem. Politics is by nature divisive and we have evolved a perfectly good system over hundreds of years for playing out these divisions in council chambers and Parliaments across the country guided by self-imposed Standing Orders; good manners, and open proceedings that the public and press can witness for themselves whenever they like. In a debating chamber both sides are signed up to the same rules of conduct and both are open to challenge and scrutiny - this is fair and proper.

In his efforts to claim foul Mr Hellyer has made the same mistake that the Kingskerswell Alliance did last year, he has exposed himself to criticism of Hypocricy. Mr Hellyer is entirely self-proclaimed; he has been elected by no-one and his potential conflicts of interest, political allegiences or other political activities are neither owned up to or able to be scrutinised.

Mr Parrott, unlike Mr Helllyer, has an electorate to answer to and it is they who rightly guide his actions, not some Government appointed quango costing taxpayers many hundreds of millions of pounds.

As it happens since both Mr Hellyer and Mr Parrott go to great lengths to deny any connection to any political party I feel able to judge the affair totally dispassionately.

Game set and match to Mr Parrott.


Anonymous said...

Whats really funny is the Hellyer goes on and on about politicians spouting the party line and not thinking for themselves and the when he is in effect told to f*** off by one who does think for himself he has a hissy fit about it!

Anonymous said...

Mr Hellyer is so up himself he clearly thinks it is 'unethical' to disagree with him on anything.

Anonymous said...

told to F--- off by the Tories own lackey the CONdependent councillor for Ellacombe : a major apologist for the awful Tory trio of Bye / Carroll / Lewis. 'Big up' for Mr Hellyer - saying what most of us (including many Tories) think of this Tory administration at the Town Hall. Let us not forget Marcus' support for Bye. Mind, gone a bit quiet in your public support of the dreadful mayor haven't you Marcus ?

Lets see one of your ubiquitous letters to the HE in support of him Marcus - or maybe you are trying to distance yourself from this egocentric buffoon ?

Marcus Wood said...

I suspect Mr Parrott is as Conservative as Mr Hellyer is Lib Dem i.e he has some sympathy but is not in total agreement and therefore prefers to remain independent.

You go on about how unpopular the Tory adminstration is but I think you are seriously muddling up the volume of noise with the numbers involved. There are some very loud protesters across Torbay resolutely opposed to anything Nick Bye does. These people seem to prefer to hide behind alias' or populate fictional places like Westphalia-on-sea rather than actually stand for election anywhere; and judging by the turnout on the anti mayoral website it's not hard to see why - they are in a tiny minority.

I fully support the Mayor and I am convinced that he enjoys the substantial support of the vast majority, unlike Mr Hellyer I have some evidence to back up my opinion. Not only was Mr Bye backed in a resounding election just last year which filled the council with Conservative colleagues (who are now getting on with the job of doing that they said they would do) but I have just completed a bay wide survey where we have received just under 3,000 detailed replies to a whole range of questions about local politics.

There is a lot of dissatisfaction with Torbay, lots of complaints against drunks, seagull mess, litter, crime and the state of the roads and facilities but only two replies have laid this at the door of our mayor; in general while the rest want him to do more they accept that he is trying to improve the place and that these problems result from years of decline and that they won't be fixed overnight.

At least, unlike your Mr Hellyer both Mr Bye and Mr Parrott had the balls to stand up and be counted, they had the guts not to just sit around complaining on an anonymous website but to try and do something about the state of the place.

The electorate are not as dumb as some of the anti-mayoral campaigners seem to imagine.

Anonymous said...

So when will your fulsome letter of support for Bye and co be on it's way to the HE. The wider readership of that journal needs to know your views rather than the few dozen who read your musings on here - most of whom appear to be Tories.

Anonymous said...

I think 'Anon at 3.14pm' has it about right: anyone else received one of Hellyer's around-10,000-word-long-tending-towards-the-unpleasant-emails?!!

This would be funny if he didn't waste so much public time and money.

On the issue of independence, I believe Parrott when he claims to be so: he says he's never been a member of any party (although I'm told he was approached by two parties prior to the last local elections). His support for the mayoral model is also consistent. On the other hand, we all know exactly where Hellyer's coming from.

MHFC (for God's sake, can there BE such a thing?!! A libdem in any case, as that particular sobriquet for Parrott has been used in the past by their about-to-be-usurped leader, Darling) needs to wise up: this place has been left to rack and ruin by the awful libdems. The Tories won't be able to progress without annoying a few people. Good thing, too.

As you know, you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. Such a laugh that, at the moment, most of those eggs are on Hellyer's face.

Marcus Wood said...

I'd have to be be pretty desperate before I'd take advice from the Mark Hellyer Fan Club about what to write to the Herald about!

As it happens we are distributing my latest newspaper right now to 40,000 homes across Torbay with a front page story all about my support for the Mayor.

I think what people have wanted for a long time is a decisive and determined council administration and at last that is what we have.

For years the Left kept convincing themselves that Thatcher was hated and unpopular but election after election she enjoyed massive support.

Anonymous said...

Is it fair that someone like Mr Mark Hellyer can complain about a councillor and expect a full enquiry to be conducted (at taxpayers expense) when he is not subject to the same rules?

Anonymous said...

Bev: frankly, NO.

Anonymous said...

Mr Parrott is an apologist / supporter of the Tory regime at the Town Hall. That he doesn't carry a party card is irrelevant - he's in the mayor's back pocket and, as far as I can tell, as head of Overview and Scrutiny has never posed any meaningful challenge to any of Bye's proposals. Voted in by the Tories to head of O+S and supports them all the way. A puppet for sure.

If you live in a make-believe world of 'the mayor is popular' then your judgment is seriously flawed once more.

Anonymous said...

Most 'Independents' turn out to be Tories. The evidence to the contrary with Parrott is hard to find - card carrying party member or not.

Good at photo-ops and self-opinionated but does nowt for Ellacombe. Ditto the mayor but his remit is baywide. Get rid of both of them !

His oppo, Cindy Stocks, is an excellent ward councillor - and I'm no Lib Dem. Repeat I'm not a Lib Dem.

This blog justifies itself by writing off all critics as Lib Dems. There's an increasing number of Tories being put off by Bye - beware Marcus.

Anonymous said...

Do you know, I wouldn't stand for public office in Torbay for all the tea in China. As an Ellacombe resident, I find Julien Parrott to be a decent, honourable person who wants only to try and make Ellacombe and the Bay a better place. No doubt, many councillors - Tory, Liberal Democrat, whatever - are the same, although I do concede that there have been some right rum coves as councillors in Torbay over the past few years.

Mr Parrott has actually done quite a lot for Ellacombe from where I'm sitting. And to say he has never, as Overview & Scrutiny, challenged the Tories, shows just how little attention Ellacombe Voter has been paying! And as for the Tories turning on their own, well, I rather suspect more than a couple of them wish they'd had the backbone to stand as independents!

The unbelievable spite and venom directed at people in public office for no other reason than they dare to stick their heads above the parapet makes me ashamed to be British these days.

You may say that if you can't stand the heat, you should get out of the kitchen. I say you're all a bunch of sad gits, and Torbay is the worse for it.

Marcus Wood said...

MHFC says "If you live in a make-believe world of 'the mayor is popular' then your judgment is seriously flawed"

It's not a question of my judgement, its a point of fact. Your Mr Hellyer is self appointed and has never put his opinions to the test of a real vote by real residents.

It's easy to imagine that because a few people in the pub or on a blog agree with you that you are in the majority.

The mayor *did* stand for office and *was* elected by the majority and then after eighteen months in office residents voted again - overwhelmingly to give him overall control of the town hall.

Furthermore as part of my own campaign we are collecting voting intentions on a daily basis, not vague offers of support from a self selecting survey but door to door cold calling and postal surveying of tens of thousands of Torbay residents and I assure you that in contrast to what you may wish for, Mr Bye enjoys the support of an even bigger majority now than in either May 2007 when the council got elected or October 2005 when he was originally voted in.

Of course its possible that might change by 2011 but as someone who has seen the polling I am certain that if there was an election tomorrow he would win a second term with an increased majority - in any case who would oppose him?

So far none of the other parties have found anyone prepared to take him on have they?

Anonymous said...

Now that is some very naughty and pointless kite-flying Mr Wood.

You know perfectly well that some Lib Dems are trying to keep the job of 'Lib Dem prospective mayoral candidate' open until after the result of the next General Election.

And you know why.

Anonymous said...

Pangloss v Brian LocalBloke ? My money would be on the latter, but you can't expect him to be mayor and MP !!!

PS : JPFC can you enlighten me as to Mr. Parrott's 'achievements' ? And, when has he stood up to Bye / Lewis / Carroll and challenged any major decision taken?

Anonymous said...

Ellacombe voter is being ironic there, I think.

£50 grand as mayor might not be quite as much wedge as our Brian is used to but any port in a storm -and he still has his big MP's pension to come as well.

"Mr Bean" is clearly going to hand Torbay to Mr Wood on a plate so a Panglosss Vs Localbloke for mayor contest in 2011 looks a banker to me.

Anonymous said...

Stocks? Done anything? Come on - name just three things.

You're having a laugh. Them Lib Dems, they be invisible.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps its because they are so utterly invisible that the void is being filled by poor Mr Hellyer, who judging by the hurt tone on his own blog seems to have realised at last that he has been used as a bit of a stalking horse by Localbloke in leu of having any supporters of his own prepared to do anything.

The fact is the opposition aren't opposing - they haven't done a damn thing since last May.