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Council Leaders Attack on Residents

August 18, 2013

In the Full Council meeting on Wednesday 24th July, In response to a question by Bridlington Councillor Shelagh Finlay

“Does the Leader considered it to be appropriate for the Deputy Leader in that capacity to make disrespectful remarks in the press about East Riding of Yorkshire residents making a legitimate protest, calling them whingers and moaners?”

Leader Steven Parnaby not only backed his deputy, he launch his own sustained personal attack on the East Riding residents who are protesting over failure of the Council’s flagship regeneration project in Bridlington.

In a subsequent article in the Bridlington free press Cllr Parnaby seeks to play down what he has said as being a reasonable response to people he accuses of ‘talking down their area’.

ERYC do not record or broadcast their meetings and the official minute only says “Cllr Parnaby replied”.

Residents who could not attend the meeting have no way of knowing what is really said in council but on this occasion, thanks to someone present at the meeting, there is a transcript what the Leader of the Council actually said;-

“Thank you Chairman

Well I don’t consider ‘em, erm, disp- , erm, disrespectful remarks. There was [pause] I can’t remember who it was actually [pause] certainly was a former US president who said I don’t agree with what you do but I’ll defend your right to do it.  Er [pause] and I think that, sort of sums up what, erm, Cllr Owen would say, that ,erm, if people put themselves forwards to protest, don’t be surprised if people have a different view. Erm, and if you don’t want to see that then you shouldn’t be protesting in the first place.

Erm.  What he actually said in his, in his letter [pause] part of his letter [incoherent muttering] an extremely small majority of whingers as portrayed on your front page on the Bridling Free Press, as in the associated picture, erm [pause] this group have set themselves up as the self-styled Justice for Bridlington group”

Well just looking actually at the picture, [incoherent mumbling] 35,000 people in Bridlington, erm, I’m sure you can work out that 1% is 350. There was 30 on the picture that I counted, so it really is a massive protest group, erm. And as I looked at the picture as well I recognised quite a few people from outside of the Bridlington area, particularly from Hull and from Cottingham, so it clearly isn’t Justice for Brid, it was just as many people as they could actually persuade to get on the photograph.

And actually if you look at whingers and moaners, what it can mean is complaining and grumbling, erm, so I’ve no problem at all with, er, Cllr Owen, as I wasn’t here, in saying what he said and writing to the press in the way that he did, [incoherent muttering] I’d have done exactly the same thing.

What I would say though[pause] is here we are, on a very hot afternoon, [incoherent mumbling] the main opposition party in this Council, and it’s pretty pathetic, in’t it really,[pause] when you think of all what’s happened, nationally and locally, and we’ve just been talking about getting people into training and education and jobs, we’re looking at trying to save £73m on services over the next three years, erm, save £73m rather on budgets, we’re looking at protecting services, there was a report yesterday that came out [incoherent mumbling] which is chaired by Mackintosh, erm, on how, erm, rural areas are much worse off than urban areas, and cities and so on, erm, there’s all those sorts of things going on, and all they can come up with is one of Cllr Owen’s letters to the Brid Free Press.

Erm, I really think, y’know, is this what the public expects us to be doing this afternoon, and it that the best you can really come up with.  ‘Cos I remember when there used to be real people sat there, erm, you know, people like Laurie Cross and Terry Allison, who you could (incoherent muttering) some proper debates with, and how the hell you’re supposed to have proper debates, erm, about whingers and moaners I’m not exactly sure.

I mean, people, I’m sure they’re really pleased, because I came across this the other day; Angry People in Local Newspapers, sadly I came across this, it’s erm [incoherent mumbling] and the complaints include somebody who found bread in a tobacco pouch, [pause, then incoherent mumbling] to think what was in the loaf, actually, erm, there was a mayor complaining that, er, councillors turn up to meetings drunk [incoherent mumbling] on Tees, and a woman who’s world was falling apart because [incoherent muttering] more than ten at a time.  But in Bridlington they’ve made it as well.  Angry People in Local Newspapers [pause] and it say Protest Against Council Anger, Bridlington Free Press; [pause] people campaign about something. [Laughter and incoherent mumbling] they never sure what they’re complaining about, but they complain.

But back to the Labour Group [pause] really, y’know, [incoherent mumbling] would advise you, if your going to do something, try and do something useful, so we can have a proper debate, y’know, I mean [incoherent mumbling].  We’ve had only one excepted minute today, we’ve gone through 3 cabinet papers, things you can speak on, this that and the other. You rarely speak to any minutes, you rarely except any items, er, you nearly always accept written recommendations to Council. If we see, er, a motion down its usually about a national issue, [incoherent mumbling] control is a good example of that today. And, y’know, what I’m really [incoherent muttering] to give some thought to, so we can have, if you want a debate, let’s have one, but it about something sensible. And I accept it’s difficult [pause], erm, I’d find it difficult if I was in your shoes in such a well-run council, that you must find it really difficult to, to come up with things that, um, that we do, but, erm, going back to the, [pause] erm, whatever it’s called, Bridlington Justice or whatever they’re called.  Erm, [pause] really what’s, what’s the, what’s their complaint.

I looked at the former Cllr Pickering’s blog, erm, where he says there’s a serious, serious competence of democratic failures at County Hall. Where he continues, there’s subtle undermining of democracy. There a press release [incoherent mumbling] Justice for Bridlington. [Pause] erm, and it says, this was after the overview and scrutiny committee on the Area Action Plan, and it say it proves once (incoherent mutter) that scrutiny is going through the motions to give the impression of accountability. Sorry Cllr O’Neil, I know you were there present, so that what they’re thinking of you as well.  Erm, it’s interesting to note that the, some of the Bridlington members who were there, and some of the Bridlington members who were not there, prepared to listen to the real story, because, actually that’s what they don’t want, [pause] they just want to create mayhem, or protest, wherever they go.

The press release goes on, and that’s how I know who wrote it, [incoherent mutter] though it comes under Justice For Bridlington, as a former scrutiny committee chairman, I have first hand experience of how the system is stitched up, by Council officers and members [pause] so, there’s no evidence there, but clearly it’s stitched up, by all of us in this group.

Furthermore it says we have a Council leader who appoints those who scrutinise him and his Cabinet, openly sacking backbenchers who dare to do the job of holding him to account.  People have been sacked in the past, that’s usually because they can’t do the job, not because of the challenges. He also says until that until this council puts in proper democratic processes in place, there is, and can no, and can be, no effective scrutiny, there is no democracy at County Hall.

I actually think scrutiny works well, and I think particularly the review panels work well, and I think Cllr O’Neill as chairman of the Overview management committee, and I think Cllr Jeffries, who’s not [mutter] here today, as chairman of a review panel, [incoherent muttering] many other people who chair scrutiny, just so that you know, Justice for Brid thinks your all absolutely useless.

Erm, back to the author though, er, it’s amazing, how things change because when he was standing for election, erm, on his blog at that particular time, he tells people, how he, er, came to, how to aspire to be a senior council officer, and it says on there having been an officer myself, so I know how easy it is to pull the wool over a councillor’s eyes. So clearly that’s what he did when he was a council officer, erm, though how he did it he doesn’t say. He says he’d been a, now a committee chairman and now chairman of the local action team, and my questioning makes me the national, sorry the natural, champion of scrutiny. I serve on five scrutiny committees and was a member of the flood review panel committee in 2007. This year long investigation fed directly into national policy, so it was all right then. Erm, but now…

[Chairman Cllr Mole interrupts regarding the time limit. Cllr Pearson calls to moves for extension, Cllr Evison calls to move for extension.  Cabinet members stand up to approve the motion.]

Thank you Chairman, the traffic lights weren’t working anyway. [Laughter]

Erm, I could go on about, er, blogs and articles but, erm, but it is consistent, the consistency is that it’s just knocking East Riding Council. Erm, and incidentally, I mean the same person who’s, who’s writing all these things was, er, his election ticket, at the last election was on the regeneration and Area Action Plan for Bridlington. And I’m sure you all remember he was the only Conservative councillor that lost his seat.  So clearly [incoherent muttering] the people of Bridlington engaged with that as well.

We then come to sponsors, er, not my word, that’s what they’ve reported in the Brid Free Press. Thanks to the sponsors of the unelected self-appointed group who purport to represent taxpayers, well, I don’t know about you, but I’m a taxpayer and they don’t represent me. Erm to me it just seem that they’re an organisation, particularly locally, that has to have a highly paid individual to complain, to moan to whinge, er, about anything and everything, without ever finding out the facts, particularly if it involves East Riding Council.

When the Brid Free Press, I spoke to them said we’re calling for accountability.  A huge amount of money is wasted, there is no proper scrutiny. They’re never been to a scrutiny committee or bothered to come to the one about the area action plan, did he ever attend, did he ever receive information other than freedom of information requests about, er, a load of nonsense. They just join any demonstration, join any march, any protest group or anything, if there’s anything with concern about this council, they just join that to have a go.  [Mutter] guarantee there’ll be no comment on the Cabinet papers that have just gone out, on the £15m of saving we’ve achieved, and the other £14m on top of that there’ll be no congratulations because there never has been over the years, he just can’t bring himself to say, actually, as it happens, the East Riding does a good job, [mutter] all the time just to have a go.

So, erm, who are Justice for Bridlington, what’s there constitution, who are the people, why don’t they attend the overview and scrutiny committee. And, you know, if Justice for Bridlington is to be believed, I’m sure a lot of you, in your wards would want Justice for whatever particular ward that is.  Since we, er, er after the, er, refusal if you like, of the marina, since 2005, just going through the spending in Bridlington that’s happened:

Spa refurbishment twenty-one million, integrated transport plan six and a half million, erm, Spa gardens seven million, erm, and then it goes on, erm, capital schemes including Quay Road [incoherent mumble] junction improvement, Bessingby business space, Chapel Street, extension to Carnaby industrial estate, Sewerby Hall, that’s phase one that’s just been completed, and when I added the property acquisitions in Bridlington, erm, it been seven and a half million pounds spent on those so far, which will aid that regeneration and make Bridlington a great place to live work, er, and visit. Even [incoherent mumbling] now, will make it even better. So total public expenditure, just for, er, Bridlington Action Group or whatever they’re called, total public expenditure to 2005 to 13 is fifty-five million pounds.

Erm, there’s also been a lot of private investment in the town, Christ Key Church Centre [incoherent mutter] just turn up on the site, er, the promenade shopping centre, East Riding College which was seventeen million and Yorkshire Water are currently spending forty million pounds on Brid.

We as a council have just announced refurbishment and complete rebuild of Leisureworld twenty million pound, we’re looking at six and a half million pound, er, further traffic improvements in the town, a new Light-boat is being, erm, house is being proposed, another four million pound there, and we’re well on the way to announcing, er, a new hotel.

So, all through that stage of the area action plan, and everything else has gone, and the regeneration there’s been, there plenty of opportunity for groups to have their say, or whatever else there is.

But the knockers and the whingers and the moaners couldn’t wait, when they heard that Tesco had pulled out of, of the scheme. That wasn’t just pulling out of Bridlington, that was pulling out of Tesco saying we’re not building any more stores in the country. That’s something to do with recession, which I’m sure the Labour Group will know plenty about, and [incoherent mumbling].  But sorry to disappoint the people who oppose this and think it all relies on Tesco, the area action plan. The coach park has been advertised, [mutter] for expressions of interest, we’ve had well over thirty, erm, expressions of interest, erm, in the coach park, erm so far, which is actually a few more than the protest group pictured on the Bridlington Free Press.

Erm, the AAP, er, area’s plans always been flexible, the vast majority of people in Bridlington have been positive and I’ve really never understood why people want to talk their area down. You keep talking it down, erm, then people will start to believe you. Bridlington’s a great place, fantastic place, some people are always going to be negative, I just get used to ‘em.  Erm, we know [incoherent mumbling] being positive, and [incoherent mumbling] get on with it, but just to start, to finish [mutter] where I started,  if the Labour members can’t come up with anything better than this, y’know, then I suggest if you [incoherent mumbling] sit on overview and scrutiny [incoherent mumbling] you don’t like it, you don’t want to turn up you actually contribute nothing of, er, any purpose or anything at all to do with this council.”

[Approximately half of members present applaud.]

What warranted this bizarre response? Why would a council leader indulge in an 11-minute public rant and why would councillors applaud him for doing so?

The Background

The Council’s Area Action Plan for Bridlington regeneration was entirely dependent upon Tesco moving to an adjacent site. The council has spent public money over recent years in buying, then boarding-up, homes and businesses to create a land bank for the development.  However, they did not sign-up Tesco to their plan.  A few months ago, Tesco decided not to move, resulting in the council being unable to proceed with their planned development. The council have no Plan B.

Justice for Bridlington was formed following Tesco’s announcement. The group have not criticised individual officers or Councillors nor accused any individual of any wrongdoing.

The group’s purpose is to ensure that the obvious failings are properly investigated, and that those found responsible for any wrong-doing or poor decision-making are held to account. Such poor decisions destroy public confidence in the Council’s future regeneration proposals, so those responsible should not continue leading the regeneration.

So what have Justice for Brid done?                            

Organised a protest rally at the Town Hall

The Council’s response?

  • issued a false statement saying the timing conflicted with a wedding an the protest would ruin a couple’s happy day.
  • spread manure on the flowerbeds on the morning of the protest.

Sent emails all Councillors inviting them to sign a declaration to the Council’s existing democratic scrutiny processes to investigate the failed plans for Bridlington

  • Emails to members with council addresses were blocked and have not been passed on.
  •  J4B’s email address was blocked
  •  A second J4B email address was also blocked
  •  ERYC’s Legal Monitoring Officer wrote to all Councillors on 21st June asking them not to reply as “We are discussing an appropriate response.”
  • His eventual advice to councillors, which is contrary to the Localism Act and could have been issued immediately, was not issued until 31st July, nearly 6 weeks after putting them on hold and 4 weeks after the return date.

Wrote to the Monitoring Officer seeking clarification of why communications were blocked

  •  denied the facts and was dismissive of all concerns – correspondence continues.

And what have other Bridlington people done? 

An independent petition from 342 Residents about the state of parts of the town and the lack of support for businesses was presented to the Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee

The Council’s response?

  •  a letter from Cllr Owen in his official Capacity as deputy Leader of the Council, published in Bridlington Free Press. It was personally abusive called protester’s “wingers and moaners” and asked that they be ignored.
  • the Scrutiny Committee received a glowing report from officers, dismissed the petition and commended the regeneration

Is the disproportionate response from the Leader and Deputy Leader how ERYC now respond to residents who seek the help of their elected representatives to use the council’s own scrutiny proceedures?  

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