West Lindsey District Council have issued the BGPC Chairman, Cllr Robert Webb with two 28 day Censure Notices without providing any explanation or prior warning. Please find his response.
Chairman’s Response to the Censure Notice.
I have been made aware, via a third party, that West Lindsey District Council has issued two 28 day Censure Notices against me, however I have not received any official notification.
One complainant has been identified as a District and County Councillor in the Censure Notice. In February 2020, the complainant made 13 complaints against me. The complaints dated back to 2018, it was his suggestion that the range of complaints indicated that I was bullying and harassing him, which was a breach of the Code of Conduct expected of a Councillor.
I have felt it necessary to detail these matters since they were made public by WLDC, as questions have been raised by Parishioners and Councillors. Personally, I consider that the amount of time and public money that has been spent investigating these matters has been disproportionate with the alleged breached of the Code. Mediation was not considered, but upon completion of the investigation it was felt that the matter would be not in the public interest financially to allow me to put my case in front of the Standards Committee.
I fully cooperated with the independent investigating officer, however WLDC did not accept his recommendations. This action caused me to become extremely concerned in the application of the Code of Conduct and WLDC interpretation of the Standards Policy. I consider their actions to be unfair, biased, lacking sound and reasoned judgement. As the majority of the accusations were against the Chair of BGPC and not directly against me, I considered that to in order to maintain the integrity of BGPC I needed to no longer participate in such a corrupted process.
The complaints were:
- Allegations made about the complaint in the Limewood magazine.
- Threats made towards him at a highways meeting on 6th December 2019.
- Retuning litter picking equipment.
- That on 2nd May 2019, I said to him that “He did not live in the village or do anything for the village”.
- Harassment by asking him monthly question in writing raised by BGPC.
- Bullying other Councillors.
- Publicly humiliating him on Bardney Facebook.
- Producing inaccurate paperwork
- Practices carried out were in contravention to BGPC constitution.
- Signed off minutes that did not include the resignation of two councillors.
- Allowed BGPC to parlous state where the agendas and Minutes did not reflect each other.
- False claims regarding the Lincsgran Planning application.
- Carried out an investigation in to the District Councillors Initiative fund.
I would like to state two things at this point, all of the allegations are not a matter of bullying against the complainant. Also, that West Lindsay Code of Conduct Policy states that no investigation will take place were the allegations alleged occurred more than 6 months previous. All but allegations 1 and 2 are alleged to have occurred more than 6 months previously.
In response to the allegations:
Allegations made about Complainant in the Limewood magazine.
I stated in my Editorial piece, ‘perhaps road safety within our villages is only important to residents.' I did not name the complainant in this sentence and the Investigating Officer stated that any liable claim would not stand up in court. I also stated to the Independent investigating officer that the complainant has never offered to assist BGPC with our Community Speed watch despite taking advantage our training sessions, but is a very active member at Cherry Willingham. The complainant also attempted to get the Community Speed Watch scheme at Bardney stopped, by raising complaints to Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership.
Threats made towards him at a highways meeting on 6th December 2019.
On the morning of Friday 6 December, my council met with the resident’s association and the Highways Regional Manager. The complainant suddenly arrived having discovered about the meeting on social media the previous evening. I challenged him as to why he had chosen to attend that meeting when he had ignored all our correspondence, to which he stated that he was there in another capacity. I then asked him as to whether he had added his support to the BGPC highways proposals agreed at a previous meeting, to which he stated that he had not submitted any as he did not agree with one. When questioned as to which one and why, his argument was that the butcher did not approve and that it was not wise to implement a number of highways improvements. I then continued to ask as to why one person’s opinion was preventing all the critical highways improvements from being implemented. I confess that I was so outraged by this admission that I repeatedly enquired as to what was more important; pork pies or people’s safety. There were eight members of the public, a parish councillor and the Clerk to the Council in attendance who witnessed this admission. A member of the public also spoke up stating that the butcher did not reside in the village and as such his opinions should not be considered. The argument that it was not wise to implement a number of highways improvements appears illogical and no rational for this was given by the complainant who left shortly afterwards
I also questioned the complainant regarding his post on social media the previous night which I had been made aware of. The post was encouraging people to try many of the beers at one of our local pubs as he had done the night before. However, his car was seen by many parked outside of the local pub and I felt it was highly inappropriate to be going against the annual Lincolnshire Road Safety Christmas Drink Drive campaign especially considering he has a previous conviction for such an offence.
The Independent Investigator found no evidence to support the allegation of threats being made.
Retuning litter picking equipment.
On 16th April 2019 BGPC received a phone call from Waste Manager at WLDC asking for the litter picking equipment to be returned following the complainant’s attendance at a village litter pick which took place on 11th April. The complainant tried to use the event for his own political purposes despite it being organised by a member of the public and BGPC. He asked for photographs to be taken without the presence of children and then preceded to discuss local ‘Dogging sites’ with attendees.
I handed the equipment back to the complainant at the meeting in May as no-one from WLDC had arrived to collect them. He was also posting on social media that his garage was full of bags of collected litter and that WLDC would be collecting the bags and equipment from his home.
BGPC have subsequently purchased litter picking equipment in order to hold litter picking events without the fear of it becoming a political event.
I did give him the equipment and ensured that BGPC staff assisted him in opening doors when he left.
That on 2nd May 2019, I said to the complainant “He did not live in the village or do anything for the village.”
Since 2016 BGPC had been concerned as to why none of the Planning Applications in our area had been considered by the WLDC Planning Committee. especially in relation to the Ryvita Site and expansion of Home From Home Care. BGPC has repeatedly asked for a copy of the decision policy. The complainant had repeatedly been vague about the document. Over the last five years BGPC have intensively researched the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the WLDC planning procedures in order to ensure that any development in our area is beneficial to residents.
In April 2019 BGPC submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to WLDC to ask about the Planning Committee decision making policy. BGPC received a response on 02.05.2019 and discovered that the decision was at the discretion of the Chair of the Planning Committee. The Chair of the Planning Committee is the complainant.
I can categorically state that although I did question the complainant about the result of the FOI, I was not aggressive. I was outside the voting hall and there were lots of people in the vicinity all day. I gave independent witnesses but they were not questioned.
None of the independent witness were interviewed.
Harassment by asking him monthly questions in writing, raised by BGPC
BGPC write to the complainant in his capacity as District and County Councillor. The letters relate to issues where he resides on the relevant committee. It is entirely normal for Parish Council’s to contact a District and County Councillors for information and support. I note that Cherry Willingham Parish Council, who in 2019, asked all of their District Councillors to fund an overhead projector and flower bulbs.
The reason that BGPC formally write to the complainant is because he does not respond to emails, and he does not attend any of our meetings. Perhaps it was not harassment but embarrassment that he did not know the answers nor was he prepared to do the work on behalf of those he is supposed to represent.
The IO found no breach of the Code
Bullying other Councillors.
The IO Found no evidence nor was any provided by the complainant
Publicly humiliating the complainant on Bardney Facebook.
I do not use social media in any capacity
I requested evidence, however none was provided.
WLDC have asked BGPC to desist using social media to communicate with local residents. BGPC have complied however it must be stated that this effectively removing the voice of the Parish Council and WLDC do not have the remit to make this request.
The IO Found no evidence that any breach had taken place by myself
Producing inaccurate paperwork
I regularly dictate correspondence to the Clerk to issue on my behalf. A clerical error occurred.
The IO found no breach of the Code of Conduct had taken place
Practices carried out were in contravention to BGPC constitution regarding quotes for the removal of a hedge
Costs are shown in the minutes from 5th September 2019. The work was done in house with additional services purchased.
*BGPC do not have a constitution, but do have Standing Orders in compliance with the Local Government Act 1972.
*This is not a Code of Conduct matter but is a matter for the Internal and External Audit. BGPC have passed this audit at the highest level.
BGPC have passed internal audit at the highest level for the last five years.
The IO found no breach of the Code of Conduct
Signed off minutes that did not include the resignation of two councillors
This was recorded and Minute 79-2019/20 refers.
The IO Found no Breach of the Code of Conduct
Allowed BGPC to fall into a 'parlous state' where the Agendas and Minutes did not reflect each other.
No evidence has been provided to support these allegations. However, BGPC have a CiLCA qualified clerk and currently have a submission for the Local Government Award Scheme. The BGPC website shows that the council are open and transparent and contains more information than other local Parish Councils.
The IO found no evidence to support this allegation and none was provided by the complainant
False claims regarding the Lincsgran Planning application.
The legal challenge was issued before the application was withdrawn. The principal reason for the withdrawn application was also referenced in the legal challenge. We gave an assurance to local residents that we would pursue this matter with a legal challenge if necessary and we honoured our commitment to the residents.
The IO Found no evidence of any breach regarding this allegation
Carried out an investigation in to the Councillor Initiative fund.
The FOI request has been made after several parishioners contacted BGPC over lack of funding availability. BGPC issued the FOI on behalf of the residents as the complainant does have a history of berating residents who raise questions about his actions.
Several residents have asked me to look into how the complainant made a £1000 donation to a 2020 Calendar. The charity involved, whilst very noble, does not operate within West Lindsey and as such any donation from the Councillor Initiative Fund would be outside the remit of the funding pot. Additionally, there is no evidence to indicate that such a donation was submitted through the appropriate channels.
Several residents had come forward to say their grant applications had not been successful and wanted to know who had received funding. We were also aware that in the past the complainant has given awards to Cherry Willingham PC from this fund when it should be for them to apply to their local ward member according to WLDC policy document.
No evidence of any breach of the Code was found by the IO against myself.
A second Complaint against me was made by a Parishioner
The other Censure Notice relates to an incident where I found a member of the public fly tipping on our Community Land. The individual had driven across the Playing field and was parked next to the bonfire pile on the Community Land/Allotments. I went to challenge the gentleman as previous fly tipping incidents in the same area, had ultimately cost BGPC over £2000 in remedial work.
The gentleman was unapologetic and became verbally abusive. I did respond in a similar manner simply because I was angered as BGPC (and tax payers) would ultimately have to pick up the cost of removing the fly tipping. At one stage the gentleman did weald a large branch towards me.
BGPC have now placed a barrier between the Playing Field and the Community Land to prevent this issue occurring again. Unfortunately, this means that this entrance is now no longer available for events being held on the Playing Field. The irony is that the gentleman has subsequently complained to BGPC that the barriers are unsightly.
West Lindsey District Council have the power to issue fines for fly tipping on public land. BGPC have asked WLDC to issue a fine for this incident, however, unfortunately, they have refused to do this without providing an explanation for this decision. BGPC are extremely disappointed that WLDC have chosen not to take action, especially as they promote on social media that those caught fly tipping will be punished.
The Independent Investigating Officer found that No further action against me should be considered regarding this complaint due to the level of mitigating factors.