It is a long report. It brings into the public domain a fascinating insight into what some of our elected politicians are doing and the damage that has been caused to the relationship of trust between senior officers and councillors.
What has to be understood is that the events chronicled in the report have to be read in the context of the decision of the Conservative group on the council to oust Roy Bullock as Leader of the Council and then deselect him as a candidate.
When councillor Bullock was deposed and replaced by councillor Atwood the following cartoon came to mind. It is entitled Dropping the Pilot:
It has to be remembered that councillor Atwood was the political leader of the council whilst the events of 2011 unfolded. For my part, I am disappointed to read these sections of the report:
11.1 In July 2011 Mr Benson, in consultation with his senior officer team, approached the leader, Councillor Atwood, to raise a number of concerns about Councillor Ransley’s conduct as a cabinet member. Mr Benson set out those concerns in writing and linked them to the member code of conduct. Councillor Atwood agreed to raise the issues with Councillor Ransley. Councillor Atwood advised Councillor Ransley to be more cautious. The deputy leader, Councillor Jukes, said at interview that the position was akin to Councillor Ransley getting a ‘first written warning’. Councillor Atwood and Councillor Jukes did not want to take any further action in July 2011. Mr Benson and other senior officers were still of the view that some formal action should be taken. Mr Cummins drafted a code of conduct complaint based on the concerns that had been put to Councillor Atwood.
11.2 In early August 2011, Mr Benson and Mr MacDonald received information that led them to believe that Councillor Ransley had been claiming that they had been attending secret meetings with the former leader Councillor Bullock. In the light of this Mr Benson asked Councillor Atwood if he would now co-sign a referral of a code of conduct complaint that Mr Benson and senior officers were going to make about Councillor Ransley to the Council’s standards committee. Councillor Atwood’s initial response was that, in the light of the most recent issue, he would do so. Mr Benson confirmed this to Mr Cummins. However on 18 August, while Mr Benson was on leave, Councillor Atwood wrote to Mr Benson to say he had changed his mind and would not sign a referral letter. He left it open for Mr Benson and other officers to do so if they wished.
Why did councillor Atwood change his mind?