Saturday, 3 March 2012

Come on Atwood, sack Ransley.

The paragraphs below are taken from the summary document published by Standards for England following a number of complaints against councillor Brian Ransley.  This document is in the public domain.  However, the full report is not in the public domain.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, I am intrigued by this minute from the Standards Committee meeting held on 9th February 2012:

Councillor Weeden considered that the public summary was misleading when compared to the facts that had emerged in the full report. The Chairman clarified that the public summary had also been provided by SfE.

I could speculate on what councillor Weeden meant by 'misleading', but what we need is for the full report from Standards for England to be made public so that the people of Tunbridge Wells and the electorate in Capel in particular may have access to the complete picture.  It may be that a hint as to what provoked councillor Weeden to make his comment may be garnered from this minute of the same meeting.

In conclusion of the public session, the Chairman confirmed that Councillor Ransley had been found not to have breached the Code of Conduct in respect of each of the eight allegations that had been made. She said that, despite criticising CouncillorRansley’s actions in terms such as ‘inappropriate’ (4th complaint),‘discourteous and unfair to make remarks about named individuals when they were not present’ (5thcomplaint), ‘serious lack of judgement in repeating hearsay and rumour to fellow councillors’ (6th complaint) and in breaching Council protocols established under the Council’s Constitution, SfEbelieved that Councillor Ransley nonetheless acted in good faith in all the actions complained of, including those where he relied on information provided by others.

The following from the Standards for England summary report is of interest as it refers to a matter I posted on this blog in June 2011 (See blog post below).

'Conduct at planning committee in June 2011

The complainants alleged that at a June 2011 planning committee and in correspondence with members of the planning committee, Councillor Ransley made disrespectful comments about officers and attempted to put improper pressure on officers and members regarding a development control decision.

Councillor Ransley attended a June 2011 planning committee and spoke in his capacity as the portfolio holder for strategic planning. He disagreed with an officer recommendation to approve a planning application concerning the green belt. He told the committee members he considered they were duty bound to refuse the application. He added that it was their decision. The planning application was approved. The following day Councillor Ransley wrote to all planning committee members and criticised the officer advice and the decision made at committee. His comments at the committee meeting were reported in the press.

The council’s member protocol states that cabinet members generally should strictly avoid attempting to interfere (other than by exercising their constituency member role) or appearing to interfere with decisions which are excluded from the powers of cabinet, for example development control. This reflects the legal position that the council’s development control functions cannot be exercised by executive members.

The ethical standards officer considered that Councillor Ransley’s criticisms of the officer advice did not amount to a personal attack on officers and that his conduct was not disrespectful. He did not fail to comply with paragraph 3(1) of the code of conduct. She considered it could be perceived by an objective observer as Councillor Ransley as cabinet member attempting to impose his own interpretation of planning policy on officers and members carrying out the council’s development control function. This could expose the council to the risk of a legal challenge. The ethical standards officer considered that Councillor Ransley’s conduct was a breach of the council’s member protocol. However she noted that both at the committee meeting and in his subsequent correspondence Councillor Ransley recognised that it is for committee members themselves to reach their own decision when considering planning applications. She noted that the code of conduct was not intended to prevent councillors expressing appropriate and robust criticism of the performance of a council function. Taking all relevant circumstances into account the ethical standards officer considered that Councillor Ransley’s conduct was not so serious as to amount to a failure to comply with paragraph 5 of the code.'

In the light of the justice  meted out to the former Leader of the Council it surprises me that the current Leader, councillor Bob Atwood, has not removed councillor Ransley from the Cabinet.  Indeed, a councillor who shows serious lack of judgement (sic) should be considered for de-selection by the Conservative Party. 

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