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So the by-election has finally been called for the vacancy for Office of Councillor for the Springfields and Trent Vale ward, it’s only taken since 27 April. So now the ballot boxes are being broken out and just in the nick of timeâ€¦ frustrated residents in Springfields & Trent Vale are already starting to petition the council over local issues, having begun to feel the effects of no local representation for the last few months.
Despite having more councillors than they know what to do with, Labour have not fallen over themselves to ensure residents have felt looked after, which is perhaps why there are rumblings that this by-election may see upwards of 8 candidates all vying to fix the numerous potholes and clear the litter on the yellow brick road from Trent Vale to Stoke. Hardly a ringing endorsement of previous incumbentsâ€¦
A week ago I emailed council leader Ross Irving requesting an explanation on what precisely was happening over the absence of city council Interim Chief Executive Chris Harman:
Dear Councillor Irving
I write to request from you a full briefing “â€œ copied to all councillors, local media and posted on stoke.gov.uk “â€œ on the situation regarding Chris Harman and the post of Chief Executive. Ãƒâ€šÂ It has now been nearly three weeks since the new Chief Executive was appointed and as an elected councillor, I have yet to receive any information relating to Chris Harman and any requests he has made for payment from the City taxpayer.
I hope you’ll agree with me that it is not acceptable to keep councillors in the dark and this matter does nothing to engender trust between non-executive and executive councillors, or indeed between the City Council and the public.
Based on my own intuition and the information I’ve seen in the press, I feel that it would highly unacceptable to make any sort of payment to Chris Harman. Ãƒâ€šÂ The matter seems very straightforward to me “â€œ if he wishes to leave the employ of the City Council voluntarily, he deserves no payment. Ãƒâ€šÂ Of course, I may be entirely unfair or unreasonable in this belief, but until I and other councillors “â€œ and therefore the public “â€œ has a full understanding of the facts, the only reasonable conclusion that one can come to is to say “Ã‹Å“No’ to any payoff.
I am aware that other councillors are considering calling for a special meeting of the council to demand an explanation from you about this issue and I would happily support such a call. Ãƒâ€šÂ However, it is not a necessary course of action if you merely provide elected members and the public with information on what is happening. Ãƒâ€šÂ If you refuse, you are leader of nothing but a secretive cabal that is no better than what went on before.
Councillor Paul Shotton is also included in this email and, as Chair of the Human Resources Committee, maybe he could shed some light on the situation.
Gavin Webb, Councillor
Libertarian for Stoke and Trent Vale
Unfortunately, Councillor Irving hasn’t seen fit to reply.
A few days later, I and twenty-one other councillors signed a motion “â€œ moved by Peter Kent-Baguley “â€œ calling for an Extraordinary Council Meeting to enable all councillors the opportunity to debate the matter:
This Council deplores the lack of information from the Council Leader regarding the absence of the Interim Chief Executive following the appointment on 29th September 2009 of the new Chief Executive, Mr John van de Laarschot, and the secrecy surrounding the issue and further is totally opposed to a pay-off being awarded to the Interim Chief Executive, Mr Chris Harman.
Tomorrow, the Human Resources Committee will meet to discuss whether or not Harman should receive a payoff. It is speculated by the Sentinel that a compromise agreement may be met to pay Harman £74,000.
As a backbench councillor who has not been party to any of the discussions on this matter, including the Human Resources meeting on 2 October; and who has received no more information other than what I’ve read in the press, I stick by my original view that there should be no payoff for Harman.
If he is “Ã‹Å“compensated’ as per his contract, then there are very serious questions to be answered as to who was responsible for drawing up and agreeing that original contract.
The big question then will be, how many other contracts like Harman’s have been agreed upon by city council officials?
As previously reported by Pits ‘n’ Pots, Gavin Webb went before the Standards Committee today for a hearing about his alleged breach of the members code of conduct by the use of the F words, (F**k & Fascist) during a meeting in February 2008.
Gavin sat infront of the Standards Committe, made up of Councillour Joan Bell & Councillour Alan Rigby and chaired by Mr John Sherratt.Ãƒâ€šÂ Also in the meeting were Clare Clarke, the officer who investigated the alleged offence, Councillor Michael Coleman who brought the matter to the Standards Committee and Paul Hackneyfrom the council leagal department.
After over an hour of deliberation, the panel found Gavin guilty as charged.Ãƒâ€šÂ Gavin now has to write an individual letter of apology to each member of the committee.
Tony caught up with Gavin right after the hearing at Civic Centre and recorded the following interview. [audio:http://www.pitsnpots.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/gavin-w.mp3]
Michael Coleman was not available to be interviewed but Tony spoke to him on the phone and got his views on the hearing…………………
Thanks Sir Findo.
Mike Coleman (pictured left) spoke exclusively to pitsnpots after the Standards Board Hearing and he confirmed that he was disappointed that there had been a need to take this matter to the Standards Board in the first place.
Mike felt that every councillor had a duty to uphold the standards required by the “Councillors Code of Conduct” He said that Gavin Webbs actions and comments were offensive and he objected strongly to been insulted, sworn at and pointed at.
He also added that if Cllr Webb had offered to apologise after the incident had taken place, there would have been no need to involve the Standards Board at all. He hoped that Cllr Webb would include an assurance that there would not be a repeat of this type of conduct at any time in the future, in his letter of apology to the members of the Task & Finishing Group who were present at the meeting.
He said he held no grudges toward Cllr Webb and that as far as he was concerned the matter was no closed.
It was obvious to me that both sides showed tremendous respect for each other during the hearing and while we were all waiting for the decision and indeed after the hearing had finished. All concerned acted impeccably and with good nature and for me it was reassuring that our city councillors were able to put differences to one side and carry on working and interacting with each other.
I would like to thank Sir Findo for his assistance this afternoon and for his effort in trying to show my best side in his excellent photographs!
Sir Findo Gask has been sitting on an official council document regarding a comprehensive investigation into whether Councillor Gavin Webb brought the council into disrepute and used unacceptable behaviour during a Task & Finishing Group meeting.
What prompted this investigation?, I hear you ask. He used the old Anglo Saxon word F**K!
Before we go any further Gavin accepts that he used that word and he admits he got very angry when Chairman Michael Coleman brushed over a comprehensive document that Gavin had prepared for the meeting.
The task group meeting was to discuss conservation areas in the city, and was attended by six councillors and three officers. It appears that there was not a lot of support for Gavin’s proposal and he felt that his paper was not given the time to be scrutinised thoroughly.
The investigation found that there was conflicting evidence in the way the word was used.
Investigating officer Clare Clarke said in her report to the standards committee that Mr Webb had become angry after members refused to back a report he had prepared.
She said: “It was clear that councillor Webb had put a lot of work into his paper.
“However, there was no support for his proposals.”
Her findings revealed there was confusion about exactly what Mr Webb said, with some members claiming he called the group “a bunch of f****** fascists”, while others alleged that he told them to f*** off.
Now, it would be interesting to establish whether it was the BNP councillors present that claimed Gavin had said “f**king facists” and whether it was the other councillors who claimed he had told them to “f**k off!”
Gavin claims that he said neither, and he says that the f-word was used in a conversation with Councillor Ann James who according to Gavin was a bit defeatist when complaining about anti social behaviour in her ward.
He said: “The meeting had closed and I was walking away when I heard councillor Ann James talking about anti-social behaviour in her ward.
“Her tone was so defeatist and I was still angry from the meeting, so I told her that her views were a f****** cop-out.
“I do regret using that word, even though a lot of people use it every day, but as far as I’m concerned it was a matter between myself and councillor James.
The investigation concluded that Gavin had NOT brought the council into disrepute but he had contravened paragraph 3.1 of the code of conduct, which requires members to treat others with respect.
Gavin is a controversial councillor there is no doubt about that and he has had the media spotlight shining on him before. he was suspended from the Libdem party when it was revealed that he was under investigation by the Standards Board of England following the complaint by BNP councillor Michael Coleman.
The Libdem’s also took exception to comments he had placed on The Sentinel’s website calling for the licensing of brothels, the legalisation of drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine and the right to carry firearms for protection.
As Gavin is a Libertarian, he believes in low taxes and he is very angry (though not angry enough to swear at anyone!) that this investigation has cost the tax payer in excess of £4000. He feels that this is a total waste of money
There will be a PUBLIC hearing next Friday where witnesses will be heard, and a decision made either in support or againstÃƒâ€šÂ the investigation findings.
You can view the investigating officer, Clare Clarkes reportÃƒâ€šÂ HERE
Gavin has promised to talk to pitsnpots immediately after the hearing and we will bring you the audio of that interview exclusively on pitsnpots. We will also bring you reaction from Michael Coleman, if he will talk to us.
Gavin has also promised to blog an article for pitsnpots about this incident and we will bring you that (un-edited of course!) as soon as we receive it.
Gavin’s libertarian views have certainly sparked many debates, and his last article told us that while some libertarian views are seen as “way out there” some make complete sense.
What do you think of the findings of this investigation? Do you think that the cost of this investigation (£4000) is a waste of public money? Over to you……………………………………..
14.45PM UPDATE: Gavin has given his full and frank account about this incident and I really would like you to read it!
Bloody hell! You wait ages for a Libdem input and then two come along at the same time…… well that’s not strictly true it’s one Libdem and One Libertarian. Gavin Webb (pictured) has promised more blogs and I can’t thank him enough for taking the time to tell his his thoughts, ideas and beliefs. This is what I wanted when we set up this blog plenty of input and different voices. Then we can make our minds up who best represents our interests! Over to you Gavin…
“I haven’t blogged for a long time I know – work, work and more work – you know what I mean I’m sure.
Anyway, you may have read in The Sentinel that I have submitted a motion to the next City Council meeting this Thursday calling on the Council to support the invitation of the independent low tax, better government watchdog the Taxpayers’ Alliance to scrutinise the whole of the City’s finances.
Readers will know that I have something of a bee in my bonnet about taxation generally, that is, I find being “Ã‹Å“forced’ to pay under threat of having one’s property confiscated by State-sponsored bailiffs, fines, or indeed imprisonment disgusting and abhorrent. Just who the bloody hell do our political Masters think they are when they believe it is their right to ‘steal’ money from us to help fund the “Ã‹Å“common good’ (which includes of course giving some of our money to huge multinational corporations like banks who, because of their bad practice, are on the bring of collapse, and who, despite now having some of our money are reluctant to lend it to much smaller businesses as per the agreement of getting the money in the first place [bit of a rant!]).
Now, if one resigns oneself to this government theft, one hopes that at the very least when we’re struggling to pay our bills – let alone have something resembling a life – government will be fair and cut our taxes. One could also hope that government would be open and transparent with the whole of government fundraising and spending so that we had the opportunity, as informed citizens, to hold it to account.
We live after all in an age in which a good many of us use the internet. Government however seems to struggle to grasp the concept of publishing “Ã‹Å“everything’ to do with our money online for us all to see. Using the internet (and our money) for social engineering purposes is fine however.
The fact is that government is not just, fair or open and transparent when it comes to raising and spending our money. Nationally, our tax system is so complicated that individuals and businesses have to employ armies of accountants to ensure they don’t “Ã‹Å“break the law’ and face fines for not complying.
Locally, I’ve requested on four occasions since May 2007 – one of which was at the last-but-one full council meeting – for a complete breakdown of the City Council’s finances. Despite promises from the last two Resources Cabinet members, this information has not been forthcoming.
Hopefully, the City’s councillors will agree with the motion to invite the Taxpayers’ Alliance to, for free, carry out a bit of consultancy work for us (remember – the City Council spends thousands of Pounds a year on consultancy). Regardless of the outcome of this vote, I will continue with my calls for City taxpayers’ to be provided with “Ã‹Å“full’ information about how their money is raised and spent.”
Gavin’s ideas are a little out of the box and I think that’s really refreshing and I am really looking forward to reading his next article on Pits’n’pots. Over to you, what do you make of Gavins take on taxation?