Sunday, 18 July 2010

Standards Board for England - Huh! Wusses

When I first heard that the Standards Board for England was to be abolished by the ConDems I have to say I was a little perturbed. Who will be there to catch up with dodgy councillors who have been exonerated by their mates I wondered?

That question was sort of answered when SFE considered Cllr Hassan Ahmed's case where, despite being found guilty of comprehensively breaching the members code of conduct, he faced no further sanction because he couldn't possibly expected to know what he was doing. In fact SFE seemed almost apologetic for wasting his time. Ahmed wasted no time in releasing a blatantly false and misleading statement claiming to have been 'exonerated'. Somebody buy him a dictionary.

So, it seemed that SFE saw themselves in the role of chief apologists for dodgy types and their impending demise suddenly didn't seem to be much of a loss.

It seems that SFE's forgiving stance took NCC's Standards Committee by surprise too. At their last meeting they considered the SFE decision in Cllr Ahmed's case and, despite their discussions being behind closed doors seem to have been fairly open as to their wonderment at the findings, saying -

"...but felt that the reasoning which led to the decision that no further action should be taken could have been justified more fully. Not doing so could lead to the perception that a councillor may breach the Code with some impunity, reasoning that no further action may be taken..."

Never thought I'd say this with regard to the SC but nail, head, hit.

However, I was somewhat disturbed by the fact that the SFE appeared to have provided the SC with a confidential report on Ahmed's case, over and above the decision that had been made public. I have written before about the blatant disparity between the levels of confidentiality enjoyed by the great unwashed when faced with the quasi/criminal justice system compared with that of councillors caught with their trousers down. Whatever happened to the need for justice being SEEN to have been done, not just a sanitised version for the masses.

So I'd like to call on the Standards Committee to make this report public in the spirit of justice and openness. In order to chivvy them on a bit I've put in a Freedom of Information request on the matter and, for good measure, I thought I'd send one to SFE too.

As ever, I'll let you know how I get on.

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