Daphne-gate: The Return

A final bit of Mile End housekeeping to clean up ahead of the all out elections taking place in the borough in seven days time.

Yep – it’s a return to bloody Daphne-gate.

Oh Lordy.

You may remember the background:

Conservative Cllr Ben Locker found himself on a trumped up charge in front of the Governance Committee Meeting last October.

His accuser was his rival LibDem candidate in Mile End, Cllr Dominic Graham.

Fancy that, etc.

The details are now well known. Cllr Locker called the North East Essex Parking Partnership “target driven bastards” on his personal Twitter account for giving his vintage car Daphne a parking ticket after it threw a wobbler.

Cllr Locker publicly apologised, but this wasn’t good enough for Cllr Graham.

The Kangaroo Court was set up, with fellow LibDem Cllr Jo Hayes also using her legal mastermind to try and finger the Tory.

It was an astonishing spectacle, with the Governance Committee seemingly trying to give itself new powers in which to pursue a political purpose.

The outcome was that Cllr Locker was found not to have broken the Code of Conduct for Cllr’s, but was advised to undergo some training.

It was an unedifying experience to observe. A whole evening was taken up by a CBC Committee for attempted political gain.

We wondered at what financial cost this was to CBC – and ultimately to local Council Tax payers.

And so we slapped in an FoI shortly after the Kangaroo Court had come to a conclusion:

“Please can you tell me how much Officer time has been spent on preparing the case against Cllr Ben Locker that was heard at the Governance Committee on 13 October.

I would also like to know the staff costings for this time, and what the overall financial cost has been to resource this specific agenda item.”

CBC took one look at our request, and came back with:

“This information is not held.”

WHAT?

And so the Council seriously doesn’t know what senior staff are doing with their time at the Town Hall?

And so we asked for an Internal Review.

“Just speak with the Officers involved in preparing the report for the Governance Committee. Ask them how much of their time has been spent on this. Then calculate the financial cost using their salary details to find out a final figure.

Please don’t forget to include ALL Officers at CBC as part of your response. I understand that members of the Senior Management Team were involved in preparing the ‘case’ that was rejected. These financial figures need to be included in your FoI response.”

And whaddyaknow – the original decision was upheld:

“I have reviewed Mr Fawcett’s email dated 26 October 2015 and discussed the issues directly with the relevant officers and I’m satisfied that they do not hold the requested information. The Freedom of Information Act does not require the Council to create information in order to be able to respond to a request.”

We were getting pretty pissed off at this point. The issue was not just one of poxy political games being played by a senior Cabinet member, but also one now of accountability for the Council.

We approached the Information Commissioner to look into this case for us.

This has been a long and drawn out process, but we finally received confirmation last month that CBC doesn’t really know it’s arse from its elbow.

The Commissioner replied:

“On the balance of probabilities, CBC does not hold the information which the complainant has asked for.”

Plus:

“Unlike a private business the Council cannot charge costs to a client. The only information which the Council could provide to the complainant would be an approximation based on the individual recollections of the officer concerned.”

Is it really too much to ask a senior Officer to look at their diary, and then state how much time they spent working with Cllr Graham on putting together a jumped up political charge?

That question won’t be answered until after the election.

CBC is now officially in purdah – the period in localgov where a Council can’t be seen to be acting politically.

Funny, that.

Cllr Locker and Cllr Graham are both candidates for the Mile End ward next week.