IT is encouraging to read that the new chief executive for BCP Council appreciates the value of openness, honesty and probity in public life. I do however wonder if he fully appreciates how low those standards have fallen.

An urgent review of the constitution is a first but vital first step but far more will be required to bring behavioural standards to levels that might rebuild public trust in our democratic system.

The constitution for the new council appears to be mainly a rehash of Poole council’s and that has proved to be ineffective in maintaining high standards.

The scrutiny function has been degraded to the point of irrelevance. It is used by the controlling group as a tool to bolster or defend the decisions of portfolio holders and cabinet.

It is blatantly manipulated. The thousands of residents who engaged with the scrutiny of proposals to introduce parking charges for those using parks and on streets will have bitter memories of this.

At the scrutiny meeting, I proposed that the plan be dropped and that officers be directed to more productive endeavours. When I challenged the officer as to what traffic issue the charges were designed to correct, he admitted that none existed. The proposals were clearly designed for one purpose, that being revenue generation.

On a majority vote the committee supported me and a report fairly representing this was prepared for the cabinet.

However, at that cabinet, the scrutiny chair claimed the committee had not understood the issue and had voted without proper debate.

The cabinet sidestepped the scrutiny recommendation and, as we all know, the charges were introduced

A complaint followed which was heard by the standards committee where a majority of Conservative members hold sway. The independent laypersons on the committee are denied a vote and some may think it unsurprising that no fault was found or action taken.

Shortly after this the chair was promoted to chair of the planning committee and it is only fair that I mention I was the sitting chair who was removed.

I have challenged senior officers to demonstrate to me how the current working methods of the standards committee are constitutional.

After months of chasing when being ignored, further challenge and, latterly, demand that I be provided with clear evidence that Poole is compliant with this vital legislation, I remain dissatisfied. And I am an elected member. Who knows what hoops the public are made to jump through?

So, good luck, chief executive Mr Farrant. I have many more examples if you wish to meet and fully understand the scale of the problem.


Independent member for Canford Cliffs ward