PUBLISHED: 11:30 28 May 2009 | UPDATED: 14:07 06 May 2010
SIR - Your article Parish Councillor Rapped Over Knuckles (Herts Advertiser May 21) highlighted the cost to the taxpayer of a standards complaint and I wonder; could these costs have been avoided? To answer that question, we need to understand the motives
SIR - Your article Parish Councillor Rapped Over Knuckles (Herts Advertiser May 21) highlighted the cost to the taxpayer of a standards complaint and I wonder; could these costs have been avoided? To answer that question, we need to understand the motives behind the complaint and I shall explain that it has little to do with the planning dispute over my home extension.
I believe that the complainant, Mr Davies, has been played like a pawn in somebody else's game of chess. He has not, to my knowledge, attended any council meetings, been involved in local affairs or taken any interest at all in local politics, so how was he aware of my misdemeanour?
I do not deny that I made a naive mistake by emailing my parish council colleagues about some stunningly inflated measurements. I reacted without thinking in order to dispel wrongful accusations. It would be prudent, when considering whether these costs might have been avoided, to consider the seriousness of the issue.
I made two mistakes - a) I used email addresses that are not in the public domain, and b) In my email I failed to 'declare an interest' in the planning application, although I had previously and subsequently declared an interest at the appropriate planning meetings.
I am pleased that the investigator's report and the findings of the committee have both concluded that I have not brought the council into disrepute and hence the sanction was the minimum applicable; a rap on the knuckles.
I have accepted and apologised for my error but, as I had done so before the investigation had even begun, was it really necessary to spend taxpayers' money in this way?
Let's turn again to how Mr Davies was made aware of my mistake. He did not attend the planning meeting at which the matter was discussed and where I gave my apology, and as that meeting was attended only by members and the clerk of Wheathampstead Parish Council, you might wonder (as I have wondered), how did Mr Davies know of my mistake?
The letter of complaint arrived at the district council offices within 48 hours of this meeting and as the minutes had not been published, he must have been informed (tipped-off) by a fellow member of the council.
I cannot blame Mr Davies for exercising his democratic rights in lodging a formal complaint but I wonder whether he stopped to think why an informant from the parish council had given him this information and also whether he took into consideration the seriousness or significance of the complaint?
When considering whether these costs might have been avoided, you may wonder, why did a member of Wheathampstead Parish Council tip-off a member of the public? The identity of the informant remains a mystery and therefore we shall not have the benefit of an official investigation to determine whether the action of this informant has brought the council into disrepute?
I would have preferred this unknown parish councillor to have had a word with me there and then to inform me of the gaff I had made!
In closing, I would like the public, and the mystery councillor, to consider if the outcome of this enquiry has been worth the huge expenditure of public funds?
CLLR IAIN BEGG,
Wheathampstead Parish Council.
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