Save Our Sidmouth

The Chief Executive, the Business Forum, and the LGO

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This letter was sent to the Sidmouth Herald but was not published. As it contains information which may be of interest to SOS readers, it is reproduced here, with Tony Green’s permission. 

Dear Editor,
Your story “Call for Council’s Chief Executive to Resign” which appeared on page 7 of the Sidmouth Herald on 22nd March 2013, referred to me, and I would appreciate a fair opportunity to reply to some inaccuracies in the report.
It reported an EDDC spokesman as saying that the council did not intend to answer my call for the chief executive to resign because “We are not prepared to engage in a trial by hearsay conducted through the media”. He added that my complaints against Mr Williams “have been fully answered”. If a complainant was dissatisfied by the council’s own complaints procedure they could ultimately secure an ”independent review” of the complaint, a clear reference to the Local Government Ombudsman.
These statements are inaccurate and misleading:
The use of the term “hearsay” suggests my criticisms of the chief executive are based on rumour and therefore unfounded. In fact, my criticisms were the result of detailed research, and they alleged specifically that:
Mr Williams failed to respond to concerns, expressed by councillors and members of the public over several years, about the controversial influence of the East Devon Business Forum under the chairmanship of former councillor Graham Brown. Instead he described such concerns as politically-motivated.
The independence of the Council’s TAFF committee, set up to look “in depth” at the council’s relationship with the EDBF, has been compromised by Mr Williams’ interference in ways which I specified. These include giving dubious ‘legal’ advice that removed planning from their scope, and taking control of the agenda from chairman and committee.
My criticisms have not been “conducted through the media”.  I addressed them to the TAFF committee at their meeting of 12th March where Mr Williams was present. He chose not to answer them, and failed to respond to media requests for an interview.
It is untrue to say that my questions have been fully answered by the Chief Executive. He has not contacted me, nor has he addressed publicly my specific criticisms.
It is disingenuous of Mr Williams to suggest that an independent body will look at complaints if a complainant is dissatisfied with the council’s own complaints procedure. He knows perfectly well that the Local Government Ombudsman is prevented by law from considering the vast majority of complaints of maladministration against a council. The LGO can only consider cases where the complainant can prove a “personal injustice” and cannot look at matters which affect “all or most of the people in a council’s area.”
Tony Green, Sidmouth, 25.03.13

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