All facts as heard in open court …
Can anyone explain why Lib Dem councillor for Knowle, Gary “FUCKBUCKET” Hopkins, and the Lib Dem’s chief whip and councillor for Windmill Hill, MARK BAILEY, were invited to attend a confidential ASB (anti-social behaviour) case meeting on 12 November 2013?
A confidential meeting chaired by the boss of the Safer Bristol Partnership, GILLIAN DOUGLAS, and a meeting that another Knowle councillor, CHRIS DAVIES, was invited to but sent his apologies for after being supplied detailed minutes. Avon & Somerset POLICE OFFICERS also attended the meeting along with COUNCIL MANAGERS from Pollution Control, Licensing and Planning as well as a city council lawyer.
Can anyone then explain why a case conference convened to discuss events at 20 Knowle Road in the Windmill Hill Ward was allowed by Ms Douglas and a city council lawyer to discuss various HEARSAY ALLEGATIONS raised by these Lib Dem councillors about an entirely different property – The Gothic Mansion on Redcatch Road in Knowle?
And can anyone further explain why issues to do with the property in Knowle Road that had been agreed as ‘NFA’ (no further action required) at an ASB meeting without councillors, lawyers or Ms Douglas present on 28 May 2013 were inexplicably reopened at this case meeting on 12 November when councillors attended and Ms Douglas appeared in the chair?
Then perhaps someone can explain why SENSITIVE and CONFIDENTIAL information obtained by Bristol City Council’s licensing team using COVERT SURVEILLANCE methods was shared with these councillors? And why sensitive FINANCIAL INFORMATION obtained by city council officers relating to the owners of Knowle Road and Redcatch Road was shared with councillors? And why sensitive POLICE INTELLIGENCE was also shared with these councillors?
Can anybody imagine councillors being invited to attend housing case meetings? Adult care case meetings? Or social services case meetings? Does anyone believe they’d be invited to sit in on criminal investigations by the police?
What on earth has been going on here? The council’s own guidelines contained in the council’s constitution under the ‘Protocol forMember/Officer Relations’ explains what should happen in very plain and simple language:
6. COUNCILLOR INVOLVEMENT IN CASEWORK
6.1: Officers must implement council policy within agreed procedures. An individual councillor cannot require an officer to vary this and cannot take a decision or instruct an officer to take action. The councillor’s role in relation to case work is:
– to be briefed or consulted where there is a need to know;
– to pursue the interests of individuals by seeking information, testing action taken and asking for the appropriateness of decisions to be reconsidered.
A councillor’s entitlement to be involved is based on the “need to know” and determined in accordance with conventions 2 and 3.
Access to files may need to be denied or restricted if one of the exceptional circumstances in convention 2.1 and 2.2 applied. Any access then allowed may need to be “managed access” (as described in convention 2).
Councillors should avoid becoming unduly involved in individual cases and operational detail, except within clear procedures. Involvement in legal proceedings and audit investigations carries special dangers of prejudicing the case, and of personal embarrassment.
Officers should take the lead in pointing out where the boundaries lie in particular areas, recognising that:
– councillors legitimately adopt different approaches;
– councillors may legitimately pursue non-ward issues (for example, a city-wide community of interest);
– the special local knowledge of particular councillors may be useful to a particular case.
Officers should point out to the councillor when a restriction on the need to know may apply, explore entitlement with the councillor and, in cases of doubt, consult the monitoring officer.
Chief officers should ensure that their staff know how to obtain appropriate senior management support (particularly out of hours) when the extent of a councillor’s involvement is an issue that needs to be clarified.
And to avoid any doubt, here’s the relevant sections of Convention 2.1 and 2.2 mentioned above:
2.1 Every councillor has the right to information, explanation and advice reasonably required to enable them to perform their duties as a member of council (the “need to know”) but not where:
– there is an over-riding individual right of confidentiality (for example, in a children’s or employment matter)
2.2 Councillors are normally entitled to be given information on a confidential basis, the exceptions being:
– an over-riding council interest (for example, protecting its legal and financial position); and
– natural justice (for example, giving an individual the chance to respond to allegations).
Isn’t it becoming increasingly obvious that Bristol City Council managers are operating a private ASBO service for the benefit of serving councillors?