Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Who really runs South Tyneside Council? Elected Councillors or Irene Lucas?

A rather strange tale has arrived on the News Desk at the Northern Herald.

On Monday all the South Tyneside Council opposition leaders met with Irene Lucas, Chief Executive. Apparently the meeting is a regular event. What wasn’t a regular event however, was the tirade and ticking off that Ms Lucas launched on those present. Apparently she was absolutely appalled at the behaviour of opposition leaders at January’s abandoned Council meeting. A plethora of officials had complained to her about member’s behaviour (though she named no names) and that such conduct was totally unacceptable.

So who was the target for the Headmistress’s wrath?

Fist out his chair to defend himself was Councillor David Potts, Conservative Group Leader. In classic “not me guv” style, Potts assumed the position of a defence lawyer (he probably charged a similar fee!): myself and my colleagues behaved impeccably etc. Of course they do David. You yourself weren’t even at the January meeting (again) and your presence at Monday’s get together was your first this municipal year. Perhaps one of your Labour friends tipped you off over lunch that a good telling off was on the cards? As for your colleagues, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, they never speak or move accept to vote for Labour motions. Even then they have to be prompted from their colleagues across the way. It’s therefore not the Tories who will be receiving lines.

The same scenario applies to Jimmy Capstick, head boy for the Progressives. Mr Capstick was on holiday in January (I hope he had excuse note from Ms Lucas), and also missed the meeting. Also absent without leave for most of the meeting was leader of the “real” Independents, Councillor George Elsom. True to form the Liberal Democrat leader also made no leap from his chair, adopting the same inert position of opposition he had done during the trouble meeting under discussion (and in reality, the year so far). So these three won’t be getting the cane!

That only leaves one other person in the room to blame for the Head’s blanket criticism: Councillor Jane Branley, spokesperson for the Independents. Poor old Jane: “grassed” up by the kids in the school yard, she now faces detention, lines, no seconds at lunch time, 20 laps round the school field etc.

The Headmistress runs this school, and she must have her way!

However, the Headmistress does not run the school, the Board of Governors do!

Let’s now look at this issue with the degree of seriousness it deserves.

Irene Lucas is appointed by a selection committee of Councillors. She is answerable to them and them alone. Councillors are not answerable to her. Her position is to implement polices which they see fit to decide on. Councillors are elected by those eligible to vote in the Borough. As such they carry one of two very basic political mandates from their Wards. Firstly, if their party is the same as the ruling group, they implement policies in conjunction with their party’s outlook. If their political elegance is not the same as the ruling group, they have been elected as an OPPOSITION, and their conduct will be expected to be as such. Neither of these two groups is answerable to any full time official within the Council, regardless of rank: they are answerable to the electorate and them alone. Every four years they therefore stand before the electorate and hold themselves to account. Every time they are re elected, as Jane Branley has been on successive occasions, there approach is endorsed.

No where in this scenario is there any democratically legitimate mechanism, structure or moral acceptability for Irene Lucas to chastise Councillors for the correct, lawful and expected discharge of the representational duties. With an unprecedented degree of arrogance, ineptitude and political bias, the Chief Executive has shown clearly that she considers herself as leader of South Tyneside Council, not those elected by the members of the Borough.

Irene Lucas has committed the greatest transgression possible: she has crossed the line of political impartiality and shown favour to one political group. For this alone she should resign.


Curly said...

"the correct, lawful and expected discharge of the representational duties."


you have launched a disgraceful attack and a terrible slur on a public servant who cannot defend herself, you ought to be ashamed of yourself!

I have pasted your words above, South Tyneside Borough Council has a set of rules, agreed at the Annual Meeting each year, these Standing Orders are agreed by all councillors and are there to ensure a level playing field that enables business to be enacted, scrutinised, and legally opposed.

When members transgress these agreed Standing Orders, the Chief Executive, as arbiter, is perfectly within his/her rights to remind members of their legal duties and responsibilities, he/she would be failing in the job if this reminder or reprimand was not issued.

Without the Standing Orders, all meetings of the borough council would descend to an unseemly and non democratic free for all, and this is what the Chief Executive is trying to avoid.

All councillors are issued with a copy of the Standing Orders at the beginning of the municipal year, it should not be necessary to have to give reminders of what they are, neither should it be necessary for members to constantly ask for guidance on those Orders (and then complain when the guidance doesn't suit).

It does not behove well for opposition members to constantly snipe at public servants who are doing a job to the best of their ability, especially if the members concerned cannot be bothered to learn and adhere to the rules of the game.

PETER SHAW said...

Well, well, well! What a load of hypocritical rubbish.

The last person who should be handing out advice on slurs is you!

Your comments don’t surprise me. Like your sycophantic friend who leads Conservative Party, you have become the mouth piece of the Labour Party. Your constant obsession with Standing Orders etc, is also becoming tedious. I have always held the view that when people hide behind rules and regulations, it is an indication that they have lost the argument. It also shows you have no appreciation of the basic concepts of representational democracy.

If Irene Lucas has any issues, let her sue me. It is well within her power to do so.

What to do then. Trawl your site and highlight the attacks you have made on defenceless public servants, or just leave things as they are. I think I’ll go for the latter, because it’s just not worth it!

Ahmed said...

Peter's post simply highlights the issue of who runs the council, officers or elected members. Not so long ago you yourself were constantly beating the drum about this one and they say a leopard never changes it spots!

Moomin said...

"What to do then. Trawl your site and highlight the attacks you have made on defenceless public servants"

You can start with David Slater and Amanda Skelton, Peter, but the list goes on and on.

He's a total hypocrite.

These days, Curly is little more than a Labour crawler, desperate for a 'scoop'.

Ever since Brendagate showed that he squeals at the first legal prod, his so-called 'tip-offs' have dried up faster than his employment opportunities.

Anonymous said...

Does this numptie not realise why a dozen or more dont go anywhere near his blog, sure them gegs he wears are rose tinted Tories.

Curly said...

Of course I have Ahmed, but that's a country mile away from accusing the Chief Executive of being politicised!

Ahmed said...


Unfortunately recent events such as Brendagate, excluding the press and public from meetings, missing ballot boxes and the refusal to discuss this issue, the constant need to hide behind human rights and data protection rules as well as the constitution in order not to answer probing questions have left people wondering how ‘A political’ she really is.

Lets face the lengths her officers (for whom she is ultimately responsible) have gone to in concealing the real facts/truth and the constant need for officers to find ways of not answering peoples concerns plus the daily diet of half truths and spin have left a significant number of people wondering just how un-politicised certain executive officers of the council are!

Curly said...

"Well, well, well! What a load of hypocritical rubbish."

"Please don’t post anonymously. I have given you my full details, have the courtesy to give yours."

Your words Peter, and who do we see posting a comment at 14:27?

You are very good at throwing this hypocrite allegation around, did you manage to find any damaging slurs and insults amongst the posts I searched out for you? It appears that you did not, otherwise you would have flagged them up for us all to see.

PETER SHAW said...

And who did post at 14.27. Pray tell.

PETER SHAW said...

The reference to “anonymous” posts is clear – please don’t do it. However, I have always allowed them to stand providing there not racist, sexists etc. Quite a few have been flagged over the last few months. It’s unfortunate that people don’t want to reveal their identity, but then again, you know all about that.

two down one to go said...

Curly seems to have a BEE in his bonnet, he likes chucking mud but forgets to 'dook' when it starts coming back at him!

The Badger said...

Curly's must be in a right state. The labour party has blanked him, we have been told to keep our mouths shut and not reveal anything to him and his local sources have dried quickly dried up. Since we can’t add comments to his posts very few other people do and his site is just not what it was 6 months ago. After the Brenda thing people don't trust him and many of us think it’s not worth passing on information anyway as he has too big a mouth an even bigger ego, no wonder he's feeling the pressure.

Ahmed said...

This is beginning to sound like competitive rivalry to me!

Westie 3 said...

I think someone has taken his ball home.

Denny said...

Now come on children.

The Chuckle Brothers said...

Who was it that used the phrase ferrets fighting in a sack? Come on Curly which one are you the one with the yellow streak.