Email sent to Rosie Wallbank of the Standards Board – 11 August 2009 16:37

Dear Standards Board

Please see the email below from the Leader of Stockport Council.
The background story is that when a council taxpayer who got no help from Stockport Council with his out-of-area adopted daughters for over a decade, he stood on the Town Hall steps for two years in the manner of Brian Haw, the Parliamentary anti-war protester, in the hope that Stockport Council would do something. Well, they certainly did! They had him arrested circa 11 times despite the legal right to peaceful protest and peaceful protest was all he ever did. They called the police over 80 times to him, took him to court in January last year only to drop the case that time on the day of the hearing. He then was taken to court charged with assault with a sneeze with intent to inflect a council employee with a cold (pre swine flu). CCTV evidence of the non-event was not allowed to be shown in court. The Council then had Mr. Parnell arrested again for breaking his bail conditions by using the public lavatory in the town hall. For this he spent four days in Forrest Bank prison.

Below is the email sent to me by the Leader of Stockport Council apparently gloating at the fate of this poor man in being sent to prison and enclosing what I believe to be confidential court documents. Mr. Parnell, the town hall protester, has since given permission for me to have access to his personal information but at the time the Leader sent that email he was not aware of that fact. I couldn’t get any documents from the court regarding Mr. Parnell due to data protection reasons. This man had to go to prison, leaving his already very troubled adopted daughters with yet more emotional and financial hardship. Why would Councillor Goddard gloat about such a thing, and that is apparently what he is doing in this email? If someone had to inform me, why not our McCavity-like Council Solictor (who is never there) in a proper manner?

In addition at an Executive Council meeting in November 2008 Councillor Goddard called me a liar and said I repeatedly lied in the press. This meeting was packed with members of the public. I am known as a local campaigner on several issues including the environment. This caused me a great deal of distress and damage to my reputation. To be publicly branded that by the Leader of the Council, and there was no objection from the council officer chairing that meeting to that language as there would have been had it been used against another councillor, would make the council officers and members of the public think there was no smoke without fire.

I was upset and repeatedly wrote to Councillor Goddard asking for evidence of any lies I had inadvertently told and that I would immediately write to the local press to correct any incorrect statements I might have made. I didn’t get the courtesey of a reply. I asked him at the full Council Meeting in December 2008 for evidence of the lies I had told in the press, which he promised in his response to my public question to send me. By February 2009 I had heard nothing back from him so I again raised the issue in the full council meeting in a public question at which point to a packed council chamber and public gallery with members of the publicCouncillor Goddard repeated that I had lied and lied in the local press.

I took the matter to the Standards Committee of Stockport Council months and months ago but have yet to have the courtesey of a reply never mind any kind of resolution of this issue. I have taken up the matter with my local MP, but am not confident of any resolution from that quarter.

I hope you will look into this matter. There are very, very grave problems with the way Stockport Council is run – in many instances illegally – and I for one will not tolerate what it going on here.

Much obliged if you could look into this.
Kind regards

And her reply:-

Dear Ms Oliver,
Thankyou for your email of 1 August 2009 . In your correspondence you make reference to a Code of Conduct complaint you have made to Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council that you say they have not acknowledged or assessed.

The Government has charged the Standards Board with ensuring that the process for the local assessment of complaints against elected members is working fairly and efficiently. To do this we use information which may indicate that legislation or our guidance is not being followed to help us decide whether we should contact an authority. Please be aware that Standards for England will only intervene in matters regarding the operation of the standards framework. The only information contained in your email that falls within our remit is in relation to the assessment of Code of Conduct complaints.

When a complaint is addressed to the authority’s monitoring officer, the monitoring officer should determine whether the complaint should be directed to the assessment sub-committee or whether another course of action is appropriate. If the complaint is clearly not about member conduct, then the monitoring officer does not have to pass it to the assessment sub-committee. Complaints about council decisions or procedures cannot be considered by a standards committee. However, if the complaint does relate to member conduct, the complaint should go before the assessment sub-committee. Our guidance states that this should happen within 20 working days of receiving the complaint.

We are contacting the authority in relation to the acknowledgement and assessment of complaints. Standards for England will not automatically update you on the progress of our work with them unless we consider it relevant to do so. Depending on the outcome of our discussions we reserve the right to consider further steps and may again use the information you have provided as part of the basis of this action.

Thankyou again for taking the time to contact us.

Rosie Wallbank
Solutions Development Officer