Indigestible enough to make a kangaroo choke!
Students of this website will be well aware of our views on the conduct of the Standards Board for England, an outfit wished on local councils by deputy prime minister John Prescott 'to uphold ethical standards'. But we can rejoice at the departure of a serial offender in the SBfE's own ranks.
The SBfE has become a willing accomplice to many political vendettas, and a support system for council officers when their decisions are challenged by councillors, who fail to see any benefit for the public in the decisions. One of the worst areas of abuse is the procedures used to assemble 'evidence' to be presented in the SBfE's own kangaroo court, the Adjudication Panel for England.
|The Standards Board for England|
|The Standards Board for England's Adjudication Panel system seems to be set up to provide the accused with a fair trial and then a fair hanging rather than anything resembling a competent judicial process.|
The SBfE has an establishment of 3 Ethical Standards Officers. One of them used to be Mr. Nick Marcar, who is now no longer employed by the SBfE. His departure was precipitated by his incompetent handling of his 'investigation' of 5 Liberal members of Islington Borough Council.
Mr. Marcar spent 2 years (an SBfE world record) investigating a complaint by a Labour member that the accused had been in breach of the Code of Conduct over the appointment of a new council chief executive. His 'case', when it finally reached a tribunal for the APfE, was so pathetic that the panel threw out all of the charges and decided that Mr. Marcar's investigation had been "directed to obtaining evidence to support conclusions which the Ethical Standards Officer had already reached".
|"Mr. Marcar's standard method for conducting an investigation ... is to assume that the accused is guilty and then pick and chose among his 'evidence' to 'prove' his case.|
"His work is characterized by a willingness to draw conclusions based on personal prejudice rather than the evidence, and a tendency to make arbitrary decisions in the absence of evidence."
the voice of experience.
The SBfE felt obliged to offer a formal apology to the councillors, but when they asked the Board to pay their £350,000 legal bills, Sir Anthony Holland, the SBfE's chairman, told them that their local Council Taxpayers should find the cash.
Other victims of Mr. Marcar's unethical
investigation methods include:
Mr. Adami fell foul of Alan Greaves, the chief executive of North Dorset District Council, when he asked why Mr. Greaves was being paid a whole lot of C-Taxpayers cash at no benefit to the taxpayers. The APfE's tribunal held his hearing on a date when they knew that Mr. Adami would be out of the country, convicted him in absentia and suspended him from serving as a councillor for 4 years.
A year later, Mr. Admai appealed in the High Court. The judge ruled that the charges against him were worthless and reinstated him.
The SBfE went to the Court of Appeal which ruled, on a technicality unrelated to the evidence, that the matter should be referred back to the Standards Board, which found Cllr. Adami guilty again. At this point, and after £65,000 of taxpayers' cash had been wasted, Mr. Adami decided that he had no hope of justice and gave up its pursuit.
A former leader of the Liberal group on Wigan council, Mr. Bleakley was suspended for three years on charges brought by Labour opponents. All of the charges, which are detailed on the SBfE's website, are trivial and loaded with petty political malice.
But Mr. Bleakley ended up with a legal bill for £17,000 after the kangaroo court had disqualified him from sitting as a councillor until 2008.
A Macclesfield councillor, he fell into the clutches of Mr. Marcar as a result of a political vendetta waged by the then leader of the Tory group, who eventually abandoned his seat while facing criminal charges.
Cllr. Murphy was convicted by the APfE's tribunal of speaking but not voting when the outcome of the debate would affect his ‘well-being’, a concept for which the SBfE had no definition at the time the charges were laid.
The council was discussing a report. Its only option was to 'note' the report. The council could neither change its content nor refuse to accept the report.
Incredibly, Cllr. Murphy was suspended for 1 year. Four months later, a High Court judge reinstated him with immediate effect.
A member of South Cambridgeshire Council, Cllr. Riley found that Mr. Marcar's lengthy 'investigation' of his 'case' was characterized by Mr. Marcar's dogged determination to 'prove' Cllr. Riley's guilt and his unwillingness to reach a balanced view. The agenda papers at Cllr. Riley's tribunal ran to 386 pages and at the end of it, the tribunal had to admit that there was no case for any sanctions against Cllr. Riley.
|The Standards Board for England ...|
|... imposes ethical standards on others – but it has none of its own! Its hallmarks are obsessive secrecy and inaccessibility. It is a prime example of failure to think things through by central government.|
p.s. It is a closely guarded secret that complaints about the Standards Board can be made to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. But those who dare to exercise this right are subjected to further routine intimidation by the SBfE. Hot on the heels of a complaint comes a threat from the SBfE of prosecution because its victim has divulged confidential information.