Standards in Public Life

Letter to the Herts and Essex Observer on the repeated unavailability of Cllr Tindale when asked to appear before the Standards Sub-Committee.

The letter below shows the contents of this letter sent on 16 December 2012.

The Editor
Herts and Essex Observer
12 North Street
Bishop's Stortford
CM23 2LQ
16 December 2012

STANDARDS IN PUBLIC LIFE

The decision of East Herts Council's Development Control Committee in August 2011 to grant planning permission for the proposed Henderson town centre development led to complaints about the conduct of two councillors at the meeting – Cllrs Alexander and Tindale. These complaints were referred to an independent investigator whose reports were completed in August 2012. The report of the investigator into Cllr Alexander's conduct can be found on East Herts Council's website and concludes that he did not breach the Council's code of conduct. However, the report on Cllr Tindale's conduct has not been published. Would it be unfair to speculate that it has not been published because it does not exonerate his behaviour?

The Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation believes that on a development with such a critical potential impact on the town, it is in the public interest that the report should now be published and we have therefore made a Freedom of Information Act request to receive a copy. If East Herts Council are reluctant to publish it, we shall be happy to put it on this website. It is now over a year since the decision was taken and four months since the investigator's report was presented to the Council. If the decision to grant planning permission was improperly influenced by a Councillor at the meeting, the public need to know, regardless of any sanction which the Council thinks it appropriate to apply to one of its members as a result.

I note from the Observer (13.12.12) that the Standards Sub Committee which was due to consider the reports on both councillors on 18 December will not now be considering the conduct of Cllr Tindale because 'he is not available on this day'. Since the Council has had the independent investigator's report for four months and has re-arranged this meeting three times, it is surprising that Cllr Tindale has not found it possible to be available. It would, of course, be a shocking abuse of process, if consideration of this report were to be deferred indefinitely, simply by virtue of Cllr Tindale being able to choose not to make himself available whenever a meeting of the Standards Committee or its sub committee is scheduled to review it.

The Civic Federation trust that East Herts Council will recognise that probity in the conduct of its affairs as a public authority should not take second place to protecting one of its members from embarrassment. We look forward to immediate publication of the investigator's report and early consideration of it by those appointed to do so.

John Rhodes
Chairman