Sunday, 20 November 2011

Message to Leader of Barnet Council Richard Cornelius - Time to end the culture of bullying and intimidation

Dear Richard,

This week, Barnet Council issued a press release to the Guardian claiming that it would not tolerate the bullying and intimidation of staff. The Barnet Eye fully supports this statement, but it is quite clear that it does not address the main issue of bullying within Barnet Council. It has been brought to the attention of the Barnet Eye that there are numerous cases of bullying and intimidation being perpetrated by senior councillors within Barnet Council. One such incident will be heard by the standards sub committee on Thursday. This is the quite extraordinary case of Councillor Andreas Tambourides abusing coolleage Councillor Kate Salinger. Another case, which the Barnet Eye has full details of, concerns Councillor Brian Coleman and a Mill Hill Conservative colleague. The Barnet Eye is disappointed that the Mill Hill Councillor received less than fulsome support from the leadership and senior colleagues, for what was clearly an outrageous and unjustified attack on his character.  We also have the case before the standards committee on Tuesday, where Councillor Coleman is again before the committee for sending rude an intimidating emails to members of the public.

On Friday I published an article detailing how Barnet Council refused to answer the following question :-

C)                Is your administration committed to maintaining the highest Standards in public office and rigorously upholding its own code of conduct?

No response because this is not a valid request for recorded information under the FOIA.

There is an unprecedented level of media interest in Barnet Council. We have the extraordinary situation where a member of the Standards Sub Committee, Councillor Andreas Tambourides, is under investigation by the committee. He is even listed as a substitute committee member on his own case. Surely he should have been removed from the committee as soon as the complaint was filed?  I have spoken to several representatives of national media organisations regarding the forthcoming cases. It is quite clear to all concerned that Barnet Council is about to become a complete laughing stock. As a long term resident of the London Borough of Barnet I'm appalled by the situation. I happen to believe that the vast majority of Conservative Councillors are honest and decent people. Several have told me of their complete disgust at the situation and their wish to disassociate themselves from the boorish behaviour of a small number of senior councillors.

The time has come to draw a line under all of this. As you approach the milestone of six months in the job in December, the time has come to draw a line under all of this. A urgent cabinet reshuffle is necessary. There are many talented backbench members of the Barnet Conservatives who deserve a chance to repair the damage. A clear statement that rudeness, bullying and bad behaviour will not be tolerated is necessary. It is an honour to be elected to serve the people of Barnet, but a few people seem to see it as an excuse to behave in a boorish manner with regard only for themselves. Whilst it is clear to me from the various emails I've seen that certain senior Conservatives are rather scared of certain overbearing individuals, these individuals have used up their stock of goodwill withing the party and are a millstone around the parties neck rather than an asset. This is clear from the reaction to parking changes in Mill Hill & elsewhere in the Borough.

With the GLA election next year, a spotlight will be focused on the local candidate. It is clear that this will do enormous harm to the Barnet Conservatives. I suspect it may also cause huge damage to the re-election campaign of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. As leader of the Barnet Conservatives, if a doomsday scenario blows up as a result of the antics of the Conservative Candidate, ultimately you will be the person blamed by all and sundry.

The Conservative Councillors I've spoken to recently (and there are a fair few) are thoroughly sick to death of all of this. They want to see a change and they want the Leadership of the party to know that unless there is a recognition of these concerns, their support may not be automatically taken for granted. What is the most disturbing thing for them is the fact that all they want to see is an administration where senior members treat their colleagues, staff and members of the public with a degree of respect and decency, and for those that can't to make way for people who can.

Is that really too much to ask?

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