Bullying in the Conservative Party - just a National problem?

For a start, with 51 out of 54 Councillors Tories, you would have to be a brave soul to rebel on anything, and risk de-selection (the typical pattern by which Councillors become Independents!)

And when you look at a specific subject - about which Anne Filer has asked not to be bothered again - there is no evidence of any backbone. I refer to the past relationship between disgraced (and convicted) planning consultant Tony Ramsden and Council Leader John Beesley.

Mr Beesley chaired a Planning Meeting (before he became Leader) at which Ramsden presented the case for the applicant - the application was granted. Mr Beesley just declared that he had known Ramsden as a former Councillor when in fact - as he himself admits - they had a very close relationship. I have taken the trouble to obtain
written statements to this effect from third parties.

An enquiry was held at which,
as the Echo reported, Mr Beesley found a last minute 'get out of jail' card in the form of advice he had received from a Council Officer. In other words, a technicality, which brought the hearing to a quick close with no other witnesses heard. But that does not change the underlying facts - should Mr Beasley have chaired the planning meeting at all?

I have been following this matter for years - and banging my head against a brick wall. Have I become obsessed with a matter that is of no consequence? - please decide for yourself.

This is the sort of thing you elect Councillors to monitor and Control. If that were not enough the Council has to, by Law, have a 'Section 151 Officer'. We don't know the full detail of why Bournemouth has lost 5 of these statutory whistle-blowers in 5 years and we are waiting for the result of the Employment Tribunal brought by Liz Wilkinson. We do know from the published evidence in that case that the higher level of Bournemouth management sounds like a poisonous place to work.

At the seat of these problems is an inadequate Constitution, and rule behind closed doors, with Communist-style caucus meetings making the real decisions. Why else do full Council meetings take less than an hour?

For evidence that Independents are needed, look at the way I was 'punished' for making waves about these things;

• thrown off the monitoring committee by chairman Ben Grower;
• had my Council email account withdrawn - an astonishing attack on my role as an elected official.

I think there is no doubt that Bournemouth Council needs more non-Tories to create debate and scrutiny. Kinson South voters have a chance to make an impact on 10 December.

Scandals in Bournemouth - why good governance matters

A fundamental problem is that (unlike Poole) our town does not have a properly worded constitution, and the one we do have is not followed. Important decisions such as the awarding of the Mouchel contract and hiring of expensive consultants have not been under democratic control. Bad decisions are made, and their consequences are covered up.

To whom should you, the voters, look to control these bad things?

51 out of 54 present Councillors are Conservative - it is hardly likely that they will rock the boat! In this by-Election you have the option to put two more constructive critics into the balance.

When I was a Councillor, I got into trouble for making waves (thrown off the Audit & Governance committee by Ben Grower, had my email facilities withdrawn etc). I was bullied and harassed both by Councillors and Officers.

Council employees
It looks as if Council employees are also uncomfortable about how things are run. The Law requires one employee to be 'Section 151 Officer'. They have special responsibilities to be a sort of whistle-blower on your behalf. Bournemouth has an unfortunate habit of losing them;

Judith Martin left suddenly on 31 July 2010. Was it a coincidence that the Tory Administration with the help of our present Chief Executive, Tony Williams, was driving through the Council the awful Mouchel contract (outsourcing whole business units) vigorously challenged by the Unions and me?

Stephen Parker then took over. He had the courage to say that, in his opinion, the Mouchel contract was not good value for money. I understand he was immediately suspended.

Mike Forrester, a self-employed consultant, became Chief Finance and 151 Officer on 8 September 2010 and was given the title of Executive Director Finance and Business Improvements. He was appointed by the then Chief Executive, Pam Donnellan and agreed by Cabinet without any debate in Council. A copy of the letter from Richard Saunders, then head of HR explaining all of this is available from me on request.

Mr Forrester’s appointment was the subject of Final Internal Audit Report No 65125 dated 25 January 2012 (again, I can supply this). He was the subject of an investigation into how he and consultants were employed. With no reference to the Council and no contract he was paid the incredible sum of £263,889.91 between November 2009 and September 2011.

I have a separate confidential report expressing concern about the way he was appointed, indicating also a possible breach of procurement law. Making this public was what got me sacked from the Audit & Governance committee.

Liz Wilkinson then took over and is now the subject of the very thorough employment Tribunal whose verdict we are all waiting for. She has been very valiant in her desire to be able to speak the truth.

My run-ins with the 'big wigs'
I complained to the Standards Board regarding the manner in which our present Leader of the Council, Cllr John Beesley had declared his interests on a planning matter. There was then a Tribunal based on an 836-page report that many senior Tories and I have seen. Incredibly, the only witness at that Tribunal was Mr Beesley himself!

Joy Postings, our Chief Legal Officer, bravely and correctly made a statement to the investigating officer. She was then the subject of a confidential report by Tim Kerr QC (who interviewed me for his report). In my opinion the public has the right to see it. She left her job suddenly.

An email from our previous Council Leader, Peter Charon to his fellow Tories on this subject makes fascinating reading and it should be in the public domain.

On 26 April 2012 I wrote to the Chief Executive, Tony Williams, regarding various issues (Stephen Parker, Joy Postings and my critique of the Tribunal). At the Mayor Making ceremony in May 2012, Tony Williams threatened Cllr Carol Ainge (my group leader) to take away my emails.

I was accused in Council of False and Misleading Statements with no right of reply. That cannot be right!

There are also emails from our much-respected Borough Engineer, Geoff Turnbull. He refers to how the £3m+ failed surf reef was started without a contract, how he was advised not to attend a Scrutiny Meeting and gives his views in general of the Council. Geoff asked me to delete these emails but as he has since died, I think that this honourable gentleman would want them made public.

A way to 'clean house'
You may have heard of The Nolan Principles. You and I should insist that they be followed at all levels. They are supported by good people such as Kris Hopkins MP, Bishop Richard Harries and Martin Bell (the MP in the white suit).

This is Bournemouth, not North Korea. We have democratic control but we need to impose it properly.

On 10 December please use your vote by supporting me. I have the knowledge, experience and will to stand up to vested interests.

Roger West
November 2015

My letter to voters

Shortly after the May election I wrote to voters in my former Ward, whom I had served since 1999

Voters in Kinson South may find what I said if interest

Please click on this link to see or download the letter

The By-Election

I am standing, with BIA support, as an Independent for the By-Election in Kinson South. The BIA philosophy is to keep National Politics out of Local Government, so I am free to have 'National' beliefs that my colleagues do not have to share.

Until 2015 I was a Liberal Democrat and fully endorsed their basic philosophy of an open democratic society together with the excellent Pupil Premium (which has made such a difference to many less fortunate children).  Nationally, I now think, the fair truly democratic society that I crave for is more likely to happen with the newly reinvigorated Labour Party.

I am a member of Dorset Humanists, Friends of the Earth and now the Labour party.

I have no intention of joining any group on Council if elected. I shall only vote in accordance with what I think is best for my residents with no regard for any party or group.

I am proud of having been part of the Lib Dem Council of 2003-2007, which had the courage to bring in our excellent, still evolving, waste collection service. However I think that party politics has no place in Local Government; residents should vote for the person and not a party.

In 2015 the Council lost some excellent hard working Councillors like Sue Levell, Carol Ainge and both Richard and Claire Smith because of party politics. I hope that I shall be able to show that the tide is at last turning.