“We receive numerous complaints from families with young children complaining about the mess they leave and their aggressive behaviour during the breeding season.”
From Press statement from Maria Crompton August 2014- Cabinet member for environment and highways Sandwell MBC, and goose culler.
A long title, but a simple yes or no answer will suffice. The question appears to be answered in a well buried report on Sandwell council’s CMIS website. This is the virtual burial ground for such matters that the council think that no one will be bothered to read, except anorak types and perhaps a passing journo who might actually want to take them to task instead of just printing off verbatim their press releases- as Sandwell council are accustomed to in these parts.
On 30th March 2015 the sub committee of the standards committee met to discuss two items. Neither the attendance, declarations of interest or visitors have yet been recorded on the page, but the minutes of the meeting have been.
I would like to stress from the outset that the referral of Councillor Crompton to this committee had absolutely nothing to do with myself, but a member of the public who felt disgusted that her statements particularly in the press had been used to justify a cull, which later when the same person asked a freedom of information request of the council appeared to contradict the information which Crompton had reported as facts of the case. I believe that the person making the complaint was fully justified in doing so, but of course as this is Sandwell and has a domination of Labour members, they are not going to bring to book one of their own.
The complainant brought the matter to the attention of Sandwell’s monitoring officer, Neeraj Sharma, who decided that there was no case to answer in her opinion regards Crompton’s statements. Members of the council are subject to a code of conduct, which was recently updated following some extremely embarrassing gaffes by other councillors who failed to declare interests. It is interesting to note that the monitoring officer appears to believe that they did no wrong either, even though making false declarations is a criminal offence, it states so on the actual forms they are supposed to complete. The complainant has the right of appeal to refer the matter to the standards committee, and duly this was referred.
The matter before the members related to an allegation of conduct which if proved could constitute a breach of paragraph 12(6) the Members’ Code of Conduct. This states that a member, when acting as a member does not conduct herself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing their office or authority into disrepute.
Meeting to discuss this issue Councillors Ahmed, Dhallu, A Hughes and Lewis. Councillor Lewis as chair asked if he should declare an interest concerning being the former head of leisure concerning goose egg pricking. Given Lewis’ angling interests, it is quite clear that he is not particularly appreciative of either wildfowl or those who care about them. I state this from personal experience, given that several years ago he challenged me concerning the statements that I had made with respect to how angling in Sandwell was badly affecting wildfowl. He asked me for “evidence”, to which I produced a 62 page report outlining just how much it was affecting wildfowl in Sandwell on a site by site basis, also collecting a measured 2 miles of fishing line from Sandwell’s grotty poolsides. Perhaps I will look at this in another blog post in the future, but surprise surprise, I never heard from him again, on receipt of this irrefutable evidence of harm that his fellow fishermen were causing birds.
We would note however that during Councillor Lewis’s chairmanship of the leisure committee, he may have approved of the pricking of goose eggs, but DID NOT APPROVE A POLICY OF ADULT GOOSE CULLING- ONE COULD ASK WHY, AND WHAT HAS APPARENTLY CHANGED IN THAT REGARD SINCE HIS CHAIRMANSHIP?
“Not for Publication Exempt information relating to any individual The information contained in this report is strictly confidential and in accordance with the appropriate Codes of Conduct, must not be disclosed to unauthorised persons”
The outline of this meeting is described, with some relevant links provided.
“4/15 Request for Review The Sub-Committee was advised that in accordance with the Council’s arrangements for dealing with allegations of breaches of the Member Code of Conduct, the Monitoring Officer, on 6th March 2015, considered a complaint received from a member of public with regard to the conduct of Councillor Maria Crompton. The Monitoring Officer had decided to take no action in respect of the complaint. The complainant and the subject member were notified of this decision and the reasons for the decision.
The complainant had subsequently submitted a written request for a review of the decision of the Monitoring Officer. The Sub-Committee considered the details of the complaint, which alleged that Councillor Crompton had been dishonest in a press release; an article on the Council’s website and a personal response to a letter stating that the culling of geese in Sandwell parks was due to repeated complaints. However, a Freedom of Information request by the complainant had revealed that eight written complaints had been received over a five year period.
If the allegation was proven, this could constitute a breach of paragraph 12(6) of Part 1 of the Members’ Code of Conduct. The SubCommittee also considered the Monitoring Officer’s response and the complainant’s request for a review. The Sub-Committee took into account the assessment criteria approved by the Standards Committee for dealing with complaints about member conduct and the comments from an independent person appointed by the Council to advise on standards matters.
The Sub-Committee carefully considered the matter and concluded that the member was acting in her official capacity. The Sub-Committee took into consideration that the Cabinet Member was confirming information supplied to her by officers which was made in good faith and that a number of verbal complaints by members of the public and Park Wardens had not been included as part of the written complaints received.
The Sub-Committee did not feel therefore that there had been a breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct and endorsed the views of the Monitoring Officer. The Sub-Committee further concluded that, all complaints, including verbal complaints, should be logged onto the system to show an accurate number of complaints received and logged by the Council.
Resolved that, in relation to the conduct of Councillor Maria Crompton, the Sub-Committee uphold the findings of the Monitoring Officer, and that no further action be taken.
” The key statement made in this blurb is the one below. “The Sub-Committee took into consideration that the Cabinet Member was confirming information supplied to her by officers which was made in good faith and that a number of verbal complaints by members of the public and Park Wardens had not been included as part of the written complaints received.”
The term “made in good faith” could imply that the councillor was just acting on statements made to her by officers, and that these officers had made statements which were later not as robust as they appeared when uttered by the councillor in question. In this case it appears to suggest that the officers may not have been as accurate and informative with sound information as previously suggested. Some of the information put forward in letters to myself and in interactions in the media and written in her name have been priceless.
- The statement “We receive numerous complaints from families with young children and the mess they leave behind and their aggressive behaviour during the breeding season.” Letter dated 14th August 2014.
This was of course not supported in the freedom of information request from the complainant- 8 complaints in 5 years- 2 per year and none in one year at all. This is not “numerous”.
- The idea that Muscovy ducks would be added to Sandwell’s pools after Canada geese had been culled- thus illegally replacing a non native species with another non-native species- Letter dated 14th August 2014. This at first was put forward as one of the reasons for culling.
- “The increase in numbers has had a detrimental impact on other waterfowl.”
There is no evidence of this, and this is not the reason why the council supposedly carried out the cull for reasons to “protect public health and public safety”.
- ““There was clear evidence that the damage they caused and the mess they left behind was a constant source of complaint by visitors…..“ Letter from Crompton to Animal Aid dated January 14th November 2014
As previously stated there is no “clear evidence” of complaints to the council- we know that only 8 were made in these two parks in the last 5 years, and are likely to be complaints from the same individuals- source Sandwell council in an FOI request.
- The inaccurate longevity of Canada geese as “Knowing the age geese live to approximately 25-30 years”
, an important point when the authority is trying to argue that the birds have no predators and live and breed for their entire lives, which is nonsense in itself. The British Trust for ornithology record of this species confirms her statement to be false and misleading.
- Her performance in a radio interview on Radio WM immediately after the cull story had broken.
In this interview she…..
- was unable to state how the birds had been culled, yet later her officers appear to have found out that their necks had been broken, despite them not being present to witness this themselves.
- appeared to admit that officers had lied to myself, but offering no apology or explanation as to why this had happened.
- Appearing to know nothing about Matt Darby sending me pictures of geese being illegally released from his .GOV email account.
It has been seen that several officers of the council lied concerning the goose cull, so are we to really believe the council’s claims that a number of complaints were made verbally, which they did not record? I wonder who- with a vested personal interest in getting rid of geese in his back yard could have exaggerated the number of verbal complaints? Or were the 8 whinging old bastard gloom and doom merchants who hate geese the same who told tales of woe to every park ranger that would listen?
The point is that with some people such fixated issues reveal that the problem is really them- because they have mental health issues. Below are relevant extracts from the then code of conduct enacted in 2012. I would note the following points in section V “Expectations of conduct.”
“Members shall at all times conduct themselves in a manner which will intend to maintain and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of the authority and never take any action which would bring the Authority, or its members or officers generally, into disrepute”
and also the previously mentioned section 12 (6)
“Do not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or your authority into disrepute. “
Prior to the complaint being taken to the standards committee, this is the letter sent to the complainant by monitoring officer Neeraj Sharma, the officer supposedly in charge of ensuring that members respect and do not breach the members code of conduct. The letter in itself reveals some new information which will be discussed below.
Theses 3 points from Sandwell’s chief legal officer confirms that the council
- DID NOT ACCURATELY RECORD COMPLAINTS
- CONSULT ON POLICY CHANGE
- BASED ITS ENTIRE CHANGE OF POLICY ON STATEMENTS MADE BY ITS OWN OFFICERS WHICH WE HAVE CONCLUSIVELY PROVEN TO BE MISLEADING AND DISHONEST.
That councillor Crompton repeated her officer lies only calls into question her judgement to hold this office. In Governmental terms she has collective responsibility in her portfolio area. If civil servants lie, the politician has to go. This has not happened, and neither did Sandwell councillors so called scrutiny committee see fit to investigate their officers lies, or the wider points made by their chief legal officer.
One can only assume from this, that this council from the top down receives poor advice from its officers, which is repeated by councillors who do not have the brain to question them. Or is it just plain joint corruption?