Thanet District Council officers appear, yet again, to be under attack from many of the pro-airport, RSP-supporting groups. There seems to be a regrettable lack of understanding of how politics and local government actually work. It seems that many of these pro-RSP lobbyists think that officers do their work at the bidding of whichever party is in power and that the leader of the council is able to exert political pressure on those officers.
So we now see the sorry spectacle, and all-too-familiar bullying, of TDC officers being criticised all over social media for … doing their job.
Local government officers are responsible for the practical development of council policies and procedures, and need to ensure that local services are delivered. They are professionally responsible for this work and draw on their experience and expertise to do so and must do so without fear of political pressure.
Where problems of politics arose, it was because pressure was applied to make me agree with something that was either professionally wrong or where the proposals had a dubious legal basis. When that happened, the politicians I held in high regard were those who listened to my advice and who then made it clear during the decision making process where the responsibility for the final decision lay. Such politicians had, and continue to have, my utmost respect.
David Moses a former head of governance for two county councils
It is being suggested that TDC’s response to the latest RSP consultation was unduly influenced by the previous leader of the council and that now there is a new leader, in Bob Bayford, that response can somehow be rewritten to reflect the politics of the Conservatives in relation to Manston.
More than one NNF member has responded to this latest round of bullying with mail to the Chief Executive Officer, Madeline Homer, asking that she ensure both that council employees are safeguarded and that any re-writing of the facts is not permitted. We have heard from members that Ms Homer has given such reassurances.
Here is one such mail to Ms Homer:
Dear Ms Homer,
I note with great concern copies on social media of emails to the new Leader from pressure groups and some councillors regarding the Council’s recent response to a consultation by RiverOak Strategic Partners.
The authors appear to think that the recent change of leadership enables history – and the facts – to be rewritten so as to mask the multiple defects in the recent consultation.
Of particular concern is the attack on Mr Iain Livingstone, who throughout the RSP story appears to have behaved very professionally and to have confined himself to the facts and the evidence as they relate to the relevant planning considerations.
The suggestion that someone else has written the response to which he put his name because (in their view) he lacks the necessary technical knowledge is reprehensible and absurd.
An alarming failure to understand the duties of public officials and the functioning of the Council is evident throughout the correspondence.
Plainly, if the council’s response to statutory planning consultations could be determined without reference to the relevant planning considerations and simply by calculation of what might be thought to suit politically, the Council’s view could have no weight or value. The Planning Department would be like a flute , on which the finger of politics could play whatever tune it thought it liked.
I would be happy to forward the social media attacks, if you have not already seen them.
Please could you reassure us that the Council will not permit these attacks, nor debase its work in the way demanded by Mr Webber, Cllr Bambridge and others.