Press Release - 21 February
BBEG write to the Standards Board, as suggested by the Local Government Ombudsman
The Standards Board for England
PO Box 36656
21 February 2007
COMPLAINT: LINCOLNSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL
I write on behalf of the Boston Bypass & Economic Growth Pressure Group (BBEG) in connection with a complaint we wish to make about the following Councillors and Officers of Lincolnshire County Council, who we believe have broken the Code of Conduct by demonstrating the following behaviour during the last 2 years and 3 months of our campaigning for a major road infrastructure for our town of Boston in Lincolnshire:
Councillor Martin Hill, Leader Lincolnshire County Council
Councillor William Webb, Portfolio Holder for Highways
Councillor Neil Cooper, Chair Highways Policy Development Group
Councillor Edward John Poll, LCC Executive, Spalding East and Moulton
Elaine Turner, Officer, Client Services Manager
Richard Wills, Officer, Director for Development
Derek May, Officer
David Woods, Officer, Project Manager Boston Transport Strategy
• doing something to prevent those who work for the authority from being unbiased;
• stopping someone getting information they are entitled to by law;
• damaging the reputation of their office or authority;
• using their position improperly, to their own advantage;
• misusing their authorities resources;
• making a decision where they have an interest that is so significant that it is likely to affect their judgement.
Despite huge public opinion throughout Lincolnshire, that Boston is a priority for the provision of a major road infrastructure, and despite a high profile campaign with the promise of full public consultation to ensure a good case was made for Boston to include in the Local Transport Plan, there has been a clear and deliberate obstruction by Lincolnshire County Council, the forcing of delay after delay, together with deliberate manipulation and control of everything surrounding this issue, resulting in the little funding that was in place for Boston being transferred elsewhere. Our letters asking for information about this have been ignored, time and time again.
Even the Acting Monitoring Officer, David O’Connor, has promised to reply to our letters, but it seems has not been able to, for some reason. We still await a reply as promised to our letter dated 30 January 2007 – and David’s promise on 5 February 2007 to “send a general response if I have heard nothing more by this evening” – we actually did request specific information about the reluctance to look at the traffic lights in Boston, but have heard nothing further.
The Local Government Ombudsman has stated to us that they are not able to investigate a complaint against a Council on behalf of the majority of the population of a town such as Boston and can only investigate complaints on behalf of individuals. They advised we take the matter up with the Standards Board, and we hereby submit the following complaint details to you.
We have an ongoing Formal Complaint which is currently in the hands of the Chief Executive at Lincolnshire County Council and plan to take this further to the Local Government Ombudsman in the next few weeks.
We will deal with our complaint under each heading as follows:
1. Doing something to prevent those who work for the authority from being unbiased
Cllr Neil Cooper, Chair Highways PDG, stated to the Group immediately before asking them to vote on the issue, that, “It is not appropriate for a bypass to be used as a single issue for political motives.” See http://www.bbeg.org.uk/press_08012007.htm
2. Stopping someone getting information they are entitled to by law
Cllr William Webb, Portfolio Holder for Highways, has not replied to the letter from Christine Basu regarding reallocation of funding following the demise of the Southern Economic Corridor (Dock Link Road scheme). Funding has obviously been reallocated, resulting in less monies being available for Boston. See http://www.bbeg.org.uk/William_Webb_reallocation.pdf
Our request under the Freedom of Information Act for Minutes of the Joint Officer Group Meetings has been continually met with obstruction and deliberate withholding of a set a Minutes which were confirmed initially as being non-existent but subsequently acknowledged as existing, but only after the Executive Group and Scrutiny Management Group Decisions had been made. This set of Minutes confirmed that the short-term road widening improvements would have hardly any effect on traffic flows, which we believe is the reason these Minutes were withheld. We have requested original copies of all specifically prepared data given to us so far under the FOI Act and are still awaiting receipt. See http://www.bbeg.org.uk/FreedomofInformation_07022007.htm
3. Damaging the reputation of their office or authority
Elaine Turner, Officer, Client Services Manager, gave information at the Dock Link Road Public Inquiry, which has since been proved to be incorrect. She stated that funding could not be transferred, yet much later, after the Inquiry and following our persistence, admitted that “presumably if the monies were to be transferred…” See http://www.bbeg.org.uk/LCC_ElaineTurner_03082006.htm
Cllr William Webb, Portfolio Holder for Highways, promised to return to Lincoln after attending the Public Consultation in Boston in July 2006 and do something about the number of traffic lights, especially those on Bargate roundabout, and despite several letters, failed to even respond to this request. A letter was received on 20 February 2007 in the knowledge that we are preparing a case to put to the Standards Board, which simply states that, “as part of the short-term planning, traffic light phasing will be investigated, but this must be seen as part of the overall strategy, and not taken in isolation”. This obviously carefully prepared statement is too little, too late, and is by no means specific, nor demonstrates any commitment whatsoever from LCC.
4. Using their position improperly, to their own advantage
Richard Wills, Officer, Director for Development, stated to us in September 2005 that: “The traffic lights are here to stay.” Despite pleas from the public, Councillors and others to look at reducing the number of traffic lights, especially on Bargate roundabout, Councillors even stating at the Scrutiny Management Committee meeting on 18 January 2007 that in one European town they removed all traffic lights and aided congestion considerably, this has so far fallen on deaf ears. There has been no investigation into traffic light reduction or phasing whatsoever, as confirmed at the Scrutiny Management meeting on 18 January 2007.
Elaine Turner, Officer, Client Services Manager, stated that bypasses cannot be built in stages. As is the case for the Lincoln bypasses, this is obviously untrue and was later admitted that it was in fact “possible”, but not preferred, primarily because of funding, despite Lincoln’s bypasses being built in stages. See http://www.bbeg.org.uk/LCC_ElaineTurner_03082006.htm
Cllr Neil Cooper, Chair Highways Policy Development Group, representing Burgh le Marsh and Wainfleet, actively lobbied for the Burgh le Marsh bypass to be commenced 18 months ahead of schedule.
It was pointed out to Cllr Martin Hill, Leader Lincolnshire County Council, that a conflict of interest existed in that Cllr Webb was Chairman of the Joint Advisory Committee for Lincoln and also Portfolio Holder for Highways, which gives an unfair advantage to Lincoln in terms of funding and priorities. Cllr Hill did not respond to this point and failed to mention that the JAC for Lincoln also comprises members of emda and the Environmental Agency amongst others. See http://www.bbeg.org.uk/LCC_MartinHill_20092006.htm
Cllr Edward John Poll, LCC Executive, Spalding East and Moulton, made a strongly worded attack on the idea that Boston needed a bypass, at the Executive meeting on 9 January 2007. Cllr Poll, who represents villages in Lincolnshire that are also trying to get a bypass, (Whaplode and Moulton), was using his position to influence Members of the Executive, putting a County outside Lincolnshire above that of a town in his own County.
5. Misusing their authorities resources
Cllr William Webb, Portfolio Holder for Highways, is Chairman of the Joint Advisory Committee for Lincoln and as such has a conflict of interest in that he is responsible for Highways throughout the whole of Lincolnshire, so where there is a shortage of funding, as is the case in Lincolnshire, Lincoln takes priory and has done so for many years.
Elaine Turner, Officer, Client Services Manager, in a report to the Highways PDG concerning the proposed Lincoln bypasses, stated that the SATURN model used for Lincoln was not acceptable for the DfT for major schemes, yet this model was used for Boston and therefore could not be used to justify a major road scheme for Boston. See http://www.bbeg.org.uk/press_25082006.htm
David Woods, Officer, Project Manager Boston Transport Strategy, held a meeting with Chestnut Homes, despite concerns from others at the Joint Officer Group Meeting, the exact details of which we have not yet been provided with. See BBEG Forum
6. Making a decision where they have an interest that is so significant that it is likely to affect their judgement
Derek May, Officer, stated to the Scrutiny Management Committee on 18 January 2007 that the railway crossing in Boston would be widened to 3 lanes of road traffic as was done in Lincoln. We do not believe there is any railway crossing in the whole of the UK with 3 lanes of road traffic and that this statement was made to deliberately persuade the vote towards accepting the short-term remedies for Boston, which without resolving the congestion caused by this railway crossing, means no immediate solution to Boston’s dire traffic congestion and pollution. This decision ensures funding remains available for the Lincoln bypasses. See http://www.bbeg.org.uk/BBEGNewFormalComplaintLetter3.htm
Our website, www.bbeg.org.uk, contains a wealth of information and history about the last few years of campaigning and we hope you can help us to end the decades of neglect of Boston by Lincolnshire County Council.
Chair, Boston Bypass & Economic Growth Pressure Group (BBEG)
21 February 2007