It was so reassuring to read your Editorial in last week’s paper (6/3/14) ‘Free Speech: why we will always defend it’.
The autocratic style of leadership at Horsham District Council (HDC) has been allowed to go unchallenged for far too long. Secrecy and pressure from an ‘elite’ cabal has now been shown up for what it is by the bravery of Cllr Christian Mitchell and a number of other Tory councillors such as Peter Burgess, Andrew Baldwin, Liz Kitchen and John Bailey who all have spoken out.
The revelation in your Editorial of your conversation with a senior Conservative councillor is disturbing. This senior Tory councillor wanted a chairman put in office who would be a patsy to the Cabinet and so realising that Cllr Christian Mitchell was not their man he was summarily dismissed.
On HDC’s own web page for its Code of Conduct for councillors states (horsham.gov.uk/council/members/1114.aspx): ‘Confidence in local democracy and decision-making is a cornerstone of our way of life. It can only be achieved when elected and co-opted members of local councils are seen to live up to the high standards the public has a right to expect from them.’
I hope some of your readers will look at this document (since many Tory councillors clearly haven’t). It talks about integrity, impartiality, selflessness, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, leadership, disrepute, bullying.
The contributors to your letters columns have begun to realise what is happening and the staggering mailbag of letters to this paper speaks for itself.
HDC has been brought into disrepute. Indeed, its Code of Conduct has been broken. For example a three-line whip compromises the impartiality of council members who are whipped.
Councillors were denied their individual right to impartiality as set out in the Code at 3(2): ‘You must not (d) do anything which compromises or is likely to compromise the impartiality of those who work for, or on behalf of, your authority.’ It is depressing how few councillors are prepared to stand up and be counted – they all appear afraid and timid – perhaps even intimidated.
I’d like to think those fully responsible are big enough to do the right thing and ‘heal the rift’ as you suggest in your Editorial.
But I fear arrogance is ingrained in the culture and encouraged by the cabinet system.
The council has been brought into disrepute and there should be resignations – in particular leader Ray Dawe and deputy leader Helena Croft. This would be the honourable course of action.
It would give HDC time to remove the disease in its midst, reform and determine by those remaining to set a new style of local government in which the electorate can have confidence.
Dr GEOFFREY RICHARDSON
Tennyson Close, Horsham