Letters: Councillor parking pass misuse

Councillor should resign

THERE was an interesting article and editorial in the paper last week. First there was the headline report of a councillor evading parking charges, and then the editorial praising him as honourable for admitting to it.

Surely he could hardly have done anything else, seeing that vigilant residents caught him by their photographs. You rarely see offenders called honourable for admitting to their offence when caught by the police.

Why do we persist with double standards and double talk when dealing with our politicians, local and national?

He says that he didn’t know he could not use his pass for private parking. I wonder if the council would accept our excuse for not knowing where to park as an adequate reason to waive a fine? As a councillor it is his job to know the rules under which he must conduct himself.

Then we have the fact that he offers to submit the case to the Standards Committee. Offenders are generally not accorded the privilege of ‘offering’ to go to court. Nor is it the chief executive’s prerogative to decide if the Standards Committee should act.

The committee is an independent body and can well decide for itself, especially when there is no doubt as to the offence. Provided of course, they are not awed by his apparent ‘key’ position to our national Government.

The simple fact of those who have key positions is that it is invariably the case that, should they disappear, other keys that fit equally as well are very quickly found.

In a democracy, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done, how highly elevated you are or the esteem in which you are held. When caught doing wrong, we are all of a common stock.

Even more, from those that wish to govern us, we the people, must demand the highest standards with no excuses. For that reason I suggest that what he should have done is admit that what he did was wrong, inexcusable and resigned. Now that would have been honourable.

A famous writer and clergyman of the 17th century, George Hurbert said, ‘An ill deede cannot bring honour’. Regrettably, as has been seen over the past few years, there are very few honourable people in politics.

MICHAEL RAWLINGS-LLOYD

Brighton Road, Lower Beeding

I REALLY must congratulate your newspaper on publicising the foolish misdemeanour perpetrated by councillor Andrew Dunlop when he took advantage of his council pass to park free on his way to work in London.

Perhaps the County Times should undertake more investigative journalism within Horsham district and who knows what might be revealed.

I have read the plethora of excuses made by this councillor and the reassurances given by his party colleague Ray Dawe, the leader of this Conservative council, with interest and was reminded of the tales I heard in the magistrates and Crown Courts during the 20 years when I regularly appeared as an expert witness.

He only offended a mere seven times and he just did not realise that what he was doing was dishonest. Moreover (in mitigation), he is a good egg and did not claim his travelling expenses from home to the council offices.

Andrew Dunlop was unwise to commit this silly offence, for surely that is what it was.

He attempts to escape the consequences of his actions by turning to the standards committee which at worst will impose a derisory punishment.

He should do the decent thing, resign from Horsham District Council immediately and learn from his mistake.

GEORGE W. TRIBE, FRCVS

The Coopers, Itchingfield

I FEEL that I must comment upon your front page exclusive in last week’s County Times. I read the article with a growing sense of incredulity which reached a peak when I read councillor Andrew Dunlop’s comment ‘When it was brought to my attention by a council officer that car passes should only be used exclusively on council business, I immediately refrained from using this car park’.

I have also read the comments on your website both in support of Mr Dunlop despite this ‘oversight’ and those calling for his resignation.

The point of this letter is not to comment on the calls for his resignation but to confirm that, based on my experience when being given a parking permit, a councillor would have been told in no uncertain terms that this permit was only to be used whilst on official council business. It should not even be used when attending the council offices on non-council business such as when attending Conservative Group meetings.

How do I know this? As the former district councillor for the ward that Mr Dunlop now represents, I was made fully aware of when, where and how to use my permit when it was given to me!

By all accounts Mr Dunlop is a very intelligent man but this inappropriate use of his permit on several occasions, when HDC have recently, and substantially, increased car parking prices, would either question this or reinforce the feeling of many of your readers, and echoed by one in particular, that this is just another example of ‘one rule for some of them and another for the rest of the population’.

As the same correspondent said ‘thank goodness for a newspaper of the quality and the integrity of the County Times which has the courage to expose these matters on our behalf’.

IAN SHEPHERD

Dorking Road, Warnham

REGARDING Horsham District Council’s grab for money and the Hurst Road parking fiasco, documented in the County Times.

Finally council chief executive Tom Crowley took some responsibility for the Hurst Road parking fiasco and initiated the complaints procedure after it became clear councillor Roger Paterson was not taking any reasonable action and council leader Ray Dawe was asked to step in.

However it is very regrettable that HDC by way of Tom Crowley two days later dismissed the Hurst Road car park users’ concerns at the 50 per cent fee hike for two reasons. Firstly HDC has said our Pavilions in the Park petition which received over 1,200 signatures was invalid as we had not collected addresses.

Additionally the council has had its budget squeezed by Westminster, the council considers council tax in Horsham is low and consequently needs to maximise income from elsewhere and therefore deems a 50 per cent hike in this case to be acceptable.

Perhaps for Andrew Dunlop and other councillors, such fee hikes matter not!

Dr SUSAN MICHAELIS

Hurst Road, Horsham

Shameful reporting

YOU SHOULD be ashamed. A story about a Horsham councillor who used his parking permit for personal business and ceased to do so when advised not to hardly serves any useful public interest. On any normal scale of misdemeanours this would barely register. Filling the whole of your front page with this trivia beggars belief.

In no way is this justified by the smug self-congratulatory editorial inside the paper. Has the editor of the County Times never had a parking ticket?

You gave full page credence to some ‘anonymous’ sneak, presumably a political opponent. Anonymous tittle-tattle should be treated with disdain. Elected councillors give their time freely. We want the most able members of our community to continue to stand for election.

If you pillory them because they have parked in the wrong place or, perhaps, because they own an expensive car, all you will achieve is a weakening of local democracy.

At a time when the integrity of the press in our country is at a low point you have helped to show why.

The people of Horsham deserve a better standard of reporting than this pathetic and spurious muckraking offered to us as ‘objective journalism’.

ANDREW ROSS

Church Road, Mannings Heath

SHOCK, horror! Parking-gate hits Horsham! I wondered what monstrous crime your front page ‘exclusive’ had uncovered when last week’s paper arrived but having read of Andrew Dunlop’s misdemeanour I hardly think he merited such excoriation.

I don’t know Mr Dunlop. I don’t live in the ward he represents. And I have no connection with any of the enterprises in which he is involved. But if, as reported, he has failed to claim around £700 in travel expenses for attending council meetings, his use - albeit misuse - of his official car park pass on a few occasions still seems like a pretty good quid pro quo so far as the public purse is concerned. No doubt others will take a different view, particularly those who are always eager to suggest that councillors or MPs are ‘only in it for what they can get out of it’. I wonder though how many of us could live up to the exacting standards we demand of our elected representatives?

I am not condoning Mr Dunlop’s offence but I do think it needs to be weighed against the time and effort which he has freely contributed to his local community. Your editorial did, at least, have the grace to describe him as ‘asset to Horsham District Council’ but it was a pity that your front page headlines made such a mountain out of a molehill.

BOB HOOPER

Stoneybrook, Horsham

I HAVE read your coverage of Mr Dunlop’s parking activities. He has clearly made a mistake and has apologised fully for it.

I agree with your Comment commending him for the manner of his response and your conclusion that he is ‘an asset to Horsham District Council’.

I am an athlete at Horsham Blue Stars Harriers and I know how committed Mr Dunlop is to sports in Horsham district and the time and effort he gives to supporting it. I know also that he is very committed to the retention of a running track and other athletics facilities in our district.

He has worked hard to ensure that the council of which he is a member did not vote in December to decide in principle to close and demolish Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre. And I know he has argued strongly that there needs to be a proper business case prepared, which reviews all the options for Broadbridge Heath, ensuring we continue to have the facilities we need to train and compete. I am glad that because of his and others’ interventions this is now happening.

There are too many people who sit on the sidelines and are quick to criticise people who occupy public office. I can only hope that before they put the boot in, they will first pause to think that people in public life locally give largely freely of their time to work for and stand up for the communities they represent.

LUCY STICKLAND

Barttelot Road, Horsham