A Victim of Disgraceful Bias at the Standards Committee at Kensington and ChelseaThe Newsdesk has received a letter from Mr Donald Cameron, describing his experience of the panel of Kensington and Chelsea’s Standards Committee when it failed to provide an impartial investigation of his complaint against the then Councillor Phelps, who had called Mr Cameron a liar in the Council chamber. Mr Cameron’s letter highlights the injustice which is done by having individuals on the hearing panel who are biased in favour of the Councillor who was being complained against. The Newsdesk is grateful to Mr Cameron for kindly providing permission to publish his letter on the blog.
Re: Cllr Cockell’s Standards Committee
I hope that Mr Downe’s letter to Ms Sophia Lambert, Chair of the K&C Standards Committee, results in a clean up of the way in which the committee has been operating. Friends and supporters of the “accused” should not be allowed to sit as “independent” members of the Standards Committee. In criminal parlance this is known as “rigging the jury”.When Mr Downes, founder of Residents First!, complained last year about Cllr Cockell’s expenses he made a compelling complaint that included details of c. £10,000 of undeclared expenses, claims for expensive meals in New York for guests who were not named and whose identity Cllr Cockell subsequently “forgot”, and a letter to the local newspaper in which Cllr Cockell stated that he “never used the Mayor’s Bentley”. But FOI enquiries showed that the chauffeur’s log registered at least 24 journeys in the car by our boy. The (Standards) Assessment Committee (loaded with Cllr Cockell’s friends) dismissed the complaint and even went so far as to say that lies about the Bentley were acceptable as part of a political exchange! When I complained to the Standards Committee about Cllr Phelps (a close associate of Cllr Cockell), I did so reluctantly. The time required to pursue these complaints is enormous. Cllr Phelps called me a liar in an open Council Meeting which I believed brought the Council into disrepute. I wrote to Cllr Cockell asking for a retraction of the statement and an apology. He told me to buzz off and assured me that the Code of Conduct had not been breached. I then asked the Council for a transcript of the speech and they refused to hand it over, saying that the speech was protected by the Data Protection Act. It was necessary for me to approach the Information Commissioner who insisted that the Council release the transcript and this formed the basis of my complaint. The complaint was upheld and the sanction was a letter of apology from Phelps to the Mayor, for bringing the Council into disrepute. An absurd result. A similar case (Cllr Mason, Suffolk Council, Standards for England, July 2009) resulted in the councillor concerned being suspended for a year by the Standards Board.
I wrote several letters to the Director of Legal Affairs at the Council before the Standards hearing, requesting that the case should be heard by Standards For England because I did not believe that the K&C Standards Committee would be impartial. The Council refused and insisted on hearing the case itself. We now know that one independent member did not turn up to the hearing and a second (Ms Ware) is a declared fan and supporter of Phelps.Now we know the truth. The Standards Committee was “loaded”. Just like the committee before it which looked into the complaint by Mr Downes about Cllr Cockell’s expenses. The leadership at K&C runs the council as a private fiefdom, without checks and balances. This corruption has unfortunately spread to the Standards Committee. Cllr Cockell needs to raise his game and acknowledge that democracy demands that he should strive to “make the system work”. By continuing to “work the system” for personal benefit, he fails himself, he fails his Party and he fails Kensington & Chelsea. As a fellow Conservative, I am deeply ashamed of the man. Yours faithfully Donald Cameron