Friday, 24 August 2012

#QuackCWaC forced to unlock their doors to social media and bloggers

New law changes to introduce greater openness and transparency in executive councils meetings will mean all decisions including those affecting budgets and local services will have to be taken in an open and public forum, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced today.

The changes will result in greater public scrutiny. The existing media definition will be broadened to cover organisations that provide internet news thereby opening up councils to local online news outlets. Individual councillors will also have stronger rights to scrutinise the actions of their council.

Crucially councils will no longer be able to cite political advice as justification for closing a meeting to the public and press. In addition any intentional obstruction or refusal to supply certain documents could result in a fine for the individual concerned.

Eric Pickles said: "Every decision a council takes has a major impact on the lives of local people so it is crucial that whenever it takes a significant decision about local budgets that affect local communities whether it is in a full council meeting or in a unheard of sub-committee it has got to be taken in the full glare of all the press and any of the public.

New legal rights for citizen reporters: Local authorities are now obliged to provide reasonable facilities for members of the public to report the proceedings as well as accredited newspapers (regulation 4). This will make it easier for new 'social media' reporting of council executive meetings thereby opening proceedings up to internet bloggers, tweeting and hyperlocal news forums.

My comment: Excellent news as long as #QuackCWaC don't attempt to circumvent the new laws as they have attempted to do with the FOI Act.

Read the full story from the source DCLG or The Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 here

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

#QuackCWaC Council Data Breach [Updated 23/08/12]

UPDATE 23rd August 2012: A further email was sent to the recipients of the emails below asking them to delete it. Full story below original post.

From: PLANNING [] 
Sent: 21 August 2012 14:46
To: [See below]
Subject: Planning application consultation - 12/03447/OUT
The above email, together with an attachment, was sent to some 260 people who commented on the previous withdrawn application by #QuackCWaC Council Planning. I have removed the 260 private email addresses which CWaC wrongly disclosed to everyone else on the list. Attachment below.

Realising their cock-up and in an attempt at damage limitation the following email was sent out just under 3 hours later.
Sent: 21 August 2012 17:38
Subject: RE: Planning application consultation - 12/03447/OUT 
Please accept our apologies for the error on the email sent to you. Our standard procedure is to use the Bcc (blind carbon copy) email tool but due to an administrative error this did not happen on this occasion.
Kind regards Development Management
An administrative error that led to a serious data breach. Now 260 people know the private email addresses of the other 259 people who were also sent the email. I just hope many of them will be complaining to the Information Commissioner. Here is a helpful link.

Attachment to the initial email

Dear Sir/Madam

Town and Country Planning Act 1990
Proposal: To erect a student village including accommodation for up to 2,300 students, recreational open space, a combined student hub/sporting facility (comprising cafe/bar, kitchen, student services, launderette, fitness areas, treatment/consulting rooms and changing areas), full sized football pitch, four mini-sports pitches, construction of a new access from Parkgate Road, an emergency vehicular access link off Milton Road, internal access routes, ground modelling and drainage works, parking provision for up to 400 cars, footpaths, cycle routes, Energy Centre, Refuge and Recycling facilities, sub stations and associated works including access (OUTLINE APPLICATION)
Location: Land Between Parkgate Road And, Shelley Road, Chester, Cheshire, 
Cheshire West and Chester Council have received a planning application in respect of the above development. The Planning Officer dealing with the application is named above.

You are invited to inspect the deposited plans and make comments on line via our website at or screens are available to view in the Customer Service Centres, at The Forum, Chester, CH1 2HS, Wyvern House, Winsford, CW7 1AH and Civic Way, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0BE, between 8.30am and 5pm Monday to Friday. Please contact Pauline English on 0151 339 1405 if you wish to view the paper copies of the documents available online.

Please make any comments on the application no later than 11 September 2012. Alternatively you can comment in writing to the Planning Office, address above, quoting 12/03447/OUT. Please note that under the Access to Information Act 1985 the contents of any letter you submit will be available for public inspection and may be copied on request.

An acknowledgement letter will be sent out to you on receipt of your comments and the contents will be taken into consideration when the Planning Officer determines the application. Unfortunately, a detailed response cannot be given because of the tight timescales in which a decision must be reached.

If you are not the owner of the property, you should forward a copy of this letter to the owner.

Yours faithfully

Mr Mark Lynch
Area Planning Manager - South and West

UPDATE 23rd August 2012: A further email was sent to the recipients of the emails above asking them to delete it.
From: GREGORY, Angela []
Sent: 23 August 2012
Subject: Email regarding Planning Consultation 12/03447/OUT
Importance: High 
Dear Sir/Madam
You were sent an email from Cheshire West and Chester Planning on Thursday 23 August 2012 at [time removed by me], please could I ask you to delete the email as soon as possible.  I have attached the Neighbour Notification letter again for your reference. 
Yours faithfully
Angela Gregory, Senior Plan Processing Officer
Cheshire West and Chester Borough Council

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

#QuackCWaC Council leader in Private Eye AGAIN: 'WHO'S THE DICKHEAD?'

UPDATED 8th March 2013: CWaC leader Mike Jones in Private Eye again. A Hat Trick!

UPDATED 19th February 2013: Cheshire council leader in the clear over remark. Really?

UPDATED 19th August 2012: Formal complaint submitted about the offensive comment.

UPDATED 26th August 2012: Story hits The Telegraph.

UPDATED 18th January 2013: Resident claims Cheshire West and Chester Council conduct code has ‘gone out of window’

Updates below original post.

It was recently reported in the Chester Chronicle that Mike Jones, leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, ‘regrets’ using insulting swear word at two ward members. Read the full Chester Chronicle article. However, the story was limited to the local press until Private Eye picked up the story.

This is the second time Cheshire West and Chester Council have been mentioned in Private Eye, on both occasions because they ran a story about the Cheshire West and Chester Council leader.

Unfortunately Private Eye is not in our local shops until Wednesday (tomorrow) but I have managed to obtain a copy from London for a sneak peek, hence this post title.

If you want to read the full article please buy a copy of Private Eye (or better still subscribe because the way things are going it won't be long before Cheshire West and Chester Council are in it again). They have a special section for Rotten Boroughs and it looks like #QuackCWaC are very keen to join other regulars such as Barnet and Carmarthen councils.

Extract above added on Wednesday 8th June 2012 11am
The $64,000 question is what are #QuackCWaC standards committee going to do about it? Unlike the earlier article CWaC can't even argue it's a personal matter, especially since a CWaC spokesperson has already attempted to excuse/mitigate their own leader's blatant breach of their code of conduct. See Chronicle Article,

Code of Conduct extracts

Introduction and interpretation

(1.1) This Code applies to you as a member of an authority.

(1.3) It is your responsibility to comply with the provisions of this Code.

Scope (2.5) Where you act as a representative of your authority—
(a) on another relevant authority, you must, when acting for that other authority,
comply with that other authority's code of conduct; or
(b) on any other body, you must, when acting for that other body, comply with
your authority's code of conduct, except and insofar as it conflicts with any other
lawful obligations to which that other body may be subject.
General obligations

(3.1) You must treat others with respect.

(5) You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as
bringing your office or authority into disrepute.

Download the full Code of Conduct here.

UPDATED 19th August 2012: Formal complaint submitted about the offensive comment.

Tattenhall resident Colin Oats told the Chronicle he has lodged a complaint, believing the Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) leader was in breach of the Code of Conduct for Members.

My comment: Having read the code of conduct for CWaC members it certainly appears the comment breached the CWaC members code of conduct. However, what will be more interesting is what CWaC Council do about the matter, for it is their reputation on the line now not their leaders. 

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle

UPDATED 26th August 2012: Story hits the Telegraph

My comment: First only the local press published stories about #QuackCWaC, then Private Eye joined in and have published two so far. Now it looks like the mainstream national press have started to take an interest in the goings on in #QuackCWaC Council. 

UPDATED 18th January 2013: Resident claims Cheshire West and Chester Council conduct code has ‘gone out of window’

A COMPLAINANT challenging Cheshire West and Chester Council leader Mike Jones says the authority’s code of conduct ‘lies in tatters’ after the councillor refused to co-operate with the investigation.

An external investigator found Cllr Jones broke the councillors’ code of conduct, although the council leader refused to co-operate with the inquiry. How the leader will be dealt with has yet to be decided.

Mr Oats, who is becoming frustrated with the lengthy process, said: “Any councillor can now turn around and say ‘I’m not willing to participate in the investigation’ and there is nothing the council can do because Cllr Jones has set the precedent.”

My comment: I will reiterate what I said earlier , what will be more interesting is what CWaC Council do about the matter, for it is their reputation on the line now not their leaders. 

What an utter shambles, some 6 months and #QuackCWaC council still can't sort out a simple undefended complaint. No wonder they have problems with more serious matters.

Read the full story from the source Chester Chrincle

UPDATED 19TH February 2013: Cheshire council leader in the clear over remark. Really?

COUNCIL leader Mike Jones will not face any further action for calling two of his constituents ‘d***heads’.

Mr Goacher left the council in December and his replacement Meic Sullivan-Gould – who was appointed this month – has ruled no further action should be taken against Cllr Jones.

My comment: So the matter is delayed until Goacher leaves and an interim,  Meic Sullivan-Gould, who was only recently appointed and specialises in solving crises for Councillors and Councils reaches the decision that the leader is now in the clear over his remark.

Accordingly when I look at the headline "Cheshire council leader will face no further action over remark".  I can only ask really? Then they wonder why many residents think Chester West and Chester Council is a Quack Council.

Read the full story from the source Chester First

UPDATED 8th March 2013: CWaC leader Mike Jones in Private Eye again

My Comment: Looks like the Ken Livingstone/ defence has now given elected representatives, like Mike Jones, a loophole with which to drive a coach and horses through their code of conduct.