Worse things happened in..

The media seems to be stoking up a campaign against York Council Leader Keith Aspden. Comments from both Tory and Labour activists have gained prominent publicity.

All are based on the premise that allegation of bullying, made by the Council s last Chief Executive, are true.

In reality, no evidence was submitted which would have justified the Councils auditors (Masers) repeating the claims in their recent “Public Interest Report”.

The PIR is due to be considered at a public Council meeting on 4th May. 

Those who know Keith Aspden will confirm that he is not a “bully”. He can be assertive, and is persistent, but that is what you would expect, and hope for, from a Council Leader.

He may be criticised for being too politically introverted. Avoiding conflict – and surrounding oneself with sycophants – is a mistake that many leaders make.

But it does not make them incompetent.

So what about the glass houses brigade?

It was the Tories who appointed the last Council Chief Executive. They have a vested interest in defending their champion and averting attention from the costly shambles that arose in 2018. Any criticisms are likely to be judged against the background of graft and cronyism which is currently undermining the credibility of the national government.

It is a government that has also singularly failed to implement its policy which would have seen a ceiling put on severance payments in the public sector.

Labour are no better.FOI response Redundancies table 2 When they were last in control of the Council (2011-2015), they handed out £8.2 million in payoffs to 546 “redundant” staff.  Click for details More significantly they were responsible for 41 “compromise agreements”. These are legal means which prevent former employees from publicly pursuing – or commenting on – the terms under which they left the Council. Anyone following the inquiries into the way that Unions like the GMB conduct their equalities policies will be less than impressed by the strictures of the left.

So Keith Aspden should carry on with the good work he and his colleagues have done during what has been a very difficult year because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

But there must be changes.

It seems from the Masers report, that officer advice to the decision makers was wanting in several respects. It may be that a third-party intervention is needed so that new more transparent processes, and the public scrutiny that goes with them, can be introduced..

The Council needs to abandon its closed doors decision making processes. Yes, protect the privacy of individuals, but find a way of at least allowing real time scrutiny of any discretionary decisions.

And we live in a time where the use of social media is commonplace.

The Leader of the Council does not have a Twitter account. It, together with Facebook and individual web sites,* are now more important than ever as a means of communication.

Some soul searching is required. 

*NB. Keith Aspden abandoned his web site in October 2020 telling his followers that regular updates could be found on a centralised LibDem site . Only one item (library re-openings) has been posted there during the last 3 months.

There is a similar lack of communication from Councillors representing most other wards in York