Thursday, 6 March 2014

Thanet Council's New (Not So) Indpendent?? Standards Members

Last year the 4 Independent Members of Thanet Council Standards Committee resigned en-masse after being  mercilessly bullied and intimidated by Council Leader Clive Hart and his cabinet cronies, for having the audacity to produce a report which rightly and properly alerted councillors to the appallingly low regard the people of Thanet have for their town hall politicians. The public perception was, and probably still is, that many Councillors are secretive, out of touch and in some cases possibly corrupt and that some are serving themselves rather than the public who elected them.

To cut a long story short,  the Council advertised for new Independent members of the Standards Committee to replace the 4 who were hounded into resignation by the cabinet bullies. Following a rigorous interview process 3 people were appointed. There appointments were announced at the Council meeting last week.  In the process of announcing the appointments Councillor Iris Johnston  who interviewed the candidates said that she had known one of the appointees, Mr Allan Hibbs  for many years (see the film). I wonder if she declared during the interview process that she had known Mr Hibbs for many years and whether or not  she absented herself from Mr Hibbs interview sessions because she has known him for many years. In the human resources world it is generally accepted best practice to  step down from an interview panel if you know one of the candidates outside of the workplace.

If such a declaration has not been made and if Councillor Johnston did not absent herself from the interview with Mr Hibbs then I would have serious concerns about integrity and legitimacy of the appointment. I will of course be writing to the Council’s Monitoring Officer to seek his advice on this matter. Hypothetically speaking what would happen if a member of the public or another Councillor complained to the Standards Committee about Councillor Johnston’s behaviour? Would it be right and proper for Mr Hibbs to be involved in any investigation or sanctioning of Councillor Johnston if they have known each other for many years?

Coincidentally, a member of the public asked me the same
question and sent me a copy of a picture of Councillor Johnston and Mr Hibbs having chat after the Council meeting finished. Dare I say it, but this issue has got me thinking about whether or not the new  Independent Standards members might be a lot less Independent than their predecessors who were hounded out of office.  I think a famous actress who’s  name was Patsy might possibly describe what could have happened here.


  1. Ian, You forget to mention the Councillors who are serving their friends. Unlike the previous incumbents, the current lot appear to maybe underestimate the value of the odd planning permission etc.

  2. Bring on a Unitary ASAP.