The Teignbridge ‘Newton Abbot says no’ scandal

ST Mary’s Church, Wolborough with the farm at Wolborough Barton in the foreground; and trees on Wolborough Hill, both photos by Derek Harper, Wikimedia Commons

Here’s the story so far in the Teignbridge – “Newton Abbot Says No” scandal. It’s really quite a shocker!

Basically a “complaint” was made about the conduct of two councillors on Teignbridge Council. The councillors represented the South Devon Alliance.

I’ve never met any of this group, but basically they were born out of the opposition to the expansion of Newton Abbot. They defeated the then Conservative Group leader Jeremy Christophers in an election.

The “complaint” was investigated by Teignbridge, but essentially there was never a “written complaint”. When the councillor asked to see the “complaint” the councillor refused.

Now, at this point in proceedings, someone should be getting the sack because investigating a “complaint” which didn’t exist (and spending public money on an independent consultant) is, politely, sub-optimal.

Actually it is very shabby indeed, and the Local Government Ombudsman clearly thought so and ruled that the council had acted improperly.

The ombudsman said:

“I look forward to the council considering my report at a senior decision-making level and hope it accepts the recommendations I have made to improve its processes and procedures.”

So the council duly held an extraordinary full council meeting to discuss this. Rather than just accepting they had got it wrong and apologising, the Council apparently decided that the Ombudsman wasn’t the right body to handle this complaint.

I wanted to find out what actually happened at this meeting. The recording was briefly available but taken down because of unspecified legal reasons.

Teignbridge now say that they can delete the recording (despite my requesting it.) That would be a criminal offence.

I really don’t understand why the Council is acting in this way. Having been on the pages of Private Eye news once for this (nothing to do with me I have to say), the last thing they could want is to be accused of a cover up.

Perhaps sanity will prevail and I will get to see what Teignbridge don’t want anyone to see.

Just what was said at that meeting?

“A MEMBER of the Teignbridge Council standards board has resigned ‘with immediate effect’ following the extraordinary meeting of Teignbridge District Council on February 14.

Independent member and Kingskerswell parish councillor Jane Taylor tendered her resignation after attending the meeting saying she was ‘appalled at their obvious lack of acceptance of the Ombudsman’s findings’.

She joined the board after being promised there was an ‘appetite for change’.

Cllr Taylor, a retired police Chief Inspector for 30 years, said: ‘The culture is now much worse, not better, and I have been considering my position for some time, due to the inability of the council to provide a functioning Standards Committee and the behaviours I have witnessed.

She added: ‘It would not be tolerated in any other workplace and I want no part in it.

‘I do not wish to be associated with a council where the majority of councillors either condone this behaviour or lack the courage to stand against it.’”

Mid-Devon Advertiser

An extraordinary email received from Teignbridge simultaneously claiming to be “fully conversant” with its legal obligations and at the same time saying it has requested “external guidance” before deciding on allowing access to the recording.

My response was that

“if the Council seriously maintains that it can, in some way, after the event, censor the content of its public proceedings, there is not so much need for “external guidance” but a degree of divine intervention.”

The council seems to be losing its grip. It lost an Ombudsman case and was asked to apologise. Instead it appears to be lurching towards yet more controversy.