The lovely picture above appears on the Chipping Barnet Conservatives web site. It was taken at their Christmas fund raising dinner for East Barnet branch. The newly elected leader of the council, Lynne Hillan, is sitting second from the left. At the far end of the table is Cllr Joanna Tambourides. Sitting second from the right, just in front of Theresa Villiers, is council officer Richard Robeson who is the Cabinet Advisor to the Tory Administration. He took over from former Conservative councillor Dr Vanessa Gearson when she was promoted to the position of senior spin doctor (all paid for by the taxpayer of course).
As you would expect, the council has strict rules governing the conduct of Officer/Member relations. Protocol 9.2 states:
“Officers, apart from political assistants, should not attend party group meetings, or party political meetings involving party colleagues who are not members of the Council, without the agreement of the Chief Executive.”
Protocol 11.1 states clearly and unequivocally:
“Members and Officers will often work closely together and develop good relationships. This can be beneficial, but there are limits and risks for all concerned in this area and it is not enough to avoid actual impropriety. Members and Officers should at all times avoid any situation which can give rise to suspicion and any appearance of improper conduct. This includes excessive socialising between employees and individual councillors.” (emphasis added)
The National Code of Local Government Conduct for Members states:
“Mutual respect between Councillors and Officers is essential to good local government. Close personal familiarity between individual councillors and officer can damage this relationship and prove embarrassing to other Councillors and Officers.”
As you would also expect, Barnet Council and the ruling Conservative Administration take absolutely no notice of the protocols when it suits their own purpose.
As Leader of the Council, Lynne Hillan knows (or should know) what the rules about socialising with officers are, and even if Mr Robeson was invited to this function without her knowledge, she should have taken action to rectify this breach of the protocol as soon as it became apparent, rather than posing for a photograph which she would have known was likely to be used for party political purposes.
This was not a technical breach of the code as Cllr Hillan and Mr Robeson voluntarily sat close to each other at the dinner table and then posed for a photograph. Don’t Call Me Dave is reliably informed that the council’s Head of Corporate Governance has been aware of this photograph since the beginning of February but has taken no action whatsoever against the individuals involved.
Clearly the rules which other political parties are required to obey, do not apply to Barnet’s Conservatives or their lickspittle lackeys.