Monday 22 October 2012

Richard Cornelius has got to go!

Mr Jelly Bean: Leader of Barnet Council


When Richard Cornelius was elected leader of Barnet Council last year, Don’t Call Me Dave predicted that he would not last in post until the next council election. Many people disagreed with this view pointing out that Mr Cornelius is a very courteous and polite person, willing to consider the views of others; a refreshing change from his two predecessors. Quite so. But as DCMD knew then, and as others are now beginning to realise, Mr Cornelius is a weak and ineffectual leader. He simply does not have the balls to stand up to those councillors who damage the integrity of the Council and the Conservative Party.

Last week, Andreas Tambourgreedy hit the council with a £17,500 legal bill. Instead of kicking it into touch, as advised by barrister councillor Sachin Rajput, Cornelius capitulated and paid up.

This week, Conservative councillor Brian Coleman has been charged with a serious criminal offence, and still Mr Cornelius refuses to take any action. He has refused to withdraw the party whip, telling the Barnet Press: “he will not be chucked out unless he is proven guilty”. In a statement to the Barnet Times Mr Cornelius added: “I have no wish to prejudice any trial and he remains innocent until proven guilty.”

Compare this to the fate of Cllr John Hart who, last year, was immediately suspended from his committee chairmanship following an allegation of racism. Cllr Hart was subsequently cleared by the Standards Committee. There has never been any suggestion that his suspension prejudiced his ability to a fair hearing.

Richard Cornelius could, and should, have suspended Brian Coleman from his committee membership and chairmanship when he was first arrested. Given the serious nature of the matter - alleged assault-  it would have been an entirely reasonable position to adopt.

Mr Cornelius could, and should, have suspended Brian Coleman for his refusal to comply with an order from the Standards Board in relation to a previous disciplinary matter. But, as usual, Richard Cornelius bottled it.

Brian Coleman knows that his political career is in its death throes and, like a spoilt child, he is determined to take the whole Conservative Group down with him. It will undoubtedly serve them right, but it will be the residents who ultimately suffer as they end up with another ruinous Labour administration.

If the Conservatives wish to retain any credibility as a serious political party, then Mr Cornelius must be removed as leader and replaced by someone who will deal with recalcitrant and errant councillors. Time is running out if they want to hold on to power.

UPDATE 23/10/12:

Innocent until proven guilty?

Ever since Brian Coleman’s arrest last month, the media has been quick to point out that he is innocent until proven guilty.

But this phrase is regularly misused. It really means innocent in law until proven guilty. A person guilty of an offence cannot be punished by a Court until a formal declaration of guilt has been made (or admitted). But a person becomes guilty of an offence the moment it is committed.

This is why Mr Coleman has to be suspended from his council committee membership and chairmanship, and his membership of the North London Waste Authority. You cannot have a councillor holding such positions when he might actually be a criminal. The reputational damage this would do to the council is immense, although how much of the council’s reputation remains is, of course, a moot point.

Reacting after the event is far too late. Ask the BBC about that. The outgoing Chief Executive, Non-Stick Nick, should explain publicly why he did not properly advise Richard Cornelius as to what he could and should have done once Mr Coleman was arrested.

Suspending Mr Coleman from his council positions does not prejudice his defence or his right to a fair hearing in any way whatsoever. If he is acquitted of the charges then the status quo ante can immediately, and quite properly, be restored. 

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