Standards Board adjudication John Heasman...13 March 2003

Contributed by webmaster on Mar 18, 2003 - 02:59 PM

Case no. SBE631.02

This summary outlines the conclusions reached in Case SBE631.02. This case concerned allegations against Councillor John Heasman of Hawkinge Town Council. The allegations relate to Paragraphs 2(b) and 4 of the Code of Conduct. Paragraph 2 states that a member must "treat others with respect". Paragraph 4 states that "a member must not in his official capacity, or any other circumstance, conduct himself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing his office or authority into disrepute".

Date received:
23 July 2002

Date passed to ESO:
1 August 2002

Date completed:
31 January 2003

A member failed to treat others with respect and brought his office or authority into disrepute.

In relation to Paragraphs 2(b) and 4, no action needs to be taken under Section 59(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 2000.

The complainant, who was a Parish Councillor, alleged that Councillor Heasman used threatening words and gestures towards two individuals during a private conversation following a meeting of Hawkinge Parish Council on 10 July 2002. The meeting involved some heated exchanges and was prolonged by a number of points made concerning the minutes.

Councillor Heasman took part in a private conversation with two Parish Councillors afterwards, one of whom was the complainant. The complainant alleged that Councillor Heasman said words to the effect of 'if you don't stop questioning the minutes I will get you and make you suffer' in an aggressive manner to the Councillors. The complainant stated that he was frightened by this remark. The other party present said that they thought the comments were disrespectful and that he found them threatening. All agreed that Councillor Heasman made the statement in an official capacity as Chairman of the Parish Council.

Councillor Heasman claimed that he acted appropriately and contested the allegation that he failed to treat others with respect or brought the Council into disrepute by his comments. Councillor Heasman said that he made the remarks in order to rebuke Parish Councillors for intervening inappropriately in the meeting and not following the correct official procedures. Councillor Heasman recalled saying to the two individuals, 'If I lose any councillors out of this meeting or the clerk I'm going to get you, I'm going to throw the rule book at you'. Councillor Heasman stated that he spoke to the two individuals in a private and informal context because he wanted to spare them a public dressing-down. He also said that he did not want to embarrass the clerk, who he thought might leave because of arguments over the minutes. He claimed that he did not intend to threaten harm to the individuals concerned, but conceded that his comments may have been misinterpreted and the Councillors may have felt physically threatened as a result. Councillor Heasman claimed that this was not evident to him at the time, and he would have apologised for his conduct if he had realised that this was the case.

The Ethical Standards Officer considered the evidence of the individuals involved in the incident and concluded that although Councillor Heasman did not intend to threaten physical violence, the comments he made could potentially be misinterpreted as physical threats. The Ethical Standards Officer accepted Councillor Heasman's claim that his objective in making the remarks was to warn the individuals to follow the rules of debate in meetings.

The Ethical Standards Officer considered that Councillor Heasman failed to act appropriately in using confrontational language when warning the complainant and the other individual concerned about the consequences of not following correct procedures in public meetings. The Ethical Standards Officer stated that councillors have a legitimate right to raise issues about minutes and other items of concern on the agenda of meetings. The Ethical Standards Officer considered that it is the role of the Chairman to maintain order in debates with fairness and impartiality, using procedural rules if appropriate.

The Ethical Standards Officer concluded that Councillor Heasman acted inappropriately in choosing to issue private warnings to Councillors instead of raising the rules of debate in the meeting. The Ethical Standards Officer stated that this did not respect the proper processes of decision-making, and created the potential for misunderstanding. The Ethical Standards Officer found that Councillor Heasman failed to treat others with respect and could reasonably be regarded as bringing his office of Chairman and the reputation of the Parish Council into disrepute. In these circumstances, the Ethical Standards Officer concluded that Councillor Heasman had breached paragraphs 2(b) and 4 of the Code of Conduct.

The Ethical Standards Officer considered that the impact of the breach of the Code was limited. Councillor Heasman's behaviour had not affected the confidence or ability of the complainant or the other individual to raise points that they consider legitimate at future meetings. The Ethical Standards Officer took into consideration Councillor Heasman's acceptance that he would have apologised if he had been aware that his comments had been misinterpreted. Therefore, the Ethical Standards Officer found that no action need be taken under section 59(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 2000.

The Ethical Standards Officer recommended that the Parish Council consider training and other methods to improve member-to-member relationships and the chairmanship skills of members, so that members can work together productively in an appropriate manner. The Ethical Standards Officer furthermore noted Councillor Heasman's written apology to the two Councillors concerned, made following the issue of a draft of his report.


Lib Dems get their sums wrong....18 March 2003

Contributed by localrags on Mar 18, 2003 - 11:52 AM

Dear Editor

It's sometimes claimed that politicians are "economical with the truth" when they are in power and as far as I am aware the Lib Dems are not in power in Shepway.

So it came as something of a surprise when the Lib Dem Shepway District Focus had a story headed "Tory Tax Shame".

I will say at this point I have never voted Tory in my life and have always thought the Lib Dems were probably not the most capable party, but at least they were honest and stood up for the man in the street.

Oh dear how things have changed.

The story to which I'm referring claims and I quote, "Council Tax for local residents is going up by over 15% this year."

In the normal course of events I would probably have just accepted this but I had recently received my Council Tax bill. You may like to check your's, but it clearly states my average band "C" property the Shepway District Council element has increased by just 9.8%. That is 5.2% less than the Lib Dems will tell you and even with the KCC, Police and Parish rates added it still falls short by 1.6% and comes in at a 13.4% increase.

I'm sure that they didn't mean to tell such a porky, but a party that can't even do elementary arithmetic "No thank you Mr Carroll, go back to school and practice your sums!"



Sir Sandy "confident" in US style local warden scheme....18 March 2003

Contributed by localrags on Mar 18, 2003 - 05:20 AM

Ten more rural community wardens will be out on Kent’s streets by the beginning of June including one in Capel Le Ferne and another in Lydd.

The scheme pioneered by Kent Police has proved enormously successful since its launch with 12 wardens as a pilot in May last year. The Council is committed to a total of 100 rural community wardens in three years.

This year, 30 new wardens will be appointed. The first areas to benefit from this are Snodland, Warden in Sheppey, Harrietsham/Lenham, Eyethorne/Elvington, Tenterden, Capel Le Ferne, Chartham and Cranbrook. Lydd is to get two wardens due to its population, isolation and crime statistics.

Wardens work closely with the police. Distinctively uniformed and on bike or by foot, they are a very visible presence in the community and a focal point for people’s concerns about crime. As well as acting as the eyes and ears of the police, they work with the community to solve problems and build community spirit. Parish councils, business and local people have praised the work of the first wardens.

Kent County Council Leader Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart has always been very confident in the scheme’s importance after seeing it working in the USA.

He said: “We must tackle minor crime before it becomes major crime and help build the community spirit which is vital to the lifeblood of Kent. I am absolutely delighted with the way the scheme is working, how much it is appreciated and what a difference our wardens are making in many areas.�


Hawkinge voters say "NO" to war with Iraq....17 March 2003

Contributed by localrags on Mar 17, 2003 - 03:34 PM

Nearly three quarters of all villagers that voted in our poll as to whether we "Should we go to war with Iraq?" were against a military conflict.

This was one of the biggest ever responses to any poll we have conducted with 160 people registering a vote.

The results were ....."No to a war" 116 votes, "Yes" 27 and "undecided" 2 votes.

Thank you all for taking part.


21.8% Parish Council tax increase shocks villagers....17 March 2003

Contributed by localrags on Mar 17, 2003 - 03:12 PM

Council Tax bills are now dropping through the letterboxes of Hawkinge residents and although they were generally prepared for the increases which were widely publicised, the Parish Council element has brought a hostile response

The Parish Council charge has increased by a massive 21.8% over the previous year compared with KCC's 12.5% and Shepway's 9.8%. The Police Authority had the highest increase of 28.9% which pushed the total increase up by 13.4% on the previous year.

A resident told the Gazette that he was astounded by the increase which was not put before the villagers.

"What extra amenities will I get? The total bill of over £1000 gets my bin emptied but precious little else.

"Shepway Council, the Police Authority and KCC have all given reasons for their increases, but I have not heard a word from Hawkinge Council."

The Parish Council Annual meeting is to be held on Wednesday 23 April 2003 in the new community centre.


World War II hero to open the Churchill School....15 March 2003

Contributed by localrags on Mar 15, 2003 - 04:01 PM

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The new Churchill School will be formally handed over on 19th May at 2pm and opened on Saturday 31st May at 2pm

Air Commodore, Peter Brothers CBE DSO DFC who flew from Hawkinge in World War II will open the building.

He joined the RAF in 1936 and was a Flight Commander with 32 Squadron at the outbreak of war.

He flew Hurricanes in the great air battles of France and Dunkirk and during the Battle of Britain flew from the famous Biggin Hill fighter station before joining Bob Stanford-Tuck at 257 Squadron.

In 1941 he formed 457 Squadron with Australian pilots and a year later took command of 602 Squadron. In October 1942, Peter Brothers was appointed Wing Leader at Tangmere. He finished the war with 16 victories.

Headteacher Jennie Carter is inviting the whole village to the event which includes the Hythe Town Band playing a medley of airforce marches. 150303

Tunnel rail freight to Germany set to double....14 March 2003

Contributed by localrags on Mar 14, 2003 - 03:28 PM

EWS, in partnership with German rail freight operator DB Cargo, has been forced to increase the number of services through the Channel Tunnel from Koln in Germany to Britain.

The Gremberg (Koln) to London Channel Tunnel rail freight services has been in such high demand that the number of trains has been increased from five trains a week to eight with a planned increase to ten in May.

Jonathan Fox, EWS General Manager International, said: “EWS is delighted to be increasing Channel Tunnel rail freight services from Germany to Britain in partnership with DB Cargo. Demand from customers for all EWS Channel Tunnel rail freight services has been rising since the autumn of last year, and these services are part of our plans to meet this continuously growing demand.�


Council leader claims door is between high speed link and Dover...13 March 2003

Contributed by localrags on Mar 13, 2003 - 11:38 AM

The Leader of Dover District Council has written a letter to the Government stating that all that seems to be preventing the nation’s capital being connected to its busiest port is a door.

The letter from Cllr Peter Wells to the Transport Minister and the Secretary of State for Transport follows the publication of the Strategic Rail Authority’s consultation document on options for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

This document highlights that the provision of an end access, for emergency access to these trains, would enable the Folkestone service to be extended to Dover.

Cllr Wells said: “Given that it is possible to have doors on planes, it can not be beyond the wit of man to specify this requirement on these high speed trains, achieving the strategic benefit of connecting the Capital to the Gateway to Europe. “I can not envisage any other European Country that would allow the simple matter of specifying a door to prevent a connection between its premier port, Europe and its Capital.�

These comments came as partners in the East Kent Triangle launched a conference to highlight the investment priorities needed for the area to play a key role in the South East’s economy, attended by the Minister for Employment Relations, Industry and the Regions, Alan Johnson, MP.

The Conference, Revitalising the East Kent Triangle, and held at Pfizer's in Sandwich was organised by the East Kent Area Strategic Partnership, which covers the areas of Canterbury, Thanet and Dover, brought together leading businesses, politicians and key decision makers.

The Minister who travelled from London by rail had to complete his journey by taxi as his train broke down at Ashford.


Methanol warnings on counterfeit scotch now!...13 March 2003

Contributed by localrags on Mar 13, 2003 - 11:18 AM

The Food Standards Agency has issued a health warning about drinking counterfeit whisky contaminated with methanol. This follows the discovery of a counterfeit spirits bottling plant in the Berkshire area and these bottles may now be available in other parts of the country.

The fake Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch Whisky must be avoided as the effects of methanol poisoning include severe abdominal pain, drowsiness, dizziness and blurred vision leading to blindness. At higher levels it can lead to breathing difficulties and coma.

The symptoms of methanol poisoning can be delayed for several hours so anyone who may have drunk any of these spirits may not be immediately aware of the dangers.

If someone suspects they have drunk fake whisky they should immediately contact a doctor.

The Agency is also advising that counterfeit bottles of Highland Pride Whisky may be on sale in the UK after rolls of fake labels were also found on the same premises as the fake Johnny Walker.

If someone has any doubt about the authenticity of either of these products then they are advised not to drink it but to contact Shepway District Council’s Environmental Health unit on 01303 852242.


Tempers flare after rubbish left uncollected...13 March 2003

Contributed by localrags on Mar 13, 2003 - 11:08 AM

Shepway Council has again repeated its message to residents that it will not collect rubbish left in bags next to wheelie bins after a householder allegedly assaulted a Cleanaway worker.

The incident happened in Mill Road, Lydd, on Monday (10 March) after side refuse was left uncollected. A woman placed the rubbish bags in her car and drove after the refuse truck. A man then followed and allegedly assaulted a Cleanaway worker.

A council spokesman said: “It was unforgivable behaviour directed against someone who was only trying to do their job.�

Cllr George Bunting, the Council’s Environment Secretary, said the Council had to meet tough recycling targets set by the government and everyone had a role to play in reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill sites.

“I am sure we could recycle more if we took a close look at what we throw away in our wheeled bins. The Council can offer help and advice to anyone who wants to reduce the amount they send to landfill sites but who is unsure of exactly how to go about it.�

Lydd Station Sergeant: Sergeant Mark Farnell said: "The Cleanaway worker was doing his job when he was allegedly assaulted. The police will always investigate allegations of that nature and take them seriously."