Gagging after Tories accused of “extremely autocratic behavior”

THE conservative group that controls the BCP council has been accused of “autocratic behavior” after preventing an opposition adviser from making his voice heard.

Poole adviser Mark Howell said the ruling group uses council protocols to avoid being held accountable for their decisions.

He says he was gagged at Tuesday night’s plenary council meeting after trying to persuade the meeting to allow an opposition adviser to sit on the board of directors of the new Urban Regeneration Company.

A majority vote, put by Cabinet Member Cllr Nicola Greene, ruled that it should no longer be heard two hours after the start of the meeting which continued for nearly five hours. She said Cllr Howell had shown a “lack of respect for the board” by continuing to try to make his points and that he should be disqualified under the board’s rules of conduct.

“This behavior was extremely autocratic and prevented me from contributing to important debates on the administration’s proposal to enter into a deficit investment in fiber and to approve a request for town status by Bournemouth,” Cllr said. Howell, the leader of the Poole People group.

Cllr Howell says the Tories have also reconfigured review committees, which test board decisions and policies, to give their party a majority over all of them, allowing them to quell criticism.

He said he asked an opposition adviser to sit on the Urban Regeneration Company to “ensure good governance and give confidence in its future to the public, developers, investors and future residents.”

Cllr Howell, who is the opposition spokesperson for tourism, recreation and culture and the council’s welfare champion, said when the Unity Alliance controlled the council, she added a Tory adviser to the board of directors of Bournemouth Development Company (BDC) for this reason.

“The stated intention of the administration is to include only the chief and deputy chief as city councilors on the board of directors of the Urban Regeneration Company. This amendment was rejected by agents and in his response the Chief (Cllr Drew Mellor) justified not including members of the opposition by stating that it was a wholly owned subsidiary of the council, not a joint venture like BDC, ”said Cllr Howell.

Cllr Mellor said the council’s development plans were a “creation of world-class places” that attracted high-caliber people to work in the area. He said his administration would continue to invest in the region, despite criticism from opposition advisers.

Cllr Philip Broadhead, deputy chief, said the same issue raised by Cllr Howell was addressed and dismissed in an oversight and review committee.

“What we need most at the board level is more involvement from the outside… to attract as many talent as possible, not to have more advisers,” he said. .

Earlier in the meeting, opposition councilors decided not to vote on the accuracy of council minutes following a statement by councilor Margaret Phipps that they contained “lies” and “misinformation” in statements reported at the previous meeting, although the accuracy of the minutes, as recorded, was not questioned.

Cllr Mellor said he stood by what he had said previously.

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