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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Darren Not Bent

That's the very sensible investigation finding by Haringey Borough Principal Lawyer Yinka Owa, in respect of my good friend and fellow Hackney Labour Councillor Darren "two votes" Parker.

Former site of The Dalston Theatre and The Four Aces Club, tidied up by Hackney CouncilFor those unfamiliar with the background, Councillor Parker, an employee of The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), voted through the London Development Agency's planning application to demolish Dalston's historic buildings and build some jolly nice 19-storey yuppie apartment tower blocks in their place.

Despite the fact that his employers had publicly backed the proposals, Councillor Parker took over as Acting Chair of the Planning Sub-Committee on 30th July last and exercised the casting vote, after the Chair had recognised his own conflict of interest and withdrawn from the debate. Had Councillor Parker also withdrawn from the Committee and not voted, the application would not have been passed on the balance of votes cast. As a result, some of Hackney's most valued historic buildings would not have been demolished.

Following formal complaints to The Standards Board for England from at least two separate members of the public, the matter was taken up by them and referred back to Hackney Council, who in turn referred the issue to Haringey Council for independent assessment. It is that independent review that has now found Councillor Parker innocent of improper practice and guilty only of childish behaviour.

Just a little baby, with little or no experience of the nasty world of grown-upsAccording to the judgment, although Comrade Parker "did have a personal and prejudicial interest in the Dalston Lane South application" and "he should have withdrawn from the meeting and not participated or voted on the application", this was an act of misfeasance rather than malfeasance, due to "his relative inexperience". In short, he was just a baby when he took the Chair of the Planning Subcommittee to push the development through.

Phew!!!! That's a relief. Despite all the ugly rumours on the web, Darren is not bent. Just someone who voted through the desecration of a large part of Hackney on an inappropriate casting vote due to "inexperience". I'm sure that will come as a great relief to residents of Dalston and surrounding neighbourhoods.

Secret editor and distributor of Cadbury's Milk Tray, "AB"Of course, you could guarantee that one particular source would stir the muck. I'm loathe to say "bitchily" at risk of being accused of thinly-veiled homophobia, but it would be the former mayoral candidate, frustrated swimmer and editor of EASTEight (anonymous, see photo left) who carried the torch of exposure against the outed Brownswood Councillor. Writing in the current edition of EASTEight, mystery man reports:

"Hackney Council knew of an investigation into the vote that resulted in the Dalston Theatre's demolition when it ordered the bulldozers in. They are also delaying the release of a report which gives the opinion that Councillor Darren Parker (Lab) contravened Hackney's Code of Conduct rules by voting to approve the much loathed Dalston Lane plans. Cllr Parker is employed by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) who had been consulted on the scheme and declared themselves in favour. Despite this Cllr Parker chose to sit in on the meeting and voted twice in favour; the second time to resolve a tied vote on the committee.

After a complaint by a member of the public to the Standards Board for England, Parker's case was passed to an external lawyer at the London Borough of Haringey as Hackney officers were thought to be too involved. In the report, which has been passed to EASTeight, Principal Lawyer for Haringey, Yinka Owa, concluded that 'Councillor Parker did have a personal and prejudicial interest in the Dalston Lane South application and he should have withdrawn from the meeting and not participated or voted on the application.'

After interviewing Cllr Parker the report states that 'with the benefit of hindsight he accepts that it would have been best for him to declare a personal interest in the item and that it was his relative inexperience as a Councillor that resulted in this oversight.' In the report Cllr Parker, when interviewed, supported his original view that as he worked in a different department in CABE from the one that was involved in the application, his voting could not be considered prejudicial to his judgment. The lawyer concluded that 'it would not be unreasonable for a member of the public to assume that Councillor Parker would not approach the application with an open mind for various reasons including not contradicting the views and wishes of his employers in order not to jeopardise his employment or the likelihood of progressing in his career with the organisation.'

EASTeight - a scurrilous little Tory rag read by everyone in E8The final decision on whether or not Cllr Parker's action contravened the Code of Conduct still has to go before a Standards Committee even though it has had a number of opportunities in the past few weeks to do so. The next Standards Committee is scheduled for 6th June but we have been informed that it will still not be considered there. Hackney Council was aware of the investigation into the vote when Mayor Jules Pipe ordered the Dalston Theatre to be levelled."

For those with short memories, I first defended Councillor Parker against the mounting slurs back in October last, when I patiently explained: "Following this completely lawful and proper vote, some nasty little theatre-hugging anarchists, Trotsyists and LibDems have got together to attack Councillor Parker by pointing out that he is employed by CABE, the principal design advisory body in respect of the development project and an organisation that will benefit hugely if the scheme goes ahead. How stupid can you get? This is not an undeclared personal interest. CABE is not a private company - it is a statutory body funded by Tessa's Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Prezza's Department for Communities and Local Government. How can an organisation of these Departments have a vested interest in a local planning decision? We're the bloody government, thickos! We were elected and you people weren't. So stick your personal interests up your a***s!"

Despite inexperience, Darren cruises through his driving testNow, I must make clear at this stage that I didn't really snitch on Darren, despite having claimed to do so in a fit of pique, when I wrote: "It's not always easy. Councillor Parker gave me a lot of grief recently when he voted for the Dalston Towers against my strong advice (well, Linda's actually, but it's the same thing). I got my own back, of course, by getting a mate of mine to complain about him to the Standards Board for England, resulting in his being brought up a misconduct charge, while I blamed it all on The Groveller. Pretty nifty, eh?

I'd calmed down a bit by the time I commented on my spoofster's site: "Whilst the other member of my household voted against the application in question I'm not going to let you get away with claiming Darren did not declare an interest when he used his casting vote for. He works for a statutory consultee - CABE - not the developer or an objector. I assume he is not allowed to work on applications in Hackney. He therefore had no interest to declare that could have prejudiced the way he voted. Being a sensible young man he had asked the Borough Solicitor for a ruling on this before taking part in the meeting."

Well, Darren may have successfully passed his driving test, but I seem to have had rather more difficulty steering this argument past the Haringey Borough Principal Lawyer.

It seems that my sound legal advice has not been accepted, though I'm still certain that Darren will be fully cleared and vindicated in the end, even if he has to resign in order to make his point. We're doing our bit at this end, refusing to schedule any meetings to discuss the matter further and our friends in The Standards Board for England are doing the same. So long as nothing more appears in the media or on those rabble-rousing swimmers' blogsites, we should be OK.

What we need now is an end to the gratuitous comments about Councillor Parker's visits to London's West End Chinese dining centre and theatreland, along with associated jokes about how "relatively inexperienced" he is. And nor do we need any more comments on my website from malicious anarchists and LibDems such as the one who masquerades under the stupid handle "Clear Hardly", who recently wrote:

"It is curious that what had not occurred to Darren 'One Man Two Votes' Parker before and during the notorious Dalston demolition planning committee meetings had, apparently, immediately occurred to him afterwards – namely he was employed by Commissions Arriving in Brown Envelopes (CABE) and shouldn’t have voted at all. In a panic Darren ran blubbing to Meic Gullivers-Travels after the meeting and confessed. Of course, Meic, being a thoroughly decent chap, gave Darren a cup of tea, a biscuit and a reassuring pat on the head. Unfortunately it now appears that the Standards Board for England may disagree with Meic’s advice to Darren. And so Penny was understandably pissed off that Meic had let the brake slip on the apple cart and had then overlooked informing Mayor Pipesqueak, when he signed up with Barratts to build Pipe Towers, that Darren, whilst loyal, had been somewhat overenthusiastic. The Pipe Towers project is now looking rather wobbly.

Straight Bats For England

When the Straight Bats for England (SBE) inquisitors asked Hackney to investigate itself Meic couldn't possibly have agreed to be the judge of whether the advice he’d already given Darren was correct. But instead of sending the brief back to the SBE, he cannily 'delegated' it to Hackney's mates in Haringey Council. Unfortunately the latter don't seem to have understood what's at stake here. Hence more blubbing on reading their report. Hopefully Penny's new Head of Legal, Amanda (Meic’s replacement), will be able to save the day if she's the one picked to convince Hackney's Standards Committee that Harringey have turned out to be idiots. PS. It's just malicious gossip that Darren's employment review for promotion within CABE was imminent at that time of his Committee votes. Isn't it??"

Well, we sorted that one out alright. Neither Meic Gullivers-Travels nor Penny Thompson are now in office. And if anyone else gets in the way of us cleaning up this rat-infested borough and rebuilding it with brand spanking new apartment blocks, offices and Olympic venues, they will suffer the same fate. Babies rulez OK!


Jatinder K Bloemfontein said...

I just lurve the picture of the outstretched hands, just begging for a "brown envelope" caption. So New Labour!

ilikeakehurstfanclub said...

My dearest Luke,

This message is in the strictest confidence. Back on 20th August, last year you wrote:

"I am afraid I cannot possibly discuss matters of conflict of interest with regard to planning decisions, as I understand that this topic may be sub judice as a result of a formal complaint alleging prejudicial interest."

"I'm sure that none of this will prove to be true, but you can be assured that if any of my councillors are found guilty of improper conduct they will have their Labour Party membership rescinded and every effort made to remove them from positions on the Council."

The boys in the backroom advise that you remove all hyperlinks and references to the above material. Bearing in mind what we might be facing in the near future, we can't be seen to be threatening to blackball Parker (much as he might enjoy the physical experience). If he gets it in the neck for minor infractions like failing to declare interests, cheating on the voting front and unlawfully getting some of Hackney's most valued historic buildings demolished - imagine what the prospects might be for Julian and the Cabinet when the dirt REALLY starts to hit the fan (which looks likely to be coming up pretty soon).

This message will self-destruct in five . . . .

Luke Akehurst said...

Oh yeah? "Coming up pretty soon", eh? Like my Easter egg present to Julian, you mean? When the s**t hits the f*n, I'll send Easter eggs to you all. You are just a bunch of anarchist bike-peddling wannabe swimmers. Why don't you move to Islington? They'd like you there.

Luke Akehurst said...

Sorry about the title of this post, btw. I had meant to write a piece about Charlton Athletic, but you know what my spelling is like.

Clear Hardly said...

It must be remembered that, in one respect at least, Darren the Babe was not so inexperienced as your spoofster claims. Just one week before the demolition committee meeting its members were summoned to a “call over” meeting to “discuss the application”. Obviously the discussion could not have been to decide how the votes would go on the day and so presumably the purpose of discussing the application in advance was somehow to ensure that members would approach it without preconceptions at the Committee a week later. The Chair, Comrade Strops, withdrew from that call-over meeting because his employers, like Darren’s, also had an interest in the project and so Darren Chaired the discussion. After a week to reflect on this experience, and the training he had had as a Councillor in conflicts of interest, Darren predictable found himself taking the hot seat on demolition day. Mercifully Darren can now be blamed for single handedly being responsible for the destruction of old Dalston and, to put blame beyond doubt, as even been persuaded to selflessly confess the error of his ways and resign from the Committee. The Comrades now cry crocodile tears for Darren and when they refer to his inexperience they mean his naivity in being set up by a cynical ploy to distract public attention from those who manipulated the Council to achieve this outcome.

Luke Akehurst said...

Would that be the same Comrade Strops who had difficulty remembering his own address when completing his nomination forms for last year's local elections?

Clear Hardly said...

As Darren the Babe's big day before Hackney's Standards Committee gets nearer the smell is getting worse - and its not just because Darren needs his nappy changing.

Gotcha said...

Ah Hem!!

As Chief Whip of the Labour Group, I accept a personal responsibility for not having identified this as a potential issue when I recommended that the Group appoint Cllr Parker to the Planning Committee

Luke Akehurst said...

As Chief Whip of the Labour Group, I accept absolutely no personal responsibility for not having identified this as a potential issue when I recommended that the Group appoint Councillor Parker to the Planning Committee. He was just a baby at the time and he and Sem looked so sweet when they came to see me. I still say that he has done nothing wrong. He won't be resigning. There's more chance of Julian resigning than Darren!