Two cheers for democracy – the BCP leadership petition debate

Image by Andy Hadley

For the background to this story, please read:

This summary is written particularly for the 3,081 people, including 2066 locals, who signed our petition of no confidence in the leadership of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council.

As a Facebook commenter noted:

Brian Sutcliffe: This petition run by one resident on a Facebook site obtained 3000 signatures. The BCP big plan consultation which used all the media sources available to the council and had the support of the councils overstaffed public communication team was one of the most successful consultation exercises ever undertaken by the council:it generated 1000 responses. BCP consider one of these exercises to be a success the other a failure. From BCP web site – “the council is pleased to confirm the consultation generated one of the highest engagement levels to any previous consultation managed by BCP Council. Almost 1000 full survey responses were received”

The whole meeting lasted over four hours and can be viewed here:

For those with lives, the 70 minute petition debate starts one hour in, and finishes at two hours ten minutes in. You can follow the links below to focus on the salient parts of the debate.

Meet the cast:

Ian (me!) the petitioner. I am an ordinary politically-unaligned member of public who is unhappy with leaders’ conduct, competence and excesses; not critical of ordinary councillors of any party. You can read my speech below.

Cllr Martin, who wittily illustrated the Leader’s coarse language and bullying.

Cllr Farr, who needs to do his homework instead of stereotyping. I started this petition alone and simply want rid of reckless, incompetent leaders whatever their party. His is so-called army of trolls?They’re actually concerned people including a Conservative MP, government minister, councillors and external auditors and 2,066 local voters. He would benefit from following BCP’s Councillor Code of Conduct – treating all persons with integrity & honesty, fairness and respect and exercising reasonable care and diligence. See

Cllr Dove, who had to apologise on behalf of Planning’s Phil Broadhead for failing to answer a complaint for 351 days, despite six reminders and the official 20 day policy.

She listed Drew Mellor’s ‘incredible achievements’. She also claimed crime was falling rather than residents giving up registering incidents after just being given crime incident numbers without offences ever being solved.

She then assigned inappropriate motives to the gallery audience who had to peer down to view proceedings.

Cllr Greene tried to downplay the Petitioners as representing less than half of 1 per cent of BCP ‘s population without acknowledging that one person had accomplished the long list of signatories using Facebook alone. It undoubtedly represented more residents’ views and that this was the only petition to achieve a debate. The number who signed exceeded the total number of votes received by Broadhead and Mellor combined in their safe seats.

Greene undemocratically interrupted the debate to shut it down, taking it upon himself to decide that enough time had been spent on it and using a procedural motion without notice.

Cllr Hedges This effective and impartial Chairman, with agreement from the CEO and Monitoring Officer, stated that this was a closure motion at the chair’s discretion and he didn’t agree with Greene, instead saying “I don’t feel there’s been enough debate” and it needed to continue. Hedges thus ensured petitioners’ concerns were fully discussed and acknowledged by the Council.

Cllr Farquhar who, despite strong opposition, single-handedly forced a vote on our petition just before the debate ended. Although it narrowly failed, he made sure the council listened to the petitioners and acknowledged our concerns – a good outcome.

There were many excellent opposition speeches confirming a consensus view that the leaders should go.

Conclusion The real debate comes next May with an electorate that is now better versed in the issues, plus the personalities, strengths and weaknesses of parties’ policies and achievements – or lack of them. This has all led to a better informed electorate and stronger democratic awareness, an electorate that will consider track records and issues and thus be less likely to vote blindly along party lines.

My Speech:

“Chair, I’d like to thank the Council for allowing me to speak and particularly to thank the support given by over 2,000 locals which meant the Council had no choice but grant our debate – the first petition granted such an honour.

Thanks also, for backing from 1,000 petitioners from outside BCP who agree we deserve better leadership; their support demonstrating how widely its reputation is failing.

– It’s time the Leader and Deputy resigned when the Levelling-Up Secretary accused them of abusing “a loophole to do dodgy deals which only benefit consultancy and accountancy firms” and petitioners’ comments proving thousands have lost confidence in the leadership’s competence, transparency and integrity.

– Stop the rush to bankruptcy, government bailouts, external audits and reviews, £60 odd million of overspending, doubling transformation budget, tripling debt, hidden reports and prioritising extravagant vanity projects, over basics like failing children’s & high need services.

– Stop inappropriate policies: like Barclays House, city status and skyline – all costly unwanted and unaffordable distractions, also shifting £7 million annually of current wages to spiralling transformation budget plus extravagant borrowing alongside the highest interest rate rise for 33 years, while cutting necessary services with “painful” savings.

– Stop voters’ eight figure bankrolling of FuturePlaces private consultancy, despite risk, conflicts of interest, zero transparency and no accountability or profits.

– Stop scandals, featured in multiple publications, making BCP a laughing stock with even the Government labelling Council policies “dodgy” and Transparency International calling BCP the most corruptible English Council.

– Stop ignoring CFO Adam Richens’ advice against risky plans, now with a totally avoidable Section 114 bankruptcy notice looming and new spending prohibited.

– Stop high risk, irresponsible, unpopular and inconsistent strategies. 1st freezing council tax rises while spending £70million of reserves, 2nd selling beach huts, 3rd the Government’s Capital Directive bailout and the latest – cutting services and a fire sale of our assets in a falling market – unforgivable ineptitude from two financial & estate-agency “experts”.

– Leaders’ financial competence is also questioned by external auditors, warning “the Council does not have arrangements in place for ensuring financial sustainability into the medium term and its ability to set a balanced budget for next year and beyond appears “increasingly fragile” and “economy, efficiency and effectiveness were significant weaknesses.”

So high time this leadership started to face the music with our leadership debate, and steps down now.

To paraphrase Cromwell – Mellor and Broadhead: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

No comment, no comment

Many residents agreed it “strange that neither the leader or deputy defended themselves during the debate. They would have had a lot more respect if they had, instead of passing it off as the result of just another disgruntled member of the public.

Instead of replying, they resorted to relying on sycophantic supporters who blamed the Bournemouth Echo, an imaginary army of trolls, made a claim of inappropriate gawping and failed to pull off a procedural muzzling motion without notice. It all smacked of the leaders’ failure and desperation.

Why 70 minutes with no comment?

  • -Perhaps it was just a continuation of their usual behaviour: a lack of openness and transparency.
  • – Maybe they assumed a mere 2,066 locals were not worth bothering about.
  • – Maybe they thought that, if ignored, we’d go away.
  • – Perhaps they could not justify or explain their bankruptcy-inducing financial incompetence.
  • – Or maybe there was no defence against a consensus of ministers, MPs, councillors, the press, and residents – all criticising failing projects and policies where “economy, efficiency and effectiveness were significant weaknesses” , in the words of the external auditors.

Voters deserve better than dumb and dumber leadership.

Take a look under our ‘Dorset’ heading on the home page! More BCP articles!