Is Councillor Walsh in breach of the Code of Conduct again?

A reader – ‘Gingsy’ – yesterday [14th November] posted a comment in the chain under an article published on 22nd November, Actual Reality Trust reports Councillor Walsh to Commissioner for Ethical Standards in public life.

This alleges that, from the evidence of the documents on the Council’s planning website, Council Leader Walsh has ‘written to all the members of the committee to try and persuade them to approve an application for wind turbines in his ward that the planning officers are recommending for refusal.’

The reader in question sees these letters to each elected member serving on the Planning Committee as having the purpose of lobbying.

The code of conduct regards it as a breach for any councillor to lobby any other councillor on a planning issue.

It is injudicious  of Councillor Walsh to leave himself open to another complaint to the Standards Commissioner. He already has both a formal finding of a breach of the code of conduct against him [coincidentally for a planning-related  matter] and a current outstanding complaint against him from Actual Reality Trustee, Dr Christoher Mason for his conduct in the now collapsed sale  of Castle Toward.

Given the nature of Council Leader Walsh’s control over elected members, it will be interesting to see whether the planning meeting on Wednesday chooses to overthrow the recommendation of the council’s planning officers.

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25 Responses to Is Councillor Walsh in breach of the Code of Conduct again?

      • Sorry hit submit by accident

        Relevant text from the Code is

        You must never seek to pressure planning officers to provide a particular recommendation on any planning decision and you should not seek privately to lobby other councillors who have a responsibility for dealing with the application in question.

        You could argue this isn’t a breach as the letter is not private nor is it to pressure planning officers – it is to pressure the committee members.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

        • In fact it isn’t a breach at all. Writing a letter to the committee is not really any different to attending the meeting and speaking on behalf of the project. I’m afraid this is a non starter.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 7

          • Not sure I agree Integrity?

            In my experience and having spoken to various elected members over the years, I think this one is into a very grey area.

            Here we have the leader of the council attempting to influence members of the planning committee on a planning decision.

            Whilst it may be hard to pin down exactly what rule or guideline Mr Walsh has broken (if any), I think it’s fair to say that this letter puts members of the committee in an extremely awkward position, something the leader should know better than to do. Maybe the letter of the ‘law’ as it were has not been broken, but the spirit most certainly has.

            Now whatever the committee decide, a question will remain over whether the committee have been influenced by someone who does have influence.

            The question I have is this – Who actually wrote the letter that is signed by Dick Walsh and more importantly, why did Dick Walsh feel it necessary to write this letter in support?

            Who is he lobbying for? – for lobbying it appears that he is. Being careful on how I word this – it stinks. I shall say no more.

            Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 3

          • Integrity, I think you should reconsider your view on this issue. Mike Breslin made his representation on this application by submitting representations via the appropriate channels as any member of the public would be expected to do. The letter from Dick Walsh was directed to members of the planning committee. He could have done the same as Mike Breslin by submitting his representations to planning officers as any member of the public would be expected to do.
            By directing his letter to members of the planning committee, he is clearly putting pressure on them, especially folk like Jimmy MacQueen who we are continually told will agree with Dick Walsh on everything.
            As far as the correspondence from Dick Walsh is concerned, his letter is not even dated. I wonder why?
            You will also see his email to Angus Gilmour dated 16 April that he says at the start of the email: “Thank you Angus”. It has to be asked what he is thanking Angus Gilmour for as there is no correspondence from Angus Gilmour to Dick Walsh included in the papers to the planning committee? If he is thanking Angus Gilmour for information, then it can be assumed that he had previously written or emailed Angus Gilmour on this issue. Why is that not included in the report? It looks like officers are being selective in the information they are proving to members of the planning committee.
            Councillors would normally be expected to make representations on a planning application to planning officers as is made clear in Section 7.14 of the code of conduct.
            Have another look at this and read the code of conduct again Integrity. I think that this does raise concerns over how Dick Walsh has put his views forward. I don’t doubt that most folk would agree that he is trying to influence members of the planning committee.
            Any councillor can do that at a hearing but that would relate to any representations they had previously submitted through the correct channels to planning officers.

            Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

          • Integrity
            Writing a submission in the normal way to the planning department or through the website is acceptable. Writing individually to members of the planning committee is lobbying and a breach of the Code. As Leader his lobbying power is greater as he alone controls the extra payment to his yes men and women. It won’t be reported but it just adds to the sleaze of Walsh’s leadership and the worst council in the country.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

          • Anne

            I hear what you are saying however the Code is quite clear that a member who is not on the decision making committee must

            ‘never seek to pressure planning officers to provide a particular recommendation on any planning decision and you should not seek privately to lobby other councillors who have a responsibility for dealing with the application in question.’

            By putting the entire letter on the agenda any accusations of lobbying privately are now easily dismissed by any investigatory body (which is possibly why the letter does appear in its entirety – the point I was getting at earlier about who decided to publish the whole letter and why).

            If you want to view it cynically then one might suspect that the inappropiate sending of the e-mail to councillors (therefore not publically) was picked up by certain council officers high up the food chain and a quick decision taken to publish the letter in full to avoid any accusations.

            Look at other wind farm applications (and other planning decisions) where councillors have stated support – you won’t see their entire submission in the agenda papers – you will see reference to which members have backed and opposed it – but certainly not the full detail of their submission.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  1. As the other councillor who supported this planning application, I fail to see what the issue is here. I am perfectly entitled to support any planning application, as is the leader of the council. Supporting something does not mean you break the code of conduct. That is my democratic right and it’s the council leader’s right too.

    Cllr Michael Breslin

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 17

    • And did you write “…to all the members of the committee to try and persuade them to approve an application for wind turbines in his [your] ward that the planning officers are recommending for refusal.’” ?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5

    • Michael Breslin, I don’t think that anyone is criticising you for submitting representations. As you say, you are entitled to do that. You appear to have complied with the code of conduct by submitting your representations through planning officers so that they could take your views into account when formulating their recommendation and report to the planning committee.

      From what we can see in the papers for the planning committee, it appears that you did not write to all members of the planning committee suggesting that the application should be approved. That is the difference.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 5

    • You could not possibly have any case to answer on this.
      But Councillor Walsh is in a different position because of his unelected position of power as Council Leader.
      There is a material difference between being n elected member and being an elected member who is also Council Leader.
      if the purpose was to get specific points put to cuncillors o the planning committee, those points did not have to be made by the Council Leader. They could have been made by his long time colleague and supporter, fellow Dunoon Councillor James McQueen.
      If the purpose of the communication was to bring influence to bear, then it was important to let the members of the planning committee know who was putting this case.
      Council Leader Walsh might or might not be found to have breached the code of conduct in this matter – but his willingness to put his intervention in question, in his current circumstances and on his record, speaks of a continuing willingness to use the infuence power confers.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  2. Sceptic

    It isn’t necessarily my view. I am just referring to the code of conduct and saying that based on what it says I don’t think it is a breach. Walsh is an elected member first and leader second. As such he shouldn’t have to curtail his elected member activities because he is leader. Trust me I am no fan of Cllr Walsh and based on his previous discretion I don’t think he should be leader. It would be better if his letter was submitted to planning in same way a letter from anyone else would be so this approach and fact full letter is included in papers is inconsistent. However it isn’t a breach of the code as its currently drafted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

    • There are a couple of pragmatic distinctions between an elected member and an elected member who is also Council Leader that, with ‘Integrity’ your nom de plume, you may not see but that council officers and fellow councillors certainly will.
      The patronage of the Council Leader is a primary factor in the award of paid senior posts and paid representative status on external bodies – matters which concern councillors a great deal; and which, on the evidence of his current appointments, Council Leader Walsh awards with scant attention to ability.
      In the regime of fear which has long applied at Kilmory under Councillor Walsh’s administrations, neither elected members nor council officers will see Dick Walsh first as an elected member and second as Council Leader.
      As Leader, his immediate impact upon both is that of an authority with power to reward or penalise.
      No one should forget what was done to Councillor George Freeman when, as a member of Councillor Walsh’s administration at the time, he voted with his conscience and in the interests of his constituents in the school closure wars of 2010-11.
      He was summarily drummed out of Councillor Walsh’s Alliance of Independent Councillors – a group which claimed, as a matter of mutual respect, to have no whip.
      This was done on the grounds [which we can, from first hand witness, flatly contradict] that he had incited the crowd of parent and community demomstrators outside the council HQ to offer violence against a fellow councillor who had voted for the unable closure programme.
      This exclusion was the action of a sort of kangaroo court with no opportunity offered to Councillor Freeman formally to defend himself against the absurd allegation. This was Councillor Walsh in Kim Jong-Un mode.
      In consequence of this exclusion, Councillor Freeman then lost his senior post in the administration and his Chairmanship of the Helensburgh and Lomond Area Committee.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

      • Newsroom

        I know exactly what you mean and I see exactly what Cllr Walsh is trying to do with this letter. That isn’t the point I am trying to make and maybe I am not explaining it well.

        I have no doubt that the letter is trying to influence the committee through the author being the Council Leader. Cllr Walsh’s integrity is forever blackened in my opinion by some of his actions in the past and I have a very low opinion of him.

        What I am trying to deal with here is purely the issue of a Code breach, not so much who has breached it or how they have breached it. The Standards Commission are not well known for finding councillors guilty, some of what appear to be the most obvious breaches are still found to have ‘no substance’ – this case is nowhere near cut and dry which is why I think it is a non starter.

        I would question why his entire letter is included in the agenda papers and ask whose decision that was and why they made it.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  3. Cannot see a real problem here, apart from what appears to be a witch hunt against Clr Walsh.
    It is every councillors duty to represent views of a constituent, even regarding a planning matter, provided they do not vote on the matter.
    If he wasnt making representation then some would accuse him of not doing his job.
    Many councillors have made representations on a variety of matters, and holding a position of authority does not preclude from doing this under the code of conduct.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  4. Councillors do not have a duty per se to represent the views of a constituent. The Standards Commission for Scotland states:
    “You have a duty to uphold the law and act in accordance with the law and the public trust placed in you. You have a duty to act in the interests of the Council as a whole and all the communities served by it and a duty to be accessible to all the people of the area for which you have been elected to serve, and to represent their interests conscientiously.”
    The duty is a collective one to all of the council’s communities, not just the ones gathered in the home bus shelter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  5. Integrity
    It gets worse. Councillor Walsh breaches the Code by lobbying but then he abuses his Leadership position by getting councill officers to publish his correspondence in full. The threat to his followers on the PPSL is clear. New Chair please!.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

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