Councillor David Clifford is Innocent?

BBC1 Garrow’s Law: Tales from the Old Bailey Garrow would have been on his side

BBC1 Garrow’s Law: Tales from the Old Bailey Garrow would have been on his side

On his blog David Clifford published the following letter from an unnamed council jobsworth which he claimed showed his innocence.

It did anything but.

Dear Cllr Clifford,

I understand that you may be already aware that complaints had been made, so I just want to confirm that I received five complaints from members of the public all expressing anger with the content of your blog posts relating to the Tumbledown Dick decision and one also alleged undue influence on the planning process itself.

In my capacity as Monitoring Officer I have looked into these complaints and have come to the conclusion that the content of your personal blog is not a matter covered by the Code of Conduct for Councillors which relates only to actions undertaken in a member’s official capacity as a councillor.

I have looked into the other matters raised and have concluded that there is nothing to suggest that you acted other than in accordance with recommended practice, and of course you are not a member of the Development Control Committee so took no part in the decision made.

I have now informed the complainants that we will not be taking any further action in respect of these complaints.

Kind regards
Solicitor to the Council and Monitoring Officer

Local councillors are in theory there to serve the public. It is not surprising therefore, when David Clifford, a Rotten Borough of Rushmoor councillor, started using his blog to abuse the local community, people got upset. Half a dozen were sufficiently annoyed or upset, they filed formal complaints.

David Clifford claims he has been cleared. But has he? Let us first step back a little.

We have independent police investigations, and for very good reasons. When even a Cabinet Minister is stitched up by lying police officers, one who continually forgot to mention to House of Commons Committee that he had attacked a member of the public when off duty and had ‘lost’ CCTV footage, what hope the rest of us?

We used to have an Independent Standards Board for England, for a very good reason, as we cannot have police investigating police, we cannot have councillors and councils investigating their own. 

Under the old regime, it is highly unlikely David Clifford would have been cleared. You only have to look at a Farnham councillor who was found guilty a few years ago.

Or look at Peter Sandy, a very hard working councillor, who was obstructed at every turn by officials, who was stitched up by same officials. When it came to a hearing, he was cleared of almost all the false charges laid against him, and of those found guilty, these had to be seen in context, he called an official a liar. The official was shown to be a liar, but apparently as a councillor you are not allowed to say so. So much for accountability.

Would Pete Sandy had got a fair hearing locally? We all know the answer would have been no.

We had, and assume still have, on the one hand, the Borough Solicitor giving dodgy advice and how to get away with it, then on the other hand, wearing a different hat as local ethics officer. You cannot be both.

We had three Rushmoor councillors found guilty of a very serious offence. They were the let off, due to poor advice by the borough solicitor, ie they had been advised to do something dodgy by the borough solicitor. It sounded like a conspiracy and if nothing else, was grounds for firing the dodgy borough solicitor. 

To now look how the David Clifford complaints have been handled.

First where is the investigation? A letter from a council anonymous jobsworth is not an investigation. 

Second, the author of the letter, who does not have the courtesy to provide a name or a signature, is wrong in fact. Clifford is writing as a Rushmoor councillor. Not writing as someone who happens to be a councillor, who happens to be writing a blog. He clearly states he is writing as a Rushmoor councillor for the local Empress Ward.

Welcome to David Clifford’s weblog, which enables Empress Ward residents see what David Clifford is up to, get an idea of his views on various topics and give him feed back, other than when he is out walking round the ward. NOTE: Some views expressed by Cllr David Clifford may not be supported by the Conservative Party. Contact David via david@empress-tory.org or follow him on http://twitter.com/davideclifford 

He has a blog, which is attributable to a councillor. 

—> http://cllrclifford.blogspot.co.uk 

Therefore it is very clear, he is writing as the local ward councillor.

When David Clifford met with McDonald’s and stitched up a dirty little deal behind the backs of the local community, he did so as a local councillor, together with two other councillors, both of who sat on the planning committee, one of who was the chairman, plus the local MP, who a few years ago bragged his service was comparable to McDonald’s (at least a little honesty from Gerald Howarth).

Maybe unbeknown to David Clifford, the chairman of the planning committee was caught bragging that the deal approved by the committee was what he had brokered with McDonald’s.

Did David Clifford act to influence the planning committee? A moot point. The truth is we do not know. 

What we do not know from this grubby little meeting, is was what fees were requested from McDonald’s, as from what we see in both the Commons and the Lords, this is standard practice, and Howarth does have a habit of claiming retainers from very unsavoury clients, like arms dealers and pay-day loan companies.

What is interesting, is that our anonymous latter writer ‘concluded that there is nothing to suggest that you acted other than in accordance with recommended practice’.

In other words, to treat the local community with arrogant contempt, ignore their wishes, then gloat, as we saw with the councillors and officials at the planning committee, is ‘recommended practice’. 

Is he cleared?

In the Court of Public Opinion, no. Before a properly constituted and run Tribunal, highly unlikely.

David Clifford responds to criticism by accusing people of posting hate, that he has the right to say what he wants, and accuses people of being ignorant and not knowing the facts.

It is correct, councillors are entitled to free speech, but as councillors, they are also expected to comply with a code of conduct and act for the local community.  They are also required not to bring their public office into disrepute.

He has failed miserably on all counts.

It is reasonable to expect councillors to check the facts, to exercise due diligence and scrutiny, not regurgitate the lies drip fed to them by officials.

Once again, lies and half truths being spouted on The Tumbledown Dick. 

The building was subjected to wilful neglect. The Council refused to serve enforcement action.

If there was such concern at the state of the building, then why no CPO served?

And please do not say no money.

The Council has been happy to make a capital investment in the Vue Cinema in Farnborough, a commercial cinema chain and a bad employer.

The Council was happy to squander £1 million (or maybe more if rumours not within budget are true) on the shoddy re-paving of Queensmead. Then the County Council wasted a further £1500 of public money on a silly festival to celebrate squandering public money re-paving Queensmead.

When Andrew Lloyd learnt of McDonald’s acquiring The Tumbledown Dick, he could not suppress his glee.

Six weeks later, Lloyd blatantly lied to councillors when he claimed he knew nothing of plans of McDonald’s

There was not the problem Clifford claims outside The Tumbledown Dick late at night. On the other hand, go into Aldershot late at night. Or visit Farnborough Gate in the evening. 

Who is providing this false briefing on The Tumbledown Dick? Clifford and the ignorant councillors on the planning committee are all singing from the same song sheet. Is it officials, or is it the Andrew Lloyd – Peter Moyle cabal that runs the council, keeping everyone in the dark, including Clifford? 

Clifford is agreed he has been offensive. Code of Conduct requires courteous behaviour to members of the public. There is also not bringing his office or the council into disrepute. How does he reconcile the two and still claim to be innocent?

What is this Stalinist State he is rabbiting on about?

The Stalinist State is the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor dictating to the community. There is no accountability, no democracy. Indeed, at the planning meeting, the head of planning, as ever in the pocket of developers, instructed the committee to ignore the local community, and told them they were not there to make a democratic decision. Not that they needed any telling what to say, how to vote, as that had already been decided beforehand. 

Most people have checked their facts. It is ignorant councillors who have failed to check their facts.

Demolishing one of the oldest buildings in Farnborough, is not saving it.

Demolishing the building is contrary to the Council policy on local listed buildings.

Refusing to carry out an architectural and historical survey of the building BEFORE it is demolished, is contrary to the Council policy on local listed buildings. 

Why was this not written into the s106 legal agreement? Yet another example of deliberate negligence and maladministration by officials and failure to exercise due diligence by councillors. 

To say the building will be serving food, is to stretch the definition of what we call food, or at least food fit for human consumption.

Do a little research on what goes into industrial burgers. Horsemeat is the least of your worries. Diseased horses, rotten meat several years old, turned green, causing those who had to handle it to vomit as the smell was so bad. 

You can fool some people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time …

There has been no hate campaign, at least not by the local community. Local people are though very angry and disgusted at the manner in which they have been treated.

Take a look at the Rushmoor facebook page, and also note comments are being deleted, people blocked from making comments.

Yes, we are all entitled to our own views, as ordinary citizen, but councillors, commenting as local councillors, are expected to comply with a code of conduct, are expected not to bring their office into disrepute, and are expected to represent the local community.

Try reading the excellent article by Gavril Postnikov published by Medium.

Also the excellent article by Dicky Carter

The only reason there was a local campaign to save The Tumbledown Dick, was due to the failing by local councillors. And once there was a campaign, far from supporting it, there was a concerted effort at sabotage.

We have seen negative briefings by officials, including chief executive Andrew Lloyd and then borough solicitor Karen Limmer telling the campaign who they should not talk to.

We have seen a very unpleasant smear campaign by John Wall.

Everyone is innocent until proven guilty in that sense, yes, David Clifford is innocent.

But to date, we have not even seen a properly conducted investigation, and the borough solicitor, who defends actions against the council, is neither a proper or impartial person to carry out an investigation. And even worse, in this case seems to have been defence, prosecution, judge and jury. In other words, yet another Rotten Borough of Rushmoor farce showing the same arrogant contempt for the local community, which now appears to be officially sanctioned Council policy.

The letter from an anonymous council jobsworth has not cleared David Clifford, far from it, but what it has done, is officially sanctioned as council policy, abuse and arrogant contempt of the local community.

We are seeing is a complete failure of local democracy.

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