Friday, 10 September 2010

Morecambe Bay Indefensibles

The Visitor, the local Morecambe newspaper, has reported that the six Morecambe Bay Independent councillors who were accused by their former colleague Evelyn Archer of bullying the former town clerk have been cleared.

"An independent standards investigator found that June Ashworth, David Kerr, Shirley Burns, Geoff Marsland, Tony Wade and Roger Dennison had not behaved improperly towards Vicky Errington, who was sacked from her role as the first ever Morecambe Town Council clerk in April. Evelyn Archer, ex-leader of the town council, had alleged that the six members had bullied Ms Errington and treated her without respect."

So what actually happened? If there was no wrongdoing, why did Evelyn Archer feel compelled to make such accusations? Was she motivated by simple maliciousness? At least two of the "cleared" councillors would have us believe so, it seems. "This was a serious, malicious, orchestrated attack on honourable members of the town council" said Councillor Kerr, while councillor Ashworth spoke of "these serious and scurrilous allegations that Coun Archer made without any foundations". But why would Councillor Archer turn upon her former colleagues in such a way? Where is the sense in any of this?

I suspect the investigation had to arrive at the conclusion it did, not because nothing untoward happened but rather because there was little concrete evidence. Just the word of one or maybe two people against the words of six. The only record, for instance, of the 13th January meeting where Ms. Errington was alleged to have been bullied were the minutes written up by Ms. Errington herself, and they show little or no evidence of such bullying. See

But what do these minutes actually show? First, they show that for the six months when Ms. Errington was in the employ of the council, a lot actually was done, much of it by Ms. Errington. Whether it was the production of competent and regular minutes, the purchase of essential items of equipment such as photocopiers, computers and data storage or the development of costings, standing orders and much more, Ms. Errington is there at the centre of it all. For a time she seemed to be even achieving the impossible task of making the MBI's look good. Compare that with the time before Ms. Errington was town clerk (no minutes at all, no way of knowing if anything actually happened) and the time since (e.g. still says "The Town Clerk, Vicky Errington serves the members of the town council and assists in the organising of projects, events, meetings and is also the Responsible Finance Officer for the Town Council." fully six months or so after she was dismissed in April.

Secondly the minutes give us a glimpse, but only a glimpse, of how incredibly shabbily Ms. Errington was treated.

"Cllr Evelyn Archer met with Graham Cox to discuss the room in the Town Hall which the Clerk is currently working from. It was noted that there are no further rooms available in Morecambe Town Hall and the current state of the room will not be improved immediately. There are plans to replace the windows and fix the hole in the ceiling in due course. No time scale could be given for this work. ... Resolved – that Cllr Archer approach Graham Cox to discuss maintaining the room to an acceptable and comfortable standard."

So, the town clerk was expected to work in a room which it was admittedly not acceptable - one which sounds like it is several steps down from a broom cupboard, hole in the ceiling, windows needing replacing -. and there was no timescale given for improvement to this situation. Still, she was getting paid, right?

From the minutes of 2nd Dec 2009: "The council Chairman commented that no arrangements had been made as of yet to arrange the salary payments for the Town Clerk. It was agreed that it would be unethical for the Town Clerk to complete her own pay roll and that the advice of Lancaster City Council to employ an independent accountant to arrange this should be undertaken. " Note that at this time Ms Errington had been working for the council for more than a month and maybe as much as two months (if she was dismissed in April, after a 6 month probationary period, then she must have been taken on in October 2009). No arrangements had been made for her to receive payment. The only person who displayed even the slightest amount of competence and drive and desire to actually achieve anything (Ms. Errington herself) was barred from arranging her own payment on the grounds that it would be "unethical" (which will be news to all the thousands of payroll chiefs who process their own payslips along with all the others). She might get paid, someday, or maybe not....

It certainly seems to me like she was the victim of Morecambe Bay Independents incompetence and infighting. Does this amount to bullying? Well, let me put it this way. If I knew someone who was considering taking up the mantle as the new town clerk, I would tell them, "Don't even think about it." And that's despite the fact that I think Morecambe does actually need a competent town clerk.

I could go on, but I've already got carried away, and this blog is already much longer than what I usually write. So I'll sign off for now.

Change the World.


  1. Now the inestigation is over I'd be most interested to read what Ms E has to say.

    If Miss E left in April has the postion been readvertised?

    Has anything been achieved since Miss E left?

    How long will the Acting Town Clerk, Freemason and early retired/redundant Lancaster City Council tourism officer Keith Lamb be Acting for?

    Are there any annual accounts for the MTC for 2009-10 available for public scrutiny?

    Also according to last weeks City Council propoganda press, The Visitor, David Kerr is now the Chair of MTC. So what happened to the elected Chair, Roger Plumb?

  2. I thought with time on your hands and further research Mick you may have answered some of these tough questions for us.

    Wonder how and how much Mr Lamb gets paid and if he also gets money added to his local authority final salary pension pot.

    Your mates at the lodge will of course know the truth Mick.

  3. I only answer easy question Anonymous.

    I have no connection with any lodge.