Last Wednesday it was announced that Cllr Ross McWilliams was found in breach of the RBWM’s Code of Conduct 5.1 by bringing the council into disrepute by his actions.
It was generally accepted that this would be the likely outcome or it would have been a travesty of justice. We have seen them happen but thankfully it was a unanimous decision by the Cllrs who sat on the panel, Cllr Lynne Jones, Cllr David Coppinger and Mr David Comben (Independent Person, Chairman).
Three charges were brought by 20 residents, read the details of the hearing here.
It was the following code 5.1 that he was found to have been breached.
5.1 I do not bring my role or local authority into disrepute. As a Councillor, you are trusted to make decisions on behalf of your community and your actions and behaviour are subject to greater scrutiny than that of ordinary members of the public. You should be aware that your actions might have an adverse impact on you, other councillors and/or your local authority and may lower the public’s confidence in your or your local authority’s ability to discharge your/it’s functions. For example, behaviour that is considered dishonest and/or deceitful can bring your local authority into disrepute. You are able to hold the local authority and fellow councillors to account and are able to constructively challenge and express concern about decisions and processes undertaken by the council whilst continuing to adhere to other aspects of this Code of Conduct.
Quoting from the decision notice…
The Sub Committee noted, in line with comments in the Investigating Officer’s report, that there had been no element of deceit on the part of Cllr McWilliams but considered that disregarding the advice of the Monitoring Officer to not take part in the planning process was unwise. The Sub Committee noted that the Monitoring Officer had no power to exclude Cllr McWilliams’ from the meeting, she could only provide advice on his participation, and had done so on a number of occasions. In relation to the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus,’ a member of the public aware of the fact that this advice had been given would have a reasonable expectation that this advice would be acted upon. By failing to act on the advice, Cllr McWilliams risked breaching paragraph 5.1 of the Code of Conduct.”
Instead of simply saying sorry, his first course of action was to push out a post on his Cllr FB Page which started, “Following a Code of Conduct complaint, I am delighted to have been totally exonerated by both an independent investigator and RBWM’s Standards Committee of any wrongdoing regarding the disclose of my interests or improperly using my position to advantage myself or others…”
And then to compound things, the Leader of the RBWM Councillor Cllr Andrew Johnson’s tough response has been to support Cllr McWilliams, choosing not to remove him from his cabinet and instead rewarding him for bringing the council into disrepute by ensuring he maintains his additional £12,000 allowance. RBWM Councillor Allowances.
Watch the video of the planning meeting below to hear what was actually said. There were issues with the technology back then which have been rectified by a new system since but do try and persist if you want to appreciate the facts.
Wednesday, 17th November, 2021 7.00 pm
Item 28 on the agenda
PROPOSAL: Erection of 80 dwellings together with landscaping, the provision of open space and related facilities, associated engineering works and access to Ray Mill Road East.
What saddens me as a standing Cllr is that, a week on, he still hasn’t held his hands up to say he’s sorry. It doesn’t take “a man on the Clapham omnibus” to realise sorry would be a good response. Even a small child on a “Ride On” toy would know when to say sorry!
Cllr Ross McWilliam’s follow up response, after a week of contemplation, was still not to apologise but instead talk to the local press claiming he received “relentless social media abuse”.
Is it a sorry state of affairs. Highly embarrassing and sends all the wrong messages to our young people. Bring the council into disrepute and there will be no consequences.
Just apologise Ross and we can all move on.