Monday, 24 September 2012

Brian Coleman: no news is bad news for Barnet Council

It is now four days since Councillor Brian Coleman was arrested by police on suspicion of common assault, following an alleged incident involving Helen Michael, the cafe owner and traders' spokeswoman from North Finchley, in the course of which she is reported to have suffered a broken wrist.

There has been no statement on this very serious matter from Barnet Council, or from any representative of the Conservative Party.

On Friday, Mrs Angry contacted Barnet's press team with the following request:

"... for a statement on the allegations regarding the arrest yesterday of Councillor Brian Coleman,and if you can tell me what steps, if any, will Leader Richard Cornelius be taking in regard to any possible suspension during further investigations by the police?"

 Mrs Angry has just received the following response from Mr Chris Palmer, aka the Tooting Twister, head of (preventing wherever possible) Communications on behalf of the London Borough of Barnet:

"The issue to which you refer is not currently a council matter but a matter for the police. The responsibilities of council staff are limited by code and we do not represent any individual councillor or their interests, but the council and its policies."

This is, surely, the most extraordinary position for the council to take. 

Whilst one can appreciate that the council may be keen to distance itself from any unfortunate publicity surrounding this case, to pretend that the arrest of a member of Barnet Council is nothing to do with, well: Barnet Council, is simply ridiculous. 

This statement would seem to imply that the responsiblity for any statement must come from the Conservative party: clearly no such action has been taken.

The lack of any assurance to the contrary can only lead residents to assume that Councillor Coleman remains in post, and will receive the full support of the Conservative Party while police investigations continue.

This is Broken Barnet: had you forgotten?

*Update, Monday evening: 

Mrs Angry understands that Richard Cornelius intends only to issue a statement regarding Brian Coleman if he is charged.

We must await clarification on this point, but it would mean, presumably, that he may continue with his usual council responsibilities without any suspension.

Clearly Brian Coleman is fully entitled to a presumption of innocence, and has not been charged with any offence, and his rights under law must be observed, but does the Conservative Party in Barnet really take no position on cases like this, when an elected member has been arrested and is being investigated on suspicion of a common assault?

*Update Tuesday morning: 

A story this morning in the local Times confirms Mrs Angry's prediction that no action will be taken in regard to Brian Coleman following his arrest. No official statement has been made, but Tory leader Richard Cornelius has told the Times:

"Cllr Coleman has not been charged by the police and is innocent until proven guilty.” 

Indeed he is, but the question must be asked: would a Barnet council officer arrested and bailed pending further investigation by the police on suspicion of common assault be suspended from duty, and what procedures do other local authorities generally instigate in comparable circumstances?


Mr Mustard said...

in fine style the Tooting Twister has not answered the question Mrs A. He must be in daily touch with the leader given the number of PR disasters that unfold every day (I have one coming for him) and you asked what Cornelius was going to do not what the council was going to do. He could have been a little more helpful.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

If this has nothing to do with Barnet Council, then presumably any application by Cllr Coleman for assistance with his legal fees will be met with short shrift.

The rules on indemnities specifically prohibit payment for investigations into alleged criminal offences, and Barnet Council will obviously not wish to fall foul of the law.

Mr Mustard said...

Barnet Council really ought to think more strategically than this as the words barnet Council in Private Eye will last long in the memory after the time when Brian Coleman is but a small speck in the history of the council.

Mrs Angry said...

well,Mr M - at least I got something out of the Twister, seems to be more than anyone else. I did invoke the name of Eric Pickles, mind you, and reminded him of, you know, that thing we have going on ...

DCMD: how can the arrest of a council member be nothing to do with Barnet Council? Can they not tell us if he will continue in post pending police investigations?

baarnett said...

Seen messages on Twitter...

You change the colour of the text above when Julia Hines asks, but not when others do.

This is textism.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Invoking the Ken Livingstone defence, Brian Coleman was not ‘on duty’ as a councillor at the time of his arrest so, presumably, this explains the council’s “not us, guv” response. The question therefore is at what point will the council acknowledge that it does become their business? How serious does the alleged crime have to be before they take action?

If a councillor was arrested and bailed on suspicion of murder, would they continue to say that it is not a council matter? Perhaps you can ask Mr Palmer to tell us at what level on the crime scale the bar has been set. Let us not forget that this is a criminal investigation, not civil.

On a separate matter, has anyone asked the council to confirm whether Cllr Coleman has repaid his taxpayer funded legal indemnity now that his appeal has been thrown out?

Mrs Angry said...

hmm, baarnet, textism: yep, well the sisters must stick together, and anyway you are always complaining about something, whereas Dr Hines is very forebearing, see?

DCMD: some very interesting points. I may very well engage the Twister in some further debate tomorrow. I am sure he will be very keen to respond.

Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to address further questions to the Conservative party. Difficult, when the Barnet leader refuses to answer emails.

Jaybird said...

An interesting comparator in how Tory councillors' misdemeanours are managed