Information on public speaking is available online
Ian Barlow in his capacity as a Sidmouth resident, not on behalf of Sidmouth Town Council, spoke in regard to agenda item 12 on the Esplanade toilets in Sidmouth. Whilst he supported Rockfish, he questioned why the number of toilets in the proposal was not higher; what were the implications if Rockfish ceased trading; why the Council could not rent the building instead. He felt that the site was undervalued based on his experience. He stated that no councillors or officer take bribes, but this value looked difficult to the public and brings the Council into disrepute. He stated that the current planning permission was out of date anyway, so a new application was required. He asked for the Cabinet to see if a better deal was available.
Councillor Jess Bailey told Cabinet that she had enquired on the number of applications made to the Council for voter authority certificates to enable them to vote at the forthcoming elections in May. She felt that there were potentially many more still unaware of the need to apply if they had no identification, and asked for all present to do everything possible to raise awareness of this new legal requirement. She also criticised the change in legislation, commenting on the cost impact to the tax payer.
In response to the public speakers, the Chair advised the first public speaker to be careful in making any reference to bribery and stated that this had not occurred. In response to Councillor Bailey, he echoed the need to publicise and advised Members of the information on the polling cards issued prior to the election.
A statement was read out on behalf of Councillor Jake Bonetta as follows:
“Statement on the conduct of Cllr Mike Allen – Littletown Green, 1st March 2023
Cabinet, please accept my apologies that I can’t be at this evening’s meeting in-person. Nevertheless, following the events at Littletown Green this morning, I felt it important to deliver a short statement on what I witnessed, what our Officers were put through, and the consequences of Cllr Allen’s actions.
For context, an event was scheduled at Littletown Green, Honiton, for early this morning to conduct tree planting in the area. Following a successful consultation on the plans, which received high levels of public support, the plans were given the go-ahead. This was planned to be a great event, involving Littletown Primary Academy school pupils with the planting of the trees. This would have had the effect of improving the site for all its users, including those very schoolchildren before and after their days of lessons.
I arrived at the site at 9:28am, eager to get involved in the community event. When I turned up, I was astounded and shocked to see one of our own Councillors, Mike Allen, and a member of the public, ripping prepared bamboo sticks out of the ground and throwing them to the side. Not only was Cllr Allen uprooting these bamboo shoots, but he was protesting against the planned works and arguing directly with Council staff and myself about the plans.
A Council officer had to turn the school pupils away near the entrance to the field, deeming it an unsafe environment for children to be let into. Public protestations, criminal damage against Council property and outrageous behaviour by one of our elected Council members, doesn’t create an environment conducive and safe for schoolchildren. As well as this, Cllr Allen was taking photos of the situation and threatening to take further photos of the trees being planted by these children. As my 4 active DBS checks, safeguarding training and experience as a Designated Safeguarding Lead for a not-for-profit has taught me, threatening to take unpermitted photos of kids, whether in an open and public setting or not, is a serious breach of safeguarding responsibilities – on which we have just received mandatory training by the Council.
On top of this, in my view, Cllr Allen was acting in a threatening and bullying way against officers of the Council, who were only following the detailed legal advice of this Council and the advice of their managers and colleagues. One officer, who shall remain unnamed in this forum, spoke to me about feeling very shaken and directly bullied by Cllr Allen through the event. In my view, it is totally unacceptable for any Councillor to place our brilliant and dedicated staff in any difficult situations through their own volition, and I want to openly commend and support our officers that had to witness and deal with these outbursts this morning.
The Nolan Principles of public life teach us that we must act with integrity, accountability, and leadership. On top of this, our own Code of Conduct places a responsibility on all elected Councillors to act with integrity and honesty, to treat all persons with respect, and to lead by example. Considering the abhorrent behaviour of Cllr Allen this morning, I am of the view that these high standards expected of him have been broken, and I will be investigating taking further action on the matter.”
Councillor Hayward commented on Cllr Allen’s resolution the previous week at Council in regard to civility and respect; therefore he was shocked to hear this account by Councillor Bonetta. He personally apologies to officers present at the meeting, on behalf of all Councillors, and asked that his apology be passed to the officers impacted. He stated a message to Councillor Skinner as the group leader to take swift action in light of the events.
Councillor Wright offered to send a copy of Councillor Bonetta’s statement to the group leader as a matter of urgency.