General Election Hustings Events in West Dorset

This is the current list of pre-General Election hustings style events in West Dorset.  it would be great if as many people as possible came along to the general hustings events.  For more detailed information, please contact the organisers of each event.

Date

Time Location Organiser

Theme

20 Feb 1900 – 2130h Bridport, Electric Palace Public First Local democracy
27 Feb 1900 – 2130h Sherborne, Digby Hall Public First Local democracy
6 March 2000h Dorchester, Town Hall WAND What are candidates going to do for women in West Dorset?
17 March 1135h Bridport, John Colefox School John Colefox School Hustings for y 12/13 ONLY
18 March 1415h Sherborne, Gryphon School Gryphon School Hustings for y13 ONLY
20 March 1930h George Albert Hotel, Frome St Quinton National Farmers’ Union Rural issues/general hustings
25 March 1400h Dorchester, Thomas Hardye School Thomas Hardye School Hustings for y13 ONLY
10 April 1930h Sherborne, Digby Hall Sherborne Churches General
14 April 1900 – 2130h Lyme Regis, Woodroffe School Amnesty International Human rights/general hustings
15 April 1930H Dorchester, Thomas Hardye School Wildlife and environmental organisations Wildlife and environmental issues plus
23 April 1930h

 

Dorchester UC, South Street Dorchester churches general
27 April 1930h Bridport UC, East Street Bridport churches general

 

 

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council Budget 2015-16: localised council tax support

On 26 February 2015, Weymouth and Portland Borough councillors will vote at Full Council on the budget for 2015-16.

Until May 2013,  the council offered a maximum 100% rating for localised council tax support (previously known as council tax benefit) for the least well-off households in the borough.  The 100% rating was abandoned by the then Tory-led council in the budget for 2013-14 and replaced by a maximum support rate of 91.5% .

In both 2013 and 2014 the Labour Group proposed reintroducing that 100% rating and on both occasions the proposal was defeated at full council.  If you want to know more about this, I wrote about it here in Jan 2013 (before Full Council) and here in March 2013 (after Full Council) and here in 2014.

After the local elections of May 2014, the Labour Group became the largest group on Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, holding 15 of the 36 seats and 4 of the 10 seats on Management Committee.  However, the council is still one of No Overall Control (NOC), which means that Labour councillors alone cannot force policy through.  Nevertheless, responsibility for proposing the budget is now that of the Labour Group, and specifically that of the Finance Briefholder, Cllr Colin Huckle (Labour, Weymouth West).

A recent Citizens Advice report  noted that council tax was now the CABx clients’ number one debt problem:

“The number of people struggling with council tax payments has rocketed since Council Tax Benefit was replaced by localised Council Tax Support schemes in April 2013.”

Nevertheless, Weymouth and Portland’s 2015-16 budget proposal does not include a return to a 100% rating for council tax support, an omission which might at first sight lay the Labour Group open to charges of hypocrisy.  However, it is important to note that the issue was raised at the September meeting of Management Committee.  The officer recommendation was that the council should consult the public on whether maximum council tax support should remain at 91.5%, whether it should be reduced to 80% (so that people with the least money would have to pay more council tax) or whether it should be returned to 100% (so that people with the least money would be exempt from paying council tax).  Members of the committee were advised that, without consultation, the scheme would remain as it was.

The minutes of that meeting (paras 203 – 209) make it clear that Cllr Ray Nowak (Labour, Tophill West) proposed that the council go out to consultation and that I seconded that proposal but that Cllr Michael Goodman (Conservative, Upwey and Broadwey) “voiced caution” as he felt that any consultation would worry those claiming council tax support and, in his view, the current scheme was acceptable (though acceptable to whom was not made clear).

The proposal went to a vote, which was lost as it was supported only by the four Labour Group members and not by any of the other six members, of whom three are Conservative, two Liberal Democrat and one UKIP, representing the Independent group.

If you are concerned that the 2015-2016 budget doesn’t include a return to 100% council tax support after the Labour Group protests of the last two years of protest, I hope that this offers some clarification, though residents would of course be welcome to come to Full Council to voice their opinions, which is something I will be undoubtedly be doing.

If you are struggling to pay your council tax, you may find this information helpful.

Tax on Justice?

This excellent article in today’s Guardian displays no little hypocrisy from Vince Cable on the impact of introducing charges for employment tribunals.

The number of sexual, racial and other discrimination cases being heard at employment  tribunals has plummeted since the introduction of fees of up to £1250 .  Plummeted by 81% to be exact . It seems the LibDem business secretary has now ordered officials to carry out an investigation into whether the introduction of these fees has acted a ‘barrier to justice’.   But what’s the point of an investigation?  Fees were specifically designed to reduce the number of applicants and have done exactly that.

Although the number of claims has dropped, the success rate of claimaints remains the same which indicates that ‘…claims of a high number of frivolous claims under the old system was overstated‘. That’s  ‘claims made by employers’, of course.  But fee charging is a blunt instrument: it doesn’t just deter so-called ‘frivolous’ claims: it deters everyone who cannot afford the fees, irrespective of the seriousness of their allegation.

And of course ‘the fees had been welcomed by employers…‘ because the introduction of fees significantly reduced the ability of employees to take them to tribunal and thus gave employers a greater level of protection from legal redress.

In my experience, the introduction of tribunal fees has also made some employers rather more ‘relaxed’ about playing fast and loose with employment law, thus creating a double injustice for employees and there is no doubt that some employers take advantage simply because they know they have virtual impunity.

So of course the introduction of fees for employment tribunals has acted as a barrier to justice for employees because that is exactly what it was designed to be.

Whole Life Tariffs:  Extinguishing the Candle of Hope

In November 2014, Harry Roberts was released from prison after being incarcerated for more than 48 years.  The release triggered an avalanche of complaint from those who believe that, as Roberts is serving a life sentence for the murder of three police officers, he should never regain his liberty.  In his official statement, Steve White, Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said that, after hearing of Robert’s release, ”many police officers felt badly let down by the criminal justice system.”  

Few aspects of that criminal justice system create more controversy or confusion than life sentencing policy so it’s worth clarifying that a life sentence lasts for the remainder of a person’s life:  if someone released on licence after serving their tariff period commits another offence, they can be sent back to prison at any time.

The tariff mechanism itself was described as follows in 2002 by Hilary Benn in his capacity as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prisons and Probation:

“The tariff is the minimum period a life sentence prisoner must serve to meet the requirements of retribution and deterrence before being considered for release. After this minimum period has been served release will only take place where the prisoner is judged no longer a risk of harm to the public.”

Roberts’ tariff was 30 years but, because of concerns about an ongoing risk to the public, he remained in custody for an additional 18 years.  However, some believe that those who murder police officers should automatically receive a whole-life tariff, meaning that there would be no minimum term set by the judge and the murderer would, in effect, never be considered for release.  As Matt Evans writes in his scholarly assessment of whole life sentences in Criminal Law and Justice Weekly, “a whole-life order may not, per se, be irreducible because of the possibility of release under s30 of the Crime (Sentences) Act of 1997, but the prospect of the Secretary of State exercising this power appears so limited as to be almost non-existent”.

Prior to the Criminal Justice Act of 2003, the setting of tariff was ultimately in the hands of the Home Secretary.  While several Home Secretaries amended judges’ tariff recommendations to implement whole-life tariffs in the cases of, for example, Myra Hindley, none saw fit to do so in Roberts’ case, even though at the time of sentence, Mr Justice Glyn-Jones had told him: “I think it likely that no Home Secretary regarding the enormity of your crime will ever think fit to show mercy by releasing you on licence.”  Since 2003, tariffs have been set by judges and the release of life sentence prisoners directed by the independent Parole Board.

The CJA 2003 also sets out guidelines to govern circumstances in which a whole-life order can be issued:

(2) Cases that would normally fall within sub-paragraph (1) (a) include—

(a) the murder of two or more persons, where each murder involves any of the following—

  • (i)a substantial degree of premeditation or planning,
  • (ii)the abduction of the victim, or
  • (iii)sexual or sadistic conduct,

(b) the murder of a child if involving the abduction of the child or sexual or sadistic motivation,

(c) a murder done for the purpose of advancing a political, religious [F1, racial] or ideological cause, or

(d) a murder by an offender previously convicted of murder.

However, in her speech to Police Federation Conference in 2013, Home Secretary Theresa May promised to extend these guidelines to include the murder of police officers.  This unfulfilled promise now distracts from the debate about the meaningfulness of and evidence-base for whole-life tariffs, as those who object in principle to whole-life tariffs are immediately accused of being ‘soft on crime’ or even ‘anti-police’.

The legality of whole-life tariffs has been challenged and found not wanting, though the European Court of Human Rights has ruled to say that these should include the possibility of review.  But ‘legal’ is by no means the same as either ‘necessary’ or ‘just’.  Is there really a case for an extension of the reach of whole-life tariffs, and, if so, should this apply only to the murderers of police officers?    And, given the indeterminate nature of life-sentences, is there really any reason for whole-life orders?

Theories of punishment fall into two categories:  retributive (looking backward at the crime as the reason for punishment) and utilitarian (looking forward and basing punishment on social outcomes) and there are (debatably) five primary philosophies of punishment :

Retributive:  retribution – based on the lex talionis or “letting the punishment fit the crime”.

Utilitarian:

  • Incapacitation: preventing the offender from reoffending in the outside community;
  • Deterrence: demonstrating what happens if you deviate from accepted norms of behaviour;
  • Rehabilitation: restoring a convicted offender to a constructive place in society;
  • Reparation/restoration: restoring a sense of wholeness to the individual and the community.

It’s worth noting that, in Benn’s definition of ‘tariff’, the primary reasons for imprisonment are retribution/deterrence, with incapacitation/rehabilitation taking a secondary position and no mention at all of reparation/restoration.

Clearly, it is uncertain whether imprisonment itself is helpful in addressing these philosophies. For example, does the threat of imprisonment deter people from committing crime? The crowded corridors of US and UK jails would indicate that many are not.  And is prison the best place for rehabilitation to take place?  Only if you would you put someone who was trying to quit smoking into a room full of smokers.  However, there is no doubt is that ‘prison works’ in terms of retribution and, to a large extent, incapacitation (though very many crimes are committed inside jails).

Over the past decades, sentencing has become more punitive, with sentences becoming longer and more indeterminate sentences being issued, attracting lengthier and more whole-life tariffs.  This has resulted in the seemingly endless increase in the prison population at the same time as we are told that crime is falling. Nevertheless, if Roberts committed his crime today, he wouldn’t automatically fit the criteria for a whole-life tariff.  Yes, it was a multiple murder but those murders were not pre-planned and involved none of the other conditions necessary for a whole-life order.  And yet, with just a 30-year tariff, Roberts spent nearly half a century in prison because of the refusal of the Parole Board to be satisfied as to his fitness for release (and indeed they appear to have had good reason for doubt).  The indeterminate nature of a life-sentence enabled the Parole Board to keep Roberts in custody long beyond his tariff date, until they believed that he no longer posed a risk to the public. If they judged that he still posed a risk, they need not have allowed him to be released on licence.  So does a whole-life tariff have any value other than increased retribution?

Moreover, why should murderers of police officers be singled out for whole-life tariffs?  What of prison officers and paramedics, teachers and social workers, and all other professionals who run the risk of being murdered during the course of their duty?  The police inspector next to whom I was sitting during Mrs May’s 2013 speech was not impressed by her promise.  He saw it as a political sop to police officers, many of whom are reeling from the ‘reforms’ which have been implemented since 2010.  He is far from alone.

Time-bounded tariffs offer hope.  They allow prisoners to believe that, if they address their offending behaviour, if they comply with their sentence objectives, if they learn how to conform to accepted norms and demonstrate that conformity, they may one day be able to live outside prison, in the community, with what remains of their families, despite the threat of the life-licence forever hanging over them.   They permit prisoners’ families, their partners and children, to hold that same hope, to encourage the prisoner to do whatever is necessary to enable him or her to rejoin society.  This is a rehabilitative approach, if not yet a restorative one

Whole life tariffs, on the other hand, effectively ignore any possibility of rehabilitation or restoration, focussing only on retribution and incapacitation.  They assume either that the person of today is the same as the offender of yesteryear, unchanged by maturation or experience, or they assume that the crime was of such severity that the only possible punishment is to extinguish any hopes of liberty.  A senior police officer expressed to me the retributive view that “there’s [a] point where you say reform and rehabilitation [is] less important than punishment, which means people may change but they forfeit the ‘right’ to experience that in freedom.

Which of us is the same as we were 50, 40, 30 years ago?   Which of us hasn’t been changed by time and our experience of it?  Which of us would want to deny the possibility of change in ourselves or in another, 30, 40, 50 years hence?  What it if it were our child?  What if it were us?

The role of the state is to seek justice, not revenge.  It should reflect objectively on risk rather than pander to political whims.  It was for these reasons that the right to set tariffs and approve release was removed from the executive in favour of more independent bodies.  Because of the need to satisfy the risk assessment, the elimination of whole-life tariffs wouldn’t guarantee the prospect of freedom to those who have committed the most heinous crimes, but it would at least extend the candle of hope.

This article is a slightly amended version of one written for and published by The Justice Gap in November 2014

Evicting rogue landlords

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s Management Committee met earlier today to discuss a wide range of issues, including the question of the council’s approach to the private rented housing sector and specifically so-called ‘rogue landlords’

This issue had originally been raised as a Notice of Motion at Full Council back in September, when Councillor Penny McCartney (Tophill West), who is a long-standing housing campaigner, proposed that the council support the Shelter campaign (endorsed by the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) to improve the lives of private renters and toughen up its policy in respect of rogue landlords.

On that occasion, several Conservative members expressed the view that approving the NOM would prove extremely expensive.  Eventually the NOM was referred to the housing team to produce a report for submission to Management Committee.

Given the context of that debate I found the report quite fascinating, particularly the clarification in paragraph 6.1 that there were ‘no financial implications directly associated with the recommendations‘.

The debate on the report was robust. I was, however, rather concerned that more than one councillor attempted to switch the subject away from rogue landlords to what they termed ‘rogue tenants’: assured shorthold tenancies put the balance of power firmly into the landlord’s hands and leave most private renters in a state of constant insecurity.

I work in the advice sector and every week in my ward or my work I come into contact with people whose landlords, in Cllr Brookes’s own words, ‘sail close to the wind’.

  • Landlords whose properties are damp and poorly ventilated, contributing to the ill-health of vulnerable people.
  • Landlords whose properties are cold and poorly insulated, causing tenant to pay excessive heating costs.
  • Landlords who fail to respect the law which should govern the tenant-landlord relationship by entering at will or by failing to protect deposits (and indeed, the report notes that only 68% of tenancy deposits in the borough are protected despite this having been a legal requirement since 2007).
  • Landlords who respond to complaints by threatening the tenant with eviction rather than by addressing the problem.
  • Landlords who frankly do not understand the requirements that are incumbent on them or, if they do understand, are willing to flout the law in order to make a fast buck.

Yes, as the report states, the majority of landlords are doing a good job and care about providing a decent home for their tenants but just one poor landlord is one too many and councils must not be seen to tolerate it.  It was therefore heartening that, when it came to a vote, the report was adopted unamended, allowing Weymouth and Portland Borough Council to sign up to the Shelter campaign to ‘evict rogue landlords’.

If you’re a landlord and you think you would benefit from some advice on how to be a better one, this might help.  If you’re a tenant and are experiencing problems, this might be useful.

 

Transforming Rehabilitation

Earlier today it was announced that two companies, Sodexho and Interserve, will run more than half the newly-privatised probation services (CRCs) in England and Wales.

These companies, many of which have little experience of the criminal justice system, will supervise 200,000 offenders designated as low- to medium-risk, leaving a public sector rump to supervise those designated as high-risk,

I find this decision indefensible: it is ethically unacceptable for the state to devolve responsibility for  supervising the risk posed by offenders or to allow profits to be made from this activity;  risk is a mutable concept which cannot be neatly divided into ‘low/medium/high’; and that I fear that fragmented provision will leave dangerous gaps, increasing the pressure on our already-beleaguered police service.

Moreover,  the £300m+ “poison pill” clause, guaranteeing bidders their expected profits if the 10-year contracts are cancelled after #GE2015, is yet another ideological bond designed to fetter political discretion and force future administrations into transferring even more public money into private hands.

Did the experience and knowledge of the ‘experienced voluntary sector providers’ enable these to submit more realistic bids and thus price themselves out of a race-to-the-bottom market?

If you want to know more about Transforming Rehabilitation, this BBC Radio 4 documentary by @dannyshawBBC is worth a listen.

 

Who’s responsible for CSE?

Today is the day of the by-election for a new Police and Crime Commissioner in South Yorkshire, a vacancy left by Shaun Wright’s resignation.  Mr Wright eventually resigned not because of his actions as Police and Crime Commissioner but because his earlier inactions as Rotherham Council’s briefholder for Children’s Services severely compromised his ability to carry out the PCC’s role of victims’ champion.

Ukip have created a furore by running a poster campaign which proclaims that the victims of Rotherham’s Child Sexual Exploitation debacle are “1400 reasons why you should not trust Labour again.”  However, if Ukip were serious about addressing the root causes of CSE, rather than in political point-scoring, would they have chosen an ex-South Yorkshire police officer as their PCC candidate?

Of course, Rotherham’s Labour-controlled administration was hugely at fault for allowing this issue to go unchallenged for so long but, as the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham demonstrates, South Yorkshire Police are similarly culpable. And if you think, or encourage others to think, or claim for political advantage that abuse couldn’t or wouldn’t or doesn’t occur under any other administrative hue, you are sorely mistaken and standing in the path of the solution – a solution which has to come from the whole community and for which we are collectively responsible.

If you would like to know more about community responses to child sexual exploitation, I’d recommend this and other blogs by @itsmotherswork

 

 

Water cannon: policing by consent?

On 10 June, the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) announced that it had given the Metropolitan Police Service permission to purchase three second-hand water cannon, preempting the Home Secretary’s authority for the weapons to be used on the British mainland.

Since that announcement, debate has raged about the safety of the weapons and their capacity to kill or to maim, culminating in Boris Johnson’s offer to be ‘blasted’ by water cannon to ‘prove’ their safety.

This is the wrong debate.  As with all weapons, water cannon are neither ‘safe’ nor intended to be ‘safe’.  Water cannon are not garden hoses but ‘less lethal’ weapons for use in dangerous, violent situations.

The Association of Chief Police Officers’ own, somewhat ambiguous, briefing paper notes that “the term ‘less lethal’ (as opposed to non-lethal) accepts that water cannon are capable of causing serious injury or even death”. Although not designed to be aimed directly at humans, it is inevitable that humans will be caught in the line of fire and equally inevitable that some of those humans will be hurt, injured and possibly killed.

Rather than quibble about the relative ‘safety’ of a weapon, the questions we should ask are:

  • What is the intended purpose of water cannon?
  • Do we, the people, consent to that purpose?
  • Are water cannon the right tool for their intended purpose?
  • Have both purpose and tool been given democratic legitimacy?

MOPAC has employed no little sleight of hand in respect of the intended purpose of water cannon, with their spokesman referencing “learning from the riots of 2011”  when commenting on the purchase of the weapon.

Water cannon are not designed for use in the agile protests which characterised the 2011 riots. They can, however, be used to separate rival crowds or separate a protesting crowd from the object of that protest.  In the words of a police officer, water cannon “provide reach, which provides distance, which provides protection for static police lines” and they in turn need re-arming and protecting, thus tying resources to a static point.  So the purpose of the purchase of water cannon is not to deal with fast-moving riots similar to those of 2011 but to cope with another kind of protest entirely.

Do we, the people, consent to that purpose? The second of the Peelian principles states that “the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour”.  Do we approve of and consent to the purchase of a weapon, the very presence of which may prove inflammatory, which contributes to an increasing mechanisation and militarisation of policing, which further and physically distances the police from the public? Richard Seymour believes that the use of water cannon is a move towards “treating protest as something to be crushed and thus tilting the balance of power further away from citizens and toward the state.” Do we consent to that imbalance?

Are water cannon the right tool for their intended purpose?   Now we stray into the realm of crowd psychology and evidence-based policing. In his scholarly and well-evidenced report for MOPAC’s public consultation into the proposed introduction of water cannon, Dr Chris Cocking explains that:

 “crowds may initially scatter briefly once water cannon is deployed and used[but] any such scattering would be momentary, and rather than dispersing from the area, crowd members would quickly re-group, with increased collective militancy more likely. Therefore, water cannon’s effectiveness in quelling disorder would be minimal, and possibly even counter-productive, in that I believe its use would be more likely to increase any such disorder. It is also possible that the very appearance of water cannon could generate increased crowd militancy and result in the crowd attacking such a visible and symbolic target.” (p 5)

Similarly, Dr Clifford Stott’s 2009 submission to HMIC notes that “indiscriminate use of force can [ ] somewhat ironically contribute to a widespread escalation in the levels of public disorder.” (p 10).

Dr Cocking is an expert in crowd behaviour while Dr Stott’s research focuses on the social psychology of crowd conflict and its relationship to public order policing.  One would hope that expert evidence which so compellingly indicates that use of water cannon might exacerbate disorder would militate against the purchase of said weapons but it seems that compelling, expert evidence is insufficient.  When these papers were recommended to a Police and Crime Commissioner who was previously a police officer, his response was simply “I disagree”.

Finally, have both purpose and tool been given democratic legitimacy? The apparent purpose of the weapons has been allowed to become enmeshed in the public mind with the desire to avoid a repeat of the events of 2011, even though the tool is wholly inappropriate for that apparent purpose.  Meanwhile, the Mayor’s decision appears to have outmanoeuvred the Home Secretary, who has not yet sanctioned the use of water cannon on mainland soil. Is it likely that, once the weapons are purchased, the Home Secretary will refuse to authorise their use?  Would MOPAC have approved the purchase of the weapons without a least a tacit assurance that their use would be legitimised?  And once the weapons are in the hands of the MPS, how long will it be before a reason is found for their use?

If  the Home Secretary or the Mayor or the Deputy Mayor with Responsibility for Policing and Crime really wish to reduce the risk of unrest, rather than using the indiscriminate threat of water cannon to cow a disaffected populous, they might be better advised to link that disaffection to the increasing levels of inequality and social injustice and with the cuts which have decimated the pro-active and protective nature of neighbourhood policing and then to listen to the expert voices which are so clearly warning of pitfalls ahead.  Otherwise, the introduction of water cannon onto the British mainland may prove to be the beginning of the end for policing by consent

 

This blog was originally written for The Justice Gap.

LibDem Leadership

Weymouth borough councillor Ryan Hope was suspended by Liberal Democrat HQ on Monday 27 January 2014.

Clearly, I welcome this decision. which has to be in the best interests of the electorate. However, I am astonished that it has taken four months to take the action which should have been evident from the outset. With such serious charges there should have been an urgent consideration of a without-prejudice suspension. What does it say about the internal structures and communications of the Liberal Democrats that they ignore all calls for action from local people and only respond to intervention at a national level? Irrespective of the outcome of Cllr Hope’s criminal trial, these are serious allegations which must impact on his ability to carry out his public duties. South Dorset Labour group raised this issue at least twice with the Liberal Democrat group leadership. Cllr Roebuck, the leader of that group, dismissed these concerns out of hand and instead chose to sweep what are very serious allegations under the carpet. It is hard to believe that he didn’t know that there were explicit rules covering situations of this kind. Cllr Roebuck says he told LibDem HQ: they say he didn’t: people deserve more transparency and responsibility. In the light of concerns surrounding both Lord Rennard and Mike Hancock, this refusal to act shows poor judgement, a failure to comprehend the severity of the situation and contempt for the electorate and speaks volumes about a party which appears to be characterised by a lack of communication and accountability.

I was interviewed about this matter on BBC South Today on Tuesday 28 January and Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg discussed his dissatisfaction with the situation on LBC Radio on Thursday 30 January (at 13:00).

On 1 March the Dorset Echo revealed that the local Liberal Democrat group had formed a Coalition of Liberal Democrats and Allies which it had invited Cllr Hope to join, with the stated aim of protecting his place on council committees.

I find this move quite astonishing.  Nick Clegg gave a clear direction on this matter, both in removing the mantle of Liberal Democrat membership from Cllr Hope and in his LBC interview.  It seems that, in an attempt to shore up his party’s fortunes, Cllr Roebuck has chosen to circumnavigate the wishes of his party leader, showing an absolute disregard for public opinion and Cllr Hope’s own well-being.  The affair is nothing more than a shambles.