Council Leader kept in the dark

In an exclusive published elsewhere on this website two days ago, detailed background was provided into an ‘inexplicable’ and much criticised decision by Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council taken earlier in the week (read more here).

It was predicated on the reasonable assumption that such a far reaching ruling – to remove all video records of past council and committee meetings from its YouTube channel – was made both in conjunction with the Council’s political leadership and after consultation with Group Leaders of the other political parties represented in the chamber.

Within a few short hours after publication of that article it emerged that both of those expectations were false:

The Leader of the Opposition and Group Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr Howard Sykes MBE, quickly confirmed, in response to a routine press enquiry, that he was both dismayed and in the dark over the decision – and urged, in a strongly worded letter to the Council’s chief executive, Harry Catherall, a quick reversal.

More surprisingly, numerous reliable and well placed sources contacted Neil Wilby, the author of the article, to say that neither the Council Leader, Cllr Amanda Chadderton, nor the Labour Group, which she also heads, had been consulted over the decision.

The chorus of those against it, which also includes, publicly, at least two Conservative councillors, Cllr Bethany Sharp and Cllr Luke Lancaster, became louder. The latter had chosen to write directly to Cllr Chadderton with a note of his objections and a request for re-consideration. He, too, had drawn the reasonable inference that such a Council decision could not have been made without her knowledge and assent. There is no shame at all in being proved wrong on that point.

A number of Labour councillors, activists and influencers, are also concerned that a decision of this scale, and with such dire potential consequences, was made without their knowledge.

The Council’s press office provided a poorly drafted statement from Deputy Chief Executive, Sayyed Osman, which said, essentially, that the decision had been taken on welfare grounds as a result of a number of staff being unfairly targeted, harassed and abused by the ‘malicious use of video editing and using footage from the Council’s public meetings out of context’.

sayyed osman

He added, “This has meant that it was necessary to review all our policies and procedures around public meetings, including webcasting and web hosting of videos. We value transparency and democracy and we are keen to ensure we look at best practice to get this right whilst ensuring we meet our duty of care towards our staff who are being impacted unfairly”.

The press office has been contacted for further clarification around the Council’s decision making, but the Bank Holiday weekend, and the fact that key members of staff and the Council Leader are away from their offices for various reasons, mean that there will, inevitably, be a delay in eliciting a reply.

What is already clear, however, is that the Labour Group, and its Leader, will be adding to the voices of their LibDem and Conservative counterparts in asking for the decision, taken alone, it seems, by the Council’s Executive Management Team, to be urgently reviewed.

A balance will, plainly, have to be struck between a necessary duty of care towards its staff and the democracy, openness and transparency that the Council so frequently champions in its media and public relations output.

The news that Cllr Chadderton was not involved in this decision to remove the video archive will be profoundly disappointing to Tameside conspiracy theorist, Raja Miah, whose three month campaign of highly personalised hatred and harassment, directed towards the Council Leader since she was elevated to the role in May, 2022, has intensified this week. Grounded entirely in the proposition that she, alone, was responsible for removing the video archive and it forming part of a wider ‘cover-up’ of the Council’s failings in its handling of historic child sexual exploitation in the Borough.

Aided and abetted, of course, by a group of his ‘supporters’ whom, appositely, self-style as ‘The Rabble’. Some of the most persistent and obnoxious social media trolls in the Borough, if not the entire Greater Manchester Region, operate under that banner.

Doubtless fuelled by the need for a distraction from the fact that ‘The Malicious Beggar’, as he is now widely known, has been reported this week for allegedly breaching the conditions of his court bail (read more here). After pleading not guilty, he faces trial over allegations of harassing a 39 year old lawyer from the Salford area.

Unemployed Miah’s next appearance at Manchester Magistrates’ Court is listed for 15th September, 2022 (read more here). He provides a running commentary on proceedings via his discredited, frequently banned Recusant Nine social media platforms. Maintaining that his arrest and prosecution is ‘politically motivated’ (read more here).

The next meeting of Full Council in Oldham is scheduled for 7th September, 2022. Following scenes of serious public disorder at the last two meetings, held in June and July, it is expected to be another turbulent session (read more here).

UPDATE: The Council, in a dramatic U-turn, reversed the decision and restored the public meeting video archive in its entirety on Monday 5th September, 2022. Read full story here.

Page last updated Tuesday 6th September, 2022 at 1015hrs

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Picture credits: Neil Wilby Media

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2022. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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