An article published by Neil Wilby Media yesterday morning (26th April, 2023) has certainly raised hackles in both Oldham Council and the Borough’s Liberal Democratic Party, but for very different reasons.
A now familiar ‘cock-up’ and ‘cover-up’ by the council’s senior paid officers was alleged over yet another mistake in its handling of the local elections on 4th May, 2023 (read more here).
It followed the issue of a public statement by a group known latterly as the Shaw and Crompton Independents (S&CI) in which they claimed that ‘incorrect and false information’ had been provided by the Council’s Elections Officer, Jenna Madeley, regarding a Parish election in their locality and she had issued an apology over the matter (read yesterday’s article in full here).
Shortly after yesterday’s article was published an unsolicited statement in the form of a right to reply was submitted by S&CI’s Marc Hince:
“Thank you for taking a personal interest in our activities. For your information we are not a political organisation but a community group. More information can be gained here at http://www.scindependents.co.uk
“As you can imagine we are deeply disappointed by the acknowledged mistake by Jenna Madeley, Head of Elections and Land Charges at OMBC. We were advised by Jenna that in the upcoming Parish Council elections there were four seats for election in the East Ward. We took this information in good faith from Jenna in her capacity of Head of Elections and Land Charges at OMBC.
“It has since transpired that this information was false and has had what we believe a detrimental (sic) on both our campaign and the Parish Council election as a whole.
“Although we except (sic) the official statutory Notice of Election was correct, we believe it is implied by her role and thus was reasonable to assume that information provided by herself to be correct.
“For example, if one is given information from a doctor regarding an illness which turned out to be incorrect, it would not be reasonable for the patient to be expected to check with other sources such as the BMA for clarity.
“At this stage we are monitoring the situation and reserve the right to take the matter further.
The Liberal Democrats in Oldham, who currently have political control of the subject Parish Council, took a different view, however, and a spokesperson provided this statement:
“We are mystified that the Shaw & Crompton Independents had trouble following simple instructions. If it makes them feel better to blame the council, then I guess the good voters of Shaw and Crompton have a good preview of what service will be like if they get elected.”
The Returning Officer for the local elections, Harry Catherall, also undermined the SC&I statement and, of course, Marc Hince’s subsequent and expanded claims:
“On the morning of Friday 24th March an email was sent to the Clerk of Shaw and Crompton Parish Council which included a typographical error in relation to the number of seats available in one of the Parish wards.
“The formal notice of Parish Election, including the correct information relating to the number of seats up for election in each ward, was issued later that day, both on the council website and directly to the Parish Clerk.
“The deadline for nominations for the Parish Council election was not until 4th April, eleven days after the correct information was published and available for potential candidates in the upcoming election.”
The Council and its Returning Officer, who is also its chief executive, did not, however and in conventional fashion, respond in full to an uncomplicated five part press request. That has led to three follow-up questions and a more general performance enquiry from Neil Wilby, the author of both this and yesterday’s article:
“(i) May I please have sight of the email(s) sent to and any received from the Parish Clerk?
“(ii) May I also please have clarification of what the Elections team (a) discussed with the Electoral Commission and (b) what was the outcome of these discussions?
“(iii) As soon as the Council became aware of the issue (OMBC was tagged in at least one tweet that I have seen which alleges serious impropriety) why was the matter not addressed at that point and a statement on behalf of the Returning Officer issued?
“Finally, may I enquire as to whom, if anyone, quality assures responses to press enquiries? It is my genuinely held belief that if such checks and balances were carried out, and a competent, qualified practitioner was in place to carry them through, that supplemental questions such as the three above would not need asking”.
This exclusive is plainly a story with more to come. It will be updated once the Council’s replies are made to the supplemental questions – and any response to the right of reply offered to Marc Hince and the Shaw and Crompton Independents is received. In particular, how they propose ‘to take the matter further’.
Follow Neil Wilby on Twitter (here) and Neil Wilby Media on Facebook (here) for signposts to any updates.
Page last updated Thursday 27th April, 2023 at 0830hrs
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