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Put a stop to bullying in the Court of Common Council

I, like many other residents of the estate have been truly appalled by the treatment that our resident Councillor Sue Pearson was subjected to last year (2018)  because she spoke and voted at a meeting to prevent the planning permission for the COLPAI development to be delegated to Islington only.

The Monday morning meeting to vote on handing over planning powers was announced on the Friday before in what our local newspaper City Matters described as a last minute ambush by the City Corporation.

If any party was to come under scrutiny you think that would be the City Corporation but instead it was Cllr Sue Pearson who was accused of speaking and voting when she had a 'pecuniary interest.' A pecuniary interest suggests she was likely to gain financially from the decision. She obviously didn't.

We all know Cllr Pearson to be of the utmost integrity - her concern was for the protection of democracy and the proper representation of Golden Lane residents. She felt, quite rightly, that as the development would have a considerable effect on City residents, then the City's planning committee should also vote on any planning applications in order that residents would have the chance to be represented by their own Councillors.

Cllr Pearson was advised by a leading QC that she had no pecuniary interest in the matter and hence no dispensation was required. However, had there been one, there clearly was no time to apply for one. The motion itself was anti-democratic and the attempt to push it through so quickly was deeply cynical. Despite all this she was actually referred by the City Corporation to the police! They declined to investigate.

This has lead to demands from residents for Standard Committee reform but there is still unfortunately a level of maliciousness within the City Corporation which is directed personally at Cllr Pearson and is totally unacceptable. The latest example being at the Court of Common Council in July from Alderman Luder. Here's my letter to the Alderman Wootton as the Chair of the “General Purposes Committee of Aldermen” which I sent on Monday 2 September to complain about his behaviour.

EMAIL TO ALDERMAN WOOTTON 2 SEPTEMBER 2019

Dear Alderman Wootton

I am one of the 558 residents of Cripplegate who voted for Cllr Sue Pearson and I have been following with growing concern the difficulties she has faced in properly representing her constituents, particularly her fellow residents of the Golden Lane Estate. Please read ‘difficulties’ as a heavy euphemism. In fact the recent ‘question’ posed by Alderman Luder at the meeting of Court of Common Council in July leads me to feel that Cllr Sue Pearson is being singled out and bullied. This is totally unacceptable and has deeply problematic consequences, not just for current representation but also on the effect that this may have on residents wishing to do their bit for their community in standing for Common Council in the near future.

 

Question from Alderman Luder:

“Could the Chairman of the Standards Committee confirm the rumours that a Member has made a claim for rights of light arising from the construction of COLPAI. If so, has the claim been settled, and would the Chairman agree that this indicates a disclosable pecuniary interest is engaged?”

 

I can’t accept that there was any need for the question to be asked and the response should have made that clear. I’m sure I don’t need to point out to you the obvious: a 'pecuniary interest' is only relevant if it is 'engaged' in a matter when a member participates in a discussion or vote in a Court or committee meeting about that matter. It is not relevant to a member claiming or receiving compensation from the Corporation in a private capacity. COLPAI rights of light only came up in one committee meeting which Cllr Pearson attended. She declared her interest in that meeting, and did not speak or vote on the matter, as minuted for public record. Normal procedure followed, job done  - so why was the question even asked or entertained?

As I believe there is no good answer to that question, do you consider it appropriate that Alderman Luder be required to make an unconditional apology at the next meeting of the Court of Common Council? 

We should consider the impact of the Alderman's question on all members - clearly there were those who felt uncomfortable about its intent and had therefore warned Cllr Pearson in advance. Cultural attitudes towards bullying have changed in the last decade but it would appear that Alderman Luder has not sufficiently adjusted his thinking and behaviour. This is not to be or should be easily dismissed. 

We are products of our own experiences so I would like to make a positive suggestion. Many local children have attended Prior Weston Primary School and it has a very clear code of acceptable conduct, which includes helping children who exhibit bullying behaviour understand the impact of their actions. The aim is not to vilify them but help them become a positive part of their community. Perhaps Alderman Luder could visit the school to talk to children about bullying and in doing so learn some useful lessons and increase his own self-awareness, or at the very least receive similar training?

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

Jacqueline Swanson

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