Dress Down Friday

Havering been some days in preparation

Has everyone been following the exciting goings on in Havering Council in Essex? Has anyone been following the exciting goings on in Havering Council in Essex? For some reason the broadsheets haven’t really been covering this story, so if you’ve missed it then here’s a brief outline of the events so far: a year or so ago during a Regulatory Services Committee meeting to discuss Stonebridge Farm’s application to build a mobile home on their site in Rainham, one of the councillors interrupted proceedings by making a “baa”-ing noise like a sheep. Naturally enough, Councillor Jeffrey Tucker was outraged by this, and reported the Committee to the Standards Board for England. A month later the Standards Board referred the case back to the council, and over the last 12 months they’ve put together a 300 page report on the incident, costing an estimated £10,000. They haven’t managed to establish precisely who made the noise, although they have been able to narrow the culprit down to one of four suspects: councillors Barry Oddy, Eric Munday and Barry Tebbutt, and former councillor Denis O’Flynn. . The Daily Mail quotes a “council insider” as saying “This is absolute madness. We’ve wasted a load of money and a lot of time on a councillor who baaed like a sheep – and we’ve got absolutely nowhere”.

Well not nowhere, exactly. As I say they’ve managed to narrow it down to a list of four, and next month, on November 22nd, there’s going to be a further meeting of the standards sub-committee, and who knows, they might at long last uncover the guilty party. Admittedly this will be fourteen months after the original incident – which was reported in September last year in the Yellow Advertiser newspaper by Peter Henn, who’s someone I actually know; it’s like being friends with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein – and fourteen months is the length of time it took to build the Empire State Building, but you can’t put a timescale or a price on justice, can you. Intriguingly, this isn’t the first time Havering Council has been mired in controversy. Last year former councillor Alby Tebbutt – father of Baagate suspect Barry – ran up a £6,500 phone bill on a council mobile phone while on holiday in Hawaii. In February this year he and councillor Eric Munday – another Baagate suspect – were accused of voterigging. And in July 2005 he was found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute after allegations that he’d verbally abused another member of the council and made improper references to the councillor’s wife. Perhaps Barry is a chip off the old block, and was the guilty party in Baagate, although the Daily Telegraph suggests that the prime suspect is Denis O’Flynn. Either way, we need a docusoap crew down there right away, this is dynamite stuff.