Friday, 8 July 2011
FOI reveals Wrecsam Lib Dem Cllrs targeted St Davids Day parade Founder
An FOI released today has revealed a series of e mails and comments from Lib Dem councillors in Wrecsam which relate to the banning of the founder of Wrecsams St Davids Day parade Mr Adam Philips. Mr Philips was banned from speaking at the event he established back in 2009 on the basis of complaints submitted to the council by county councillors. Mr Philips has stated he does not recognise the ban as the parade is not a council event and has also called for an investigation into how the ban was implemented.
The FOI reveals that the complaints and the subsequent enforcing of the ‘ban’ were also endorsed by the Lib Dem council leader at the time, namely Cllr Aled Roberts. Mr Roberts, now an Assembly Member for the north Wales region is quoted in the FOI documents on the 10th March 2011 requesting the letter banning Mr Philips be translated (how thoughtful). He also relays a message to Mr Philip Walton Strategic Director to ensure the letter banning Mr Philips includes the added instruction "not to speak".
E mails were also listed in the FOI documentation from Lib Dem Councillors Phil Wynn, Joan Lowe and Gerry Craddock, two of which referred to alleged comments made by Mr Philips regarding the referendum on further law making powers for Wales. What a coincidence you may think that both Cllrs Wynn and Lowe were instrumental in instigating a 'No' campaign locally against that referendum during the same period. The FOI also reveals that the ban received written support from fellow 'No' campaigner and Conservative Cllr Paul Rogers in June of this year, in which he urges the council to “stand its ground on this matter”.
As some of you may remember, Plaid Cllrs challenged the ‘ban’ on Mr Philips at an Executive board meeting last month. We asked for details about the complaints and stressed the fact that Mr Philips disputed the content of the complaints made against him, but had not been given the chance to respond to them before the ban was issued.
Members were also told in that meeting that a complaint had been received by a member of the public and that a letter was subsequently issued by Strategic Director Philip Walton banning Mr Philips from his own event. The letter lists the complaints justifying the ban on Mr Philips as follows:
‘Encouraging them (the crowd) not to support any potential bid for city status’
‘several people were offended by your clenched fist salute’
‘You instructed the crowd how to vote at the National referendum’
Reading through the FOI material, it becomes clear that the ‘complaint’ to Chief Exective Isobel Garner from the member of the public was actually submitted to the council by Lib Dem councillor Phil Wynn. A second complaint about the referendum comments was submitted by Lib Dem Cllr Joan Lowe the following day. In reference to the complaint Cllr Wynn says "Please can you assure me that as an authority we will not be offering up our further support to the Yes campaigners between now and Thursday".
The original concerns were raised by a lady who attended the event. In an e mail passed to Cllrs Wynn and Craddock she expresses concern that Mr Philips called for a yes vote in the referendum (something he disputes) and bizarrely describes Mr Philips actions whilst singing the national anthem and shouting ‘Dewi Sant’ as: “what can only be described as a near nazi salute”.
Interestingly Cllr Wynn’s e mail goes on to state : “ This has also jogged my memory as to what stance the council took when responding to the WAG consultation document on further promotion of the Welsh language.” Not quite sure what he means by that but it would certainly be interesting to find out.
There is no reference at all to city status from either the member of the public or the Lib Dem Cllrs, we wonder how that one got in the banning letter? Additionally, rather than 'several' people complaining about Mr Philips clenched fist salute during the National anthem, it would seem there was only one reference to it.
The motivation of the councillors pushing this 'complaint' needs to be examined, as do the actions of council officers in acting on it. Other issues listed in the banning letter such as Mr Philips comments on city status also need further investigaion. It can only be assumed these were received verbally from councillors considering they are not referenced in any of the written material.
Another issue that needs investigation is the comment from Phil Walton to the Executive Board that Mr Philips did not respond to his letter banning him from the event. The FOI material contains a letter from Mr Philips dated 31st March to Mr Walton requesting a meeting to discuss the situation. There are also e mails from council staff that refer to this request and arrangements regarding a meeting between Mr Philips and junior officers to discuss the matter.
It would seem that as an ordinary member of the public, Mr Philips is not entitled to respond to alleged breaches of policy before being judged, he should simply be told 'not to speak' instead. Possibly if he had been an Assembly candidate the situation may have been different. It would also seem to be ok to allow Mr Philips to be victimised by a couple of local councillors without any investigation as regards the motivation, which was clearly political. I could go on to talk about freedom of speech, the fact that Mr Philips actually invited the council to be involved in the parade in the first place and many other issues, but the fact that this situation is disgraceful speaks for itself.
At the end of the day, all this has happened because of one complaint by a member of the public who has clearly got her facts wrong (nazi salute!?). This complaint has then been vociferously driven within the council by local councillors with a bee in their bonnet over the referendum. No doubt still sore over critical press coverage regarding their own behaviour during their bodged 'No' campaign.