A sledgehammer to crack a nut

PEOPLE in public life need to have high standards - they need to behave properly and act for the good of all.And there needs to be a body keeping an eye on how they behave and, if necessary, calling them to account.

PEOPLE in public life need to have high standards - they need to behave properly and act for the good of all.

And there needs to be a body keeping an eye on how they behave and, if necessary, calling them to account.

But the Standards Board for England seems like a sledgehammer to crack a nut - and in its desperation to be seen to be doing something is forcing local councils to spend thousands of pounds to establish, as Basil Fawlty might say, the “bleedin' obvious!”

Last week's inquisition of Rev Chris Jowett was a monumental waste of time and money in my opinion.


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Mr Jowett used to be a parish councillor at East Bergholt and got into a tangle about whether he should have declared an interest when parking restrictions in the village were discussed.

It was clear when the case was dragged to the standards sub-committee at Babergh Council that he had not intended to do anything wrong.

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A London barrister was employed to outline the case against him. The Standards Board sent one of its staff up from London to Hadleigh for the case.

They'll all be claiming expenses from Babergh council.

And what was the result? The sub-committee found that Mr Jowett should have declared an interest - but decided to take no action because he had been badly advised.

Now I can see the point in such a hearing if thousands of pounds of public money were involved.

But they were talking about a small section of parking restrictions. And it isn't as if the parking restrictions are enforced by East Bergholt parish council.

They are a consultee, but it's up to the county council whether the restrictions are introduced!

To make the situation even more ridiculous, it wasn't even a controversial proposal - the recommendation was eventually supported unanimously by the parish council!

All this would be an amusing farce if it wasn't for two things: thousands of pounds of public money was wasted and a good man was put through months of totally unnecessary worry.

I hope the Standards Board is happy with its crusade to clean up local government.

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