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Monday 7 March 2011
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Slough Borough Council's Censorship Bid

Is council boss Ruth Bagley attempting to cover-up 'wild & wasteful' spending ?


Angry anti-council sentiment continues to grow among the people of overcrowded Slough where residents pay a higher basic rate council tax than their neighbours in the adjoining borough of affluent Windsor and Maidenhead, despite Slough's pockets of social and economic deprivation and acknowledged poverty.

4,000 Slough children live in poverty claimed Save the Children's press release last month - and many thousands, often illegal immigrants, live in sub-standard, makeshift and unhealthy back-garden sheds which Slough's 'reluctant to do anything' council seems to have tolerated for many years.

Deluded or misguided or simply out-of-touch, smiling council chief executive Ruth Bagley believes Slough is a success story - see our forthcoming article for more details

Locals think Slough Borough Council is corrupt and incompetent and throws away public cash like waste water. Ruth Bagley, salary package £186,000 a year, and her freely spending resources and finance director Julie Evans are employing expensive consultants on £200,000 a year and another on £1,500 a day - that's £390,000 in a full year. Meanwhile council staff on low salaries are being sacked because the council is short of money.

Frightened Council Employee Speaks Out

One council insider, a life-long Labour Party supporter, is distraught by the way Ruth Bagley and her chum Julie Evans are running, or should that be ruining?, the council.

The insider decided to expose a little of what goes on behind closed doors in Slough's secretive organisation. For example, the savings made by sacking lower-paid staff who live in the borough is dwarfed by the costs of employing very expensive consultants - one on £200,000 a year; another on £160,000 a year and the 'cheaper' consultant on only £1,500 per day (that is a yearly rate of £390,000). Can you believe YOUR local council is really short of money?

Serious issues you may think

That is why we published the letter from a council member of staff. Being very reasonable and keen to know both sides of the allegations, the Slough Times invited council chief executive Ruth Bagley, council resources and finance director Julie Evans and the Labour Party's chief councillor Rob Anderson to submit their own comments about the council employee's claims. We gave Mrs Bagley, Mrs Evans and Mr Anderson every opportunity to deny the claims, to correct any inaccuracy or to explain to the public what they are doing and how their spending decisions are helping the people of Slough.

Ruth Bagley Refuses to Deny Whistle Blower's Claims

Ruth Bagley, increasingly known for acting 'dumb' and not replying to difficult matters, refused to respond. A second invitation to comment failed to persuade Ruth Bagley to utter even a few words in the council's defence. Julie Evans followed Ruth Bagley's example and ignored our invitation. So did Cllr Rob Anderson. It seems none of them wanted to deny the truthfulness of the allegations. And none of them wanted to explain what is going on behind closed doors at the luxurious 5-star office block known as St Martin's Palace.

Is Labour Leader Cllr Anderson too embarrassed to explain?

Voters in the town's Farnham ward may question why their councillor, the chief and the most powerful of the borough's 41 elected councillors, was too reticent to respond.

Contrast Cllr Anderson's total silence with his sanctimonious performance at council meetings when he quickly castigates anyone daring to suggest Slough's Labour Party and Borough Council are anything less that absolute perfection.

No stranger to vigorously attacking anyone daring to be critical and always robustly defending the sometimes indefeasible failures of senior over-paid council officials, Cllr Rob Anderson's surprising silence is difficult to understand.

At a council meeting, plain speaking Rob Anderson told a town centre resident that he, Cllr Anderson, preferred not to answer questions from the local public because he wanted to concentrate on the important task of running the council. Cllr Anderson then very sternly told the resident that he wanted to stare into the resident's eyes to see what type of person he was. Surprised onlookers did not know if that was a covert gay approach to another man or a deliberate attempt to frighten-off the public.

Labour's Pre-occupation with Sex

Council watchers will remember Cllr Anderson's gay deputy during a public meeting of the council, a few years ago, asking a tall male councillor to perform a sexual act on him. The deputy Labour Leader's famous words during a meeting of the full council:-

Suck my .... (male appendage)

caused a political uproar. But because Cllr James Swindlehurst is Labour, he got away with it.

On another occasion Cllr Swindlehurst complained at a planning committee meeting, attended by business leaders and local residents, that he had lived in a flat for 6 years and during that time never had sex. One wonders if Cllr Swindlehurst was feeling randy and appealing for a sexual partner and, if so, whom at that male dominated planning meeting, did he fancy.

Slough Borough Council Demands Censorship

After nearly two weeks of council silence about the £200,000 a year consultant up pops an email from part-time contract solicitor Maria Memoli from Melksham in Wiltshire - no solicitors nearer Slough?

Maria Memoli, registered with England's Law Society as a practising solicitor since 1994, claims:-

I should inform you that the letter you have published on your website is inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory and I would therefore ask you to remove the offending material from your website forthwith.

We asked Maria Memoli what are the actual words she claims are inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory so we can investigate and take action. We told Maria we thought it unreasonable and disproportionate to remove the entire letter when it is likely her concerns related to a part of that letter.

Surprisingly Mrs Memoli, who angrily wrote on a previous occasion her comprehension of English was good, refused to state which parts of the letter are inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory.

That is surprising and disappointing. Maria must have known which parts of the letter were inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory otherwise she could not honestly and factually claimed, in her authoritative manner:-

the letter you have published on your website is inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory

Gagging the Press ?

After a strong, independent and public-spirited editor Martin Biddle left the Slough Observer in 2004, Slough Borough Council started to pressurise local newspapers not to print embarrassing news of council scandals.

The council named a small road in Cippenham after him (Biddle Close). That was probably before Martin Biddle's front page exposures of shocking sleaze including Labour mayor's using a council credit card to buy personal items for herself.

Since 2004 Slough no longer has newspapers willing to confront grave injustices. Potential loss of council advertising is another reason for appeasement. Neville Chamberlain would have been delighted.

Scandals successfully covered-up because of morally weak editors include the Raj Kumar victimisation and the appalling bullying of a young junior clerk by a top council official which made the victim suicidal and go on a hunger strike.

Slough Borough Council's propaganda department (officially called the Communications Department and under the direct control of the council's chief executive) has enjoyed three-hour lunches with local newspaper editors. Contrary to good working practises, Slough Borough Council officially stated it made no records of the topics discussed. The editor privately told others he was being pressured not to print stories detrimental to the interests of senior council staff.

Slough Borough Council tried to close-down the web site www.slough.info when a council lawyer, falsely in our opinion, claimed it was impersonating the council's own web site.

Maria Memoli re-using the council's standard protest ?

Interestingly Maria's words:-

... inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory

are exactly the same as quoted by Slough Borough Council solicitor, Elizabeth Jenkins, on Friday 17 December 2010, when she tried to censor an entire Slough Times article about Slough Borough Council.

Elizabeth, just like Maria, was unable to point-out the words she believed to be inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory. Why would a professional solicitor make an ambiguous claim then refused to identity the specific details of her claim ?

Is Slough Borough Council's latest attempt to censor merely a co-incidence or is it indicative of Ruth Bagley attempting to control the news the public of Slough are allowed to read about their local council ?

SBC Demands Removal

From: Memoli Maria
Subject: [SOLA 010584] Anonymous Claims from an Employee
Date: Mon, 7 Mar 2011 11:27:52 +0000


Your email to the Chief Executive has been brought to my attention along with the anonymous letter which you have published.

I should inform you that the letter you have published on your website is inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory and I would therefore ask you to remove the offending material from your website forthwith.

Yours sincerely,

Maria Memoli

Maria Memoli
Acting Borough Secretary & Solicitor
Slough Borough Council
51 Bath Road
Slough
Berks SL1 3UF

Slough Times Asks SBC for Specific Details

Subject: [SOLA 010584] Anonymous Claims from an Employee
To: Maria Memoli SBC
Copy: Ruth Bagley SBC, Julie Evans SBC
Date: Monday, 07 March 2011, 13:42:15 +0000


Dear Madam,

(17) .....

(18) The Slough Times policy, as shown on our web site, is to remove all material from our web site which is genuinely "inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory". We have no wish to publish such material and exercise our best endeavours to avoid doing so.

(19) In the interests of preserving the Human Right of Freedom of Expression, ..... we would reasonably ask for precise details of the actual words you allege are "inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory". When we have that information we will carefully investigate the matter.

(20) ......

(21) ......

(22) Censoring an entire letter on the basis of alleged "inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory" words, which if true may constitute only a tiny fraction of the letter, does appear to be unreasonable and disproportionate.

(23) ......

(24) You have obviously determined which words are "inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory", otherwise you would not have been in a position to email me alleging the existence of "inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory" words. Kindly share with me precise details of the "inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory" words and your reasons for believing them to be so.

(25) Finally, please state the names of the person(s) you are legally representing in this matter.

(26) ......

Yours faithfully,

SBC Refuses to Provide Precise Details

From: Memoli Maria
Cc: *Chief Executive, Ruth Bagley, Evans Julie
Subject: [SOLA 010584] Anonymous Claims from an Employee
Date: Mon, 7 Mar 2011 14:07:40 +0000


I acknowledge receipt of your email below. I am employed as the Council's Monitoring Officer - a statutory role - and I have mentioned this to you beforehand.

I do not intend to engage in protracted correspondence with you.

You are obviously aware of my personal circumstances as you have checked the websites, so you have your answers already which are in the public domain.

Yours sincerely,

Maria Memoli

Maria Memoli
Acting Borough Secretary & Solicitor
Slough Borough Council
51 Bath Road
Slough
Berks SL1 3UF

Slough Times Again Asks SBC to Supply the Details

Subject: [SOLA 010584] Anonymous Claims from an Employee
To: Maria Memoli SBC
Copy: Ruth Bagley SBC, Julie Evans SBC
Date: Monday, 07 March 2011, 15:55:03 +0000


Dear Madam,

(27) In my response to your first email, dated Mon, 7 Mar 2011 11:27:52 +0000:-

(a) I stated at paragraph (18) the Slough Times publicly published policy on removing from our web site material which is genuinely "inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory". I also stated the Slough Times have no wish to publish such material and exercise our best endeavours to avoid doing so.

(b) At paragraph (19) I wrote "we would reasonably ask for precise details of the actual words you allege are "inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory". When we have that information we will carefully investigate the matter."

(c) At paragraph (24) I asked you "Kindly share with me precise details of the "inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory" words and your reasons for believing them to be so."

(d) At paragraph (25) I asked you to "please state the names of the person(s) you are legally representing in this matter.".

(28) Your reply, dated Mon, 7 Mar 2011 14:07:40 +0000, did not respond to any of the above requests. Until you help us by clearly identifying which words you allege are "inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory" it is difficult for us to respond in a genuine attempt to settle this matter. I therefore ask you to reconsider your decision not to supply the requested details of the words you claim are "inaccurate, misleading and potentially defamatory".

Yours faithfully,

No Response from SBC.






SOLA 010584