Monday, 24 September 2012
Brian Coleman: no news is bad news for Barnet Council
It is now four days since Councillor Brian Coleman was arrested by police on suspicion of common assault, following an alleged incident involving Helen Michael, the cafe owner and traders' spokeswoman from North Finchley, in the course of which she is reported to have suffered a broken wrist.
There has been no statement on this very serious matter from Barnet Council, or from any representative of the Conservative Party.
On Friday, Mrs Angry contacted Barnet's press team with the following request:
"... for a statement on the allegations regarding the arrest yesterday of Councillor Brian Coleman,and if you can tell me what steps, if any, will Leader Richard Cornelius be taking in regard to any possible suspension during further investigations by the police?"
Mrs Angry has just received the following response from Mr Chris Palmer, aka the Tooting Twister, head of (preventing wherever possible) Communications on behalf of the London Borough of Barnet:
"The issue to which you refer is not currently a council matter but a matter for the police. The responsibilities of council staff are limited by code and we do not represent any individual councillor or their interests, but the council and its policies."
This is, surely, the most extraordinary position for the council to take.
Whilst one can appreciate that the council may be keen to distance itself from any unfortunate publicity surrounding this case, to pretend that the arrest of a member of Barnet Council is nothing to do with, well: Barnet Council, is simply ridiculous.
This statement would seem to imply that the responsiblity for any statement must come from the Conservative party: clearly no such action has been taken.
The lack of any assurance to the contrary can only lead residents to assume that Councillor Coleman remains in post, and will receive the full support of the Conservative Party while police investigations continue.
This is Broken Barnet: had you forgotten?
*Update, Monday evening:
Mrs Angry understands that Richard Cornelius intends only to issue a statement regarding Brian Coleman if he is charged.
We must await clarification on this point, but it would mean, presumably, that he may continue with his usual council responsibilities without any suspension.
Clearly Brian Coleman is fully entitled to a presumption of innocence, and has not been charged with any offence, and his rights under law must be observed, but does the Conservative Party in Barnet really take no position on cases like this, when an elected member has been arrested and is being investigated on suspicion of a common assault?
*Update Tuesday morning:
A story this morning in the local Times confirms Mrs Angry's prediction that no action will be taken in regard to Brian Coleman following his arrest. No official statement has been made, but Tory leader Richard Cornelius has told the Times:
"Cllr Coleman has not been charged by the police and is innocent until proven guilty.”
Indeed he is, but the question must be asked: would a Barnet council officer arrested and bailed pending further investigation by the police on suspicion of common assault be suspended from duty, and what procedures do other local authorities generally instigate in comparable circumstances?