Councillors’ Feet to the Fire
Back in March, Aberdeen Council included an anti-independence message with the Council Tax letters sent to every resident in the city. We welcome last Friday’s announcement by the Public Standards Commission that seven senior councillors are being investigated for misuse of public funds in relation to the letters – and we’re proud to have been part of the process leading to the investigation.
After the letters came out, we discovered they violated the councillors’ Code of Conduct, which states that ‘campaigning activities’ may not be carried out using Council facilities. All too often, politicians manage to keep their undemocratic actions within the letter of the law, but this time we had concrete grounds for complaint.
We weren’t the only ones who were upset about the letters, so we held a stall in town with blank complaint forms and sample letters, encouraging people to add their own comments.
The stall gave people the chance to vent their frustration. Many people were angry about being told how to vote, especially when the city has so many problems that councillors aren’t dealing with competently. Several had never done anything ‘political’ before, and it wasn’t just Yes voters who were concerned – there were plenty of No voters who agreed with the Council’s position but thought they had no right to take a position at all.
So in a few hours on two Saturday afternoons, we collected letters and complaint forms from over 120 people – and plenty of others were sending letters and complaints independently.
The following weekend we held a ceremony at Marischal College to deliver the letters in a wheelbarrow, with Helena Torry, ‘voice of the silent majority.’ Councillors Willie Young and Angela Taylor came along to defend their actions but their explanations fell flat. It didn’t help that they were both wearing their Council ID badges attached to Better Together lanyards!
Once we popped all the letters through the Council’s letterbox, we sent a big envelope to the Public Standards Commission with all the complaint forms. It’s good to know they were taken seriously.
The original post about the Council Tax letters is here.