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Paul Hayhurst's Tribunal

Philip Woodward and Paul HayhurstIn our last article Standard Conduct? we set out the background to Tuesday's Tribunal hearing of alleged misconduct by Fylde's Cllr Paul Hayhurst. We thought the main allegation was from Chief Executive Philip Woodward, who appears to have alleged that Cllr Hayhurst's conduct toward him amounted to  'failing to treat with respect'.

It goes back to that dreadful 3rd March budget meeting (see Travesty of Democracy) where, after the huge loss of £1.2 million due to financial incompetence (which in turn led to the Cabinet's decision to close our swimming pool), Cllr Hayhurst suggested those in charge and responsible for the loss, and for the failure to identify the problem for six months (ie some Cabinet Members and Fylde's Chief Executive) should consider their positions and resign. To us that doesn't seem unreasonable. In fact, we'd probably have put it more strongly. However, it seems at least some other folk don't see it that way.

We hope to be at the hearing each day, and will bring our readers a synopsis of events as they unfold.

We expect it to be quite 'judicial' in operation, and it will probably cost taxpayers quite a few bob.

But as well as the financial cost, there is also a human cost. Allegations of 'misconduct' invoke the process of evidence gathering and interviews. Those without a strong sense of self-belief are quickly worn down and debilitated by the process alone, irrespective of the right or wrong of their case.

We know Cllr Hayhurst to be of strong and sound character, but we could imagine even he will have been under increasing pressure over the last twelve months, as he was investigated, interviewed, and has had to prepare to defend himself against the allegation(s)

So as the pressure builds on Cllr Hayhurst in anticipation of Tuesday, we advise those planning to attend at the Dalmeny Hotel in St Annes to get there early. The scheduled start time is 10:00am, but we think there could be quite a few people who hope to watch the proceedings, and we do not know how big the public gallery will be.

Given the overnight snow, we wondered if the Tribunal would go ahead today, but undaunted, we set out in the crisp frozen air. The Dalmeny is relatively luxurious and we were directed to the Ribble Room on the third floor. Up the lift, then through a maze of corridors and past bedroom doors that even Theseus would have needed his ball of string to get out of.

The Ribble Room was about 40 feet square, with dark blue carpet and matching office style 'visitor' chairs. A 'top table' was set out for the Tribunal members, Chairman Karen Aldred, and colleagues Richard Tyndall and David Billing. To the side was a table where the technical and clerical support had set up an induction loop and audio recording equipment.

Ranged in a quasi-horseshoe facing the top table were three more tables, one marked 'Respondent' (Paul Hayhurst) a central one for witnesses and one marked ESO which was for the Ethical Standards Officer (Gylian Murphy) of the National Standards Board and the barrister they had engaged to conduct the 'prosecution'

At 9:15 the first people had arrived, and by five to ten everyone including witnesses were seated. The Tribunal entered from an ante-room at 10:03. They were around 60ish, (though we might be doing the lady a disservice with that assessment).

The Chairman did a competent and no-nonsense introduction, setting out the process to date and the procedure for the day.

It turned out to be a bit confusing at first because things, like Eric Morecambe's version of Greig's piano concerto were all there, but not necessarily in the right order.

However, it turns out we were right in our previous assumption that Fylde's Chief Executive Philip Woodward had instigated the complaint to the Standards Board. He had actually complained about the conduct of three councillors we heard, two had offered apologies which he had accepted, but he had refused to accept an apology offered by Paul Hayhurst.

The meeting went straight into high drama because Cllr Hayhurst had wanted to have his accuser take the stand so he could cross examine him. However the Tribunal said they had already considered this point and decided it was not necessary. But then it turned out this decision had not been communicated to either the Standards Board or Cllr Hayhurst. It also turned out that the Standards Board had put Mr Woodward on notice that he would be called and they thought it might be a good idea if he was able to have his say, and he was in the audience. At this point the Tribunal retired to debate whether to allow Mr Woodward to participate.

Those around us could be heard saying the accused ought to be able to test the case of his accuser, and were they trying to tamper with the result - (there had also been a small argument about what evidence would be admissible).

In the end, the right decision was made and, at 11:15 the adjournment ended and the decision came that Mr Woodward would take the stand, and the line of questions will be restricted to "issues that were said"

The witnesses were asked to wait downstairs to be called to give evidence.

First to bat was The barrister for the  Standards Board, he called FBC's officer Alan Oldfield who took the oath and was referred to a letter he wrote to the Standards Board on 7 March 2007 saying that at the 3rd March Budget meeting, he heard Cllr Hayhurst say "I'm gunning for Phil Woodward big time now". According to Mr Oldfield, this took place in a bar adjacent to the budget meeting He also confirmed two others, Andrew Cain and Cllr David Chedd were part of the group he was speaking to.

Pressed for more details he said he was having difficulty remembering as it was 12 months ago, but the letter was as he remembered it at the time. He admitted mentioning it to Mr Woodward the day after the meeting and decided to write the letter.

He said he was unaware that Cllr Hayhurst's version of events conflicted with his evidence, and was told that Cllr Hayhurst's version was that Alan Oldfield initiated the conversation saying "Are you gunning for Phil Woodward now" to which Cllr Hayhurst had responded "I'm gunning for anyone who got us into this mess - bigtime"

Mr Oldfield denied this version was accurate and said he heard Cllr Hayhurst speak with "intent and seriousness." He didn't think it was aggressive, but neither was it said in jest.

The barrister also said Mr Oldfield's statement asserts that Cllr Hayhurst was instrumental in getting rid of former Chief Executive Ken Lee, to which Mr Oldfield replied that Mr Lee remained a personal friend of his, even today. The barrister then asked if the circumstances of Ken Lee's departure were known about by officers generally. He said not, but he thought Cllr Hayhurst implicated in his departure. Pressed on the basis for this he cited the threat of a vote of no confidence in the Chief Executive as the Council meeting in Elswick back in 2005. Finally, he confirmed he had never had a problem with Cllr Hayhurst.

Cross examining him, Paul Hayhurst picked up that he was aware of Cllr Hayhurst's conflicting version of events. He also asked Mr Oldfield about the file reference on his letter, and whether Mr Oldfield had a file on him, to which came the reply there is only one piece of paper in that file.

Cllr Hayhurst prompted Mr Oldfield to recall two earlier conversations where, after Mr Lee's departure, Mr Oldfield had said he was dissatisfied with FBC and felt undervalued and was thinking of moving on. Cllr Hayhurst reminded him he has tried to persuade him to stay at Fylde.

He also asked Mr Oldfield if he knew there was going to be a staff restructure in which he would have to re-apply for his own job. Mr Oldfield replied this was not until after the 3rd March meeting. Cllr Hayhurst said that was strange, as many other people knew of it before then. Mr Oldfield later confirmed to a question from the Chairman of the Tribunal that he had been successful in an application for promotion to a Directors post at Fylde, with more responsibility and salary.

Under the cross examination, Mr Oldfield also confirmed it was the Conservative group, not Cllr Hayhurst that got rid of former Chief Executive Ken Lee, and he could offer no substance to his perception that Cllr Hayhurst did not get on with the former temporary CE 'Bill' Taylor.

This event was starting to turn into a window on the soul of FBC, and it wasn't altogether a pretty sight.

Evidence from Andrew Cain was wholly inconclusive. He could remember nothing except the statement he gave that supported his boss Alan Oldfield's view of events. Cllr Chedd view contradicted both these and supported that of Cllr Hayhurst.

At this we adjourned for lunch from 12:35 to 1:30

After the re-start, we saw the video of Cllr Hayhurst making the speech at the 3rd March budget meeting where he called for various Politburo Cabinet members and the Chief Executive to consider their positions and resign.

After this, Chief Executive Philip Woodward was called to the stand. The barrister took him through his letter of complaint to the Standards board where he had spoken of "a current of personal criticism and undermining of his position" and that he "found the approach of Cllr Hayhurst intimidating and malicious" and that he had "been left fearful because of what happened to a former Chief Executive after Cllr Hayhurst publicly spoke about his resignation", (he subsequently left the Council in uncertain circumstances)

When asked to expound on his concerns he said the words that came to him were "offensive, insulting, malicious" directed to him. He felt "humiliated, undervalued, and slandered by being referred to as a liar in a public meeting"

He said he had taken time after the meeting to reflect on his reasons for making a complaint and to be sure that he was dispassionate about the decision.

When asked why he had complained, he said there had been an undercurrent of undermining. Part of his job was to uphold the standards of both staff and members. He felt he had an obligation to ask for an independent look at the events of the meeting.

Pressed for an answer as to why he felt slandered he said one answer that came to his mind was Cllr Hayhurst's comment that "they should tell the truth to the people of Lytham St Annes" He felt this had been an "overt accusation that he had been lying"

Asked about why the behaviour re: the former Chief Executive was relevant, he said "on part of the DVD of 3 March meeting, Cllr Hayhurst refers to it not being worth submitting a notice of motion to call for the Leader's resignation, and this was the same tactic Cllr Hayhurst had used at the Elswick meeting with Ken Lee in 2005, and when the 2011 elections come round, if I don't have a new position by then and Cllr Hayhurst and his associates take charge I will have no position."

And there, dear reader is where we believe we see the underlying cause of all this expense and waste of time with the Standard Board. As we said in our introductory article 'Standard Conduct?" this is the 'Bush Doctrine' of pre-emptive strike taken to a new dimension. When you are responsible for staff who lost hundreds of thousands of pounds of our Council tax and your competence or ability is about to be called into question, concoct a reason to complain to the Standards Board about the people most likely to call you to account and hope the process consumes them before they can act.

Mr Woodward went on to say he thought Cllr Hayhurst should have raised his concerns in a private meeting with him, but he chose to raise them in a public meeting with the whole management team and 250 people present. (The latter is a bit of an exaggeration - only 100 public were allowed into the meeting)

Taking him further, the Barrister said Cllr Hayhurst has offered to apologise to you at a Council meeting, but you said you were not minded to agree to that, would you please explain further.

Mr Woodward replied he did not believe it was something Cllr Hayhurst had done in the heat of a meeting, it was cold and pre-meditated and he didn't have the opportunity to respond., adding this was not the first time he had witnessed this sort of behaviour, and it should not go unchallenged. Lack of courtesy and respect if not challenged in an independent setting would flourish. He also said he thought Cllr Hayhurst's offer lacked sincerity and he only did it because he had heard that the two other Councillors who had been complained about had offered to apologise.

Asked about his current state of mind Mr Woodward said he was still fearful of this being raised in public in the future or at a Council meeting instead of using the proper channels.

As we said before, this process offers a window into the soul of a man who from what we heard is fearful for his job, feels persecuted, and appears not able to withstand the pressures of his job. You get the impression that in his innermost heart, he doesn't feel up to the job himself, and this is creating the feelings of  paranoia and persecution. It's quite sad, and something that will probably need to be dealt with sympathetically.

The barrister having finished leading Mr Woodward through his evidence, Cllr Hayhurst began the cross examination. He referred to the letter Mr Woodward had written to the Standards Board, noting it concerned three councillors and asked if Mr Woodward could provide an instance of Cllr Hayhurst undermining him.

Mr Woodward replied that he had made comments about the performance of the Council per se. Cllr Hayhurst pressed on "Have I treated you wrongly before the 3 March, or since then?" Mr. Woodward: "No"

Cllr Hayhurst: "You have said the Standards Board was you last port of call, how else did you try to resolve the matter?" Mr Woodward was unable to answer

Cllr Hayhurst: "I fully admit that I was going to put down a motion of no confidence in Ken Lee, but didn't. Have I done that since or before that occasion at Elswick?  Mr Woodward "No"

Cllr Hayhurst: "Was it me that got rid of Mr Lee?" Mr Woodward: "I wasn't involved"  Cllr Hayhurst: "Did I have any part in the decision to get rid of Ken Lee?" Mr Woodward "I don't know"

Cllr Hayhurst: "Have I ever belittled another officer?"  Mr Woodward: "I don't know - not that I can recall"

Cllr Hayhurst: [Referring to his speech at the 3 March budget meeting] "Were my comments justified in view of the huge loss?" Mr Woodward: "I don't think the comments you made at the Council Meeting to any extent were justified"

Cllr Hayhurst: "Do you recall that I asked if I could do anything further to put things right between us?" Mr Woodward: "No"

When Cllr Hayhurst had finished, the Chairman sought questions from the Tribunal members of Mr Woodward.

One asked: [with reference to the allegation of lying] Cllr Hayhurst said that they should tell the truth - how do you translate that into a statement of you lying, what truth might you have told to the people of Fylde?. We missed the full reply from Mr Woodward, but to us it sounded mostly like waffle.

Then the Chairman asked: You said Cllr Hayhurst's contribution was of a different magnitude to the other two Councillors and that you became aware of the 'gunning for' comment. When did you first hear that? Mr Woodward's answer was "During the meeting, just after the adjournment" (the sharper of our readers will have noted that this contradicts Mr Oldfield's evidence. He said he mentioned it to the Chief Executive the day after the 3 March meeting).

We also noted an interesting exchange where Mr Woodward was asked why, as other Chief Executive's might have done, he did not ask the Mayor for a right of reply to the call for his resignation from Cllr Hayhurst, to which Mr Woodward replied that the Mayor was profoundly deaf, and it would not have been worth doing so. One of the Tribunal members asked if he had not thought to use a written note to the Mayor [who  at the time was sitting next to him], to which Mr Woodward's answer was "No"

After a tea break adjournment at 3:45 Cllr Liz Oades was sworn in as a witness for Cllr Hayhurst. She explained that formerly she and Cllr Hayhurst were joint leaders of the independent group, but the Council Leader - Cllr Coombes - refused to have dealings with Cllr Hayhurst, and separately, the Independent councillors decided they wanted to co-operate more with the Leader and administration, at which point Cllr Hayhurst ceased to be joint Leader and became an individually non-aligned Councillor.

She gave a very good description of that awful 3 March meeting (almost as good as ours! see Travesty of Democracy) and a good explanation of the Elswick meeting. She also referred to the difficulty she had had trying to get information for independent members.

Asked about specific instances of not getting information she cited the Growth Point Bid which the Planning officer had told her was to have been on the agenda of the Planning Policy Meeting, but Mr Woodward had pulled it from that and it had subsequently gone as an urgent item to Cabinet with no copies having been sent to other Councillors.

At 4:20, Cllr Hayhurst began to give evidence on his own behalf. He said he saw four areas of contention

1) Was he calling Mr Woodward a liar?
He said he was not referring to Mr Woodward at the time, he was referring to equitable taxation, a decision by Cllr Coombes and the Conservatives, not Mr Woodward. He added that looking at the DVD again, he could see how it might appear he was linking it to Mr Woodward, but that had not been his intention and he did not mean to do so.

2) Arrangement  of the Council Meeting on 3 March
Having been a former Mayor and Leader he said he knew what happened. It was actually the Leader and Chief Executive that make the decisions. He said he believed there had been political interference in changes to the time and venue of the meeting. He was not suggesting Mr Woodward was biased, but that he was instructed to change the time.

3) Mr Oldfield's comments
He said there was conflict between evidence from Mr Oldfield and Mr Woodward, and he thought that it was on his return from the toilet that he spoke to Mr Oldfield. He said he refuted Mr Oldfield's assertion he had advanced the 'gunning comment' and that it had been Mr Oldfield who used that language which provoked him to respond "I'm gunning for anyone who got us in this mess - bigtime." adding I didn't say Chief Executive and I didn't say Woodward"

4) The 'resignation' comment
He said he was a robust councillor. He believed he should say what he thought. He believed people were expecting him to hold those responsible to account. The main reason for the losses in Streetscene was that the vehicles were not insured. The Chief Executive is the corporate manager and this matter had gone unchecked for 10 or 11 months. Mr Woodward was a former Environmental officer with FBC and ought to have checked the insurance on the Wyre contract that the vehicles were not adequately insured under. He added that he believed Mr Woodward was accountable for his staff's acts and omissions, and the haemorrhaging of cash from Streetscene other failures were down to him to take responsibility for.

In conclusion he noted that he had offered his computer to the investigating officer for examination to look for any evidence of abusive or threatening correspondence to Mr Woodward, adding that he did not know what else he could do to show that he had not done so.

Under at times intense and very detailed cross-examination by the barrister, Cllr Hayhurst refuted other versions of events. The barrister kept niggling away at the smallest glimmers of argument to support his case, at one time admitting that it was only a small point, but Cllr Hayhurst had contradicted his own statement when he said he was coming back from the toilet - his statement apparently said he was going to it. Such was the forensic questioning, but so far as we could see it didn't make much actual progress. A lot of time was spent on the 2005 Ken Lee issue at Elswick - we assume trying to establish this and the 3 March 07 meeting as constituting a pattern of harassing Chief Executives.

This is madness of course. These are the only two instances where Cllr Hayhurst has made such a call. Neither was personal. Both were connected with huge losses preceded by incompetent management and accounting. Both were exceptional, and in both instances, Cllr Hayhurst did nothing more than the duty many of us (including counterbalance) would expect him to do.

There will be no trust in Local Government when incompetence is dealt with behind closed doors. It *ought* to be dealt with sensitively where the need arises, but it should always be transparent and in public so far as possible.

The Streetscene fiasco is not over yet. We have still to hear the present Chief Executive set out the reasons, the full extent of the overall budget loss, and the action taken over what, so far as we can ascertain, is the biggest financial loss in the history of Fylde Council.

For 12 months, the spectre of that "suspended officer" has been used as an excuse to avoid dealing with this matter. We said all along it would not turn out to be that officer's fault, and according to gossip from the Town Hall we were right. We understand Paul Norris - former Cultural Service manager has now departed the authority (having done nothing wrong) on basic redundancy terms, whilst the formerly suspended Streetscene officer has also gone, but he appears to have received an enhanced redundancy package.  That, of course, is more likely to keep him quiet.

So now we await the concluding day of the Tribunal. It will start at 9:30am, and we understand this will involve the Tribunal setting out its own view of what the facts are from the evidence it has heard, and the parties having the opportunity to challenge them.

It will then either find there has been no failure to follow the code (in which case it all ends, or they might nevertheless make some recommendations for the Council to follow), or there has been a failure, in which case there will be submissions before the tribunal decides what if any sanction it will impose.

One thing we will say, and as our readers know, we don't offer praise lightly. The lady chairing the meeting is doing an excellent and competent job and she has her wits about her as can be seen  from the questions she is asking of the parties.

The meeting opened at 9:30 with the first issue being a request from Cllr Hayhurst to submit emails that showed the Conservative Leader requiring the changing of the date and time of a Council meeting to allow his members to attend the Conservative Conference and still maintain a majority in the council meeting. After a short discussion these were ruled to be admissible and circulated.

The Mr Manning (barrister) began his summing up of the facts presented. He skilfully wove the facts at his disposal into a cloak of respectable and almost believable arguments to damn Cllr Hayhurst. That, of course, is the job, and professionalism of a good barrister.

He was having to scrape the evidence barrel somewhat, and made quite a thing of the fact that Cllr Hayhurst gave conflicting evidence as to whether his conversation with Mr Oldfield was on the way to, or from, his trip to the toilet. We had to think if this was the best argument he could muster, it really was a case of much ado about nothing.

He concluded by referring to the Ken Lee incident of 2005, and saying it was not surprising that Philip Woodward felt there were unpleasant echoes of the past leading to an attempt to get rid of him.

Cllr Hayhurst's review of the facts included:

1) The video showed he focused on the Conservatives when using the word "they"  - not the Conservatives and Mr Woodward together.

2) He has always considered Mr Woodward to be completely impartial. He was chair of the group that appointed him, and chair of the group that promoted him. He would not have moved these resolutions as Chairman if he had not supported Mr Woodward.

3) His comments about Mr Woodward resigning were a spur of the moment thing that came to him during the meeting. They were not premeditated.

4) He called for his resignation because Streetscene had been haemorrhaging money and it had not been dealt with for many months and Mr Woodward ought to have had that matter under both review and control a great deal earlier than he did..

5) In response to allegations that there were other channels he could have used rather than making the complaint in public at Council, he noted he was independent as a councillor and did not relate through a political party with a leader. He had a direct relationship with the Chief Executive. He also noted that the Scrutiny Committees at Fylde were politically controlled and he would have got nowhere trying to raise it.

6) He said the 'Oldfield' event was very unclear and had conflicting versions. He also noted there had been a degree of conferring between officers after the meeting.

7) On the issue of a track record which involved only this and one other incident, he noted that at the previous one, neither Mr Lee nor the Monitoring Officer complained to the Standards Board about his comments at the time.

By 11am the Tribunal has ceased taking evidence. They said they had identified the main issues to consider, and would retire until 11:30am.

In the event, that turned out to be 12:30.

<start of light interlude>
During the adjournment a dark suited entrepreneurial person we know, but  decline to name, opened his brief case to reveal eight six-packs of home-laid free-range eggs which were quickly snaffled up by those present. Quite what the Ethical Standards Officer would have made of this micro 'Farmers Market' being set up in the adjournment we don't know, but if news does leak out, we confidently predict that Gordon Brown will hail THIS meeting as the date at which the green shoots of economic recovery broke through the credit crunch to kick-start the UK's economy again.   Eggactly, we thought, as we purchased a dozen.
<end of light interlude>

After a long time deliberating, the Tribunal resumed at 12:20. They gave their preliminary finding of the disputed facts of the case.

On the issue of "certain people" as in "certain people - and I think they are also conservatives" the tribunal found there were two plausible and believable explanations for these words, and they could make no finding as to which was right or wrong.

On the issue regarding Mr Oldfield and the "gunning for" comment, they found the inconsistencies in the evidence were so great and the recollections so poor - in other words there was so much contradictory evidence - they were not able to make a finding.

On the Track Record issue as in Did Cllr Hayhurst have a track record of 'abuse' of Chief Executives, they found the 2005 incident with Mr Lee did take place, but they made no finding of malicious intent on the part of Cllr Hayhurst toward Mr Woodward.

On the issue of "Tell the truth to the people of Lytham, St Annes" they found the evidence gave them no steer as to which interpretation was the correct one, and again they could not reach a conclusive finding.

This set of findings in effect gave the advantage to Cllr Hayhurst in as much as if the Tribunal could not find sufficient grounds to find against his version of events, there was probably going to be insufficient evidence to find a breach of the Code.

This put the barrister's back against the wall, but give him his due, he went for it. Whilst at times he was hesitant and obviously struggling to sew together sufficient material to mount a conclusive argument, he did his level best.

He tried the line that if what Cllr Hayhurst had said could be interpreted *by the listener* as being offensive or wrong, than that ought to be a guilty verdict because the speaker was in charge of the words he used.

Nice piece of mental ju-jitsu that.

So he argued that even if Cllr Hayhurst had not intended to give offence, if Mr Woodward had taken offence, then offence had been given.

Nice try, shame about the practicality.

Sensing he was in difficulty, he wheeled out tomes of the Human Rights Act cases (copies of which he had given to Cllr Hayhurst the night before) and spent over an hour outlining precedent after precedent to support his case (The Peternorough case which seemed to involve soldiers in Northern Ireland, "Jerusalem versus Austria" was another one, as was "Reynolds versus Times Newspapers")

Essentially, whilst most of us nodded off, he tried to distinguish between Cllr Hayhurst right of free speech, and whether that trumped someone's right to respect.

In response, Cllr Hayhurst thanked the barrister for providing him with copies of the HR Act cases, but said they had only served to show how far out of his depth he was on the legal aspects of this.

He said his intention had been to attack the Conservatives for the decisions regarding the budget, and as he was doing so, it occurred to him that the cause of their cash shortage arose from the officers incompetence with the streetscene fiasco and in accounting, both of which were Mr Woodward's responsibility as head of the paid service, and he added Mr Woodward into the call for resignation briefly, then went back to attacking the Conservative group for closing the pools.

In conclusion he said so far as he could see, he had not breached the code of conduct, and he was only doing his job.

The Tribunal rose to consider whether there had been a breach of the code at 2:10, expecting to resume at 3pm. In fact they did not resume until 4:25pm when the Chairman announced their decision.

She read a briefly prepared text rather quickly and said formal documentation would follow shortly, but in essence they had considered all the aspects of the case and found there was no breach of the code of conduct.

Spontaneous applause broke out from the 20 or so people there and one stood up and thanked the Tribunal and the barrister for the fair and impartial way they had conducted the case and for the self evidently well received decision.

As we said at the end of day one. That lady chairman was a smart cookie and could see through to the real issues.

After the Meeting Cllr Hayhurst said "I am delighted with the result. It is a boost for common sense and it allows me to continue to say what people think and to represent my electorate"

He also asked us to pass on his sincere thanks for the good wishes, help, support and advice he received from counterbalance readers.

Councillor John Davies, who had been present throughout the hearing said "This decision will give other councillors the freedom to continue to properly represent those that elect them"

At the start of this piece, we said that a lesser man than Paul Hayhurst might have been broken by the pressure of the ordeal to which he was subjected when the Chief Executive complained about him to the Standards Board. His ability to withstand this pressure shouldn't be underestimated.

There have undoubtedly been hours of work he has had to put in to respond to statements, prepare case notes, be interviewed, prepare for interviews, read up on procedures and so on.

And whilst clearly, the Tribunal process was far more civilised, and the outcome was physically less life threatening than death by burning, the process unleashed on him, and the pressure to which he was subjected, was not dissimilar in principle to that of the inquisition of the middle ages.

Happily, this particular inquisition found insufficient evidence to institute any (let alone the ultimate) sanction.

Cllr Hayhurst clearly believed he was right to hold a public official to account for what was Fylde's biggest ever financial loss.

We agree - and we look forward to seeing a full and proper disclosure of the facts and circumstances of this matter which are long overdue. We think there should be a public inquiry into what happened in order that public confidence can be restored in the present administration, and lessons learned for the future.

So because of the trials and persecution to which he has been subjected, from this day forward, Cllr Paul Hayhurst will enjoy the same status as Saint Barbara Pagett who was also persecuted for her beliefs and conscience.

He will become Saint Paul Hayhurst of Elswick.

When the dust from today has settled, there will be time for others to reflect on the outcome and its implications for them.

There might also be time to reflect on the financial cost of this escapade. In one of the adjournments, we asked the Tribunal clerk if it was possible to identify the cost of this Tribunal. He said costs were not kept on a 'per case' basis so it was not possible. He also said it would be impractical to try to cost in the time of witnesses like Mr Woodward, Mr Oldfield etc who might have been kept hanging around for a day or two. So your guess is as good as ours dear reader. We'll pitch a guess at £45,000 overall.

Dated:  1 February 2009
(also on 3rd and 4th)


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