Press Tunbridge Wells - A failing Council - confirmed by the Audit Commission

Guide through the Local Press since January 2003 - last update: 30.03.2006

Audit Commission 30.03.06 - Tunbridge Wells Borough Council gets a mixed report from watchdog

TOWN HALL CRISIS: New directors' posts advertised as senior jobs are swept aside in overhaul.

The Courier 24.03.06 - TOWN HALL BOSSES GO IN £1.6M JOBS CULL
The controversial axing of 18 jobs, including directors and department heads, at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is to go ahead.

The Courier 25.02.05 - The final act as veteran Council Chief bows out
Authority looks for interim boss with specialist experience.
and Freedom of Information Act 2005 - Information requested by the THNA

The Courier 28.01.05 - Discussions on Chief's Departure
Behind closed doors on Wednesday night the fate of the chief executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council was due to be discussed.
and Letters written by Tunbridge Wells Residents

The Courier 21.01.05 - Time for clean sweep - Letters
"What we all want is someone who can address the issues that place this council in the bottom 10 per cent"

The Courier 07.01.05 - Shakespeare in the Town Hall - Editor's Comment
Plots are afoot to dethrone the chief executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.
and Press Release by

"Chief Executive urged to quit"

The Courier 07.01.05 - Knives out for Council's Chief
The Chief Executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council could lose his job at the helm of the crisis-hit authority.
and Note written by a Tunbridge Wells Resident

The Courier 24.12.04 - No Surprise for Council Officers and Councillors in recent report findings
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's dismal performance:

"The council came 218th out of the 237th councils country-wide"

The Courier 23.07.04 - Fresh Blow for 'Weak' Council
and Note written by a Tunbridge Wells Resident

The Courier 10.10.03 - Jobs go as Council bids to shape up

The Courier 02.05.03 - New broom through town and borough - Letters
Street cleaning, policing and apparent lack of concern upset residents

The Courier 25.04.03 - Axe falls on top jobs at council
Chief Executive Rodney Stone recommends redundancies to Cabinet Councillors

The Courier 21.03.03 - Stating what we all know - Editor's Comment
AN AUDIT COMMISSION REPORT has concluded that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's planning department is under-performing.

"When one surveys the townscape, all around are pockets of evidence that there is something wrong at the heart of the development control services.
Look at the debacle over Telephone House."

The Courier 21.03.03 - Council hit by criticism again
Official watchdog releases second damning report

"The planning department at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has been criticised by government inspectors for being slow, wasting money and lacking direction."

The Courier 21.02.03 - Plea for hit squad to sort out planning department - News Special
"surveyor calls for council to be held accountable for its decisions"

unpublished Letter 14.02.03 - Failing Council
Letter of a member of the Telephone House Neighbours Association to the Courier, regarding the much publicised criticism of the audit commission report:
". . . over the years since the Telephone House saga began, qualities of good officers were used to disguise mistakes of Councillors and Officers."

The Courier 14.02.03 - The worst of both worlds - poorer services at a higher cost - Letters
"the worst of both worlds - no one escaped on the issues I raised - trying to get through to him [Chief Executive] - looking to the average - concentration of power - failed to control council officers"

The Courier 07.02.03 - Not surprised at the councilís bad report - Letters
"wake-up call comes at last - tired politics no good for town - the ranks will simply close - at least others might listen"

The Courier 31.01.03 - Failing Council Under Scrutiny
Improve now or lose your powers, says watchdog

"The annual assessment rated 44% of council services as below average in 2001/2002 - putting management, e-mail accessibility, speed of housing benefit claims and the entire planning service in the bottom 25% of the country."

Kent Messenger 14.12.2001 - Council attacked over contracts -
Already in December 2001 KM reported on the "Failing Council under Scrutiny"

"Cllr Mills (Lib Dem) blamed the Conservative leadership for failing to exercise proper controls over the 2 1/2 year period reviewed. He demanded a more detailed investigation, with recommendations for putting things right and action against those responsible for the failures."

During Summer/Autumn 2001 - after the Telephone House May 2001 Public Inquiry:

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council

The Attitude of
the Chief Executive Rodney Stone and the Director of Operational Services John Haynes
towards the Telephone House Neighbours

What does the Chief Executive say?

TWBC 09.07.01- The Chief Executive's reply to our letter of 6 June 2001 [ including a List of Questions ] and our reminder 8 July 2001
"I do not take the view that a further dialogue on these now historic issues is in the Council's interest or indeed that of the residents"

TWBC 11.07.01- Public Meeting - The Chief Executive's handwritten note to a Member of the Public
2003 - Vital public question time axed / Public meetings scrapped

TWBC 19.07.01- The Chief Executive's reply to our letter of 17 July
"I do agree with you that the most important issue is to decide whether or not to challenge the Inspector's decision in the High Court"

TWBC 27.07.01- The Chief Executive's letter to follow up his letter of 19 July
"the Board decided that the Council will not be appealing to the High Court against the Inspector's Decisions"

TWBC 31.07.01- The Chief Executive's reply to our letter 28 July with enclosures
"We have decided that it would not be appropriate to let you have a copy of Counsel's Opinion most of which is addressing the Council's ability to appeal rather than yours"
THNA Docs 09.05.01 Barton Willmore's (Crest Nicholson's agent) letter to the Inspectorate announcing Policy H6(a),
which was leaked to them before it was recommended to Operational Services Board, 10 May 2001 and referred to full Council for determination, 23 May 2001.
THNA Docs 15.05.01 Development Control Manager David Prentis' letter to the Inspectorate announcing that
"Policy H6(a) is consistent with the case put on the Councilís behalf at the Public Inquriy"

TWBC 07.09.01- The Chief Executive's reply to our letter of 29 August
"I still take the view that is would not be useful to answer the questions that you have raised, or now raise, when the site now has a planning permission . . . . . you still have the ability to comment upon Policy H6(a)"

TWBC 10.10.01- The Chief Executive's reply to our letter of 8 October
"You have taken an entirely fixed attitude to this matter ie that your problems are entirely the fault of Council officers"

TWBC 15.10.01 - The Chief Executive's reply to our letter of 10 October
"I remain deeply disappointed that you regard the Council's officers as your enemy"

TWBC 30.10.01- The Chief Executive's reply to our letter of 17 October
"there is nothing I wish to add to our previous correspondence on these matters"

What does the Director of Operational Services say?

TWBC 13.06.01- The Director of Operational Services' reply to our letter of 30 May
"I did not advise the Council on 23 May 2001 to disregard your request.
I suggest that you do not do so [write] until you have received a reply to the further letter you have sent to the Chief Executive date 6 June 2001 [ with a list of questions ]."

2005 - We are still waiting for the Chief Executive's answers.

TWBC 30.07.01- The Director of Operational Services' reply to our letter of 24 July
"You are correct that my advice to the Council meeting held on 23 May 2001, in a practical sense, advised Members not to take into account your Association's request that evening."

23.05.01 - Rubberstamping the Local Plan Review, including Policy H6(a), by Members of the Council

What do we, the Telephone House Neighbours, say?

THNA 30.05.01- THNA letter to the Director of Operational Services
Local Plan Review Policy H6(a) - here Overlooking, Privacy, and Easement Law: Rights of Light

THNA 06.06.01- THNA letter to the Chief Executive accompanying the list of questions
The Telephone House Neighbours Association (THNA) are greatly concerned by what seems to be the attitude, conduct and ability of some officers in the Boroughís Planning, Building Control, Strategy, Development and Conservation Departments

THNA 08.07.01- THNA's reminder to the Chief Executive regarding the letter of 6 June 2001 with the list of questions
Over a month later we think replies to our questions are overdue

THNA 17.07.01- THNA's reply to the Chief Executive's letter of 9 July
We assume that you will support and arrange a Council Meeting so that Policy H6(a) may be removed from the Local Plan Review - Deposit Copy and an appeal to the High Court may be lodged before 13th August 2001.

THNA 24.07.01- THNA's reply to the Director of Operational Services' letter of 13 June
Will the Council accept full responsibility for the aggrievement residents will suffer due to Policy H6(a), Local Plan Review - Deposit Copy?

The deadline to appeal against the Inspector's decisions was 14 August 2001.

Despite our letters to
  • ALL Tunbridge Wells Borough Councillors,
  • additionally, the Councillors of Operational Services Board,
  • the Chief Executive and
  • the Director of Operational Services
Operational Services Board Members (meeting 26 July 2001) accepted the advice of officers and the Borough Solicitor Martin Harris and
left the outcome of the 'Telephone House Public Inquiry' unchallenged.

THNA 28.07.01- THNA's letter to the Chief Executive
concerning TWBC's decision not to challenge the Inspector's decisions as to the development and costs

THNA 29.08.01- THNA's reply to the Chief Executive's letter of 31 July including further questions
It is a matter that cannot be confined to oblivion which you, as Chief Executive, seem to be suggesting.

THNA 08.10.01- THNA's reply to the Chief Executive's letter of 9 September
We wish to have a Council which is efficient and sensibly run for the benefit of the residents and rate-payers, by officers, who report properly to and advise accurately our elected Councillors. Our experience with regard to the Telephone House development and Policy H6(a) makes us question whether this is so.

THNA 10.10.01- THNA's letter to Mayor Melvyn Howell, Chairman of Council Meeting 9 October 2001
- Questions from the Public for the Council Meeting
We wonder also why three questions for Councillors which related to the conduct of officers, needed answers prepared by those officers.

THNA 17.10.01- THNA's reply to the Chief Executive's letter of 10 October including further questions
We would hope this is a separate enquiry to that being conducted by Mr Haynes who would be at an obvious disadvantage if he started, with your presumption, rather than an open mind, that Council officers have done their professional duty and are beyond reproach.

THNA What went wrong with the Telephone House Planning Applications ?
The uneasy questions to the Chief Executive Rodney Stone and other senior officers of TWBC

2005, the questions are still unanswered - they are as intriguing as in 2001.
April 2002 - CALA Homes bought this planning application.
With an ever increasing awareness of the flaws in the design? - Foundations for sustainable and viable development?

TWBC 2001/2002 - Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's Internal Inquiry into the Telephone House Debacle

Public Inquiry Decision Could the Inspector's decisions have been challenged ?

TWBC Local Plan Bizarrely, Policy H6(a) allocated for Telephone House was identical to the two refused planning applications for the Telephone House development.
[1st: refused at delegated officers' level - 2nd: refused by the Councillors of the Western Area Planning Committee].
Policy H6(a) is the most controversial document, produced by the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, leading to the Telephone House Debacle.

contents The Telephone House Neighbours Association informs on CALA Homes (South) Development :
CALA Group acquired the controversial planning permission for the high density development of Telephone House site, Church Road / York Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN1, Kent.