Labour Councillors Appalled by CEO Offer to Spin Facts

Today the Labour Cllr M. Ali has written to Peter Briant, Woking Borough Council’s Compliance Officer and Chief Solicitor, demanding that a formal investigation is undertaken following the comments made by Ray Morgan, Woking Borough Councils’s CEO and Returning Officer, in a recently published email.

Woking Labour (CLP) fully supports the call by Cllr Ali and echo’s his shock and distress at the apparent bias shown towards the Conservative Party by Mr Morgan. We are equally appalled by the derogatory tone that the CEO uses when referring to a member of the public for simply exercising her democratic right to question the escalating Tory spending in the town.

Cllr M. Ali says –

I am appalled to see that the CEO and Returning Officer Ray Morgan is apparently unable to remain neutral. Clearly, he has strong opinions against some candidates and even members of the public. It seems to me he has forgotten that we live in a democracy where we represent the will of the public and the CEO must implement that will without bias. I also find the fact that Mr Morgan used such a demeaning tone towards a resident really disconcerting.

I hope the leader of the council, Cllr Bittleston will take this as seriously as it deserves. The email does not implicate him so I hope he will take this opportunity to stand up for the public he represents. This is not the first time that the Ray Morgan has stepped outside his role. Mr Morgan has previously spent significant amounts of Council funds without the Council’s permission showing total disregard for the public and their representatives. That issue was never satisfactorily resolved, I hope that this time the Conservatives have the moral courage to do the right thing and call for an investigation into Mr Morgans comments.”

Please find the full text of the letter sent to Peter Briant below.

Mr P Briant
Woking Borough Council
Civic Offices
Gloucester Square
GU21 6YL

Dear Mr Briant,

In an email recently published in a local paper the Chief Executive Officer, Ray Morgan, makes statements which warrant immediate formal investigation. We are very concerned by both the tone and content of the
message sent to the Conservative Leader, David Bittleston. It is disconcerting and disappointing to note the tone of the comments relating to a Woking Constituent, whose best interest the authority is supposed to
serve. I call for an immediate investigation of the following points:

1. Mr Morgans offer to spin the facts for Conservative gain
In the email, the CEO offers a ‘positive explanation’ of the council’s actions for use ‘politically in election material’. Mr Morgan in his role as CEO and Returning Officer (RO) is required to remain politically neutral.
This requirement has clearly been breached as this email reads more like that of a Tory spin doctor than a senior council official. It is the CEO’s responsibility to provide undoctored information, not manipulate the
facts and Mr Morgans seeming willingness to do so is hugely concerning.

2. Apparent political bias
The CEO’s comment relating to former candidate and member of UKIP, Mr Shatwell, clearly indicates a personal bias and political opinion. As the RO Mr Morgan should not be expressing such views about political candidates. His role requires that he remain neutral and to conduct free, fair and impartial elections.

3. Disrespectful and dismissive attitude towards a constituent
Mr Morgan’s comment that the constituent who wrote the original email ‘will not go away’ shows a shocking lack of respect for members of the public whose opinions appear to be contrary to Mr Morgans own. In a democratic society, we value diverse opinions, welcome discussion and debate, and do not disparage members of public for expressing their point of view. The Victoria Square development which sparked this email exchange remains a source of huge concern with even members of council questioning the vast sums of public money pouring into the project. The
constituent that raised their concerns regarding this had a democratic right to do so, without facing disrespectful comments from the CEO.

This is not the first instance of Mr Morgan using derogatory and demeaning language towards a member of the public but I sincerely hope that it will be the last. The residents of Woking and the position of CEO both deserve far greater respect than Mr Morgan is showing them a present.

I await your response.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr M. Ali