Dear Jean

 

Last week we spoke about the potential appointment of Peter Lilley as your Local Democracy Reporter.  I said that this was unacceptable to me and I have used the weekend to give some consideration to exactly what that means.  

 

I must start by stating the obvious - it is up to you who you employ and to do what job.  It is up to those of us who interact with those people the manner in which we interact.

 

With regards to Mr Lilley, I have contacted Cabinet colleagues over the weekend and I have to inform you that none of us will respond to requests from Mr Lilley, in his role as your Local Democracy Reporter, for information or comment.  You need to know why that is so that you know that this is not because of political differences.  In fact, I understand that until relatively recently Mr Lilley was an activist for the Conservative Party.

 

The truth is Mr Lilley has already taking action that has trashed relationships with politicians and also with groups across the district some of which will also refuse to cooperate with him.  Please allow me to give some examples.

 

In my own case on 21 April 2018 Mr Lilley tweeted: "Abandon all hope as long as Richard Cooper remains Leader of Harrogate Borough Council".  This is one example, I could pick many others out of the hundreds of pages of tweets I have from Mr Lilley.  

 

On 21 June 2016 Mr Lilley emailed me asking a series of questions about the Turkish Baths.  What he did not tell me was that he had also email the Council's Chief Executive with exactly the same questions.  I concluded that this was an attempt to elicit a different response from each of us and play us off against one another.  I cannot work with someone who thinks this is an acceptable way of working.  I have other email correspondence where Mr Lilley makes his views plain and sometimes in a way I find unacceptable for instance referencing the Chair of Visit Harrogate as a self-appointed 'Empress of Harrogate'.

 

He did not restrict his comments to me.  On 20 April 2018 he tweeted:  "I wonder how many other Harrogate residents are looking at their choice of uninspiring candidates for the May 3 elections and concluding that it's not a question of voting for the best - but the least worst?".  Those candidates are now councillors and I do not think it is realistic to expect any of us to co-operate with someone whom we know holds that view of us all.

 

Rebecca Burnett, after being taken to the Standards Committee for not treating Mr Lilley's emails to her with respect came off Twitter altogether because of Mr Lilley's activities.  Mr Lilley also implied in a letter to your paper that Rebecca would behave in a devious and underhand way to get town centre pedestrianisation.  Again, it is unrealistic to expect someone to trust an individual who has made their views so clear about them.  I viewed this hounding of a young woman as a very low point in his activities.

 

Other Cabinet Members - notably Stan Lumley and Graham Swift have also been targeted in the paper, on Twitter, at Council meetings or on Twitter.  I have hundreds of pages of tweets which prove these things to be true and, if you are unable to look at the persistent, continuous unpleasantness of his Twitter feed I can provide these for you.  It is impossible to see how any of us can have off-the-record conversations with this individual in the same way I often do with other reporters.

 

I have spoken to a community leader this weekend who believes Mr Lilley has views about women that cannot be tolerated and another who will not allow him in their office if appointed.  Andrew Jones has told me he has spoken to you.

 

I have email correspondence from one of your journalists who is scathing about Mr Lilley but it began 'between me and you' so I will not reveal the source.

 

You stated that one of the reasons Mr Lilley was chosen was his knowledge of the Council.  On Twitter and by email in the last couple of months he has demonstrated that this is not the case.  Firstly, he claimed the Anne Jones could not remain the Mayor as she was not seeking re-election.  Secondly, he thought that the Chief Executive could instruct the Scrutiny Committee Chair to place an item on the agenda for investigation.  

 

On both occasions when he was told the facts of the matter he refused to accept them.

 

Looking back over hundreds of pages of tweets Mr Lilley has comprehensively trashed a wide variety of relationships which he will now need.  It is unsurprising I think that many of us will want to repay the compliment now that he needs us to do his job.

 

I am looking at other options to safeguard the Council's position in response to this appointment of an overtly hostile individual.  I intend to write to you in due course about those options.

 

I am very sorry to have to write in this manner.  I would rather resolve this all amicably but it is difficult to see how that can happen following this unprecedented action.  To date, beyond Cabinet Members I have not shared the news of this potential appointment with other councillors. 


I expect I will see you tonight at the Hospitality and Tourism Awards - I'm sure we can find other and more constructive topics of conversation.

 

Richard




Councillor Richard Cooper
Member for the Harrogate Central ward
Leader of Harrogate Borough Council
01423 705074
07792 655535