Welcome to the Shakespeare Tower Blog
We aim to post here news and notices that are relevant to Shakespeare Tower residents.
It's likely that this information will also be delivered by other means. We'll keep all these notices here as an archive so you can find them easily. If you think we've missed something or you would to see something posted here, please let us know via the comments page.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Minutes AGM and House Group


Draft Minutes of the Shakespeare House Group Meeting 2 May 2019  and Annual General Meeting: 6 March 2019 are now available here

Monday, 1 April 2019

Petition to the Court of Common Council


Urgent petition  
(No it’s not Brexit related!)


We are asking you to sign a petition to protect the rights of our Common Councilmen to speak and vote on matters that concern us.


The City’s Standards Committee currently bars our elected representatives from speaking or voting on a range of issues that affect us because the Committee claims that as our Councilmen are residents, they have a pecuniary interest. 


One of our Common Councilmen was even referred to the City of London Police by the Standards Committee for speaking on our behalf on a matter of local interest. Fortunately, the Police refused to take action.


Please consider signing the petition to allow our elected members to speak and vote on our behalf except where they have a direct and specific pecuniary interest. Just like in any other Local Authority.


The petition is with our porters (Of course we’re in the City of London, so it must be a paper petition.)


If you want to know anything further please get in touch via the Contact Us tab.
Here's two extracts from City AM on the issue

 

Tuesday 27 November 2018 1:01am EXCLUSIVE ALEXANDRA ROGERS @city_amrogers

City of London Corporation caught in
'gagging' row after referring resident
councillor to City of London Police
The City of London Corporation is embroiled in a
gagging row after a resident councillor who
spoke against a planning delegation decision was
referred to police for potential prosecution.
Councillor Susan Pearson, who represents the ward of Cripplegate, was threatened with
criminal prosecution after she spoke against a proposal to delegate a planning application
next to the Golden Lane estate to Islington Council.
Pearson was elected in 2017 on a platform of speaking up on behalf of residents who claim
that the grade two listed estate has fallen into disrepair.
The proposal was defeated in January. The following month, the Corporation’s influential
standards committee initiated proceedings against Pearson for a breach of the councillors’
code of conduct for participating in a matter in which she was alleged to have had a
“pecuniary interest.”
After a series of hearings between May and September, a sanction that was originally
imposed for breach of the code was revoked, but a sub committee of the standards
committee ruled that Pearson would not be able to speak on any matter concerning the estate
on either of the housing committees on which she sits.
Speaking to City A.M, Pearson said she found it “very intimidating” when she received an
email from the Corporation’s solicitor informing her that she had been referred to the police.
“There was already the feeling among residents that you were not allowed to complain,” she
said. “What is the point of being elected if I can’t speak for my constituents?” she said. “Even
after this case I have continued to try to speak up for residents but am being silenced by the
standards committee.”
Pearson added that she no longer felt comfortable going to the Guildhall. “The thing that really
upsets me is that the standards committee believes that resident members [of the council]
need to be told what they can or cannot speak about,” she said, “but there doesn’t seem to be
the same focus on members with business interests.”
The City of London Police confirmed that it will not be investigating Pearson.
It said in a statement: “An allegation of a City of London common councilman failing to
declare an interest was raised with the City of London Police by the City of London
Corporation to ascertain the most appropriate and proportionate response. It was jointly
decided that this fell within the scope of the Corporation’s internal procedures and as such a
criminal referral was not made. To ensure the decision was consistent in applying relevant
legislation and codes of practice, independent advice was secured from another police force
and supported the decision made.
Last month one concerned councillor, a recently retired City solicitor, circulated a document to
fellow councillors detailing her case and suggesting that it could give rise to “a perception that
the Corporation is trying, more widely, to muzzle the effective representation of City
residents”.
The document, seen by City A.M., claims Pearson could not have had a pecuniary interest in
the delegation decision because it could not have resulted in a financial advantage for her or
anyone else.
Around 20 councillors have issued messages of support for Pearson to her and the author of
the memorandum, which say her treatment by the Corporation was “disgraceful” and
“appalling”.
One message read: “What has happened to Susan is quite dreadful. We are volunteers, and
we do not deserve to be treated like criminals.”
Another stated that the standards committee had “lost the plot”, while one councillor opined
that the Corporation was not legally obliged to have a standards committee and perhaps “we
would be better off without one”.
It has also been alleged in the memorandum that after the proposal was defeated in January,
Corporation officers failed to disclose that one of the reasons it wanted the decision to be
made by Islington was because it was aware there would be “local opposition largely from
City residents nearby”.
The standards committee is now trying to pass a new dispensation policy that critics claim will
restrict the ability of councillors in residential wards from representing their constituents.
If voted through, the policy will require members, in most instances in which they wish to
speak on a matter in which they might hold a pecuniary interest, to fill in a 10-page document
to satisfy the standards committee that they should be granted dispensation.
At a meeting of the standards committee on 15 November, which was open to the public,
standards committee chair Oliver Lodge said: “We want transparency and consistency and to
make sure we maintain public confidence. It is far better that we err on the cautious side. We
can’t be allowed to facilitate debates where there are serious conflicts. It is fundamentally
important we remain cautious.”
However, a number of council members at the meeting denounced the policy as “restrictive”
and an attempt to “throttle democracy”.
“This document is over zealous,” said one councillor. “The committee has taken an Ayatollah
approach to dispensations that would disenfranchise resident councillors from speaking on
anything to do with their ward.”
Several other councillors, including some of the most senior in the Corporation, had their
applications for dispensations either wholly or partly refused as a result of the September
decision that barred Pearson from speaking on matters relating to the Golden Lane estate.
At the council meeting, the Corporation's policy chair Catherine McGuinness said: “Some of
the decisions we have seen recently have really raised concerns that views have been
gagged unnecessarily and this poses a serious risk to our reputation.”
Another councillor said: “There are some people who want to close us down. With this policy
you are giving them a loaded gun which they can point at us.”
A spokesperson for the City of London Corporation said: “The City of London Corporation has
a legal duty to promote high standards of conduct by its members and to manage conflicts of
interest.
“This case concerned a member who spoke and voted on a decision relating to a planning
application for a site next to her home.
“The matter was fully considered by the City Corporation’s standards committee and its
standards appeal committee, both of which concluded that a breach of the code of conduct
had occurred and that she should not have participated due to her conflict of interest.
“Both committees had the benefit of consulting an independent person and independent legal
advice before they reached their decisions.”





Thursday 13 December 2018 10:15am EXCLUSIVE ALEXANDRA ROGERS @city_amrogers

City of London Corporation chiefs seek
rule change after 'gagging' row
City councillors have voted in favour of reforming
the City of London Corporation’s policy on
perceived conflicts following the fallout from a
gagging row that has gripped the public body.
The Corporation has faced accusations of attempting to muzzle representatives of City
residents after Cripplegate councillor Susan Pearson was threatened with potential criminal
prosecution for speaking against a proposal to delegate a planning application for a site next
to the Golden Lane Estate to Islington Council - taking the decision out of the City's hands.
While the City of London Police confirmed last month that it would not investigate Pearson,
her case has nevertheless raised concerns among councillors, who called her treatment by
the Corporation “disgraceful” and “appalling”.
At a meeting of the standards committee last month, one councillor said the committee had
taken an Ayatollah approach to dispensations, the process by which members are granted
permission to speak and vote on matters concerning their ward.
Last Thursday at a meeting of the court of common council, councillors voted in favour of a
reform motion put forward by Bassishaw councillor Graeme Harrower, who last month
revealed the facts of Pearson’s case in a 10-page document that was first reported by City
A.M.
The motion was amended by policy head Catherine McGuinness, who proposed that the
standards committee adopt a position where members “would generally be granted a
dispensation to speak”.
“With regret the court [of common council] feels that the committee may have adopted too
rigid an approach with regard to dispensations for members representing residential areas
with respect to speaking on issues affecting their constituents,” the amendment read.
She later added: "I think we want to give the standards committee a clear steer that we want
a permissive rather than repressive approach."
At last week’s meeting, one councillor said McGuinness’s amendment offered a
“proportionate and balanced approach”, while another said: “We’re not playing baseball – if
the standards committee gets it wrong we should take the decision away from them.”
Harrower’s second motion, to set up a different working party to review proceedings for
breach of code of conduct, was defeated but not debated, after a majority of councillors
present forced a vote to be taken on the proposal without a debate.
Harrower told City A.M: “I’m glad my proposal triggered this ungagging of residential
councillors, so they can speak on behalf of their constituents. It’s regrettable, though, that the
opportunity was missed of dealing with the question of councillors voting. That has been left
in the hands of the standards committee, who caused this crisis.”
He added that the lack of debate reflected “a wish by many councillors not to wash dirty
laundry in public”.
“I’ve also received signals from other councillors that by exposing the facts of this case I’ve
broken an unwritten rule of the club. But this is the dirty laundry of a public authority, so the
public must see it being washed. And councillors are members of a public authority, not of a
private club,” he said.