In so many ways, I feel sorry for Bob Barnes that his special year as Town Mayor will be remembered mainly for controversy and conflict. The tragedy is that it was all so unnecessary.
If only the gentleman could have been more open to questions and less susceptible to gossip, less eager to condemn and more willing to listen, all the other unfortunate events of the Spring including the fracas in the Market House, would never have happened. He said that my behaviour had been a ‘stain on his tenure as mayor’: now we can see it was solely his own ill-judged behaviour which has besmirched his year in office.
As a matter of record, the allegations by me and others, of lack of transparency and financial irregularity concerning the £7 thousand payment to Foxley Tagg, have all now been proved correct. As the official audit reports show, the Clerk and the Mayor mistakenly exceeded their authority in authorising this payment. In cross-questioning them, I was fulfilling my role as an elected representative to ensure that rules are followed and that money is spent wisely. The Ledbury political establishment, unused to scrutiny and challenge, resented this fact and launched a furious counter-attack intended to destroy my credibility. Elements within the Council continue with this campaign.
My complaint to Standards Board centred on the circulation of a reputationally damaging email to fellow council members, something which Bob Barnes very publicly denied he had sent. The incident was galling from my point of view since its contents were entirely fictitious. When the damning evidence of the email and its circulation list was shown to him, he shrugged and said his little lie was just a lapse of memory. As the famous lady said, he would say that, wouldn't he?
Whether Bob Barnes will be remembered as the Mayor who would never own up, depends entirely now on his own conscience.