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Leader — Dog’s breakfast of a ‘resurrected’ campaign

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Hackney Council is still tying itself in knots over a petition launched by its £140,000-a-year Head of Regeneration Andrew Sissons.

Regular readers will remember that he used his council email address to message entrepreneurs, calling on them to back his campaign against legislative changes proposed by Secretary of State Eric Pickles.

Arguably more interesting than the finer points of Mr Pickles’ proposals were suggestions this intervention might constitute a blurring of lines between elected representatives and council officers.

The former have carte blanche to be political, but the latter are generally supposed to remain impartial.

Perhaps tellingly, after the Hackney Citizen ran a story about the petition, the Town Hall suddenly declared that Mayor Jules Pipe was in fact leading on the campaign.

We have since asked the council some questions, in reply to which they have sent a somewhat evasive letter.

The letter explains a “similar” campaign was launched last year, adding that Mr Sisson’s direct action was just a “recommencement” of this.

Putting aside the technicalities of whether a “similar” campaign can be “recommenced” or if this in fact makes it a new campaign, the letter has brought to light further mysteries.

The council’s stance on Mr Pickles’ proposals was so firmly established, it explains, that a verbal go-ahead was all it took to give Mr Sissons the green light to resurrect the “similar” campaign.

But the actual sequence of events suggests the Town Hall was in fact caught between a rock and a hard place.

In the pow-wow between the Mayor, the Chief Executive and Head of Comms (Cabinet Member Guy Nicholson must have missed the memo) it was agreed that the email Mr Sissons ultimately sent to local businesses would be dispatched just one week before the consultation closed to ensure the “highest possible level of response”.

A high-risk strategy made riskier by a short week – seeing as Mr Sissons’ e-mail was in fact sent just two days before the closure of the government’s consultation. If the council was so staunchly opposed to Mr Pickles’ proposals, why did it wait two months to reignite its campaign?

And why was a press release on the matter not forthcoming until the very day the consultation closed?

All this adds up to more muddle.

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