Delapre Abbey Preservation Trust – Standing Up To The Bully
When I wrote two blogs almost exactly a year ago on the subject of the en-masse resignation of the entire Delapre Abbey Preservation Trust (DAPT) they were based on talking to people from DAPT and Friends of Delapre Abbey (FODA) as well as my knowledge and experience of how Cllr Mackintosh and Cllr Hadland operate.
It was clear at the time that a ” cloud of secrecy” was thrown over the subject which following recent personal attacks on individuals connected with and committed to Delapre Abbey and Far Cotton has led to a former member of the DAPT Board sending me further information on the subject.
It is important to understand the background to this issue and as I described in my blog ‘Friends of Delapre Abbey – No Longer needed by Conservatives’ published on 29 November 2013 it was criticisms resulting from the decision taken by Cllr Mackintosh to exclude FODA from being fully involved in the Abbey Restoration.
The anger which led to the criticism came fully to light at the FODA AGM held on the 28 November 2013 which I was invited to attended as an observer.
After a very positive start to the meeting which included a report and welcome delight from the FODA members of the recognition for their role as essential partners representing the people of Delapre and Far Cotton in the successful £3.6million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid and the plans for the restoration of the Abbey the mood changed.
The first issue was of FODA being told by the Council of the closure of the tea rooms during the restoration which is continuing even as you read this, and an issue that indicates what the Northampton Conservatives attitude towards FODA really is.
It turned out that the Northampton Conservatives having been grateful for the support of FODA that led to the successful HLF bid had decided to exclude them from the regeneration project and that they hadn’t been invited to be a member of the Delapre Abbey Joint Project Board (JPB).
The AGM was also told that NBC had taken the decision and hadn’t discussed FODA membership of the JPB with the DAPT Board and only that they couldn’t be invited because of the agreement that existed between NBC and DAPT.
I think it’s fair to say that the Councillors present were astounded that FODA wasn’t involved and that it hadn’t even been discussed with DAPT which is an important point to bear in mind as this blog continues.
What happened next is on the public record with Cllr Mackintosh having refused to enter into a serious discussion on the issues with the then excellent Chair of FODA, Nicola Hedges that led to a Motion at the Full Council on 9 December 2013 calling for temporary facilities for the tea rooms during the restoration and support for FODA.
What was important is that during the debate, opposition Councillors of which I was one along with Cllr Brendan Glynane the Liberal Democrat Mover of the Motion, and members of FODA along with residents from Delapre and Gar Cotton called for FODA to be fully included in the restoration project.
Correction to blog.
The Conservatives led by Councillor David Mackintosh Voted for and accepted the Motion which raise the question why has he been so reluctant to implement what he agreed to?
What happened next of course is what we have come to expect from Cllr Mackintosh and is revealed in the following full transcript of an email that was sent to the DAPT Board Members.
The specific sections numbered and highlighted raise a number of issues and will be addressed later.
From: Name redacted to protect them from further actions
Sent: Tuesday January 21, 2014 8:32 AM
Subject: Meeting with NBC
Dear Fellow Trustees
“xxxxxx” and I met with Cllr Mackintosh on Friday 17th at 2:30pm – following which I asked “xxxxxx” to draft a report for the board on what was discussed and the outcome. I am happy that the attached is a true and accurate record of that meeting.
“xxxx” and I met with David Mackintosh and (as it turned out) Tim Hadland on Friday. The meeting lasted less than 15 minutes.
Mr Mackintosh opened by saying that he had been (1) thinking “long and hard” over Christmas about the communication problem in respect of the residents of the Far Cotton/Delapre area and the misinformation and lack of information going out to them. He said that (2) he had decided to fund and produce a quarterly hard-copy newsletter to be delivered to all residents in the area, branded jointly by NBC, DAPT and FODA setting out the plans, the progress etc. “xxxx” and I did not demur, partly because there seemed nothing to object to and partly because (3) he clearly wasn’t asking us but telling us. It was also clear that DAPT would not be involved in the proposed newsletter (although it would go out in our name). He also reported that NBC had ‘been forced’ to announce that morning that Boyzone would be headlining the Sunday of the weekend music event at Delapre in the summer. Apparently it had been put on the bands website so NBC ‘had’ to make an announcement.
Mr Mackintosh then expanded onto the subject of what he called ‘the bigger picture’ in respect of the interaction with FODA and the local residents. (4) He was of the view that FODA should be invited to join the Joint Project Board in order to minimise future problems. “xxxx” confirmed that he had a 100% mandate from the DAPT Board not to accept FODA as JPB members. Mr Mackintosh suggested the full membership was not necessary, and “xxxx” confirmed that again the Board had voted against observer status. We explained that we had taken this vote in advance of the meeting because we knew that, (5) according to FODA, they had already been invited to join. This Mr Mackintosh admitted (not that we gave him any choice). We further explained that he did not have the power to issue such an invitation, any more than DAPT would have had. (6) We asked why NBC had not turned FODA into the DAPT – style body two years ago, and why NBC’s position had now changed to wanting them involved, but we didn’t get an answer. (7) Mr Mackintosh then seemed to suggest that the Partnership Agreement was not up and running and that therefore it could be changed. We corrected him. (8) He also stated that Far Cotton would ‘always be trouble’ and that he had to ‘manage the bigger picture’ – a phrase he reiterated several times. He mentioned that members of the public were unhappy about the situation. (9) When questioned as to whom, exactly these members of the public were, he and Mr Hadland repeated ‘members of the public’. When further questioned if they were members of FODA, they said Yes. When we pointed out that they therefore hardly constituted the general public he didn’t answer the point but went back to ‘the bigger picture’. When we again said no dice, he said ” then this conversation would seem to be at an end”. We said “yes, it is” and stood up to leave. Mr Mackintosh said he was sorry that we were so unhelpful and inflexible. We said that we were sorry that he had seen fit to issue an invitation he had no right to issue, and suggested that had he had the courtesy to do it a different way the Board may have felt differently. I’m not sure it would, but by this stage we had lost patience with the whole sorry business. Then we left.
Let me take the points as they arise,
(1) “Thinking long and hard over Christmas”? What was the misinformation that was being given out to the residents of Delapre and Far Cotton? Was it from FODA, DAPT, NBC? And what did he mean by a “lack of information”?
Or was it that Cllr Mackintosh wasn’t happy that FODA members were telling the people of Delapre and Far Cotton that the tea rooms was being closed and removed from the Walled Garden which was of course not misinformation but the truth.
(2) “He had decided to fund”? To start with who is “He”? Was he personally going to fund it or the Conservatives? Of course not what Cllr Mackintosh meant was that the Northampton Tax payer was going to fund a newsletter, which anyone with an ounce of common sense will see as a Political Propaganda Newsletter to promote him in his quest to be the Member of Parliament and gather votes from Far Cotton and Delapre as the saviour of Delapre Abbey.
(3) Why would the members of the DAPT board support a politically motivated newsletter going out in their name when they were quite rightly set up to be independent of the Council? What is also interesting is that Cllr Mackintosh said it would also be branded jointly with FODA, except when I asked them the members of FODA weren’t aware of it? So why did he say it?
(4) “He was of the view that FODA should be invited to join the Joint Project Board in order to minimise future problems” How on earth did Cllr Mackintosh arrive at a view that a decision that would lead to the resignation of the entire DAPT Board was an effective way of minimising future problems? The reason of course was simply that because he had taken a unilateral decision without consulting them and against the terms of the agreement that existed between NBC and DAPT he wasn’t aware of what would happen. It may be of course that Cllr Mackintosh thought, and not for the first time, that the Board who are principled and honourable people were bluffing. It is the mistake of bullies throughout the ages.
(5) Which brings us to,”according to FODA, they had already been invited to join. This Mr Mackintosh admitted” So why did he tell the DAPT that he was “of the view that FODA should be invited” when in fact he had not only already invited but actually told FODA that they had a place as a member of the Joint Project Board. Worse still perhaps is why did he suggest full membership was not necessary when he had told FODA they were full members of the JPB? It was such a blatant untruth that any half intelligent person would have realised it would be found out, or in the world I come from called a lie, that you have to wonder what else Cllr Mackintosh was being untruthful about? In his press release on the subject Cllr Mackintosh expressed his disappointment that DAPT refused what was a simple request, which of course isn’t true, he simply didn’t make a request but had already made a decision.
(6) “We asked why NBC had not turned FODA into the DAPT – style body two years ago, and why NBC’s position had now changed to wanting them involved, but we didn’t get an answer”. This is self explanatory, the reason can only be that Cllr Mackintosh and Cllr Hadland had already decided to exclude FODA from the future of Delapre Abbey regeneration which is why they had until challenged in Full Council excluded them from the JPB.
(7) “Mr Mackintosh then seemed to suggest that the Partnership Agreement was not up and running and that therefore it could be changed”. If this was the case why was it not made clear when Applying for the Heritage Lottery Fund Grant, because they certainly thought an agreement was in place. It also raises the question of why was it used as an excuse not to give FODA a place on the JPB when it was first set up? So was it another lie, used as an excuse to put a barrier up between FODA and DAPT or just a spur of the moment intentional political untruth? Though to be fair whether it was changing policies on who runs events in the town, or to justify the sale of Sekhemka Cllr Mackintosh has been consistent in ignoring decent, moral and ethical standards to get his own way.
(8) “He also stated that Far Cotton would ‘always be trouble'” This was perhaps the most revealing statement which is that Cllr Mackintosh and Cllr Hadland see FODA and the people of Far Cotton as ‘trouble makers’. I can vouch from personal experience that they can be difficult but only if they think they are being conned and the views of the supporters of Delapre Abbey ignored. In 2009/2010 I along with David Perkins acted as independent arbitrators between different interested factions of Delapre Abbey supporters and found them passionate about its future. It will be interesting to see if Cllr Mackintosh will tell the people of Far Cotton and Delapre they will ‘always be trouble’ when he is asking them to vote for him to be their Member of Parliament in May. It will also be interesting to see if the Borough Council Conservative candidates for Delapre and Far Cotton share their Leaders views and disdain of the people in the area.
(9) “When questioned as to whom, exactly these members of the public were, he and Mr Hadland repeated ‘members of the public’. When further questioned if they were members of FODA, they said Yes”. This probably explains more than anything why and what Cllr Mackintosh meant by saying that the people of Far Cotton would ‘always be trouble’. The fact is that FODA and the people of Far Cotton and Delapre will not be intimidated by Cllr Mackintosh and certainly will not simply accept Conservative propaganda he puts out in a newsletter. It is a situation that as we know and he has demonstrated repeatedly annoys him because he doesn’t understand why every one doesn’t trust him?
I recognise as I always have that the roles of FODA and DAPT and their relationship with NBC are different, but what I also recognise is that they are not mutually exclusive but should be mutually supportive.
Who knows what would have happened if Cllr Mackintosh has sat in a room with all parties and talked the issue through and sought to bring them together rather than create divisions for his own political ends?
The reality is he didn’t and on the way he intentionally and in full knowledge of what he was doing misled and lied to both FODA and DAPT based on a belief that he could bully and intimidate them into doing his bidding.
It was a classic error and misjudgement of the integrity of the people he was dealing with and it was this that led to the entire DAPT board resigning and later to the Conservative Councillor for Delapre and Far Cotton defecting to the Liberal Democrats.
I have no doubt his statement that the people of “Far Cotton will always be trouble” just because they disagree with him and are passionate about Delapre Abbey and proud of where they live will be used extensively during the coming Borough and General Election campaign in Delapre and Far Cotton and that the people will want him to explain himself.
I wonder if they held a public open meeting and debate in Delapre and Far Cotton if he would attend?
I somehow doubt it?
I’ll leave the last word with the letter sent to the Heritage Lottery Fund from The Chairman of DAPT on behalf of the Board Members which indicates that they had tried to communicate with NBC and received no reply.
3rd February 2014
Attn: Jeremy Fenn – Heritage Lottery Fund
Re HLF Stage 2 Award: DELAPRE ABBEY NORTHAMPTON
It is with great regret that I write to inform you that the Delapre Abbey Building Preservation Trust (DAPT) has reluctantly withdrawn from the partnership with Northampton Borough Council. All eleven trustees have resigned.
After a detailed period of drafting and negotiation by DAPT and NBC we were both pleased to accept a series of legal documents which were based on the Partnership Agreement of June 2013. This legal contract made it clear that there were to be only two partners in the Stage 2 Submission put to the HLF for the Grant which was later awarded in October 2013.
The Joint Project Board (JPB) , which was part of the Partnership Agreement, was set up as a major vehicle to steer through the Restoration and has met monthly since early July 2013. It was the view of the DAPT representatives and the NBC staff who sat that JPB that it was working effectively with demonstrable positive outcomes, to the satisfaction of both parties.
A sudden and surprising deterioration occurred on 10th January 2014, when the Leader of the Council made it known to me that he had decided to bring in a 3rd party onto the Joint Project Board. This determination was made without the courtesy of prior consultation with DAPT. I attach copies of correspondence which relate to the sequences of these events.
Following this DAPT informed the Council that all the trustees had deliberated on the proposed change, but no trustee could find a need for the change since the Governance structure was considered appropriate and well designed. In fact regular monthly meetings had already been established since September 2014 with the 3rd party, NBC & DAPT and they had met to ensure proper communication, collaboration and coordination on a tripartite basis which also included the BBC project manager.
The perceived divisive nature of the circumstances that occurred resulted in the unanimous decision of the DAPT trustees, at a specially convened meeting, who felt that they had no alternative but to resign.
These 11 trustees are people who have demonstrated their commitment and ability to make the restoration of Delapre Abbey a reality. Since the enlargement of the Trust in Autumn 2011 these individuals have brought their skills and experience to the project in a very active way. The Trustees had extensive networks both locally and on a very wide geographical base which brought not only benefit to Northampton but it’s county hinterland in acting as ambassadors for the restoration of such a well-loved place as Delapre Abbey. Not only had the trustees made a considerable contribution already bug potential contacts and initiatives were already in place for 2014.
The trustees had professional backgrounds in business practice, law, finance, estate management, development, construction, project management, the voluntary sector, education and academic historical research. It is inexplicable to them that the Northampton Borough Council should have sacrificed the good working relationship with the Trust and broken confidence in its own apparent contractual obligations without full consultation and prior discussion. The individual trustees service has spanned 3 to 12 years with DAPT.
Out concern remains for the future of the Delapre Abbey restoration project. Please would you inform us of the position now that the Trust has resigned and indicate any procedures which require our attention to achieve proper administration under theses circumstances, since at the date of this communication, no response has been forthcoming from NBC legal department.