With the local election season in full swing there are all sorts of allegations, claims and counter claims flying about between political rivals.
Some are quite baffling, others malicious and a great many do not stand up to any scrutiny. But, of these, a few end up before that mysterious organisation – the Standards Committee.
There are few better claims against a hated rival than knowing the impartial Standards Committee has found them guilty of bringing the council into disrepute or misusing taxpayers’ money.
But unlike professional standards regulators governing teachers, doctors and lawyers, the councillors’ Standards Committee operates in almost complete secrecy.
So councillors who bring their office into disrepute and the sanctions against them are not made public – unless someone is very indiscreet.
In the fiercely competitive world of party politics it is understandable that complaints are not reported to prevent the use of vexatious claims at election time.
But the idea that complainants are forbidden from divulging complaints, even when they are upheld, seems wrong and it is with great relief that I find the council is now looking to bring more openness to the Code of Conduct processes.
Two Standards Committee cases that have been made public in recent years involve the cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture, Martin Mullaney.
Mullaney is, of course, no shrinking violet, and in the first incident he had trespassed on the derelict Victorian tram depot in Moseley to expose what he described as civic vandalism.
He demanded his hearing be heard in public and made himself a martyr in the campaign to protect Birmingham’s history.
He refused to apologise for the infringement and served a suspension from the council as a result.
And then this month details were leaked on a website of his latest infringement – making inaccurate claims in an election leaflet, for which he was ordered to send another leaflet correcting them.
With council seats hanging in the balance these are sensitive times and Mullaney is unrepentant, claiming this is merely a technical breach.
He wrongly claimed that Sir Albert Bore had suggested a 23 per cent council tax hike now, when Sir Albert in fact said that the Tories and Lib Dems should have raised council tax in line with inflation several years ago – which would, of course, mean a significantly higher bill now.
In his blog Mullaney wrote: “If I am guilty of anything then I believe I am only guilty of putting Sir Albert Bore’s words into plain English and giving them the interpretation that everyone in the council chamber understood them to mean."
He also accuses Labour rivals of hypocrisy for exposing or leaking his judgement, as some of their own have also been found guilty recently.