Navigation Committee replaces Vice Chair after vote of no confidence

Broads Authority Navigation Committee members today passed a motion of no confidence in its Vice Chairman and unanimously appointed a replacement.

One member moved that the committee had no confidence that James Knight was fulfilling his role and duties and that other members were concerned he was not adopting the interests of the public generally and not taking collective responsibility for the decisions made by the Authority. It was carried by eight votes with three abstentions.

Speaking on behalf of members of the Navigation Committee, Michael Whitaker, Committee Chairman, said: “Members felt that Mr Knight’s behaviour and actions on several occasions, both in public and internally, appear to have demonstrated a determination to deliberately undermine the Authority on various issues and to attack other members and the decisions they have made, as well as officers.

“Members are appointed to bring their own views to any matter under discussion but then have a responsibility to uphold in public the resulting collective decision made by the full Authority or any committee.

“For a member to put themselves in a position where it could be reasonably perceived by the public that they oppose a decision is one thing but actively and vocally campaigning against members’ collective decisions and enabling others to do so brings the Authority under significant threat – financially, legally and in terms of public trust and reputation.”

The committee unanimously appointed Nicky Talbot, pictured, as its new Vice Chair and also recommended that Ms Talbot replace Mr Knight on the full Authority. Members of the full Authority will consider this recommendation at their next meeting. Mr Knight will continue as a member of the Navigation Committee.

In the interests of transparency, openness and clarity below are questions asked by the Eastern Daily Press about the vote and the Authority Chairman's responses:

EDP: James has claimed that no evidence was presented to show he had publically and internally “demonstrated a determination to deliberately undermine the Authority on various issues”.

BA: The Chairman of the Navigation Committee felt that it would be unfair in a public meeting to dissect the evidence which had previously been discussed with Mr Knight. The Chair and Vice-Chair of the Authority and the Chairman of the Navigation Committee had met Mr Knight on two previous occasions to express concerns about his behaviour.

EDP: During the meeting, when the vote was taken, members apparently asked for an explanation of the reasons for it, but none was given.
BA: This isn’t true, only Mr Knight asked.

EDP; Was the vote pre-planned? Why was no evidence given during the meeting?
BA: The vote was not pre-planned. The Chairman felt it would not be fair to dissect the evidence in front of a public meeting. Mr Knight was aware of concerns as they had previously been discussed with him on at least two occasions.

EDP: What evidence is there to show he undermined the authority?
BA: Evidence existed within the public domain that Mr Knight has signed the Save the Island petition, he has attempted to encourage other members to sign, he was the registered owner of the Broads National Pike blog which attacks individuals in the Authority and the Authority as a whole and he has been the author of emails to members attacking the Authority and individual officers, which members felt extremely unhappy about.

EDP: What is the authority’s view on members signing petitions/campaigns that do not always conform with the authority in their own private life?
BA: We have always said that members can do what they like in their private life. For a member to put themselves in a position where it could be reasonably perceived by the public that they oppose a decision is one thing but actively and vocally campaigning against members’ collective decisions and encouraging others to do so brings the Authority under significant threat – financially, legally and in terms of public trust and reputation.

EDP: He said this was an attempt by the authority to stifle dissent. What does the authority say in response to this?
BA: This issue has nothing to do with dissent, it is about taking collective responsibility and not putting the Authority under threat. We welcome the range of views that is brought to the table during any decision, which members are appointed to do. But they then then have a responsibility to uphold in public the resulting collective decision made by their colleagues on the full Authority or any committee.

Nicky Talbot

Thursday 25 February 2016