Category Archives: Comment

Comment: Does Paul Scriven’s hotel video break any rules?

The emergence of Paul Scriven’s musical debut yesterday has certainly been controversial among the people of Sheffield and beyond, but did it actually break, or even bend any rules?

Standards for England, who monitor ethics in local government, say it’s unlikely that the video breaks the Council’s Code of Conduct.

The code (Par 8, sub par 1b) makes it clear that members may not take actions or decisions which might be of benefit to family or friends.

While Mr Scriven admitted to the Yorkshire Post that he made the video as a “favour to a friend” (the general manager of St Paul’s Hotel), it’s unlikely a complaint on this basis would be upheld as the video makes no mention of his position as a councillor. As Mr Scriven says, “I did this as Paul Scriven, not as a councillor.”

There is a question as to whether Cllr Scriven should declare a personal interest should any matters concerning St Paul’s arise in council in future, as despite declaring on twitter that he was not paid for the appearance:

…it could be interpreted as employment under Par8, sub par 1a(iv) of the code linked above.

One rule which the video almost certainly breaks is the Copyright, Designs and Patents act 1988, which forbids modifying the lyrics of a published song without first obtaining permission from the copyright holder. While it is unlikely that Cllr Scriven would be held responsible for this action, unless the producer of the video (apparently the general manager of St Paul’s Hotel) has obtained written permission from Lou Reed or his publishing company, he could be open to criminal prosecution.

The final rule that is most certainly broken by the video, is the unwritten law that you should never, ever cover Perfect Day. It’s about heroin for goodness sake, and look how creepy SuBo’s version turned out.

SheffieldPolitics has also been attempting to clear up some of the apparent inconsistencies in the story given by Cllr Scriven as to how he came to make the video.

When the video first came to light, Cllr Scriven made several postings to his Twitter account, the first being an explanation that:

However, the Yorkshire Post later reported him saying he had

“stepped in at the last minute” to film the two minute, 47 second video after arriving at the hotel on other business and hearing that an actor booked for it had dropped out.

As Mr Scriven helped out at the last minute, it must be assumed that the vocal track, which sounds like his voice, was recorded in a studio at a later date.

The other question is about the intended use of the short film. Mr Scriven, again on Twitter, said it was a training video intended for internal use only.

It’s hard, however to see the benefit an internal training video could have for local tourism:

Even if the above are simply the fallout of Twitter’s 140 character limit, or even lapses in memory, it’s hard to argue that Cllr Scriven’s involvement in the video isn’t a lapse in political judgement.

Despite it clearly being a work of fiction, is it sensible for the Leader of the Council to be filmed buying purple cocktails on a VIP card in a swanky hotel in a week which saw council workers warned they’ll be seeing a pay freeze?

Cllr Scriven accuses his opponents (which we at SheffieldPolitics, it should be noted, do not consider ourselves to be) of suffering sense-of-humer failure, and maybe he’s right. Maybe some politicians do take themselves too seriously.

It’s understandable though, that in such straitened times, many would fail to see the funny side. People want to believe politicians take their jobs seriously, and whether as a result of this, or of the hysterics and braying from both sides of the aisle every other week at meetings of the full council, they are finding it difficult to do so in Sheffield.

We approached Cllr Scriven for clarification and comment, but at the time of publication he had not replied. To be fair, it is Christmas and his Twitter says he’s got a nasty chest infection. SheffieldPolitics wishes him a very happy Christmas, hopes he feels better soon and invites him to get in touch with any clarifications he may wish to make in the New Year.

Sheffield Council and Sheffield Liberal Democrats declined to make any official statement, as it is “not a council matter”.

Clegg’s Sheffield home up for sale. Will he keep his promise to the taxpayer?

The Star reports this morning that Nick Clegg’s Ecclesall constituency home is up for sale. In the run up to the election, the paper notes, Mr Clegg told Andrew Neil that any profit made from the sale of his home “will go straight back to the taxpayer.”

Several months prior to the Andrew Neil interview, I spoke with Mr Clegg on this subject at a Lib Dem event at the University of Sheffield. This was shortly after he had agreed to pay back £910 of his £3900 gardening expenses claim, and he said a little more about his constituency home:

As you know, Sir Thomas Legg, who has conducted this retrospective review of MPs expenses, has retrospectively applied a number of rules of thumb, if you like, which he felt should have been in place when MPs made their claims. He has come up with a rule which says that…I forget the limit. He has come up with an annual limit of what he thinks MPs should have paid on maintaining their gardens and their properties. And in hindsight then calculated how much should have been spent for each MP. I could have quibbled about that. A lot of MPs are. I could have said I don’t understand the logic of retrospective rules. I could have argued that as it happens the home that I have here, in Ecclesall, on Knowle Lane was in a complete derelict state, the garden was an eyesore. My view of the money that I use, your money, taxpayers money doing my job is very, very simple. The home that I occupy, subsidised by the taxpayer is not my home. It’s on loan to me from you, the taxpayer. That’s why I think I’m pretty much unique in British politics in saying when I sell that property, any net gain goes back to you, the taxpayer. It’s not my money.

And that’s always the attitude, and that’s why I thought it was right for me to keep the garden in basic good nick. It was an eyesore for the neighbours otherwise. Sir Thomas Legg thought otherwise, but the last thing people want is politicians quibbling about this kind of thing. So I payed the money back. That’s the story and that’s the most candid and honest answer I can give to you on that.

Neither the estate agent, nor asking price has been revealed.

Mr Clegg has also said that he believes it is time to stop MPs from buying and selling property altogether, perhaps suggesting that he will take a rental property in his constituency after the sale of his home.

I assume Mr Clegg will shortly be implementing a procedure to return the gain on the sale of his property to the taxpayer, although how he intends to do this remains to be seen. If he keeps his word, it will set an interesting precedent, and perhaps rescue his credibility as a man at the forefront of “the new politics”.