Timeline established for the handling of data security and access concerns at Lydney Town Council | Zac Arnold

In a letter to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Lydney and the Town Clerk of Lydney Town Council on 10 July 2021, Zac outlined the timeline he plans to work to with regards to severe concerns about the handling, security and lawful right of access to data the Council holds:

“I’m writing further to the correspondence received from the Town Clerk on 18 May 2021 and Cllr Harley on 28 May 2021 in which it was stated that arrangements had been made for the retrieval of and provision of access to personal data held by Lydney Town Council relating to myself. For memory, the email dated 18 May 2021 stated that time had been allocated on 25 May 2021 to ‘work through’ emails from TateTech with a view to providing me with the results by the end of that week, 28 May 2021. The latter email of 28 May 2021 stated that due to the volume of emails it could be expected to take longer commencing on 7 June 2021 when more resources were expected to be available.

“As I have made you aware I have been attempting to access this data since the summer of 2019, and, whilst I appreciate the scale of the data held and the limits on staffing resources, I am finding it increasingly tiresome that I do not have access to information that I needed urgently last year. The fact Cllr Harley’s email of 28 May describes the arduous process of isolating emails relating to myself suggests that this basic stage had not been started for 10 months after my initial request. I can understand delays in processing such a large volume of data but I struggle to understand why it took 10 months to send an email to TateTech asking them to gather the emails.

“I have also queried, which has yet to receive a response, that the Council understand that emails are not the only form of data included within this SAR. Other forms of data include but are not limited to: documents, digital files such as screenshots, data collected through direct notifications from Council social media channels, written notes, paper-copy files including those held by the Personnel Committee relating to my activities from 2018-2019 and ANY and ALL other data held by the Council relating to or mentioning myself. Could you please confirm that this point is understood?

“As all deadlines set by the Council so far have lapsed with little to no progress, I am informing you that I have set a deadline of 6pm on Monday 13 September 2021– the first Full Council meeting after Summer Recess – for my data to be supplied to me in full. This will provide for a grace period of approximately 4 months since Cllr Harley’s election as Mayor of Lydney. If this has not occurred, on Tuesday 14 September 2021 I will submit a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office relating to this matter alone and will supply a copy of this complaint to yourselves.

“Following this, as advised previously, there are other data matters to be dealt with. I will submit a preliminary complaint to Full Council on Friday 1 October 2021 as formal correspondence for the meeting to be held on Monday 11 October. This complaint will relate to the potentially unlawful and non-approved disclosure of extremely sensitive employment and other internal data between June 2020 and May 2021.

“This initial complaint is for information and comment only by the Council – not for review under Council complaints procedures. The Council will have until 6pm on Monday 8 November 2021 to provide comment on the substance of the complaint. Upon receiving comment I will decide whether, in my view, the matter can be resolved locally. If not, or if no comment is received, the complaint shall be submitted to the Information Commissioner’s Office on Monday 15 November 2021.

“My right of access to the information requested through this SAR is asserted under Article 15 of the General Data Protection Regulations 2018, I reserve my right to take formal action – through relevant watchdogs or legal action – to ensure I, and others, can access our data rights.

“Thank you in advance for your time and co-operation in this matter. I hope that you can agree that the above timetable is both extended enough to not overwhelm you and clear enough for us to see a way out of this issue in a way that upholds my rights and helps strengthen the Council’s data handling processes and security measures.”

A year on from BLM Lydney, we need a proper Healing History Plan | Zac Arnold

A year ago, this week Lydney was divided over the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Lydney. The community remains divided and lessons remain unlearned.

Lydney Town Council and its Trusts have a duty to heal these divides, acknowledge our history and promote strong community values going forward. In this light, a year on from the demonstration in Bathurst Park, I am calling for a proper Healing History Plan that:

Acknowledges that:

  1. Sir Benjamin Bathurst (1635-1704) was Deputy Governor of the Leeward Islands in the late seventeenth century, a heavy investor in the Royal African Company and Governor of the East India Company.
  2. These organisations were significant parts of Britain’s colonial rule that participated in the slave trade and led in the plundering of India.
  3. The 15 acres of recreational land owned by Bathurst Park and Recreation Trust, and the 51 acres of recreational land owned by Lydney Recreation Trust, were given from an estate built with wealth acquired through this means.
  4. Whilst the British government purchased the freedom of all slaves in the British Empire for 40% of its national budget in 1833, the debts from these payments to slave owners and their families were still being paid by taxpayers until 2015.
  5. The lives of every individual matter, but people of different ethnic origins experience unique challenges merely based on the colour of their skin, their voices or the country they or their families originated from.

Believes that:

  1. Lydney’s community assets were provided to bring people in the community
    together and those that manage them must take their responsibility to include people regardless of differences.
  2. We must acknowledge all aspects of our history, the bits that make us proud and ashamed, and assist to heal long-standing rifts between different sections of our community.
  3. The facilities of the Trusts and the Council have huge potential to bring people together with a focus on remembering, learning and co-operating. With the Memorial Garden as a starting point for this, to remember the sacrifice of our own, but moving on to providing lessons in the other enormous costs that have been paid to get the things we take for granted today and how we should treat other people in our lives and the wider world.

Commits to:

  1. Commission research at the earliest opportunity into the extended history of Bathurst Park and Lydney’s other community assets, including the connection – through Lydney Park Estate – to proceeds from the slave trade and the wider British Empire.
  2. Work with the Local Equality Commission and other groups to ensure that the views of ethnic minority communities are represented.
  3. Build partnerships with local ethnic communities and seek to promote more regular community events across the spaces that are operated by the Council or its Trusts that celebrate and educate the wider community about different lived experiences, cultures, entertainment, food, clothing etc.
  4. Provide public information boards in Bathurst Park and Lydney Recreation Trust Ground explaining the full history of the facility and the commitments of the Trust to ensuring it is used to promote strong values of equality, respect and education for years to come.
  5. Seek to install a public artwork representing the connection of the park to proceeds from slavery and the British Empire and its future in pursuing a fairer, more equal and cohesive society that celebrates and supports everyone. For example, a broken chain could simply represent this transition from this past to the future.
  6. Actively defending and facilitating the human rights of all individuals within the Lydney community.

Only through acknowledging our history can we heal it, not to destroy the past but to recognise and learn from it rather than ignoring the reality because it hurts our idea of ourselves as a country and as communities.

One year on: the BLM event that divided a Gloucestershire town | The Observer

In May 2021, Zac was interviewed exclusively by the The Observer about his thoughts on the aftermath of Lydney’s BLM demonstration and the impact it had in tackling racism in the Forest of Dean. The full un-edited interview reads:

‘I wouldn’t say I was surprised by the reaction to the BLM protest in Lydney. I was, however, quite surprised by which people fell on which side of the dividing line. The Forest of Dean is a strange place, stuck in its ways and – largely – quite tribal and old-fashioned in both its beliefs and actions. The fact that there was going to be a demonstration in the town was more surprising than anything, a glimpse of hope in an otherwise completely disengaged and left-behind rural community.

‘The aim in the demonstration was to bring together and educate people about the lived experiences of minority groups, but, the reaction from certain elements in the community led to the initial short-term impact being widespread division and an atmosphere of abuse and intimidation. Signs left on a designated fence were repeatedly ripped down, a cabinet member of Forest of Dean District Council was forced to resign after significant online abuse, mobs of veterans turned out to defend war memorials that nobody had any interest in destroying, I had to pull out of speaking at the event as I was assaulted by two men in the early hours of the morning on the day of the protest and the organisers described receiving vile abuse and being bullied by both the public and officials. This didn’t surprise me, but the scale of it did. Facts didn’t matter.

‘Following the demonstration, Khady and Eleni did an amazing job at launching the Local Equality Commission and reaching out to the local community to try and bridge the divide. The protest made sure everybody was aware that there was an issue, but I think the change will be incredibly long term. The response we saw against this protest was one that showed no interest in gaining the perspective of minority groups. The parroting of ‘all lives matter,’ even by the Mayor of Lydney, showed that certain elements didn’t want to understand and would prefer to try and out-victim the actual victims of our system. For a lot of the people that need to, I’m not convinced they will ever change their views, so all we can do is hope that the next generation don’t grow up in ignorance and repeat history again.

‘Despite all this, the fact that this conversation was ever opened in Lydney is pretty close to a miracle and any small changes that arise from that are solid foundations to keep talking about the things that have remained undiscussed for far too long.’

Complaint lodged about alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct by the Lydney Town Council Finance Chief | Zac Arnold

Today, I lodged a complaint with the Monitoring Officer of Forest of Dean District Council outlining a number of alleged breaches of the members’ Code of Conduct by the Chairman of the Lydney Town Council Finance and Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Roger Holmes.

The complaint consists of 3 pages with 7 pages of supplementary evidence and the allegations are summarised as follows:

  • In breach of Section 1.1 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to provide for effective and ethical leadership of Lydney Town Council and the community within its area by personal example;
  • In breach of Section 1.2 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to respect others and not bully or threaten any person;
  • In breach of Section 1.3 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to respect the confidentiality of information by disclosing confidential information without a clear and over-riding public interest in doing so and by obstructing third parties’ legal rights of access to information;
  • In breach of Section 1.4 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to ensure conduct is not in a manner which is likely to bring the council into disrepute;
  • In breach of Section 1.5 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to ensure that his use of his position as a member and as Mayor of Lydney was not for personal advantage; and
  • In breach of Section 1.8 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to ensure his conduct does nothing to cause the council to act unlawfully.

Complaint lodged about alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct by the Mayor of Lydney | Zac Arnold

Today, I lodged a complaint with the Monitoring Officer of Forest of Dean District Council outlining a number of alleged breaches of the members’ Code of Conduct by the Mayor of Lydney, Cllr Walter Leach.

The complaint consists of 7 pages with 72 pages of supplementary evidence and the allegations are summarised as follows:

  • In breach of Section 1.1 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to provide for effective and ethical leadership of Lydney Town Council and the community within its area by personal example;
  • In breach of Section 1.2 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to respect others and not bully or threaten any person;
  • In breach of Section 1.3 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to respect the confidentiality of information by disclosing confidential information without a clear and over-riding public interest in doing so and by obstructing third parties’ legal rights of access to information;
  • In breach of Section 1.4 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to ensure conduct is not in a manner which is likely to bring the council into disrepute;
  • In breach of Section 1.5 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to ensure that his use of his position as a member and as Mayor of Lydney was not for personal advantage;
  • In breach of Section 1.6 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to ensure that his conduct did not use his office or public resources for private or political purposes;
  • In breach of Section 1.7 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to take decisions for good and substantial reasons, a failure to state reasons for decisions where those reasons are not apparent and a failure to pay due regard to the advice of officers; and
  • In breach of Section 1.8 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to ensure his conduct does nothing to cause the council to act unlawfully.

Vote for a future where the people of Lydney are put first on May 6 | Zac Arnold

The past decade has been tough for the Lydney community, and residents had been shut out by a closed shop that didn’t listen to you and did not deal in transparency.

At this election, you can make a choice to go back to the way things were by re-electing members of the last administration, or you can continue on the path to being a real, healthy, democratic community and Lydney could rise from the ashes.

This can only happen with fresh ideas, new approaches and real representatives that care deeply about not just the symbolism of their town, it’s history and it’s gold quality award but the present conditions and the bright future of the community in the real world.

I know which decision I would make, I know which future I would want. One that puts every person in Lydney first and rethinks what it is possible for local communities to achieve, because the limits of your most grassroots level of local governance are not always as restrictive as people like to believe.

On May 6 you can make a choice to go back to your money being wasted, your views being unrepresented and your rights not being respected… or you can take the other path. I know who I would trust to continue the process of changing Lydney for all. In favour of people and planet, not profit and power.

The priorities of Lydney Town Council are still not the priorities of the people | Zac Arnold

The decision by Lydney Town Council to award their employees a £500 bonus each is abhorrent as small businesses and the poorest in society suffer the most as a result of this pandemic.These employees who have been working from home, now believed to be on full pay, are already not experiencing the level of suffering of those left to the will of the insufficient furlough scheme, or even those that miss the opportunity to access even this basic support.

Whilst I was on Lydney Town Council real progress was made in many areas, but this progress appears to be being undone by the autocratic leadership of Cllrs Walter Leach and Richard Kemsley alongside their new Town Clerk. None of these individuals seem to grasp the concept of democracy, all have showed consistent disregard for basic human rights and senior officials are of the opinion they don’t need to follow the law, but you do… and I did when I was a member. In my time at Lydney Town Council reforms were made that began to bring the Council’s Standing Orders and Financial Regulations into the 21st Century, the scheme of delegation was largely scrapped to restore an element of democracy and your hard earned money was saved through the reform of the staffing leadership structures. The secret Cabal that was the Personnel Committee was disbanded, all but one of the corrupted members and officials removed from the Council and majorly overhauled.

The savings that were made then allowed for a small but important freeze in Council tax, putting that extra little bit of money in the pockets of ordinary residents. We declared a Climate Emergency and started to work more proactively with youth groups and young people and I attempted to expand the accountability the public has over its Council by pushing for livestreaming of Council meetings online, a proposal dismissed then but conveniently revisited now. The benefit of hindsight I suppose, it provides the excuse for ineffective leadership. Whilst there is some good work that the Council continues to do, the fundamental attitudes have not changed. They look after each other over their community, they walk all over the laws that they say we have to abide by and they will consistently trample on the human rights of those that express opinions that they don’t like.

I broke ranks with Labour to put Lydney before my party, I believed that this was best served with a vote for Cllr Walter Leach as Mayor of Lydney. Something that contributed to my eventual suspension from the Labour Party. Its safe to say that throwing my party away to support this man is a decision I bitterly regret. Somebody who appeared at face value to be level-headed, understanding and collaborative was instead autocratic, completely out of touch with the struggles of those that are suffering the most in our society and willing to pick which parts of the laws that govern his office he wants to follow.

The people of Lydney shouldn’t be getting disengaged right now, there needs to be real scrutiny and there is still no sign of a proper independent investigation into the events surrounding Lydney Town Council in the past decade, in particular from 2018 to 2020.

Watch them, always.

Zac Arnold

Former Vice Chairman of the Lydney Town Council Finance & Scrutiny Committee

The moral turmoil of the Deputy Mayor cannot be a distraction from the real issue | Zac Arnold

It doesn’t matter whether we are scared, human rights cannot be allowed to be trampled over by people in positions of authority who feel like they can do as they please.

Too many times now, the leadership of the Mayor of Lydney has seemed, although good intentioned, often autocratic. The way in which this issue was approached and the comments made by Walter Leach and Richard Kemsley was a flimsily executed swing at our internationally recognised human rights and our democratic process, with not so much as a vote being cast.

There is no place for abuse of human rights in any of our ‘democratic’ organisations, and the internal ‘moral’ turmoil of the former Deputy Mayor cannot be allowed to be used as a scapegoat to distract from the fact that those that feel they can abuse our rights and their power, are still in their seats.

Lydney Town Council set to backtrack on withdrawal of support for BLM Lydney | Zac Arnold

Today, the Police have confirmed that for Lydney Town Council to prevent the BLM protest in Lydney this Saturday would be a breach of Article 11 of the Human Rights Act and would result in potential ‘legal ramifications against the Council.

It is clear, both the decision of the Mayor to interfere with the enactment of this right and the way in which this decision was made were both unlawful.

There is no getting around this, several officials and members of Lydney Town Council must face scrutiny and should now consider tendering their resignations. Not least the Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

Together, we will defend our human rights and we will right oppression and systemic racism, and I am excited to attend Lydney’s first celebration of BAME culture – once it is given the green light, as expected, this evening.

He couldn’t breathe. We couldn’t speak. My resignation from Lydney Town Council | Cllr Zac Arnold

“In January 2019, I was unlawfully arrested for breach of the peace at Lydney Town Council for refusing to allow those in control of our town to escape scrutiny – simply by asking questions. On 14 January 2019, my human right to peacefully protest was ripped away by Lydney Town Council and Gloucestershire Constabulary. This became the turning point for me to stop talking about what I think is right, and start trying to implement what I think is right based on principles of human rights, equality and actual real-life democracy. In May 2019, 384 people in Lydney East supported these well-publicised values and I became a member of Lydney Town Council and a Trustee of Bathurst Park and Recreation Trust.

“In June 2020, the Mayor of Lydney and the Chairman of the Trust ripped away the human right of everyone to peacefully protest – with strict social distancing measures, a Police presence and free PPE distribution, to prevent the permanently ongoing oppression and murder of minority groups of all kinds in this country and around the globe. They did this without even a vote by other Trustees or Councillors. They did this, primarily, due to a campaign orchestrated by a few members of the community based on a contempt for opinions other than their own, manipulations and selective memory. The same individuals that attempted to lobby the rich land and property owners of Lydney and predominantly elderly, straight, white males to “use their influence” to buy Lydney Town Council out of permitting the human right to peacefully protest.

“384 people voted for my defence of my human right to peacefully protest and hold our representatives to account. Now, some of the same people are saying it is ‘childish’ and ‘just a power game’ for me to stand by these same values. Clearly because rather than supporting the protection of human rights, they merely seek the protection of their rights.

“Regardless of what is said about me, the delusions that are fabricated or the allegations that are thrown my way that I do not support the right to disagree with this protest – I couldn’t care less about what you have to say because it is not the truth. My protection of the rights for the Black Lives Matter cause, is also a protection of your rights to disagree or protest about another issue in the future. Rights that could be at risk when dangerous precedents are set in desperate times.”

Rooftop Housing Group, you are the master of your own destiny | Cllr Zac Arnold

This morning, I met with the Assistant Team Leader of Rooftop Housing Group’s Young Peoples’ Service in relation to a series of ongoing and unresolved issues that cause concern at the company’s supported accommodation project on Albert Street
in Lydney.

Concerns about services:

✓ Increased anti-social behaviour and criminal damage to property;
✓ A failure to act on repeated physical assaults and threats to life;
✓ A failure to comply properly with fire and electrical safety regulations;
✓ A failure to prevent and act on safeguarding concerns including suicide
✓ A failure to maintain safe accommodation; and
✓ A failure to act upon the use of their premises for illegal activity and
dispose of dangerous and stolen goods.

These concerns are extremely serious and I have been working closely with
members of Senior Management of Rooftop Housing Group, other organisations and all levels of local government to bring a swift and effective resolution to the problems at Lydney Gateway. It is our combined aim to ensure that vulnerable young people are provided the services they need to move effectively from reliance to independence.

Both the facilities and the services provided by Rooftop Housing Group, the
Guinness Partnership and Guard Group Nationwide are unsafe and, over a number of weeks and months, put the lives of the young people under their care at repeated risk.

Whilst we are working with Rooftop to bring a resolution to the issues, their internal investigations have provided nothing but conflicts of interest and interference. Therefore, we have no faith in their processes and believe that an independent, transparent and publicly accountable review of Rooftop’s fitness for their contract should be established.

The least the people of Lydney deserve right now is a council tax freeze | Cllr Zac Arnold

Cllr Zac Arnold said that the council had had ‘extortionate’ precepts in the past years so having ‘a year off’ might not be a bad thing.

He added: “Because the people of Lydney have paid an awful lot of money, they deserve a break for at least a year.”

Why I am resigning from the Labour Party and becoming an Independent | Cllr Zac Arnold

It is with the deepest of regret that I am writing this letter to you this morning, however I have come to the conclusion over an extended period of time that this is both the right and the necessary thing to do. Please accept this letter as formal notification of my resignation, with immediate effect, from the Labour Party including of the Labour Whip on Lydney Town Council.

The ordinary people of our communities have been attacked for decades under neoliberal political, social and economic systems that has remained unchallenged for far too long. This system must now be challenged and the result of yesterday’s General Election has only proven to confirm that the institution that is the Labour Party is fundamentally unable to meet the challenges that we must face in enacting the change necessary to truly create communities, a country and a world that works for all.

This election has summed up the structural and political issues within the Labour Party that so many of us have been warning against for years. The willingness of the party establishment to discard the result of the 2016 Brexit Referendum shows a complete assault on democracy and this has been reflected in the dramatic loss of support in some of the most working-class constituencies in the country. The consequences of betraying democracy in favour of the views of the London bubble have resulted in the
party letting down those that relied on it most when they needed it most.

Those who need us most, who will suffer as a result of not having access to free at the point of use healthcare, those on Universal Credit where 5 more years of Tory rule could easily be a matter of life or death. Those most vulnerable people in our society need this change, not in 5 years’ time, but now. It is clear that the only way forward is not through a party that has been built to protect the status quo as part of a flawed and rigged system, we need a democratic revolution where instead of factions being united against factions, our communities as a whole come together in unity to take on our shared enemy.

Community organisation to create a real people-powered movement that discards the defunct systems of the past is the only way forward, this cannot be achieved from within the system but by the total rejection of it by every local community at the most grassroots level. To paraphrase Chris Williamson, a thoroughly decent and loyal antiracist campaigner who was chucked under the bus in an attempt to appease the established classes, the Labour Party needed to grow a backbone now more than ever
and it hasn’t.

This will take time but I, as have many, have come to the conclusion that this in the only way to build a system, a country and a world that works for the many, not the few. We are Lydney, we are the UK and we are really taking back control.

Pointless Lydney cycle-way improvements are risking lives and property | Cllr Zac Arnold

“The recent roadworks being completed across Lydney as part of the cycle way improvement scheme is a welcome consideration by HM Government and Gloucestershire County Council in attempting to increase the number of both residents and tourists cycling around our market town.

Whilst the thought process behind this scheme shows a halfhearted and asphalt friendly approach to tackling the climate emergency, I am sure I echo the sentiments of many infuriated severnsiders wrangling with the congestion and meteoric craters in what were once our roads and

The works being carried out have already caused major congestion problems, not only through the main flow of traffic through Newerne Street but also on Hams Road. The problems have been severe enough to result in several road traffic collisions including involving buses.

Yet, these works are set to continue with the closure and disruption of the majority of the core transportation arteries of Lydney being affected, our children’s journeys to school are being made less safe, our small businesses are suffering and emergency services are finding it
increasingly difficult to access life threatening situations. These works are literally putting lives at risk.

Then, once we all believe the pain and suffering is over, the contractors will be back to surface the mess they’ve left behind, bearing in mind it is winter and the science behind that would suggest that the slight freezing of the exposed lower surfacing before complete will soon leave us some glorious paddling pools for the summer months.

Instead, if it wasn’t for the inability of our self-proclaimed County Planning and Infrastructure Champion Cllr Alan Preest to show vision and an ability to plan for the future, we could stop the spaffing of one million pounds worth of hard-earned money up the street and invest in real, positive infrastructure that connects Lydney for all in a meaningful way.

Together, we can achieve much better. Our disconnected new communities need to be connected with real, meaningful links by foot, cycle, road and public transport. We need to embrace our local environment and intertwine ourselves with it by finally completing the Parkend to Lydney Multi-Use Track and we need to launch a system of green super highways, bringing people together, offering real alternatives to the car and saving our planet. We need real unapologetically radical change, and we need it now.”

Lydney Town Council need a full and independent public inquiry | Cllr Zac Arnold

I am pleased that the Independent Complaints Process that investigates Code of Conduct complaints regarding members has found that there is no case to answer regarding a malicious complaint lodged by the former Mayor of Lydney against myself. I would like to unequivocally deny allegations that I have conducted any campaign of harassment against any employee, former employee or elected member of Lydney Town Council and am pleased that this has been confirmed by this decision notice.

Naturally I cannot comment on matters relating to employment and personnel however, with regards to elected members, I can say that when the people of Lydney East put their faith in me to represent them in May’s Town Council elections I promised a “shake-up” at Lydney Town Council and naturally this could only have been possible with the ruffling of some feathers along the way that did not wish to be ruffled. The desperate grasping at straws by former Mayors and Councillors, who resigned amid severe alleged wrongdoing, hardly comes as a surprise.

It is time that Lydney was allowed to put the problems of the past few months behind us, but in my view, this can only happen with a full and independent public enquiry covering the events of the last few weeks, months and years in order to fully resolve these issues so that they cannot arise again. Lydney has the opportunity to rise from the ashes and form a true people-powered democracy with community engagement at it’s core and a reinvigorated, unapologetically radical vision for rebuilding the gateway to the Forest of Dean. The council is already looking forward to a brighter future for Lydney with strong ambitions on tackling the climate emergency, a heightened focus on community engagement and participation and a strong team of dedicated people facilitated by a brilliant new balanced Mayor in fighting for the best possible deal for Lydney.

Statement regarding the resignation of the Mayor of Lydney | Cllr Zac Arnold

Unfortunately, last week, the Mayor of Lydney made the decision to resign from Lydney Town Council. This morning, in the local press, the former Mayor made comments that in my opinion must be addressed.

In May, I was elected to Lydney Town Council with a mandate to create the real change necessary to undo the damage caused by the appalling actions of the previous administration and administrations before that, which included Brian Pearman. I am motivated by this task and there is no element of truth behind his conspiratorial assertions that we are trying to ‘ruin it.’ We are not trying to ruin Lydney or the council, we are trying desperately to save it before it is too late.

Brian says in his comments that he has ‘tried’ to resolve the current issue within the administration. I would refute this falsehood in the strongest of terms. He has merely attempted to keep the status quo against elected members and an electorate that have had enough. For too long this council has served the few, not the many.

At the recent Extraordinary Full Council meeting I raised a Point of Order expressing my concern as to the lack of impartiality during a report on an incident which was being given by one of those involved in said incident. Similarly, I raised a separate concern regarding a previous event and was told by Brian that I was lying despite the former administration and its officers admitting the fact at the time. The day before Brian resigned, I submitted a complaint regarding this.

Lydney’s challenging issues set to be tackled | Cllr Zac Arnold & Cllr Brian Pearman

‘On Monday 8 July 2019, Lydney Town Council laid the foundations to tackle two of the most serious and challenging immediate problems that Lydney faces. These being the lack of provision of services for young people aged up to 25 and the ever-increasing risk of imminent climate catastrophe across the globe.

‘At its Full Council meeting, members unanimously declared a climate emergency and have immediately set to work with a “think global act local” attitude to the issue. However, words will not solve this crisis. Real action is necessary and a new working group is to be established to scrutinise every aspect of council policy, develop new proposals to tackle climate issues in our town and hold other stakeholders to account to ensure that we develop a strong, united force against climate change throughout Gloucestershire.

‘Similarly, a new working group is to be established in order to investigate new and innovative approaches to delivering youth services. This new group is hoped to form part of a wide-reaching and collaborative network across the district, and further afield, with an aim to ensuring a wide range of services to meet the needs of all young people up to 25 years. Both groups aim to involve a wide variety of stakeholders and organisations including local community groups, other levels of local government, schools, housing associations and other organisations and individuals in order to build a collaborative approach that results in real, cross-authority action that produces successful outcomes.

‘These issues will not miraculously come to a conclusion overnight, but we are committed to thinking outside of the box and working with all elements of the community to deliver the best for Lydney.

Cllr Zac Arnold (LTC Youth/Education Liaison) who proposed both motions and is leading the new groups said: “The climate emergency and the crisis in youth services are two issues that must be at the heart of our combined mission to deliver the best for the people of Lydney. I’d like to thank members who supported both resolutions unanimously and look forward to working together on these important issues.”

Cllr Brian Pearman (Mayor of Lydney) said: “Both of these issues can only be addressed successfully by working collaboratively with partners both locally and in the wider arena. There is a wealth of talent, knowledge and experience within our communities which we need to tap into. We may have different views on some subjects, but if we concentrate on working together where we have common ground much can be achieved. Exciting times ahead.”’

No hesitation in working to fulfil our promises to voters | Cllr Zac Arnold

Since my election in last month’s local elections, myself and our Labour Group have been working on radical and innovative proposals to rebuild Lydney into the thriving market town and gateway to the Forest of Dean that it once was. Lydney needs action to follow up on our words in order to ride the wave of 21st Century innovation and to tackle the biggest issues of the day at a local level.

We are proposing rapid action on three of the biggest issues Lydney is facing: Transparency and Democracy, the Climate Emergency and Youth Services. This evening’s full council meeting (10th June 2019) proved that we are not hesitating in tackling these issues and the Town Council faces a packed agenda in July as Labour tables motions on these issues.

This evening, during a discussion on the filming of council meetings I proposed, in a unanimous vote, that officers seek quotes for audio visual recording equipment in order to progress towards the livestreaming of all council and committee meetings. This is a move already taken by Forest
of Dean District Council, Gloucestershire County Council and Cinderford Town Council. This is a vital step in improving transparency and ensuring that the public can hold their representatives to account. Similarly, I have tabled a motion which will be heard at the September meeting of Full
Council to amend standing orders so that all votes are “recorded votes” meaning that the minutes will show which councillors voted for what. Another vital step in the right direction.

I also proposed that the council initiates a working group to investigate a series of Youth Services proposals, this will be further discussed and decision will be made at July’s meeting.

Finally, I have tabled a motion for discussion in July that Lydney Town Council declares a climate emergency, a long overdue move, and initiates a further working group to discuss and develop proposals around how we will tackle climate change at the grass roots. Cllr Louis Arnold also
raised again the possibility of investing in renewable energy to help tackle the climate emergency but also to develop a community investment fund which could potentially be used to provide grants to start-up businesses to assist Lydney’s economy to thrive.

These are serious issues that require serious and immediate action. Action that Labour are working tirelessly to deliver as part of our plan to rebuild Lydney so it works for the many, not just the privileged few.

Cllr Zac Arnold (Lab, Lydney East) said: “during the local elections we promised radical and innovative change, these are promises that we are determined to deliver and we are setting the ball in motion to introduce our policies for real change. Transparency, climate change and youth
services are three issues at the heart of our town’s struggle, and the country’s struggle, and from the bottom up we are developing people-powered proposals in consultation with residents to make Lydney Town Council a representative and approachable body that doesn’t shy away from the challenges that we face.”

Thank you for lending me your vote for Lydney Town Council | Zac Arnold

“I am humbled by the level of support the voters of Lydney East gave me in the local elections, unfortunately we didn’t quite manage to grasp hold of a district council seat but we are making real progress and I think that is because Labour are the only party offering real change both nationally and locally in Lydney. Labour are also the only major political party in the Forest of Dean that is listening to the views of the public. On issues such as the closure of our hospitals, car parking charges and the obliteration of our youth services, Labour has been listening and campaigning on the issues that affect us the most on a day to day basis.

“In Lydney in particular, we have had some severe issues locally in recent years and Labour are offering an alternative, a strong opposition, to the status quo. Naturally, our new group on the council is going to be pushing for much change within the council as well as outside of it, because the people of Lydney have had enough. But we take our responsibilities seriously and we are looking forward to meeting, discussing and working with our fellow councillors of all and no party allegiance. It’s time that we began working together, bringing our communities back together, in the interests of rebuilding Lydney into a true gateway to the Forest.

“As for the district council elections in four years time. Your guess is as good as mine. I have no inclination to become a career politician. I stood for these elections because I truly felt that these particular circumstances needed to change, so if there is something that I feel strongly about at the time, yes I probably would. A lot can change in four years though and there will be a lot that happens in them, so other paths may reveal themselves.”

The Oakdale bus link and the messiah, Alan Preest | Zac Arnold

I write in response to the letter by Lydney Town Councillor Claire Vaughan in Vol 42 No 9 regarding the classification of the Oakdale Bus Link by Cllr Alan Preest as “sorted.” I find this letter amusing to say the least. The isolation of the Oakdale Estate, amongst various other issues within the development, has trudged on since the estate was constructed.

The segment of the letter that amuses me the most is the last where Cllr Vaughan, using Preest’s words, declares that “Sorted means that Oakdale will no more be isolated.” Now forgive me if I am wrong but Gloucestershire County Council have simply declared this route a ‘bus route.’ Gloucestershire County Council could declare the outer edges of my bedroom a bus route if they so wished, it doesn’t mean a bus is going to run along it, and amidst the decision by James Bevan to pull out from the Lydney to Chepstow routes (which also include Lydney Train Station) and the “review” of bus routes by Stagecoach West, it is looking more likely for my bedroom to see a bus than the Oakdale Estate.

I find the praising of Alan Preest as some kind of Messiah similarly entertaining. The letter seems to forget that Alan has been a member of FODDC, the council he and Vaughan direct the blame to, for the entire duration of this farce. Not only this, he is a member of the party that ruled the council with a majority for 10 years prior to their ousting in 2017. Yet conveniently in the run up to May’s elections the issue is being portrayed as “sorted” despite this being far from the case.

The party of which he waves the banner also, conveniently, rules the roost at the County Council which has also maintained subsidies for bus routes in Gloucester and Cheltenham but not provided any support to maintain transport links in the Forest of Dean. It is also deeply ironic for Alan to sign off his letter in the same issue as “Gloucestershire County Council Planning and Infrastructure Champion” despite slagging off the area’s infrastructure on your page 3 feature on the bus link issue.

Instead of pushing out propaganda ahead of an election to win votes, Labour will always fight for the interests of our community. A Labour Government would introduce free bus travel for the Under 25s and would give local authorities the power to set up their own bus companies to ensure that our communities are better connected and to reduce the environmental impacts of having the freedom to travel. And a Labour-led FODDC would fight for better transport links for all our residents all year round rather than just when it is strategically beneficial to us.

Alan Preest isn’t a messiah, he isn’t a superhero… he’s an absolute joke.

Letter to the CEO of Lydney Town Council regarding continued personal data disclosure | Zac Arnold

In a letter to Ms Jayne Smailes, CEO of Lydney Town Council, Zac said:

I am appalled by the decision taken by Lydney Town Council to re-publish the press pack previously published on Thursday 21 February 2019. You have at least made the effort to remove the personal email addresses of some individuals, however some are still visible including the personal email address of Cllr Brian Pearman and the personal email address of Dr Judith Mortimore.

Confidential emails from the Labour Party and the names of various individuals including Labour Party Headquarters staff are still available in the release. Due to your complete inability to protect the personal data of individuals and therefore potentially placing them at risk, I will be filing an immediate complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office regarding this matter including my correspondence over the course of today and yesterday and related evidentiary submissions including the original press pack, current version and documents sent to me under a Subject Access Request in January detailing the email addresses of several council members without prior written permission.

You can find guidance on your obligations under information rights legislation on the ICO’s website (www.ico.org.uk) as well as information on their regulatory powers and the action they can take.

If there is anything you would like to discuss, please contact me via email to (email address)

Response to the removal of the press pack released by Lydney Town Council | Zac Arnold

In a letter to the CEO of Lydney Town Council, Zac said:

Firstly, I would like to thank you for the removal of the press pack published on your website on Thursday 21 February 2019 containing confidential and personal data as a result of my letter to yourself earlier today.

Unfortunately, the swift removal of such is not able to overwrite the fact
that the breach in data protection legislation under the General Data Protection Regulation 2018 (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA) has occurred and copies of the data in question have been retained for the purposes of an official complaint to the Information Commissioner’s
Office (ICO) if this is deemed necessary.

It is also unfortunate that this is not an isolated event with Lydney Town Council and therefore I feel an obligation to raise my concerns regarding another breach in data protection legislation that has occurred this year from your office. Once again, the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Monitoring Officer of Forest of Dean District Council have been copied into this correspondence for noting.

On Friday 18 January 2018 I submitted a Subject Access Request (SAR) under Article 15 of the General Data Protection Regulation in order to gain copies of all information held regarding myself by Lydney Town Council. I received a response with a variety of documentation signed by yourself on Monday 21 January 2018.

One piece of data provided, namely Appendix B, details an email regarding a Forest of Dean District Council press release in which I am quoted. This document also contains the full uncensored personal email addresses of all of the elected members of Lydney Town Council.

Thus, you have unlawfully disclosed the personal email addresses, to myself, of: Cllrs Bob Berryman; Carol Harris; Claire Vaughan; Derek Biddle; James Greenwood; Harry Ives; Kevin White and Roger Holmes.

If you had disclosed this information to another individual you could have potentially put the safety of these elected members at risk, fortunately for you they were disclosed to me and this is not something that I would ever contemplate.

A copy of this email is enclosed. This is a clear breach of data protection legislation and I advise that if a satisfactory response is not received to both these concerns and the concerns expressed within my previous letter earlier today with 1 calendar month, I will lodge an official complaint on
both counts with the Information Commissioner’s Office who could potentially issue a fine to Lydney Town Council of up to £500,000 or bring criminal charges in court against officers of the council responsible for the breach.

You can find guidance on your obligations under information rights legislation on the ICO’s website (www.ico.org.uk) as well as information on their regulatory powers and the action they
can take.

Please send a full response within one calendar month. If you cannot respond within that timescale, please tell me when you will be able to respond.

If there is anything you would like to discuss, please contact me via email to (email address).

Concerns about the disclosure of personal data by Lydney Town Council | Zac Arnold

In a letter to Ms Jayne Smailes, CEO of Lydney Town Council, Zac said:

I am writing to you with regards to a selection of documents released to the press and public on Thursday 21 February 2019 by Lydney Town Council. These documents including a series of confidential emails, screenshots from social media platforms and related documents concerning
myself and other individuals.

In this series of documents, you have acted in a way that, in my view, amounts to gross negligence with regards to the protection of personal data, namely email addresses, of many individuals including elected members of Lydney Town Council, members of the public and officers of third-party organisations of which you have communicated with.

As a public servant and somebody in a professional position that involves the strict protection of the data of individuals and organisations under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DPA) I would hope that you would understand the serious nature of the breaches present in this document as outlined in this correspondence.

Firstly, the failure to remove personal email addresses from documents before their release into the public domain. On page 3, despite attempts made to ‘block out’ personal email addresses. You have failed to do so and thus made the personal email addresses of Cllr Harry Ives, Cllr Bob Berryman and Cllr Carol Harris freely available in the public domain.

On page 6, you have made the email address of Dr Judith Mortimore available in the public domain without prior written consent from the individual. This individual is an officer of the local Labour Party and therefore this is no longer just a breach of your internal data but the data of other organisations and members of the public.

On page 9, you have made the personal email address of Cllr Bernie O’Neill available in the public domain without prior written consent from the individual. This individual is an officer of the local Labour Party also.

On page 11, despite attempts to ‘block out’ you have made the personal email address of Cllr Brian Pearman available in the public domain. Presumably if you attempted to block out this email address you also did not obtain prior written consent for this release.

As a body that holds personal data you are categorised as a ‘data controller’ under the Data Protection Act and General Data Protection Regulation. I advise that the release of personal email address without prior written consent is in breach of the law and therefore, if the
Information Commissioner’s Office deem it necessary, Lydney Town Council could be subject to a fine of up to £500,000 or the officer of the council responsible could face criminal prosecution. I have copied the Information Commissioner’s Office into this letter.

Secondly, you have released a series of confidential emails between officers of Lydney Town Council and members of staff at Labour Party Headquarters regarding myself. Whilst you are entirely within your rights to release emails written by Lydney Town Council into the public domain, providing you comply with the law, you are not in a position to release emails from a
third party without their prior written consent. This is especially the case considering the emails in question are subject to confidentiality statements.

The confidentiality statement on the emails from Labour Party Headquarters employees states as follows: “The Labour Party’s complaints process operates confidentially. That is vital to ensure fairness to you as a complainant and to the member against whom a complaint is made, and to
protect the rights of all concerned under the Data Protection Act 2018. I must therefore ask you to ensure that you keep all information and correspondence relating to your complaint private, and that you do not share it with third parties or the media (including social media). That includes the name of the member you have complained about, the allegations you have made, the identity of any witnesses, and the names of Party staff dealing with the matter. If you fail to do so, the Party reserves the right to take action to protect confidentiality…”

In the documents released by Lydney Town Council you have breached both this confidentiality statement and the Data Protection Act 2018. Please see pages 4 through 11. The council have released: the name of myself, the allegations that you have made, the identity of multiple witnesses and the name of the member of staff that was dealing with the complaint in question breaking all aspects of the confidentiality statement and potentially putting Labour Party staff, witnesses and council officers at risk of harm.

On page 6 of the pack, the confidentiality statement is visibly highlighted by yourselves and on page 11 in an email signed by Cllr Pearman he explicitly states in one of his points that the correspondence with Labour Party Headquarters is “marked as confidential” and therefore it is fair
to assume that the council and its officers were fully aware that this was confidential correspondence and decided to release it anyway.

The Labour Party Legal and Governance Unit at Party Headquarters have been informed of this data breach and have been copied into this letter.
Finally, you have failed to redact the names of various individuals that are not publicly involved in this issue potentially putting these people at risk. The release of names is not usually a breach of the Data Protection Act or General Data Protection Regulation as it is unlikely that it could be
deemed that they identify a specific person (multiple people could have that name.)

However, these names have been used in a context, sometimes with job titles and registered business addresses that allow for the individual to easily be identified. Some of which also have public profiles in the local area and thus many will be aware of them.

In the initial statement on page 1 of the pack you state that the release of this data was “supported by legal opinion” if that is truly the case, I suggest you may wish to find somebody else from which to obtain an opinion.

You can find guidance on your obligations under information rights legislation on the ICO’s website (www.ico.org.uk) as well as information on their regulatory powers and the action they can take.

Please send a full response within one calendar month. If you cannot respond within that timescale, please tell me when you will be able to respond.

If there is anything you would like to discuss, please contact me via email to (email address)

Response to Lydney Town Council’s press pack detailing complaints against me | Zac Arnold

This morning (Thursday 21 February 2019) Lydney Town Council released a
press pack in response to recent events regarding the Clerk to the Council, Jayne Smailes, likening myself; another member of the public and an elected member of the council to the far-right terrorist responsible for the tragic murder of Jo Cox MP in an email to Gloucestershire Constabulary in November 2018.

In this statement, Lydney Town Council state the following: “At no time has
any individual or group been described in this way by Lydney Town Council”
this point is entirely accurate and nobody ever claimed that it was. Instead I
asserted that the Town Clerk made these comments by means of a
“comparison” not a “description” which is an entirely accurate assertion to make as can be seen in the email which is attached to this statement.

Included in the pack released by the council there are a series of private and confidential emails as well as screenshots of my Facebook page in a desperate attempt to link this ongoing dispute with the Labour Party, of which I am a member. As a fundamental basis to determine the truth, it is important that you are aware of the simple fact that I have never attended a meeting of Lydney Town Council in my capacity as a member or officer of Forest of Dean Constituency Labour Party nor in a capacity with any other organisation with which I am affiliated or am a member.

My motivation prior to and during this farcical series of events has always and will always be a determination to fight for the community in Lydney and the surrounding areas and in doing so I have built a coalition of residents of a variety of political persuasions including several members of Forest of Dean District Council from opposing parties to where my political beliefs lie. This is not about me, this is not about politics, this is about the people of Lydney… this is about the community.

From exposing the council’s despicable attitude to young people which they
are determined to cover up with false promises and token gestures; to
highlighting the council’s apparent determination to chuck the hard-earned
money of tax payers down the drain at every possible opportunity that arises; to the culture of bullying and harassment that appears to have settled within their day to day operations both towards the electorate and their elected members.

These are just some of the reasons why this administration must be opposed and shown to be what it is. This is not party political despite their attempts to make it such.

The attempts by the council to connect my political views and affiliations to
my actions as an individual is a clear attempt to try and shut down criticism and their actions amount to discriminatory behaviour based on political opinion. It is entirely unacceptable for a council to do so in order to gag individuals and prevent them from lodging constructive and legitimate criticism via the appropriate channels.

In order to maintain their grip on our town they are willing to gag anyone that dares to criticise them in any way whether this be by calling the police,
discussing motions to ban their attendance or publicly berating them on social media and in the press. They have run riot over our town… our community, for far too long.

In the press pack, they have released a series of emails between themselves and Labour Party Headquarters in a pathetic attempt to shoot down the concerns of the people of Lydney by suggesting that there are political motives behind our questions. Once again, this is not the case. These emails are private and confidential and in releasing these communications they are in clear breach of privacy and data protection law. This issue has now been reported to and is being investigated by the Legal and Governance Unit at Labour HQ as a breach of confidentiality.

The people of Lydney have woken up to the attitude and actions of Lydney
Town Council. Enough is enough. Our questions remain unanswered and they continue to abuse and dismiss us at every turn. It’s time for change

Response to the resignation of Councillor Kevin Greening | Zac Arnold

In response to a letter in a local newspaper by former Councillor, Kevin Greening, post his resignation from Lydney Town Council, Zac said:

“I found the letter published in last week’s edition from the former Lydney Town councillor Kevin Greening regarding my “negative views” rather amusing to say the least. Firstly, I would like to remind Kevin that as somebody fairly new to the council, I am willing to forgive his ignorance as to my positive approach to attempting to work with the Town Council prior to him being instated on the council, not by the electorate may I add. In fact, I recall entering a brief discussion with him over a drink at the Greyhound with another Town Councillor and another member of the public just after he arrived in Lydney.

“To answer his question. Yes, I did raise the issue of B&M with Chris Williamson MP during his visit to Lydney amongst many other things both locally in Derby and in the Forest of Dean. He would have been quite welcome to attend the meeting as, unlike the council, we are a welcoming space for discussion, constructive criticism and debate for members of the public.

“With regards to the events at the January full council meeting, let me just “correct a few inaccuracies” – at no point did I undertake a negative rant, if you dismiss all questions and constructive criticism from those you are supposed to represent as a “negative rant” I question why you are allowed anywhere near a public position of authority. Simultaneously , maybe if I wasn’t persistently shouted down during the period when I was entitled to ask questions I may have been able to finish and they may not have appeared so negative. As for the point regarding my questions not being relevant to agenda items, I struggle to understand how asking a question regarding a statement given to the press by the Mayor does not fit under “Press Releases and Statements” on the agenda but I suppose that’s subjective as to whether or not you want the person to ask the question.

“Finally, I refer you to Cllr Richard Leppington’s comments, in an article also published in last week’s edition. Anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to local politics, as you should, would realise that me and Richard have hardly been the best of friends in the past, however I admire his integrity to come out and give an impartial account of events and shed some light on the reality of the situation, and if I was truly so scary, abusive and intimidating, why did only 2 councillors present vote to have me barred from future meetings? Why was I not charged? Also, please do not refer to me as “this young man” as if my age makes my views any less important than the propaganda that you spout.”

No money for a Youth Worker but £491.39 for a flag | Zac Arnold

On Monday evening I attended the Lydney Town Council meeting and note with great concern that decision by the council to purchase a flag with the town council crest to fly outside the council chamber at a cost of £491.39.

In a time of continued austerity, where out high street is on the brink of collapse and youth services continue to be cut – the decision by the council to purchase this flag goes to reinforce my previous comments that this council is nothing but self-serving and out of touch.

However, I would like to note the presence of common sense in Cllrs Roger Holmes, Claire Vaughan, Tess Tremlett and Harry Ives who had the decency and sense to vote against this colossal waste of tax payer money.

The proposal was put forward by the Cllr Bob Berryman, Mayor of Lydney, and those who spoke for the proposal showed they had the emotional range of a rusted teaspoon when it comes to recognising the day to day struggles of working people.

 I also note how this comes just a month after the Mayor refused to contribute funds to the district-wide youth services initiative being developed by ALL OTHER parish and town councils alongside the Forest Voluntary Action Forum.

The sooner these councillors are removed from office, the better.