Lib Dem councillor accused over ambulance

by Stephen Tall on February 4, 2009

Plenty of media coverage today of Lib Dem Cambridge city councillor Colin Rosentiel following a complaint made against him to the Standards Board for England – the Telegraph’s account is the most detailed I’ve seen:

Liberal Democrat councillor Colin Rosenstiel stopped the vehicle as crews tried to reach an injured person at a summer festival on common land in Cambridge. Mr Rosenstiel rode his bicycle into the path of the ambulance, blocking the entrance, and refused to budge because he claimed cars were not allowed on the grass.

The emergency crew eventually manoeuvred around him but, on leaving the ground, after they had treated the patient, he allegedly blocked their exit again by locking the gate. Driver paramedic Cliff Austine, of the East of England Ambulance Service, summoned a nearby policeman who ordered the councillor to open it.

Mr Austine then made a formal complaint to the Standards Board for England, the watchdog for councillors’ behaviour. The Board found Mr Rosenstiel, who sits on Cambridge City Council, had failed to comply with the code of conduct and brought his office into disrepute.

There’s a small quote from Colin, whose name will be familiar to many internetting Lib Dems thanks to his invaluable webpage detailing all internal party election results:

Both parties in Parliament have attempted to abolish the Standards Board for England. It tends to make mountains of molehills, although I am not directly referring to my case.”

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Yes, it reminds me also of his behaviour at Electoral Reform Society AGMs, which is why I left.

by Biodiesel on February 4, 2009 at 6:51 pm. Reply #

Speaking as a pedant myself, Colin is not noted for his UN – pedantic approach!

by Tim13 on February 4, 2009 at 8:09 pm. Reply #

What was his official capacity at this time? The code of conduct (at least the model one) only applies to actions of a councillor in their official capacity.

2(2) Subject to sub-paragraphs (3) and (4), this Code does not have effect in relation to your conduct other than where it is in your official capacity.
(Sub paras (3) and (4) related to activities leading to a criminal conviction – no charges were brought in this instance according to the Telegraph)

by Hywel on February 4, 2009 at 9:00 pm. Reply #

As a Cambridge resident I’m pretty appalled by this kind of approach and think that it reflects pretty badly on the council, and the LibDems for that matter, since I haven’t heard much negative comment from any LibDems, only ‘oh well, that’s just Colin’.
I’ve just deleted a rant about councils and bin collection because its a bit OT, but the fact that this kind of pedantry sounds so familiar to me must tell you something…! (Maybe about all councils in England, I don’t know, I only live in Cambridge!)
I’d like to see the council more focussed on providing services (roads and cycle paths are another ‘don’t get me started’ issue 🙂 ) and less focussed on this kind of self-important pedantry. Surely for a start it’s the job of the police to bar entry to vehicles, though I know they are probably pretty busy during Strawberry Fair?

by Cambridgeism on February 4, 2009 at 9:07 pm. Reply #

He does realise that if the guy had dies as a result of the ambulance not being able to get to him that would have been manslaughter, right?

FFS. I’d have reported him to the police, never mind the Standards Board. There is NO excuse for stopping an ambulance trying to get to an injured person, other than preventing them from running over another person. I am horrified that anyone is dismissing this as “just Colin”.

by Jennie on February 4, 2009 at 10:17 pm. Reply #

I’ve not followed this in any great detail, but I haven’t heard of any Lib Dems dismissing it as “just Colin”. Nor would they I hope.

by Painfully Liberal on February 4, 2009 at 10:27 pm. Reply #

Gee, somebody should invent a direct way for ambulances to inform people who might be in their way that they are attending an emergency. I don’t know, flashing lights perhaps, and maybe a noise of some sort.

But seriously, if the charges are genuine, it is a matter for the police, and if not, there is nothing for the standards board to consider. The appeal of the standards board seems to be precisely that it is a kangaroo court with little regard for the facts.

by Joe Otten on February 4, 2009 at 10:31 pm. Reply #

The key point here is what’s hinted at by Joe. Blocking an ambulance on an emergency mission would not seem to be a good judgement call. But if the ambulance didn’t have the siren and lights on, it’s a closer call. The Telegraph piece quoted above is silent on this point.

I’ve told a car driver off for driving on Ealing Common – it’s not really my job as a Councillor but, like Colin, when you’re on the receiving end of complaints from residents about damage to common land by vehicles, it’s difficult to stand by and watch it happen without intervening.

Would I tell an ambulance driver off for driving across Ealing Common if it did not appear to be on an emergency mission? Probably not, but it’s a closer judgement call.

by Jon on February 4, 2009 at 10:57 pm. Reply #

Why on earth would Colin say “Both parties in parliament” ?

by Alex Foster on February 4, 2009 at 11:06 pm. Reply #

Hilarious. It must that near-telepathic empathy with the common man that’s got you lot where you are today.

In short – when you’re near an ambulance, don’t act like a prat. Don’t make lame excuses about them not having their blues and twos on – that just makes you look like even more of a prat.

Little gems such as this are fixed deep within the psyche of most people and hence the world goeth round. Those people are not impressed by those who cannot understand this, especially when the uncomprehending ones makes great claims about their abilities.

Honestly – it’s like kicking a puppy, dealing with you lot but you’re so useless anyway I guess a little toe-punt can’t hurt.

by Gissa drink, Charlie. on February 4, 2009 at 11:43 pm. Reply #

Try this report:-

Section 4.27 on page 9 (Under the heading “Councillor Rosenstiel’s evidence”) states clearly that one of his constituents contacted him in his capacity as ward councillor. Still, I suppose it might give him a bit of wriggle room – just the sort of thing the public love in their politicians!

Anyway – do have a read. ‘Tis a hoot.

by Gissa drink, Charlie. on February 4, 2009 at 11:59 pm. Reply #

Ah – the Council at the time had a code of conduct based on the old model code (the new model code had only just been brought into force). The old code had much more stringent restrictions covering “official capacity and any other circumstance”

PS – Charlie I assume the disclaimer on the report “Not for distribution. This report is confidential and must not be disclosed” is no longer operative 🙂

by Hywel on February 5, 2009 at 12:19 am. Reply #

Dunno – that link seems to have been bandied around with some enthusiasm and it’s had all that “Top Secret – destroy on reading” stuff plastered all over it for all that time. Perhaps it’s just a testament to the efficacy of maintaining the security of data held by public bodies. Who knows. All very X-Files. Seriously, I would imagine that now the decision has been made it’s OK for the world to view it.

Interesting to know that it’s now offically easier for councillors to act like c**ts and get away with it.It’s a good job there isn’t a problem with people losing faith in the traditional parties, turning towards extremists and not bothering to vote. Because if we WERE in a situation that would have been really daft – unless councillors and the councils they sit on were going to be abolished soon because of a very dubious treaty someone had signed on our behalf and some devious bastard thinks it’ll be easier if everyone thinks they’re useless and bent anyway.

by Gissa Drink, Charlie on February 5, 2009 at 1:01 am. Reply #

I laughed so hard I nearly …..

Someone please adopt Colin as Parliamentary candidate, he’s a priceless asset to the Conservatives.

This is Lib Dem pavement politics in the raw. Rosenstiel is not just any old Lib Dem Councillor and you all know it.

Still if we had STV it would be the end of him….. God how many times have we heard that sort of drivel.

by Old Hack on February 5, 2009 at 6:21 am. Reply #

Colin was responding to a call from a constituent who was angry about several vehicles illegally driving onto Jesus Green. This is a frequent cause for complaints in the ward, I’m told.

It is not yet established whether the ambulance had its lights on or not — that will be for our hearing panel to attempt to determine when they meet next week.

Amanda Taylor
Cambridge City.

by Amanda Taylor on February 5, 2009 at 11:14 am. Reply #

>Try this report:-

23.7 Mb. Bejesus.

by Matt Wardman on February 5, 2009 at 11:50 am. Reply #

The point about the lights seems to be pedantic to the extreme. At a guess, an ambulance driver may have switched off the lights when he approached the park as he was nearly there; or, just because the call is not registered as an emergency, who knows what they’ll find when they get there?

Put simply, you cannot just dismiss this as “just Colin” (although I don’t know him, I do know he’s been around the party for years.) This is an incredible error of misjudgement – if I were on the local party executive I’d be questioning his suitability as a candidate next time round.

by KL on February 5, 2009 at 12:19 pm. Reply #

Actually, reading the report, one of the most interesting things as a Councillor is that the head of legal services felt he couldn’t tell Cllrs how to behave because they were ultimately his bosses! (p22)

by KL on February 5, 2009 at 12:31 pm. Reply #

This IS in fact “just Colin”. It’s dogmatic, un-nuanced and utterly unacceptable.

As I said. It’s just Colin.

by Anon on February 5, 2009 at 2:06 pm. Reply #

As a fellow pedant, I have some sympathy with Colin. He honestly thought that he was doing the right thing by enforcing the rules about parking on the grass. I do have to wonder if it was made fully clear to him that there was an overriding principle (viz. the special right of way of the vehicle in question); as I understand it, it was not a typical ambulance but was some kind of 4×4 vehicle operated by the ambulance service. Its status as an ambulance might not have been immediately apparent, and if he had been blocking a normal 4×4 vehicle (which refused to back down after having been informed of the rules) then he’d have been doing entirely the right thing.

That said, if he knew it was an ambulance and carried on blocking it anyway, he’s clearly in the wrong.

by Rob Knight on February 5, 2009 at 2:20 pm. Reply #

I’d say we don’t have the full facts to pass judgement on this yet,presumably the investigation will shed light onto the context etc.

by Painfully Liberal on February 5, 2009 at 2:25 pm. Reply #

PL – I think the facts in the report linked to above are reasonably full – and include Colin’s response to the findings. The investigation has taken place – what the local standards committee has to decide is what to do about it.

by Anonymous on February 5, 2009 at 2:41 pm. Reply #

Just read the Telegraph piece more carefully. You’re quite right and I hope Cambridgeshire Council will take appropriate action.

by Painfully Liberal on February 5, 2009 at 3:00 pm. Reply #

Cllr Rosenstiel had nothing personal to gain by blocking the ambulance. He had no personal animosity against the driver, nor any reason to wish to cause harm to patient. Had any of these been the case, it would have been a very different matter.

So his motivation can only have been that he wished to protect a piece of grass out of a desire to serve the community. He may have been foolish not to have realised that this was an ambulance, or to have carried on when he found out it was, but I don’t see any evidence that he was a bad man who did this out of spite. Does he have a history of blocking emergency services trying to do their work? I don’t think so.

If someone does the wrong thing when they genuinely did so because they thought it was the right thing, I do not think the sort of punishment implied by calling in the Standards Board is appropriate.

by Matthew Huntbach on February 5, 2009 at 9:59 pm. Reply #

I quite agree that the Standards Board really should be scrapped. It has no place in a Democracy.

Given that it is illegal to block an ambulance under The Emergency Workers (Obstruction) Act, which came into force in February 2007, this really should be a criminal matter dealt with the police and courts anyway.

by Dan on February 5, 2009 at 10:29 pm. Reply #

Matthew Huntbach’s argument is specious at best. Firstly, I would in fact dispute that Cllr Rosenstiel had nothing to gain from preventing the ambulance’s progress. Once he had dug his heels in and become entrenched, it was by all accounts characteristic that he should refuse to back down – to do so would have been humiliating for him. He was therefore battling in aid of his ego.

Secondly, it really doesn’t matter whether he had anything to gain or not, or whether he has a history of repeatedly committing this particular offence. What a ridiculous argument! Somebody could have died as a result of this man’s apparently obvious character flaws and lack of judgement.

That he quite patently lied to Cambridge City Council and then to the Standards Board suggests a lack of integrity which, when combined with his pedantry, offers an almost perfect example of a hypocrite. This was not a man struggling to do what was right, but a man unable or unwilling to deal with his own lamentable failings as a human being.

The fact is that a paramedic explained he was on an urgent mission where life or limb was at risk, explained that the law prevented anyone from obstructing that mission, and Cllr Rosenstiel nevertheless attempted to bar his way. Having failed to do that, he then attempted to block the ambulance’s egress until told to desist by the police. That’s the whole story, and there is no mitigation. The man should be subject to a criminal prosecution.

by Hang Rosenstiel on February 6, 2009 at 12:07 pm. Reply #

Editor’s note: I have just unapproved a comment submitted by someone using the pseudonym ‘Hang Rosenstiel’ – not because of the content of their comment, but because it is totally unacceptable to use that kind of assumed name when commenting on LDV. I have also put a block on the ISP address from which the message came.

To repeat the message I put out earlier this week

Polite request from the LDV Editorial Collective: can commenters please resist the temptation to use various pseudonyms, no matter what the satirical/ironic intention? We deliberately operate very light comment moderation on LDV, and understand there are folk who will wish to post under a name other than their own. Please stick to one pseudonym to ensure our comment threads remain constructive discussion areas. Thank you.

Stephen Tall
Editor at Large, LDV

by Stephen Tall on February 6, 2009 at 3:43 pm. Reply #

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