Thursday, December 31, 2009

Even more thoughts on Djanoglys' expenses

I followed a link on Guido Fawkes' Order-Order blog to this Guardian piece by Heather Brooke. This sets out the way our MPs are muddling the system to their advantage. I also found this quote from the High Court ruling on publication of expenses:

"The House of Commons expense system has a shortfall - both in terms of transparency and accountability. We have no doubt that the public interest is at stake. We are not here dealing with idle gossip, or public curiosity about what in truth are trivialities. The expenditure of public money through the payment of MPs' salaries and allowances is a matter of direct and reasonable interest to taxpayers."

What I find strange about all this, is it is the Courts and NOT The House of Commons who are standing up for the rights of the citizen. Indeed the unelected House of Lords have done more to preserve our Civil Liberties than the House of Commons. The MPs, with notable exceptions, are more worried about their own rights than the public who put them there.

This Parliament is on its last legs. Soon there will be a General Election. This constituency has a choice to make. It is not a choice on who is the next Government. This will be decided elsewhere. What the Huntingdon constituency has to decide is who we want to represent us. We can either vote for Djanogly or vote for another candidate.

To my mind voting for Djanogly means I would be voting for someone who made many expenses claims. He has paid back £25,000 but who has dodged* being held to account for those claims by his constituents. The High Court found these claims to be a "...matter of direct and reasonable interest to the taxpayer".

Djanogly seems to think otherwise and that is one more reason I'm not voting for him and will be voting for Jennifer O'Dell, the UKIP candidate. This is a rotten Parliament. Lets get rid of Djanogly and send a message to Parliament these expenses claims will not be tolerated.

*dodged = Not holding a public meeting over his expenses as advised to do by his Party Leader. The non-publication of his Legg Letter. The non-publication of the claims he paid back £25,000 for.
Wikipedia page for Heather Brooke.

Conversation with the residents?

I noticed this ITN report about the Canadian experience. I feel our Councils (County, District and Town) must start a conversation with the residents they serve on the forthcoming cuts.

St. Neots needs to decide what it wants to do! The Public Toilets is just one service which HDC provides which the Town Council is also empowered to provide (link to TC powers). For instance both Councils provide Play areas and open spaces. HDC provides car parks which SNTC is empowered to do. Other services the Town Council can provide (and sometimes does):

Bus Shelters
Sports Centres
Swimming Pools
Christmas Lights
and more.

What HDC needs is a formal agreement with the Parishes and Towns. Something like the Parish Charter which HDC dismissed. This would allow a formal agreement between the HDC and Parishes on who provides which area of services. This cannot be a one way street with all the expense coming to the Town/Parishes and HDC keeping the income.

There is a looming problem over finances at all levels of Government. District and County Councils partly rely on money raised by central Government to provide statutory services. This is very likely to be cut. In the coming years our Council Tax will go up and services will go down. Decisions need to be made on what services need to be cut. There needs to be a decision on the standard of the remaining services.

What also needs to be decided is who will provide the services and tax residents. Our Councils do need to put this across to the residents. What is happening at County will effect Hunts DC. What Hunts DC decides will effect the Town.

As the ITN report points out each different Canadian province approached their financial crisis in a different way. British Columbia upped taxes to maintain services. Neighbouring Alberta cut services back to what could be afforded from income. Not only do our national politicians need to talk to the population about what we can afford in the future. Our local politicians must do the same and talk to the residents about the choices that need to be taken in St. Neots and Huntingdonshire. The obvious rule for the foreseeable future is: "Taxes will go up, services will be cut!".

Whilst the County Council has started talking about the cuts needed in their propaganda magazine, that was it.  The residents don't seemed to be involved nor is there any explanation as to where the cuts would fall. Nor did this happen in the September District Wide propaganda magazine.

Our Councils need to have a conversation with the residents over taxes and services. So far this hasn't happened. Currently, the Conservative run HDC is cutting public toilets and is using a ruse to blame the Town Councils for the withdrawal of the HDC service. Time the Councils had a mature conversation  about who does what rather than a Conservative stealth tax on St. Neots.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Could the Conservatives lose control of HDC in 2010?

It is mathematically possible for the Conservative to lose control of Huntingdonshire District Council. But it is unlikely they would do so.

The Conservatives are currently in control. The Conservatives have 36 seats. Liberal Democrats: 11 seats. Independents: 2 seats. Non-aligned: 2 seats. Vacancy: 1 seat. So the Conservatives have a majority of 22 over all other parties.

At the 2010 local election the following Huntingdonshire wards are due up for election.

Wards - Incumbent party.
Alconbury and The Stukeleys - Conservative
Buckden - Liberal Democrat
Earith - Conservative
Elton and Folksworth - Conservative
Fenstanton - Conservative
Godmanchester - Conservative
Gransden and The Offords - Conservative
Huntingdon East - Liberal Democrat
Huntingdon West - Conservative
Ramsey - UKIP
Sawtry - Independent
St Ives East - Conservative
St Ives South - Conservative
St Neots Eynesbury - Conservative
St Neots Priory Park - Liberal Democrat
The Hemingfords - Conservative
Warboys and Bury - Conservative
Yaxley and Farcet - Conservative

Conservatives are defending 13 seats
Liberal Democrats are defending 3 seats
UKIP are defending 1 seat
Independents are defending 1 seat

For the Council to go from Conservative to No Overall Control the opposition parties will need to hold all their seats and the Conservative to lose all 12 seats they are defending. If the Conservatives lost all 13 seats they would end up at 24 seats

On these figures the best the Liberal Democrats could be the largest group with 26 seats. This is achieved by retaining the 3 seats they are defending plus the 15 other seats they should be targeting. This means HDC would become a No Overall Control council. But as they didn't fight Sawtry in 2008 allowing the Independent candidate to win. If they repeat this action they could only get a maximum of 25 seats.

These local elections will not be like other District elections as it should be in tandem with the General Election. It is almost a given the Conservatives will retain control. They may even increase a number of seats. As a greater number of voters will vote than at normal local elections this could all be up in the air and some strange results could happen.

So the answer to my question is: Yes the Conservative could lose control. But no other party can gain control.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bringing the Town Council into the 21st century!

Whilst the Liberal Democrats have made some reforms to the running of SNTC, these reforms don't go far enough. SNTC needs is a properly delegated structured Committee System. What do I mean by this?

At the moment many decisions are taken by the Town Council as a whole. What I am proposing is the Town Council delegates decision making to properly delegated committee. Delegation means each Committee uses this power to decide on behalf of the whole Town Council.

I propose SNTC has the following Committees:

Council - Changes to the constitution. Senior Officer Appointments, Final Budget, Precept, Any decisions that cannot be made by the delegated committees. Meets every 8 weeks.
Policy and Resources - Deals with policy, resources, audit, virements, personnel, grants. Meets every 8 weeks
  Personnel Sub Committee - deals with all personnel issues when needed and reports to P and R.
  Grants Sub Committee - has a budget and makes grants within that budget.
Leisure Management - Deals with all aspects of managing the Town Council facilities including cemeteries. Has its own budget. Meets every 8 weeks.
Environment - All planning Matters - Meets monthly.

By following my proposals the Town Council would have a committee system where each Committee Chairman is effectively in charge of their committee. Major decisions should be run by the Chairman thereby allowing a large degree political control.

Those who know the Town Council will notice I got rid of the Audit Committee. This Committtee was supposed to be the "backstop". The Committee didn't work so this should go under Policy and Resources.

This will cut the time and effort needed to service the current system. This will also mean less meetings. If our Town Councillors are properly focused and prepare for each meeting they should get through each meeting much quicker. Committee Meetings should take no longer than an hour and a half. Council Meetings should take no longer than 15 minutes.

This Council decided against political proportionality on Council Committees. This is wrong. I feel political proportionality has to be the way forward where the Council is political.

The Liberal Democrat reforms pulled this Town Council out of the 19th century and into the 20th century. What we need is reforms to bring the Town Council into the 21st century.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Huntingdon Conservatives finances down in 2008.

The local Conservative finances are still on a downwards trend. What will be interesting will be the accounts for 2009 and then 2010. What I always have a look at is the register of donations. Just put Huntingdon in the second line of the search box.

What the accounts throw up is whilst the Conservatives have a good balance sheet but most of the value of the association is in property. So when there are calls for an open postal primary the local Conservative Association simply couldn't afford this without selling its property.

There are a couple of questions over the relationship between Djanogly constituency office and the Conservative Office which are at the same address. Like Djanoglys' expenses I'm sure everything is above board.

I would further point out that whilst we can find out what the local Conservative Association raises, spends and owns this doesn't apply to the other local parties. Because of this the Conservatives are far more transparent than their opponents.

What will be interesting will be the 2009 Accounts.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Local Elections for 6th May 2010?

If the elections are held on 6th May 2010 (so long as Gordon Brown doesn't mess this up by holding the elections in tandem on 3rd June 2010) we will have local elections in two of the four wards in St Neots. The seats due up are 1 in Eynesbury and 1 in Priory Park. Eaton Socon and Eaton Ford are not due to vote at the locals.

The Eynesbury ward seat is currently held by the Conservative Andrew Gilbert. He is also standing in Birkenhead for the Conservative Party against Frank Field (Labour) at the General Election. So I'm not too sure how much effort he will put into Eynesbury this time round. When the seat was last fought in 2008 the Conservatives won with a majority of 365. This would be hard for the Liberal Democrats to overturn. But with the right strategy Liberal Democrat candidate Cllr Steve Van de Kerkhove could win.

The Priory Park ward is far, far closer. The Liberal Democrats won the seat in 2007 with a majority of just 16. With Liberal Democrat Cllr Bob Eaton up for election this will mean a hard fought ward. But that is if the Liberal Democrats aren't packed off to Huntingdon again!

The trouble is this is very likely to be in tandem with a General Election. It will be very likely that in both seats it will be those who vote for either The Green Party or UKIP who will decide the local elections. To my mind, the local Liberal Democrats should be fighting the Conservatives on Djanogly and the mess the Conservatives have made of HDC.

At this election I'm voting:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

St. Neots Health Check?

If you are bored over the Christmas Break have a read of this piece work. Without a Town Plan, the Health Check is the central document for the way forward in St. Neots.

There was an item on HDC Cabinet Agenda for 17/12/09 about the important St. Neots Health Check. This is really a non-report as there is nothing really to say! So why say it?

Well I couldn't find any report so I asked for a report and Hey Presto! got the report. Well worth a read. Have to admit I've started but haven't finished yet.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Town Council Planning Committee is a JOKE!

I know Doug Terry, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Eynesbury, is trying his best. He seems to think the Town Council is somehow a planning authority. In a recent post on the St. Neots Community Forum he says:

"As you are awear Paul but others may not be any planning aplication for St Neots comes before the town council therfor we make the first recommdation. HDC planning dept then decide if they agree or disagee with us."

The way I decypher his statement is the Town Council makes the initial recommendation on a planning application and HDC either agrees with it or not.

That is wrong. The Town Council is an official consultee of the Planning Authority on all planning applications. There are many other official consultees and these are normally listed in the HDC Officer report into planning applications. So the Town Council is one amongst many.

So why do I feel Town Council planning is a joke?
  • The first reason is they put so much effort into the consultations. The TC Planning Committee sits twice a month to review planning applications. HDC Development Control Committee only sits once a month!
  • Secondly, the Town Council doesn't have the resources to employee a couple of planners to advise the Planning Committee on the planning applications. Indeed it would be a vast waste of money as they can only object to an application.
  • Thirdly, the Town Council doesn't normally receive information from other consultees.
  • Fourthly, it is obvious they don't know the planning policies, laws and regualtions and don't think ahead.
To illustrate what I'm saying I'll give some examples (SNTC / HDC or CCC):

The Super Surgery was opposed by the Town Council and allowed by HDC. (0900709FUL)

Outside the Super Surgery with all the traffic congestion???

The reasons the Town Council gave for refusal:

Lack of retail units within the town, and keep the town centre fit for purpose. HDC disagreed with this objection. - HDC Planning found the change of use acceptable.
The high increase in traffic into the town will increase congestion and difficulties in parking. How did the TC know this? No evidence was brought forward to support this objection. HDC quite rightly disagreed with the Town Council objection.
Additional windows in the shop frontage will change the street scene and not be an enhancement. HDC Planning disagreed with this even saying the change would be an enhancement.


Housing development at 11-15 Church Street (0900305FUL)

The reasons the Town Council Planning objected:
Not in keeping with the street scene and choice materials within the C/A (Conservation Area) are not in keeping with the surrounding properties. HDC Planning disagreed and stated the the development would enhance the conservation area.
Overdevelopment of the site making traffic congested area in peak times would further be detrimental to the highway. HDC disagreed with overdevelopment. CCC Highways Authority disagreed.


The new application for building behind 22 Hight Street. (0900411FUL)

These are the reasons given by the Town Council for objecting to this planning application were:

Gross overdevelopment of the site, Town Centre site more suitable for retail. HDC disagreed with both objections.


Land behind Tesco. (0900495REM)

Even when both HDC Planning and SNTC Planning agree to refuse, these aren't necessarily for the same reasons. SNTC (HDC).

Overdevelopment of the site with no privacy for neighbours. (Not given as a reason by HDC for refusal)
Lack of landscaping within the area. (Partial - landscaping around the parking courts was a reason for HDC refusal)
NO facilities for the children within the site. (Not given as a reason for refusal. Not following the 106 agreement on Play Areas is a reason given for HDC refusal)
The highways are narrow and can prove difficult for emergency access and delivery lorries or buses. (All the fire authority was worried about was the provision of hydrants. The highways narrowness was not a reason given by HDC for refusal)
Limited access to facilitate 220 houses. (Not a reason for HDC refusal)
More than one access point needed to enter and exit the development. (Not a reason for HDC refusal)


I do feel that Town Council Planning Committee is a waste of time and effort. There are many places in England that do not have Town and Parish Councils. Planning functions perfectly well without having Town Council interference. Time the Town Council thought about ditching this process unless SNTC members can actually up their game.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A hilarious festive musical offering from Artists United for Santa: "Gordon Brown Stole Christmas"

Found this on the internet. Had to add it to this site.

New Year Messages and Letters in the News & Crier

In this weeks ever excellent News and Crier (pages 6 and 7) there are several New Year messages and some letters that I want to comment on.

Djanogly New Year Message. 
Much more interesting was what he left out rather than what he included. In his New Year message Djanogly left out all references to Parliament and expenses. I feel the problem with his message shows is hasn't come to terms with what many of the public feel about his expenses claims. Far easier to move on from these problems. Unless these are dealt with they will continue to dog Djanogly until after the General Election.

St Neots Town Council New Year Message
Liberal Democrat Council Leader Julia Hayward and not the Town Mayor Gordon Thorpe wrote this message. Ramsey, Huntingdon and Godmanchester messages were from their respective Town Mayors. Is this a snub for Town Mayor Thorpe? Again this was a good news message without mentioning the 2 damning reports into the Town Council by external auditors.

Labour Gets 2 Letters In This Edition.
Bill O'Connor (Branch Secretary - St. Neots Labour) got a letter in about Djanoglys' expenses. I'm fine with that but I feel he should say he is Labour. I suppose if he said he was Labour the public might think Bell Towers and claims for mortgages that had already been paid off. I feel Bill's attacks are dented by this. I remember when Labour they were first elected, in 1997, they were going to be "whiter than white".

The other Labour letter came from Anthea Cox (Labour Parliamentary candidate) who got a letter in about the Copenhagen Climate Conference. Anthea also had a pop about the refusal of the wind farm saying that "local Conservative Councils still reject 60% of wind energy applications." A pretty much useless statistic because most of rural England is under Conservative Councils. This means many rejections will happen under the Conservatives. But there was nothing from Anthea saying she supported the application.
Of course her letter was written before the outcome of the Conference was known. The one good thing that did come out of Copenhagen was the video below:

Anyway, lets have a very Merry Christmas. And a very political New Year.


Wishing all my readers a Happy Christmas

Wishing all my readers 
a Merry Christmas and 
a Happy and Prosperous New Year

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ain't they got no homes to go too?

Something that rather concerns me is the amount of time our Town Councillors take to make a decision. In did a bit of research to back up my feelings on this matter. This is what I found:

P and R 18/11/09 -19.15 - 22.46 - 3.5 hours. Only item discussed is the budget. All other items were discussed on P and R 25/11/09 - 19.15 - 21.30 - 2.25 hours.
So to discuss the agenda of 18/11/09 it took 2 meetings and a total of 5.75 hours.
Town Council 02/12/09 19.15 - 21.58 - 2.75 hours
Town Council 15/12/09 19.15 - 20.05 - 50 minutes, but deferred the budget and the Car park for the Church decision.
P and R 16/12/09 19.15 - 21.15 No decisions taken. 2 hours

This is just one night for the Acting Town Clerk.  Planning on 18/11/09 started at 18.15 and finished at 19.00. P and R started at 19.15 and went on for a further 3.5 hours. So the ATC has spent at least 4.5 hours at unimportant meetings. No wonder Helen is getting a bit stressed.

Simple discipline of the majority group and the Chairman would get business done quicker and decisively. Instead of endlessly debating the budget, get on with it. It is the Liberal Democrat budget. The Liberal Democrats should have debated this in their own time. At Council, this should be a set piece where the Liberal Democrats saying what a wonderful budget and the Conservatives saying it is rubbish.

Others meetings:

TCM 04/11/09 19.15 - 22.30 - 3.25 hours
TCM 07/10/09 19.15 - 21.30 - 3.25 hours
TCM 09/09/09 19.15 - 22.45 - 3.5 hours

Town Councillors are volunteers. A properly delegated committee system would negate all these long meetings. No wonder people are put off becoming Town Councillors when these Town Council/Committee Mettings are run (Councillors are to blame for this) so badly.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Are the Town Liberal Democrats good employers?

At the end of the Policy and Resources draft minutes 16/12/09 there is a little sentence which I feel shows that the Acting Town Clerk is getting towards the end of her tether.

"The Acting Town Clerk advised members that her work load is very heavy due to lack of staff and that this is adding to the stress within her role."

I can understand this. Giles and Thorpe cut the money needed for a replacement Town Clerk for 2009/10. Helen King was promoted to Deputy Town Clerk in mid 2008. A few months later the Town Clerk, P. Devonald, left under a cloud. Helen has been clearing up the mess since.

I said at the time that not appointing a full-time Town Clerk was wrong. The Liberal Democrats should have appointed a Town Clerk at the beginning of this year. They should have also properly resourced the effort to get the Town Council back on track.

It is unusual for an Officer to take this course of action, but not unknown. I do feel the Liberal Democrats leadership has imposed and asked much of the Acting Town Clerk. I just hope the Acting Town Clerk is being rewarded for taking on this emergency role. With the inclusion of this minute, it looks to me the Liberal Democrats are bad employers.

Monday, December 21, 2009

HDC running Neighbourhood Meetings in 2010

HDC has announced that it will be running Neighbourhood Forum Meetings in St. Neots. The first one in 2010 will be on Tuesday 26th January 2010.

The HDC wepage is here.
The Agenda for the St Neots Meeting held on 28/09/09 is here.
The Notes of this meeting are here.
The boundaries for the St. Neots Forum is here.

The meetings will be held on:

  • Tuesday, 26th January 2010 - Guest Hall, Priory Centre, St Neots
  • Thursday, 8th April 2010 - Venue to be confirmed
  • Monday, 26th July 2010 - Venue to be confirmed
  • Monday, 25th October 2010 - Venue to be confirmed

I went to the ECC Open Day

Today (21/12/09) is the Open Day of the new Eatons Community Centre. Open from 10am to 7pm. I went to take a look. First impressions is it looks very good. A bit short on mens' loos but otherwise looks very good.

The first criticism I have is over the signage. There is none. From turning into The Maltings to arriving outside the centre there is nothing to say what this is or who owns this facility.

The second criticism I have is over the booklet SNTC issued. Whilst there is much over the coverage of the Hire Charges there is no mentioning of the operating hours.

Condition 14 states: The premises shall not be open to members of the public outside the hours of
0800 - 2200 Monday to Thursday, 
0800 - 2300 Fridays, 
0800 - 2400 Saturdays
0900 — 2100 on Sundays or public holidays.

The reason for these restrictions: In the interests of residential amenity.

There is a small difference between the licence the Town Council obtained to allow drinking, dancing, etc. The problem is the 1 hour extra on Fridays. The Planning condition says Friday between 8am and 11pm and the licence allows between 8am and midnight. So if the centre is open on a Friday between 11pm and midnight on a Friday it won't be breaking the licence condition but will be breaking the planning conditions. I have yet to see an application for the variation on planning permission.

The Planning Application and drawings.

Other observations are:
There needs to be a few more signs. An exit sign would be a good idea.
I didn't see any theatre style chairs. These may have been locked away in one of the numerous store rooms.

As white elephants go this is a good looking building. Whether it is a success is up to the use the public make of this building.

Quotes about Eatons Community Centre

To coincide with the ECC Open Day, I thought it would be a bit of fun to see what our local politicians and others have said about the ECC.

Start date for work on community centre - Huntspost - 11/07/2007
It is hoped the new facilities will be open to the public in September 2008.

Paul Phelps, architect for FrankShaw Associates, said he was confident he could meet the key dates set and that “things were moving forward”.

Former town mayor, councillor Paul Ursell said he was disappointed that a kitchen/bar are not a separate bar was incorporated in to the designs. “It is one thing building it, but a project like this has to be sustainable and that is why it needs a dedicated bar.”

snrednek says: Bars used to be the money earner for a centre like this. But there is no real need for a dedicated bar. Times have changed. If I can get passed the secrecy which surrounds this council then we will have to see whether this bar will make any money in the future.

Go-ahead for £1m community centre - Huntspost - 30/04/2008
Councillor Paul Ursell, vice chairman of the development control panel, said St Neots Town Council can now progress this important project. “This much needed community centre will be a tremendous asset for the residents of the Eaton Ford and Eaton Socon communities who will undoubtedly make full use of its facilities.”

snrednek says: If the Conservatives become suddenly in opposition to the ECC remember the above quote. Cllr Ursell along with Cllr Harty are on the ECC Committee. The other two are the usual suspects: Cllrs Giles and Thorpe.

The going gets turf ... - Huntspost - 20/08/2008
A turf-cutting ceremony was held at the Maltings in Eaton Socon on Friday to mark the start of work on the Eatons Community Centre.
Philip Devonald, clerk to St Neots Town Council, said: “The idea for a community centre for the Eatons was first aired four years ago. “We have had a lot of interest from local organisations and community groups keen to use the centre and we have no doubt that we will be able to fill it. It is much-needed and it will be a well used multi purpose community centre.”
Building work is due to start on September 1 and is estimated to take about 35 weeks.

snrednek says: From this article I get the very strong impression that building work was to start on 01/09/2008. 35 weeks in the middle of May 2009. Also there is lots of interest from local groups to use this centre.
But just one month later......

£100k budget blow-out for community centre - Weekly News (now News and Crier) - 18/09/2008
Cllr Gordon Thorpe said: “The original money allocated is now insufficient due to increased costs such as the cost of steel and the cost of copper for electrical goods going up all the time.”
Cllr Thorpe said: "the district council also required CCTV and a holding tank for rainwater be installed, which added to the cost of the project."
Philip Devonald, town clerk, said: “It is a combination of increased construction costs and increases in the requirements imposed by the district council. “Also, members decided to go from a gas boiler to a biofuel boiler, which is more expensive but also more environmentally friendly.”

snrednek says: I can find no requirement for CCTV. I can find a planning condition which means any CCTV erected would have to be approved by HDC Planning.

I also cannot find anything about a requirement for a holding tank for rainwater. Maybe I missed this but I don’t think so!

So Councillor Thorpe is blaming HDC Planning for imposing conditions which HDC didn’t.

The killers of this centre are the restrictions placed on it because of the housing abutting the centre. The open hours are restricted and noise is limited. Building this centre next to housing is the basic problem behind the restrictions. Right from the start the Town Council seems to have been blinkered about the what they could do with this centre with housing right next to it.

Council loan may rise to fund new centre - Huntspost - 08/10/2008
Mayor of St Neots, Cllr Bob Eaton, said that despite the funding shortfall, the centre was still on track to open early next year. He said: “The costs have increased because we want to use green fuel in the centre and because of the rising costs of building materials because of the state the economy is in at the moment. Despite this, the project is still on schedule.

snrednek says: So the previous Town Mayor Bob Eaton declared the centre was still on track and on schedule. Work was supposed to start on 1 September 2008. He dug the turf at the ceremony. It didn’t start. Despite what this Town Mayor was quoted as saying at the time the project was not going anywhere. It didn’t until January 2009.

Book the hall that has yet to be built - St Neots News and Crier - 19/02/2009
The Council is looking for St Neots based businesses willing to sponsor some of the equipment required for the facility.
Work by Deejak building contractors has commenced and St Neots Town Council is inviting anyone interested in hiring the centre's facilities to get in touch with them.

snrednek says: So this centre, in which lots of local groups were interested in using, is now looking for anyone interested in hiring this hall

Bar open at new centre - Huntspost - 16/09/2009
Cllr Gordon Thorpe, town mayor, said: “The licence is good news otherwise it would have limited what we could use the centre for. We do not intend to use the alcohol license every day and night but just for functions such as weddings receptions.”

snrednek says: Wedding receptions at this hall? Parking problems and the noise will cause neighbour disputes. Rather than have the River Church on the committee, local residents should be strongly represented.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

PCT now goes back to fundholding.

I don't normally have a go at Labour because....well, because there is little point. The Labour Party is barely here in Huntingdonshire and they make only minimal noise at best. This £100 million in NHS cuts and the reintroduction of the Conservative GP fundholding policy cannot be left to pass without comment.
The last Conservative Government introduced GP Fundholding as a way to get competition into the NHS. This was resisted by many GP's and only a few took up this challenge. When Labour cam into power in 1997 they stopped fundholding and set up a Primary Care Trust (PCT) in each District.

But this proved expensive. PCT's were then merged into County PCT's. Now with the announcement of cuts,  Cambridgeshire PCT is going back to a larger version of GP Fundholding.

Under Labour the best part of 13 years have been spent on a series of policies. The local NHS is basically going back the Conservative policy of GP Fundholding. In my opinion Labour have wasted time and resources in pursuit of differing policies and they have ended up where they started.

The £100 million the Cambridgeshire PCT is trying to save is the tip of the iceberg of cuts that will be introduced after the General Election. Pity the PCT couldn't save all this money earlier?

Time this rotten Government and Parliament were dissolved. But Gordon won't go. I like the Guido Fawkes' blog which has Gordon Brown down as a Jonah! If not to your taste, try anyone but Gordon!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

More thoughts on Djanoglys' expenses

As ever I was trawling away on ConservativeHome blog (after looking on Liberal Democrat Voice) and I found this piece from The Sun:

Shadow cabinet to repay another £25,000 after Cameron insists on continued transparency

A Tory spokesman told The Sun: "This is just the latest example of Conservative moves to ensure greater transparency and accountability in MPs' expenses. When will the Labour Cabinet follow our lead?"
The Sun Says: "Once again David Cameron sets an example to Labour over MPs' expenses. The Tories have published in full all requests to the Shadow Cabinet for repayments from expenses watchdog Sir Thomas Legg. Mr Cameron's top team will pay back every penny he requires. What a difference to Labour. They should agree to Mr Cameron's challenge and publish all payback pleas made to the Cabinet. Ministers don't seem keen. Surely they haven't anything else to hide?"

SNRednek says: "What a difference from our MP Jonathan Djanogly. On one hand we have the Conservative supporting Sun telling us the Conservatives have published in full all requests, yet our MP Jonathan Djanogly hasn't. The Conservative spokesman tells us Cameron is ensuring greater transparency and accountability in MPs' expenses, but our MP Jonathan Djanogly won't answer questions on his expenses claims.

The simple truth is what the Conservatives are claiming nationally about transparency and accountability doesn't stand up when our "first home in London" MP tries to do accountability.

Djanogly replies to my e-mail

On my doormat when I got home was a letter from my MP Jonathan Djanogly. I've published the letter below. A bad copy of the letter is available in pdf format here. I've taken off my address and the signature of J. Djanogly. This is a reply to the e-mail I sent to Djanogly about his recently published expenses. His reply is as follows:
Dear Mr. Gadenne,

I acknowledge receipt of your email of 10 December concerning the Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) claims relating to my second home.

I note that you have made points in relation to utilities and repairs concerning this property.

I do fully support transparency and the public having access to the invoices that have been submitted to back up ACA second home claims. It is up to you to take a view as to whether you personally find these claims acceptable. 

It is not however, up to you to audit these claims. For an individual to be permitted to audit the claims of a single MP in isolation, is simply unworkable. For some people, my utility bills would be less than they claim and for others they would be more than they claim.

However, I can confirm that all of the items that were mentioned in your letter were approved by the Parliamentary Fees Office. Moreover, you will be pleased to know that all of the items listed in your letter have also been cleared by the audit conducted by Sir Thomas Legg.

I was very pleased that the independent ACA audit took place, not least because it provided me (and indeed constituents like you), with the comfort that all of the invoiced tendered by MPs have been reviewed independently of the Fees Office (whose judgement some had called into account) and on the basis that all MPs would be audited according to the same guidelines.

The questions that you ask in your letter are, I would accordingly suggest, questions concerning the guidelines used by the Legg audit, and you may wish to address these to Sir Thomas Legg.
Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Djanogly
My reply to Jonathan Djanogly MP.


I am one of your constituents and electors and I have asked you a series of questions about your recently published expenses. I cannot take a view on your claims without asking questions about these invoices. Transparency is not just publishing information. Transparency is also about being able to hold my MP to account for his claims. This is because you, as an MP, are claiming taxpayers money to pay for extra expenses you incur to represent the Huntingdon constituency at Parliament. By saying the claims have been passed by the Fees office and Legg is just going back to the bad old ways and a diversionary tactic

It seems to me that "Parliamentary transparency" suddenly stops when a constituent starts asking you awkward questions! You seemed very happy for your fellow Conservatives to scrutinise your past expenses but not your own constituents.

As I can only go on your invoices and you will not answer my questions, I can only find your claims for utility bills are wrong. The reason I find this is that you have stated your family spends 4 days a week at your London home and 3 days a week at your second home in Alconbury. Therefore you pay for 4 days of utilities in London and the other 3 days of utility bills are paid for by the taxpayer

There are many of your constituents who would like this cosy arrangement!


As I said before I doubted that Djanogly would answer my questions and he didn't.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Djanogly in News & Crier

I see Jonathan Djanogly MP is in the ever excellent St Neots News and Crier. This time he has started by saying: he has 'no confidence' in the new expenses system. Djanogly also went onto say that he would say more after the MPs' appeals over the Legg review.

But what does say more mean? All this means to me is he will say something more. It doesn't mean Djanogly will answer questions at a public meeting. This doesn't mean he will publish the Legg letters and any correspondence. Because of the way Djanogly manages the news this will mean we will never know the real story about his expenses' claims.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A quick review of local political websites

Having had no political literature through my door since 4th June 2009 Euro elections I thought I would look at how the local parties are doing on the web.

St. Neots Conservatives Website

The incumbent St. Neots Conservatives have moved exactly nowhere. Their site is still calling on visitors to vote Conservative on 4th June 2009.

St. Neots Liberal Democrats Webpage

The Liberal Democrats have updated their website. Well a bit. The old picture of Sam Kemp has been removed and replaced by a picture of the Town Mayor getting in an X5 coach. The content still drones on about 2008.

Huntingdonshire Green Party

Not much has changed here. The last article is dated on 6th June 2009. Green Party website.

Huntingdon Constituency Labour Party

The Huntingdon CLP website hasn't gone anywhere either.

So the activity on the local party websites in very, very minimal. No wonder voters are turned off voting.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And they didn't discuss the budget!

So SNTC held a Special Council Meeting to discuss the two budget options. Our Town Councillors decided to defer this decision to a meeting on 6th January 2010. But why are they trying to get this budget passed so quickly? I don't know the answer to my question. SNTC doesn't have to pass the budget until late January 2010. There seems to me to be much confusion over amongst our Town Councillors over their budget process.

The Town Council also voted to defer the decision over providing a free car park for St Mary's Church, Eaton Socon. Apart from a decision to appoint a set of internal auditors, the Town Councillors decided not to take on the Public Toilets. The Conservative Group voted for taking on the toilets.
As for the Council Meeting itself, in my opinion SNTC is running the wrong system. I have advocated, somewhere on the St Neots Community Forum, the Town Council changes the system to a properly delegated committee system. This has the advantage that the vast majority of decisions are taken at Committee level leaving Council Meetings as being rubber stamp meetings.

To me the Town Council seems to be modelled on Dibley Parish Council. This is where all decisions are taken at the Council Meeting. This model works well in a small village. In a large town this system doesn't work.

The budget process should be simple. It should be:

  1. Officers produce a budget.
  2. Officers and the ruling group leaders/committee chairmen discuss the budget and make changes.
  3. The ruling group discuss the budget
  4. The revised budget goes to the Leisure Committee and is issued to all Councillors.
  5. The Opposition leadership is briefed by officers about the budget.
  6. The budget is discussed at the Leisure Committee and an approved budget is sent to the Policy and Resources Committee.
  7. The P and R Committee discusses the budget and approves the budget totals. This Committee makes a recommendation to Council on the Precept only.
  8. The Council therefore has only to approve the Precept. That should take no more than 10 minutes.

At the last Policy and Resources meeting held on 18/11/09  the four Liberal Democrat Councillors that attended (the Conservatives felt it was that important they didn't attend) spent 3 hours and 30 minutes discussing a budget. Why?

The budget is a reflection of the policy decisions already taken and forthcoming policy decisions. Unless Councillors are going to change policies and cut staff there isn't much they can do the effect massive changes in the budget.

I said this was Council was being "Simply Complicated". After attending this meeting I stand by what I said. This Council seems dedicated to making the simple decisions thoroughly complicated.

SNTC Quality Town Council status update

I received an email on 25/11/09 from Ian Dewar CEO of CPALC in reply to an email I sent to him 30/10/09. It just said the following:

"Quality Status is time limited to 4 years and lapses if not able to be renewed."

This reply came very fast after I published the following article. Though I couldn't say that was the reason for this very short reply.

So I've emailed Ian Dewar again. The reason was I did a Google search. I found the original decision on the Town gaining Quality status on 25/10/05. That is over 4 years ago. I asked the following:

"My understanding is St Neots Town Council was awarded Quality Council Status at the meeting of CPALC on 25th October 2005. As it is over 4 years since St Neots Town Council obtained Quality Council Status has this Council renewed or have they lapsed and are no longer a Quality Town Council?"

Ian Dewar got back to me on 30/11/09 and said:
"St Neots Town council has until end of January 2010 to decide if they will resubmit to maintain their Quality Status."

I'll be keeping an eye on this.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shock resignation of Conservative HDC Councillor for Fenstanton

I see from the Hunts Post that a Conservative Councillor has resigned. Paul Harrison Dakers has resigned from HDC according to the Hunts Post for the following reasons:

"...claiming political parties were hopeless, all the same and out of touch with the population."

"...local authorities are run by unelected officers, ignore the majority of residents and favour whatever minority is flavour of the week."

Whatever the reason Dakers resigned, this is a slap in the face of the Conservatives. As he had attended the Council meeting on 28th October 2009, there was no reason for him to attend for another 6 months. This could have meant not resigning until the early March to cause a by-election. This election would have been held with the other local elections on 6th May 2010.

I don't feel the Conservatives will be looking forward to fighting this by-election. This ward was a tight win for the Conservatives when it was last fought in 2007.

Fenstanton Ward result 2007 local elections
Conservative Party 442  Elected
The Labour Party 45
Liberal Democrat 430

The Conservatives have a majority of just 12 votes. The Liberal Democrats should be out there campaigning to win this seat from the Conservatives. The by-election could be left until the local elections on 6th May 2010.

The current make up is Conservatives 36; Liberal Democrats 11; Independents 2; Others 1; UKIP 1 and now vacancy 1.

What is up at Jubilee Hall?

The Eaton Socon Institute, which runs Jubilee Hall, hasn't paid any rent for 20 months according to minute 118 of 4/11/09 Town Council Meeting. In the minute it says:

"The unpaid rent on the Jubilee Hall amounted to £2,093; being the annual rent for 2008/09 and two-thirds of the 2009/10. During this period she had received correspondence from the Treasurer of the Jubilee Hall Committee, but had heard nothing since the last two letters sent out. Under the Financial Regulations, the next letter to be sent would inform them of the legal action that would be taken to receive the outstanding money."

Taking a look at the Eaton Socon Institute on the Charity Commission website they have roughly £12k in reserves (2008/09 Accounts). So they have the money but aren't paying rent.

Now the Town Council appoints 2 Councillors to the Jubilee Hall Management Committee. These are: Cllrs Thorpe and Collins. I find in the minutes the following:

"Upon the raising of a question concerning the Eaton Socon Jubilee Hall, Cllrs Thorpe and Mrs Collins both declared a personal and predjudicial interest as members of the Jubilee Hall Management committee and left the room whilst the Finance Officer updated members on the non payment of rent by the Jubilee Hall Committee."

Whilst this is a Personal interest, as these are both appointees of the Town Council where is the prejudicial interest? There is none. If they were members of the JHMC in their own capacity then that is prejudicial. As Town Council appointed representatives (see page 8) they should be looking after the Town Councils' interests and is therefore not prejudicial.

What is the point of appointing Town Councillors to these Management Committees if when things go wrong they duck for cover under it being "prejudicial"? This is wrong and is not what the Standards Board allows.

Standards Board Prejudicial Interests
An example of Personal and Prejudicial Interest

Simply Complicated Budgets discussed tonight!

The two draft budgets are the up for discussion tonight at a Special Meeting of the Town Council. If you need to know when give the SNTC HQ a call on: (01480) 388911. It is normally about 7.00pm but it depends on what other meetings are on. The link to the TC agenda is here. According to the agenda the meeting will be discussing

Unless the Town Council is willing to cut services and employees there is very little room for manoeuvre.
Cutting back on capital projects will just store up problems for the future. Whilst tempting to cut, the Town Council should keep making resources available for the upkeep and renewal of its buildings and facilities.

What is essential is the Town Council sets a budget which reflects the costs and upkeep of its services it is to provide. The other temptation is to use reserves to keep down the net cost of the budget. This would be a retrograde step.

A Council with this number of staff doing what it is doing will cost between £950k - £1 million (These figures includes a higher capital spend and taking on public toilets, both currently excluded). Unpalatable as it is, the only way to keep down costs is to cut staff and services. This means Central Administration and Grounds Maintenance will have to be cut. Put together these have increased by over £150,000* pa in the last two years. If a majority of our Town Councillors don't want to cut services and staff then our Councillors will have to bear any political costs.

The financial jiggery pokery mainly, but not totally, under the Giles and Thorpe regime only stored up troubles for the future. Talk about efficiency savings could be good but is not the answer to underlying problems of this Town Council.

As for the The Church Car Park, this should not happen and will be a waste of money if it does.
As for the Public Toilets. SNTC cannot afford without putting up the Council tax. Don't do it!

As for the meeting itself, I'm in two minds whether to go. The last meeting I attended made Dibley Parish Council look competent.

TC Agenda - 15/12/09
Option 1 Summary
Option 2 Summary
ECC Option 1
ECC Option 2
Salary Increase

* Ground Maintenance is £83k higher than in 2008/09 budget. Administration is £68k higher over 2009/10 budget.

Monday, December 14, 2009

More on Eatons Community Centre

Having read the minutes to the Town Council meeting held on 4th November 2009, there is a long section on the Pre-school. The Council has determined they will allow Hail Weston Pre-school Charity to run the pre-school part of the building with the following conditions:
  • A £12,000 a year rent would be payable monthly. The rent will cover the cost of rent for the pre-School and gas and electric usage;
  • The terms of lease are 10 years with an annual review on 1st January each year;
  • The Pre-School lease will be an internal Self Maintaining Lease and the upkeep of the interior will be the responsibility of the Pre—School provider;
  • The Pre-School provider is required to pay a proportion of the rates of the building;
  • The Pre-School provider is responsible for the cleaning of the Pre-School;
  • The Pre-school provider is responsible for the service and maintenance of the fire equipment within the Pre-School;
  • The Pre-School provider is responsible for the cost of the telephone line and any calls made;
  • No sublet or meetings can be held within the Pre-School;
  • An annual inspection of the Pre-School will be undertaken by the Town Council staff with the Pre-School provider.
There are a couple of questions.

What about insurance costs?
As the Hail Weston operation makes a surplus of roughly £6,200 with running costs of roughly £4,200, this would be eaten up with a rent of £12,000 pa. Then there are the rates on top (though they may get rate relief on this). Whilst this is a charity, it shouldn't run at a loss. With lease so high how is the Pre-School supposed to make a surplus?
What was the business case for having a pre-school?
Also on the re-opened Town Council website......
Eatons Community Centre Open Day
There will be an opportunity to view the new Eatons Community Centre facilities on Monday 21 December.
The new Centre, situated in The Maltings, Eaton Socon, will be open from 10am-7pm. Tea and Coffee will be available throughout the day and Council Officers will be present to answer questions and show you round the building.
During the day, the Town Council will be running a raffle and silent auction for Sporting Memorabilia and Christmas treats.

Town Council Meeting 04/11/09
Hail Weston Pre-School Charity
Hail Weston Pre-School Charity accounts 2007/08
Hail Weston Pre-School Accounts page 2007/08
Charity Rate Relief

Town Council website is back up and running!

I see the Town Council is back up and running. The archives are in a bit of a mess but these can be sorted out.

2012 and all that jazz.

At the last Annual Town Meeting I asked the following question:

"In the year 2012, the Olympics will be in London and Her Majesty, The Queen, will be celebrating her diamond jubilee. What is the Town Council planning to do for both events and what financial provision is being made by the Town Council?"

The answer to the Olympics was basically the Town Council has given the Table Tennis Club an extended lease so they could bid for funds so they can be considered as a training venue.

As for Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee, the Town Council may consider giving the school children a Commemorative crown, if they are minted.

I know I now live in what is termed as "Cromwell country", but until the republicans change the constitution this country has a monarch as the head of state. The Town Council must do better than this!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

We need a Town Plan!

One of the cuts made by the Liberal Democrats to the Town Council 2008/09 budget was the Town Plan. With St Neots going to expand and expand residents need to have a say in the coming expansion. In the first Forward Plan, a Town Plan was envisaged. This is an idea I supported and the fact SNTC needed to put £60,000 aside to achieve a Town Plan I also supported. I was very disappointed when the Liberal Democrats cut this. I can't see the Liberal Democrats re-instating the provision for a Town Plan.

If St Neots residents want influence on how the Town develops, the Town Plan is the way forward. If not HuntsDC will carry on with their vision!

An example: Wivenhoe Town Plan

Saturday, December 12, 2009

More on HDC blaming the Town Councils over toilet closures!

I was looking through the Overview and Scrutiny Committee minutes and found the following section:

"In discussing plans to transfer to Town Councils responsibility for cleaning and maintenance of the District’s public conveniences, Members were informed (I take it was informed by The Director of Commerce and Technology) that the current cost of this was £156k per year. The rationale was that Town Councils knew the level of local need for toilets and consequently would be better able to mange* them. This was in the context of Town Councils asking the District Council for more responsibilities."

What! This is a stupid rationale. The District owns and runs these facilities. Doesn't HDC know how well these facilities are used? Why does HDC expect the Town Councils to know what the need is? If HDC doesn't know, do a survey. Rather than finding out what the demand is, HDC is getting rid of this service.

What is also wrong with this stupid rationale is the context. Town Councils did ask to take over services so long as the money comes with the service. To make their context work HDC had to distort what the Town Councils asked for. HDC did this by missing out the money part.

This whole stupid rationale flies in the face of the Council Cabinet's decision of 18th July 2008. Back then, the Cabinet decided not to proceed with the proposed Parish Charter which was aimed at devolving provision of appropriate services and money to Town and Parish Councils.

A test of the District Council is what other services HDC could decide to stop doing. One service HDC could stop providing is car parks. Town and Parish Councils have the power to provide and manage these facilities. Of course car parks, as a whole, are an income to HDC whereas Toilets are an expense.

All the Conservative run HDC is doing is stopping the Public Toilets service. In my opinion HDC are trying to shift the blame with a stupid rationale to the Town Councils. If the Conservative run HDC has to fiddle the truth over Public toilets I just have to wonder what they are doing over the HDC budget?

*Definition: (n) mange (a persistent and contagious disease of the skin causing inflammation and itching and loss of hair; affects domestic animals (and sometimes people))

Town/Parish Council Powers
Press Release
Overview Minutes
Parish Charter
Parish Charter Overview
Decision - Parish Charter

Friday, December 11, 2009

Why Town Cllrs Derek Giles and Gordon Thorpe should resign!

What I care about is Good Government at whatever level. To me Good Government at Town Council level is:

Making the right decisions for the right reasons.
Ensuring the Council has the right resources to implement the policies.
Failure should not be rewarded.

So what was the background?

SNTC had received 2 damning external auditors reports! Some of what was wrong was inherited from previous administrations. The Town Clerk and his team should take some of the responsibility. But who was in charge of the Town Clerk and should also take responsibility? I feel it must be the former Leader and Deputy Leader (Cllrs Giles and Thorpe).

After the 2007 Town Elections, the Liberal Democrats started bringing in much needed reforms to the Town Council. The setting up of a Policy and Resources Committee and bringing in the offices of Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council are very good reforms. These reforms don't go far enough and that is for another article.

What these reforms achieved was to bring about a proper committee to ensure Policy implementation and that Resources go with the policies. The first Chairman was Cllr Derek Giles. The first Deputy Chairman was Cllr Gordon Thorpe. Being in charge of Policy and Resources means these two were in charge of much of what went on at the Council. Cllr Giles was also leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the Town Council. Bringing in the offices of Leader and Deputy Leader in 2008 also made a clear line of authority in the Town Council.

We now have a clear line on who to commend when things go right and who to blame when things go wrong. If there are problems with Policy and/or Resources the leadership of the P and R committee can be to blame. If there are problems with the Town Council administration the Leadership of the Council is ultimately to blame.

There are many things I will not blame the leadership duo of Cllrs Giles and Thorpe. These relate to decisions of the Town Council and decisions of the Town Clerk prior to the Annual Council Meeting of 2007.

This is not a rant because things have gone wrong and someone is to blame. This is a political rant because I believe Cllrs Giles and Thorpe running of the Town Council was bad government. Failure should not be rewarded.

So what went wrong?

The 2008/09 Budget was found to be wrong. This casino budget was under the auspices of the P and R Committee and much of the detail needed to be agreed with the leadership of this Committee.

The 2009/10 Budget never went to the P and R Committee for review and discussion. Giles and Thorpe were in charge of this committee and failed to have this budget discussed. This is wrong and is bad government.

The P and R Committee is supposed to "scrutinise the budget performance during the council year". During 2008/09 it didn't. Giles and Thorpe were in charge of this committee. This is wrong and is bad government.

The P and R Committee was supposed to "review the effectiveness of the work of the whole Council and the standards and levels of service provided". Cllrs Giles and Thorpe didn't do this.

The P and R Committee was supposed to "monitor and review the Council’s organisation and management processes and to recommend to Council such changes as the Committee considers appropriate". Again Cllrs Giles and Thorpe failed to do this.

The P and R Committee was supposed "to oversee the production of the Annual Report and other statutory plans and policies". Again Cllrs Giles and Thorpe failed to do this.

The P and R Committee was supposed to "monitor and review the management of the Council's assets, the financial health of the Council, expenditure against budget allocations including the total level of expenditure of the Council, and reporting to Council as necessary". Again Cllrs Giles and Thorpe failed to do this.

The P and R Committee was supposed to: "advise the Council generally as to its financial and economic policies and as to the allocation and control of its financial resources". FAILED
To make recommendations to Council on:-
a) the annual estimates of revenue and capital expenditure FAILED
b) all proposals relating to the setting of the Council tax precept FAILED
c) the setting of fees and charges for Council services FAILED
d) the management of the CounciI’s finances and the budgetary framework and processes. FAILED

Again Cllrs Giles and Thorpe failed to do this.

I argue that when Cllrs Giles and Thorpe, as Leader and Deputy Leader, found out about the problems with the accounts, budget and administration the whole mess should have been brought to council and an action plan hammered out. This didn't happen. This is a massive failure and an effective cover up of the massive problems.

I further argue that when Cllrs Giles and Thorpe, as Chairman and Deputy Charman of the P and R Committee, found out about the problems with the accounts, budget and administration they must have brought these problems before their committee. They didn't. In fact the number of meetings were cut and and the P and R Committee didn't do its finance functions. This is wrong and is bad Government.

Further, when the annual report and accounts for 2007/08 were not presented to the Town Council before the legal deadline this was a failure by Cllrs Giles and Thorpe not only as Leader and Deputy Leader of Council but also Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Policy and Resources Committee.

I could go on about the Forward Plan, ECC and much else. But I'll stop here for now.

Under the leadership of Cllrs Giles and Thorpe the Town Council ended up with 2 damning reports from the external auditors. It is not as though these Councillors didn't know what they were doing! Cllr Thorpe is still a serving District Councillor and Cllr Giles was a District Councillor until 2008.

Why include Cllr Gordon Thorpe. He was only the Deputy? Yes he was. As Deputy Leader he should have known what was going on. As he would need to step in an do the job of the Leader if Cllr Giles couldn't fulfill his duties. He should have been told what was going on and should have insisted these problems were brought to Town Council. If he didn't know then he should have known.

Then again, Thorpe is now Town Mayor. So failure has been rewarded by the Liberal Democrats!

Why they should both resign as Town Councillors?

The main reasons are:
These Leaders failed miserably through both their actions and in-actions to ensure the financial viability of the Town Council.
They also failed in the good conduct of the Town Council as measured against the Town Councils' own constitution.

If Cllrs Giles and Thorpe had resigned as Town Councillors this would have drawn a line under the mess the Town Council found itself in. Instead we have a tainted Town Council which has both Cllr Giles and Thorpe still very much involved in the decision making process. Whilst the new leadership wants to draw a line after these reports, whilst Cllrs Giles and Thorpe continue to serve they will continue to draw questions and controversy.

Below are links to documents.

Policy and Resources - Terms of Reference
Standing Order 65 - Council Leader

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I sent an e-mail to Djanogly questioning some of his expenses claims!

I sent the following e-mail to Jonathan Djanogly MP:

Jonathan Djanogly MP, House of Commons (,


I have some questions relating to your claims for your second home at 8 High Street, Alconbury. (see page 40 Council tax bill)

You have claimed for utilities for relating to this house. In an article about your cleaner it was indicated that you and your family lived in London 4 days a week and in Alconbury 3 days a week. Take gas for instance. If you are living in London there should be no gas use in Alconbury. And vice versa. So why are you charging the taxpayer utility bills?

Gas: The £1,087.04 for the period 25 November 2008 to 23 February 2009. I think this is very excessive for a family living in Alconbury for 3 days a week. I feel this is just excessive. What is your view about the amount of gas you claimed for?

Electricity: I can understand that certain items will continue to draw power even when you aren't in the house. Whilst there should be a discount for this, again when you and your family are living in London, your home in Alconbury shouldn't be drawing that much power. And vice versa. So do you feel you should pay back some of these electricity bills? If not why not?

Telephone: I can understand there is a element of line rental in these bills. But not the calls or call plan. If you and your family are living in Alconbury and using the phone this must be a personal expense. What do you think about this?

Water: Is the house in Alconbury using metered water or is the bill for rateable water? If it is rateable why? If it is metered why are you claiming for this?If you and you family are living in Alconbury they will be using no water in London. So why are you claiming for water?

On page 35 there is an invoice for £4,228.45. This was for repairs to your second house at Alconbury. Can you explain the following:

What were the Repairs to House?
What was wrong with the chimney spikes?
Why did they tarmac road?
What was the problem with drains?
What was gloss exterior?
What was "bitcherman" plinth?

Yours sincerely,


This is being published on my blog at: Any reply from you will also be published on the blog.

I received this immediate reply. I await a proper reply to my questions.


Your email has been received and will be dealt with as soon as possible.
If you are a Huntingdon constituent, please ensure that you have included your full name and address.No emails will be answered unless a full address is provided. A telephone number would be appreciated but is not absolutely necessary.

Please note that there is a strict Parliamentary convention that MPs can only deal with matters raised by people from their own constituency.

I receive a large number of emails, letters and phone calls each day and I will try to reply as soon as possible. However, please note that all
communications, including emails, are dealt with in the order they are received.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

Kind regards,
Jonathan Djanogly