Sunday, February 28, 2010

Djanogly still wants an overnight count! Why?

In an online article entitled "Hunts MP Claims Victory...." Djanogly claims victory by getting an amendment inserted into a Bill currently going through Parliament.

Yet Parliament has yet to pass this Bill. Even once the Bill has got Royal Assent it is up to the civil service to produce guidelines which then needs to get Parliamentary approval. Claiming victory is very premature. The Electoral Commission has a different view of this amendment. The Commission states:
"The Government has previously accepted that there should be no changes to electoral law for the six months prior to an election to ensure everyone who needs to can make the necessary preparations for it. Clearly any departure from this would need to be very carefully considered."

Why does Djanogly still want an overnight count?

I don't know. Initially I put this down to Djanogly wanting to get back to his family home in Westminster, London and wait for the call from David Cameron. I still feel this is a major element. In the article Djanogly says:

"If we want to increase the vote and keep people's interest in the ballot, then elections should not lose their mystique. It is unacceptable that a minority of constituencies can put the government of the country on hold for a day. We just have to hope now that the mechanics can be put in place."

The main reason why the electorate is turned off is the political parties have given up on us. I've been banging on about how there has been no political literature since last June. Djanogly has yet to get his Winter Edition out to his constituents. The local political websites are very bad with nothing or little added in one case since 2008. This why there is political apathy. The political parties have given up and the electorate has followed suit.

I agree with David Monks on this. The article states: "Mr Monks has said it is unreasonable to expect his staff to work what is for some a 24-hour shift - he says accuracy is the priority and not entertainment."

This is very true. Election counts must not be driven by the media. Whilst other countries do count overnight they have shorter polling hours. Although Canada has a FPTP system their counts are done on the night on a provisional basis. The US General Elections are called by the media before the votes are counted. Indeed many candidates are "elected" before the official votes are counted and certified.

Even if the ballots are counted later in the morning of the next day the Government this will not as Djanogly puts it "...can put the government of the country on hold for a day". 8 hours at most.

If the MPs want an overnight election count they should write election law to get to that point. Rather than passing rash laws and foisting the logistics onto the Returning Officers.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Has anyone had this leaflet delivered.

The Conservatives start their Spring Conference today. Trouble is I still haven't had my Winter Edition of Djanogly's Parliamentary leaflet yet. This leaflet paid out of Taxpayers money has yet to reach my door. If anyone else has had this leaflet please come forward. Otherwise this is Djanogly wasting taxpayers money.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Conservatives, HDC, SECRECY and Car Parking

I put in a Freedom of Information for the SECRET meeting of the Car Parks Working Group. The ruling Conservatives have gone down the road of having this SECRET group to review Car Parking. Why is this being kept so SECRET?

Yet again my original FoI request has been denied and I'm having to appeal. More information seems to come out on appeal and I still wonder why Conservative run HDC has to be so SECRET.

Maybe this has much to with internal Conservative disputes rather than being open with residents. Cllr Farrer has informed residents that local councillors weren't consulted. Cllr Harty is part of the call in of the Cabinet decision.

When former Conservative Councillor Paul Dakers resigned his main reason was the control of the Council by Council Officers. I thought this was a bit out of it until I read this:

(c) that the Director of Environment and Community Services be authorised, after consultation with the Executive Councillor for Planning Strategy and Transport, to make and confirm Off-Street Parking Places Orders in future years involving any changes of minor significance and reviews of charges in line with inflation (document here)

So the Cabinet have basically moved the decision on car parking charges and "minor" (no definition of what is minor) changes to the control of officers. I see what Cllr P Dakers is talking about.

The Conservatives lost the seat Dakers resigned from.

Letter in the News and Crier 25/2/10

My comments on Letters to the Editor pages in the ever excellent News and Crier.

Your views on St Neots Riverside Car Park - is a series of 6 letters on this issue. I'll comment on 4 of them here. 

Any charges are unacceptable - Steve van de Kerkhove has to start thinking ahead for when he gets into power.  This decision would be his. The problem is a car park cost money to run. 

Concession does not go far enough - Is Cllr Barry Chapman the leader of the St Neots Conservative Councillors? He is certainly writing as though he is. As the St Neots Conservatives are "leading" the campaign against their Conservative colleagues at HDC. As for his St Ivo comparison this falls down as they are not comparable. St Ivo is about 600 metres from the edge of St Ives Town Centre. The better comparison is either the Riverside CP and the Godmanchester CP both which charge at 20 pence per hour.
The trouble with Cllr Chapman's letter is he misses the point. Car Park charges are revenue. If he doesn't want these charges he either needs to find replacement revenue or make cuts.

Budget mess needs a proper strategy - David Gadenne writes a very good letter about the need for HDC to have a strategy.

HDC doesn't car about local business - Jon Mountfort gets towards the point but misses it. The old HDC building had to go because it was falling down. As for free parking in Fenland District Council this is true. But as with all free provision someone has to pay. In this case free car parks cost the Fenland Council Taxpayer £410,560 or £13.34 each. In Huntingdonshire car park charges contribute to the budget £526,000 or £8.98 per Council Taxpayer. 

As for his idea of making all the car parks free we will end up in the position of Fenland were their Car parks cost. Effectively this would mean a loss in income of £526k + additional costs of £410k makes a total of £936k. This would mean an extra £15.98 per council taxpayer.
On a different note:

Where are all the politically correct jobs - Ric Euteneuer of Huntingdonshire Unison makes a good point about what are backroom jobs and frontline jobs. When talking about this our local politicians need to define what are frontline jobs.

Fenstanton By-election Result 25th February 2010

The Result

This is a definite win for the Liberal Democrats and just adds to the woes of the Conservatives and Djanogly. Whilst a decisive win for the Liberal Democrats, the result still points to a Djanogly win at the General Election. Though not a massive romp home.

Not a resounding success for the Liberal Democrats who needed a bigger win to make progress. What is striking is the loss in Conservative vote. 105 votes represents a 23% loss in vote by the Conservatives over the 2007 result. This follows on from the Huntingdon North by-election where the Conservatives lost because their vote dropped. It looks to me there is a substantial minority of Conservative supporters who aren't supporting the Conservatives. I reckon this is the Djanogly effect.

According to Djanogly, he went campaigning in Fenstanton. Is this the curse of Djanogly? A failing association. Some bad local election results. The trouble is the Conservatives decided to keep this Jonah on after the expenses scandal broke. Wrong decision? Too late to change their minds.

Should Djanogly and the Conservatives be worried for 6th May? I feel he should be. Whilst he will get home there will be a dent in his majority. The local Conservatives should also be worried by a loss in vote which could shrink their majority.

More Community Centres!

So Cllrs Bob Farrer, David Harty and Barry Chapman have joined together to bring forward a plan to build a community centre in Love's Farm. Good for them if they are going to build and run a community centre themselves.

On the other hand if they are going down the route of building this themselves and then expecting the Town Council to own, run and pay for the facility then they are wrong.

There is a whole load more development due to the east of St Neots. So why is there a need for a community centre on this site? At this rate the new developments could have three separate community centres. More than the rest of St Neots put together!

There is roughly £350,000 and a piece of land for a community centre to be built on. £350,000 won't go that far. The Conservatives need more money to make a fist of this. But don't get too carried away with all this hype. Cllrs Chapman and Harty were on the Committee and/or Working Party building the Eatons Community Centre. At least they have the experience of how it can all go so wrong.

This isn't how Town Councils should work. The whole reason for having officers and professional support is they do the work. With Councillors seemingly going off at tangents I have gained the impression there is a power vacuum in the Town Council. This is not the staffs fault and must be laid at those Councillors currently in charge and mainly at those who were in charge (Cllr Giles and Thorpe).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What is this?

This is a rare breed only seen out at election times and it is called a Conservative campaigning team. Recently seen out in Fenstanton, where there is an election, this rare breed has only been photographed on rare occasions.

Sightings have been few and far between. In St Neots it is well known there are many Conservatives out there but I have not see them campaigning in such a team. This shy breed is slowly dying out. This hasn't been helped by "The Djanogly" who has a rather large feathered nest in London. Though the nest is safe for now as the idea of reducing 2 trees has been withdrawn.

On a serious note. If the Conservatives have been putting all this effort into Fenstanton, even with Djanogly reportedly on the doorstep, then anything other than a win will not be good for the Conservatives.

Letters in the Hunts Post 24/02/10

These are my comments on some of the letters in this weeks Hunts Post.
Katie Hart was sentenced to 21 months and serve half in prison. This sentence came through before the letters were written

Editorial Comment - It is very easy to call for changes but what changes are appropriate? This Editorial misses out. Something must be done but we don't know what!

Equal Treatment -  I feel Phillip Appleby and Terry Lovett are wrong. In this case the blame is with the driver. Trying to move the blame to another party isn't right. There must personal responsibility over your actions/inactions. Instead of blaming cyclists and mixing fast traffic with cyclists what about the duty of care of road users to other road users.

Closing the public toilets is madness - Just to show this isn't just in St Neots, residents across Huntingdonshire are complaining that Conservative run HDC is closing the public conveniences. In E Roberts letter he says:

"Councillors should think of the public and not themselves and the brownie points they get from their bosses".

Er...The bosses of the Councillors are those who elect them - the electors. I don't understand this point. Though having read letters from former councillor P Dakers it could mean the Council Officers. There seems to be an illusion that local councillors are controlled by their party central offices. This is not the case.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Election Season has started with the first delivery of a political leaflet since June 2009. Normally I would be finding ways to rip into a political leaflet. On this occasion I find this leaflet is well presented and reads very easily.
With Steve van de Kerkhove named 6 times on this leaflet it is almost certain that he will be standing at the local elections on 6th May 2010. The other recipient of this publicity is Martin Land. He is pictured 3 times and named 3 times.

As an aside, Martin Land named Julia Hayward as his Agent for the General Election. This hasn't stopped Martin running local campaigns in this constituency and in the surrounding constituencies. This is why I believe that Martin is a part-time candidate as the Liberal Democrats must be looking to fight in Cambridge and other constituencies where they have a better chance. The Fenstanton By-election will add some perspective on who is doing well in the constituency.

As I pointed out near the beginning of this blog I will be voting Liberal Democrat at the local elections on 6th May 2010 and for other parties at other forthcoming elections.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

ECC running into problems already?

I've come into a little bit of information about the use of the Eatons Community Centre. I should remind St Neots Town Council and The Town Mayor Cllr Gordon Thorpe (also a District Councillor, member of the Development Management Panel and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats on HDC) that licensing law is different from planning law. The licensed hours for all licensed activities is not paramount to planning law. These only differ on Friday night where licensing adds an extra hour to midnight. Whilst the Town Council could get a Temporary Events Notice (TEN) this would still be breaking the planning conditions.
The planning hours are:
These hours are restricted to preserve the amenity of surrounding residents.

The basic problem is it is a far too bigger building for the site in amongst the housing. The Planning conditions and licensing laws aren't very well known by the public.

In its own literature the Town Council doesn't provide the opening hours. I wonder if the Town Council is deliberately ignoring the planning conditions?

With no one taking on the specially built pre-school area and only 5 local groups renting the place it is going to be a bad time at the ECC.

Further information is here:
Minutes of the meeting.
Decision letter.
Planning list of documents
Licensing Hours

And Martin Land is where?

I thought I would take a quick look at what the Liberal Democrat has been up to recently on the web. After a flying start it seems to have all gone quite! I looked at the Martin Land website.
The last post was on 5th February 2010. So not much happening here then! I then looked at the Huntingdonshire Liberal Democrats website and found something has changed. There is an article on St Neots secondary schools. The bit I find interesting is the following: "This article, referred to in the Focus for Eynesbury and in letters to residents of Priory Park and the Eatons,...".

I live in Eynesbury and I haven't had a Focus! Either the Liberal Democrats haven't got their act together or I'm on a black list.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Djanogly fights? for improved Broadband services

I've just been reading the latest press release from our MP. It is entitled "Djanogly FIGHTS for improved broadband services." So I thought I would find out what is meant by "FIGHTS".

I read through the press release to find seems to mean Djanogly wrote to the Parish Councils. Obviously these councils know what Broadband services are needed for their areas?! Apart for attacking the Labour government tax on phone lines and promoting the Conservatives' proposals there is nothing in this press release about "FIGHTS".

I would expect a FIGHT if Djanogly is writing to the telcos demanding better services. Campaign by using Petitions and/or a letter writing campaign. As part of any campaign I would have expected Djanogly to ask his rural constituents through a proper survey. It is not as though he hasn't got a Communications Allowance for this. Indeed Djanogly has spent £2867.47 on the winter edition of his newsletter that I haven't seen yet. Winter will soon be over.

If fighting for constituents just means a survey of Parish Councils I dispute the use of the term "FIGHTS".

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The St Neots Gnomes Nominations 2010

Welcome to the St Neots Gnomes

The first ever political awards will be made for the St Neots Gnome awards. The nominations have been made in the following categories:

Best Local Newspaper: 1. News and Crier 2. Hunts Post.

Best MP: No Nomination received.

Best Town Councillor: 1. Steve van de Kerkhove. 2. Barry Chapman

Best District Councillor: 1. Cllr Gordon Thorpe 2. Cllr Andrew Gilbert

Best Political Scandal: 1. St Neots Town Council First Damning Report. 2. Jonathan Djanogly paying back £25,000. 3. St Neots Town Council Second Damning Report

Best County Councillor: 1. Catherine Hutton. 2. Ken Churchill

Best Council Communication: 1. St Neots Town Council. 2. Huntingdon District Council. 3. Cambridgeshire County Council.

Special Award Nominations:

For wasting money: 1. HDC on spending £573,000 doing up toilets and then closing them down. 2. Spending £2,800 on leaflets about Djanogly from Parliamentary expenses that have yet to be delivered.

Local website award: 1. St Neots Conservatives 2. St Neots Liberal Democrats.

For not resigning after a scandal: 1. Jonathan Djanogly for his expenses. 2. Cllr Derek Giles for two damning reports by external auditors.

Local Council websites: 1. St Neots Town Council  2. Huntingdonshire District Council

Best Local election leaflet during 2009 local elections: 1. Conservatives  2. Liberal Democrats

The awards will be held on 7th March 2010.

Freedom of Information and Hunts DC

I've made a couple of requests for Freedom of Information for specific documents which HDC deems secret. I wasn't asking for personal information nor was I asking for a mass of information. All I was asking for were documents which are secret because this Conservative run District Council believes in secrecy over commercial decisions. These deals are being done in our name and we have to pay if they go wrong.

What I wanted to know about was the decisions over Open Air Swimming Pool and South Street Toilets. So I asked for certain documents listed in the decisions but held back. In each instance I was denied the document outright. So I then appealed and suddenly I get the following redacted documents.

Options on selling South Street.
Swimming Pool Report.

What I don't understand is why I didn't get these redacted documents to start with? I feel Conservative run HDC is using Freedom of Information to deny Freedom of Information. It seems to me the policy is deny the document first rather than taking a proper decision. Then rely on the appeal to sort it out. This is wrong.

When I hear David Cameron proposing the next Conservative government will be open and transparent. When I hear George Osbourne say: “This policy will help us to cut government spending, root out waste and empower the public – and bring in a new age of transparency and accountability.” I wonder whether this has filtered down to the Conservatives at HDC.

rednek says: How can we have a new age of transparency and accountability when HDC carries on redacting documents? Secret decisions are wrong. Advice to the Council and Cabinet should always be open and not secret. Otherwise transparency and accountability are just words which this Council will try to get round.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A bit more on the South Street Toilets

A bit more on the South Street Toilets saga. As I've said before the District Council didn't write to the Town Council offering this service to them. According to the report HDC had spent £573,000 on refurbishing these toilets and are now closing them. A WASTE OF PUBLIC MONEY.

So why did the Conservative run HDC spend all this money on refurbishing public toilets without sorting out there future first? Well they did. The future was HDC running this service. The main problem is the Conservative run HDC has been in denial about the financial problems it faces. Therefore the decision on how to get out of this mess haven't been taken or are now being taken very late.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Letters in the News and Crier 18/2/10

My comments on letters in this weeks News and Crier.

Take the offer of help over car parking - I agree with Nigel Appleton over this so long as any agreement doesn't mean cost to the Council taxpayer. Cllr Farrer is a County and District Councillor and is not a Town Councillor.

St Neots - 'Make sure you go before you come' - There are three letters in this section.

Ray Laman is right in that HDC could end up with few services and many employees. A bureaucratic utopia.

As for Ken Castell and his couple of pounds extra, the likelihood it would be a fiver extra each year. This is just the thin end of the wedge. As couple of pounds here and a tenner here for something else Council Tax will just get out of control. So I object to paying more for this service.

Tony makes some good points but misses the big £6 million deficit lurking behind these decisions. These cuts are being driven by this deficit and there are many more to come.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Concession offered in parking row.

So rash statements have been made in a piece on page 16 of this weeks News and Crier. This article is about the Riverside Car Park row.

The first rash statement is by Cllr Gordon Thorpe who says: " concern is the falling footfall in the Town Centre.".  John Davies of the Town Centre Initiative calls this into question on page 30 by saying the loss of footfall could be because the survey was taken when major roadworks caused traffic problems.

The second rash statement is by Cllr Farrer who said: "...he would consider going Independent if the 3 hours scheme did not go through.". Another loss to the Conservative numbers majority. He can't just go Independent at District level and stay with the Conservatives at County level. he would have to resign both whips. The likelihood is he wouldn't have a voice at Council as not being a member of a group will not allow Cllr Farrer to sit on Committees.

So lets look at the 3 hours free compromise proposal. At the moment the car park is free and therefore needs little supervision. The introduction of charges throughout the car park will mean much more supervision paid from income from charges. The introduction of 38 free spaces for 2 hour will need much more supervision to stop any dodging of charges. The 3 hour free for all the car park would mean much more supervision as the whole car park will need to be monitored. All this supervision costs and doesn't provide an income.

snrednek says: Either charge or don't charge. The trouble is the compromise could very well end up costing the Council Taxpayer more or means cuts elsewhere. The real problem behind all this is the inability of the Conservative run administration to set out a strategy to the residents and council taxpayers on the reduction plans needed to address the £6 million deficit.

Footfall affected by roadworks! So keep car parking free?

Much has been made about the fall in the numbers of people shopping (known as footfall) in St Neots. On page 30 John Davies, of the Town Centre Initiative, takes a different view. When the footfall survey was taken in mid November 2009 resurfacing work on the A1 was taking place and this may have distorted the results.

Mr Davies goes onto say the new Health Centre had increased footfall. So something the Town Council and many local councillors opposed mainly because of the congestion and loss of retail space, has actually added to the economic health of the Town Centre.

So one of the reasons, lower footfall, for opposing the introduction of car parking charges could actually be because of the A1 roadworks!

Letters in The Hunts Post St Neots - 17/02/2010 digital edition

My comments on some of the letters in this weeks Hunts Post.

Losing Faith - Doug McIlwain is correct to point out the deficiency in the Prime Minister's proposal for a referendum on the Alternative Vote electoral system. The main problem is we have a top down democracy rather than a bottom up democracy. Time for a change.

Parking and Toilets - This is the same letter as appeared in the News and Crier last week. Now the Conservatives run HDC are closing the public conveniences with this budget will Cllr Farrer be voting for or against this budget?

A fine would be sufficient sentence - I'm not one to be overly cyclist friendly. I do cycle myself and I have spent much of my life driving for a living. When I read D Cole-Wilkin's letter I get a bit irate. Cyclists are road users too. They have every right to use the road as do other road users. Cyclists aren't the problem, the motorists have to alert to other road users.

The A1 is a fast road. The speed limit for car/motorcycles/cycles is 70mph. The term speed limit means the maximum speed you can do on a road. There is no minimum. Road/traffic condition will dictate a slower safer speed when necessary. Each road user has a duty of care to all other road users.

I disagree with D Cole-Wilkin. Just a fine for killing someone is wrong. Prison is the only sentence appropriate for killing someone. The actual sentence to determined by the Judge. Just a fine sends out the wrong message. 

The Hunts Post St Neots - 17/02/2010 digital edition

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How will our local HDC councillors be voting tonight?

Conservative controlled HDC is setting the budget and Council Tax tonight. I thought I would take a quick look at some of the positions.

The Liberal Democrat alternative to the ruling Conservatives budget is also dancing around the edges of £6 million that needs to be cut from the budget. Whilst scrimping a few quid here and there will make a small difference. Unless the underlying problem of the deficit is addressed all this window dressing will need to be cut in the next year.

Basic District Council finance divides finances into two different categories. These are Current account and Capital. The £6 million deficit problem is on the current account side. Delaying the improvements to Huntingdon Bus Station will not effect the budget deficit that much. It just pushes the expenditure to a later date.

It seems to me that neither party has a strategy for getting HDC out of this mess other than spending £16 million propping up the budget.

The one question I have for the St Neots Conservative Councillors is: Having kicked up a stink about the closure of public toilets and introduction of parking charges will you be supporting this budget?

I feel the St Neots Conservative Councillors cannot have it both ways. Either they support the budget with the explicit cut to toilets and increased car parking charges/arrangements or they don't. If they don't they should vote against the budget.

The Hunts Post St Neots - 17/02/2010 digital edition

Those Nasty Liberal Democrats.

Many years ago I was visiting my sister. There I read a Liberal Democrat leaflet that said Hitchin got everything and Letchworth got nothing. Back home I had another leaflet that said Letchworth got everything and Hitchin got nothing. It was then I realised the Liberal Democrats were sending out contradictory leaflets at the same election. That is why I believe political statements should be scrutinised.

So I was very happy to see a blog has been set up to scrutinise Liberal Democrat literature.
With Martin Land back peddling like made over the "Tories are closet racists and homophobes" rant and his support for Kilian Bourke (Liberal Democrat County Councillor) and his homophobic remarks I feel double standards are at play at the forthcoming elections.

HDC Conservatives now start blaming the government

I was re-reading The Hunts Post 10/02/10 and started reading the business section. On page 21 there is a piece about the HDC budget as it applies to the business community. In the article Conservative Council Leader and other Executive members make a few statements on the recent budget. They say:

"Charges for district council services in Huntingdonshire, such as for planning applications and use of leisure centres, are likely to rise to help meet a funding shortfall, business leaders were told last week."

This is what I have warning about. But increasing the charges of the Leisure Centres will not necessarily cut costs as it may just put people off going. The problem is fundamental as the District cannot afford the Leisure Centres. So what is the strategy for these leisure centres? Are the Conservatives looking at pushing these onto the Town Councils? Or are they going down the Trust route?

But, with a net reduction of £6million in HDC’s spending over the next five years following the Government’s need to claw back the £200billion cash injected into the economy through ‘quantitative easing’, cuts are inevitable and increases in charges are likely, Cllr Rogers said.

So there we have it. The Conservatives can tell the business community about the £6 million deficit. But the council taxpayers and residents are left in the dark over the depth of the cuts needed! The reason for the cuts has nothing to do with the need to claw back £200 billion. The reasons behind the need for cuts has everything to do with past decisions of Conservative run HDC.

HDC’s leader, Councillor Ian Bates, said...: 
I would have liked to be able to ask people, what they thought about a £6-a-year increase to invest specifically in this or that. But we can’t do it for risk of being capped.”

Instead of asking people about the £6 increase why can't HDC's leader Councillor Ian Bates ASK the people about the £6 million of cuts in the budget? That is what I feel all Councils should be doing and I will carry on pointing this out.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Is the Town Council website "Fit for purpose"?

I was looking for some information on the Town Council website. I find this website very frustrating. The missing agendas and minutes are annoying. Being unable to look up even the Council Constitution is wrong. Rather than fixing these problems there seems to be a continuing acceptance as to the bad condition of the SNTC website. Much of this is down to the underfunding of the central administration by the writers of the 2009/10 budget.

Some of the problems are:

Agendas page says: "The Agendas for St. Neots Town Council (2009 - 2010) are split into five sections:" Except there are no Agendas for 2009/10 in this section. (Copy)

Agendas Archive pages says: "Below are Agendas from the 2005 - 2006, 2006 - 2007, 2007 - 2008 and 2008 - 2009 Council meetings". Not so. Yes many agendas are. But many recent 2009 ones are missing. (Copy)

Minutes pages says: "The Minutes for St. Neots Town Council (2009 - 2010) are split into three sections:". True, but many minutes are missing. (Copy)

Minutes Archive says: "The Minutes for St. Neots Town Council (2009 - 2010) are split into three sections:" But this is an archive. This has to do with minutes before the current year 2009 - 2010. Not all minutes are here and minutes for 2009 - 2010 are included in this archive. A total mix up. (Copy)

There are also problems with:
Council Contact Page
Council Constitution Page
Gallery Page

The whole point of Freedom of Information is make the issuance of council held information routine. At SNTC this is not routine. How can people find out about what is going on at Town Council unless the Town Council releases the information? Or is that the reason?

Monday, February 15, 2010

So No Pre-school for ECC!

As trailed in a previous article, the Town Council has finally admitted it hasn't found a tenant for the specially built pre-school area of the new ECC. This wonderful area was always part of the Town Council plan. The reasons why this was part of the plans have been very hazy.

How local councils can work is someone thinks this is a good idea. Councillors run with it and push the idea through committees without any real business plan for the project. This is how the Town Council ends up in this mess.

Remember the Town Council told the public back in 2008 that:

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.”

So just 5 groups (probably including the The River Church) have come forward to use the centre. Not filled then.

Of course the current economic problems are used as an excuse as to why the centre is failing. This is wrong. The problems are basic. The ECC is too big and in the wrong place. Instead of building to a design, the Town Council should have taken account of the area and built something far smaller. These Grand Designs will cost the St. Neots Council Taxpayer dear as we have to subsidise this facility.

In this weeks Hunts Post Cllr Barry Chapman goes on the offensive. The articles says:

"However, town councillor Barry Chapman branded the building “an absolute white elephant” and said it was too large for what was needed. “We could have built something a quarter of the size, like the Jubilee Hall, and it would have been adequate. It was madness to build something so big when there is a desperate need for facilities in Eynesbury and Loves Farm."

I agree with Councillor Chapman this is a white elephant. A building far too big for what is needed. Where I disagree with Cllr Chapman is the desperate need for facilities elsewhere. There isn't. There is no evidence of need. This is just the politics of envy. 

The blame for this problem needs to be shared. An example is Cllr Ursell who said:

“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.”

Lastly, the eternal optimist Cllr Derek Giles wades into this by saying:

"it was still “early days”. "It is a great community facility and I am confident that the pre-school will be used once the word has got round."

Cllr Giles is always optimistic. Word about the pre-school has already got round with the Town Council having put the whole thing out to tender to local pre-schools. The Acting Town Clerk says 200 letters had been sent to potential interested parties. No takers. Well not at that rent. If we believed Cllr Giles the outdoor swimming pool would already be opened. The cinema would already be built. As with the Town Council 2008/09 budget Cllr Giles gambles at the casino with public services. Sometimes he wins. Mainly he loses. Cllr Giles continues with his losing streak

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Job cuts at HDC?

In an article in the News and Crier Cllr Reeve (UKIP) and Cllr Downes (Liberal Democrat) have a go at the financial competence of the ruling Conservative on Huntingdonshire DC. Looking at the financial summary in the graphic below this shows £6.1 million needs to be saved from the proposed plan of £27.5 million.

The article also points out there is £15.8 million in reserves. But the Conservatives are using this money to prop up the deficit budget. This is just throwing money away. When the money runs out deep cuts will have to be made.
So the HDC has £6.1 million to cut from its budget and hasn't identified where the savings are going to be made. The Conservatives are using the £15.8 million to prop up this budget. True, the Conservatives are going to use £1.2 million on invest to save schemes. Why didn't the Conservatives do this beforehand?

I largely agree with Cllr Downes. The problem is there is little alternative to cut services. The next Government will have massive financial problems. If the Conservatives are hoping for a miracle to sort out this mess it won't happen.

Whilst the Conservatives talk of protecting "front line services" I can find no definition of what these are. For instance Public Conveniences could be called "front line services" and are to close and jobs cut.

What is needed is a conversation between HDC and the public on the way forward over cuts. The trouble is what a council calls frontline services and what I call frontline services do differ. 

Faced with a £6.1 million cut from the budget job losses are inevitable. Otherwise we could end up with the bureaucratic utopia of loads of jobs and few services to provide to the public. The quicker the Conservatives actually get on with planning the reductions the better for all. This piecemeal approach of deficit budgets is doing no one any good other than the political fortunes of the Conservatives.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

More on Djanogly and HCCA

Sometimes I have to recognise that certain expenses are inevitable. Most MPs, but by no means all, have a constituency office. Indeed Djanogly has a constituency office in Huntingdon (see picture right). He also orders supplies for the constituency office and even pays a telephone bill there.

So Djanogly is using the property of the HCCA as a Constituency Office. So what is he paying towards this cost of this? From the accounts of HCCA I can see "contributions to office expenses". But nothing about rent. Now this isn't something special. This is an on going cost and Parliament should pay for property MPs use. MPs for other parties do this so it is common.

From my investigations I feel Djanogly is not getting HCCA the best deal he can. Djanogly is bad for HCCA. Why the Conservatives carry on supporting him is beyond me.

An example:
Stewart Jackson MP of Peterborough
PCA 2008 Accounts.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Who owns the land?

I was struck by a comment by Town Cllr Barry Chapman. On the St Neots Community Forum Cllr Chapman pointed out the following:

"As for comments about whether it is the church car park or not - I refer to "my street" it doesn't imply I think I own it!"

How true this is. I also refer to the street where I live as my street. I do try to take care of my street. I report problems like abandoned cars and street lights out. Whilst I want my environment to be good referring to the street I live in as my street doesn't mean or imply I own it.

So what would imply that I either owned or controlled a property? Some examples:

If you saw this sign on a wall who do you think owns or controls this building? 
Answer: St Neots Town Council? And you would be right.

Another example:

If you saw the sign pictured below on fence who do you think would owns or controls the land?
Answer: St Neots Town Council? And you would be correct.

Last example.

If you saw this noticeboard in front of a car park who would you think owns or controls the land?
Answer: St Mary's Eaton Socon? Wrong! Diocese of St Albans? Wrong! or even the Church of England? Wrong! The correct answer is St Neots Town Council.

Having a large sign at the entrance to a piece of land implies to me that you own or control the land. Some Church users refer to this piece of land as the church car park. With this sign at the entrance I can see why they think so! Now the car park needs repair it changes from a church car park to a community car park which hard pressed council taxpayers is called on to pay for repairs.

Once the church car park issue is resolved I feel the church will still have this sign up implying it controls the car park.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Letters in the News and Crier 11/2/10

My comments on some of the letters in this weeks News and Crier.

Anger over rural buses - Michael Sneath has written on behalf of the Labour candidate Angela Richards at the Fenstanton HDC by-election. The letter is about buses and how the village of Fenstanton has been left without a bus service. That is an election issue. But is this how the Labour Party is going to campaign with letters in the papers? And why is the Agent writing on behalf of the candidate? Can't she write for herself! There have been doubts about letters apparently written by Anthea Cox. Is this a case of Labour putting up "paper candidates". The result may give us a clue!

Countryside Campaign - Is a letter from Alan Fitzgerald who is writing to get people to support the CPRE. The General Election is coming. Pressure Groups will be using the media to press their case by using the public to lobby on their behalf. The CPRE is using the method of getting the public to e-mail candidates in support of their manifesto. Of course the CPRE is in competition with other Pressure Groups using the public to lobby candidates on their behalf.

This isn't democracy - Bob Mullineaux is right in what is wrong. But is wrong in his prescription of how to correct this. The problem with his prescription of an Open Primary for the selection of a candidate costs money. As pointed out in this blog, the Conservatives simply don't have the money to have a postal ballot as held in Totnes. Opening up the selection with an open public meeting, as for the Bedford mayoral candidate will not involve the whole electorate, just some. My answer is for the public to join their local political party or have a properly conducted, publicly funded open primary election.

Sinking in the pool of despair!

As the Town Council/Swimming Pool Trust can't get the documents in on time I thought I would look at some quotes about the Open Air Swimming Pool from a couple of Trustees.

Councillor Derek Giles said: "Obviously, our first concern is to provide a new outdoor pool. We have identified Riversmead as the likely site, as it already hosts a number of leisure activities."
"In my opinion the new pool could be ready by summer 2009 as long as there no delays in planning."

The oracle that is Cllr Derek Giles was wrong again. There were no planning delays. So where is the swimming pool?

Cllr Giles said: "...who is also a member of the Swimming Pool Trust, says that a favourable deal has been struck to sell the old site on Huntingdon Street and that a replacement lido will be built on town council-owned land at Riversmead, near to St Neots Rugby Club."

Again Cllr Giles has jumped the gun with favourable deal! The land has yet to be sold and the lido built.

Cllr Ursell said:The Swimming Pool Trust only exists to provide a swimming pool in the town. St Neots will get a new pool.” 

The council plans to choose a site big enough to accommodate a gym and a café. It is hoped that the revenue provided by the gym will cover some of the costs of the swimming pool. So not all the money will go on a pool!

And who thought this idea up? Cllrs Giles and Thorpe? The former Town Clerk P. Devonald? This won't work. Where is the business plan? Time and again this council uses the casino to gamble on outcomes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Westminster North is off as Joanne Cash has decided to stay on!

Damn and blast. Joanne Cash, the former Conservative candidate for Westminster North, has decided that she is again the Conservative candidate. So there is now no hope that Jonathan Djanogly could move seats to one where is main or primary home is.

More here.

A Party Political Broadcast on behalf of Lord Toby Jug

Click here link to blog page

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Should Djanogly stand for Westminster North?

As Joanne Cash has resigned as the Conservative candidate for Westminster North, I thought I know the perfect candidate for this seat. Our MP Jonathan Djanogly! He has many qualifications for standing for Westminster North. These are:

1. He and his wife have their main home in the constituency.

2. He is a former Westminster City Councillor.

3. Jonathan and his wife Rebecca are well known in Westminster.

4. Their kids go to school in London.

5. He is an experienced MP who will be a Minister.

Other reasons why this would be a good idea!

For Djanogly:

1. He isn't that far from work.

2. Very likely to be an overnight count.

3. He could sell the house in Alconbury.

4. He would be living near the rest of his family and parents in London and Marlow.

5. His family wouldn't have to travel up to Alconbury each weekend.

For the constituency:

1. HCCA could make more money.

2. John Major could be seen out with the new Conservative candidate.

3. Might get some activists out to campaign for the party.

For me:

I can vote Conservative at the General Election rather than using my vote to protest against Djanogly.

Treading water in the pool of despair!

Oh well! I thought St Neots Town Council (SNTC) and St Neots Swimming Pool Trust (SNSPT) would have finally got their acts together. They are effectively the same organisation. Once again both organisations have been unable to get the Annual Report and Annual Accounts into the Charity Commissioners ON TIME.
OK so they are just 7 days overdue. But this is after having 10 months to prepare and get those accounts ready. As I pointed out on 4th December 2009 they had 75 days to get the Annual Report and Accounts in. The Councillors/Trustees haven't been able to achieve this simple requirement. This is not the first time.
Only once back in 2005 did the Trustees/Town Councillors get one of these important documents into the Charity Commissioner on time. So who is responsible for getting these documents? The Trustees who are also the Town Councillors.
There is one omission. Where is Cllr Steve Van de Kerkhove? Former Cllr Andrew Boulton is still listed as a Trustee.

This Trust is supposed to run a future open air swimming pool. It can't get the basics right how are the people of St Neots going to rely on this trust to provide an Open Air Swimming Pool.

Monday, February 8, 2010

SNTC is no longer a Quality Town Council

SNTC has decided not to reapply for Quality Town Council status. Maybe that is too strong. SNTC have allowed their status as a Quality Town Council to lapse. Which is a good thing for CPALC who administer the scheme in Cambridgeshire. It would be hard to justify awarding this status to the Town Council after 2 damning external audit reports and only having an Acting Town Clerk.

Must add this to my list of questions for the Annual Town Meeting.