Monday, August 30, 2010

Should Sunfest be run by the Town Council?

On Saturday I went down to see the what was going on at the Town Council run Sunfest. I took a quick look around. The weather had taken the toll on the ground with standing water over the site. The main attraction was the commercial fun fair. The other large attraction was the music arena. The community part was small and somewhat sidelined.

The Town Council eventually promoted Sunfest as "one of the best free musical festival in the area". I don't know what is meant by this statement as this is the only free musical festival in St Neots. I do feel this is an over hyping of the event.

Is this what I pay my Council Tax for? I have no worries about the Town Council supporting the Community Events where St Neots people organise events for other St Neots people. What I define as support is the Town Council can provide seed money and land for events to happen. What I don't mean by support is the Town Council organises these events.

Sunfest has gone the other way. Local fĂȘtes and local events should be promoted and helped by the Town Council. Where Sunfest differs is it doesn't cater for the community but only a small part of the community.

If Sunfest is to continue and has support amongst the community then residents should be organising this event and not the Town Council. Times have changed. There are many other music events and other things to do on this Bank Holiday weekend.

The trouble is many Councillors are naturally conservative. This has caused the Town Council to take over this event. If residents don't want to support these events I don't see why the Town Council thinks it can make a success of this event where residents fail.

Time to end the Town Council organising this event and let residents organise these events themselves if they want them to continue.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Something rotten at HDC

The Labour Government are the ones who went down the road of changing local government "for the better" by having a Cabinet and Scrutiny system of local government. This was rotten from the start. With many Councillors excluded from the decision making mechanism they were given the alternative role of scrutiny.

What a waste of time and effort this has been. The Car Park charging is a classic example of Cabinet ignoring Scrutiny. Because Cabinet has the power and the Scrutiny committees are poor talking shops for Councillors. Otherwise they wouldn't have much to do!

Another example is the Scrutiny of "Provision of Leisure Facilities for Young People". In essence it was an attempted grab, by a number of Councillors, for money for local projects because the Towns were getting all the facilities. As was pointed out most of these facilities were paid out of Section 106 agreement monies.

A scrutiny committee went down the secret approach passing this off to a secret working group. This secret group reported back and the report finally ended up at Cabinet. Many of the conclusions were ignored by Cabinet which decided these facilities were now to be run by the Town/Parish Councils. This Cabinet decision was totally at odds with the Scrutiny report.

There were two areas which Cabinet decided that merited further examination. These were joint insurance and joint safety inspection. In a report to OSP - Social Well-being even these two ideas have been dumped as unworkable.

In the end this Scrutiny process has been a complete waste of Councillors and Officers time and has ended up with nothing. Time this Scrutiny process was ended as it is a complete waste of time and Council Taxpayers money.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Letter to Grant Thornton

Grant Thornton are the Auditors of The Town Council. They are auditing the 2009/2010 accounts. All electors have the right to ask questions of the accounts. Having read 2009/10 accounts I had a few questions. I emailed both Paul Winrow and Liz Sanford of Grant Thornton the following:

Dear Paul,

The following are the questions I have on the Annual Accounts and Report ending 31st March 2010.

On page 7.- 3. The Council's Governance Framework

The following is stated:

"The Town Council has a Constitution, which comprises (inter alia) of: It then lists all the parts of the Constitution."

"The Constitution is regularly reviewed and updated on an annual basis. The latest review was in May 2010
and the current version is V3"

Question: Why aren't these available on the Town Council website?

"The Council published its forward plan in March 2010."

I cannot find this Forward Plan. It has not been published in the Priorities magazine. Nor has it been published on the Town Council website. There has been no public consultation on this alleged document.

Question: Has this Forward Plan actually been published and made available to the public?
Question: Were the public properly consulted over the Forward Plan?

"The Council has identified and communicated the Council’s vision of its purpose and intended outcomes for citizens and service users through the Forward Plan."

Question: As there has been no public consultation and the Forward Plan isn't readily available how can this statement be true?

Question: As the Town Council states there is a Forward Plan, has the Town Council communicated the outcomes of the previous forward plan(s)?

"The Council seeks to establish clear channels of communication with all sections of the community and other stakeholders, ensuring accountability and encouraging open consultation by:

(a) Publishing a newsletter (Priorities) four times a year."

According to the Annual Town Meeting minutes in answer to question I was informed by the Town Mayor that: "Priorities Magazine is NOT a Town Council publication"

Question: Is Priorities a Town Council publication?

"(b) The Council seeks views from the community by questionnaire and its website."

Question: I have never seen any questionnaire in Priorities or via its website. How can the Town Council justify this statement?

Next bit.

Page 3 - Budget Comparison between for the year ended 2010.

Under this heading it says: "The following shows a comparison with the budget and out-turn figures for 2009/10."

I cannot tally the budget figures given to the original budget passed in January 2009. These are a whole new set of figures. 

Question: How are members of the public able to hold this Town Council to account when different figures are published to those originally agreed?

Page 19 - Related Party Transactions

In an answer to a question to the Annual Town Meeting I was informed: "The Town Council charges the Swimming Pool Trust for grass cutting and officers' time spent at meetings and preparation of accounts."

In the annual report the Town Council only admits to "administration". No mention of grass cutting.

According to the Charity Commission website the accounts the Town Council prepares for the Swimming Pool Trust are 191 days overdue.

Question: The Town Council informs the public that it is a related party, custodian of the site and is paid to prepare the accounts. As these accounts haven't been filed on time is the Council doing its job?

Last year I asked a whole load of questions. Grant Thornton only answered some of these after I prompted them the night before the presentation to the Town Council. Lets hope I don't have to prompt them again!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

204 days and counting

The St Neots Swimming Pool Trust is a registered charity charged with providing another outside swimming pool. To do this the Trust will sell the old swimming pool site. This will mean the Trust will have lots of money to play with.

The Trustees should be the Town Councillors of St Neots Town Council. Therefore all the Town Councillors are Trustees who have are jointly and severally liable for running of the Swimming Pool Trust.

The administration of the Trust is subcontracted to St Neots Town Council. The Town Council also cuts the grass and maintains the enclosed space.

Why can't the Town Councillors and the Town Council get their respective acts together over filing the basic information with the Charity Commissioners?

This is not the only time the Town Councillors have missed these legal deadlines.
The main question has to be: Are the Town Councillors up to the job? The answer has to be NO!

SNTC 2011 Elections - Are the Liberal Democrats worthy?

What are the negatives and positives of the Liberal Democrats rule of St Neots Town Council.

The negatives:

2 damning audit reports.
Report 1, Report 2 - 1. Some employees gone, but NO COUNCILLORS RESIGNED. (See Giles and Thorpe should resign) Those Councillors in charge denied any liability as all this was in the past.

Forward Plans

The first Forward Plan was a disaster. Many good ideas. The fundamentals, such as ensuring the pricing of projects, were missed. This ended up with many projects being dumped. Such as:

New Cemetery to be developed and acquired by Autumn 2009.
Eatons Community Centre completed and open in Spring 2009.
Acquire land for new allotments by Spring 2009.
Relaunch the Youth Town Council.
Grant Aid increasing by inflation.
Town Plan covering 10 years.
One Stop Shop.
Town Lottery.
Town Wardens.
Support our Staff by achieving Investors in People by Summer 2009.
£40,000 a year for Play Equipment renewal.

All these dumped because the Liberal Democrats baulked at the tax increase needed to pay for all these promises.

The third Forward Plan - the second version wasn't published - is another disaster because there is nothing for the future. The Town Council is leaderless and rudderless under the Liberal Democrats.

Quality Town Status - This was awarded to the Town Council and was lost by the Liberal Democrats. St Neots Town Council is NOT a Quality Town Council any longer.

Website - This has been a source of contention. There are periods when this website goes very quiet and information isn't published. Currently the Town Council uses the phrase "Due to technical difficulties, you may experience problems with the links on our website." These "technical difficulties" seem to continue.

Freedom of Information -The Christmas Lights Accident report continues to be kept secret. There is a fundamental problem with the non publication of minutes and agendas on the Town Council website. How are we supposed to hold this Town Council to account when information is withheld. The ICO found the Town Council breached FOI Legislation.

Robes for The Town Mayor - As with everything else about this Town Council a plaster is easier to apply than the surgery needed to correct the situation. Rather than get the website up to speed the Town Council voted for the Town Mayor to have a set on new robes and chains. Image before substance.

Bad Employer - Ever since the former Town Clerk resigned, I called for a extra resources to go into the Town Council to sort this Town Council out. The Town Council relied on the Deputy Town Clerk and didn't fill her position. Literally Helen was doing two jobs. This was wrong! The Town Clerk seemed to agree:

"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."

There was also the curious promise to obtain "Investors in People". At the Town Meeting they knew nothing about this promise to their employees.

The Positives:

There are some positives to the Liberal Democrats running the Town Council. These are:

Finances back in balance - After messing up the Town Council finances, the Liberal Democrats cut back and ditched promises to get the finances back in order. They were help out by an extra load of housing from the annexation of part of Eynesbury Hardwicke and Love's Farm. Instead of facing a massive rise the Liberal Democrats got away with a small cut in Council Tax.

Public Toilets - The Town Council took on two of the public toilets that HDC was closing down.

In conclusion:

The Liberal Democrats have so far wasted the four year term given them by the electorate. The Town Council  can do so much. But they needed to straighten out the Councils' finances which they didn't until disaster beckoned. The Liberal Democrats made a whole load of promises in the first Forward Plan. This ended in tatters. The next forward plan has virtually nothing for the future. The Town Council is leaderless and rudderless under the Liberal Democrats. Robes before websites. Image over substance.

Are the Liberal Democrats worthy of my vote at the Town Council election in 2011? The answer is NO. 

But which party to vote for is still undecided. Next I'll take a look at the Conservative opposition to see if they are worthy of my support.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Shady Walk Open Space

In version 3 of the Forward Plan, the Town Council informs residents that a Key Objective of the Town Council is to: Maintain and PROTECT green space provisions for recreation and pleasant landscaping
So the Town Council is going to Protect green spaces. Except the Town Council wants to turn a major part of the Shady Walk green space into a car park. Is that protecting green space? No it isn't. Obviously this Key Objective doesn't apply to Town Council land if a cinema is in the offing. Why make this promise if you aren't going to keep it?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Are these Corporate Objectives too stringent?

Many public buildings, such as Leisure Centres, Public halls and village halls run with a public subsidy. The whole idea that these will run at a surplus doesn't work. I am therefore surprised the Town Council has made the following promises:
The ECC is supposed to be self sufficient within 12 months. But what does self sufficient actually mean? To me this must mean the ECC must produce a surplus that not only covers all the expenses but also the loan repayments and interest on the building. Not forgetting any money needed for repairs and refurbishment.
Each year the Town Council has a trading account section in the Annual Accounts. To ensure this promise is achieved the Town Council will have to do similar for the ECC.

I feel these targets are unachievable and, whilst laudable, will mean pressure is put onto a service which cannot be met. The 5 year programme to cut the Priory Centre programme could work if the number of staff are cut. But Councillors like to interfere over fees and charges. When the HDC Leisure Centre has a subsidy of £600,000 plus a £2.9 million loan at £145,000 pa in interest plus capital repayments of £58,000 a year.

When the subsidy for the Priory Centre is put into context it is minimal against what is thrown at other public buildings. It is unlikely the Priory Centre will every be profitable. Accept the Priory Centre won't be profitable and stop wasting time and energy in chasing this unobtainable dream.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Villager wants Sex Shop sited in St Neots?

The Hunts Post St Neots - 18/08/2010

Former CCC leader Keith Walters suggests the sex shop should be located in either in Huntingdon or St Neots. As Councillor Farrer points out the site was a sex shop back in 82/83. Time the residents of Sawtry got a bit of life. It is not as though this development is near any residential part of Sawtry. The way to stop these establishments is not to use them. They have to make a profit or they will close.

This is just an example of how it is easier for villagers to just say everything to be in St Neots. This Never In My Back Yard ethos just doesn't work. From mobile phone masts to wind farms, some in the rural communities object to these developments but continue to have mobile phones and use electricity.

Sex Shops are legal businesses with some restrictions on location. The building in question is derelict. Has the Sawtry community come together to buy and use these buildings? So far, no they haven't. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

The hidden "Forward Plan" finally revealed

Forward Plan V3.pdf - Google Docs

I've recently received a copy of Version 3 of the Town Council Forward Plan. I had to ask for it as it hasn't been publicised in "Priorities" - the non Town Council publication or anywhere else. This Forward Plan - there is no published Version 2 - makes interesting reading for what it has missed out rather than what it actually says. Lets go through the less interesting information first.

Page 1. - The introduction by Cllr Thorpe, Town Mayor. In this piece we are informed the Forward Plan has "Council's plans and aspirations...". He goes onto inform us of "Much has been accomplished in the past three years". The Town Mayor goes onto say: "Your views are valued..."

Pages 5, 6 and 7 - The title of this section changes all the way through It starts off with: Objective enablers for 2010/11. Then goes onto Objective enablers for 2009/10. Seeing this was passed in March 2010 the "Forward Plan" can hardly be about 2009/10.

Page 6. - We are informed the ECC will become self supporting. I don't understand what this means. I can only take this to mean that the ECC will not now cost the Town Council anything.

Page 7. - Expansion of the Town Boundaries and working with, now defunct Parish Councils, is utterly meaningless.

Future Projects - Pages 9 to 10. Where is the swimming pool project? This is likely to be on Town Council land.

Consultation - Page 18 - We are informed by The Town Council that:
The Town Council goes onto say: ".. and to encourage residents to participate in the consultation process, the Council is:"

Placing the Forward Plan on the Town Council's website - No they didn't!
Making copies available to residents at Council Offices - I didn't see any!
Attending the Annual Town Meeting - The Forward Plan wasn't even mentioned at the Annual Town Meeting!

This is a "Catch 22" situation. You can comment on the Forward Plan. But the Forward Plan isn't available to the public. So how can residents comment on a Forward Plan?

What is missing?

There are three main sections that have been missed out of this "Forward Plan". The first section missed is a look at the previous Plan and what was and wasn't achieved. Some of what wasn't achieved is listed below:

New Cemetery to be developed and acquired by Autumn 2009.
Eatons Community Centre completed and open in Spring 2009.
Acquire land for new allotments by Spring 2009.
Relaunch the Youth Town Council.
Grant Aid increasing by inflation.
Town Plan cover 10 years.
One Stop Shop.
Town Lottery.
Town Wardens.
Support our Staff by achieving Investors in People by Summer 2009.

Some of the above was eventually achieved in a different form such as the Cemetery extension. The ECC was delayed. Others such as NOT supporting the staff by achieving Investors in People (indeed not knowing about this objective at the last Annual Town Meeting) or the Town Plan need explanations as to why these were not achieved.

The second missing section is the forward financial projections. The fundamental problem with the first Forward Plan was many of the promises were not included in the forward financial projections. This meant that decisions were being taken on the budget which looked good on paper but, in reality, were unable to be financed without large increases in Council Tax. The Liberal Democrats baulked at this prospect and slashed projects.

The third missing section is looking to the future. For a Forward Plan there is little in it about the forward direction the Town Council is taking and substantial plans rather the wishful aspirations. 

This Forward Plan just shows the Liberal Democrats have lost their way over the Town Council. Unable or unwilling to publicise this Forward Plan just tells me Liberal Democrats are jsut plain embarrassed by this document. Instead the Town Council is reduced to doing petty things, such as The Mayor's Robes, this Town Council is leaderless and rudderless. And that is down to the party that is currently in charge!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Trouble with the Conservatives.

Audit Committee 21.01.10.pdf - Google Docs

Cllr Barry Chapman (Conservative) seems to have a problem when it comes to how the Town Council is run. According the recently released minutes for the Audit Committee - 20th January 2010 - (yes 7 months ago) - Barry came up with different ideas to the budget figures. Barry feels the December figures should be used rather than October figures.

The budget process is the best guess from previous figures and the likely increases from inflation and service levels. December figures wouldn't necessarily be produced until mid January after the budget figures should be finalised. Whether Cllr Chapman likes it or not there is no perfect solution to all this. Unless Barry can find something in the CIPFA rules I feel the way the Town Council produces its budget is pretty much the only way they can.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chimney to get knocked down

The Hunts Post St Neots - 18/08/2010

The eyesore of the chimney which Councillor van de Kerkhove wants to keep looks set to be knocked down. Of course there is a way to preserve this chimney and that is to buy it. If the public don't want this chimney demolished then open a public subscription to buy the chimney and maintain it. If people aren't willing to subscribe then they don't want this eyesore.

It is like some residents and Councillors want to keep St Neots as a museum. Keeping all these bits and pieces only hampers or stops any radical change that St Neots needs to develop. No wonder no retail developers are willing to take on St Neots Town Centre when residents will find significance in every building. All this does is hold up any development.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Elected Mayor?

The Hunts Post St Neots - 11/08/2010

On the letters page is a interesting letter from Michael Lynch of St Ives. I do disagree with much of the contents of his letter but his concluding paragraph strikes a cord with my views.

Consultation - There are real problems with information overload with consultations and i feel the consultation struck the right balance between content and overload.

Consultants - There is a simple choice over consultants. Whether these jobs can be done within the Council or not. That is a choice for the Council not the public. Consultants can bring in a wider experience. Otherwise the Council employs staff to cover these areas of expertise.

Councillors - The idea of cutting the number of Councillors is a good one. This will need a review. Les Councillors will lead to more professional local politicians. Democracy costs. Just cutting the numbers will not attract people into being Councillors. There is already a difficulty with recruiting Parish Councillors. As for the savings these are over estimated. Halving the number of Councillors would save £120,000. Roughly 2% not the 20% Michael claims.

District Wide - Is a valuable publication is used correctly. Currently it is not. The savings of cutting this publication would be small.

Cutting the bureaucracy - The council has already outlined proposals for cutting the bureaucracy.

Elected Mayor - I agree having an elected Mayor should be the way forward. I feel the name should be elected High Sheriff rather than Mayor for Huntingdonshire.

The consultation over the whether HDC should have an elected Mayor closed on 31st July 2010.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The St Neots View?

I am fascinated by the sprouting of websites supposedly to save or support St Neots. Many promises and statements are being made and then die an early death. Support isn't instant and needs work to get people involved and reading.

The St Neots View at: Facebook. - The next idea is for the good news cinema project. No other ideas such as: Elected Mayor or Executive Leader or the Tsunami of cuts that will affect St Neots or why we endure a useless Town Council Planning Committee or why NO Councillors resigned over the 2 damning reports into the Town Council.

The Future of St Neots at: - This started with high ideals and some good idea but has stopped being updated.

Stop HDC introducing parking charges at Riverside park St Neots at: Facebook. They had their march and that is pretty much it for their Facebook site. A bit of a bottle rocket. Fires off with a bit of a bang. Storms skywards and explodes with a flourish before fading away to nothing.

Save St Neots at: - This Jon Mountfort site, still full of lies and untruths, is carrying on with the protest by trying to get people to email lies and untruths to many different Councillors.

Scrap HDC at: - Another Jon Mountfort website, this time under the name of Lorraine Hines, continues in the same theme as Save St Neots.

I always feel the St Neots Forum is the best place to have debate and discussions over the future of St Neots. Is there some reason why the people who run these websites don't use the St Neots Forum forum instead?

Xmas Lights Fiasco

St Neots News and Crier - 12/08/2010 digital edition

Having bought a whole load of Christmas lights, the Town Council hasn't been able to erect them across the High Street. This is due both the on-going investigation by the HSE and the inability of the Town Council to release the report into this accident.

The reason why landlords aren't willing to allow their buildings to be used is the Town Council will not answer the basic question. As a lover of secrecy the Town Council has kept secret the report into the incident a few Christmases ago. Cllr Thorpe makes the excuse that buildings are old. This is just a silly excuse. Many other Towns use old buildings to hang Christmas decorations across the street. Tring is a prime example.

My view is simple. Instead of using secrecy to hide the report, the Town Council should publish this report. The longer this goes on and remains unresolved the less likely these decorations will be used. Instead the Town Council has to spend more money to resolve this problem. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Council subsidy for Cinema?

I was reading the reports into the cinema project and I found several points that just don't add up! We are informed by the powers the following:

"The development is expected to include an 18,000 sq ft multiplex cinema, with seven screens, restaurant units and 160 public car parking spaces, with vehicular access from Huntingdon Street." - Hunts Post

I see the word "expected" has crept into the sentence. Instead of "expected", the word "will" would be more of a guarantee.

Turnstone managing director Chris Goldsmith said: "Cinema operators and restaurant owners have already expressed their interest in this scheme and we are in discussions with them to ensure that the best names in leisure are brought to St Neots." - Hunts Post

Expression of interest is far different from actual tenants. Will this be a Vue cinema or an Odeon. How is "best names" defined.

As well as concluding a deal with HDC and persuading the town council to make its land available, the developer will have to negotiate with German supermarket giant Lidl, which has rights of access across the site before submitting a planning application. - Hunts Post

Liberal Democrat town and district Councillor Steve van de Kerkhove said: "... but we are happy as a town council to give up the land for a cinema." - Hunts Post

There are a few problems over access. But the Town Council seems happy to give up some precious open space for car parking.

Community Services Director Malcolm Sharp said: "There are issues to be resolved such as other people’s land and other people’s rights over the land. But from our perspective it could happen quite quickly." - Hunts Post

What does "quiet quickly" actually mean? To mean this means within 6 months. I doubt that is what Malcolm Sharp actually means. Probably 4 - 5 years.

And Conservative Councillor Barry Chapman, who also sits on both councils and has been campaigning for a cinema for years, said: "Turnstone is a fantastic developer and has the nation`s best operators lined up."
He went onto say: "The plans would also include a theatre auditorium, he added." - Hunts Post

The plan is for one of the cinema auditoria to be able to accommodate occasional theatre productions, a spokeswoman from Turnstone Estates said. - News and Crier

How often will occasional theatre productions take place? Once every decade? As most theatre productions normally do so at a subsidised rate, who will subsidise these charges?

So is there any public subsidy? It seems there is!

Cllr Chapman also added: "HDC was effectively putting in £3million to the project." - Hunts Post

The only way this can be achieved is by cutting the value of the land. Effectively £3 million!

"The developers are not looking to us for subsidy, and we would get a positive return for the land," HDC said. - News and Crier

£1 could be a positive return of the land.

The £l million pledged by benefactor Peter Rowley following the sale of his land at Love's Farm will
form part of the £8 million total cost of project. - News and Crier

Lets hope the money is forthcoming.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Keep St Neots Library open!

The Hunts Post St Neots - 04/08/2010

I read the County Council is having a "Road Show" over the library service. There is a link quoted in the newspaper for Here we a supposed to take part in the consultation. Whilst it is unlikely there would be total closure the options remain open of shorter opening hours and less facilities.

The two meetings for Huntingdonshire are being held at Huntingdon Library. These will be held on 13th August and 16th September starting at 6.30pm.

The cuts are coming.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cinema moves on - a bit

Huntingdonshire District Council has decided to push ahead with a cinema development on the old waste site/Cambridge Street Car Park/Shady Walk Play Area. Turnstone Estates have been appointed as preferred developer for the site. The initial ideas are for a 7 screen cinema and restaurants. All this squeezed in this small site. But don't hold your breath. Contracts have yet to be signed. Plans have yet to be submitted and approved.

I wonder what this will do to the Riverside Car Park protest campaign? According to many within the campaign St Neots gets nuffinck! As ever, the campaign rhetoric doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

I still feel the cinema is in the wrong place. This will be a major build in an area surrounded by residential housing. The whole point is to have a proper cinema. St Neots could very well end up deriding the result.

An 18,000 sq ft cinema is roughly 1,600 sq metres. This is 40m x 40m. I can't get this onto the site plus restaurants and 160 car parking spaces. Also with the restrictions on Lidl there is a potential these will encumber the rest of the site. I pity the poor residents living in the areas around this site. With a potential kicking out time of 2am on late showing nights, I feel the local residents will be disturbed by the usage of this cinema.

Remember this is going to be a 7 screen cinema with theatre auditorium and restaurants. Have a 160 space car park where there is currently 70. This is a lot to fit in on such a small site. I will keep an eye out for the plans and want to see how this all fits together. I have a feeling this will be too small a site to fit all this in. All this is happening because Huntingdon has got a cinema. When decisions are made through the Politics of Envy they are rarely good decisions.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The "Protest" numbers game

The Protest numbers are up for dispute. As they always are.

"It was a resounding success with nearly 200 people showing up for the protest" says protest organiser Cllr Steve van de Kerkhove.

Yet there is discrepancy with the Danny Noonan, Facebook protest, and his "150 turnout, well done to everyone involved, thank you"

Even the Town and Crier said the numbers were "dozens".

Cllr Barry Chapman (Conservative) gave the figure as "50".

The picture in the News and Crier shows about 100 adults and children.

In the end whether this is either nearly 200 or 50, both numbers were small beer. To make this count the protest needed a minimum of 3,000 people to turn up. They didn't.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cost of CAB cuts too high!

Huntingdon and St Ives News and Crier - 05/08/2010 digital edition

A letter of Tony Hayward, former Chairman of Hunts CAB, informs readers to to why the CAB is great and helps lots of people. Great advertisement. The only thing missing is where the money will be cut elsewhere to maintain this service.

There are going to more of these campaigns as the cuts deepen. Instead of pleading for a certain service against others we seem to be getting into those that shout loudest get the money.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Is that it?

Stop HDC introducing parking charges at Riverside Park, St Neots seems to have come to an end. In a message to all members this message reads that this is it. I hope this is the last act of this political PANTOMIME.
According to Steve the Protest was about giving "everyone a voice" and "send a message to HDC...". I thought it was to Stop Car Parking Charges!

The Protest is thinking about setting up another website for "everyone to debate issues in the Town and Voice concerns. There is already a site and that is the St Neots Community Forums. Or is this just another way of controlling the "debate".

Please remember: the Liberal Democrats have guaranteed to reverse this decision when they gain a majority on HDC. I take it they will all resign if they don't?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

So how did it go at Mandeville Hall?

There was an event where this Facebook protest group were going to turn up at the St Neots Neighbourhood Meeting on 26th July 2010.
Now, I would have thought there would have been lots of talk about all this. But nothing. If everybody who said they would attend did, then St Neots should have dominated the meeting. The silence is telling. I suppose I'll have to wait for minutes to be produced to find out what went on.

St Neots treated as second class by the Liberal Democrats

I was looking through the Liberal Democrat website and I found a piece on a report to the Grafham Annual Parish Assembly by their District and County Councillors. Grafham has a population of 500. St Neots has a population of 30,000. So the small village of Grafham gets better service at their equivalent of the Annual Town Meeting than St Neots which is full of Councillors!

Where does the protest go now?

They had the march and now the protesters are thinking what can we do next? The Facebook site has been very silent on this issue. The natural progression would be to make the protest into a political movement and stand for council. But this protest was mainly organised by the Liberal Democrats and therefore a new political movement for St Neots would disadvantage the Liberal Democrat elite.

There are some who want to take this further and compare the small numbers to the poll tax demonstrations in 1991. There were far larger demonstrations in 1990.
If there is no way forward then it is likely to be a damp squib.

What could they do to carry on the protest? Here are some ideas:

Call a Town Meeting and hold a Parish Poll on the subject. This would cost money, but SNTC has lots in reserves. The downside is the Facebook protest was an utter failure at a leaflet campaign.

Demonstrate outside Pathfinder House. Go and protest at the next Council or Cabinet Meeting. Of course this would take time and effort to organise.

Don't pay the parking charges or the fines. Set up a protest where people simply park and don't pay. Needs a good support network.

Stand candidates against Conservative Councillors. The Liberal Democrats won't be happy about this one.

The problem with this campaign is where does it go now? I hope it will turn out to be a damp squib and the demo will turn out to be the last act in a political PANTOMIME.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

500th Blog entry

This is the 500th blog entry and to celebrate this achievement I thought I would look back at some of the themes of this blog.

I set out a few themes in the my first blog entry. These were:

  • The deficit at HDC.
  • The St Neots Town Council audit reports.
  • Djanogly and his expenses problems.

Of these only one theme has been resolved and that is the Djanogly and his expenses problems. Knowing full well these problems the electors of the Huntingdon constituency returned Djanogly.

HDC has actually started a consultation over the cuts because of the unresolved deficit that HDC has been carrying for years.

St Neots Town Council is getting better but there are still issues over information and their website. Also no Town Councillor resigned over the mess Liberal Democrats made of SNTC.

During the 499 other blog entries there are several themes.

  • Party election literature and websites. 
  • The weird decisions of SNTC Planning Committee.
  • The closure of the Church Car Park and the morphing into a "Community Car Park" for the church.

There are a few issues that have come to the fore.

  • The Swimming Pool Trust has problem reporting accounts. 
  • The Liberal Democrats are running a campaign to protest against charges at two free car parks.

Over the next year there are a few upcoming themes.

  • The 2011 Town Council elections. Who is worthy to lead this Town? 
  • Cuts, Cuts and more cuts.
  • District Council elections.

Monday, August 2, 2010

What is happening at the Town Council?

On the front page I found this:
There are three vacancies. One of them, the ECC building custodian, seems to be a new post. The Duty Officer at the Priory Centre is probably a temporary replacement. The interesting one is the Administrative Assistant. This follows on from the loss of the Responsible Finance Officer. This is a high turnover of officer staff! What is going on?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Your views on the budget consultation

In these letters section there is a general missing of the point. The reductions that could happen are massive and will cut front line services. This isn't something new. But it is something both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have been very quiet about. Hence the title of this blog.

My comments on the cuts letters are:

I Turner - St Neots - I agree with making sure we all do the consultation.

M J Sweetman - Huntingdon - A 30% cut in "top" salaries certainly won't make much difference and certainly won't raise £5 million. At best this would save £300,000. Something along this line is already being proposed in the cuts.

R Wilson - Huntingdon - Goes on about a reduction in the number of Councillors. Good idea but won't save much. It will also mean a redrawing of ward boundaries which will cost more than the savings!

M Knight - Huntingdon - There seems to be a big miss here on the enormity of the cuts being proposed. It is roughly a 25% cut. Efficiencies on there own will not cut the budget deficit.

Melvyn Sibson - ? - He asks to we need the HDC magazine every month. Well we don't get this every month!

Colin Gillan - ? - Colin cannot believe that swimming pools could close. I cannot find a district of a similar size with 5 public swimming pools and these cost.

Patricia Lines - ? - Instead of looking at cuts, Patricia wants to spend more money on more Leisure.

M Reeves - Huntingdon - Yes the consultation could be baffling. But this is a complicated set of issues which needs a complicated consultation.