Wednesday, September 29, 2010

And now St Neots Town Council is found out...

I was down at the Town Centre and I thought I would look at what is on at the Town Council. I find there is a meeting of the Town Council on 30th September 2010 from the Agenda posted on the noticeboard. From the Agenda I also found out was there were meetings of both the Operations and Amenities Committee and the Finance and General Purposes Committee on 2nd September 2010. There was also a Personnel Committee meeting held on 9th September 2010. So why was none of these on their website?

With the Council Offices closed, I walked over to the Library. I asked to if they had Town Council minutes and agendas as I couldn't find a section. I found the a section of Priorities Magazines going back years. I also found the Forward Plan - Version 1. I was told by two different librarians that they "hadn't seen the Town Council for years". This made me think of what I was told by Grant Thornton about the Forward Plan version 3.
Well the Town Council lied about the library. I couldn't find version 3 in the various sections. The Minerals Plan - Yes. Town Council Forward Plan version 1 - Yes. The Town Council Forward Plan Version 2 or 3 -NO.

The Library staff informed me that all the minutes/agendas are online at the Town Council website. They have been misinformed.

As ever, this Town Council can put the agendas and minutes up for the joke of a planning committee but can't do the same for the other committees that actually take decisions that mean something.
How can the Town Council be open, transparent and accountable if it just keeps what it is doing effectively secret. This is just bad Government! Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative are in a Coalition on the national stage. I would have thought both parties policies on openness, transparency and accountability would have filtered down to the lower levels. Obviously hasn't.

Forward Plan Version 1 but no version 3
Priorities magazines going back years

Monday, September 27, 2010

Can we believe what the Auditor informs us?

The external Auditor looking at each Councils accounts should give us, the residents, an assurance as to the state of  how our Council is running in financial terms. New Labour expanded this role to take in many bureaucratic and wasteful tasks when what the residents want to know is whether the council is good or not. When I saw the Auditor's Opinion, for the Corporate Governance Panel, I had to take another look and analyse the warning Auditor is giving. In the 2008/09 report there was little, if anything, about the £6.1 million of unspecified cuts to be made back then.

Now the Coalition has announced cuts, which HDC has assessed as an extra £1.5 million of unspecified cuts making a new total of £7.6 million Grant Thornton jumps into action with:
Looking at this statement in its parts:
But uncommon to most of these Councils HDC has an underlying problem of a massive deficit budget. This already required cuts.
The plan the Auditor alludes too is set out in the MTP. This identifies £6.1 million of UNSPECIFIED cuts. HDC still hasn't specified where these cuts were going to fall.
An extra £1.5 million of cuts and this all becomes "imperative". £7.6 million of unspecified cuts is imperative. £6.1 million of unspecified cuts isn't mentioned in the previous year's report. I find this strange and inconsistent. How can HDC have its finances under control when £6.1 million of cuts are unspecified. Surely adding an extra £1.5 million of unspecified cuts only means the Council has to cut more. Having identified the unspecified amount this is all it has to do. As this is all it had to do in previous years! Where is the imperative?

So who did save "us" £400?

In researching background about the lie HDC has told about its own budget deficit, I found an article in the Councils own magazine District Wide which shows what a mess it has got itself into over the narrative.

In the March 2009 issue of District Wide, HDC said the following:

 "We have looked after our finances, and we have been able to keep Council Tax significantly below the average for many years."

So according to HDC it is HDC that has kept Council Tax much lower than average. 18 months later and now the previous Labour Government was to blame for stopping HDC putting up the Council tax to avoid the deficit. Doh!
In reality it was the previous Labour Government which used the threat of capping to keep Council Tax down not the Conservative run HDC which complained it wasn't able to increase Council Tax. So it was the previous Labour Government who kept our Council tax low not HDC.

Nowhere in the March 2009 article was there anything about blaming the Government for stopping Council Tax rises. It was all about how good HDC was in keeping Council Tax down. The narrative has changed from keeping Council Tax low to blaming the previous Labour Government and the economic situation for the deficit.

Whilst there are many financial pressures (and the previous Labour Government was a major contributor) it is the inaction of the Conservative run HDC which caused this deficit. Cuts needed to happen. Adding to the deficit was an easier way rather than actually tackling the deficit.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Who has been looking at this blog?

Every so often I take a look at who has been looking at my blog. This blog, along with many websites you visit, uses Google Analytics to see who visits this site. This sounds very Big Brother and I therefore know where you live. Well NO. Google Analytics doesn't go that far down the line. But what it can do is provide general information about visitors. For instance, most of my visitors are using NTL. Or I had regular visitors from the Houses of Parliament before the election and no visits after. This has changed recently.

What perked my interest to write this article is I see the Audit Commission and Grant Thornton have recently been looking at my blog.

Audit Commission:
Grant Thornton:
What is interesting is the soon to be abolished Audit Commission has now taken an interest in this blog. What is baffling is that Grant Thornton informed me:
"We can only respond to questions raised directly to us in writing, and indeed I can't access your blog via our firm's network due to restrictions on internet use."

Obviously someone at Grant Thornton can!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

233 days overdue

I have to wonder what our Town Council/St Neots Swimming Pool Trust is up too. All the Trustees are Town Councillors.
4 months on from raising this at the Annual Town Town Meeting.
233 Days (8 months) after the accounts/return should have been made.
18 months - A year and a half - after the year end the Town Council.

The Town Council/SNSPT has still to get the Annual Accounts for 2008/09.

There is no excuse for this. SNSPT is trying to sell the old swimming pool site. How are the residents supposed have confidence in the Town Council/SNSPT when they can't even the the basics right!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Another lie by Conservative run HDC

Why does the Conservative run Huntingdonshire District Council feels it needs to LIE! I would have thought the Conservative run HDC would tell the truth over the deficit though it hasn't so far. Truth though goes out the window when it does come to this deficit. So what has HDC lied about. In the HDC publication - District Wide - in its September 2010 edition on page 12, HDC states the following:

Except that isn't true and HDC should know this. I went back to the meeting of the Council on 10th December 2003 where the 2004/05 budget was first presented. This shows a very different story and exposes the lie.
Before the Government capped HDC this was what the Council was looking at.
In 2003/2004 HDC was running a budget deficit of £2,965,000. A Council Tax increase of 0%.

The forecast had a increase of 133.2% increase in 2007/08.

That is the lie. HDC had opportunity after opportunity to raise Council Tax to avoid the deficit it was already running. The Government didn't stop HDC from increasing Council Tax to AVOID a deficit. HDC was already running a deficit.

So why does HDC need to lie? Well it is easier to blame the previous Labour Government than the ruling Conservative Group.

Churchill v SVDK

St Neots News and Crier - 23/09/2010

I thought the "March" against the imposition of car parking charges was a part of a "political pantomime". With the Tsunami of cuts coming I didn't feel putting car parking charges at the top of the list of services not to cut or charge- 20 pence and hour and free evenings/Sundays - was the not the best option. I also thought that all this was over the top and silly. That is my opinion.

In a free country, it is our right to protest against decisions. Whether Steve van de Kerkhove is a District Councillor (Liberal Democrat) or not he should be able to use publicly owned facilities such as Riverside Park.

The problem SVDK had was this was his first go at organising this type of event. People make mistakes and so long as they learn for those mistakes then move on.

Cllr Churchill (Conservative) alleged that SVDK brought "his office and HDC into disrepute" by not undertaking a risk assessment and not completing an events application form.

This is just a rush, by Cllr Churchill, to the Standards Board over a complaint that, in my opinion, just doesn't warrant this sort of action.

If there were problems then talk to his leader or to the Councillor concerned.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Free Schools - What is all the fuss?

The Huntingdonshire Liberal Democrats had a go at the Liberal Democrat leadership and the Coalition over the Free Schools and Academies policies by winning a motion at conference. Cllr Downes - Leader of the Liberal Democrats on HDC and a former Headmaster, lead this assault with:

"Just as the supermarket drives the corner shop out of business, so it will be with schools."

Supermarkets didn't drive the corner shop out of existence. Customer choice drove closed corner shops. Customers chose to shop at supermarkets because of the wider variety of food items that were fresher, higher quality and cheaper. Those shops able to adapt and change to their customers needs stayed open and thrived. What Academies and Free Schools will allow is for parents to choose their school.

"When Tesco provides some new products to lure people away from their competitors, the unsold items in the failing shops can be returned to the wholesaler or sold off in a sale. But not so in schools. Pupils are human beings, not tins of beans. A school that withers and dies does so over a few years, perhaps covering the entire career of a pupil in that school,...".

To me what Cllr Downes is saying is failing schools should be kept open so more pupils can fail rather than allowing parents to move their kids out of the school. I thought the Liberal Democrats were supposed to be radical. Yet when it comes to the vested interests of the teaching profession obviously Liberal goes out the window and small c conservatism comes to the surface. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What happened to the Car Park protest at the last St Neots Neighbourhood Forum?

Back before 26th July 2010 some of the Anti Car Park Charges protest leadership complained there was no way to challenge councillors over the car parking charges. At the time, I pointed out there were not only Neighbourhood Meetings there was also the Annual Town Meeting that could be used.

Neither had been used by the Protesters to ask questions or make statements. In fact the St Neots meeting was only attended by a few members of the public. So the Protesters decided decided to make a noise at the next event out in Kimbolton. On their Facebook site they set up an event for this meeting.
Now the minutes/notes have been published I thought I would take a what the protesters did and achieved at this meeting. At the previous meeting there was 36 attendees. At 26th July meeting there were 48. An increase of 12 over the St Neots meeting! Reading through the notes of the meeting I found NOTHING was raised about Car Parking Charges at the Riverside.
When the Forum was asked about ANY Neighbourhood issues Riverside Car Parking wasn't even raised.
Nor was Riverside Car Parking raise for future issues to be considered.

For all the protesters hype they did nothing at this meeting. This protest was part of the political pantomime.
How is the rest of the "Protest" movement getting on. The silence is virtually deafening.

The No Car Parking Charges Facebook site: A flurry of activity on 22nd August 2010 and nothing since.
The St Neots View Facebook site: A comment on 30th August 2010 about how well the Festival went and that is about it. Obviously no other issues of concern to the people of St Neots.
Support St Neots website: This had the potential of being a good place to properly discuss issues. As with the other sites it hasn't moved.
Scrap HDC website: This site, supposedly run by Lorraine Hines, which is full of lies and misinformation has also gone very quiet.
Save St Neots website: Jon Mountfort's other site which is also full of lies and misinformation is also very quiet.

Whilst others may fall by the wayside, this blog will continue to look at politics in St Neots in a critical way without fear or favour. The other place that will continue is The St Neots Community Forum where debates about St Neots can and do happen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Local Elections May 2011

At the local in May 2011 there will be the whole of St Neots up for election at District and Town levels. The only concern is over the AV Referendum and whether this will mean the Town/Parish elections will have to be moved to a different day.

Unless the voters utterly reject the Conservatives all over Huntingdonshire, the Conservatives are the certain winners at these elections. This Council is elected in thirds. So 19 out of 52 seats are up for election. The wards and who currently has the seat is listed below:

Brampton - Liberal Democrat marginal
Earith - Conservative safe
Ellington - Liberal Democrat marginal
Elton and Folkswork - Conservative safe
Fenstanton - Liberal Democrat marginal
Gransden and The Offords - Conservative safe
Huntingdon East - Conservative marginal
Huntingdon North - Liberal Democrat marginal
Huntingdon West - Conservative safe
Kimbolton and Staughton - Conservative safe
Ramsey - UKIP marginal
Somersham - Conservative safe
St Neots Eaton Ford - Conservative safe
St Neots Eaton Socon -Liberal Democrat marginal
St Neots Eynesbury - Conservative Marginal
St Neots Priory Park - Liberal Democrat marginal
Stilton - Conservative safe
Upwood and The Raveleys - Conservative safe
Yaxley and Farcet - Conservative safe

The current state of the parties are: Conservative 37 - Liberal Democrats 12 - UKIP  2 - Independent 1.  

If the Conservatives lost all 12 seats they would be the largest party with 25 seats. This won't happen. With 10 out of the 12 seats classified as safe and only 2 as marginal the outcome is certainly Conservative. As all the Liberal Democrats seats are classified as marginal they could lose all 6. UKIP should retain their seat in Ramsey though it would go Conservative if they don't.

The spread of seats for the parties are:

Conservatives spread 35 - 44 seats
Liberal Democrats spread 6 - 14 seats

St Neots and Huntingdon should be battlegrounds for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

This election is an all up election - where every seat is up for election - in mainly multi member wards. There are changes over the last all up election in 2007. With the annexation of Love's Farm and the Town Ward of Eynesbury Hardwicke there will be an increase in the number of Town Councillors from 18 to 21. There is an increase in the Eynesbury Ward of 1. There is also a new ward - East - with 1 member formed to cover Love's Farm. The other extra seat has been added to Eaton Ford.

The current status is 13 Liberal Democrats and 5 Conservatives.

Eynesbury - 6 (5 Liberal Democrats, 1 Conservative) + 1 new seat = 7 seats
Eaton Socon - 4 (4 Liberal Democrats) = 4 seats
Eaton Ford - 4 (4 Conservatives) + 1 new seat = 5 seats
Priory - 4 (4 Liberal Democrats) = 4 seats
East - 0 + 1 new seat = 1 seat

In the 2007 Town Council elections Labour didn't stand. This meant Labour votes went elsewhere and that elsewhere was mainly the Liberal Democrats. For the 2011 there are two scenarios. These are:

If no Labour candidates standing:
Eaton Ford - 5 Conservatives
Eaton Socon - 4 Liberal Democrats
Eynesbury - 7 Liberal Democrats
Priory Park - 4 Liberal Democrats
East - 1 Conservative

Predicted Result:
15 Liberal Democrats - 6 Conservatives

If Labour candidates do stand:
Eaton Ford - 5 Conservatives
Eaton Socon - 4 Conservatives
Eynesbury - 7 Liberal Democrats
Priory Park - 3 Liberal Democrats 1 Conservatives
East - 1 Conservative

Predicted Result:
11 Conservatives - 10 Liberal Democrats

Except for Eaton Ford Ward which is a safe Conservative ward, the rest of the seats are marginal one way or another. With just over 7 months to go until the elections I would of thought the political parties would be out with low level campaigning. So far no leaflets through the door. It isn't as though there isn't much to say!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Where are the Independents?

There are many out there who complain about Councils and how if they were in charge they could change the Council. For all their arguments, it isn't actually that hard to stand for Council. For Town Council a candidate needs to be nominated and seconded. Just two signatures. Hardly hard is it.

There are a number of websites for Independents. This one covers District Councillors. It is a good site with many of tools needed to run a campaign. All there for the Independent candidate willing to run.

Time and again there will be many who whinge on about our elected politicians. Instead of whinging why don't they stand themselves?

So why don't I stand? Well the reason is I value my time and will charge accordingly. The Town Council pays nil and the District about £4,400. Not very much so I'm not willing to stand unless the money is upped significantly. I don't stand by all this notion of "public service". Councillors should be properly paid for the job they do.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

SNTC elections May 2011 - What of Labour?

I know the Labour Party is down in the doldrums. They did badly at the general/local elections in 2010. At the 2007 Town elections Labour didn't stand a single candidate. This helped the Liberal Democrats. So what is the Labour Party going to do for 2011? There are three main choices for St Neots Labour. These are:

1. Field no candidates. This is what happened last time. By doing this will give the tacit support for the Liberal Democrats.

2. Field one candidate in each ward. As 4 out of the 5 wards are multi-member wards this would allow Labour voters to actually vote Labour. The problem is this could let the Conservatives in.

3. Field a full slate of 21 candidates. This would be a statement of intent by St Neots Labour. This could let the Conservatives in.

All this depends on what Labour wants to do. Is Labour going to support the Liberal Democrats? Nominating Town Council candidates is much easier than District with two signatures needed from each ward.

Labour has a difficult decision. By not putting up candidates they are effectively supporting the Liberal Democrats. Put candidates up and they could left the Conservatives in. On the other hand not putting candidates up means Labour becomes an irrelevant political party in St Neots.

If I was Labour I would put as many candidates at the Town Council elections as I could. This would spoil the party for the Liberal Democrats. It would also put a marker down to the other parties that Labour is back in the game.

Friday, September 17, 2010

SNTC 2011 Elections - Are the Conservatives worthy?

As the only opposition group on the Town Council.and, therefore, the only real alternative to the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives need a good examination of their actions in opposition.

The Conservatives group members are the following:

Jennifer Bird - Town Council Group Leader
David Harty - Town Councillor, District Councillor and County Councillor. Also a member of the County Cabinet.
Keith Ursell - Town Councillor and District Councillor
Barry Chapman - Town Councillor and District Councillor
Brenda Arnold - Town Councillor

3 out of 5 Conservatives have other responsibilities other than Town Council. There is a capacity issue with the amount of time the Conservative Core can put into the Town Council if they formed the majority in May 2011.

The Shambles
The Conservative response to this was also a "shambles". I can't remember any narrative on what was actually wrong behind these damning reports. There was nothing about the history or what the Conservatives would do to get this Town Council out of the mess it was in.
There was an opportunity to publicly hold this Town Council to account. The Conservatives failed.

Church Car Park - The Conservatives stood up for the church users rather than the residents. Church users were on the internet complaining about the closure of the Church Car Park. The Conservatives were looking at throwing Council Tax payers money for what is essentially a private car park for the church. A good use of public money?

The Budget - The opposition to the budget was a shambles. Only two Conservatives Councillors stayed to vote against the budget. More on the Conservative response here.

Planning - Jenny Bird is in charge of this committee and there have been a few howlers. The Darzi health surgery in the Town Centre was opposed for many reasons. None planning reasons. Even the new estate behind Tesco was opposed by both SNTC and HDC. The problem was they opposed the estate for different reasons.

Eynesbury Hardwicke - This was a bit of an own goal by the Conservatives raising this issue. They thought they could blame the Liberal Democrats for this piece of Conservative HDC handy work. It didn't work because they lost Eynesbury at the local elections.

The Toilets - A Conservative HDC decision. Instead of agreeing with the decision of their colleagues, St Neots had to go through the political pantomime.

The Car Parks - Another Conservative HDC decision which they agreed to at District but when it came to St Neots they opposed. The problem with these District/Town Councillors is they never really explained any alternative!

Where would the Conservatives take the Town Council? This is the question the Conservatives need to answer. It is no use talking about doing things better. Specifics are needed.

Are the Conservatives worthy? On this evidence I feel NOT. With 5 members the Conservatives should be fighting and making their voices heard with alternatives. There are few. As ever the St Neots Conservatives are very quite. With lots to say about the Liberal Democrats running of HDC there Conservative a quite silent. Why are they being so quiet?

Djanogly's Top Ten

I feel Djanogly should do Top Ten of his favourite tunes. These are my suggestions:

1 - Paranoid - Black Sabbath
2 - Every breathe you take - Police
3 - Private Investigations - Dire Straits
4 - Somebody's Watching Me - Rockwell
5 - The Theme from The Rockford Files - Mike Post
6 - Heard you watching me - Cosmo
7 -
8 - The Theme from Magnum Private Investigator
9 - Watching the Detectives - Elvis Costello
10 - Watching You, Watching Me - David Grant


I saw the following in the recent issue of Private Eye.

The Auditor Replies

In a letter from Grant Thornton I received some answers to my questions though I feel some of these aren't relevant to the actual question.

First question:

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?

Answer from Grant Thornton:

snrednek says: The problems with the website have been going on for ages. I wrote on 16th February 2010 about the unavailability of the Constitution. So what about from 16th February 2010 until now? Obviously Grant Thornton are only relaying what the Town Council is saying.

Second Question:
"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?

Answer from Grant Thornton:

snrednek says: So the Town Council made this available at the Town Council Offices (probably hidden under the counter), in the Library (somewhere) and at the St Neots Museum. In the admission by the Town Council the website and Priorities are not mentioned. Again Grant Thornton are just passing on the reply from the Town Council.

Third Question:
"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)?

Answer from Grant ThorntonGrant Thornton did NOT to answer these questions.

Fourth Question:

"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?

Answers from Grant Thornton:

snrednek says: Well I got one right over Priorities. On questionnaires I get an answer that I feel doesn't tally with reality. The Town Council loves the Catch 22 situation. The Forward Plan is virtually unavailable. How am I supposed to reply to a Forward Plan that isn't even discussed at the Town Meeting? This answer to the questionnaires question is just another unabashed reply from the Town Council.

Fifth Question:

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?

Answer from Grant Thornton:

snrednek says: This answer doesn't tally with the original question. The original budget figures given do not tally with the budget figures given in the accounts. I never asked about budget monitoring. This answer is a non answer by Grant Thornton and is rubbish.

Sixth Question:
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?

Answer from Grant Thornton: 

snrednek says: I thought I was pushing this one. As a charity the Swimming Pool Trust is unaccountable to the people of St Neots. Whilst all the Town Councillors are 
In conclusion: I quite understand the Auditor is appointed by the Town Council and is therefore the client of the Town Council rather than the client of those who actually pays the bills - the Council Taxpayer. It is therefore hard for me to expect Grant Thornton will look after Council Taxpayers. This is the problem with the Coalitions plans for local government. By abolishing the Audit Commission and relying on the arm chair weidos to hold the Councils to account, the Coalition has missed out on how the concerned resident is supposed to hold these Councils to account when they publish information and not tell anyone or change information at a whim. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Comment in Hunts Post

Whilst I do enjoy some of the leader comments I have to say this is a very disjointed. What is left out of this Comment is a critical analysis of Djanogly's actions. Instead this a banner waving pro-Djanogly comment which whitewashes what he did.

Lest we forget, Djanogly spent most of his time as a MP as a lawyer. He claimed for a cleaner and for a gardener - even though his London home has a very small garden. Although he paid back £25,000 he did claim the money in the first place!

Comment also asserts that Senior Tories deny having spoken to the Djanoglys' sleuths. As Hunts Post points out "any fool can find someone to describe someone else as "lazy", incompetent or ineffective". How does the Hunts Post know this? Is this the standard of journalism that exists at Hunts Post? Obviously it is!

If the private detectives were calling the wrong people that Djanogly didn't specify then they weren't doing their jobs properly. Djanogly should look for his money back!

Whilst Djanogly did good work over HLS, how long can he live on these laurels? The problem is Djanogly is out of touch with the local party. What is important to the Huntingdon Constituency is we have an MP in touch with local concerns and doing what is best for the constituency. Much of this is done by the employees and interns.

In hindsight the way Djanogly could have stopped all these problems was not to claim these expenses for a job he does part-time. All Djanoglys' problems are of his own creation. Blaming The Daily Telegraph for all these faults is deflecting the blame from the only person to blame for his woes and that person is Djanogly!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Something wrong at HCCA

The news that Huntingdon Constituency Conservative Association is not going to hold a special meeting over the revelations that Djanogly was employing private investigators to snoop on party members is wrong. There is obviously a schism between Djanogly and the rest of HCCA. This needs to be addressed. Burying this story isn't the answer. Djanogly needs a vibrant association and the association needs a vibrant MP. At the moment there seems to be neither.

The thing about political associations is many times non-political people get the power structure wrong. Back in the olden days each Conservative Association was very autonomous and in a General Meeting of the Association was supreme. They could select and de-select candidates and MPs at will. This was a frustration to John Major who wanted to get rid of Neil Hamilton. William Hague started the change of balance giving the party leader the ability to effectively sack MPs and candidates.

For all the constitutional changes the basic political structure of the Conservatives remains the same. The General Meeting of The Association is still the font of power. It elects the President, Chairman, Deputy Chairmen, Treasurer and other positions. It delegates authority to the Chairman, Management Committee and Executive Council. It appoints Patrons and, importantly, its parliamentary candidate and can appoint a Political Agent.

The point of all this is the political agent works for the association not the MP or Parliamentary candidate. The Association works to ensure the constituency returns a Conservative MP. To this end the MP is a product of the Association. The Agent is an employee/contractor of the Association not the MP. The MP doesn't run or own the association nor the Agent. The current Agent, Simon Burton, was an employee of Jonathan Djanogly. So does Simon put the Association first or Djanogly?

As reported in The Daily Telegraph, Djanogly served notice on the former Agent, Sir Peter Brown, not to tell anyone about his expenses claims. Resorting to the law and threats doesn't help in getting a working relationship between members.

By ruling out an Extraordinary General Meeting, the HCCA leadership is not allowing the local Conservative members a chance to have their say on this matter. Better to keep their heads down and hope the Boundary Commission for England effectively does their job for them.

Djanogly and his non-apology

"I am sorry if some people judge that I made a mistake". Now is that an actual apology? Let me de-construct this sentence. Firstly Djanogly is sorry. Of course Djanogly is sorry but what for? Djanogly is sorry "...if some people judge I made a mistake." So Djanogly is not apologising for instructing private detectives. Nor is Djanogly apologising for spying on Conservative Party members and others.

In other words Djanogly is only apologising IF some people think he should. Otherwise he isn't.

This is a not an apology at all.

Djanogly's statement

Monday, September 13, 2010

Update on HDC Councillors websites

In February 2010 I looked at the personal websites provided for HDC Councillors. I thought I would take another look at how the personal websites are going. I found the following:

Keith Baker - Last updated 28th June 2010 - 2 months
Ian Bates - Last updated 24th March 2010 - 5 months
Barbara Boddington - Last updated 13th August 2010 - THIS MONTH
Peter Bucknell - Last updated 6th September 2010 - THIS MONTH
John Davies - Last updated 17th August 2010 - THIS MONTH
Peter Reeve - Last updated 9th June 2010 - 3 months
Michael Shellens - Last updated 9th October 2009 - 11 months
Mike Simpson - Last updated 29th July 2010 - 1 month
John Watt - Last updated 12th May 2006 - 4 years 4 months
Richard West - Last updated 2nd June 2010 - over 3 months

Out of 52 Councillors 10 have personal websites. 3 out of these have updated within a month. 4 further councillors have updated in the last 3 months. 2 with 6 months. The longest is over 4 years.

Whilst some Councillors are making more use of the facility the vast majority are not. So why carry on providing this facility. It is not as though free blogs and websites aren't available elsewhere on the internet.

Should Djanogly resign?

The use of private detectives by Djanogly to snoop on fellow Conservatives members is extraordinary. Essentially this is an internal matter for the Huntingdon Constituency Conservative Association for whom Djanogly is their parliamentary candidate.

Don't expect any serious move to deselect Djanogly. With a former Djanogly employee (Simon Burton) in as Association Agent unless the Chairman (Martin Stephenson)/Management Committee/Executive Council does something this will all be brushed under the carpet with all the other problems.

What has emerged is the distrust between Conservative members and their MP. I pointed out a while back that Djanogly was effectively out of the loop on local issues. To get back into the loop he had to hire private investigators to find out information about what Conservative supporters are thinking and saying.

Either HCCA takes control of the situation or the association should be renamed "The Jonathan Djanogly Conservative Association".

Should Djanogly resign? I don't see this on its own as a resigning issue whether at Government or Parliamentary level. This is effectively an internal matter between Conservatives. The local Conservative Association should take charge of the situation. There isn't that much a Conservative Association can do. They could hold an Extraordinary General Meeting and vote on a motion of no confidence.

With the Boundary Commission for England saying all seats will be up for change it could be likely Djanogly could be a casualty of the cut in the number of MPs. For HCCA to rely on this would be a mistake. HCCA needs to take a stand rather than let Djanogly rule the association.

Town Council planning back in the spotlight

The amateur Town Council planning committee OBJECTS and the professional HDC planning department recommends approval. The 22 High Street development looks set to get planning approval by HDC. This is a move forward for this part of the Town Centre. But why did the SNTC planning committee object? Below is are the reasons given.
With Town Councillors complaining about all the shops that are vacant in the Town Centre, the Town Councillors want more retail sites?! How perverse. I don't understand what "gross overdevelopment" means when looking at the Town Centre. Isn't that the point of having a Town Centre which is crammed?

Whilst the Town Council has the right to examine and object to Planning Applications, they don't have too. I ask why do they do this? I feel it is well beyond time this waste of money is cut from the budget and the Council Calendar.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Is Priorities a Town Council publication?

A while ago I pointed out the cost of obtaining the annual accounts from the Town Council which is 60 pence. I pointed out the Town Council produced the Priorities magazine and had these delivered to every house at the cost to the Council Taxpayer. But if I wanted the accounts I could be charged a fee.

At the Annual Town Meeting the Town Mayor (Cllr Thorpe) took delight in informing me Priorities was not a Town Council publication. In the first edition of the Annual Accounts the Town Council informed us that it: "Published a newsletter (Priorities) four times a year."

So the Town Council went from zero to 4 times a year.

Now I've been informed the Town Council is going to change the number from 4 a year to 1 a year.

That is three different answers to the same question. The question is: Can I trust what the Town Council tells me? The answer is currently NO!