Monday, January 31, 2011

Swimming Pool Trust 361 Days late in filing their accounts

The St Neots Swimming Pool Trust on which all Town Councillors are Trustees have finally got their accounts into the Charity Commission. Although officially not part of the Town Council, the Trust is administered by the Town Council who charge the Trust a fee for this privilege. To put this into context, the charity had 10 months from the year end - 31st March 2009 - to get these accounts in. The Swimming Pool Trust took nearly 1 year and 10 months

This is not the first time the Trust has gotten its accounts in late. The record stands at 423 days. In the previous financial year ending 31st March 2008, the Trust were 290 days late.
And this is the Trust that is charged with delivering a new Open Air Swimming Pool. The Trust has the old swimming pool site under offer at £1.75 million. The sale has yet to go through so don't count the chickens on this one. I've requested the accounts and hope to see if there is an explanation to their lateness.

Changes in Charity Commission rules means that from 1st April 2009 Charities under £25,000 income are not required to file accounts. They do have to put in an Annual Return.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I went to an rather enjoyable Neighbourhood Forum

I went to a rather better attended Neighbourhood Forum. I was running late and missed the Police part of the evening. Cllr Thorpe ran a very good meeting with a large agenda to get through, though Cllr Chapman who was supposed to be the chair was missing. I didn't find out why!

The main topic was Wind Farms and the number of planning applications. There were many Stop the wind farms people. If they actually listened to the planning officer all there questions would be answered. The policy is a national policy. Only Parliament can change this. Having a go at the planning officer is only shooting the messenger. Where the Stop the wind farm groups need to go is Jonathan Djanogly MP and his colleagues and keep lobbying them for a change in the law.

Cllr Farrer had a spout off about the Wind Farm Policy which HDC has. What was pointed out was this is a Policy of the Conservative run HDC which the Cabinet passed back in 2006 and by Council (as part of the cabinet report) also in 2006. I understand Cllr Farrer was elected in November 2006 at a by-election so he wasn't present at this decision. This is a policy of the District Council. HDC could scrap this policy if they wish! So why doesn't Cllr Farrer start the revolt?

The Presentation on the East of St Neots Expansion was good if you are up to speed on the project. I asked a couple of questions to which I got some sort of answers. My question about pylons met with a sort of answer. The developers could bury the electricity cables beside the A428. But this isn't planning policy and is up to the current landowners and the developers to sort out.

Another question was on the Community Centres and whether they would be part of the Town Council or attached to a school. A non-committal answer to that question.

Moving onto Sustrans and the Cycle Bridge over the Great Ouse. The finish date was given as September this year.

The Fire Brigade Officer gave a very good talk about the what the Fire service does and about the forthcoming cuts.

The NHS spokesman tried his best but I don't think many realised what he was on about. It is a pity as this is actually very important. Pity he couldn't have got in just after the Police section.

Local Issues. I had quite a few but only wanted to get over the main one and that is why isn't HDC and CCC talking about the cuts and reductions in services. This is going to be a future item for the next meeting on 11th April 2011 at the Priory Centre. The other issue was car parking at The Paddocks.

I learnt something tonight. The LGA Act 1972 gave a window to parish councils of a month in which to decide whether they wanted to take over a closing churchyard or dump it on the District Council. Ramsey, Farcet and Colne acted quickly and that is why all Council taxpayers are paying for this whereas in St Neots it is our responsibility.

I have to say this was a better attended meeting than most I've been too. There were more members of the public even after the Stop the wind farms people left. It was well Chaired by Gordon Thorpe. I hope many more members of the public turn up to future meetings.

That is the crux of my argument with this forum. The sheer lack of attendance by the public. The more the public get involved the better sense this type of meeting makes.

This attendance by the public may only be an upward blip. If it is then I will go back to Neighbourhood Forums are a waste of time.

Cllr Mandy Jayne Thomas didn't attend.

Monday, January 24, 2011

St Neots Tories Shocked At Town Council Grant News

St Neots Tories Shocked At Town Council Grant News:

I thought I would look in a bit of detail at the political responses to the "racist playgroup" story.

The Liberal Democrats have been very quiet. The news story broke on Wednesday morning and yet the Town Council "rushed" out a statement late on Thursday night. It was a pretty pathetic statement:

"St Neots Town Council does not operate the ‘Making Links’ group which is organised by the Open Door Church. St Neots Town Council grants have been awarded to a variety of community organisations and groups including ‘Making Links’.
A £1000 grant awarded to this group was entirely within our rules and regulations for grant aid to the community."

But then that is what Councils do when faced with a story against them. When it is story a Council delights in then you can't shut them up.

Now I'm not having a go at the Town Council for making the grant. The Town Council has to trust that people will spend the money wisely and for why it was granted. Otherwise it is a new set of red tape which will cost the Council Taxpayer yet more.

Not that it was a cash grant. The money was paid to The Priory Centre so this part of the Town Council didn't charge Making Links for the use of a hall.

The Liberal Democrats have really not liked this story and have hidden from it. The Conservative response is different and goes to town on the Liberal Democrats. Well it is a good story. Why shouldn't they?

The Conservative press release:

St Neots Tories Shocked At Town Council Grant News  Wednesday, 19 January, 2011

St Neots Conservatives were today critical of the news that the Liberal Democrat led St Neots Town Council had awarded funding to a playgroup that excluded British parents and children from attending on the basis of their race.

Conservative Councillor, Paul Ursell commented, (Standing for election in May 2011)

‘I am astonished that in today’s society it is felt appropriate to provide services on the basis of race. I recall that when Making Links came to the Town Council and asked for their grant, the Conservative Group questioned who would have access to the group and were subsequently accused of having racist undertones to our comments.’

Andy Jennings, Conservative Action Team member for Eaton Socon added, (Likely standing for election in May 2011)

‘This story seems absurd and has made St Neots Town Council the laughing stock of the nation. I thought that this kind of attitude had died a death sometime ago and we are shocked an appalled that British children and mothers are not allowed to mix with other ethnicities.’ (Over simplification of what was going on)

Simon Burton, the Constituency Organiser for the Huntingdon Constituency said, (Organising the elections in May 2011)

‘It seems strange that the Liberal Democrats have been complicit in what can only be considered segregation by the back-door. (The use of the term segregation is wrong. This is not segregation in the strict or loosest term.)

‘I recall that when he was selected a year ago the Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesman, Martin Land, accused the Conservative Party of being full of ‘closet racists’. (Not actually full) Given that his party control the Town Council and have done for many years, his comments now seem even more ridiculous than they did at the time they were first made.’ (Town Council elections in May 2011)

This press release is a bit of jumping on the bandwagon. It allows both potential candidates for seats, where the Conservatives want to win, to get their names in the newspapers.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Andy Jennings for Eaton Socon?

With the start of the elections not far off, I read with interest the news from the Huntingdon Conservatives. Whilst they jump up and down about Martin Land and his Conservatives are racists and homophobes jibe (news first broken on the blog) I saw something of interest. This is a quote from Andy Jennings, Conservative Action Team.
Now quotes don't come without something behind them. This very probably means Andy will be standing for election for Eaton Socon for the Conservatives at the local elections in May.

So who is Andy Jennings? From my research Andy is a former Greenwich Borough Councillor. He was elected in May 2006.
Just getting in some 15 votes ahead of Labour. Andy also ran for the GLA elections in May 2008 and lost, although increasing the Conservative percentage of their vote. These GLA constituencies are larger than our local constituency.

He provoked controversy in Conservative ranks by setting up an experimental surgery for gays or LGBT community to give the full acronym.

He is also pictured with a large pole in his hands. What he is trying to fend off we'll never know. As Andy is a Chartered Accountant could it be he wants to be a lion tamer?
Joking aside, Andy has a pretty formidable political past. Whilst I wish him every success in defeating the bumbling Town Mayor Gordon Thorpe could Andy's political fortunes be elsewhere? This is a bit of a political backwater. Whilst Djanogly retains the tacit support of the local Conservative Association I wonder what would happen when the seats are redistributed shortly. Redistribution of seats will mean HCCA has a way of getting rid of Djanogly. Andy could be the one to stand against Djanogly.

Gordon Thorpe had better watch out. The Liberal Democrats are going to have a fight in Eaton Socon. If Andy stands and makes a proper fight he should win!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Will Independents be standing for the locals in May 2011?

With all the moans and shouts about how bad some of our Councillors were during the useless car park protest I would have thought those who complained would be standing for either Town Council or District Council at the May local elections. If they are they had better get a move on! The organising of an election campaign takes time and planning.

The names of some of the moaners are Chris Brick, Jon Mountfort, Lorraine Hines and Chris Clifton. Having all moaned about HDC and the allowances and expenses District Councillors enjoy they seem to be reticent to stand themselves. I wonder why?

There is one resource in the internet I would recommend to those who want to stand as Independents, It is the Politically Independent Candidate X website which takes any potential Independent candidate through how to run a successful election campaign.

Election campaigns are a mystery, yet can be run with a computer, printer, paper and much ink from the front room of your residence. The one thing an Independent needs to do is Plan and now is the time to start. With the start of the local election roughly 8 weeks away there is much to do.

Friday, January 21, 2011

HDC Dismissals Panel secrecy gets worse!

The old Appeals and Dismissals Panel, whose name was quickly changed to the Employee Selection Panel, (Though the Dismissals Panel name was honest) is up for another meeting. This time NO agenda has been produced nor any type of minutes have been produced from the previous secret meeting. 
The secrecy goes even deeper. Back when this Panel was the Dismissals Panel I found the only date it met was 15th November 2010.
But on the Agenda for the "first meeting" there was this:
There was a previous meeting held on 22nd July 2010! So what happened to Agenda and Minutes for this meeting? Transparency and the Conservative run HDC obviously don't go together.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Will the Open Door Church and associates attend the coffee morning?

With all the controversy of people being denied access to a publicly funded playscheme, I have to wonder whether The Open Door Church, Heart of the Community Charity and he Making Links play group will turn up to this Coffee Morning. And if they do what information will they pass on to other groups?

The Police have gone very quiet over their budget cuts! I wonder why?

Doom and gloom came from Cambridgeshire Police over dire budget cuts with there Medium Term Plan and then silence. I thought I would look to see why. The Police Formula Grant was announced by the Home Office back in December 2010. This give the formula grant allocated by the Home Office and DCLG over the next two years and the Home Office grant allocation for the two years after. DCLG has yet to publish their allocations for those years.

This means a total grant of £87.1 million for 2011/12 falling to £81.4 million in 2012/13. In the two years after the grant from the Home office stays pretty static.

With the Grants announced this rubbishes the Police Medium Term Plan. In the 2011/12 MTP the Police Authority were looking at a deficit of £4.774 million. With this formula grant they get an extra £2.321 million to spend.
So no real reason to put up Council Tax in 2011/12 or even in 2012/13.
Is this the case of the Police authority crying wolf? Well they did take a bunch of grant out of the MTP.
This allowed for the headlines about massive cuts and Armageddon. The Police and the Police Authority have really "cried wolf" on the cuts and altered the figures accordingly so their representatives could talk about £30 million of cuts. By overstating the loss of grant the Police and the Police Authority now have to inform the public why they have so much money!

All this doom and gloom over cuts and hyping those cuts out of all proportion makes for good headlines but in the end can we really trust the Police and what they tell us when the cuts are over-exaggerated.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dibley Parish Council meetings run better than St Neots Town Council

St Neots News and Crier - 20/01/2011

I read the letter from R. Harrison with much amusement. This is our Town Council down to the ground. I like the description of the Town Council being a "Cross between Spitting Image and The Vicar of Dibley." Ouch that much hurt. The Dibley reference is a particular barb because the Town Council doesn't want to look that way. But they don't recognise that they do look like a Vicar of Dibley Town Council.

This interesting bit is about the Swimming Pool Trust. Whilst these are different bodies, all the Town Councillors are Trustees and the Town Clerk does work for the Trust. It is not telling the truth when the Town Council denies it has got nothing to do with the swimming pool trust.

The Town Mayor isn't impartial as is pointed out by Mr Harrison. "He seemed at allow this behaviour when a councillor was from his own political persuasion, but jumped all over it in a bully boy when councillors from another party retorted."

The fiasco of the Forward Plan is not un-typical of what goes on at this level of Government. Only 15 minutes was spent deciding what they were talking about on the Forward Plan. I've only been to a couple of meetings but they aren't usually run that well.

This is what Town Councils are like. Not nice but messy. The few times I've been to the Town Council these have been badly run. Not only the Liberal Democrats but the Conservatives have a good go at each other. That should be so. But when meeting aren't being run properly that is down to the Chairman.

Wait until the Annual Town Meeting. Now turn up for that to see how badly meetings are run.

And the cinema saga goes on

The Hunts Post St Neots

The puff piece in the Hunts Post over the cinema project is mainly Cllr Barry Chapman having his say.

The first thing to challenge is this is "Green". Barry says: "People will be able to walk to it easily". I suppose we could spend half an hour walking to the venue and half an hour back or 5 minutes in the car and park for free. I favour the latter.

"We want to encourage people to walk or get the bus into town, and perhaps see a film while they're out shopping."

The bus comment stumps me. If I was to try and get into town by bus for an 8pm start time I could catch the 19.15 from Eynesbury Monday to Saturday and have to wait around for 30 minutes. When I came out I would have to walk home because no buses run at that time of night to Eynesbury. Easier to drive in. Not so Green then.

As for shopping this doesn't tally unless you are going in early on a Saturday or Sunday. First you are hardly going to take your shopping in with you to the cinema. Are you? Going to a 7pm showing how many shops are open at 9pm at night. None as I can recall.

Further on Barry says: "negotiations are under way with Cineworld and top restaurant names, such as TGI Fridays and Frankie and Benny's have expressed an interest."

So no deal concluded with Cineworld. As a cinema goer I have to say I don't like Cineworld. I find their seats most uncomfortable. After a couple of tries I avoid Cineworld and go to either Vue at Cambridge or Odeon at Hatfield.

As for expressions of interest, this can be over hyped. All that is needed for an expression of interest is the developer to send details to potential clients. Doesn't mean anything.

There is going to be much hype over the types of companies and company names. Until their signature is on the contract these names can pull out.

Has the rot started to set in already?

Remember this is supposed to be a 7 screen cinema with one of the screens to be used as a theatre auditorium (I suppose the reason behind all this is Town Council can close down the Priory Centre and build flats instead). 2 other buildings and 160 car parking spaces.
Whilst this seems very small with a loss of two spaces this is how it is going to work. The next salami slice maybe the number of screens and the number of buildings.

As for the perspective I can't work out where the orientation of this is.
There seems to be a very large cinema and a number of other venues. I know artistic licence has been used but of what location because it can't be St Neots.

The Town Council can't even follow its own rules!

The minutes of the meeting of the Town Council on 29th November 2010 have finally been published. The minute of the secret part of the meeting about Burial Plots is below:
The minute is not about burial plots per se. The minute is about the Closure of Eynesbury and Eaton Socon Cemeteries to new burials. So why wasn't this indicated on the Agenda? This is just pure misinformation by the Town Council. Realistically this should have read Formal Closure of Eynesbury and Eaton Socon Cemeteries.

What do the Town Council Standing Orders say on this secrecy? Well it differs from the exclusion text.
So the Town Council isn't using the text as set out in its own Standing Orders! Nor is it giving a reason, which the Standing Orders 57.2 says it should for the exclusion.

The Standing Orders set out the seven reasons why it can make this resolution. These are:
But none of these actually apply to the resolution to exclude the press and public. The nearest is 6 b. According to the minutes there was no order or direction under any enactment. If there was then that enactment should be quoted. It isn't!
So under the Town Councils own rules there has to be a public interest test. Something the Town Councillors ignored when making this resolution to exclude the press and public. 

This Town Council loves secrecy and doesn't follow its own rules when making these decisions. If the Town Council actually followed its own rules on the subject this item should not have excluded the press and public. The Town Clerk should know this. The Town Councillors who took this decision should also know this as they each have a copy of the Standing Orders. These rules were adopted at the meeting of 7th April 2010, so less than a year ago.

Isn't it time this secretive Town Council got its act together and was transparent about instead of just being secret! I feel it is and they should follow their own rules and not ignore them!
Just a little nitpick. These are minutes and therefore should be in the pasted tense. Minutes are a record of decisions taken and are therefore vital in showing the Council has taken a decision.
To resolve means the decision wasn't taken. Resolved that..... means the decision has been taken. With cut and paste this is an easy mistake to make.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A little bird told me....

There is something out there called Facebook. On this website the date and time of when you do certain things is recorded. In the case of Mandy Jayne Thomas the date was 3rd November 2010. On this night there was a Council meeting at 7.00pm

As ever Mandy Thomas was  absent. What my little bird told me was that Mandy was doing something else. At 7.01 pm Mandy was on Facebook creating a Group.

So rather than be at a boring Council meeting (which she is paid to attend) Mandy has started a one person campaign against the Coalition tuition fees. Nothing wrong is opposing your governments policy but should you be at a Council Meeting you are paid to attend?

I know being a District Councillor is a mixture of a part-time job and a volunteer. District Councillors with daytime and evening meetings may not make the odd meeting but missing 10 is an awful amount to be absent from. 

With the elections in May fast approaching, Mandy should do the decent thing and resign here seat so others may represent the people of Eaton Socon in her place!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jubilee Hall reports - is it going bust?

The Eaton Socon Institute which runs Jubilee Hall on behalf of St Neots Town Council has reported on its financial year to the 31st March 2010. As the reporting level is £25,000 of income, the Eaton Socon Institute is not required to file accounts.

The ESI does have to provide amounts for income and expenditure. For the year ending 31/03/10 this amounted to income of £22,379 and expenditure of £27,308. This is a loss of £4,929. In the published accounts for 2008/09 the total cash reserves were: £11,075. This means the ESI started this current financial year with £6,046 in the bank.

Unless there is a dramatic turnaround in this current financial year it looks as though the ESI will go bust. The lease for Jubilee Hall will be up in 2013. In this financial state it should be considered whether the ESI should carry on running the Hall. The other option is it will revert to being run by the Town Council. Probably the best option.

The contact details given on the Charity Commission website points to Cllr Gordon Thorpe.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Issues need more respect

St Neots News and Crier - 13/01/2011

Peter Clark, in his letter to the news and Crier, is correct that Huntingdon Town Council should consider the Annual Town Meeting. Not to do so is wrong as electors who turn up to the Annual Town Meeting make the effort. Huntingdon Town Council should also make the effort otherwise what is the point. Maybe that is the reason why. Huntingdon Town Council doesn't want to hold this type of meeting.

What of St Neots Town Council? This Town Council follows the example of Huntingdon Town Council in not considering what went on at the Annual Town Meeting and the issues raised.

The two St Neots Annual Town Meetings I've been to have been a bit of a farce. The law is very clear. This is a meeting of the Town and not the Town Council. It is an opportunity for the electors of the Town to ask questions and raise issues.

St Neots Town Council obviously doesn't like this expression of views from the public as this meeting is crammed in before the Annual Council Meeting and is therefore rushed.

Isn't it time St Neots Town Council respected the rights of its electors and holds a proper Annual Town Meeting where the residents have time to ask questions and raise and develop issues instead of a rush job? I think it is.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Useless Town Council Planning Committee shown to be Useless again!

I support the decision over the proposed development of hardstandings at the Caravan and Camping site by the Town Council Planning Committee to approve this proposal. In this instance this shows common sense by the TC Planning Committee. HDC Planning Officers have recommended REFUSAL of this proposal and in doing so this shows why the TC Planning Committee is utterly useless.

The reason why HDC Planning Officers are recommending refusal is simply another statutory consultee, The Environment Agency, has said it should be refused because the land is liable to flooding. This seems a bit odd because the site can still be used for the same purpose without hardstandings.

The TC Planning Committee can shout as much as it likes but other statutory consultees have the final say and have better objections. Time and again the TC Planning Committee says one thing and the District Council and other stautory consultees make the decisions.

What is the point of having this utterly useless committee? The argument goes that because the Town Council has the right to be sent all planning applications this means the Town Council should have a say on all these applications and it gives St Neots a say. When the Town Council is ignored time and again then why have this committee?

Many parts of England don't have this level of Parish/Town government and planning gets along just fine. Just because the Town Council has a right doesn't mean it has to exercise this right. Time to get rid of the Town Council Planning Committee and save officer and councillors time on pontificating about planning applications they obviously can do nothing about!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mandy's £2000 meeting was on 14th December 2010

I have received an e-mail from Roy Reeves, Head of Democratic Services at HDC. It says Mandy Thomas is still a District Councillor as Mandy attended a meeting of the St Neots Town Centre Initiative on 14th December 2010. 5 months without a meeting and Mandy turns up to the SNTCI. I have asked for proof of this as the SNTCI minutes are not available on the web. Nor are attendances recorded on the Councillor attendances page. 
For Mandy to keep her seat she had to attend a meeting and did so by not attending a Council Meeting but by going to the SNTCI. For that Mandy was paid effectively £2000 - being roughly 5 months of the District Councillor Allowances. Mandy's attendances at SNTCI aren't even recorded on the HDC website. Looking at Mandy's dire attendance record she is just absent. 
If HDC is going to record attendances they should do them properly. Attendances at Working Groups were taken off because they threw light on the internal workings of HDC. Now the attendances at outside bodies is kept secret.

I put my hands up and say I called this wrong. I can only go on the information that HDC provides. The information on the website says Mandy hasn't attended a meeting for 6 months. HDC got the rabbit out of the hat and says Mandy attended a meeting of SNTCI. The Council Taxpayer is paying for Mandy to do a job. Obviously not as hard working as Mandy said at her election.

I've asked the Chief Executive whether Mandy Thomas is still a Councillor

The last time the illusive Mandy Thomas was at a meeting was on 15th July 2010, according to HDC's website. Having not attended a meeting for 6 months (her last opportunity was 13th January 2011) Mandy should now forfeit her job as District Councillor. I have therefore e-mailed David Monks, the CEO of HDC to ensure Mandy is no longer a Councillor or why Mandy can continue as a District Councillor. I await his reply!
Note: Although down as expected on 9/12/10 Mandy was absent.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Should I Stay or Should I Go - Mandy Thomas

Cllr Mandy Thomas has to turn up to the OSP Environment today or Mandy is no longer a District Councillor. That is the stark fact behind of this Councillor who promised "to work hard for you" in her election literature back in 2008. The law is very specific. Unless this Councillor is given dispensation by the Council, they are automatically out of office if they don't attend at least once in 6 months.

According to the HDC website Mandy last attended a meeting of the Council on 15th July 2010. Her last chance of staying in office is the meeting today.

Even if Mandy puts in an appearance this Councillor will have attended 1 meeting in the last 6 months. The equates to £2,200 a meeting. Good money when you can get it. Hardly hard working!

If I was running the Liberal Democrats this would be on the front page of every leaflet. An own goal for the Conservatives.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Should a non-resident be Deputy Chairman of HDC

I was looking through the Huntingdon Conservatives website and found Barbara Boddington lives in Eltisley. But Eltisley is in South Cambridgeshire!
Barbara is Vice-Chairman of HDC and doesn't live in Huntingdonshire. Something wrong here.
As Barbara lives in South Cambridgeshire she doesn't pay HDC taxes. Unless registered at another address she is not a local government elector for HDC either.

So HDC council taxpayers are paying for someone who doesn't want to live in Huntingdonshire preferring South Cambridgeshire. The HDC Conservatives obviously know of the situation and yet they have promoted her to Vice-Chairman. Strange!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Conservatives and Eynesbury Hardwicke

In another spat with Cllr Paul Ursell a leaflet came to light sent out by the Conservatives at the last election in the area which was formerly part of Eynesbury Hardwicke and has been annexed by HDC to St Neots Town Council. The leaflet in question can be found here.

There is no Conservative banner so how do I know it is a Conservative leaflet?

At the bottom of the page there is an imprint. In really tiny font size it says:
This Conservative leaflet doesn't really want you to know it is from the Conservatives.

The banner at the top of the leaflets simply says:
Nothing to indicate it is from the Conservatives.

So what does the leaflet have to say and what doesn't it say?

The first paragraph:
Nothing in this paragraph indicates the Conservatives were the ones who moved the residents from Eynesbury Hardwicke to St Neots fully knowing that these residents would have to pay higher council tax. On 21/11/2007 then Councillor Andrew Gilbert drew attention to this change:
So the Conservative knew fully the annexed residents would have to pay more. The Conservative run HDC had decided to move these residents to St Neots. There is no mention of this fact in the Conservatives leaflet.

The second paragraph goes on:
Of course the small reduction in the Council Tax for the majority of St Neots Council taxpayers is for existing council taxpayers. But it is also for the annexed residents who don't have to pay so much under the Conservative prosposals.

The third paragraph says:
Whilst it is a valid point that the Liberal Democrats have upped the Town Tax and the increase is being funded by the annexed residents, nothing is said about the Conservatives moving these residents in the first place and therefore making them liable for these higher taxes.

The fourth paragraph goes onto say:
This argument would be good if the Conservatives hadn't moved these residents to St Neots Town Council. The consequence of such a move is the annexed residents would pay more. The Conservatives knew this when they took this decision.

The fifth paragraph is the most interesting
But what of the old Eynesbury Hardwicke Parish Council? If they had built and provided facilities then St Neots Town Council would have to take them over and run them. EHPC didn't provide any facilities. Affected EHPC residents enjoyed much lower parish/town tax than the rest of St Neots.

The minority Conservative group did put forward ill thought out proposals. But creating a specific fund does one thing. It would put up the Council Tax for all residents in St Neots. This is something the Conservatives are quiet about. 

Why should residents get a specific fund for their area? This must be new Conservative policy for Eynesbury. Under a Conservative run Town Council will this discrimination be put into effect or will we all be in this together.

Also why should neighbours pay different taxes. The boundary was there before Parklands and Eynesbury Manor were built. Some residents on one side of a street paid St Neots rate of Council Tax and on the other side they paid the much lower EHPC. 

Oh and HDC did actually tax, many years ago, the residents of Eynesbury Hardwicke at the St Neots Town Council rate until it was pointed out Eynesbury Hardwicke was a different parish.

The use of Eatons Community Centre is a strange choice. As Councillor Ursell (Conservative) who is on HDC, SNTC and was on EHPC put it:

“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.”

In Eaton Ford this is a tremendous asset. In the annex area this is a financial burden. Two different messages, one St Neots Conservatives. Depends where you live the Town.

In conclusion, this is a shameful leaflet and I understand it was from the Conservatives and this was hidden away at the bottom of the page. It sets out some valid points but misses the main reason why the annexed residents had to pay higher Council Tax and that is simply because the Conservatives decided to change the boundary and move these residents into St Neots.  

Far easier for the St Neots Conservatives to blame the Liberal Democrats than admit your own decisions!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Huntingdon Conservatives new website

I see the Huntingdon Conservatives have put up a new website. Pity not much thought has gone into this site. The name of the website - Huntingdon Conservatives - really reinforces the world view of the local Conservatives that Huntingdon is at the centre of their world. St Neots doesn't get a mention.

Whilst looking good on the outside the slap dash and rushed nature of this new site comes up on every page. On the about page the reader is informed:

"In addition the Constituency Association organises, through a number of clubs such as Huntingdon Industrial Advisory Council,....."

Back in a Parliamentary report in 2007 on the use of dining facilities Djanogly said:

HIAC had been founded over 25 years ago for business people living in or connected with Huntingdonshire. Members of HIAC did not need to be members of the Conservative Party and HIAC itself was not part of the Party.

Now it is!

The County Councillor page is an utter mess. It even claims the following:
Keith Walters hasn't been a County Councillor since 2009.

The District Councillors page is not so much of a mess.

Under People it turns out Sir John Major is District Chairman West.
Further, to contact MEP Vicky Ford you have to go through Robert Sturdy:

For a new website this is littered with mistakes. Not a very good start, but is probably a sign of the state HCCA finds itself in.

Friday, January 7, 2011

St Neots Town Council is giving up land for cinema

At the next St Neots Town Council meeting starting at 7.15pm on Thursday 13th January 2011, Turnstone Estates will be making a pitch for the cinema development to the Councillors. The Town Council is sitting on a piece of land at Shady Walk which Turnstone Estates needs for Car Parking. Big Yellow Taxi comes to mind.
Seeing that the political pressure is on for a quick fix to have a cinema, whatever cinema, in St Neots then we will have to sit back and watch the whole ludicrous political game play out.
I will be interested to see what Turnstone actually comes up with. Will it be the 7 screen cinema including a theatre auditorium as promised? Or will it be less? What of the local residents and the loss of Urban Open Space when much, but not all, of the Shady Walk area becomes tarmac.

I'm not against development. Though I do believe we should be preserving urban open land rather than putting it under tarmac. In the end this is a political decision over whether the politicians have the nerve to hold out for what St Neots wants - a BIG CINEMA - or whether they take the gamble and go for a much, much smaller cinema and hope they get away with it with the public. The St Neots public will not be satisfied with a small cinema and some of our local politicians will be scratching their heads as to why.

Turnstone Estates are probably calculating that our St Neots politicians want a cinema at all costs and will be willing to bypass planning policies and their own policies to get a cinema. My advice is surprise them. St Neots Town Council should dig their heals in unless Turnstone Estates delivers what is promised.

As a cinema goer I want to be able to see the next Avatar 3D on a big screen rather than in a pokey room. For that I will travel.

The whole thing is heading for a mess. The Town Council should hold firm if it going to give away this land to Turnstone and the Town Council should say: "We want a 7 screen cinema including a theatre auditorium, the size of one in Bedford or Huntingdon or you don't get the land!" Simples.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Would the old committee system be better?

One part of the Localism Bill is to allow a choice between the current Executive Leader/Cabinet system and the old committee system. Some may think this is a backward step. But the old system has its merits.

The current system is the Executive Leader/Cabinet system with scrutiny panels supposed to be looking at the decisions the Executive Leader/ Cabinet makes. The whole Council agrees the budget for the year and the Executive/Cabinet runs the budget and takes decisions. This was supposed to be modelled on the Parliamentary system where select committees can and do look in depth at what Government does and do scrutinise decisions.

That is fine for a Parliament that has 650 MPs. At HDC there are just 52 Councillors. In Parliament, Select Committees employ staff and researchers. At HDC the same staff who make the decisions are also the ones that report to the Scrutiny Panels. This means there is already an inability of the Scrutiny Committees to hold the Executive to account for their decisions.

The parking pantomime is a good example. The Scrutiny Panel rejected the idea of the introduction of parking charges at the Riverside CP in St Neots. Cabinet went ahead anyway. This just goes to show how detached the current non executive Councillors are from decision making. Their only recourse is to change the budget. The Conservative Councillors didn't even attempt this.

This is the downfall of this system. Scrutiny isn't working. There isn't independent scrutiny of cabinet decisions. All these committees can do is shout and that is about it. Useless really.

The old committee system isn't without its faults. Reports and decisions got bounced around the committee system and eventually their was a decision. The old system at St Neots Town Council is the best example I can think of. Reports went to the Policy and Resources Committee and were then re-discussed at Council. A waste of time and energy.

But Councillors had an input. That is important. Rather than keeping decisions away from the ordinary councillor we elect these people to take decisions on our behalf. The old Committee system partly allowed this. The current system doesn't.

What we need in Huntingdonshire District Council is the old Committee system back with modifications. Abandon scrutiny unless it is going to be properly funded. Which I doubt. There needs to be 3 committees.

Cabinet Committee - Policy, Resources, Finance, Property Services, Information Technology, Law
Leisure Committee - Leisure Centres and Countryside services
Environment Committee - Strategic Planning, Transport, Housing, Public Health, Street and Waste,

Each Committee would have a delegated budget and would run each service. When they need to act outside their budget then this would go to full Council. The Committee Chairman would be an Executive Chairman able to steer the Committee to the decisions that need to be made. This is not a perfect solution. More Councillors would be involved in decisions and would be able to have their say on our behalf. Having all 52 Councillors turn up for every decision would be a waste of time. The Executive Leader/Cabinet Government has been a step too far. So bring back the old system with modifications.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

HDC finally publishes payments over £500

HDC has finally gotten around to publishing payments over £500. These can be found by following this link.
Congratulations for moving ahead. But why didn't I find this out earlier? Because Conservative HDC hasn't publicised the fact it has started publishing these payments.

Above are the HDC press releases for December 2010. The public is informed to Get Involved with Neighbourhood Forums, but the publication of £500 and over is absent. I only found out by looking at the DCLG website.

Finding where this information is also a bit of a trek and is hidden away under Council Finance.
Whilst welcome, this is hardly an enthusiastic publication of the Conservative Government policy by the Conservative run HDC. It looks to me they are very embarrassed by having to make these payments public, HDC has chosen to do this without fanfare or any publicity. It is like they want to do the minimum to keep in with the Conservative Government but hide the information away so the public can't readily find it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

And the Liberal Democrats spent more!

One of the little bits of information to come out of the analysis of the spending by political parties during the 2010 General Election was the Liberal Democrats spent more than the Conservatives over the short campaign. The Liberal Democrats spent £7,618.29 and the Conservatives spent £7,178.80.

In relation to other spends by the Liberal Democrats:

NE Cambridgeshire: £1,592.98
NW Cambridgeshire: £953.94
South Cambridgeshire: £6,459.64

The resulting spends also threw up a mix of results with:

NE Cambridgeshire: +3.0%
NW Cambridgeshire: -1.8%
South Cambridgeshire: +4.7%
Huntingdonshire: +2.6%

In the end spending masses of money doesn't necessarily bring in the results. It is boots on the ground that wins elections.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Djanogly still not good for the Conservatives

Looking at the Electoral Commission website for the 2010 General election expenses I find further evidence that Djanogly hasn't been good for Huntingdon Conservatives. Comparing with the Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (a Twitter follower), who took his seat of Welwyn Hatfield from being a Labour stronghold to a Conservative safe seat, I find that Djanogly isn't bringing home the money.

Total donations to the Shapps campaign was £54,252.72. Over the same period Djanogly only obtained £10,011.51. So Shapps was bring in £5.42 to every £1 that Djanogly brought into his campaign.

On the otherhand Shapps did out spend Djanogly. Shapps spent £22,859.22 to Djanogly's £10,187.91. A spend rate of £2.24 to Djanogly's £1.

So whilst Djanogly cost HCCA £76.40, Shapps brought a whopping total of £31,393.50 into his Association.

This is another reason why Djanogly isn't good for the Huntingdon Constituency Conservative Association. I don't find it hard to believe as Djanogly fell into this seat. But what has been good for Djanogly has been to the detriment of HCCA.

One good reason why having an MP is good for the local party, whatever the political colour, is it bring in money to the local party. Djanogly is failing to do this. The Conservatives had the chance to get rid of Djanogly over his expenses. They flunked it. Now they are paying for it. Djanogly hasn't been good for HCCA. The longer he stays the worse it seems to get.