Friday, July 6, 2012

1000th post and the blog finishes


My fiance and I and looking to move away from St Neots and probably Huntingdonshire. Therefore I feel I cannot carry on with this blog as I will have no connection with St Neots. For the most part I have enjoyed living in St Neots. It is a lovely town and the people should be proud of what they have.

The major downfall is the misuse of the New Homes Bonus and the need for major re-development of the Town Centre which could be funded by the NHB. Sadly this will be missed by the Town and I feel history will look badly how this money was wasted. There is much to commend this town and I wish the population success for the future.

The new boundaries changes will put Djanogly in a spot. Our London MP will have a choice as to whether to try and fight a new Huntingdon constituency or find a seat in London. Whether Djanogly will weather the changes has yet to be seen. Any new boundaries need to be ratified by Parliament.

This blog was mainly about how badly we are governed. The Town Council seems to be getting better and with a proper Town Clerk I feel will do better. Huntingdonshire District Council is still rubbish.

One point is I've always been asked why I don't stand for election. And here is one of many good reasons. If I were elected I would have to resign my seats and cost the council taxpayer a couple of by-elections. Not all people who are political are able to stand.

One thing hasn't changed and that is the disconnect between the public and our politicians. This will continue as none of the political parties seem to have the resolve and resources to make contact with the people of St Neots. The main purpose of this blog was the gee these politicians up to get them communicating with the electorate. In this I failed.


Independent County Councillors?

With a letter in the Hunts Post about buses by Delboy Giles and Julia Hayward he seems to be looking forward to the County Council elections in 2013 for the seat of Eaton Socon and Eynesbury. I thought I would look to see if two independent candidates have any chance of winning by combining the 2012 District election results.

Adding the votes together would have brought the following result.

Conservatives = 934
Labour = 438
UKIP = 403
Liberal Democrat = 273
Independent = 890
Conservative majority = 44

The Conservatives would have marginally won this County seat. What needs to be taken into account is no independent stood in Eynesbury in 2012. If Delboy and other could match what went on Eaton Socon in 2012 they could win hands down. This is because Delboy took support away from Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP.

It would take much work to do, but the Independents have a very good chance of taking these 2 county seats if they put their minds to this job! Should the Conservatives be worried? Yes they should!

Money down. Membership down. HCCA continues - just

Looking at the annual accounts for Huntingdon Constituency Conservative Association I feel they are waiting for the end to come. The problem with changing the constituency boundaries is the Conservative Associations will have to be amended, combined or dissolved. Even so HCCA had another bad year. On the up side the deficit has been cut from £12k to £2k. On the down side HCCA is still making a loss.

Also membership is down again. From 663 to 577 (at drop of 86). The 663 number belies another problem with 435 being full members and 142 being friends. This meant a drop of £2,683 in subscriptions. I suppose this is why the Agent (Simon Burton) has gone and is replaced by an Organising Secretary.

HDC Pension scam?

I was looking through the HDC Draft Accounts for 2011/12 and I found this statement:

3 Valuation of Pension Fund
The contribution rate is determined by the Fund’s actuary based on triennial valuations. To avoid the impact of potential reductions in the workforce the actuary proposed that a fixed percentage of 17.8% should be used to provide for future service liabilities together with a lump sum contribution to reduce the existing deficit relating to past service. The lump sums proposed were £451k for 2011/12, £456k for 2012/13, £470k for 2013/14. The Council has chosen to make additional lump sum payments pending the results of any changes to the pension scheme that are determined by the Government. The additional payments are £209k (2011/12), £450k (2012/13) £669k (2013/14).

Whilst the Pensions contributions at SNTC are set to rise to 29% HDC looks good with a 17.8% contribution. Instead of increasing the basic amount HDC has gone down the road of making additional lump sums. I could understand the rationale behind making a one off contribution but these are lump sums paid over 3 years and should therefore increase the 17.8% contribution rate.

2011/12 £451k + £209k = £660k
2012/13 £456k + £450k = £906k
2013/14 £470k + £669k = £1.139 million

This equals £2.705 million over 3 years.

So our Council Tax increase and cuts in services aren't happening because of cuts in funding from Government. No the Council taxpayer has to find an extra £2.7 million over 3 years to pay for these pensions. Of course this is bureaucratic utopia where all the Council tax will not go on services but keeping the pension fund afloat!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

HDC still hasn't got its 2010-11 accounts finalised

The long running saga of HDC and its 2010/11 accounts seems to continue. As of writing, the Conservative run HDC still hasn't got its 2010/11 accounts signed off by the accountants. This is 9 months after the deadline. Indeed the external auditors have got to get these accounts finished before they start the new set published on 30th June 2012.

Pity we can't all run our accounts like Conservative run HDC. How many heads have rolled because of this fiasco of the Councils own doing? Zero. Because no one is to blame for anything at Conservative run HDC!

Barclays and HCCA

With Barclays Bank in the news about how they had to pay fines over manipulating the Libor rates there is a local connection here. Back in 1990, I suppose when John Major became Prime Minister, Barclays loaned Huntingdon Constituency Conservative association £10,000. This is still registered on the Electoral commission website. A copy here.

I just wonder how many other people will get this good deal from Barclays? £10,000 at 2.5% above base and never have to pay the money back!

Senior Termination costs us £187k

Buried in the HDC draft accounts for 2011/12 are the termination costs for a couple of senior executives. These are David Monks: £140,417 and Ian Leatherbarrow (of MBA fame): £47,223.
Why either got termination money is the query. David Monks retired. Why he got a £140,417 payout is beyond me. Ian Leatherbarrow was doing an MBA course whilst Director of Central Service. By all accounts he went sick and eventually got a payout of £47,223.

It seems Conservative run HDC can throw money around to its Officers. A case of snouts in the trough. It is only council taxpayers money anyway!

Town Council Pension Contributions Rocket

The Pension contributions payable to the CCC pension fund are set to rocket over the next few years. This is paid by the Town Council (ie the Council taxpayer) for those in this pension scheme. From 22.5% for 2011/12 going up to in stages to 29% for 2013/14. The proviso is the even at these rates this isn't enough and, by implication, there will be higher rates to come in future years. Ouch!

Town Council comes £102,000 under budget

The 2011/12 budget set by the outgoing Liberal Democrats are largely run by the Conservatives has come in under budget by £102,837. That is the last bit of the legacy of the Liberal Democrats rule. From now on the Conservatives have set the budget and have to live by what they have set.

Not many surprises here. One surprise has been the increasing deficit at The Eatons Centre. Another is the increase in pension contributions the Town Council will have to make in future years.

On the whole these accounts show the Liberal Democrats left the Town Council in a very good position. The Conservatives cannot blame the Liberal Democrats for the financial position if this deteriorates in the future.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Another Conservative pledge goes unfulfilled

At the 2011 Town Council elections the Conservatives said the following about the Eatons Community Centre:
The Conservatives pledged to:
1) Reduce the annual deficit.
2) Market and Promote the Centre.
3) Increase its annual income.

With the annual accounts just published (below) how have the Conservatives done with the 3 parts of this pledge?
1) Reduce the annual deficit. 
According to the Conservatives the annual deficit increased from £36,815 to £60,305. In their first year in power the annual INCREASED rather than reduced. So far the Conservatives have got this wrong and they will need to find extra income over expenses of £25,000 to achieve this part of the pledge.
2) Market and Promote the Centre.

They seem to be doing this more. But it the product is defective then no matter how much marketing and promotion happens they will not make this a going concern.

3) Increase its annual income.

This has gone into reverse. The annual income has dropped by over £13,000. 

This is the first year the Conservatives are in control. If the Conservatives have a chance of fulfilling by the end of their term the Eatons Centre will need a dramatic turnaround in fortunes. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I found this piece of propaganda on the Huntingdon Conservatives website:
"Whilst other Conservative Councils around the country were defeated heavily by Labour," (Yes but Labour doesn't do much here. This is a Conservative v Liberal Democrat council. Where Labour did campaign in Huntingdon North they won!) "Huntingdonshire was able to buck the national trend."  (This was the only national trend the Conservatives bucked. The rise in the UKIP % of the vote and the over 40% drop in Conservative support were trends which the Conservatives didn't buck.)

"Identifying key local issues and pledging to take action to improve the lives of local residents was at the heart of the campaign of all candiates." (Of course forgetting the pledge to freeze council tax for 2 years which HDC didn't do. With a 40%+ drop in vote this lacklustre campaign meant the Conservatives got a lacklustre support. The given reasons are just rubbish.)

"Whilst it is realised that local residents are suffering in these times of austerity, Huntingdonshire District Council is heavily committed to cutting bureaucracy not frontline services." (Yet again there is no definition of what are frontline services. And realising local residents are suffering in these times of austerity the Conservatives are aiming to increase Council Tax by 3.5% year after year after year.)

This piece is pure propaganda with facts just left out or forgotten or buried. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Obviously Senior Council Officers have time on their hands!

I see one of the Joint Managing Directors, Malcolm Sharp, is going to become a National President of Planning Officers' Society. In the Hunts Post it says:

The district council’s joint managing director, Malcolm Sharp, will next month take over as national president of the Planning Officers’ Society, a position that will give him direct access to senior Whitehall officials to the advantage of Huntingdonshire, he told The Hunts Post.

Sounds good that he will have direct access to Government officials for a year. But how much time off will this Joint Managing Director need to fulfill his duties as President? And will the people of Huntingdonshire be paying his salary whilst he attends these duties. And how much influence will Malcolm have for just a year as President. I contend not much, because in  another year their will be a different President.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Independents Day!

The 2012 local elections are over. Nationally, the coalition took a drubbing and Labour are claiming victory. What about the results in Huntingdonshire and St Neots? The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats did take a drubbing. But not everywhere. Labour won 1 seat. But also lost vote. UKIP also gained a seat but didn't do as well as their pre-election hype. It was the Independents that caused problems for the Conservatives and made one gain.

In looking at the results I have 2 datasets. The first is a comparison with the seats up for election and those same seats back in 2008. The next set is comparison where the same seats were fought in 2011 and 2012.

2008 v 2012

2011v 2012

In 2009 there was a County Council Election and in 2010 the District Election were combined with the General Election. So neither of these results have been included.

The gaining of Huntingdon North was to happen. If Labour were to make a breakthrough it had to be here. Whilst a win is a win, Labour should be disappointed this wasn't a better win. A majority of 97 when all your resources should have been targeted at this seat is pretty pathetic. The Labour vote dropped away everywhere else against their 2011 results. In 2011 Labour got a boost and they have failed to capitalise on this. In terms of vote Labour was last.

The gain in Eaton Socon is a fantastic success with Derek Giles winning by miles against the Conservatives. Just goes to show what a properly run campaign can achieve with plenty of leaflets and door knocking. The Independents for St Ives retained the Town Council against a Conservative onslaught. Independents in Godmanchester and The Hemingfords also gave the Conservative winners a run for their money.

In the end it is time, energy and commitment that needs to be put into a campaign. I didn't think Derek Giles would win because I thought the Conservative vote was more solid. In the end it was very soft.

Liberal Democrats
They were defending 3 seats. In the end they held two and lost one. `It is very obvious the Liberal Democrats had a strategy of defending Huntingdon East and Brampton. Where they fought they stemmed their losses to retain their seats. In the rest of the seats they just put up paper candidates and lost badly. In St Neots they lost by miles destroying what had been built up for years. In Eaton Socon Gordon Thorpe got just 53 votes.

In terms of seats the Liberal Democrats are still the main opposition party. In terms of votes, the Liberal Democrats have fallen from a solid second to third place behind UKIP.

They put up candidates in all 15 seats up for election. In terms of votes they came second with 4604. They gained the last seat in Ramsey which was expected. Elsewhere there was no real election strategy to win other seats. If there was a strategy it utterly failed. In Warboys and Bury, UKIP had a chance but failed to capitalise on this chance. If I was UKIP I would be happy about the vote but disappointed other seats weren't properly targeted.

The Conservatives had a torrid time. They expectedly lost in Ramsey and Huntingdon North. They unexpectedly lost in Eaton Socon and gained Warboys and Bury which the Liberal Democrats gave up on.

Looking at the results the Conservatives were targeting Huntingdon North and St Ives leaving the rest to get on with it. Not contesting Sawtry because the independent "was a tory" is a pathetic excuse. The reason they didn't stand was local opposition to the Sex Shop which the Conservatives passed.

So why did the Conservatives do so badly? The "National situation" will be the main excuse. Yet where the Conservatives did properly campaign their vote did stand up. Where the Conservatives just did the minimum is where they lost and lost badly. Against the 2011 results the Conservatives lost 47% of their vote. A dramatic loss that has much to do with how badly the Conservatives are communicating with the electorate than any "national situation".

The Conservatives put much time and effort into St Ives. The Council Leader, Jason Ablewhite, and the Deputy Chairman Political - Ryan Fuller were leading a charge to take control of St Ives Town Council. This failed. Not only did they have many leaflets and their own website they charged after the Independents to the detriment of other campaigns. If all the Conservative campaigns had similar resources and communication between the Conservatives and the electorate their losses would be been stemmed.

Nor did the Conservatives have much to say. Their literature was lacklustre. In this age of austerity the District Council has gone on a spending spree and raised Council Tax. In raising Council Tax they broke a promise. A spend, spend, spend strategy which didn't go down well with Conservative voters.

The loss of Andy Jennings to an Independent campaign by Derek Giles is a great set back for the Conservatives. This shows the Conservative vote is soft when against Independents and cannot compete against a properly organised independent campaign. The Conservatives need to take stock of where they want to go forward. My advice is simple. Cut council tax and get back to communicating with the electorate all the year round rather than only at election time.

The Conservatives have 2 years to turn this around or 2014 could be much worse. The County Council elections in 2013 could be another torrid time for the Conservatives. But not from Labour or the Liberal Democrats but from properly organised Independents. Derek Giles and others have shown Independents can win if properly organised.

A win is a win and the Conservatives won on a much reduced share of the vote. The opposition vote spread across many parties and Independents. The Liberal Democrats just don't have the resources to be the main opposition party nor does UKIP. Much will be made about the national situation yet where the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats properly campaigned they didn't lose much vote. It was where minimal or non-existent campaigns took place was where the main two parties lost vote.

It was the Independents that took the fight to the Conservatives causing problems in most of the wards they stood in. The Conservative assault on the Independents for St Ives failed badly. It was the Independents election. Independents day.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

And another report into St Neots Town Centre

Another report into St Neots Town Centre? According to the Hunts Post, the Town Council and the District Council are applying for part of the Mary Portas £ million. The problem I have with all this is what is wrong has been looked at and examined. What is needed is larger retail units and more car parking.

It has long been recognised that St Neots needs larger retail units as the current size of the units are unattractive to major retailers. The Civic Report points to a few locations which aren't easy to achieve. What is needed is the District Council to decide that it is willing to use compulsory purchase powers to assemble the land for any development. That is a hard.

The easy way is to redevelop The Priory Centre. Not that this will bring in any new larger retail units. The councils have to be seen to do something. Redeveloping The Priory Centre is doing something. But redeveloping The Priory Centre will do nothing for the Town Centre itself. It is just easy as the Council are the owners of this area.

The focus of any report on the future of the Town Centre must be on providing larger retail units on the High Street and/or Market Square. Anything less will mean another lost opportunity.


Various Reports on St Neots Town Centre.
Civic Report 2004
Perceptions Report 2007
Priory Waterfront 2008
Town Centre Benchmarking 2010

Friday, May 4, 2012

Undemocratic Liberal Democrats

The Annual Town Meeting is where the electors of St Neots can stand up and ask questions of the Town Council. It is an important part of the Town civic agenda, but it has been relegated to happening before the Annual Council Meeting. Other Town and Parishes hold separate Annual Meetings. Not here in St Neots.

So I wasn't surprised on at the Council Meeting on 14th April 2011 to find the Liberal Democrats carried on with this squeezing of the Annual Town Meeting before the Annual Council Meeting.

Seeing the Annual Town Meeting can be held from 1st March to 31st May inclusive this is rather late in the day to sort out a date. As ever, rather than holding a separate meeting the Town Council decided to hold them together. The result was a meeting dominated by Gordon Thorpe and questions were secondary.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How I voted in 2012

This is how I voted at the local elections on 3rd May 2012:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Town Council sends Police after electors!

In a letter to the Hunts Post, John Bowskill says the following:
"On the evening of April 14, I received a visit from Pc Aaron Murphy, who had been sent by his Inspector, Mark Greenhalgh, following a complaint lodged by Cllr Harrison with the police against me, John Bowskill, for allegedly being aggressive at the meeting on March 29."

John goes on to describe this visit:
"Pc Murphy did not know what the aggressive incident had been until I explained it to him, and he did not see it as being very aggressive."

Of course not.

"Cllr Harrison has told the police that if I am aggressive again at any future meeting, I would be asked to leave."

Cllr Harrison, as Chairman of the Committee, has the power, as indeed any Chairman has, of excluding an person or persons from a meeting they are chairing.

Sending the police round to scare a few electors will have the opposite effect. As it has done.

John write further:
"At the end of the meeting, one of our action group, Sandy Tuke, approached Cllr Harrison and a group of councillors and politely said: “We are not unreasonable people.” His immediate reply was that: “You have been aggressive throughout all the meetings and you are anti-childnow just get out so that we can carry on with our meeting.”

Whether they have been aggressive is a point of view. Informing them to get out of the meeting is wrong. These are meetings which are open to the public, which is something Mrs Thatcher fought for. I thought local councils were supposed to be close to the people rather than excluding them!

At this point I thought I would look up the minutes of this meeting. I read through the draft minutes and there is no indication that these events took place. If the public are being aggressive and the Chairman gave warnings these should have been minuted. They weren't!

I also found something interesting! The draft minutes state the following:

"Residents living in the area around Balmoral Way were in attendance. The Chairman said that the Committee had agreed to hear from one resident supporting the play area and one resident against the proposal.
Mrs Tuke of Balmoral Way spoke against the proposal and Mrs L Ruck of Barnard Close spoke for the scheme."

I find it strange that Mrs Ruck spoke for the scheme. If Mrs L Ruck is a Town Councillor or related to either or both Town Councillors listed at Barnard Close this should have been declared and minuted.
Otherwise this gives the impression that Mrs L Ruck is an ordinary citizen with no connection to this scheme or the Conservatives!

But there seems to be a misunderstanding by John and his fellow protesters:

"I sent an e-mail to Mr Reilly, asking for Cllr Harrison to be dismissed from the town council for his behaviour."

Cllr Harrison has been elected by the people of the ward of Eaton Socon as one of their representatives on the Town Council. The only people who can sack him are the electors of Eaton Socon at the next Town Council elections in 3 years time. Ed Reilly is the Acting Town Clerk and is an employee of the Town Council. It is the Town Councillors that are in charge and it is, we the people, who elect these Town Councillors.

John Bowskill and Owen Murrell carried out an opinion poll to find out what the people facing on to the proposed play area thought. This was heavily against this proposal. There is a conflict with the Conservative pledge to put a play area in Eynesbury in the original spot.

The Conservatives have an election pledge to carry through. This is what the people voted for. The problem is the people living next to the proposed play area don't want it there. This has been the problem with putting in a play area. Virtually everyone wants one but so long as it is not near them.

In the end the Town Council is there for us, the people. Those we put in charge have to make difficult decisions which some may not like and will be against whatever the final decision. That is Government. We elect these people as representatives to the various Councils. 

If the Town Council decided to put a play area on a plot of land near my house I could be against this. I could be very against this and I understand the feelings of residents who oppose these proposals. Obviously Cllr Harrison doesn't seem to understand these points of views. Going as far as labelling residents as: "Anti-child". That is wrong. These residents aren't "Anti-child" they are anti a play area being put where none has been before!

What is also wrong is sending the Police round to have a word. If no law has been broken nor anyone hasn't been excluded from the meeting then this is simply Over The Top and is intimidation of residents who quite rightly aren't intimidated.

Is this is what is going to happen to opponents of this Conservative run Town Council? They are going to have the Police sent round to see them! I hope not.

Conservatives who broke the Council Tax freeze promise part 2

Which Conservatives broke their parties 2010 election promise to freeze Council Tax for 2 years. 
Even though the Conservatives didn't win, their promise morphed into the Coalition Agreement.
Liberal Democrat run Councils followed the agreement. The Conservatives in Cambridgeshire have broken this promise. The Fire Authority has 17 members which are appointed by the County Council and Peterborough Council. Below is how they voted. It should be noted the Liberal Democrats wanted a higher rate of Council Tax than was passed.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sorry who is wasting their money?

In an article on the Hunts Post website about the St Ives West UDF and the Parish Council and SHED winning a judicial review there are choice comments by the Council.

The following is Council Speak:

HDC’s head of planning services, Steve Ingram, said: “The council contends that the status of, and prospective uses for, the St Ives West Urban Design Framework was appropriately clarified during its adoption process, and we will be maintaining that position in the event of any subsequent litigation.


Oh and Cllr Ablewhite has a go at the protesters:

“I think they are wasting their money,” the council’s executive leader, Cllr Jason Ablewhite told The Hunts Post. (and he should know) “The worst-case scenario is that the judge will tell us to re-look at this – which we shall already have done by then. And the final decision remains with HDC.”

At least they are spending their money on this rather than wasting Council taxpayers money as Cllr Ablewhite et al did over the St Ives Co-op Petrol Station.

Conservatives who broke the Council Tax Freeze promise 1

Which Conservatives broke their parties 2010 election promise to freeze Council Tax for 2 years. 
Even though the Conservatives didn't win, their promise morphed into the Coalition Agreement.
Liberal Democrat run Councils followed the agreement. The Conservatives in Cambridgeshire have broken this promise. The Police Authority has 17 members. 9 of these are Councillors nominated and a majority of these are needed to pass the Council Tax.
As no elected members said they voted differently they must have all voted for this rise. Ms Shona Johnstone has put her name forward as Conservative candidate for Police Commissioner up for election in November 2012. Ruth Rogers for Labour. Neither has stood up for the Council Taxpayer against the ever increasing Council Tax bill.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Reason to vote Conservative - No.3

The one thing I like to look at is how the respective campaigns can say different things in different areas. i used to experience this with the Liberal Democrats who could campaign in one town for one policy and then campaign in another town for an opposite policy in a town next door in the same authority.

Looking at how the Conservatives are fighting in St Ives I can see a difference. Despite the fact the HDC Conservatives have broken the national promise for a Freeze in Council Tax for 2 years, Cllr Ablewhite, HDC Council Leader, is out campaigning for a 4 year freeze on St Ives Council Tax.

There we have it. The Conservatives are quite happy to break a promise to freeze council tax for 2 years and then make another promise to freeze council tax for 4 years. This seems very wrong.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reason to vote Conservative - No.2

The Conservatives upped their portion of the Council Tax by 3.5%.  Originally the rise was 2.5%. The Government was looking to give freeze money for 1 year of £191,000. By upping the Council Tax by 3.5% the Conservatives broke the national promise of a Council Tax FREEZE for 2 years. The local Conservatives argue that without this increase they cannot get back this money later on due to the need to get an increase approved by a referendum.

Yet this is the same argument for not freezing One Leisure charges. By holding down the charges, the Council will not be able to get this money back in the future. Because the argument will be the Council cannot raise charges because it would lose custom.

In a recent Insight column in the Hunts Post, Cllr Ablewhite says the following: "We have frozen charges
in our One Leisure Centres that are enjoyed by millions of users every year that is accessible to all."

Millions of users is Council speak for the number of times the facility is used by someone. When I think of a user I feel this is one person. This would mean that millions of people from outside HDC use these Leisure Centres. Obviously they don't. A user therefore must be everytime they use a Leisure Centre they are classed as a user. Someone goes for a swim once a year they are classed as one user. Someone who goes to the gym 4 times a week over 50 week equals 200 users.

This is a blatant misuse of statistics. And the Hunts Post should have pulled him up for that.

How much could come from a price rise at One Leisure. A simple 10 pence rise for each use of a Leisure Centre would bring in £200,000. To quote Cllr Ablewhite..."All this and more for a few coppers a
week more."

All Cllr Ablewhite needed to do was up One Leisure charges by 10 pence and he would have brought in enough money to freeze the Council Tax this year. All for a few copper more. He would rather keep Leisure than save £400,000 a year by putting out to a trust. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Reason to vote Conservative - No1

Each year Council must meet certain deadlines. The Accounts must be audited and approved by 30th September each year. The accounts for 2010/11 should have been approved by 30/9/2011. They weren't.
Another date was set and this was 2nd November 2011. This date passed and the accounts weren't passed. another date was set for 7th December 2011. The accounts weren't passed then.

With dates coming and going the council decided on a different rouse. That was to say the accounts would be ready "early in the new year". Well "early in the new year" has come and gone. The new "promise" is these accounts will be approved in May 2012. That is over 7 months on from the legal deadline.

One reason given for the delay in the approval these accounts was the redundancy of the capital accountant who went sick. Except having made this account redundant the Council has taken on a "Financial Accounts Specialist".

No heads have rolled. The date to approve the accounts continually moves. Not only did the Conservatives mess up the redundancy because they had got rid of the one person they needed but they have now employed another person. Trying to save money has cost the Council money. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

5 Reasons to vote Conservative (or not) on 3rd May 2012

Here are 5 reasons:

1. Low Council Tax - There is a myth that Conservatives keep Council Tax low. This is myth. Conservative run Fenland DC has the highest Council Tax in Cambridgeshire almost twice that of HDC. Depending on which set of stats HDC is either 180th oout of 201 District Councils or 94th of of 201 District Councils.

2. Law and Order - Conservative run Councils are tough on Law and Order. Yet Conservative run HDC keeps breaking the law. One major example of law breaking are the accounts. These are still not signed off by the auditors over 6 months after they were legally required to do so. There was also an issue over Housing and Council Tax benefit claims.

3. Conservatives promised a two year council tax freeze - Yes the Conservatives promised a 2 year Council Tax  freeze and provided the money to this to be implemented. Whilst Conservative run HDC took the cash for year one when it came to year 2 the HDC Conservatives dropped this promise and increased their portion of the Council Tax by 3.5%.

4. HDC Conservatives spend our money wisely - Except Cllr Ablewhite et al lost HDC, in a decision to oppose the Co-op in St Ives petrol station, £5000. This is because the Planning Inspector thought the decision was so wrong he took the extraordinary step of awarding costs against the council.

5. HDC Conservatives provide cost effective services - Unlike most Councils, HDC has gone down the road of retaining most of its services in-house. For example One Leisure could be turned into a trust. When this was mooted the saving was £400k a year. This has now been dropped because of the £200,000 cost of setting up a trust - though no paperwork on the £200,000 cost has surfaced. The Conservatives put money aside to "invest to save". Leisure looks a prime example to save the Council Taxpayer money £400,000 a year by spending money already put aside to set a trust up. Yet the Conservatives would rather keep running One Leisure and costing the Council Taxpayer £400k a year than reducing this cost.

I cannot find any reason to vote Conservative this year.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Demise of the Neighbourhood Forums

HDC is set to pull the plug on Neighbourhood Forums. As it turns out this will be generally a good thing. The problem with the Neighbourhood Forums was simple. They had no power and therefore people didn't attend. In the end these Forums were a show case for the District Council to bring forward bits and pieces on what they wanted to promote. That is what I felt attending the St Neots Forum.

All the Councils could have come forward with ideas. Some examples were: The Jubilee; The Cinema Project; Riverside Car Parking charges; Cuts to services; New Homes Bonus; The Portas Money bid; The Open Air Swimming Pool. None of these examples ever came forward for discussion.

This was the main downfall of the Neighbourhood Forums. They were crammed, short on time and didn't look at the real issues concerning the locals.

Should we shed a tear for their demise? Well no! I feel we should be angry at their demise. These had the potential of being good for the community to be informed of issues which effect the community. The feedback should have been looked at by all Councils yet it simply wasn't. No committee or panel had the notes of the meeting presented to them. In the end there was no way for feedback from any conclusions to be fed into each Councils committee system.

What is replacing the Neighbourhood Forums are two systems. The Local Joint Committees - which will be pretty useless they get large budgets to spend and Shape My Place forums which look interesting.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Should John Major be praised?

In a letter to the press Sir Peter Brown praises John Major and feels the passing of time will look kindly on the former Prime Minister. Indeed the economy did bounce back after the UK left the ERM in 1992 after John Major, as Chancellor, took us into the ERM in 1990.

The problem with praising John Major for his "achievements", is the everything else is dusted under the carpet. For me John Major was the worst Conservative Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party ever.

John Major's 1992 election win should be seen as a pyrrhic victory. In 1992 the Conservative Government was coming to the end. Having ousted Thatcher, the Conservatives looked for a new leader. John Major was 2 votes short of an outright victory. Heseltine and Hurd withdrew from the contest and John Major was announced as the new leader and therefore Prime Minister. In that internal election the seeds to Major's problems were sown. This was because any loss of MP's at the next election would be those supporting John major rather than those who opposed him.

When the 1992 General Election was announced, the Conservatives had a formidable election machine to get there message out and did so getting 14.1 million votes. Even though John major scored more votes than any other leader before or after this didn't translate into seats. John Major lost 40 seats and had 336 seats. This was 10 more seats than the 326 seats needed for a majority. This gave John Major little room for manoeuvre when it came to votes and appointments.

The first order of business for the reassembled Parliament was the election of Speaker. Major wanted Peter Brooke and the House of Commons wanted Betty Boothroyd. The House of Commons won out and Major was defeated. Yet this was a silly mistake and showed the ineffective nature of John Major.

The premiership of John Major has been very well documented. Whilst the political machinations surrounded John Major, the party machine was dying. Loss of Councillors, Councils and volunteers made the party machine not work. John Major could pull the levers but the machine just didn't work. The finances held up through large donations. The 1997 election showed no matter how much money is thrown at an election unless you have boots on the ground the money is wasted. During this time Labour went after seats during the Boundary Commission review. And Labour got the review in their favour.

At the 1997 John Major got 9.6 million votes. That is a loss of 4.5 million votes since 1992. That was a loss of 32% in the Conservative vote.

If John Major had lost in 1992, the Labour Government would have had a rough time. The Conservative Party election machine would have been intact. By John Major winning he effectively destroyed the machine that got him elected.

The same has gone on in the Labour Party under Blair and Brown. They have lost 5 million votes from the 13.5 million in 1997 to the loss in 2010 of 8.5 million.

John Major did in 5 short years what it took Labour 13 years to achieve. The Liberal Democrats are seeing the same now they are in a coalition.

In the end I still don't respect John Major and still think his premiership was a shoddy affair. The Conservatives should have lost the 1992 general election. In winning John Major wasted 5 years for the Conservatives and set about laying the foundations for New Labour.