27 February 2017

The spin from New Mills Football Club's Chairman, following recent town council decision

The following is the verbatim text of a recent Buxton Advertiser article giving the point of view of New Mills FC chairman Ray Coverley on New Mills town council's recent decision re Ollersett proposals:

New Mills FC left stunned as council veto Ollersett Fields redevelopment

New Mills FC chairman Ray Coverley has expressed his dismay and frustration at the town council’s decision to veto a planned redevelopment of Ollersett Fields.

A new and exciting facility had been proposed for the site, which included 3G pitches and facilities for not only New Mills FC to use but also junior and girls teams from across the town. However, despite the pitches at Ollersett Fields currently being in a poor condition, New Mills Town Council decided at a meeting last week to turn down the proposals.

Coverley said: “The council say that the new facilities will have no real benefit to the community, only to New Mills FC itself, which is staggering really given it’s an entirely community-based proposal and designed to benefit everyone. “We’ve been putting the plans together for a long time now with developers Morbaine and this would have cost the council nothing given Morbaine would have organised all of the public consultations and so on, but we’ve not even been allowed to get to that stage.

“It’s been a very sudden end to quite a drawn out process and we’re desperately disappointed, as are our junior coaches and players as they currently don’t have anywhere suitable to play regularly. “It’s a huge setback. I could understand if consultations had taken place and there were suitable enough objections to it all, but it has been nipped in the bud before the plans had been made fully public.”

Morbaine had also put accompanying plans in place to develop the playing fields at Quarry Road, currently used by school teams but which are also in a poor condition.

Coverley added: “Everything we had planned was with a view to improving current facilities to provide a fantastic community resource and yet the council have, for some reason, not seen that and dismissed it out of hand.

“Everything was being financed and literally the only thing the council had to do was give us the OK to do it. We’ve had widespread support from across the town for what we wanted to do. “I’ve been involved with this club for 30 years and wanted this development to be my legacy so I’m very frustrated at the way this has happened.

“Both sites are going to rack and ruin and it’s such a huge waste when you consider both what could be put in place instead and just how many people will benefit. I can’t understand how the council believe the community won’t reap the rewards."

MARK DUFFY (TWITTER - @DUFFERSSPORT) 16:09Wednesday 22 February 2017

Read the article in situ at: http://www.buxtonadvertiser.co.uk/sport/football/new-mills-fc-left-stunned-as-council-veto-ollersett-fields-redevelopment-1-8404173

Ollersett Fields
Ollersett  Field- "Going to rack and ruin" - Ray Coverley

24 February 2017

New Sporting Facilities Needed In New Mills: Contribution To The Debate From New Mills Juniors Football

A 6-1 win over Tintwistle

The following has been received from Colin Ramwell, who is connected with New Mills Juniors football.  It was received as a 'comment' below the previous article but is detailed enough to merit its standalone article as follows:

Hello HPT, I thought it may be worthwhile sending you the reasons New Mills Juniors (a separate club to New Mills AFC) are keen to back the AFC proposal for this new facility

New Mills Juniors are extremely disappointed that the council didn't even vote for a public consultation, we accept that some local residents to the site will have reservations but the much wider community of New Mills have again not been taken into consideration or indeed had an opportunity to have their say in what would be the biggest sporting facility the town has had since the building of the leisure centre in the 1970's.

I attended the council EGM for this project back in early November, in attendance where the junior and AFC football clubs along with the developer and ground design company - however only 3 councillors bothered to turn up! - I genuinely believe we have not been listened to

The facility would not just be for football, I know of interest from hockey and lacrosse teams, games not currently played in the area.

Also regarding the peppercorn rent, my understanding was to either buy the land outright (more than a few peppercorns I would imagine into the council coffers) or agree a long term lease at a market value rate.

I don't do anonymous


Colin Ramwell - Chair New Mills Juniors


New Mills Juniors – fully behind a new community sports 3G facility in New Mills.

New Mills Juniors was established over 40 years ago and is a well-known FA standard charted junior football club in the High Peak and South Manchester area – we accommodate football for the age groups U8’s through to U18’s.

• We have around 170 FA registered players, we are the largest (playing) sporting club in the area, but our facilities are very poor.

• We only have 2 pitches for 10 teams to play football on. The REC on Wirksmoor Rd and the proposed site of the new 3G facility at Ollersett Fields on Watburn Rd.

• The REC on Wirkmoor Rd is OK albeit in need of some drainage and resurfacing work in parts.

• The Ollersett fields site is in the main not fit for purpose as it is nearly always waterlogged as it has no working drainage – I estimate we have played less than 10 games ONLY on Ollersett over the last 2 seasons – from October to March last year we play NO games on the pitch – The New Mills council parks team will collaborate this as they can’t get their equipment onto the pitch as the mower sinks in the mud.

•  For our teams on Ollersett, we tend to have to play many of our home games away due to the pitch being unfit - lots of unnecessary travel for our players and parents.

• Our U8’s and 9‘s teams have to play all their games in Glossop (3G pitch) due to lack of a pitch to play on in New Mills, a round trip for players and parent of around 20 miles each and every weekend.

• We have had in the past a successful girls team but we have no changing facilities so we are reluctant to set another one up due to this fact – we also would not meet the standard charter FA criteria for a girl’s football team.

• We cannot grow as a club and offer more children to play football due to the lack of facilities.

• We lose New Mills players to other towns due to the poor facilities New Mills has – Whaley Bridge, Glossop, High Lane etc. all have 3G facilities

New Mills Juniors represents the town in the Metro League playing teams from all around South Manchester – from Macclesfield through Stockport to Glossop and Hyde most towns have better facilities for their children to play than we have in New Mills – our footballing facilities are a very poor advert for the town to visitors.

New Mills Juniors are fully behind working with New Mills AFC. Both clubs have forged strong links together over the last few years and are in total agreement to move forward with a Community Footballing/Educational/Multisport facility the town can be proud of.

Editor's Note for non-football types: '3G' means Third Generation artificial pitch.  Goodbye to the burnt knees and unpredictable ball-bounce of the first generation of artificial pitches!

23 February 2017

New Mills Town Council turns down generous offer of one peppercorn in return for about four acres of land

Fig 1: Some peppercorns (actual size)

The following has been received as a reader's comment, from 'Watburn Road Resident'.  It deserves a stand-alone article, so that comments on this subject can all be all kept together rather than be scattered under other unrelated articles:

"Last Monday New Mills Town Council spent a lot of time discussing whether to lease Ollersett Fields at a peppercorn rent to allow New mills Football club to develop on the site financed by a property company on a long lease.

"Another article supplied by the club is in the paper this week. What is not mentioned is that this development will lead to the present site in Church Lane being developed into housing or retail in an overcrowded area already.

"The answers from the property company were unclear and lacked details.

"All councillors expressed concern and voted unanimously to keep the status quo.

"The football club has put their spin on this.For once the council considered all the issues and accepted their responsibility to the whole community and surrounding properties and the discussion was transparent and free from acrimony."

If either the football club or Morbain would like to send in their point of view on this matter either in Microsoft Word or as an email then it will be published verbatim on HPT.  Send to:  highpeaktransparency@btconnect.com

24 January 2017

The Public Interest: new council members must not be co-opted in secret


This article concerns future co-options of new members to New Mills Town Council.

Until a new ‘Co-options Policy’ document was presented without prior notice to NMTC’s December 2016 meeting, this council has always selected all new co-opted members in the open.

However, a section of the December document introduces the risk New Mills town council could attempt to co-opt new council members ‘in secret’.

The public interest requires all such council co-option decisions to be made in the open.

Background Explainer

For newer HPT readers, the following is a summary of the law of council meetings and the status of co-option decisions in those meetings:

Format of council meetings: Part One and Part Two

The law requires that meetings of councils must be open to the public.*

There is a tiny number of types of council business where the public may be excluded during the meeting.

Council meetings are therefore divided into two parts.  There is a Part One, where the public is present.  The vast majority of council business in meetings is transacted in Part One.

Sometimes there is a Part Two of the meeting.  This is the section of the meeting from which the public is excluded.

If a council wants to exclude the public from any agenda item in a council meeting then it must pass (in public) a resolution giving a legally valid reason for it proposing to exclude the public from the meeting.

That resolution must specify the agenda item(s) from which the council proposes to exclude the public.

Becoming a member of a town or parish council: election and co-option

Local elections to councils happen every four years.  When a vacancy on a council arises between elections, the vacancy must be advertised in the council area.  This is to elect a replacement council member for the ward that has the vacancy.

If the council concerned is a town or parish council (the local government tier below Borough Council) then the advertisement specifies that, if there are not at least ten local electors who require a by-election to be held, the council may itself co-opt a new member to fill the vacancy.  This is called a ‘casual vacancy’.

Co-option is the cheaper method of filling a casual vacancy but is not appropriate in every case.

The issue

Proposed new ‘Co-options Policy’ of New Mills Town Council – December 2016 meeting

A new ‘Co-option Policy’ document was presented to the 12 December 2016 New Mills Town Council meeting by Cllr Tony Ashton.

No advance sight of this proposed policy change was given to the councillors before the meeting at which they were asked to vote on it.  That itself would be unlawful if it were allowed to stand, but is not the subject of this article.

The serious problem created by this December document is that, regarding future co-options of new members to the council, it states:

“The council may only discuss each candidate’s suitability for the role when he/she and members of the public are not present, i.e. as a part 2 item.” **

Intuitively, most people will know that cannot be right.  And all people interested in transparency in public life will know that, on this subject, any such attempted secrecy is manifestly not right.

All local councils are public bodies.  Council co-options are to a public body.  A public body’s meetings are held in public.

Any person applying for co-option knows full well that they are applying for a public position on a public body.  They are therefore expecting public scrutiny.

If they were not prepared to accept public scrutiny then they would not be interested in standing for public office, i.e. being a local councillor.

The December 2016 ‘Co-options Policy’ document

Regarding co-option of new members to a council, even the document itself recognises the importance of transparency in co-options to a local council.  Its second sentence is:

“It is especially important that the (co-option) arrangements are seen as open and fair.”

But in direct contradiction to this, the document then states:

“The council may only discuss each candidate’s suitability for the role when he/she and members of the public are not present, i.e. as a part 2 item.” **

Given that the role referred to is co-option to a public body, this is a bizarre claim.  What is the authority for such a claim, if any?

Conveniently for the enemies of transparency, the December ‘Co-options Policy’ document avoids referring to the actual law that governs these issues.  Nor does the document reveal the identity of its author.

The document cannot refer to the relevant laws.  Because if it did then everybody would see that a town or parish council would be breaking the law if it managed to exclude the public from a co-option agenda item in one of its meetings.

Reason: co-option of new members to a council are self-evidently a matter of public interest.

The Dimensions Of This Issue

The areas of concern to NMTC if it were now to attempt moving co-option decisions to Part Two of its meetings are as follows:

The council’s reputation;  the government’s wishes;  and the law of council meetings.

The reputation of the council

Since the dark days before the dramatic clear-out in the local elections of May 2007, New Mills Town Council has made good strides in improving its transparency performance.

But now it appears that one particular councillor – Cllr Tony Ashton - may be trying to backslide to earlier bad habits of unlawful council secrecy, and drag New Mills town council back down there with him.  What will the other councillors decide on this issue?

The government’s wishes regarding transparency in local government

The government’s policy on transparency in meetings of local councils was published by the Department for Communities and Local Government in June 2014.  Title: ‘Open and accountable local government: a guide for the press and public on attending and reporting meetings of local government’

The section concerning town and parish councils is Part 4: ‘Access to meetings and documents of parish and town councils’. Here are the extracts relevant to this issue:

“As a member of the public, you have the right to attend the annual parish and town meeting, as well as the meetings of parish and town councils…

“Notice of the meeting specifying the business to be discussed must be placed in a central conspicuous place within the parish or area at least 3 clear days (excluding Sundays and Bank Holidays etc – HPT Ed) before the meeting.  These councils are also encouraged to place copies of the agenda, meeting papers and notice of meetings at offices and on their website, if they are in possession of these facilities.

“Can a parish or town council… choose to meet in private?

“All meetings of these councils must be open to the public, except in limited defined circumstances. These councils can only decide, by resolution, to meet in private when discussing confidential business or for other special reasons where publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest.

“What is confidential information and publicity prejudicial to the public interest?

“We expect this to cover matters such as discussing the conduct of employees, negotiations of contracts or terms of tender and the early stages of a legal dispute.”

Note:  co-option of new council members is NOT on the government’s list of the limited matters for which a council may exclude the public from its meetings.

Other key statements about transparency in local government

Also in direct conflict with the ‘secret’ aspect of this NMTC proposed change in co-options policy are the following:


The town and parish council ‘bible’ – Arnold-Baker on Local Council Administration*** - says the following about councils trying to exclude the public from meetings:

“In few cases is there any good reason for excluding the press or the public from meetings, and in still fewer is it necessary to impose secrecy upon the members.”

The detailed passage is as follows:

“A meeting of a council must be open to the public and the press. They can be excluded only by a resolution if publicity would prejudice the public interest by reason of the confidential nature of the business or for some other reason stated in the resolution and arising out of the business to be transacted.  The power to exclude* is not exercisable generally but only for a particular occasion.”

“In few cases is there any good reason for excluding the press or the public from meetings, and in still fewer is it necessary to impose secrecy upon the members.  As a rule, however, it is desirable to treat the discussion of the following types of business as confidential:

- engagement, terms of service, conduct and dismissal of employees;
- terms of tenders, and proposals and counter-proposals in negotiations for contracts;
- preparations of cases in legal proceedings; and
- the early stages of any dispute.”

Needless to say, in Arnold-Baker on Local Council Administration, co-options of new members onto the council are not on the list of business that ‘it would be wise to treat as confidential’.

NMTC’s December Co-options policy document

Even the December ‘Co-options Policy’ document itself states, in only its second sentence:

“It is especially important that the (co-option) arrangements are seen as open and fair.”

The law of council meetings – the public’s right to attend

The laws relevant to this subject of public rights of access to its council meetings are easily accessible on the official Statute Law Database of the United Kingdom at www.legislation.gov.uk

Here they are:

Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960

(1) Subject to subsection (2) below, any meeting of a body exercising public functions, being a body to which this Act applies, shall be open to the public.

 (2) A body may, by resolution, exclude the public from a meeting (whether during the whole or part of the proceedings) whenever publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest by reason of the confidential nature of the business to be transacted or for other special reasons stated in the resolution and arising from the nature of that business or of the proceedings; and where such a resolution is passed, this Act shall not require the meeting to be open to the public during proceedings to which the resolution applies.

It is clear from Section 1 that the public have the right to attend all New Mills town council meetings.

Section 2 specifies those limited subjects when the public can be excluded from the meeting.  Co-options of new members of a council - a public body - clearly do not fall under these exceptions.

Co-options are evidently a) not confidential; and b) a matter of public interest.

Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972

Of course, some HPT readers will now be asking: “But what about Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972?  Surely that says an individual’s information is exempt from being revealed to the public by a council?”

Such a misreading of Schedule 12A is probably the original cause of the attempt at co-option secrecy in the December proposed co-option policy document.  If so, the anonymous person who wrote that document has not read the law properly.

Schedule 12A concerns the public’s right of access to information held by a council.  The relevant parts are as follows:

Clauses 1, 2 and 3 of Schedule 12A indicate that in general a council should not disclose information to the public relating to an individual; or likely to reveal the identity of an individual; or relating to an individual’s financial or business affairs.

However, this ban on revealing an individual’s information is conditional, not absolute.

It is specified to be conditional on the public interest of the particular matter being discussed. The public interest in knowing the identity, information, interview performance etc of all co-option candidates is therefore protected by Schedule 12A's Clause 10:

10.  “Information which—
(a) falls within any of paragraphs 1 to 7 above; and
(b) is not prevented from being exempt by virtue of paragraph 8 or 9 above,
is exempt information if and so long, as in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.”

There is a strong public interest in co-options, and in co-options being as open and transparent as possible.

In all the circumstances of this case - which concerns co-options to a public body - the public interest in disclosing the relevant information about the co-option candidates outweighs the public interest in maintaining the exemption, i.e. the attempt at secrecy proposed in the December 2016 NMTC ‘Co-options Policy’ document.



* Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960

** Numbered paragraph 4 in the December ‘Co-options Policy’ document

*** Ninth Edition, paragraph 7.6

13 November 2016

Shining a light on the co-option meeting: transcript of David Lamb's public co-option interview answers

In the 22 June 2015 co-option meeting of New Mills town council, there were seven candidates for six vacancies on the council.

The outstanding candidate - but the one who did not get co-opted - was David Lamb.  To independent council-taxpayers and electors of New Mills, this is strange for the following reasons.

Factually, Mr Lamb was the former chairman of the town council who was the key player in ensuring that the dishonest and incompetent ex-town clerk lost her 'compensation culture' spurious financial claim against New Mills town council.

Mr Lamb was also the key player in starting the eventual public exposure of local poppies charity thief Jeff Lawton, the dishonest friend of certain current councillors who are also supporters of the dishonest and incompetent former town clerk.  (Mr Lawton was the Chairman of our local High Peak Conservative Association until he was charged with theft from the British Legion charity.)

Mr Lamb's bold, honest actions as a town councillor therefore ensured both that justice was done in two cases and also saved the council taxpayers of New Mills and local contributors to the Poppy Appeal a substantial sum of money,

However, this has meant that some local councillors, and others in local public life who are supporters and/or personal friends of the dishonest and incompetent sacked former town clerk of New Mills and/or poppy charity thief Jeff Lawton, became personally vindictive against David Lamb.

To shed more factual light on these events, HPT now publishes the transcript of David Lamb's council co-option interview, held in public in the New Mills council chamber on 22 June 2015.

The question were asked of every candidate by the Town Clerk Lesley Bramwell. These are the answers given by David Ian Lamb.

Question 1

Can you briefly say why I would like to become a member of New Mills Town Council.


I think everybody in here is aware of the role I used to have here on the Council.  I was a Councillor for four years, I was also the chair of the Council for a year, and you may be aware I was also Chair of Welfare and Admin (Committee), and on the Personnel Committee as well

I think my main reason for coming back on the council is, is that we have moved forward with this council now, it's open honest and transparent, and that's the way I want to keep this council, and if I can be on this council, I will make sure that I steer it in the right direction, along with other council members.

Question 2

Do you have any specific skills you think you could bring to the role of Town Council


Well I have said a fair bit of it. Many will not be aware of the Localism Act in the public, the Localism Act was brought in on 2011.

I have done my training for the general power of competence. I think I am about one or maybe two of the Councillors on here, sorry as the Council 'was',  I was about one or two Councillors who went through the training.

My training is in there, obviously we need to get up to strength with that. And what that would empower this council to do is things that we do not necessarily have a statutory obligation to do . As long as it is legal and lawful,  yes not a problem we could then get on and do it.

What other specific skills have I got, well Council and people who are interested in Council will be aware along with other Councillors previously have gone through the financial regulations, I have been on the financial regulations training, I have been on the human resources training as well for councils so it's fair I would say that I have a good working knowledge of how council works and local council administration.

Question 3

What is your current and past involvement with the local community.


Well I've lived in New Mills for 25 years, if it's been there I've done it. I was involved with the carnival at one time. Lantern parade, hopefully you've all read my little CV I sent in, I mean I was on the first in on the lantern parade making lanterns for the kids and when my youngsters were small we went on a little trot with not so many people that's another thing I have done  I supported that and the carnival which is a big event over the years dressing floats up et cetera you will all have read this in the CV I sent in. Recently I have been very involved with New Mills they had their 100 sorry I forgotten how many years is was 100 year anniversary what ever it is 150 years ? I was very involved with them.

I am keen that all the community groups in New Mills are well represented, I am quite happy to represent those groups and be on those committees as well,  I want to see New Mills move forward.

Question 4

What experience have you had in Committee work and what skills should a good committee member have.


Again I have to go back a little bit - Committee work I have been on Council again if you have read my CV.  At work I am on a committee it’s a diagonal slice Committee. It's putting across the workers view to the management and getting feedback from the management I have been on various committees in the Council,  outside groups as well.

The main thing is listening, whatever you do you have to listen to these people.  Now as a  committee member representative on an outside body obviously I can't make decisions I have to bring it back to Council, report in to Council exactly what is going on it is then Councils decision. The Council is a corporate body.

Question 5

There are situations as a Councillor when you may be put under intense personal pressure either through being publicly criticised or through being persuaded to change your mind over something that has been previously agreed. Can you think of an occasion when you are felt under such pressure by a person or a group of people and tell us what you did and how you coped.


Yes there have been plenty, it's been quite open here in the council chamber. Again as an individual Councillor I cannot do anything, I can't do anything as an individual. If somebody comes into council and they have got a gripe you know that's fine. You have to listen to what has been said, even if they are way off base you still have to listen to what is been said.  Then it's down to Council whether they decide to do something about it. As an individual I cannot do anything about it.

Question 6

What suggestions can you supply to deal professionally with an angry resident or member of the public who may attend a parish council meeting


Same again.  Listen to the person.  There is no perfect conflict resolution model, there isn't one. What you need to do is listen to people. If the council are aware of it, and the council decides they are going to do something about it,  it is a collective decision of the Council

Question 7

If appointed to this council are you able to commit to attend all the town council meetings


At the annual parish meeting, I did report in because Sean (Cllr Sean Whewell - HPT Ed) was chairing his first meeting, I sat in there, and that my record has been one hundred percent

Question 8

Would you be interested in attending any Parish councillor training that may be offered


I have attended more or less anything that has been going, and in fact I have suggested that Councillors go on training.

Also I have found out about training courses, that may not have been communicated to Council, and through the Clerk the proper officer I have spread around to all the Councillors.  There is training available and we should be going on training.

Question 9

There are some occasions where it may be necessary to meet with outside agencies or have site meetings with other members of the Town Council. Such meetings will usually fall outside of normal town council meetings. Would you consider attending some of these types of meetings


Again if people check back through the records it quite clearly shows I have attended these meetings - I have been spotted by members of the public when out and about - I always make time.

Question 10

Finally do you have any questions for the current council members



Note to contributors re comments on this article:

If you use your real name on a comment then it is virtually guaranteed to be published.

Anonymous comments making seriously bad claims against a named councillor or town council employee - i.e. making bad or unfounded claims against a named individual whilst at the same time hiding behind 'anonymous' like a coward - are unlikely to make it into the comments section below.

29 October 2016

What Daily Telegraph Readers Are Learning About Previous Years' Poppy Money in New Mills, And About The High Peak Conservative Association

Mr Lawton's hidden overstock of poppy merchandise, after discovery by New Mills town councillors

Here is how the house newspaper of the Conservative Party, the Daily Telegraph, is reporting the scandal in the High Peak Conservative Association, president Edwina Currie:

"Edwina Currie tried to help poppy thief who stole money for war heroes

"A former local Conservative chairman who stole more than £3,000 from the Royal British Legion under the guise of selling poppies was helped in court by Edwina Currie.

"The former MP and her husband John Jones pleaded with magistrates to have mercy on their friend Jeff Lawton, 41, after he was convicted of stealing money meant for war heroes and their families.

"Lawton stole £3,135 after collecting money for the Poppy Appeal.

"Ms Currie and her husband sent letters to Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court to help his mitigation.

"Her husband told the Mirror: 'We are both horrified because we actually don’t think he is guilty. We have known Jeff for quite a few years and we are quite fond of him. He hasn’t got a bad bone in his body.

'He’s the most disorganised person you could wish to meet. He’s very careless but a lovely guy. Both Edwina and I sent letters to the court as some mitigation. He’s not a thief in my opinion but who am I to argue with a judge? Having been convicted, he was very lucky not to be given a prison sentence. He’s in a real state now and his parents are really distraught.'

"Lawton, who has now resigned as chairman of the High Peak Conservative Association in Buxton, Derbyshire, over the scandal, had raised £400 for the British Legion but claimed he had only collected £200.

"Another receipt revealed he had raised £7,000 but only submitted £4,000.

"He was found guilty of theft by magistrates and given a community order.

"Lawton was arrested last October after the British Legion noticed discrepancies in its accounts.

"He initially blamed a cashier for the error when he deposited the money at a bank.

"A spokesperson for the Royal British Legion said: “This loss will deprive those in the service and ex-service community and their families of much needed assistance and support.”

"Former New Mills councillor Mark Gadd added: “He’s gone from being a pillar of the community to a disgrace. No one knows what he has spent the money on.”

"He caused controversy two years ago when New Mills Town Council complained he had left 23,750 poppies and hundreds of other Remembrance Day items, wreaths, collecting boxes and tins, totalling nearly 25,000 items, in council offices."

Here is the link to the Daily Telegraph article on the newspaper's website:

27 October 2016

Currying Favour With The Magistrates To Get A Lenient Sentence For A Pal

Perhaps the mystery of why poppy charity thief Jeff Lawton unjustly evaded a jail sentence may be a bit closer to being solved.

Friday's Daily Mirror (28 October 2016 - front page below) has further details of the Jeff Lawton New Mills theft case and some insider detail about the bad sentencing decision.

Here is a link to the online edition of the Mirror's story:

20 October 2016

Local Tory Ex-Chairman Guilty of Theft from British Legion Poppy Appeal Charity

Former High Peak Conservative Association Chairman Jeffrey Peter Lawton has been found guilty at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court of theft of money from the Poppy Appeal, the principal ex-servicemen's charity of the United Kingdom.

Jeff Lawton was a collector and custodian of cash for the charity and other local good causes for many years.  This all started to unravel when his bosom buddy the former town clerk of New Mills in Derbyshire  (Mrs Susan Stevens) was dismissed from that post for gross misconduct.  Councillors were then able to access the town hall's storage spaces.  About 25,000 poppies were found, when Mr Lawton had claimed there were only about 10,000.

Being fortunate in his friends in high places in the Conservative Party and in the local press etc, suspicions were only aroused among local people when Mr Lawton failed to hand over cash collected on behalf of the New Mills Carnival local good causes.

Following the mass poppy discovery, a patient covert police investigation was under way for many months, until sufficient evidence was gathered for a charging decision to be taken.  The trial started on Monday 17 October 2016.  Costs of £2,060 were awarded against Mr Lawton.

Some may wonder at the leniency of 200 hours community service and eight-week night time tagged curfew, rather than custodial sentence, when the victim of the theft was our national ex-servicemen's charity.

More than a day after High Peak Transparency broke this story, here is the Buxton Advertiser's catch-up, published on their website at 14:03 on Friday 21 October 2016:

'Former Tory chairman found guilty of stealing more than £3,000 from the Royal British Legion in New Mills

'The former chairman of the High Peak Conservative Association, Jeffrey Peter Lawton, was found guilty of stealing £3,135.65 from the Royal British Legion in New Mills at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court earlier this week.

'Lawton 41, of High Lea Road, New Mills, had originally denied the theft, said to have occurred between November 2014 and October 2015, at an earlier hearing in April.

'He was given a community order and a curfew between 8pm-6am until December 13 and ordered to pay court costs of £2,000 and a victim surcharge of £60.

Derbyshire Police confirmed that a case against Lawton began in 2015 that he had failed to bank some money that had been raised during the Poppy Appeal in November 2014. Lawton was arrested in October last year and finally charged over the stolen money in March this year.'

19 October 2016

All Our Yesterdays - Poppygate Part One

Some High Peak Transparency readers have requested a reprint of the Manchester Evening News article that disgraced Conservative ex-Chairman Jeff Lawton engineered to appear in the newspaper in February 2014.

In the light of Mr Lawton's court conviction this week for theft of over £3,000 from the poppy appeal, it does make fascinating reading.  The article appeared on 6 February 2014, under the byline of Alex Scapens:

"Town hall bosses have threatened to throw away 10,000 British Legion poppies – because they are a fire hazard.

Poppy appeal organiser Jeff Lawton outside New Mills Town Hall

"Jeff Lawton, organiser of the New Mills appeal, has been told to collect the paper flowers right away or they will be ‘removed and disposed of’.

"He has been storing poppies at New Mills Town Hall since 2007 and says this arrangement was agreed with the building’s caretaker and the town council.

"But New Mills Town Council says there has been no such agreement and that written permission must be given after Jeff has provided details of insurance cover for the poppies.

"Jeff, 39, said: 'This is ridiculous, I’ve been told they are a fire hazard.

'I’ve been running the Poppy Appeal for years and until recently, I’ve had nothing but brilliant support – which is as it should be, because it is a very worthy cause.

'It’s just a shame that this has changed in what is a big year for the appeal – the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. If they get thrown away, that feasibly could cost the Poppy Appeal £10,000, as it’s not unreasonable to estimate people pay £1 per poppy on average – and I have around 10,000 stored.

'That money can help a lot of people. I’m pretty angry about this.”

"Jeff, who helps organise other community events such as New Mills Carnival, also has collection tins, a marquee, Christmas lights and cones stored at the town hall.

"All of these will be thrown away if not collected.

"Lesley Bramwell, acting clerk for new Mills Town Council, told Jeff this in a letter dated Tuesday, January 27.

"In it, she said: 'I asked you to remove all the items that you have lodged with the town hall with immediate effect or they will be removed and disposed of.

'If you wish to lodge any items in the town hall you should write to the town council requesting permission, stating very clearly what the items are, how long you wish to store them for and what insurance cover you have in place.'