09 June 2017

Parliamentary Election: Bingham Out, Labour's Ruth George In















The 8 June 2017 General Election result is as follows:


LABOUR:      Ruth George   26,753 votes,  49.7%

CONSERVATIVE:  Andrew Bingham   24,431 votes,  45.4%

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT:   Charles Lawley   2,669 votes,  5%



The winning margin was 2,322 votes.

22 May 2017

Witness Report From the Hustings Event




Thanks to 'Amos Hart' - which presumably is a nom-de-plume - who has sent in the following eye-witness account of the recent general election hustings in New Mills that has been commented on under recent HPT articles:



"At its best it was like scenes from “Animal Farm” or “1984”; at its worst I was half expecting Stormtroopers to burst into the room at any moment.

"The questions were wide ranging and seemed very balanced. The compere seemed absolutely neutral and fair. As he put the questions to each candidate, the compere reminded them of their party’s policy on that subject with a quick ad verbatim quotation from their manifesto. This was a useful mind jogger for the audience.

"However, when it was the Labour candidates turn to answer, the compere was repeatedly subject to loud and intimidating abuse from the floor accusing him of political bias, and demanding that he stops doing it.

"The Conservative candidate (Andrew Bingham), and to a lesser extent the LibDem candidate (Charles Lawley), were subject to repeated mindless heckling and interruptions. The annoying part was that a lot of the debate itself was really absorbing and the interruptions were often during an interesting point. For instance one major interruption was when we were hearing from a candidate about the fight to save New Mills 6th form.

"Another, quite amusing interruption, was when a candidate mentioned that the Liberal William Beveridge had been the architect of the welfare state. This was immediately howled down as being 'nonsense' and 'rubbish'.

"The chief culprits included the lady with the teenage daughter and also a lady sat near the side (back) door. The latter was an absolute pain. I don’t know if anyone knows who she is.

"I was talking to someone afterwards who said they had asked one of the protagonists which part of the High Peak they were from, but said they did not appear to know!

"I have tried to keep the above as factual and balanced as possible.

"All in all, it was not a good night for democracy."



HPT Editor adds:  I'm sure all HPT readers will be very interested in this report.  All comments welcome, as usual.  Additional factual info from the event itself would be especially welcome



20 May 2017

Report on the 2017 New Mills Annual Parish Meeting






The meeting took place in the upstairs hall of the town hall on 16 May 2017.

This statutory meeting demonstrated once again that these annual get-togethers of a town’s electors – which by law must take place at least once in every year – are a good barometer of the issues that are of interest to the council taxpayers of the town.

The local government law governing these meetings states that if the chairman of the local town/parish council is present at the parish meeting then s/he must chair the meeting.*

Accordingly, town council chairman Barry Bate presided.  As always, he carried out this duty with civility and fairness.  Occasionally, the patience of a saint also seemed to be required.

The public meeting got heated occasionally, as these things are sometimes apt to do, but it was chaired with good nature and everyone was allowed to have their say at all times.  Such is democracy and a free society.

The following is a summary of some of the areas of interest that came up during the meeting.


The million-pound offer to the town council for a lease of Ollersett Fields

Representatives of New Mills Football Club recently made an offer to the town council that would have resulted in a million pounds coming into public funds.

Although this particular parish meeting was fairly well-attended, there was seemingly a no-show from the pro-Ollersett New Stadium supporters.  If any were there at the meeting, they stayed silent during the meeting.

It has to be said that the first heads-of-terms written offer from the project’s supporters to the town council was a major tactical blunder. This is the notorious document which offered payment of an annual peppercorn for the whole of the Ollersett land.

This offer took town councillors for fools, and poisoned and unfairly prejudiced the subsequent much more realistic offer of a million pounds for a lease of the land.

The next move of the football club, if any, is awaited.


Towards greening the town hall

Large savings have recently been made on the annual energy bills of the town hall.  Under previous town hall administrations the gas bills were allowed to run wildly out of control.  The town hall’s 40-year old inefficient giant boiler was being run willy-nilly for 24 hours a day and regular payments were being made for a redundant meter that was serving no purpose.

Following extensive investigations, British Gas has been dropped as a supplier to the town hall.
Although the town clerk and councillors are financially cautious about replacing the antiquated and inefficient boiler, a modern efficient boiler system would be cheaper to run than the old one.  It would also reduce the greenhouse gases emissions.

Energy technology has moved on enormously since the 1970s, when the current boiler was installed. Subject to making the detailed calculations, a modern replacement boiler would pay for itself quite quickly and then lead to many future annual cost savings after the payback period.


New Mills Heritage and Information Centre

Issues concerning New Mills Heritage and Information Centre took up a decent part of the meeting’s time and attention.

Concerns were raised by Linda Kendall and others that the original constitution and management committee arrangements Heritage Centre (‘HC’) have disappeared and/or fallen into disuse.

The charge is that those original arrangements have in effect been replaced by an unaccountable and ad-hoc administration of the HC.

To counter the above accusation, it emerged from the discussions at this public meeting that the original constitution of the Heritage Centre may no longer be workable.

The reason for this is that the HC constitution as originally written requires councillors from Derbyshire County Council and High Peak Borough Council to be on its management committee. This requirement was imposed because those two councils made financial contributions to the running of the Heritage Centre.

However, those two councils no longer make any regular financial payments to the Centre.  Therefore, it would now be unreasonable for their councillors to be imposed onto the management committee.

The figure given at this meeting for the annual costs of the Heritage Centre, before sales and any other income is taken into consideration, is about £30,000.

New Mills town council is now responsible for all of that liability, provided the decision is made to keep the HC open.  Grants etc from outside sources are being actively sought, in order to mitigate the town council’s substantial financial contribution.

Installing a new EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale) system is in progress.  This is basically a fancy till that tracks the items that come into stock and are sold out of stock.

On the issue of accounting processes at the Heritage Centre, David Lamb alerted the meeting to HC stock still being valued at retail price in the accounts.  If that is true - and Mr Lamb’s statements of independent fact usually are - then this erroneous method of valuing stock should be corrected immediately.

The accounting policy of every professional retailer in the UK is to value all stock at the lower of cost or current valuation.  Also, this method is known best practice in UK accountancy firms.

The town clerk stated that Heritage Centre formal management committee meetings should be in the public domain.  What reasonable person could argue against that requirement for transparency?  All expenses and risks are borne by New Mills town council, which means the council taxpayers of the town.

During the discussion about the Heritage Centre and its potential museum status, the town clerk stated she had been informally advised (by an unnamed person) that the town council “does not have the powers to run a museum.”

The town clerk seemed sceptical of this advice. HPT goes further: any such ‘advice’ sounds like nonsense on stilts.  That opinion is of course subject to any such museum facility being in the town; exhibits etc at the museum being related to the town; and the site being intended to promote the town and/or benefit its residents.

Furthermore, HPT hereby challenges anyone who offers that particular ‘advice’ regarding Heritage Centre museum status and the town council to now put up the written proof, or shut up.


New Mills Annual Festival

Cllr Barry Bate reported on the Festival, which is growing year on year.  Attendance and events are increasing.  The annual Festival is proving to be a very popular tourist attraction for the town.
So far so excellent.

This year, both Market Street and Union Road will be closed to vehicle traffic on the Festival’s big night.

Last year’s night-time lantern procession attracted 10,000 people to the town.  An unsympathetic bystander might observe that any night-time lantern procession in a small town is perhaps reminiscent of the scene in Young Frankenstein just after the townspeople have a town hall meeting where they resolve to chase down and capture the monster that has escaped.

Anyway, just so long as the New Mills version is safe, exciting for the kids, and helps to promote the town and its businesses.


Visit New Mills

A small group of attendees at this parish meeting was accused of seeking to unreasonably attack the Visit New Mills organisation wherever they can find an excuse.

If VNM is not transparent then it would deserve criticism.  If it makes mistakes then of course it deserves some criticism.  But any such criticism surely should be proportionate and aimed at being constructive and helpful.

Visit New Mills is staffed entirely by volunteers who put in a lot of work, creative thinking and effort to benefit the town.

What a poor, sterile, miserable state of affairs would exist in the town without the people who have set up Visit New Mills and subsequently organised and run its events.  Big vote of thanks to all of them.


Agendas and supporting papers for council meetings

Elector David Lamb pointed out a case where a recent determination by the town council had been made in error.

In the May 2017 council meeting, a town councillor objected to only getting the town council meetings agendas and supporting papers by email, and being refused paper copies.

This was met by a refusal or reluctance to send the paper copies to the councillor.

The law** governing this issue states that every councillor must give their explicit consent to receiving electronic copies of agendas etc (if the council has resolved to send out these documents electronically).

If that explicit consent is not given by the councillor then the traditional paper version of the agenda and supporting papers must be delivered to their usual home address before the legal cut-off date for receiving that meeting’s documents.

This opt-out exists because not all councillors have the facilities at home either to receive or sometimes to print off bulky documentation.


Co-options progress, and the council’s current shortage of members

New Mills town council has twelve seats.  Currently, there are only nine councillors, leaving it three members short of a full, proper council.

The quorum for this council is four.  Therefore, it currently only takes a few genuine absentees for a council meeting to be unable to make decisions.

How things have got to this sorry state has been extensively reported in earlier HPT articles.

It is now clear that one of the critical errors was town councillors allowing new co-opted councillors to not represent a specific ward, but rather to ‘just be general councillors’.

The local government system is designed for, and relies upon, every councillor in England representing one specific ward.

But at the main co-option meeting following the last local elections, New Mills town council rejected this legal requirement.  The town council and the local council taxpayers have been living with the fall-out from this blunder ever since.

The question of how to move forward - or at least the question of how to resolve the co-options dispute - is about to be placed in the hands of the solicitor of the National Association of Local Councils (‘NALC’).

When the solicitor’s written response is received in the next few weeks, will there finally be resolution to this protracted dispute?




References:

* Local Government Act 1972, Schedule 12, Part III, paragraph 17 (1):

"In a parish having a separate parish council the chairman of the parish council, if present, shall preside at a parish meeting and if he is absent the vice-chairman (if any) shall, if present, preside."


**   The Local Government (Electronic Communications) (England) Order 2015 amends paragraph 10 of Schedule 12 of the Local Government Act 1972 to read:

"(b)  the reference to sending the summons to a member by an appropriate method is to—

(i)  leaving it at, or sending it by post to, the member’s usual place of residence, or

(ii)  where the member has given consent for the summons to be transmitted in electronic form to a particular electronic address (and consent has not been withdrawn), sending it in electronic form to that address."

16 May 2017

List Of Candidates In The 8 June 2017 General Election



In alphabetical order:

BINGHAM, Andrew Russell   (The Conservative Party Candidate)

GEORGE, Ruth Stephanie Nicole  (Labour Party)

LAWLEY, Charles Edward  (Liberal Democrat)

--------------------------------

There are no nutty candidates on the ballot paper this time around. Election entities like The Monster Raving Loony Party (Official); Nick The Flying Brick etc.  Lord Buckethead of the Gremloid Party is sadly missed.

Of more seriousness is the fact that the Greens and UKIP are not putting up candidates here. Nationwide, those two parties are targeting their limited resources this time around.

The consequence in High Peak is that the centre ground is abandoned in favour of one candidate.

The "progressive" vote is likely to be split between Labour and Liberal Democrats.  This could hand victory to the Conservatives in this constituency.  It also benefits the Conservative that votes will not be peeled off by UKIP this time around.

The Conservatives' national election strategists have not yet pushed into the wider public limelight Jeremy Corbyn's virulently anti-NATO statements, his associations with enemies of democracy, terrorists, murderous anti-LGBT entities and so on.  Examples are his vocal support for IRA, Hezbollah, Hamas.

It will be interesting to see how prominent Jeremy Corbyn features on the Labour candidate's election leaflets.


14 May 2017

Democracy and Transparency in Action: 2017 New Mills Annual Town Meeting






The following timely reminder has been received as a comment to the bottom of an article.  Here it is given wider publicity:

"According to the Councils website it says that the Annual Parish Meeting is to be held at 7.30 on Monday 15th May and that the last thing is to consider any Parish matters that may be brought forward by any Town Councillor OR LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTORS.

"Which I think means that anybody can ask them questions so perhaps we need lots of the club's supporters to go along and ask them about why they wouldn't let us move to Ollersett and why the turned down the million ponds and see if we can get them to change their minds."




Information note by HPT Editor:

Every parish in England must by law hold a public town meeting in May of every year.

It is NOT a council meeting; it is a meeting held by and for the electors and council tax-payers of the town.

Decisions and votes in the meeting are not binding on the town council but these meetings are very useful for raising matters of public interest or public concern.

This year's meeting will take place in the Public Hall of New Mills.  This is the 'top floor' of the town hall.  Access is either from the front car park (far right-hand door of the town hall then up the stairs) or there is a ground level access to the rear of the town hall.

05 May 2017

4 May 2017 Local Election Result

The result of the Derbyshire County Council election in the New Mills and Hayfield division is:

Beth Atkins  Liberal Democrat  1,889

Mike Daw  Green 177

Samantha Flower  Conservative  833

Dave Gates  Labour  1,312


LibDem Beth Atkins has an increased majority over Labour of 577.  Congratulations to the winning candidate.


Overall, the County Council has passed to Conservative control from Labour.


07 April 2017

The Unlawful Secrecy of Hayfield Parish Council Where Co-options Of New Councillors Are Concerned



Hayfield Parish Council office, together with area fraudulently claimed to be the local 'village green'


The national transparency movement does not seem to have reached Hayfield, a village in the High Peak.

Reports reach High Peak Transparency that Hayfield's Parish Council believes it is above the law.

The reason that statement can be made is that the parish council voted to remove the public from the recent council meeting at which a new parish councillor was to be selected.

The members of the public present were foolish enough to follow the unlawful order given to them by the Chair of the parish council meeting, and left the council meeting when told to do so.

A widely circulated email sent out by the parish clerk discussing this subject after the above meeting has now been forwarded to HPT by one of the Hayfield councillors.

The email makes interesting reading, including the glaring false statement / error / weaselly attempt at covering of backsides in the fourth paragraph:


Dear *****

Thanks for your email and your comments and concerns which have been noted.

Last night's meeting agreed to move the co-option into private simply because it was felt inappropriate to discuss the relevant attributes of candidates for co-option in public, and also because there was a precedent of Hayfield Parish Council holding previous recent co-options in private.

I am not in a position to comment on the opinions expressed on High Peak Transparency as it is simply a blog run by a private individual.  Our reference authority is DALC and I have had a long conversation with them this morning about the correct and appropriate procedures for co-option. 

DALC tell me that it is inappropriate for us to co-opt in private and this should not have happened last night.  However they are also telling me that although it is inappropriate it is not illegal and the decision made last night is valid and should stand.

We will now work with DALC to adopt an appropriate co-option procedure which we will have in place as soon as is practicable.  This new procedure will be followed in any future co-options.

I hope this addresses your concerns.

Keith Bevins
Clerk/RFO to Hayfield Parish Council


27 March 2017

Political Football Scores: A Point Of View From An Ollersett Resident




The following has been received as a comment to add to the bottom of the previous article 'Million Pound Cat Among the Nimby Pigeons'.

The name provided with the comment was 'Ollersett Resident'.  However, the text is pretty long for a 'comment box' and contains detailed comment and argument, so it's being given its own article rather just just being added as a comment box.

Editor's Note:  the headline to the previous article 'Million Pound Cat Among The Nimby Pigeons' was solely the creation of  HPT Editor.

We are happy to make it 100% clear that the headline was not the idea or suggestion of Colin Ramwell nor of anybody connected with the football club.

The headline to this article is likewise solely HPT's creation 

-----------------------------------

"Perhaps I might suggest that, if Mr Ramwell is so keen to: 'build bridges, not burn them' as his article suggest, a good place to start might be by not referring to local residents with valid concerns about a proposed major development on their doorstep as 'nimbie's' (especially in the title of the article). Again,, just a thought..

"Having attended most of the NMTC meetings where this proposal was discussed, including the meeting on the 13th February when the council voted unanimously by 6 to 0 (not '3.5' as Mr Ramwell suggests) to reject the proposal, I do feel able to offer some observations about that process. It’s also worth considering that AFC New Mills and Morbaine were in negotiation with DCC regarding the proposed development of Quarry Bank before the council threw it out. If this is such a good outcome for the town, perhaps someone could enlighten me as to why that initial proposal was rejected?

"I unashamedly mark myself as one of the 'pre-arranged' group of local residents who attended the meeting. That so many local residents felt compelled to go out of their way to attend a Town Hall meeting on a Monday night in February (after a 10 hour shift and straight after putting the kids to bed in my case) should tell you about the strength of feeling against this project and also, the significant annoyance that local residents had to find out about this proposal by word of mouth, rather than by any consultation from the football club. However, the tone and content of articles such as this are instructive of the amount of care and considerations that the football club have for local residents.

"During the meeting, NMTC quite rightly deduced that they were, in effect being asked to consider 2 proposals: the proposal to develop Ollersett Field, and the development of the Church Lane site (where Morbaine’s financial interest lies).

"Given that the former cannot proceed without the latter (there wouldn’t be any money), I find it more than slightly confusing that neither the football club of the developer have expanded on what is proposed for the Church Lane site. Is it a supermarket? is it housing? Is it both? If so, what are the implications to the rest of the town? These are the things that were considered at the meeting(s).

"£1,000,000 might sound like a lot of money on paper, however if it leads to a retail development that puts any number of local firms out of business, what are the financial effects on the town? The council rightly acknowledges that it has a duty to the 10,000 or so residents of the town, not a few hundred people directly associated with the local football club.

"Finally, if we can address myth that this proposal will somehow improve community sports facilities in the area. The definition of a ‘community’ resource is one which is freely available for use by the community. We have one of those; it’s called Ollersett Field (regularly and enthusiastically used by the local community, despite some comments on here). What this proposal does, is to transfer that community facility into private hands and make it available to them at certain times (subject to availability) on a hire basis for the private financial gain of the football club. This was confirmed to me when I spoke with Club Design to get more information (in the absence of any from the football club). I would therefore be grateful if you could make this distinction in future comment.

"Those of us who have followed this project for several months (and bothered to actually turn up and discuss it at meetings) were delighted that the council had the foresight to see through the private financial gains of a local sports clubs and a private developer and look at the wider interests of the townspeople of New Mills, the vast, vast majority of which have no interest whatsoever in the local football club.

A resident of Watburn Rd, New Mills."



23 March 2017

Million Pound Cat Among The Nimby Pigeons





Note:  the headline to this article 'Million Pound Cat Among The Nimby Pigeons' is solely the creation of  HPT Editor.

We are happy to make it 100% clear that the headline was not the idea or suggestion of Colin Ramwell nor of anybody connected with the football club.

---------------------------

The following communication has been received by email from Colin Ramwell at 8:43 on 22 March 2017, and it is printed here verbatim:

"Hello again HPT community: Let’s get something straight about this myth of the peppercorn rent and financial discussions.

"As I have previously stated I truly believe we have not been properly heard, neither the clubs or developer has ever been asked to formally put forward financial terms for the proposal. What I would expect is that at least a decision would be looked at and appraised by professional agents/solicitors before it was put to a full council for a decision, not on the basis of two farcical meetings the EGM (which only 3.5 Cllrs bothered to turn up for) and the pre-organised assembly of some local Ollersett people with no personal invite to the clubs or developer that a decision would be made that evening (Feb 13th meeting)

"The reality of the situation was that at no time have we put any financial offer to NMTC. The idea always was and always has been for the Council to indicate a willingness to discuss the proposal seriously when we would have then discussed detailed terms with the councils legal people.

"I can reveal the offer the developer would be prepared to make to the council is the sum of £1,000,000.00 as a premium to enter a long term ground lease and in addition the club would then pay an annual rent of £800.00. (perhaps this is where the peppercorn rent thing came from) – however £1 million is hardly peppercorn

"I have spoken with the developer and he is happy for me to reveal this proposal, the council have this offer in writing.

"The responsibility for the maintenance of the facility would totally lie with the club, also the club would guarantee the use of the facility to the Junior FC and for wider community to use as previously discussed.

"The club would employ someone to run this facility.

"To all other anonymous HPT contributors who continue to say the club is in “massive debt” all are very welcome to come a see me or any other AFC committee members and take a look at our accounts to dispel this myth. It’s true the club does run to a very rigid budget, like very many similar clubs and societies across the UK money is tight.

"As I say come and meet me at the club, I would be delighted to talk and discuss - we want to build bridges not burn them.

"I would ask the council to reconsider and have a public consultation – where everyone will be properly heard and if the decision remains the same then so be it, we all move on - I don’t mind losing so long as the game is played fairly.

From Colin Ramwell – Chair NM Juniors and Vice Chair NM AFC"