22 October 2014

The Poppy Appeal 2014




Can all parties please respect the annual poppy appeal and let us avoid controversy on this matter this year if at all possible.

Here is the text of the letter sent from the New Mills Poppy Appeal Organisers (Jeff Lawton, Pam & Tony Lawton) to New Mills Town Council:


"We wish to inform you that the ‘Poppy Launch’ in our town will take place from 9.30am on the 25th October 2014. We will have a display, poppy merchandise and effects prominently positioned on the ‘Prom’.  The purpose of this launch is to promote the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal for this year.

It provides an occasion for a ‘show of support’ from our community to our armed forces personnel, their relations, families and friends and our collectors are much in evidence during that day. We must remember that 2014 is the centenary of the start of WW1.

We have invited the Mayor of the High Peak, Cllr Alan Barrow to formally launch our appeal and he will attend in New Mills at 09.45am. He will attend other similar events in the High Peak later that day and we are grateful to him.

We would like to invite all members of the Council to join us either at the ‘opening’ or during the day. We are pleased that Councillors have used this day as an opportunity to assist with the collection and sale of poppies around the town.  Around 140 Poppy Boxes will have been placed in our shops, schools and businesses. The regular spots for collection are Sainsbury’s, the Co-op and ‘Foy’s Corner’.

Our ‘team’ of collectors is small in number but highly dedicated! If any of you can help with collections during the 2 weeks of the Appeal, we would be delighted. Please let us know beforehand, as there is a small amount of ‘admin’ to complete for every collector. We know our scouts and guides will help and our cadets have been invited too."


Please note, any comments that could be construed as abusive etc will not be published on this matter.  If you wish to point out something of public interest that merits attention, then by all means do so.  However, contributors on this issue are required to keep their comments dignified and circumspect.





And now, the road to war as seen from a point of view the allies do not usually have access to....




19 October 2014

A Key Appointment, Now Becoming Urgent



The office of Responsible Financial Officer ('RFO') is often mentioned on this site.

One of the critical decisions made early on in the current clean-up campaign at New Mills town hall was that the two statutory local council offices of Proper Officer (i.e. town clerk) and Responsible Financial Officer would never again be permanently vested in one person.

This is an additional safeguard to help ensure that the public's financial affairs, as entrusted to a council, are maintained properly.

As at this article's date, New Mills Town Council does not have a permanent, independent Responsible Financial Officer in post.

This continuing absence is a serious fault, and it needs remedying urgently. The longer this situation persists at New Mills, the more serious it becomes.

Here is the relevant law:
" ...every local authority shall make arrangements for the proper administration of their financial affairs and shall secure that one of their officers has responsibility for the administration of those affairs."
Section 151, Local Government Act 1972


The permanent RFO that is appointed must:

1) represent the interests of the council taxpayers, and be independent of all individual councillors and factions;

2) be financially literate;

3) be knowledgeable about the laws that govern local (i.e. town and parish) councils;

4) be demonstrably honest.

This is a critical position in the affairs of New Mills Town Council.  There is no point trying to do it on a shoestring. Here is a prime example of 'Pay peanuts and you risk getting monkeys'.

However, given the size of the council's budget and financial activities, the post does not have to be a full-time one.

There can be an initial period of extra hours, while any remaining systems and matters are brought properly up to date and into order.

Any remaining unimportant or unnecessary areas should also be pruned off. Are all the smaller charities and trusts still necessary, for example.

None of this article should be seen as a criticism of current staff. It is not a criticism of current staff, who have been placed in a difficult position by the recent upheavals and sometimes by a bullying councillor with a large chip on his shoulder.

It's just that the town council does now need to leave the chaos caused in the past by certain people behind it. Getting a good Responsible Financial Officer in post is part of that ongoing reconstruction process.

18 October 2014

Speech at New Mills by Mr Graeme Challands




The following is a speech delivered by Mr Graeme Challands from Staveley in the public speaking section of New Mills Town Council meeting on the evening of 13 October 2014

Some of Mr Challands' claims are untested or evidently are not factually correct.  Other statements are heavy with spin: e.g. the use of "obtained" rather than "awarded".

However, in the interests of free speech we publish Mr Challands' statement to the New Mills town council in full:


"I would like to address the Chair and Members. I am here to let the Council know that Nicki Williams is a convicted fraudster with current criminal convictions (see note 3 below). There is documentary evidence of the conviction at Leicester Crown Court.

"Other allegations can be verified (see note 1), and I believe are being investigated, by the CID at Staveley Town Council.

"I'm the Town Clerk at Staveley Town Council, but was suspended by Paul Harris (2), who is your
minute taker, is the acting Town Clerk at Staveley Town Council. I and my colleague Ian Haddock,
who is here with me, were suspended by Paul Harris, acting in consort with Nicki Williams. (2)

"Nicki Williams obtained a HR contract at Staveley Town Council, for £25,000 plus vat initial
payments, in February 2014, and up until the 17th July this year she has had £67,500 in payments
off Staveley Town Council, none of which was budgeted for.

"Nicki Williams has proceeded to organise a series of grievance hearings involving staff including
ourselves none of them complied with employment law. Staveley Town Council has decided to
engage Geldards LLP to investigate her work.

"Mr Harris told us in August that our disciplinaries had been put back due to Ms Williams having
had a car accident, that is in inverted commas deliberately. We are awaiting a new date for our
disciplinaries.

"Following allegations received at Staveley Town Council, Mr Harris called in the Police to
investigate Tall Poppies Consultants Learning Trading and development LTD Ltd.  You will see the
date from the letter that Councillor Stevens will be distributing. No doubt Mr Harris has informed New Mills Town Council of this situation.

"This is all I wish to say, thank you."



Some initial comments on the above speech:

(1) Allegations are not "verified".  An allegation is a statement in legal proceedings, the truth of which one sets out to prove. An allegation is either proven or not.  Compare proper use of this word with 'claim' or 'accusation'.

(2) Presumably, suspension of a town clerk has to be approved by the council concerned. Also, suspension of a town clerk is quite a big step. Is Mr Challands saying there is no reason for his suspension?

(3) Regarding the offence, the court has already given the punishment that it considers appropriate, having heard all the details of the offence. No-one commenting on this has the necessary details.

Other notes:

Regarding free speech, Mr Challands was permitted to speak at New Mills town council.  However, Cllr Alistair Stevens of New Mills was not permitted to speak at Staveley town council.

Both of the speeches have now been reported in full on High Peak Transparency.  We await to see what factual corrections may be needed in respect of the content of the above speech.


17 October 2014

Speech by Councillor Alistair Stevens of New Mills






What follows is a full, accurate transcript of the speech Councillor Alistair Stevens gave in the New Mills Town Council chamber on the evening of Monday 13 October 2014.

Note:  When Cllr Stevens refers to Tall Poppies it is confusing as to whether he means the fake Tall Poppies which he set up but not using his address, and also hiding behind his son Jamie who was the director of the fake company until exposed by High Peak Transparency.



Cllr Stevens speech is in normal text, and annotations are in italics.

"In June 2013 I and a number of other members of the council attended a DALC training session at Buxton at which Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd by way of Nicki Williams gave a talk on HR.

"It was evident to a number of us after only a few minutes that the woman in front of us knew little or nothing about HR and even less about local government."

Provide specific examples of the person knowing 'little or nothing'. Otherwise, it’s just the bluster of an aggrieved, bitter man who has no connection with Human Resources other than the fake limited company he set up.


"This council then proceeded to carry out what can be at best described as a flawed tender process when bizarrely the tender forms were prepared by Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd who were one of the companies tendering for the work."

What turns on this, if anything? The tender forms were blank, for tenderers to complete.


"The tenders for a comprehensive package were £1,500, £1,800 and £5,800."

This is a false statement by Cllr Stevens.

The tenders for £1,500 and £1,800 were not for a full service and had hourly rates on top of the amounts Cllr Stevens quotes. He knows this and it is another example of Cllr Alistair Stevens trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public and the more gullible councillors.


"Needless to say, the most expensive, by over 300%, secured the contract.  This was Tall Poppies.
The question was asked, by one of the companies who failed to win the tender, and they were informed by letter, with no agreement from council, that their tender had proved too expensive. A clear lie."

Some councillors state that one of the tenderers is connected or known to a member of the Stevens family. We await further and better particulars.


"I had at this point done a basic check on Tall Poppies and found out they were not registered as a limited company with Companies House.

"When I pointed this out, I was shouted down."

HPT Editor has been present at all New Mills town council meetings since before this matter became an issue. Cllr Stevens has never been shouted down. Unless it happened in a secret session.


"And so to prove I was correct, and the company was fraudulently trading, I registered the name Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd."

If that is the reason for forming a limited company with the name Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd, then why did you not use your own name as director? And why did you not use your own address?


"Three Borough - who were also Town - Councillors on here then resigned as a result of the tender process and the appointment of the fraudulent company."

By ‘fraudulent company’ does Cllr Stevens mean the fake HR company that he set up?

HPT has seen all three of the resignation letters he refers to. All three of the resignation letters make no reference to resigning as a result of the tender process or appointment of any company.


"I’ve been questioned and castigated in a blog and by members of the council over my registration of the company."

And quite right too. You are a public figure. You hold a public office. Therefore, you shouldn't be registering fake companies and then lying about your motivations for doing so. Nor should you be hiding behind your son Jamie or using someone else's address for registering that company.


"But we now know mine is the only Tall Poppies not run by a convicted criminal."

Not for much longer, if all this carries on. Cllr Stevens is a ‘criminal in waiting’ over his criminal offences in council egging councillors on to take action/not take action and spend money in respect of his spouse (the dishonest former town clerk of New Mills), which is a registered pecuniary interest of his.


"As far as the comprehensive package of £5,800, this council has now awarded this fraud and convicted criminal £36,000."

HPT intends to get one comprehensive accounting listing after the forthcoming Employment Tribunal, and then publish all the financial costs. All will then know what was the cost to New Mills of having a dishonest town clerk (Susan Stevens, Cllr Stevens spouse) and the consequent cost of having to dismiss her.


"She has also taken an amount from petty cash of nearly £710 that’s not accounted for in the accounts (when we actually get to see them).

"Why and how this has happened, I don’t know."

Did this happen or did it not happen? We await the comprehensive accounting listing after the Employment Tribunal.


"It’s actually been totally inept financial management from day one.

"Chafes Solicitors used to provide full advice, legal and HR, for £5,000 or less, per year.  And did have some idea, I would hazard a guess, on the subject on which they were advising about."

Chafes told the town council that they could lawfully use New Mills town council money - i.e. the public’s money - to pay for legal action against the Editor of High Peak Transparency in a purported cause of defamation of ex-councillors.  Former councillors, mind. Not even people who were on the council at the time of Chafes advice!

That proposition is nonsensical. However, it is what Chafes told the council.


"The VAT questions now seem insignificant.

"However, as long ago as Autumn 2013, we were presented with invoices from Tall Poppies Learning Training Development Ltd with VAT amounts but no VAT number.

"I asked about this at council meetings for months and was again shouted down."

The VAT questions do NOT seem insignificant.

Indeed this is the only area of Cllr Stevens’ various rantings since the dishonest ex-town clerk was dismissed that may have substance. (Or may not have substance - see below)

Conclusively, comprehensively getting to the bottom of this is very simple:

Firstly, get every invoice to New Mills Town Council from or concerning the real Tall Poppies HR business.

Next, make a spreadsheet, listing all those invoices.

The spreadsheet columns should include: Date of invoice; EXACT business entity named on the invoice. Invoice amount net of VAT.  Amount of VAT on the invoice, if any.  The VAT number that is stated on the invoice (if any).

The spreadsheet must be carefully compiled, 100% accurate,and checked by an independent second person.

Then, approach the department of HMRC that deals with VAT  Give them the factual information, along with the spreadsheet and photocopies of the invoices, and ask them the specific questions about legal authority for the VAT amounts on these invoices.

That is the only way of authoritatively establishing all of the facts on this aspect.

When the accurate facts have been established, the right decisions can be taken by the town council - if any turn out to be needed - and taken openly and transparently.


"Now I’ve been illegally stopped from asking questions of the clerk, a ridiculous situation but hardly surprising from a group of council members wishing to hide information which may prove damning."

If Cllr Stevens had been civil, reasonable and honest then he would not have experienced the difficulties he has, including being ordered by the independent monitoring officer to apologise to the current town clerk of New Mills and to a female councillor.

It's also not helpful to Cllr Stevens' case when he claims "illness" as the excuse for failing to attend the recent town council meeting he was summoned to, but is then discovered simultaneously attending a different meeting that night elsewhere in New Mills.


"I anticipate a full police and Borough investigation, independent investigation, into the appointment and obtaining money from this council by deception, by Nicki Williams the convicted criminal and the fraudulent company."


Firstly, identify the separate issues.  Secondly, itemise the specific questions. Thirdly, require honest answers, and drill down persistently and diligently until you get them. Fourthly, identify any areas where crimes appear to have been committed (if any), Fifthly, write for full publication an accurate, factual well-structured report into the matter.


14 October 2014

High Lea Park: Parking Problems and Proposals



This is the first in a series of articles reporting on the many issues arising from the New Mills town council meeting held on the evening of 13 October 2014.

New car parking proposals in the area of High Lee Park was the main issue at this meeting which would physically affect the town if changes are brought in.

The two councillors who brought this up were Mike Kirk and Ray Atkins. Both live near the park and are personally affected by the issue.

Naturally, they will be declaring personal interests at future council meetings where this issue is on the agenda. This interest being solely proposed parking improvements that would benefit the wider community, it does not stop them from participating in the meeting when the issue is discussed.

Mike Kirk also brought this High Lee parking matter up at the last annual town meeting in May in the Public Hall of New Mills.

Before assessing potential solutions, what is the precise problem to be addressed?

According to the two councillors, residents local to the park often find trouble parking near their houses particularly in the summer months when the park is well-used by the public.

This is because many visitors to the park from other parts of the town, especially those with young children, tend to come by car.

Analysis of the problem

Firstly, in recent years the park’s attractiveness to families has been increased. Various playground improvements now draw more family visits than previously. The park has also become more of a formal visitor attraction.

Secondly, the roads around the park were laid out before the age of the private motor car, and are narrow by modern standards.

Thirdly, Derbyshire County Council has laid double yellow lines in many places near the park, and apart from St Mary’s Road few of the local houses benefit from off-road parking.

The first proposed solution, and some implications of it

The idea mooted last night was to designate and create a larger formal car park within High Lee Park’s grounds. Informal initial estimate would be room for in the region of 10-20 cars.

Without attaching relative weights to any of the following at this early stage, here is an initial brief list of some of the PMI factors that flow from that idea:

Pluses

Eases parking congestion from the roads near the park

Taking parked cars off the surrounding roads increases public safety

Makes the park more accessible to the disabled or those with mobility issues

Encourages public use of the park, which is an asset of the town

Minuses

Expense - the capital cost of the works to make the car park and its ancillary works

Ongoing management of the parking, once the car park is established

Another burden on staff time and town council resources

The park is in, and is a major part of, the town's main conservation area.

Interesting (i.e. other factors, not identified as pluses or minuses)

Making it easier to come by car may encourage more people to bring dogs to the park.

Will local residents start to use the new car park to ‘leave’ their cars there?

Will late night or overnight parking near High Lee Hall become an issue? (This was a problem before the removable bollard was installed at the park entrance to prevent it).

A neat vernacular stone wall demarcating the car park area from the park proper would give the whole thing a well-planned, professional air.

A proper car park at High Lee Park would remove one of the objections to moving the Heritage Centre from unsatisfactory rented premises into High Lee Hall. (Some people would regard this as good, others would regard it as bad.  However, the fact itself is neutral.)

Some next steps

If the council or its delegated assessment group would first make a complete list of Pluses, Minuses and Interestings ('PMI') this would enable advance solutions to be devised to any problems likely to arise.

For example, one iteration of the idea might be that the new car park could simply be made a residents and visitors car park. Car park management could then be handed over to High Peak Borough Council and an overall rent paid by them to the town council. Obviously, it would be wise for this idea to get its own separate scrutiny before making any decision or progress on it.

Thinking skills note

To arrive at good, sustainable decisions in life it is essential to first let the widest possible lateral range of ideas flower. It is only after that first liberating stage of fully identifying all ideas or factors that one subsequently applies the necessary critical tests to them.




How not to do it






NOTE RE PUBLIC COMMENTS

Any views expressed in the Comments section beneath each article are not necessary the view of the Editor or of this website.

We do our best to publish all comments, in the interests of free speech.

However, please note when sending comments that if it is purported that something in the comment is a fact, but in reality it is a false statement, then it is unlikely to survive scrutiny even if it does erroneously receive an initial publication in error.

Information that is intended for wider publication in an article is evidently better to be emailed properly than sent in as an anonymous comment.

10 October 2014

By-election Result at New Mills



The full result of the by-elections for the two vacancies created by the resignations of Jacqui and Mark Gadd from New Mills Town Council is now known.

Rather than the cheaper method of co-option, discredited local couple Alistair and Susan Stevens orchestrated a campaign to get signatures for by-elections to be held to fill the two councillor vacancies. This is in spite of the fact full council elections will be held in a few months.

Alistair Stevens is a councillor on New Mills town council but has not attended for a while.

The two wards affected by the vacancies are Ollersett and Whitle.

HPT Editor's ballot card for this election never arrived. This is no doubt entirely unconnected with the employment as a local postman of Dishonest Ian Huddlestone, a Labour Party councillor.

For the Ollersett ward, the only person to put their name forward was Tina Glozier. She was therefore elected unopposed.

For the Whitle ward there were two candidates: John Ferns was proposed by Tina Glozier and Ian Waddell. Mike Kirk was proposed by Chris Goodwin and Ann McCall.

There were a total of 481 votes cast. Here are the figures:

FERNS, John Sydney:  180 votes
KIRK, Michael Robin:  268 votes

Spoiled ballots:  33

Mike Kirk was therefore elected.

Quite a few comments came in to HPT ahead of this election stating that they were going to attend the poll but spoil their ballot. This was intended as a protest against the costs to local council taxpayers of orchestrating a by-election at this time, so close to the next full elections which take place in early May next year.

One assumed there would only be one or two of these who followed through, but in the event there were 33 out of a total of 481. This is a high percentage for people taking the trouble to vote but deliberately spoiling the ballot as a protest.

The electorate in Whitle ward is 3529. The turnout was therefore 13.6%, which historically is high for a town/parish council by-election.

We look forward to seeing the two new councillors at the next town council meeting.

Will disgraced town councillor Alistair Stevens fulfil his legal duty to attend the council meeting to which he has been summoned?  Well, people do report as fact sightings of ghosts, so one supposes anything is possible.







NOTE RE PUBLIC COMMENTS

Any views expressed in the Comments section beneath each article are not necessary the view of the Editor or of this website.

We do our best to publish all comments, in the interests of free speech.

However, please note when sending comments that if it is purported that something in the comment is a fact, but in reality it is a false statement, then it is unlikely to survive scrutiny even if it does erroneously receive an initial publication in error.

Information that is intended for wider publication in an article is evidently better to be emailed properly than sent in as an anonymous comment.

06 October 2014

Communication from one of the 9 October by-election candidates



The following communication was received by way of a reader's comment, but it also merits its own separate presentation.

This is because the comments section for the last HPT article has now reached more than 160 comments (and over 2,000 page views).

Candidate Mike Kirk's communication would therefore risk getting lost in all the 'general' comments if placed there as he originally intended.

This does not imply any recommendation or otherwise of any candidate.  We would obviously also be delighted to give equal space to John Ferns, if he cares to send in a representation.

(Email address:  highpeaktransparency@btconnect.com)


"Hello readers of HPT.

My name is Mike Kirk and I am a candidate at this election. I am in the process of distributing some info to a good 50% of people in the ward. I started on Sunday and have done about 350 houses so far. 

Sorry for the delay, I will get round most people this week I hope.

Policies are limited to an honest desire to improve the workings of the Town Council and to get some new blood in there.

I have no connection to anyone on this council, although I have been known to speak at meetings on occasion.

This is not the place for an election address... i simply wished to reply to persons rightly concerned about not receiving any info from myself to date.

Many thanks

Mike Kirk"








NOTE RE PUBLIC COMMENTS

Any views expressed in the Comments section beneath each article are not necessary the view of the Editor or of this website.

We do our best to publish all comments, in the interests of free speech.

However, please note when sending comments that if it is purported that something in the comment is a fact, but in reality it is a false statement, then it is unlikely to survive scrutiny even if it does erroneously receive an initial publication in error.

Information that is intended for wider publication in an article is evidently better to be emailed properly than sent in as an anonymous comment.

12 September 2014

New Councillors at New Mills



Regarding New Mills town council, the Returning Officer has today declared as follows:

Tina Glozier (Christina Mary Glozier of St James School* on Spring Bank) is elected unopposed for Ollersett ward in New Mills.

Tina Glozier also proposed one of the electoral candidates for Whitle ward:

There will be a by-election in Whitle ward between candidates John Sydney Ferns and Michael Robin Kirk. This will take place on 9 October 2014.

* Is a private address, not actually a school






NOTE RE PUBLIC COMMENTS

Any views expressed in the Comments section beneath each article are not necessary the view of the Editor or of this website.

We do our best to publish all comments, in the interests of free speech.

However, please note when sending comments that if it is purported that something in the comment is a fact, but in reality it is a false statement, then it is unlikely to survive scrutiny even if it does erroneously receive an initial publication in error.

Information that is intended for wider publication in an article is evidently better to be emailed properly than sent in as an anonymous comment.

09 September 2014

New Use For A Grand Old Building?



At last night’s town council meeting in New Mills, the subject of the lease renewal for the town’s Heritage Centre came up.

Current arrangements

The Heritage Centre currently occupies a cellar of a shop. The lease terms are onerous, originally signed many years ago. The New Mills town council is the tenant named on the lease.

Under the terms of the current lease, the town council - in reality the town’s council taxpayers - has to pay a share of the maintenance of the building’s exterior, not occupied by the Heritage Centre.

When one only occupies a cellar in a building, yet then receives a demand from the landlord for paying towards a whole new roof of that building, the layman is bound to question what sort of deal has been signed up to.

In commercial property, this is a standard lease. The terms are called ‘full repairing and insuring’. The shorthand is FRI.

The way well-advised commercial tenants avoid this trap is to pay for a Schedule of Condition at the outset of the lease.

Seeking value for the council taxpayers

Paying rent, one never owns the property. Yet in the case of the current Heritage Centre, one is liable for the landlord’s repairs etc.

Some councillors are therefore questioning whether occupying one of the town council’s own properties might be a more effective and cost-efficient option. Especially if the property in question is a grand old half-used building in a fabulous setting: High Lee Hall (pictured above).

No decision has been made.

Thinking skills

Starting the journey to the right informed decision, the first thing that’s needed is two blank sheets of paper. A rational, comprehensive three-way list of Pluses, Minuses, and Interestings (‘PMI’) is then created for each of the proposed locations.

Such a listing is a thinking tool for identifying the key factors in any upcoming decision.

Expect a backlash, no matter what the proposal

In general, people dislike change. So if the idea of a potential re-location were to gather traction, expect a campaign to be started to ‘Save the Heritage Centre’ in its present location.

The town council’s principal representative on the Heritage Centre’s Management Committee, Councillor Alistair Stevens, failed to attend last night’s town council meeting.

His views on this subject were therefore unheard.

One factor that won’t be known until some options are explored

No switched-on commercial landlord wants an empty property, with all the problems that brings.

And if the long-standing tenant has been a local council, then the loss of both that excellent covenant and the reliable rental stream is not a good scenario.

Add to that the fact the property is a hard-to-let cellar (there are perfectly good shops that have difficulty attracting long-term tenants in New Mills, never mind cellars under shops) and you have the situation where a landlord may be inclined to offer incentives to the council to keep the Heritage Centre in its present location rather than lose them as a tenant.






NOTE RE PUBLIC COMMENTS

Any views expressed in the Comments section beneath each article are not necessary the view of the Editor or of this website.

We do our best to publish all comments, in the interests of free speech.

However, please note when sending comments that if it is purported that something in the comment is a fact, but in reality it is a false statement, then it is unlikely to survive scrutiny even if it does erroneously receive an initial publication in error.

Information that is intended for wider publication in an article is evidently better to be emailed properly than sent in as an anonymous comment.