30 July 2009

Dodgy. Or, "Why Won't He Just Answer The Simple Question?"


You will notice this article has a choice of two headlines.
.
It concerns the issue of political party funding and the Conservatives' local prospective parliamentary candidate, Andrew Bingham. That's him on the left, with the mysterious Dave who keeps sending letters to the editor of High Peak Transparency. Not in a Me and Mrs Jones sense - they haven't 'got a thing going on' - it's just that the editor is on the electoral roll so keeps getting all these things through the post.
.
The elusive and tax-avoiding Michael Ashcroft, deputy chairman of the conservative party who became Lord Ashcroft, is shortly going to be forced to either reveal whether he pays tax here in this country or alternatively stop funding the party.
.
This new development came about because the government bowed to pressure from across parliament and from the poor old public who pay all the bills that governments run up. As a result, the forthcoming Elections Act has now been amended to make it illegal to bankroll UK political parties if you don't pay UK taxes - or if you hide business dealings in order to achieve the same effect.
.
No reasonable, honest person can complain about this long overdue change in the law. It's that word 'Transparency' again. It's marvellous, it really is.
.
With all that in mind, the answer* Andrew Bingham gave to the question of whether his political campaigning gets financial benefit from the secretive wealthy tax-dodging overseas resident was very, very disappointing.
.
He didn't simply say 'yes', which would have been great. Transparent and honest.
.
Why won't he just answer the question?
.
His failure to do so means that it's all now starting to look very simple. Because if the answer was 'no', then Andrew Bingham - who is currently a member of High Peak Borough Council as well as wanting to represent the High Peak constituency in parliament - would have taken this opportunity to say it was 'no'.
.
.
*Published in the Buxton Advertiser on 30 July 2009.

29 July 2009

Down On The Farms


Hayfield is accurately described in the forthcoming book The Village Green Preservation Society:

Honey-coloured walls against sloping hillsides, this place had characteristics that were pleasing to the eye. From the enclosures of the fields to the different stone-roofed houses on each side of the river, the lack of uniformity made it attractive and gave an impression of growing up rather than being ordered in the time of planners.

It's also the birthplace of Arthur Lowe ('You stupid boy').

Now for the bit that concerns integrity and honesty in politics.

The planning committee of High Peak Borough Council recently decided an application by some poor soul who wanted to make a living and provide jobs for local people. The owner of Windy Harbour farm had proposed creating holiday accommodation, offering good access to the nearby Peak District National Park.

Upon this planning application being considered*, the committee was exactly split. When this happens, the chairman has a casting vote. On this occasion, his decision was that the proposal must be refused.

The chairman of that important committee is Councillor Herbert David Mellor, who owns Spray House Farm in Little Hayfield. This is a few hills and a modest ramble from the planning application site.

A visit to Peak District's current website reveals a very interesting fact. At Spray House Farm Mr Herbert David Mellor runs a business providing holiday accommodation, offering good access to the nearby Peak District National Park.
.
The use by Mr Mellor of his position on the council to ensure this conflict of interest came out, shall we say, 'in his favour', must now be properly investigated. Whitewash has appeared to be the usual result at this council where one of their own is concerned.

Let us see if it can do better this time.
.
.
* On 1 June 2009 at the council's offices in Chinley

28 July 2009

'Natural England' Quango Is Run By Irish Person


If you live in England look at the above, coming soon to a landscape near you.
.
There is a large quango called 'Natural England'. Putting aside the fact that most of the English countryside is man-made and has not been 'natural' since the last ice age, this quango is currently flexing its media muscles and massive budget with a new campaign telling us how we are going to live our lives.
.
The 'Natural England' executive director for evidence and planning, Andrew Wood, said national parks will be expected to play their part:
.
'We need onshore wind farms and we should be open to the idea that some of that will be in protected landscapes.'
.
Its chief executive has also come out against those people who object to large scale wind farms being dumped in the countryside of this rather small island:

'As a society, we have to move from knee-jerk nimbyism to an informed consensus that there are landscapes where sustainable renewable energy infrastructure is desirable and should be encouraged.'

The above instruction is from Helen Phillips. She is the chief executive of possibly the most sanctimonious and patronising of all the bloated quangocracy that's expanded beyond reason under New Labour. Almost all of the money it gets from the taxpayer is spent on its own staff.
.
Nobody has ever elected any of these people.

Despite the curious decision to call it 'Natural England' and give it the powers to do untold damage Helen Phillips, the organisation's chief executive, is not English. She's Irish.
.
.

25 July 2009

Why Is A New Bathroom Like An MP's Wife?


No, it's not that they're both exceptionally, faultlessly fragrant. Though of course, undoubtedly they are.
.
A mole inside the High Peak Constituency Labour Party sent us some material about the local MP and his wife, Tom and Teresa Levitt. Clearly the MP is now regarded by some people inside the local party as being fatally damaged goods, politically speaking.

Anyway, for those without access to the inner circle, here is how Mrs Levitt dealt with criticism of the excessive cost of their new bathroom which we taxpayers had to pay for:




The above is taken from the MP's Facebook communications. "Can't imagine what polishing gold might be like... no way!" indeed. What next, 'Let them eat cake'?

Teresa Levitt and the new bathroom have something in common: we pay for both of them. The wife is down as being employed at public expense as PA for the MP husband. Our pockets have also been dipped into for the expensive bathroom fittings in their private London flat - no doubt to go with the legendary 'hairdryer for a bald MP' (Tom Levitt again*).
.
We wish most of these things weren't true but they're all there, freshly on the public record in this year of new transparency, one of the most important years in the history of British politics and democracy.
.
.
.
* see earlier High Peak Transparency article:

24 July 2009

Muck And Brass


Alistair Macdonald is a High Peak resident. He's familiar to many north west television viewers as a reporter and presenter. In the world of television, he discovered Fred Dibnah and was the first person to interview him in front of a sound and camera crew. But we won't hold that against him.

A couple of weeks ago Mr Macdonald asked some questions of the local conservatives, by way of a letter published in the local newspaper.

The questions have been ignored. The local conservative party appears to be curiously shy on this particular subject. So in the Buxton Advertiser of 23 July 2009, Mr Macdonald has had to repeat the exercise:

Heartwarming though it was to see the Tories' Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Andrew Bingham cradling a lamb in last week's Buxton Advertiser, he still seems rather sheepish about telling us who is funding his campaign.

So let me ask again. Does the money come from the elusive Lord Ashcroft, better known in Belize than the UK? It would be good to know whether the cash is from a man who refuses to say where he lives for tax purposes and who does not appear to play by the same rules as the rest of us.

Alistair Macdonald, Whaley Bridge, High Peak
...
Everybody interested in the honesty and integrity of local politics is awaiting this answer.

When it comes, it will be analysed here on High Peak Transparency, which first introduced the issue to this region. The link to the original article is below:

23 July 2009

If You Can't Stand The Heat, Go And Mither The Police

The police investigation in connection with this site has ended. For 'the story so far', see earlier article: http://highpeaktransparency.blogspot.com/2009/07/police-investigation.html
.
Here is how it concluded.

The editor of High Peak Transparency attended the local police station by request on the morning of 23 July 2009. It was not for an interview, whether informal or under caution. The stated purpose was for the investigating officer to give an update on where matters were up to.
.
The file on the desk in the police station was alarmingly thick. There were no tea and biscuits, but otherwise everything was very civil and reasonable.
.
The allegations, fully investigated, were that offences had been committed contrary to the following laws (in order of age):

-  The crime of defamatory libel

-  The Malicious Communications Act 1988

-  The Protection from Harassment Act 1997

-  The Communications Act 2003
.
.
The Crown Prosecution Service concluded that no action should be taken in the matter.

The name of the complainant or complainants was still not revealed, despite the question being put to the police again.
.
There is at least one crime here. It has been committed by whichever politician, or politicians, that ever thought it even remotely appropriate for expensively trained police officers to be sent running around on their behalf, basically for the ulterior purpose of protecting politicians' egos and/or secrets that have been covered up.

One further law is relevant to this matter. Unfortunately, where certain local politicians are concerned, it doesn't appear that it's going to be investigated. It is Section 5 of the Criminal Law Act 1967.

This offence is more commonly known as 'wasting police time'.
.
..
.
.
The saying 'If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen' is usually attributed to Harry Truman, 33rd president of the United States of America and therefore, by definition, a successful politician. In fact, he was quoting with approval something his friend had said.

18 July 2009

'LibDems And Labour Don't Like Cuddly Little Lambs So You Must All Vote Conservative'


Andrew Bingham, Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for the High Peak (left), has promised to safeguard services while strengthening the economy in the rural areas. The press coverage was accompanied by a picture of him holding a lovely lamb.

Tom Levitt, MP for the area, accused the Tories of simply providing a list of motherhood and apple pie.

Steve Sharp, LibDem candidate for Westminster, wasn't quick enough on the draw and so didn't get out to have his picture taken with children or kissing a baby. He insisted instead on talking about politics and real people.

The conservatives' pledge to safeguard services while strengthening the economy has caught opposing parties on the hop. They had surely been considering promising to destroy services while weakening the economy.
.
.

12 July 2009

Shock Call For Councils To Be Properly Organised


Some years ago, the towns of Glossop and New Mills were regarded as part of the Greater Manchester 'family' of local government. There are many key historic links, mainly brought about by the industrial revolution which centred on that conurbation and then went around the world.

All the councils in Greater Manchester are part of the government's North West administrative region. This makes perfect sense.
.
But in a local government re-organisation many years ago, Glossop and New Mills were placed in 'East Midlands'. This is an artificial construction which centres on far-away Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, and Leicestershire. It is tinted red on the above map of England's administrative regions.

A local councillor, Liberal Democrat Steve Sharp, said this week that local residents should be allowed a vote to see if they want to change. This would mean joining with local Tameside and Stockport respectively.

As this is basic and obvious common sense, the idea is bound to stir up some fairly noisy opposition.

11 July 2009

Planning Dept 1, National Health Service 0


The heinous crime of simply trying to bring disused buildings or land back into positive, productive use has again been slapped down by the local planning bureaucracy.

This time it's the NHS that is trying to fund a development, and its selected developer has been trying to jump through all of the insane hoops that the so-called 'planning system' puts in the way.

The property at dispute this time is the fast-deteriorating old Easton House, in Glossop (above).

The health service developer fulfilled 11 of the 12 conditions demanded, but could not do the sash type of windows required by High Peak planning department. The health and safety legislation for a medical facility does not permit that design of window.

Of course, it would not be a High Peak property matter without there also being a twist: there is quite often a little something lurking 'behind the headlines' where politics in this region is concerned.

High Peak Borough Council is the freeholder of the property. It is trying to get someone else to put all the work, money and risk in, while at the same time obstructing them.

07 July 2009

Police Investigation


On the afternoon of Thursday 2 July 2009 High Peak Transparency received an email from an officer serving in the Derbyshire police force:

'I am currently investigating a complaint from a Local Councillor about one of your items,' the email said, and gave the relevant police contact details.

While the editor was wondering what to do about this, an urgent reminder came in, sent to Transparency on the afternoon of 5 July 2009:

'Could you please contact the below officer asap? Complaints from local councillor about your articles.'

The editor of High Peak Transparency immediately phoned the police. Unfortunately, these emails weren't a hoax. The officer who sent the emails is PC Tony Mckeown. His superior - copied in on the urgent reminder - is Sergeant John Bowman. Both these officers are part of the policing team in the small town of New Mills (town hall pictured above).

The conversation didn't get a lot further than the editor asking which local politician thought that valuable police time should be spent investigating the High Peak Transparency site and PC Mckeown refusing to say, save that it was a councillor from New Mills. No reference was made as to what the criminal charges are, or might be.
.
The situation was left that Transparency's editor would be either voluntarily interviewed by the police or interviewed under police caution following arrest.

Currently, there are thirteen politicians who meet the description 'councillor from New Mills'.
.
Being a bit of a Sherlock Holmes fan (but not Columbo - he's too much of a tease), the editor put down the violin and opium pipe, got out the deerstalker, and asked around in the local community for any helpful facts.
.
Let us go back to Thursday 2 July 2009. This was the afternoon that the police contacted High Peak Transparency.
.
Earlier that day a Safer Neighbourhood Forum was held. Both police officers and local politicians were in attendance during this meeting, which took place in New Mills on Longlands Road. A local councillor had a word in the ear of a local police officer. Or perhaps it was the other way around. The result in the small town is the same in either event: the threat of police arrest of someone who might have revealed facts that a politician would prefer to be out of public sight.
.
Watch this space. If the posts on this site stop for any longer than 10 days then the computer has been taken away during a visit from officers of Derbyshire police.
.
Last time they attended, which was on the 13th of March 2009, they took away files and documents as well as the computer. At least nine different police officers were involved, including the officers who called at 09:20 to make the arrest and secure 'the suspect'; the interviewing officers up to the rank of detective sergeant; the premises search officers who came back during the day while 'the suspect' was in secure custody; and so on.
.
It took a month, and a letter to the Chief Constable of Derbyshire Police requiring detailed information about the police's involvement in the incident, for the above personal property finally to be released. There were no charges. Considering that this police action arose out of complaints made about an article published by the Times of London, the whole thing was a complete waste of public resources - and the police's time - from the outset.
.
No crime or wrongdoing of any kind had been committed by the arrested person. Again, everything stemmed from a New Mills politician previously having had 'a word in the ear' of the local police.
.
The defence firm of solicitors described - in writing, on that firm's formal legal letterhead - their reaction to first-hand observation of Derbyshire police activities in the matter: "incredulity".
.
..
.
Any politician who feels the need to complain about any article should contact this site directly, using the email address/link at the top right of the page, just under the banner title. Complaints with genuine substance will always be acted on and the relevant article amended accordingly.
.
No criticism of the two above-named police officers is implied or intended in any way by this article.