30 December 2013

New Year Resolutions



It is to be hoped that the new year will be a time of continued improvement and return to reputational health at New Mills Town Council.

Although High Peak Transparency deals with the whole High Peak area, in 2013 it was the town of New Mills that was in the spotlight.  This was because a battle broke out at the town hall, to end the long-festering culture of corruption and dishonesty which had taken hold there since the summer of 2002.

Previously in New Mills

The supporters and backers of the dishonest town clerk Susan Stevens and dishonest councillor Ian Huddlestone have resigned from the town council.

The local councillors who support this dishonesty and corruption in public life are Tony Ashton (Conservative) and Alan Barrow (Labour).  These supporters of dishonesty and corruption are currently members of the High Peak Borough Council, along with overtly dishonest councillor Ian Huddlestone.

The 'bad councillors' group on New Mills town council has therefore currently been reduced to one: Alistair Stevens, an estate agent in Oldham.

Cllr Alistair Stevens is now working towards a large payout - from public money - for his wife.  He is hoping that Mrs Susan Stevens gets a figure of between £150,000 and £250,000 from New Mills town council. His wife is the dishonest ex-town clerk of New Mills, who was sacked for gross misconduct.

Some New Year Tasks and Goals:

Stevens v New Mills Town Council

The Employment Tribunal is expected to hear the case of Susan Stevens v New Mills Town Council.  Due to legal time limits in this sort of case, the claim will have to be submitted to the Tribunal in the early part of 2014, and the town council notified.

We understand that the Stevenses are simply interested in grabbing a large payout of money at the expense of the council taxpayers of New Mills, and that Mrs Stevens is not interested in getting the job back.

The missing charity money

Charity number 527167 is connected to the town of New Mills.  It's a fairly old charity, which used to be known as the Godward Trust. Latterly its name was changed to the New Mills Higher Education Trust.

There is currently about £25,000 of missing or inaccessible money that rightfully belongs to the proper beneficiaries of the charity. The last-known individuals connected with this charity's management are Steven Sharp (former councillor in New Mills), Alistair Stevens (current town councillor in New Mills) and Susan Stevens (dishonest former town clerk).

Mr Sharp and Cllr Stevens were the charity trustees, and Mrs Stevens was the official charity contact officer (i.e. secretary of the charity).

The charity's records must be rectified and the missing money recovered, both as a matter of urgency.

Appointments of permanent Town Clerk (Proper Officer) and Responsible Financial Officer

In 2013, Mrs Susan Stevens was found out making false statements to the members of the council. Along with other gross misconduct and misconduct in a public office, this led to her instant dismissal from the post of Town Clerk in New Mills.

Mrs Stevens simultaneously held the roles of Town Clerk, Proper Officer, and Responsible Financial Officer. One of the lessons of this time of severe disruption is that the two critical roles (Town Clerk/Proper Officer and Responsible Financial Officer) should not be in the hands of one person.

One of the town council's tasks in 2014 is to advertise for and recruit reliable, trustworthy, knowledgeable people for the above two permanent roles.  Presumably the present temporary incumbents will be invited to apply.

Given what took place in the town hall between 2002 and 2013, these are very important public appointments in the long history of New Mills.





18 December 2013

Comment Is Free


There is a lot of interest in High Peak Transparency, and we are gratified that the monthly page views are currently in the range 10,000 to 11,000.  At the time of the New Mills town clerk's instant dismissal for gross misconduct, and the police being called in at the town hall, monthly page views peaked at 15,000 (High Peak Transparency was the only news source for this important local information).

An interesting part of this site's development is that it has also become a forum for local politics and public interest matters in the town of New Mills.  The comments sections (at the bottom of each article) have grown to be a lively forum, with hundreds of posts from various different people.

Unfortunately, when something grows popular, it inevitably attracts some nutters and some unfulfilled, frustrated and sad individuals who want to attack it.  On websites, they try to do this through the comments sections.

Why should an Editor have to put up with nutters etc on his own?

Therefore, for the edification of HPT's regular readership, below are the comments that have been sent in to this site but which, for one reason or another, didn't make it through to publication.

Some of the comments are baffling, some are malicious, some are irrational. Some simply make no sense whatsoever

Please note: there is no point readers making complaints about what these particular contributors (below) are going on about: some of the comments have clearly been sent in by the aforesaid nutters and unfulfilled, frustrated and sad individuals. Indeed, a proportion of the 'didn't make it' comments printed below might even have come from persons connected with the recently jobless...


Wonder where the recent posts have gone - did someone get told off ? naughty naughty Be careful those council strings dont trip you up x on Mystery Of More Missing Money At Town Hall

If its an idiotic question then Mr Ed is more than qualified to answer or perhaps he can ask his whistle blowers and moles to pen a reply for him - make sure you check with NMTC before replying though dont want you getting in trouble. on The Minutes And The Times
in response to Mr Ed is it true that you have to check with NMTC before you use your keyboard these days ? What is that old Eurovision song... 'puppet on a string' !, by Anonymous

Public interest or in the interest of Mr Ed and his string pullers ? Dont go upsetting the man with the red diesel. on This Soap Opera Has Just Crossed Over Into Fantasy Land
in response to Why do you want to concentarte on one set of bad apples and not on all of them - is this group about transparency or just a personal witch(es) hunt - if there are other members of NMTC who got their posts incorrectly then it should be discussed/outed - or perhaps that would annoy the person in question and close down one of Mr Eds sources - the plot thickens, by Anonymous.

It would take too long for some who comment on here to list their various incomes and even longer to explain where that income comes from on This Soap Opera Has Just Crossed Over Into Fantasy Land
in response to bad reputation is the symptom, not the problem.. the problem is badly performing people. when that changes, the reputation of the organisation also changes, by bungabunga.

A 'whistleblower' is a time served 'mole' - it should be seen as a promotion in the hierchy of town council politics - both still fall short of being a public servent, and some way short of being human. on This Soap Opera Has Just Crossed Over Into Fantasy Land

Colonel Kendal jumping in there quickly at the defence which is admirable - NMTC accounts are scrutinised and published and look at the mess they are in - bar takings without a till or audit of stock are always open to abuse - how do you think a lowly tradesman in such hard times affords so many holidays ? on Mystery Of More Missing Money At Town Hall
in response to I heard from a 'concerned leader of a local arts group' that two current town councillors are less than prudent in their running of bars at local events (Town Hall, Spring Bank Arts) - i.e. for the number of people that attend these events the bar takings are somewhat low - perhaps HPT can do some digging into these events or ask its readership for input? Or perhaps just ignore this question as it implicates some of 'good councillors'...by Anonymous.

This sounds very grand, a little pompous but very grand, but what does '' For one who knows what's what legally'' mean and how can anybody know what was actually discussed under the individual heading unless they where actually in the meeting. Unless of course you've been trained in the subject like the ex Town Clerk and the Councillors, some now ex, but then again you couldn't know what shouldn't ''have been in private part'' unless you were there - Mmmm I wonder which Cllr who was there might be trying to cast doubt on the ability of the current Cllrs and now the other comment about '' not getting good advice'' ? Sorry but sounds like more sour grapes/distraction rubbish! on The Minutes And The Times
in response to Mr Ed have you asked why so many items were taken in the private part if the meeting? For one who knows what's what legally some of the items shouldn't have been in private?, by Anonymous.

Is it not time for all NMTC's to pack up be they GOOD,BAD or UGLY. Power does corrupt no matter how small or insignificant the organization, and the corruption seems to be embedded in this council. Lets hand over to the Borough and save money on Mystery Of More Missing Money At Town Hall
in response to I heard from a 'concerned leader of a local arts group' that two current town councillors are less than prudent in their running of bars at local events (Town Hall, Spring Bank Arts) - i.e. for the number of people that attend these events the bar takings are somewhat low - perhaps HPT can do some digging into these events or ask its readership for input? Or perhaps just ignore this question as it implicates some of 'good councillors' ...Anonymous.

Does the Editor know of the group of 'real' New Mills people who just continually hit the refresh button randomly to make him think his site is getting more and more hits - when in fact all he is really doing is talking mainly to himself, his two main (anon sources) sources and a few bored pensioners - laughable. (oooh there goes another 100) on More Details Of The Ongoing Crisis Resolution Emerge At Council Meeting

Thought you had 2 Clerks who knew what they were doing?? on More Details Of The Ongoing Crisis Resolution Emerge At Council Meeting
in response to With regard to the publication of agendas and minutes, the RULES are that agendas must be published (ie made available to the public) at least three clear days (not including weekends) prior to the meeting, and preferably five to seven days. If this is not done, the meeting should not go ahead, as not enough notice has been given. The rules also state that if a council has a website, then agendas and minutes must be published. ... by Anonymous.

Why have you engineered a slur campaign against Ian Huddlestone?I know you hold him responsible for decisions made in the past ,he is doing what he is elected to do .if you are intent on the clean up,it's going to happen anyway ,without you keep saying ...Err don't forget Ian Huddlestone because of a deep personal jealous dislike. on Parish Notices, or First Local Councillor To Orbit The Moon
in response to HPT Editor's comment: For the avoidance of doubt. The New Mills Town Council at the time of the formal demand/request to this site that no comments about town hall employees be made, in order that the disciplinary and grievances processes etc could properly conclude, comprises the following members: Atkins R; Baines J; Bowers A; Bowers G; Dowson L; Gadd J; Gadd M; Lamb D; Stevens A. All of the requests ...

The Liberal Democrats were formed by chameleons.......... on More Company News

There are dishonest people everywhere, not just in New Mills, There is one in Whaley Bridge , he's even got a dog-collar on. on Free Speech In A Free Society
in response to personalities are surely extremely relevant, if theres a dishonest person in a public role in any council then its relevant to the public that person is dishonest , by Anonymous.

publish this, as again you seem to only publish what you seem to think is ok....THIS WOMAN APPLIED FOR THE JOB AT HAYFIELD AND DIDN'T GET IT....Hardly a reason why she should be the new "saviour" at NEW MILLS.... on The New Town Clerk, and First Bad Councillor Named
in response to best of luck to new clerk in post lesley bramwell... i bet the undermining by the councils unholy alliance starts here..., byAnonymous.

Brave statement to be making behind an Anonymous position. Is this thought through the means of this unfair data blog alone? Considering comments like this are published yet other ones which throw the other facts of whats going on are not? on Dirty Tricks Department: Stevens Family Values

Well done DALC -looks like you have legitimised this site! on Statement by DALC concerning recent events at New Mills Town Council


12 December 2013

This Soap Opera Has Just Crossed Over Into Fantasy Land



A mole inside the Staffordshire Moorlands/High Peak Borough 'strategic alliance' has been in touch with a fantastic tale.

Councillor Alistair Stevens of New Mills has reported the rest of the town councillors* in New Mills to the local Standards Committee.

Can it be true?

For Cllr Alistair Stevens to report the other New Mills town councillors for bad behaviour in public office, which is what the Standards Committee deals with, would be like Doctor Harold Shipman having a go at his elderly pensioner patients for clogging up his waiting room with their illnesses.  Or Stuart Hall complaining that his victims' parents were allowing their young daughters lone visits to his dressing room.

If this astonishing report turns out to be true, and Cllr Alistair Stevens - of all people - actually has taken the other New Mills town councillors* to the Standards regime for councillors, then this is going to be one hell of a story.

It would seem Cllr Alistair Stevens is more focused on 'dirty tricks' against good councillors than on serving the public, or on clearing up the mystery missing charity money to help local good causes. (See previous HPT article.)

For a reminder of Cllr Alistair Stevens' other conduct whilst in office as a local councillor, and his wife Susan's carryings-on before her instant dismissal for gross misconduct from the post of town clerk, would all parties please review this year's series of exposure articles on High Peak Transparency.


* All the town councillors apart from Cllr Ray Atkins, who is a fellow Liberal Democrat along with Cllr Alistair Stevens




10 December 2013

Mystery Of More Missing Money At Town Hall


A council whistleblower warned us some months ago that this story was coming down the tracks. However, at that time there was not enough firm detail available to warrant publication.

In particular, and crucially, at that early stage the whistleblower was not able to name the amount of missing money involved.

Now, the story has arrived at High Peak Transparency station, on its way to... well, only time will tell where this one ends up.

This time, the amount of money involved in the investigation is £25,000.  The place: New Mills in the High Peak.

Here is the rest of the information revealed during last night's town council meeting at New Mills town hall:

The name of the New Mills charity where this substantial sum of money has gone walkabout - or become inaccessible to the charity's intended beneficiaries - is New Mills Higher Educational Trust. Its working name was the Godward Trust.

According to Charity Commission documents, the New Mills individuals connected with the local charity are: Stephen Sharp; Alistair Stevens; Susan Stevens.

Steve Sharp is a former councillor; Susan Stevens is the former town clerk; Alistair Stevens is a current councillor.  Alistair Stevens and Susan Stevens are married to each other.

The charity's last available documented income was just under £1,000 a year. The official records show that no money has been spent on any good causes by the current trustees of this local charity.

The charity's annual accounts were filed until 2010, when they suddenly stopped.

Sorry, loyal readers, for presenting an article that initially has more questions than answers on this occasion.

Rest assured that, as all the definitive answers come in on this latest financial mystery involving present or past New Mills councillors and council officers and the public's money, you shall read them here first.


29 November 2013

The Minutes And The Times


The Minutes

The minutes of council meetings must be published.  There have been several complaints sent in to this website that the New Mills town council official website - where its minutes are published - is not up to date.

We have deferred publication of the above complaints to give the council the opportunity to bring its website up to date.  There have been legitimate reasons for these unfortunate delays, during the recent full-blown town hall crisis.

At the time of this article, there are now only two town council meetings whose minutes are not yet on the NMTC official website.  When these two sets of minutes are posted there, the council’s website will be back up to date.

The two meetings with missing minutes are 9 September and 12 August 2013.

(Since this article was written, both sets of minutes have been published on the NMTC website, which brings this matter fully up to date.)

The Times

This has been the most sensational year in the long history of the New Mills local council.  The year started with a dishonest town clerk firmly running matters inside the council offices.

The name of the dishonest town clerk was Susan Stevens, now dismissed. Her main protector on the town council was Cllr Alistair Stevens, her husband.  Susan Stevens also had a long-term hold over dishonest Labour Party councillor Ian Huddlestone, who had asked her to deliberately lie to his fellow councillors for him.

It was only when this conspiracy - between Susan Stevens and Ian Huddlestone - was broken, and bad councillors then ran away from their responsibilities by resigning, that the moves were set in motion by good, decent town councillors to thoroughly repair and rehabilitate this council.

Reputation

First the repair and rehabilitation of the council’s processes and activities.  This is the stage we are at now.

Then, in an entirely natural consequence of the above, the restoration of the town council’s previous good reputation will happen over time.

This good reputation had been in place all the way from 1894 up to the summer of 2002. This is well over a century.

However, by the summer of 2002, the town council had become controlled by the local Labour Party.  With their corruption and dishonest antics, some of the local Labour Party councillors have brought shame on the name of the town of New Mills

The Future

So long as the council reforms now continue as they have started, a new period of good reputation for the town council and the town may be dated from 2014 into the future.

In the last few months, many important decisions have been taken by good councillors, and the majority of decisions have been got absolutely right.

The next critical decisions are the permanent appointments (after probationary periods) of the new Responsible Financial Officer and Proper Officer/Town Clerk.

Unlike in the summer of 2002, the posts will be publicly advertised for candidates, rather than well-paid public sector jobs just being given out 'on the nod' by a dishonest Labour councillor from New Mills.


15 November 2013

Council Computers in Police Hands



A shocking fact was revealed by an answer given during the public speaking section of the 11 November 2013 town council meeting:

New Mills town council's computers are in the police’s hands.

This information was given to help explain the recent delays in ordinary council business. As well as being referred to in the above public speaking session, these delays are currently the subject of legitimate comment from the public on this website.

The news that the council computers are in police custody for forensic examination also reveals that there are serious criminal investigations in progress.

.

More Details Of The Ongoing Crisis Resolution Emerge At Council Meeting



This is a summary of key parts of the latest New Mills town council meeting, held on Monday 11 November 2013.

Proper publication of council meeting notice and agenda

The agenda for this council meeting was originally not posted on the town’s public notice board, which is in a prominent position in the town at the corner of Hall Street and Spring Bank.

The agenda was originally only posted on the board that is just inside the town hall front doors. These doors are locked against the public for the majority of the time.  This board behind closed, locked doors does not meet the requirement of the law governing public notice of council meetings, which states that: “Notice of the time and place of the meeting must be affixed in some conspicuous place in the locality.” *

When a councillor learned of the above emerging problem, the matter was immediately rectified by the notice and agenda correctly being put on the prominent public notice board.  Thanks are due to this councillor, but it is the Proper Officer of the council’s responsibility to arrange this, not any individual councillor.

Website publication of council agendas and minutes

Regarding the New Mills town council website, the agenda for this meeting was not posted there. This lapse in good public access to both agendas and minutes has now lasted long enough.

The town council website has been effectively inactive for several months now.  In the modern age, the public website is any council’s principal means of communication with its electors and council taxpayers.

It is entirely understandable why there have been delays in updating the official website.  Other matters have needed doing and have had to take priority for limited resources.  Also, the website hosting service would not release the passwords except to a town clerk: when a councillor asked for it in order to update the council website, the password request was refused.  This is the correct protocol and no complaints there.

But it has now been a long time since the suspension of the last town clerk and it is reasonable to ask that normal service to the public now gather pace.

Recording of council meetings

To this observer, the Chair of the council appeared a little defensive about the fact that council meetings are recorded. There have obviously been some objections to this from a councillor or councillors.

The town council is a public body.  Formal recording of council meetings was started by the new LibDem administration in 2007, after the deception, scandals and frauds - including ballot fraud - of the Labour-controlled years inside the New Mills town hall from 2002 onwards.

Formal recording of council meetings was one of the proud changes made immediately after the local Labour party were deservedly thrown out of the council chamber by the public of New Mills in a 12-0 drubbing at the 2007 local elections.

A council’s meetings are the public’s business.  They should be recorded.  If anyone is worried about this, what have they got to hide?

Public speaking

Two members of the public spoke during the period allowed before the formal start of council business.

Paul Mitchell, who is a member of the Green Party, asked two questions: Firstly, is the ex-town clerk Mrs Susan Stevens still being paid; secondly, is New Mills town council solvent?

Tony Lawton, a well-known local figure and father of the local Conservative Association chairman Jeff Lawton, raised the fact that no minutes or agendas have been on the town council website for some time.

Tony Lawton then gave a report on the town's Remembrance parade, and made several other points which are outside the concerns of this website.

More Tall Stories

Mr Lawton's reference to the Australian colloquialism “tall poppies” led to an exchange between councillors in which Cllr David Lamb pointedly asked which of the Tall Poppies companies was being discussed: the genuine business that the council has brought in as professional HR advisers, or the fake company which the Stevens family of Hall Street then formed for the sole purpose of causing confusion and problems.

It is relevant to this 'Tall Poppies' aspect of the council meeting to point out that Susan Stevens is the dishonest former town clerk of New Mills and Alistair Stevens, her husband, is currently a town councillor.

The person named initially on Companies House records as forming the fake 'tall poppies' company is their son Jamie Stevens.  Jamie Stevens was replaced by Alistair in the company's records when he, Jamie, took fright and resigned in a panic from this fake company after the details were exposed on this website. See previous High Peak Transparency articles for all the unedifying details.

Logical inconsistency in the new public speaking rules

Councillor Alistair Stevens wished to make some comments in the public speaking section of the meeting, but was stopped from doing so.  High Peak Transparency’s position on this issue is that councillors do have the right to speak briefly in this section on appropriate matters, so long as it’s after the general public has had its say.

Indeed, councillors do already speak in this section.  If a High Peak Borough Councillor from New Mills is present, or a Derbyshire County Councillor likewise, the public speaking section is where they present their opinions, comments etc. Yet if you are a New Mills town councillor, you are currently prevented from doing so.

This is an illogical and relatively recent change in New Mills town council procedures.

This change, which was suggested in good faith to the town council meeting on 10 June 2013 as a part of the then locum clerk's report (but with no council decision being made about it), reduces accountability and transparency in local public life in New Mills.

If a councillor has views that are unpalatable to the majority, that on its own is no reason for him or her to be silenced at meetings.  If a councillor has good things to say, let them be heard. If a councillor is an unnecessary trouble maker or a bit simple, then it is the public’s right to learn that fact at first hand.

It is the public that pays for all of the council's activities.

There are legitimate differing opinions on this issue of who has access to the public speaking section at town council meetings.

The previous system was working fine.  We say that reverting back to the previous system in this case would improve accountability and transparency in local public life.

Bonfire Collection

Almost £2,000 was collected from the Bonfire Night bucket collection etc.  Two points were made:

Firstly, this was a significant increase compared to the last few years;

Secondly, the money was counted and checked by three councillors and one independent observer.

Good fences make good neighbours

Another sign of welcome recent changes in town council procedures is that facts are being established first, before action is taken.

The issue here is the fence between a former quarry on Hague Bar, now owned by High Peak Borough Council, and much higher ground which was transferred from HPBC to New Mills Town Council as part of the High Lee Park land transfer.

The former quarry has a steep cliff face, which for Health and Safety reasons needs to be made inaccessible from that higher part of High Lee Park which adjoins it.  Another reason for fencing off this dangerous location is... er... common sense.

This fencing matter has been discussed in meeting after meeting of the town council over the years, and countless person-hours wasted.  Sensible, informed discussion was not helped by an apparent claim by the park manager that a decent fence “would cost £50,000”.  Until Mr Lewis mentioned this figure, we were unaware that gold-plating and diamond-encrusted finish is available as a fencing option.

Council establishes facts before acting shock

The acting town clerk, Ms Bramwell, now notified the meeting of a novel departure from the previous way this council did business.   She has requested all the original deeds be sent to the town council from the solicitor who carried out the land conveyance, and requested copies of the relevant title documents from Land Registry.

Hopefully the title documents for both of the properties - the former quarry and the park - have been ordered by the town council from Land Registry.

After these primary documents are in the town council’s possession, it will then be possible to definitively establish proper boundaries and responsibility for fencing.

Here is the lesson.  Life is simpler, and meetings are a lot calmer, when council decisions follow investigation and establishment of the facts, rather than the other way around.

This new clarity and common sense is to be praised, and long may it continue in the New Mills council chamber.

Wisdom dictates that two roles involving public money means two separate officers

A councillor first mentioned this subject to High Peak Transparency’s editor a few months ago. This was when the former town clerk - who was also the Responsible Financial Officer and Proper Officer - first started being regularly absent from the office.

There are two statutory officer roles in local (i.e., town and parish level) council business.  These are Responsible Financial Officer and Proper Officer.

The wise, cautious local council has two separate people for the two roles.  If both roles are in the hands of one person, the potential for financial error and fraud is magnified.

Permanently separating these two roles is a vital next step in the recovery to full health of New Mills town council.  This issue will be the subject of a standalone High Peak Transparency article, because more space is needed for analysis and explanation of this critical part of a council’s business than is available here.

Inadequate time for an essential role

One of the great mysteries of town council business over the last few months was solved at this council meeting.

It turns out that the main reason various important town hall matters are being delayed, or not completed, or only partially completed, is very simple: the acting town clerk is currently only authorised to work ten hours a week.

There is no way that a town clerk at a council with this size and responsibilities can properly perform both its legally required functions and also the necessary additional jobs like maintaining a website in good up-to-date order, dealing with land transfer matters, handling queries from the public, etc etc etc, in only ten hours per week.

The acting town clerk Ms Bramwell mentioned that this issue was down to be rectified - or at least looked at - in the last Personnel and Finance sub-committee meeting.  This was the latest meeting that was abandoned due to disruption.


* Section 232 and Schedule 12, paragraph 10 (2) of the Local Government Act 1972



Please note: the above article may be updated as further information and comments - valid comments only - are received.

08 November 2013

Dishonest Town Clerk In Bid For Town Hall Reinstatement

"Darling, get me out of here. And why is Councillor Huddlestone wearing a ginger wig?"

The dishonest former town clerk of New Mills, Mrs Susan Stevens, is making an audacious attempt to restart work inside the town hall where she brought shame onto the name of the town.

The first appeal against her dismissal - which was without notice on the grounds of gross misconduct - will be heard by an independent panel before the end of this month.

After that, Mrs Stevens' final appeal opportunity would be before an employment tribunal.

Any employment tribunal hearing would be held in public, with reporting allowed, and would have to take place within approximately three months.

The reinstatement bid is supported by her husband, discredited New Mills town councillor Alistair Stevens.

Councillor Alistair Stevens circulated an email to all the other councillors, when the dishonesty and wrongdoing inside the town hall office started to be uncovered, in which he stated his priority as being “to protect the staff”.  Not to investigate the wrongdoing and misuse of public money within this public body, but to protect the staff involved in the wrongdoing.

How can we openly refer to Mrs Susan Stevens as dishonest? Because we have the documentary proof in our possession.

We also understand that Mrs Stevens’ use of a New Mills town council credit account with a local firm in the town has been discovered and stopped by the council.  It is to be hoped that the public's money is recovered, using the courts if necessary.





POSTSCRIPT: A report of the latest town council meeting, held on 11 November 2013, will be posted here on High Peak Transparency shortly.

01 November 2013

Official Statement From New Mills Town Council, And Latest Disruption At Council Meeting



On 31 October 2013 the following statement was issued formally by New Mills Town Council regarding the recent events and dramatic changes at the town hall:
"Following a difficult few months in which a thorough and rigorous investigation has taken place, it has been decided that the contracts of two employees should be terminated.
"The Town Council followed all appropriate procedures in reaching the decision, which was not taken lightly.
"As a Council we are proud of New Mills, and are committed to ensuring that we act in a way that enables the town to put their trust in our Council.
"We intend to continue working to ensure that we can lead the town from strength to strength.
"Anyone wishing to raise any matters is encouraged to put them in writing to The Chair, Gwyn Bowers, at the Town Hall."
The postal address is: New Mills Town Council, Town Hall, Spring Bank, New Mills, High Peak, SK22 4AT.

The above statement is headed 'Initial Statement'.  It is to be hoped that a fuller, detailed statement will be issued by the town council as soon as possible.

The first employee referred to is Mrs Susan Stevens the dishonest former town clerk, and the second is a clerical assistant and sometime manager of the Heritage Centre in the town.

Meeting abandoned

The above official statement was issued after another town hall committee meeting was disrupted and could not run to a conclusion.

The members of the particular committee are councillors Ray Atkins, Andy Bowers, Rev John Baines, Jacqui Gadd, and David Lamb.

The fly in the ointment/person-of-colour in the woodpile was Alistair Stevens.  He refused to leave the room, claiming that he was entitled to stay because he was a councillor.

Cllr Alistair Stevens
Cllr Alistair Stevens is not a member of the committee.  A reasonable person is therefore entitled to ask: 'why was he there, if he isn't a member of the committee?'

The disruption happened at a meeting of the Personnel and Finance Sub-Committee arranged for Wednesday 30 October 2013.

A couple of facts are relevant to this.  Cllr Stevens is married to Susan Stevens, the recently sacked town clerk of New Mills.  It is a fact that he cannot lawfully be present where matters relating to discipline, grievance, or pay and conditions etc of the ex-town clerk are going to be discussed at a meeting.

However, the town clerk of New Mills is no longer Mrs Susan Stevens. She has been dismissed because of her gross misconduct in that office, albeit with some hangover of perhaps a speculative 'compensation culture' claim being attempted.

Accordingly, some (but not all) of the statutory prohibitions on Cllr Stevens' attendances at council meetings that relate to ex-town clerk Mrs Stevens have been removed by her dismissal.

The other question still remains: if Cllr Stevens is not an appointed member of a committee, then why was he there?

Before blame can properly be apportioned for this latest unnecessary disruption of the council's proper business we await further, accurate, details of this latest meeting being abandoned.

These persistent disruptions and stoppages of council meetings mean that there is now a backlog of decisions building up that need taking by the council.

27 October 2013

More Company News





The power of transparency.

The reason that the present government and various international organisations try to promote transparency is because it acts like a powerful disinfectant in public life.

People can only get away with wrong-doing when it is out of sight.

When their activities are exposed to public view, it frightens the wrong-doers and can cause changes in their behaviour (if not their underlying character).

Alistair Stevens is a LibDem councillor in New Mills and Estate Agent in Royton, near Oldham. He is the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the High Peak constituency. His wife is Susan Stevens, the dishonest - and now sacked - former town clerk in New Mills in the High Peak.

Companies House records show that the oldest offspring of Susan and Alistair Stevens - Jamie Stevens - registered a limited company with a very specific, particular name.  This was done in a malicious attempt to cause difficulties for the HR consultant who was brought in by the council to help clean up the town hall.

See previous High Peak Transparency articles Dirty Tricks and A Cuckoo Company for all the unedifying, unpleasant details.

At least some of the Stevens family of New Mills read High Peak Transparency.  So when their dirty tricks were exposed regarding the false business, new documents were immediately sent in to Companies House.

Jamie Stevens, who still has his life ahead of him and whose career prospects as a primary school teacher were harmed by the material false statement that he made on an official Companies House document, resigned as the director of the false business.

If this was any kind of genuine company, why would Jamie Stevens suddenly resign?

Alistair Stevens, serial lawbreaker inside the New Mills town hall, appointed himself as new director of Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd.  This is the fake business that was maliciously registered by the Stevens family of New Mills, purely for the purpose of causing difficulties for another, genuine business: the business of the HR consultant who was brought in to advise the town council in its campaign to clean-up the town hall.

Regarding the criminal activities and mentality of New Mills councillor and Oldham estate agent Alistair Stevens, see previous HPT article Behind Closed Doors.

The date on the earliest of the new forms sent in to Companies House, urgently notifying them of Jamie Stevens' resignation from the false business, and Alistair Stevens appointing himself to the false business, is 30 September 2013.

The date of the High Peak Transparency article exposing the Stevens family's dirty tricks campaign at Companies House was 28 September 2013.

Postscript:

"The date on the forms... Jamie Stevens' resignation from the false business, and Alistair Stevens appointing himself to the false business..."

False business.  Not any kind of a real business.  Are these people living in a fantasy world or what? 





Note:

The HR company that is genuinely associated with Ms Nicki Williams is Tall Poppies Consultants Learning Training Development Limited.  Company number 8712571. 


21 October 2013

Town Clerk Sacked - Police Called In At Town Hall

New Mills town hall
Today was the most dramatic day in High Peak local government for a long time.

You wait ages for an important story to come along, then two arrive on the same day.

We've had a few comments and emails - not from councillors or their advisers - telling us that the rumour in New Mills is that the town clerk has been sacked.

Town councillors and the town council's HR consultants refuse to confirm what has happened.  We have been told that an announcement regarding the town clerk of New Mills will be made after the council's Finance and Personnel committee meeting, which will take place next week.

However, by late Monday afternoon several different people in the town clearly already have the news, and it is clear that at least some town council staff have been told.

We can therefore exclusively reveal that the dishonest town clerk of New Mills - Mrs Susan Stevens - has been sacked with immediate effect.

The reason we are able to describe the now former town clerk as dishonest is because when a local Labour Party councillor asked her explicitly to lie to the other members of the town council, she willingly - and deliberately - did so.  A copy of the relevant documentary proof of this is in the possession of High Peak Transparency.

If Mrs Stevens considers consulting lawyers to complain about the above statement, which is factual, then this time she will not find it so easy to make personal use of the town council's credit account with a local solicitors.

Subject to any employment appeal process, the dishonest town clerk's dismissal marks the successful conclusion of a long campaign to clean up the town hall in New Mills, and end the culture of corruption and casual criminality that has existed inside that building since the summer of 2002.

In due course, congratulations will be due to the good and courageous town councillors who persisted in this clean-up campaign, sometimes against strong opposition from bad councillors.

The bad councillors who were opposed to doing the right thing fell by the wayside one by one, but not before putting all kinds of obstructions and problems in the way of the good councillors who require honesty and transparency at the town hall.

The dishonest town clerk's final protector on the New Mills town council was Cllr Alistair Stevens - her husband.

But there's more.

The police have been called in.  Unless it's a complete co-incidence that the town clerk investigation and disciplinary process ended and a marked police car was virtually immediately seen outside the town hall.

Until today, it had been some months since a marked police car was last seen parked up outside the town hall. This time however, the police car wasn't driven by the local uniformed police officer who used to regularly call there during working hours to see his friend Mrs Susan Stevens.

Developments on the criminal investigations inside the town hall will be reported as soon as we are able. Unfortunately there will be restrictions outside our control on the timing of what can be reported.



18 October 2013

Local history being made, before your very eyes


The town of New Mills in the High Peak, Derbyshire.

In the town hall there, the time that dishonesty and corruption set in was the summer of 2002.

Mrs Susan Stevens was handed the official position of town clerk 'on the nod' in the town hall at that time by a couple of Labour Party councillors.  Her first council meeting as the new - but wholly unqualified - town clerk took place on 5 August 2002.

The above way of making such a public appointment was then, and is now, totally against the law.

Any appointment of such importance to a town has to be publicly advertised.  There are laws that govern public appointments and the advertisements that are necessary.  These laws were flouted by the local Labour Party councillors.

The above was the first but not the last time that serious criminal laws were broken inside the town hall in New Mills.

Mind you, this was New Labour time.  We know what Labour's Mr Tony Blair thought of the law: it's for the little people.  Members of the local Labour Party had taken control of this town hall.

In the intervening years, town council elections came and town council elections went.

By the early summer of 2013, some of the honest town councillors in New Mills decided that they finally had enough of all the dishonesty and wrong-doing.

A thorough clean-up of the town hall was initiated, then it gradually gathered pace, and now we are nearly at the conclusion.  This long overdue clean-up met stiff resistance from some of the other town councillors.

The people of the town of New Mills will shortly be able to judge whether this very important clean-up campaign has been a complete success.

As part of the fall-out from the extensive clean-up campaign in the New Mills town hall, some of the town councillors have resigned from office. One of them was dishonest Ian Huddlestone.

Dishonest Ian Huddlestone resigned in disgrace from the town council, but he is still on High Peak Borough Council.  For details of this see previous articles on High Peak Transparency.

The 2012-13 Borough accounts show that dishonest Ian Huddlestone took around £8,000 of public money by way of allowances etc from High Peak Borough Council as a member of the local Labour group there.

Dishonest Ian Huddlestone is one of the councillors who made the unlawful appointment in the New Mills town hall in the summer of 2002.

The whole inside story of how the New Mills town council sank from being an upstanding organisation in a proud town, into corruption and dishonesty which became a hard-to-shift culture requiring a formal campaign by good people to clean it up, will be told on High Peak Transparency in a series of articles over the next few weeks.

This recent town hall crisis, and its ultimate sorting-out with very dramatic consequences, is an important part of the long local history of the town of New Mills.


Postscript

It is the taxpayers and the public that pay for all of the town council's activities.

We do not know the outcome of the recent staff disciplinary procedure concerning Mrs Susan Stevens. The sooner that New Mills town council formally publishes the fact of whether that person is still the town clerk the better.


05 October 2013

Attempts to distract the public


Isn't the English language a wonderful thing?

It has a rich variety, and has spread around the world as a modern lingua franca between cultures wherever humanity has made its home.

Figures of speech

‘You are pulling my leg’.  Is a person’s lower limb actually being pulled upon? Tugged at by another person, not necessarily an embarrassing uncle, in a direction away from the torso?

‘I have butterflies in my stomach’.  Flying insects, sporting wings of brightly coloured patterns, occupying a person’s stomach, no doubt interfering with their digestion. Not bees or moths.

‘That is a red herring’. No, it isn’t a well-smoked, coloured kipper.  It’s not even a bloater, nor any kind of cured and coloured fish.  Bloater.  Lovers of English will always have a list of favourite words.  Candidate word: Bloater

Red herring

‘Red herring’ is a figure of speech with two main meanings:

In a story, it’s a device to deliberately mislead the audience away from the true perpetrator. The truth is then a surprising revelation at the denouement. In The Da Vinci Code, the name of character Bishop Aringarosa is a rough translation of the Italian for “red herring”.

In other areas of life, particularly politics, when somebody tries to divert attention away from a main issue or important story they are said to be using a ‘red herring’.

Some recent public comments at the bottom of High Peak Transparency articles appear to be trying on this diversionary tactic.

The real story

The real story here is long-standing corruption and criminal activities that have been going on inside the town hall of New Mills.  All aspects of this are now being thoroughly investigated by some good councillors and their advisers.

To judge the extent of the investigation and its success so far, one only has to note that - to date - there have recently been three resignations from the council and two suspensions of town hall staff. A fourth councillor resigned earlier.

A comprehensive, detailed report giving the whole story will be published on High Peak Transparency when the case is concluded.

Price and value

Regarding the costs of the investigation, this has also been the subject of public comment to this site.

The costs of this can only be established at the end.  Suffice to say for the moment that price and value are not the same thing.  For the town of New Mills in the High Peak to finally get an honest and transparently-run town hall - at long last - would be worth a considerable amount. That is the avowed goal of this project.

Diversionary tactic

The red herring here, in an attempt by some individuals to distract from the very serious matters above, is that comments have come in to this site trying to say that Tall Poppies Consultants is or isn't a limited company.

Tall Poppies Consultants has been advising the New Mills town council on HR best practice.  HR stands for 'human resources'; this is the modern name for personnel and staff issues.  The contract is not open-ended.  It is for a fixed length of time and for a definite purpose.

Then, in a shameful stunt, intended deliberately to disrupt progress, a member of the Stevens family of New Mills (Jamie Stevens) formed a new limited company using the name Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd. See previous articles on High Peak Transparency for the dismal details.

Any attempted justifications for this ‘cuckoo company’ stunt can only be set out by the Stevens family.

Susan Stevens is the town clerk of New Mills.  Mrs Stevens is currently suspended from work during the disciplinary process.

Alistair Stevens is a town councillor in New Mills, and Parliamentary candidate for this constituency, who breaks the criminal law of this country on a regular basis.  He does this by taking part in town council meetings where matters concerning the town clerk - his wife, her pay and their finances and pension - are being discussed.

See previous articles for full details of the criminal offences committed






04 October 2013

Statement by DALC concerning recent events at New Mills Town Council

Following comments posted in the 'Public Comments' section at the bottom of the articles on this site, DALC has been in touch and asked for a clarification to be published regarding their relationship with various other organisations.

'DALC' stands for Derbyshire Association of Local Councils.  It provides a general resource of advice for town and parish councils when they need specialist assistance on any particular matter. Town and parish councils pay an annual membership fee to be part of the association.

DALC also provides training to member councils.

Here is DALC's statement on this subject:

"Tall Poppies have been contracted by DALC, for a specified period as with all its contractors, to provide a FREE resource to its member parish and town councils seeking initial advice and guidance concerning basic human resources issues.

Councils are under no obligation to ask for or receive this free help.  Tall Poppies advised New Mills Town Council as part of this service.

NMTC then decided to employ, from their own funds, an HR specialist.  Tall Poppies was one of three companies that they approached to tender for the tasks they had in mind.

DALC in no way recommended Tall Poppies as against other providers, as DALC's remit is to provide information on service providers available, rather like using yellow pages, but never to recommend any one provider.

Who any council chooses to deliver a service is always, and must remain, entirely the decision and choice of the council concerned."

30 September 2013

Answers to Correspondents: Ethical Business Practices and a Cuckoo Company

This is a postscript to the earlier article Dirty Tricks Department: Stevens Family Values

At 12:42 on 30 September 2013, the following comment was received about the above article:
"I'm slightly confused by this.
I'm a big reader here, but on this one I must say i'm lost. Can I get some clarification:
James Stevens has registered a company. But how is that illegal.
Also, if Nicki Williams is trading as Tall Poppies Consultants LTD... But hasn't registered the company to begin with, surely it is she who is in the wrong here, not James? Can I just ask why the Editor has not picked up on this point?"
The reply to the above would not fit into a standard comments box, so it is published here instead.


HPT Editor replies:


Thank you for your comment.

In the UK, every business has a formal legal structure.  There are several different legal structures to choose from.  These include: Sole Trader; Limited Liability Partnership; Unlimited Partnership; Private Limited Company; Public Limited Company.

The two business structures that are relevant to this matter are Sole Trader and Private Limited Company.

Ms Nicki Williams was a sole trader, with the trading name of Tall Poppies Consultants.

So far as can be established, this business was going to be incorporated.  The business name would then be, with effect from the date of incorporation, Tall Poppies Consultants Limited.  The business structure would then be private limited company, again with effect from the date of incorporation.

For reasons that only the Stevens family of New Mills can give an explanation for, a newly created limited company was registered at Companies House on 26 July 2013.  It was formed by James Alexander Stevens of that family, with himself as sole director and no company secretary.  The name that he chose to use for the new company was Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd.

Susan Stevens is the (currently suspended from work) town clerk in the town of New Mills, and mother of James Alexander Stevens.  The father/husband is Alistair Stevens, who stood for Parliament in this constituency at the last general election.  It is not clear who is the brains of the outfit.

From the above date (26 July 2013), if Ms Williams still wishes to incorporate her HR business, she will have to use a different form of words for the new limited company.  There are several million registered limited companies active in the UK, so these subtle, slight name differences between companies are not unusual.

Every limited company has a unique company registration number.  Ms Williams would be well advised to ensure this number is clearly shown on every document of the new limited company, along with its registered office address.  The registered office address can be different from the trading address.

James Stevens taking it upon himself to form and register a 'cuckoo in the nest' company using the name Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd is not illegal.

It is weird, and it is very strange behaviour to be sure, and it's not what any normal personality would conceive of, even less carry through into action, and one would think that a 25-year old man would have more important things to attend to, and given all of the circumstances the act is ethically dubious and morally questionable, and it may even be a signifier of stalker tendency or latent mental health issues. But it's not illegal.

Here are the commercial laws of this country that are now relevant to James Alexander Stevens:

If James Alexander Stevens attempts to pass off this business as anything even remotely to do with Nicki Williams, then that would be illegal. (Common law tort: passing off.)

James Alexander Stevens is now under a legal duty to promote the success of the new limited company Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd (Section 172 of the Companies Act 2006).

Stating a false occupation on an official Companies House form is against the law.  Indeed any statement to Companies House that is misleading, false or deceptive in any material particular is a criminal offence. This is Section 1112 of the Companies Act 2006.

James Alexander Stevens made the material false statement to Companies House, in writing, that he is a HR Consultant.

The punishment available to the Court upon conviction under Section 1112 above is imprisonment up to two years, or a fine, or both.

We shall end with Dostoevsky, words from over a century ago:


Update

As at 1 October 2013, Companies House shows that Tall Poppies Consultants Learning Training Development Limited has been registered with company number 8712571.  This is the HR company that is genuinely associated with Ms Nicki Williams.

28 September 2013

Dirty Tricks Department: Stevens Family Values


Receiving occasional abusive comments and the odd hate mail are par for the course when a blog becomes successful. Or at least widely read, as this one is.

For someone to use false names, and for that same someone to make false statements to the authorities of this country, is crossing the line, however.

Who would do such a thing?  More to the point, what is the intimate connection between that behaviour and the corrupt goings-on inside New Mills town hall that have recently been exposed?

A mysterious event from a recent New Mills town council meeting has now become more clearly understandable. When a bill was due to be paid by New Mills town council to Nicki Williams, a HR consultant who trades as Tall Poppies Consultants, a councillor became very agitated about the matter. He made the ridiculous - and wholly false - assertion that the payment was illegal.

The basis of the councillor's assertion appeared to be that the cheque was made out to Ms Williams, but the stub showed that it was in respect of Tall Poppies Consultants.

However since Tall Poppies Consultants was a trading name of the individual concerned, the two names are synonymous from the point of view of a business payment being made.

The over-excited councillor was Alistair Stevens.  Cllr Stevens is married to Susan Stevens, the town clerk in New Mills who is currently suspended from work whilst the council's disciplinary process takes its course.

The business and livelihood of Ms Nicki Williams is Tall Poppies Consultants. The nature of that business is human resources consultancy ('HR'). Tall Poppies Consultants has been appointed by the town council.

Ms Williams' intention was to incorporate the business as Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd, a limited company.

A new limited company with the name of Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd was indeed officially incorporated. The incorporation documents were filed at Companies House on 26 July 2013.

But who incorporated it, thus taking the limited company name of 'Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd' away from Ms Nicki Williams?  Why, a member of the Stevens family.

The sick mentality behind this stunt is to deprive Ms Williams' business of its legal incorporation.

The vindictiveness and spite is breathtaking.

In the eyes of the Stevens family of New Mills, what is the 'crime' of Ms Nicki Williams? Well, she is the HR consultant who was brought in to investigate staff wrong-doing at New Mills town council, and oversee the necessary processes and improvements.

Obviously, in the eyes of some of the Stevens family of New Mills - the suspended town clerk of New Mills being Mrs Susan Stevens - taking on this assignment for the town council means that Ms Nicki Williams must be punished.

Who is the sole shareholder and director of the newly formed limited company Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd?

It is a person called James Alexander Stevens.

James Alexander Stevens, who prefers to be called 'Jamie', is the oldest offspring of councillor Alistair Stevens and the suspended town clerk Susan Stevens.

Jamie Stevens' ambition is to one day be a primary school teacher.  However, his false statements and liking of using false identities to make statements are now likely to fatally count against his ambition.

If Jamie Stevens stops now and apologises, he may be able to rescue the situation from the point of view of his future ambition.  If he carries on this way, then no parent will tolerate having their precious child in the care of such an individual.

False statement? False identity?  Back that up, Mr Editor, or face the wrath of Stevens!

So, regarding false statement, when he registered the limited company Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd Jamie Stevens told Companies House that his occupation is "HR Consultant".  At the date of the incorporation of the company, he was of course no such thing.

Regarding false identity, when an item of hate mail came in to High Peak Transparency - sent to the site using the email account of Steven Haslehurst of Isaac Way in Manchester - upon investigating the email it was quickly revealed that the actual author of the email was - yes, you've guessed it - Jamie Stevens.

"What's for tea mother?  Secrets and lies?"


Update

As at 1 October 2013, Companies House shows that Tall Poppies Consultants Learning Training Development Limited has been registered with company number 8712571.  this is the HR company that is genuinely associated with Ms Nicki Williams.

18 September 2013

Parish Notices, or First Local Councillor To Orbit The Moon


We've been in receipt of various threats over the years, and the editor has been locked up, interviewed by the police and so on, all over articles that have been published concerning what goes on in local politics. Not one of the threats or actions has ever succeeded.

High Peak Transparency published its first article in April 2009.  This was about a local youth shelter, made of garish, modern materials, that was proposed by some Labour Party councillors to be put up without planning permission in a conservation area.

This first article was entitled Gimme Shelter. Or the lesser-known 'Don't Gimme Shelter'.

In HPT’s early years the readership used to roll along at a few hundred page-views per month.

After the current sequence of articles started it reached 3,000 page-views per month, then 4,000, then 5,000.  The monthly readership has steadily climbed.  For the last two months it has averaged over 6,000 page-views per month.

The current series of articles has concerned activities inside New Mills town hall in the High Peak. As at 19:20 today, the readership of this site stands at 6,434 page-views in the last calendar month.

The current series of articles has been characterised by town councillors in New Mills contacting the site with regular cease and desist requests. They have been saying ‘Please stop saying things about the town clerk’, ‘Stop mentioning the town clerk on your blog’, ‘Do not refer to the town clerk’, and so on.

The efforts of town councillors to protect the town clerk of New Mills have been categorical, consistent, and very persistent.  They have come from various different councillors.

In response, the editor has been at pains to repetitively point out to town councillors the following facts:

1. We live in a free country.

2. Freedom of speech is a birthright of every Englishman (and woman, obviously).

3. Exposing dishonesty, corruption or incompetence in any public body is a civic duty of every citizen.

4. There is no conceivable way that New Mills town council is even remotely responsible for any of the content of this site.  It may as well try for a lunar landing, or attempt to enact a by-law requiring homosexuals to wear blue hats.

However, following the town councillors’ regular, persistent efforts on behalf of the town clerk as above, the advisers appointed by New Mills town council to help rectify the town hall problems and clean up the mess have contacted this site.

After careful consideration, and in all of the circumstances concerning recent events, we think it right to publish the following statement:

“High Peak Transparency’s reason for existence is to make sure that any inappropriate practice, or unacceptable or unreasonable behaviour within any public body in the High Peak area, whether by councillors or employees, is exposed where there is or has been any wrong-doing.

“Whilst our views and intentions in this respect remain unchanged, we have been contacted by New Mills Town Council.

“We have been made aware that if we were to continue with the above, there is a possibility it might impact on bringing about a fair and reasonable outcome to recent events within New Mills Town Council.  It is for this reason that High Peak Transparency will not be posting any comments in relation to any employees of that council until after it has been established what the determination of those events has been.”