30 August 2013

Second Employee Suspended As Town Hall Crisis Moves Towards Conclusion

We've finally had confirmation that a second employee has been suspended from work at New Mills town hall.

Councillors have not been prepared to confirm the fact.  The news has come from friends of the second suspended employee.

The matters under investigation by the town council are serious, with both the absent town clerk (Susan Stevens, who is married to a councillor) and now a town hall colleague meriting the serious step of suspension.

Susan Stevens had recommended the now-suspended employee as new manager of the Heritage Centre in New Mills.

The behind-the-scenes manoeuvrings by Mrs Stevens in getting her desired change through had upset some of the stalwarts of the volunteer-run establishment, which was opened in 1988.

There were several resignations from the Heritage Centre's management committee during this period, as a direct result of Mrs Stevens' activities and alleged unsatisfactory manner of dealing with people.

25 August 2013

Suspend Your Disbelief, and Second Bad Councillor Named


The suspended town clerk in New Mills, High Peak may have been joined by another town hall employee.

This site has been notified by two separate sources that there has now been a second employee suspended at the town hall (as well as the absent town clerk).

When a local councillor was contacted for confirmation, so that this article could contain the fact of suspension or not - but specifically not the name of the employee - all the councillor would say on this subject was 'No comment'.

We are careful not to print rumours.  So whilst it would appear that there are serious town hall issues with a second employee, at this stage we are not able to print that this has led to suspension from duty.  Or that it has not.

All accurate, factual information gratefully received.  Email: highpeaktransparency@btconnect.com

The detailed documentation regarding the absent town clerk's 'claims' against the council (whether real, imagined or contrived) is not being kept at the town hall.  Not even in the safe at the town hall.  That must be one hell of a document.

Here is the disbelief bit:

Four councillors used their vote in an attempt to stop the town council employing a professional HR consultant.

Fortunately, they didn't succeed.

It is extraordinary that councillors Tony Ashton, Alan Barrow, Ian Huddlestone and Alistair Stevens would try to stop the town council from having the benefit of professional advice concerning the very serious ongoing town clerk issues.

This happened after councillor Tony Ashton asked that the public be excluded from the meeting.

Councillor Alistair Stevens

Councillor Alistair Stevens voted to prevent the town council from obtaining the necessary professional employment advice.  He did this during the confidential part of the town council meeting that took place on Wednesday 31 July 2013.

This is the most glaring, blatant example yet of outright town hall corruption.

Cllr Alistair Stevens is married to the suspended town clerk Susan Stevens, and his wife's pension and pay are an important part of Cllr Stevens's finances and household.

The public were prevented from staying in the meeting during these discussions and the vote among councillors.



21 August 2013

Standards in Public Life

The purpose of this site - High Peak Transparency - is improvement in standards in local public life.

It is the public that pays for ALL of councillors' decisions and the work activities - and sometimes extended work inactivities - of council employees.

This site's page views have now surpassed the amazing number of 5,000 per month.  And those viewing figures are still climbing, month by month.

It is reasonable to assume that most of this site's readers will talk about these matters of public interest to several other people, who are also likely to be voters in the local area.

Before taking office, every councillor has to agree in writing that they will adhere to good standards in public life.  If a councillor refuses to agree in writing to these good standards they cannot take office, even if they have been elected.

If council insiders are now to be believed, more shocking revelations are on the way - as if what has already been discovered about some of the councillors and employees at New Mills town council is not bad enough.

It is worth comparing the public life principles below with what has been revealed so far on this site about activities - and the failures to act when necessary - of some local councillors.

So that voters and local readers can judge between good and bad councillors, here are the government's published principles that underpin the required standards in public life:

SELFLESSNESS

Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

INTEGRITY

Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.

OBJECTIVITY

In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

OPENNESS

Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

HONESTY

Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

LEADERSHIP

Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.


07 August 2013

The New Town Clerk, and First Bad Councillor Named


Details are emerging of the new interim town clerk in New Mills, High Peak.

The Temporary Appointment

An interim appointment has either been made or is imminent.  The new incumbent - on a temporary basis - is Lesley Bramwell, who apparently comes with the recommendation of the Derbyshire Association of Local Councils.

The 31 July 2013 extraordinary meeting of New Mills town council had the agenda item 'To appoint an interim Town Clerk'.  However, the public was excluded.  So officially we don't know what happened.

Either Lesley Bramwell will now have to be interim-appointed by a meeting of the town council or its Personnel and Finance committee, or the 31 July meeting delegated the making of the interim appointment to a councillor or councillors.  The draft minutes of the meeting show the latter.

The Requirements of the Post

If the suspended and absentee town clerk does not return, the permanent post will have to be advertised, with a selection process following.

The new town clerk will need to be both very knowledgeable about the laws of local government and have an assertive character.

This type of character is needed because of the two warring factions on this council.

Personal honesty is the third requirement, and this is non-negotiable.

Two Factions

One of the factions on the council appears to be saying that the personally dishonest and professionally incompetent previous town clerk - currently absent until at least September - must be retained in the post for the town of New Mills.

This faction of the council thinks that would be an appropriate way to spend the money paid by the hard-pressed taxpayers and electors.

These councillors also appear to believe that standard of town clerk is acceptable for New Mills.

This faction is becoming informally referred to as the Unholy Alliance.  On current information, the Unholy Alliance would appear to contain either three councillors and one fellow-traveller, or four councillors.

Dishonest Labour Councillor Ian Huddlestone

The role that dishonest Labour Party councillor Ian Huddlestone has played in this town hall crisis is interesting.  He is both one of the Unholy Alliance, and is also a named individual in the town clerk's grievance letter.

Ian Huddlestone (left) with local Labour Vice-chair Cllr Alan Barrow
On at least three known occasions whilst holding the office of councillor, he has asked the town clerk of the town of New Mills to lie.  At the time, the town clerk was Mrs Susan Stevens.

On one occasion, Ian Huddlestone asked her to use the official New Mills Town Council letterhead to send a letter to his fellow town councillors.  In this letter, he used Susan Stevens to make a false statement to councillors for him about a local property.

The purpose of  Ian Huddlestone's proposed letter was deception.

In other words, Labour councillor Ian Huddlestone hid behind the town clerk Mrs Stevens and deliberately used her for the purpose of telling lies to councillors.

What is the Labour Party in High Peak now going to do about this person, who disgraces the name of that party?

The dishonest actions of councillor Ian Huddlestone bring both the local Labour Party and High Peak Borough Council into disrepute.

Ian Huddlestone is also a postman.  That is his job during the day.  Should this dishonest individual be handling people's mail on his own?

Public Notice Now Needed

The trouble with secrecy by public bodies is that the public interest facts then have to be dug out.
Sometimes it's like pulling teeth, sometimes it's easier.

In view of the strong public interest in this particular matter, and all of the circumstances that surround it, a notice should go on the town's main public noticeboard as soon as the interim town clerk appointment is official.

02 August 2013

Town Clerk Suspended

This shouldn't be a secret to the electors and council taxpayers of the town of New Mills in the High Peak.  But a few councillors (not all) appear to think it should be.

The town clerk has been suspended by the council.

As at today's date, there is no town clerk in post.  It is understood that an interim town clerk with suitable qualifications is urgently being sought.




01 August 2013

The Secret Town Clerk!


The electors and council taxpayers of the town of New Mills in the High Peak find themselves with another 'first' this morning.

Last night's Extraordinary meeting of New Mills town council (31 July 2013) had the following item on the agenda:
To appoint an interim town clerk and Responsible Financial Officer.

Most people involved assumed that this innocuous item would be dealt with transparently.

The town of New Mills is used to 'firsts'.  There is a linear park that is at a radically lower level than the rest of the town ('The park under the town').  There is a community-purchased renewable energy scheme.  There is a so-called 'village green' that was alleged by local Labour Cllr Ian Huddlestone, which is largely inaccessible and which has a 17,000 sq ft brick and concrete derelict effluent works as its centrepiece.

We can see from that list that some civic 'firsts' are more welcome than others.

Which brings us to this morning.  Possibly for the first time in civic history in England, a town does not know who its town clerk is.

This is because when the time came for the discussion on this item, Cllr Tony Ashton (proposer) and Cllr Alistair Stevens (seconder) wanted this subject to be discussed with the public excluded.

Councillor Alistair Stevens?  He's married to the non-attending town clerk, and her pension and pay is an important part of his household.

The public?  They're the ones who pay for all this.