13 November 2016

Shining a light on the co-option meeting: transcript of David Lamb's public co-option interview answers





In the 22 June 2015 co-option meeting of New Mills town council, there were seven candidates for six vacancies on the council.

The outstanding candidate - but the one who did not get co-opted - was David Lamb.  To independent council-taxpayers and electors of New Mills, this is strange for the following reasons.

Factually, Mr Lamb was the former chairman of the town council who was the key player in ensuring that the dishonest and incompetent ex-town clerk lost her 'compensation culture' spurious financial claim against New Mills town council.

Mr Lamb was also the key player in starting the eventual public exposure of local poppies charity thief Jeff Lawton, the dishonest friend of certain current councillors who are also supporters of the dishonest and incompetent former town clerk.  (Mr Lawton was the Chairman of our local High Peak Conservative Association until he was charged with theft from the British Legion charity.)

Mr Lamb's bold, honest actions as a town councillor therefore ensured both that justice was done in two cases and also saved the council taxpayers of New Mills and local contributors to the Poppy Appeal a substantial sum of money,

However, this has meant that some local councillors, and others in local public life who are supporters and/or personal friends of the dishonest and incompetent sacked former town clerk of New Mills and/or poppy charity thief Jeff Lawton, became personally vindictive against David Lamb.

To shed more factual light on these events, HPT now publishes the transcript of David Lamb's council co-option interview, held in public in the New Mills council chamber on 22 June 2015.


The question were asked of every candidate by the Town Clerk Lesley Bramwell. These are the answers given by David Ian Lamb.


Question 1

Can you briefly say why I would like to become a member of New Mills Town Council.

Answer

I think everybody in here is aware of the role I used to have here on the Council.  I was a Councillor for four years, I was also the chair of the Council for a year, and you may be aware I was also Chair of Welfare and Admin (Committee), and on the Personnel Committee as well

I think my main reason for coming back on the council is, is that we have moved forward with this council now, it's open honest and transparent, and that's the way I want to keep this council, and if I can be on this council, I will make sure that I steer it in the right direction, along with other council members.


Question 2

Do you have any specific skills you think you could bring to the role of Town Council

Answer

Well I have said a fair bit of it. Many will not be aware of the Localism Act in the public, the Localism Act was brought in on 2011.

I have done my training for the general power of competence. I think I am about one or maybe two of the Councillors on here, sorry as the Council 'was',  I was about one or two Councillors who went through the training.

My training is in there, obviously we need to get up to strength with that. And what that would empower this council to do is things that we do not necessarily have a statutory obligation to do . As long as it is legal and lawful,  yes not a problem we could then get on and do it.

What other specific skills have I got, well Council and people who are interested in Council will be aware along with other Councillors previously have gone through the financial regulations, I have been on the financial regulations training, I have been on the human resources training as well for councils so it's fair I would say that I have a good working knowledge of how council works and local council administration.


Question 3

What is your current and past involvement with the local community.

Answer

Well I've lived in New Mills for 25 years, if it's been there I've done it. I was involved with the carnival at one time. Lantern parade, hopefully you've all read my little CV I sent in, I mean I was on the first in on the lantern parade making lanterns for the kids and when my youngsters were small we went on a little trot with not so many people that's another thing I have done  I supported that and the carnival which is a big event over the years dressing floats up et cetera you will all have read this in the CV I sent in. Recently I have been very involved with New Mills they had their 100 sorry I forgotten how many years is was 100 year anniversary what ever it is 150 years ? I was very involved with them.

I am keen that all the community groups in New Mills are well represented, I am quite happy to represent those groups and be on those committees as well,  I want to see New Mills move forward.


Question 4

What experience have you had in Committee work and what skills should a good committee member have.

Answer

Again I have to go back a little bit - Committee work I have been on Council again if you have read my CV.  At work I am on a committee it’s a diagonal slice Committee. It's putting across the workers view to the management and getting feedback from the management I have been on various committees in the Council,  outside groups as well.

The main thing is listening, whatever you do you have to listen to these people.  Now as a  committee member representative on an outside body obviously I can't make decisions I have to bring it back to Council, report in to Council exactly what is going on it is then Councils decision. The Council is a corporate body.


Question 5

There are situations as a Councillor when you may be put under intense personal pressure either through being publicly criticised or through being persuaded to change your mind over something that has been previously agreed. Can you think of an occasion when you are felt under such pressure by a person or a group of people and tell us what you did and how you coped.

Answer

Yes there have been plenty, it's been quite open here in the council chamber. Again as an individual Councillor I cannot do anything, I can't do anything as an individual. If somebody comes into council and they have got a gripe you know that's fine. You have to listen to what has been said, even if they are way off base you still have to listen to what is been said.  Then it's down to Council whether they decide to do something about it. As an individual I cannot do anything about it.


Question 6

What suggestions can you supply to deal professionally with an angry resident or member of the public who may attend a parish council meeting

Answer

Same again.  Listen to the person.  There is no perfect conflict resolution model, there isn't one. What you need to do is listen to people. If the council are aware of it, and the council decides they are going to do something about it,  it is a collective decision of the Council


Question 7

If appointed to this council are you able to commit to attend all the town council meetings

Answer

At the annual parish meeting, I did report in because Sean (Cllr Sean Whewell - HPT Ed) was chairing his first meeting, I sat in there, and that my record has been one hundred percent


Question 8

Would you be interested in attending any Parish councillor training that may be offered

Answer

I have attended more or less anything that has been going, and in fact I have suggested that Councillors go on training.

Also I have found out about training courses, that may not have been communicated to Council, and through the Clerk the proper officer I have spread around to all the Councillors.  There is training available and we should be going on training.


Question 9

There are some occasions where it may be necessary to meet with outside agencies or have site meetings with other members of the Town Council. Such meetings will usually fall outside of normal town council meetings. Would you consider attending some of these types of meetings

Answer

Again if people check back through the records it quite clearly shows I have attended these meetings - I have been spotted by members of the public when out and about - I always make time.


Question 10

Finally do you have any questions for the current council members

Answer 

No.





Note to contributors re comments on this article:

If you use your real name on a comment then it is virtually guaranteed to be published.

Anonymous comments making seriously bad claims against a named councillor or town council employee - i.e. making bad or unfounded claims against a named individual whilst at the same time hiding behind 'anonymous' like a coward - are unlikely to make it into the comments section below.


29 October 2016

What Daily Telegraph Readers Are Learning About Previous Years' Poppy Money in New Mills, And About The High Peak Conservative Association


Mr Lawton's hidden overstock of poppy merchandise, after discovery by New Mills town councillors





Here is how the house newspaper of the Conservative Party, the Daily Telegraph, is reporting the scandal in the High Peak Conservative Association, president Edwina Currie:


"Edwina Currie tried to help poppy thief who stole money for war heroes

"A former local Conservative chairman who stole more than £3,000 from the Royal British Legion under the guise of selling poppies was helped in court by Edwina Currie.

"The former MP and her husband John Jones pleaded with magistrates to have mercy on their friend Jeff Lawton, 41, after he was convicted of stealing money meant for war heroes and their families.

"Lawton stole £3,135 after collecting money for the Poppy Appeal.

"Ms Currie and her husband sent letters to Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court to help his mitigation.

"Her husband told the Mirror: 'We are both horrified because we actually don’t think he is guilty. We have known Jeff for quite a few years and we are quite fond of him. He hasn’t got a bad bone in his body.

'He’s the most disorganised person you could wish to meet. He’s very careless but a lovely guy. Both Edwina and I sent letters to the court as some mitigation. He’s not a thief in my opinion but who am I to argue with a judge? Having been convicted, he was very lucky not to be given a prison sentence. He’s in a real state now and his parents are really distraught.'

"Lawton, who has now resigned as chairman of the High Peak Conservative Association in Buxton, Derbyshire, over the scandal, had raised £400 for the British Legion but claimed he had only collected £200.

"Another receipt revealed he had raised £7,000 but only submitted £4,000.

"He was found guilty of theft by magistrates and given a community order.

"Lawton was arrested last October after the British Legion noticed discrepancies in its accounts.

"He initially blamed a cashier for the error when he deposited the money at a bank.

"A spokesperson for the Royal British Legion said: “This loss will deprive those in the service and ex-service community and their families of much needed assistance and support.”

"Former New Mills councillor Mark Gadd added: “He’s gone from being a pillar of the community to a disgrace. No one knows what he has spent the money on.”

"He caused controversy two years ago when New Mills Town Council complained he had left 23,750 poppies and hundreds of other Remembrance Day items, wreaths, collecting boxes and tins, totalling nearly 25,000 items, in council offices."




Here is the link to the Daily Telegraph article on the newspaper's website:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/28/edwina-currie-tried-to-help-poppy-thief-who-stole-money-for-war/


27 October 2016

Currying Favour With The Magistrates To Get A Lenient Sentence For A Pal








Perhaps the mystery of why poppy charity thief Jeff Lawton unjustly evaded a jail sentence may be a bit closer to being solved.

Friday's Daily Mirror (28 October 2016 - front page below) has further details of the Jeff Lawton New Mills theft case and some insider detail about the bad sentencing decision.

Here is a link to the online edition of the Mirror's story:
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/top-tory-edwina-currie-backs-9141724





20 October 2016

Local Tory Ex-Chairman Guilty of Theft from British Legion Poppy Appeal Charity



Former High Peak Conservative Association Chairman Jeffrey Peter Lawton has been found guilty at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court of theft of money from the Poppy Appeal, the principal ex-servicemen's charity of the United Kingdom.

Jeff Lawton was a collector and custodian of cash for the charity and other local good causes for many years.  This all started to unravel when his bosom buddy the former town clerk of New Mills in Derbyshire  (Mrs Susan Stevens) was dismissed from that post for gross misconduct.  Councillors were then able to access the town hall's storage spaces.  About 25,000 poppies were found, when Mr Lawton had claimed there were only about 10,000.

Being fortunate in his friends in high places in the Conservative Party and in the local press etc, suspicions were only aroused among local people when Mr Lawton failed to hand over cash collected on behalf of the New Mills Carnival local good causes.

Following the mass poppy discovery, a patient covert police investigation was under way for many months, until sufficient evidence was gathered for a charging decision to be taken.  The trial started on Monday 17 October 2016.  Costs of £2,060 were awarded against Mr Lawton.

Some may wonder at the leniency of 200 hours community service and eight-week night time tagged curfew, rather than custodial sentence, when the victim of the theft was our national ex-servicemen's charity.




More than a day after High Peak Transparency broke this story, here is the Buxton Advertiser's catch-up, published on their website at 14:03 on Friday 21 October 2016:

'Former Tory chairman found guilty of stealing more than £3,000 from the Royal British Legion in New Mills


'The former chairman of the High Peak Conservative Association, Jeffrey Peter Lawton, was found guilty of stealing £3,135.65 from the Royal British Legion in New Mills at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court earlier this week.

'Lawton 41, of High Lea Road, New Mills, had originally denied the theft, said to have occurred between November 2014 and October 2015, at an earlier hearing in April.

'He was given a community order and a curfew between 8pm-6am until December 13 and ordered to pay court costs of £2,000 and a victim surcharge of £60.

Derbyshire Police confirmed that a case against Lawton began in 2015 that he had failed to bank some money that had been raised during the Poppy Appeal in November 2014. Lawton was arrested in October last year and finally charged over the stolen money in March this year.'




19 October 2016

All Our Yesterdays - Poppygate Part One


Some High Peak Transparency readers have requested a reprint of the Manchester Evening News article that disgraced Conservative ex-Chairman Jeff Lawton engineered to appear in the newspaper in February 2014.

In the light of Mr Lawton's court conviction this week for theft of over £3,000 from the poppy appeal, it does make fascinating reading.  The article appeared on 6 February 2014, under the byline of Alex Scapens:



"Town hall bosses have threatened to throw away 10,000 British Legion poppies – because they are a fire hazard.


Poppy appeal organiser Jeff Lawton outside New Mills Town Hall


"Jeff Lawton, organiser of the New Mills appeal, has been told to collect the paper flowers right away or they will be ‘removed and disposed of’.

"He has been storing poppies at New Mills Town Hall since 2007 and says this arrangement was agreed with the building’s caretaker and the town council.

"But New Mills Town Council says there has been no such agreement and that written permission must be given after Jeff has provided details of insurance cover for the poppies.

"Jeff, 39, said: 'This is ridiculous, I’ve been told they are a fire hazard.

'I’ve been running the Poppy Appeal for years and until recently, I’ve had nothing but brilliant support – which is as it should be, because it is a very worthy cause.

'It’s just a shame that this has changed in what is a big year for the appeal – the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. If they get thrown away, that feasibly could cost the Poppy Appeal £10,000, as it’s not unreasonable to estimate people pay £1 per poppy on average – and I have around 10,000 stored.

'That money can help a lot of people. I’m pretty angry about this.”

"Jeff, who helps organise other community events such as New Mills Carnival, also has collection tins, a marquee, Christmas lights and cones stored at the town hall.

"All of these will be thrown away if not collected.

"Lesley Bramwell, acting clerk for new Mills Town Council, told Jeff this in a letter dated Tuesday, January 27.

"In it, she said: 'I asked you to remove all the items that you have lodged with the town hall with immediate effect or they will be removed and disposed of.

'If you wish to lodge any items in the town hall you should write to the town council requesting permission, stating very clearly what the items are, how long you wish to store them for and what insurance cover you have in place.'


All Our Yesterdays - Poppygate Part Two

Some High Peak Transparency readers have requested a reprint of the Buxton Advertiser article that disgraced Conservative ex-Chairman Jeff Lawton engineered to appear in the newspaper in February 2014.

In the light of Mr Lawton's court conviction this week for theft of over £3,000 from the poppy appeal, it does make fascinating reading.  The article appeared on 1 February 2014, with no reporter byline:


"New Mills council say poppies pose fire risk



"The Royal British Legion has hit out at New Mills Town Council, claiming it will no longer let it store poppies in the town hall as they are a fire hazard. 

"Acting clerk Lesley Bramwell wrote to Jeff Lawton, New Mills poppy appeal organiser, last Tuesday to say he had stored his leftover poppies, collection boxes and wreaths in the building 'without authority from or agreement with the council.'

"She added that unless he removed the items within a week, they would be 'disposed of'.

"Jeff said: “I’m disgusted. I do have permission to store my stuff in there, it was arranged with the former clerk Susan Stevens. It makes me angry. They were stored in the loft above the toilet. They’re not short of storage space and they haven’t said they want to use the space for anything else. One councillor said they pose a fire hazard. To pick on something like the poppy appeal is pathetic.

'I’ve never had anything but support from the council until this year. They were all happy to have their photos taken for the paper on the day of the launch. It’s not very public spirited, it’s annoying and unnecessary.”

"At the time of publication, the town council had not commented."


Read more at: http://www.buxtonadvertiser.co.uk/news/new-mills-council-say-poppies-pose-fire-risk-1-6402489

11 October 2016

The can is kicked down the road again, but council rejects the key part of DALC's report by 6 votes to 2




The first item to be discussed at last night's New Mills town council meeting was item 4:  ‘Co-option – to consider the recommendation of the DALC representatives from their report commissioned by the Chair and the Council.’

A large number of members of the public were in attendance for this meeting.

Cllr Lance Dowson took a very dim view of the fact the authors of the report had not been invited to attend this council meeting.  He said he would have liked them there in order for councillors to ask for any clarification of their report’s points and assertions.

Cllr Barry Bate, chairing the meeting, replied that the report had been commissioned, it had been written and delivered to the council, and the report authors had been present at the previous two full council meetings.  The report clearly states that the relevant decisions are solely the council’s to make, after reading what the report has to say.

Cllr Bate reiterated that the issue before the council now was to make the necessary decisions about the report’s recommendations.

Cllr Derek Brumhead referred to a list of adverse comments made in the report that he objects to.  He read out nine specific statements from the report that criticised the town council or councillors but which had nothing to do with resolving the co-option issue – the co-option issue which was meant to be the purpose of the report.  Cllr Brumhead closed by saying that it’s a poor report.

It is relevant to note here that being a former senior University academic and currently an esteemed local history author and promoter, Cllr Brumhead has seen, examined and scrutinised countless reports during his life.

Cllr Ray Atkins focused solely on two aspects of the document that critically undermine its credibility as a local government report.

The first aspect was the report’s use of the word ‘instate’ in reference to David Lamb becoming a member of New Mills town council.  This is paragraph 1 in the ‘Recommendations and Ways Forward for NMTC’ section at the conclusion of the report.

It is a fact that there are only two ways to become a member of a town or parish council: a public election, in which case the Returning Officer for the local government area makes a declaration to that effect; or a co-option, in which case the council’s minutes record the council’s resolution to co-opt the individual. Neither of these things has happened in David Lamb’s case.

The second aspect of the report demolished by Cllr Atkins is paragraph 5 in the ‘Recommendations and Ways Forward’ section, where the report asserts ‘…(the council) should have the courage to dissolve the present Council…’.

Here is the problem with such an assertion: each council in England is a creation of statute.  No mechanism exists in law for a council to ‘dissolve’ itself.

The next-council upwards in the local government tiers, in this case High Peak Borough Council, can consider dissolving one of the town or parish councils in its area, but this would require consultations and a strict legal procedure, followed by a Borough Council decision so unlikely in this specific case as to be akin to a snowball’s chances in hell.

Cllr Lance Dowson stated that the proposal was ‘how we might resolve this matter.’  He referred to the scoring sheets from the original co-option meeting.  These show that David Lamb did well in the technical components of being a councillor, outscoring most candidates.

Cllr Dowson asserted that there were ‘two voting systems’, i.e. the scoring sheets and then the hand vote.

Cllr Rebecca Harman said that Andy Bowers stepping down immediately after the co-option meeting vote (at the council meeting of 22 June 2015) did not mean that another person can step in.

Cllr Brumhead said that only the show of hands counted toward who was co-opted.

Cllr Tony Ashton’s contribution was succinct, covering the following points:
- it is ridiculous to suggest “two scoring systems”
- the advice contained in the report is misguided and sometimes plain wrong
- the council’s own approved minutes show that David Lamb was unsuccessful in the co-option meeting
- for a council to ‘dissolve itself’ is impossible.

Cllr Ashton then agreed with the report’s recommendations on training for councillors; on the council’s policies being reviewed and then updated as necessary; and on recognising the value of the town clerk and all council staff.

Cllr Ashton’s agreement with the above three recommendations formed the basis of his pre-prepared suggested resolution wording.  This also included that the CPALC body (Communities, Parish and Local Councils) be consulted on the co-option matter, and the co-option issue be on the agenda for the next council meeting.

There were then further general contributions from councillors, but these largely re-iterated points they had already made, both in this meeting and at length in previous council meetings.

Cllr Barry Bate stated that everyone is agreed that we need to move to a conclusion.

A vote was held on Cllr Tony Ashton’s proposed resolution wording outlined above.  The resolution makes no reference to the council 'instating' David Lamb as a councillor.  The result of the vote was:

Six votes FOR: Councillors Ashton, Atkins, Allen, Bate, Brumhead, Harman
Two votes AGAINST:  Councillors Dowson, Lamb C
One councillor was unable to attend and sent apologies: Cllr Whewell


The above is a summary, not a verbatim account.  Any accidental missing-out of a councillor's important points can be rectified by emailing HPT direct at highpeaktransparency@btconnect.com or just sending in a comment to this site using your real name.  This article will then be amended.

08 October 2016

David Lamb appointed by DALC to its Executive Committee


As the seasons turn...


The man who did most to clean up New Mills town hall in its recent serious corruption troubles – which led to the sacking of the former town clerk and subsequent failure of her Employment Tribunal claim against the town’s council -has been elected to the Executive Committee of the Derbyshire Association of Local Councils.

Mr Lamb’s new position is DALC Executive Committee member for the High Peak. The election happened at DALC’s annual executive meeting on Thursday 6 October 2016.

Regular HPT readers will know that some associates of the dishonest and incompetent former town clerk of New Mills have been desperately trying to keep David Lamb off New Mills town council. This matter is item 4 on the agenda of the next New mills town council meeting:

“4. Co-option – to consider the recommendation of the DALC representatives from their report commissioned by the Chair and the Council.”




Background information: Derbyshire Association of Local Councils


DALC’s description, taken from their website front page:

"Formed by Parish Councils --- Run for Parish Councils --- Delivering to Parish Councils.

The Derbyshire Association of Local Councils (DALC) is a not for profit membership organisation, representing, training and advising the parish (including town) councils of Derbyshire, who form the grass roots tier of local government in England.

We offer members a resource of vital, operational information and facilitate communication at all levels of the parish network - district, county, regional and national.

As a membership association we are unable to deal with queries from the public, but we are happy to make general information available through this website. Please do not contact us directly unless you are a member."


DALC’s ‘About us’ page from their website:

"The Derbyshire Association of Local Councils (DALC) represents over 190 Parish and Town Council and Parish Meetings in the county. Our aim is to protect and promote the interests, rights, functions and privileges of members in the performance of their duties and we strive to promote a widespread and well-informed interest in local government. The Association is a member of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC).

Who we are

DALC is a not for profit membership organisation representing the parish and town councils of Derbyshire. It provides information about the operation and powers of parish and town councils, and parish meetings. It works to enhance communication with everyone within the Parish Council network, ranging from the National Association (NALC), through our Association at county level, to all those parish councils, town councils and parish meetings who form the grass roots tier of local government. As a membership association it is unable to deal with queries from members of the public, but is happy to make general information available through this website.

Membership is open to any parish or town council or parish meeting which pays an annual subscription to the Association.

What we do (Member Benefits)

DALC is constituted to support local councils and parish meetings in the delivery of services to their communities. As it is not a statutory body it has no powers or duties to intervene in the operation of individual councils.

Advice and information to member councils for them to use as they deem appropriate, on a range if subjects including: Legal advice service; Employment advice service; Advice on council administration; Policy consultation and advice; National Circulars and Information Bulletins; LAIS (Local Authorities Information Service)

Telephone helpline

Training - The Association runs a programme of training courses to equip clerks and councillors.

National affiliation - Membership of the Association can also provide affiliation to the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) which seeks to represent local councils at national level as well as providing advice on legal and procedural matters, national publications and regular information bulletins.

Local Council Awards Scheme - DALC administers this national awards scheme for Councils in Derbyshire.

Administers the Transparency Fund

All queries from member councils should initially be placed with DALC by e-mail, telephone or post, and this should be done through the Chairman/Vice-Chairman or Clerk. DALC staff are available to not only answer queries, but also to deliver training where their specialised knowledge is required.

How we make decisions - Executive Committee

DALC is governed by an Executive Committee made up of elected members from councils in DALC membership in each of the district/borough areas and the County Council. The current Chair of the Association is Cllr John Pritchard of Whaley Bridge Town Council.

Executive Committee information

Funding

DALC is an unincorporated membership association and is not a public sector body. DALC is funded by member council subscription and training fees.

Membership

Almost 95% of parish and town councils in Derbyshire are in membership of the Association. This means that their voice is heard on local issues and at national level. It is hoped that all local councils will join the Association to avail themselves of the support available to them in these changing times for local government."

25 September 2016

A Good, Clear Road Map Out Of The Swamp




Background

Since the last full New Mills town council meeting (12 September 2016) all the correspondence and argument into High Peak Transparency has been about one subject: the horrible mess that the council has got itself into about the empty council seats that were left unfilled at the last local elections.

Those local elections were held in May 2015. They left six council seats unfilled out of twelve seats in total.  As at the date of this article, the council has either two vacancies or three vacancies. The number depends on whether David Lamb is co-opted onto the council.

At the 12 September meeting, a report was presented to the council.  The text of the report has been published here on HPT a few days ago.  The audio of the part of the council meeting dealing with the report is likewise on HPT.



Way forward

If one accepts that the key issue now is for the New Mills town council to put all this horrible mess behind it and move forward positively, then here is a road map:


1.  Lynne Allen is a councillor.  Cllr Allen was co-opted by the council.  it was done in public.  Her co-option by the council is specifically and clearly recorded in the audio of the meeting.  The council resolution co-opting her is publicly recorded in writing, in the minutes of the council meeting.


2. The council resolves in its next meeting to appoint the 'floating' councillors to the wards they applied for.  If they didn't apply for a specific ward then the 10 October 2016 council meeting can decide which ward, in consultation with the councillor concerned.

This would require a carefully-worded standalone agenda item, just for this one issue of 'warding' the known councillors.


3. That only leaves the issue of David Lamb. At the next council meeting a vote should be held whether to adopt the report recommendation and co-opt David Lamb. Or not.

(Note:  a ward needs to be specified for David Lamb's co-option vote, on the same basis as the wards were earlier specified in the vote that 'warded' the floating councillors.)


4.  Whatever that David Lamb co-option council vote decides, that will be the end of that issue. There cannot be a tie, because in the event of a tie, the Chair of the council has a second, casting, vote.

In the interests of transparency and simplicity, this specific 'whether to co-opt David Lamb onto the council' decision should have its own carefully-worded standalone agenda item



Consequences

If David Lamb is not co-opted at the 10 October NMTC meeting, there will be three vacancies on the council that must be filled.

If David Lamb is co-opted, there will be two vacancies that must be filled.

There is no need for any councillor to resign over the result of this decision, whatever that result may be.  If one or other councillor does resign, then that is their decision.  It is essential that this council now moves on positively from this mess.



Filling the remaining vacancies lawfully

These two or three vacancies will then be filled in the way specified by law:

The council's proper officer notifies the Borough Returning Officer of the vacancies and the wards that have the vacancies;

Notices go up inviting any ten electors to call a by-election if they want to;

If ten electors call a by-election to fill a vacancy then a by-election is held.  If not, then the council can co-opt the required new member(s).


20 September 2016

The Horrible Co-option Mess. When Will It End?




Facts

At some point the town council has to decisively move on from this horrible co-option mess.  It is both stopping the council from functioning efficiently and also damaging its public reputation.

The body that will make the decision is New Mills Town Council.  If the October 2016 meeting agenda item is worded carefully and thoughtfully, this will result in the final decision of the council on this saga of the 2015 co-options.

The report has faults.  This means that some people don’t like it and want to reject it.  But a different report by different authors would have a different set of people not liking it and wanting to rejecting it.


Becoming a town/parish councillor

There are only two ways to become a town/parish councillor.  Either one stands for public election in a local government ward, wins the election, and the appointed Returning Officer makes a declaration that this person is a councillor.  Or one is co-opted by a council, in which case a council meeting records its resolution that this person is a councillor.

So far as David Lamb is concerned, neither declaration nor council recorded resolution has happened yet.

The council’s proper officer has signed David Lamb’s declaration of acceptance of office.  David Lamb was summoned to council meetings early in this saga and attended those council meetings. There is now an independent report, commissioned by the council itself, recommending that David Lamb be instated.

These would be relevant facts in his favour were Mr Lamb to apply for a judicial review of the October 2016 NMTC meeting’s decision, if it were to go against him.


Resolving the different issues, step by step

Let us now unpick this Gordian knot carefully, discrete step by discrete step.  Dealing with the easier issues first should mean that the other answers fall into place as well.


Lynne Allen

Some people are saying that if David Lamb is not a councillor then Lynne Allen is not a councillor either.  Some people are saying David Lamb is a councillor and Lynne Allen is not a councillor. Some people are saying Lynne Allen is a councillor and David lamb is not a councillor.

Trying to link the two issues is a fool’s errand.  Making that link is also sometimes used as a smokescreen.

Lynne Allen applied for co-option to the council.  The council discussed whether to co-opt her.  The council co-opted her as a councillor.  The proof is in the council’s written resolution to do so.

Apart from a transgression by not sending a necessary apology to the council’s proper officer (wrongly relying on another councillor to do it for her), in the main business of being a councillor Cllr Allen has done nothing to make anyone regret the council’s decision in co-opting her.

So let no one raise any further question or smokescreens re Cllr Lynn Allen’s office as a New Mills town councillor.


Wards

On the face of it, co-opted councillors appeared to be appointed ‘generally’ and not to wards.  If so, this was an error.

But does this view stand up to scrutiny?

Each co-option application named the ward that the applicant was applying for.

So why make problems where none exist?  Apart from the disputed David Lamb co-option, a formal resolution at the upcoming October 2016 council meeting confirming in writing the ward that each ‘not David Lamb’ candidate applied for, and then resolving and recording that Candidate A represents Ward B etc would settle this aspect of the matter.

If any co-opted councillors did not specify a ward in their application, Ollersett would presumably need to be specified in the new resolution, as that is where the main vacancies were.


David Lamb

Provided the issues itemised above are now simply concluded along the lines outlined, the remaining matter to be settled would be co-opting David Lamb onto New Mills town council for the appropriate ward.  Or not co-opting him, dependent on which way the council votes.

The council wisely commissioned an independent report.

This means that the council has been presented with a golden opportunity now to end this protracted, complicated, horrible, reputation-damaging, messy problem of its own making.

Some people don’t like the report, but that is not the point.  The point is to put all this mess behind the council and enable it to move on.


The way out

The body that was asked for its findings by way of a report was the Derbyshire Association of Local Councils (‘DALC’).

The report, which has DALC behind it, recommends that David Lamb be instated as a councillor.

As this cannot be done by magic or superstition, but only by co-option at this stage, if the council votes to accept the recommendation then the resolution needs to say something along the lines of:
‘By accepting the recommendation of the report (details) the co-option by New Mills town council of David Lamb to x ward is hereby confirmed’.


And finally...

Pragmatists please now come to the aid of your local council.



Audio from the New Mills Town Council meeting of 12 September 2016


By popular demand here is the entire audio of the part of the New Mills town council meeting which dealt with what the council should do about the DALC report that was presented to the council on 12 September 2016.




19 September 2016

Co-option D-Day Monday 10 October 2016


Another page from the Time Waster's Manual


Some notes about concluding the very time-consuming councillor co-option issue, ahead of the next regular New Mills Town Council meeting.

An independent report was commissioned from Derbyshire Association of Local Councils by New Mills Town Council.

Its purpose was not to be perfect, but rather to help the council settle its protracted dispute over co-opting David Lamb onto the council.

The report has faults, but it is like a referee's performance in a cup final or an arbitrator at a hearing: all parties to the process just have to accept the rough with the smooth.

The report clearly recommends to the council that David Lamb should be instated as councillor.

This decision would settle the matter and the council could then move forward and stop wasting the time of councillors and everyone who attends meetings.

The town council, and the town, has a lot to be grateful to David Lamb for.

In the upcoming council vote on the report, the fewer cop-outs, oops I mean abstentions, the better.

The agenda item and council resolution need to be worded clearly and to leave no room for ambiguity.

There has to be a point at which any dispute is settled.

High Peak Transparency probably won't be covering this matter again, after the council's 10 October vote on the issue is made, reported, and respectfully commented on.  Reason:  it has all become rather negative, time-consuming and sometimes silly.  It has to end somewhere.

Re the time-consuming aspect of all this, a comment came in directly asking HPT Editor "Haven't you got anything better to do?"

The answer is yes.

Surely, after the town council meeting on 10 October 2016,  the same has to apply to all the parties to this dispute.  It definitely must apply to the town council of New Mills, which is paid for out of public money.

15 September 2016

In full: DALC Report to New Mills Town Council





"Feedback Report from attending the New Mills Town Council Meeting, held on Monday 8th August 2016

INTRODUCTION

The credentials for CH Diana Ruff are as follows: - Present Chair for Wingerworth Parish Council, (a post held for the last 4 years), one of 2 Vice Chairs for DALC Executive Committee and a member of the Standards Board for North East Derbyshire District Council.

The credentials for CU Sue Bean are as follows: - DALC Executive Member, Parish Councillor for Brimington North and a Public Governor for the Chesterfield Royal Hospital.


BACKGROUND INFORMATION

On behalf of DALC, Councillor Sue. Bean and Councillor Diana Ruff attended the New Mills Tow Council meeting held on Monday 8th August 2016.

This follows a request from the Chair of NMTC to help resolve a problem they are facing, with regard to Co-option of members to the Council. This problem has been rumbling on for the past fourteen months, and closure / advice is now being sought.

Before attending the above mentioned meeting, we were both furnished with minutes of previous meetings, dating from Monday 8th June 2015 to 16th May 2016. These had been compiled and sent by the present Chair, Cllr Barry Bate, to the DALC offices.

After reading these minutes, many concerns regarding the practice of both the past and present NMTC members became apparent. These will be addressed at a later stage within this report.


STAGE 1:  THE MEETING HELD ON 8 AUGUST 2016

On our arrival at the Council Chamber, we were met by the Clerk, Lesley Bramwell, who made us very welcome. The Clerk informed us that she had not been aware of our attending this meeting until she received a telephone call from the DALC office. The Clerk then supplied us with a sealed package containing information regarding the matter in hand.

This is certainly unacceptable behaviour from the Chair towards his Clerk.

The Chair introduced himself to us on his arrival.

The meeting was attended by 6 other members of the Council, the Clerk, the Minute Taker, and several members of the public. Before the meeting started we were given a letter from a member of the public. This letter expressed their considerable concerns relating to the NMTC.

The meeting started several minutes late, following the Clerk’s action of pointing out the time to the Chair.

The Chair introduced us as visitors from DALC, as a result of his request to the DALC offices, asking for some guidance to help bring closure to the problem of the Co-option of Candidates to NMTC. He then asked for there to be a variation in order of Agenda business, so that the main item on the Agenda (this being the Co-option process) could be brought forward. This was proposed and adopted by those present.

As the meeting progressed, it became very apparent of differing attitudes and grasps of the correct procedures that this Council should have followed. The one person who has the correct knowledge and experience, “the Clerk”, was apparently being either “sidelined or simply ignored”.

Cllr Lance Dowson did appear to have a good grasp of the correct procedures, but this did not sit well with many other members present.

During a heated discussion regarding the reference of previous policy to be adhered to”, the Clerk asked for a copy of this policy, as she does not hold one.

It then became apparent no member of the Council could supply a copy of said policy. During this discussion the Chair did suspend the meeting for comments from the public to be heard. Once again the meeting continued with further discussion relating to the problem in hand.

The closing comments from the Chair proved to be of great concern to us - not least to be made aware that the Council did not have the correct training or working knowledge for the Co-option Procedure does beggar belief!

To re-iterate, our view is that this meeting was not handled very confidently by the incumbent Chair.
It was also clearly evident that the people attending the meeting in the “public gallery” were most dissatisfied with how NMTC conduct their affairs.


STAGE 2:  READING OF ALL THE MATERIALS SUPPLIED AND LISTENING TO A RECORDING OF THE 22 JUNE 2015 MEETING

Since this meeting (i.e. the 8 August 2016 meeting), we have both been through all the other documentation provided, and have listened to an Audio recording of the meeting held on the 22 June 2015.

The Co-option process had started off quite correctly, with an advertisement for the election for Councillors to represent both Ollersett and Thornsett Wards.

After receiving letters of interest from several candidates, the Clerk then sent out formal, letters dated 9 June 2015, accompanied by the Application Packs.

Further, follow-up letters were sent on the 10 June 2015, clearly stating the date and time for the interview process, also asking the candidates to indicate for which Ward they would like to be considered. This letter clearly states that there were 5 vacancies for the Ollersett Ward, and a single vacancy for Thornsett.

Once the forms had been returned to the Clerk, it became apparent that seven candidates had applied for the 6 vacancies, with just one candidate nominating themselves for the Thornsett Ward.

On the evening of Monday 22 June the set date for interviews, only 6 of the Candidates attended the meeting, the seventh candidate being on holiday (sic).  This led to a discussion regarding the way best to continue the process of co-option.

This is the point where the whole process starts to break down.

Items under discussion were - should the said Council continue to vote for the separate wards, and should they still include the absent candidate?

The Council decided to not vote on Ward allocation, and also to include the absent applicant for the interview process.

At this point, The Council are now in breach of their advertisement.

The Council, having decided to include the absent applicant in the interview process, should have informed the attending candidates that they also had the opportunity to not participate in the “formal question” session, and that they would be judged by the merits of their returned paperwork. This clearly did not happen.

The recording represents probably the most interesting and worrying item of evidence with regard to this meeting and its process.

At one juncture, an unspecified person present does pose the question - “After listening to this discussion, why would anybody want to join this Council?”

The Clerk also asked a very pointed question — “Would all the Council members have dealt with all the candidates in the same manner, had they not have attended this meeting?”— she did not receive a satisfactory reply.

During the final stages of this recorded process, the “Clerk” is heard to alert the members that a candidate has left the meeting. The meeting is suspended whilst the Clerk leaves the room to locate the missing applicant. Clerk returns to the meeting to inform members that the candidate had left to walk her dog!

The recording continues to ‘hear’ the “Chair” closing the meeting, only to be asked by the Clerk “should the Chair not announce the Candidates by name?”.

The “Chair” agreed that he should, but did not reconvene the meeting in the proper manner, just announced the names and once again stating that ‘The meeting is closed’.

At this point, one of the applicants vocally withdraws his application but is simply reminded by the Chair that “The meeting is closed.”

It is our joint opinion, as representatives for DALC, that this meeting was severely flawed from the outset.

Subsequent to this meeting, the Clerk did receive a written letter from Andy Bowers, stating that he had withdrawn his application and nomination.

Also at this stage, but on a later date, the Clerk endorsed the paper work for David Lamb to become a member of the Council, on the basis that it is clearly recorded that all the applicants were suitable candidates for NMTC. She did not endorse the paperwork for Lynn Allen (absent candidate), because she felt this might breach Standing order 7a, but the Chair had subsequently signed Lynn Allen’s form.

After reading and listening to all the evidence presented our conclusion is that this Council as it stands is not fit for purpose.

We would like to make the following recommendations.


Recommendations and WaYs forward for NMTC.

1.            David Lamb should be instated as a full member of NMTC; it is clear from the SCORING sheets (he had the second highest score) and his credentials that he is an experienced and knowledgeable member to have on board. He was also the one candidate to stand for the advertised Ward of Thornsett.

2.            That NMTC should all undergo a “full training session” from DALC, so that everyone on this Council is fully conversant with the up to date procedures and how they should conduct themselves within meetings. The Chair should attend the DALC training for being a CHAIR.

3.            That NMTC reviews and where necessary define and update all their working policies. We would suggest starting with clear and precise instructions for the Co-option Process and the Standing Orders Policy.

As a matter of good practice the Standards Committee working with the Clerk should review policies on an agreed timescale. All policies should then be presented to the full Council for discussion, and if no amendments are required, they should be signed off and dated by the present Chair and Clerk, with a review date agreed.

A copy of all working policies should be kept by the Clerk in her office.

4.            That NMTC should fully value the Clerk that they have, and should work with her and not against her. The Clerk is one of the most important members of this Council, having the knowledge and experience that this Council requires, and with that in mind, she should be treated with the respect her office/position holds.

5.            And finally, That if NMTC cannot reach a satisfactory conclusion from any of the above recommendations, that they should have the courage to dissolve the present Council and put the decision making back in hands of the electors and hold a new election.


These are recommendations jointly made by Cllr Sue Bean and Cllr Diana Ruff but the final  decisions will  have to be  made by the present NMTC.


We sincerely hope that the above recommendations will be acted upon as the residents of New Mills District certainly deserve better from their Town Council."

13 September 2016

DALC Report: Recommendations and ways forward for New Mills Town Council


In advance of the full report by the Derbyshire Association of Local Councils ('DALC') being transcribed for publication on HPT, exclusively for High Peak Transparency readers we now publish here the final and most important section of the report.  This is the report's recommendations:



"After reading and listening to all the evidence presented our conclusion is that this Council as it stands is not fit for purpose.  We would like to make the following recommendations.

Recommendations and ways forward for NMTC

1.  David Lamb should be instated as a full member of NMTC; it is clear from the scoring sheets (he had the second highest score) and his credentials that he is an experienced and knowledgeable member to have on board.  He was also the one candidate to stand for the advertised Ward of Thornsett.

2.  NMTC should all undergo a "full training session" from DALC, so that everyone on this council is fully conversant with the up-to-date procedures and how they should conduct themselves within meetings.  The Chair should attend the DALC training for being a Chair.

3.  NMTC review and where necessary define and update all their working policies.  We would suggest starting with with clear and precise instructions for the co-option process and the Standing Orders policy.

As a matter of good practice the Standards Committee working with the Clerk should review policies on an agreed timescale.  All policies should then be presented to the full council for discussion, and if no amendments are required they should be signed off and dated by the present Chair and Clerk, with a review date agreed.

A copy of all working policies should be kept by the Clerk in her office.

4.  NMTC should fully value the Clerk that they have, and should work with her and not against her.  The Clerk is one of the most important members (sic) of this council, having the knowledge and experience that this council requires, she should be treated with the respect her office/position holds.

5.  If NMTC cannot reach a satisfactory conclusion from any of the above recommendations, they should have the courage to dissolve the present council and put the decision-making back in the hands of the electors and hold a new election."


Later on, the authors of the report add:

"We sincerely hope that the above recommendations will be acted upon as the residents of New Mils certainly deserve better from their Town Council."


11 September 2016

Town council membership below par - next steps

New Mills town hall, before living accommodation was added to the property


Is New Mills town council about to settle its co-option problem, and the knock-on effect of a shortage of councillors?

Like one of Roald Dahl's imaginary creatures, this issue has grown and grown and finally become preposterous.

This long-running problem started at the spring of 2015 local election, and has still has not been concluded at the time of writing, heading into autumn 2016.

At the New Mills town council meeting of 12 September 2016, the report on this subject from the Derbyshire Association of Local Councils will be presented.

Presumably a discussion by the council about this matter will follow.  It is early on the agenda, being Item 4, even ahead of the 'public speaking' session which usually starts a town council meeting session.

There is a backlog of decisions needed by this council, which is paid for by public money.  Agendas are not being finished, even with council meetings running on later than they should.

This co-option and council membership issue now needs to be concluded.

Let us all hope that the council meeting of 12 September 2016, at the town hall in New Mills, will be a milestone on the road to settlement.


19 July 2016

Letter to New Mills Town Council from the council's internal auditor




Following requests to HPT from members of the New Mills public, we publish here the letter that accompanied the report on the Internal Audit of New Mills Town Council’s accounts for 2015-16.

The letter was read out during the council's 11 July 2016 meeting.

The letter is from the council’s internal auditors, Butler Cook of Codnor in Derbyshire and is dated 24 June 2016:


'We write to confirm that the internal Audit process has now been completed and again we are pleased to report that the accounting system under the Sage program continues to improve and strengthen, albeit with some notable lapses that should not be happening if the periodic results are subject to a reasonable analytical review.  We also note that changes in administration staff have not helped the situation this year.  This is discussed in more detail further on in this report.

'It is pleasing to see that the NALC Model Operating Standing Orders and Financial Regulations have been adopted but we would recommend that they are personalised to a much greater extent (e.g. Reference to Welsh Regulations are not appropriate).  Both these documents should be brought to the attention of all Council Members on at least an annual basis.

'However, we need to explain why it has been necessary to make some negative observations on the Internal Audit Report a follows:

'B:  We note that whilst minutes of the council meetings have been published the Financial Regulations have not been met in that NO MINUTES have been signed off at the following meeting by the Chairman of the Meeting and as such gives no authority to any decisions made during any of the meetings.

'It is also evident that on a number of occasions the technical advice of the Clerk has not been adopted or due regard taken of it.  It will follow that if the Clerk is advising on fact then that advice should be followed as it will be founded on your own Standing Orders and potentially Councillors could be leaving themselves open to personal liability or even a possible Constructive Dismissal Claim by the Clerk.

'E:  We identified an issue over VAT which, a mentioned above, could have been avoided with a more robust analytical review.  A large VAT input claim was coded to the wrong part of the Sage system resulting in an underclaim of over £3,600.  this has now been amended but could have been avoided if the balance on the VAT Control Account had been properly reconciled.

'In all other respects all other E objectives have been met.

'We trust the above comments will be useful to you.  If at a later stage you would wish me to address the Council on any of these matters that can be arranged.

'Yours sincerely etc…'



Note from HPT Editor:  the references to 'B' and 'E' refer to sections in the standard Annual Report for town and parish councils.

18 May 2016

St John Ambulance in High Peak




The following has been received from a High Peak Transparency contributor as a comment, but its content deserves to be more widely known so here it is on its own stand-alone page:


'New Mills St John Ambulance group are disbanding, it would be interesting to understand who owns their assets and also what has happened to the financial contribution from NMTC bonfire fund earlier this year.
Given that the group haven't covered any events recently I think they should pay the money back.
Hopefully they publish accounts and everyone can see where all their donations go, or perhaps that is why they are disbanding.'


This is not unconnected with the ownership of the caravan that New Mills Town Council ratepayers' money, unknown to the town councillors at the relevant time, was used to pay insurance on.


02 May 2016

High Peak Conservatives ex-Chairman Charged With Theft From War Veterans' Charity


The great New Mills poppies overstock, discovered in New Mills town hall in January 2014

Jeffrey Peter Lawton, a local organiser and collector for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, has been arrested and charged in connection with more than £3,000 missing from the collections being made on behalf of the war widows and military veterans.

We understand he has been bailed to Derby Crown Court.

Mr Lawton's name has recently suddenly disappeared from High Peak Conservatives Association website, where he was Chairman of the Association.

Mr Lawton put himself forward as Conservative Party candidate in the 2015 New Mills local elections, and organised the party's candidates and campaign in the town.

Mr Lawton was the formal proposer to the Electoral Returning Officer for fellow Conservative Party election nominees John Ferns, Kath Garside, Josh Gaskell and Alistair Stevens.

HPT understands that, at the Magistrates Court, the sitting magistrate and Mr Lawton knew each other. The case was transferred to Crown Court at Derby.

One fact about Crown Court -  rather than magistrates court - is that only the Crown Court can impose significant custodial sentences, where particular crimes warrant it.

Presumably, stealing from funds intended for bereaved widows and wounded veterans - which is what the Poppy campaign is for - would be regarded as extremely serious by the UK's national media as well as by the Judge.






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

Editor's note:  In view of the seriousness of what has happened here, incoming comments on this matter will be carefully scrutinised before the decision is made whether to publish them.  As usual, a comment made by a person giving their real name is much more likely to be published than just 'Anon'.

15 April 2016

Urgent Derbyshire County Council survey: Don't miss the bus





The following has been received by email from a valued contributor.

All interested parties need to move quickly to tell the relevant decision makers their views:

"Dear HPT

"I made a comment on HPT, which you printed, about withdrawal of
subsidised bus services, and replies to that indicated that not many
people were aware of what is planned by DCC, who have clearly not
thought through their proposals or, more likely, don't care what effect
they will have.

"However, these plans will have a drastic consequences on Hayfield in
particular, but also New Mills (in that the Town service and the 62 are
to be withdrawn, as well as the Sunday 61 service, for example and there
are other far-reaching proposals).

"I wonder if you can give prominence to the necessity to respond to DCC's
consultation BY MONDAY 19th, i.e. in only 3 days' time. The questionaire
can be filled in anonymously, which means one can complete it as many
times as they want, and the more responses they get, the more likely (if
at all, she says cynically) they are to think again.

"I have written to Lance Dowson and Andrew Bingham asking for them to
take urgent steps to get DCC to review the situation, and  done as much
as I can on social media, but as so many people read HPT (especially
when there is a juicy scandal going on, as now), you are in a perfect
position to spread the word.

"Please help!"

(Signed etc)

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

The link to the consultation is: http://derbyshire.gov.uk/council/news_events/news-updates/2016/april/news_items/buses_consultation_-_last_chance_to_have_your_say.asp

You can also email Steve.Cannon@derbyshire.gov.uk, who is the Transport and Accessibility Manager or write to him at DCC.

13 April 2016

Insider Trading






High Lee Hall in New Mills is a large, prestigious property.  It was owned by High Peak Borough Council but they recently gave the valuable property away to New Mills town council.

Mismanagement by the town council’s Labour administration meant that most of this valuable asset was left unoccupied and deteriorating for years.

After Labour was thrown out of New Mills town hall in 2007, the new administration set about stopping the neglect of this valuable publicly-owned property.


Rentals 

The new town councillors started looking at getting the vacant parts of High Lee Hall restored and occupied.  In due course various remedial works were completed and then marketing for a tenant was started.

The ground floor is occupied at a low rent by voluntary group High Peak Community Arts.  The lease is cheap and flexible, so that a more valuable lease can be granted as and when appropriate.

The upper floors are a separate unit.  The estate agents recently reported - confidentially - to the town council owner that they had found a prospective tenant for the upper floors.  The proposed rent was £10,000 a year.  The lease term was to be five-years.


Rebecca Harman’s proposal

In her role as councillor, New Mills town councillor Rebecca Harman was privy to the confidential information that a tenant had been found and a lease was in the process of being signed between the tenant and the landlord.

The landlord is New Mills town council, of which Ms Harman is a member.

Using the confidential information in her possession, Ms Harman wrote a proposal for her to rent High Lee Hall.  She put this to the NMTC meeting of 30 March 2016.

To summarise Ms Harman’s proposal, it is to set up the ground floor for sales of refreshments to the public.  It would be, in effect, a hybrid of tea rooms, ice cream parlour, tuck shop and coffee shop.  The customers would be users of High Lee Park and other visitors.

This proposal has several benefits for the town council, for High Lee Park, and for the people of New Mills.  If Ms Harman had not abused her privileged position as a councillor to get the confidential information enabling her to write the proposal then there would not be a problem.


Disclosable Pecuniary Interest

Where a council member has a disclosable pecuniary interest in a matter they must not take part in a council meeting during the agenda item that discusses that matter.  To do so is a criminal offence.

The relevant statute that criminalises this kind of conduct by a councillor is Sections 26-34 of the Localism Act 2011.  The regulations made under that Act are the Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012.

The above laws are viewable at legislation.gov.uk


Bad conduct

On making her formal written proposal to New Mills town council for her business use of High Lee Hall, a pecuniary interest of Cllr Rebecca Harman came into existence.

Therefore, what should Cllr Harman have done when this agenda item relating to High Lee Hall rental came up for discussion during the last council meeting, on 11 April 2016?

She should have immediately withdrawn from the room while any discussions took place.

Instead, to the horror of some of the more perceptive council members, she kept trying to start a pitch to councillors as if she were a candidate on Dragons Den.

Various people in the meeting, both members and officer, repeatedly reminded her that according to the law she should not even be in the council chamber for this item.


Ground floor future

By whatever means the facts have now come out, it now seems clear that the prospective new upstairs tenant at High Lee Hall would also like ‘first refusal’ of the ground floor as well.

The council as landlord should ensure that all options are kept open regarding the ground floor of High Lee Hall until a proper detailed financial assessment is made of the general principle of tea shop/ice cream parlour/coffee shop/tuck shop/picnic hamper sales etc business concept for the space.

This would apply no matter who is eventually found to run it - assuming the business idea is deemed to be financially viable of course.


Duty to promote high standards

Let us end with the law as enacted by the following part of the Localism Act 2011:

Section 27: Duty to promote and maintain high standards of conduct

(1) A relevant authority must promote and maintain high standards of conduct by members and co-opted members of the authority.

A town council is a relevant authority under the Act.

12 April 2016

New Mills Annual Parish Meeting 2016




The 2016 annual meeting for the electors of all New Mills wards (including Sett) will be held on Monday 25 April 2016.

Start time is 7.30 p.m.

Venue is the Public Hall of New Mills (also known as the upstairs large room at the town hall)

All are welcome, but only electors of New Mills wards can vote.


Definitively Establishing The Assets Held By New Mills Town Council





The town council has now established a working group charged with factually identifying and definitively recording all of the assets that it owns.

In due course this will lead to the council's Asset Register being an accurate and complete record.

This will be a first for this local council, which was established in 1974.

Forty-two years after the town council came into existence, New Mills will have a council finally abiding by the law governing this aspect of local government.

The assets would initially appear to be in three primary groups:

1. Freehold property.

2. Leasehold interests in property.  At the time of writing, the main current example of this would be a lease of the Heritage Centre.  Even if the lease has expired, the council has limited 'holding-over' rights.

3. Moveable property.  Vehicles will be a sub-set of this.  Office furniture, gardening and landscaping equipment and council-owned benches would be other examples of sub-sets.  These sub-sets are properly called 'Asset Type'

The group will not be making any decisions; its role is purely to establish the factual position and make accurate records for the council, backed up by documentary evidence.

If any formal decisions are needed at the end of this investigation/inquiry then these will be made by the full town council in the usual way, based on a specific council meeting agenda item.

On researching best practice, one finds that the origin of the ownership of each of the council's assets should be recorded.

This inquiry may expose various false assumptions by past town councillors 1974-2015.

If that happens, then so be it. Let all electors and council taxpayers be able to see one accurate, complete list of the assets that they have paid for.  Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

The town council's accurate and complete asset register will come too late for the missing town hall piano and the unauthorised disposal of valuable cabinets from the town hall office a few years ago. However, it will prevent similar future losses of public property from going unnoticed.



Torrs Land Ownership Issue: Conclusion






As a post-script to previous errors by some (not all) town councillors about land ownership at the Torrs Riverside Park, Land Registry records show as follows.

In plan view, TRP is roughly the shape of a three pointed star.  A river and its valley forms each of the three points to the 'star'; the three points are approximately north-west; north-east, and south.

Land Registry shows that part of the north-west land area of the TRP star, i.e. the Goyt outflow on its way to becoming the river Mersey, is not recorded as being owned by NMTC.

Some of the land in the north-east point of the star (the river Sett tributary inflow) is not recorded as being owned by NMTC.

A sub-set of this north-eastern non-NMTC area is however owned by Derbyshire County Council. DCC's land ownership in Torrs Riverside Park corresponds to the large area of former railway land there.

Most of the roughly southern area of the star (i.e. south of Church Road) is not shown by Land Registry as owned by NMTC. This area roughly corresponds to the River Goyt tributary inflow into the Torrs.

The central area of the TRP 'star' is recorded as being given to NMTC by former owners High Peak Borough Council in 2009.

Other significant areas of land in Torrs Riverside Park not owned by NMTC are along the route of the ancient cart road.  This runs between Rock Street in the town and the Rock public house on Wirksmoor Road.  Its route runs past the front of the former mill ruins.

Regular HPT readers will know that this non-NMTC owned part of the Torrs area has been the subject of two recent incidents: Runaway Dog Man's 'compensation culture' claim against the town council (even though the council does not own the land where Runaway Dog Man took his dog), and the rock fall from approximately the Kinder View area.

The town council's Asset Register is therefore inaccurate if it states that New Mills Town Council owns Torrs Riverside Park.

This error will be remedied as part of the work of the council's newly established Assets Register working group.  A precise wording will be found which will refer to specific Land Registry title numbers.

Those title numbers can then be easily compared by future town council staff to the council's copy of the Land Registry Plan for each title, also held as part of the new accurate Asset Register.

Result?  Saving of staff time, aggravation and mis-information.