07 December 2009

Transparency And A Better Democracy

The Today Programme on BBC and the Buxton Advertiser aren't usually mentioned in the same sentence. But a letter sent to the Advertiser arrived in our inbox this morning, and this was immediately after the Today programme covered exactly the same subject.

The final portion of the letter:

"Sadly, Mr [Ken] Hope and Cllr Bingham are missing the bigger picture in a welter of tedious party political twaddle. Do they really want our politics paid for and dominated by super-rich non-UK taxpayers or by those who refuse to say where they live for tax purposes? All our three main parties are guilty of condoning this.

I have already publically condemned the Lib Dems’ former donor Michael Brown, but Cllr Bingham is loath to do the same with the Tories’ biggest donor, Lord Ashcroft.

Ashcroft has been extensively investigated by a national newspaper, a national magazine and some on-line bloggers. These reports make worrying reading. Yet Lord Ashcroft – famed for his law suits – has apparently issued no writs.

The Prime Minister of Ashcroft’s adopted home of Belize, Dean Barrow, has also savaged the peer this week and has implied that our military base in Belize is at risk if Ashcroft gets a job in any Tory Government.

I am sure Cllr Bingham would like the issue of party funding and ‘non-dom’ supporters to go away – but it just won’t. It also made headlines last week in the Tories’ most influential mouthpiece, The Daily Telegraph. There is fury at all levels in the party that their ‘green guru’ Zac Goldsmith, prospective parliamentary candidate for Richmond, failed to declare his non-domicile tax status when accepting nomination.

I believe the super-rich who have their wealth tucked away in dodgy tax havens have no place in UK politics. I’m sure they couldn’t care less about the plight of hill farmers in the High Peak, the old and disabled in Buxton and Chapel or the young unemployed in Whaley Bridge and New Mills. I suspect their real motivation is power and influence. These issues concern me passionately as I have lived most of my life in High Peak.

We need a thorough clean-up of UK politics and party funding must be at the top of the agenda. We must rid ourselves of these political parasites and produce a much better democracy than we have now."
Produce a much better democracy than we have now?   While the Ashcroft secret tax haven carry-on continues this very simple goal will continue to be frustrated.

For the sake of our country, the Conservatives have got to do better than this.

The author of the letter is Alistair Macdonald of Whaley Bridge.
The photo is of the living Lord Ashcroft, in front of a picture of the deceased Winston Churchill.

23 October 2009

The Letter

For those who haven't seen it, below is an abridged version of the letter from Nigel Johnson-Hill to the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The original, full version can now be found via internet search.

Dear Secretary of State

My friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a cheque from the Rural Payments Agency for £3,000 for not rearing pigs. I would now like to join the 'not rearing pigs' business.

In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pig not to rear?

I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this not the type you want not to be rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many people already not rearing these?

My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is until this year, when he received a government cheque for not rearing any.

Yours faithfully (etc)

The Fool On The Natural England Hill

'Natural England' recently gave £12,000 to a local farmer for not building a wall.

The 'Rural Payments Agency' became involved. 'Environmental Stewardship Scheme' money had been sent out willy-nilly in connection with something to do with a wall, in a place governed by the 'Peak District National Park Authority'.

No-one had looked to see if the wall had been repaired, or even still existed, before sending out the money.

There was originally a 'Countryside Commission', which changed its name to 'The Countryside Agency', which joined up with 'English Nature', subsequently becoming 'Natural England', and sponsored by the 'Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs'.

The thing that all of these unnecessary, superfluous overlapping 'countryside' bureaucratic bodies and quangos have in common is the sheer profligate waste of other people's hard-earned money.

22 October 2009

Melvyn or Charles?

22 October 2009 was a quite interesting day for the many people around here who like to argue about the weather and a possible climate.

Melvyn Bragg, presenting BBC Radio 4's excellent programme In Our Time was led through the history of the British Isles and the ups and downs of the climate. The period covered was 600 million years, stretching to just over 1 billion years when one or two of the guest scientists became over excited.

Melvyn learned, and through him the listeners, that the British Isles area has been a baking desert and under about a kilometre of ice. This has happened on a regular basis.

When Transparency's editor told his friend Craig in the 1990s, a physicist who works at CERN, that this global warming thing was disastrous, Craig pointed out that when he was about to leave Manchester Central Grammar School to go to university, in 1970, the same scientists and meteorologists were confidently predicting the new ice age.

A bit of research dug out the two Time magazine covers from the relevant periods, reproduced below.

Charles Jolly and his friends, of Transisition Buxton, are in no doubt. Charles said as much in today's local paper. Man is heating up the planet. People who point out inconvenient facts are no different from holocaust deniers. Shamefully, even the same word - denier - is used.

Perhaps Melvyn and Charles can both agree that, while the earth's human population continues to grow so rapidly and exponentially, any suggested 'climate change remedy' is neither use nor ornament.

15 October 2009

MP Fails Transparency Test In Questions Over Public Money

High Peak's MP, Tom Levitt, seems determined to help his local political opponents in every conceivable way possible.

In the latest episode in the expenses scandal, Mr Levitt has received a letter from the independent auditor - appointed by Mr Levitt's own government please note - and has now refused to release a copy to the press.

It is obvious that, if the auditor's letter exonerated the MP, it would have been released in an instant.

Irony Corner:

Tom Levitt MP has stated that he supports the organisation Transparency International.

The link to Mr Levitt's press release on this issue:
The link to one of High Peak Transparency's earlier articles on this subject:

Carbon Saving? Do As We Say, Not As We Do

The public sector bureaucrats who lecture us about the carbon footprint of unnecessary journeys have been caught out again.

This time it's Jim Dixon. Mr Dixon is the chief executive of the quango called Peak District National Park Authority.

Recently, the chief executive had another nice jolly at taxpayers' expense.* This time, it was a trip over to Sweden.

Sweden, nice place to visit though it is, has got nothing genuine to do with this public sector job here in the local area.

*Stromstad and back, Sept 2009

13 October 2009

A Place Far From The Madding Crowd No Longer

If you wanted to get away from it all on the 11th of October, it looks as if you picked the wrong day.

Yet more trampling on the Kinder plateau (pictured above) took place on that date, and building up of nonsensical myths about the place by people who you'd think would know better.

Myth One: Some trespassing that took place in 1932 is the reason we can all go into the national park if we want to.
In fact, the land has been bought from its owner. The national trust used our money - entirely legitimately - for the purchase.

Myth Two: People were jailed for trespassing.

Another false statement. Violence and riotious assembly were the reasons for the criminal charges.

Trespassing on private property is not a crime now and it was not a crime then. The many people who simply trespassed in an attempt to make a point were not even arrested, never mind charged with anything.

Myth Three: The town of New Mills was the pivotal place in relation to the trespass.

In fact Hayfield is where the 1932 people met, then later that day a few of them were arrested. Most of them came from the districts of nearby Manchester, such as Gorton. Another group came over to visit the plateau from the Sheffield side.

The slight relationship with New Mills came about by accident. Hayfield did not have a big enough lock-up, so the police had to go from Hayfield to the next town, randomly simply the nearest place with the necessary facilities.

In later years, New Mills came to have an influential politician with friends high up in the Labour government under Blair and Brown: the late Martin Doughty.

Martin Doughty - a tireless self-promoter especially where 'public' money might be there to be spent - almost single-handedly managed to build up the chance and slight association between his home town and the events of 1932 into the grandiose and false myth that it has become.

Transparency's favourite story from these events relates to the trial, which took place in Derby. The judge was told that one of the accused had a book by Lenin on him. "Isn't that the Russian gentleman?" he replied.

06 October 2009

Boyish Charm

Occasionally, something that sounds like a gimmick is actually a brilliant idea.

George Osborne, the Tories' shadow chancellor, (pictured above) represents a nearby constituency.

Today he said that people given a job in the public sector who make more money than the prime minister of the United Kingdom would have to justify themselves.

This is dependent on the Tories forming the next government. Politics is starting to become interesting again.

04 October 2009

Let's Pretend That It's A Village Green

High Peak Borough Council has gone on record complaining about the effect of current state-sponsored 'land grabs' in England.

These are where the council or some individual owns a property, but somebody makes a spurious claim that the land is a 'town or village green'.

The land owner is, in effect, deprived of his or her property. No compensation is paid. There is no opportunity for reasonable negotiation, or indeed any negotiation.

The governmment has supported this dishonest - not to mention completely mad - land-grab legislation for England. They allowed the law in this important area to be written, in effect, by lobbyists from the so-called Open Spaces Society, which has a very narrow vested interest.

Scotland has a more logical, sensible legal system in this respect and the 'let's pretend that somebody's property is a village green' scam by middle-class nimbys, as a device to prevent development near to where they live, is impossible north of the border.

02 October 2009

Cuts? Not For Council Bosses' Pockets

The News of the World has a rather direct style.

Verbatim, here is how High Peak's Chief Executive made it into the Sunday newspaper on the 20th of September 2009.

Unfortunately there was no 'love nest' or 'three-in-a-bed romp', which would have been more fun.

If there had, it would also have been one hell of a lot cheaper:

'Get-rich council bosses have pocketed pay rises of up to 45 per cent this year - while hard-working Brits lose their jobs or see their wages slashed.

'A News of the World investigation today reveals the shameless fat cats who have bumped up their salaries as unemployment has hit 2.47 million and more than 2,000 workers join the dole queue every day.'

The paper then puts Simon Baker of 'Staffordshire Moorlands and High Peak' near the top of their list of shame at a 37% increase. From £110,000 to £151,000 a year.

Fortunately, there was also a bit of light relief, as some fantasy/comedy was introduced near the end of the article:

'Last night council bosses insisted the rises reflected market forces.'

01 October 2009


Ex-mayor Lancelot Edgar Dowson has been busy lately.

Transparency offers a free translation service. This is so that pronouncements of some of our local politicians may be rendered into plain English.

A letter he wrote to the Buxton Advertiser, published on 1 October 2009, contains the usual strange venting of personal spleen against all things LibDem. Cllr Dowson's original statements - verbatim - are in italic, with the translations following in plain text:

'I was very surprised at the absolute silence that my proposal caused and the lack of support that it received'

Most councillors didn't like it

'Cllr Beth Atkins, New Mill's (sic) Liberal Democrat Town and County Cllr, then proposed that the Council vote for her fellow Liberal Democrat, Cllr David Lomax of Whaley Bridge, and this was voted on and, with all the other Liberal Democrats voting in favour of it, was passed.

Democracy worked.

01 September 2009

'Widespread Misunderstanding' Causes Problems For Bastard

High Peak's MP, Tom Levitt, this week used the word 'illegitimate' in his newspaper column. He was describing the strange administrative offspring of the current get-together between High Peak and Staffordshire Moorlands Councils.

All lovers of words will have spotted Mr Levitt's careful choice here, and his deliberate decision not to use the word 'illegal'. The really big Oxford English Dictionary in Transparency's offices states that the oldest recorded meaning of the word 'illegitimate' in English is from 1536:

Not born in lawful wedlock; spurious, bastard.

Tom Levitt (Labour) also criticised the back door methods being used to accomplish this strange new merger that nobody voted for. But Councillor Emily Thrane of the ruling Conservative group sprang to the defence of the bastard (not Mr Levitt, the product of the two local councils).

She said there was widespread misunderstanding over the 'strategic alliance', which is the label the Tories have come up with for the scheme. But misunderstanding or not, this has now resulted in the majority of High Peak services being run from outside the area. Good luck to Cllr Thrane if she's been given the job of bringing 'understanding' to High Peak residents on this subject.
High Peak Transparency has now learnt that several High Peak Conservative councillors are not at all happy with the direction that this 'innovative' idea has taken. Unsurprisingly, dismembering the council without asking the voters first is not why they stood for election as councillors.

History teaches that 'strategic' alliances made in secret and not between equals tend to end in tears.
For previous High Peak Transparency articles on the Strategic Alliance/ Illegitimate Arrangement/ Novel Totally Mad Merger follow these links:

05 August 2009

How To Lie With (Environmental) Statistics

This time it's a senior Labour minister doing the deed, and it's the Conservatives who are being done down.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change pounced on figures which purported to show that Conservative-run councils refuse more wind-farm applications than Labour-run councils. 'We're greener than thou' is the message Labour Secretary of State Ed Miliband (pictured, right) wants to put over by giving publicity to this very carefully selected statistic.

What the headlines don't reveal is that more Conservative-controlled councils are in rural areas. This is where there are protected or valuable landscapes that no-one wants ruined. The Labour councils tend to be in areas where the surroundings are urban, so that wind-power generation is acceptable and even desirable.
Incidentally, this tiny island of Britain creating a new 'Minister For Climate Change' is like when the Vikings appointed King Canute as minister for stopping the tide coming in in 1013.

03 August 2009

What's She Doing Out Of The Kitchen?

In the first of an occasional series, examining a Big Idea from someone at the top in politics today, we look at the beliefs of Labour's Equalities Minister and Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman.

The idea, in the proposer's own words:

"I don't agree with all-male leaderships. Men cannot be left to run things on their own. I think it's a thoroughly bad thing to have men-only leadership."*

Ms Harman is ignoring some very basic truths here. Fundamental principles, which have governed male-run hierarchies from ancient times and throughout history, show that this dear lady may actually be suffering from a medical condition or clinical delusion in making her suggestion.

First, let us take the example of Germany, pre-war. Or pre both wars.

Possibly the greatest ever example of a successful political state was Germany in the era from January 1933 up to December 1941.

This period, which ended on the 11th of December 1941 with the declaration of war on the United States of America to add to the collection of concurrent states of war against the Soviet Union and the entire British Empire, led to the power, spread and influence of Germany reaching its zenith. France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium and so on; the successful tour of European countries and beyond had seemed endless. There was only the trip to Britain in summer 1940 that had to be cancelled.

Ms Harman should carefully note that during all of this period, it was strictly 'men only' at the top table in German political life. Women were kept for breeding purposes, decoration, and the making of films about how great the men were.

There are many other examples of successful male dominated societies, all the way up to the present.

Today, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran would no more consider allowing women into powerful positions in his country than he would consider juggling a live pig and a copy of Playboy while dancing on a relief map of Israel. So you see Ms Harman, men certainly can be left to run things on their own.

Further East, an outfit called the Taliban is likewise showing the way forward for all-male leaderships. Here, it's not only the present they are concerned about. They want to ensure 'the future belongs to them' as well.

It is literally forbidden for young females to get an education. The summary execution of teachers - in the classroom and in front of the children - where girls are found in the class not only happens, it is wholeheartedly approved of by the male-only authorities.  That is, when they're not burning kites or flogging people who sing.

So finally, what is the assessment of this Big Idea? Ms Harman has not only upset John Prescott with her flighty feminine notion on this occasion, she has also demonstrated why living in the modern democratic West is a failure, and why it will fail time and time again so long as women are permitted in the decison-making processes.

It is no wonder that no-one wants to come and live here.

*Sunday Times interview, 2 August 2009

30 July 2009

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

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

29 July 2009

Down On The Farms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 July 2009

'Natural England' Quango Is Run By Irish Person

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

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

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

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

25 July 2009

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

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

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

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

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

24 July 2009

Muck And Brass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23 July 2009

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

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

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

-  The crime of defamatory libel

-  The Malicious Communications Act 1988

-  The Protection from Harassment Act 1997

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

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

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

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

18 July 2009

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

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

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

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

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

12 July 2009

Shock Call For Councils To Be Properly Organised

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

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

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

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

11 July 2009

Planning Dept 1, National Health Service 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

07 July 2009

Police Investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 June 2009

It's Oh So Quiet

There isn't anything funny to say about the island nation of Iceland and High Peak Borough Council.

Small, inward-looking, populated by strange people. And Iceland's just as bad.

Anyway, the Audit Commission's report on local authorities and this major financial scandal has just been published. £2 million of taxpayers' money was sent from our local Borough Council over to the land of Bjork then lost in space - basically at the push of a button.

Our three main neighbouring authorities are Derbyshire County Council, Staffordshire Moorlands, and Tameside. The grand total of these councils' financial exposure to Icelandic banks is respectively zero, and er... zero. Oh, and zero.

The new Audit Commission report on this scandal, 'Risk and Return', is available here:

25 June 2009

Incredible Shrinking Council

On the third of June 2009, the following revelations about High Peak Borough Council's big property sell-off were published here on High Peak Transparency.

It took the Glossop Chronicle over two weeks to catch up, and even then they printed a question mark next to their headline. The Buxton Advertiser was so late it had us wondering if they've heard about the Beatles breaking up yet.

Here is the original article, as published on High Peak Transparency at 19:48 on 3 June 2009:

A little bird - an extremely reliable little bird - has told High Peak Transparency that the Borough's headquarters are to be disposed of to the highest bidder.

The news is unlikely to do anything for the morale of staff already trying to work under the conditions of sometimes not knowing who - or even where - their boss is on a day-to-day basis.

The Property and Estate Management function has already been earmarked to be carried out by another council, not within High Peak.

For many years High Peak Borough Council has operated mainly from its self-contained office complex just outside Chapel-en-le-Frith. One feature of the bizarro-world arrangements that are currently emerging, which involve getting into bed with Staffordshire Moorlands Council, is that the bosses think one of the two councils' headquarters isn't necessary.

Indeed, rationalisation of assets is one of the prime purposes of Staffpeak, or Highfordshire Moorlands, or whatever name the new administrative thing is going to end up with.
The purpose - efficiency - is well-intentioned. But many unintended consequences are inevitable when this kind of experimentation is attempted. Accountability is already becoming one obvious casualty.

Before this merger goes past the point of no return - which clearly is fast approaching if major properties are being disposed of - is there sufficient foresight and thinking-power available to those who've only recently climbed into the driving seat at the council?
There will be dancing in the cubicles of local government tonight.

For earlier dispatches on this 'innovative' way of running councils, please see:

23 June 2009

Rest In Peace

This site is published in England.
If any citizen of this country wants to level criticism at the things local politicians get up to, or call our Prime Minister a big fat fraud, or point out that the government has become a bunch of incompetent spongers who couldn't run a bath, then it is our hard-won birthright that we are free to do so. The colours of any particular party or politician who is being commented upon are irrelevant.

The above is a picture in life of Neda Agha Soltan (16), one of the innocent young people shot dead on Saturday by pro-government forces in Tehran.

Thanks to the massive new phenomenon of citizen journalism, the video of the moments of her death on a street in Iran is now available on YouTube. Key in 'Neda'.

The more worldwide hits these videos attract, the more the chances of freedom, and free speech, for the future young citizens of Iran increase.
Note: this real life death scene is so graphic that YouTube requires you to be over 18 to see it.

Save The Planet - Hours Of Daylight Only Please

The fairly nice nutters over at New Mills Hydro power have run into a problem.

Currently - no pun intended - no electricity is being generated at night. They've stopped it because a complaint was sent to High Peak Borough Council from a member of the public. The complaint is 'noise-related'.

Another ridiculous halt to the green electricity is when the river is at its usual summer levels. During those periods, the so-called Environment Agency has made it a requirement that the water goes over the weir and therefore run to waste, rather than passing through the channel where it generates green energy.

So for significant parts of the day and the year, for completely irrational reasons, the Goyt riverside generating plant is made idle. Environmentally free power is lost forever. Not only is the thing a blot on the landscape, it is now an extremely inefficient one.
At the moment, all concerned have ended up with the worst of both worlds.

19 June 2009

Waste Watchers

The government has announced its white paper 'Digital Britain'. The national headlines were about broadband, but slipping under the radar was the white paper's concerns over the uncontrolled growth in councils' newspapers.

"While local authority information sheets can serve a useful purpose, they will inevitably not be as rigorous in holding local institutions to account as independent local media..." is one part of its assessment.

The trucks and other road transport, delivering the hundreds of thousands of the latest paper copies of Derbyshire County Council newspaper Insight all over the region, provided residents with the following important information:
- 'For every person in Derbyshire we will spend £18 on contingency' (page 4);

- 'The hunt is on to find the location of a view featured in a 1842 watercolour just acquired by the county council'. Councillor Bob Janes said "It's a lovely painting." (p5);

- 'We've been named as the 63rd top gay employer in the UK' (p8) [note: not that there's anything wrong with that];

- People should look out for the new Gold Card magazine, which will 'hit the streets' shortly (p9);

- 'We've now sold 50,000 compost bins to keen recyclers across the county' (page 7)

- 'Around 35 couples tie the knot every year at our County Hall headquarters in Matlock' (page 2);
- 'We've sold 50,000 compost bins to householders around the county' (this time on page 10 - they've done an interesting bit of recycling themselves there);

We stopped the review of 24-page Derbyshire County Council Insight at page ten. As News of the World reporters used to say, at this point 'we made our excuses and left.'

The same Labour crew has had its feet under the desks in County Hall for 28 years. On the latest figures, the total spending by Derbyshire County Council is £1,104,000,000. In a year. Not forever, just in a year.
It is possible - just possible - there may just be a chance - that the brand new administration at County Hall might be able to find some efficiency savings somewhere.

The copy of Derbyshire County Council Insight from which the above extracts are taken was headed 'March 2009', ran to 24 tabloid-sized pages of newsprint and ink and had a self-ordered print run of 330,000.

For more DCC adventures see also:

16 June 2009

The Village Green Claim Scam

The 'village green claim' scam is finally being properly exposed.

Amazing as it may seem, someone who doesn't own a property can claim that, because they led some dog or other onto it for a whoopsie, they have 'rights' over that land.  As a result, they can effectively deprive the landowner of it.

The cuddly name for the dog defecation area in question, the spurious label used in order to stop development, is 'town or village green'.

To take the most prominent local example, this was how the new High Peak Courthouse was finally halted.

It has been possible for any random nimby to use this ploy ever since 1999. In that year a landmark case - very carefully selected in order to win one case on narrow grounds but by doing so establish a binding country-wide legal precedent - was brought. The location chosen was Sunningwell in Oxfordshire.

This one perverse decison opened the national floodgates for these modern, false 'village greens'. We are now at the tenth anniversary.

Labour MP Tom Levitt gave a tremendous performance on this subject, in Parliament on 25 March 2008: "Someone who once flew a kite or walked a dog there - albeit while trespassing - puts in a town green application..." The result is that yet another socially valuable development is stopped. Valuable employment opportunities are also cynically thwarted using the village green scam.

Conservative councillors Tony Ashton, Linda Baldry and Emily Thrane (all High Peak) have now joined in. These prominent councillors have made an articulate plea to government to end the current abuse of this originally well-intentioned, but very naive, legislation.

The lobbying letters that MPs and councillors receive against new homes being built are from existing well housed residents. Their 'views' over somebody else's land are to be treated as sacrosanct, as if they own it rather than somebody else. They are happy to live in a house, but don't want homes for others.

This articulate few - always opposed to something being done near where they happen to live - are very careful to use emotional buzz-words. These include 'save' and 'campaign' and 'protect' and so on.

They are also expert at dog-whistle politics. This is where words like 'property developer' are used in the local press as boo-words, to try to build up a head of steam against new homes or employment or community facilities.

But the people - often the working poor - in desperate need of homes and other facilities, and who would benefit from social housing or new job opportunities, are not in a position to write to their MP or attend planning committees or 'campaign meetings'.

The new government in 2010 - of whatever colour - should put an end to this cynical, shameful travesty of the traditional village green of England.  That is, if the present government will not do it.
. .
Acronym corner:

'Nimby' is quite well-known when applied to unreasonable opposition to nearby proposed developments, standing for 'not in my back yard'.

Less well-known is that the crack squads from the local middle-class nimby ranks, the people hiding behind Keep High Peak Green and so on, are 'Bananas'. This stands for 'build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone'.

Excellent new book The Village Green Preservation Society, dealing with this subject in an informative, entertaining and occasionally hilarious way, out shortly.

12 June 2009

Fear and Loathing in New Mills

Lynne Cardwell (above, right) is a Labour activist. She is one of the more prominent victims of Labour Party mis-management in the area.

Tom Levitt MP, in his Buxton Advertiser column (11 June), speaks about Lynne. He unconsciously revealed how decent, hard-working Labour supporters like Lynne have been badly let down.

In New Mills a corrupt, dishonest Labour administration was in the town hall for years. A few factual examples from their track record in this respect:

- their electoral fraud, after the town referendum was called over the courthouse and they stopped it from taking place;

- they defrauded a High Peak resident by engineering a spurious claim that his property was a 'village green';

- for years they had a local postman bragging in the press and elsewhere that he was 'Leader of the Town Council', even though no such public office exists nor has ever existed;

- they mindlessly opposed and obstructed beneficial developments put forward by ordinary people outside their clique, meanwhile hypocritically pushing their pet scheme, Sir Martin Doughty's grandiose courthouse development, as far as it would go;
- they flouted planning legislation by organising a garish modern 'youth shelter' to go up in the grounds of a listed building, in a conservation area, and in green belt - but all with no planning permission being applied for;
- they promoted the dismal act of trespassing as something to be 'celebrated';
... and so on and so on.

The list in New Mills is surprisingly long, considering just how small the town is.
Oblivious to all the damage caused by their own politicians running the town hall, when pronouncing upon the recent election results Labour's Tom Levitt MP dismissively claims that 'Lynne Cardwell... lost to a second rate sitting councillor'.

As the above list shows, the prominent local Labour politicians in fact treated the public with utter contempt. This corrupt, dishonest behaviour has now been definitively pronounced upon by the local people whose trust they abused for so long.

Firstly, Labour managed barely half the votes of the elected Liberal Democrat councillor that Mr Levitt refers to (2009).
Secondly, in the popular vote for the last town council elections (2007), from a position of complete control Labour were beaten 12-0. They were lucky to get nil.

Mayorzilla returns - Chairzilla!

Cllr Robin Baldry (right) has been anointed as Chairman of Derbyshire County Council and should be confirmed on 17 June.

Cllr George Wharmby, also in the picture, is to be vice-chairman. This completes the new er, 'heavyweight' line-up.

In the event High Peak Transparency gets complaints of weight-ism, size-ism, or just the usual ism-ism in general, please note the further past the date of posting (12 June 2009) you are reading this, the more it shows that local politicians have not all had that rumoured sense of humour by-pass.

Mayor trivia enthusiasts: for one of the best mayoral photographs ever taken anywhere, see:

11 June 2009

'That money was just resting in my account' - Father Ted

Lancelot Edgar Dowson is a former Labour mayor of High Peak and Labour Party councillor. At the time of writing, he is a town councillor in New Mills.

Since 2007 Cllr Dowson has professed 'independence' as a politician. However, he was seen delivering party leaflets in the recent local election.

In the Glossop Chronicle of 11 June 2009, Cllr Dowson shares the following heartwarming story:

"Like many people I have watched the ongoing saga of the exposure regarding MPs' expenses with amazement, disgust and a growing anger.

"They expect to be allowed to get away with it by simply repaying the amounts that they claimed, a process that would not be acceptable for the rest of us..."
'Like many people' indeed. Like many people who do not know this particular politician and who would take his statements at face value. But there is a history of facts concerning Cllr Dowson, helpful in assessing where reality ends and Lanceworld takes over.

For example, let us examine the events of 11 July 2006. On that day Cllr Dowson went into the town hall in New Mills. This was when it was under Labour Party control and had been for many years. Cllr Dowson's personal friend - Labour's Ian Huddlestone - was claiming to be 'Leader' there.  This is in spite of the fact that no such position exists in town and parish council law.
On 11 July 2006 Labour Cllr Dowson cleaned out the chairman and mayor's expenses allowance fund. The town clerk obtained a receipt from Cllr Dowson for the money. A copy of this document has been obtained under Freedom of Information legislation.

Move on a few months. Remembrance Sunday, 12 November 2006. For countless years, New Mills mayors have laid a wreath, paid for from the mayor's allowance. This year, panic. No money in the fund for a wreath, the account has been cleaned out by Labour Councillor Dowson. Some other taxpayers' money was found, from a different account, to cover up.

In a statement to the police* Lancelot Edgar Dowson said: 'I repaid the money to the town council on 6 December 2006'.

* made on 31 July 2008

07 June 2009

Trust, Competence, Or Just Electrical Equipment For Use On The Hair?

When someone on Tom Levitt MP's staff tried to get money for a poppy wreath, it was from taxpayers. The same goes for Tom's hairdryer, or perhaps that should be whoever in Tom's office wanted a hairdryer paid for by the taxpayers.
MPs, and the staff they employ, are supposed to be trustworthy and competent.
Careful examination of any official photograph of Tom Levitt MP will show why taxpayer funding of the hairdryer needs of Mr Levitt - or whoever it was who put the claim in - is an embarrassing question. Is this spurious claim a matter of trust or of competence?
As Michael Howard memorably used to put it, 'peepil want answers'.
Those unfamiliar with Tom Levitt MP's look can see it here:

06 June 2009

The Right Honourable James Purnell, MP

The real, private, views of several local MPs on one important subject have not been published.

The topic is whether Prime Minister Gordon Brown is an asset or a downright hazard to their chances of holding on to their seats at the general election.

Four local Labour MPs are shown in the photograph (top left) that was concocted, sorry given out to factual news outlets, in September 2007. The image depicts them standing in front of construction works at Tameside Hospital.

The connection between all these photographs, each of which contains the image of James Purnell MP, is that James Purnell MP wasn't there on any of the occasions.

All four MPs knew that fact in respect of the Tameside Hospital image. It didn't stop them taking part in this casually arrogant deception of the public.

As well as Mr Purnell, the other local MPs are David Hayes (Labour), Andrew Gwynne (Labour), and Tom Levitt (Labour).
The Labour Party winning the next election? It's not revealing any political secrets to say that we've entered 'snowball in hell' territory with this one.

The odd one out, in respect of letting their views known about the Prime Minister, is Mr Purnell. After giving a refreshingly frank assessment, he then resigned from the government in a rare display - for a politician of any party - of courage and honesty.

05 June 2009

Fall of Rotten Council

Friends of democracy have cause to cheer this evening, with news of the fall of the Labour gang that has been running Derbyshire County Council since 1981.

1981 - how long ago that is. Adam Ant and his luxuriant head of hair ruled the charts, Charles and Di were happy newlyweds, coal miners had jobs for life, Sierra and Metro were radical cutting-edge car designs, and bus routes and trains were organised in a generally rational way.

Now, for the first time in 28 years, the Lubianka-like County Hall building is home to a new administration. Hopefully, proper open, honest and accountable governance may gradually start to appear.

The self-serving and extensive 'jobs for the boys' culture may now be curtailed in this new period. There is no way it can be as bad in the future as it was under the rotten tenures of long term political leaders Doughty and Bookbinder.

The fraternal trips to North Korea, the disastrous court case against Times Newspapers, the closing of a vital link road being trumpeted as a 'claim to fame', the pension scandal, the banning of the most popular weekly Education Supplement from appearing in Council-run libaries, the Black Sea resort acquisition to enable holidays for selectively chosen council apparatchiks... these and many more adventures all unwittingly paid for by the ratepayers of Derbyshire.

For once, the description Hard Labour is an accurate protrayal, as set out by the local Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. Twenty eight years? You often don't get that for murder these days.

04 June 2009

Notional Burglars Face Notional Crackdown

The double-speak of those in power has scaled new heights.

The latest example is the introduction of the concept of 'notionality' to avoid the politically inconvenient word 'capping' where public services are concerned.

In May, Local Government Minister John Healey imposed what he called a notional budget cut on Derbyshire Police.
The 'notional' cut from Whitehall is £1.6 million and in real life this will be used to cap what Derbyshire Police can spend to protect the community. Mr Healey did not seem to notice that serving police officers are not notional.

The government did not reveal there was any spending cap - sorry, 'notional budget adjustment' - until after the Police Authority and Chief Constable Mick Creedon had gone through all the work of setting the budget.

The Man from the Ministry did not indicate whether the citizens of High Peak who suffer the cuts are notional or real.

03 June 2009

The Other Cost Of School Milk

'Do as we say, not as we do'.

The two-facedness of County Hall bureaucrats when they talk about the environment is in danger of being exposed again.
This time it's their treatment of local dairy farmers that puts County Hall's attitude in the spotlight.

In public they lecture us on the environment: 'reduce packaging', 'save energy', 'make fewer car journeys' are just some of the exhortations to the public on the Derbyshire County Council website.

In private they look to change the milk contracts, losing locally-sourced fresh produce. This would mean lorries thundering around this country and others importing milk - a very heavy commodity - into the High Peak by road transport from overseas.

A simple environmental Food Miles toll should be factored into the calculations where large public supply contracts for food are being awarded.

The Lord, the Tax Haven, the Campaign Funds and the High Peak Conservatives

Conservative central office has heavily targeted High Peak as a marginal seat where its strategists think concentration of resources should pay dividends.

Lord Ashcroft, the Conservative deputy chairman, is using his fortune to finance candidates in marginal seats. Transparency subscribers will have noticed how slick their local campaign is. 'No expense spared' is the sublimal message coming over from the literature and the personalised mail shots.
The other parties trying to take part in our local democracy are getting badly left behind in money terms.

On the 2 June 2009 edition of BBC's Newsnight, one simple question was put to former leader William Hague on behalf of all people with an interest in the Conservative Party and where its local election money is coming from.

What follows is the transcript of how the interview started, to give a taste as to how straight the answer was.

Paxman: 'Your deputy chairman, Lord Ashcroft - the man whose peerage you lobbied for, saying he would become resident in Britain for tax purposes - can you just tell us, is he resident in Britain for tax purposes now?'

Hague: 'I've no reason to think that he's not complied with the commitments that he gave.'

Paxman: 'That is not the same as an assurance that he is.'

Hague: 'Well it is the truth as I know it...'

Paxman: 'Have you asked him?'

Hague: '...absolutely no reason to think that he hasn't...'

Paxman: 'Have you asked him?'

Hague: '...complied with the assurances that he gave...'

Paxman: 'Have you asked him?'

Hague: '...and whenever I've discussed it with him I've... that is the conclusion I've come to.'

Paxman: 'Have you asked him directly?'

Hague: 'Yes, I have discussed it with him and I've no reason...'

Paxman: 'Have you asked him?'

Hague: '...to think that he hasn't complied...'

Paxman: 'Did you say to him, "Are you resident in Britain for tax purposes?"'

Hague: 'I said to him, at the time...'

Paxman: 'Now?'
Hague: '...that of course I expected him to fulfil his commitments...'
Paxman: 'Yes. Have you asked him?'

Hague: 'I have no reason to think to think that he hasn't..."

And so on...

The full interview is available through the link at the bottom of this article or by going to the Newsnight pages on the BBC website.

01 June 2009

Lies, Damn Lies, and Borough Tax Statistics

Someone high up in High Peak Borough Council is not being straight with the poor people in the area who they demand money from.

Calculations printed on the council tax demand are being manipulated. The purpose of the manipulation is to get a political message across, favourable to the local Conservative party and those it wants to be seen supporting.

In essence, the issue that has blown up is the politicising of the local tax, its measurement and its collection.

Transparency subscribers with longer memories will recall it was this same subject that was the end of Margaret Thatcher. At that time the collection of local tax became known as 'Poll Tax'. For almost a century previously in local government it had been called simply 'the rates'.

If one gets out this year's Council Tax bill and last year's, and places them side by side, the manipulation of the presentation of the figures becomes apparent.

The High Peak Council Tax bill is broken down into four principal headings, universal to every household: Derbyshire County Council; High Peak Borough Council; Derbyshire Police; Derbyshire Fire Authority. On some bills there is also a smaller figure for a parish, for those who happen to live in one. Each of the headings has an amount of money next to it, demanded from the council tax payer.

Look at last year's bill. The above is all there is. The bill deals with money and is otherwise blank. No message from on high.

The first issue over manipulation arises if you compare it with this year's bill. This year, someone composed and wrote an 'Efficiency Message' at the bottom. And strangely enough, it selectively chooses statistics that present the Conservative-controlled authority (HPBC) in a good light, and the Labour-controlled authority (DCC) in a bad light.

The other sinister feature is that the Police have been selectively left out of 'Efficiency Message'. If Derbyshire Police figures were included then - calculated the way the Conservatives have done it - their statistic would not look flattering. This does not suit the local Conservatives' agenda, so instead of being honest and putting all of the four headings in the 'Efficiency Message', or alternatively being honest and leaving out all of the four headings and having no 'Efficiency Message', they handled it differently. In a less than transparent way.

The two manipulations, set out above, find the local Conservatives exposed as trying on the oldest political trick in the book.

Incidentally, it was a Tory prime minister* who coined the expression 'There are lies, damn lies, and statistics'.

* Benjamin Disraeli 1804 - 1881