31 May 2009

Expenses Scandal Latest

In 2006/7 our MP, Tom Levitt, claimed £19.99 from taxpayers for a hair dryer.
As Jeremy Paxman might have said, 'what was it bought for, some kind of ornament?'

28 May 2009

Dirty Tricks

An unsavoury detail has emerged - or rather been dragged from its bed blinking in the sunlight - from the time of the Councillors Gadd recent shift between political parties.

Councillors Jacqui and Mark Gadd gained seats on behalf of the Liberal Democrats at the local elections but then switched to the Conservative Party.

Within the local LibDem party, the ballot selecting the 2009 Derbyshire County Council candidate was held at the time the Councillors Gadd had secretly decided to defect.

In the full knowledge they were leaving the party for the Conservatives - but not revealing their planned defection to their colleagues - the Councillors Gadd cast votes in order to affect the internal result of the LibDem County Councillor selection.

Given all of the circumstances, the obvious and honourable thing would have been to abstain.

Councillor Jacqui Gadd has now come forward as the Conservative candidate for the same seat.

The Disappearing Act

One High Peak councillor's name has recently become notable by its absence from the letters pages of the local papers.

When Labour politician Sir Martin Doughty was around, a sharp letter to the press appearing over the name of Councillor Ian Huddlestone - in real life a postman - would always adorn any contribution from Sir Martin. Always dealing with the same issue although usually making nastier points, always with an identical writing style, invariably appearing right next to each other on the page, this spooky 'dual letter' phenomenon was downright uncanny.

But there has been no sighting of any published letter bearing the name 'Ian Huddlestone' for many months. Likewise, the formal business of High Peak Borough Council has been relatively untroubled by mentions of the H-Man, who claims expenses and supposedly represents New Mills East there for Labour.

Come on Councillor Huddlestone. You can deliver the letters: isn't it time you started 'writing' them again?

The Way Of The Leader

Judging from his latest statement Councillor Tony Ashton, Leader of the Borough Council, seems to be going the way of Kevin Keegan, who cracked up under the pressure of the workplace.

Both are decent men. But in the Buxton Advertiser of 28 May, Cllr Ashton's ominous closing shot was that "Councillor Stevens leaves me with no choice but to take the matter further".
The Leader is displaying a hysterical over-reaction to perfectly reasonable comments, made in public and in a free country.

It is not the first time that Cllr Ashton has issued threats along these lines. Town and parish clerks were likewise subject to an intimidation attempt following their recent letter in the press - the free press, Cllr Ashton should note - pointing out that their councillors were not to be ordered about.

27 May 2009

Leek Inquiry

The secret minutes of the Cabinet meeting held at County Hall in Matlock on 21 April make interesting reading.

The subject - dealt with in the confidential part of the meeting - was the transfer to Derbyshire County Council of Staffordshire Moorlands' property business and 'management facilities'.
The views of four councils all had to be represented, two of which - Moorlands and Staffs County - have nothing to do with Derbyshire.

The Moorlands Borough Council, based at Leek in Staffordshire, is considering outsourcing some services to a larger council. Fair enough. The mandarins at Staffordshire County would have been waiting for a call.

But Moorlands threw them a baffling curve. Under the label of 'being innovative', it is Derbyshire that's going to handle these, and many more, Staffordshire services!

Has Staffordshire County Council suddenly ceased to exist?

High Peak Courthouse - Latest Casualty

The multinational company behind the courthouse that was about to be built in New Mills - before a village green application was put in on the site - has gone bust.

Babcock & Brown has gone into administration and any new High Peak PFI - 'Public Finance Initiative' - wheezes with its name attached are now officially pining for the fjords.

The company specialised in seeking out various opportunities for public infrastructure and development works.

Sir Martin Doughty, the Labour politician who passed away a few weeks ago, would have been disappointed. He embraced PFI nonsense with the same ardour as the City of London types who invented the idea.

Companies House records reveal that, at the time of key decisions about which town in High Peak might reap the 'benefits' of a shiny new Courthouse, Sir Martin from New Mills was a director of Public Private Partnerships Programme Ltd. This was in addition to being the County Councillor for New Mills and Leader at Derbyshire County Council, the authority holding the purse-strings for various public infrastructure and development works in the county.

Local people can of course assume that, in all selection processes for the choice of which High Peak town gets the new Courthouse, quiet and out-of-the-way New Mills will be considered on its merits.

26 May 2009

The Karen Carpenter Council

Just like Karen Carpenter, High Peak Borough Council seems to be slowly disappearing.

A merger is taking place by stealth and with no-one being asked. Staffordshire Moorlands Council is swallowing up its High Peak neighbour.

When were the High Peak's electors and council tax payers consulted about this freakish scheme? There are two key issues:

1) Why will the politicians involved not ask the High Peak residents - who are affected daily by this merger - whether they want it or not?

2) If one or other political group wants to streamline services and make economies - a most laudable object - there are at least two much better ways forward:
Carefully design and propose a Unitary council, then put it forward to the voters for their verdict.
Alternatively, keep all outsourcing within the existing local government County Council framework, where things stay politically accountable and can be managed more efficiently.
If administrative economy floats your boat, either of the above ways forward are much more straightforward, accountable and transparent than the messy experiment that is currently developing.
The people responsible, who have good intentions in what they are attempting, are putting a lot of people's energies, and council tax resources, into a disaster waiting to happen.

MP Urges Honesty

"The once proud Daily Telegraph has connived with criminals at the lowest levels of cheque book journalism." Tom Levitt, 14 May 2009 in the column he writes for the local newspapers.

"Parliament has lost people's trust and we must win it back." Tom Levitt MP, 21 May 2009.

When is a Mayor not a Mayor?

Answer: when it's Councillor Lancelot Edgar Dowson

The first item of business on the agenda of New Mills Town Council's 2009 annual meeting was to choose the town's mayor.

Before the meeting, in addition to wearing his customary leather number, Lancelot was seen carrying a suit jacket into the town hall over his arm.

Onlookers were puzzled.

But the mystery was soon solved. Lancelot had got it into his head that he was to be the new mayor. He wanted to look smart when the chain was ceremoniously placed over the dignified head and the photographs were taken. Hence the suit was getting an airing.

But he'd spent much of the time since the 2007 local elections annoying many of the town councillors. He'd filed nonsensical complaints about councillors to the standards people, wasted valuable police time with a spurious and malicious complaint about a member of the public, pretended that the previous administration was not corrupt and dishonest, talked on practically every subject that was brought up at council meetings, and generally done the complete opposite of being genuine and winning friends and influencing people.

Lancelot had been so busy - with his seemingly permanent activity of showing-off to an audience - that he was blissfully unaware his personal behaviour meant he'd completely lost the support of many members of the council. So as he prepared to stand up to receive the honour, he was astounded to find the mayoral chain was to adorn the broad shoulders of another, nicer and more genuine candidate: Kevin 'Huggy' Hawley.

The shock was the first thing in living memory ever to render Councillor Lancelot Edgar Dowson speechless during a town council meeting. 'More of this please' say a few councillors who would like the meetings to end at a sensible time.

Face Redder Than The Poppies

It seems that when he wasn't promoting the sad perversity of trespassing around on other people's property - yes, that is Labour Party big hitter David Miliband in the publicity shot - our local MP has found time to sample other dismal misdemeanors.

If Tom Levitt MP has any shred of decency, he will publish a full, unreserved apology for the remembrance day disgrace.

High Peak Transparency will turn to other surprising 'expenses' at a future date. Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph of 24 May 2009 gave Mr Levitt the rare distinction of a mention by name in its lead editorial. And not in a good way.



Editor's note: Since this article was written a member of Mr Levitt's staff has come forward and stated they submitted the money claim for the poppy wreath, and that Mr Levitt expressed surprise when he learned this claim had gone in.

Swear Word Heard At Footy Match Shock

Independent councillor Ivan Bell has inadvertantly caused upset again.

Glossop North End's amazing cup run ended up with some swearing as a part of the Wembley trip. This of course is shocking. No players, or supporters of Liverpool or Manchester United for example, or touchline coaches waving their arms around, or Scots, or even northern people in general, have ever used any bad language in the whole 150-year history of football.

Ivan has now run off an alternative DVD of the grand day out and both the X-rated version and the beeped version are on sale side-by-side.

The Mayorzilla Departs

The mayor who occupied the most column inches, and seized the most photo-opportunities, in the whole history of the High Peak was surely Robin Baldry.

Political insiders have noted that Robin was a noisy critic of High Peak Borough Council until May 2008 when his loyalty and silence, obviously entirely co-incidentally, was bought around the time of the council mayoral appointment.

So farewell Robin.

The mayoral year following Robin's service runs from May 2009 to May 2010. This is the year in which a general election will be held.
Cllr Tony Bingham, who will serve High Peak for 2009-10, may be a mayor with a message. No more party deals behind closed doors, no family nepotism, and so on. This is surely what he will have told his son, Andrew.

Andrew Bingham is the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for er... High Peak