06 December 2010

Exclusive - Guilty Ones Named In Dysfunctional Council Scandal

The recent official 'Dysfunctional Council' report highlighted a disturbing fact: many separate complaints have been made connected with New Mills town council, whereas none of the 18 other town and parish councils in the area have been the subject of a single complaint.

Gang of Four

Further to pleas in the Buxton Advertiser and elsewhere, asking that the guilty ones be named, here is the league table:

Lancelot Edgar Dowson made 4 or 5 of the complaints.  The motivation was mainly malicious or mischievous and all were against political opponents .  All of his complaints were against LibDem councillors.  Nominally 'independent' Cllr Dowson has in fact been a long-term Labour Party member.

Stephen Lewis made around 3 of the complaints.  At least 2 complaints were against a tragically deceased councillor - a retired member of her Majesty's armed forces.  Mr Lewis is employed by the New Mills town council.

Jacqui Gadd made 1 or 2 of the complaints.  All were aimed at political  opponents in the LibDem party.  Cllr J Gadd is a Conservative, and personal friend of Lancelot Edgar Dowson.

Mark Gadd has been involved with at least 1 of the complaints, which was aimed at political  opponents in the LibDem party.  Cllr M Gadd is a Conservative, and personal friend of Lancelot Edgar Dowson and Stephen Lewis.

So far as can be established at the time of writing, the current councillors in New Mills who have not contributed to the dysfunction by occupying expensive Borough officer time and resources in the making of spurious and/or malicious complaints are (in alphabetical order):  ASHTON, Tony (Conservative); ATKINS, Elizabeth (LibDem); ATKINS, Ray (LibDem); BODY, Hazel (Green); CARTER, Janet (LibDem); HANNELL, Chantal (Independent LibDem); HAWLEY, Kevin 'Huggy' (LibDem).

This report is a public interest document.  A copy of it has been sent to every person who is named in it.  This is in order to give them the full opportunity to point out any material omissions or errors, should any exist.

Here comes the science

The Pareto Principle is often also known as the 80:20 rule.  In this case, it refers to the fact that about 80% of the problems tend to be caused by about 20% of the people.

02 December 2010

Attempt To Gag Elected Representatives

The new official Standing Orders of the town council in New Mills, High Peak, Derbyshire have just appeared on the council's website.

Electors and council taxpayers in the area will be shocked to read new Standing Order 26.  It is completely undemocratic and anti-free speech.

Ignoring grammatical errors for a moment, the relevant extract reads:
"In accordance with the Council's policy in respect to dealing with the press and/or other media, councillors shall not, in their official capacity, provide oral or written statements or written articles to the press or other media."
For a councillor to give personal opinions to media outlets, provided that they make it clear they are 'councillor so-and-so' and do not purport to speak for the whole council, is part of the democratic process.

If a councillor has sensible and/or honest opinions, then it is important that we should know.

If their opinions reveal them as deceitful, or dishonest, or hypocritical, or plain old barking mad - or madder than Mad Jack McMad, winner of last year's Mr Mad competition - then it is even more important that we should know.


Note: click on this link to dowload a copy of the document referred to in this report. In the event of any difficulty, email this site requesting a copy and it will be emailed.

The Fantasy World Of Council Officer Stephen Lewis


A document has recently been prepared by New Mills town council employee Stephen Lewis.

His newly produced paper, called 'Draft Parks Strategy Targets', makes the following proposal for eliminating the conservation area status that currently protects the character of the town:

"Consider whether the town's conservation area is truly of benefit or whether it in fact denies both the town council and local business the opportunity to best promote the town.

"Seek to lessen the detrimental effects of conservation status on the activities of the town council..."

The above proposal is on page 5.  On page 4 of the same document, Stephen Lewis proposes giving the public far more information about the activities of the town council.  Hear hear to that.  However, the reason that Stephen Lewis gives for doing this is to "counter act the negative blogging and criticism of certain members of the public."

The easiest and best way to counteract any 'negative' coverage of a public body is obvious.  Simply stop making mad and bad decisions, and stop making mad and bad statements.  Also, save money rather than wasting it on grandiose schemes and council employees' continued empire-building at public expense.

It really is that simple.
Note: click on this link to dowload a copy of the document referred to in this report.  In the event of any difficulty, email this site requesting a copy and it will be emailed.


26 November 2010

The Public Cost Of A Politician's Vanity

Postman and Labour Borough Councillor Ian Huddlestone has just cost local taxpayers £2,500.

Following the sad and untimely death of LibDem councillor Glynn Jennings, there was a vacancy on New Mills town council in the East ward.

The usual way of selecting a new parish or town councillor in the event of death or resignation of a member, especially where there are full local elections coming up shortly as at present, is to put oneself forward to be co-opted as a new councillor.  There is no cost when this method is used, and it is how Hazel Body and Julian Ashworth (among others) came to be town and parish councillors.

However Huddlestone, known as 'Postman Pat' by other councillors, insisted that a public ballot be held, with his name on it.  The ballot took place yesterday.  There was a tiny little turnout.

Despite the exorbitant cost of getting him on to the town council (again), in fact there are only three meetings of the full council from now to the next local elections, which take place next May.

Given the facts of Huddlestone's poor attendance record at the Borough Council, and his previous forced removal from office for non-attendance at that council's meetings, it is quite conceivable that the cost of Huddlestone's vanity will net out at a £2,500 cost per his attendance at council meetings in New Mills.

25 November 2010

First Guilty Councillor Named In 'Dysfunctional Council' Scandal

Local councillor Alistair Stevens has accused the Buxton Advertiser of 'lazy journalism' in the letters page of today's paper.  One reason for this is that the BuxAd did not name and shame the dysfunctional councillors in the previous week's newspaper report.

The minority of dysfunctional councillors - plus a town council employee, Stephen Lewis - have used spurious and/or malicious complaints to the Standards Board as a way of causing problems for other councillors.  The public money wasted by this is £6,250 so far in 2010 alone.

Not So Lazy Journalism

The first of the dysfunctional New Mills councillors to be named and shamed is Lancelot Edgar Dowson (pictured above as a tramp eating or possibly fondling a sandwich).  The ridiculous nature of his activities can be shown by summarising just a few of his many malicious complaints:

Cllr Lancelot complained to the Standards Board about a LibDem councillor having a disabled concession on his car tax.  The subsequent investigation (at public expense) established that the councillor was disabled and fully entitled to the concession.

Cllr Lancelot complained to the Standards Board about another LibDem councillor, who Cllr Lancelot stated knew about the 'fake' disabled concession.  This complaint was also thrown out, but only after public money had been wasted as a result of Lancelot's activities.

Politician Cllr Lancelot also busily makes complaints about people who aren't councillors.

After Steve Sharp resigned from High Peak Borough Council and New Mills Town Council and no longer had anything to do with either body, HPBC's Monitoring Officer received a 'Standards' complaint about him from Cllr Lancelot.

Cllr Lancelot wrote and widely circulated an abusive email about High Peak Transparency's editor.  He circulated the abusive email to his fellow councillors.  When HPT's editor exercised his right of reply to the email, pointing out facts about Cllr Lancelot's past, Cllr Lancelot called the local police and falsely purported to them that he was being 'harrassed'.  He had HPT's editor arrested and held in a police cell.

Cllr Lancelot was very careful to keep the existence of his abusive email secret from the police.  When a printed copy of Cllr Lancelot's abusive email was taken to Buxton police station, the editor was released from custody immediately.

20 November 2010

Town's Council Slammed By Ethics Watchdog

A new and rare distinction has been bestowed on the small town of New Mills, High Peak, Derbyshire.

The occupants of its town hall have been branded 'dysfunctional' by an official report, published this week.

Of all the 18 town and parish councils in the High Peak area, none apart from New Mills has been the subject of a single complaint during the current year.

However, New Mills town council was the subject of 10 complaints about councillors' behaviour during the period.

In 2008 it was a similar story.  There was a total of 4 complaints in High Peak's area, however 3 of these were against New Mills councillors.

As well as finally being officially named and shamed as dysfunctional, the report, compiled by High Peak's Head of Legal Services, found that in New Mills town hall there was an inability to set aside differences, or to debate out those differences, or to arrive at a common purpose of working together to further the business of the council.

A telling extract from the official report:
"The Standards Committee has been concerned at the apparent factionalisation of the council members and the consequent tit-for-tat nature of the complaints"

The report calculates that the taxpayer is estimated to have lost at least £6,250 in 2010, simply as a result of the cost of these complaints.  High Peak Borough Council should deduct this money from the substantial grant money that it hands over to New Mills town council every year.

It is possibly relevant to note that the most prolific makers of spurious - and often malicious - complaints about councillors in New Mills, Stephen Lewis and Lance Dowson, have been in the habit of getting together in the Royal Oak pub with Conservative councillor Mark Gadd after Monday night's council and committee meetings have taken place.

So far as can be established at the time of writing, the following town councillors have acted broadly decently in this respect and have not taken part in the childish making of serial spurious complaints from New Mills town hall.

Therefore, the consequent damage to reputation and waste of public money cannot be laid at the door of these councillors:

ASHTON, Tony (Conservative)

ATKINS, Elizabeth (LibDem)

ATKINS, Ray (LibDem)

BODY, Hazel (Green)

CARTER, Janet (LibDem)

HANNELL, Chantal (LibDem)

HAWLEY, Kevin 'Huggy' (LibDem)

STEVENS, Alistair  (LibDem) as is known, the following .
Links to the report referred to in this article:

A copy of the report is available by going to this page of High Peak Borough Council's website.  Once you are on the correct Borough Council page, click once on Item 5 in the 'Agenda Items' box on the right of the page.  The report is then available for reading on-screen or for download to your computer.

In the event of any difficulties, email this site and a copy of the report will be sent as an email attachment.

05 October 2010

Councillors' thumbs down to new games area for youngsters

A new multi-use games area for young people has been worked on in New Mills.

Grass-roots community group Ollersett United Community Hub and the local County Councillor obtained the finance and put all the hard work in, on behalf of the youngsters.

The ideal location for the games area (one is pictured above) is Ollersett fields.

It is a very interesting fact that Ollersett fields was owned for many years by High Peak Borough Council.  This large and valuable area of land was recently transferred into the name of New Mills Town council.

No money was paid to High Peak Borough Council for this extensive public asset.

The decision about the new games area was put before New Mills town council on Monday 2 August 2010.  The councillors who voted down the new multi-use games facility for the youngsters of New Mills on that date are as follows:

ASHTON, Anthony.  Conservative

CARTER, Janet.  Liberal Democrat

DOWSON, Lancelot.  Independent

GADD, Jacqui.  Conservative

GADD, Mark.  Conservative

HANNELL, Chantal.  Liberal Democrat

The following are the members who voted for the youngsters of the town to have the new facility:

ATKINS, Ray.  Liberal Democrat

BODY, Hazel.  Green Party

HAWLEY, Huggy.  Liberal Democrat

JENNINGS, Glynn.  Liberal Democrat

There were two council members who were not present during the relevant part of the meeting:

ATKINS, Beth.  Liberal Democrat.  Cllr Beth Atkins is also County Councillor and had put a lot of work in to get all the financing in place etc.  She was and is strongly in support of the new games area but felt she would be liable to accusations of a 'conflict of interest' under the current rules governing council meetings so was unable to vote on it.

STEVENS, Alistair.  Liberal Democrat.  On holiday.

03 August 2010

The New Member Of Parliament

Yesterday evening the meeting of New Mills Town Council was about to start and the local MP, Andrew Bingham, walked in.

He already knew some of the people there, made the relevant greetings and pleasant chat, then took his seat as another anonymous face in the public gallery of this particular council chamber.

Whether by luck or judgement Mr Bingham came on a relatively calm evening: during the public part of the meeting there were no calls to sack anyone or take public money to pay legal bills for councillors or throw out any member of the public etc. 

Cllr Lance Dowson still sometimes has difficulty realising that he is no longer chairman of this council but the actual chair, Cllr Chantal Hannell, moved things along briskly, fairly and efficiently.

The clerk to this meeting was Mike Crompton, borrowed from neighbouring Hayfield.  He spoke quietly, intelligently and respectfully.

The founders of the United States of America managed to do a complete Constitution on two or three pages.  By the time this town council got to page 111 of the documents enclosed with their agenda for this particular evening - yes, that is Page One Hundred And Eleven - and Mr Bingham was still present, it became clear that he deserves a medal for voluntarily remaining and observing.

As the hour grew late it would have been very easy for him to leave - some members of the public already had - but Mr Bingham stayed and saw the whole thing right up to the now all-too-familiar exclusion of the public by the passing of yet another special resolution.

Several of these councillors (not all) appear to have great difficulty accepting that it is the public's money they are spending.

Regarding our parliamentary representative there will of course be plenty of debate, comment and criticism on some matters - that is the nature of politics - but at this stage of his parliamentary career Andrew Bingham MP cannot be faulted on his work ethic or diligence.

13 July 2010

The High Peak One

For most of society, obeying the law is a normal thing, indeed a necessity.

However, where some denizens of the New Mills town hall are concerned, the statutory rights of electors and members of the public under the law are merely seen as 'an added complication'.

That is the actual description - 'an added complication' - in the latest legal advice just sent to New Mills councillors about their unlawful ban on a local elector. This ban on the elector from attending public meetings is meant to apply if a particular member of council staff has also come along to that meeting.

This news is so hot off the press that even some councillors will not have seen it before its publication on High Peak Transparency.  They have therefore not yet had a chance to decide between doing the right thing and promptly making a gracious apology over this aspect, or trying to continue with the attempt at a ban.

In line with the virtually identical North Tyneside case, we'll call our wronged local elector Tim Burgess 'Mr B' from now on.  Or possibly 'The High Peak One'.

Here is the current advice in this matter from the town council lawyers to the good Burghers of New Mills:

If Tim Burgess, oops ' Mr B', comes to a statutory public meeting at which 'Mr L' happens to also have come along, then (in summary):

- Mr B's presence there should be noted and he should be reminded of the letter that he signed;

- Mr B should be formally invited to leave the public meeting;

- If Mr B refuses to leave the public meeting then he should be informed that his breach of the undertakings in the letter will be notified to the town council's solicitors with a request that further legal action be taken against Mr B.

The town council's solicitor is then described as acknowledging that the elector's right to attend public town council meetings as being 'an added complication' (!)

It is not 'an added complication'.  It is the law.

10 July 2010

The Town Hall Law Breakers - Part Three

An important legal authority has been published which is relevant to the current local case in which some High Peak councillors believe they can prevent an elector from attending public meetings if a particular town hall employee has come along to the meeting.

It is headed 'North Tyneside guilty of maladministration after barring resident from meetings'.

The report was carried by Local Government Lawyer on 27 May 2010.  Here are the relevant extracts:

The Local Government Ombudsman has found North Tyneside Council guilty of maladministration after it barred a man from council meetings.

The Ombudsman, Anne Seex, recommended that the local authority train staff on the public’s right to attend meetings and established public law principles in relation to administrative decision-making.

Mr H’s relationship with various representatives of the council was described as “fractious”. He had written frequently to officers using aggressive and personally offensive language, and his written communications – both with the council and with the Ombudsman – were “characterised by extravagantly unpleasant allegations of improper motives and conspiracies”.

In June 2007, the council’s former head of legal and democratic services decided that staff should not engage with him in telephone conversations due to his behaviour and that he should write only to two, named officers.

Further incidents between Mr H and council officers followed, including an altercation with a caretaker at a council meeting in March 2008 that saw both sides accuse the other of assault.

In October 2008, the council’s Strategic Director of Organisational Improvement reviewed the documentation and decided to bar Mr H from attending meetings of the council, its committees, sub-committees and panels. This was recorded as being on the basis that the council “has an overriding duty to protect the health and safety of its staff”.

Mr H was also informed that if he attempted to attend any meetings, council staff would call the police to have him removed and would begin proceedings to get an injunction against him.

In November 2009, the council rescinded the restrictions on Mr H.  Mr H had, however, already complained about the matter to the Ombudsman.

The law says that council meetings must be open to the public unless confidential or certain other information is to be discussed. Councils do, though, have the power to exclude someone from a meeting to suppress or prevent disorderly conduct.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found that the Strategic Director for Organisational Improvement did not have the delegated authority to make the decision.

Seex also pointed out that the legal department’s advice was written several days after the decision, strongly indicating that all relevant information was not properly considered at the time, including Mr H’s statutory right to attend meetings, the case law on excluding someone to prevent disorder and whether barring Mr H was a reasonable and proportionate response to the circumstances.

Ruling that North Tyneside was guilty of maladministration, the Ombudsman said the council’s threat to call the police and begin legal proceedings caused Mr H stress and anxiety.

Seex said: “The maladministration would not have occurred if the officers involved had considered and applied the established public law principles for administrative decision making and I recommend that these should be brought to the attention of all appropriate officers.”

She said the council should issue an apology to Mr H, including for any anxiety caused to him.

A spokeswoman for North Tyneside Council said it accepted that appropriate procedures were not followed.

She said: “The law says the council must be open to the public unless confidential or certain other information is to be discussed. We actively aim to do that and only in exceptional cases would we seek to limit a person’s access to the council.

“All appropriate officers of the council will be reminded of the public’s right to attend open meetings and of the legal requirements that must be considered to prevent this being repeated in the future. However, when the public do attend meetings, it is their responsibility to behave appropriately.”

The link to the case reported in Local Government Lawyer is here

09 July 2010

The Town Hall Law Breakers - Part Two

It seems there is nothing new under the sun.
In a very spooky prequel to the recent Transparency article about the statutory right of members of the public to attend meetings of public bodies, a council has been ordered to apologise to a member of the public and immediately lift the same kind of attempted ban.

Here is the relevant link:  http://menmedia.co.uk/news/s/1128801_sorry_council_lifts_oaps_ban

For those who can't be bothered with links, here is the text.  The report is from the Manchester Evening News of 29 July 2009:

OLDHAM Council has been made to apologise to a ‘disruptive’ pensioner for banning him from public meetings.

Warren Bates was accused of intimidating behaviour at Failsworth Area Committee meetings, and of continually refusing to respect requests to control himself.

He was banned from the meetings for six months, in what is believed to be the first order of its kind in the country.

The council even hired bouncers to keep the 71-year-old out.

Mr Bates, from Stanhope Way, Failsworth, complained to the Local Government Ombudsman, and an investigation has found that the council unfairly banned him and failed to allow him to respond to the allegations.

Investigator Anthony Wall has ordered the council to apologise and revoke the ban, and keep an accurate record of public meetings. Mr Bates said he was pleased with the outcome.

"Speaking as a pensioner I am surprised that the council, with a policy of openness and transparency and listening to the public, behaved in this way," he said.

"I tried to follow the processes available to me but they ignored me.

"I feel they have really let me down."

Mr Bates was banned on March 6 following a meeting between councillors, the acting borough solicitor for the council, and the neighbourhood manager, who also considered imposing an injunction or anti-social behaviour order.

Mr Bates, who has stood in past elections for the Green Party, wrote back to the council accepting the decision, but questioned why he wasn’t allowed to defend himself against the claims.

Emma Alexander, Oldham Council’s executive director for performance, services and capacity said the council accepted the recommendations.

"We have already contacted Mr Bates confirming that he can now attend public meetings," she said.

"We will also be responding soon with a written apology, as recommended by the ombudsman."

04 July 2010

High Peak Borough Councillors

This is the latest update covering honesty and probity issues raised in two earlier High Peak Transparency articles.  To get the picture question out of the way first, the above is High Peak Borough Council's civic heraldry.  Motto translation: 'Ever in the public interest'.

Here are the links to the earlier articles:


At this year's statutory annual town meeting in New Mills, the outgoing chair of the town council, Huggy Hawley (LibDem), made a promise. He said that the town council would discuss the various serious outstanding matters in a town council meeting, and that it would do so in public.

However the town clerk of New Mills, Mrs Susan Stevens, has - to date - put the matters in the part of the agenda that is dealt with behind closed doors. The particular town council meeting at which she did this was on 28 June 2010. The public were excluded from the council chamber when this matter came up.  For the moment, while very specific legal billing etc questions are under live discussion and consideration, the town council is entitled to do this.  Later on, it will be a different story.

Mrs Stevens is the central figure so far as two current elements of the wrong-doing are concerned. These are: using town council stationery to write a letter to mislead the councillors of New Mills; and offering to use public money to pay legal bills for third parties.

The third parties include a person who is a member of the town council and at least one person who is not a member of the council.

There are additional areas of serious concern inside this town hall, but the above two are the ones that are the subject of this article.

This week, the town clerk has sent out a letter that appears to be trying to distinguish between the standards of conduct in her personal life, and her standards of conduct when she is doing things as the town clerk of New Mills. One obvious implication of such a statement is that honesty, when dealing with other people, has an on/off switch.

Here is how the various High Peak Borough Councillors currently involved with this matter have performed so far:

The Liberal Democrat group on the town council is chaired by Cllr Ray Atkins. He wants all of the facts to be obtained and the position fully understood. This is so obviously the correct approach that it should not be in any way controversial.

Cllr Tony Ashton represents the Conservative Party, which was dragged into the matter by being asked, in effect, to approve a spending fait accompli during the secret part of the town council meeting in April. Along with Cllr Huggy Hawley (LibDem) he wanted the legal time sheet sending back, to try to get the billing reduced.

Cllr Ashton has had at least one conversation with a central figure in these matters, Labour’s Ian Huddlestone, to try to get further details. Whether Borough Cllr Huddlestone attempts to pull the wool over his eyes is another matter, and whether Cllr Ashton on behalf of the Conservative Party does anything about the state of affairs that is revealed remains to be seen, but for the moment it can at least be said that Cllr Ashton has taken the trouble and the time to ask questions.

At the moment, the above two seem to represent the mainstream.  Next, two other councillors. Like in Life Of Brian, it seems there is a risk of 'splitters':

High Peak Borough Councillor Janet Carter, in an email seen by High Peak Transparency, gave her view of the dishonesty in public life that has been revealed:

“I suggest we just ignore it.”
Finally, not a councillor at Borough level but one at town council level. Cllr Alistair Stevens has finally revealed his true colours. When this politician was asked by another councillor whether he had had time to digest the issues that have been raised, his email reply was:

“Digested and excreted

Why would we do anything about this?????

Done and dusted via court case a few years ago, why would we get involved with this dispute other than protect staff and previous council members???”

Cllr Alistair Stevens is a politician who stood for election as the High Peak’s Member of Parliament. In his election literature he said he was ‘a man of principle’. In a conversation with Transparency’s editor he said he was ‘an honest man’. Judging from the facts known so far about this matter, it is fair comment to say that it seems the constituency may have had a narrow escape.

Cllr Alistair Stevens is closely connected to one of the council staff that he refers to in his email.  He is married to Susan Stevens, whose activities while occupying public office - in the name of the town of New Mills - are now starting to come under proper scrutiny.

Note to those who have been very concerned to discover ‘a mole’ or similar. There is more than one public interest whistleblower in this matter. There are several people who have become extremely concerned and who have access to the various elements of this unfolding story.

01 July 2010

Parking Nonsense In High Peak, Derbyshire, England

A video just uploaded to YouTube shows a very long and very empty street in a semi-rural market town. No traffic. No people. No activity. 

But what's this? A man employed by a private parking enforcement company has seen an opportunity to boost income. He has just put tickets onto four cars, despite there being empty space for about fifty more cars. The reason it looks ridiculous? It IS ridiculous!

Many local traders are struggling because people no longer dare venture into the town in their cars.

Date of the event: 1st July 2010. Location: High Street, New Mills, High Peak, Derbyshire.  The inaudible question on the soundtrack from the Parking Enforcement Officer as he approaches the camera is "Why are you videoing this?"

The whole sorry spectacle is on YouTube.  Here is the current link:


29 June 2010

The Town Hall Law Breakers

A member of the public was unlawfully excluded from a public meeting, so that a member of town council staff could be present.

High Peak Transparency can reveal the latest occasion that town hall staff have viewed their so-called 'rights' as being above the law that applies to the rest of us.

First, the law background.  The relevant statute is the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960.  Under Section 1, all meetings of public bodies, and bodies exercising public functions, must be open to the public.  The public (not any individuals) may be excluded under the Act on certain very limited 'public interest' grounds, but if this happens it must be the public in general, and it can only be after a specific resolution is made - again in public - for that exclusion to take place.

The meeting at which the law was flouted was the New Mills Town Council meeting of 28 June 2010.  At the appointed start time the members of the public were seated in the public gallery area of the council chamber, and the member of press was present (Emma Downes, Buxton Advertiser

Bafflingly, there was no town clerk.  Then the meeting's chair, Cllr Chantal Hannell went outside the council chamber to look for her.  Next Stephen Lewis, who has responsibility for parks in the town etc, was called outside.  Being very well brought up, Cllr Hannell used the expression 'Can I borrow you for a moment?'

In New Mills, High Peak, Derbyshire, things sometimes seem to be only ever one moment away from being bizarre.  Because the next thing to happen was that all of the councillors were called outside the council chamber, and the members of the public were left in.

When they came back in Cllr Hannell, presumably speaking on behalf of the New Mills town council, then addressed an explanation to the public in general and some remarks to one member of the public in particular.

It transpires that the member of the public has agreed, in writing, not to be within 30 metres of Stephen Lewis.  The pressure/threat of high potential legal costs was put on him to agree to this.  The whole matter arose because of a long-running dispute, mainly in High Lea Park.  To summarise, Stephen Lewis is broadly alleged to have broken off from the strimming to do a little light shouting now and then.  The member of the public, Tim Burgess, and Stephen Lewis don't get on and there seem to have been fisticuffs. Mr Burgess shouted out a rude word and then, when challenged, said it was a description of a former Labour councillor.

Away from the soap opera and back in the council chamber, Cllr Hannell offered advice that the member of the public should leave the town council meeting.  Clearly upset by this development, Mr Burgess volunteered to leave.

As this, in effect, was breaking the law, New Mills Town Council should offer an immediate apology and make it completely clear that Mr Burgess's statutory right under the law in respect of attendance at public meetings can never be curtailed by an agreement like this, made in private.

If any councillor is worried about the possibility of 'disturbance' at a town council meeting, and there has never been the remotest indication that such a thing might ever happen in this case, then there is a clear separate local government power immediately to remove any person causing a disturbance if they refuse to leave when they are instructed to do so.

By a strange irony, about halfway through the meeting a face appeared at the open window.  It was like the ghost of Christmas past but not as good looking.  Its owner, standing on Hall Street, was watching the proceedings of the town council.  On seeing this, at least one councillor urged them to 'come in, it's a public meeting!'

High Peak Transparency is happy to make it clear that no Conservative members of the town council were present during the events before the meeting, described above.

This article has sequels:
The Town Hall Law Breakers - Part Two
The Town Hall Law Breakers - Part Three


19 June 2010

Bingham 'Not Slick' Shock

Andrew Bingham MP's maiden speech has now been delivered.  It was stammering and hesitant, read out from a frankly not brilliant script.

Mind you, what normal person wouldn't suffer performance anxiety in such a situation: Mr Bingham had been dreaming of, and planning and working for, the possibility of his crowning moment in the mother of parliaments for many, many years.

He spoke about the need for a bypass in the north of the constituency.  However, this part of the speech was so equivocal that it seemed he didn't want to offend any part of either the pro- or anti- lobbies:
"In Glossop and Tintwistle, the Tintwistle bypass is an issue that has meandered on for many years. It was promised by my predecessor 13 years ago but has still to be built. It is a difficult issue. There are difficult environmental consequences to be considered but something needs to be done to alleviate the traffic difficulties suffocating Glossop. Tintwistle shudders and resounds to the thundering of wagons as they cross the Pennines. I know that money is tight and will be for some time, but if money becomes available a workable solution may be achieved."

The script did contain some lighter moments.  Quite a few MPs laughed in recognition when Mr Bingham noted that the Royston Vasey location is within the constituency.

He pronounced Tintwistle as it is spelt on the page.  Of course the locals call it Tinsel. However, one has to think of Hansard, which would have reported his homage to a Christmas decoration instead of a village.

Seige, Congestion And Pollution From Queues Of Stationary Vehicles: No End In Sight

According to Hansard, our MP has now had the following written exchange in Parliament:

Andrew Bingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will prioritise funding for a solution to traffic congestion in Glossop and Tintwistle.

Norman Baker (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Regional and Local Transport), Transport; Lewes, Liberal Democrat):

"In his written ministerial statement to the House on 10 June 2010, Hansard, column 35WS, regarding major schemes the Secretary of State for Transport made it clear that the Department will not be able to identify those major investments that can be supported until the conclusion of the Government's spending review in the autumn.

Therefore at this time I am afraid that I cannot provide any assurances on funding for a solution to traffic congestion in Glossop and Tintwistle."
So basically, because of the spendaholic unstable vote-buying New Labour nutters, who printed and wasted vast amounts of money like no-one would ever have to pay it back, sensible necessary projects are cancelled or have to wait.

10 June 2010

Rogue Apostrophe

Slightly annoying to stumble upon a fellow local politics website, but then to find that (at the time of writing) there have been no posts on it since before the general election:

While on the subject of our MP, two glaring grammatical errors are in his Buxton Advertiser column this week:
"Last week also saw the first Prime Ministers Question's (sic) of the new Parliament"
 "Also along with many of the new MP's (sic) I still await an office..."
Andrew Bingham MP's predecessor Tom Levitt's columns were grammatically immaculate.

However, late in Mr Levitt's tenure it was revealed that in fact he didn't write the columns, but was getting a consultancy closely associated with the Labour Party to write them - paying the invoices using our money.

Given the antics of some other members of the last parliament (of all parties), probably better a couple of rogue apostrophes than a rogue MP.

Support Your Local Pub

The Chairman of Buxton Pubwatch, Ken Howarth, complains bitterly (no pun intended) about High Peak Borough Council's spending on a giant screen for a handful of football matches.

The 20ft television and sound system will be put up in the Octagon Suite in Buxton, in an attempt to attract up to 500 people per match.

The majority of the screened matches have evening kick-offs, so this new giant system will damage or erode the hard-pressed High Peak pub trade and those whose livelihoods depend on it.

Buxton Pubwatch has therefore legitimately asked why taxpayers' money is being spent on this.

03 June 2010

The Prime Minister, Speaking About The New Transparency Revolution

The issue chosen for the very first prime ministerial podcast is...

Here are David Cameron's words on the subject, published this week:

"This coalition has started as we mean to go along; a government that saves money instead of wasting it; that trusts people who work in our public services, instead of dictating to them; and one that gives power away to people instead of taking it from them.

A big part of giving people more power is giving them more information. And this coming week, we’re going to be making a start on that.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed since doing this job, it’s how all the information about government – the money it spends, where it spends it, the results it achieves – how so much of it is locked away in a vault marked sort of private for the eyes of ministers and officials only.

I think this is ridiculous. It’s your money, your government, you should know what’s going on.

So we’re going to rip off that cloak of secrecy and extend transparency as far and as wide as possible. By bringing information out into the open, you’ll be able to hold government and public services to account. You’ll be able to see how your taxes are being spent. Judge standards in your local schools and hospitals. Find out just how effective the police are at fighting crime in your community.

Now I think that’s going to do great things. It’s certainly going to save us money.

With a whole army of effective armchair auditors looking over the books, ministers in this government are not going to be able to get away with all the waste, the expensive vanity projects and pointless schemes that we’ve had in the past.

We saw what happened with MPs’ expenses once they were put online, out in the open. No one will ever be so free and easy with public money again.

But it’s not just about efficiency and saving money. I also think transparency can help us to re-build trust in our politics. One of the reasons people don’t trust politicians is because they think we’ve always got something to hide.

Well, by the time we’ve finished, there will be far fewer hiding places.

We’re making a start by publishing details of public spending over the past 12 months, information about hospital infections, and some of the salaries of senior officials in government.

They are just tiny, tiny steps down the road of transparency.

The first information we’re publishing won’t be perfect, it won’t always be in the most convenient format, and I’m sure there’ll be some mistakes. But I don’t want to hang around making sure everything is perfect – I want to get on with it, to make a start on this transparency revolution that we’re planning.

In time, I want our government to be one of the most open and transparent in the world.

We’re making a small start. But eventually, it’s going to make a big difference.

People will be the masters. Politicians the servants. And that’s the way it should be."
The podcast, spoken by David Cameron personally, is available at the 10 Downing Street website

01 June 2010

Freedom of Information

Staffordshire County Council has decided to pay Nick Bell, its chief executive, £195,000 every year.

That is about £1,000 a week more than its Derbyshire County Council neighbour.  The chief executive there is Nick Hodgson.

Simon Baker, who acts as chief executive to two councils, gets £151,000 a year.  Each council pays half towards the cost, just under £76,000 per council.  The two councils are Staffordshire Moorlands and High Peak Borough Council.

Supporting transparency, new prime minister David Cameron today pledged to 'rip the cloak of secrecy' from local government and other areas where ordinary taxpayers have suffered the costs of mismanagement and dishonesty in the past.

Mr Cameron is a Conservative, leading a coalition including the Liberal Democrat party, and the Freedom of Information Act was a Labour government measure.

The forces of transparency in public life continue to make good progress against the opposition.

Supporters of secrecy and wrongdoing - and confidential meetings behind closed doors in town halls - continue to be on the defensive.  Some of them are having to try to devise new ways of stopping embarrassing  facts and information from reaching the public.  A simpler, easier and much cheaper way forward is just to be honest.

27 May 2010

72,000 People, No Desk

Our new MP Andrew Bingham has started his weekly column in the local papers and already there is a noticeable difference from his predecessor Tom Levitt's efforts.

Mr Bingham represents about 72,000 people.  That is the number of voters, including many people who pay tax, in the High Peak constituency.

Mr Bingham has tried to start work efficiently and effectively.  There is no desk.  Regarding the mother of parliaments, he says 'The sight of MPs working on their knees or in the cafeteria is not unusual.'

What kind of inept organisation has Mr Bingham walked into?

Mr Bingham has reported the situation honestly.  Tom Levitt's newspaper column would probably have said that Labour was the party of no desks, the message of no desks must be carried far and wide, hard-working families were on the side of a no-desk policy, and that he for one was proud of the government's innovative no desks scheme.

Letter From A Well-Dressed Clown

The letter from outgoing Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne to his successor, written after 13 years of Labour rule, has become notorious:

"I am afraid to tell you that there's no money left." 

This clown has form.  When he made it to a new cabinet post in 2008, Liam Byrne's 11 page list of do's and don'ts for civil servants was called 'Working with Liam Byrne'.  In it, Mr Liam Byrne declared:

"Coffee/Lunch. I'm addicted to coffee. I like a cappuccino when I come in, an espresso at 3pm and soup at 12.30-1pm.

"The room should be cleared before I arrive in the morning. I like the papers set out in the office before I get in. The white boards should be cleared.

"If I see things that are not of acceptable quality, I will blame you."

Mr Liam Byrne, 40, even dictates what font size briefing notes should be in, and insists that they should take up no more than one sheet of paper.

Mr Liam Byrne also warns the staff: "Never put anything to me unless you understand it and can explain it to me in 60 seconds," and he goes on: "I am often not very clear or my writing is illegible. If I'm in the middle of thinking about something, I might ask you to come back – don't be put off by this."

Mr Liam Byrne also displays a near obsession with manipulating the media:

"We need to produce a grid . . . outlining [the] story of the week. Once something has been slotted into a grid, my expectation is it will be delivered. Moving something from a grid slot is a very, very big deal."

Mr Liam Byrne says he has an "open door" policy – but it is hard to know when civil servants could see him. "It's your job to keep me to time. It's rude for me to draw meetings to a close. I like 10 minute then 5 minute warnings. You need to know what I'm doing next."

Contacting Mr Liam Byrne out of hours is not easy. "BlackBerry best. Fax to constituency office/home if not urgent. Never rely on me looking at text/email."

18 May 2010

Trespass Man

'Harnessing an event of the past to boost yourself in the present.'  That is a chapter in the Politician's Book of Tricks.

When the world war was over, the new government of 1945-1951 created National Parks on the American and Swedish models.  The modernising of British society, following defeat of fascism in Europe and militarism in the far east, was inevitable.  A National Health Service and bringing the Bank of England under public ownership were main policies towards this objective.

On a recent visit to this area Labour leadership candidate David Miliband (above right) unwisely joined in with a couple of local Labour politicians who were harnessing an event in the past to boost themselves in the present.  This was a so-called 'mass trespass' which had happened one day long ago.

The politicians were trying to claim that this day out on the local hills in 1932 is the reason we have national parks.  It would be just as realistic to say that Hitler is the reason we have a motorway system.

Anyway, there is now a picture in the public domain of current Labour Party leadership contender David Miliband holding a poster that appears to encourage trespassers and trespassing.

10 May 2010

The Door

"Knock knock"

"Who's there?"


"Gordon who?"

"A week's a long time in politics"

My Vote Is Worth Considerably More Than Yours

It's not just here in England that electors and taxpayers are short-changed at the polling booth by a mad electoral system.  Californian Steve Chessin's elevator pitch in support of Fair Votes goes along the following lines:

The principle of Proportional Representation is this:

majority rule, with representation for the electoral minority.

Power is allocated in proportion to the way people vote:

60% of the vote gets you 60% of the seats, not all of them;

and 20% of the vote gets you 20% of the seats, not none of them.

There are two key ingredients to PR:

you have to elect more than one person from a district, and;

you have to allocate the winners in proportion to the vote.

09 May 2010


As the three Leaders continue fluttering their eyelashes at each other, a few of the points that have emerged from last Thursday's general election:

Fair Votes.  This is the new name for proportional representation.  No reform of our rotten, utterly discredited politics will get far if a person's vote in one constituency continues to be worth substantially less than a person's vote in a different constituency.  That is the ridiculous situation under 'First past the post'.

Doors slamming shut on queues of people who want to cast their vote but aren't able to.  The UK needs an Electoral Commission that runs elections, not one that issues unclear guidance to harassed local government officers. It should employ election staff directly, and its chief executive must be answerable for future foul-ups.

Private financier Lord Ashcroft, nicknamed 'Blofeld' in Conservative Central Office, is reportedly furious with David Cameron.  As in "Big Society?  What the **** are you talking about?"

Speaking of the good Lord, we can't have a national political system where a party with wealthy backers only needs to target the few hundred votes that matter: the ones in the marginal constituencies.  This is a clear sign that the English political system is rotten and that reform is necessary.

Women represent about 65% of the workforce (not always waged) and about 20% of the members of the new Parliament.

The Liberal Democrat campaign took gracefully to the air early on, due to the power of television.  Until scrutiny was given to a policy of rewarding illegal immigrants with an amnesty and various rights and entitlements.  Good luck with selling that policy to law-abiding citizens.

07 May 2010

Go Back To Your Constituencies - And Prepare For Transparency!

The election results are known and Andrew Russell Bingham (Conservative) and Janet Maria Carter (Liberal Democrat) are the winners in this area.  One of the Independent candidates can go back to watching Loose Women in his underpants while eating Rice Krispies out of the packet.

This site is a part of the phenomenon of 'citizen journalism with the goal of improving standards and honesty in public life'.

Two things have come together to create this major recent improvement to the democratic process in England: the dramatic, shocking exposure of the systematic long-term abuse of parliamentary expenses; and the continuing spread and reach of the internet.

It is the public - through tax - that pays for the things that political parties do.

It is the public that would pay the price for everything that political parties promise, if the promises are kept.

The open exchange of information has a positive impact on the world.  Transparency in public life leads to honesty.

Transparency is not a party political thing.  That is, unless the party in question supports the concealment or suppression of information that the public is entitled to.  If a politician or public employee does so, then a political party that supports the concealment - or covers up on their behalf - justifiably has to take the consequences.

29 April 2010

General Election Form Guide - Update

This is an update to the original early guide, now that all the candidates are known. There have been two additions to the general election list for the High Peak constituency, both standing under the ‘independent’ banner.
Tony Alves

What have Joanna Lumley, Cliff Richard, Paddy Ashdown and Spike Milligan got in common? Indian!

Tony Alves, also born in India, joined the electoral list at the last minute. He claims to be a ‘Newmillian’. This is because he’s lived there for all of 12 years. Just try telling the locals that ‘12 years’ is the qualification period: some of them don’t know the Urban District Council has been abolished.

Slightly disturbing that he claims to know about finance yet states in his literature ‘the selling of our gold reserves at a fairly low yield’ when the correct term is price. (‘Yield’ has a specific meaning in investment terms).

States that the reason for his late entry is ‘total disillusionment’ with the political system of this country on a number of counts. Well don’t stand on one leg while you’re in that queue.

Seems to have his heart in the right place, and as the foreword to Local Council Administration puts it, here’s to ‘The knowledgeable amateur without whom democracy is impossible’.

Lance Dowson

There are only good points to this politician's candidature for the Houses of Parliament.  There is a rich, rich background here that could only be done justice with the help of specialist literature.

Fiercely critical of voters, this politican has even taken one of them to the Standards Board (Stephen Sharp, who resigned as a High Peak councillor on 3 March, only for the council to receive a long and spiteful complaint about him from Lance Dowson on the 8th of March).

In another brush with a voter, he had the voter arrested on a trumped-up charge of ‘harassment’. The voter was released when an abusive email sent from Lance Dowson’s computer was taken to the police station.*

Politician Lance used to be an acting extra, and sightings in TV productions like Hollyoaks have been reported.  People in the public area at town council meetings have also benefited from Lance's performance art, with mild facial gurning or expressions of shocked disbelief to the gallery being a speciality.  This is strictly during those very rare interludes in council meetings when he is not speaking or trying to attract the Chair's attention because he is not speaking.

When not wasting valuable police time or acting, politician Lance has other interests that he mentions in his election literature.

The first one is a helpline for battered men.

He also refers to the cosmetic surgery helpline that he runs, for yet more ‘victims’. This time it’s boob jobs and implants etc, etc. Any complainant should present their cleavage, and Cllr Dowson will look into it.

* A print of the email was taken to Buxton police station, 12 August 2008.  It had been concealed from the police by politician Lance Dowson, in order that an arrest of a member of the public would be made at his request.  The arrested person was released from custody instantly when the email (which had been sent from Cllr Dowson's personal computer) was presented to the Crown Prosecution Service

28 April 2010

Council Leader and Finance Officer Flee Public Scrutiny at Town Meeting

Uproar at the Annual Town Meeting of New Mills.

This year’s statutory town meeting was held on Monday 26 April. It was very well attended in the large public hall, with all age groups represented including a great turn-out of youngsters.

The meeting made its placid progress through all the things that the local electors are concerned about. But then, after about 25 minutes, an innocent set of questions was asked that produced an extraordinary and very curious result.

The member of the public who put the questions was distinguished former councillor and chairman (two times) of the council L Gordon Allen. Very well-known in the area, he has been retired from formal public life for a while but still takes an interest. He is the father of Lynn Cardwell, who stood for the Labour Party at the last County Council elections.

Mr Allen's simple questions:

“There’ve been allegations of a local council fraud in the past. The indications are that the allegations are about New Mills. So I’m asking the Council: which property is allegedly involved; who is being accused; have any investigations or legal actions taken place; or are any planned.”
The chairman of the meeting, Cllr Huggy Hawley, answered sincerely and as best as he could. The response did not satisfy Mr Allen, who came back with:

“Mr Chairman. This is in the public domain. This is on the internet. This is on the site… I don’t like mentioning the site… but it’s a High Peak site and I’ll leave it at that. If a council is being accused of wrong-doing, we should know about it. We shouldn’t be knowing about it through an anonymous person… who I’m going to hand the microphone to now.”
The unusual but charming end to the speech was because Transparency’s editor, Steve McAllister, had appeared at Gordon Allen’s side with the answers to his questions. As the questions were being answered one by one, three councillors and one town council employee were trying to stop the facts getting out.

The cries from the members of the public - the electors who actually pay for all of this - were getting louder and louder among the escalating attempts to shut down the discussion: “No, we want to hear this” “Shut up” “Don’t you tell me to shut up” “This is a public interest matter” “Close down this debate. Close down this debate!” “You sit down” and so on.

The astounding sight of Tony Ashton, Leader of the Borough Council, and the two other Conservatives who voted in secret for spending the public’s money on the legal bills, leaving during the hubbub as fast as their dignity would allow, will stay long in the memory of all who were present. Hot on their heels, reaching the door almost as quickly as they did, was Mrs Susan Stevens.

Mrs Susan Stevens is New Mills town council’s responsible financial officer.

Seeing his colleagues flee the meeting, Councillor Lance Dowson took control and the microphone: “It’s really very, very complicated” he lamely tried to tell the audience, who had watched in some astonishment. No it isn’t. It's far from complicated.  It is very simple indeed. It’s about corruption and dishonesty in that town hall, before the local elections of 2007.

The Town Meeting continued, and many pleasant things were discussed, including the young people of this part of the High Peak now at long, long last getting a location for their new skate park and BMX track. Provided, of course, that councillors or random local busybodies do not mess it up for them.

25 April 2010

Conservatives Back Cover-up Over Land Fraud

High Peak Borough Council Leader Tony Ashton has supported a cover-up of one of the most serious cases of dishonesty in High Peak public life.

The trail starts with Cllr Ashton’s Borough Council colleague Ian Huddlestone. He went to see a solicitor on Wednesday 3 March 2010. Cllr Huddlestone knows that serious past wrongdoing in a local town hall will be exposed in a new book.

Instead of seeing the lawyer on his own account, which he is entitled to do, Labour councillor Huddlestone used the name and credit account of the New Mills Town Council.
Before you could say bald MP’s hairdryer, the time billing had got to £1,800. A partner in the legal firm had even charged on the time-sheet for listening to the BBC’s coverage of the land at the centre of the scandal on Radio 4’s You and Yours programme.

Borough Cllr Huddlestone is a postman. He didn’t mind seeing the solicitor, in an attempt to cause difficulties for the new book, but he didn't want to pay the large bill he was running up.

Conservative councillors Mark Gadd, Jacqui Gadd, and Tony Ashton were then presented with the idea of using public money to pay for it. This was in the ‘confidential’ part of a New Mills town council meeting.  The meeting was held on 12 April 2010. The public were excluded from the meeting before this issue was raised.

The original land fraud took place several years ago. On being invited to fund the contemporary cover-up, Conservative councillor Jacqui Gadd’s first contributions to the discussion were instructive: “Can’t we just agree to pay it?” she asked twice.

Cllr Tony Ashton initially appeared wiser, and counselled against getting involved with litigation in the matter. He then came out with the bizarre and utterly wrong pronouncement about the book’s author: “If he got marched off to jail for failing to apologise he’d probably regard that as a victory”. Cllr Ashton had not read the book in question, but this proved no barrier to offering an opinion on it or voting to spend the public’s money in respect of trying to suppress it.

As the council meeting progressed, realisation started to dawn on Cllr J Gadd: “Are we being billed for something we haven’t asked to be done?”

Following the general agreement among the Conservative councillors that the public's money would be used for this purpose, Cllr Lance Dowson then noticed that no council resolution had been made in order to ensure that it would be spent as he wanted.  Lance Dowson is referred to in the book.

In response Conservative councillor Mark Gadd, who is a personal friend of Lance Dowson, said “I’ll propose it.” Cllr Jacqui Gadd, another personal friend, said “I’ll second it,” and the three Conservatives voted on the resolution in favour.

Cllr Dowson was again deeply concerned: there was still a risk that the public’s money might be kept safe, rather than being wasted on this unlawful book repression exercise: “Are we quorate for voting… have we got a quorum?” he was anxious to know.

Conservative Councillor Tony Ashton replied “We’ll work our way around it.”

The Chairman banged the gavel and declared the meeting closed.

The book?  It’s about England and it’s about honesty in public life.

Les Tricoteuses

The following was sent in by Reimer, who lives in/near Glossop.   Originally intended as just a 'comment', it goes into sufficient detail to deserve its own posting.  Similar reviews and articles always welcome:

Just got back from election hustings in Central Methodist Chapel, Glossop.

For a constituency that's ostensibly up for grabs, only the Tories seem to be serious about gaining High Peak, judging by the quality of the candidates as public performers.

The UKIP lady didn't show, so she must really care a lot (her place taken by David Phillips, UKIP's Chesterfield man). LibDem man seems very nice but doesn't convince. Green Party man is the kind of wild-eyed fanatic who'd be more at home in some London borough town-hall, or failing that, condemning enemies of the therapeutic State to Madame Guillotine's care. Bingham is slick and personable (wish he was standing for UKIP). And Labour lady's candidacy tells you a lot about the character of the party. No explanation for the absence of the Independent candidates.

First time for me at such an event : the Left-ish/Internationalist tenor of public questions and comments (held in a church of course) chimed with my perception of the town as a bolt-hole for bien pensant twerps... or do these types always dominate public meetings?

UPDATE by High Peak Transparency editor 7 May 2015:

Sheila Hall, the UKIP candidate at the 2010 general election, has been in touch and made it clear that in the run-up to this 2010 election she had a serious family health problem to contend with, and this is the reason she missed the husting referred to in the above article.  Sheila did however carry out all the other functions of a candidate including leafleting, doorstep calls etc.

UKIP will shortly be selecting their candidate for the 2015 general election

18 March 2010

Vulnerable Empty Property: Now Entering Second Decade

There was recently another fire at Torr Vale Mill.  The wrangling over this property, and interference in the owner's proposals for sensitive restoration, is fast becoming reminiscent of two bald men fighting over a comb.

The works closed in 2000.  Plans were set out for the mill's complete refurbishment, financed mainly by an enabling development of new homes on the owner's adjoining land.

The local anti-development brigade stepped in - this was in the year 2002 - and the new houses were vetoed.  This meant that the project to restore the mill could not go ahead.

A few years later, metal thieves were apprehended leaving the site.  Birds have taken up residence high up in the structure.  The latest fire - a conflagration of the entire mill was only stalled in the nick of time - was earlier this year.

It's now got a tree growing out of the brickwork, as well as various other vegetation breaking up the structure.

All of these problems have one root and they stem back to the year 2002:  in certain parts of High Peak at that time, the attitude was that everybody's got 'rights' apart from the actual owner.

Photograph 'Torr Vale Mill' by Karl Sinfield.  Exhibition website http://www.walkinghome.co.uk/

Karl Sinfield's Commercial Design website:  http://sinfield.org/

25 February 2010

The Knight In Shining Armour

Conservative councillor John Haken of Simmondley is all charm.

In his regular letter to the Buxton Advertiser, this week he attacks the LibDem PPC Alistair Stevens because he dared criticise Labour's Caitlin Bisknell.  Cllr Haken calls this 'grandiose arrogance'.

Chivalrously, the gallant Cllr Haken springs to the immediate defence of the damsel in distress:
"Whilst in my opinion she is plodding and ineffective, I have never doubted her principles."


23 February 2010

Reddish Conservative Club

High Peak Transparency is gratified by the number of emails received since emerging from the pre-election hibernation.  One, however, was not so welcome.  It arrived shortly after 09:42 on 23 February 2010:
"Dear BT Customer:

We've noticed that there has been some unsuccessful login attempt to your BT email account

After three unsuccessful attempts to access your email, your email Profile has been suspended. This has been done to secure your email account and to protect your private information. BT is committed to making sure that your information are secure.

To unlock your email profile, and verify your email identity please follow this link and sign in"
The email then presented a sign-in box, to give the password details.  It purported on screen to be http://www.bt.com/email/login.  But the link to which the password was to be sent was in fact a different address, covered up by the above alias.

On digging into 'properties' of the email, the sender of the email was established as belonging to someone at a local Conservative Club.  The actual email address, hidden behind 'BT Online' in the email's header, is reddishcons.club@btconnect.com

George Agdgdgwngo, Fonejacker's perrenial seeker of personal passwords and bank account details pictured above, appears to have a relative at Reddish Conservative Club.