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