26 July 2013

A Busy Week in the Council Chamber

The following upcoming council meetings have not been published on the New Mills town council website.  We will therefore provide a public service by giving notice of them here on this site.

On Monday 29 July is an evening 'emergency' meeting inside the town hall.  The two subjects on the agenda are going to be discussed with the public excluded.

On Wednesday 31 July, at 7pm, is an extraordinary council meeting at which the following will be discussed:

Firstly, to receive information regarding some specialist HR/employment consultants who have recently been brought in to advise the council.

Secondly, to appoint an interim Town Clerk and Responsible Financial Officer.

We understand that DALC* stand ready with the necessary specialist advice to ensure that this town council doesn't break the law any more** while the chaotic situation inside the town hall offices is now worked through to a conclusion.

Good luck to Chair of the council Councillor Gwyn Bowers, who was only recently appointed.

*Derbyshire Association of Local Councils

** See previous articles on High Peak Transparency

20 July 2013

Blame Game Nears End Game?

Dramatic new developments in the public life of the town of New Mills, High Peak.

The current town clerk has recently extended her absence from work until September.  Apparently however, this has not stopped her having detailed discussions and negotiations about work with third parties.

No, that isn't the dramatic new development.

Several of the councillors have now received what would appear to be an employment grievance letter, personally naming them.  What on earth is going on here is anybody's guess.

If there were to be a work grievance (real, imagined or contrived), it is often initiated by an employee. The key words in any such dispute are 'employer' and 'employee'.  The only entity an employee has a professional relationship with is his/her employer.

It follows that the recipient of any such grievance notification must surely be the employer in question, which in this case is New Mills town council.

Therefore, we await further information on how it has come about that certain individual local councillors would now appear to be being targeted in this latest development.

The above is hot off the press.

On a related subject we have also heard - from another source - that a very large compensation claim to be made against the local council in the town of New Mills may now be in advanced discussions in certain quarters.

Further developments on this issue are awaited too.

Rest assured loyal readers of High Peak Transparency, you will read the latest instalment in this astonishing saga here first.

11 July 2013

Misconduct In Public Office? Or Old-fashioned Lying and Dishonesty

Two events came together this week to reveal a very interesting fact: there are only five elected members out of the twelve councillors on New Mills town council.

The two events were a very well-attended public gallery at the last town council meeting; and a comment from 'Curious' to this website directly asking for the information about who has been elected and who hasn't.

Attainment of Office

The majority of councillors on this town council have not been elected in a contest.  It will be interesting to hear people's thoughts on that.

For the electoral status of each councillor, please see the Comments area at the bottom of the 'Chaos, as well as Corruption, inside the Town Hall' article.

By whatever means they attained office, each councillor (apart from the chairs of the council and its committee) has exactly the same rights and duties.  Also, some co-opted or non-elected councillors perform better than their elected counterparts.

Proven Dishonesty in Public Office

Coming through a contested election does not make one a 'superior' councillor, as the following example shows.

Labour Party councillor Ian Huddlestone is a dishonest individual.  He is currently an elected councillor, both on New Mills town council and High Peak Borough Council.

When Cllr Huddlestone wanted lies telling to other councillors in New Mills, High Peak, he asked the town clerk to do it for him.  She sent them a letter using the town council official letterhead, telling them Ian Huddlestone's false statement, which she knew was false at the time she was writing it.

The rest of the councillors were indeed taken in by this calculated deception.

The town clerk meanwhile simultaneously wrote a secret letter, which she sent only to Ian Huddlestone, in which she stated the true facts.

This second, secret letter was withheld by the town clerk from the rest of the councillors, and has only recently come to light.

The Public Interest

If the town of New Mills had an honest town clerk in its town hall, the false letter would not have been written.  Any honest person would have said to Labour Councillor Ian Huddlestone: "If you want lies telling to members of this council, do it yourself.  Don't try to involve me."

As previously noted on this website, the town clerk's office in New Mills, High Peak currently handles public money to the tune of almost £300,000 every year.  A large proportion of this sum is sent there direct from High Peak Borough Council.

Do the insurance company providers of New Mills town council's fidelity bond know that this council currently has a dishonest town clerk/Responsible Financial Officer in post?

Should High Peak Borough Council (and its fiduciary insurers) continue to ignore the wrong-doing inside New Mills town hall?

09 July 2013

Free Speech In A Free Society

Mr Tony Lawton of New Mills, High Peak is the father of Jeff Lawton.  Jeff Lawton is currently chairman of the High Peak Conservative Association.  Both the Messrs Lawton help with many community events in the town.  It goes without saying that this is to be commended.

Tony Lawton has become angry at the website High Peak Transparency.  He addressed the New Mills town council on the subject in a recent public participation session.

Here is the record in the council’s published minutes* of his opinion:
‘(Mr Tony Lawton) stated that he had read the High Peak Transparency blog site less than 40 minutes ago and was angry at the nonsense posted on the blog.  There are some Councillors who wish to personalise disputes and get at people and there are Councillors who do their best for the town.
‘There are some appalling accusations on this blog, there are statements that are utterly and totally wrong from his own knowledge and he worries for the Council, Councillors and the Town due to the stirrings from this website and its dangerous reporting which whips up public opinion.’
Now, it is a matter of pride that any factual error anywhere on this website is immediately rectified as soon as it is reported to the website.  It is very rare that an error is reported: the reason is that great care is taken to get the facts right for this blog.

This policy of accuracy has been rewarded with a current page-views total of over 4,000 per month.  Considering that New Mills only has just over 3,000 households, and local politics tends not to be ‘glamorous’ despite its importance to people’s lives, this is an amazing success.

Accordingly, as soon as the town council meeting was over, HPT’s editor rushed to speak to Mr Lawton: “If there are any errors on that site, I must know what they are so they can be corrected or removed.”

Despite his bold claim to the public forum that some statements on High Peak Transparency ‘are utterly and totally wrong’, Mr Lawton declined to identify any errors when invited to do so.

It is relevant to report that, later that evening, a comment came in to this site stating it was an error to say that wood is purchased for the annual town bonfire and HPT was incorrect to say that it was.

This statement was therefore immediately removed from the relevant article.  It had arisen because there was a payment in NMTC’s records to Crabtree’s Haulage in November under the heading ‘bonfire’.

The context was that the current town clerk had ordered the council's staff to deliver logs to her home, using New Mills town council vehicles.  Most councillors - apart from the town clerk's husband Cllr Alistair Stevens - were unaware of this misuse of public property and council staff time.

So the truth of this matter is that a payment was indeed made from public money so wood could be burnt at the town bonfire, but it was paid-for haulage of the wood to be burnt rather than the actual wood.  

However, we are proud of being error-free and rely on the readership - which includes councillors - to promptly notify any error on this site if one were to slip through.  The relevant article was amended because this incoming comment was both valid and factually correct.

Mr Tony Lawton, like everybody else, is totally entitled to his opinion and to express it strongly if he wishes to.

We have printed Mr Lawton’s attack on/disagreement with High Peak Transparency because our English tradition of free speech is so precious.  In the long history of England people have died and been imprisoned so that we all enjoy those liberties today.

* Town council meeting 10 June 2013

07 July 2013

Chaos, as well as corruption, inside the town hall

On Monday 8 July 2013, the next meeting of New Mills town council takes place.  The start time is 7 o'clock in the evening.

This is the council which is currently employing a dishonest town clerk / Responsible Financial Officer ('RFO').

Attendance and communication

The town clerk/RFO is currently not attending the offices at the town hall.

She has refused to meet with certain councillors, but had an effectively open door policy of availability to other, more favoured councillors.

The town clerk/RFO has not attended the council's meetings for some time.  This makes councillors' jobs impossible.

If the town clerk/RFO does not attend more than two or three council meetings in succession, then the New Mills town council cannot function properly.

The public's money at stake

This town council currently takes in nearly £300,000 a year of taxpayers' money.*

This town council currently has its name on the deeds of millions of pounds worth of assets.  However this includes some publicly-owned properties requested using the name of New Mills Town Council that have been wrongfully transferred to it from High Peak Borough Council's assets.  (See Parks, Recreation and the Public's Money)

The record of the meeting

The first item on the agenda is to appoint a minute-taker for the meeting.  A name unfamiliar to most readers of HPT appears as the proposed minute-taker: Mr Barry Wood.

It is understood that most councillors were unaware of the proposed appointment of Barry Wood as minute-taker for this meeting.  We shall learn more at the 8 July council meeting.

This item is at least in the public session of the meeting.

Secrecy behind closed doors

A total of ELEVEN items are listed to be discussed in the confidential part of the meeting, behind closed doors.  This means that members of the public - and therefore the council taxpayers who pay for all this - are to be excluded from the meeting room for the discussions.

So far as can be established, eleven secret items in one meeting is a record for any town or parish council in England.  If anyone knows any different, please let us know.

If this marathon secret session were to now result in a start being made on cleaning up the chaos and corruption inside the town hall offices, then no one will mind too much.  Councils dealing with matters in secret should be an extreme rarity, however.

These recent developments mean that things are now at a historic crossroads in the public life of the town of New Mills.

* Including the grants of public money paid to it from High Peak Borough Council as well as the annual precept taken from the residents of New Mills