19 March 2014

Dishonest Postman Leaves Meeting Room - Pristine Green Fields Saved

Last night's extraordinary meeting of High Peak Borough Council was held to discuss and vote on Local Plan progress for this area.

The local papers on Thursday should carry the more detailed reports of the meeting, and formal press releases and meeting minutes etc will appear on HPBC's official website in due course.

In the meantime, here is an informal sketch of impressions gathered during the meeting:

It's the screaming baby that gets the attention

It appears the principal purpose of most Borough councillors in this area is to stop new homes for people to live in. There are some noble exceptions, but that is the generality.

The councillors and their friends have homes to live in. Most of them appear to see their priority as stopping others having the same basic human right so far as this area is concerned.

The homeless, the local young people who cannot afford somewhere of their own to live, the poor people.  These are all voiceless, or don't know how to make their voices heard. In practice they are therefore largely ignored by most local councillors.

Instead, councillors give attention only to the comfortable and noisy nimby lobby. They give the impression that nimbys and their inflated house prices appear to be the God that is worshipped by many - not all - of the High Peak Borough Councillors.

The national picture and a failure in social justice

That is the local picture.  Nationally, what has happened in recent years is as follows.

The Labour government of 1997-2010 did two long-term things that, taken together, led to the national housing crisis we have today and to the High Peak local councillors finding themselves in the difficulties currently presented to them by the planning framework.

During the Blair government, green zealots heavily influenced all planning and environment policies. The rules governing new home building were tightened and tightened by the influence of the green lobbies. In the end, the new homes being built nationally fell to as low as 80,000 per year.

At the same time, Labour recklessly dismantled the barriers to entering this country. Uncontrolled mass immigration rose and rose, and soon was running at 300,000 net immigrants per year. Not in total. Every year.

Labour government policies meant that the number of people living in the country kept increasing, and the house-building kept reducing.

If you take those two policies together in a relatively small country like this for two or three years, what do you get?  A shortage of homes for people to live in.  If you keep those policies for 13 years - the period of the last Labour government -  what do you get?

Dire shortage and a full-on national housing crisis, especially for young people and the working poor.

That part of the public who turned up

So the public area of last night's High Peak council meeting was like a Nuremberg rally for middle class nimbys. Councillors who objected to new homes were cheered wildly and applauded  from the public area.

For example, a relatively tiny number of noisy people from Whaley Bridge with placards claimed to represent the whole town of Whaley Bridge. Clearly they don't.

A succession of public speakers said they did not want houses to be built. Unfortunately, they were not made to declare if they lived in a house or not.

Councillors, votes, and unparliamentary language

Former songwriter Godfrey Claff
Councillor Claff was allowed by the chairman to say a particular word ("b***s") several times. He used it in a saying about hearts and minds that he attributed to former president Richard Nixon. He liked saying it so much that he repeated it.

After a while, Cllr Claff decided the meeting hadn't heard the b-bomb word for too long, so he dropped it again.

Several councillors bemoaned the following utterly ridiculous situation: High Peak tries to settle its local plan, then government planning guidance suddenly and utterly changes course - even while High Peak's plan is being carefully drafted. So a lot of the work and time is wasted.

Last night, the Local Plan got changed in respect of a big development that was proposed for Laneside, New Mills. The change happened by the narrowest of margins.

Due to dishonest Labour councillor Ian Huddlestone having declared an interest in this matter, he had to leave the meeting room.  All his Labour colleagues voted to build on the pristine greenfield land at Laneside. The rest of the councillors (Tory, LibDem, Independent) voted against.

The vote was equal. If Dishonest Ian Huddlestone had been present, he would have voted with all his Labour party colleagues and the Laneside field owner would this morning have his lottery ticket. But Dishonest Ian Huddlestone was outside the room and could not vote.

Candidate for Audiobooks
So the chairman Cllr Tony Kemp, who has a lovely speaking voice, had to make a casting vote.

Cllr Kemp voted against the Laneside proposed development.

Cllr Kemp's voice is so good that he should be offered jobs reading for audio-books.

Dishonest Ian Huddlestone was then able to return to the council meeting.

Beauty sleep requirements obviously meant that this reporter left the council meeting at 11:00pm. That is eleven o'clock at night. Yes, councillors were attending a meeting at that time. The meeting had begun at 7:15pm.

The councillors hadn't even started on dealing with the Buxton part of the local plan. We await hearing what time they finished, and the further details of their deliberations.

There's nowhere to build any houses

12 March 2014

Town Hall: Situations Vacant

At last night's New Mills town council meeting local resident Mr Tony Lawton, in the public speaking session, rightly complained that there were a lot of errors in the advertisement on the directgov website for vacancies at New Mills town hall.

There are currently two vacancies at New Mills Town Council. The following notices are from the town council's own website, where the absolutely outrageous multiple typos and errors of the directgov website advert have not been replicated:

Town Clerk

Job description:

25 Hours per week Monday - Friday between 9.00am - 5.30pm

New Mills Town Council is looking for a capable and constant Town Clerk. Previous experience is essential and a CILCA qualification would be advantageous. You will need to have an excellent understanding of Council process, have previously dealt with councillors from a range of political parties and will have managed a small team.

New Mills Town Council has undergone massive organisational transformation; therefore you will need to be able to build rapport, have excellent communication skills and be able to work within a challenging political arena for the betterment of New Mills' wider community.

You must be able to demonstrate a working knowledge of Town Council process, policy and correct procedure to correctly advise the Councillors at New Mills. A strong independent character with a good sense of humour would suit this role.

Handwritten cover letters and CVs to be forwarded for the attention of Deborah Garratt, Clerical Assistant, New Mills Town Council, Town Hall, Springbank, New Mills, High Peak, Derbyshire. SK22 4AT

Heritage Centre Administrator

Job description:

Up to 15 Hours per week Monday - Saturday between 8.30am - 6.00pm

New Mills Town Council is looking for a capable and competent administrator and organiser, to assume responsibility for the overseeing of the Heritage Centre.

This role requires a flexible and dynamic attitude as you will be coordinating the existing team dealing with the museum collection, organising volunteers, reporting and updating to both  New Mills Town Council, which is the Governing Body, and the Management Committee. You will also be responsible for cash handling, stock taking and locking and unlocking the premises on a rota basis which you will be responsible for organising and coordinating.

This is a very challenging and exciting role and previous commercial experience would be advantageous. Any previous experience in dealing with museum exhibits would also be beneficial but is not essential.

Handwritten cover letters and CVs to be forwarded for the attention of acting Town Clerk Lesley Bramwell, New Mills Town Council, Town Hall, Springbank, New Mills, High Peak, Derbyshire SK22 4AT

For both vacancies:

All applications to be received by Midday on Monday 24th March 2014.

Interviews will commence Monday 31st March 2014

Critical error in advertisements

Here is the contact address that has been used on the direct.gov adverts (this text is directly copied from the adverts):

"Handwritten cover letters and CVs to be forwarded for the attention of acting town clerk Lesley Branwell, Springbank, High Peak, SK22 4AT"

Notice anything missing from this important postal address?  A full, correct address is key to getting in a decent array of good applications and CVs from an advertisement.

The advertisement errors should be urgently corrected, especially the incomplete and incorrect address of the prospective employer, and consequently consideration should be given to the deadline for applications being extended.

11 March 2014

Town Council Announcement re Disciplinary Hearings Conclusion

An earlier announcement in a different country, unconnected with the High Peak

At last night's New Mills town council meeting, taking place on Monday 10 March 2014, a statement was read out to the meeting which contained the following information:

"On 14 February 2014, the Disciplinary Appeal Panel offered their final outcome.  This followed lengthy and unnecessarily protracted delays not of this council’s making.

This external appeal panel upheld the original decision of the council's internal disciplinary hearing panel. The decision was to terminate the contracts of employment of two staff.

Their final decision was unanimous.

The next stage will be Employment Tribunal.  At this time, NMTC are engaging with the legal team to put together the case to be heard at Employment Tribunal.

Once the dates have been set, councillors will be updated accordingly along with any need for further supporting information, statements or calling of witnesses."


The above announcement that was made at the council meeting appears entirely factual. It is on a subject that is a matter of public interest.

Factually, the two staff who were dismissed from the council's employment for gross misconduct - and who appealed against that decision - were the former town clerk of New Mills and a clerical assistant working at the New Mills town hall. This is a matter of public interest. It is also information that is in the public domain.

It is a fact, with many witnesses present, that in the town council meeting referred to above Councillor Alistair Stevens asked for this item to be not dealt with in the public part of the meeting. However, the other councillors refused to hear the announcement in Part 2 of the meeting, which is the confidential part of council meetings at which the public is excluded. Council meetings are matters of public interest.

The public proceedings of an Employment Tribunal hearing have absolute privilege and therefore are immune from claims of defamation.

In view of recently threatened defamation proceedings against HPT Editor, the writing style in the articles on this site - which are virtually all on matters of public interest - may appear a bit more laborious from now on.

08 March 2014

Councillor Standards of Conduct: Senior Officer to Address Council Meeting In Public

Many of High Peak Transparency's posts concern the standard of conduct of local councillors.

Councillors are individuals who represent the public. All their activities and statements while in office are matters of public interest.

Some individuals have behaved very well, some individuals have behaved very badly, and some have a mixed record.

In New Mills at least one councillor has broken the law, during council meetings and while inside the council chamber.

The next meeting of New Mills town council will hear from Mark Trillo, who is High Peak Borough Council's Monitoring Officer.

The monitoring officer is the public official charged by the law to monitor and maintain high standards of conduct by councillors.

The meeting is at New Mills town hall on Monday 10 March 2014, commencing at 7:30 pm.  Mr Trillo's presentation and questions and answers will be near the start of the meeting. Therefore, members of the public who only want to be present for that session may do so and then leave the meeting to carry on with the rest of its business.

Other notable public interest matters at this meeting are:

Item 24 on the agenda: "Charities - feedback - Cllr Stevens".

If Councillor Alistair Stevens will satisfactorily clear up the large amount of missing or inaccessible money that happened while this councillor was a trustee of the charity*, and if the money is returned to the purposes for which it was donated to the charity, then it goes without saying that we shall be pleased to report all the circumstances of this recovery of the money for use by the good causes.

Item 26 on the agenda: "Announcement regarding the Disciplinary Appeals - Cllr Gadd"

If the ex-town clerk Mrs Susan Stevens - who was dismissed last year from the office of the town clerk of New Mills for gross misconduct  - has had that dismissal overturned by the independent appeal panel hearing the case, then it goes without saying that we shall be pleased to report all the circumstances of this reinstatement.

*New Mills Higher Education Trust  (registered charity)