31 August 2014

Affordable Homes - The Shame of the High Peak

Government figures have been released which show all recent affordable housing delivery in England, itemised by local authority.

The new data can be found by following this government link.

There are 331 local authorities in England. In delivery of affordable homes for its less well-off citizens, High Peak came near the bottom of the table in joint 309th.

The data is from the Department of Communities and Local Government. It has been published as part of the government's campaign to increase the supply of affordable homes for local people.

The data covers the years 2010-11 to 2013-14.

These dismal figures are the result of letting nimbys have the run of the housing argument. People who desperately need affordable homes are not noisy and organised, like the nimbys are.

29 August 2014

The Complainer - Latest Instalment

It is our sad duty to report that some of a certain local councillor's intimates have been putting the word around that the councillor in question has made a formal complaint against a local police officer.

The officer's alleged failing?  It seems the officer did not do the councillor's bidding when the councillor claimed that a consultant to New Mills town council was defrauding the town council out of some VAT money.

It should be noted here that the councillor is engaged in a known vendetta against the consultant.

In fact, this VAT issue has already been dealt with on High Peak Transparency. Please see What Is The Substance (If Any) In This Claim for the proof that such a fraud against New Mills town council is impossible to have taken place.

We are all for the police being accountable. But causing difficulties for a busy officer, when it is clear that the alleged 'crime' has not been committed, is out of order.

There is also the issue of a local councillor wasting police time.

"Michael, I begged you to get some therapy"

27 August 2014

Stop Press - New Elections in New Mills

High Peak Transparency understands that 10 electors have come forward to demand elections in each of the two seats recently vacated on New Mills town council, and so there will shortly be local elections for those seats.

This is instead of co-option, which is the usual method in these circumstances.

When further information comes in regarding this surprise development, read it here first on High Peak Transparency.

Update (11:49 28 August 2014)

Strangely, New Mills Cricket Club appears to be wildly over-represented on the forms that were sent to High Peak Borough Council demanding that these expensive by-elections be held, so close to the forthcoming general town council election in a few months' time.

The cost will fall on the council taxpayers of New Mills, by way of the local town council having to foot the bill.

Now who can we think of that is both malicious and also harbours a grudge against the local town council?

Update (13:00 28 August 2014)

We understand that at least three councillors are considering whether to convene an extraordinary meeting of New Mills town council.

The reason is that the council taxpayers of New Mills will have to bear the burden of the costs if two  unnecessary extra elections are demanded so close to the forthcoming general town council elections.

Update (22:00 28 August 2014)

An extraordinary town council meeting has been convened for next Wednesday 3 September.  The item on the agenda is:

'For Council to agree the setup and, if necessary, the printing of polling cards for the forthcoming election in New Mills for the vacant seats of Ollersett and Whitle and the associated costs.'

25 August 2014

What Is The Substance, If Any, In This Claim?

Anonymous claims have been made to this website about the VAT accounting of a business that has acted as a consultant to New Mills Town Council.

The intention behind the anonymous claims appears to be to try to damage the reputation of the business. By doing this, the anonymous person(s) hope to smear or cause difficulties for the town council.

There is also gossip on the same subject being spread by some of the Hall Street Jokers, gossip which at the current time is completely unsubstantiated. Note to new readers: ‘Hall Street Jokers’ is the informal term that has emerged for the small clique which blindly supports the former New Mills town clerk Susan Stevens, who was dismissed due to her gross misconduct in office, and the discredited New Mills councillor Alistair Stevens.

Here is a representative example of the comments received on this subject:

‘Never mind the Stevens witch hunt shouldn't somebody be doing something about ***** defrauding the Council by not being VAT registered but adding it to invoices’

The reason this comment and ones like it weren't published by HPT at the time they were received is that the central assertion in it is a nullity.

The correct logic is followed through below, step by step, to enable proper understanding of the validity or otherwise of the claim:

1. New Mills Town Council (‘NMTC’) is VAT registered.

2. When NMTC receives invoices with VAT charged on them, those invoices go in the Inputs part of NMTC’s VAT Return to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs ('HMRC').

3. When NMTC issues an invoice charging VAT on the supply of services, that invoice goes in the Outputs part of the VAT Return.

4. Every quarter, NMTC’s book-keeper compiles a VAT return and sends it to HMRC.

5. Upon receipt of NMTC's VAT return, HMRC makes a Bank Transfer to NMTC. This refunds back to NMTC  the net VAT that has been charged on invoices to NMTC (i.e. net after the VAT that NMTC has charged out on its relevant sales and rentals).

6. Because all net VAT on invoices received is fully refunded to the council, it is therefore literally impossible in the present circumstances to ‘defraud the Council by not being VAT registered but adding it to invoices’.

End of logic argument.

To summarise:

From the point of view of NMTC, the VAT charged on invoices issued to it is reimbursed to it every quarter by HMRC. This is done by way of the VAT Return.

If any reader wants to check the above with a qualified VAT accountant, just ask the accountant about the difference between VAT input tax and VAT output tax.

All taxation affairs of the business concerned - the business that is the target of the anonymous spurious claim - are between it and HMRC. If any further facts emerge on this issue - and they must be facts, not guesswork or malicious assertions that are unfounded - then we will be happy to consider what to do about it.

23 August 2014

Some Of A Councillor's Antics Exposed

Following the last HPT article about Councillor Alistair Stevens lying to HMRC in reference to a Derbyshire small business, demands in the public comments section of High Peak Transparency were made that I check that fact. (The fact being that Cllr Stevens gave a deliberate false statement to HMRC.)

I did indeed definitively check the fact, but following that phone call and publication of Cllr Stevens' false statement to HMRC on this site, a more detailed email has now arrived from Nicki Williams of the genuine Tall Poppies HR and employment consultancy.

The following is the text of the email. (Any words in round brackets are added by the editor to aid new readers of HPT):

"Following on from our brief telephone conversation yesterday morning, I am happy to confirm and be quoted on the following.

"Alistair Stevens is not, nor has ever been a client of Tall Poppies Consultants Learning Training Development [LTD]. If we had been approached to offer services, advice or guidance by any medium from Mr Stevens, it would have been categorically refused.

"Had this occasion arisen we would have, firstly, advised Mr Stevens to approach (his son Jamie) Stevens Esquire whom we understand, from Companies House, is involved within the HR arena and has a consultancy specialising in HR within the (Stevens) family.

"We are able to further confirm that the content attached within this link is factually incorrect. (This is the link to Cllr Stevens statement to HMRC that he is a client of the real Tall Poppies HR consultancy)

"Furthermore, any enlistment of services with Mr Stevens would have been impossible due to the fact New Mills Town Council is one of our existing clients and there would have been a clear conflict of interest given the termination of contract of the, then, Town Clerk, Ms Susan Stevens who is the wife of Mr Stevens.

"As an organisation we are very selective about the clients, or individuals, with whom we work and Mr Stevens would not have passed our stringent selection checks.

"Mr Stevens, in both his personal and professional capacity, has continually intimidated, bullied and harassed individuals within Tall Poppies Consultants making comments amongst others 'that idiot in the back office' to other council members, members of the public, colleagues and peers. None of these reasons would induce any unnecessary involvement with Mr Stevens.

"Having checked New Mills Town Council minutes, we can also confirm that Cllr A Stevens has not been authorised to make applications of this nature, however what is concerning is that part of the information gained to be able to make this application to HMRC has been gained in his capacity as a councillor.

"Actions of this nature are classed as utilising a prejudicial interest and are deliberately intended to further undermine our advice and guidance.

"From the outset of this case, involving Ms Stevens' termination of contract, all we have ever requested is that any or all members of the Stevens family whose actions contributed to the termination of contract offer fact and evidence (in Mrs Stevens' favour) which could have overturned the decision to terminate the contract of employment.

"An independent panel of Clerks, Councillors and an Employment Law Solicitor did not find this to be the case. Upon completion of the pending employment tribunal any and all information disclosed within the legal bundle will become information within the public domain. Therefore any individuals who wish to discover the facts of the case will be able to view all of the evidence and actions taken by all parties involved.

"At this time we have made an official complaint to New Mills Town Council, to High Peak Borough Council, to the Lib Dem Party and to the Police, who are all at various stages of the complaints process, including the police who are currently investigating Cllr Stevens' actions of repeated harassment and third party harassment.

"Our solicitors are dealing with the implications of the numerous allegations for which we intend to pursue Mr Stevens (and if necessary Cllr Stevens) to the fullest extent of the law and make public any inappropriate or unprofessional or criminal actions as part of any ongoing investigations.

"HMRC have also been formally notified of the inaccuracies provided by Mr Stevens along with the facts of the situation.

"Should you have any further questions or queries then please don’t hesitate to contact me directly on... (details)"

21 August 2014

Is It Right For A High Peak Councillor To Lie To Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs?

The latest instalment of a local councillor’s vendetta against a Derbyshire small business is revealed today by High Peak Transparency.


Regular readers will know that the former town clerk of New Mills was sacked for gross misconduct.

The former town clerk is Mrs Susan Stevens. She is married to Alistair Stevens, who is a councillor on New Mills town council which is Mrs Stevens’ former employer.

Among other things, former town clerk Mrs Stevens deliberately, premeditatedly lied to the New Mills councillors in a letter, using the New Mills town council letterhead.

Any honest and reasonable person knows that that is an instantly sackable offence when committed by a person in a public office.

There were also other issues leading to Mrs Stevens’ dismissal, and this will all come out at a forthcoming employment tribunal.

Expert advice sought

In order to navigate the tricky and potentially ruinous waters of both the compensation culture and current English employment law, the council wisely employed a specialist employment consultancy to investigate the wrong-doing and failures of the then town clerk, and to advise the council.

The name of the consultancy is Tall Poppies. This is not to be confused with a fake business using the same name, maliciously set up by Cllr Stevens.

The latest in a long line of incidents

Here is the letter that Councillor Alistair Stevens of New Mills, High Peak, wrote to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs on 5 August 2014:

"Dear HM Revenue and Customs,

I am writing to you as a client of Tall Poppies Learning Training & Development. Despite numerous requests made by myself of the company, so far, no information has been given to me regarding the company and I am now being forced to write to you under the Freedom of Information Act to request the following information:

1. I would like to know WHEN (the exact date), the company (details below), Tall Poppies Learning Training & Development was registered for VAT.

2. I would like to know whether ANY VAT Payments have been made by the company since its registration.

Yours faithfully,

Alistair John Stevens"

Good advice needed

Speaking dispassionately, surely it is now time for:

Firstly, Cllr Stevens’ friends and relatives who have his best interests at heart to now advise him and help him to get the professional psychiatric help that his misguided, obsessive, malicious campaign against the genuine Tall Poppies business clearly shows is needed.

Secondly, Cllr Stevens to resign as a member of New Mills town council.

Is this a person fit for public office?

This article is headed Is It Right For A High Peak Councillor To Lie to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs? 

The reason is that, in his letter, Cllr Stevens is telling HMRC he is a client of the genuine Tall Poppies business.

That is a deliberate, clear, false statement, made by a person in the public office of councillor.

20 August 2014

Idiotic Behaviour Captured For Posterity

A debate recently broke out in the public comments area of High Peak Transparency about the benefits or otherwise of showing of some particular local CCTV footage on social media.

The outcome of the case has now been published by way of an announcement on Derbyshire Constabulary's website. Here is the item in full:

"Two youths have carried out community work in High Lea Park to apologise for causing damage to a number of flower beds.

The youths were suspected of causing extensive damage to two flower beds in High Lea Park on St. Mary’s Road, New Mills and were later identified through CCTV footage.

The incident took place at around 8:30pm on Wednesday, July 23.

The two boys admitted to the damage and in agreement with the park staff, the youngsters and their parents, a Restorative Justice disposal was proposed by officers from the local Safer Neighbourhood policing team.

PC James Taylor from the New Mills and Hayfield Safer Neighbourhood Team said: “This is a great example of how the Restorative Justice scheme can work to find a solution to suit the needs of everyone involved.

“As part of the agreement, the boys attended the park and carried out community work to restore the flower beds. They also apologised to the park staff for their actions, and were spoken to by the manager about the hard work that goes in to maintaining the park to make it a nice place for visitors to enjoy.

“We are always happy to use restorative justice where appropriate, but the final decision always lies with the victim.”

Restorative Justice was brought in by police in April 2009 to enable officers to use their professional judgment to resolve minor crimes swiftly and in accordance with the victims’ wishes.
The crime is recorded as usual but dealt with in a more proportionate way, without the case going through the court process.

To find out more about restorative justice visit the website at www.restorativejustice.org.uk or contact your local Safer Neighbourhood policing team by calling 101, the non-emergency number for Derbyshire police."

The original announcement can be seen at:


19 August 2014

Improvement And Those Who Would Obstruct It

Some notable items of news emerged from last night’s New Mills town council meeting. What follows is a summary, which may be updated as further details come in:

A matter of record

The law has bowed to the inevitable and caught up with reality. This was the first council meeting at which recording by councillors and the public could be done openly, rather than the recorders being out of sight as previously. Very refreshing.

The results of a councillor’s campaign of harassment

The town council’s acting Responsible Financial Officer (‘RFO’) has suddenly resigned.

The last straw for this gentleman in his employment at the town hall appears to have been that a councillor barged into his office without notice and demanded various things. This was after many similar demands for information made to the RFO and not to the council.

This same councillor has also been harassing the town clerk of New Mills.

The councillor has been ordered by High Peak Borough Council to apologise to a female councillor (Cllr Gwyn Bowers) and to the town clerk, Ms Lesley Bramwell.

Despite this same councillor having threatened defamation proceedings against the editor of High Peak Transparency, we have no hesitation in naming the delinquent as Cllr Alistair Stevens of New Mills.

The RFO has left the building

The announcement was made by the town clerk and the Chair, who said ‘The RFO has left the building’.

Younger readers may not be familiar with the origin of this phrase. At the end of concerts by Elvis Presley, a singer who started out looking like a young god and ended up after years of over-consumption grossly overweight and corpulent, it would be announced “Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.”

The announcement was made in order to get his legion of fans to disperse, so the venue could be cleaned up and the staff could go home. “Elvis has left the building. He’s eaten everything else, but he’s left the building.”

Alice in Wonderland

There was some baffling talk about Cllr Alistair Stevens demanding from staff the VAT number of Tall Poppies, the council’s appointed HR consultant.

Councillor Alistair Stevens, who is a member of New Mills town council, denied he was a councillor and claimed he was ‘a member of the public’ when he was demanding the VAT number from council staff.

Dear reader, we must offer our apologies. For we did not realise that councillor Alistair Stevens is not a councillor. You know, what with him being called ‘Councillor’ and everything.

It’s about time

The meeting management was greatly improved on this occasion. There were 32 items on the agenda, and meetings are now time-limited. Here are some of the improvements:

Some of the lengthy formalities previously at the start of meetings were dispensed with last night. It is clearly unnecessary to actually read out verbatim at every meeting the items that always make up numbers 4, 5 and 6 of the agenda. These need to be on the agenda, but they do not need to be read out in full. Indeed, that is how the expression ‘Taken as read’ came into being.

During the meeting, all councillors seemed conscious of the need to consistently make practical progress against a schedule.

Two councillors in particular need crediting in this context. Cllr Lance Dowson did not speak on every item, and when he did speak it was fairly concise. This leaves people coming away with the right impression, and long may it continue. Cllr David Lamb managed the meeting effectively, which is the main part of the job of the chair of a meeting.

Instead of reading out a lengthy Parks Manager’s report, any items requiring decision and/or action were simply placed on the agenda and dealt with there. This is a much more effective use of meeting time.

It also avoids the trap of making decisions on matters that are not specified on the agenda, which would be unlawful.

Specialists are better and cheaper for some things

The council payroll is going to be outsourced to a specialist company.

Some council taxpayers would say that there should not be a large payroll in the first place. However that is a different discussion, concerning the efficiency or otherwise of letting High Peak Borough Council take over the parks in the town.

Payroll now involves Local Government Pension calculations and Real Time Information returns. Delays of even one day now lead to penalties.

It is cheaper to outsource this specialisation than to employ someone for the purpose.

This improvement appears to have been accidentally brought about because of the RFO leaving the building.

A bottle question

Oh, one other thing. As councillors and the public gathered, it looked like there would be a full house of councillors.

However, when the meeting started Cllr Ray Atkins announced that he had just received a phone call: Councillor Alistair Stevens would not be appearing at this meeting of New Mills town council.

15 August 2014

Curious Agenda

With the former town clerk Mrs Susan Stevens being dismissed for gross misconduct, and her friend Dishonest Ian Huddlestone resigning from the town council - giving no explanation - it seemed reasonable to assume that New Mills local government could now settle down and the town would start to have a normal and placid town council.

However, it seems a minority of the town's councillors are bent on causing problems and disruption for the council and for some council staff.

The antics of this minority of councillors impacts badly on the reputation of the town of New Mills.


Some curious matters relating to the agenda for the next town council meeting (18 August 2014) now give cause for concern for those who want this council to continue its recent improvement.

Time management (one)

Firstly, the number of meeting agenda items is 32. We now know that the self-imposed time limit on council meetings is 135 minutes. Given that at least 10 minutes is usually taken up by reading out the the initial public announcements and the public speaking section, that leaves 125 minutes to conduct business.

That equates to 3.9 minutes per agenda item. With the benefit of experience, and with all due respect, that would appear wildly unrealistic.

Bad conduct of some councillors

A significant cause of the council's past problems has been the bad standards of conduct of some councillors. Yet of the items dealing with this issue, one is at the end of the meeting - leaving it vulnerable to being dropped due to time constraint - and one is absent altogether from the agenda.

The agenda item near the end of the meeting is item 29: 'Standards meeting - Mark Trillo - follow up meeting.'

The councillor standards issue that does not appear on the agenda at all is Councillor Alistair Stevens being ordered to apologise for his behaviour towards a female member of town hall staff and a female councillor.

Financial responsibility

The Responsible Financial Officer ('RFO') position is to be advertised.  This new appointment has to be undertaken with great care: getting it right will improve things, getting it wrong will lead to serious trouble ahead.

Accounts for Payment and Payments Received are both "Details to follow" on the published agenda. If this continues it is unfair on both councillors and the public. It is also unlawful - councillors are required by law to have these items well before the relevant meeting.

This is why the RFO position needs settling permanently.

Mystery agenda item

What is to be made of item 17?

This reads: 'Police enquiries / Alistair Stevens and advice needed.'

Time management (two)

The town hall clock urgently needs modernising with a modern electric motor. Either that or abandon the idea of a town hall clock altogether. This issue has come up because agenda item 27 is yet more wasting of large amounts of the public's money trying to maintain an old, obsolete wind-up clock mechanism.  Who today hasn't got either a mobile phone or watch, or both, which show the time as a matter of course.

Is it the Heritage Centre or isn't it?

The World War One machine gun - a terrible yet iconic piece of the town's heritage -  is not being displayed in the town's Heritage Centre.  Rather, it will be in the town hall.

Decisions like that are bound to make the people of New Mills wonder what exactly the Heritage Centre is for, if it is not to display important historical items.

01 August 2014

Every Picture Tells A Story

The following is a censored version of an article which originally appeared on 1 August 2014 and which drew a complaint about naming the factory where the above pictured comment about the High Peak mayor was taken:

One of the pleasant surprises about creating a local politics blog is that people join in, and send in stories and items of interest.

A photograph has just arrived which was taken somewhere in the depths of [name of factory], the High Peak's world famous maker of [delicious confectionery if you are young at heart, and quite good value].

Former New Mills town councillor Alan Barrow, who last year suddenly resigned from New Mills town council giving no explanation, used to be an electrician at [name of factory].

In that capacity he had access to the whole of the factory complex and so was a well known figure around the place.

Now he is Mayor of High Peak, nominated by his friend Dishonest Ian Huddlestone. Both are in the local Labour Party.

The ordinary working man - and Labour voter - is often unimpressed by fellows who seek to rise above their natural station. This phenomenon is captured by the above photograph taken in [a High Peak factory not unconnected with sweets], which we now reproduce without further comment.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this story, we're sure there's a helpline somewhere out there.