Thursday, 22 December 2011

FIT for Purpose

I have found it quite enlightening reading comments from Labour apologists on Twitter - including someone claiming to be a freelance consultant (Read: "Labour stooge") about the Feed in Tariff scheme.

Here's some basic facts.

1) I gave officers a directive to pursue projects to maximise renewable energy and take advantage of the Feed In Tariff scheme. The report presented to Cabinet in August was basically my report which was little changed from the January version
2) I obtained an undertaking from the Head of Finance (Read: new Chief Exec) that any economically viable scheme would be backed with capital financing on the basis of cost benefit analysis.
3) The report was presented in January 2011 with a deadline for action before the 1 August deadline.

That Labour screwed it up and lost 5 months on my original timetable is their problem not the Lib Dems. On my timetable we'd have hit the Government targets and Reading would have been able to implement my initiatives.

I was just as pissed off with the changes at Government level as anyone. That doesn't mean that there is a conflict here. Labour dropped the ball.

I had a "no holds barred" meeting with Reading Friends of the Earth and I think that they were quite clear with my commitment to the green agenda. Ironically, Green support for Labour in Reading has seem a backwards step in promoting the (little 'g') green agenda as their support for the 'green waste' as opposed to the mixed plastic collection shows.

Of course, being annoyed with Government policy doesn't create a conflict with real politics. Reading Labour claimed that they were against the Labour Government's plans to close Post Offices, or renew Trident or kill 250,000 Iraqi civilians.

Unfortunately we didn't get a majority government. I can deal with it. Labour can't. We are punching above our weight. A full Lib Dem government would not be required to take decisions required to keep the Tory nutters under control.

You see when Blair and Brown were screwing over the wishes of Labour members, it wasn't a coalition, it was a full Labour government. Yet, hypocrisy is their raison d'etre. They ceased to be a political party after they abolished Clause 4!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Secret Squirrel

No surprise here but the Labour group just cannot keep their gobs shut.

The latest Labour blabber mouth appears to have given away in a public place..,

http://civicmindedrdg.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/senior-staff-on-the-way-out-at-the-civic/

Senior staff on the way out at the Civic

December 14, 2011
Whilst browsing the supermarket aisles yesterday I happened to overhear something that caught my attention from a nearby Labour councillor – what are the chances! If my ears do not deceive me, the Labour group met in secret a few days ago in a highly confidential meeting, to discuss the “departure” of a very senior member of staff at the council.

Now it would be wrong to comment on the personal circumstances of an individual employee, so I will refrain from doing so, what I will add is that the leading politicians have got “their storyline” well and truly sorted.
The officer in question has “come to the understanding that s/he will be mutually parting ways with the council as soon as possible”. The reasons for this may well be something to do with his/her “lack of support for the council’s transform agenda” – but it’s always more complicated than meets the eye with these local council matters.

Keep your eyes peeled when reading future editions of the local paper, but remember, you read it here first!


Original blog post has now been marked as private.

...the news that certain senior staff are facing the chop. I happen to know what they are planning but I think I owe the civil servants involved a duty of confidentiality so I won't go into further details to reveal personal information. Labour don't appear to give a damn about the feelings of those involved and are prepared to tell all and sundry... or at least the Waitrose supermarket queue.

It is absolutely true that Labour has had a series of meetings which were out of cycle and it was abundantly clear that they were up to something and that something is, it would appear, is to axe officers who they deem as uncooperative.

One thing that has become increasing apparent is that many of the officers who I thought were highly competent have been slipping out the back door. Labour's rain of terror has been taking its toll. I feel sorry for the dedicated officers who were bloody good at their jobs who have decided to take their talents elsewhere.

Now the question, given the nature of their hatchet job on council staff is how far outside the Cabinet have they been leaking things for political ends? We know, for example, that Anneliese Dodds was regularly given pre-briefings about internal council matters before it was announced to elected members and ward councillors so was this a cabinet member or a lowly lick-spittle?

If the former, then it would appear to be a breach of the member-officer protocol and serious disciplinary action could be taken against them.

If it was a non-cabinet member then it would seem to be a prima-facie breach of the member-officer protocol and the cabinet member who leaked it plus the member involved in blabbing could face serious disciplinary action.

And staff haven't seen the end of Labour's hatchet job. I hear that one of the things being done to reinstate the green waste collection (which is a misnomer if ever there was one, being as environmentally dubious as they come) is to decimate curation at the museums in-year, i.e. outside the budget cycle. Yes, under Labour the arts are being slashed to pay for their incompetence at running a budget. It was ever thus if you look into the redundancy figures over the last 10 years.

Of course, the last time a similar senior staffing situation existed at Reading Borough Council we had a catestrophic failure in oversight of the allocation of Section 106 monies because senior staff responsible were too busy to monitor what Labour were up to. during that period. Far from Labour's trumpeting of a "clean bill of health", it was actually found as "impossible to determine" by an independent investigation. Perhaps that's their motivational factor? Get rid of anyone who knows what they get up do and buy a bigger carpet paid for by staff posts to sweep things under.

I find it worrying the exodus of certain capable officers who I had the good fortune to work with. However, after the Green's put Labour back in control, it's not been a case of rats deserting a sinking ship but more one of sensible people deserting sinking rats.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Turing Machine

There's a petition to have an official pardon for Alan Turing.

It's easy to dismiss revisionism as not worthy of consideration. I have some sympathy with that as I am not a fan of the idea of the 'sins of the fathers'. It's very un-Catholic!

However, whilst I firmly believe that we are responsible for our own actions but it doesn't excuse us from understanding history.

When I was 15, one programme made a huge impact on me. Horizon broadcast "Now The Chips Are Down" probably the most life changing TV programme I ever watched.

I was at the time interested in electronics so it wasn't a great leap to venture into the world of computing. But it was a different world then. The MK14 was the height of sophistication. The ZX80 was the stuff of dreams.

I couldn't afford a computer. I wrote programmes and "dry ran" them on paper which was beneficial when I started work with ICL as a kernel dump cracker (think working out from the Microsoft Windows blue screen of death why your PC had crashed and scale it up to a mainframe!)

But as a result of the programme I was responsible for my school starting to run a computer science course which was also also notable because our teacher (David Sayers) hated computers!

So why is Alan Turing such a hero to me?
  • Sure he was involved in Bletchley Park and helped shorten the Second World War.
  • To the LGBT community he is a symbol of persecution and the unjust way society treated people. [Dirk Bogarde in Victim made a similar impact on me when I saw it on TV in the 70s.
These are both important in their own way but not why Alan Turing deserves place amongst the greats. Tim Berners-Lee did good things but he was not as ground breaking as Alan Turing.

Turing was the person who made computer science a science. Separate from mathematics and more akin to philosophy. A real dscipline in it's own right. The World owes him a debt.

Sign the petition. http://t.co/7O5soOUG to honour a real British hero.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Green Deal

It will be very easy post election to work out of there was a deal between the Greens and Labour over Park ward in exchange for allowing them to take control of the council. Follow the money!

How?

Earlier this year, Labour spent the most fighting the election in Park, so now it will be more than interesting to see whether they think putting resources into the ward is a good use of their money. After all, they can pretty much depend on the Greens to roll on their backs and waggle their arms and legs in the air and back them in power whether or not the Greens wish to admit publicly to that agreement. In that respect a penny spent in Park, is a penny wasted for Labour.

This is all the more likely now when, in the least surprising news of the year, Jon Hartley is standing down to spend more time with London. I suspect that many in the Labour group are quietly cheering. Indeed there have to be questions asked as to why he was appointed as a lead councillor to a made up post in the first place. Perhaps the local party didn't want to upset his girlfriend who just happened to be the Chair of the local party.

He's made no impact in the role and given his previous track record when the SACRE committee wanted to chuck him off for failing to attend three meetings in a row you have to wonder whether we were seeing not only nepotism at work but that we will discover that his position was more the result of him having pictures of the rest of the Cabinet in compromising poses!

When it comes to the value for money and service he is meant to have championed, Jon Hartley has failed to deliver any having failed to attend the last three Cabinet meetings, all the time whilst trousering the £3,816 Special Responsibility Allowance paid to lead councillors. That's a failure to attend 50% of the meetings which he is paid to attend and this seems to be being tolerated by his colleagues. I think Council tax payers can quite rightly ask whether he should be forced to pay back monies paid to him for services not-rendered.

However, after the obvious election deal with the Greens, would Park residents' notice any difference if they had all Green councillors? Very doubtful for pretty much the same reason.

Their group leader can't be bothered to represent them at council meetings for which he is paid a bonus of £2,147 to attend, consisting as they do his extra duties as Green group leader. What exactly does he do to justify that money? What responsibility does he actually take?

Does he turn up at Cabinet to put forward the Green agenda? No.
He's been seen there once once out of six meetings. Couldn't even be bothered to turn up to speak on the item on abandoned trolleys which no doubt will be laughingly referred to as a Green win. Got to be in it to win it.

Does he turn up at Personnel Committee to stick up for the workers? Nope.
A complete no show all year, leading to the squirmingly embarrassing motion he put forward to the last full council meeting demanding that RBC adopt a minimum wage policy at a rate which was below that actually in force and asking for a policy that was already in place and had the full backing of all previous administrations.

Does he pontificate about councillors receiving perfectly permissible and lawfully declared gifts whilst at the same time asking for free inkjet cartridges paid for by the council that do not appear on any list of declared expenses. Oh yes!
There is of course nothing wrong with him doing so. It is an allowed expense, but he seems to be selective as to what he sees as acceptable. In the case of Reading Festival tickets there is no cost incurred to the council. In the case of printer cartridges there is an actual expense incurred. Perhaps to avoid accusations of hypocrisy, he should pay for his own home printing in future and come into the Civic where the Greens already have a perfectly good full colour laser printer in their group room.

And for a Green he did not attend a single Environmental Scrutiny Panel last council year to make the Green case for anything.

There are some people who complain about the Council gravy train and about how they believe councillors get elected solely to get the allowances. That is demonstrably nonsense unless people genuinely think that being a councillor should be the preserve of the rich and retired. There's a lot of work required. I can safely say that in the vast majority of cases the rates paid by RBC are below the minimum wage for the work put in even for those I may have in the past tagged as "lazy". That tag I am more than happy to state is a relative term.

On the other hand, Special Responsibility Allowances are paid specifically for extra work and responsibility. If you are not doing that extra work or taking any responsibility, it is tantamount to obtaining money under false pretences and perhaps there is a case for Councillors Hartley and White being asked to pay some of it back!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Another Fine Mess

There was an interesting letter in last week's Post all about Labour's rusty sword of truth which contained a bending of the aforementioned substance worthy of Stalin. It was also illuminating in that it shows how twisting facts beyond all recognition is a campaign tool so ingrained in the local Labour party that they wouldn't know the truth if it sat up and bit them on the backside.

At Monday's cabinet, Daisy Benson drew attention to a massive hike in bus lane fine revenue which Labour are banking on to get them out of their economic black hole. You have to remember that this is the same Labour party that called introducing kerb parking fines in problem streets a "tax on motorists." They continue with their false allegations about "no consultation" when what actually happened is that they failed to fulfil their constitutional duty towards their constituents (for which they get paid allowances) and refused to co-operate with any consultation.

So what are the 'sticking up for the motorist' party doing? Can we judge them by their actions? Well the kerb parking "tax" would have raised £25,000 and now Labour are planning to charge motorists more than 20 times that amount. They have proposed a massive INCREASE of £575,000 to take this year's budgeted bus lane fine revenue to £1,395,000. It is nothing less than highway robbery.

Of course, Brother John Ennis couldn't help issuing a barefaced lie during Cabinet by claiming that Lib Dems were in favour of people driving in bus lanes. Balderdash!.

Each fine issued is a failure to keep the lanes clear. It is not an indicator of success.

Bus Lane Fines Issued by RBC
Before the current Labour administration there were roughly 3,000 fines issued per month. That's 3,000 too many but it's been remarkably consistent over the last few years. Now there are nearer 12,000! Labour has presided over a 300% increase in people driving in bus lanes since they took over in May and what we actually asked was what were they planning to do to reduce the amount of fines issued to get cars out of the bus lanes.

Their reaction was far from wanting to do something about it, but to resort to calling people "stupid" and how they were happy to take their money. We already know that's how they view the electorate because their previous leader called the public "morons"!

If bus lane fines are there to deter people from using bus lanes then it isn't working. The council should be alarmed by these figures and be doing everything they can to reduce them not rolling around in the revenue. They may have the bare minimum legally required signs up but let's face it, we know that they aren't interested in reducing the number of people using bus lanes because they actually need to encourage it to raise revenue.

In fact, there is another name for Labour's scheme. It is called congestion charging. Access for cash.

Their message is: if you have enough money then please feel free to use the bus lanes. The council wants you to because we need your money. What Labour have done in effect is to turn the centre of town into a congestion charge zone where the rich can afford to drive and you can even pay a reduced fee by paying up pronto.

Tony Page's comments are revealing in that they show that he doesn't give a monkey's about drivers using bus lanes, he is that desperate for their money and that's because his actions have lost £225,000 from the budget and he needs to make up that loss and we know that Labour has always hated motorists... One Way IDR anyone?

Remember that when Labour put in more bus lanes. I know as a fact from my time as a director of Reading Buses that some of the bus gates and lanes around town were not asked for by the bus company and were put in by the Council's Highways department. Expect more when they need to raise more cash.

Yet what is even more astonishing is that Labour are building a budget based on criminal behaviour. Now that really is broken Britain!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

National Self Service

Here's little tale of one person's interaction with the NHS -  mine.
  • Went to optician (which strangely enough isn't free at the point of use) for an eye test.
  • Referred by optician to my GP
  • Received a letter asking me to make an appointment at an eye clinic. Instructions contained online booking instructions.
  • I go online and fill in all the fields on the online booking system... only to be told at the end of all that that this particular clinic doesn't take online bookings and I need to call them direct.
  • I call clinic and they tell me in order to make an appointment they need to pre-register my request for an appointment and that I need to call call back in a week's time to actually book it. We arrange the day for me to ring.
  • A few days later I get sent a letter telling me that they don't deal with my condition after all and I'm being referred to a clinic in High Wycombe.
  • Clinic in High Wycombe sends me online booking details, login ID and password... for a woman who lives in High Wycombe!
  • I get sent new instructions to make an online booking using my original login details.
  • When I log on to the website and put in my details I'm told that the login has expired.
  • I go back to my GP who re-refers me.
  • I get sent new login details.
  • I book an appointment for Monday 24th at RBH.
  • A week later I get sent two identical first class letters telling me that my appointment for the Monday has been cancelled and it has been moved by them to Friday 28th.
Phew! It was a bit of a marathon and it took over a year but I got there... or did I?

Today I get letter from the RBH eye clinic telling me that I have another appointment next Tuesday at less than a week's notice. Identical letters were sent by first class post - to be sure, to be sure.

However, unlike the previous notification there is no letter telling me that the Friday appointment has been cancelled. Do I assume that Friday's appointment has been cancelled? I have no indication that it has been. This means that I will have to ring them to confirm it is actually a change of date rather than a referral appointment. If I'd booked a day off work to make Friday's appointment and unable to change it to next Tuesday I'd be screwed. So much for putting the patient first.

I know of one constituent who has been denied a hip replacement because she is "too young" to qualify, she is in constant pain can't walk far and would get a longer term benefit from any operation done now and require less prescription drugs. It's nuts even for a cost-benefit analysis nut.

The one common denominator in this. Our GP. At no point have we been let down by him. He knows what the patient requires and the process works well up until that point. It's when "the system" takes over and starts rationing care and resources without focusing on the patient and outcomes that things start going wrong. Basically, I trust my GP to look after my health and to know what's best. I do not trust Trust managers who are bean counters who can only count human-beans

If you believe Labour, they left the NHS a perfect system, state owned and free at the point of use. Stop laughing at the back.

We have an expensive online booking system that may as well not exist. Hospitals owned by private companies under expensive PFI contracts. Many of the services already contracted out by Labour. Their market system forcing PCTs to stop services and close wards. A £20bn cost for a failed IT system that one of the consortium consultants was sacked for having the temerity to tell Labour that it would never work. I'm sure you can find other websites detailing all their "successes".

They left a shambles. Whether promised or not, something has to change. The current structure is clearly not fit for purpose and for all the good things it does, it has its fair share of failure which affect real people.

I'm a big believer in the NHS and the core principle behind it - health care free at the point of use. I refused to join my previous company's health plan because I felt that we would all be better off it they paid more in National Insurance than private health plan subscriptions but for Labour to continue the fiction that the coalition government inherited a system that in places isn't verging on a basket case is disreputable.

However, clearly the Conservative remodelling went too far. You have to watch these Tories like a hawk or before you know it a new NHS baby-eating unit will be opened. It's why I'm pleased to see Nick creating his Signal Passed at Danger team. We spotted this one just in time and have made significant changes to the original proposals and clearly our team in the Lords will be making more changes to ensure that the Tories don't acheive the same objectives of their baby-eating units by simply replacing them with baby-out-with-the-bath-water units. It's why Lib Dems in Government are important. Labour had 13 years of "understanding" ordinary people and failed them at almost every level imaginable. It's up to us to prove that unlike the other two parties we are on your side.

I certainly have more faith in Dame Shirley William's making amendments to the health bill in the Lords than in any amount of Labour health ministers suckered by consultants selling them snake oil.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Steal Yourself for a Rough Ride

It seems that stealing someone else's work is rife in the Labour Party. Tony Blair stole Margaret Thatcher's policies; Gordon Brown stole the Tories' finance plans not only perpetuating PFIs and flogging off the NHS but actually making it worse; and Ed Miliband has stolen Kim Jong Il's grip on reality.

So it should come as no surprise to see local Labour bloggers completely bereft of original thought and left passing off other people's work as their own.

Email from Ed Balls to Labour members

A year ago this week, George Osborne announced the biggest spending cuts and tax rises of any major country.

He boasted that Britain was out of the danger zone. And he claimed austerity would boost confidence, jobs and growth. Do you remember how Tory MPs cheered and waved their papers in glee?

Well I can’t hear anybody cheering now. Because the evidence is mounting day by day that this reckless Tory plan is hurting but it’s not working. Our economy hasn’t grown since this time last year.

Families and pensioners are being squeezed by soaring inflation. And here’s the real scandal: there are now more people out of work than for 17 years – when the Tories were last in. And the result? More people out of work and the dole means it's going to be harder to get the deficit down. In fact, there’s going to be £46 billion more borrowing than the government planned.

There’s got to be a better way.

And that’s why Labour has set out a five point plan for jobs and growth – to help struggling families, get young people into work and support small businesses. If you’re out campaigning this weekend help us get the message out there.

Ed Balls

Jan Gavin's thoughts on the economy

A year ago this week, George Osborne announced the biggest spending cuts and tax rises of any major country. He boasted that Britain was out of the danger zone. And he claimed austerity would boost confidence, jobs and growth.

Do you remember how Lib Dem and  Tory MPs cheered and waved their papers in glee?
Well I can’t hear anybody cheering now. Because the evidence is mounting day by day that this reckless Tory plan is hurting but it’s not working.

Our economy hasn’t grown since this time last year. Families and pensioners are being squeezed by soaring inflation. And here’s the real scandal: there are now more people out of work than for 17 years – when the Tories were last in.

And the result? More people out of work and on the dole means it’s going to be harder to get the deficit down.  In fact, there’s going to be £46 billion more borrowing than the government planned.

There’s got to be a better way.

And that’s why Labour has set out a five point plan for jobs and growth – to help struggling families, get young people into work and support small businesses.

How many more jobs must be lost and businesses go bust before this out of touch Prime Minister and Chancellor realise it’s time to change course?

Back our campaign and help us show families and pensioners across the country that there is an alternative – a better, fairer, Labour way to get our economy moving again, get Britain back to work and so get our deficit down.

Jan Gavin


Reading Labour: don't have the Balls to tell people who really wrote it... one of the men responsible for dumping the country in the doo doo in the first place.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Unsolicited Credit

I've had a good laugh at the official council press release praising the efforts of the council in reducing greenhouse gases. I shall take that as an admission from Labour that I did a bloody good job last year.

I embarked on the solar panel strategy, commissioned the business plans and obtained agreement for the capital financing for the project.

I commissioned reports on massively increasing the recycling rates in Reading (which unfortunately thanks to the Greens, Labour appear to be abandoning).

Now we see the results of the 10:10 challenge which seems to have avoided mentioning the fact that the council's best performance was achieved the one year Labour was not in charge.

Here's one reason for the difference. The year before (and before that and before that) the Labour council missed its 10:10 targets by miles and you can still see the excuses they used being trotted out by them. "There was an exceptionally cold winter." That's true there was  but what it actually showed was that the insulation wasn't good enough and I told officers as much so I am pleased that they acted on my directions.

Before 2010 the then Labour administration was complacent and unfocused and more intent on making up excuses for failure than doing something about it. It's no coincidence that with all the work I put in on progressing the Lib Dem agenda now finally coming through to implementation that the council can claim to be greener. It simply wouldn't have happened under Labour.

So I'd like to thank Paul Gittings for his officially press released ringing endorsement of my work. Nice to see Labour recognising who it was who made the real difference,

Let's just hope he doesn't mess things up again and set the council backwards and lose all the hard work acheived last year by going back to the complacent and laissez-faire attitude Labour showed in all those previous years.

And whilst I'm having a laugh as people claiming unwarranted credit for their inaction, how about the Greens?

How many times did Rob White attend an environment scrutiny panel last year? Zero.
How many times did he ask for a meeting to discuss environmental matters with me when I was lead councillor? Zero.
How many green initiatives did he ask me to consider? Zero.

He didn't tell the rest of the local Green party any of that because their members seem genuinely surprised when I tell them the true facts behind the "Green pressure". The simple fact of the matter is that there was no green pressure. Nada! Claiming credit for things they haven't done seems to be the order of the day for the Greens now. Not much integrity in that is there!

I said last year that I wanted to be judged on what I achieved. I only got 9 months in control which was never going to be enough but this and other recent glowing council press releases is proof that there was a culture change and real results.

It's just a shame that the Labour/Green council now appears to be doing all it can to unravel these achievements.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine

Yesterday's planning committee took an odd turn. There was a Lib/Lab alignment and a Con/Green one over a planning application to demolish the building on the corner of Oxford Road and Wilson Road and build a new church in its place.

It got off to a bad start when the applicant referred to it being a political decision (which I felt had to correct him on) so I had to laugh after making that point quite strongly at the apparent sight of a political carve up when committee members seemed to be lining up on party lines.

The fact is that in this instance it was a co-incidence.

My reading is that the Conservatives wanted to make a statement about equal treatment towards mosques and churches. In my eyes, that wasn't predetermination but a predisposition. They are quite different matters. I didn't see a problem with their reasoning as they came up with cogent arguments based on the evidence in front of us and voted according to their arguments.

One of them was a little off-colour when he referred to turning down the application as being an attack on that particular church community. Now, if we want to talk about pre-determination that comment was made by someone who describes himself on one website as "Baptist, Christian" (and who apparently likes Italian and Chinese food)!

Similarly the members of the Labour group who spoke did the same. Gave perfectly reasonable explanations and voted consistent with those reasons.

However, Graham Hoskins used the word "we" when referring to the committee's deliberations. The Green committee member jumped on it and agreed with the Tories that it constituted pre-determination.

Piffle! Mountains and mole hills. In the context it was used it was perfectly reasonable.

The Labour group may want to reflect on Tony Page and Pete Ruhemann's outbursts when they accused Conservatives and Lib Dems of colluding over an application for Denbeigh Place. What goes around comes around. I can't speak for the Conservative group, but neither myself, Kirsten Bayes or Chris Harris (the then Lib Dem planning committee members) had spoken with each other about it let alone with another group about that application. In fact, it was my first ever planning committee meeting and I had only received the papers on the day of the meeting.

I can definitively state that there is no pre-determination from the Lib Dems on the committee. Unlike the other two groups we don't have a pre-meet. In this particular case, Pete and I hadn't discussed the application at all so the fact that we both voted the same way was because we saw the plans presented to the committee on the night and independently came to the same conclusion. That's the way it is meant to work. I have no reason to believe that any other member did otherwise based on the debate.

Either you thought it was over development of the site or you didn't.

I hope the church group has another look at their plans. Their aims were laudable but converting a 300 capacity church into a 300 capacity church, shops, offices, conference centre and flats seemed to me to be excessive on that site. I hope they look at the committee decision and come back with better plans. I quite liked the new Oxford Road frontage they proposed.

I'll leave the other parties to sort out their bun fight over the application and hurl their accusations, but they don't stand up to scrutiny.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Tory Horror Picture Show

It would seem that I've hit a raw nerve with both Tory Central Office and Reading East Conservative Association over a little joke I wrote last week. It was apparently far closer to the mark than I realised when I wrote it!

It's happened before when I wrote a gag on a Sunday about a "safe" football manager being sacked. It was printed on the Tuesday. He was actually sacked on the Friday and my fanzine went on sale on the Saturday. I looked a comedy genius!
 
It's called serendipity, which I think is appropriate from someone given my background!
Aside: According to George Allegiah's BBC documentary I should be now start calling myself mixed-race, then it got a bit wierd. He was born in Sri Lanka, left in the same year as my Mum, is a Catholic and went to my secondary school in Portsmouth. However, he is not a long lost older cousin... unless his Great-Grandmother was called Mariai in which case I'd really like him to get in touch!

I won't begin to tell the Tories how far off the mark their witch trial is because it is greatly amusing. No doubt their Mole-hunter Pursuivant is threatening all and sundry after my joke but how about this... no-one sent me any email and that's the truth. I heard a rumour. I got lucky!

They may find it hard to believe because they prefer to go mole hunting than address what is really going on but I've known about the various factions in the local Tories for years. It's hardly an open secret. Like which leading local Tory said far too loudly coming out of the Civic after the budget non-appearance fiasco in 2010: "That's it. He's finished" about Andrew Cumpsty? [CLUE, he stood for deputy leader of the Tory group a year later and lost - or wasn't I meant to know about that either?]

What Tory Central Office really need to think about is if their local agitators are sanctioned by them to upset their ordinary members in the way that they treated a hard working and well-liked local councillor then what do they expect? Try interviewing ALL your members if you want to know who may have let slip the red in tooth and claw nature of the Reading East Conservative Association.

The scenario now playing out reveals the understanding at the heart of the Reading Lib Dem/Tory coalition. I can say one thing for definite. If we had the Wokingham/West Berkshire strand of Toryism leading in Reading there would have been no coalition and if the current RECA Junta take over there will never be the prospect of one ever again. Why? Because there were a lot of lefty liberal Tories in the local party.

It's just a jump to the left...

Protecting services to the vulnerable and standing up for the environment were absolute lines in the sand for Lib Dems and what was clear is that the local Tories were willing to allow us to champion those objectives. It's why Daisy Benson was allowed to be lead councillor responsible for adult care, health and housing and I was allowed to direct the environment. There was no way that these services would be bludgeoned whilst we held the portfolios and they weren't. That is not the case in the surrounding unitaries where slash and burn is the order of the day. For goodness sake the Tories allowed us to build council owned properties which Labour hadn't done for over 13 years! We brought in equal pay for staff (although it also has to be said despite Labour and trade Union opposition)!

At Lib Dem conference, I went to a fringe event because one on my heroes Bob Worcester from IPSOSMori was speaking. Also at that event was Dr Daniel Poulter MP, a Conservative. It was clear to me and most people in that room that when he spoke he was in the wrong party. I put it to Dr Poulter that his choice of party really came down to if you want to influence events you have to be in power and that there was a natural home for people like him in the Lib Dems. His answer I shall not divulge to save him from a Tory Party witch hunt but the overlap in the centre of politics between Labour, Lib Dems and Conservatives is a lot bigger than any of the parties wish to acknowledge and that includes several members of the local Labour party.

I can name a good number of the local Tories who could quite comfortably be members of the Lib Dems. They want to protect the old, the young and the environment. They also realise that you can't be progressive from a position of bankruptcy and that high council tax hurts the poor far more than the rich.

...and a step to the right.

There is also a strand that doesn't believe in these as objectives as being worthy in their own right. That balancing of the books is a means to an end. Power is all. It isn't.

What we are now seeing is that post-coalition the Wokingham strand of Toryism seeing its chance to make a move on Reading and it is no co-incidence that the Swaddles are leading players in this.
I think we are approaching a watershed moment in Reading politics. Leading local Tories have to make a decision whether that will allow themselves to fizzle out and fade away and have no influence or whether they are prepared to put up a fight. Putting up a fight would mean leaving the Tory party - but the right has taken a decisive step to take over your local party and it ain't ever coming back.

Of course, it may be a difficult step for some to make but just think of the prize:
  • A majority centre party that looks after all residents, not just trade unionists and those with money.
  • One that protects services to the vulnerable.
  • Believes in public services.
  • Stands up for business.
  • Makes a real difference to the environment.
  • Returns power back to the citizen.
There are also several Labour councillors who would be far more comfortable in the Lib Dems as they take a lurch to the left fuelled by union money. Think about it, you've wasted £1/2m delaying budget savings which you know have to be made in the end. Wouldn't that have been better spent saving the sheltered housing wardens instead of political posturing?

Back to the IPSOSMori meeting I attended. The majority of voters are left-centre/centre/right-centre. Whether Labour or Conservative don't let the extremists dictate direction.

Reading Lib Dems are nice people. Work with us.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Big Bus-iness

Last night's Reading Borough Council Cabinet demonstrated that Labour in the short four months they have been in charge have turned a £400,000 surplus into a £300,000 budget deficit - and keeping the deficit at that level is only achievable by Labour praying for an outbreak of lawlessness to help pay for it.

They are betting £575,000 on a massive INCREASE in bus lane fine revenue. That's an eye-watering £1.4 million in fines to Reading drivers required this year. That's after they had the cheek to complain about the introduction of fines for kerbside parking which was to be introduced to solve a real problem in some areas of town. The bus lane fines which we now see Labour see as a cash cow to bale out their incompetence.

All this whilst they let Tesco park their lorries without any form of sanction in the bus lane in London Street to make deliveries to their Crown Street store.

Update: Quelle surprise. After penning this post, what do I find Tesco doing? Illegally loading from the London Street bus lane. To get past it, a number 9 had to swerve out into the opposite lane during rush hour.

Despite complaints from me nothing has ever been done about it. It seems Labour has one law for Tesco and another for the motorist and visitors who will be paying through the nose for Labour's budget overspend.
Tesco lorry parked in a bus lane in London Street.
Registration number: CN 56 FSC
27 Sep 2011 18:10

Labour will need that £575,000 and more to get themselves out of the mire they are landing the Council and council tax payer in. By delaying measures in last year's budget they have already needlessly cost the council tax payer an extra £490,000. That figure is the cost due to the delay. Any budget reversals such as the Green Bin collection (£180,000) comes on top of that. This is getting on to a near 1% increase in council tax without even addressing the savings that they will have to make. We have already seen that they are making people redundant to pay for these "promises" so where are the unions in fighting these Labour cuts?

I'm estimating that by the time the budget setting comes around Labour will by their (in)actions have to make up at least a £2m hole that they have created unnecessarily, with the delays and policy reversals that steal from the poor to give to the rich.

They will have two choices. Increase the money they will have to borrow to pay for their runaway budget putting the council even more into debt or hike up council tax to eye-watering levels. They will try to blame it on the national government, but the simple truth is they are incompetent and not fit to run a whelk stall.

As Nick Clegg said, it's not polite to say I told you so. But I told you so.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

They Must Think You're All Mugs

Listening to Labour supporters right now is the equivalent of watching a mugger being interviewed on TV after demanding anonymity, then failing to apologise for whacking their victim over the back of the head with a sock filled with snooker balls, refusing to give back the money they stole but complaining vociferously at the parsimonious attitude of the Criminal Injuries Board in handing out compensation to their victim.

That theme is strong at their party conference. The latest comedy stylings from mBand in announcing a policy that will reward the richest the most and then stating that it probably won't be in their next manifesto anyway is certainly the shape of things to come.

He didn't stop there. Ed claimed single handedly to have beated Murdoch into submission by the innovative tactic of eating his canapes and drinking his champagne all whilst ignoring the fact that he called for the sacking of the one person who was actually responsible for stopping Murdoch's take-over of BSkyB.

Two can play at that game and I have it on good authority that Ed Balls will be announcing at conference a unicorn for every family in time for Christmas 2015 if the public elect another Labour government.

Labour's outgoing General Secretary Ray Collins was also in smug mode in his final speech where he proudly declared that he had "put Labour on a solid financial footing". Yeah, by selling them lock, stock & barrel to the trade unions. A shareholder with a 95% stake would normally be referred to the monopolies commission. Still, if Ed the Elder follows Ed the Younger's tactics, he'll be at the Unison fringe meeting scoffing prawn sandwiches paid for union members who have paid handsomely to be betrayed by their union's leadership.


And if anyone still thinks that Labour has changed, how about this from the NEC Chair: "Given what I said in my speech is there anyone who would dare be against it? That's unanimous." The old Stalinist tendency is still there, rubber stamping their paymasters and ignoring the wishes of ordinary members.


Judging by the outbreak of sniggering the one time they dared try to articulate a real policy don't expect them to announce any more between now and May 2015.


Leopards don't change their spots and Labour can't change their base instincts.

As Blair's best buddy Dubya said: There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Getting My Bearings

I do like Political Compass. The left / right axis isn't the only thing that defines politics like Guardianistas would have you believe. The Authoritarian/Libertarian (note this is not the same as economic neo-libertarianism) axis is what has always interested me.

It does help explain Labour's fondness for micromanaging individuals lives whilst simultaneously pretending to be left wing, which saw their 2010 election manifesto place them dangerously close to the BNP and the DUP in political outlook. It also helps explain why some Tories can be very liberal in response to civil liberties questions yet vere into neo-con nutter territory when it comes to economic measures.

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to see how my political views may have changed and it came up with this:

It shows I've been moving dangerously moving from Dalai Lama to Nelson Mandela territory over the years!

Friday, 2 September 2011

That's Entertainment

Reading Festival is over once again and even the BBC have given up the pretense of covering Leeds festival!

When I saw the original line-up I admit that I was slightly disappointed. I was already seeing Pulp in Hyde Park and Muse aside, it didn't look to be a classic. However, unlike last year, it exceeded expectations. The Strokes were good but they suffered from following on from Pulp who played more of an MFP Greatest Hits set than they did in July and so were hard to compete against. I watched the Horrors and White Lies instead of My Chemical Romance, but from the BBC3 coverage it looked like they put in a good set.

My personal highlights were Muse, Pulp, Interpol, The Horrors, White Lies and Warpaint.

As usual we got the annual sanctimonious claptrap about "freebies" from the Greens. The tickets are not free. Geddit? No, they don't. They have no resale value, cannot be passed on and as local councillors we would normally have the right to ask to be able to monitor an event on such a scale in our town. What's Rob's proposal? That only wealthy councillors get in to monitor the festival? That councillors should get free admission and sign a waiver promising to not enjoy any of the bands? The lack of visibility by councillors had to be a major factor in the council's decision to stop the festival for several years which led to the rise of that travesty called Glastonbury becoming so big.

In fact it is more essential than ever that councillors, whether they like the music or not, attend. I was critical of the "Them Crooked Vultures" tunnel and the positioning of the NME/Radio1 stage, the vast amounts of combustable material left lying around at previous festivals and the monitoring of the campsite area.  These have all been addressed and you don't get that sort of detail sitting on your arse at home. Not everyone likes the mosh-pit so different views are essential to make an event (that councillors are ultimately responsible for) which generates a huge amount of cash and puts the town on the global map be as successful as it is. This year crime was down and the layout of the festival better than ever, and that was in part down to councillors inputing their observations into the mix.

However, it sounds more like Rob didn't want to dip his hands into his pockets and shell out the compulsory charity donation. Think of the trees, won't somebody think of the trees?

I met up with my friend Sharon who works for Universal Records but missed my friend John who was mixing Cults in the Festival Republic tent... he had to hot foot it to Leeds thanks to the split day line-up. They were both at Portsmouth Poly with me on the Entertainment Committee. Sharon was Ents Officer during 1987-88 and 'Punky' John mostly did sound engineering, although he also played for a local punk band called Ad-Nauseum. I was sound engineer for his spin-off band Sod Noz on their world tour (which consisted of just the one gig, although they did make up tour tee shirts!)

Ad-Nauseum - John's playing bass
That was my 16th Reading Festival out of 25. The first was in 1987 on a guest pass from Entec who were a major sound and lighting company which also owned the Marquee. Reading therefore always brings up "what if" thoughts as John was not the only person from PortEnts to go on to work in the music business. In the end I decided not to go to New York to take up a job as a lighting engineer but I did learn a lot doing gigs which has come in useful later on.

Like when the committee voted to buy an 'ESP Interface' after the techies presented a motion saying that it would allow them to mix bands from the bar on the opposite side of the building! In fact the techies pulling a fast one on the rest of the committee seems to be a recurring theme and a valuable lesson...
Never get yourself into a situation where you rely entirely on consultants for advice!
We also prided us on fast get outs at Pompey Guildhall, so when the Cocteau Twins played we were left twiddling our thumbs during the get out and we weren't sure what the next item of gear to load was, our stage manager Paul the Bastard asked their road manager:

"What's the next flight case?"
"Cable nose."
Puzzled looks from Paul. again: "What's next?"
"Cable nose."
More puzzled looks: "What's that?"
"Ask Cable. Cable knows."

That's what happens when you don't factor in a Dutch road crew to your calculations. Cue next Ents meeting when a motion was put forward for Paul to order 144 Cable Noses!

There's plenty more where they came from. I may just write them all down one day.
Ents Outing Summer 1984 - play spot the Was

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Holidays in the Sun...

...please don't be waiting for me!

Strewth... I hadn't realised that I had been off the blog for such a long time. Don't worry, I've got plenty of stuff stacked up.

I blame it on my first holiday for 4 years - I don't count party conferences as holiday! It was nice to have a drink with a fan of @matildathecat and visit the scene of the crime for the first time in 18 years :-D

Speaking of party conferences, I got my accreditation email last week:

Just to confirm, we have received information from Greater Manchester Police that you have been successfully accredited for the upcoming Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference 2011

At the time of application I didn't even have a valid passport but it was quite painless if you followed the simple instructions. That hasn't stopped a stream of disaffected members queuing up to complain about marching into a police state or some other half-baked excuse to moan.

What did they expect? We have the Deputy Prime Minister and other ministers of the realm attending. Did they really think it would be an open house, expect the party to uphold an individual's right to bear blue paint or require a police officer to doff his cap and hold the door open for them at the utterance of "Don't you know who I am?"

In fact at the heart of many complaints seems to be the idea that some Lib Dem's are more equal than others and shouldn't be subject to the same security checks as lowly members. The days of casual attendance and relaxed entrance procedures may be a regrettable consequence of being in Government but I would rather have the opportunity to debate Lib Dem policy with those in power and meet Ministers than tilt at windmills.

Some of the questions being moaned about are in the Lib Dem data part of the registration process not the police section and the registration web site is also quite specific in stating that the data collected by the police will be handled under conditions required under the Data Protection Act and will not used for purposes other than for which it was collected:

The information supplied by you will be provided to the relevant Constabulary for storage on a computer system in connection with the policing arrangements for the Party Conference. The information will be retained and/or passed to other police forces in the future to assist with the accreditation of subsequent political conferences only. Details of the data stored may be obtained in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act.

It's one thing to be paranoid enough to not trust this categorical assertion but if anyone has evidence that this is not the case then they should report a criminal act to the Information Commissioner.

Wrapping it up as some bogus civil liberties issue does disservice to real civil liberties issues like the disgraceful treatment of Gary McKinnon and when there is so much to do to ensure that the Tories don't run away with the coalition agenda by keeping our eye on the political ball, this is the equivalent of contemplating fluff accumulating in the navel whilst being attacked by a man with a machete.

This is not a civil liberties issue, it is an inconvenience.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Chronic Indigestion

Only two factual inaccuracies from the Midweek Chronicle and a quote from a man who gave evidence on oath that wasn't believed by a judge.

It was still better than some of their recent output.


Update: The next issue wasn't much better. Yet another inaccuracy introduced by making editorial comment and drawing an incorrect conclusion rather than concentrating on reporting the facts.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

English Standards

Attempts by the Reading Labour Party to use the local Standards Board as an instrument of suppression and oppression look to have finally come shuddering to a halt after a recent set of embarrassing rulings from Standards for England.

Labour has been abusing the Standards Committee for years by reporting opposition members to it for the most bogus of reasons (curiously I note that the panel has let Labour members off for hurling offensive insults at other councillors during council meetings!)

Over the last year there has been a string of referrals about me from Labour councillors, union officials and their election candidates where I have exposed their hypocrisy, double standards, bare-faced lies and borderline illegality. These referrals have been made with only one aim - to shut me up.

Their latest attempt has now spectacularly back-fired when, after they discovered that they did not have the power to disqualify me as a councillor for making a political protest at the Annual Meeting of the council, they referred Tony Page's quite pathetic and politically motivated complaint to Standards for England.

I have always and consistently maintained that I have had the right to political expression and freedom of comment, especially when it comes to this blog, which obviously causes problems to an oppressive and authoritarian party like the Labour Party.

The good news for lovers of civil liberties and the rights of the individual is that my long held assertion has been upheld by Standards for England.

Article 10 [of the European convention on Human Rights] gives a high degree of protection to political comment, the postcard and blog entries provided are clearly about specific matters of political and public interest. [My highlighting.]

Bearing in mind that on a previous similar complaint the local panel ruled: "Whilst the comments were critical it did not consider them to be unfair, unreasonable or demeaning of these people within the context they were made" their decision to refer matters in this instance was rather perverse.

In this respect Standards for England again found that I wasn't engaged in personal abuse for its own sake in finding: "the comments are not serious enough insults about the personal qualities of the individuals concerned nor do they amount to mere personal abuse such as to justify a finding that there has been disrespect under the code."

So how did the local Standards Board get it so spectacularly wrong?

Easy, the clue is in their referral to Standards for England where they refer to "underpinned by a persistent pattern of behaviour which attracted complaints."

Yes, we have it in black and white. The local Standards Board considers the quantity of complaints as being a factor, not the quality or motivation. Not a single complaint against me ever got to the stage where I could give mitigation or make a defence. All were of matters of political and public interest. And all were made by members of the Labour Party who were pursuing a monkey faeces policy of throwing as much as they could hoping some would stick and in the eyes of the local panel it was successful.

But by taking it as far as they did, Labour now has blown it in terms of oppression as in addition to kicking out their malicious complaint, Standards for England has also ruled that councillors are not subject to the code unless as acting as representatives of the council. It is not enough to be acting as a member and that new advice now calls into question all their previous findings against me when acting in a political situation about matters of clear political and public interest and especially the ability of them to pontificate over my blog entries.

One curious aspect was that Tony Page made a complaint to the local Standards Boards on behalf of the Greens. Yes, that's right, Labour made a complaint on behalf of the Green Party. I spoke to Rob White about whether he was involved and I got a slightly evasive "can't remember" rather than an outright denial.

I will err on the side of caution and believe that Rob knew nothing about it. However, given Labour's arrogance, it is perfectly conceivable that they felt that they could speak on behalf of their junior partners. If Rob wishes to position his party against Labour, he needs to start being a little less evasive in his answers and a little less reliant on abstentions to make his case that the Greens are an independent party.

I hear that Labour are determined to continue with a local Standards Board despite the Localism Bill stripping them of any material power. That will mean £2,500 of council tax money to continue to pay for the chair of the committee, as well as tens of thousands of pounds in support services and wasted officer hours for a toothless structure simply so that Labour can continue making threats to councillors who dare to stand up against them. I wonder which member of council staff they will be making redundant this time to pay for their political posturing?

Of course, there have to be some rules but when the rules are being used to stifle political debate and undermine the democratic process then there is something seriously wrong with the state of local democracy.

I have written to Eric Pickles about Reading Labour's continual abuse of the standards process and asked for assurances that locally constituted boards will have no right to interfere in the political process and asked about what steps he will take to prevent abuse now and into the future.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Rave from the Grave

Looking through my old posts for something else I found a piece I wrote about Andy Coulson two years ago.

http://waswasere.blogspot.com/2009/07/murdochs-poodle.html

Ce n'est pas la change!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Spam Spam Spam Spam...

We can finally see exactly what a steaming pile Labour's "consultation" amounts to. With the quite laughable phrase " an (almost) Premiership football team" it's clear that this has been a back of a fag packet job from the Labour stream of consciousness as channeled through Jon Hartley.

This sham consultation has been exposed as a simple harvesting exercise so that they can sell your details to third parties. Of course, like all RBC exercises there is an amount of duplicity in this. The web site form says:

This data will be stored securely and electronically, and will not be shared with any external organisations,

Yet the leaflet you pick up at the Civic Offices not only details that they want to be able to send your details to third parties, but the default option is that you agree to having your details available for sale to marketing companies. You have to opt out!

The consultation leaflet reads as a piece of Labour propaganda funded by the council tax payer which I can't believe was nodded through by officers even though it should fall foul of ultra vires being a clearly partisan reading of the financial predicament Labour left us in.


The sham extends deeper and is a supreme exercise of passing the buck about the financial mess Labour left the town in. Residents are not being given access to all the information required to respond to, as they put it, "difficult budget decisions".

For example, how many residents, pleased they have benefited from Labour's restoration of "green" waste collections, realise that their £22.50 windfall will mean that at least two jobs are being axed from Arts, Museums and Libraries? Grass cutting and leaf clearing is being mown down? The planning department is having its in-year budgets slashed? These aren't "savings" they are additional cuts which Labour refused to reveal properly in their cabinet papers and they have done all they can to keep the details of these cuts secret. Yet we know that 91% of people were willing to pay the charge so these cuts to jobs and services are completely unnecessary.

How many knowing these facts would now feel happy about their "free" collections and that's without even considering that the green credentials of the scheme are quite bogus. How many more jobs are residents prepared to see Labour chop for no good reason?


Labour's way is to steal from the poor to give to the rich. It was they who bailed out the bankers. It was they who removed the 10% tax band from the poorest. It was they who gave non-domiciled billionaires a huge tax break and now we see 25% of the wealthiest people in the town (because let's face it, you need a big back garden to justify having a 240 litre green bin) being subsidised by the poor. Staff are losing their jobs and services are being slashed to pay for Labour's uncosted election bribes, just as I predicted.

But that's Labour's way of reacting to having no money. They will desperately try to blame it on the coalition whilst wielding the axe but these are Labour's cuts and Labour's alone. Why do we know that? Because the axe isn't falling in the Environment department. It's other departments which are suffering because Labour cannot balance the books in Environment to pay for their uncosted promises and they are denying residents the information required to make informed decisions.


If Labour have suddenly decided to be honest with the public, let's see them publish the full list of budget options currently being worked on right now by officers. They should be public documents to allow residents to make in informed choice. Without them, it's a consultation worthy of complete contempt.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Just a thought...

I see that Kelly Edwards has declared an interest in Green Issues Communiqué on the council web site still without mentioning that she is lead manager on the Tesco and Bellway accounts. She may not be employed on projects within the Borough herself but as a partner, shareholder and manager on those accounts she does have a beneficial interest in her clients being successful. She should have named them. She has done so on the Green Issues communique web site!

Interestingly her declaration of interest document is "dated" 24th May 2011. I published her involvement as lead manager on the Tesco account on the 20th June 2011. The properties of the PDF file reveal that it wasn't created by Councillor Services until the 22nd June 2011. It may also be of interest to readers that Green Issues Communiqué did the community "consultation" for the controversial Lok 'n' Store planning application. The local residents haven't forgotten, it was they who reminded me!

Ms. Edwards declaration of interest also reveals another interesting nugget. Her election expenses were part-paid for by Unison and the T&G Union. Putting aside the fact that the T&G doesn't exist anymore and they've just pensioned off Derek Simpson with a £1/2m pay off whilst bleating on about "fat cats", it does reveal a nice little dodge that Reading Labour appear to be using to avoid putting union money through their books. It's legitimate, as it is perfectly permissible to donate directly to a campaign but it does avoid an observer from creating a direct link from union donations to Labour to their receiving payment in kind through the facilities agreement. It would be interesting to know whether the Unison money came from their General Political Fund although I suspect it wouldn't make much difference. The GPF is used to campaign for Labour anyway.

At least Kelly's link with Tesco is in the public domain and she is not on any body that could directly influence a decision but if you are clever enough, there is a loophole in council policy and one which is almost impossible to unravel.

If you are a self-employed councillor providing consultancy services, you don't have to reveal your client list. If you don't have to declare your client list, there is no way to independently check on potential conflict of interest. There is no requirement by the council which forces you to do so.

I guess that's okay with people?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

RCRE Employment Tribunal Judgement

I shall have to think very carefully about how to respond to the findings of an Employment Tribunal heard in mid-June. I have much background information and complete notes from the hearing not yet in the public domain that will make uncomfortable reading for many.

What the judge led Tribunal determined was that RCRE ran a personal vendetta against one of their employees for daring to disagree with them. Recognise that scenario?

In May 2010 I chaired an internal RCRE grievance panel to hear the same evidence considered by the Employment Tribunal and came to the same conclusion, namely that Mr Deva was owed money by them. Straight away senior RCRE members did not like my conclusions, conspired to over turn them on the day I gave them my panel report and then deliberately and with malice aforethought embarked on a campaign of character assassination to cover up their actions.

The evidence given to the tribunal by senior RCRE figures was given under oath. None of the members of RCRE took a religious oath and instead made a 'general affirmation'. I have, from my notes, many examples of where their evidence bordered on, if not constituted downright perjury. I suspect the latter because during a lunch break the current chair of RCRE threatened me in the lift with: "It's just your word against many". As my witness statement was backed by documented evidence, there was no need to take anyone's word for it. Was he suggesting that he was prepared to lie to the Tribunal to discredit me?

If could be that I was just be being over sensitive to their aggressive gestures but then here are three statements made by the Judge in his findings about the evidence they gave:
  1. In his witness statement Mr Sophal states that as well as following the procedure he was trying to encourage a meeting between the Claimant and Mr Abdoul as a "way of resolving the matter without escalation." The Tribunal do not accept this evidence.
  2. Dr. Elahi is wrong in his evidence.
  3. The Tribunal therefore do not accept the evidence which has been given by Mr Raichura on this issue.
That's three senior RCRE figures who have given on oath evidence that was not credible and rejected by a judge.

On the face of it I have paid a heavy price for my decision to find in favour of Mr. Deva in May 2010 against the wishes of the RCRE Executive but I have no regrets. I would rather have my integrity than crawl on my stomach in the dust like others who have sucked up to them for the sake of political expediency and personal vindictiveness.


I want to thank my local party for their full support throughout this quite distasteful episode. The Tribunal finding calls into question the actions and motivations of many senior people in several organisations over the last year. As I said, I will need to have a period to think about what to do next because right now I would be quite happy to publish and be damned about what has been going on behind the scenes. That may not be long term in my own best interest.

I am just so desperately sorry that I couldn't do anything a year ago when I saw what they were doing to Mr. Deva and for the stress and harassment he suffered at the hands of an organisation that is supposed to defend equality and human rights. For that he has my full and sincere heartfelt apology.

You may read the full findings here: RCRE Employment Tribunal

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Busman's Holiday

Labour have moved swiftly to reinstate their former iron grip on Reading Transport Limited which has to be bad news for Reading. Their last controlling era resulted in the ethanol bus fiasco, which was forced on the company for a few pictures on Labour's election leaflets and nearly had catastrophic consequences.

Thanks to the Greens, the current board make-up is a politically unbalanced Labour: 3; Trades Unions: 1; Conservative 2; Business Appointees; 2. With David Sutton in the chair this gives Labour complete control and with Tony Page no-doubt planning to resurrect his role as a shadow director there are good grounds for concern over political interference in the company's future operations.

Labour also closed the Station Hill approach which meant that the long standing ambition of Reading Transport Board for a fully integrated interchange was nobbled before it could get off the ground. The long term effects on the company are yet to be known.

I have to say that I've enjoyed my time as a director of Reading Transport Limited. James Freeman is an excellent Chief Executive for tough times and I thank him for his open mind to new ideas. There is a good team at Great Knollys Street and I give a big thanks to all the staff who made me welcome.

I think I made a difference. At my very first board meeting I brought up the issue of the effect of that flat fares had on the inner town area and was met with a ferocious attack from one Tony Page, who at that time was double-dipping as a director and lead councillor for Transport. Data from the transport department was showing that residents in Battle ward were driving their cars to work whilst those in Tilehurst were using the bus! His position was clearly untenable but he couldn't help but puff himself up and rail against the temerity of someone having a new idea that wasn't his.

Three years later, an inner zone in the guise of the '£1 to Town' fares is being rolled out across the network and my idea for a discount irregular user card became the EasySaver 10. I also trialled using Twitter during the 2009 snow problems as a method of customer communication and was pleased to be successful in getting it adopted as a standard customer service tool. I still get a "I did that" feeling when I see the buses go past with their @reading_buses twitter feed adverts!

I shall have to check carefully as an ex-director what I am now able to say about previous episodes as my main concern would be to protect the reputation of the company but Labour control of the board does not bode well given their previous interference.

I also wonder whether Trish Thomas will be trousering the £6,000 that the company normally pays to non-executive directors who are not councillors. I've been told that Mike Townend will not be claiming it so a statement that Labour are not using directorships to financially reward yet more of their former councillors with company cash would be welcome.

Monday, 11 July 2011

The Fourth Council Estate

The News of the Screws has brought to public attention the long running cosy relationship between the media and politicians. It also highlights what happens when you are slightly "off-message" with the establishment and just how far they will try to squash you in order to keep their self-serving agendas on-track.
Resitance is futile!

I hold no brief for Andy Coulson. He is a Spurs fan responsible for some quite vile news stories. I have written several jokes about him whilst he was editor of the NotW but it is as clear as day that he has been thrown to the wolves by Murdoch in order to keep his Borg Queen in place.

In 2003 Rebekah Wade personally admitted during a Select Committee paying police for stories but so far she is only being called on to give evidence as a witness. Obviously it makes you proud to be British to know that we have the best police force money can buy.

The most damning revelation has been the hacking and deletion of messages from Milly Dowler's phone. It was the story that caused the tipping point in public perception. She ran the story yet is getting the full might of News International behind her. Why isn't she being hauled in to have a not innocent even if proven not-guilty DNA swab taken?

When Vince Cable "declared war" on News International, to their shame, we saw the Conservatives react by marginalising him.

Yet even more digracefully Ed 'The Hypocrite' Miliband demanded that he be sacked for daring to hint that Rupert Murdoch wasn't a fit and proper person to control so much of the national media. In the next few days his (in)actions will be in the spotlight.

Pre-Dowlergate the establishment tried to deal with him in the only way it knew how, to smear and trash. Labour, in contrast to their sudden revulsion with Murdoch, were some of their biggest cheerleaders. Now that The Times and Sunday Times are beginning to get caught up with the scandal as it is now revealed that someone from those papers tried to illegally obtain Gordon Brown's accounts, Miliband may regret his defense of Tom Baldwin on Andrew Marr's show when it seems he had done exactly the same as Cameron:  "Are you lying?" "No" "Well, that's all right then."

But the reaction to Vince is just typical of the politics and media in this country. Scare people until they are unwilling to stick their heads above the parapet and want to bring to account vested interests for their actions. It's why most people are turned off by politics when telling it like it is is something to be attacked by the media. The best advice I ever saw for a whistleblower was to have courage and be prepared to never work in your industry again. I might have to take that advice!

At national level you have a press whose direction is driven by owners' agendas rather than principles of good journalism, whilst at local level, financial pressures on journalists reduces them to regurgitating press releases. There is simply no longer the time available to properly research a story or dig. That's why nationally shortcuts were taken and locally we have seen the death of investigative news. We've seen one lie from the Labour administration communicated by the RBC press office and printed as fact with no checks by journalists [although it probably says more about RBC who have allowed council facilities to be abused for political purposes].

In Reading the council spent years denying that there was a problem over Section 106 receipts, despite knowing that there was an internal report suggesting that there was one and a quite serious one at that. The council gave incorrect information to councillors and Labour is now trying to bury the report. It has taken over a year to get this far and there is more to discover. Yet an ordinary journalist on local paper deadlines would never have been able to research the story and would have been fobbed off way before uncovering anything.

It is not a criticism of the local media, that's just telling it how it is and is especially true now that many local papers derive a considerable proportion on income from local authority publicity spending. What is in for them in biting the hand that feeds them?

Oscar Wilde wrote:

"In old days men had the rack. Now they have the press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralizing. Somebody — was it Burke? — called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by Journalism."

This is still true at both national and local levels. The national picture shows what happens when the press run the agenda and corrupt it to the purposes of their owners. The local picture shows what happens when the local press can no longer be called the custodians of enquiry and holding the elected to account. Different ends of the same spectrum but the same spectrum all the same.

There is something quite rotten at the heart of politics when power is involved. We saw what happened with the expenses scandal when the press failed for years to do their duty as they cosied up to smooth commercial takeovers and garner influence. We've also seen locally the same effect but for other reasons. There is a rotten heart at the centre of this town and that rotten heart is the local Labour party. But they wouldn't get away with it if they weren't aided and abetted in that by a willing host of partners keen to get their hands on council tax money or protect their own self-interest.

Like nationally where people failing to care got the tabloid journalism they deserve, locally the failure to engage with the political process has got us the self-serving council we all deserve. I saw a good analogy somewhere. People sit down on Sunday morning reading their paper, eating bacon and eggs and don't want to know what goes on in the abbatoir.

It's time for people to stand up and be counted and restore politics to the people. Give a damn!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Recycled Gags #73

Typical Guardian trying to take all the credit for exposing Andy Coulson and Rebekah Wade's dodgy practices. Up the Arse! exposed their shameless pursuit of circulation figures in March 2006!

I do like the sychronicity that it refers to Harry Potter on this the day of the last film's premier. Ce n'est plus la change!

Up the Arse! Exposes News of the World Arselicking Shocker

Up The Arse! has been given details of sordid and perverted activities being carried out by two major British newspaper “editors” acting under the directives of a foreign national who has come over here to take our jobs, steal our women and drink our beer. We cannot reveal the identity of the duo engaged in these sordid activities, so we’ll call them Rebekah and Andrew to protect us from libel.
One of the people who have come to the notice of UTA! is rumoured to be very fond of the bizarre sexual practice of coprophilia which involves sticking one’s nose as far up the arse of an Australian business man as is humanely possible and showing off the resulting brown-nose in public. Stories have come to our notice that the Spurs supporting man in question will stop at nothing in his pursuit of what he refers to in his twisted mind as “improving circulation”.
One of the “editors” caught in the act of preparing to give Rupert Murdoch a surprise  arse licking.

The other is a drunk and violent thug who likes nothing better than giving  defenceless men a damn good fisting because they know they will never be able to report the crime to Police for fear of being thought a soft-touch. She is also known to police as a serial  publisher of  pictures of 15 year old stars of Harry Potter films with suggestive headlines whilst running an anti-paedophile campaign. Both without any shame of being thought a hypocrite.

You have been warned!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Bin There. Done It.

We are now beginning to see how the Road to Damascus conversion by Labour to consulting residents over matters that effect them will actually work in practice. There was no conversion and there isn't going to be any. Instead they have come up with a scheme designed to give them the answers they wanted all along. So no change there.

Last year I had a look into the idea of providing a more flexible refuse collection service for residents in areas where there were problems with the existing alternate weekly collections. There was never any intention to impose it on residents, a clear majority needed to be in favour and there were certain criteria laid down to ensure that it was needs driven rather than politically. There are already streets in Reading that have weekly black back collections and my experience was that there were probably more where it would be beneficial to residents and the refuse collection service alike.

To acheive that I was going to assert the role of councillors as community advocates, as promoted by the Centre for Public Scrutiny and provided by the council's constitution. And the way I was going to do it was to take the lead councillor out of the equation and allow ward councillors to consult directly on options for residents based on their ward experience in a neutral fashion.

Of course, I had to junk that idea when Labour councillors refused to co-operate with the efforts to stop kerbside parking which is not only inconvenient but downright dangerous when emergency vehicles are blocked. Such consultation doesn't work if councillors are more intent on using if as party propaganda and fail in their constitutional obligation to represent all residents. Instead Labour put out misinformation and used scare tactics and refused to consult with their residents. Their non-cooperation meant that the scheme had to be put on hold and a hugely expensive consultation considered.

It was clear from their shameless behaviour that that any attempt to involve ward councillors in an honest and fair consultation would be met with hostility and yet more false propaganda.

So what do we see them doing about consultation over weekly bin collections? Yep, they want to implement the very idea which they themselves wrecked. Well, I'm sorry. If they didn't back consultation by ward councillors last year, why should they be so keen on it this year?

Simples. Being Labour it's not about doing a proper consultation at all. It's a means to an end and that end is getting the answer they wanted all along. Already you can see them putting out statements designed to gerimander the result.

There have to be serious questions asked about the conduct of one Labour councillor who has already written to residents over what is meant to be a neutral consultaion exercise at the same time telling them that she has "big reservations" over it. The timing of her letter is suspect as well as she posted that she had already started delivering letters about her "consultation" on the 1st July at 17:03 - the first day that the cabinet papers had been made available to all councillors and which aren't delivered until early evening. There has clearly been some pre- briefing from the lead councillor going on here. That's hardly unbiased consultation is it? No, it's shoddy politicing on the rates.

As a reminder, for a party has set itself so dead against weekly black bin collections, it was only in 2007 that Labour were putting on their election leaflets pleas to residents that if they wanted to get black sack collections to call their Labour councillor. Of course, we know since that date that if a Lib Dem asked for a street to go on the weekly collection list they would reject it out of hand. That's the Labour way.

Labour are in a complete mess over how to consult because quite frankly they have no idea how it is done unless it gives them the answer they wanted in the first place. Their idea of consultation, like the Shinfield Road, is to decide what the answer is and manipulate the answers until they get what they want. A few loaded questions here and there and ignoring the ones they don't like and hey presto, you get the Shinfield Road fiasco à la Labour.

Labour simply cannot be trusted for as long as their idea of consultation is to slant the questions and warp the responses. Anyone who believes in local democracy should keep well clear of this sham.

If Labour truly believe in local democracy then the only way now for residents to feel that their consultations are fair, honest and completely unbiased is for council officers to be responsible otherwise Labour risk bringing the council into disrepute.

They won't of course. An independent consultation might give an answer they don't want.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Sectioned

Sometimes you should be careful what you ask for. I should know I've warned people about that myself before.

Yesterday I was finally given a copy of the Wokingham Borough Council report on Section 106 receipts. The problem? It is a blue paper report which means that I will be in breach of the councillors code of conduct if I reveal its contents. A cunning move there but I can't complain, I did ask for it!

I am deliberately writing this before I read the report so that I can't be accused of leaking confidential information. I will then have to decide what I am to do in the light of reading its contents.

What do we know that is in the public domain?

Reading Borough Council used Section 106 monies to pay for things that a reading of the law suggests should have come out of the revenue accounts and were not capital items. I've already reported that it included fixing leaking roofs and gas main repairs.

We know that the records kept in the Parks department were poor but at least shed some light on where some of the money was meant to be spent even if it wasn't. We know that the Education department kept no records worth speaking of.

My understanding from what I have discovered so far is that Section 106 monies were put into the capital accounts obstensively to accrue interest. So far so good. However what I believe actually happened to that money that should have been returned for earmarked capital projects wasn't and that  a significant proportion was leeched back into the ordinary general fund to pay for operational costs like the aforementioned repairs.

The scandal is that no one actually has a clue where some of the money was spent and Labour and officers have no interest in getting to the bottom of it, an attitude which leaves the Council open to legal action. There is clearly an attempt to sweep the whole thing under the carpet and the laissez faire attitude is just wrong.

Jo Lovelock has taken great pains to say that there was no "wrongdoing". Well, that depends purely on your point of view and your definition of wrongdoing. No one has alleged embezzlement or corruption for personal benefit so by that definition she is correct. However, if what she is trying to do is suggest the money was spent in accordance with legally binding agreements then she is wrong. Finacial competance is what it is really all about.

In fact what we have here is the tip of the iceberg. I know of one area where reserves were over budgeted so that they could be used later in the year by Labour to help shore up the inevitable budget variances and whole sections of the Streetcare budget were not actually under the control of the department but were instead cross charged from central finance leaving me little scope to do something about them. When I asked finance for access to the below the gold book figures I was told by officers they didn't exist - and I was the lead councillor!

If an audit of the capital programmes was conducted and the Council's debt was properly analysed, rather than the superficial and carefully controlled data that is given to councillors, a whole new set of questions would come crawling out of the woodwork. It's why I believe what is going on now amounts to a whitewash.

Jo Lovelock has promised to release the report... but edited. So much for transparency! What you won't see though is the second part of the report - the legal advice. I still haven't been given a copy of that myself. The council is classing it as legally privileged so that they don't have to release it under Freedom of Information.

Astonishingly, the reason given is that publishing it may expose the council to legal action from developers! Well, excuse me. If there was no "wrongdoing" as Jo Lovelock claims, how on earth could publishing it result in legal action unless it suggests that the council didn't act correctly.

As long as the report is only released in a redacted form and/or the second report is kept secret, I think council tax payers have a legitimate reason to wonder about what exactly is being covered up and by whom.

I am now going to read the report. If you don't hear from me...