Saturday, 30 April 2011

What is she scared of?

Another letter from the mysterious J Lake in support of Labour published in the Post.

Who could this masked fighter for the oppressed be?

Surely not well known Labour member and activist Jill Lake? It couldn't be, for that Jill would no doubt be proud to lend her name to the fight against the forces of evil. Come on Jill, what have you got to hide?

I don't have access to any personal data but even I know that you live in Alexandra Road, like I know the local Labour chair lives in New Road. These are not secrets so why invoke the name and address withheld every time you write to the Post? If you stick your head above the paparet, you can no longer can claim anonymity because no one forced you to do it.

Jill seemed happy enough for her address to be used for Labour Leaflets to hide the fact that their candidates in the last election and this don't actually live in Redlands.

My questions are:

1) Why is Jill so coy about letting people know it's her (even to the extent of hiding her first name) who is writing these diatribes? Something to hide?

2) Why does the Post continually allow letters from a well known Labour activist like Jill to be published without an address? Everyone else has to give one unless there is good reason and there is nothing in her polemic aside from bile that justifies that status.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Sour Pusses

Peter Hain and Polly Toynbee's tweets during the Royal Wedding say everything there is to say about the narcissistic left. People don't care. Go and rain on someone else's parade.


Saturday's Guardian (Early Edition)

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Waste of Space

There are times when you really have to wonder.

Labour have clearly succeeded in conning people into thinking that their green waste scheme was actually a green waste scheme. In that the waste is green I suppose they are correct. Except some of it is brown. And some of it isn't. But I digress.

What we see here is Labour telling a lie so big that people believe it. They convinced a shadow minister to come to Reading, read from her script without engaging brain first and weep for the plight ofthe amazonian rainforests. "Why won't somebody please think of the parrots?"

Even the "Greens" have fallen for Labour's fairy story. Shame on them. But then Rob White has been spoon fed by them since he got on the council, attending briefing sessions and even on one occasion I've been told acting as a door man at a public meeting, whilst Labour got on with the real politics of the meeting leaving him on the sidelines. Rob, they are not your friends. They lie to you.

So what does happen to all the green waste so dilligently collected by residents? Yep, it ends up on the landfill site. Putting it in the green bin is as "environmentally friendly" as putting it in the grey bin. It will decompose in the same place. Except you have to have a extra fleet of lorries racing around polluting the streets and everyone pays towards it regardless of use.

Why do we have one? When Reading started alternate weekly collections, Steve Waite was told that he could add a green waste collection for "free" with the surplus capacity. I suspect it was a move to keep Labour's chums in the T&GWU sweet. It also explains why when councils were making the move to alternate weekly collections across the country to save hundreds of thousands and even millions of pounds, good old Labour Reading Borough Council saved a massive £40,000 from the Streetcare budget.

So why did I think Reading needed this change? I could have left it alone.
The current cost in landfill tax of each tonne is £48. i discovered that the cost to RBC for disposing of the "green waste" is £90 a tonne. This is the economics of the mad house so no wonder Jo Lovelock and Paul Gittings are so proud of it. It's staggering in fact.

The green waste collection costs twice as much as sending it to landfill, it provides negligible environmental benefit and if you take into account the extra lorries chasing around the streets there is probably a net negative effect on the environment. And just to top off Labour's solid grasp of economics, apart from churn from new residents, anyone ever likely to buy a green bin already has bought one.

In any case, residents aren't being charged full cost recovery, the service is still subsidised to an extent. Labour controlled Oxford has introduced a £35 a year charge. They didn't tell the shadow minister that did they?

If it was simply about saving money, maybe people would have a point but it wasn't. Providing the green waste collection at such a massive loss prevented any other type of recycling scheme from being implemented, even if it was better for the environment.

Green Waste:
Cost of service: £750,000 per annum.
Coverage 25% of residents.
Total possible tonnage: 2,500 per annum

Glass Recycling
Cost of service: £530,000 per annum.
Coverage; 100% of residents.
Total possible tonnage: 3,500 per annum

I would have preferred to have had a glass collection service start up at the same time as the green waste changes but you can't start up a new scheme from scratch overnight complicated by Labour signing us up to a 25 year PFI deal which means that RBC doesn't actually own its own rubbish.

Before it could start there needs to be budget approval, somewhere for it to go and vehicles to be bought or leased and also agreement with our partners. that I had been working on but the cost of the green waste service needed to be addressed. Others may take a different view but I felt a subsidised but sustainable green waste collection and a new borough wide kerbside glass collection service would be better for the environment and better service for residents.

I'll make one easy prediction though. Labour won't reverse this charge they just hope enough people are dumb enough to think they will, Go on. Ask them for a direct promise to reverse it. They won't give you one. It is a con.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Is There Something Labour Isn't Telling Us?

It's fairly self-evident from the wide field contesting the RDLP annual Most Offensive Smear Award (Pete Ruhemann 5 times winner and 3 times runner-up) that Jo Lovelock is counting down her days until retirement as Labour leader, but did the local party try to send a sublimal message to supporters in September? ☺

The Reading Schools Catering Workers posted this on their web site on the 17th September:

Workers Speak at a Joint Labour Party Meeting

Last night workers from across Reading schools spoke about their experiences working with Chartwells in Reading schools. In the audience were a wide range of Labour Party members including the leader of the Labour Group on Reading Borough Council and former leader Cllr Jo Lovelock along with Cllr Jon Hartley, Labour Group Education spokesman and many more. One of our workers spoke for the first time in front of such a large audience but the message she made was clear and robust. Exciting times ahead.

Friday, 22 April 2011

New Developments at the Council

Whilst I was putting together my list of things that I found as lead councillor that the previous Labour administration did that I thought were possibly illegal, were at a minimum iffy and some of them clearly had the smell of dubious practice about them, I had a dig through my old emails from the good old days when I used to get told what was going on.

There was one interesting one detailing the setting up of an independent investigation that the new administration demanded after finding serious discrepancies in the allocation and spending of section 106 receipts by Labour.

I have a very simple question. Where is this report? The terms of reference were sent on the 4th February. It was due to report the first week of March. It's been awfully quiet hasn't it.

Why? Is someone trying to protect the previous administration by withholding it until after the election so that, as Labour hope, it can be quietly buried with a nothing to see here and secrecy? Does it embarrass council officers who would prefer to keep the whole matter quiet?

I have always suspected that Labour used this money as a helpful source of cash to balance their notoriously piss-poor administration where massive variances to the published budget were the order of the day and money had to be sloshed around from one department to another because they just could help overspending at every opportunity.

Now we know officer knew something was wrong because there had already been a report about how they administered Section 106 money in March 2009 which found one Critical and two Essential management actions required because to be honest the system in place was a complete and utter shambles. It was also practically impossible to work out where the money was being spend. The Parks department at least kept a spreadsheet but even that showed money being spend on legally dubious activities like fixing the roof of the Hexagon. Section 106 money cannot be used for maintenance, it has to be spent on capital programmes linked to the development.

An internal investigation was meant to get to the bottom of things, but if anything it threw up even more questions. The figures still didn't add up. Section 106 cash was being allocated to projects that it wasn't intended for and decision book and cabinet reports detailing where the money was going to be spent were overridden or it would seem deliberately ignored. If the opposition are scrutinising decisions and reports in the belief that they were correct only to find later that in some cases the money was being spend elsewhere isn't that maladministration?

The money was instead moved around in a way that meant that it was not practically possible to audit the spend and hypothecate it to the receipt. Education didn't even keep track of the money and it looks like £0.5 million allocated to education use disappeared into Labour's pixie pot of gold and may not have been used for the purpose it was intended.

And what plan did they come up with to "correct" these little accidents... reissue the audited accounts with corrections!

A cunning plan when you are in control of the council and the opposition don't have full access to information. However, slightly prone to going tits up if you ever lost control of it. I'm beginning to think that why Labour never wanted to form a coalition with the Lib Dems - they had far too much to hide.
So what do you do when faced with a denial that there is something that looks dodgy going on? Correct at the back, good to see you have been paying attentioon - commission an independent report. So the new administration did and asked Wokingham Borough Council to do the work. I have a copy of the Terms of Reference.
Terms of Reference
1. To note the report of the May 2009 carried out by the Reading Borough Council’s Internal audit section a copy of which is annexed in Schedule 1
2. To note the briefing paper entitled Use of Section 106’s produced by ***********, **************** which is annexed in Schedule 2

3. To note the report by ******************** contained in Schedule 3

4. To establish and thereafter review the current practice regarding how section 106 receipts are assigned to, and spend approval obtained for, individual projects and how this corresponds with the Council’s Capital Programme and spending priorities. This should also include a comparison between the purpose of S106 and how it is spent. The review should consider how the Council’s year-end closing processes could be enhanced to optimise the use of S106s and ensure compliance and transparency, whilst providing assurance to councillors and services that local amenities that need to be improved because of developments will get improved.

In particular, the review should:
  1. Investigate difference between Decision Book and Cabinet Report spend approvals, and actual spend. Please find examples in Schedule 4.
  2. Investigate the issue of the Multi Use Games Area (Muga). This should include consideration of:
    • Planning Report and unilateral agreement 
    • Cabinet reports re spend approval 
    • Actual funding by allocation of Section 106 receipts
  3. Investigate the mismatch between published, planned spends by the Parks Service and the final allocation of relevant S106 receipts to other, less local schemes.
  4. To review and make recommendations regarding the above procedure
5. Request a legal view on the appropriateness of use of Section 106 receipts for "maintenance" of community facilities such as leisure venues and educational buildings. Please find examples in Schedule 5

6. Request a legal view on the legality or otherwise of correcting errors in the allocation of S106 receipts in the Council’s Accounts.

7. Request a legal view on the current methods used to allocate spend. This may require a number of schemes to be identified or random sampling to be undertaken

8. To make recommendations for implementing future processes if and where appropriate.
It is the report based on these terms of reference that has mysteriously gone quiet, conveniently just before the local elections. If, as I suspect is the case. the council has the report they should publish it now. After all the report was meant to be delivered over 6 weeks ago and it was budgeted as being 14 days work.

Unless it is made public, some may start suspecting a cover up... to save either officer embarrasment or Labour's . Oh, and before Labour go trying to gag me by threatening me with the Standards Board (again) over compromising officers inpartiality, I haven't named anyone so if anyone is feeling hot and bothered perhaps that's a good thing. And if Labour don't like me stating that there are a small number of officers acting against the interests of the administration perhaps Councillor Orton would like to name the individual who gave him a copy of a draft internal options paper and I'll happily withdraw that comment.

The more you look at how Labour ran RBC either it was a totally hands off council with the officers doing as they pleased or fiscally mismanaged. There are instances where events seem to back up both options as being eminently plausible. Take your pick. you have a 50:50 chance of being right.

And as for the clean bill of health Labour keep claiming from the auditors... the accounts wouldn't need to be rewritten if the auditors scrutinised to the level required to uncover this sort of thing. They do little more than check the columns add up.

Audits don't uncover things unless they know what they are looking for. Enron got a clean bill of health from their auditors... and Harringay was passed as "Good" wasn't it Mr. Ruhemann?

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Tributo a The Cure

Can't let Robert Smith's Birthday and the 30th anniversary of my first ever gig go unmarked. Thanks Bob for all these years of reminding me that there is always a more miserable ****er than myself out there somewhere and to bloody well cheer up!

21/04/81 Portsmouth Guildhall
22/04/82 Southampton Gaumont
06/05/84 Portsmouth Guildhall
11/08/90 Crystal Palace
19/01/91 Wembley Arena
13/06/93 XFM
01/06/96 Earl's Court
22/04/00 Wembley Arena
25/05/00 Dallas Starplex
09/07/02 Hyde Park
11/12/03 Islington Academy
09/07/04 Move Festival
01/03/06 RAH
20/03/08 Wembley Arena
27/02/09 O2

Highlights
Picture tour. Stayed behind after school. Got to front of stage when the doors opened and stayed there the whole gig. No support. Instead The Cure had a film called Carnage Visors made by Simon Gallup's Brother.

I took what seemed to be half of the Portsmouth High School for Girls sixth form to The Top gig. Funny how the boys who'd taken the piss out of me for wearing my Cure jacket to school (with a hand painted logo) suddenly became Cure fans.

Crystal Palace Bowl hosted The Garden Party with James, Lush and All About Eve supporting! There was a lake between the fans and the stage.

The Dallas gig was a real laugh. When I found out the tour date, I managed to persuade Fujitsu that I needed to stay one more week to finish off a web site. I discovered that an English accent meant that I didn't have to present ID to get a beer and that apparently walking back into town on your own through Deep Ellum at 12am is not recommended by the locals.

Islington Academy was a benefit gig. Dom Joly was there and as a collectors item the band played The Lovecats.

I'm seeing them at Bestival this September.

Three Wheels on Their Wagon,,,

Are the wheels finally beginning to come off?

It would seem that others are belatedly beginning to pick up on the financial mismanagement of the council budget by the previous administration. That there was is not in doubt and in my experience it was pretty widespread. The only question to be answered is, was it because of fiscal incompetence or deliberate and calculated disregard of the law?

The latest news to leak out is how the Labour administration took Section 106 money and used it like raiding a child's piggy bank (and in the case of Bugs Bottom literally) to fill their ever increasing black hole in the council's general finances. This is illegal and a senior council officer admitted that this was happening. It is being investigated by an outside body which is necessary because quite frankly I wouldn't trust an internal audit as far as I could throw it.

This isn't an isolated incident. The previous administration used taxi licence fee money in 2009 to pay for the taxi marshalls when other funding sources ceased. This, according to Darlington council officers, is illegal use of taxi fee receipts because it is not allowed by law.

I was told by one senior officer when I asked about a mysterious transfer of £10,000 from a transport account to be careful about asking because I wouldn't get to the bottom of it because of multiple transfers being used to hide its origin and that by investigating it "they" (unspecified) would know that I was onto them.

Then we have the payment of union officials and their being allowed to use paid time for political activity (or policy development as it was euphemistically called) courtesy of the tax payer which was effectively hidden from councillors, again by the trick of if you don't know what to ask for you won't get it.

A request by me for ALL the subscriptions and memberships paid for by the council in a year had the one organisation I knew should have been on there (Nuclear Free Local Authorities) missing from the list I was sent. No-one would have found it anyway because when I complained and was finally sent it, it was listed as Manchester City Council. If the one I knew was on there was missing, what else wasn't I told about? So much for transparency.

When I asked for below the orange book financial figures when I was trying to prepare the budget, I was told that they "didn't exist". Yes, they jolly well did! Took several months and escalation to senior management to get them.

And the use of overstated reserves was another wheeze I discovered that was used by Labour. Put in a far higher figure in the budget reserves than reasonably required for prudence and leech it back into the general accounts to pay for poor-budget management in other departments later in the year. No questions asked.

And these are just some of the things that I happened to bump into.

There's more if anyone had the time to dig properly... but don't get excited, under the council's freedom of information policy an email ceases to exist the moment it is deleted from the council's email system and they will not retrieve copies from the back-ups. I know this to be the case because I was sent a copy of an email from Martin Salter to a senior officer which was missing from those sent to me under my FoI request and even that censored list had to be wrenched from their cold dead fingers after two and a half years by a ruling in my favour from the Information Commissioner.

It appears to have been endemic across the board and I'm happy to say that these practices were stopped the moment they were discovered. Alas for poor council tax payers, I suspect there is a whole lot more that would come out if anyone could afford to conduct a forensic audit of the pre-2010 accounts.

Under Labour the policy was to keep things hidden and create a situation where if you did not know what to ask for you would not get it. No wonder a few council officers are privately hoping that Labour will come riding to their rescue so that they can continue business as usual. Reading deserves better than that.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

"Everything's packed, I've got to go..."

I think this page says all that needs to be said

STATION ILL

And so it begins...

The closure of Station Hill to through buses is another sad and sorry legacy the town has inherited from the miserable excuse of an administration that was Labour.

Let's be clear about this. The decision was made by Labour without any regard to the impact this would have on bus services or public transport. They didn't even have the decency to take into account the bus company's opinion before making the decision. Sure it was cloaked in "consulation" but the option to reverse the closure was never on the table. It was a fait accompli.

In August 2008 it was Reading Transport Limited's policy to push for an integrated transport interchange. I attach a paper produced by RTL discussing its response to the Station Hill1 proposals. It clearly sets out the case for a fully integrated transport interchange and why failing to do so would be folly.

In February 2009 the board were informed that Station Hill would be closed. There was no opportunity for the company to change this decision. That was it, end of discussion.

At this point the bus company as a wholly owned part of the council really had no choice but to make the best of a bad situation because at this point the council's plans would decimate the network. For example, they had laughable plans for buses to wait in King's Meadow/Napier Road during the standing time that is required to allow late running services to catch up on the timetable.

And when is an interchange not an interchange? When it is designed by Reading Borough Council. Their original proposals had the even more ludicrous plan of having three interchanges! Highways ovbiously uses a different meaning for the word interchange... or bus shelters as the rest of us would call it.

During a full council session when Lib Dems objected to the scheme in its current form, Tony Page tried his usual weasel tactics by trying to imply that as a member of the RTL Board I had agreed with the decision. Balderdash. The board minutes clearly show that I objected to the closure. I made representations to Highways. It was a lie to imply otherwise but a standard tactic from him to obfuscate the facts.

Since 2009 an enormous amount of work by Reading Transport has gone into trying to sort out the pigs breakfast left by Labour, spurred on by the experience of what happened to Newbury Buses during the extensive work in Newbury's Market Place which wrecked the town centre traffic and had a severe impact on bus services which Newbury buses have never really recovered from. If the new layout ends up with a half workable system, then the credit must go to RTL who have put a massive amount of work into changing the Council's plans from their half-baked fag packet plans.

The question I asked was who exactly was it who was behind this initiative? Everyone has been remarkably coy about admitting to making such a bold decision.
  • The land is not in the Sackville Properties redevelopment area.
  • It was also not owned by Network Rail whose land stopped at the perimeter of the station.
  • It was in the interests of the council as the owner of Reading Buses to create an integrated transport hub.
  • The road at Station Hill is fully under the control of Reading Borough Council.
So who exactly did decide to shut the road?

No-one will admit to it. However, I was told that Sir John wanted a continental style pedestrian piazza to deliver passengers direct into his development and a source in the council told me: "What Sir John wants, Sir John gets." Now there is nothing wrong with a developer asking for such things. What is wrong is a council that cravenly bends over backwards to fulfil the developers wishes without due regard to the best interests of the town.

So whose interests was screwing up the bus network and throwing away the once in a generation chance for a properly integrated transport hub?

Using Occam's Razor, the only sensible conclusion that can be drawn is that the Labour administration was so desperate for the millions of Section 106 cash from Sackville to fill the hole in their general finances that they were prepared to sell the future of integrated transport for present and future generations down the river. No-one has ever come up will a plausible alternative suggestion.

If an application for a whelk stall comes up for Broad Street, I hope that the licensing committee refuse the licence if the proprieter is one Mr. A.W. Page. He is not a fit and proper person to run one, let alone a town like Reading.

1 RTL Station Hill Consultation Response March 2007

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Massive Respect is Due

I have to admit that I was taken by surprise to discover The Arsenal suddenly decide to give up the balance of terror that has been in place for the last few years but the news that Danny Fiszman sold his shares only two days before his death explains a lot. We knew he was ill but it was still a bit of a shock.

It's a strange state of affairs when a satirical fanzine like Up the Arse! has never had a bad thing to say about the architect of our recent fortunes when directors are such an easy target for fun from humourists. Usmanov on the other hand...

It's also indicative of how much regard the stewardship of the club has been valued by fans when all around have been flogged off as play things for the rich and authority dodging charlatans. Despite the change of ownership Arsenal are still probably the last proper football club left in the country and a lot of the credit for that must go to Danny Fiszman.

I'm sure that he would absolutely agree with calls for Arsenal supporters to hang onto their shares.

Thanks for the new stadium. We'll be rasing a glass or two to you on Sunday. Cheers mate.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

RCRE isn't a black and white issue.

I wasn't intending to do another post on RCRE but they are beginning to get quite vicious and nasty with their defence of their gravy train, acting like ferrets in a sack, swinging punches at anyone who disagrees with them and playing the racist card to the maximum.

All the council has done is ask them to justify the spending of hundreds of thousands of pounds of council tax payers money on them which has caused them to cry foul when asked for some accountability and above all verifiable outcomes. Instead, we've seen smears, attacks and lies used to justify their existence.

The irony of RCRE accusing local bloggers and commentators of hiding behind anonymity isn't lost. How about RCRE publishing a deliberate and knowing falsehood on their website?

"Apart from some officers and some Councillors who are keen to see RCRE close..."

Who could they be talking about? It certainly isn't me. I've never said that I've wanted to see them closed and I have publicly stated that RCRE does some valuable work.

So if it's not me being referred to who could they be talking about. I can't think of anyone. In fact, I don't know a single officer or councillor who is "keen" to see RCRE close. If they are so sure that that is a fact then go on, name them? They can't. It is just smears, libel and slander where questioning value for money results in unfounded accusations of racism and intolerance.

The council is still providing funding for their accommodation and some of their projects yet they insist on implying to their supporters that the council is cutting all funding for them. What is so wrong with being accountable? They have never given a reason for why they should not have to do what every other group asking for public money is obliged to do... justify it. One possible answer is perhaps that they can't.

My reward for pointing out that at least one of their valiant band of "courageous" supporters was lying was to be reported to the local Standards Board by them. My suspicions were aroused because the "supporters" claim was the same untruth told to me by a fellow board member when I joined the board which I previously discovered had turned out to be false.

This is the same organisation that chased the Labour Party's racist NI35 Preventing Violent Extremism cash when the Muslim community came out and totally opposed Reading's participation in it. An organisation who were involved in organising a meeting about Gaza to which Jewish organisations were not invited. There are many questionable aspects about RCRE's definition of what is racist and their actions serving a very narrow agenda.

And that is without asking wider questions on the conduct of senior board members one of whom thought that I would be able to help him in a meeting with planning officers about a planning application despite representing a ward that was nowhere near where he lives or where his business is based?

There was another particularly distasteful episode where there was obvious collusion between board members and an attempt to compromise my impartiality when I was chairing a grievance hearing by asking me to delay its end so that legal papers could be served on the person with a grievance. I refused. They were not happy. Perhaps that's why they have been so vituperative about me?

There is a place for organisations like RCRE but for them to think that they are above local accountability is quite shocking. They made malicious complaints about me without foundation. I worked with RCRE for two years as a critical friend and was saddened to see after all my hard work for them to find that they hold malice in their hearts. Perhaps the problem is not with the organisation but the management.

Some might be forgiven for thinking that they are actually the Reading Campaign for Rajinder's Employment.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

How Reading Politics Works... #257 - The Local Press

Odd isn't it, when RCRE put out a quite vindictive press release about me knowing full well that I could not respond to their complaint once it had been made to the local Standards Board the local press were falling all over themselves to get quotes and print their malicious allegations.

However, when the local Standards Board ruled two weeks ago that there is nothing wrong with my posts, the silence has been deafening.

For the record, my posts about the "grassroots" campaign, which in at least one instance used a lie to support RCRE's case, solicited the following ruling from the local Standards Board:

"It did not find that the comments were critical of or 'belittled' the persons responsible for sending the emails on the grounds of their gender or race, not did they do so in relation to any other person referred to"

"Whilst the comments were critical, it did not considered the posts to be unfair, unreasonable or demeaning of these people within the context they were made"

The local press are proving quick to denounce and trash but slow to vindicate. I have my own thoughts as to whose agenda that supports. I even gave them a 'quote' for a change.

Still they're no different from my own party who have acted with indecent haste and failure to apply even simple rules of habeus corpus or any semblance of natural justice on similarly supplied malicious and false accusations so maybe I shouldn't be too harsh.

There are, however, strict rules in place covering charities and political campaiging. I wonder if the Charities Commission would like to hear about Registered Charity No. 1133358 use of Bet Tickner in their media campaign.

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Carpetbaggers

Reading Labour Party's latest work of fiction sneers at the Tories for not fielding local candidates. So how does Labour's record stack up?

They have 15 candidates and a piss-poor 4 of them actually live in the ward where they are standing. The Tories in fact have 6 candidates who live in their ward. Greens 7, Lib Dems 8. The Common Sense party are only fielding 6 candidates, but only one of them lives in the ward they want to represent.

But back to the 'do what I say, not as I do' brigade of brigands:
  • Chris Maskell (Battle) lives in Norcot
  • Paul Gittings (Minster) lives in Battle
  • Pete Ruhemann (Southcote) lives in Kentwood.
  • Miss Norcot has to negotiate several wards and the IDR to get to Redlands... luckily it's not one way, eh Jan?
  • Kelly Edwards' previous commitment to represent Redlands looks to have been complete hogwash as she obviously prefers to campaign for green issues in Whitley.
  • Their Katesgrove candidate will be campaigning strongly for a third Thames bridge
Yet, if Labour reassigned their candidates to actually stand where they live, they could have 8 candidates standing up for their local area.

But of course it's not about fielding local candidates for them. It's about taking the electorate for granted. Complete hypocrites but you didn't need me to tell you that.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Apology... what apology?

So Reading Labour have published an "apology" for using a copyrighted picture without permissions... except their apology is a lie.

"thought we had permission" - complete bullshit and they know it (as too I suspect do the Post). All political campaigners from any party know that you have to pay a fee to use pictures from the local paper. I love they way they also admit that they have been breaking the law for several years.

They really can't help it can they.

Also after 23 years in power they don't seem to understand how local government finance works. After looking at their budgets, that is not a surprise. They were either incompetent or guilty of dubious practices.

I'll be nice to them and assume it was incompetence... but there is still the matter of the mystery £10,000 transfer between cost centres that I was told not to investigate too deeply, payment of £20,000 on a contract that Darlington City council officers suggested in a report to their members would probably not be legal and the small matter of what exactly were Labour up to with Section 106 payments?

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

What a Load of Rubbish!

I never got to introduce them myself but I'm pleased to see the council going ahead with my initiatives:
  • First community based compact fluorescent lightbulb recycling scheme in the UK.
  • Weekly collections for priority areas
  • Kerbside battery recycling
  • Enhanced shopping districts
I also know I can count on Ricky to finish off the work I started on adding mixed plastics, glass and food waste to recycling streams in the face of continuing Labour opposition and the moronic contractual straight-jacket they left Reading with.

Of course, I need to thank council officers for their excellent work and support in working my ideas into real and practical initiatives, so thanks peeps.

I wish Ricky all the best. It is a monster of a portfolio but one where you can make the most difference.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Going Green

I'm spitting feathers about the complete lack of warning to residents about the waste charge. This has been known as an option within the council for months [it was published in the Cabinet papers in the first week of February] and information for residents should and could have been prepared well in advance. To not let people know about it with plenty of notice is in my opinion unforgivable.

But this is not an isolated case, the lack of notice about the changes to the free bus passes is another that is fishy.

In fact there seem to be a lot of stories designed to make it awkward for the administration being generated by the council at the moment. I'm sorry but "internal processes" does not adequately explain what is going on here.

The great majority of staff are consciencious and neutral in performing their duties but there are beyond any question of doubt some staff working against the administration and deliberately causing trouble for political reasons.

It is a fact that there have been leaks of sensitive and draft internal documents to the Labour group. Internal investigations never seem to get to the bottom of who is doing the leaking.

And this is a comment on the Reading Forum: "My mother has phoned to say she just got her letter – phoned up and cancelled – also had a go at them and was told if you don’t like it then vote them out!!" That is out of order for a public servant to say to a resident even if they personally believe it.

Then of course the Facilities Agreement allows union officials council tax funded time to work against the administration but we'll never know what they are up to because they are unaccountable to senior management. However, the sight of all of them trooping in loyally for an audience with Jo Lovelock in the Labour group room strikes me that it's pretty self-evident what they are up to.

I expect more politically sensitive council stories to come out over then next few weeks. I don't believe there is any co-incidence involved.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Labouring a Point

There seems to be a curious co-incidence about the recent flurry of complaints to the local Standards Committee about me...

Richard McKenzie - Labour Park ward candidate and all round bad egg.

Duncan Bruce - Labour Thames ward candidate and sensitive soul who doesn't like being reminded that Labour Party members are complicit in the unecessary deaths of 250,000 Iraqi civilians and according to a pre-invasion warning from MI6 culpable for the increased threat to the UK from islamic terrorism.

Jo Lovelock - Labour leader for the next five weeks who continues removing specks from the eyes of opponents, yet seems paralysed when it comes to dealing with her husband who Labour party internal emails show was responsible for lying about opponents and guilty of defamation during the last election and more recently for calling opposition members nazi collaborators.

Rajinder Sohphal - Former Labour Party councillor and someone I know for a fact last April was in regular correspondance with John "One Way IDR" Howarth, also a former Labour councillor and printer of discounted Labour leaflets.

Gloria Jack - COHSE and Unison Branch secretary and regular speaker at Labour Party conferences. I don't have access to the Labour membership list but I have a sneaking suspicion that she may be a Labour party member. If she isn't she has a close association with them and can be described at the very minimum as a supporter.

Detect a pattern here? Yep. All Labour members or supporters abusing the standards process for what can only be described as 'for political purposes'.

Why can I say so? Because they blogged, tweeted and press released their "anonymous" complaints to the standards board. The person being complained about is not able to comment once it has been lodged but they persisted in making malicious comments in public and to the press. It's why the standards process stinks.

Oh, and if you want to know what the standards board said about Rajinder Sohpal and Gloria Jack's complaint on behalf of RCRE?

"Whilst the comments were critical, it did not consider them to be unfair, unreasonable or demeaning to the people within the context they were made."

I can't help but think that it was a move to bully me in an attempt to stop me revealing more facts, like the details of a phone call I was asked to take in Rajinder's office last year just before a grievance hearing...

Saturday, 2 April 2011

An April Shower

Congratulations to those who worked out that my Friday morning blog post was an April Fool. I left enough clues in there... and none so obvious than that the first letter of each paragraph spelled out APRIL FOOL!

And shame on those who were so desperately hoping that it was true that they fell for it hook, line and stinker. I know who you are. Even worse were those who believed it it to be true without having read it! I might pass the names, emails and voice mails to Mick Spreader for public humiliation :-D

But it does raise a serious issue, that people are more willing to suspend their disbelief when they read something on the Internet. The accidental or deliberate failure to apply context to what they read and let us not forget that old favourite malicious intent.

It's the reason why so many people get viruses and trojans on their PCs, a willingness to uncritically view what their computer says as the truth or letting their eagerness to confirm their prejudices to override common sense. I can do no better than to recommend Rob Rosenberger's post on False Authority Syndrome or point you to what another of my favourite sites Snopes has to say on the matter.

More parochially, one area where the truth is murdered on a regular basis is in the reporting of council meetings. To be fair to the press they are unlikely to be able to condense a five hour debate into a few sentences and blogging councillors can twist what they like out of it. Rachel Eden has produced a particularly entertaining piece of fiction after Tuesday's Full Council meeting but to be fair to her she doesn't assert that it is the truth so caveat lector applies.

The big difficulty for the ordinary citizen is separating the fact from the spin. That's why I've been a long time campaigner for the web casting of council meetings, not just live but archived so that residents can go back to previous meetings and work out for themselves who said what. People will be still put a biased interpretation on proceedings but at least it would stop them being able to lie about matters of fact.

I recorded audio for most of Tuesday's Full Council meeting on my Android. It needs cleaning up in terms of sound quality but I've got a professional audio suite which should help. I think it would be in the interests of democracy to release it. There can't be any reason not to stream it because after all it is council policy to web cast meetings agreed unanimously by all parties.

Unless, of course, one them wouldn't like it if a few big fat lies were nailed.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Complete and Utter Garbage.

Those who like to paint themselves green should distance should themselves from the charlatans in the Reading Labour Party as quickly as possible. And if you are a Labour councillor that includes you if you want to be taken seriously.

Reading WILL get a greener recycling scheme and it won't be any thanks to Labour. In fact they fought tooth and nail with a sprinkling of vitriol when Lib Dems tried to get glass recycling, anaerobic digesters and meaningful cuts in CO2 levels implemented in Reading and their actions when in power of following national Labour party dogma rather than doing what was best for residents and the environment made it even worse. I had to spend a great deal of last year trying to unravel the unholy mess that they had left recycling in.

In 2007 Steve Waite put out a bragging press release about how Reading's recycling rate had gone up to a massive 35% - which many people pointed out was almost completely due to the introduiction of the larger recycling bins. When I took over three years later, it had actually gone down to 31%. What the **** had he and Paul Gittings been doing in those three years? Resting on their laurels and falling for their own hype it would seem.

Why was the organic waste scheme introduced? To fiddle central government stats. There was no other reason. Did anyone bother to ask whether there was anywhere for the green waste to go (apart that is from Lib Dems because we did and were fobbed of with crap answers)? 

Yet, if I am being fair, the question of whether there was a valid destination for it depends completely on your political point of view. Yes, it is if you think getting it mulched then spread ON TOP OF THE LANDFILL to get Gordon Brownie points  counts as recycling. That's because Labour government policy said that sending reprocessed waste to landfill didn't count towards the figure so if your motivation was hitting national indicators rather than doing what was right then bingo.

I have  a green bin so I am affected just as much as anyone else but it is not a free scheme and never was. If we wanted to start it from scratch it would cost RBC £¾m. Everyone pays for it regardless of use. In fact it was yet another one of the schemes Labour set up where the poor were subsidising the rich.

The result? Reading Labour implemented a scheme that made it more expensive to dispose of green waste than if it had been put in the landfill bins in the first place for marginal benefit to the envirionment.

Think about it - as councils across the nation moved to alternate weekly collections to save large amounts of money (typically £½m-£1m per annum), Reading saved a massive £40k by introducing them. Keeping the existing crews and expensive compacting vehicles going at large expense had nothing to do with keeping the Transport and General Workers Union happy did it? Then again the £4,600 donated to the local party by the union must have come in useful.

Except there was an alternative if at the heart of your core values was a desire to be green and with the advantage of no need to reduce staff levels. If Reading had taken the opportunity to introduce new recycling streams and more options for residents with the money we had saved moving to fortnightly collection, we had a win win... but (and try not to weep when I say this) Labour had signed up the council to a 25 year Private Finance Initiative that would mean that we would pay the price if we wanted to change the deal.

I've seen some residents ask an eminetly reasonable questions. Like why can't we use the revenue for recycling to pay for it all? I can tell you why! All household waste in Reading is "owned" by the PFI not RBC. If there was a market for green waste (and there isn't) then we wouldn't get the money anyway because Labour signed it away. I had Deloites looking though my options for revenue generation and they had to give up when they realised that if we found a company that would have paid for recycled egg boxes in gold RBC wouldn't get a penny.

Oh, did you know that there is a glass collection area all along at Smallmead? I didn't either until I took over the department. Labour kept quiet about that ever beeing an option when we campaigned for glass recycling on behalf of residents.

Glass and food waste recycling would have been a far better use of the money saved from the end of weekly collections. It would have benefited everyone across the borough and been environmentally responsible. Labour were just not up to the job. They bottled it.

If you want Reading to be a greaner place, Labour are the problem - or more accurately the particularly perverse variant of Labour we have in this town. What's saddens me is listening to genuinely commited people who appear to have fallen for their lying bullshit.

I hope that the newer Labour members are simply being gullible when they come out with some of their comments about waste recycling. I'd hate to think they are fully aware of the background and yet were prepared to make knowingly untrue statements about the situation. Or lying as the general population would call it.

Every Individual is the Architect of His Own Fortune.

For those who missed it, this is the April fool post. However, there is one bit that is true... the bit about the laptop. Hee hee hee!
After long deliberation, I have resigned from the Liberal Democrats. Sadly, I came to the conclusion that that was the only course left open to me after finding out what has been going on behind the scenes at national party level. Now I know how mushrooms feel... left in the dark and fed on manure.

Perhaps I should have acted earlier once I discovered what was going on. It was tricky keeping quiet, but intelligence has to be carefully considered before it is used. One foolish person handed me back a laptop which had been used to log into emails and store sensitive internal party documents. Idiot. Never give a computer hacker a PC that hasn't been securely deleted. Even NTFS files can be restored if you have access to the right tools and the administrator password. And I have both - it was originally my PC!

Reading some of the hundreds (literally) of email complaints to region and the national party (mostly from one person it has to be said) about me over the last two years and the endless correspondance between senior party figures inevitably meant that their minds have been made up in advance of any investigation so I guess they had no reason to ask me for my side of the story, which they never have. All my tweets have been trawled through and several selected to add to the charges including one where I innocently used the term "nitty-gritty" when apparently it's a derogatory term used on slave ships.

It became obvious that I was about to be hung out to dry when I read one email from the Lib Dem press office which suggested that if they handled the "situation" properly, it could even be used make Nick Clegg look less unpopular by diverting attention and giving the impression of decisive action.

Looking forward, I still have one year to go as a councillor and I have no intention of resigning from the council. I enjoy helping residents bash their way through red-tape - after all it's why I got involved in the first place.

For me, the main question is whether I would want to carry on beyond that and as it was clear that I was not welcome in the Lib Dems any more I'm giving serious consideration to approaching the local Conservatives. I've had nothing but support from my constituents, including the local Nigerian community who said that they would personally support me not the party if I stood again.

On the other hand it could be fun to form a fourth council group with the Greens. It's quite clear that they are being led up the garden path by Labour who have told them a complete load of tosh and they've fallen for it. I know where the bodies are buried. They don't.

Of course, I expect a certain amount of vitriol from my former colleagues, but that goes with the territory. It happens when anyone leaves a party so I'm ready for it. As I said, I've got numerous internal documents and reports that would make uncomfortable reading if they were put in the public domain, but I'm not going to be hasty about it. The noblest kind of retribution is not to become like your enemy.

Let them hate so long as they fear, Lucius Accius (170 BC - 86 BC)