Friday, 24 June 2011

Defamation claim against Sheriff of Chester UPDATE

Further to my original post Defamation claim against Sheriff of Chester

THE Sheriff of Chester accused the Tory-led council of intimidation after a watchdog backed his right to speak out over the controversial sale of County Hall.

Labour’s Cllr Reggie Jones is now free to speak out after the Standards for England watchdog cleared him of defaming the council’s chief lawyer Simon Goacher in a letter to the Press and a motion.

Mr Goacher made an official complaint after Cllr Jones of Blacon alleged ‘a catalogue of financial and legal bad practice’ in the authority’s handling of the sale of County Hall and purchase of HQ following an auditor’s report.

Cllr Jones has since found a stray print-out of an email dated March 17 in which deputy council leader Les Ford told his Tory group he had ensured ‘our officers put pressure’ on the Labour group to withdraw the motion.

My comment: More shenanigans between ruling councillors and officers in an attempt to derail democracy. I hope Les Ford is going to resign over his role in these false allegations.  

The motion they used officers to put pressure on the labour group to withdraw was "Labour’s Cllr Reggie Jones brought a motion before Cheshire West and Chester Council criticising the Tory-led authority following a district auditor’s report which examined the handling of the sale of County Hall and purchase of HQ."  

More information about the dodgy dealings during the sale of County Hall. 

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle

UPDATE 26th July 2011: Text of the Standard for England decision notice now publicly available on the What Do They Know Freedom of Information website.
Under section 58(2) of the Local Government Act 2000, as amended, SfE has decided that no action needs to be taken in respect of the allegation.
Reasons for decision
Standards for England accepts the Standards Initial Assessment Sub-Committee’s reason for referring this to Standards for England, that the status of the complainants would make it difficult for the complaint to be considered by the local standards committee,
While that the auditor’s report is by no means as critical as Councillor Jones suggests, at the same time it is not as supportive of the two councils as the complainants suggest. Although the auditor says that she was satisfied, in general, by the decision-making process adopted by the councils and that the sale did represent value for money for council tax payers, she also made a number of adverse comments. For instance she was concerned that interim advice given to members was provided verbally and not documented, that Cheshire West did not make their Counsel aware of a second valuation of the building and that both councils could have done more to involve local people in the decision to sell the building.
Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights gives protection to the right of freedom of expression, a right which the courts have strongly upheld in cases involving the expression of political opinion. Councillor Jones’ comments to the press and his motion to the Council are protected by Article10. In any event, the targets of his criticisms include not only officers of the Council but also its political leadership. I do not think that it is possible to construe his letter or the motion as being personally disrespectful to officers even if, by implication, it challenges some aspects of their performance, as indeed, does the auditor’s report.

Victory for gagging clause campaigner against CWaC Council

Cheshire West & Chester Council’s long term unlawful attempt to prevent an ex-employee from asking important questions collapsed today.

The climb down was complete when a letter arrived signed by Simon Goacher, Head of Legal and Democratic Services. This tried to put a brave face on a clear capitulation - but they’re not fooling anyone!

The public need to keep a watchful eye on this council.............more

My comment: I agree, I have also experienced CWaC's shenanigans and I for one intend to expose them at every opportunity. 

Visit the campaigner's website to read the full story

CWaC Council spending on Credit Cards UPDATED 13/07/11

Further to my previous post  on the subject I have just received a response to my freedom of information request about £2878.50 spent on credit card for Hotel Accommodation at the Old Swan Hotel.

1) How many people were accommodated at the Old Swan? 11

2) For How long were they accommodated at the Old Swan? 3 nights

3) What was the reason for staying at the Old Swan? LGA conference 30 June 2009-02 July 2009

4) What mix of officers/councillors were accommodated. Chief Executive and 6 officers, Leader of the Council and 3 Councillors.

5) Was the payment for anything other than accommodation? Payment was for bed and breakfast.

The response raises a number of questions,
Why did CWaC Council send 11 members and officers to the conference especially since the registration rate per delegate alone was £519 plus £77.85 VAT – total £596.85? Please note – the delegate registration fee does not include bedroom accommodation costs.  
Why did they spend  3 nights at the Old Swan when the conference only lasted 3 days which would have only required 2 nights accommodation?
Why did they pay more than double the cheapest available accommodation rates available?
To me it looks more like a swan out to the Old Swan at taxpayer's expense!

I have submitted another freedom of information request to clarify the amount spent on the registration fee. I have also asked a number of other councils how many people they sent to the conference because 11 appears to be far more than necessary.

UPDATE 29th June 2011:  Response to my FOI request "Further to your enquiry about the registration fee for attendance at the 2009 LGA conference/exhibition I can confirm that the registration fee only applied to the Chief Executive, Leader and Councillors as officers attended as exhibitors. The registration fee was £596.85 per delegate (inclusive of VAT). Total registration fee was therefore £2984.25."

Therefore, the cost so far identified are £2878.50 accommodation cost plus £2984.25 registration fee = a total of £5862.75 plus travel costs for 11 people plus the wages for 18 officer days (6 officers * 3 days).

UPDATE 2 13th July 2011: Just had a response to a similar Freedom of Information request I sent to another council for comparison. Suffolk County Council sent 6 people to the same conference, 1 officer and 5 members. Other councils to follow.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

This can be applied to CWaC Council senior staff

THE outside business dealings of senior town hall staff could soon be made public after Bolton Council was issued a High Court threat by the country’s information boss. 

The threat comes after transparency campaigner John Greenwood asked for details held on the council’s register of interests in a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

When the council refused, Mr Greenwood, from Breightmet, reported the council to the government’s Information Commissioner.

The commissioner has now ruled that the details of the register of interests should be released. The register records the name of council officers and any personal interests they have, such as ownership of property, family associations, business interests, shareholdings and membership of organisations that may conflict with their decision-making role.

My comment: Not before time. Many senior officers have outside interests that could conflict with their council role. I can feel an FOI request coming on :)

Read the full story from the source The Bolton News

Sixth officer leaves Stoke City Council for new job with former boss

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A TOP officer is leaving Stoke-on-Trent City Council after landing a job with his former boss in Cheshire.

Mark Palethorpe, who is the council's head of adult services and partnerships, becomes the latest senior figure to leave for Cheshire West and Chester Council, where he will be director of adult social care and health.

Cheshire West and Chester Council is run by former city council manager Steve Robinson, who left Stoke-on-Trent in October 2008.

He was followed within weeks by director of central services Julie Gill and adult social care and health director Steve Wilds.

And early last year the authority also lost its then head of housing, Alan Slater, head of human resources, Euan Murdoch-Hollies, and head of citywide and neighbourhood services Helen Bailey to the Chester council.

Mr Palethorpe is the first senior officer to leave for Chester in the past 18 months, and will replace current director Mr Wilds.

It is not known how much he will earn in the new role, but the salary is likely to be well above £100,000 a year, compared to about £80,000 for a head of department at the city council.

My comment: Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Sun Tzu

Read the full story from the source This is Staffordshire

Sample Comments below the article.

“I bet Cheshire West will be wondering where all these duffers came from, well my my its the merry go round from Stoke, is Robinson a Trekkie I wonder?”

“I have no doubt in my mind that these people are chasing pay rises, and also avoiding copping the blame for serial failures. And who knows... maybe the new guy has a "mate" in line for that job. Its all one big merry-go-round for these people.”

Friday, 17 June 2011

CWaC Council staff altered papers UPDATED

Staff at Cheshire West and Chester Council altered records relating to the care and treatment of a disabled man and "fundamentally affected" the course of a High Court case, a judge has said.

The judge said records were rewritten after a High Court hearing. He described the "misconduct" as an "extraordinary incident" and said it had "seriously impeded" the court process.

Details of the alterations emerged in a written judgment of a High Court dispute about the care of the disabled man - referred to as "P" by the judge.

My comment: I wonder what else gets altered/rewritten in CWaC Council when nobody's looking?

Read the full story from the source Bearsden Herald

UPDATE 23rd July 2011: The story has now bizarrely disappeared from the Bearsden Herald but appeared in the Chester Chronicle.

UPDATED 24th August 2011: Misconduct by council employees in DoL case "seriously impeded" court process, says judge. A fuller account than that ever reported by local press can be read on the  Local Government Lawyer Website

My comment: Is this the reason why so few negative stories about CWaC Council are ever published in our local press and even when they are they are nothing more than short extracts from a bigger story? Compare the Chester Chronicle article with the Local Government Lawyer one.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Review in to waste cash

A JUDICIAL Review opens in the High Court on Thursday into the Government’s decision to withdraw more than £100 million of support to Cheshire’s proposed household waste disposal scheme.

Mr Justice Longstaff, sitting in Manchester, will hear the case brought by Cheshire West and Chester and Cheshire East Council following meetings with Defra and advice from leading counsel.

My comment I just hope CWaC Council has obtained better legal advice than they normally rely on. Otherwise they could be wasting cash on a review of waste cash..

Read the full story from the source Cheshire First

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Rich List 2: The Councillors

The Taxpayer's Alliance published a Rich List which included the remuneration of all council staff who cost the taxpayer over £100,000 per year.

From that list it can be acertained that 13 CWaC Council staff receive a total remuneration package of over £100,000.

Following an enquiry I decided to do something similar for CWaC Councillors. Fortunately the information is available from CWaC Council. However, this lists all councillors and I was only interested in those who cost the taxpayers the most.

Therefore, I decided to extract all those who, during the financial year 2010/11, cost the taxpayer more than £20,000.

1) JONES, M: £42,472.27

2) FORD, L: £27,553.35

3) BATEMAN, D: £27,402.30

4) DOWDING, B: £26,582.79

5) MANLEY, H: £26,355.02

6) RILEY, L: £25,233.82

7) HARADA, A: £24,265.97

8) SHORT, R: £24,241.12

9) HOGG, M: £20,879.72

10) DAWSON, A: £20,425.48

11) OULTRAM, R: £20,309.22

12) STORRAR, A: £20,050.92

Total for these 12 councillors = £305,771.80

75 CWaC Councillors  2010/11 total = £1,147,581.01 

Yet only 2 years ago 72 Pre CWaC Councillors 2008/9 total = £503,590.21

I will make further comparisons as time permits but in any event will compare this list with 2011/12 when the figures are available.

There are now some 75 councillors at CWac Council who can claim allowances during 2011/12.

UPDATE 6th June 2011:  Thousands of local councillors have seen their allowances soar in the past five years, astonishing figures reveal.

The town hall payouts have risen by up to 150 per cent to a total cost of more than £200million a year.

Expenses were first made available to local politicians in the 1970s – and in the 1990s, allowances, or pay, for councillors were introduced to reimburse local councillors for their time. But the effect has been to produce a generation of professional town hall politicians. 

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line