Humphrey fined. Press ‘confused’

Last week, Craig Humphrey was fined £200 (plus having to pay another £95 in costs and charges) and given 6 points on his licence for the offence of driving without insurance. This was the allegation against him that was hidden for months before it emerged via rumour.

In the Coventry Telegraph there’s a report about it that is largely factual. But there’s one part that makes no sense whatsoever:

Driving with no insurance is a non-indictable offence and as such should not affect his position at the council.

The thing is that ‘non-indictable’ is contradicted by the facts. Humphrey was charged, and as a result the case taken to the Magistrates Court at Coventry. So he was ‘indicted’. What’s more, he was found guilty. I assume he pled ‘guilty’, which is to his credit, but that doesn’t affect the verdict. Chances are it was a ‘fixed penalty’ that was ratified by the magistrates, but the point is that driving without insurance is an offence.

This article on the government department’s website does not mention anywhere that driving without insurance is ‘non-indictable’ in any situation. On the contrary, it seems to be about how potentially serious it is.

The other thing is that the last part ‘should not affect his position at the council’ is actually word for word part of a response that was given some time ago – when this first came out – but is frankly opinion rather than fact.

I think we will find that there are quite a few people for whom being found guilty of driving without insurance and/or getting 6 points will result in them losing their jobs. Not that this should be automatic for Humphrey, but it seems a little premature to say that it ‘should not’ affect his position.

Why should it not potentially affect his position? He is leader of a council (with some additional responsibilities usually held by Chief Executives), in a position of responsibility affecting tens of thousands of people and with a budget of £millions. As a public servant, it is incumbent upon him to uphold the law. As a councillor, he is bound by Codes of Conduct that deal not just with how someone acts in their role as a councillor, but how they behave generally – particularly in public.

And why is a local newspaper parroting a defence of him as if it’s part of the factual report, especially when the next lines are:

Neither the council nor Mr Humphrey were available for comment.

???

Another week, another Craig Humphrey scandal

Last week, Craig Humphrey featured in the Private Eye ‘Rotten Boroughs’ section. The article featured allegations of conflict of interest. This stems from the fact that he works at Horts estate agents in Rugby as a sales consultant (he stresses that he doesn’t work ‘for’ Horts, but he clearly is working at the firm based on their website’s Sales Team page (Craig is at the foot of the page).

In the latest council budget passed in February, Humphrey and the Tories approved the £1M ‘Local Authority Mortgage Scheme’ which helps reduce rates for first time buyers. At that time, he did not declare any interest in the item, which would usually be expected given that encouraging mortgages encourages sales of houses, and his job is to… sell houses.

What’s more, when the scheme was publicised in March, the local paper featured quotes from a local estate agency… Horts.

Despite what looks like at the very least a case of mutual backslapping, if not a conflict of interest, Humphrey insists that he’s done ‘nothing wrong’.

This week, it emerged that he had been caught driving his car without valid insurance. Some kind of ‘administrative error’ or something. It’s a good job he doesn’t have a position of responsibility with that level of competence, eh?

Oh. He’s still leader of the council, and a couple of years ago took over some of the work usually undertaken by the Chief Executive.

What will he be up to for next week’s papers?

Council defends censorship

The farce gets even more convoluted. But the lucky people of Rugby get to see my ugly mug in the Observer.

I found out that someone had tried to ask a question at the last Cabinet meeting at Rugby Borough Council, but it had been rejected. What concerned me most that it wasn’t just an officer doing the vetting, as has been the case before, but the Leader of the Council, Craig Humphrey.

Who was the subject of the question? Read the rest of this entry »

The curiously changed question

Tonight was another Cabinet meeting at Rugby Borough Council, and another chance for the public to ask questions. I sent in a question last week which was a little long, with some pre-amble, but was essentially asking how much had actually been saved through the new Management arrangements, including the cost of the new external review that was approved at the last Full Council as well as the changes in officers’ salaries and the Leader’s allowance. Additionally, how appropriate the figure given in the report presented to councillors when they decided were.

I’d been busy over the weekend, so didn’t check my email until yesterday. Seems that my question was not deemed suitable, having been passed to Andrew Gabbitas. A new version was suggested, which simply asked for the net savings.

I replied to say that I thought it inappropriate for one of the officers who would be covered by the question (he being the author of the report and one of the two officers most likely to be in line for improved salaries), but asked them to add a further part about the figures in the report.

The answer was given that the net saving is £115,000. Which is good news for Craig Humphrey and the Council, and higher than they thought. I’m not sure quite how they arrive at that figure given that the previous Chief Executive was on £104,000 (the amount quoted in reports) and the Leader has had an allowance increase of £6,000. It’s possible that pension contributions account for the discrepancy, but it may be that they have estimated a higher salary for a new Chief Executive or something.

However, because I forgot to insist on asking about the cost of an external review by consultants, again it’s not exactly clear what the true savings will be for this year.

If you don’t like the answer, buy a new one!

I missed two meetings tonight. I was a bit late getting home from work, and I had stuff to do (like eat something). The first was the Warwickshire Fabians, which is just being set up and will be organising political debates and education locally. At least I won’t have been given a job.

The second was at the Town Hall, where the council discussed the recent Independent Remuneration Panel report. This is the one that proposed a modest 45% increase in the Leader’s allowance, but expressed opposition to the way that the new management arrangements had been set up and that ‘individuals involved’ appeared to have been directly lobbying.

Did Humprey and his Tory pals accept the report? Nope.

There’s one part that they don’t like. The bit that recommended:

That the review of the current interim management arrangements be brought
forward to early 2011 and that this should entail a cross party review of
governance arrangements, to include:-

  • The appropriate level and structure of officer resources
  • The political executive structure, taking account of the requirements of the Local government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 to amend executive structures
  • The role of Leader, incorporating the detailed experience of the interim arrangements
  • Any governance implications of the developing Coalition Government agenda for Local Government

Which is contrary to what the Tories wanted – which was to keep the arrangements in place, unreviewed, until May 2012.

But the cheek of the Tories now is amazing.

Firstly, they claimed that this (the lack of review) had been agreed on 10th August with no dissent. In fact, it was agreed on 27th July (behind closed doors), and Labour councillors voted against.

Secondly, they claimed that opposition was from people ‘not on the electoral roll’ and had been co-ordinated. As far as I am concerned that is totally untrue. I have acted on my own accord, without being directed by others or directing them (not that I haven’t conferred with people who have also been appalled at Humphrey’s actions, and I do have my sources, but we shared information). I am on the electoral roll, and used my correct name and address when contacting the Council. Some of the opponents are well-known as having been Tory activists in the past, for heavens’ sake!

Thirdly, and this is just bizarre, they will hire a firm of ‘Independent Consultants’ to look into it. Yep, that’s right. They don’t want a review that includes the opposition for over two years, but they will pay (and they haven’t said how much it will cost). Of course, if this set of hired consultants happens to suggest, ohhh I dunno, a greater allowance for the Leader, I wonder if I’ll be massively surprised.

While cuts are affecting services around the town, while the Council itself has to await the details of how much less money the Government will give them for 2011-12 so it knows how much more to cut, the Tories decide that Rugby Borough Council can apparently afford to bring in ‘Consultants’ to help them override the report of an Independent panel?

And they’ll openly lie in the Chamber to justify it?

Rotters, cads and bounders the lot of them.

Some disclosure – more questions

Rugby Borough Council has performed a U-turn. On 23rd August, they were asked if they could release a redacted version of the private report that was used to make the decision on the new management arrangements. At that time, Craig Humphrey said ‘No’.

Today, following Freedom of Information requests, they have published a version of the report. Seems that they could make some of it public after all. You can download it from the council website here.

What is missing? Read the rest of this entry »

Humphrey: unsustainable

Notwithstanding that I had to apologise to Craig Humphrey for believing a Lib Dem, there are still several issues with the idea that he would be able to replace the Chief Executive for some parts of the job.

The Local Government Chronicle has picked up on the report that came out at the weekend, and they have noticed the same comments from the Independent Remuneration Panel: Rugby chief-leader ‘unsustainable’ (subscription only).

The report goes to Full Council on the 19th October.

Humphrey – Self Interest?

The Independent Remuneration panel (IRP) for Rugby Borough Council have issued their report on recommended allowances for councillors. It includes what they have suggested the Leader should get under the new management arrangements, as well as the basic allowance for all members of the council.

The full report can be downloaded from the council’s website here

Most of the report is pretty straightforward. There’s clarification on how co-opted members (people who are not councillors but are brought in to serve on a committee, except of course for those on the IRP itself) qualify for a small allowance of just over £500. There’s also comment on why the basic allowance of just over £6,000 should not be increased by more than inflation.

There were also suggested increases of about £500 for some of the extra allowances – for the chairs of Scrutiny and of the Crime and Disorder committees, and for the leaders of opposition groups, plus a n extra allowance of just over £2,500 for the Mayor. On the other hand, the report recommends removing extra allowances from positions of Vice Chairs of most committees.

But the most detailed explanation was devoted to their recommendation to increase the Leader’s extra allowance from £10,378 to £16,983. Read the rest of this entry »

More rumblings from the Town Hall

After weeks of criticism and questions, the Tories seem determined to press on with the new arrangements.

A report is apparently imminent on the suggested new allowances for councillors. I believe that it will be publicly available before it is put to the Council for approval.

The next Cabinet Meeting due for 20th September has been cancelled. I can’t find a reason for this.

In other (possibly unrelated) news the chief Legal Services officer at the Town Hall has handed in her notice. I know that quite a few queries have been raised by councillors and members of the public about the legal advice provided and asked for about the new arrangements. The answer seems to be not much, other than concerning keeping the decision making out of the public domain.

It’s called a coup

This week’s Advertiser had another batch of letters about the Craig Humphrey affair. One was in his favour, the rest were critical. By far the most revealing was that from Neil Sandison, who is a Lib Dem councillor for Eastlands. As well as being unhappy about the total lack of decent response to the public outcry at last week’s meeting, he had some points that leave me very, very concerned. Read the rest of this entry »

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