Rugby BC in Private Eye

When Craig Humphrey was the leader, Private Eye often had a story about him in their “Rotten Boroughs” section. Having left for a nice sinecure in the quango sector (conveniently as a director for a body he was involved in setting up as a council leader), I was hoping our area would no longer have the shame of a PE reference.

However, this was in the latest edition of the Eye:IMG_0746

I checked the minutes of the meeting at which Belinda Garcia’s application was approved. Four Tory councillors disclosed an interest as she is a fellow councillor. But none of the others did, despite her being a Borough Councillor (and so a fellow to all of the Planning Committee, particularly the Conservative ones). The chair of the committee, Carolyn Robbins disclosed a pecuniary interest as she is also a close friend. This meant that Robbins did not vote on the item.

Why did Tory councillors Jill Simpson-Vince, Tony Gillias, Graham Francis and Chris Pacey-Day not even declare an interest?

And what is happening when an officer is made redundant after reporting what appears to be “gifting” to an officer?

The one concerning Mark Pawsey’s brother is also concerning.All Tory councillors did disclose an interest, but not one that would preclude them from voting. The officers’ reasons for refusal were:

REASON FOR REFUSAL: 1
The proposed dwelling would result in a piecemeal development that would prejudice other development potential neighbouring land contrary to saved policy GP6 of the Rugby Borough Local Plan 2006
REASON FOR REFUSAL: 2
The proposed dwelling would be located to the rear of no.43, Bilton Road and would form a ‘backland’ development. Having regard to the isolated positioning of the development amongst the residential gardens which characterise this area, the proposed dwelling is considered, by virtue of its siting, to be unsympathetic to the character and appearance of the locality. Furthermore the development due to its location, size and height would form an unneighbourly form of development impacting in terms of an overbearing and an overshadowing impact upon the neighbouring rear gardens to the detriment of the amenities currently enjoyed within. The proposal is therefore considered contrary to policy CS16 of the Rugby Borough Core Strategy 2011.

Councillor Tony Gillias moved, and Councillor Helen Walton seconded, that both reasons should be set aside and the application approved, and so it was.

Neither set of minutes records how each councillor voted (would only happen if someone called for a recorded vote, which is very rare), or who was in the room (eg: did Cllr Robbins leave when the item she declared a pecuniary interest in was being discussed and voted upon?)

I have asked the Tories and RBC for comment.

Yes, the Tories are guilty of fly-posting

After I wrote this entry – Tories flyposting? – I was able to find out that the owners of the land where the old College was are now Bellway Homes.

Bellway Homes have just replied to my email query:

Hi,

I believe that Bellway East Midlands is the owner of the former Rugby College site on Lower Hillmorton Road.
Can you advise whether you or any other agents have given permission for a political party to use the land to display election materials?

Thanks,
Owen Richards,
local resident.

And the reply

Good Morning,
I have spoken with the land department and no consent has been given for any political party to put anything up.
Kind Regards,
xxxxxx xxxxxxx | Sales Administrator | Bellway Homes East Midlands | 3 Romulus Court | Meridian Business Park | Leicester | LE19 1YG | 

I think that is what you call “bang to rights”. The local Conservatives have got posters in Rugby that have been flyposted. It is not an indication of “support” that we see so many, but of their lack of consideration.

Tories flyposting? And stupidly!

Rugby seems to have developed a rash of Tory banners – expensive looking durable ones – put up on road junctions and the like. But should they be there?

Nearest to me is the one on the gates to the old Rugby College site:

Tory flypost 1As can be seen, someone has vandalised it and the scraps are still there. The site is jointly owned by Warwickshire College and Warwickshire County Council (but it is up for sale). I can’t see the council giving permission for political posting on their property (they are pretty zealous about the use of lampposts), and I doubt the College would either. EDIT 9/4 – Warwickshire College inform me that the land was sold to Bellway Homes East Midlands in November (not sure why the for sale boards are still there nearly 6 months later).

So did the Tories get permission or did they just slap it up there? EDIT 9/4 – I have since asked Bellway Homes if they have given permission

Another one I spotted is in a brilliant place:

Tory flypost 2You can just make out on the right that someone far less official has put up a St George’s flag and scrawled “Vote UKIP” on it, presumably in response.

What is fantastic about the site is that it is on the corner where Rapak used to be. The place was shut down last year after the owners moved the work to Bulgaria. Kind of puts an ironic spin on “Securing Britain’s Future” to advertise at a closed business.

Drakes, the agents acting for the owners of the Rapak site have told me they are not aware of any permissions to use it for political advertising.

This is familiar (Tory fiddling expenses)

I saw this today – Tory MP Made 734 Wrong Expenses Claims

Bob Blackman reminds me of someone a little closer to home: Martin Heatley.

Neither is fit to wipe Bert Crane’s shoes.

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?

Dan Byles MP – did he benefit from Lobbett’s claims?

When I looked up the Tory candidate in the 2010 General Election, the one who won by a margin of 54 votes and who was being backed by Barry Lobbett, who was getting Warwickshire council tax payers to subsidise his campaigning, I found that he was being highlighted for his election spending last year.

Then, it was a question over whether buying a new hoarding with his name, face and the 2010 election slogan should be fully charged to his 2010 election campaign or (as he actually did) only a third of it need be – with the remainder to be charged to future campaigns we assume. The difference was between £1600 and about £500, and had the larger figure been used, he would have been in excess of his allowed spending.

In the end, there was no action taken against Dan Byles on the basis that it is ok to shift the cost over future campaigns, and he remains the MP for Warwickshire North and Bedworth.

However, we now know that during the same ‘short campaign’ period, claims were being made to Warwickshire CC for a councillor to drive to events in support of the election campaigns for that councillor and for Dan Byles. Given that Cllr Lobbett feels he should be recompensed, what would be the effect if Byles’ campaign paid the costs? Would it tip the amounts over the legal limit?

At the very least, Byles could do worse than distance himself from the penny-pinching councillor.

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