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.
The local Tories have been claiming that the Council Tax has been frozen by Rugby Borough Council for the fourth year in a row. For example, Cllr Michael Stokes made the claim in a post attacking his former colleague Howard Roberts. Our MP Mark Pawsey wanted to use it to suck up to David Cameron, and tweeted this:
Regrettably not called at PMQs so unable to refer to Rugby’s Council Tax freeze for 4th yr in a row
— Mark Pawsey (@MarkPawsey) February 27, 2013
And the Borough Council’s press release is quite clear:
Rugby Borough Council’s share of residents’ council tax bills is to be frozen for the fourth year in a row, after councillors set the authority’s budget for 2013/14 on Tuesday (26 February).
The freeze means that the average charge for a Band D property will be £187.88 for the year – a small increase of 70p due to increases in parish council precepts.
The problem is that this is not true. For most of the Borough’s households the RBC part of the bill has risen by 1%
What has actually happened is the following: Read the rest of this entry »
The election for a Police and Crime Commissioner isn’t supposed to be particularly controversial. In Warwickhire we have three candidates at the moment – Ron Ball, Fraser Pithie and James Plaskitt.
Ron Ball is standing as an Independent. He was recently making noises to the local press about how it was wrong that the other candidates were political, representing political parties, and that he was untainted by such associations.
Turns out that he’s been a member of the Conservative Party for years, and tried to get them to nominate him as their candidate. Instead they chose Fraser Pithie.
Fraser Pithie claims also to be not ‘political’, despite the fact that he’s been an elected councillor in the past, and also having recently said that the PCC elections could be used to boost the fortunes of local Conservative MPs and candidates.
There was another Independent candidate, Andrew Moss. Moss is the only candidate to have been a full time serving police officer (Pithie has been a ‘Special’), and recently withdrew in favour of Ron Ball to avoid splitting the independent vote. I wonder how he feels now, knowing what has been revealed about the political past of Mr Ball?
In the meantime, James Plaskitt is the only other choice, and the only one of the current candidates who is not a Tory. He’s not hiding his political past – he was MP for Leamington & Warwick for 13 years, so it’s pretty obvious. He is also clearly against the current government policies of cuts and increased private involvement in policing.
In my last post about Fraser Pithie’s bid to be elected as Police and Crime Commissioner, I mentioned street lighting plans.
What is happening is that the County Council has announced that they intend to switch off 80% of their street lights in the hours between midnight and 5:30am from April next year.
While there is an ‘engagement’ exercise requesting feedback, that decision has already been made – the question is which ones are affected (or rather, which ones are left on). There are criteria set out, but the real problem is that these are based on a need to move the vast majority of lights to part time.
So, for example under the current plans the Southfields estate in Rugby, where I used to live, will have no street lights on at all after midnight.
The County Council pages going into the detail are here, and there’s a google map showing all of the County Council lights that are covered that will show you how your street is affected.
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?
But, seeing as I’m back, here’s my thoughts on the recent announcement that one of the wards at St Cross Hospital is about to close:
Birch Ward’s shut down at the end of the month is appalling for the town. There hasn’t been any real consultation. It seems that some people heard about it before others – Jerry Roodhouse and Mark Pawsey were quick to comment, but the local PCT – who commission medical procedures at St Cross for the people of the town were not (so I am told) asked for their opinion.
The Tories will blame the last government, and their pals in the Lib Dems will play the same card. However, the pressures on hospital trusts are being imposed by this government despite promises to ‘ringfence’ the NHS. On top of taking a hard line on budgets – causing one hospital to have been transferred to the private sector where the company itself has suggested that care may suffer – they are pressing ahead with the plan to impose a massive restructure. even though the Health Bill has not been passed yet, they have closed agencies and started to spend some of the £3billion that the reorganisation will cost.
Still, the local Tories and Lib Dems can do something. They can work with the Rugby Labour councillors who have called for UHCW to reconsider the decision, and they can join the calls for a Judicial Review.
Last night, the Tories of Rugby had a little shindig at the Grosvenor. Black tie (a few spivvy types had come in lounge jackets, standards have slipped), evening dresses and lots of jolly fun. Unfortunately for them it was at the Grosvenor Hotel in Rugby (recently featured in ‘The Hotel Inspector’) rather than the one on Park Lane. Not only is the former a far cry from the elegance and opulence (and quality) of the latter, but I suspect that they would have found the food a little sub-par. Oh, and it’s the kind of place will let the likes of me into. Read the rest of this entry »