Local Tories getting desperate.

A few snippets from the local political rounds in Rugby:

1) 38 Degrees were in town on Saturday to collect signatures for their petition to Save the NHS – which you can sign here by the way. Three local parliamentary candidates were there to support them: Claire Edwards (Labour), Ed Goncalves (Lib Dem) and Terence White (Green). For some reason TUSC didn’t turn up, and I didn’t expect the UKIP candidate to. But Mark Pawsey was also a no-show.

I have written to him on TTIP and the NHS, and his response is vague and patronising – basically, trust the government and MPs like him to do the right thing.

2) On Saturday evening, there was a hustings event at St Andrews Church. All candidates were there, and they were asked questions on all kinds of subjects, but mainly on the theme of social justice (the church and its active members are a bit keen on that kind of thing, volunteering at the food bank and Hope4 etc.

Mark Pawsey was not happy that his bland answer on food banks was not warmly received by the audience (it wasn’t as offensive as his suggestion last week that the only reason use of foodbanks had gone up in the last 5 years was “more advertising”). Some of the people lightly heckled him and asked questions. Such is the sort of thing politicians (especially those who’ve been MPs for 5 years) have to put up with.

But Mark’s response was not to answer their concerns, or to deal with it with dignity. No. It was to turn to the chair, the vicar in fact, and demand that the hustings be better “managed”.

This was followed on twitter by Hillmorton’s finest example of Tory arrogance, Jim Buckley, sneering at all the”lefties” there and how awful it was to ask questions about foodbanks (and also to attack Rev Nay).

Buckley was later that night stopped from driving the wrong way up a one-way street, clearly he was a bit emotional!

3) This morning was the publishing of the Tories’ “small business letter” – This post details the most idiotic parts of the list of signatories, which was supposedly (and according to Tory minister David Gauke) made up of independent business people. In reality it was organised by Tory central office, pushed by Baroness Karren Brady (Con), and published without any real scrutiny by the Tory mouthpiece the Telegraph. In among the charities (illegal under recent Tory legislation for them to act politically), companies that had not given permission, Tory parliamentary candidates, dozens of duplicates, and fakes was… “Helen Taylor Owner Perfection Beauty West Midlands”. Which would be Councillor Helen Taylor (Con, Coton & Boughton). Nice to see her joining in the astroturfing…

I just wish more people in Rugby could see how arrogant these Tories are.

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:

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
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:


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?

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.

Third successive year of Council Tax increases from RBC

Rugby Tories are celebrating what they claim is the sixth successive year of no increase of Council Tax. They are obfuscating the truth: most households in Rugby will be paying more in Council Tax than they were 6 years ago.

Now, because Warwickshire County Council, and the Police & Crime Commissioner have put their charges up by about 2%, household bills are still going up across the town. But RBC and Mark Pawsey are not counting those changes, just pointing at Rugby Borough Council’s portion.

But even so, residents of Rugby town are facing an increase in the Council Tax that they pay towards the Borough as well. To more than they did six years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Farewell, Bert

Yesterday one of the first things I saw was a status on facebook to tell me that Bert Crane had died on Tuesday.

Local paper reports are here – Crawley Observer and Crawley News

I knew Bert from when I was very little – he was a friend of the family and a constant presence during my life in Crawley. This is partly because we were very much a Labour family, and based in West Green. But also because we liked him immensely.

In the 1950s, when he was becoming about the first ever Labour councillor elected in Crawley, my grandparents on both sides moved down with young children (they didn’t know each other then). They, along with Bert and many other were part of the New Town expansion and the establishment of the Labour Party.

My paternal grandfather joined him as a councillor in the late 1950s, but died in 1961. My father joined him as a councillor in the 1970s, and after the transfer from the UDC to the Borough Council he stepped back after me and my sister came along. I joined Bert as a councillor in 2000 and stood down four years later due to work commitments and the possibility of having to relocate. So Bert was not only a councillor continuously for 58 years, but he outlasted three generations of Richards.

He is often referred to a “Young Bert”, which is not some ironic teasing, but because in the 1950s his father was very active politically and well know locally and was also called Albert Crane (the Albert Crane Court in Ifield was named after the senior Bert). However, it was appropriate even as Bert aged, as he always had a twinkle in his eyes.

Aside from politics, the main thing that my family shared with Bert was supporting Fulham. It was always, umm, interesting to watch a game with him. Relentlessly pessimistic about the outcome, even if we were winning, but unfailingly loyal to the club even as it plummeted down the divisions. When we went to games, he would insist on going to the Putney End, the crumbling stand next to Bishop’s Park which was supposed to be for away supporters, because that’s where he’d always stood. It was at least a test of keeping quiet surrounded by opposition supporters in the 1980s.

Over the next few weeks I expect a lot will be said about Bert’s political life over the next few weeks. His energy, his deep knowledge of the workings of the Town Hall, his successes like the Greenfields sheltered housing. But he had a full life outside politics.

He was a stalwart supporter of the Arctic Convoys veterans’ association. I believe that he had not spent much time on the British Navy escorts taking the dangerous trips around Scandinavia to protect ships carrying material to aid the Soviet war effort in WWII. He was in the navy but my recollection is that he spent more time in the Pacific. But after the war, he did spend time in the Baltic and got to know many of the men who had survived those terribly costly convoys. At the time, he was unknowingly at grave danger himself from TB – a mix-up in test results at the end of the war that took two years to sort out meant that the disease had progressed disastrously. After being discharged and admitted to treatment, he was given a year to live. However, the use of antibiotics to treat TB had been shown to work only a few year before, and thanks to streptomycin, care from his parents and the newly created NHS, he survived. I like to think a fair degree of stubbornness on Bert’s part made a major difference.

I didn’t always agree with Bert, but that never seemed to affect our friendship. One day he did shout at me in the Council Chamber after I rebelled on a vote, and I recognise that we were both wrong and right at the same time about that: I was right about the issue (whether the council should investigate the causes of flooding across the town in 2000 and 2001), but wrong in how I’d approached it (ambushing the Labour Group with an amendment to the Tory motion rather than pushing the issue earlier). In the end, I got a rap across the knuckles and we had a proper review of flooding (instead of one only looking at Maidenbower, and around the corner from where Henry Smith lived, which was the extent of the Tory proposal). And Bert forgave my transgression, as I forgave his outburst.

As I moved out of Crawley 6 years ago, I hadn’t seen Bert much in recent years. He was still a serving councillor then, but his health was starting to fail and he stood down in 2012. The last main memory I have of him was when we celebrated his 50 years of council service by having a dinner (pie and mash-based) and Dennis Skinner was invited down to speak. Bert looked so happy, and so honoured, to be spoken of in high terms by a political hero.

But to be honest, my abiding memories tend to involve Sundays in the Labour Club, after a branch meeting talking over some beers, with a man with good humour, strong opinions and a caring heart.

Rest in Peace, Bert. You deserve it, mate.