The real reason for the Dunchurch byelection

When Mike Galsworthy stepped down from his  seat this autumn, there was something odd about it. The local press seemed to know more than they were saying, because they reported him as announcing his resignation within a day of stating he would remain, but they didn’t report why the question had been asked in the first place.

The reason given at the time was ‘personal’. I heard that it was something like his family weren’t happy with the extra commitment of being a councillor, and he’d been given an ultimatum by his wife. As he’d only been elected in May this year, that made some sense (although he appears to have been an active parish councillor for some time, so should have been prepared for extra effort.

Now it can be reported – as per the Advertiser – that Galsworthy is facing a court date next week, having been charged with  “four offences of failing to notify the council of change of circumstances namely partner, partner working, private pension and councillors’ allowance under section 112(1A) Social Security Administration Act 1992.”

That means he’s been accused of what would come under the heading ‘benefit fraud’. It’s not clear what benefits this covers, but I’m not sure that makes a difference. As it is the council that are pursuing him, he’d have little choice but to resign even if he is later cleared, because there would be a clear conflict of interest.

I wonder if the byelection was called quickly so that it took place before the news came out?

I also wonder whether the good voters of Dunchurch and Knightlow would have thought twice before electing another Tory to replace him, had they had the chance to know about this before December 2nd?

Dunchurch & Knightlow byelection

LOWE, Ian Stanley (Con) 832*
AIRD, Robert Turner (Lib Dem) 682
MCNALLY, Robert Peter (Labour) 149
HOUGEZ, George (Green) 20

Spoiled 2

Turnout 1685 32.8% (source: Rugby BC)

Well, PLH was pretty close with his predictions. Turnout was just under 1700 and about a third. The majority was exactly 150, the Labour vote was only 1 away from his predicted 150. The Lib Dems and Tories got about 30 votes more each. The only real difference was that the Green vote was 20 rather than 100. Looking back, the Greens have been in decline across the Borough, and particularly in Dunchurch & Knightlow, where in May they got only 64 votes on a turnout of around 80%.

Compared to May, there hasn’t been much movement between the parties, none moved by more than 2% in share of the vote. The swing from LD to Con was 1.25%, and that tallies with the general trend in the seat – it’s usually a 2-horse race between the two, but the Lib Dems only won it in recent years with a Ravenhall on the ballot, and the Tories have consistently led otherwise. Labour came in a distant third with about 9% (as in May), which is still an improvement on the 2006-2009 results (c. 6%). As mentioned before, the Greens are in decline, having taken third place in 2007, they are now on just over 1% of the vote.

A disappointment for Rob, who was an excellent candidate. Let’s hope he will be standing somewhere where a win is in sight in May.

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 »

To Craig Humphrey: An apology and a warning

In a recent post, I made a mistake. It’s something I should have known not to do, but for some reason I thought perhaps things might be different in Rugby from Crawley. My mistake? To take a Lib Dem at face value.

Thankfully, Ish has shown me the error. You see, I read a letter in the Rugby Advertiser in which Cllr Neil Sandison says (amongst other things) that Craig Humphrey had suggested to the Boundary Commission that the next Borough Elections, due in May 2011, be suspended.

What Cllr Sandison did not say was where the suggestion had actually originally come from. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »