Mast Site plans

Last night I went to the Eastlands & Hillmorton Community Forum meeting at the Hillmorton school. These are organised to bring together the County Council, Borough Council and Police to discuss issues with local people. Every three months, for example, the local beat officers present updates on their work and there’s a discussion about the three areas they should prioritise for the next three months.

There were a lot of people there who wanted to talk about the proposals for development to the East of the town, on the old radio mast sites. Read the rest of this entry »

Buses, carers, libraries, youth centres… cut cut cut

The Tories around here really are getting into their stride:

Rural and evening bus services are going to be slashed, thanks to the County Council halving the money they provide. All kinds of people will be affected all over Rugby and the surrounding villages.

At the setting of the Council budget last month, the Tories at Rugby Town Hall claimed that services would be protected and the impact of their changes would be very low. Tell that to the people reliant on Crossroads, which provides respite care for the elderly – the couple in that linked story are also going to lose out with the closure of Abbotsbury care home in Hillmorton.

Consultations are ongoing over which small libraries are going to be closed, and whether to reduce hours at others.

I am also finding out that the County Council is opening consultations on the closure and transfer of many of the county’s youth centres. Hill Street, Fareham Road, Brownsover, Dunchurch and Binley Woods Youth Centres are all under review. Wolston is recommended for closure.

I can see that these cuts are likely to disproportionally affect the most vulnerable – the young, the old, the ill, the poor.

The Tories gleefully wield the knife, and the Lib Dems are backing them (while at the same time crying tears over each local cut in case it costs them votes).

Where did that £50K go?

Back in Spring, the Borough Council agreed their new budget. Having rejected several ways to try and help local businesses in the recession (and so ending successful schemes), the council decided to allocate £50,000 to renew the Christmas lights in the Town Centre.

This evening I walked around the town centre, and couldn’t see much difference between this year and last year. The Clock Tower still has its lame strips of lights about half-way up.

So did the money get spent? And on what? Was it more worthwhile than grants to help shops improve their frontage, or rate rebates to incentivise new business?

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.