Comparing two local councillors

My last two posts have mentioned Ron Ravenhall, who passed away last week, after years of serving as a borough councillor and in passioned support for what he stood for – and what many of his constituents wanted.

On the same day that I heard about Ron’s death, I saw a story about another Warwickshire councillor – Martin Heatley. It seems that Cllr Heatley, the Tory councillor for Nuneaton Whitestone has been over-claiming on his expenses. He was the Cabinet member responsible for the Environment, but is now responsible for Resources – in particular the  ‘effective use’ of them, including finance.

He has been claiming for a journey of 52 miles from his home to the Shire Hall each time (when the distance is 35 miles by road using the same method most companies do – get multimap or google maps to show the best route), he’s been using first class rail travel on public money for no apparently good reason. He’s had to repay £200 for claims that were invalid (any employer might call them ‘fraudulent’, but his pals accepted that they were accidental) – one journey was claimed for twice, and two were for a return trip to a meeting that he didn’t attend. His manner of record keeping and applying for expenses was “not complying with the authority’s reasonable requirements”.

But, he was only made to repay the £200 and issue an apology, before attending re-training on the councillors’ code of conduct and how the expense scheme works (that he should have received already). From the article, it seems he got off lightly – I’d at least expect his position as a Cabinet member to be reconsidered, particularly given that he’s responsible for finance and has clearly admitted ‘accidentally’ taking money from WCC that he wasn’t entitled to.

There’s a comment on the article from Keith Kondakor, the green activist who made complaints about Cllr Heatley’s activities, which make further allegations about how the lenient decision was arrived at – I’ve asked Mr Kondakor for more info on that, because it suggests that all is not well down at Warwick.

Addendum at 00:00 December 10: I forgot to highlight the words of Cllr Heatley as quoted in the Coventry Times article:

“I always believe in the rule of law. I have spent my whole life doing so.”

“I am from a good Christian family that believes in those rules.”

Oh, yeah. So he’s got religion and that makes it alright then?

Why closing fire stations may not be a great idea

Warwickshire County Council, who run the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS), are currently considering proposals to close down 7 of the 19 stations across the county. This will remove many of the retained crews and concentrate resources on the full-time crews based in the larger towns. There are quite a few concerns that this will lead to gaps in coverage.

Last week, as today’s Advertiser reports, the Fire Service were stretched very thin due to three incidents occurring at around the same time on Thursday afternoon – a community center in Leamington caught fire and a crew from Rugby went to help deal with it. Then a nasty road accident at Butlers Leap in Rugby led to people being trapped in two cars requiring the other Rugby crew and that of Brinklow. Shortly afterwards, the Brinklow appliance was pulled from that to deal with a fire on Newbold Road that ended up being attended by crews from six stations.

Brinklow is one of the places that could lose their station. As it’s near to Rugby, that will have a knock-on effect to the town, as the crews based here will have to cover a larger area and support from elsewhere will have further to travel. WCC and the Fire Service management really need to explain how last Thursday’s events would have been covered under their proposed changes.

Andy King is already campaigning on this, opposing the closure of the stations and encouraging people to have their say about it.

If you want to contact Warwickshire FRS about this issue, the details are below:

In writing to

Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service Improvement Plan Consultation
Service Headquarters
Warwick Street
Leamington Spa
CV32 5LH

Or by e-mail to fireandrescue@warwickshire.gov.uk