Sunday 28 December 2008

Clifton housing development; Councillor talks bollocks

I really feel sorry for those 'making up the numbers' City Councillors. You know the ones I mean, don't have a cabinet portfolio and so are largely redundant until the next full council vote is called. Its perhaps not surprising that they are often forced to go and talk bollocks in order to get any attention in the media.

So here's Cllr Ian Malcolm in the Evening Post. He's saying that the proposed development of 5,500 homes by Barratt near Clifton should NOT include any shops.

Lets just hear that again, Councillor Malcolm doesn't want shops to be included in a rather huge new residential development.

So whats his reasoning? Cllr Malcolm thinks that new shops may make existing shops in Clifton go out of business. Cllr Malcolm is one of Clifton South's representatives. Now the development is actually planned in Rushcliffe Borough Council which we'll have a look at in a minute.

Now Clifton's a big place, around 22,000 residents as far as I know. I used to work there some years ago, coincidently in an organisation that had Cllr Malcolm on its management committee (I seem to remember him having a thing about wearing what looked to me like those 70s safari suits, kind of like those that comedian Bob Downes wears). I don't remember it being overburdened with shops and a bit of a scout round the web seems to identify 3 supermarkets in the area (although none of the big names), with a few smaller shops about the place, mainly on Southchurch Drive. It does have reasonable bus links to the City and one of the new tram routes is proposed to go that way which Cllr Malcolm seems quite keen on from the EP article.

So, lets recap. Cllr Malcolm is unhappy about new shops being built (in Rushcliffe) because he is concerned about loss of business for Clifton shops. But he seems happy enough with a major improvement to transport links which will spirit Clifton peeps (and probably quite a few Rushcliffe ones as well) away to the City where they may be tempted to partake in, uh, shopping. This will help Clifton shops, how, exactly? City Centre shops will probably be quite pleased however, with increased chances of surviving difficult financial conditions and lots of luvverly business rates paid to Nottingham City Council. Not Rushcliffe. Dear dear, Cllr Malcolm really doesn't appear to have thought this through, he should really think a bit more about the neighbours.

More importantly though is the issue of food deserts. Like I say, Clifton already has around 22k residents, the new development is for 5,500 homes which, being conservative, probably means another 16,000 or so new people in the area. Thats a chuffing big development by anybody's standards and, although I'm no planning professional, I'd always understood that huge residential developments without the associated infrastructure were generally considered a bad idea. Local shops are needed if people are to be able to buy more fresh produce and eat healthily. Travelling into the City once a week for the 'big shop' may be viable but people need perishables to be more locally accessible.

So call me Mr Cynical but I really am wondering whether Cllr Malcolm really has the best interests of Clifton folk and businesses at heart, or whether his agenda is to ensure that, by hook or by crook, if there's money to be spent it'll be spent in Nottingham.

Or maybe he's just and idiot talking bollocks.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Oh dear...

Yesterday an interesting comment appeared below the post about the 'unprovoked attack' on NCC Chief Antisocial Behaviour Officer Richard Antcliff on the 'Nottingham is Crap' blog.

I did a few routine enquiries but nobody I knew could shed any light on the matter. However, see this Evening Post article.

So it appears to check out. As I said, oh dear.

I feel duty bound to remind readers that being arrested or charged is not the same as being convicted so lets not have any childish pointing and staring or shameless gloating. No seriously now, I mean it. Stop giggling at the back...

On the other hand if he IS convicted it will be a shoe in for fail of the year.

One to watch...

Monday 15 December 2008

Render Watch

Is anybody still wondering about what the situation is behind Tim Render's lucrative return to the City Council is?

For those who have forgotten Mr R was made redundant with a £200k pay off but is now back as a consultant.

I've spent quite a few minutes searching round NCC's website (when its actually working, it only seems to be following normal office hours these days) trying to find anything about policies for engaging consultants, records of decisions, meeting minutes etc trying to find any trace of a decision to bring him back but to no avail.

Also, a google search shows no sign of any mention of Mr Render in a consultant's capacity which he needs to do something about if he wants to make a go of this consulting business. He can't rely on backhanders from his mates for ever.

To be fair, NCC probably aren't legally obliged to offer an open tender for whatever he's doing because this is only required for service contracts over a certain value. Still, why him particularly and why all the secrecy?

Imagine a scenario where a fairly high up official was made redundant and he wasn't too happy about it, despite a nice pay off. Imagine that, too late, they realise that they have to keep him sweet for some reason. Imagine that a solution that presents itself is the offer of a 'consultancy' to tide him over for a little while. You might even get him to do some actual work. However there would probably not be much of a public paper trail or comment from the organisation that found itself in this position.

Anyway enough daydreaming. What I have been told is that Mr Render is required as a witness for NCC in a rather hefty employment tribunal. Apparently there's quite a bit at stake, multi day hearings and the like. Obviously this fact can have nothing to do with any decision to offer him a consultancy position because that might be seen by some as just a tiny bit corrupt even if not technically illegal.

Whatever's behind it there's no excuse for all the secrecy on NCC's behalf. All it does is send cynical conspiracy theorists like me off on one.

Friday 12 December 2008

New Chief Exec

In the biggest turn up for the books since the sun came up this morning, Jane Todd has got her reward for metaphorically fellating John Collins for the past few months.

Fresh from her emphatic victory over close rival, the Clerk to the Parish Council for Little Pootle on the Wold, Jane said, well nothing of significance really, just the usual blather about looking forward to the challenge and the like. No killer one liner, bit dull really. Nothing to see here.

I tell a lie, the hot news is that NCC gets £20,000 cashback. Yes, Jane seems to have offered herself in a kind of winter sale, only accepting £165k rather then the full fat £185k on offer. What a gal!

Maybe its her share of the £42m still missing in Iceland.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Those HB decision notices again

Further response alert;

"I have taken this matter up with [manager] this morning and been advised that some recent amendments to decision notice letters led to the back page information being left off. The back page contained all the statutory details and appeal information. This was not a deliberate act and was overcome by a seperate A4 sheet containing the information being inserted in envelopes prior to dispatch on a temporary basis. Clearly this system is flawed and yours is just one instance of ommission...

Clearly this is an important issue and needs resolution urgently. I can assure you that appeal rights are well publised normally and an additional exercise is being considered. It is the case that late appeals are dealth with sympathetically as a matter of course but will be additionaly so because of the current issue."

Hmmm, so what do we think? Sounds like bollocks to me. I'm really struggling to understand how altering the template caused everything to fall off the back.

Anyway, in the meantime, if you're unhappy with your benefits decision but didn't appeal for whatever reason put a late appeal in and say that the reason you didn't appeal earlier was that you didn't know you could until you read about it on the super soaraway NCCLOLs blog ;-D

Earlier post 1

Earlier post 2

Monday 8 December 2008

More on the baths...

...well sort of. Its now in the Evening Post.

Which kind of means I put it out there before them, in a kind of 'scoop' sort of way... *smug*

Sunday 7 December 2008

Housing and Council Tax Benefit decision notices; a progress report

Well, I got a reply from the Benefits Office, I wasn't too far short in my guess as to what they'd say;

"Unfortunately I have been unable to establish why that particular letter did not include the appeals information or the additional notes. It is the case that all letters which provide information concerning benefit decisions (Decision Notices) contain the appeal paragraph. I have passed details of this instance to the Information Technology Section to try and establish why the information was not present on your letter. Thank you for bringing the matter to my attention."

So my (standard template) decision notice didn't have the appeals info that all the other ones have. Just mine.

As is often the way of these things a few days ago I got four more decision notices because of various changes of circumstances. Again no enclosed notes and no explanation of appeal rights. I mean, who are they trying to kid? Its a standard template. If one hasn't got it none of them have. Quite simply they need to do a redesign because they are flouting the law.

Another email has been dispatched, will let you know when/if I get a reply.

Save Victoria Baths Campaign

Had a message from this important campaign via Facebook. I'll quote directly from some of it because it contains significant allegations and its important that I clearly show how they've come up with them.

1. "We now know that the Council LIED about the cost of upgrading the Leisure Centre. They said it would cost £1.3 million for basic repairs and maintenance. But this is NOT TRUE. We have obtained the Council’s OWN FIGURES (hidden in the Condition Surveys) and they provide an outline cost of around £2m for a complete refurbishment."

Does put a different light on the bulldoze vs refurbishment argument imho.

2. "Do you remember the Working Group? The Working Group has been completely ignored by the Council. They have hired a team of architects, who report to Nottingham Regeneration Ltd (a private company contracted by the Council) and these architects have been holding new “consultation meetings” with small groups of selected business and community members.


Ah. The old 'working group as sop to the campaigners' trick. An added benefit of this one is that when decision makers do exactly what they were going to do anyway they can say that they did it in consultation with the community.

3. "Here's what Jon Collins, Leader of the Council and local St Anns Councillor said to one of the campaigners who spoke to him on Wednesday:

"Victoria Baths needs knocking down, the only thing that is worth saving is 'the frontage' which appears to consist of the clock tower and 10 feet or so either side of it. (I am) not aware of any other area of architectural interest within the building. Most people want new, modern facilities.”"

Well yes they do but people also like to keep a bit of their history and as long as the facilities work is it really necessary to bulldoze everything every couple of generations? I'm also not convinced that council tax payers want the extra cost of a brand new centre just so Collins can go thrusting his way about the place shouting "Look at my massive...leisure centre".

Anyway, the campaigners suggest the following questions be asked;

"Ask him why Councillor Trimble is on record in March 08 as saying: “it would be prohibitively expensive to try and bring the existing buildings up to scratch." when the Council’s own figures show that this is not true?

Ask him why the Council voted to set up the Working Group then disregarded its own findings?

Ask him why refurbishment (at a modest cost of £2million) is being treated as a joke, when all the surveys show the majority of people want the current facilities brought up scratch? (See below)

Ask him why the Council are more than happy to spend money on bringing in London based architects and insisting on new consultations (carefully rigged) in the hope that they will be able to justify their plans to tear down the Leisure Centre?

Ask him why the next consultation on Jan 5th is not being made public?"

Anyway, for Facebreak members here's the campaign's page.

Saturday 29 November 2008

Housing and Council Tax Benefit Decision notices

Thanks to falling on hard times I've recently had to claim Council Tax Benefit. To be fair the claim was processed fairly quickly (although the start date was wrong). However, when I received the standard decision notice something was amiss.

You see there are fairly strict laws which set out what information must be provided on a HB/CTB decision notice and one of the things that is required is notice of your right to appeal. This is important because not everybody realises that they can challenge decisions. I can only presume that if my decision notice didn't have this info on nobody else's does either.

So I dropped a little formal complaint in. Again fairly speedy turnaround but the response referred to every aspect of my letter (there were other issues around backdating and stuff which I included but weren't actually the subject of my complaint) except the issue of the decision notice. Instead they said that the three other letters I'd had from them all had their appeal rights and this is correct. They just forgot to mention the formal decision notice.

So I've emailed them back to look at it again. I'll let you know what they say. Could be quite a giggle because tens of thousands of these notices go out each year and if they're all unlawful...

What's more changes to standard letters in HB/CTB software orten take ages and lots of work. Part of me thinks I'm missing something cos it seems such a basic error and there may be a clue in the bit on the notice that says

"Please read the enclosed notes..."

Naturally there were no enclosed notes but I expect to be informed that appeal rights are explained in said notes and that NCC ALWAYS enclose them without fail. We'll see soon enough.


Locals will probably heard of a bit of weirdness regarding a former employee of NCC, Tim Render. He used to be something high up in money and, erm, sums and things before being made redundant. Link below to the Nottingham Evening Post site for one of the stories they've posted on the matter. Anyway, cut a long story short, he's now back as a consultant.

For some reason NCC are being extraordinarly tight lipped abot exactly what he's being consulted on. Cynical speculation immediately comes up with something along the lines of

"Owww Tim, PLEEEAAASE tell us all the passwords" or

"Tim, can you come back and explain the almighty f*** up we've all made?"

or stuff involving Iceland banks

But thats just speculation.

I might have an idea as to at least part of what he's doing but unfortunately its one of this things I mentioned that is all messed up with one of those tribunal things and I might have a legal duty of confidentiality. Its also one of things where the timing might be critical for me to turn this into the maximum advantage for me and maximum annoyance for NCC.

So I'm sorry but for now I must remain a tease. Got to have something to keep you coming back for eh?

Evening Post article

Welcome to NCCLOLs

Hello all and especially to those of you in Nottingham.

Aren't local councils fun? And some are more fun than others believe me. I've worked for three of them in my time and the funnest of all was Nottingham. So, as they say, lets write about what we know.

I'm new to blogging so I'm not sure how its all going to go. Knowing the subject matter I'm not expecting a lack of material but getting it out at the right time in the right way may be a little tricky. Some of the stuff I know is the subject of tribunals and other legal cases so care has to be taken. Some require the answers to FoIA requests to flesh them out a bit. But hopefully there will be many lols.

Sometime in the future I will be asking you to send me stuff if you want to and if it checks out I'll put it up here. Not yet though as I'm still working out how thats gonna work.

Do pop back occasionally.