Friday 28 May 2010

It's Uncanny...

Bloody 'ell, stick Gollum in a suit and see what you get

"Ohhh, precious police authority..."

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Despair at Windows of Opportunity

I hear that Windows Of Despair now has some pictures up although some of them are NCC's own stock images, presumably added to try and make the scheme look popular.

More seriously, the pics sent in by actual punters have not been credited. Understandably, some of them are pretty unhappy about that.

Harold Tinworth - An Update

Had a further response to my FoIA request about the decision to commission services from Harold Tinworth's company 'Regional and Local Associates'.

As you can see, NCC are saying that they have no further info regarding the decision to spend over £25k pa on a consultant to provide unspecified services. That's not good.

Apparently the Audit Commission is investigating this one and I'll hopefully be able to update you further on that fairly soon.

Monday 24 May 2010

Hassan Ahmed Found Guilty of Breach of Members Code of Conduct

Blimey, I reckon I must be psychic. Barely an hour after finishing my post about complaints about councillors and codes of conduct the news comes in that Hassan Ahmed has been found guilty of breaching the members code of conduct by the Standards Board for England because he failed to declare a number of interests.

Despite this the board decided to take no further action accepting that -

"...there is an inherent risk for any member who is involved in the number of organisations that Councillor Ahmed is involved in, of inadvertently failing to consider the requirements of the Code to register those interests, declare those interests at meetings of the authority, and consider those interests when approaching officers of the authority."

Oh for fucks sake. How hard can it be? Harder than being an executive portfolio holder? Does he need someone to remind him where he lives? After all, he does own two properties, must be very easy for him to get them mixed up.

But in a spectacular combination of breathtaking arrogance and delusion he told the 'Post' -

"I am delighted that, after a thorough investigation, I have been exonerated. The Standards Board found that I had no case to answer."

Erm, no mate, you weren't exonerated at all you were found to have BREACHED YOUR CODE OF CONDUCT. That's not the same as being exonerated. Being exonerated would have meant that you were found to have NOT BREACHED YOUR CODE OF CONDUCT, which wasn't what happened.

Do you see the difference Councillor Ahmed? One is being exonerated, the other is being found guilty. You were the latter. I realise that telling the difference is almost as difficult as remembering which pies you've got your fingers stuffed in but keep working at it you bullshitting fucking twat.

One of the factors that helped Ahmed escape any sanction was that -

"The ESO found that there was no evidence that Councillor Ahmed had attended any council meeting, while a portfolio holder, at which one of his registered, or unregistered interests had been discussed or where funding or grants had been considered or approved."

Well no, he wouldn't have been. That's because, unless it was a very big grant (>£500k) virtually all funding decisions are taken by a single portfolio holder. Unless Ahmed happened to be that portfolio holder (and I think that would be too brazen even for him) he wouldn't be formally involved. But that ignores the informal influence that any councillor might have and the Standards Board should have taken that into account.

And of course, as we've written about previously, Ahmed was very much involved with a decision to suddenly end all NCC funding for the Council for Equality and Human Rights Nottm + Notts which is arguably a potential competitor to Nottingham Equal, one of the organisations Ahmed was involved with. Although this decision was made after he was forced by the Post to declare his interests, a councillor's involvement in an organisation is not only relevant to how NCC deals with that organisation but how it treats its competitors. It may or may not be relevant to note that the details of this decision was kept secret.

Interestingly, Ahmed has recently submitted a new register of interests which no longer lists Nottingham Equal as one of his interests. Wonder why that is? (older edition here)

Do You Know How to Complain About a Councillor?

Being a stroppy so-and-so, I recently decided to submit a complaint about one of our elected representatives (more about this if it goes anywhere).

Naturally I first had a look around NCC's website to find out how to go about it. To give you an idea of how well that went here are the results of a Google search for the term 'complaints against councillors Nottingham'.

As you can see, precious little information specifically about how to complain about a councillor at Nottingham.

Compare with the results of a search for 'complaints about councillors'. Evidence of quite a few councils across the UK providing details of how to make a complaint against one of their councillors.

Just to be sure, here are the results of using the search facility for 'complaints against councillors' on NCC's website. As you can see, lots of details about how to complain about anything from social workers to the cleaner and his dog but not councillors.

This is an important omission because complaints against councillors can only be made on the basis that they have breached the code of conduct and they have to be sent to the council's Standards Committee. While using NCC's generic complaints system MAY result in it getting to the right person, not knowing the basis on which a complaint must be made will only result in more complaints that aren't specifically about code of conduct issues and which cannot be upheld and that's a waste of time for everybody. That's presuming that people aren't put off by the lack of any info on the website about how you go about it.

So, for your future reference, here is the Standards for England page on how to make a complaint against a councillor, you have your link to the code of conduct above and here is the link to the various Committee Administrators' contact details page. I strongly advise that you at least copy any complaint about a councillor to the Standards Committee Administrator, he seems like a nice man and he does seem to acknowledge emails pretty quickly, which is more than can be said for the generic complaints system.

Sunday 23 May 2010

Nottingham Set for an Elected Mayor?

In my usual late to the party way I learn that our shiny new coalition government has got Nottingham in line for an elected mayor (see page 12 of this document). It seems that not everybody is uniformly ecstatic about this.

Saturday's Post carried a selection of characteristically thoughtful and considered comments from Councillor Collins, the leader of the council in its current executive format and as such the person whose wings would be clipped the most by the installation of an elected mayor. Not that that would influence him in any way as I'm sure you realise.

So what does Leader Collins think of the proposals then?

"I think it's a stupid policy, it was stupid when Labour proposed it, it's stupid now."


"In Doncaster it led to a failing, dysfunctional council, in Hartlepool they elected a monkey."

[NCCLols translation service swings into action -

"I'm still massively bitter about not getting the Nottingham East gig and I'm running scared of losing most of my power to Su Pollard or some chump in a Robin Hood costume."]

Seeing as JoCo has brought the subject up, I'm not sure that an elected mayor necessarily LED to a failing, dysfunctional council in Doncaster, they seemed to have mastered the art of being a basket case some time before although an 'English Democrat' mayor with no knowledge of local administration issues and a bagful of bigotry hasn't helped.

As for Hartlepool, that monkey's real name is Stuart Drummond and last year he became the only elected mayor to be re-elected to a third term, despite failing in his sole campaign promise of free bananas for all local schoolchildren.

And Collins could do with checking the condition of his glass house before he goes around dismissing others as being dysfunctional.

So, what can we expect from an elected mayor? In terms of powers, an elected mayor would have broadly the same powers as the council's executive committee has now. The legislation for elected mayors is not new, it was introduced by the Local Government Act 2000, which required all local authorities to decide on one of three possible types of executive arrangements. They could choose from a leader and cabinet system, where the executive is drawn entirely from councillors (as NCC has now), a mayor plus cabinet system (which is the proposal in the government's plans) or a mayor plus council manager system. Only one council initially opted for this last system, Stoke on Trent, and they have changed to a leader plus cabinet system now.

Interestingly, in order to implement either of the elected mayor options, the proposal would have to be put before a referendum, whereas the cabinet plus leader system didn't. It's perhaps not surprising therefore that this is the option that most councils went with.

Once elected a mayor is entitled to appoint a cabinet committee from serving councillors and can delegate powers to them. In this sort of arrangement, if we imagine that JoCo went for and got the role of elected mayor, NCC's executive arrangements would probably work in a very similar way to how they do today in practical terms , as Collins is clearly very much in charge of the current Executive Board. It's just that some of the hats would have different names on them and Collins would not be accountable to councillors but directly to the electorate (afterthought; disturbingly the councillors on this form of cabinet committee would presumably be answerable to Collins - or whoever - as far as their executive powers are concerned, rather than councillors).

Bearing that in mind, I can only assume that Collins' lack of enthusiasm for an elected mayor system means that he is far from confident that he would get the nomination from the Labour party and/or that if he did, there are too many unknown variables between him and success in an election. He must be genuinely worried about this because he has effectively talked himself into a corner now, if he did decide to go for it he would look like a little bit of a hypocrite.

For myself I do have some reservations about elected mayors. There is the problem that a maverick could end up in post as a result of a protest vote. There's also the very real possibility that a mayor from an opposing political party is elected and it results in deadlock. In the latter case problems could hopefully be solved by everybody growing up and adopting coalition style working practices in order to get along, I just can't see that happening in Nottingham with the Labour Party's assumption of its right to rule. I also worry that local politics would end up being only about one person leading to people taking even less interest in local (ward) elections than they do already.

On the other hand it could all go swimmingly. You would have someone with a genuine democratic mandate in charge providing that oh so desirable 'strong government' and we all live happily ever after.

Just don't let it be Collins or a man in green tights...

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Victoria Leisure Centre Finally Done For

I missed this tweet from LibDem Cllr Alex Foster earlier.

Seems that the much contested plans to rebuild Victoria Leisure Centre were approved for planning permission today.

Theft from Former Post Office?

Some new info just in concerning the somewhat dodgy removal by NCC of 'Save Carrington Post Office's campaign materials from the former PO site.

It turns out that the campaign has reported the loss to the Police and it has been recorded as theft. Seeing as NCC has admitted that they removed the items this looks like a bit of an open and shut case. The courts really should make an example of this sort of thing.

Anyway, the campaigners have done a bit of rooting around and apparently the affair was triggered by an anonymous call to the fly-tipping team at NCC complaining about "blatantly political advertising". A further phone call complaining about the area looking run down and saying that "that sort of advertising" did nothing to help was found to have been made by a serving NCC councillor who had previously told campaigners that she supported the campaign. This couldn't be a case of a councillor telling local people what they want to hear with one face while behind the scenes working to support the former government's line on closures with the other could it?

Another councillor has apparently privately apologised and promised to make enquiries but as yet the campaigners have heard nothing on this, nor from Jane Todd who they had written to previously.

Compare and contrast this with the account of JoCo's Gordon Brown style granny cuddling following NCC workers' removal of England flags that she had hung across the road. As far as I can see, it was quite lawful for them to do so (although arguably a little unwise but you could argue about that all day) and they did in fact leave the flags behind so there's no issue of theft unlike the SCPO case.

Yet within a day the Leader of the City Council has turned up on her doorstep with apologies and flowers and she has been invited to a 'tea party' with the Lord Mayor Cllr Brian Grocrook who presumably is going to discover that she is a long lost relative and bump her up the waiting list for a new house as part of the charm offensive.

But of course SCPO have yet to hear anything. They need to get an ENG-ER-LAND supporting little old lady on the team.


According to the Post, Jon Collins is in the running to become Chair of Notts Police Authority. The Post also reports a "Labour source" as questioning whether this is a good idea but predictably, they asked to remain anonymous. There are two other candidates and the decision will be made on 27 May.

As well as being a councillor in St Anns and Leader of the City Council, JoCo is also the Chair of 'One Nottingham', Chair of the Crime and Drugs Partnership, Chair of the Renewal Trust and a member of the East Midlands Development Agency board. He is also already heavily involved in NPA as Chair of its Change Management Committee and has been no stranger to controversy there. It's not been revealed whether he will give up any of these if here to be given the new NPA role.

(Update - just found out he is also Vice-Chair of the East Midlands Leaders Board)

Following the lift accident at Viccy flats, which may or may not be due at least in part to NCC's decision to make the lift maintenance team redundant last year, NCC have shown a keen sense of irony in loudly reporting its prosecution of a Radford shop owner for a defective lift which caused a strikingly similar accident to the Viccy flats incident. Still, at least they got a guide figure for the size of the fine.

Quite a risky PR strategy really because, although NCC will probably be able to pass the buck on to Nottm City Homes for Viccy flats, there are still a number of NCC buildings with lifts in which are probably just at risk.

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Ignorance About Mental Health Problems as Disability

The Daily Mail recently carried an article written by Janet Street-Porter which argued that depression was just the latest of a series of trendy diseases. I hesitate to link to it but I decided I would as it is important that you realise what determinedly ignorant, shit-for-brains, mind-bendingly fuck-witted verbal slurry that this massively overrated boat-faced honking old sow has managed to get published in that cretinous reactionary shitrag. Believe me, if I were to happen across this knowledge vacuum and she was merrily aflame not a drop of my precious urine would be used in preventing her painful fiery death.

Ok, maybe I would if I'd just been given three wishes and I'd cashed one of them in for an ability to piss petrol.

Obviously local councils have more awareness than someone like that no? Well, in NCC's case, not by much.

You may remember that NCC currently sees prosecuting me for having an overgrown garden as a viable use of public funds at present, even though it is less than interested in keeping its own house in order. The case was adjourned for them to investigate whether I am a disabled person or not, a fact of which they are more than aware.

If they genuinely didn't know the answer to this question (which they do because the employment tribunal told them) then you'd have thought that the best thing to do would be to contact me for information, maybe even seek permission to obtain further evidence. They didn't do this.

The date of the rehearing approached and I dutifully trotted down to the magistrates court to face my doom.

NCC's solicitor calmly explained to the magistrates that I wasn't a disabled person because she had contacted the council's adult care service (i.e. social workers) and they 'couldn't confirm' that I was. So, a legally qualified employee of Nottingham City Council was prepared to stand up in court and state that NCC's definition of disability was somebody who had a social worker.

Never mind the fact that data protection rules would have prevented the social workers from telling her anything about me without my authority, or that after their treatment of me there is no way I'm letting any of their employees near me, she actually thought that all disabled people would have a social worker and if you didn't have one then you cannot possibly be disabled.

To me this is a level of ignorance of at least the same level as Street-Porter's. I agree that JSP managed to find a wider variety of aspects in which to express her stupidity but then she does claim to be a journalist. But in terms of idiocy levels NCC are right up there.

Believe me, depression can be extremely debilitating but those that suffer from it often don't get taken seriously due to ignorance or because we don't 'look' disabled. And we most certainly don't ALL have social workers for a variety of reasons.

On that last point, I'm off to work on my inane dribbling in the mirror and to try a pair of pants on my head for size. Gotta look the part if that's what it takes...

Friday 14 May 2010

Robin Hood Based Satire

Have to say this tickled me.

Hat tip - Alan over at Nottingham Graffiti.

Lift Issues

The Post has a report on a chap who had an accident in one of the lifts at a Nottingham City Homes owned block of flats, resulting in 'leg injuries'. I'm hearing that it was actually Victoria Centre flats and that the particular leg injury concerned was 'loss of...' which sounds pretty nasty.

NCH have acted in the only way they know how i.e. they have appointed a consultant.

There is an interesting comment at the bottom of the article and I've got a bit more info on that.

Phrases like 'only a matter of time have been' have been heard to be muttered by people who know about these things. It seems that, prior to the 'workforce reductions' decided last year in order to cut costs (as opposed to those announced THIS year), Nottm City Council employed a Lifts Service. It was these guys' job to look after and inspect the lifts across NCC and NCH (about 1400 in total I'm told) and to commission any repairs needed. However they were deemed surplus to requirements and made redundant. Apparently NCH took on one of the team members who has since been forced to do a convincing impression of the proverbial blue arsed fly with a rocket up its arse.

The workforce reductions were supposed to have been risk assessed for health and safety issues but unfortunately all that, along with any details of the jobs that were lost, was kept confidential so I can't find out any more about it.

The savings achieved were around £80,000. I wonder if the poor chap in hospital thinks it was worth it.

NCC Gets Stupid Over 'Fly Posting'

The Post had an article last week saying that NCC removed posters owned by the 'Save Carrington Post Office' campaign that they had put up on the old post office site. The council apparently claimed that it was fly posting.

However, in a letter to the Post, campaigner Colin Barratt said that the posters were placed with permission from the owner of the building and that the council should have given them two days to prove that before removing them. He has written to Jane Todd and asked for an apology. I hope he isn't holding his breath. Personally I would have gone to the Police as it's theft but perhaps Mr Barratt is a nicer man than me.

I've written to the campaigners and if I get any more info I'll add it up here.

Windows of Despair (Reprise)

A grateful populace rushes to give Nottingham City Council its photographs for free.

Not terribly popular this is it?

Saturday 8 May 2010

Hung Parliament

So we have hung Parliament for the first time in a while. On the plus side that won me a few drinking vouchers from Mr William Hill esq.

However, it's very clear to me that our voting system is not delivering what the electorate demands. 23% vote for the Lib Dems and they only get 57 seats, 29% vote Labour and they get 258. And that's before we take into account the skewing effects of tactical voting, of which I suspect there was a great deal nationwide from the widely varying swings.

So I would like to ask all readers of this blog to visit this campaign and sign their petition


Let's keep up the pressure for electoral reform.

PS. It seems that there are over 3000 avowed racists in Nottingham who voted BNP and that was with no candidate standing in Nottm East. They got 5.7% in my manor, Nottm North. This is very disappointing.

Friday 7 May 2010

Standards Committee Lumbers Into 'Action'

So that was the General Election that was. While the horse trading goes on I'll get back to some normal business.

Looks like there may be some movement in the cases against councillors accused of breaking the code of conduct.

The Standards Committee is meeting on 17 May and is due to appoint a hearing sub-committee. As far as I can tell this is the body who will actually decide on the complaint.

The report on this move mentions a 'self-referral' to the committee and so, although no-one is named, we can conclude that this one concerns Cllr Grocock who was named as the next Lord Mayor just the other day.

There's no indication as to when this sub-committee will actually meet to hear the case but it looks like it will be in good time for any fall-out to blow over in time for the next elections. And my guess is that will be 'what do you mean he hasn't breached the code of conduct, did you read the Audit Commission's report?' type fall-out rather than 'Grocock resigns as Lord Mayor in disgrace' type fall-out.

They also appear to be appointing 'assessment and review' sub-committees which are the 'are we going to even bother looking at this?' stage of proceedings but they don't mention who those are about. According to the minutes of the last meeting they appointed one of these then so presumably that means all three cases are finally on the go.

Don't hold your breath...

Thursday 6 May 2010

Radford Unity Complex Sale Falls Through

Just a quick note to say that I've received word from the Audit Commission that the sale of the Radford Unity Complex has fallen through so they are suspending their investigation.

Where this leaves the tenants I have no idea. Presumably they're still on notice of eviction and NCC still presumably still sees RUC as 'surplus to requirements'. After all, the decision to sell couldn't have been due to any back room deals could it?

Coincidentally the minutes of the Call-in Sub Committee reviewing the decision are out in the wild. The explanations for the notices to quit predating the decision to sell are farcical.

So another resounding success for Leader Collins. Anyone want to give me odds on a 'redevelopment' resulting in the demolition of RUC being announced in the next six months?

Wednesday 5 May 2010

A Temporary Post... send one of the messages about tomorrow

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

(props to matleys)

Dodgy Councillor to be Next Lord Mayor

The Post is reporting that Cllr Brian Grocock has secured the nomination to be the next Lord Mayor. The formal appointment is due to be made by full council at its meeting on 10 May.

The Post says that his nomination papers were signed by Jon Collins himself, which is strange seeing as JoCo made a public declaration that he accepted 'in full' the findings of the Audit Commission's report into the NCH scandal that Grocock had lied in order to secure constituents a house by claiming that one of them was his grandson. He's up before the Standards Committee over that which already has form for quietly sitting on aspects of that pitiful episode. Grocock's case has already been sitting around for a year and shows no sign of progress.

Of course, the question as to whether he actually lied or not is immaterial. The fact is that he used his influence to subvert the housing allocations policy. Whether it was on behalf of his grandson or the Queen of Sheba hardly matters.

The Lord Mayor's role includes "...act[ing] as the a-political figurehead of the City Council; champion of the city of Nottingham and its people..." I'm not sure how being found to be corrupt is consistent with that. The Lord Mayor's position attracts a special allowance of £24,899 pa on top of the standard councillor's allowance of £11,581 pa. It is therefore the second highest paid post after the Leader.

Politically speaking, and bearing in mind the geological timescales of the Standards Committee, this again makes me wonder whether JoCo has thought all this through. Having a sitting Lord Mayor being censured by the Standards Committee would be bad enough but in a year's time NCC's councillors will be facing an election. It's quite conceivable that the Standards Committee will be announcing its findings uncomfortably close to a time when sitting Labour councillors could do without their party's role in one of the biggest scandals at NCC in recent times being highlighted before a cynical electorate.

Unless of course for some reason JoCo feels confident of the way that the Committee's decision will go...

Monday 3 May 2010

The General Election

You may have noticed that we have all been invited to choose a new UK government this Thursday. At times like this I like to allow myself a bit of off-topicness and talk about who I think we should vote for. If nothing else it will let you know something about my political beliefs and perhaps put some of the views on the blog into context.

I should say that I'm not a member of any political party and don't see any real point in joining one. In terms of voting I'm purely generally tactical and one of the biggest issues closest to my heart, animal rights, doesn't really have any party doing it any justice.

Lets start with who I can't face voting for -


I simply can't justify voting for a party that is comfortable with the use of torture. I do believe that New Labour has done some useful things such as the minimum wage, gay rights and the Human Rights Act but it's ironic in view of the latter that they have also presided over some serious loss of civil liberties in the name of the war on terror. And there's that torture thing again. It would also be nice to not be at war with someone for five minutes.


Well, I still haven't forgiven them for the Poll Tax. And they sold off the public sector to the lowest bidder (something New Labour has embraced along with the hated PFI). Lets also not forget the the Tories weren't exactly hot on civil liberties themselves despite their criticisms of Labour, anybody remember the Criminal Justice Act? And they happily sold lots of weapons to Saddam Hussein, despite knowing full well about his gassing the Kurds, and were a little too chummy with apartheid era South Africa.

Essentially they're a mix of frustrated landed gentry and swivel eyed uber capitalists and judging by some of the recent reports about Phillippa Stroud, Chris Grayling and Julian Lewis, they haven't quite got rid of the homophobia gene yet either.


Oh come on, you're joking aren't you? Bunch of 19th hole bores with empire delusions.


Lets be frank here. If you vote BNP you're a racist. No excuses about New Labour betraying the working class please, if you vote for them you're a racist. Probably a homophobe too but I don't think it's essential. You have a responsibility to look at their policies, the types of people who join them, their record and their history and if you do that, you will see that they are a racist party and therefore voting for them makes you a racist. End of.

So lets now have a look at the parties I can just about stomach voting for -

Green Party

My own belief is that the environment is the biggest issue we face by far and for that reason alone, if I could I would vote Green. yes there's still a bit of the hippy about them occasionally but I'd be happy to put up with that and they do a good line on social justice too. I think it's a tragedy that the Green Party is such a small political force in the UK and a factor in that is no doubt our election system.

Liberal Democrats

They have a firm commitment to proportional representation and that makes them potentially worth voting for. They also have some very able people involved and have the advantage of being the only mainstream party that isn't the Conservatives or Labour. You can laugh but at the moment that's a real selling point. I think the two party system that has dominated British politics has been disastrous and needs to be stopped. I know most of this reasoning is tactical but I make no apology for that and in fact, I've done two of those 'pick your party from the policies' questionnaires and it came out Lib Dem both times. Although none of them mentioned that their science spokesman actively campaigns in favour of animal testing...


So, what have we learned today?

Essentially my heart says vote Green and my sensible side says vote Lib Dem. I happen to live in Nottingham North constituency and the Greens aren't standing there so that makes my decision fairly easy, I'm voting Lib Dem. However, every Lib Dem I've ever voted for in the past has either lost or defected so I'm willing to consider large cash offers from any Lib Dem officials who'd prefer it if I kept my clearly jinxed voting record at home ;).

So, my recommendation would have to be vote Green if you can and Lib Dem otherwise.