Monday, 28 February 2011

Information Commissioner Rules Against NCC in Register of Delegated Powers Case

At long last, the Information Commissioner has issued a decision notice on my request for an up to date list of officers with 'A' delegated powers.

In the short term it looks like a bit of a pyrrhic victory because I still have no better idea as to which officers have been granted delegated decision making powers. But perhaps more importantly, it's clear that NCC hasn't got the first clue either.

Obviously the ICO confirmed that NCC was late with the response that it did give me but that's pretty routine. Other procedural matters include the failure to issue a refusal notice when it claimed that the information I wanted was intended for future publication but, confusingly, also issued a fees notice should I want the information now.

The most important part of the decision concerns this claim that future publication was intended. The ICO finds that there was no evidence that NCC had a settled intention to compile an up to date list and that, even if it had, there was no evidence that they intended to publish it. In other words, a cynic might suggest that this particular response was a bit of a panicky one.

Another possibility, and the one that I hope is true, is that my request highlighted a very real problem in that NCC has not kept track of the hundreds of officer powers delegated by various committees and therefore, really doesn't know what decisions officers are making in its name. And now they've decided to do something about it, which is a good thing.

NCC Fined for Asbestos Management Breach

The Post is reporting that NCC has been fined £30k plus £12k costs for breaches of health and safety at work rules for the management of asbestos at the Woolsthorpe depot in Bilborough.

Apparently the issue has been going on since 2005, subjecting 148 workers to risk. The Health and Safety Executive issued an improvement notice in Feb last year but, confusingly, this is marked as having been complied with.

Of course NCC is responsible for prosecuting some health and safety and public health issues itself and loudly publicises when it gets one over the little guy.

This conviction is hardly likely to enhance the council's credibility and moral authority in future cases. And of course we still have the Viccy flats lift accident investigation to to finish which may not help matters.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Nice Work if You Can Get It

The news that NCC is investigating whether public money was siphoned off to pay for Labour's campaigning in the 2007 elections is not a big surprise, including the bit that they're being allowed to investigate the matter themselves.

The documents reportedly have the names 'Harold' and 'Stephen B' on them. Some people, nasty suspicious paranoid people obviously, are asking whether these names refer to political consultant Harold Tinworth and NCC's Director of Communications Stephen Barker.

NCC has been repeatedly caught out over its publicity being over political and as Barker is in charge of all that it wouldn't be a huge surprise to find his prints all over this. He also leads a charmed life - how many other senior officers would still be in post after putting videos of work colleagues on the internet, seemingly without their knowledge?

Tinworth has of course graced these pages on a number of occasions and famously included a proposal to advise executive councillors on their election manifesto in his pitch for a new contract. He only had to submit a tender because the District Auditor told NCC that the rather informal way his services had been procured for the previous five years wasn't acceptable. Gosh! You don't think he was giving campaign advice during the last election as well do you? Surely not.

Of course if the DA could have been bothered she could have looked into this but she refused to do so, claiming that she couldn't go back to accounts that had already been audited. Now it turns out that actually she can. It'll be interesting to see if she finall pulls her finger out and does something useful for a change.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

District Auditor LOLs

It's been mentioned before that NCC has abandoned its investigation of the housing allocations scandal. As we know, they've sort of spent £100k on paying outside solicitors to do Legal Services' normal work while the cosy in-house team 'investigated' the housing corruption that went on.

The District Auditor says that this is reasonable (see p4 and beyond). After all, £100k is a lot of money.

The District Auditor charged £388k (para 8 p5) for her annually required services. Yet abandoning an investigation into the worst public housing scandal since Dame Shirley Porter's shennanigins, having only spent just over 25% of that figure is apparently 'reasonable'.

Btw, in an unrelated fact, Jon Collins works as a self employed consultant to the Audit Commission.

Friday, 11 February 2011

A Surprising Event Happened

After the Labour Party showed its contempt for collaborative politics and accountability at the full council meeting this week the Post reports on the an example of opposition councillors showing how it should be done.

As well as Cllr Sutton's motion asking that NCC calls on the IPCC to investigate Notts Police's failure to do its job by not taking any action over the housing allocations scandal, Cllr Chapman also submitted a motion condemning the cuts to funding as 'unfair'.

With the Lib Dems currently on secondment to the Tory government you'd expect them to vote against but in fact they backed it. Admittedly it may well have been electoral suicide for them not to but at least they have set an example that not all votes need to be along party lines. Maybe Labour might learn something. Unlikely I know but we can live in hope.

Talking of Cllr Chapman, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has tried to humiliate him by 'hilariously' calling him 'a very naughty boy' because he shares his name with the Monty Python member who, as I'm sure you know, played Brian in 'The Life of...'.

I mean for fuck's sake. JoCo is right about one thing, that man is a buffoon and that's being polite.

Good Lord They Won

The Post has reported that NCC and five other councils have won their judicial review case against the government's decision to close down the BSF scheme.

I'm genuinely but pleasantly surprised by this, I really thought the case was a no hoper. At least we won't be clobbered with a load of legal costs.

Down side? Well it doesn't mean that Nottingham will necessarily have the funding reinstated, the decision only requires that Education Secretary Michael Gove reconsiders his decision. He could make the same decision again but with better reasoning.

Oh yeah, and look forward to rash of articles in the right wing press about 'unelected' judges making 'political' decisions.

Standards Committee Looks Like It's About to Do Something

Yep, there are signs that the Standards Committee might be about to actually do some actual work.

The 18 Feb agenda lists a consideration of 'case 2009/001'. This COULD be the Cllr Grocock case but, as it's obviously going on behind closed doors I can't be sure.

If it is I confidently predict he will be fully exonerated because the Standards Committee is a JoCo lapdog.

Update - My mistake, the above appears to be a pre-consideration of the investigation report for that case. I think THIS is the meeting where an actual case is being considered but, as it's designated 2010/001, it's obviously not the same one and is probably not Grocock's. No idea whose its mind because, you guessed it, it's being kept secret.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

An Early Contender for Least Surprising Event of the Year

I mentioned before that Cllr Tony Sutton submitted a motion to full council asking that it support his call for the IPCC to investigate Notts Police for their criminal and likely corrupt decision not to investigate the housing allocations coruption scandal at Nottingham City Homes. Over to the Post to tell us what happened with that one but before you click on the link try guessing the result. Go on give it a go.

Yup you were right. The motion was defeated with the vote split clearly on party lines i.e. apparently every single Labour member voted against.

There's a rather sinister quote from Cllr Chapman -

"Why would we want to cover up? The easiest thing for us would have been to get a few heads rolling, get a few martyrs – guilty or not guilty – prosecuted and we could have got on with it."

In other words, Cllr Chapman thinks it's more honest to cover up corruption using the time honoured method of hiding the matter under the carpet as opposed to the alternative one of fitting somebody up. Notice he doesn't see the third option i.e. of actually catching the real perpetrator and handing them over to the police. That's because the perpetrators are either still in power or working with some of NCC's most favoured 'partners'.

So let's round up what has happened so far -

JoCo called Cllr Sutton a 'prat' fpr mentioning that he himself had contacted Tyrone Brown on behalf of a tenant who was then handed a property outside the normal procedures.

The Standards Committee quietly rejected a key Audit Commission recommendation that councillors should be required to declare any personal relationship with tenants on whose behalf they make representations. Apparently it would be too complicated for them.

Cllr Grocock has been openly named as having dishonestly tried to help someone get a property by saying he was his grandson. Despite there being no apparent dispute over the facts of this the Standards Committee has still not completed its investigations into the matter. I'd bet £1.50 of my own money that they won't do either until after the election. In the meantime he has been severely punished by, er, being appointed as Lord Mayor which just happens to carry with it an extra £25k personal allowance.

One part time temp has been let go. This is the sum total of disciplinary action taken. Similarly, no houses have been repossessed.

The council's internal investigation has cost £100k (or £150k if you believe Cllr Chapman's latest claim). This is apparently as much as can be justified*, although compare with this the £700k spent on the investigation and prosecution of the Ratcliffe environmental activists. Different organisation I know but let's not forget that JoCo is the Chair of Notts Police Authority too.

Furthermore, and if this isn't the clincher on this being a cover up I don't know what is, this £100k was spent on paying external solicitors to do NCC's Legal Services' normal work while they did the investigation themselves. Why? Surely a fresh set of eyes would have been more appropriate for the investigation rather than make them all learn NCC's systems which they would be completely unfamiliar with. Even on an efficiency aregument this was the wrong way round. It's difficult not to conclude that the idea was to make sure no-one looks in the wrong (right?) places. Where this leaves NCC's lawyers' professional standing I don't know.

All this is dodgy as fuck and, in theory should result in Labour being shown the door at the next elections in May. Unfortunately I doubt this will happen, I rather expect postal voting to play a pivotal role in the final result.

*To put this into context I reckon my employment tribunal case cost them over £40k including internal staff time.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Save Supporting People

Another quickie, please join the Save Supporting People Services group on Facebook Causes.

As I've said before, NCC's claims that the 45% cut to SP is entirely down to the government and that no alternatives exist are open to interpretation. It is MOSTLY the government's fault but NCC could mitigate the cuts more.

NCC Management Structure

Just a quick one this.

Someone's done a FoI request for NCC's management structure and the response is more detailed than the organogram on the website so I thought I'd post it up here.

It's already out of date mind as Corporate Director of Communities Michael Williams has retired and they are in the process of recruiting his replacement.

Lib Dems on the Telly

Essential telly viewing later this afternoon at 5pm, NCC's very own Lib Dem councillor Alex Foster is on 'Come Dine With Me'.

In fact I think he's already been on doing his actual cooking earlier in the week. I'm afraid I've never actually watched CDWM so I'm not sure of the format but I think the earlier episode is when he did his cooking and the episode today is where we find out who won. I will try and watch it later to find out.

Could it be that Nottingham's Lib Dems are launching their local elections campaign off the back of Cllr Foster's impending stardom? Will we be getting leaflets through the door quoting 'TV's Mr Cooking, Nottingham's answer to Gordon Ramsey, Alex Foster'? I think we should be told.

Update - I think the answer to that last question will be, erm, no because he came 4th. Better luck next time Alex.