Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Mayor to face six years in Jail

Front page news in today’s paper, allegations of corruption and backhanders being paid for planning permission have left the Mayor and a number of senior council officers facing jail sentences and heavy fines. Promises are being made to “combat the feeling amongst citizens that things only get done if you have a good friend or family member, or know somebody on the council”

The Mayor of Andrax has used his powers to grant himself planning permission with the alleged collusion of the senior officers of the town council. Of course things like this could never happen in Hartlepool as there is “No whip in planning matters” it is of course just a co-incidence that the vote almost always seems to split along party lines.

The strangest planning decision I have participated in recently concerned the closure of a cut through path behind a small number of houses in the south of the town. The Police wanted it shut, the residents whose gardens backed onto the cut wanted it shut, the local residents association and Parish Council wanted it shut, the Council Planning Department admitted modern estate design would not include a cut through like this as they were known magnets for trouble and anti-social behaviour. The decision was “Keep it open” and the justification was loss of vital public open space. A Labour Councillor even claimed closure of this cut through was akin to closing the Burn Valley Gardens and a Conservative Councillor rushed to support this view, evoking a future picture of everyone being trapped in Church Square because the Council had shut all public footpaths.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Please TURN OFF your mobile phone..........

The wonders of mobile phone technology mean that no matter where you are in the world you cannot escape. Usually I leave the mobile in the glove compartment of the car when I park up at the airport but this time when I packed my suitcase almost the first thing that I included was a charger for the mobile phone since it was inconceivable that I would leave it behind.

My check list on leaving the house always used to be keys, glasses, and wallet. Now the Mobile phone has been added to the list and if it comes to a choice between wallet and phone then I leave the wallet behind. I misplaced my wallet for over a week a short while ago and was just starting to get worried about it when it turned up. Misplacing my mobile for that length of time is totally unthinkable. Occasionally I do go out without it and there are inevitably a dozen missed calls when I check it on my return. If I could actually see past the end of my nose without my glasses then they would be lower than the phone on the list. Keys have to remain at the top of the list unfortunately as I cannot lock the doors behind me when I leave the house.

So when did I become so addicted to my mobile phone? I was once told it’s not how many calls you make that counts, its how many you receive. I have never been one of the mobile users I hate so much inflicting the classic “Hello, I’m on the train/bus/plane, I’ll be home if an hour, what’s for tea?” conversations on everyone around them. I still actually feel embarrassed to talk on my phone in a public place and in fact when I moved tariffs recently I opted for more inclusive txt messages and fewer airtime talk minutes. It’s actually txt messages that I love, not my phone. I send txt messages to myself sometimes, rather like sending e-mails to myself (yes I admit I do that) because once they are in my e-mail in-box of txt message received box then they stay there until I have dealt with them. In a similar way I am starting to love the camera on my mobile. During a recent ward walk about there were several items that needed attention, in the good old days I would have made notes, not now, I took a photo of them and sent it from my phone back to my computer at home. So when I turned on my PC that evening a series of photos down loaded to my in-box. The damaged wall outside St.Begas School, the gate to the Bowling Greens that needed repair and the seating around the Canon next to the Lighthouse all reminded me of things I needed to follow up.

So maybe it just the fact that I can’t remember like I used to that is making me love my mobile phone more and more. I don’t carry a diary any more because the memo function reminds me of things; I don’t remember phone numbers since they are programmed in.

There used to be a “trick” question asked by interviewers to try and uncover your psychological flaws “If you woke up in bed one night and your house was on fire and you can save only one thing, what would it be?” After the obvious wife and children (though how I would choose one from them is something I don’t even want to think about), the answer would definitely be “My mobile phone”

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Hospital transport……..

The Green Party have now got involved in the Hospital row, claiming the proposed new site will cause transport problems. The feeling of Deja Vue just gets stronger and stronger. The transport problems are not related to when Hartlepool’s new Hospital is eventually built at Wynyard. The disputed site is at Son Espases in Majorca. According to the Greens a new hospital at Son Espases would have such poor access that it would give “power of the elbow” to those people seeking a new ring road. Guess who is also opposing the road……yes you guessed…….The Greens.

Scottish Visit

According to “Majorca Today” the Speaker of the Balearic Parliament, Maria Antonia Munar, received a delegation last week from the North Ayrshire Regional Government. The Island apparently has close ties with Scotland, with frequent student exchange programmes.

Leaving aside the funding (by English taxpayers) of student trips to Majorca, do the people of North Ayrshire appreciate they live under a Regional Government?

Different Country but same grasping politicians

It’s a balmy Sunday morning and I’m sat on the terrace reading the papers, my second cup of coffee beside me and a choice of plain or chocolate filled croissants. My other choice is the Mail on Sunday (printed in Palma) or the Sunday (Majorca) Bulletin. Looking at the FrontPages in both there isn’t much to choose between them. “Ministers cash in on two homes loophole” from the Mail or “MP’s get 10% pay increase” from the Bulletin

As Peter Osborne said in his column yesterday, if an autumn n election does take place (in the UK) it will be fought between two main parties with almost exactly identical views on every issue. The real divide in (British) politics is no longer between the major parties. Instead it is between an arrogant and Self Interested Political Class and the mass of ordinary voters.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

26% increase in Refuse Charges

Rubbish appears to be a problem everywhere as does politicians promising one thing but doing something else after the votes are counted. The Labour Government in the UK promised a referendum on the EU, a promise very unlikely to be kept. The new members of the Council of Majorca spent their time in opposition and during the last election campaign itself, calling for lower refuse collection charges.

The Majorca Bulletin today reports the Council of Majorca are now planning to raise rubbish collection charges by 26% next year.

Many moons ago I remember talking with one prominent Hartlepool politician (in the far off days when he did sometimes talk to me!) who proved you can promise anything during an election. Promise to reduce Council Tax Levels or promise to give free bananas to every school child; it doesn’t matter because everyone knows these are only election promises, so they didn’t really count!

Hospital Protest

This week I’m starting the day with the Majorca Bulletin. On today’s front page the headline screamed “500 foreign inmates in Palma Jail” and the article explained that one in three prisoners were now non-Spanish. The secondary headline was “Protest over new hospital site”; it’s almost like being at home.

Things became even creepier when I read the article about the Hospital Protest. A group of people in white suites demonstrated outside the parliament building by staging a death scene where they were all “Stabbed in the Back”

It was reported in the Bulletin that during a recent election campaign the Balearic Leader, Francesc Antich, had been opposed to the new site but after the votes have been cast he appears to have changed his mind. I wondered if he knows Ian Wright? They appear to have a great deal in common!

QE2 Visits Hartlepool (Almost!)

I usually start the day with BBC Tees (as I’m learning to call Radio Cleveland) and early one morning (just as the sun was rising) I heard the Manager of Hartlepool marina talking about the excitement to come later in the week when the QE2 sailed past Hartlepool on its way to the Tyne. He did his best to whip up enthusiasm and announced a fleet of small craft were expected to greet the Lady of the Seas. “Let’s make it a rehearsal for the Tall Ships” was the phrase he used.

At the appointed time I went down to the lighthouse on the Headland and saw, absolutely nothing! I later learned from the Hartlepool Mail that the liner had stayed 10 miles offshore as it sailed up the east coast. Come on Cunnard, even the German Imperial Fleet managed to come closer to Hartlepool than that!

The flotilla of small craft greeting the QE2 was apparently reduced to a very small number of hardy souls in a restored RNLI Lifeboat and that didn’t make it all the way out to the ship but had to turn back a mile or two short. If this was a rehearsal for the Tall Ship Race then it didn’t give me a warm feeling about the success of the venture.

All was not lost however, in a parting remark from the Marina Manager he did say that Hartlepool would be represented on board the QE2 while she was docked on the Tyne. Our Mayor, Stuart Drummond, was one of the VIP’s invited on board for nibbles with the Captain. So that’s OK then, complete none event in Hartlepool but Stuart gets a nice day out from it. His usual claim from these junkets is that the contacts he made will help Hartlepool in the future; well at least it will give him something to talk about at his next Tall Ships away day. I can just hear him now “Of course we had the QE2 sail past Hartlepool recently. Anyone watching from shore could almost make her out on the horizon as she went past”.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Twilight Zone

If you want to enter the Twilight Zone then go to a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council. The Chairman can’t seem to get the hang of counting to two and even more bizarre a motion commending the Labour Government for everything it has achieved since 1997 was passed only because Conservative Councillors voted with the Labour Group!

Worse was to come! The Mayor seems to have offered the Tall Ships Organisers a blank cheque for the race. Current cost estimates are over £2,200,000 (and rising). Either the Mayor really doesn’t have a clue about the ultimate cost or he is hoping to keep it quiet until after he seeks re-election in 2009!

The Mayor and Cabinet agreed in April to establish a Tall Ships Office and authorised the appointment of a Project Manager (at a cost of £150,000). However, the Tall Ships Bid submitted by Hartlepool Council included an argument for the race to come to Hartlepool because for the past 18 years Hartlepool Council has employed an experienced events organiser, with a Yacht Skipper qualification, who has crewed on more than one tall ship. Indeed this person was part of the group accompanying the Mayor to Stockholm just last month.

Finally, the Mayor told the meeting that alternate weekly collections (once a fortnight to you and me) had pushed recycling up to 38%. A Council Press release sent out the next day claimed recycling in the town was at its highest ever level of 27%. Twilight Zone indeed!

Thursday, 13 September 2007

What do Lib-Dems believe in..........?

The Lib-Dims leader Sir Menzies Campbell has thrown his mate Gordon Brown a life line over the revised European Union constitution by arguing that a referendum on the new treaty was not necessary. The fanatically pro-European Lib-Dems claim the new EU reform treaty is sufficiently different from the original constitution to avoid the need for a plebiscite.

I regularly meet Liberal-Democrat supporters who have no idea what their party stands for. The Liberal Democrats have been the natural home of people who don't want to be Labour or Conservative but who don't have the self confidence to stand alone without a Party flag. Ask a Lib-Dem on the doorstep what he or she believes in and the answer is usually something on the lines of "I believe in whatever you believe in"

However, in common with the Tory Party the Lib-Dem Leadership is very clear on its aims and beliefs, they really believe in only one thing........getting your vote! The Tories are generally euro sceptic at grassroots level but massively pro-European Union in their higher ranks, the Lib-Dems have local issues as their priority at Grass Roots but are also massively pro-European Union in their leadership. Not surprising that the higher up you go and the more politics becomes your profession then the more pro-EU you become since jobs for politicians and bureaucrats both grow like Topsy under the centralist, controlling agenda of the European Union.

In the words of one man who tried in the previous millennium to unite Europe under a single flag.... "Governments are fortunate that the people rarely think" Well the Lib-Dems are a perfect example of the truth of that statement, because no-one who really thought about it could be a Lib-Dem.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Your Town Your Say

Had an e-mail forwarded to me through the Council's e-consultation system email address - Your Town Your Say.  First time this has happened to me as most people use the direct e-mail if they want me to get their comment (

I have asked if there is a facility allowing me to respond direct to the senders but it might not be possible. However, I always read e-mails (and letters or faxes) and am always pleased to get feedback.

The e-mail was supportive of re-cycling and the fortnightly collections. They said that for them it works brilliantly, but did concede that there may be households where people may have problems. For instance, there may be nowhere for the empty blue box or the white bag to be left safely to prevent them being a danger to
traffic on windy days.

In principle I too am very supportive of re-cycling, I think it is the way we have to go. However, I am not convinced that alternate weekly collection (to give "fortnightly collections" their official title) are actually necessary. This view is shared by the Commons Select Committee who investigated refuse collection. They found that there was no direct causal link between alternate weekly collection and increased recycling rates. They also said alternate weekly collection was NOT suitable for urban areas or high density housing. As the e-mail concluded "Anything that helps people to deal more responsibly with the stuff we discard ought to be applauded and encouraged." However, that does not mean we should just accept anything we are told. It is my view that a back bench councillor is there to ask questions and that is what I intend to continue doing.

two down.....

Second meeting of the week in my Council Planner was a Members Seminar. However, as there was no topic identified the seminar didn't take place. Not sure if I can claim this as I was standing by ready to attend?

Spent the afternoon decorating the new kitchen in readiness for the re-location, not got a date yet but its only a matter of time! Had a cup of tea with one of the Councillors Lilley before collecting my daughter from the sixth form college. My cosy chat with Geoff was interrupted by a telephone call for him from The Mayor, never heard Lilley brown-nose so much, maybe the Cabinet post isn't such pie in the sky after all. Told Councillor Lilley that I would out him on my blog and he was very relaxed about it, possibly if I hadn't been there he and The Mayor would have talked about me behind my back.......hey! even paranoids have enemies......

Monday, 10 September 2007

One down.....

Contract Scrutiny Committee this morning lasted 15 minutes. We tried to beat the previous best of 9 minutes but just couldn't quite make it. Still it all counts as a "tick" in the attendance column. Next meeting is on 24th September and I have put in my apologies, will be sunning myself in Majorca, so that's my attendance figures blown!

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Policing Priorities

Cleveland Chief Constable and the Chair of the Cleveland Police Authority are addressing a meeting at the Sir William Grey Suite, Historic Quay, Hartlepool, at 6.00pm on Tuesday 2nd October. The meeting will influence setting local Policing Priorities for the following year.

It is a public meeting. No excuses for not attending! Unfortunately there is no "tick" to be obtained for attending as a Councillor so I wonder how many will make it along?

Meetings .... Meetings ...... Meetings

There seems to be considerable interest in my attendance at meetings, or not! Looking at the Council Diary for next week I note I have three potential attendances...

Monday, Contract Scrutiny Panel. 10.00am. This usually last about 10 minutes and is a complete waste of time and almost an insult to go to. It consists of Councillors watching envelopes being opened or being asked to note the decisions already taken. However, it is an easy "tick" to keep up the attendance figures. The last meeting I went to lasted 9 minutes. It took longer to park the car and get to the meeting room than the meeting actually lasted.

Tuesday, Member's Seminar. 11.00am. The last one of these I went to was on the Anhydrite Mine, a subject I do follow very closely as it is in my ward and potentially of considerable interest to my residents. I don't know what the topic of this one is since they are put in the council diary once a month for a year in advance and then topics announced closer to the date. Quite often there isn't anything to discuss so they are cancelled. Of course if I don't arrange a day off work then I can't go, so I need to keep 10 days a year clear on the off chance there might be a seminar.

Thursday, Full Council.7.00pm. The only meeting not during the day and in fact it was recently agreed that ALL full council meetings would be held in the evening from now on. This will help the minority of Councillors who still have to work for a living and is supposed to make it easier for the public to attend. Of course the public almost never attend anyway and very rarely take up their right to ask questions of the Council.

Moving On!

I'm moving house fairly shortly (that should start a few rumours running!!) and so I'm tiding out boxes and sorting papers in readiness for the re-location.

One of the things I came across was an Employee Evaluation Report from the far off days when I was living in the Big City. Taking into account the recent character analysis of me on HTH I found the interesting bits of the report were my attitudes to team work and my motivation factors.

According to the Consultants who carried out the evaluations I was someone who could be “led but not driven” and who’s goal orientation required a Manager who would gave me freedom to achieve without micro-managing me.

My motivational factors were also quite high up the Maslow Pyramid. My needs for the basics easily met and most of my motivation was self actualising. However, the ambition / ability ration was that of a classic underachiever in that my abilities far exceeded my ambitions.

Basically I work best under a boss I respect and who sets me challenging goals but without telling me in detail how to achieve those goals. The main problem I had was my refusal to “play the game” and climb the ladder through participating in office politics, (nothing changed there then!) and my refusal to suffer people I thought of as fools. Hence I became self employed in 1986 under a boss I could definitely respect and who left me free to organise my own work but who unfortunately didn’t really challenge me to new heights. I must have a word with myself about that!

Friday, 7 September 2007

Been a busy week! I had a meeting at 10.00am on Wednesday with a couple of residents about a problem they are having in the ward. However, just as I was going out of the front door to walk down to meet them they rang and asked to put it back half an hour to 10.30am. No problem, in fact it gave me the opportunity to jump in the car, go along to the Police and Community Safety Forum in Miers Avenue and get my “tick” for attendance, after all, it makes me a much better Councillor if I show my face and then leave, after all its what some other councillors have been known to do. I actually had three meetings on Wednesday morning, all initially due to start at 10.00am so as the Mayor said I had to prioritise, first the residents problem and then my “tick in the register”

Was in London all day Thursday, 8.00am train from Darlington had me in my meeting (yes another meeting) just in time for lunch! Was greeted with “Hello Mr 7%” when I arrived, fame at last. An anti-ukip bloger had picked up the story about my attendance (or not) and was lambasting me about it. Nice picture of a pig with its head in a feed bucket! As Oscar Wilde once said “The only thing worse than being talked about…….is NOT being talked about”

Successful meeting in London adjourned to the pub till 9.00pm when I caught the GNER service back to Darlington.

Friday morning I received an e-mail telling me to check the HTH Website. I’d foolishly exchanged a few e-mails with one of the HTH authors and of course they appeared on the website. That’ll teach me not to do it again, but I’ve added him to my spam filter so shouldn’t be a problem. Had a huge laugh about one poster who has even dredged up an entry on the “Friends Re-united” Website as part of their conspiracy theory. I didn’t even remember having a friends re-united entry and when I checked it was dated over 5 years ago! Do these people not have a life? The UKIP Scotland Website is also being quoted “in evidence against me” UKIPScotland! I spoke to the webmaster up there and pointed out his information was not the same as the official site; he said he’ll change it sometime, but not to hold my breath.

I did quite enjoy the HTH write up about me though, and actually though most of it was quite fair, I did like the bit about me not being a team player, they definitely got that right, but it’s more I don’t like being told what to do. They also got the stubborn bit right…..the more I’m pushed then the more I dig my heels in!

The best bit though is that the HTH discussion boards are starting to get hits again, the subject of discussion.........ME!

Now I like Hartlepool, I was born in the Old Cameron Hartlepool, grew up and educated in Hartlepool, lived in Hartlepool for the majority of my life, I was married in a Hartlepool Church and my kids were both born in Hartlepool Hospital. However, if I was listing the problems faced by the town of Hartlepool and the residents of Hartlepool then I doubt very much if the details of my private and personal life would be very high up the page. It does amaze me that some people are trawling the internet for information about me. Maybe these are people who need psychiatric help? It amazes me that there are people out there sad enough that they appear to have nothing better to do than obsess about me. I suppose I should take it as a bit of a compliment that they think I’m that important.

Monday, 3 September 2007


Ever wondered about the polls you read in the newspapers and said "No one ever asks me!" Well paste the link below into your browser and click through to YOUGOV who are recruiting panel members. You get asked to put in some profile information and then you get e-mail polls and surveys sent to you when your profile matches the target sample. Simple.