Sunday, 28 March 2010

The next e-mail!

My next attempt to find out what is going on!!!!


E-Mail From: Steve Allison
Sent: 26 March 2010 18:14
Cc: XXXXXX XXXXXXX; Alison Lilley External
Subject: FW: Copy of Information

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


Thank you for your e-mail.

It seems to me that you have this totally wrong? I would be grateful if you could let me have the statutory instrument by which you place upon me the obligation to provide a need to know?

As I am an elected member of Hartlepool Council surely the onus is actually on you as an Officer of the Council to justify why the information needs to be withheld from me?

Best Regards

Steve Allison

Friday, 26 March 2010

Not Open, Not Transparent and definitely Not Accountable (Well not to me anyway!)

How about the e-mail below from Hartlepool Council!




Do you think they know what these words even mean?


From: xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx
Sent: 26 March 2010 14:42
To: Steve Allison External
Cc: XXXXXX XXXXXXX; Alison Lilley External
Subject: Copy of Information

Councillor Allison,

I refer to your request for information of exempt information. In order that the information be released, a 'need to know' basis will need to be established. I should be grateful, therefore, if you could please clarify the background to your request.

Thank you


Democratic Services Team Manager
Corporate Strategy Division

Thursday, 25 March 2010

UKIP Publishes Full Manifesto

In June 2009, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) beat the ruling Labour Government as well as the Liberal Democrats in the European elections, the most recent major national vote.

UKIP achieved 2.4 million votes and 16.5% of the national vote. The message was clear: UKIP is here to stay. Now we are asking the British people to vote in
our first directly elected Westminster MPs.

For the 2010 elections UKIP has published a full manifesto which illustrates how withdrawal from the EU can benefit the UK right across the spectrum, from immigration to crime, tax, jobs and the economy, pensions, public services, and even through to animal welfare and Post Offices. Few realise just how much the EU now controls and interferes with our day-to-day lives, despite never having obtained permission to do so from the British people.

UKIP is the only party determined to bring power and control back to Westminster and
the British people. Only UKIP will enable us to govern in the best interests of the UK.

It is time for straight talking.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The annual list of words that shouldn’t be used by the public sector to talk to people has today been published by the Local Government Association.

The latest list of 250 words has been taken from the European Union, central government, quangos, regional government, business management speak and public relations phrases. Council leaders are concerned that in the midst of such a tough financial climate a failure by the public sector to explain to people the benefits from what they pay in taxes could make the difference between an individual staying afloat or going bankrupt.

The list includes new words such as:

* Trialogue
* Wellderly
* Goldfish bowl facilitated conversation
* Tonality
* Webinar
* Under-capacitated
* Clienting
* Disbenefits

The previous list of non words included:

* Taxonomy
* Rebaselining
* Mainstreaming
* Holistic governance
* Contestability
* Predictors of beaconicity
* Synergies

Just as it would be impossible for two IT professionals to speak to each other without using technical talk, it would be impossible for public sector experts to avoid using a degree of jargon. However, the LGA Group believes that while there is a place for technical language to be used between experts, jargon must be removed from documents and publications that are aimed at the public.

See the full list here

Sale of mephedrone has rocketed

Talk of an immediate ban on mephedrone by the Government is highly premature thanks to EU rules which would stall such a move.

"People haven't been informed that our government cannot ban mephedrone without asking the EU for a three-month notification period," said UKIP spokesman Nigel Farage today.

"UKIP will never accept the EU telling us what we can and cannot do. We must be free to act as we choose when we choose.

"We need a proper debate in Britain now about what we need to do. At the moment, the Government is kidding the people but it simply can't act without an EU enforced delay.

"This useless government needs to tell the EU to back-off from controlling or delaying British legislation," said the UKIP MEP for South East England.

Under the EU Technical Standards and Regulations Directive 98/34/EC the government has to give the EU at least three months notification before it can change British legislation.

"Two British teens died from taking legal drug meow meow last week, other young life has already been wiped out," Farage said.

The sale of drug mephedrone has rocketed as head shops have spread over the country.

Class B Controlled Substance

I have been wondering about the current screams to ban the perfectly legal "plant food" after it was linked to 2 deaths!

If this is a case for a change in the law (and criminalising 1,000s of gardeners who will need to get their plant food of choice from an illegal dealer) then surely the 1,000s of deaths associated with smoking must make tobacco a candidate for Class B Controlled Substance Status?

Monday, 22 March 2010

The Caravan Channel

I fell asleep on the sofa yesterday afternoon, after a large Sunday Lunch at The Windmill (which I heartily recommend) and awoke to find myself watching a programme on SKY TV about how caravans are made.

Was it the Discovery Channel?


It was the Caravan Channel. Not just an isolated programme about caravans but a whole channel about them. It just shows you really can watch almost anything on Satellite TV.
It was edition 5/2010 I was catching yesterday and edition 6/2010 premiers on 24/03/10 on Sky 166/Freesat 402. It's already bookmarked in my viewing planner!

Just in case you can't wait until then there is a dedicated Youtube Caravan site (no pun intended) that recently boasted of it's 300,000th visitor. There review of the teardrop trailer is below.

I've not joined their Facebook Site but they are also on Twitter and I've added them as a "follow"

I must congratulate whoever is behind this site! They really seem to be a lot more plugged in to modern communication methods than many other groups!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Gordon Brown Commemorative Stamp

The Royal Mail created a new stamp with a picture of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Gordon Brown. However, the stamp was not sticking to envelopes.

This enraged the Prime Minister, who demanded a full investigation and after a month of testing and spending of £1.1million, a special commission presented the following findings:

1. The stamp is in perfect order.

2. There is nothing wrong with the adhesive.

3. People are spitting on the wrong side of the stamp.

(With Thanks to Mick Greenhough)

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Secrecy Rules!

FW: Freedom of Information Request
Thursday, 18 March, 2010 8:55:37
From: Hayley Martin
To: Steve Allison External
Cc:Freedomofinformation ; Peter Devlin ; Alison Lilley External

Dear Sirs

Further to your repeated request I write to advise that my decision set out in the refusal notice sent to you on the 1 March applies. A copy is set out below:

Further to your request I can advise as follows:

Under the terms of the Constitution ALL 'pink paper' reports submitted to Executive decision making meetings (Cabinet, Executive Portfolios, Executive Committees, such as Grants Committee, and any joint Portfolio meetings) are sent to the Chair of Overview and Scrutiny. Therefore, any exempt item listed on an Executive Agenda was sent to the Chair of Scrutiny Coordinating Committee at the same time it was sent to the Executive Member(s).

All the agendas for Executive meetings can be found on the Council's website by following the 'Meetings and Minutes' link on the homepage. If we were to continue to produce a list of Exempt Executive Reports we would use the same process - albeit by looking at the internal system and the original Agenda Word documents.

Although your initial request was complied with I am unable to continue to provide the information. As well as the costs implications set out previously, a public authority is not required to 'create' documents under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 where you are able to access the information elsewhere (section 21).

I can only reiterate that the information you request is already available via the HBC website for you to access and compile a list yourself.

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original request and should be sent to Alyson Carman, Chief Executives Department, Legal Services Division, Level 3, Civic Centre, Hartlepool , TS24 8AY ,

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane , Wilmslow, Cheshire , SK9 5AF ,

Kind Regards

Hayley Martin

Constitutional & Administrative Solicitor
Legal Division

More people die from cold in the UK during winter than in Siberia!

At the start of the new millennium more people were dying in the winter from the cold weather in Britain than in any other European country, including Siberia, where temperatures regularly drop as low as -40C.

The actual UK death toll might be even higher than official figures suggest as very few death certificates give the cold as the cause of death. Research by Professor William Keatinge, of London's Queen Mary and Westfield College, found more deaths in people over 55 years of age caused by the cold are attributed to strokes and coronary thrombosis rather than flu. According to Professor Keatinge; "Many people here simply do not take the cold seriously and appreciate the danger it poses.”

The situation is unlikely to improve in the future. The UK’s reliance on imported gas is projected to rise from around 25% in 2008 to over 60% by 2020. Couple this with ever rising global fuel prices and this is leading to more and more UK households spending an increasing proportion of their income just to keep warm.

Official statistics identify households as being in fuel poverty when the ratio of fuel costs (usage x price) to household income rises above 0.1. The cost of energy is unlikely to fall in the long term and household incomes are static or falling in the current recession. The only element of the calculation that can be easily changed is the level of usage of energy.

When households reduce usage too far then people start to die. The warmth of the home still needs to be maintained while usage is reduced. Fitting double glazing and programs to improve wall and roof insulation have been running for several years but what is needed now is a more radical re-think of how the UK keeps warm in winter and technologies such as ground source heating may provide some of the answers.

A ground source heat pump uses the same principle as a domestic refrigerator. A fridge uses a closed loop system to pull heat out of the inside of the fridge and radiate it into the atmosphere from fins on the back. Anyone who has ever put their hand behind a fridge can tell you that these fins can get very hot. A ground source heat pump uses buried pipes filled with a water/antifreeze mix to pull heat from the earth and then to warm a building through radiators or under floor heating.

Theoretically there is no limit to the amount of heat that can be extracted from the ground, the longer and deeper the underground pipes the more heat that will be pumped. Unfortunately scaling up too far reduces the coefficiency of performance (CoP) of the system. This is a measure of the amount of heat produced compared to the amount of energy needed to drive the circulating pumps that push the water/antifreeze mix round the pipes. The best systems will deliver a CoP of around 3.2 but it does mean the homes being heated need to be fairly close to the ground source pipes

Many of Britain’s European Neighbors are well ahead of the UK in adopting this type of technology. The Dutch city of Heerlen uses a heat pump from abandoned coal mines going down to 800 meters below the city to run the radiators of hundreds of homes, shops and offices. According to Riet de Wit, a City Councillor in Heerlen. “We have proven that a local initiative can provide a local solution for sustainable energy. Moreover, our concept can be adapted by former mining regions all over the world.”

The Dutch system was developed by Karl-Heinz Wolf, Professor of Coal and Geothermal Energy at the Technical University of Delft. “You have it all year round and if you don’t need it, you close the tap until you need it again.” The system can even work in reverse during the summer. In the hot months the water can be taken from near the top of the shaft where it is cold enough to cool the city’s buildings. Professor Wolf is now working on a project to extract heat from a depth of 2.5km where the temperature of the water is 80-85C. “It is not difficult to do” according to the Professor, “the only thing you need is a mine which is in the vicinity of the industry or houses you want to heat.”

Unfortunately while these systems may be cheaper to operate and offer an effective, sustainable long term solution, they also cost much more to install than conventional gas or electricity powered systems. This makes them attractive to households that can afford to invest for the longer term but these are households that are very unlikely to currently be experiencing fuel poverty.

This problem was acknowledged by the government in February 2010. During a visit to a low income homes project in Dagenham the Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband announced that; “We are launching a scheme, the Renewable Heat Incentive, to encourage renewable heat generation at all scales.”

Joan Ruddock, a Minister in the same department, told the Ecobuild Conference at Earls Court in March 2010 that; “The Renewable Heat Incentive will deliver a step change in the way that the country generates its heat for heating hot water and our homes”

Any house or building which currently uses fuels such as gas, heating oil or coal, will be eligible to claim the RHI if they switch to a renewable technology. The RHI will be available to householders, local authorities and social landlords as well as the public, industrial and commercial sectors.

Fuel poverty is only one issue that can be addressed by ground source heat. Currently 60% of average total domestic energy bills are consumed by heating costs but domestic heating also accounts for 47% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions. In order for the UK to meet its carbon reduction obligations 12% of UK heat is required to come from renewable sources. The RHI could save up to 60 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2020.

In addition to the environmental damage done by Carbon Dioxide production there is also the risk to heath posed by Carbon Monoxide which is produced by incomplete combustion in gas heating systems. On average over 30 people annually die from Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Heat pumps not only completely remove this risk as they produce no carbon monoxide but also remove a significant legal liability for safety from the housing provider and of course tenants are spared the possible fatal consequences of poisoning or even a gas explosion from incorrectly maintained systems.

Ground Source Heat pumps are also very suitable when water temperature safety is a concern. Typically Ground Source heat pumps produce water at around 60°C, considerably lower than the 90°C output by gas or electric heating systems. These temperatures are more than adequate for water for baths or showers but make it impossible for children or vulnerable adults to inadvertently scald themselves.

Details of the Renewable Heating Incentive can be obtained from the Department of Energy and Climate change (decc) Website. Details of Installers of Ground Source Heat pumps can be obtained from the Heat Pump Association, Waltham Court, Hare Hatch, Berks RG10 9YH or from their website,

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Have a go and Stand for election!

People in Hartlepool who think they could do a better job than their existing Councillors are being challenged to have a go and stand for election.

Stephen Allison and Martyn Aiken, two of the 47 Hartlepool Borough Councillors are holding an open session at the Grand Hotel on Saturday the 27th of March between 10.00am and 1.00pm explaining exactly what people need to do in order to stand for election.

Stephen Allison, a UKIP Member of Hartlepool Borough Council, said; "Many people in Hartlepool tell me they think their local Councillors are rubbish. In some cases they may be right but just complaining never changed anything!" Stephen, who represents the St.Hilda Ward, continued; "The procedures for standing for election can be quite daunting if you have never done it before. Martyn and I will be at the Grand Hotel to answer questions and try to de-mystify the process."

You do not need to be a UKIP member to attend the open session, nor do you need to stand as a UKIP Candidate should you decide you want to give it a go in May. UKIP are committed to local democracy and want to encourage more participation even if that means independent candidates who may possibly end up standing in the same wards as UKIP’s own party candidates.

The open session will cover who can stand as a councilor, what the procedures are and how much it costs to put your name on a local election ballot paper. According to Martyn Aiken it is the cost that usually surprises people. "To stand in a General Election a Candidate needs to put up a £500 deposit. However for local elections there is no deposit required" explained Councillor Aiken of Foggy Furze Ward "Nothing, zero, not a penny. You fill in a couple of forms and hand them in to the Civic Centre and that's it, your name goes into the hat."

Candidates do have to pay for any leaflets they distribute during the election but with the cost of photocopying these days a simple black on white leaflet can be produced very cheaply. "The cost shouldn’t scare off anyone" said Eric Wilson, Chairman of the UKIP Hartlepool Branch, "UKIP normally allocate about £60 to a ward campaign in the local elections. Of course the bigger parties can afford a bit more at the moment but UKIP are still growing, unlike the Lib/Lab/Con who are losing members ever day."

You can stand for election to Hartlepool Council if you are 18 or over, A British, Commonwealth, Irish or European Union citizen, and you are registered to vote in Hartlepool or if you have lived, worked or owned property in Hartlepool for at least 12 months. You cannot stand for election if you are bankrupt, have been sentenced to 3 or more months in prison in the last 5 years, have been disqualified for corrupt and illegal practices or you are an employee of Hartlepool Council or hold a politically-restricted post in any other council.

Anyone who would like more information about the event can contact Dave Pascoe, UKIP Hartlepool Press Officer on 01429 223754, e-mail or just turn up on the day.

To see what the Hartlepool Mail did with this story, click here

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Another Stonewall

I managed to use the Freedom of Information Act to discover that there were 22 Pink Papers produced by Hartlepool Council in the first few weeks of 2010. The Borough Solicitor had made noises that I was being "vexatious" making these requests but I think he realised that he had to let me have something. However the Council have moved swiftly to prevent such information being made available again!

Here is the response to my request for the Pink Paper List on a regular basis......

-----Original Message-----

From: Freedomofinformation
Sent: 12/02/2010 12:50
To: Steve Allison External
Cc: Alison Lilley External;Peter Devlin
Subject: Re: FOI Request No:1/2010 & FOI Request No: 2/2010

Dear Sirs

Unfortunately I would not be able to continue supplying you with the information in the format already sent because any further requests would be dealt with under the rules relating to consolidation of requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The rules provide that requests of the same or similar information can be consolidated for costs purposes. The costs limit is currently £450 which constitutes 18 hours of officer time in compiling the information.

Furthermore all of the information provided is in the public domain and can be found on the Council's website.

Kind Regards

Constitutional & Administrative Solicitor
Legal Division
Civic Centre - Level 3

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

You never know where things end up when you throw them out into cyberpace

They do say you never know where things end up when you throw them out into cyberpace. However imagine my surprise when I came across a piece entitled "Scrapheap Challenge" on a website relating to Hartlepool. I did in the past contribute to this website under the screen name "Steve Allison" but stopped doing in 2006 when the administrators of the site allowed it to be turned into a vehicle for personal attacks on me as a local councillor and an individual.

My "surprise" at the Scrapheap Challenge piece was mainly because it had a striking familiarity to a piece I wrote in November last year on this blog.

I have no objection to them pinching my work but if you are going to steal other people's efforts it is just courteous to acknowledge the source.

The same website are also running a piece entitled "In the Pink" which references a Freedom of Information Request on which the entire article is based! Once again it neglects to mention that it is a Freedom Of Information Request that was made by me!

Stealing stories from each other is common practise in journalism but usually they are re-written enough to at least make an attempt to make them appear to be their own work!