Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Since I've got yr ear, Mr Chief Exec.

Strikes me it's 5 weeks now since I sent a complaint about Herefordshire Councillors' expenses: maybe Chief Exec. Chris Bull can pull out the filing cabinet it accidentally slipped behind?

And while I'm at it, might's well ask about Michael Hainge, the Council's ex-Director of Environment, who was paid £250,127 last year  (yes, for one year's work).

Obviously for that money he was well qualified.
A Doctorate in Environmentology from Princeton?
A Professorship in Applied Directoring from All Souls Oxford?

Or was it perhaps a 2:2 in Drama Studies from Aberystwyth?

"Nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try..."

Hols are over, up go the sleeves.

Nothing like a lovely heatwave to concentrate the grey cells...

I feel a question coming on to Herefordshire's £226,500 a year Chief Exec. Chris Bull:

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Petition to cut our Council chief's salary

Chris Bull is the Chief Executive of Herefordshire Council, in the County with the smallest population - and hence the fewest Council Tax payers - in England.

Last year he took home more than £226,500 pounds (yes you read that right) more than 80 grand more than our Prime Minister.

Someone - not me! - has started an online petition for him to take a pay cut out of honest decency, as services to children & the vulnerable in Herefordshire are cut:

I happily signed this sensible proposal.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Nothing to see here council tax payers, move along please

Last month (acting on a tip-off from a well informed insider) I asked my Council under the Freedom of Info Act to let me see the expenses claims of all highly-paid Council officials, and also the expenses claims of the "Consultants" they bring in on huge daily rates.

Today I got my answer. The Council has clearly asked their lawyers to find any legal loophole to tell me - a council taxpayer - to %^&* off. Here is the disgraceful email I received today:

D'you know - I feel a letter to Eric Pickles coming on....

Monday, 11 April 2011

Gutter politics in Herefordshire

In the public interest and to protest at how low political discourse has sunk in my County I am publishing a disgraceful anonymous leaflet currently being circulated about recently formed political group "It's Our County".

I'm no supporter of IOC (and they're no great fans of me) but this pathetic leaflet by establishment politicians appals me.

There is actual criminal libel against IOC Cllr Julie Woodward (I have checked with her & she does not oppose my publication of this leaflet) which I have blacked out. I think West Mercia police should investigate who wrote this filth, but I'm not holding my breath.

This scurrilous, venomous, anonymous, hateful Old Politics really need to encounter a serious setback on May 5th.

As I say, I don't personally support the It's Our County party.
But to show the author of this bullying, lying leaflet that this sort of thing no longer works, I hope that people who live in the Wards where Woodward, Hubbard, Dawe and Lloyd-Hayes are standing will vote for them in protest at filthy politics and in favour of simple decency.

Friday, 8 April 2011

East West home is best

Bill Wiggin MP's extraordinary expenses claims first came to light in a Daily Telegraph article in which he admitted that he had written down the wrong address for his supposed second home, 23 months in a row, to claim mortgage on it. Mr Wiggin explained that he had got his London & his Herefordshire homes mixed up, entirely by accident!

Last October the Standards & Ethics Committee made him issue an embarrassing public apology for doing this.

So when a local magazine recently held a competition for poems about "forgetful people" the muse seized me and I sent this one in (it helps if you know the geography of Herefordshire):

The ballad of Bill Wiggin

“East, West, home is best,
But I’ve got a home in the East AND West.
Which is my main home, which is my second?
One must be precise when expenses are reckoned!

My main home’s in Fulham, that hamlet so dear
That nestles in sleepy old Herefordshire.
Outside stands my land rover just where I park it:
It’s handy for Hammersmith livestock market.
The view from my window so green, so bucolic,
In a stream local folk call the Thames, otters frolic.
Oh give me the country! The hunting! The shooting!
The buzzards that wheel o’er the forests of Tooting!

My second home? Well, that’s in London you see
In the rough part of Colwall, SW3.
You can hear sirens scream as by night the Old Bill
Round up the armed drugs gangs of Midsummer Hill.
The youth – almost feral – steal, burgle and mug
On estates like Holm Lacy and Moreton-on-Lugg,
Or Monkland now riven by knife-wielding factions.
But balancing that are the world class attractions:
The Lugwardine Dungeon, the Ledbury Eye,
The Great Tower Bridge that sweeps o’er The Wye!
You can watch the Bulls play at the Emirates Stadium
Or take in a show at the Leominster Palladium.
And I’ve seen Boris Johnson – I swear I’m not fibbin’ -
Hail a black cab on the Rotherwas Ribbon.

So my main home’s the country, the other’s the City
Just as I explained to The Standards Committee.
What’s that? They’ve just ruled that the whole thing’s a mess?
I’ve consistently claimed for a bogus address?
But what if they find that my main home’s in London –
I’ll have to repay all that lovely state funding!
I didn’t intend it, ‘twas merely a gaffe;
Who’s that on the phone?”
“It’s The Telegraph”.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Council debt - work in progress

I've been making  a few calculations based on Herefordshire Council's own booklet "Your Council Tax Explained".
It seems even THEY think we're paying serious amounts of extra council tax solely because of the massive debts they've rung up:

Since Council income is fixed it seems extraordinary to me that a Council is allowed to run up debt - in what way can it be in the voters' interest for them to do so?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Inquiry now public

John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has today made his inquiry into my complaint against Bill Wiggin MP official.

He's now investigating Mr Wiggin alongside David Laws and Jim Devine. The inquiry into Mr Devine was stalled whilst the criminal case against him ran its course (he was jailed two weeks ago). Mr Lyon does everything by the book.

You've got to love the way the BBC and pro-Coalition press gushed about David Laws a few months ago: "Some minor expenses difficulty, leaving Cabinet to sort it out, will be back in front line politics before Christmas".

The didn't reckon with John Lyon, did they?
He's all that stands between us and unchecked parliamentary corruption.

My Council election website: http://www.yourconvenience.org.uk/

Monday, 4 April 2011

Nice work...

From Herefordshire Council records and Freedom of Information requests, this is the amount (so far discovered) that the Chief Executive of my Council received last year 2009-10:

As Chief Executive:                               £183,734.00
Pension contribution:                               £36,010.00
Expenses:                                                £3,742.82
Conducting Nth H'shire General Election:    £1,528.18
Conducting Sth H'shire General Election:    £1,526.17

TOTAL REMUNERATION:                    £226,531.17

I'm a massive Sinatra fan, and this morning I am mainly singing:
"Holding hands at midnight
'Neath a starry sky...
Nice work if you can get it
And you can get it -- if you try."

My Council election website: http://www.yourconvenience.org.uk/

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Quick update on the campaign

The top parliamentary blogger Guido Fawkes (motto: "the only person ever to enter Parliament with an honest intention, namely, to blow it up") has written a supportive piece this weekend about what we're doing down here!

It gave me a lift because punching away at a big monolith like the Tory party, sometimes you just don't know if you're getting anywhere or anyone in the big wide world even notices. This is Leominster, Neverheardofitshire, after all!

Some other good news: Benson Ferrari, a Young Conservative candidate who stood against me in the Leo Council election in 2009 (the one that got "accidentally cancelled" after Bill Wiggin wrote a secret email to Herefordshire Returning Officer asking him to kick me out) has repented.
He's standing as an Independent in the other Leo Ward to my one, citing "failure to deal with the serious expenses issue" as his reason for defecting from North Herefordshire Tory Association. Local newspaper story here

Friday, 1 April 2011

My first leaflet

is here:

html version here:

For fellow font-nerds the font is - as you may have guessed - the one historically used by London Underground. What a marvellous font! I expect this font to,just, get me elected...

Has the Red Death struck Herefordshire Council?

You may remember that I sent my complaint about Councillors' expenses 10 days ago to Herefordshire Council's Chief Auditor Tony Ford, who promised to investigate why thousands of pounds in "travel expenses" were being paid out without receipts.
His investigation didn't last long. Yesterday I got the following email from him:

Ford, Tony (raford@herefordshire.gov.uk)
31 March 2011 16:08:35
Jim Miller (leominsterindependent@live.co.uk)
Wright, Carrie (cwright3@herefordshire.gov.uk)

Dear Mr Miller
Regarding you complaints I write to inform you that after today I will not be employed by Herefordshire Council, Both your complaints are being investigated by the Audit Team, and a reply will be sent to you.
If you have any further queries on the subject please contact Carrie Wright at the above email address
Thank you
Tony Ford Chief Internal Auditor
You may recall that, when I asked the Council's 'Democracy Manager' Sian Clark, a fortnight ago,who was publishing false expenses info on the Council's website I got a very similar email.

I hope they revive that "Heroes" program on the telly so I can be in it: I have clearly developed the unique superpower of making highly paid Council officials disappear simply by emailing the word "expenses" to them...

PS: This is not an April Fool, by the way. Yesterday's post was: I always get one in a day early to throw suspicion...)