Monday, September 22, 2008

To the Administrator of, Thankyou.

Over the last week, two of the most well read threads about this council, including the most well read thread on Redcar.Net, have been removed. Rotten boroughs, a thread started by the sites moderator after the councils supression of a financial audit report that showed that they weren't a four star authority was featured in Private Eye, was removed a week ago. The most read and posted on thread on the site, the Coatham Enclosure thread, was removed over the weekend.

The Administrator of the site says that he wants to change the direction of the site. Thats up to him. It's his site.

I personally thought that the timing of the removal of these two threads and the Administrators desire to change, was significant. Rotten boroughs was removed and some of its regular contributors were barred from using the site, shortly after the information about the leader of the Liberal Democrats throwing what he described to the police as "tepid" water, over a two year old child, was posted and after the council were demoted to the status of a two star authority after information about this councils less than four star behaviour was brought to the attention of the District Auditor.
The Coatham Enclosure thread was removed a day or so after it had been posted by someone in the building trade, that they had been informed that Persimmon had told the council that they wouldnt be doing anything in Coatham for at least two years and if they wanted to let someone else develop the land then they could and after someone had posted information produced from council documents, that showed that the council were spending £700,000 on the boating lake, not the £60,000 that they were supposed to be spending?

Both threads were removed and people barred, after this information was produced and posted in a formal, run of the mill manner. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions...
It will be interesting to see, after the removal of these two threads about the council, if the council now unblock access to Redcar.Net from computers in public libraries? Something that they have been doing for some time now because the leader of the council said that basically, the site showed images and included language that weren't suitable for public viewing. A view not shared by other councils around the country who haven't done the same thing?

The council have been caught out not only for attempting to stifle free speech and attempting the to stop the public from viweing information that they would prefer them not to see, they have also been caught out for lying under the FOI act about this issue by a regular contributor to Redcar. Net. When he asked who made the decision to bar access to the site, the council as usual, started to prevaricate and twist and turn and fail to give clear answers. I have a feeling that now the two threads that the council dislike most on Redcar.Net have been removed, that rather than provide those answers under the FOI act, access will now be restored from public libraries.

The Rotten Boroughs thread and the Coatham Enclosure thread, were the only things on Redcar.Net, that the council found offensive.

At this point, I would like to say thankyou to the Administrator of Redcar.Net.

We have a situation in this borough where it would appear that certain elements of the press are in the pocket of this most rotten of local authorities. On one occasion even though this development has been beset with problems from the outset and even though work hasn't even begun, the Gazettes chief political editor Sandy Mackenzie, said of the scheme, "Following the success of The Coatham Enclosure".
At the foot path hearing which took place in court last March, the true facts about this development, about how the beach was going to be restricted use if the scheme went ahead and how there wasn't going to be the leisure that the council have been telling people that there will be and that what Leisure there would be was going to be paid through the council borrowing, not through Persimmon or their houses, the Gazette, who had a reporter there listening to these things, didnt print any of them. Other papers and radio stations didnt even send reporters.
When the supression of the audit report was exposed NATIONALLY in Private eye, the Local press didnt mention it once. And when this council was found to have been UNLAWFUL in a High Court, bold front page headlines if ever there were, coverage of this story was limited to a small inch long column on the bottom corner on the front page and then a couple more columns way back on page fourteen. Pathetic.

Faced with this apparent bias, it has been very difficult in taking out the real facts about Coatham and this council, to the public of the borough. However, the Administrator of Redcar.Net has helped us no end by allowing us to post the truth and facts on his site. Thanks to his courage and determination not to succumb to the harrasment and intimidation exerted by the council, (how can I ever forget the ex-chief executive threatening both Admin and I by getting Carter Ruck, the most feared libel lawyers in the country) to send us a letter threatening allsorts, to then be placated by me removing one small posting from the site. Sledgehammers cracking wallnuts and all that?

The Administrator has helped us in our campaign for the truth about the Coatham scheme and this council, to be known and for this I thank him. He may have removed these two threads from his site for whatever reason, but the fact is that because of his determination and his desire for the truth to out, the facts are known and people do know the truth and now people all over the place, even nationally are asking and are about to ask even more, massive questions about the behaviour of this council.

There are those who aren't bothered about the complete breakdown of democracy in this borough. There are those who are. I would just like to say thankyou to the Administrator of Redcar.Net, for helping us take the facts out to people no matter what their standpoint is and wish him and his new look site and all of its users, the very best for the future.



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Waiting in the wings? Hahahahahahahahaha!

In tonights Evening Gazette 'Leader' of the council George Dunning said in a letter that the "state of the art Coatham leisure development, was still waiting in the wings". What rubbish!

This country is sliding further and further into recession, the worst for sixty years according to the Chancellor. The building trade has ground to a halt. Persimmon have slipped out of the FTSE 100 share index. They are closing down branches all over the country, paying thousands of people off, not starting work on new sites, some people in the South have paid deposits of ten thousand pounds to be told by Persimmon "sorry, but were not staring work on your house for a long time", no-one can get a mortgage. There are also 47 planning conditions that Persimmon have to address, not one has been, in particular, the construction of a multi million pound sea defence. And to cap it all, the council have been demoted to two star status which in turn, massively affects their ability to borrow money to pay for things within the borough, which is what they were going to do (borrow ten and a half million pounds) to build a new lesiure centre, the only leisure facility in the Coatham scheme.

The Coatham Enclosure housing scheme is dead. The council know it, Persimmon know it, the public know it. But Dunning and co. the man who called the scheme tainted, the man who said that he had known all along that the planning process for it had been unlawful along with an MP who called it a disaster on radio, are still trying to make people believe otherwise.

Dunning says "it's still waiting in the wings", but he has no choice. He has to say that because of this council signing a development agreement for Coatham, JUST TWO DAYS BEFORE THE LOCAL ELECTIONS LAST YEAR SOMETHING THAT A HIGH COURT JUDGE SAID WAS HIGHLY IRREGULAR AND THREE WEEKS BEFORE G.O.N.E HAD EVEN MADE A DECISION AS TO WHETHER OR NOT TO CALL THE SCHEME IN, that ties the council to Persimmon and to a scheme that is dead in the water.

How did our council end up in a position whereby they have been tied to a scheme that is not going to happen, that they cant walk away from? George Dunning knows that an investigation into this scheme isn't far away. An MP from a different constituency has already been stopped by our MP from calling for an INDEPENDENT investigation.

Its about time one took place and all the underhanded, inept, decisions and behaviour that have been made and taken place, be exposed for all to see and its about time that the council bit the bullet and came clean, instead of making silly comments on the Gazette letters page, in an attempt to try and placate people who are sick of the lack of facilities in the town. Its time they booted Persimmon and their and I quote the MP, "DISASTROUS scheme", into touch and accepted the full leisure development that has been tabled by Redcarpet developments, so that we can have the leisure facilities that Redcar needs.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lets all play runaround...

So lets see, a whole host of senior officers all decide to leave Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council within the period of about two years. Paul Kirkham left with a massive pay off, Ralph Ferguson left with a massive pay off, Dr Joan Rees the third most senior officer in the council then left closely followed by her number two Peter Ellis, both left with massive pay offs. Infact Peter Ellis was gone within a week.

Another senior officer Bob Barnes left shortly after that with a massive pay off.

Then the Chief Executive left, as soon as the Coatham Planning application was forced through, on a chronic sickness ticket only to turn up working for Cumbria County council a few months later? Maurice bates left after that. What is especially interesting with these two departures is that in Moores case, he was given a five year fixed term contract and he left after two and Maurice Bates was given a three year fixed term contract and he also left after two. In both cases their pensions were bumped up massively, Bates' pension grew by a whopping SIXTEEN PER CENT! In both cases the public are still paying for two people who have now left the council.

In both cases the fixed term contracts were arranged and signed off by the finance officer Ray Richardson who has also, most recently, left this council you guessed it.... with a massive pay off. He tried to leave last year to go to a council down in the South for what Cllr Peter Scott described as a career move. A career move? For a man who is of an age where retirement is obviously on his mind because well...he's just done it.

Then we have the Deputy Chief Executive Nick Matthews, being sacked and the whole issue going to an Employment tribunal for unfair dismissal, yet another in a long line of employment tribunals; Scanlon, Whittaker, Tait, Williams and others. None of which the council have won. And finally we have an ex-unison rep John McCormack, who was given a managerial position within the council after he played a part in getting dinner ladies to accept a pay award on behalf of management which was far less than what they were entitled to, being thrown out of the union for bringing it into disrepute because of his actions.

So we have nine of the most senior officers of this council all leaving the council which, at the time of their departure, was a four star authority? Why would so many of this councils most senior officers all want to leave an authority that had a four star and improving rating? Why would they not want to be a part of the huge success that they constantly tell the public that the council is? Because In truth, it isn't.
Richardson and Moore had supressed and replaced the audit report which showed that we weren't a four star authority at all and this council have behaved disgracefully at times illegally and so the people responsible have all deserted the sinking ship before they are all held accountable for the things that they have done.

So many senior officers all clamouring to get out and now we are informed by a council source, a tenth seems to have just disappeared? Yes, Christine Scott, an officer who's salary has quadrupled in five years. Each time her pay rise was signed off by her boss Ray Richardson, without there being any formal competition. Her salary apparantly rose from approximately £20,000 to over £70,000.

According to our Source Mrs Scott was the lady who signed off the final financial audit report that was then supressed by Richardson and Moore. What our source said is really interesting though, is that as soon as her boss Ray Richardson, retired two or three weeks ago, she went onto the sick with no-one hearing hide nor hair of her since?
Could it be that Mrs Scott now feels vulnerable? Now that the man who she replaced as 151 officer, when he was appointed acting Chief Executive, has left the council permanently? The timing of her illness and possible departure, certainly raises more questions, given that she has been privvy to possibly all of Ray Richardsons dubious actions within the council, in particular the supression of the final audit report.

But it doesn't stop there, this seemingly endless game of senior officers playing Runaround goes on. I mentioned Peter Ellis leaving the council within a week just before the local elections last year. Peter then found his way onto the board of Renew Tees Valley, a quango set up to try and regenerate the area. Now it seems that Renew Tees Vallley are becoming part of NEPIC, and through this union 'Our Peter' has made his way onto the board of none other than LEGI to be joined by his old council chums Dunning, Hannon and Clarke, making decisions once more about vast amounts of money being spent on this borough.

I wonder if any of the other officers who have left find their way back to this council in one way or another? It would seem that the gravy train and the back scratching, never ends for some?

As a post script, with the 151 officer and the deputy 151 officer now no longer in the council either permanently or temporarily, just who exactly is running our councils finances?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What do these things say to you?

Here are just some of the things that this council have done and been allowed to get away with. What do these things say to you?

1. Colluding with the Audit Commission to supress and then replace a final financial report, which showed that this council were not a four start authority.Despite being featured in Private eye and backed up with all relevant documents, no action was taken.

2. Acting illegally by issuing parking tickets to people for not displaying a permit, when there was no TRO in place for years, which required anyone to do so. And then concealing this fact so that it did not come out into the public domain. No action taken.

3. Abandoning their own leisure brief for Coatham, ignoring plans submitted by leisure developers who answered that brief, to then give the contract to Persimmon, who were providing no leisure at all. Nor have they any obligation to, as there is no 106 agreement existing between them and the council.

4. Having a massive conflict of interests exist between the council and Persimmon by both parties employing the same solicitors and the same consultants to do surveys and reports about the gross housing requirements and the issue of contaminants in Coatham, A YEAR BEFORE the LEISURE BRIEF was even put out to tender.No action taken.

5. Paying for the legal and consultancy fees of Persimmon when the council had a massive financial blackhole in their budget.

6. A senior officer changing the Environment Agencies planning condition, over the building of a multi million pound sea defence, without consent or consultation, to benefit Persimmon.No action taken.

7. Plans for a medical village appearing, without anyone in the council knowing, in the Coatham planning application. When questioned PCT manager Stephen Childs denied all knowledge and said nothing was definite. In truth, he was the one who submitted proposals to include the medical village in the plans months before they were added without any consultation whatsoever, to the board of the PCT. To make things worse, who should be pushing the addition of the medical village from within the PCT as a non executive board member, Veronica Moore, wife of the now ex- Chief executive of the council Colin Moore, who was pushing the scheme from the head of the council. Another massive conflict of interests that when exposed, saw Veronica Moore resign her position on the board of the PCT.No action taken.

8.The council lying under the Freedom of Information act to the point that the Information commissioners office advised me that even they could see inconsistencies in the information that the council had supplied me.No action taken.

9. The leader of the council and cabinet member for economic development deliberately failing to tell the public the truth in a press release about the village green process, preferring instead to tell the public only what they wanted them to know.No action taken.

10. A Councillor being caught on CCTV swinging a chain around in a threatening manner and the police taking no action because they said that it wasn't in the best interests of the public.

11. A councillor failing to declare their interests and declare them when they had been exposed. When taken to the standards board, the councils monitoring officer told the SB that the councillor in question didnt know that he had to, when infact he had been a councillor for nearly thirty years and one time mayor of the borough.No action taken.

12. The same councillor being found to have been conducting an affair with his secretary, a married woman, within the council on council time, something which made the front page of the Gazette, to then be allowed to keep his job as member for education and have no action taken against him.

13. The Leader of the Liberal democrats and an east cleveland independent councillor starting smear campaigns against me stating untruthfully that I was a member of the BNP. No action was ever taken.

14. The Finance officer exceeding his spending limit by £35,000 and breaking the law. No action taken.

15. Senior officers awarding themselves massive payrises and not taking it to the council for over two years after they had done it.No action taken.

16. Officers authorising the changing, altering and in some cases, DISCARDING minutes of council meetings.

17. Officers of the council lying to tribunals, changing their evidence overnight, being found guilty of sharp practise and being found to have brought the council into disrepute. No action taken.

18. The leader of the Liberal Democrats being questioned by the police for pouring what he described as 'tepid' water over TWO YEAR OLD CHILD from an upstairs window. No action taken.

19. Bullying and intimidation.

20. Having the unison rep encourage dinner ladies and other lowly paid staff into taking a pay settlement that was far far less than what they were actually entitled to, on behalf of the managers. He was then given a managerial position himself. He was later thrown out of the union for bringing the union into disrepute.

21. Concealing the fact for years, that Coatham Enclosure was home to contaminants and unexploded ordnance. When it was exposed they denied it and smeared those who brought it into the public domain again. At the Coatham Planning meeting though, it was admitted that mines and contaminants were there.No action taken

22. Committing public money to being spent on a sea defence in Coatham that is the sole responsibilty of Persimmon, so that Persimmon can make millions of pounds of private profit.

23. Trying to conceal potentially contaminated material dug away from Coatham Common after we had already taken photos of it in Macalpines yard under a tarpaulin which said, Contaminated material DO NOT UNCOVER.No action taken.

24. Having the leader of the council and the MP admit publicly that the Coatham scheme is tainted, botched and a disaster, to then push ahead with it every bit as much as the old coalition who they were accusing of making it these things.

25. Telling everyone that the only way to have a baths in the town was to have the houses in Coatham when in reality, they are borrowing at the last count over TEN AND A HALF MILLION POUNDS TO build one.

26. Having the Coatham ward councillors not only make still unsubstantaied claims that they had been spat at in the street and sent threatening letters and emails by protestors, claims of abuse which have never been investigated by the police, but also have them know about the stopping up of the footpaths across Coatham Common and the erection of 7 ft high steel fences that caused so many of their constituents so much anguish, FOR APPROXIMATELY EIGHT MONTHS, yet they never said anything to their constituents warning them or letting them know. Despite being reported to the Standards board once again, no action was taken. The Standards board took the view that just because the two coatham councillors didnt tell their constituents, they didnt withold the information from them? They said that if anyone had asked them, then the councillors would have told them? This is an absolutely outrageous remark to make when noone outside the council knew about the fences being erected.

27. Have one Coatham ward councillor leave the Coatham planning meeting because she said that she lived next to the site and therefore there was an interest for her to declare, yet the other ward councillor who did have a real interest to declare because she was on the board of Tees Valley leisure ltd, the people who are and would be running the leisure centre as part of the Coatham development, said nothing and made a statement to the planning committee extolling the virtues of the scheme.

28. Having the leader of the council not only stand in for a labour member of that planning committee when he shouldnt have because he was a part of the Coatham Scrutiny committee and as such had an interest, he then abstained at the vote which is incredible because he had already called the scheme tainted publicly.No action taken.

29. Defending the Coatham Judicial Review when they stated afterwards that they had known all along that the Coatham Planning process was unlawful.

30. Having the leader of the council call for the ex-CEO's investigation twice when he was just opposition leader, to then give him a glowing appraisal in the paper a year later when the CEO announced his retirement, along with an extra two years pay off and a massive pension that ran into hundreds of thousands of pounds. And no investigation whatsoever.

31. Being found as a council by the ombudsman twice within a period of about six months of being guilty of maladministration.No action taken.

32. Officers awarding themselves an extra eight days holiday which, in the case of the CEO, meant £3000 paid holiday and they only told the council when the eight days holiday had all been taken.

33. Pushing through a private road adoption scheme at a cost of some £1, 300,000 when infact the work that was carried out on these roads totalled approximately £200,000.Despite being loosely covered in the Evening Gazette, no action has been taken.

34. The same private road adoption scheme that saw the councillor who failed to declare his interests in it, but them declare them when he was exposed, have five of the ninetenn privately adopted roads within a hundred yards of his house in the tiny village where he lives.No action taken.

35. Having the ex-CEO have a hand in appointing his replacement and employing a woman from another North Eatern council, where like ours, the officers have left in droves. In the case of our new CEO, she was found to have witheld information regarding what is known as the Trow quarry afair for months.

36. Having our MP, THE SOLICITOR GENERAL OF THIS COUNTRY, stifle free speech by threatening an MP from a different constituency into not allowing our film "Coatham..A common concern" to be shown in the House of Commons and into not calling for an independent inquiry into the situation here after he had already agreed to do both because he said that if he did not, then and I quote " I would be neglecting my duty". And then she called for an internal investigation to be headed by the finance officer and acting CEO, a man who was up to his neck in the supression of the audit report amongst other things and who had been featured in Private eye THREE TIMES for his lesss than trust worthy behaviour.

These are just some of the things that the people who have been and who are running our council are getting away with. All of the facts in this posting have been taken to the District Auditor and all are backed up with documented proof. And in every instance, NOTHING has been done to stop them, reprimand those who have been involved or investigate them.

This is your council, not theirs. It is time we all stood up to these abuses. Demand an independent investigation into this at best, inept and at worst, corrupt authority now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

From four stars down to two and Persimmon pulling out? Never?

This is Chris. In May this year, a source from within the council approached us with information about a corporate assesment that was due to take place and gave us the name of the man from the Audit commission who was carrying out the assesment.

We were informed by the source from within the council, that senior officers had been making sure that none of the ordinary council workforce would give anything other than a glowing account of what was going on within the council, by telling them what to say should they be asked by the corporate assesment team coming into the council. One senior officer who was openly called a liar in the Whittaker tribunal report, apparantly greeted some of the workforce in his department one morning with bacon rolls and hot tea before he gave them one such 'briefing'. We were informed that senior officers were doing their best to paint as rosy a picture to the assesor as they could.

Acting on this information, we were able to approach the corporate assesor from the audit commission and we told him what had been going on within Redcar and Cleveland Borough council for some time, not just since the Labour group re-took control of the council.During the assesment, the assesor and his assistant arranged a meeting which I and two other members of our group, attended. It lasted for two and a half hours. This meeting led to us sending two massive bundles of damning documents, including the information about the supression of the final audit report by ex- chief executive Colin Moore and now ex- finance officer Ray Richardson, which showed that the council were not a four star authority under the old coalition.

About six weeks ago, we then had a meeting which lasted nearly five hours with the NEW district auditor herself and we went through the complete bundles of paperwork which included tribunal documents showing how this council had acted illegally, lied, colluded, bullied, intimidated and showed documents of how Ray Richardson broke the law by overspending without permission to the tune of approximately thirty five thousand pounds. We have also provided the documentation which proves the massive conflict of interests between this council and Persimmon homes in 2001 over the issue of Coatham, a year before the scheme was even put out to tender.

It would appear, that the audit commission have taken very seriously the information that we provided them with and have started to act upon it, hence the two star rating that the council were given yesterday by the audit commission.

Or have they?

The man who carried out the corporate assesment, the man we had a two and a half hour meeting with, was a man called Mike Newbury. Yet the man who's name was on the corporate assesment was Steve Nickling? Steve Nickling was the old district auditor. He was apparantly involved in the collusion between the Audit commission and the council that led to the supression of the final financial report which showed that this council were not a four star authority and its replacement with a second 'final' report, which then showed that the council were? Mr Nickling moved onto and I quote, " a new appointment" shortly after this story was featured in Private Eye magazine.

How is it that he has now been brought back to become involved in a corporate assesment this year, when he had already stated a year ago that last years assesment was his last? Could it be that given the information we took to the new district auditor about their involvement with the supression of that final financial report, that this is some kind of attempt to white wash once again and cover up again?

Now it is time for a FULL INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION into this councils entire workings. Is it any wonder that Steve Nickling came back to oversee the new Corporate assesment? Is it any wonder that finance officer Ray Richardson, flew the nest and left the council before this report was published? Could it be that Persimmon pulling out of the Coatham Scheme, if the unconfirmed report that we received yesterday afternoon is true, could have also been prompted by the relevant information being given to the district auditor?

If George Dunning were any kind of leader, he would call for an independent investigation into the supressed final audit report that took place under the last coalition, that certain members of the old coalition were fully aware of, aswel as an independent investigation into all aspects of Moore and Richardsons roles as senior officials within our council. He would also call for an investigation into just exactly why this council have spent so much public money on behalf of Persimmon homes, in order to desperately try to push through a housing scheme that has been described publicly by Dunning himself and the MP as tainted, botched and a disaster?

Come on George, you keep bragging about how open and transparent the council are, well lets see you put those words into practise.

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