Northern community boycotts local paper over Tory wrap-around ad

The Express and Echo was also guilty of publishing this ad, which coincidentally covered over the REAL front page detailing a local planning scandal!

“Hundreds of people have signed a petition demanding a weekly newspaper apologises for running a front page wraparound promoting the Conservative Party as the row over the adverts rumbles on.

The Westmorland Gazette was one of many regional newspapers to run the wrap last week ahead of Thursday’s local elections, but has now come under fire from readers who have demanded a full front page apology and threatened to boycott the paper until it complies.

The petition’s Avaaz page reads: “As regular readers of the Westmorland Gazette we are dismayed to see OUR community paper being misused for party political purposes.

“Whilst we would welcome balanced representation of all LOCAL candidates within the paper, we feel strongly that a front page advert for a single national party is not acceptable (especially when published on a polling day (4/5/17)!).

“We request that you publish a full front page apology in your next issue. Please note that many of us will be boycotting the paper until this occurs.”

The adverts coincided with the local elections, as readers went to the polls for council and mayoral elections.”

What is going on at Honiton Town Council (and the Beehive)?

THREE more resignations since yesterday’s shock resignation of the Mayor only minutes after she had been elected:

Honiton Town Council has been dealt a double blow after two more councillors quit the authority.

Former mayor Peter Halse and Luke Harvey-Ingram tendered their resignation today, meaning one fifth of the council has quit in the last 48 hours.

Yesterday evening, the council was rocked after new mayor Ashley Delasalle attacked the authority before dramatically resigning on the spot and leaving the meeting.

Her exit was followed by David Perkins quitting as a member, the council-appointed director of Honiton Community Complex Ltd and temporary responsible financial officer.

His resigned after councillors voted to remove him from a committee investigating the finances around the Beehive build.”

The Beehive community centre has been surrounded by controversy since its inception, when it was given a massive amount of money by EDDC (unlike most other similar centres in other towns) and got into much financial difficulty from the start, see here:

and here:

and here:

and a previous resignation here:

New build housing figures pathetic

“House building under the Tories has fallen to its lowest peacetime levels since the 1920s, Huff Post UK reveals today.

An analysis of house building going back more than a century shows the most recent years of Conservative rule has seen the lowest average house build rate since Stanley Baldwin was in Downing Street in 1923.

According to figures compiled by the House of Commons Library, an average of 127,000 homes a year have been built in England and Wales since the Tories took office in 2010.

This is the lowest level since Baldwin’s first stint as Prime Minister in 1923, when just 86,000 homes were built. …

… Alongside the figures, Labour also released a dossier of broken election pledges from the Tories’ 2015 manifesto. This included the promise to “build 200,000 Starter Homes” by 2020.

The target was dropped from the Government’s flagship Housing white paper published in February.

The manifesto also pledged to build “more affordable housing”, but the number of affordable homes built last year fell to the lowest level in 24 years.” …”

“Austerity has made local government financially unviable. Radical reorganisation may be the only answer”

Owl says: But alas not before EDDC has spent £10 million plus of our money on a new HQ which may be redundant before they move into it!

“Tory councillors popping celebratory corks after last week’s haul of seats should bear in mind the old adage: be careful what you wish for. Now they occupy council leadership positions from Maidstone to Morpeth, it is they alone who must now carry the can for sorting out local government’s two Rs, revenue and reorganisation. The latter is going to haunt county halls for the next political cycle.

The blue tide isn’t going to wash away any of local government’s fundamental problem of a lack of money. Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, has said he hopes “emboldened county leadership” could campaign for sustainable funding for social care and children’s services; he’s an optimist.

Residents may be willing to pay more for looking after older people. But how? Council tax won’t provide enough, so it will be down to central grants. Whoever is communities secretary after June 9 (and Theresa May looks unlikely to keep Sajid Javid) must now devise a distribution and needs formula for England that will protect Tories in the north as well as those in the heartlands of the south.

Short of May tearing up the spending plans set out by Philip Hammond barely a couple of months ago, financial pressure isn’t going to ease. So, come June 9 we’re back to the Christchurch question. A month ago, councillors in the solidly Tory Dorset district decided to defer a referendum on an outline plan to reorganise local government in that county, getting rid of two tiers and replacing the county council, districts and existing Poole and Bournemouth unitary councils with two new, big unitaries. Without reorganisation, the story goes, austerity has made local government financially unviable.

Reorganisation details are different in the various, but the same kinds of argument have been playing in Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire, Kent, Bucks, Essex, Hampshire and the other shires. If you notice something similar about those names, gold star: they are all Tory. What’s in prospect is largely an intra-Tory party argument which, in Kent, for example, is already pitting Tory MPs against councillors, as well as setting up massive squabbles between councillors themselves.

We’ve been here before, several times. Those with long memories will recall the long hours and bitter debate within the John Major government in the 1990s over reorganisation. The fruits of that included the demise of Avon county council in 1996, which the West of England combined authority is a bodged attempt at recreating.

Reorganisation is back because consultants’ reports say it should in principle be cheaper to run services over bigger areas with a single tier council and county executives usually agree. But those reports perennially underestimate transitional costs and rarely factor in the hard-to-quantify but vital element of the identification of residents and staff with particular places and local history.

Besides, most reorganisations turn into messy compromises. Take Christchurch. A “rational” reorganisation based on economic geography would align it with Southampton and the Solent, with the New Forest a sort of park in between urban areas. But few Tories are willing to abandon entirely the historic boundaries of Dorset even if the county council goes, just as few Tories want to see the (non-Tory) urban areas of Oxford and Cambridge being allowed to swallow the districts around them.

And all that is just local government. Summing up the costly and largely ineffective debates of the 1990s, Michael Chisholm, chair of the Local Government Boundary Commission, complained of the folly of reorganising without simultaneously considering council powers and finance – which these days has to include the interrelationship of councils and the NHS as well as the fraught consequences of councils’ keeping the proceeds of business rates and the end of central grants.

There’s trouble ahead but at least reorganisation would weaken the political hegemony the Tories have now established across a wide swath of English local government.”

Election expenses fraud decision “late May/early June”

Whose betting on 9-15 June! With no prosecutions, of course, including our own Police and Crime Commissioner – “insufficient evidence”, “minor mistakes”, “must be more careful in future”, rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb:

Today The Independent has the latest on when that CPS news will come:

If it decides to launch criminal proceedings, the investigation could have a dramatic impact on a snap election which was called by Theresa May last month when she was top of the polls.

A spokesman for the CPS told The Independent, “We have nothing to add to our previous position which is that we are working to various deadlines in late May and early June.”

The CPS is under pressure to make a decision due to legal time limits around when cases have to be brought over election-related wrongdoing.
Note that “late May” reference in particular. General election polling day is in June.

The fraud allegations centre on claims that the Conservatives evaded constituency election expense limits by wrongly declaring items as national expenditure (and so subject to another, more generous limit) rather than as local expenditure.

The Electoral Commission has already levied a record-breaking fine on the Conservative Party, in part for wrongly including in its national expenditure limit items which should have been included in the local expenses limit.

The Commission, however, does not, however, have enforcement powers over those local limits. Hence the additional police and CPS process looking at the Conservative MPs and officials responsible for the local expense returns. Whilst the Commission fined the Conservative Party, this second legal process, if it goes ahead, puts individuals in the legal firing line.”

Honiton’ new mayor sensationally quits the role and the council immediately after election

“HONITON Town Council elected a new mayor this evening in Cllr Ashley Delasalle, who stunned the chamber by immediately quitting the role – and the council – with a sensational statement.

Cllr Delasalle, who had served Honiton Town Council since 2015, said the council was “broken” and “limping from one crisis to the next”. She also said it is “diseased with negative energy” and “personal battles of ego”.

Cllr Delasalle’s statement read: “Firstly and most importantly I would like to thank those of you [that] have supported me over the past few weeks. If this process has taught me anything is that I have great friends. “I would also like to thank my family, especially my husband for his inspiration and for teaching me I can make a positive difference to people’s lives.

“35 years ago my teacher told me to steer clear of my husband because he was trouble. I now live with a man who receives invitations from the Prime Minister to dine at Number 10 and who proposed to me at the High Sheriff of Devon’s private garden party. “Clearly some teachers are poor judges of character.”

“I have said that I will endeavour to secure funds to reinstate the Gissage Bridge and the toll gates. I have many ideas and I will pursue those aims. I will also fund raise to provide the de-fibrilators (sic) for the town that the council failed to provide last year.

Pre-occupied with the past

“This will be difficult to achieve as we have been so pre-occupied with the past that we have failed to set a proper budget for the coming year.

“This Council exists to serve the people of the town, it does not exist to boost our ego’s (sic) or fulfil our personal ambitions. “Sadly we do not all hold that opinion.

Harassment and bullying

“In the past 4 months it is my view that I have witnessed the harassment, bullying and intimidation of our fellow councillors and council employees.

“I feel a victim of this treatment myself and the treatment of our temporary RFO (Responsible Financial Officer] [Cllr David Perkins, who is filling in for town clerk Chetna Jones) can only be described a appalling.

“Despite the best efforts of some of us this bullying and harassment has remained uncontrolled and unreported.

Lack of mutual respect

“It is my opinion that Honiton Town Council is broken, it is limping from one crisis to the next, it is diseased with negative energy, with personal battles of ego, with personal ambition; there is a lack of mutual respect and sense of common decency among its peers, and is fixated with the past.

“This type of behaviour affects the health of our employees, our members and our members’ families and is at best immature.

“We should be ashamed.

“I promise the town of Honiton that I will do all I can to achieve the aim’s (sic) I have set out above to the best of my ability. I will welcome all the co-operation and help I know I will receive from many of you and from the people of the town.

“I feel that my efforts will be most effective without the influence of the Town Council, and for that reason it is without regret or apology that I resign from the council with immediate effect.”