Marmion House - This Months News
A column to keep you updated on the internal political affairs of Marmion House politics. So much goes on. You never read more than the tiniest slanted smattering in the papers. And the papers seem to make it all so boring!! Anyway - this column will give an entirely new slant. You decide whether it’s fair or not. I’ll just have to watch “confidentiality” and the libel laws!! :-)
27th May 2007
Well - it’s no surprise (to me at least!) that I wouldn’t be able to keep up regularly updating this column. Never mind. Here’s a little to catch up.
Cooke Independent 587 (40.90%)
Peaple Labour 467 (32.54%)
James Tory 381 (26.55%)
A quick comment.
Because the Tories were fairly close last year - when there was no Independent - they packed teams of people into this ward hoping for a clean sweep of the Tamworth seats. Glad we were able to stop that! :-)
Frankly I couldn’t work out whether the Tories genuinely thought they could win (surely not??) or whether the main aim was to take enough votes off me - and scare enough other people into voting Labour for fear of a Tory victory - that Labour would take the seat. It’s a compliment really - the Tories would rather have just another Labour councillor than me. :-)
Nice to see the other three Independent candidates doing so well too. They all came third - but with healthy votes that can easily get them into second place next year (maybe first in the case of Richard Kingstone in Mercian?).
A little unpleasantness at the count the like of which has been happily absent from Tamworth elections for quite a few years now. My wife and I were having a conversation with the sole BNP candidate (a well known and respected Stonydelph lady who I had met before and has lived in Stonydelph for 28 years) and her husband - very nice people. Suddenly Labour party Chieftain, Steve Holland, - apparently the worse for booze - asks me to pose for pictures. Apparently I’m doing something despicably evil “talking to the BNP”. He then let’s off a tirade - something about me growing a little moustache and hunting out minorities to shoot. What a sad little man. Actually Mr Holland is really not so little!! Truth is I would far rather vote for Tamworth BNP’s Lynne Smith than for Mr Holland’s brand of extremism! It seems there was also some shouted altercation between Mr Holland and the Bolehall Conservative candidate Andrew James.
I don’t take well to being threatened or bullied Mr Holland! When you apologise in writing to myself, my wife, Mrs Smith and her husband, then - and only then - will I remove this comment!
Housing Stock Transfer - The Hard Sell.
The Council’s is pushing recklessly ahead with its ridiculously costly and frankly insane proposals to ditch our £500 million pounds worth of Council Housing (Plus garages, leaseholders, open spaces etc!) onto a private landlord. (There’ll be a lot more I’ll be putting onto this web-site later and I’ll link from here). But for now 15 of the Council’s 25 strong housing team will be spending all their time knocking doors for the next 4 weeks telling tenants what a wonderful idea (or something!!) this stock transfer is - and how poor the Council is and how the Council will have to do all sorts of nasty things to tenants if transfer doesn’t go ahead. They will get extra money for this of course! They’ve allowed themselves an hour for each and every tenancy in the town. That on top of two years worth of glossy pamphlets - full of happy people apparently laughing about what a wonderful future they will have under private landlords - and TV stars on DVDs exhorting us into the merits of private landlords. Sent to every home. £1.8 million worth of our Council tax (nearly half a years of Tamworth’s Council tax income!) squandered on this highly dubious project. Now that really is THE HARD SELL! Wonder if the Advertising Standards Agency might be interested in the techniques being used?
I’ll Never Be A Freeman of Tamworth
Had a bit of a set to the other day when the Tories decided they wanted to bestow upon one of their own Tamworth’s top Civic Honour - Freeman of The Borough. For ex mayor, Tory Leader and deputy leader, Cllr Ron Cook. I’ve got no problem with Ron. He’s a politician and has done what politicians do - and has done it now for a very long time - since 1965. Much longer than me - I only came onto the scene around 1980. But I objected to this award being given to a politician purely because of his party political services. This award means more than that. There was some support from the much depleted Labour Party ranks when Labour Leader Peter Seekings also spoke against. Normally such awards have cross-party consensus. But of course the massive Tamworth Tory majority was always going to bulldozer this through. Funny thing was that Tory leader Jeremy Oates seemed quite concerned that I, by my words, seemed to have ruled myself out of ever receiving this award. Frankly I had never imagined anybody could ever think I might even be in the running. His words were perhaps another indication of how honouring politicians in this way devalues such civic awards. But my re-assurance for Cllr Oates is that I have never really considered myself a “civic” sort of person - and I certainly don’t think I’d have ever done enough to deserve such an award. So if one was ever offered to me - yes - I would turn it down. There you go - now I’ll never even get the offer!! :-)
26th February 2007
This week’s been interesting. On Monday there was the Great Budget Debate. (actually it wasn’t that great by the time we got onto it) - report linked here.
And when the music stops!
It’s the little things that go on that are interesting. Like Stonydelph Cllr Kevin Harcourt Taylor being expelled from the Tory group. Well Kevin was up for election in May anyway (same as me!). Even so it hasn’t stopped the Tories doing a complete revamp of all our Committee seats. Cllr Taylor’s now being treated as an Independent. I could if I wanted now form my own group with him - but with only two months to the elections - what’s the point? Anyway - the new committee seats have been handed down from on high to ourselves. Kevin is allocated my Health Scrutiny seat and I’m given his Standards Committee seat.
This is interesting. First it tells me that Cllr Taylor is now more of a “persona non-gratia” to the Tories than myself! You see, nobody seems to want that Health Scrutiny Committee place and I’ve been the fall-guy for it ever since I got elected! Travel to Lichfield, long meetings, nothing ever - it always seemed to me - decided. Even if we did decide something the powers that be simply ignored (sorry “noted”) our views. Bit like most council work really!! Bang goes any pretence at effective local democracy then!
So I missed the Health Scrutiny meeting on Tuesday and instead went to the Standards Committee on Wednesday. Those who read this web-site will know I got into trouble on this Committee in 2005 because I produced a minority report defending a Labour Councillor against what I felt was clearly an unfair decision. (report here). Anyhow - the upshot was that I was dispatched ASAP from that committee onto the infinitely more mind-mushing world of the Audit & Governance Committee. Now on Standards I am back amongst my old chums who pursued me through the Standards Board of England so recently. How circles turn!
That said I did wonder why I had to take whatever Committee place the Tories tossed my way. So I asked whether I could do a deal with my new “Independent” colleague. No problem they said. But what about the Vacant member’s seat - 3 more committee places? I know we couldn’t have those as well - but why could we not swap with them? I fancied the vacant internal scrutiny seat - I’m sure Cllr Taylor would have no objections. Seemed reasonable to me. The answer was “No”. Entirely reasonably I’ve asked why? Under what rules? No reply (to date!).
What people may not realise is that over the years I’ve had to fight for all my share of committee places. First year I was only given one (that was never right) - but I was young and naive (well.....naive anyway!) and in my first year one committee seat was probably OK. Next year - Tories in control - they tried to keep the seats vacant and give me nothing in their very strange interpretation of rules as they saw it. These are the sort of local political battles that never get reported in the papers.
Talking about “Standards” there’s a consultation on a new Code of Conduct. Now I don’t know if I’m wrong here (perhaps you might write and tell me) but my view is that there are already laws as to why a councillor should be barred from being a Councillor. Now they are making up a whole new raft of rules (got an ASBO - tut, tut, most uncouncillor like - you will be suspended!). Effectively this takes power away from voters to have their own choice of a representative (who may well have gone head to head with the authorities on a point of principle in the past!) and gives it to some faceless committee to decide - my fear is that it will be decided on political grounds. At the moment it’s most likely to affect BNP candidates - but if I were to tell you that there is an ex-BNP councillor languishing in jail right now (Kevin Hughes his name is) - a two and half year sentence for racially aggravated assault. There were no witnesses. The guy who made the complaint was an illegal immigrant, a proven liar, no marks at all on his body and a statement from Mr Hughes (accepted in law!) that he did no more than push the guy away when the guy came forward aggressively. His previous record - absolutely clean - nothing at all! Of course the courts knew he was BNP - he was a well known and upstanding member of the community. Two and half years jail!!! A political prisoner if ever there was one. (more at this link here) It doesn’t take much imagination to know the sort of society we are sliding into that very many people can be just as easily set up - and hey-presto there goes your chance to vote for somebody you really want. Other members of the Standards Committee seem to see their job as trying to find as many reasons as possible to judge a Councillor “unfit” regardless of what normal people might think about it! Candidates banned by the back door. Can anybody else see how dangerous this is?
I have to commend the Tory Leader. He’s got a Blog on the local Tory website going now since December. linked here. I guess this column may count as a blog of a sort. But - I’ll be honest - my technological prowess at computers is not yet enhanced with the knowledge of what to do to start a blog! I might have a look at it after the local elections - if by grace of the voters I’m still around that is. But it still makes only myself and Cllr Jeremy Oates as the only two councillors to be putting up any regular political message of any sort to Tamworth people. Tamworth Council’s website is non-political of course, but it is probably one of the best around. There is a very skilful I.T. team on Tamworth Council and that shows up in a website packed full of information. I have to say my most used pages are the planning applications. You can get virtually any document at all linked to any one Tamworth Planning application on these pages. Brilliant!
Our Leader, Arriva Buses & Citizen Card
Talking about young Jeremy - I only asked him a question about the Arriva Buses fare concession scheme and CitizenCard.. That was his cue to launch an all out tirade on me. You don’t often hear the like in the Council chambers! “Chris Cooke has been on this Council for four years now and he still doesn’t understand .... etc. etc.” Read the fuller story here. Point is the question never got answered. At least his mother, Cllr Mary Oates had answered an earlier question of mine on bedsits and one bedroomed flats (although not the supplementary question!) .
When is a bedsit not a bedsit?
And on that question to Cllr Mrs Oates. How do you think it can be that a flat where a couple have a living room and bedroom combined (the bed takes half the floor space) have it classified as a one bed-roomed flat and not a bedsit - and even pay more for it than other “real” one bed-roomed flats in Tamworth. Answer? It’s not a bed-sit because the living room is classified as being inside the much smaller kitchen instead. Wow! Now I’ve been inside this kitchen - no room to plonk a single armchair - let alone a settee!! Point is that couples. like this couple, should not normally be placed in a bed-sit - and this is definitely a bed-sit - at least by any normal person’s judgment. I suspect there’s more going on here than meets the eye and it has everything to do with Tamworth having nowhere near enough housing stock. I need to dig harder.
Anyway - that’s enough for this week. Takes up a lot of cyber bytes this does. Got any thoughts or words of interest for me. I’m always happy to hear from people - even when they disagree with me.
29th May 2006
Local Plan Special Council Meeting on Thursday (01/06/06) this week. The big issue is the Anker Valley Development. The Tories have so far voted for this development to go ahead - despite saying time and again they are “really” against it. The issue is can Tamworth meet it’s 5000 housing requirement without bulldozing up Tamworth’s last real piece of open space. I say Tamworth can - and easily. I’ve written this letter to the Government Offices of the West Midlands - I don’t suppose for one moment GOWM will stop this development - but here are the facts, laid out bare.
So - is our council diddling statistics to suit developers? Will any Tories finally vote to stop the Anker Valley development? Perhaps you can find out for yourself. Come to the Emergency Council Meeting 01/06/06 Marmion House - starts 6.00pm
Here’s a useful link to the Save Our Anker Valley site.
Politically On The Council
Personally I found the local election results depressing. Tories 19, Labour 8 (and likely to lose more next year if Blair stays in office!) and just one Independent. Looking at the maths it seems the Tories are in total control for at least 4 years. When the two parties were quite closely matched I felt like I could have some influence. Now we have a one party dictatorship. We shall have to see how it pans out.
A Change For The Better.
You can imagine as an Independent I’ve had to fight every inch of the way to get equal treatment with other councillors.. In the first year I was only given one seat (the maths said I should have had two!). The next year - they tried to stop me having any seats at all - they were going to leave them vacant!!! The third year the number of seats overall increased which - they claimed - meant I lose one of my seats (with maths like that maybe we can see why the Council gets its figures in such a muddle!!).
Well this year that’s all changed! This year I’ve been given three seats - and no argument. Indeed the new Leader of the Tories actually called beforehand to discuss it with me. That’s got to be a change for the better! :-)