google count

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Forensic internet detectives sought in cyberspace

Forensic internet detectives sought in cyberspace

Since 2009 Martin Brookes, others and I have been subjected to cyber stalking. I complained in writing to the police on several occasions and was told no crime had been committed, no incident number was given to me and no crime number. Since about 1989 it has become clear that those who identify the wrong in our society are rarely tolerated and often their lives are made impossible, in the hope that they will seek to end it via suicide. See the high profile cases of Katharine Gunn, David Shayler, Julian Assange – but unfortunately one doesn’t have to be famous to be subjected to tactics meted out to well-known whistle blowers.

On 1 March I complained to Sgt Foster at Oakham Police Station about the latest cyberstalking campaign conducted through: ‘oakytaxidriver’ on tweets and blogs at: and As usual the police said no crime had been committed and refused to give me an incident number. On 2 March Martin Brookes said if we sent an email to Davescab and he replied Martin would be able to trace the ip address. In the absence of a law enforcement agency to assist us I sat in the library with Martin Brookes and sent an email. That evening yet more blogs appeared. Martin was very upset and I met him outside Oakham Police station. On 3 March I made a complaint about Inspector ‘Johnny’ Monks, Sgts Collier and Foster and their inaction. On 27 April finally Inspector Mansfield saw me and said he was investigating my complaint and that Oakham Police should have acted on my complaints. However he decided to ask Oakham Police to run the investigation!

On 11th May I was sent three texts of tweets advertising the newest blogs on I rang them in on 01162222222 and have heard absolutely nothing. Leicestershire Police Standards have suggested I complain through the IPCC. The level of police corruption in covering up the poster of davescab.blogspot and his forty-two followers leads me to suppose that appealing to the IPCC is a waste of time and energy. As I pointed out to the police yesterday all the police have to do is to identify the poster of the davescab.blogspot and the tweets of oakytaxidriver and their 42 followers to find those responsible for this protracted cyberstalking campaign.

A Rutland County Councillor, Nick Wainwright, has also suffered fraudulent postings on a face book page, which he immediately closed down. Talking to Cllr Wainwright on 6th May, he said that his home computer was hacked and the facebook page fraudulently reinstated. So there is a history of political cyber stalking in Rutland. The Police have Councillors on the Joint Action Group and seem averse to identifying their online activities, from the Rutland Chat Forum, Planet Neptune through to various malicious blogs. According to a Standards for England Enquiry Johnny Monks appeared to ring Helen Briggs to assist a Councillor when being questioned on an assault charge against Martin Brookes. I did cancel my access to Oakham library when postings were made in my name on Martin Brookes’ blog, so proving my innocence, however one cannot keep proving one’s innocence if that is always overlooked, and a new cyberstalking initiative propagated.

So what is the point? Doubtless there are good people out there happy to be our path to enlightenment and I would ask the computer experts to trace the history, IP addresses of these blogs and tweets and their 42 followers, so that we can, in the absence of any will on the part of Leicestershire Police, bring some light to bear on who these people are.

So, if you’re a computer expert, perhaps you might like to solve a riddle, which eludes Leicestershire Police. If you can trace the IP addresses, names and addresses of those on the Rutland Chat Forums, now closed; Planet Neptune, now closed; - now closed and, so far as I am aware, still open: and tweets from Oakytaxidriver then you’re a better man than any in the whole of Leicestershire Police. Do let me know what you find, in fact if you let Martin Brookes know too at he would also be most grateful.

705 words

cyber stalking, Martin Brookes, Oakham, Rutland, Rutland County Council, Rutland Police, Johnny Monks, Leicestershire Police, Helen Pender.

Feast of the Enlightenment of the Buddha

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Feast of the Enlightenment of the Buddha

Today is the feast of the enlightenment of the Buddha – Gautama Siddhartha who lived about 2,500 years ago. On the Today programme this morning Thought for the Day was given by a Buddhist, who told us that the Buddha sat beneath a tree for one long night and emerged as the latest incarnation of an enlightened man. Which made me wonder, what is ‘enlightenment.’ Collins’ dictionary gave the following explanation:

‘Buddhism: the awakening to ultimate truth by which man is freed from the endless cycle of personal reincarnations to which all men are otherwise subject.’

Then there is the ‘Enlightenment’ – note the capitalised ‘e’. ‘An eighteenth century philosophical movement stressing the importance of reason and the critical reappraisal of existing ideas and social institutions.’

I have to admit being a tad impatient with all those do gooders who insist that they ‘only look for the good in everything,’ knowing that the overlooking of evil, applying size twelve blinkers if you will, allows evil to flourish. This Blog is dedicated to enlightenment, full uncompromising enlightenment, not the partial enlightenment of overlooking evil to concentrate on the good. For by my reasoning that route leads inevitably to chaos and a vacuum of social order as those dedicated to sleaze are allowed to get away with murder, larceny, corruption and criminal dishonesty. If we are to be freed from the endless cycle of chaos in our world should we perhaps enlighten ourselves about the evil which exists in our midst and show a will to deal with it? Enlightenment is not just self-knowledge, it is knowledge of the environment one inhabits. Let’s hope that we can all achieve enlightenment on this the feast day of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

293 words

Buddha, enlightenment, cyber stalking, Oakham, Rutland, Rutland County Council, Rutland Police, Johnny Monks, Leicestershire Police, Helen Pender

Who guards the Guardians?

The Electoral Commissioner was sent a copy of my account of the irregularities which occurred during the recounts for Oakham South West – five recounts in all (see below). I received an email from a Mr Nyack at the Electoral Commissioner’s Office recommending that I get the Returning Officer, Mrs Helen Briggs, to investigate herself. Well I’ve heard of self-regulation but is this a joke?

Email received from Mr Nyack at the Office of the Electoral Commissioner:

Helen Pender
View Contact
To: Mark Nyack
What other suggestions do you have when the Returning Officer herself was the offender? This is surely obvious in my account of what took place at the count? As one of my voters said recently, you appear to have all the power and effectiveness of a chocolate teaapot.

Helen Pender

From: Mark Nyack
To: ""
Sent: Thu, 12 May, 2011 12:56:33
Subject: Helen Pender

Dear Helen Pender,

Thank you for your email to the Electoral Commission.

The Commission does not have the power to investigate allegations of offences occurring at the Count. If you believe an offence has been committed, you should contact the Returning Officer at your local authority and outline your concerns.

Kind regards

Mark Nyack
Public Information Officer
The Electoral Commission
3 Bunhill Row
London EC1Y 8YZ
Tel: 020 7271 0728
Fax: 020 7271 0505

We have moved. Please note our new address.

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Democracy matters

* Please consider the environment before printing this email.

From: Helen Pender []
Sent: 09 May 2011 11:38
To: Midlands Inbox
Subject: Complaint Oakham South West Five recounts Rutland County Council local election 6 May 2011

Dear Sir / Madam

I am formally lodging a complaint about the count / five recounts for Oakham South West, a full account of which follows at the end of this email.

I should like my complaint investigated outside the Midlands area to ensure that those involved are not able to influence the outcome of this complaint.

Yours faithfully

Helen Pender
Shurely not!

Original - sent to the Electoral Commissioner 10th May 2011:

I began to take an interest in the race for second place in Oakham South West after about two or three recounts.

The table, where the recount was taking place, was surrounded by Conservatives, including Cllr Roger Begy, the Conservative Agent – whose name I don’t know, Cllr Terry King, Cllr K Bull, as well as a smartly dressed, pristine, Conservative candidate from Ketton who had won her Conservative seat uncontested. The myth that party allegiances do not have any bearing in Rutland County Council’s local Government was finally put to rest by this gathering of Conservatives at the counting table.

Peter Jones, a Conservative, was one of the candidates, but I had to double back to find out who the other candidate for second place might be. I was told it was someone called Richardson. Stupidly, the name meant nothing to me, but it seems he is an Independent and had no one observing at the counting table on his behalf. Both Peter Jones and Mr Richardson were absent from the count.

I wandered back over to the table where the recount was taking place. Roger Begy, both hands planted palms down on the counting table, with elbows akimbo as he leant in towards the counting officer, was a difficult obstruction to overcome, however I did manage to slip through that hurdle. Having found a place all the Conservatives asked me to leave the table, saying: ‘You are not the candidate, you are not the agent, you shouldn’t be here.’

Remarkably, Mrs Helen Briggs, the Returning Officer, then came over and repeated that mantra, ‘You are not the candidate or the agent, you shouldn’t be here.’ She went on to say that as the Returning Officer she was in charge and I should leave my observation post. One should of course obey a lawful instruction by the Returning Officer.

This was an unlawful order. I would submit that this intervention to support the Conservatives’ ridiculous instruction to me, by The Returning Officer, Mrs Briggs, needs a thorough investigation.

With all the Conservative people on my side of the table asking me to leave and the Returning Officer, on the other side of the table, also asking me to leave, I had no choice but to point out that there were at least four people representing the interests of Peter Jones on my side of the table and one of me representing the interests of Richardson, a man I didn’t know. (Although when he turned up he said that he’d thought we’d met in the Wheatsheaf, but I couldn’t clearly remember doing so, although his face did seem vaguely familiar) I also pointed out that all candidates at the count not only had a duty to themselves, but also had a duty to observe the proceedings on behalf of others, to ensure a free and fair election. This shouldn’t have needed saying, least of all to any Returning Officer.

Then quite stupendously the Conservative Agent said he was: Only here to observe a fair election,’ so implying he was not representing Conservative Peter Jones’ interests!

For the Returning Officer to seek to exclude the only non-Conservative from the counting table was so breathtakingly outside the scope of her statutory duty, that I went over to beg Cllr Richard Gale to come to the counting table too. Cllr Richard Gale seems to play a fairly straight bat.

He came over in time to see that there was a ten vote discrepancy on the reconciliation of votes. (276 – 286 – between pencilled count on the tally sheet for both Jones and Richardson and votes counted on the table for both candidates, yet the final vote for both candidates was double this??? – 277 & 279. Jones’ votes on the pencilled tally sheet were far fewer than Richardson’s.) Before the reconciliation was made Helen Briggs ordered the votes to be taken from the counting table. I was speechless and paralysed for a couple of minutes.

Turning to one of the women counters I asked: ‘Is that correct the unreconciled votes have been removed from the table?’

To which she replied: ‘I couldn’t possibly say.’

With the votes back on a large overloaded desk in the roped off staff area, at the southern end of the Council Chamber, I asked Cllr Gale to get Richardson to the Count. He rang Richardson’s number and handed me the phone. ‘Mr Richardson, you don’t know me, but my name’s Helen. Where the bloody hell are you?’ I said. Everyone could hear me as, I am told, Joyce Lucas mimed a double-handed pot stirring in her chair at the Western end of the room. ‘I am at the Count,’ I continued, ‘and your unreconciled votes have just left the table with an unreconciled 10 vote discrepancy. You have to get over here now, I can’t represent your interests, I am not your agent and I won’t be able to examine the spoiled voting papers.’ (276 – 286 discrepancy between the marked pencilled tally sheet to number of votes counted. This was for both Jones and Richardson. However the final vote was 277 and 279, so I really don’t understand what was being counted in this 276 – 286 vote/tally sheet count. Clearly all the votes were not on the table at this point.)

This discrepancy was never reconciled or explained to me as an observer. Nor did I see it resolved.

Cllr Richard Gale then gave the phone to Cllr Roger Begy. Begy looked like an embarrassed schoolboy as he giggled nervously into the phone and promptly gave the phone to Cllr Gale mid sentence. By handing me the phone Cllr Gale had given me the opportunity to allow Mr Pook to overhear what was going on and my less than dulcet tones informed the room what was happening. The intimidating Conservatives posse began to melt away. I felt they knew they had been rumbled.

Throughout the count the policemen present sat in an eastern recess of the count and hardly moved from their seats. At no time did a policeman venture out from their chairs at the eastern end of the room towards the count for Oakham South West at the western end of the room. It would be nice to have a summary, from all the officers who attended, of what their instructions were for the count on Thursday 6th May.

Furthermore, before the unreconciled votes left the table there had been a nine vote bundle in which voters had voted for both Richardson and Jones. When the votes were brought back to the table there were now eleven voting papers in that pile. Curiouser and curiouser.

During the next recount I noticed that the Conservative Agent began leafing desperately through the 11 vote bundle. Prompting me to say: ‘Excuse me sir, but you are not meant to touch the voting papers.’ At which point the counter nodded her agreement. Why did the counters not have the confidence to issue this instruction themselves? Were they too intimidated to do so? Should one, as a rank amateur, have needed to say this to a qualified Agent for a major political party?

Both the Agent and Roger Begy should be admonished for repeatedly touching voting papers. For the Conservative Agent to pull the bundle of eleven votes towards himself and begin leafing through it, using both hands, is surely a major infraction,

Mr Begy had jabbed his finger at the papers, on more than one occasion, in a rather intimidating fashion as he leant over the counting table with both hands openly resting, palms down, on the table. I felt his stance and finger jabbing was designed to intimidate the counting staff. The fact that counting staff did not have the confidence to tell the Conservative observers that they shouldn’t be touching the votes at all was indicative that they might have been intimidated.

Richard Gale then spotted that one of the voting papers in the eleven vote bundle for both candidates had one vote for Richardson and one vote for the person above Jones on the voting paper. That vote was removed and placed in Richardson’s pile. As the votes were removed from the table again, the chic Conservative woman from Ketton said, ‘That means there’s another discrepancy so we’ll have to have another recount.’

To which I replied, ‘But it’s clear that one vote was placed in the wrong pile, so that discrepancy is fully explained.’

Through the day Mr Pook sat at a desk at the back of the roped off staff area behind a desk in a recess at the southern end of the Council Chamber. To his right was a large desk (about four small tables planted together) which was full of papers and it could not easily be seen what was going on there when the voting papers were regularly returned to this large desk, which appeared to belong to Mrs Briggs, to the right of Mr Pook in the roped off staffing area.

In front of Mr Pook was another table with a ballot box on it. Most remarkably a pile of votes, placed on this table, in the roped off staff area was found, by Mr Pook, on this table, obscured from sight of the observers, behind a ballot box.

A pile of these votes was returned to Mrs Briggs’ desk to the right of Mr Pook from the desk in front of Mr Pook. Now all the votes were back on the Returning Officer’s large desk, out of plain sight in the recess of the roped off Staff area in the recess at the southern end of the Council Chamber.

Furthermore the lack of reconciliation (276 – 286) discrepancy between the pencilled sheet and voting papers was never explained to me as I watched the unreconciled votes leave the counting table.

Mr Richardson finally appeared. He’d been coaching a Rugby Club in Stamford. The votes were brought back to the table once again and this time they were recounted very very carefully. The counters seated at the table behaved impeccably throughout despite grabs and stabs at the voting papers by Conservatives as the desperate Conservatives sought to verify what the counters had ascertained.

This last recount appeared to be properly done. However the infractions I observed of the Conservative Agent, Roger Begy and most of all the Returning Officer, Mrs Helen Briggs, led me to conclude that up to that point something decidedly odd had gone on. In my view Mrs Briggs does not have sufficient probity to fully understand her role and I do not have faith in her conducting her duties adequately as a Returning Officer in any future election. Nor does she have the intellect to conduct a vote with any degree of finesse. Having observed her at the counting of the postal votes the night before, 10pm 5th May, she clearly relied on Mr Pook’s greater knowledge of voting procedures. I would submit Mrs Helen Briggs was less than professional and at times behaved like a partial amateur. Her determination to order me away from the counting table is ample evidence that although she was clear that she was the Returning Officer, she was unclear as to the legal niceties of her role. In short she sought to intimidate me and was absolutely ignorant of the fact that she misbehaved.

Finally the announcement was made – my apologies but the spelling of names may be wrong: ‘Joanna Burrows (Lib Dem) 178 votes, Alfred Dewis 266 votes, Joanna Figgis 285 votes, James Harrison 139 votes, Peter Jones 277 votes, Philips (Lib Dem) 131 votes, Richardson 279. 14 spoilt papers and a turn out of 48.41%’

Various Conservatives, who had said they would stay for the counting of the Parish votes, then high tailed it out of the room and into their cars.

• Mr Begy should not have placed both hands on the counting table and jabbed his finger at votes as he did so.

• The Conservative Agent should not have leafed through votes with both hands.

• I should not have been instructed to leave the table by the Conservative Agent and Mr Roger Begy.

• The unreconciled pencilled tally sheet for both Jones and Richardson should not have left the counting table before it was reconciled.

• I should not have been ordered to leave the counting table by the Returning Officer.

I should like an investigation made into the conduct of Mr Roger Begy; the Conservative Agent and the Returning Officer Mrs Helen Briggs for their conduct during the recounts for Oakham South West on Thursday 6th May.

2,455 words

Helen Briggs, Local Election, Rutland County Council, Roger Begy, Richard Gale, Richardson, Rutland, Oakham, Conservatives, Helen Pender, Multum in Parvo, Peter Jones, Martin Brookes


I drove Martin Brookes, Candidate for Greetham, to Greetham Ward on several occasions and found posters maligning Martin Brookes strewn in public places, one within yards of Roger Begy’s home on Greetham High Street. The most vile accusations were thrown at Martin Brookes on these posters throughout the campaign. One would have thought this was not a very clever thing to do in a two horse race. Wouldn’t one?

At a planning meeting 48 hours before the election Martin Brookes was able to ask his opponent, Mr Begy why he hadn’t taken steps to distance himself from these posters. What was Begy’s reply? ‘I don’t read your blog.’ An imaginative non sequitur!

The first posters were black and white, stapled or drawing pinned to bus stops, wooden poles, fences and most worrying of all in the official Parish notice board in Clipsham. Some of the staples matched those staples on the poster for the Air Ambulance. At Clipsham, on the first occasion we spotted the notice, we thought we might remove it. But this is an official Parish notice board. We decided instead to track down the Parish Clerk and found the Parish Clerk for Clipsham mowing his lawn. We took him to his notice board. He rapidly read the poster and asked whether any of the accusations were true, picking out one particular accusation. I must commend the Parish Clerk for his speed-reading of a document he said he’d not seen before. No doubt Clipsham have a very able and erudite public servant in their midst. What a treasure he must be.

As usual Martin Brookes wittered on at length in a convoluted explanation. Eventually I summed up more succinctly and the Parish Clerk said ‘Well I don’t understand it. There are a lot of funny things going on.’ I am not sure but did I sense a degree of disappointment in the Parish Clerk’s face when I offered my explanation?

We were satisfied that no more posters would appear in the Official Parish notice board in Clipsham. How wrong we were. New coloured posters slightly amended were issued during the week of the election and wonder of wonders there, skewed with just one drawing pin, in the official Clipsham Parish notice board was a new poster! This new poster, presumably in a vicarious distancing of Roger Begy from the poster, proclaimed: “This poster produced by ‘The Friends of Greetham Ward’. It is NOT produced by the RCC, OTC, The Conservatives. The Cabbie nor any individual Society thus accused by Mr Bookes to date.” Well that certainly makes it clear who produced it. Doesn’t it?

However my congratulations go to a user of one of the bus stops in Greetham who had torn down the leaflet. This was found flapping in the hedge at the first bus stop in Greetham. A deep thank you goes to the upright citizen whose sense of fair play led him/her to tear this poster down.

BBC Radio Leicester appeared at the Count in Oakham on 6th May. I bumped into them as they returned from a coffee break and showed them one of the latest anonymous leaflets, which Martin Brookes had removed and cut out his photograph, using the top part as his own election poster. The reporter immediately said ‘Are you Helen?’ Hardly anyone reads my blog, she had clearly been briefed by someone. Who had briefed her and why? She wasn’t prepared to say.

She asked for a copy, so I went to the library and, only having a 20p piece, made two copies. One of which I handed to BBC Radio Leicester. They opened the boot of their radio car and fiddled with a couple of switches, turning off their equipment as one reporter sat reading the leaflet in the back of her radio car. The mike was placed in the boot, but I was not interviewed. Despite this I began to suspect that I was being surreptitiously recorded. Isn’t it amazing how paranoid one can become when faced with an anonymous campaign?

They asked who was behind this campaign. My reply was that I didn’t know but it was funny that the poster had been issued in an area in which there were only two candidates. They asked whom I might suspect. I pointed out that these people hide behind their anonymity, but said that they behaved like terrorist cells, the campaign is coordinated and yet each anonymous cell appears to be acting autonomously and separately. (However I have no doubt that the 42 followers of would be a fair point to start in lining up the possible suspects.)

What I didn’t say was that living through this onslaught of anonymous tweets, blogs, postings and posters is a little like living in a third world country with a despotic and dubious band of autocrats determined to silence any voice of opposition. Shenanigans in the Kingdom of Swaziland sometimes pale into insignificance beside the Kingdom of Rutland.

Like my childhood home, Rutland appears determined to silence any opposition. In Swaziland the opposition is regularly locked up and false accusations levelled at political opponents. The newspapers in Swaziland are prevented from reporting anything but censored news. Whereas in Rutland…

Rumour has it that the new editor of one of our local newspapers is a Conservative who tried to stand for election but was prevented from doing so since she had only just moved back into the area and did not satisfy the residential requirements for prospective candidates. If what Cllr Gene Plews tells me is true, this is only interesting as a litmus test of the political allegiance of our local press.

The only independent and free press would seem to be our blogs. At least one of which has been hacked. A local lady I bumped into recently said: ‘You have to stop otherwise they will destroy you. Your blogs and your emails will be changed. You just can’t win.’ She was clearly upset.

The problem as I see it is – if I stop they will just grind me into the ground silently. Whether I blog and use email or take a vow of omerta, I will be silenced. Better by far to go out attempting, however vainly, to speak out, than to be silenced by fear of intimidation, which will continue come what may. Martin Brookes said he received an offer to arrange financial help from Cllr Terry King yesterday, (16 May) which he has now posted on his blog.

In the face of a despotic regime one should always struggle, however vainly, to speak out before one segues into oblivion. In the despotic Democratic Republic of Rutland let’s hope that we can find others with the courage to ensure that eventually the miscreants are traced and brought to justice.

1,132 words

Helen Briggs, Roger Begy, Rutland County Council, Roger Begy, Richard Gale, Greetham, Parish Clerk, Rutland, Oakham, Conservatives, Helen Pender, Gene Plews, Martin Brookes

Monday, 4 April 2011

Oakham North East Ward - Candidate - Helen Pender - RUTLAND COUNTY COUNCIL ELECTIONS May 5th

Helen Pender
Why is our money going to prop up Brent Council?

HELEN PENDER – Independent candidate - Oakham North East Ward.

I’m asking you to help me change the face of local politics on May 5th in order to deliver a more transparent, more accountable, local democracy.


For example, I would like to know how our council justifies giving a two million pound, soft terms loan to Brent Council? Was half a percent (0.5%) really the best interest rate that Rutland County council were able to obtain? Or are the people of Rutland being asked to fork out for overspending in Brent?

We have had various differing reports on what has happened to the money lost in the Icelandic banking fiasco and none of the explanations has been consistent. First we were told that we were going to get all the money back (about a million pounds) – then we were told that we had got all the money back – then we were told that most of the money had been returned – then we were told that we’d recovered just over 50%, but that further instalments were expected. I am not even sure that the members of Rutland County Council (DC), whether Councillors or Officers, know what the real position is – particularly after the local paper reported that our council “found” £1 million recently. No one knows where it was hidden or how it was ‘found.’

To ensure that the money we lost in the Iceland banking fiasco is not repeated we need to be told the thinking behind our investment policies.

This is your money that “they” are misusing and you should be told why approximately 7.5% of our annual budget has gone to Brent Council; when we can expect to see the money returned and why such a small interest rate was fixed.

Had Brent Council gone to a bank for this loan they could have expected to pay at least 6% interest to a bank. Why does Rutland County Council believe that they should use our money to help out a London Council? What on earth induced RCC to make this sort of ‘investment’? Who knows? I don’t. But we should be told. I intend to ask these sorts of questions.


The decision to turn down Sainsbury’s is an economic disaster for Oakham. Tesco needs real competition. Some of their pricing reflects the virtual monopoly Tesco has in the area. By denying Sainsbury’s permission to build at the end of Land’s End Way we have given up 300 jobs (equivalent to 200 full time jobs) and a real competitor to help keep down food prices for supermarket shoppers. One of the arguments was that the land Sainsbury’s intended to build on had been set aside for office use – since around 2001. The fact remains that no one has wanted to build offices on this site for ten years and no one else looks likely to want to build on the site.

Nothing has been built on the Sainsbury’s site and so no jobs are being created.

We are gong to be entering an era of severe local economic recession due to the closure of RAF Cottesmore and HMP Ashwell with the loss of hundreds of jobs and the consequent loss of hundreds of people able to pay Council tax. One of the reasons we haven’t attracted sufficient B1 office use on the site, on which Sainsbury’s wish to build, is due to the fact that offices built on that site will have nowhere for office workers to buy sandwiches, petrol, and essential stationery. A supermarket on the site will ensure that it becomes attractive to would be builders of offices.

(See posting on Sainsbury’s planning fiasco for a more in depth analysis.) Oakham needs to be rescued from the short term thinking which has dogged this Council. I am not connected either financially or in any other way to Sainsbury but will campaign for Sainsbury’s planning application to be accepted and will support any appeal they may make.


The Government has offered substantial economic inducements to build new housing. The RCC new housing initiatives on the Hawkesmead Estate and elsewhere will net the Council well over £500,000 in subsidies from Central Government. However there is a real problem for people who do not drive. Our public transport system is in a dire state. Without a car, residents cannot work on Sundays in either Stamford or Melton (since we have no buses at all on a Sunday and no trains run until the afternoon); mid-week the last bus to leave Peterborough for Oakham is at 4.40 pm. Residents can’t even go to a nightclub, see a film or the theatre in Stamford or Melton, since our public transport system makes it impossible to return on the evening of the performance. Residents unable to drive cannot work or play outside Oakham.

Many households cannot afford to run more than one vehicle and others, especially pensioners and young people, do not have access to motor vehicles. This limits their mobility, both for leisure and for work.

Oakham’s economic future depends upon having a decent public transport system which will be the key to future growth in an increasingly difficult local economy. Employers like RAF Cottesmore and HMP Ashwell have left and we desperately need to attract new businesses to the area. Without public transport we are rudderless and hopelessly adrift in these difficult economic times.


I intend to really listen to electors. The fact that almost everyone I have spoken to in Oakham has supported Sainsbury’s planning application is a proof of the sad reality that local Councillors neither listen to their constituents nor vote in their interests.

Can you help to change the face of local policies in our local Council? - Yes you can.

Printed and published for Helen Pender care of Finkey Street, Oakham, Rutland LE156AG telephone: 07749571341

Friday, 25 February 2011

Rutland County Council Development and Control Licensing Committee Meeting Tuesday 22 February 2011.

Also Known As: The Sainsbury’s planning application fiasco.

There were three public deputations: Mr Fletton spoke in favour of the officers’ recommendation for refusal of the planning permission for a Sainsbury’s Supermarket to be built at the end of Land’s End Way. Why?

Well this was the elephant in the room. Put at its most simply, if I am right, Waitrose has promised to buy a site on the old Rutland College site when they move to Barleythorpe. Waitrose promise to pay top dollar and the monies will go to RCC, who have to stump up for converting Barleythorpe to a New Further Education College. But no one mentioned this all evening. The clue lay in the fact that Mr Fletton is head of Rutland / Tresham College in Oakham.

BUT – Waitrose have said that if planning permission is given to Sainsbury’s then they will not be interested in pursuing their proposed development on the old Rutland College site. So it seems - no Waitrose, no money for a new College. Ergo Sainsbury’s planning application had to be defeated.

However those are not legal or sufficient grounds for denying planning permission to Sainsbury’s. So instead we were subjected to arguments, from the planning officers of RCC about:

1. Loss of employment land. (Three hundred jobs are to be created)

2. The site is more suitable for B1 Office Development. (This site has been available for B1 Office use since 2001 and remains unused. Why? Because no one wants to build offices in the middle of nowhere if staff can’t even get a sandwich during their lunch break and have to negotiate an increasingly busy level crossing to get into the centre of town during a half hour lunch break – an impossibility.)

3. The employment of a foodstore is not as significant as would be created by the uses specified in the Local Plan. [B1 - Office use] (This is pie in the sky. This land has been available since 2001 and no offices have been built on the site. Undeveloped office land creates a 0% increase in employment. In fact the proposed store just uses up 8% of the whole area set aside for B1 Office Development. It would seem with the closure of Cottesmore and HMP Ashwell we are about to hit an economic slump of monstrous proportions. No company has been induced to build any offices on this site for over ten years. The logic of the officers’ arguments appears to be: ‘We want office jobs in the area, but since we can’t get offices into the area we won’t let anyone create retail jobs either.’ The people of Oakham desperately need bread today and the officers appear to be arguing in favour of a fantastical jam tomorrow project in the teeth of economic reality. I would argue that a Sainsbury supermarket is more likely to attract B1 Offices to the site. An employer is not going to believe it an attractive office site if there are no local amenities for staff to purchase emergency office supplies, petrol and sandwiches.)

4. Refusal is consistent with adopted Local Plan Policy and with Government Guidance in Planning Police Statement 4 [PPS4]. (There is some flexibility in that Planning Policy Statement 4 and anyway the PPS4 is ‘Guidance.’ A persuasive argument can me made that allowing a Sainsbury supermarket on the site will attract B1 office use in the longer term.)

5. The need for a foodstore of the scale proposed is marginal. (So let such a store be put on the margins of the town and attract visitors from rural destinations around the by-pass without clogging up the town centre. Conversely with the housing development at Hawkesmeade the site will no longer be so marginal).

6. PPS4 encourages main town centre uses in central locations. (Well why didn’t they say so earlier? Let’s just demolish the Castle and let Sainsbury’s build there. Or perhaps compulsorily purchase the land between Mill Street and the RCC, demolish the Museum and build a Sainsbury’s there. Surely huge great eyesores like Tesco. Waitrose, Sainsbury, Asda, Lidl, etc are better not polluting the aesthetic beauty of our town centres. No – it would seem that the planning officers have identified two alternate sites in the town – one on the Tim Norton site at the railway crossing and another, neither of which would seem to provide enough space in which to shoehorn a supermarket with petrol station. Anyway Land’s End Way is on a bus route and when the Hawkesmead estate opens, with small retail outlets in an edge of town development, the proposed Sainsbury site will no longer be so much ‘out of town’ as ‘edge of town.’ Quite the best place for an eyesore. Furthermore Waitrose proposes to build at the other end of Land’s End Way, not much nearer to the town centre, and you can bet your bottom dollar that planning permission will be recommended by the officers. I wonder why?)

7. A Sequential Assessment is required with any main town centre use proposed for a non-central location – i.e. are there more central sites that would be appropriate? (Already covered in 6 above – this argument was considered by the officers to be their clincher in turning down this planning application and much was made of it. It is merely a red herring, who wants to destroy our town centre with an eyesore? The architectural value of supermarkets is worse than a ‘carbuncle on the face of a very old friend.’ Supermarket architecture has all the charm of a Soviet bunker – except that Soviet bunkers are hidden below ground.

8. Refusal is in accordance with government guidance. (BUNKUM – it’s in accordance with the fact that Waitrose will get permission to build on the same road for some very short term financial considerations regarding a Further Education College’s relocation to Barleythorpe.)

The fact that Cllr Terry King, who pretends to sit on the fence, could be seen jubilating with Helen Briggs, the Chief Executive, after the meeting gave us a clue as to the real reasons behind this refusal. It’s time we asked the full Council to consider this planning application and only YOU the public can do that by popular demand. Write individually to each and every Councillor to demand that this application goes to the full Council. With luck that will happen after May and, with a following wind, all the Tory councillors, whipped in to vote against Sainsbury’s planning application, will have lost their seats. Only your letters and your votes can make a change in Rutland.

The meeting on 22 February was a disingenuous fiasco. The Rutland barn is full of foul smelling excrement. Let’s stop calling a spade ‘an excavating implement’ and let’s shovel this lot of ne’er do wells out of office, together with their jobsworth planning officers.


Thursday, 17 February 2011


Wednesday, 16 February 2011 at 7.30 PM

On accepting apologies once again, Cllr Swiffin’s apologies were presented and voted upon. However this time the Clerk and Mayor went to some lengths to say that Cllr Swiffin last attended a meeting on 15 September (having not attended many meetings in 2010 prior to that meeting) and that his tenure on this Parish Council would be subject to Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972 after 15th March 2011. That means that the six-month rule on absences from Council meetings will not kick in until 15th March. The elections are in May and I wonder whether Cllr Swiffin will be standing for re-election.

The opacity of the last meeting of this Parish Council a fortnight ago was much reduced. Councillors were on their best behaviour. At the end of my report on the last meeting I wrote:

“I would beg the Standards Committee to ensure that one of their number attends every Oakham Town Council meeting to ensure that such disrespect for the democratic process is not repeated.”

The Standards Committee are to be congratulated on ensuring that a repetition of the wilful and vicious opacity of the last meeting of this Parish Council did not recur. It is a pity that this could only have been due to the presence of Mr Grimes, of the Standards Committee, who was greeted heartily by his first name. It seems that only if a senior teacher is on duty in this unruly playground will these children behave with a little decorum and respect for the democratic process.

However members of the public were again not given access to the appendices on the Council’s agenda and so were still unable to work out the finer points of items under discussion.

In particular item16: INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND SITE BACK UP (Appendix II) To consider recommendations from the Council’s I T provider regarding the above and to decide whether to authorise:
(i) purchase of Network Attached Storage
(ii) Off site back up for Council documentation

After the meeting I was shown copies of emails by a member of the public; emails from Andrew Viney of Millenium Ltd, 17 Midland Court, Oakham LE15 6RD; to the Town Clerk, Richard White on the issue of item 16.

Both emails were dated 09 February 2011. The first email was sent at 09.19 and the second at 09.20. The first email gave three options for shared storage options:

1. Windows file sharing - £60 labour excluding VAT
2. Network attached strategy - £206.99 excluding VAT
3. Windows SBS server – cost between £1,500 and £3,000 depending on specification.

You will note that the agenda supposed that the Network Attached Storage - option 2 - was presupposed without considering items 1 and 3 or explaining the options to Councillors, who, I understand, did have a copy of these emails. However I must have missed the vote on (i) of item 16 of this agenda because I do not remember anyone actually proposing to vote for the second option on this email. Of course not having the appendices in front of one makes it very difficult to follow what is being discussed and what is being voted for.

The second email began:

“Richard, Further to your conversations with Nick please find prices for the managed online backup solution…

Prices per month: PC license £2.00
Per Gb £1,40”

The Clerk, Richard White, stated that only about 5Gb of information would need to be shared and stored, whether that was per month, annually or infinitely one could only guess. Cllr Adam Lowe did a quick calculation and worked out that this would mean a cost of around £9.00 per month.

The proposal was put to the meeting and seven Councillors voted to accept the quote with one, Cllr Lowe, voting against. Cllr Lowe did not speak on this item or explain why he had voted against it. But I was able to have a brief conversation, after the meeting closed, and it seems he has reservations on the lack of other tenders or quotes but feels too new to be able to properly grasp what is being done.

I too was more than a little confused and really wonder if the Clerk had made a decision prior to the meeting and just wanted his decision rubber stamped, with no possible quarter for discussion. That would beg the question - why?

But my own reservations go far deeper. Somehow the arrangement all seems rather too cosy. Who, for instance, is Nick? Does Nick have a surname and what is his connection to Millennium Ltd? Who are the Directors of Millennium Ltd, what sort of relationship do they have with Councillors or Officers? How close is Nick to the Clerk, Richard White? Is ‘Nick’ Cllr Nick Wainwright of Rutland County Council (DC)? If not, who is he? Has ‘Nick’ been leaving tasteless messages on Martin Brookes’ blog? Can we continue to tolerate a ‘no names no pack drill’ ethos on this Council?

Having asked for FOI data in the past I somehow doubt that this rather cosy arrangement, with a no surname seemingly local mate of the Clerk’s, can be truly relied upon for properly stored information retrievable for Freedom of Information purposes. Certainly copies of what I was given last year seemed to be incomplete.

So far as I was concerned Councillors voted on an expenditure of £9.00 per month and I completely missed a vote for item 2 on (i) of the agenda. Although Cllr Lowe voted against this item of expenditure he didn’t tell the meeting why he voted against it. Surely Cllr Lowe, having started so well in demanding fiscal probity with proper tenders and quotes, is not going to be cowed by an entrenched tradition of maladministration. Is he?

Item 12. LIBRARY TO CLOSE EARLY. It seems that RCC is proposing to cut the opening hours of Oakham library by two hours per week. A letter has been received asking for £2,500 from Oakham Town Council to subsidise the loss of these opening hours and continue to open during evenings when, through bad public transport, those who work outside the town might visit the library during the week. Oakham Town Council refused to augment the loss in budget and suggested that the library close an hour earlier on two of the three days when the library closes at 7pm. Since Mondays are unlikely to have a heavy footfall it would seem better to close at 5pm rather than 7 pm on Mondays in order to allow those who get back to Oakham after six pm to visit the library on Wednesdays and Fridays.

THE CLERK’S REPORT, under item 8, told us that there is to be a march past on 31 March for the two flights left at RAF Cottesmore as a final farewell. True to form Cllrs Dewis and Lucas made a bit of a song and dance over something the RAF itself seems to want to keep quite low key. We were told that the RAF is keen that this is not a repeat of the Freedom of Entry parade.

Cllr Lucas said: “My concern is that we have such a lot of armed forces retirees in Oakham… Such a shame for my husband and my neighbour.” I gather her husband and neighbour are both ex forces.

Frankly there is a sense of entitlement in those retirees from the forces who have settled in Oakham. The presence of people like ex-commando, ex-Councillor Paul Beech has been nothing if not a stain and a blot on the political complexion of Oakham. If men like that, who seem to think that being ex-forces allows them to transport the bullying ethos and anarchic thuggery of service life into the life of this town, had not been involved in local politics we might have a better run Parish Council.

I have recently been told by Martin Brookes, who assures me that he has blogged and has evidence that Rutland County Council’s ‘investment’ of M£2 with Brent Council (at half a per cent interest) coincided with, local business, Jeakins Weir’s contract payment from Brent Council. It may be remembered that a recent prize from the Conservative Association’s fund raising draw went to Col. Weir. When do coincidental loans or ‘investments’ of this order become political dynamite?

With our dilatory local press it seems this will never even become a political bone of contention.


Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Why is capitalism failing?

That we are in an economic recession, there is no doubt. That right wing politics and politicians come to the fore in times of economic recession is attested to by the History of the Third Reich. There is a laager mentality which ensues; “I’m alright Jack, blow you,” which becomes prevalent during such times. That corruption becomes rife, authorities deliberately wink at sharp practices, is attested to by the lack of political will to regulate the banking sector properly and of course the Andy Coulson debacle; where even our Prime Minister was prepared to wink and give Andy Coulson a ‘second chance.’

Our Government tells us that we all have to bear the burden of the economic recession. However, our Government fails to see the obvious; that the ordinary worker never benefited during the economic boom. Labour imported migrants, which kept profits high and wages down, so playing into the hands of the fat cats who tried to keep wages to £6.00 per hour or below. These workers, many of whom are working for viable business which the banks are refusing to give loans to, are facing redundancy, higher fuel prices and higher VAT on those fuel prices. Can this Government not see that the burden cannot be borne by the poor? They bore poverty during the boom years and have no fat to cut during this recession.

In a rural area, like Rutland, there is no Job Centre at all. It is considered that £65 per week is sufficient to keep body and soul together, whilst trying to heat that body. Those on the poverty line are trying to live on cold food to save electricity, turning off their fridges to save electricity, giving up their televisions to save money and still they are not able to make ends meet. This Government, having decided that the minimum to keep a person alive is £65 per week, rising in April by some £2.00, deliberately winks at the policy of having closed Job Centres, so making the rural poor pay from £6.00 to £10 in travel costs to sign on in order to receive their paltry subsidy. These travel costs are not taken into account by any Government, so each person who has to travel to sign on is surviving on less than the bare minimum the Government considers it possible to live on - of £65 per week.

I joined the Conservative Party under Ted Heath and frankly that Party would now be considered unconscionably Socialist in its care for the poor, its commitment to the National Health Service and a level playing field in education. Our best Universities are embracing academic decline as they raise their fees to £9,000 per annum, so making an education, once more, a privilege for those who can afford it, rather than merit it. It is time those who do have fat to cut are made to acknowledge that too many people are being made to live well below the poverty line, the real poverty line which means that at the end of a fortnight there are three or four days in which even pasta at 28p a packet or stale bread reduced to 30p a packet is beyond their means. It is time we addressed the endemic corruption, which relegates more and more people to the ‘sin of poverty’ and started demanding that we no longer wink at the felonies of capitalism stripped, as it has become, of moral virtue or ethical considerations.

Corruption impoverishes us further and it is time we took action against companies who gain insider information about PFI contracts for say the Air Ambulance Service; ex-military or corrupt police types who set themselves up as ‘private eyes’ and tap our phones and correspondence; banks who pull the rug on viable companies and cricketers who bowl no-balls for profit. These are just the visible tip of a very destructive ice-berg which is holing the Ship of State. We are closing our eyes and ears to all the alarm bells in the hope that the holes won’t sink us.

We are sinking and, whilst the first-class passengers are jumping into the lifeboats, the rest of us are facing a very bleak future.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Report on Oakham Town Council Meeting 2 February 2011

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 February 2011 at 7.30 PM

Last night’s meeting of Oakham Town Council was most notable for the deliberate opaqueness which Councillors conducted their business. If an item on the agenda could be fudged or alluded to in the most obscure manner some Councillors appeared to take great delight in doing so. Furthermore it seemed to me that the Mayor and Councillor Dewis had come to some sort of agreement to be as passively aggressive as they could when avoiding correct procedure, knowing this would provoke ex-Councillor Martin Brookes, who has campaigned tirelessly for correct procedures to be followed. The Council started by accepting apologies from Cllr George Swiffin, who has not attended meetings for some time. The six-month rule appears to have been deliberately overlooked and members of the Council took great delight in proposing, seconding and accepting his apologies once more.

There were just two of us sitting on the public benches, we need more witnesses to this outrageous effort to ensure that accountability and transparency is avoided. Under the sadly less than brilliant chairmanship of the Mayor, Councillor Sharon Spencer, we reached item 9: Deputations by the Public and the Mayor looked at me inviting me, I assumed, to make some sort of speech on a petition I had delivered earlier in the day. I had not intended to say anything but merely said that I trusted that all Councillors had received a copy of a petition nominating Martin Brookes for his ‘Services to the Community’ (in writing his blog and particularly citing his commitment to ensuring transparency and accountability in local government). It was confirmed that the very efficient Deputy Town Clerk had indeed photocopied and distributed the nomination to all Councillors.

When we reached Item 11: ‘High Sheriff’s certificate for ‘Service to the Community’ the Mayor, rather pointedly, said that the Oakham Town Council, not the public, had been asked to make the nominations and invited nominations from Councillors, so justifying her decision to ignore the nomination of Martin Brookes by members of the public. Someone called Tommy Southern(?) was nominated although no one felt it appropriate to give the citation. All that we, on the public benches, could ascertain was that he was around 100 years old and that he qualified since he was alive during the 60 years of the Queen’s reign. If Tommy Southern(?) has done great service in the community the Councillors did not feel it right to explain what that service might have been. Councillors were not asked to vote on the public petition, nominating Martin Brookes, and after proposing and seconding Tommy Suthern(?) they then proceeded to ask for more nominations, rather than ascertaining which candidates were to be nominated and then voting on all candidates. I do wonder whether they realise quite how defective their voting procedure is. Unfortunately the Clerk doesn’t appear to understand voting procedures either, so the advice the Council receives from its trained officer is lamentable too. Having refused to consider Martin Brookes there was only one other nomination, but we, the public, did not know that Councillors would only be nominating two candidates. It all smelt of a private pre-meeting by allegedly non-political Councillors. However, rather more credibly, Cllr Lorna Gray then said she would nominate Pam Gilbert for her services to the Guides over a long period of time. At least we knew why Pam Gilbert was being nominated.

I am told that the next High Sheriff is to be someone called Peter Lawson who was ‘big’ in Arts for Rutland. It ill behoves a High Sheriff to ask a handful of people, who are rather shaky on Standing Orders and voting procedures, to nominate people known personally to them. I would have thought it more usual for the public to be asked for their views through the local press. Heigh Ho - never mind.

Item 12 FUTURE MEETINGS – To agree on an amended schedule of meetings up to the Local Government Elections due to be held on May 5th 2011. The Mayor, Sharon Spencer said: “Proposed changes are before you. Any comments?” As a member of the public I certainly did not have a copy of the proposed changes which were before the Council. The Council agreed to hold a Meeting on the 27th,whether that was the Annual Meeting or some other meeting I’m still not clear. However, we, in the public benches, were not aware which month they meant either. It could have been 27th of February, March, April or May. Since no month was given we were completely in the dark. Martin Brookes, from the public benches then asked: “What month.” At which the Mayor, Sharon Spencer, adjusted her shoulders, with all the nonchalance of a prize-fighter and replied to him: “Mr Brookes you know you’re not meant to ask questions.”

Clearly Martin Brookes was meant to be provoked and the Mayor was leading the attack. A sad day for the chain of office and an abuse of her position; her vendetta against Mr Brookes became palpable at this point. Cllr Alf Dewis turned around and smirked at us. Cllr Dewis has a wonderful smirk, full of menace and ill concealed belligerence.

The opaque and obscure dissemination of information constituted a clear and deliberate effort to exclude those on the public benches from discovering which month was being suggested. This truculent, confrontational, hostile and fractious Mayor was not doing her public duty in chairing the meeting. Sharon Spencer was purposefully and consciously aiming to ensure that we, the public, were not privy to what had been decided and this constitutes a calculated and intentional attempt to duck transparency.

This is not good enough.

Item 13 FLORAL DISPLAY AND WATERING CONTRACTS. It was decided that this year the Council would split this contract into two separate contracts. The Deputy Mayor, Mark Woodcock, appeared to ruffle an awful lot of feathers when he proposed that both contracts go out to tender, rather than be put by invitation to selected businesses on the Council’s register of approved companies. Sharon Spencer offered Mark Woodcock an opportunity to change his proposal, which he tacitly declined to do. The Mayor mentioned a ‘tight schedule’ by way of encouragement to Cllr Woodcock, to amend the proposal from an open tender. The Mayor then suggested: “What about approaching local companies?” Mark Woodcock was adamant – “Open tender with advertisements in the Rutland Times and Rutland Mercury.” So there it was, much to the consternation of Alf Dewis and Sharon Spencer – invitations to tender could be made to local businesses but it was also to be an open tender after all. Quite what had been going on behind the scenes one could only surmise.

Item 15 REQUEST FROM OAKHAM HOME GARDENS AND ALLOTMENT SOCIETY. The more I see of Cllr Adam Lowe the more impressed I am; a local manager of a business and a Special Constable. At an earlier meeting of the Council he had expressed doubts at the request for a subsidy of £600 towards renewing the fencing (some 84 metres) around the allotment, particularly since only one quote seemed to have been sought. He had volunteered to visit the site at the last meeting, and the Clerk had ensured that he too went along. Cllr Lowe proposed that the Council should agree to subsidise new fencing subject to ensuring that three quotes were sought. Cllr Lowe said: “If we give them money we need to know that money is spent wisely and three tenders are necessary.” He went on to point out that this would also be “fairer” and asked that the quotes be given to the Town Council. Hooray! At last we have one Councillor who understands that money can’t be thrown at projects without some sort of fiscal probity. What a ray of hope and light, without Cllr Lowe’s intervention, at the last meeting, we might once again have distributed Council largesse without ensuring proper financial accountability. Cllr Lowe’s description of what was being discussed was clear, to the point, sensible and easily understood by those on the public benches. He did not dissemble, talk in riddles and code or try to make his report to the Council opaque; a refreshing interlude of clarity in an evening of otherwise deliberate opacity.

By Item 16 CORE STRATEGY INVOLVEMENT AND HEARINGS even Cllr Dodds said she was ‘confused’ at the half communicated allusions to the item under discussion. Cllr Dodds was firmly shut up by the Mayor when she tried to insist that, under item 18: HOLLAND’S FAIR, the Fair use their own generators, rather than plug into the bandstand electricity point. She had anticipated item (ii) prior to considering (i) whether the fair should be held at all and what price was to be charged - £300. However, I would have thought it essential for Councillors to have known whether Hollands Fair would be using the electricity in the bandstand before voting on the price to be paid for the use of Cutts Close. It became obvious that some sort of strategy had been decided, prior to the meeting, on how to conduct the business of the evening.

Only Cllr Tor Clark voted against holding the Fair in Cutts Close. I rather think this was because he had, in the past, voted against the Cottesmore Hunt using Cutts Close and is determined to show a degree of consistency in his voting practices. But I might write to him to ascertain whether this is the case.

At item 18 (ii), rather than allow Cllr Dodds to propose that the bandstand electricity point should not be used by Holland’s Fair, Cllr Alf Dewis, with some rather over hasty alacrity, made the proposal - leaving Cllr Dodds standing at the starting gate. Cllr Dewis is always extremely keen to be seen to make a proposal ahead of the rest of the pack, but if seeing his name in print on the minutes gives him a small thrill then perhaps it would be churlish to cavil at a little minor juvenile enthusiasm for the apparent notoriety he seeks in appearing in the minutes as a ‘proposer’. I don't know, perhaps we shouldn’t try to deny him these small pleasures. Certainly the pleasure he gains by deliberately provoking Martin Brookes is more to be damned and in this he again succeeded at the end of the evening when the vote was put to exclude the public at item 21 to exclude the public from Item 22: OAKHAM FITNESS CENTRE.

Martin Brookes asked if someone would let us know when we would be readmitted to the meeting. Rather than allow the Mayor to answer Cllr Dewis said: “You can come back in in the morning and ask the Clerk tomorrow.” Cllr Dodds also said “You can ask Richard tomorra.” Cllrs Dewis and Dodds made it clear that they did not want the public back into the meeting after we had left. Martin Brookes is a bit of a stickler for correct procedure – and rightly so. Cllr Dewis seems to treat the local Council as his private fiefdom and is rather dismissive of standing orders or correct procedure, as are many other Councillors, including the Mayor. Martin Brookes pointed out to Cllr Dewis that it is usual to tell the public what decision has been taken, in camera, before closing the meeting – something, Martin Brookes pointed out to Cllr Alf Dewis that the RCC abides by with religious regularity. He also pointed out that Cllr Dewis often attends RCC meetings and knows what the procedure is. Jutting his chin out and smirking Cllr Dewis began to raise his voice – we left Very kindly Cllr Lowe said he would let us know when we could come back into the meeting.

The item Councillors wished to discuss in camera was: ‘Item 22: OAKHAM FITNESS CENTRE – To discuss various matters and to decide on an appropriate way forward.’ Clear as mud - another very obscure agenda item. This Council clearly does not relish public scrutiny. True to his word Cllr Lowe invited us back into the meeting. However the Mayor, intent on avoiding telling the public what had been decided, merely closed the meeting without any explanation of what decision had been made. I stood up after the meeting closed and said: “Madam Chairman you ought to tell us what decision you came to on item 22.” Pursing her lips in a thin line, Cllr Sharon Spencer replied: “We discussed the Fitness Centre. We deferred it to the next meeting. There’s nothing to tell you.” My reply was: “So tell us that before you close the meeting.” Cllr Dewis smirked at Martin Brookes with his usual provocative aggressive defiance. Unfortunately Cllr Dewis’ provocation finally hit its mark. He, it was, who had erroneously suggested that we come back in the morning to ascertain what had been discussed.

This Council needs a great deal of public scrutiny. Their resentment at following Standing Orders and allowing their actions to be understood is reprehensible. Their insistence on absolute privacy in policy decisions is not only disrespectful to the public, it smacks of a tyrannical mindset. It should be remembered that this Mayor said she was intent on attaining a ‘gold standard’ for this Parish Council. Unfortunately, with a democratically ill-educated cavalier coterie at the core of the Council, it is unlikely that even base metal could be forged into any sort of medal of democratic attainment. I would beg the Standards Committee to ensure that one of their number attends every Oakham Town Council meeting to ensure that such disrespect for the democratic process is not repeated. Unfortunately Martin Brookes was less than equable in his condemnation of Cllr Dewis’ smirking countenance after the meeting had been closed, but this meeting was nothing if not far short of the correct standards locals should expect from their Parish Councillors. Had the press been in attendance it might have made a difference. On the few occasions the press have attended the business of the evening has been better conducted. Unfortunately the press rely on regurgitated Council press releases, via the Journalism Lecturer, Cllr Tor Clark, to report the news in Oakham. You’d think Mr Clark’s journalistic grasp of correct democratic procedures might make him something of a stickler for accountability to the public. Wouldn’t you?

Saturday, 29 January 2011

High Sheriff's certificate for 'Services to the Community'

On the Oakham Parish Council notice board, outside Victoria Hall is an item on the agenda for next Wednesday. It seems the High Sheriff has asked for two nominations to award certificates to ordinary citizens of Oakham for 'Services to the Community.'

Unfortunately the High Sheriff appears to be relying on local Councillors to forward the names of two nominees to him, rather than accept all nominations direct. This item will come up for discussion at Wednesday's meeting - 2nd February.

If you know anyone worth nominating it might be an idea to register your interest and write to the local Council at the Victoria Hall, or even deliver a nomi9nation in good time, prior to Wednesday's meeting. The deadline for doing so may be before the meeting.

Please nominate someone you think really deserves this certificate!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Public Meeting report - 19 January 2011

The public Consultancy Meeting on the RCC Budget took place last night. Around fifty local residents attended and about 16 Councillors and staff were in attendance. Rutland spends around M£30 each year – a drop in the ocean in comparison to other Unitary Authorities, like Peterborough. RCC had invited Rob Pisani of Rutland Radio to take the microphone.

One often wonders at the lack of unbiased press coverage of local government affairs on Radio and in the local papers. To have a presenter, whose day job is primarily on Rutland Radio, effectively directing the proceedings; asking questions submitted by the public, which, apart from a couple of exceptions, had to be submitted in advance; leads one to suspect that the role of the local press is far too close to government to be entirely healthy.

A supplementary question about transparent public accountability in open, rather than closed, Council meetings on .106 planning decisions was glossed over by Rob Pisani, who moved on to the next question without asking Councillors to give an answer.

We, the public, were asked to vote on which two, of seven, areas of local government we would wish to impose financial cuts. The choice was a farce; this was merely a public relations initiative, notable only for its incompetence and woolly thinking.

For instance if one looked at some of the spending on culture over the last year one might choose to cut the initiative which sent some lucky Rutland residents to the Curve Theatre in Leicester. However choosing to cut the culture budget in its entirety was one of only seven options offered to us, the public. Should we choose to cut the culture budget our libraries will have reduced opening hours and fewer (not less as Roger Begy stated) staff. The public vote was not worth voting on and most thinking members of the audience declined to participate in this farce.

The financial presentation was poor. We were told that if we build more housing we will get a Central Government grant. That grant was given as around £600,000 gross. What was not taken into account was that more housing, provided it is filled given our poor public transport services, will require more education, healthcare and social services expenditure. So the net cost of building many more houses had not been properly calculated. We were being asked to make crude decisions based upon faulty figures.

Had we been given 320 projects on which money is to be spent; given more accurate financial data and been a Greek style democratic process we might have been able to vote with some perception. As it was I do hope that RCC does not think that, of the fifty residents attending, there is anything like ‘the people have spoken’ in the farce of a vote in which we were being asked to participate. For those unable to attend last night’s meeting, Roger Begy will be outside Tesco and the Co-op on Saturday morning and others will be in Uppingham. Please do bear in mind that your local elections are coming up in May and that this exercise is not really about anything more than a rough and ready attempt at early electioneering. Thoughtful disinterested people with something to offer, other than self-interest, are urged to stand in those elections. It is time we had a democratic coup; it is more than time to replace the veterans who have so ably messed up our County. This rump has sat too long.

When it was pointed out that we are spending just over M£30 this financial year, an election year for the Council, which reduced to just over M£28 for the following two financial years and increases to M£32 in 2015, another election year, Roger Begy, leader of the Council became quite heated in his condemnation of the questioner. However I was very impressed that he was able, through the red mist, to remember my name.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Antiquated Student - Happy New Year

A plae is being made for local people to stand in the forthcoming Council elections in May - Martin Brookes has all the information on his blog. However following that plea I thought it might, by way of a little New Year hilarity, be amusing to share a face book entry on ex-Councillor Beech's facebook page. In answer to a question about whether Paul Beech had done much external reading on his Criminology course at Leicester University Paul Beech wrote the following reply:

From - Paul Beech

Went into uni last week to collect more books but it just piles up. I haven't had time to type anything up. I'm reading my notes and listening to some seminars I recorded, and it's far too much for an old man - it's a nightmare. Carol and... me are off to a piss-up in a brewery on Friday with a few of my ex army mates, including Brian, so I don't think I'll be doing much studying over the weekend. We are driving down to Dorset on Friday with a couple of nights in a nice hotel and off to the Badger Brewery for a mates 60th birthday on Saturday. The daytime won't be sober either. It's not all bad though, I'll be pretty senceless on Monday when I have my shoulder injected to rid it of the pain, not that after the weekend it's likely to have any feeling in it anyway. When you asked about external reading, did you mean outside. It's been raining here and I thought the pages would get wet.

If antiquated students of this calibre are gaining entry to University then perhaps we are right to limit student intake.