The truth about Hillingdon Council’s ‘Financial Prudence’

Hillingdon council cabinetOur national debt recently exceeded the £1.5 trillion mark – We spend more money in interest payments on the debt annually than we do on defence. Locally, our Conservative Council constantly tell you about their outstanding financial record in much the same way as their national party do at Westminster. ‘Council tax frozen’ is one of their favourite cries, neglecting to mention that Hillingdon levies one of the highest council tax bills in London already.

Their ‘financial prudence’ claims are further tested by the write off of £2.5 million of your money in 2011 in a failed Icelandic Bank, with millions still owing from Landsbanki and Heritable.

 

Continue reading

Ray Puddifoot – Strong leader, aloof bureaucrat or poor communicator?

Yesterday I highlighted a number of issues in Charville ward in Hayes surrounding potholes, flytipping and lack of grasscutting on the UKIP Hillingdon website. Because of the council website constantly flagging up ‘error’ when reported, I wrote the post and as stated sent a link through to relevant people by email to address the problems.

Romney Rd alleyway H3 dumping 2Those people included the three ward councillors, the local MP, the councillor listed as being responsible for heritage and environment and the council leader, Ray Puddifoot MBE.

Below is the email that I sent

Good afternoon
As the LB Hillingdon website is once again refusing to allow me to notify issues in Charville ward, please find below a link to said issues that we have highlighted on our website
I would appreciate it if these can be passed on to the relevant departments and email addresses for said departments made available so I can rectify future issues with them directly
A local resident would also like to bring to your attention a skip that has been outside Romney Parade for 6 months and is now a serious rodent hazard. (Pictures attached)
I have copied Cllr Markham in as environment champion at the council
Thanks for your assistance

Continue reading

There is being a busy MP – Then there is being an expensive liability

On Page 2 of The Gazette last week, local Hayes Reporter Jack Griffith paid tribute to John McDonnell MP for submitting the most Early Day Motions in the House of Commons, and responding to the most, in the current parliament sitting – A grand total of 544, of which he was a primary sponsor on 20 and a sponsor on 113.

These figures look truly impressive – After all, in the wake of the expenses scandal, many of us look at MP’s as being overpaid and underworked windbags, even though in some cases the reality is far removed from the perception. Surely, Mr McDonnell is showing how hard he is working for the local community?

Actually, further investigation reveals a slightly different story. Early Day motions are a way of getting a subject that you care about brought in front of the house for debate – If you get enough respondents to an EDM, then the house has to debate what you have brought up in more depth.

So, what vitally important things has John McDonnell brought to the attention of the representatives of this country, and at what level of success?

EDM258A1 was brought about the state of the ticket office at Ealing Underground Station (Note, Ealing and NOT Hayes,Ruislip or Uxbridge) – This got 1 respondent (McDonnell himself)

EDM319 was about pay differences on board British merchant ships depending on race – This got 20 supporters.

EDM564 was about the first anniversary of the closure of a wind turbine plant on the Isle of Wight, and got a massive 16 supporters.

EDM633 referred to the arrest of Reza Shahabi in Iran, a local union leader – This got 33 supporters.

The catalogue continues, with motions about Underground staffing, The UK Film Council, the Parliament Peace Camp, a congratulation of a media mogul – All of which got minimal support.

So why does this matter so much?Well, I can give you three reasons as follows….

Firstly, not one of the EDM’s that John McDonnell has brought up directly affects the people of Hayes and Harlington, who he claims to represent. Where are the EDM’s about lack of housing, rising crime, increase in class numbers and cuts to the budgets for education,the NHS and  housing?

Secondly, each EDM costs approximately £800 to put up – So 544 EDM’s equals £435,200 of taxpayers money, £16,000 of which was directly triggered by him and he co-sponsored £90,400 worth of expenses.

Finally, there was one EDM that I feel sure all English patriots would have liked further discussion on – That was EDM1083 that was put forward to debate a bank holiday for England on St George’s Day. John McDonnell, supposedly a ‘local MP for local people’, voted against this one, although he does like to celebrate St Patrick’s Day every year – Nothing wrong with that, but why then deny the English their day? Especially when you are supposedly the ‘only local candidate to stand for MP in Hayes & Harlington’.

To their shame, both John Randall (MP – Uxbridge) and Nick Hurd (MP – Ruislip and Northwood) also failed to back this EDM.

But then, having a sense of pride and community is not what any of the old three political parties want.

Do they really serve you?

The way local government works is a mystery to many people, and since getting involved in politics earlier this year I have certainly had my eyes opened about the realities of the way things are run in Hillingdon.

Regular visitors to the site will know that the English Democrats are pushing for a referendum on elected council leaders (Or executive mayors as they are known) throughout England in areas where they do not already exist.

Below is a quick rundown on how the system works, and how our current model of ‘strong leader’ works in Hillingdon…

INTRODUCTION TO THE

DIRECTLY ELECTED MAYORAL SYSTEM

 

The possibility of having directly elected Executive Mayors was introduced in the Local Government Act 2000.

THE UK currently has 12 directly elected mayors – the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has recently voted for a mayoral system but has not yet elected one.

Several Mayors are independents and are not beholden to an Establishment Party. Ken Livingstone won in London as an independent after the Labour Party refused to endorse him. Stuart Drummond, Hartlepool United’s club mascot H’Angus the Monkey, won in 2002 on the back of a jokey campaign. He has been re-elected twice since and is doing an excellent job for his town. Former senior policeman Ray Mallon won in Middlesborough as an independent in 2002 and won re-election in the recent election by a landslide. Two district councils have mayors: Watford and Mansfield.

The authorities for local governance are:-

1.         Councillor Committees

This is the old Committee system and has been widely criticised as being too slow and too lacking in transparency.

2.         Elected Mayor

The mayor is directly elected by all the local authority’s voters and serves for four years. He or she would choose up to 10 councillor as cabinet members. The mayor cannot be removed from office by councillors.

3.         Council leader

By contrast to the directly elected Mayor the Council leader is secretly elected by the councillors of the local ruling party. The council continues to carry out business through committees, chaired by Councillors chosen by the local ruling party. Whichever party has the largest number of councillors will also have a majority representation in each committee. All decisions made at committee meetings must be adopted at the next statutory council meeting. The Council leader can be removed by the council during his/her term of office by a majority vote and so is beholden for his position to the largest party on the Council and so answers to them and not to the wider electorate.

 

A directly elected Mayor can take decisions with a Cabinet of a few councillors appointed by the elected Mayor

 

The Mayor would be elected for a four year term by all residents eligible to vote in local elections.

The local authorities “Executive” (or “Cabinet”) would be made up of between three and ten councillors, including the elected Mayor. 

Elections for Councillors would be held as they are now.

Councillors would have a role in the scrutiny of the Mayor’s decisions on major issues, including the council tax and major policy decisions.  Committees of councillors would continue on planning, licensing and regulatory functions.  Otherwise the Mayor would be free to decide how decisions were made, and the Mayor and his Cabinet would take most decisions on a day to day basis instead of committees of councillors.

Councillors who are not members of the executive would continue to have some important functions, including representing their local communities.  They could monitor and comment on the performance of the Mayor and Cabinet – the scrutiny role referred to above. 

 

  • The new Mayor would provide local political leadership
  • The Mayoral system provides a single, accountable leader directly responsible to the voters
  • Faster decision making
  • Power to get policies into place quickly
  • A fixed four year term ensures some continuity with direct accountability to voters

 

 So, we now have a choice on how our local area is run – Except that the powers that be at the Civic Centre really don’t want you to know this.

I would like to say a big thank you at this point to Peter Silverman, who runs the Hillingdon Watch website. Peter has made it clear to me that he is not a supporter of The English Democrats, and does not share our vision for a devolved England and English Parliament. However, he is very passionate about local government accountability, and we all owe him a debt for his sterling work on the site, and his uncovering of how the local elite have tried to cover over the opportunity for local people to have their say. Both a council run survey, and one that Peter bankrolled from his own pocket, have shown that the people of Hillingdon would like a referendum on an elected council leader – However, the ruling party in Hillingdon have tried to cover over the opportunity for everyone to have their say by excusing it as being ‘not of sufficient interest’ and by running their survey in an underhand and slipshod manner.

Proof of this is evident on the website on the following link….

http://www.hillingdon-watch.org.uk/html/leader_or_mayor.html 

I don’t know about you, but I am one of the breed that bristles when people try to tell me they know best without giving me a say on the matter.

If you want to send a message to our arrogant council leaders, who insist that they know best irrespective of us not having been given a say, then please print off and sign the petition for a referendum on an elected executive leader for Hillingdon. Whether you think this is a good idea or not, surely you deserve to be heard?

Housing Strategy – In need of a rethink?

Another week, and more confused messages in Hillingdon regarding housing. 

Recently, West Drayton and South Hayes were designated as ‘The Heathrow Opportunity Area’ by Hillingdon Council, enabling the building of offices and hotels with minimum requirements for planning permission to be sought, leading to fears of West Drayton High Street becoming a carbon copy of the A4 Bath Road. 

I have pointed out before that this is a flawed strategy – After all, we have an abundance of empty office space in the Borough, but affordable housing is at a premium due to the combination of an increased birth rate and mass immigration. 

However, if we take this on face value, and the Council strategy is to build up industry in West Drayton, then surely some of that excess office space in Uxbridge could be converted to residential use? Not according to the planners at Hillingdon Council, who have thrown out a plan to convert disused office space in Rockingham Road to flats, despite it having been empty for years and unlikely to be filled due to increased competition from newer office ‘parks’ on the Oxford Road.

Apparently, the planning committee felt that this would be an unacceptable loss of employment land, that it is mainly an industrial area, and that there were not enough local amenities for children.

With both Fassnidge Park and Rockingham Recreation Ground a short walk away, and substantial housing estates within a stones throw, it begs the question – Do they really know the area? 

Now we have the revelation that there are plans to loosen the laws governing houses of multiple occupation (HMO’s), encouraging small investors to buy up the remaining 3 and 4 bed housing stock on the market and then converting it to flats to make the maximum profit. This again decreases the amount of family orientated properties available, and encourages overcrowding and the breakdown of community ties. 

For once, I am in complete agreement with Hayes & Harlington MP John McDonnell, who has challenged this decision in The House of Commons, and called for the retention of the laws that mean planning permission must be sought before conversion of housing stock to HMO’s. 

So, what is the answer to our housing problems in the Borough? With straightened finances and cuts looming, I would at least suggest suspending mass immigration for now, with any new arrivals having to prove that they already have housing and employment arranged, and the means to support themselves. 

With new developments then coming on stream at the old NATS site in Porters Way, and the Hayes & Yeading football ground in Church Road, we really need to look at how ‘affordable’ housing is allocated to those on the waiting lists – The system has been abused for years, with hard working families penalised in favour of the feckless who play the system to get housed on ‘need’. 

Do the planners have the drive, direction and clarity of purpose to solve the problems? I hope so, but current events do not back up such optimism.

Council Spending – Value for money?

I have not been very impressed with the new coalition government so far, but one thing I do applaud them for is the new legislation that states that the local council has to declare to the public what they are spending our money on.

I spent some time this afternoon going through the August list for Hillingdon on the website, www.hillingdon.gov.uk/over500

There is some interesting information on here – Such as a £7000 payment to Starbucks (UK) Ltd, and a payment of £5859.34 to The GMB union and another £12890.41 payment to UNISON.

£7000 on coffee? I know that it aids alertness (Especially in the mornings), but that kind of spending would wake up Rip Van Winkle! As for paying nearly £18000 to trade unions – I thought that the brothers paid for their membership , not the taxpayer?

Massive amounts are also spent on residential care for the elderly – This I do applaud the council for, as our senior citizens have paid their dues and deserve the best care that can be afforded for them. However, in Scotland this expense is paid for by central rather than local government, out of  taxation funded by the English via ‘The Barnett Formula’.

If Ray Puddifoot and his cabinet really do mean what they say when they claim to be getting the best value for our money, then they should challenge the coalition to release central funds for English pensioners in the way that they do for their Scottish counterparts – Along with establishing a ‘kitty’ for the employees to pay for their own coffee and union subscriptions!

Anti-Social behaviour – Is it really in decline?

According to page 23 of Pravda (Sorry, I mean the Council’s glossy magazine,Hillingdon People), ‘Levels of anti-social behaviour are falling in Hillingdon’. This assertion is based on ‘research undertaken with residents in the borough’

This begs the question – With whom, and where in the Borough, was this research carried out? A six month dispersal order was recently imposed in Yeading between Willow Tree Lane and Maple Road, and in September 8th’s Gazette, another dispersal order was reported for Hayes Town. Now, in today’s Gazette, it is reported that yet another dispersal order is to come in to effect in Columbia Avenue, between Eastcote and Ruislip Manor.

This hardly seems to tally  with the council’s official line – After all, if anti-social behaviour is in decline, why the need for so many new dispersal areas? Indeed, as some members of the local community have commented to me, the dispersal area’s don’t actually achieve anything, as the behaviour is just shunted further down the road to the next area.

So what is the solution? Blatantly obvious, I would have thought – More uniformed Police Officers back on the beat, rather than in the station filling in paperwork,and more activities for our young people to participate in thus taking them off the streets.

Whether our council will adopt this common sense attitude, especially with the anticipated cuts in public spending coming up, remains to be seen.

Hillingdon council – Is this democracy?

I like to keep up with what my local council are doing. Much was made recently of some of the council spending post election on TV’s for offices and murals at the Civic Centre, which got me to thinking about who gets to authorise all this. If you check the council website, and also as published lately in Hillingdon People Magazine, there are 65 councillors in the Borough, of whom 46 are Conservative and until recently 19 were Labour (Now 18 whilst one of their number is on suspension from the party). The council is run by a cabinet of 10, all of whom are Conservative, and none of whom were elected by voters in the South of the Borough. Surely, if there are 10 cabinet members, and the stat’s above represent voting patterns across the Borough, then at least 3 should be Labour to represent the spread of public opinion? Yet this does not happen, and what is more, it leaves a section of the borough disenfranchised.The leader of the council is elected not by the people, but by other politicians, and can only be removed by other politicians so long as he retains his councillor status in what is effectively a ‘safe’ seat.
So how can this situation be rectified, and how can democracy be served for ALL of the people of Hillingdon?
A little known statute from 2000 allows for the election of an Executive Mayor, who has similar powers to the leader of the council and can select his own cabinet, but is voted in to office by the people. So, if you don’t agree with certain spending or policy, you can vote him out of office in the same way that you can remove your councillor or MP.
Some councils already have an Executive mayor (Including our neighbours in Watford), and so have a much bigger say in how their area is run.

I am organising a petition to call for a referendum on an elected Mayor for Hillingdon – For more information, please contact me via email

Jobs to go at Hillingdon Council?

Much has been made in the local press about the possibility of job losses at the Civic Centre, but no-one seems to know what is happening. Will there be job losses? Will they be on the front line, or will they be where in my opinion they should be, in the back office administration? How much money does Hillingdon council need to save, and how are they going to save it?

One thing is for certain – We won’t get a straight answer from the current leader of Hillingdon council. I wrote in to the local Gazette this week, who kindly printed my letter, asking Councillor Puddifoot to come clean over what the council plan in terms of job losses. He has consistently stated in interviews that there will be no need for wholesale cuts due to the council being prudent with our tax money, most recently in the Gazette on 4th August when he said that rumours of mass redundancies were ‘nonsense’. Yet in the same paper on 18th August, one of the director’s has been made redundant and it has been confirmed by the Unison union that 57 staff were being consulted about their futures as their roles have been ‘scrapped’.

So, what is really going on Councillor Puddifoot? Will our local services stay intact as you have promised, or is this just more rhetoric in the way that the ‘nonsense’ of staff redundancies appears to be?

The people of Hillingdon pay your wages, now is the time to be truthful with us – If the reality is that cuts are coming, please have the courtesy to tell us.