Thursday, 29 April 2010

Harold Tinworth-gate

Everything's got to be a 'gate' these days so who am I to spoil the party?

So. Harold Tinworth. Who he? I hear you clamour.

Surprise surprise he's another consultant who's made quite a packet from NCC. £111k over four years according to the 'Post', which was where I first heard of him. I blogged about this briefly at the time.

Anyway, publicly at least, the Tories' angle seemed to be that JoCo needed a 'personal mentor' ner ner ne ner ner whereas Collins' defence was basically that no he didn't, not like some of those wimpy Chief Execs he'd got rid of in the past.

But that seemed to me to miss the point which is that there is a distinct lack of a paper trail for approving over £25k pa expenditure on behalf of NCC and as such, there's a bit of a stinky fish.

So I stuck in a Freedom of Info request and I've just got something back. While quite interesting, it doesn't get us much further forward on this most important point.

The interesting bit is the copy of the memo they sent me which seems to reflect a certain amount of discomfort that existed at the sort of work HT was doing. The official drafting the memo says, with some very classy understatement -

"Perhaps it is the fact that certain Executive Member/Senior Officer working relationships are not as close as in previous regimes, which brings this issue into spotlight?"

This was all around the time covered by the Hardmoor Associates report that famously described NCC as dysfunctional.

But the thing is, that's all this document is, a memo. It's not a Portfolio Holder's decision which it should be at the very least, considering the level of expenditure. So NCC have failed to provide the most important document that would get JoCo off the hook. Now, why do you think that could be?

Well, I'm chasing it up with NCC via the FoI process so hopefully we'll soon find out. Or not so soon more likely. Due to their failure to respond within the time limit it's already at the review stage so I've given them until the time limit for that to run out to get any further stuff to me. That runs out (I think) on 21 May.

In the meantime, marvel at the fact that Mr Tinworth's fees went from £600/day in December 2005 to £680/day by July 2008, an increase of over 13% in little more than 2 1/2 years. Compare and contrast with the sort of settlements local government employees have had over the same time period. After October 2008 NCC goes all secretive blaming 'commercial interests' which suggests to me there was another price rise after that.

As we say often around here, nice work if you can get it.

Notts Police Authority Meeting Today

There is a further meeting of NPA today to discuss, amongst other things, the appointment of Alan Given to the 'Change Manager' post. This should have been decided at the previous meeting but members got the jitters over his contract.

The main bit of extra info that seems to have come out is that NPA are only getting 184 days for their £143k which seems to imply a four day week. That works out to £780/day.

However, there is a further report before the meeting which, for the first time as far as I can see, actually mentions the two assistants due to be appointed. These posts are a Head of Policy Development and a Head of Consultation and Communications. The 'Post' has reported that these posts have been 'earmarked' for former CDP bods Steves Spear and Youdell.

These are the two that I chickened out of naming last week. I hear whisperings that Mr Spear is not universally popular and it seems that wherever Alan Given goes, Steve Youdell is only a few steps behind.

The 'Post' also reports NPA member Prof Simon Holdaway's own disquiet about the processes being used to shoehorn JoCo's mates into powerful roles at NPA.

Update - 'Post' reports that Given is formally appointed, with his contract to be reviewed at 6 months. Also his two sidekicks agreed but their posts to be externally advertised at 6 months.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

New NCC Management Structure

The new senior management structure for NCC is up on the website, following news at the end of last year that there was to be a minor bloodletting. One or two interesting points spring to mind.

Firstly, there is no longer a Director for Housing or Director for Workplace Strategy. This slightly ups my optimism that maybe Geoff Hibbert is on his way out after all. However, there is a new post called Director for Property in the new 'Development' department and I imagine he's probably wormed his way into that one.

Also, the Director for Customer Services has disappeared, previously held by my old mucker Helen Shipway. Wonder what's happened to her? She was probably quite vulnerable in the night of the long lives as she is a relatively recent recruit.

It would also be interesting to know where Housing Benefits has been placed, there's nothing immediately obvious.

However, by far the most interesting aspect is that there are three Directors who now report directly to the Chief Executive rather than to a Corporate Director. That's somewhat unconventional so why would they do that?

Well my suspicion is that it is all down to Jon Collins, as most things at NCC are. The three directorships are 'Partnerships', 'Communications' and the Chief Executive of 'One Nottingham'. I think these three areas are JoCo's main tools for exerting control in the wider environment. Communications is obvious, always best to have close control of the spin, Partnerships is of course the way NCC gets to push other organisations around and conclude the business that it would rather be kept from prying eyes and of course 'One Nottingham', currently being run by his bezzie mate Nigel Cooke, is the centre for many little pet schemes.

So JoCo would clearly prefer these Directors to report directly to him. I know they nominally report to Jane Todd but really that's pretty much the same thing.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

There's Just Nothing We Can Do...

A bit older this one.

Last July NCC got all bullish about so-called 'Griminals' who make the place look untidy and jeopardise winning 'Britain in Bloom'.

Then, a couple of weeks later this story about a notorious 'grot-spot' found it's way into the 'Evening Post', complete with stern looking Tory PPC for Nottingham South (click on story for bigger version).

It concerns a property on Greencroft in Clifton that has apparently been empty for some time and has attracted the usual community bugbears, grafitti and 'anti-social behaviour'.

The Tories, in an early outing for their rather successful campaigning method of highlighting NCC failings in order to get themselves in the media and put Labour in a bad light, took up the issue with NCC. (I know I've been somewhat cynical about this and I'm not convinced of their new 'community champions' persona for a second but I have to acknowledge their approach's success as a campaigning tool. They got lots of media mileage from the Radford Unity Complex issue which will have done Rowena Holland absolutely no harm on May 6th.)

The 'Post' reports that the answer they got back was that NCC couldn't serve an enforcement notice to get the place cleaned up because they owned the property and they couldn't serve a notice on themselves. I mean, there is a whacking great hole in their logic there for all to see but we'll let it go for now.

Because later in the article, Cllr Alan Clarke said that the property was on a long lease to a Housing Association. So really, as far as enforcement issues are concerned, this means that NCC isn't the owner at all, the (unnamed) housing association is. So why can't a notice be served on them?

Next I'd like to introduce you to a little known but extraordinarily draconian piece of legislation known as S.215 of the Town and Country Planning Act. Essentially, this allows a local council to make a subjective decision that the condition of a piece of land or property is affecting the 'amenity' (whatever that is, it's not defined) of an area. It can then serve a notice requiring the owner or occupier to clean it up and if you don't comply you can be fined and you'll have a criminal record. The legislation is completely open-ended and, as far as I can see, there is nothing to prevent it being used by a council who decided one day that all front doors on a street should be pink. An increasing number of councils are finding it especially useful for those things that they don't like but which don't require planning permission such as tall hedges because of its handy catch-all nature.

So, you thought an Englishman's home was his castle eh? Not if your local council decides they don't like the colour of your turrets it's not.

And now I have a confession. I have been on the receiving end of this nasty little piece of legislation and found myself in the Magistrates' Court yesterday. Yes, I'm afraid I have an untidy garden. It's got brambles, tall hedges and raggedy bushes. I'm not proud of this fact but, on the other hand, I don't really think it makes me a bad person either.

You see one of the effects of depression, of which I suffer following NCC's appalling treatment of me when I worked for them, and which is defined as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act, is that you often find that you can't really cope with getting out of bed, never mind doing the gardening. Frankly, if you find the outside of my house offensive you should see the inside.

And the point here is that the sole effect of my garden on the wider community is cosmetic, it doesn't actually hurt anyone. It does however attract increasingly large amounts of wildlife, last summer I saw more butterflies and bumble bees than ever before, both of which are in serious decline but that doesn't seem to be classed as a positive effect on the 'amenity' by NCC. Because, let's remember, they get to make up all the rules.

So, NCC caused my illness and disability and then attempts to prosecute me for not being able to fully cope with all aspects of my life as a result of that disability. As you might guess, I feel a little on the bitter side about that.

So, why do you think that NCC would prosecute a disabled person under S.215 but not a housing association, even though the above property in Clifton would be a much more appropriate case seeing as it is unoccupied and boarded up, creating much more of an eyesore and attracting the dreaded ASB? You don't think it could be because they don't expect the disabled person to be up to fighting back, allowing them to secure an easy prosecution, get it in the media and frighten everybody else into being fully compliant little Stepford Wives? Whereas of course, a housing association is likely to have those inconvenient legal teams staffed with expensive lawyers who probably WILL find all sorts of loopholes and fight back quite determinedly. And of course, being a local authority, you never know when you might need a housing association on your side when government inspectors start looking at how well you deal with the provision of social housing.

No, much easier to bullshit the press and politicians with some nonsense excuse and look the other way. More fool the Tories and the Post for falling for that one.

So I don't know how my case is going to go. I'm probably not helping myself blogging about it but this is partly blogging as therapy and I think the issues are important. The case yesterday was adjourned on NCC's application on the basis that they had 'just' found out that I 'may' be disabled. Ignoring the fact that I am pretty sure that I'm fairly well known amongst NCC's Legal Services team, there's also the fact that I told the Environmental Health guy last year when I caught him sneaking about my property taking pictures.

As I've said in previous posts, there does appear to be a bit of double standards among enforcement decisions by NCC.

By the way, according to the Committees Terms of Reference as part of NCC's Constitution (see p38 of this document and also this page from the NCC website), all enforcement decisions have to be approved by the Development Control Committee. I've checked all their agendas back to September 2008 and they haven't been told about mine.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

No Smoking

A quick look at the 'Nottstalgia' forums brings forth a serious tale of woe which calls into question NCC's consistency in enforcing environmental issues. Have a look at this video of what these folks have got at the bottom of their garden.

According to the ever lengthening thread on this issue, this is a firm called 'Surewood Joinery' on Kett St in Bulwell.

As can be seen from the vid, the chimney was originally much taller so the smoke blew away nicely on the breeze. However, according to the poster (and I have to say I have no way of knowing the exact nature of what was said) NCC advised the company to reduce the height of the chimney as otherwise it would need planning permission. The result? Well, let's just say, applying a positive spin on things, the householders could probably start up a thriving kipper smoking business...

What's not in dispute is that the residents have made numerous attempts to get NCC to do something about it but to no avail. There are copies of some of the correspondence in the forum thread if you fancy ploughing through it. Apparently various elected representatives have been approached with little interest being shown.

And, consistent with their new role as community champions the Nottingham North Tory candidate Martin Curtis has joined in. Fair play to him for that, although I'm not sure how much a Labour council will listen to a Tory PPC with next to no chance of winning on May 6th.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Nottingham Celebrates St JoCo's Day!

Yesterday was the day that Nottingham came together as one to celebrate the feast day of St Jon de Collins (or St JoCo in his native humorous tabloidese).

Nottingham Born, St JoCo is the Patron Saint of Local Government Incompetence. He also holds the Portfolio of 'Rampant Megalomania out of all Proportion to Ability' on behalf of the Institute of Saints and is the Chair of the Enforcement Committee of the Church of Perpetual Mercy, along with 107 other saintly public roles.

St JoCo arrived in the Market Square atop a brownish nag in a sheet while eating a pie

after good naturedly making his way through the packed, cheering crowds

When asked if he would be successful in his blood curdling fight to the death against the dragon, St Joco said -

"Leave it out. You think I'm gonna get me hands dirty? No, don't worry, it's all been taken care of."

Shortly afterwards, the dragon was apprehended by security

and has not been seen since.

Later, St JoCo entered the Council House to take part in the ancient and traditional 'Filling Yer Boots' ceremony. But we don't have any pictures of that because Nottingham City Council voted to hold it in private under Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, on the grounds that the public interest of holding the ceremony in public was outweighed by the fact that it would be hideously embarrassing to St JoCo and all his mates.

The budget of £855,378.23 for the St JoCo's Day celebrations is due to be approved by the resources committee next week. That is, of course, if the committee members know what's good for them and mind how they go.

Naughty NCH Van Driver

Not the worst thing Nottingham City Homes has ever done I admit but here we see a NCH van parking half on the pavement.

In theory this constitutes two offences. Firstly, driving on the pavement (after all, how else did it get there?) and secondly, obstruction. Should any officialdom wish to take this up the picture was taken yesterday at about midday on Saxondale Drive. It was in full view of at least one of the CCTV cameras there. I won't hold my breath.

As far as I'm concerned, NCH and NCC are one and the same. NCH was created simply to please a bunch of accountants and all housing stock is still owned by NCC. What's more, NCC's CCTV team pass information to NCH not, as you might reasonably expect, to fight crime but to grass on tenants keeping pets without permission and other tenancy breaches. I'm quite sure that this is a breach of the Data Protection Act.

But of course if you leave something considerably smaller than a van on the pavement, let's say, a wheelie bin for example, or one of NCC's Community Wardens catches you cycling on the pavement*, you stand a pretty good chance of getting a fixed penalty.

I'll be writing more about this disgraceful 'do as I say not as I do' attitude soon.

*Not condoning cycling on the pavement btw, just using it as an example of double standards.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Police Squad

They Have No Budget*


But They're Doing It Anyway


They're Gonna Turn This Police Authority Upside Down and There's Nothing Those Darn Pencil Necks Can Do About It**


Jon Collins and Alan Given Star In...

Terminator: Change Management (But The Police Authority Has Got to Want to Change)

*True, there's no actual budget to pay Given and his two mates, it's going to come out of reserves.

**JoCo appoints Given to the Change Manager post when he has no power to do so. You see if anybody calls him out on it.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

All Those Recently Appointed to Notts Police Authority Please Step Forward - Not So Fast Mr Given

Well, first Alan Given is appointed as 'Change Manager' for NPA and then the 'Post' reports that he isn't. Not quite anyway, as the NPA decided only to agree his appointment 'in principle' pending further details of his employment contract.

Except that, technically, it won't be an employment contract because he isn't going to be employed directly. NPA will in fact be entering into a contract of service with 'Given Performance Ltd', Mr Given's 'executive coaching and performance improvement' company. I'm sure this wasn't a factor in the decision but that is of course, a nicely tax efficient arrangement for him, nice work if you can get it.

But back to this business of whether he has been appointed or not. According to JoCo's Change Management Board's Terms of Reference, appointments to senior positions remain within the gift of the NPA itself and is not delegated to the CMB. So why did the CMB go and appoint a new Change Manager and announce it on the NPA website? And, considering Given left his post at the CDP at the end of March, the above apparent uncertainty presumably means he's jobless and engaged in a bit of voluntary work for the community, how public spirited! Although, being in the Collins inner circle, I suspect he'll be ok in the end, and of course NPA is bound to agree his appointment eventually which was presumably the purpose of JoCo's fait accompli.

Another little thing. The 'Post' mentions that Given is also going to get two assistants who will be paid a further £110k between them. Now these posts were not mentioned in the committee paper on Given's appointment that was presented to the NPA. So, not content with attempting to bounce the NPA into appointing his mate, JoCo then said "Oh, I forgot to mention, I've appointed, sorry, what I meant to say was, please will you consider appointing a couple of assistants to help in this great task that is called change?"

Funnily enough I've been told who these assistants will be but I'm not really into naming them until it's made public, as it could get a bit sticky. For now, let's just say that their background will do nothing to dispel the 'jobs for the boys' accusations.

PS. The NPA also ratified the decision to boot out Lib Dem PPC for Sherwood Jason Zadrozny for not attending enough meetings. Not attending meetings is a bit of a political glass house for JoCo, hope to have more on that soon.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

How Much? Pt 58

The 'Post' has today revealed that Alan Given (see previous post) is to be paid £143,500 pa in his job as 'Change Manager' at Notts Police Authority. That just about puts him up there with a Corporate Director at the City Council, give or take a lunch or two.

Again Collins was wheeled out to do the PR in a carefully thought out masterstroke which should nip in the bud any persistent rumours that he was behind a shoe-in for one of his mates.

Slightly alarming is the news that this is the same salary package that he got as Chief Exec of the Crime and Drugs Partnership, which as far as I can see, is little more than a talking shop designed to keep some of the shadier deals away from the relatively* open and accountable NCC committees.

The CDP is not exactly the most open of organisations. If you look on its website there's prescious little information about its governance and finance. They don't even publish the minutes to their own meetings, you have to go over to the NHS Nottingham City website to find any of those and I couldn't find a complete set there.

*And I do mean RELATIVELY

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Collins Connections

I'm already starting to tire of writing about JoCo but the truth is he gets everywhere so it's difficult to avoid. He's been in the news a bit recently but more on that later.

I doubt that many people have noticed but 'One Nottingham' seems to have been surviving with an 'acting' Chief Exec for rather a long time. Andrew Belkin left back in October 09, about 20 minutes after JoCo installed himself as Chair (there's usually a change in Chief Exec when Collins rocks up as chair of an organisation) and Nigel Cooke, who was previously the 'Head of One Nottingham Team' took over pretty much straight away. Approaching May 2010 and he's still there with no news of any effort to start a recruitment process proper.

Cooke was previously an Assistant Director (what would be called a Director now) in Neighbourhood Services at NCC but I don't think he survived the cull in 2004/5 when they all had to reapply for their jobs. But as you can see, he seems to be doing alright now.

It just so happens that Cooke is one of JoCo's oldest bezzy mates. Obviously no need to rush into a transparent recruitment process when you've already got the right man for the job in place.

Moving on to Notts Police Authority. Collins is apparently Chair of their 'Change Management Board' which I didn't know about before. They've recently appointed a new 'Change Manager' Alan Given. Given was previously Chief Exec of Nottingham's 'Crime and Drugs Partnership'. Guess who the Chair of that organisation is? Yup, it's Mr Collins.

Yesterday, the 'Post' reported on the dismissal of Jason Zadrozny, Lib Dem PPC for Asfield, from the Authority on the grounds of lack of attendance. For some reason JoCo was wheeled out to justify the decision which suggested that his fingerprints were all over the decision. Zadrozny is apparently a genuine threat to Labour in the election so it's a weird coincidence that a Labour member seems to be involved in his removal from the authority, a story that can only help Labour's chances on 6 May. Mind you, more fool Zadrozny for giving them the opportunity.

So more's the pity that any efforts that JoCo has made for the common Labour good appear to have gone unrewarded. Despite running what the 'Post' describes as a 'vigorous campaign', (which wouldn't have affected any of his 'proper jobs natch) culminating in a trip to Birmingham for his interview (my God they're really putting him through the mill), he failed to secure the nomination for Nottingham East.

Fact; of the three meetings of Nottingham CDP in 2009 of which I can find the minutes, it appears that JoCo didn't make it to any of them. Prior to stepping in as Chair he was the Vice Chair.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Audit Commission Looking into Radford Unity Complex Sale

Just heard that the Audit Commission is aware of the RUC issue and is looking into some aspects of it.

The organisation's remit is financial irregularity and efficiency so they will only be looking into the sale below market value aspect and possibly the need to pay rent for community groups that has arisen due to the incorrect notice. As such it probably won't be much direct help for the tenants themselves.

But unless JoCo's got a very good explanation for his behaviour I suspect his star will fade considerably. And it's a lot of baggage to be carrying into a PPC selection process.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


A few odd bits and bobs that I found recently (and in most cases missed when they actually happened) -

It seems that Cllr Aslam's threat to appeal the employment tribunal decision in favour of former Chief Exec of Notts Black Partnership Aneela Asim was more than hot air. There was a hearing before the Employment Appeal Tribunal on 5 March (scroll to the end) (update; the judgment has now been handed down and Cllr Aslam's appeal was successful. That's not the end of it though as the grounds of appeal were somewhat technical around things like the burden of proof so the case is to be heard again from scratch by a new Employment Tribunal).

JoCo takes over the world pt 58. He's only gone and got his hands on the Crime and Drugs Partnership ain't he? Although it's claimed that it's just an interim measure until an Independent Chair can be found.

It's a good job that One Nottingham changed the governance rules for 'theme partnerships' (of which the CDP is one) to allow NCC Portfolio Holders to be appointed as chairs or he wouldn't be allowed to (see item 7).

JoCo takes over the world part 59. He's got himself onto the shortlist for Nottingham East. One way of looking at this is that, if he wins, he'll probably have to resign as leader and councillor and Nottingham East could therefore be said to be taking one for the team. Another way of looking at it is that he's got his fingers in so many pies he still won't be out of our hair and his ginning mug will be popping up on Parliament TV on a regular basis. Gawd help us all.

CEHRNN Chief Exec Afzal Sadiq was voted out of the BME rep post on One Nottingham's board in January. The election was co-ordinated by Nottingham Equal (prop. Cllr Hassan Ahmed). Just sayin'.

I decided to be a bit cheeky and emailed one of the people involved in 'Nottingham Studios', the possible new owners of Radford Unity Complex. I asked a number of questions about what they knew about the property's true market value, whether any of them had any connections with JoCo and whether it was him who made the initial approach to them.

Here's the reply I got -

"At this stage Nottingham Studios is not in a position to answer these questions.

Best wishes"


Monday, 12 April 2010

Windows of Despair

I've highlighted before NCC's tendency to crowd-source free content, they had a wheeze where Flickr members were asked for permission to use their pics on bus stops. Many people suggested that they should be offering some payment but this fell on deaf ears.

Now we have the Windows of Despair Opportunity initiative.

As you will be aware, the arse fell out of the economy recently and Nottingham has quite a few empty shops. WoO is a scheme to tart these up with local artwork.

Now a positive part of this is the use of some shop units to showcase local designers' work. Such artists will presumably be looking for commissions and sales so they can clearly gain from a bit of free space too market their stuff.

However, like the Flickr bus stop scheme NCC wants local photographers to give up their content for nothing so it can be plastered up in empty shop windows.

I could live with this if they at least made it into a competition with prizes for pics awarded say, weekly or monthly. At least there'd be a bit more of an incentive both financially and with kudos.

It sends the message that photographer's work just isn't valued and that's just not good enough.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Busy Busy Busy at MIPIM

Just to demonstrate the importance of attending the MIPIM jolly conference in Cannes the 'Post' has an article by a local businessman reporting on his experiences there.

It's full of details of the vital international contacts he made there including leads from Derby, Birmingham, the North East and, erm Coventry. What exotica.

He also can't help himself telling us about hobnobbing with the likes of Boris Johnson and Lord Faulkener.

At the end he gushes -

"Where else would I rub shoulders with city leaders and heads of major companies, have lunch with a Lord, be interviewed by national newspapers and magazines and raise the profile of my company in front of a diverse audience of potential clients from across the world... on a yacht?"

Er, London?

It seems that NCC is finally coming the conclusion that MIPIM isn't that vital after all, this was the last year they are going.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

NCCLols is Billy No Mates

I recently wrote to my three local councillors, Cat Arnold, Rob Lee and Mick Newton, as well as my MP Graham Allen about the CEHRNN debacle. Thought I'd update you on the response I've had so far.

Of the councillors only one has replied, Mick Newton. Not a peep from Cllrs Arnold or Lee, despite my sending a reminder.

I've written to Cat Arnold a few times now and I've never heard anything back. Previously I'd never bothered with Rob Lee after, having voted for him as a Lib Dem, he then defected to Labour over the issue of housing benefits sanctions for alleged anti-social behaviour. I put that to one side for this issue due to its importance but my initial assessment that he is little more than a worker drone for JoCo has yet to be challenged.

Who knows, they may well be so busy campaigning behind the scenes that they haven't found time to reply to lil ole me and if that turns out to be the case I'll be more than happy to take it all back.

As for Graham Allen not a peep, on this issue at least. I know that technically he has absolutely no jurisdiction over NCC affairs (and made that clear in my email) but he does have influence and surely would and should have a view,

On the other hand, today I got a rather chummy letter from him about the Robin Hood Tax. Thankfully, GA supports this measure and was obviously keen to highlight our common ground, a couple of days after the general election was called.

Maybe I'm asking too much, after all I'm only worth one vote.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Meeting to Help CEHRNN

The Council for Equality and Human Rights Nottingham and Notts are holding a meeting to drum up support following NCC's seriously dodgy decision to suddenly cut all their funding.

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Radford Unity Complex - Reprise

Grief, this one just gets worse and worse. I thought the Radford Unity Complex issue was going to end reasonably happily but it really is going glands up.

The 'Post' is reporting on the latest developments which make pretty much everyone at NCC involved in this look like a bunch of twats, I think it's fair to say.

Apparently it has emerged that the previously secret buyer is a bunch called 'Nottingham Studios' who are so together that they don't even appear to have a website. The 'Post' says that they were offered the place last Autumn for the sum of around £150k. This is apparently around half its market value.

It also emerges that the council's Legal Services did not realise that the groups using RUC would be entitled to 6 months notice to quit, thus adding landlord and tenant law to the list of legal knowledge sets that they don't appear to possess, along with employment. So NCC is trying to get Nottingham Studios to let the groups stay on for a bit longer while, get this, NCC pays rent for them.

The latest fall-out seems to be over the amount of rent that will be paid, the council skillfully exploiting its 'over a barrel' negotiating position. As such Nottingham Studios' agent is singing like a canary saying -

"My understanding is that the Leader is very keen to see this sale go through."

as well as revealing the earlier-than-previously-admitted offer date. This is consistent with the fact that Collins made the portfolio decision.

On the bright side for NCC the Ombudsman is now apparently involved which usually guarantees a full exoneration.

So, to summarise -

  • NCC secretly offers RUC to little known Arts group, several months before the poroperty was declared 'surplus to requirements'
  • It is offered at around half its market value
  • The tenants were served notice to quit in December 09, nearly three months before the decision was officially made to dispose of the building
  • Legal Services failed to ensure that the proper notice was given (or maybe, hoped no-one would realise given the apparent rush to get shut of the place)
  • NCC failed to make any meaningful attempt to find the tenants alternative accommodation until after everything had blown up in its face
  • NCC will now have to pay rent to house the groups which will cut into the proceeds of the sale by about a third
Now, let's be clear, Jon Collins' grubby little paw prints are all over this one. The Post alleges that he even lied to a council committee (presumably the call-in sub-committee, the 'Post' doesn't say) about the low price the building was being sold at. Can't wait to see the minutes for that. And of course his name is at the bottom of the actual decision, which he seems to have made as little more than an afterthought.

This is quite serious stuff, certainly Standards Committee material (which of course is entirely unterrifying) but maybe even something he could be surcharged for.

Anyone might suspect that there could be some sort of undeclared relationships going on between JoCo and the people behind Nottingham Studios. But of course that couldn't be the case because the main players are named here and someone would be bound to go out and check. I'm sure there's nothing to see here.

Collins is of course refusing to comment and I'm not surprised. Frankly he's becoming a liability and if it weren't for the complete absence of gonads in the Labour Group I'd be predicting his imminent demise.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Council Tax LOLs

Article in the Evening Post about how NCC took a disabled man to court over £1.75 unpaid council tax, thus adding £60 costs to the debt. Read it and weep.

The article says that the bloke was already paying back an earlier year's council tax debt but NCC still went ahead with pursuing this further debt at the same time. This is an issue that advice agencies have been bringing up with NCC since Poll Tax days.

Council Tax now comes under Lisa Black's empire. Go figure.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Free Legal Advice from NCC?

This is very odd.

Hat tip to Greg in the comments to an earlier post for pointing me at this. He suggested that it might be an April Fool and I can see why but it's still up there on the NCC site and I'm pretty sure it wasn't posted by the midday deadline on the day itself.

Anyway, Hassan Ahmed (you may have heard of him) appears to have made a portfolio decision to provide free legal advice* for all employees regarding single status.

NCC has just finalised its solution to this legal minefield although it hasn't been made public yet. But apparently the unions have seen it and have gone through the roof. So again, if it IS an April Fool it's in pretty poor taste.

That might be a clue as to the motivation behind it though as normally the role of providing advice on working conditions falls to the unions. Providing external legal advice would neatly sidestep them. But that's a bit conspiracy theory even for me.

The plan has a few flaws mind. Would you trust legal advice about whether you are being shafted by your employer when that advice was being paid for by that employer? And this is all being done via the portfolio holder decision making process which has an upper financial limit of £500k. That's going to work out at about 5 minutes of advice for each of NCC's 13,500 employees at typical solicitors' rates.

Whatever's going on here it's odd, really odd and I really have no idea of what it's all about.

* NCC providing free legal advice and representation is not entirely unprecedented. Their legal section was happy to use taxpayers' money to provide representation to a small number of unidentified employees when some stroppy blogger decided to point out what a bunch of incompetent lying bulshitters they were.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Hassan Ahmed and Graham Chapman Provide Comfort to Fascists

Ahmed and Chapman's possibly unconstitutional decision to end funding for CEHRNN has raised the morale of fascists.

The EDL has posted up a vid on YouTube gleefully claiming that the cut was because CEHRNN had opposed the EDL and some local BNP chump also crediting the EDL for triggering the decision.

Well done Cllrs Ahmed and Chapman. Very well done indeed, I hope that you're proud of yourselves. Sad thing is you probably are.

I'm Going to Stand For Election! - Am I 'Eck as Like!

This is, of course, an April Fool. Mock executions at the Galleries of Justice? Not sure that would pass the 'family friendly' test.

Sadly, the Eve Post don't seem to have featured my press release. Whether that's because they just wouldn't be interested or whether they saw through it I don't know.

My apologies to Friar Muck in the comments and to one of my followers on the Facebook page. Oh yes, and of course to one current City Councillor who did the hook, line and sinker thing.

Update - A good sport tweets...

Ok, I know it's over a year until the next elections for Nottingham City Council but I've decided to stand for election as a councillor on an anti-sleaze type ticket.

I've sent out a press release in the following terms -

"Nottingham Blogger Announces Plan to Run for Election to City Council as 'Anti-Sleaze' Candidate

The next Nottingham City Council elections may be more than a year away but Nottingham Blogger Andy Platt, author of the 'Nottingham City Council LOLs' blog, has already announced plans to run for election to Nottingham City Council in 2011 on an 'anti-sleaze' ticket.

“Having experienced the way the council operates at first hand, I feel I can make a difference by challenging the cosy status quo and make real changes' said Andy. “I will do my utmost to prevent such scandals as community groups being thrown onto the street and council workers unjustly being forced out of their jobs.”

Andy also plans to campaign for greater recognition of Nottingham's past history of radical politics.

“Nottingham elected the only Chartist MP in 1847. In 1831 there were serious riots triggered by the Duke of Newcastle's decision to vote against parliamentary reform and the castle was burnt down in the protests. We celebrate Robin Hood so why can't we celebrate that? I would want the Council to sponsor a commemorative day on the 9 October, the day the riots took place. We could have fireworks from the Castle and the Galleries of Justice could perhaps stage mock executions to recognise the three rioters who were put to death.”

Andy will be looking for volunteers to help with his campaign. Further plans will be published to the blog in the next few days.


Notes for Editors

1. The 'Nottingham City Council LOLs' blog can be found at

2. In November 2009 Andy successfully took Nottingham City Council to an employment tribunal for constructive unfair dismissal, after resigning his job as Team leader in August 2008."