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Monday, August 20, 2007

This Is Definitely Not The Baddest Council In Britain

My attention has been turned to Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council, or "The Metro" as it is affectionately known. Wigan is traditionally a Labour stronghold - the Council having been Labour-controlled since its creation in 1973 - and Labour is currently the largest party with 43 seats. Wigan has long been a heartland of the National Union of Labour & Socialist Clubs, having at one time 30 Labour Clubs in the town and still boasting ten viable organisations. Unfortunately, there have been some disturbing but totally unfair allegations recently about The Metro Council, some of which have been ridiculously compared to similar allegations made about Hackney Labour Councillors. This is a sample of the fabricated nonsense put about by LibDems, Tories, Community Action Party members, swimmers and cyclists:

Labour Councillor Joe ShawWigan Labour Councillor Joe Shaw has resigned after being arrested on child pornography charges. He had already been asked by the Party to step down from Council Committees and Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority, where he represented the Borough's bus and train users, after police discovered thousands of indecent images of children on his PC. The 40-year-old father of one was arrested inside the town hall shortly before a Metro Planning Committee meeting.
Detectives had received a tip-off that there were indecent images on the computer at his home in Standish. Officers initially tried to arrest Mr Shaw there but discovered that he was out on site visits with the Committee, so they went to the Metro HQ to await his arrival.

Having a drink or six in the parkPressure has been applied to Wigan Councillors to take action over local teenagers who are filming each other setting fire to themselves, leaping into the canal and then boasting about it on the internet YouTube site. Videos posted on the site show young people somersaulting into the canal at Ince doused in flaming lighter fluid, getting drunk on stolen lager and shooting each other with pellet guns.

New rules have been unveiled to tighten the reins on Wigan's increasingly rowdy councillors. The Standards Board has produced a revised national model Code of Conduct to police the behaviour of Wigan's 75 elected members. Those found guilty of breaching the updated guidance could now face a possible suspension or ban. The new code seeks to control Councillors' behaviour while carrying out duties on behalf of the Local Authority and will not apply to a Councillor's private life (with the exception of criminal convictions).

Nick Jarman has taken up the post of Wigan's Director of Children and Young People's Services. Nick has spent most of his working life in education, both in the public and private sectors. In 1997 he took on the role of 'trouble-shooter' at the London Borough of Hackney following Government concerns about the running of the Council's education services. It is hoped that the new appointee is not the same Nick Jarman named by two troubled teenage girls on MySpace - "I would appreciate it if anyone who is friends with Nick Jarman... to stay off my profile. He and I are over, I'm single and my pics are of me and my friend..." (Lauren) and "No I do not have a crush on Nick Jarman. He just has a very important role in the course of my relationships and it is beginning to get very annoying... (Cams).

Wigan - a prosperous, clean and healthy town under LabourMore than 34,000 households in Wigan borough are living on or below the breadline, a new report has revealed. Wigan Conservative leader and Orrell Councillor Mike Winstanley said: "Throughout the period this research was undertaken, Wigan was controlled by Labour. They have been in Government for the past 10 years and despite all the promises, the gap between the richest and poorest in society has grown. They have failed to deliver. It's time Neil Turner and his party simply got out."

Eggs were thrown at Labour Vice Chair of Development Councillor Audrey Bennett and a bus containing 15 Councillors and Officers who were on a site visit. Wigan's Development Committee were leaving the site in Whelley, where protesters are objecting to a scheme to turn the Texaco filling station into a shop with 10 flats above, along with an 18-space car park at the rear, when two teenagers took aim at their coach, spattering the back windows. Councillor Bennett fumed: "I suppose it is a poor indictment of today's youth."

A row has erupted over taxpayers footing the bill for Wigan Councillors' Christmas feast. The annual three-course turkey dinner with all the trimmings is due to be held at the town hall next month at a cost of more than £1,000. The Metro's opposition chief Peter Franzen says he and his 75 local authority colleagues should shell out for meal and not expect the borough's electorate to play Santa.

Community Action Party Councillor Don Hodgkinson was gathering evidence of increasing rowdyism in Ashton's Jubilee Park recently when he was attacked by drunken youths, one of whom was subsequently arrested on suspicion of committing a public order offence. The youths frequent the park, swigging alcohol from cans and bottles, having sex in bushes in full view of passers-by and raiding bins to collect dog dirt that they spread on roundabouts in the children's playground. Despite many appeals by CAP Councillors and members of the public, the Council has persistently failed to take action against the nuisance youths.

Flats and car parking spaces springing up everywhereWigan Metro's Planning Solicitor has been strongly defended against claims of "improper conduct." Half a dozen residents and the protest group WASP have laid formal complaints before the Local Government Ombudsman, charging planners, Councillors and Officers with maladministration over the Development Committee meeting's handling of a controversial housing scheme. Complaints include the claim that Planning & Development Legal Chief Shirley Hillman interfered with the democratic process and offered advice based on financial rather than planning considerations. The row follows the controversial decision to grant national home builders Barratt revised permission for ten £100,000 homes at Belvedere Farm despite them being up to one and a half feet too high, overshadowing adjoining bungalow properties and risking flooding to neighbouring gardens.

A Labour Councillor who admitted a race-hate charge against a former Wigan football player has been suspended from representing the Labour Party. David Phythian, 54, was banned from football matches for three years at Wigan Magistrates' Court last week after pleading guilty to using racially insulting words towards former Latics defender Pascal Chimbonda on his JJB return with Spurs.

Alleged bribery and corruptionWigan's Councillors are facing tough new rules on accepting gifts and hospitality. Metro chiefs hope the new protocol will clear up misunderstandings and shield Council members from unfair criticism about alleged bribery and corruption, or even potential criminal charges. Under the new schedule, Councillors should refuse any gift or offer of hospitality as an inducement or reward for anything they do as a Member. They must not accept anything of significant value or whose value is seen as excessive to the circumstances or gifts where acceptance might be open to misinterpretation, such as from bodies involved in competitive tendering bids with the town hall, applicants for planning permission or operating licences, those bidding for grants or public funding, benefits, claims or dispensations.

The Local Government Ombudsman has been asked to investigate the decision to suspend 56-year-old Metro Officer Dorothy Abbott on full pay, after she admitted a £28,000 benefits fraud at Liverpool Crown Court. An ex-Councillor has called in the Ombudsman to investigate what he is calling an "outrageous waste of council taxpayers money".

Money, money, money... it's a rich man's worldIn a recent Editorial, the Wigan Evening Post said: "I have to admit that it came as a shock to find Wigan Councillors had been paid £700,000 during the last financial year. That is a tidy sum by anyone's reckoning. But unlike years ago, the amounts are now published – so we know who claims what. For too many years, lists of Councillors 'wages' were not issued. Not that they were secret but would have taken a vast amount of time ploughing through accounts to find. Are our Councillors worth almost three quarters of a million pounds? That's one question. Another is: In the next few years, will our Councillors cost us a million a year?"


Personally, I can't see any links at all between any of these recent stories from Wigan and anything that has happened here in Hackney. Such supposed parallels are merely figments of warped imaginations and were probably put about by Andrew Boff. And in any event, this all pales into insignificance when compared with LibDem-run Southwark Council. They've got stories of child porn, adult websites, aiding terrorism (vehemently denied), excess spending on food and drink at meetings and drink driving. Far worse than Wigan, I'm sure you'll readily agree. But then that's LibDems for you.

1 comment:

G Orwell said...

Overall, Hackney Homes (HH) is providing a fair 'one-star' service to customers with promising prospects for improvement

One bloody star! pat yourself on the back Lukey I'd rather live in lovely Wigan