Wednesday, 28 July 2010


Regular readers will remember my concern over the safety of the newly installed Water Fountain on the Market Square. Where I questioned why our council had spent so much money installing a water fountain which had proven to be unsafe by another council who installed the exact same system from the exact same company?

Some may also recall that when I raised this in full Council that Cllr Richard Church got most upset and accused me of scaremongering (always a good defence when you are afraid the truth might come out) I also asked him to send me copies of the risk assessments carried out on the fountains operation.

He duly did so on the 2nd of July, The problem was the risk assessments he sent me were only carried out after I had asked for them and didn't deal with any of the concern I had raised with regards to possible ingestion of Cryptosporidium Parvum parasites.

Ever since I have had to ask ever more detailed questions in order to uncover the truth as to whether or not this fountain is safe for children to play in. So here is the truth uncovered so far:

Cryptosporidium Parvum spores are less than 1 micron in size.

The Market Square fountain can only filter down to 2-3 microns

Cryptosporidium Parvum spores are to be found where water has come into contact with animal faecal matter.

The Market Square Fountain is open to pigeon fouling, dog fouling and any organisms transported on the shoes of those walking through the area

Cryptosporidium Parvum spores where present are easily ingested through the air in mist or through the mouth from contaminated water and attack those with low immune defence such as children and those with HIV

The jets in the Market Square Fountain are at just the right height to be ingested by small children playing in the fountain

The council it seems has put its faith in what are called the PTWAG guidelines which stands for the Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group. But again the problem is this isn't a swimming pool! It's not a closed environment The PTWAG guidelines also state that to be clear of Cryptosporidium Parvum a swimming pool would need to be emptied and refilled 6 times after any faecal matter entered the water. And that is with giant filters and open pump rooms. Dog and pigeons also rarely swim in Swimming Pools and people rarely swim in their shoes!

So we have now got to the point where the council accept that cryptosporidium parvum.spores are less than one micron, that the filtration system in the fountain is nowhere near good enough to remove those spores. That faecal matter is present in the immediate environment. That the operation of the fountain produces jets and water spray at exactly the right height for children playing in the fountain to ingest. And that no risk assessment was carried out by the Council before I raised the question in the Council Chamber and well after the works were completed. Nor it seems has the Council bothered to contact the other authority (Clacton) which had installed a similar fountain from the same company to ask why they have acted to remove the risk, and it seems that no proper regime has yet been agreed by the Council for regular testing for cryptosporidium parvum from the fountains water

But as Richard Church says, I am just scaremongering!!!

I will let you, as always, judge for yourself

Monday, 26 July 2010


I am sure Shakespeare's mind was not on the actions of Northampton Borough Council when he penned the above, but Stratford upon Avon is not too far away so who knows?

But Billy Waggledaggers poetic muse sums up perfectly the insipid, secretive and undemocratic manner in which the current Liberal Democrat Administration on the Borough Council are conducting their affairs, or more is the point how they are allowing Council officers to conduct them on their behalf.

Last week the council decided to give its portfolio holder and officers delegated powers to sell Cliftonville House when staff move out later this year. Now I am not allowed to tell you what they are getting for it (even though it is your money) but let us say it is probably the highest capital receipt the Council has ever received (even after the Legal and General deal which we also can't talk about!) So you would expect with so much involved that the Council and it councillors would have looked long and hard at the deal?

No such luck. The council has spoken of moving out of Cliftonville House before, but the matter of selling the site only went on the council forward plan at the start of July.

One of the recommendations that they passed read as follows:

That Cabinet supports the disposal of the Council’s freehold interest in the property (shown edged red upon the attached plan at Appendix 1) known as Cliftonville House and Brer Court, Bedford Road Northampton to St Andrew’s Property Management Limited (subject to final agreed survey)

The cabinet were also told that the Secretary of State needn't be involved and that the land need not be sold on the open market because the price agreed with St Andrews Property Management was above the market rate.

This was all explained in a very complicated valuation report which did the equivalent of comparing eggs with bicycles also contained in appendix one of the report.

Still with me? good,

So they took the decision based on an attached plan and on the content of the valuation report in appendix one right?


There was no attached plan, and there was no appendix one, and not one of the cabinet felt it necessary to say so during the meeting, they just blindly agreed to say they had done something which they couldn't have possibly done due to the papers not being there.

Now believe it or not I don't mind them selling Cliftonville House, and I think all the staff moving into the town centre will have a positive effect on local trade. Also the move will save the Council money. But all that is different from ensuring that we take the right decisions in public, with all the papers in front of us and also so the public who own the property can be assured that everything is above board.

But the problems didn't finish there, the Cabinet also agreed on the night to spend £2m of the income from the sale on IT on the back of a hastily produced report saying that it was a priority for the council to do so as part of the move!

Again, I was outraged, This council has many capital priorities! we have homes which are not fit to live in, we have listed buildings such as Delapre Abbey and the Archway Cottages in states of disrepair, we have pavements which need repairing, we have bins which need replacing, we have Leisure Centres in need of painting, so where was the scrutiny as to what the priority should be for spending a large part of the windfall?

As a consequence of all of the above, myself and Cllr Joy Capstick (Labour) decide to call the decision in to ensure that the issues where addressed pproperly, Cabinet might not give a hoot and be willing to nod matters through without having the details before them but the rest of the council should not follow this poor example.

Our call in read as follows:

The call in authors ask the scrutiny management committee to note that all matters relating to the  sale of the freehold of the Cliftonville land, and proposed capital expenditure from any capital receipts from such a sale were not placed on the forward plan until July and not listed as separate items. We ask the SMC to further note that Papers for the Cabinet Meeting on 14 July were not available until the very last minute and that background papers were not even available at the Cabinet meeting. It was also clear that the Cabinet did not have all the relevant papers and appendixes to hand when making the decision.

Therefore the Call in authors call in the decision of Cabinet from it's meeting of the 14th July 2010 on the agended item on the grounds that:

There was no pre scrutiny of the proposed sale of the said property

There was no pre scrutiny on the use of capital funds derived from the sale

Additionally, the report of the decision states:

"Cabinet supported the disposal of the Council's freehold interest in the property (shown edged red upon the attached plan at Appendix 1) known as Cliftonville House and Brer Court Bedford Road Northampton to St Andrews Property Management Limited (subject to final agreed survey)"

As there was no such plan attached to the papers, nor available for members to peruse we feel that this decision is unsafe.

The call in authors also believe that under the new arrangements for scrutiny, a material decision such as this should have also have been scrutinised by the Audit committee.

Call in authors Cllr Tony Clarke Independent, Cllr Joy Capstick Labour.

David Kennedy the Chief Executive then wrote to us both declaring our call in invalid, first without explanation and then later on the grounds that our reasons for call in were all  "Procedural Matters"

Lack of pre scrutiny is always a difficult reason to sell for the purposes of call in as it is not an absolute requisite for a decision, but given that the item was not put on the forward plan until July 1st and also that the issues had not been brought to the attention of the Council before we felt both pre scrutiny calls were valid. But even without these to say that taking a decision without the relevant papers in front of you and then agreeing to say you had seen them is simply procedural is bizarre. As a consequence I have now challenged the decision.

A call in may have resolved the above matters and said to officers that they need to respect Cllrs a little bit more rather simply asking for delegated power to take the decision without giving all the facts to elected members.

The denial of the call in though in my view brings the whole council into disrepute, its says to the general public that we don't care if the decisions we take are taken without proper information being present and we don't care if other Cllrs want to question that. It says we will do as we please, and to hell with the rights of elected members. And it sends a clear message out to the public that says, don't bother voting because we will take no notice of your elected representatives as we the unelected officer class know better and we will do as we please.

I blame the current Liberal Democrat administration for lots of things, I am by my position on Council a member of the opposition, I am also a malcontent and I have total distaste for the whole way Local Government is run these days. But for all the crazy ideas and plans that the Lib Dems have inflicted on us since coming to power in 2007 none are as bad as their blind and meek acceptance of the above state of affairs.

Having championed the rights of those Councillors not in the executive for so many decades before coming to power they have in just 3 years become part of the problem not part of the solution as to how we bring more democratic accountability into our Town Halls.

They are yellow bellied, subservient, forelock tugging lackeys doing the bidding of their unelected masters, and I will not rest until they have found out locally like they are doing nationally that in politics to say one thing and do another is not the natural state of things and that principles unlike administrations are for life not just for convenience.



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