Thursday, 13 September 2012


Eminating from the party political school of what was probably the worst of New Labours spinning years, you would expect me to be suspiciously cynical of too many "Good News" Council stories appearing in the local press, and so when the Chronicle Echo headlined on its website earlier this week not once, but twice with


Northampton in Bloom St James
And so it was, in what I am told is typical Tony Clarke fashion, that I adopted the mantra that a cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin. You see for some time now  I have questioned just exactly what Britain in Bloom was really all about and wondering who it was who was judging who? Was it simply a vanity prize? or a true reflection of effort and input to celebrate all things floral in the world of Local Government.

My findings are not meant to embarrass anyone, nor to belittle the efforts of so many wonderful volunteers like George Howard of the Castle Environment Group, in fact Georges role becomes particularly important to the story.

But as far as the Council are concerned the real headlines are far from rosy and are very different from those above and could be chosen from the following options:




Any of the above will suffice, you see dig down under the rose beds, shine some sun light upon the shadier corners of the Local Government garden, and weed out the manure from the bullsh*t and you will find the whole horticultural beauty pageant is really nothing more than organic table dressing.

Northampton in Bloom Thorplands
Britain in Bloom dishes out thousands of awards each year across the regions in fact even within the East Midlands Region alone they extend themselves to presenting around 150 awards a year, and this is not hard for them to do as:

A) Every paid entrant is guaranteed an award and

B) So innovative are they with the categories that you can have a whole one all for yourself if you wish!

There is Small Village, Village and Large Village, Small Town, Town and Large Town, Small City, City and Large City, Coastal Resort (watch out for global warming) Urban Community, the "It's your Neighbourhood" category, and the "Most Improved Entrant" award heads up a further 10 such "discretionary" awards to be shared out amongst all entrants. Northampton this year for some reason was placed in the "City" category (cities with populations of between 100,000 and 200,00) Northampton's population is of course 210,000 which would have pitted us against much stiffer competition from Derby, Leicester, Nottingham etc.

Last year we were up against, and came second to the giants of Loughborough who it seemed competed elsewhere this year leaving us in 2012 as the lone entrant in the City category and thus bringing  us a Silver (Gilt) Medal.

Silver! you ask. why not Gold after all we were the only runner! Well it seems that BIB in a kindly  attempt to make sure everyone's a winner only really judges you against a scoreboard ranging from 0 (for doing absolutely nothing at all) up to 200

These 200 points are then spread across three areas A, Horticultural achievement B Horticultural Practice and C Green Spaces And this is where it gets complicated 0-99 points gets you a Certificate of Achievement Award, 100-119 points a Bronze Medal, 120 - 169 points a Silver or Silver Gilt medal and 170- 200 points the Big bold Gold.

Back then to George down at Spring Boroughs, it seems that any Community involvement scores highly on the score board meaning that NBC's scores for the last two years have been favourably weighted due to the sterling efforts of George and others like him. Georges work this year even earned him a special "Judges Award" for his efforts.

Northampton in Bloom Ethel Street
So I conclude that a probable third placed Bronze Medal for NBC is then turned into a second place Silver Medal by the efforts of community groups and volunteers, which then as the only entrant in the category enables Northampton Borough Council to become  the"Category Winners" and go forward to the National award ceremony to receive even further plaudits.

EVERYONE'S IS INDEED A WINNER, they all cry, but none more it seems than those sent to represent the Council at the Annual awards. Obviously Britain in Bloom are very aware of the tight fiscal and economic climate that all Councils are now operating within and choose the venues of their award ceremonies very carefully indeed.

Last year they all gathered at the 5 star St Andrews Hotel overlooking the Old Course at the Royal and Ancient club and this year they are all off to Guernsey!

What a wonderful story, and so close to the florally scented press releases shooting forth from the budding press officers at the Guildhall.

 Bouquet's all round

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


What sort of democratic society do we live in where it takes 23 years for the bereaved families of 96 innocent men, women and children to have to fight for the truth that their loved ones died unnecessarily, and that those responsible for upholding the law, lied and broke the law to cover up their own crimes?

164 police statements altered, evidence that the police purposely tried to denigrate the names of the victims and to push the blame away from themselves, a society exposed whereby judges and courts can approve inquests which falsely stated that lives could not have been saved, where those able to save life were prevented from doing so? where evidence showing that people were still living, still breathing was altered to suit the need for authority to bend the truth, where governments are able to say we are sorry but insist that they knew nothing at the time?

What would it have taken for the Prime Minister of the day to insist on seeing all the records from the Police? on asking to see the written AND typed statements from Police Officers?

Do they really think we will believe that they knew nothing and could do nothing to find out the truth from a chief constable who couldn't even secure the crime scene to protect the evidence?

Bereaved parent Trevor Hicks said if he could be granted one wish before he died it would be to find out what was really said between Margaret Thatcher and police chiefs when she visited the Leppings Lane terrace the day after the disaster. 

Because someone in high places had already told him that Thatcher had decided it was imperative that the police were exonerated. That the consequences for a force she treated almost as her private army, would be immense if (as Lord Justice Taylor’s report later demanded) they took the rap for 96 deaths in their care. 

And so the cover-up began with her press adviser Bernard Ingham briefing the media that the disaster had been caused by a “tanked-up mob”. 

Three days later the Thatcher-supporting Sun’s infamous front-page about fans urinating on the dead and stealing from their pockets appeared after collusion between the Police Federation and a Tory MP. The story went round the world that drunken fans killed their own. And the truth was buried. 

Until now that is........................

An apology is always welcome but it doesn't change the need for the old inquests to be quashed and new inquests demanded and for those responsible to now be arrested and charged for their crimes and for the government of the day to also be questioned further as to who actually knew what when, and as a result helped out with the cover up.

Justice for the 96 came a large step closer today, but it will only be fully achieved when all those responsible for these appalling crimes are bought to justice themselves including those in the Police force and those in the press and government who conspired with them to cover the whole affair up.

My heartfelt thoughts go to the families of the bereaved today, when the truth came out I shed a tear, but all the tears shed today will be bitter without any action being taken to correct the 23 years of collusion by those who were charged with protecting us and telling us the truth and who should now be charged for their criminal acts and negligence.


Monday, 10 September 2012


So, no news, emails or interventions from within the Local Labour Party about cleaning up their own act or accepting that they still have work to do to become the sort of party you would like to join on a local basis. Of the three "issues" I raised in an earlier post I have laid one of them to one side on the request of an individual involved as they themselves attempt to seek their own justice, so more of that perhaps at a later date, so instead lets us start with the tale below, which I shall entitle:

'The events below and in other posts are as told to me by people (plural) concerned about the issues outlined therein and the lack of any disciplinary action seemingly taken either within the Borough Council Labour Group or at any higher level. It is for others to judge the culpability of those involved and the probability of success of any disciplinary action and also for the Labour Party to act should it wish to do so .If any person involved identifies themselves and wishes me to consider altering or removing any provable errors in the post then I will be happy to do so if they contact me.
I ask just one simple question, why is it that some party members seem to be excluded and expelled for what are very minor misdemeanour's and after long winded investigations and disciplinary hearings whilst others seem to be blessed with no action being taken for what would be in most people opinion much more serious offences?"

Funding and grants for local charities and organisations are becoming harder and harder to source as Local Authorities and national funders both clamp down on funding streams and replace long term community financing with short term political handouts often disguised as "Empowerment Funds" or "Community Chests"

Imagine then the delight of a chair of a local organisation when they received an e-mail from a local Labour Borough Cllr informing them that their organisation had had an application approved by the Borough Council for the sum £15,000 for funding to provide training and community events withiin their area, all they now had to do to receive the money was to sign on the dotted line.

Well initial delight turned very quickly into troubled uneasiness when the chair of the organisation realised that they had never actually submitted an application to the Council in the first place and didn't need the training or events proposed! What's more it seemed that these same "Training and Community" events were to be provided by a company run by? You guessed it the same Labour Cllr who had submitted the application and informed them of the windfall themselves!

Being 100% above board and not interested in anything remotely dodgy the Chair immediately called a meeting of the organisations executive committee and laid out to them all what had happened, the committee were outraged, how had someone been allowed to make an application for funding out on their behalf, and in their name without their knowledge or authority? How had this Labour Cllr decided what their organisation needed when applying for monies? And how was it that the Labour Cllr responsible for submitting the application to the same Council they served on would also be benefiting from the payment of the grant by providing services through their own company?

The last straw for the committee was that the chair of their organisation was also a Labour Cllr on the same Authority and they wanted no blame or stain being placed on his reputation by the independent actions of another Cllr without his knowledge. The executive therefore asked that the police and the council be informed of their concerns, and as a matter of courtesy the Labour Group were also informed. The police having I am told spoken to the local authority decided on this occasion to take no further action, they were willing to accept that as a new Cllr the individual involved was probably not as aware of the rules and laws surrounding grant funding as they should have been, and as a consequence they would be given the benefit of doubt in the belief that they were attempting to serve the community irrespective of any potential private gain.

The issue caused some understandable friction between the two Cllrs concerned and should have led to the Cllr responsible for self submitting the grant on behalf of an other organisation without their consent or even knowledge being dealt with internally by the party and told to be much more careful in future.

And yet less than two months later this same Labour Cllr submitted another grant application on behalf of another charity group for a daytime event in their ward, this time the organisation were aware of the application being made and of the Cllrs role in assisting them with it. The problem this time though is that the application was submitted to a local funder with little to no real information purporting to the organisation (details of officers, membership, accounts, costings of the event etc) and was submitted under an address which belonged to a completely different organisation (a local church) who had no idea that their address was being used to support the funding bid! The Cllr then attracted further funding for the event from their fellow Borough and County Cllrs through their empowerment funds (supposedly with the same poor level of detail).

And then what happened? Well AN event took place, but not the one mentioned in the funding requests, it was at least on the same day, but took place in the evening rather than the applied for "Daytime" family based activities mentioned in the application and instead of providing support for the local resident community the event was a UK wide "Nation Day" event which has been a part of the calender for many years where members of a local ethnic community invite their friends and family from across the Country to come together to party late into the night, a great and colourful event it always is, I know because I have attended on more than one occasion over the years, and have thoroughly enjoyed it but it has never needed funding before as the Community members themselves bring their own food and provide their own entertainment. So just what was promised regarding the funding that was given and what exactly was it spent on?

A third application from the same Cllr to a funding body on behalf of another third party came to my attention this week which it seems also (unsurprisingly) has not met the criteria level for providing the relevant information regarding either the organisation or the costing and provision of the services requested to be provided through the funding, surprise surprise.

Over the years Labour Councils and groups across the UK have been embarrassed more than once over funding bids which were not all they were made out to be, individual Cllrs have found themselves in very hot water after being found to personally benefit from grants they themselves had a hand in acquiring.

So I wonder what our local Labour Group has to say about the above?



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