South Tyneside councillor David Potts has thrown his hat in the ring for the job of Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner. His candidate statement is here on the TopOfTheCops.com blog, and it makes for interesting reading.
“I will clean up the streets of our region, make people feel safe in their homes, and tackle drug dealers and other scumbags with a firm hand”
Very commendable ambitions, but the ‘firm hand’ seems out of tune with the David Potts who exhibited a less than firm anti-crime stance when he offered himself as a character witness for a man who assaulted his ex-partner and her new partner. One of the victims of the assault was less than satisfied after the conviction:
“I think the sentence is a bit lenient”
It seems odd that David Potts thinks he has the kind of character to handle the job. On Twitter, he’s a bit of a maverick, to put it kindly. He put South Shields in the national press after calling MP David Miliband a wanker. A couple of weeks ago he hit the local press again after offering to meet up with a constituent at a ‘bunga bunga‘ party. And he hasn’t been shy in offering his very low opinion of public sector workers, despite being classified as a council employee himself to justify the wodges of council tax-payers cash being thrown at the hunt for the elusive Mr Monkey.
And he’s no stranger to the Police himself either. In March he was on the receiving end of a police caution for the unauthorised disclosure of personal data, an incident which may see him in front of South Tyneside Council’s Standards Committee.
But to be fair to him, he has some thrilling ideas for beating crime. He proposes setting up a special task force called the ‘Rangers’, which will do all kinds of busting and suchlike. Whether this branding idea was inspired by the Texas Rangers or the US Rangers is unknown. It all sounds very exciting and dynamic.
It is quaint to note that despite the tools of 21st Century policing – high tech equipment, helicopters, fast cars and weaponry, Potts still sees a role for traditional policing; one of his key proposals is more mounted officers. No doubt they’ll prove invaluable when the Mongols descend from the Mongolian steppe to pillage the streets of the North East.
Many staff working for South Tyneside Council have not seen a pay rise in years, and seeing their incomes eroded by inflation. They are all in fear of their pensions being junked by a government that treats public sector workers with contempt. After reductions in staff levels due to budget cuts, many of those staff are expected to take the strain.
In other words, council staff are expected to do more, and get less in return. It’s a Victorian mill-owner’s dream.
However, the same hard knocks rules of the current employment environment don’t seem to apply to South Tyneside Council’s senior councillors. As reported in the Shields Gazette yesterday, cabinet members will enjoy increases of around 19.7 per cent, and Community Area Forum chairs an increase of around 20.8 per cent.
This beautiful example of double standards comes from a Labour council. If this was the management board of a major company which had frozen employees’ salaries, unions and Labour MPs would unite in condemnation of boardroom rank self interest. Don’t expect them to be critical of South Tyneside Council any time soon.
It’s pretty lame of South Tyneside Council to excuse this increase in individual allowances on the claim that the overall allowances budget had not increased. If savings had been made, those savings could have been passed on to another budget area sorely in need of cash.
I don’t have an issue with councillors being paid for their time. I used to defend councillors against the often made claim that ‘they’re just in it for themselves’. I believe that without recompense for their time, democracy would suffer; councils would be stuffed with even more of the retired and the self-employed.
Earlier on this week Jarrow and Hebburn MP Stephen Hepburn criticised the government for being out of touch. Perhaps he and David Miliband could have a word with South Tyneside Council’s out of touch leadership and tell them that by featherbedding themselves they are further eroding people’s confidence in politicians.
You can’t help but question the ethical compass of a senior executive team which enjoys fat cat style rises, whilst the rest of the workforce, the ordinary hard working people who keep the machinery of local government moving, are persevering on devalued incomes and facing scapegoating from the right.
I thought solidarity with the workers was a core Labour value. Such ethical values look like a thing of the past in South Tyneside Labour Party, replaced by a cheap Thatcherite grab-while-you-can.
Up and down the length of the country religious councillors are reeling at the news that religious worship at the beginning of local council meetings was to be banned after a ruling by the High Court today. Councillors from across the political spectrum were consistent in their condemnation of the changes.
Tarquin Mossweed, Twitchester council’s Vegan Party leader was mildly perturbed by the turn of events.
“Yesterday we opened the council meeting with some crystal chanting and offerings of twigs to our spirit guides to help us in our important decisions. Without spiritual guidance, we may never have come to a decision to commit to introduce chill out rooms for our traffic wardens.”
“Tomorrow, without communing with the spirit of the earth mother we will struggle to decide what will be on the council canteen’s breakfast menu, porridge or porage.”
Councillor Zoltan Hellhound from Fatty-on-Picklesfat, was more forthright.
“This is a clear abuse of our human rights. How can a council be expected to perform without sacrificing a virgin to Satan before each meeting?”
Bradyork BNP councillor Schmidt Goering was concise in his opinion.
“They would never dare say that to Muslims. Would they? Eh? You know what I’m talking about.”
Jeremy Lespotty, UKIP councillor for South Spinelesside was clear on who was responsible for the changes.
“This is an example of how Europe interferes with our British customs.”
“And immigrants. They’re up to something too.
However, the Church of England was much more pragmatic about the issue. Bishop Hugh Spoutwell-Nonsensington of Spoon said
“Really, there’s no scriptural reference to Jesus’ opinions about street lighting, road gritting, wheelie bins or community engagement forums.”
“Indeed he was quite specific that people should keep their prayers to themselves.”
If a demonstration was needed of who calls the tune for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, you couldn’t get better than Friday’s performance of TPA spokesperson Emma Boon on Sky News. She was interviewed alongside Green Party spokeperson Darren Johnson, where she parroted Eric Pickles’ line on weekly bin collections. The right-wing TPA, which claims to be independent and fight against government profligacy, quite happily supports Pickles’ plan to throw hundreds of millions of pounds at councils already running fortnightly collections, to pay them to run weekly bin collections.
For a political party and a lobby organisation that claim to be anti waste, they seem to be awfully fond of it.
Boon even repeated Pickles’ claim that “bin collection is one of the few visible things Council tax payers get for their money”, which isn’t an argument for weekly bin collections, but a demonstration of how dishonest their position is. We don’t pay for services to be ‘visible’, we pay for jobs to get done.
The additional claim that this was a fight-back against Euro diktat would be laughable, if these spoiled goods weren’t making or influencing government policy.
However, both Pickles and his TPA puppet Boon have failed to lay the blame for any of the costs of waste disposal at the door of the manufacturers and retailers. If packaging was reduced and a system of reuse of glass containers were introduced then waste going into the recycling stream would be reduced, and landfilling and incineration of contaminated recyclables would be cut.
Despite this blog post title, this story really isn’t about confirmation that the TPA is a Tory black ops PR front. That’s pretty much settled. The real story is in how we deal with our waste. Instead of a rational approach to finding a waste solution, Pickles has decided to appeal to the lowest common denominator: Tory voters.
Darren Johnson argued on SKy News that fortnightly bin collections in conjunction with smaller weekly food waste collections presented a more sustainable and less costly alternative. Organic waste collections means composting, and methane can be extracted for energy use, instead of wasting a resource in incinerators and landfill.
Fatty Pickles has £250m to waste on this rabble-rousing folly: he’s literally throwing money in the bin, and the TaxPayers’ Alliance is cheering him on. Imagine if he instead had decided to invest it in finding a sustainable zero-waste solution, he might have actually gone some way in achieving something useful.
Labour-ruled South Tyneside Council has decided to charge a youth movement departing on a 21st Century Jarrow Crusade to lobby the government for much needed jobs for the young in the region.
Youth Fight For Jobs is planning to march to London in homage to the 1936 march, but have faced nothing but the barriers of officialdom from South Tyneside Council. First the marchers were told they couldn’t depart from the steps of Jarrow Town Hall. The same Jarrow town hall which housed the original Jarrow Crusade banner for so many years. Then they were told they would have to foot the £2,500 road closure bill. South Tyneside Council (in other words us the taxpayer) already pays for Rememberance Day and Good Friday marches. If South Tyneside Council withdrew support from these their would be an outcry.
But apparently the council is ‘cash-strapped’.
This is the very same cash-strapped council that had no difficulty in finding thousands of pounds to lavish on publicity material and events to support the X-Factor ‘Vote Joe’ campaign. The same cash-strapped council that is funding the private legal adventures of councillors and staff allegedly libelled by the Monkey blog.
Local Labour councillors and MPs have never been shy in basking in the warm working class glow of the Jarrow Crusade, often referring to it to buff their credibility to court the tribal Labour vote. But so far, despite an empty Early Day Motion, they’ve been silent on the issue.
However, whilst Labour like to play on this link to workers, back in 1936, Labour didn’t support the original Jarrow March either. So really it shouldn’t be a surprise, particularly as it’s been a long time since Labour actually cared about the working class. Ed Miliband’s reluctance to support the unions planning to strike in November is evidence of a Labour party leadership detached from the realities of people losing their jobs or seeing their pensions and working conditions eroded by a government enacting the most vicious attack on the public sector in 30 years.
The sad truth is that Labour in the 21st Century appear as contemptuous about the working class as they always have been. If South Tyneside Council is unable to waive the fee, will there be a local MP willing to put down his/her money to back their working class principles with cash and save this march?
South Tyneside Council has now reconsidered it’s position and has now found the funds to pay for the road closure order.
You’ve got to wonder if South Tyneside Council has scored a massive own goal over the hunt for Mr Monkey. Actually, given the timing, it seems not so much an own goal, but more like an incompetent suicide bomber who blows himself up before reaching his target.
As Curly has suggested, if it hadn’t been for a philandering footballer’s attempt to force Twitter to release information identifying the anonymous tweeters who revealed the existence and detail of his superinjunction, the world might never have learned of South Tyneside Council’s success in the same over the Twitter accounts linked to infamous local anonymous blog site Mr Monkey.
The national press interest has now put South Tyneside not just on the map, but under the magnifying glass too. And the timing couldn’t be better for the South Tyneside Independent Alliance. National bi-weekly news magazine Private Eye reported on South Tyneside Council’s multi-million pound financial dealings with it’s interests in Newcastle Airport, overseen by the council’s leader, who sits on the Airport’s board. A story likely inspired by the Independent Alliance’s own investigations.
Inquisitive national journalists digging deeper into South Tyneside’s political past will look into David Potts, one of the plaintiffs in the Twitter data case, providing them with an opportunity to revisit David Potts’ own infamous twitter episode.
Investigations by curious bystanders will lead inevitably to the Independent Alliance’s website, who will no doubt be seeing their site hit rate go through the roof. Given the slow page refresh speed this morning, I suspect that this is already underway. Also, many people who had never heard of Mr Monkey will be beating a web path to all of the Mr Monkey blogs. Just last night, I was talking to neighbours who had never heard of Mr Monkey and, since the national press revelations, are now acquainting themselves by trawling through old posts on the blogs.
If South Tyneside Council wanted to shut Mr Monkey up, then they’ve failed spectacularly. Instead they’ve sent more people into the Monkey’s hairy arms. Despite the threat of legal action, those behind the Mr Monkey blog may feel they’re the winner here, and there’ll be an ego or two getting a bit of a buffing a with a side of a misplaced sense of self justification.
At a time when South Tyneside is trying to bring jobs into the area and reach out to potential employers, we have a perfect storm of bad news, which may raise further clouds of doubt over the probity and reliability of South Tyneside Council as business partners.
Anonymity is a useful tool in the right hands, especially when it comes to whistle blowing and casting a light on the dubious activities of the powerful and dishonest. But here, someone with an axe to grind has abused web anonymity to scar local reputations, and has risked the borough’s regeneration efforts and with it the livelihoods of struggling South Tynesiders.
Everyone in South Tyneside loses.
Okay, I don’t love the Alternative Vote, or AV, as it’s a poor relation to full proportional representation. Up until yesterday I was happy to keep First Past the Post as AV seemed a half-hearted PR, but over the last couple of days I’ve changed my mind.
Our Parliament decided not to treat us British citizens as adults so they only gave us a binary choice between FPTP and AV, partly because AV was already slapped into the Parliamentary schedule by the last Labour government and the best the Lib Dems could squeeze out of the Tories to keep the wind in the sails of electoral reform was the AV compromise. It seems that AV is going to be the closest we’re going to get to a fairer voting system.
Support or opposition to AV seems to be crossing party boundaries. Here in South Tyneside we have a very odd coalition. Tory and Labour councillors standing shoulder to shoulder to pledge their support to the Tory Party’s No to AV campaign.
A South Shields Tory councillor, Jeff Milburn, has been trotting around the region supporting the Conservatives’ No to AV campaign. If you want a reason to be suspicious of the No campaign, then there’s the campaign’s spurious claims. Here’s what Coun Milburn said:
It complicates things and is more expensive.
‘It complicates things’. You couldn’t get a better example of the patriarchal arrogance that some politicians adopt that assumes British people are too stupid to grasp AV. More expensive? That’s open to huge question; Coun Milburn continues:
The cost of this referendum, the first for 37 years, is £250m.
Wrong. The cost of the referendum is going to be paid no matter what, and has been estimated at around £82m. That’s a huge difference, and anyway, what price a truly representative democracy? Also, it shouldn’t be confused with the costs of an AV system. To try and misrepresent it as such is terribly misleading and, perhaps dishonest. The cost of a new AV electoral system, according to Treasury geezer Danny Alexander (who should know):
There’s no good reason to believe that even under a new voting system an election would need to be more expensive.
There’s been no good reason given by the No to AV campaign why a new electoral process would cost £250m either – it looks like it was completely pulled out of the air. Or somewhere darker and less fragrant.
When No to AV is blatantly misrepresenting facts and promoting their cause with a dodgy ad campaign playing on emotions, cynically using frontline troops as propaganda tools, you’ve got to wonder why they can’t fight a fair campaign instead of some kind of unethical Tea Party lite dirty war.
AV is the only alternative on offer, one which will to a certain extent recognise that everyone’s vote can have value, particularly in areas where the leading candidate can’t get a necessary majority. This ‘wild card’ option should hopefully encourage a lot of people to re-engage with politics and re-ignite political discourse – a one where people truly challenge candidates and even in the safe seats make the parachuted-in policy wonks, chums and intern monkeys actually sweat and work for a vote rather than rely on tribal voting.
But, if you just want a simple reason to vote for AV, you couldn’t really find a better one than to piss off the Tories and such stand-up Labour goons like Hazel Blears and Keith Vaz. After all, if the Tories don’t want it, you can be sure that it’s not for our benefit.
It’s looking like a vote against AV is a vote for the Tories – and if AV fails you can bet they’ll crow about it as such.
And next time South Tyneside Labour councillors have a go at Lib Dems for the coalition they should remember standing with the Tories, supporting a Conservative party campaign on a platform of keeping an outdated and unrepresentative electoral system.