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CUT THE FAT OUT! December 1, 2010

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We always encourage our readers to make their views known in the letters pages of The Bolton News and a gratifying number do so on a regular basis, giving a far wider currency to the alternative political options proposed on this website. This media pressure is particularly important if jobs and front-line services are to be preserved in the current economic climate.

Interestingly the council itself continues to ignore our various suggestions about how to save money without drastically affecting the poor and the desperate. Specifically they seem reluctant to “engage” with our proposals to reduce the size of the council from 60 members to 40, to reduce the salaries of the remainder, and to take an axe to the senior levels of the overpaid council bureaucracy.

Instead we have been given the usual unmitigated bull about “consultation”, which in the council’s Orwellian version of the English language means pretending to listen and then doing what you originally wanted to, regardless of the opinions of the general public. The tentacles of Peter “The Dark Lord” Mandelson still reach deeply into the psyche of Bolton Labour Party.

We believe that it’s time that the “modern” Labour Party was recognised for what it really is, a second-rate version of a Thatcherite clique and no more relevant to those at the lower end of the income scale than the third-rate version of a Thatcherite clique which is the Bolton Conservative Party. Anybody who still thinks of Labour as a friend of the poor is hopelessly naive and a danger to others as well as themselves.

Alan Eastwood - Photo courtesy of WeAreWatchingYou.info

 

A good start along the road of economy could be provided by the instant redundancy of £2,000 a week “Head Bastard” Alan Eastwood, a man who seems to have no visible purpose from the viewpoint of the taxpayer. His various job descriptions could either be eliminated completely (does Chief Executive Sean Harriss really need a hit-man on his payroll?) or done by others already employed in the Town Hall at much lower salaries.

 

Our spies within the Town Hall are particularly critical of Eastwood’s role as head of the council’s legal department. Despite his training as a solicitor (although, let’s face it, genuinely talented lawyers don’t end up working for local authorities) Eastwood actually offers few legal opinions. He prefers to employ “outside” solicitors to do such work. So why are we paying HIM?

And this raises an interesting point for which we would appreciate a clarification. In the normal run of things work which is “out-sourced” by the council to contractors is given to the firm which offers the lowest price. Now, we could be wrong, but surely most solicitors charge almost identical rates for routine work. So how does Eastwood decide who gets the work? We think we should be told as it amounts to a considerable amount of public money.

As an aside we should perhaps mention that Eastwood’s nickname among many Town Hall workers and at least several Labour councillors is “HRH”. If he ever overhears people using this nickname he probably imagines it stands for “His Royal Highness”. We are reliably informed that this is not true and it is actually an abbreviation for “Human Reptile Hybrid”. He is obviously very popular.

Although “HRH” is clearly top of the redundancy wish-list for reasons given in more detail in previous articles, there are many others who deserve a similar fate. Those who doubt this should look at an organisational chart of the council’s top managers. Some departments have five or more senior managers being paid between £50-120,000 apiece. That’s an awful lot of care assistants, bin-men, or repairs.

It’s time we all became a lot angrier than we already are. Senior councillors and their lead-swinging minions have lived the high life at our expense for far too long. Heads must roll. If you agree with us write to the Bolton News, talk to your friends and neighbours, and spread the anger like a plague targeted specifically at these greedy, callous, and largely useless individuals who have the nerve to proclaim their excellence whilst overseeing the wanton destruction of the town we love.

SAY NO TO THE NEW BUS STATION

Although not directly relevant to the council’s own funding crisis (as the money comes from the Integrated Transport Authority which is funded by all ten Greater Manchester local councils) we find it insane that plans for a new £48 million bus station in Bolton continue to go ahead. Have these people not heard about the economic crisis?

GMITA and Bolton Council recently held a series of public “consultations” about the bus station proposals. Several of our supporters attended these sessions and witnessed widespread hostility to the plans on grounds of cost, the suitability of the site (bearing in mind the threat to the open market’s future which would result from the move), and the glossy but ill-considered layout of the new facility.

Furthermore we caught the people manning the “consultation” stall in the act of telling outright lies to allay people’s valid concerns. Among them was the repeated statement that “all buses will continue to pass the market on their way both in and out of the town centre”. It is absolutely impossible for this to be true.

First of all there is the matter of geography, How does a bus coming from the Bury or Farnworth directions do this without executing a complicated “loop the loop” around the town centre in both directions? And in this deregulated age neither the council nor the GMITA can force bus operators to follow routes of their choosing.

No, this is merely a barefaced lie, told deliberately and in cold blood in the hope that people will be fooled until it’s too late to do anything about it. Another lie being told was that “most people would prefer the bus station to be next to the train station”. One of our supporters pressed them to reveal the exact statistics and discovered that actually only 800 of 2,000 people questioned during a single rush-hour expressed that opinion.

As the vast majority of those making regular connections between buses and trains do so to commute to work in Manchester the GMITA had already deliberately slewed the results by conducting their poll during the rush-hour when most travellers are commuting to and from work. Even after building in this slant in favour of their own argument they could still only muster a 16% vote in favour of their proposal. A strange kind of “majority”!

Of course the GMITA is accustomed to spending other people’s money as if it was going out of style. The Authority has recently announced a £500 million extension to the city’s “Metrolink” tram system. Anybody who has ridden on these stomach-churning vehicles on the existing lines can only be grateful that Bolton will continue to be served by conventional trains.

There is a common thread here. Our political lords and masters have complete contempt for the average voter, for genuine democracy, and for traditional British culture. Rigged “consultations” replace public meetings, bus stations are put in ludicrously out of the way places, and we are bombarded with elements of continental infra-structure such as high-speed trams with equally high fares.

If these people want to be in mainland Europe we suggest that they go and live there and leave the rest of us to celebrate the better things we already have. The political class’s detachment from (and loathing of) the rest of us is almost completely responsible for the growing electoral success of racist scum such as the BNP. It’s a protest vote but it could easily lead to potentially dire consequences.

If you’re increasingly disillusioned with all three “mainstream” political parties don’t be tempted by the likes of the BNP. That way lies madness. The alternative is to stand up for yourself. Run for Bolton council as an independent candidate in next year’s elections. Talk to your neighbours and you’ll realise how much support there is for a change. Do it now, it’s easier than you think!

Spartacus Bloggs

on behalf of

The People’s Rebellion

 

BOLTON AT HOME SUCKS! June 30, 2010

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In the early days of The People’s Rebellion collective we had a brain-storming session to come up with a name for our website. We eventually settled on “Bolton Council Sucks” because it was a phrase we heard quite often in conversations about our municipal overlords, and had also recently appeared as the title of a comment on the trailblazing Facebook page “Bolton Council is Crap”.

It had the added advantage of including the words “Bolton Council” (desirable as a search term) in a way that could never be claimed to create confusion with any official council site, as it was clear from the beginning that our Stalinist councillors and their attack-reptile (hello Mr Eastwood!) would use any trick in the book to close us down.

Another phrase which is in common use among Bolton Council tenants is “Bolton at Home Sucks”, although this may come as a surprise to readers who have mortgages or are in privately-owned accommodation and are thus only familiar with the organisation from the self-congratulatory pap included in council publications such as “Bolton Scene”. Anyone reading this ridiculous propaganda rag may wonder what we’re on about.

Even among council tenants a remarkably high number of people remain unaware of the relationship between Bolton Council and Bolton at Home. The latter became operational in 2002 as part of a “New Labour” drive to separate the ownership and day-to-day management of council housing throughout the country. Council houses were seen as “Old Labour” and in need of “modernisation” in the worst (Blairite) sense of the word.

The creation of this “Arms Length Management Organisation” (ALMO) was touted at the time as a magical solution to all of the borough’s housing problems. Blair’s government would make additional money available to any council which created an ALMO and this would result in poor quality housing being brought up to a “decent” standard. Tenants were promised new kitchens, new bathrooms, and a host of other improvements.

Less emphasis (none, actually) was given to the fact that the Council’s housing estates were only in such a parlous and dilapidated condition because of drastic under-investment in their upkeep and repair. Our councillors saw the creation of an ALMO as an opportunity to walk away scot-free from several decades of acting like the worst kind of slum landlord in the private sector.

Got a problem with your rundown, draughty, mouldy, damp council accommodation? Tempted to complain to your local councillor? Don’t bother, they’ll just point out that it’s Bolton at Home’s responsibility and nothing to do with them! The new ALMO was run by a board which included councillors (5 out of 15 members) but it was ARM’S LENGTH!

Our councillors’ excuse for this abdication of their statutory duties was that an ALMO would have access to all that extra money from central government, could put things right, and would reduce the huge amounts of housing-related debt showing on the Council’s books.

An ill-informed pragmatist (and Bolton Council does its level best to keep us all ill-informed) might well have bought this argument. What could possibly go wrong? An experienced pair of hands (Farnworth councillor Noel “Furniture Boy” Spencer) was installed as the “Chair” of Bolton at Home to inspire further confidence in the new quango. Eight years of bitter experience have shown us all that lots of things could go wrong.

Housing-related debt? Many of you might have thought that council properties were self-financing through rental payments from tenants. And so it would have been, repairs and all, if not for the Council’s tendency to spend most of the budget on vast numbers of highly-paid managers holding largely pointless meetings about entirely trivial topics.

Politically motivated agendas with little relevance to Council tenants (or anybody else with an ounce of sanity left) became the principal output of the Council’s Housing Department elite in the early days of the Blairite ascendancy. Council Leader Cliff “I’m terribly politically correct because I speak in an effeminate voice even though I’m not gay” Morris encouraged this transition to a parallel universe.

(Okay, we admit that the above paragraph contains a “nickname” which is not up to our usual short and snappy standard. We’re working on it! How about Cliff “Ermintrude” Morris in recognition of both his cow-like physical appearance and transvestite vocal delivery? Do people still remember “The Magic Roundabout”?)

Anyway, back to the point. Optimists might have hoped that all of this would change with the creation of Bolton at Home, a new organisation with a clean slate. The slate, however, was far from clean. A legion of useless driftwood managers were transferred to the new quango and took their attitudes with them. They actually loved their change of employer as it removed them from direct democratic control.

CON-TRICK NUMBER ONE

Now it should be stressed that Bolton Council remained as the owner of all the properties involved and as the actual landlord of council tenants. Bolton at Home was merely a management organisation, “chosen” by the Council to act as its agent in the housing arena. In legal terms the Council was in an identical position to a private landlord who chooses to let an estate agent manage a property on their behalf.

The ultimate responsibility for repairs and improvements continued to be that of the landlord (i.e. the Council) and not that of their agent (Bolton at Home), so councillors who told their constituents that housing was “nothing to do with us any more” were lying. Quite a few of them repeated this lie so frequently that they began to believe it themselves.

Meanwhile the Council’s housing-related debt continued to rise and after eight years of management by Bolton at Home has now almost doubled to £288 million. They blame this appalling trend on central government policies and anyone who dares to suggest that it is in fact entirely due to local mismanagement and incompetence is resolutely ignored.

The facts, however, speak for themselves, and a look at neighbouring local authorities and their respective ALMOs prove the point. In Bury the Council’s ALMO (Six Town Housing, which counts Bolton’s Mayor and Breightmet councillor John Byrne among its employees) manages 8,314 properties with a workforce of 230 employees. That’s a ratio of roughly 36 properties per employee.

Over in the metropolitan borough of Wigan their ALMO, Wigan & Leigh Housing, has 22,823 properties and 587 staff. This makes them slightly more efficient than Bury with a ratio of just over 38 properties to each employee, but the larger size of their housing stock and the attendant economies of scale account for the difference.

In the middle, both geographically and in terms of the number of properties managed, comes Bolton at Home with 18,205 rentals and 1200 employees! No, that’s not a typo. 1200, giving a ratio of just over 15 properties per employee. Or to put it another way Bolton employs more than twice as many people per property than either of its neighbours.

Is this because Bolton Council’s tenants enjoy a far superior service compared to the unfortunate denizens of Bury and Wigan? Government statistics and personal experience both suggest not. So what are all these employees doing? The managers of Bolton at Home are fond of using the words “unhelpful”, “inappropriate”, and “unacceptable” when threatening their tenants, so let’s analyse the situation in their own terms…..

UNHELPFUL

Back in the days when Bolton Council directly managed their rental properties, and for the first few years of Bolton at Home, tenants seeking minor repairs (such as worn-out door handles or disintegrating kitchen units) could walk into their local estate office and within 24 hours the estate handyman would be knocking to fix the problem on the spot.

The procedure these days is rather more labour intensive. Complaints of this nature must be made to a central telephone line (when you eventually get through) and roughly two weeks later you get a date for someone to call to inspect the problem. Do they fix it? No they don’t. Instead they perform an assessment of the situation.

You then receive a second postal notification informing you that another employee will call in the distant future (6 weeks or more) to effect the repair. Bolton at Home thinks of this as progress, proving once again that the planet where their brains live is not this version of Earth. Tenants suffer from much slower repairs and council tax payers suffer from a far more costly and labour-intensive way of doing things.

Similarly atrocious and inefficient procedures are the norm throughout the organisation and are dreamed up by committees of senior Bolton at Home managers after multiple meetings which consider the implications for “diversity”, “health and safety”, and “fairness”. This really is an Alice in Wonderland organisation. Or one from Franz Kafka’s dystopian novels such as “The Castle”. The bureaucracy exists for its own benefit alone.

INAPPROPRIATE

At the apex of this absurd bureaucracy we find Bolton at Home’s new Chief Executive, Jon Lord, a man who reportedly makes far more money than the Prime Minister. The excuse for his generous salary is that it is “comparable to that paid in the private sector”. This is an outright lie for two reasons. Firstly there are no equivalent housing providers in the private sector with a comparable number of rental properties.

Secondly, if Bolton at Home had been in the private sector at any point in its eight year history it would have been bankrupt and in receivership. Any new chief executive brought in to try and restore it to solvency would probably have found themselves working for a very low basic salary with any further remuneration being related to results.

And Mr Lord is merely the fattest of the fat cats. Bolton at Home employs dozens of hugely overpaid executives, most of whom seem to have no discernible function in relation to the provision of low-cost social housing. They certainly exert little control over the organisation’s front-line housing managers who continue (with a very few exceptions) to be arrogant, rude, lazy, and completely unresponsive to tenants’ needs.

UNACCEPTABLE

From all available data it appears that Bolton at Home is one of the most overstaffed and inefficient ALMOs in the entire country and unlikely to survive if cut loose from its Council paymasters. And yet that is exactly the course of action being recommended by our councillors who want to transfer ownership of the borough’s 18,205 properties to the ALMO.

The Housing Transfer proposal (on which tenants will vote during July) is backed by all three political parties on Bolton Council and more than £500,000 has been spent on a torrent of propaganda delivered to every council property. There has also been a DVD with a similarly one-sided position and a cold-calling telephone campaign to try and get the result the Council wants to see.

The Council material is chock-full of questionable “facts” mingling with outright lies, all of it wrapped up in a glossy package which warns tenants against listening to any other viewpoint. A similar barrage of pro-transfer opinions is being peddled around the borough by Priority Estates Project (PEP) which claims to be an “Independent Tenants Advisor”.

PEP is, of course, being paid by the Council and the old aphorism that “he who pays the piper calls the tune” certainly seems to apply. The company were allegedly appointed to their role by “a panel of local council tenants”. Interestingly, when questioned at a meeting in Leverhulme Park community centre recently, PEP mercenary John Edwards was unable to provide any details whatsoever of how this “panel” was selected.

John Anthony Edwards drives a BMW Roadster with personalised reg.

In fact, he didn’t seem to regard it as a relevant question. Democracy? Oh, we’ll not talk about that. Interestingly, as we’ve commented before, Edwards is a Labour Party councillor in his home town of West Bromwich. We wonder how they do things on Sandwell Council. Is he shocked by the activities of Bolton Council and just keeping quiet or is he learning how to ignore the public so he can do the same in the West Midlands?

ASK THEM THESE QUESTIONS

We urge all of our readers, whether council tenants or not, to oppose the Housing Transfer proposal. Look out for public meetings organised by PEP, contact your local councillors before they finally manage to wash their hands of the poor, the elderly, and the disadvantaged, and demand convincing answers to the following questions:-

1)       The Council/PEP propaganda states that the current housing-related debt of £288 million will be “written off” if the Transfer goes through. Have the new Coalition government in London confirmed that this will happen or are they just hoping? If it doesn’t happen the Council will have given away more than a billion pounds worth of locally owned assets which (under the right management) could be producing a profit and helping to lower council tax.

2)       Another bold assertion made by the Council and PEP is that an independent (privatised) Bolton at Home would be able to borrow £124 million in the first 5 years (and £1,200 million over a 30 year period) to invest in their properties. Do they have this in writing from lenders or are they just guessing? Have any lenders taken a look at Bolton at Home’s property to employee ratio and the number of staff it employs on politically-motivated agendas?

3)       The Transfer documents make the claim that tenants’ rights will be guaranteed by the Tenants Service Authority (TSA). Have they failed to hear the news that the new Coalition government in London plans to abolish the TSA and put nothing in its place? Given this information isn’t their recommendation to tenants to vote for the transfer little short of fraudulent?

4)       Who appointed PEP? Were the members of the “tenants panel” (as we suspect) hand-picked by Bolton at Home executives or the officers of their lap-dog (and totally unrepresentative) residents group, BATRA? It should be noted that several genuine residents’ groups around the borough refuse to join BATRA as they consider it to be totally dominated by Bolton at Home.

5)       Why has the Council spent more than half a million pounds in a desperate attempt to steam-roller any opposition to this scheme? And why are groups which disagree with the Transfer being refused access to lists of tenants so that they can mount an effective campaign against it?

6)       Is it legal for Bolton at Home (the beneficiary of the Transfer if it proceeds) to use its own employees to campaign for a “Yes” vote? And why are trades unions (which allegedly oppose the Transfer) allowing their members to deliver such propaganda when such activities are clearly not in their job descriptions? No balls left?


Interestingly enough, the new list of Bolton’s councillors for 2010-2011 omits their home addresses for the first time ever. We are more than happy to correct this accidental oversight, particularly in regard to those directly responsible for the Housing Transfer proposal. We are sure that you will want to write to them in person to express your dissatisfaction. Hundreds of letters may convince them that they have made a huge mistake.

Council Leader Cliff Morris (also leader of the Labour group) can be written to at his home address of 2 Armadale Road, Ladybridge, Bolton, BL3 4QE.

His phone number is a closely guarded secret. Any offers?

The Council’s “Executive Member for Housing” is councillor Nick Peel who lives at 45 Birkdale Gardens, Bolton, BL3 5ES. His telephone number is 01204 459949.

Bolton at Home’s “Chair”, Farnworth councillor Noel Spencer is at 101 Glynne Street, Farnworth, Bolton, BL4 7DH.

PEP director John Edwards lives at 19 Hobs Road, Wednesbury, West Midlands, WS10 9BD. Readers may prefer to contact him more locally on his mobile, 07900 227177.

Do it now while you’re still angry with them and help to save Bolton’s council housing for future generations. VOTE NO!

Spartacus Bloggs

on behalf of

The People’s Rebellion

NEWS UPDATE June 8, 2010

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As this is being typed the news has just come in that Bolton Council are predicting up to 500 redundancies (or “loss of posts” or whatever other Blairite Newspeak they choose to use) as a consequence of the cuts in local government funding planned by the Con-Dem coalition. While there is no denying that the council’s budget will have to be restructured, we doubt that a reduction in the number of front-line personnel is either desirable or necessary.

Are the councillors showing solidarity with their employees by giving up their own pay-rises (the basic “allowance” has just been increased to more than £11,000 a year)? Not even suggested by any of them. Are they cancelling the grotesque pay increases awarded to senior council managers (several of whom get paid more than members of David Cameron’s cabinet)? Not a chance. The poorly paid must suffer first. What a bunch of greedy hypocrites our councillors are. But we already knew that…..

THE MORRISITE TENDENCY

We expect our local Conservative councillors to be biased in favour of the wealthy, the proprietorial classes, and well-paid professionals. They do what it says on the tin, and however little they care about the poor and disadvantaged it can scarcely come as a surprise, especially with a rabidly Thatcherite buffoon such as John Walsh in charge of the Conservative group.

The Labour Party on the other hand had traditionally (pre-1994) been the voice of the vast majority of people who are neither rich nor influential. Many voters still put their cross next to the Labour box in the misguided belief that there is a remnant of this idealism left in the party. How much longer will people be taken in by the masquerade of caring which has replaced the Party’s traditional ethos? Look behind the masks and they are indistinguishable from John Walsh.

After the recent local elections the Labour Party are in possession of 30 of the 60 seats on Bolton Council. Apparently they can still fool people into believing that they are the protectors of the poor. Those days are, in reality, long gone in both the national and local arenas, consigned to the dustbin of time by simpering Bush Poodles such as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and their sinister associates (step forward “Lord” Mandelson).

Nobody in their right mind could ever compare Cliff Morris, the Labour leader of Bolton Council, to Tony Blair. The man has less charisma than a steaming pile of instant mash potato (yes, this sentence was edited!) and the public speaking abilities of a dyslexic yak. How he ever became the leader of the local Labour Party is completely beyond us.

The best theory we’ve heard is that the Labour group were so impressed by the “champagne socialists” gathered around Tony Blair that they conspired to elect the richest among their number as their leader. Morris (who lives on posh Armadale Road on Ladybridge Estate) is indeed very comfortably well-off, having been a partner in the upmarket Smithills Coaching House. Once the stables of Smithills Hall, this venue is now devoid of horse manure but full of rich people attending weddings and other expensive functions.

Morris resigned as a director of this elitist watering-hole and eatery in 2002 when he became the leader of the Labour group, but seems reluctant to declare that he no longer has a financial interest in the business. Whatever the current situation (can somebody tell us please?) it seems to us to be morally unacceptable that a prominent local councillor could ever have been a partner in a business dependent upon the same council for its continuing prosperity. Legal, no doubt, but still morally questionable.

Morris is, in one sense, a perfect figurehead for the “modern” Labour Party. In days gone by, as a prominent local businessman, he would undoubtedly have chosen the Conservative Party as his natural political home. Until the Blair era the Labour Party in Bolton was dominated almost entirely by an uneasy coalition of long-time trades union activists and university-educated “entryists” from the 1960s, many of the latter in full-time employment with neighbouring local authorities.

There are still plenty of these traditional Labour supporters in Morris’s group on the council, but under the “Leader’s” influence most of them have turned their backs on their socialist heritage and found liberation by becoming indistinguishable from their Conservative colleagues. The Morrisite Tendency is in control and its members are, in their own way, as anti-democratic and doctrinaire as any cabal of Trotskyist infiltrators.

BUT AREN’T YOU BEING A LITTLE UNFAIR?

No. Look at the track record of the Labour group and then compare its policies to the popular will of the people of Bolton. To give one classic example, Bolton used to have a Market Hall which was the envy of neighbouring towns, both in terms of its elegant Victorian ambience and the variety and value offered by the small businesses which traded within its walls.

When the council announced its plans to rip the guts out of the structure and turn it into a “modern” shopping complex the level of public dissent was unprecedented. More than 80,000 people (half the adult population of the borough) signed a petition to leave the Market Hall as it was, but their wishes were completely ignored by the local Labour Party.

As far as Labour’s new elite were concerned the only thing that really mattered was their “modernisation and regeneration” agenda. It was beyond their collective wit to understand that change for change’s sake is merely an act of arrant stupidity, and doubly insulting when it flies in the face of a clear majority of public opinion.

No, Mr Morris, you and your cronies are not somehow cleverer than the rest of us, you’re just so egotistical that you can’t believe that you’re not. The conversion of a local and regional jewel of retailing into a bland and much less well-patronised shopping mall which could be anywhere in the country proves that the public were right and you were wrong. Disastrously wrong and still too arrogant to admit that you made a huge mistake.

If the Market Hall fiasco had been a one-off lapse of judgment it might have been possible to forgive the Labour group and continue to vote for them without any major misgivings (as we did with The Water Place catastrophe). Sadly it was a harbinger of many more profoundly anti-democratic moves by the New “modern” Labour apparatchiks gathered around “clever” self-made entrepreneur Cliff Morris.

Many of these more recent moves have resulted in our Labour councillors reneging on long-standing promises made to their voters such as the development of the Cutacre site in Over Hulton. Residents of the area had been promised that the area would be restructured as a country park style recreational facility after the extraction of its coal deposits.

Imagine their surprise when the council came up with new plans for an industrial estate and a housing development. Hundreds turned up at a Bolton Council meeting to vent their understandable spleen in the largest public protest ever witnessed by our elected representatives.

Did it make any difference? Not one whit or jot. With the eager support of the political whores on the Liberal Democrat benches the scheme was pushed through regardless. The councillors divided on strictly party lines with Labour and the Lib Dems voting en masse for the motion and the Conservatives voting solidly against it. Party loyalty mattered far more to all of them than the will of ordinary people in the area affected.

We could go on and on in similar vein, mentioning the wholeheartedly unpopular removal of trees from Queens Park, the demolition of the cinema/bingo hall building in Ashburner Street (an outstanding success for Morris and his associates- perhaps they could open it to the public as a World War Two bomb-site theme park), and the destruction of many other old and attractive buildings in the town centre to make way for “modern” monstrosities which could only be loved by architectural barbarians.

More recently Morris and his “clever” gang have made the hugely unpopular decision to close most of the conveniently sited “surface” car-parks in the town centre, for no better reason than to force people to use the peripheral multi-storey structures erected by the council and their commercial partners. Don’t want to use our new buildings? Then we’ll make sure that you no longer have a choice.

On top of all these slaps in the face for the people of Bolton, the Morrisite Tendency has now announced their intention to close Moor Lane Bus Station (see article below dated 21st April) and to replace it with a new structure similarly remote from where most people want to go. Having destroyed the Market Hall they have now decided that Ashburner Street market must also be eliminated by stealth.

If the voters hate an idea, you can almost guarantee that Morris and his supporters will love it and do their level best to turn it into a reality. They seem to think that this anti-democratic contrarianism makes them appear terribly sophisticated and “modern”. If their “regeneration” plans destroy the town centre, so be it. After all, how else can such a poor quality crowd of unimaginative morons leave their mark behind for future generations to remember them by?

DEMOCRACY MUST BE RESTORED

The Morrisite Tendency has a profoundly cavalier attitude to public consultation, as you might expect from a group which laughs in the voters’ faces as often as they do. When coerced into holding a referendum on whether or not Bolton should have an elected mayor (a proposal that was hateful to the “Leader” and his commissars) only £4,000 was spent on publicising the process. Predictably too few people voted to make the result legally binding.

In contrast the Labour Party’s latest deeply controversial proposal – to sell off Bolton’s council housing – has received a propaganda budget of more than £500,000 and puzzled council tenants have been assaulted by umpteen thoroughly biased mail-shots in favour of the Morrisite party-line. Further propaganda has been distributed free of charge by Bolton at Home employees performing repair work. The legality of this needs to be investigated.

Before committing himself to such a huge propaganda budget the “Leader” might have done well to remember the outcome of the Congestion Charge referendum. Despite entire forests being chopped down to produce the lavish mail-shots for this scheme the public voted against the charge by an enormous majority. Were Morris and his associates ashamed of their misjudgement in backing this scheme? Of course not. They have no shame.

Even though they now hold half of the seats on the council, Cliff Morris and his band of totalitarian philistines can still be defeated. One essential move in this uprising against the “Leader” is for council tenants all over the borough to vote a resounding “NO!” to the housing transfer proposal. Don’t believe a word of their propaganda.

If you are a council tenant you will be much worse off if Bolton at Home is privatised. The council’s eagerness to demolish the opposition with a bulldozer should make you instantly suspicious. A lie repeated often enough may start to seem like the truth, but it is still a lie, even if those who dreamed it up bring high-powered consultants into town to tell it on their behalf.

A massive defeat on the housing transfer issue would seriously weaken the position of Cliff Morris and senior lieutenants of his tendency such as councillor Nick Peel (the man with an outstanding resemblance to a boiled penis who is the “Executive Member” for Housing) and other Bolton South East Labour Party luminaries including Bolton at Home chairman (and Farnworth councillor) Noel “Furniture Boy” Spencer.

Mention of Peel and Spencer in these columns may well provoke a response from Astley Bridge Labour activist William “Wee Willie Krankie” Gallagher, another former Bolton South East Labour Party member who seems to have cast himself as their public defender despite his apparent opposition to their housing policies. Sorry, Willie, but however much you sing Noel Spencer’s praises he is still on the side of Satan on this issue!

Further along the line we urge our readers to consider standing as Independent candidates in the 2011 local elections. If you can’t stand the Conservatives, are thoroughly disillusioned by the Lib Dems, and disgusted by Labour under the Morris administration, there is an alternative. YOU! And let’s face it you will be infinitely more talented and representative of public opinion than this pathetic bunch of anti-democratic megalomaniacs.

Spartacus Bloggs

on behalf of

The People’s Rebellion

News Update June 8, 2010

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Oh dear, isn’t it sad when Tories fall out? No, actually it’s hilarious! Conservative group leader John “Leave it with Me” Walsh has finally noticed that his Tory colleague in Astley Bridge, councillor Stuart Lever, is – how can we put this tactfully? – less active in that role than might be considered acceptable. Less active to the point of serving on no council committees (seen as part of the job description for a councillor) and attending only one meeting of the full council in the last year.

At Walsh’s direction Lever has been deselected as the Tory candidate in the 2011 local elections, and has (in response) been rather unkind about Walsh in the columns of The Bolton News. Our candidate in Astley Bridge, Neville Mercer, had been looking forward to facing Lever in the 2011 race but will now be denied this opportunity. Unless, of course, Lever decides to stand without Conservative backing. Got the balls for it Stuart? We doubt it.

LACK OF NEWS UPDATE

Can anybody tell us the state of play in the investigation into the affairs of that hotbed of turmoil known as Bolton South East Labour Party? Controversial councillor Sean Hornby (who was deselected by Labour, stood as an “Independent”, and lost despite his mattress stunt) was last heard of “helping the police with their enquiries” about missing funds from his time as the treasurer of the constituency party. Has he been cleared of any wrongdoing? We’d like to know.

THE GREAT BUS STATION SCANDAL April 21, 2010

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One of the subjects featured on Neville Mercer’s new election website www.mercerforcouncil.wordpress.com is the proposal to close Moor Lane bus station and to replace it with a new facility adjacent to the railway station. To be honest we hadn’t given the issue much thought until we read this piece, but after doing some research we came to the conclusion that he was right to be concerned about the idea.

by Terry Wha

Moor Lane has served as the town’s main bus station since the early 1930s, being ideally situated within easy walking distance of the Town Hall and Ashburner Street market. Its only problem is its considerable distance from the train station, making connections difficult for those travelling further afield.

At the time when Moor Lane first opened this was less of a problem as the buses ran alongside the tram system and most of the trams ran in a “loop” around the town centre, passing close to the train station at some stage in their journeys. After the withdrawal of the trams in the late 1940s Bolton Corporation Transport (as then was) solved the problem by introducing bus services which followed the old “tramway loop” routing.

Most areas of the town (the notable exceptions being Deane and Daubhill) retained a convenient connection to the trains until the early 1970s and beyond, but from 1969 onwards control of Bolton’s bus services passed to the new P.T.E. organisation based in Manchester and they seemed unable to grasp the essential nature of these links between the suburbs and the railway.

To give just one example of this, until the end of the 1980s Tonge Moor Road could boast a frequent service (the 546) to the train station. This service also provided a “straight line” connection between the Hall i’th’Wood council estate and the town centre. In their wisdom the P.T.E. allowed this vital service to be axed and replaced it with a new, astonishingly indirect, route which ran just once each hour.

The P.T.E.’s decisions regarding bus routes are frequently so bizarre as to beg the question of whether any of its board members or senior executives have ever used a bus service. But they do like building things and getting their names on commemorative plaques. Bolton’s share of this “vanity bonus” came in the shape of a new “Interchange” bus station in Newport Street.

This was built as part of a redevelopment of the train station which involved moving its main concourse (including the ticketing office) from the south side of Trinity Street to the north side. As a result Bolton has one of the longest walks from ticketing office to boarding platform of any station in the country outside of the major metropolitan termini.

The new “Interchange” bus station was even further from the platforms and proved increasingly unattractive to bus operators due to its compulsory left turn onto Trinity Street where exiting buses became embroiled in the most congested junction in the town centre.

By the end of the 1990s the only frequent services left at the “Interchange” were the 519 (to Chorley Old Road and Johnson Fold) and the 575 (to Chorley New Road and Horwich). Ineptitude by the P.T.E. and Bolton Council (who had come up with a singularly poorly designed one-way system) had destroyed a comprehensive network of connections more than a century old.

More recently even the 519 has had its terminus transferred to Moor Lane, adding to the congestion there and leaving the Newport Street site looking like a ghost town as far as public transport is concerned. The P.T.E. refused to accept that the “Interchange” was doomed and spent more than a million pounds on redeveloping the site. They like to build things, as we said before.

So, by 2009 the Greater Manchester P.T.E. had a brand new bus station with virtually no buses (only the 575 and a few hourly services remained), an almost complete lack of “connectivity” between buses and trains, and an embarrassing new mandate from Westminster to integrate the two forms of public transport. Naturally they came up with a plan. Equally naturally it was a lousy one.

Stage One of this scheme was to introduce a new free bus service (the 500 “Metro Shuttle”) between the town centre and the train station. Involving two buses on Monday-Saturday (daytime only) at huge public expense, this service attracted few passengers at first. It was all eerily reminiscent of a similar “Centre Line” service introduced during the 1970s which similarly chugged around the town centre with only an occasional occupant.

Eventually the new 500 service did attract a loyal following although still too few to justify the expense involved. Things were at least moving in the right direction until the P.T.E. and the Council screwed things up again by diverting the service via an awkward loop to serve a new bus stop on Crook Street. This additional mileage made the service less attractive to passengers who were just looking for a convenient way to catch a train.

Stage Two of the great plan involved building “Interchange Mk 3” in the triangle of land between the Preston and Blackburn railway lines, to the south of the quaintly named Bollings Yard. Unfortunately the idea was pure “Bollings” from the start as it proposed a much larger bus station than “Interchanges Mks 1 & 2” which would completely replace Moor Lane.

The attitude of the P.T.E. and their collaborators in Bolton Council had hardened. If the public refused to use their previous “Interchanges” then the obvious solution was to force them to do so by closing the alternative. These people have no understanding of the phrase “If it aint broke then don’t fix it”. And they wanted another commemorative plaque!

Now, you might have thought that our local councillors would have spotted the flaw in this scheme at once and told the P.T.E. where to stick its new proposal. “Interchange Mk 3” would indeed be closer to the train station than Moor Lane (although still not close enough) but it would be a long, long way from Ashburner Street market, the Town Hall, and most of Bolton’s main shopping areas (see map below).

To move the bus station from Moor Lane to this new site would almost certainly cause a rapid deterioration of the market’s commercial viability. Most bus services would pass the market on their way into town, but not on their way out of town when patrons of the market would be loaded down with shopping and in no mood to walk to Bollings Yard.

How could our councillors overlook such an obvious problem? Are they stupid? Well, yes, some of them probably are, but in the majority of cases the answer is undoubtedly more sinister. They just don’t care. There are other things on their minds, far more important things.

As Independent candidate Neville Mercer points out on his own website, our councillors are obsessed with “modernisation” for the sake of it, and in their eyes the market and Moor Lane bus station occupy land which might soon be needed for the University of Bolton or other “trendy” new projects far more to their liking.

We are sometimes accused (usually by supporters of the status quo) of being continuously negative and offering no new ideas of our own whilst being unerringly critical of the council’s schemes. To prove that this is untrue (we love the town, it’s the berserk, anti-democratic, self-serving political elite we have our doubts about) we offer the following cheaper alternative to the Greater Manchester P.T.E.’s multi-million pound boondoggle.

1)       Demolish the current train station concourse (and “Interchange Mk Two”) on the north side of Trinity Street and replace it with a similar building on the present site of two “retail sheds” alongside Manchester Road. Build a new footbridge or subway to give direct access to the station’s platforms, eliminating the fearsome trek currently involved.

2)       Solve the “connectivity” problem by offering a free and frequent bus service between the new train station forecourt thus created on Manchester Road, Moor Lane Bus Station, and the main shopping streets. Unlike the present 500 link this would run at least every five minutes on Monday to Saturday daytime and at least every 15 minutes in the evenings and on Sundays.

3)       This would require four buses at most, but two of these are already being paid for to run the present subsidised route and this dedicated service would be seen as a temporary measure pending a drastic realignment of local bus services to make it unnecessary.

4)       Establish a new “Interchange” on the proposed Manchester Road forecourt and give incentives to bus operators to begin using it to connect the suburbs of Bolton directly to the train services. This could be done by declaring Moor Lane to be full to capacity (it is!) so that any new services are forced to use the “Interchange”, and by waiving user charges for the first five years of any new operations.

We make no bones about it; this would all cost a considerable amount of money, but a heck of a lot less than the proposal backed by the P.T.E. and Bolton Council. And (in our version of the future) the continuing prosperity of Ashburner Street market would be assured, the town’s main bus station would remain where most people want it to be, and the hike from ticketing office to platform at the train station would be reduced to a short walk.

It isn’t “trendy”, but it does make sense. To paraphrase the slogan from the television series Heroes, “Save the Bus Station, Save the Market”. Bombard your councillors with emails, telephone calls, and threats not to vote for them until they agree!

NEWS UPDATES April 18, 2010

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Neville Mercer, Independent Candidate (Astley Bridge)

* Neville Mercer, the Independent candidate for Astley Bridge ward who is endorsed by The People’s Rebellion, now has his own website at www.mercerforcouncil.wordpress.com and we recommend that local voters (and those further afield) give it a look. Neville’s new website has been created with our assistance (he owns up to having limited computer skills) and we are glad to have been of help.

If you visit the site we’re sure that you’ll understand why we’ve endorsed his candidacy. His views really are a breath of fresh air compared to those of the individuals being promoted by the “big” three parties currently represented on the Council. If you live in Astley Bridge we strongly urge you to support his campaign in every way that you can.

* One of our legion of vengeful moles points out a slight factual error in the story “The Stench from B.S.E.” (see below), where we stated that Sean Hornby was succeeded as chairman of the Planning Committee by Nick Peel. Councillor Peel was in fact his predecessor while his replacement was another “Spinning Mule” alumnus, Jack Straw/Demon Headmaster lookalike Tony Connell.

The confusion arose because (at least according to The Bolton News) Nick Peel was in the chair at the 2010 meeting which included Councillor Laurie Williamson’s full-frontal assault on the Labour hierarchy. Presumably Connell was otherwise engaged at the time and Peel was standing in for him.

* It is also worthy of note that Hornby’s replacement as the official Labour candidate for the Little Lever & Darcy Lever ward is none other than Maureen Connell, wife of Tony. Just what we need, another husband and wife team on Bolton Council. It almost makes you want to vote for Sean Hornby. But not quite.

CAN YOU HELP?

We keep hearing interesting stories about Conservative group leader John Walsh but need your assistance to give them sufficient substance for us to publish them. Having already outed “Councillor Leave it with Me” as a closet Sherlock Holmes impersonator in a recent posting, we are now anxious to publicise his achievements in the local Church of England,

We already know that he was an official of St Georges church in the town centre before its closure and conversion into a Craft Centre (yet another of Walsh’s many successes!) but now we hear that he was also involved with St Pauls church in the northern suburbs of Bolton. Can one of the church’s parishioners illuminate us further? Confidentiality is guaranteed – either email us at boltoncouncilsucks@googlemail.com or use the completely anonymous form to the right of this page.

COMING SOON……..

“The Great Bus Station Scandal”, an in-depth look at the Council’s plans to close Moor Lane bus station and to destroy Ashburner Street market.

NEWS UPDATES April 11, 2010

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In our piece on John Walsh (“Councillor Leave it with Me”), we were unable to pin down the details of his alleged extra gritting in Astley Bridge during the “snow event” as the minutes of the February Area Forum meeting had yet to be posted at that time. We now have the minutes for this meeting and discover that the money given to “snow removal on estate roads” was a paltry £400. There are still no details of which roads benefited from this measly amount of extra funding.

At the same meeting we note that £540 was spent on the councillors’ erection of two “parking for residents only” signs on an upmarket private estate in the area. Our man in Astley Bridge, Independent candidate Neville Mercer, has inspected these signs on our behalf and confirms that they are neither made of precious metals nor lettered in tasteful gold leaf as one might expect from the cost of them.

Given the price of these two signs it seems likely that the £400 spent on “snow removal” did not quite represent the improvement to road safety implied by Councillor Walsh in his ebullient press release to the Bolton News. Incidentally, while we prefer the nickname “Councillor Leave it with Me” for Mr Walsh, many of his council colleagues refer to him as “The Fat Controller”. Which would you, the reader, prefer that we use?

THE STENCH FROM B.S.E.

A recent edition of The Bolton News gave details of the candidates standing for election to the Council and noted that there were three “Independents” in their ranks, as well as all the usual suspects. Well, yes and no. Our own preferred candidate, Neville Mercer in Astley Bridge, is a genuine independent with no ties to a major political party. The other two are not.

In Harper Green the allegedly “Independent” candidate is none other than Laurie Williamson who has held the seat for the Labour Party since 1979. As one might expect for such a long-serving minion of the Labour machine, he rose through the ranks and in the early years of the 21st century served as the “Executive Member” for Culture.

During those halcyon days he was the man at the helm when the decision was taken to close the disastrous municipal drain known as The Water Place in 2002, and also in charge when £440,000 was spent on the Amarna statuette in early 2004. You remember it, supposed to be Egyptian but actually made by forgers in Bromley Cross. Nice one, Laurie!

His career fell into decline after long-term Labour leader Bob Howarth was replaced by current supremo Cliff Morris, and the decline turned into a nose-dive in January 2008 when he was suspended from the Council for one month by the self-styled “Independent Standards Committee”. His crime was to send an email to a council employed highways engineer threatening to “stuff him through the mincer”.

Despite these temporary difficulties he remained a fully paid-up member of the Labour group and in May 2009 was honoured by appointments to the governing bodies of the Bolton Excel centre and the Octagon Theatre. The “mincer” incident was almost forgotten by March 2010 when he was again referred to the Standards Committee for a series of abusive emails sent to a Conservative party activist.

Before this matter could be considered by the Committee, the increasingly unpredictable Williamson went “rogue” in a big way. At a meeting of the Planning and Highways Committee on the 18th of March this year he launched a vitriolic attack on Labour bigwigs Linda Thomas (deputy leader of the Labour group and “Executive Member” for Corporate Resources) and Ebrahim Adia (“Executive Member” for Children’s Services).

Williamson alleged that both of these Labour VIPs had failed in their duties to the public when considering the plans for the new Essa Academy. A few days later he was quoted in The Bolton News as saying “I would like them to apologise to the residents for not doing their job”.

Planning and Highways Committee Chairman Nick Peel responded to Williamson’s outburst at the meeting by saying that this was a “disgraceful attack on two Executive Members who are not even here”. Peel was undoubtedly keen to prove his loyalty to the top brass, having only recently taken over the Chairmanship from his old drinking buddy Sean Hornby, of whom more later.

On the 22nd of March 2010 the Standards Committee lumbered into action and suspended Councillor Williamson from the Council for four months for his most recent “inappropriate” emails.

Williamson’s increasingly eccentric behaviour may well have been fuelled by anger over his “deselection” as the official Labour candidate for Harper Green in late 2009, replaced by Bolton South East (B.S.E.) constituency party chairman Mike Francis. All things considered it was a major slap in the face for a councillor of thirty years standing and many observers wondered exactly what was going on in the B.S.E. Labour Party.

On 7th April 2010 Williamson announced that he would be standing against Mike Francis in this year’s local elections as an “Independent” candidate. He was soon joined in the semi-detached camp by another well-known local politician, Sean Hornby, previously the Labour councillor for Little Lever and Darcy Lever ward.

Sean Hornby had already become better known than most Bolton councillors despite his relatively brief tenure in the Council Chamber. The son of another Bolton councillor (the late Kevin Hornby) he also laid claim to being a relative of the model “Twiggy” whose real name, as all pub-quiz devotees know, was Leslie Hornby. This has been difficult to substantiate but may well be true.

Famous relatives (?) aside, councillor Hornby junior made a big name for himself in 2007. On the 16th of May, after the annual “Mayor Making” ceremony at the Town Hall, Councillors Sean Hornby, Nick Peel, and Tony Connell were part of a group of Labour politicos who retired to The Spinning Mule pub in the town centre for a celebratory pint or two,

It turned out to be a gallon or two. Councillor Connell had the good sense to leave before the trouble started. During a five hour drinking session one member of the Labour cabal was sick on the pub’s stairs while another became unconscious and had to be carried out to a taxi.

Understandably they were all asked to leave and refused further alcohol. One of the group (sadly we do not know which) responded with the words “Do you know who I am?” while another helpfully pointed out that “We make the licensing laws, we can bend them”. It was the Labour Party’s finest hour.

Meanwhile the Labour MP for the Bolton South East constituency, Dr Brian Iddon, had decided to stand down before the next general election and the B.S.E. Labour Party was forced to consider the appointment of a successor. The choice of a candidate “parachuted” in by London, Yasmin Qureshi, in preference to a local candidate caused deep divisions within the party hierarchy in Bolton South East.

In early December 2007 the Labour party branches in Harper Green (Laurie Williamson’s power base), Little Lever (where Sean Hornby was ensconced), and Kearsley, filed official complaints with the Labour Party’s North West regional officers about the conduct of the ballot to replace Dr Brian Iddon as the chosen parliamentary candidate for Bolton South East. Three more branches would later join them in their protest.

In spite of this controversy (the complaints were later dismissed as you would expect with the Labour Party) Sean Hornby’s star was still in the ascendant above the Town Hall. He became the Chairman of the powerful Planning and Highways Committee, which fortunately perhaps had no jurisdiction over pub licensing.

Disaster struck in February 2009 when council investigators accused Hornby of using his car as a taxi without a licence and having no relevant insurance to cover this illegal usage. He was let off with a caution (why?) but faced the wrath of Council leader Cliff Morris who metamorphosed from a placid cow-like creature into a raging bull.

Hornby was sacked as Chairman of the Planning and Highways Committee and ultimately replaced by his mate from The Spinning Mule, Nick Peel. Desperate to repair his tarnished facade, Hornby next appeared in the local press as “The Frog King” in May 2009 at the annual “Frog Parade” in Moses Gate Country Park. The message was clear. Forget the drunkenness, forget the illegal taxi, Look at the Frog King instead!

It should perhaps be mentioned that Hornby’s nickname around the Town Hall is “Horny Seany” in tribute to his alleged prowess as a charmer of women. Perhaps they wanted to see if they could turn the “Frog King” into a handsome prince. On a more serious note, we wonder if any of his female conquests first encountered him in his illicit taxi.

In addition to his duties as a councillor, as a taxi driver, and as a Frog King, Sean Hornby also found time to act as the Treasurer of Bolton South East constituency Labour Party. On 1st March 2010  the Labour Party’s North West regional officials began a formal investigation into the finances of the B.S.E. party after complaints that thousands of pounds had gone missing.

We have to be careful what we say at this point, as we understand that a police investigation of the matter is already underway, but we can tell you that much of the allegedly missing cash had been contributed by Dr Brian Iddon and his supporters and that he and his associates are “spitting feathers” over its alleged disappearance from the party’s coffers.

Sean Hornby has had little or nothing to say about this incident, preferring to distract the public by restyling himself as “The Mattress King”. No, this is not a reference to his overactive gonads, but to a story which appeared in The Bolton News on the 31st of March 2010.

By this time Hornby had realised that his career in the Labour Party was over and was already planning his campaign as an “Independent” candidate. The story given to The Bolton News claimed that Hornby (as councillor for Little Lever) had asked the council to remove a sodden double mattress from a local stream.

Supposedly, council officials had responded with an assertion that a JCB would be needed to complete the task as “Health & Safety” regulations dictated that the mattress was too heavy for manual removal. Hornby and his friend, local cafe owner Paul Richardson, then took the matter into their own hands and bravely removed the mattress themselves without any need for special equipment.

Hornby and Richardson (the latter is now the former’s election agent) managed to keep this story running for more than a week before the local press finally smelled a wet mattress full of rats and drew the free publicity to a close. We don’t want to know about your mattress, Sean, we want to know about the thousands of pounds that have apparently gone missing!

If you can help us to discover the full story about Bolton South East Labour Party, please get in touch via the discreet email service. Your anonymity is guaranteed. In the meantime don’t be fooled by these two “Independent” impostors who are running for the Council. Messrs Williamson and Hornby are only running as Independents because the Labour Party has thrown them out on their ears!

Spartacus Bloggs

on behalf of

The People’s Rebellion

THE REBELLION BEGINS! March 2, 2010

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After a series of meetings during the last weekend in February we have agreed to endorse our first candidate for election to Bolton Council. NEVILLE MERCER, aged 56, of Oldhams Estate is to stand as an Independent in the ASTLEY BRIDGE ward, and will hopefully defeat the Conservative incumbent John Walsh who has featured several times on this website for all the wrong reasons.

Walsh, who is not a resident of Astley Bridge but was “parachuted” into the ward after losing his previous seat in Halliwell, is currently the leader of the Conservative group on the Council. Given his track record it is difficult to imagine a more fitting target for eviction from the “Big Brother House” known as the Bolton Council chamber.

Having said that, his prominence in the local Tory hierarchy will mean that the Conservatives will be pouring funds and volunteers into Astley Bridge to try and maintain his position. Both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats have repeatedly failed to defeat him, so it is essential that Mr Mercer receive your support, your assistance, and your vote on May the 6th to remove this “carpet-bagger” from the Astley Bridge political landscape.

We are now eager to endorse more Independent candidates who agree with the basic principles of The People’s Rebellion and this website. None of these should prove to be a problem for those with a genuine commitment to local democracy.

We expect the candidates we endorse to be entirely non-racist in their outlook, to listen to the residents in their area, to hold regular public meetings to gauge the opinions of those residents, and to follow the instructions of their constituents when voting in the Council chamber.

If you want to stand for election as a councillor in any ward other than Astley Bridge (only one seat is available in each ward at this year’s election) please get in touch so that we can organise a meeting and get things underway. Time is running out to make your mind up as nominations have to be filed at the Town Hall between March the 29th and 12 noon on April the 8th.

Fortunately it is surprisingly easy to throw your hat in the ring. The nomination forms can be obtained by ringing the Elections Manager, Mr Steven Blyth, on 01204 331247. After that all you need is 10 supporters who are registered to vote in the ward where you want to stand. Isn’t it strange that they don’t publicise this to encourage people to run? Well, given the present councillors’ attitude to the public, probably not!

Over the next three weeks the website team will be adding a series of features to the “Fight Back” section, suggesting tactics and strategies which could help to defeat the sitting candidates from the three main political parties. Remember that voter turnout in local elections has traditionally been very low (and membership in political parties even lower), so the name of the game is letting people know that they have a real choice for the first time in years.

If you live in Astley Bridge ward please lend your wholehearted support to Neville Mercer’s campaign. He can be reached via email (neville.mercer@ntlworld.com) or by telephone (07866 871859 between 12 noon and 7pm each day) and will be delighted to hear from you.

If you live elsewhere in Bolton why not make this the year when you get involved in making things better? We deserve councillors who will listen to the people and then do as they are told BY the people, not the present bunch of over-paid and under-performing political party apparatchiks!

“Spartacus Bloggs”

On behalf of

The People’s Rebellion

Secretive Housing Quango? February 23, 2010

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There are many reasons to oppose the proposed “housing transfer”. Rents for (present day) council tenants would undoubtedly rise by a large percentage, democratic accountability would decrease (only a third of the new housing association’s board would be publicly elected councillors), and the council would be allowed to walk away from years of neglect without paying the price (except by the questionable device of giving away millions of pounds worth of publicly owned assets for next to nothing).

In recent days we’ve discovered yet another reason why all sensible tenants should vote “NO” to this idea. While attempting to find out how much councillor Noel Spencer is paid for his duties as “chair” of the so-called “arms length management” quango Bolton at Home, we’ve been taking a close look at the organisation’s publicly available accounts. They make the Council’s own woefully impenetrable records look like a model of “transparency”.

The Council is required by law to publish an accurate summary of how much each councillor receives from the public purse (our own investigations of these records are contained in the “Greed” section of this website). By this means we know that backbench councillors receive just under £10,000 per year while “Executive Members” trouser more than £21,000 each despite the fact that many of them have full-time jobs outside of the Council.

Noel Spencer, on the other hand, is shown on Council records as receiving little beyond his basic £10k, despite his powerful position as the de facto supremo of housing. Now, given the vast amounts of “allowances” being pocketed by many of his Labour Party colleagues, we cynically presumed that this was because his council payments were being boosted by further “allowances” from Bolton at Home. We tried to find out, but – despite the fact that this is public money – the information is not available to the public!

Bolton at Home’s records contain no hard information, merely the statement that no person will be paid more than the current local government allowances. This could easily have meant that “Furniture Boy” Spencer was paid anything up to the £11,349 allowance given to Executive Members of the Council itself. Sources close to Councillor Spencer assure us that this is not so. Then why not come clean and tell us how much he does claim? If it seems like a genuinely reasonable amount nobody will object. We stress yet again that this is public money!

Bolton at Home is certainly very generous in the payments made to its senior members of staff, and becoming even more generous with every passing year. In 2006/07 only one employee of the quango (its Chief Executive) received more than £90,000 per year, whereas in 2007/08 three of its employees broke through the £90k barrier.

Sadly, we are unable to tell you the position for 2008/09 as Bolton at Home has failed to publish its accounts for that year on its website. If it was a commercial business it could be heavily fined for its failure to release its accounts to its shareholders. If it was a local council it could be similarly punished. The organisation exists in a curious grey area where it avoids any sanctions for its lack of public accountability.

We urge all of our readers to contact councillor Spencer by letter, email, or telephone (he may or may not be on 01204 793800, it’s an old number but worth a try!), demanding that he reveals all payments made to him by Bolton at Home, whether classed as allowances or expenses.

Under the housing transfer proposal Bolton at Home would be converted into a housing association. Many housing associations make quite substantial payments to their presiding officers while still charging rents to their tenants which are well above the going rate for council properties. This fact is often disguised in their accounts to avoid public outcry, so it looks as if Bolton at Home is already following housing association rules while still officially a division of the Council.

Incidentally, the Council still has an “Executive Member” for Housing (currently Nick Peel), so if councillor Spencer is receiving a similar allowance from Bolton at Home the local taxpayer is effectively stumping up for two people where one should be more than adequate. Perhaps the “arms length” bit in the Council’s description of Bolton at Home is something to do with hands held out to be filled with money!

Who are the PEP? February 5, 2010

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Attempting to research the organisation (the initials stand for Priority Estate Projects Ltd) has been like swimming through treacle. Their own website is almost completely unhelpful, containing much meaningless jargon but no “hard data” whatsoever about either the company or its senior employees.

The quest for information on these people is further complicated by the fact that the two employees assigned to the Bolton job are called John Edwards (one of the five most common names among people of English/Welsh ancestry) and Robert Webb (a Google search produces umpteen results but most of them relate to the comedian and “Peep Show” star of the same name).

The organisation, which refers to itself as “non-profit”, came to prominence in the Thatcher years when academics at the London School of Economics came up with a series of ideas to “improve” inner London estates such as the notorious Broadwater Farm. Rioting in this large and completely neglected estate (it didn’t even have a bus service until 2006) had led to the murder of the policeman Keith Blakelock.

PEP was established to implement the LSE professors’ ideas and recruited most of its employees from a background in municipal housing department or housing association management. During the remaining years of the Conservative government, under Thatcher and then John Major, it took part in “regeneration” schemes in 20 London housing estates.

For those who are too young to remember it personally, the Thatcher government (and the woman herself) were psychopathically opposed to public ownership of almost anything beyond the army and the police force. The gas, electricity, water, coalmining, telephone, train, and bus industries, previously owned by the nation as a whole, were sold off to private investors in quick succession.

Despite her personal antipathy to public ownership, Thatcher was a political realist (until her fatal mistake with the Poll Tax) and knew that she could never get away with the wholesale “privatisation” of even more fundamental assets such as low-cost housing and the health service. In light of this she decided to achieve her goals more gradually, by stealth.

In the housing sector she came up with a vote-winning proposition by giving council tenants the “Right to Buy” their properties at a heavily discounted price. The predictable result of this (the British have always had an eye for a bargain) was a vast reduction in the number of publicly owned flats and houses.

Being given the “Right to Buy” was, in itself, by no means a bad thing, but the flip-side of the Thatcher coin was a virtual prohibition on the building of new council properties to replace those being sold off to their sitting tenants. At a time of great economic hardship (caused by Thatcher’s frankly barmy political beliefs) the amount of low-cost housing available plummeted.

The number of professional public housing managers also nose-dived, but for these newly unemployed middle-class folk the “Iron Lady” had a bone ready to be thrown. They could become independent “consultants” available for hire to local councils, to advise on the intricacies of the “Right to Buy” scheme and other doctrinaire government initiatives.

As private-sector contractors they were forced to follow the government’s line to find enough work to pay their own bills. Any kind of dedication to the higher ideals they might previously have held went out of the window as a result. This was the dog-eat-dog environment which gave birth to PEP and dozens of similar organisations.

When John Major was ejected from power in 1997 and “New Labour” elected by a landslide, many of us (especially those on benefits or lower incomes) rejoiced. It seemed as if the nightmare was finally over. Sadly, it soon became clear (or should that be “absolutely clear”?) that Tony Blair and the rest of the Peter Mandelson crowd were as dedicated to “privatisation” and “consultants” as the most rabid of Thatcherites.

PEP were delighted to discover that the new government were actually Conservatives in Labour clothing, and the organisation soon enjoyed the political patronage of Deputy Prime Minister John “Two Jags” Prescott. Prescott liked to portray himself as a working-class hero. His hypocrisy was (and still is) boundless, and the attack on publicly-owned housing continued.

Council estates the length and breadth of the country, desperate for an influx of real money for real regeneration discovered that none was available. There was, however, plenty of money for “consultants” such as PEP to swarm across the land spreading their airy-fairy ideas like a plague of locusts. There was no money to build new council houses but shed-loads for loyal free-lancers in brand-new cars.

Returning to PEP’s claim that it is a “non-profit” organisation, this is clearly a matter of opinion. The group might well have no shareholders collecting dividends, but as it grows its longest serving employees get richer by default as they gain responsibility for more staff and experience a commensurate rise in their own salaries.

One can hardly blame their front-line employees such as Edwards and Webb. Elbowed out of the public housing sector by dwindling budgets they must have found PEP to be an attractive alternative employer. Once in receipt of their relatively generous “consultants” salaries their natural tendency was to preserve their newfound affluence by becoming enthusiastic about government policy. They became like crack-whores with an expensive habit. Morals were no longer on the agenda.

So, PEP can be described as “independent” only by those who remain blind to one basic truth. Their jobs depend upon slavishly following “New Labour” dogma, regardless of the interests of impoverished council tenants. They do what they have to do to survive and dress it up as “the way forward” to salvage their own ill-deserved self-respect.

According to Bolton Council (and we know that they never lie!), PEP were selected to advise on the Housing Transfer project by a “panel of tenants”. Did you get to vote for the residents who sat on this “panel”? Do you know who they are? Of course not. It’s more of the usual “smoke and mirrors” and this “panel” has as much democratic credibility as one of “New Labour’s” famous Focus Groups which unerringly rubber-stamp existing policies.

Stage One in the fight-back against this ridiculous proposal (or “opportunity” as Councillor Cliff Morris impartially puts it in the “newsletter”) is to make life as difficult as possible for the metaphorical crack-whores from PEP. Whilst unnecessary rudeness and unpleasantness should be avoided they must be given the message that we do not require their grubby services. Bolton says No.

The Council invite us to ring PEP on a toll-free number especially established for the Bolton job, 0800 328 0845. If you have to pay for your calls, by all means use this number to express your discontent. On the other hand, those with free call packages may prefer to jam the switchboard at the company’s real telephone number, 01782 790900.

If you call this latter number, don’t waste your time on underlings. Ask to speak to Nick Wigg (PEP’s Managing Director) and if you’re lucky enough to be put through tell him that we don’t want his tawdry little company’s advice. We already know how we’re going to vote.

Alternatively, if the switchboard refuses to connect you, then keep ringing them back with the same polite request until they do. There is nothing illegal in this, whatever they might try to tell you. He really needs to speak to you. Thousands of you!

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