CLLR OWEN: RESIGN NOW / REDWOOD CRESCENT RESIDENTS IGNORED / REPRIEVE TO KEEP THE TOWN HALL IN THE COMMUNITY / CLLR DODDY TRIES TO OUST SOUBRY/

  • Tory Councillor Philip Owen: helping those suffering domestic abuse is “political correctness gone mad”

  • Councillor Owen ‘Must step down or be sacked’

  • Redwood Crescent residents stonewalled by the council; possible criminal investigation on cards?

  • Town Hall: latest news.

  • Soubz v Cllr Doddy: round one to Soubz

  • Beestonia was right: Borough to be swallowed by County.

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Councillor Philip Owen is no stranger to these pages, having pursued a personal crusade of nastiness during his tenure as a Borough and County Councillor. He has struck again, and we think it’s time for him to step down.

Lisa Clarke, nurse, mother and feminist activist tells us why

This week in an official Nottinghamshire County Council meeting of the Children’s Committee, a meeting where councillors decide how our money is spent on supporting and protecting our children, Chair of the committee Philip Owen publicly stated that the police policy to prioritise domestic violence, modern slavery and hate crime was “political correctness gone mad”.

When questioned later about his comments in a radio interview he went on to state that the police only focus on these matters because it is fashionable to do so. Finally, he added that these issues were not the priority of his constituents who were more concerned with shed break-ins and robberies.

The councillor’s comments have rightly been widely criticised by commentators and attracted local media coverage. Leader of the Labour Group, Alan Rhodes, has asked Philip Owen to “consider his position”, intimating that he should at least resign his chairmanship of the committee in question. But, assuming Councillor Owen does not choose to voluntarily resign, what is the long-term impact for Nottingham County residents?

Already the local radio coverage has largely reduced this to a poor use of language. The concept of “mis-speaking” is a popular get out clause at present for politicians at all levels. In truth, the attitude that this betrays and the consequence of what has been said is both damaging and wide reaching.

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Cllr Philip Owen, alert as ever. Will Kay Cutts and Richard Jackson do the right thing and throw him out the party?


Nottingham has only recently been celebrated as a beacon of good practice in terms of it’s handling of misogyny and hate crime  – an approach so successful it has been proposed that it should be rolled out nationwide. So can Councillor Owen really single-handedly undermine our progressive stance?

Well, for a start, he is being very modest both about the power he wields and his scope of responsibility. As a County Councillor Owen has a far bigger remit than simply representing his own constituency. Every member of a committee contributes to decisions made that affect funding and provision of services for the whole area of Nottinghamshire County. In this case, as chair, Owen is responsible for ensuring that the issues and services most vital to our children and families are discussed, prioritised and adequately resourced and funded. We rely on this man – and the team he chairs – to provide effective care and support for the children in our area.

At the very least Councillor Owen’s words show an alarming lack of knowledge about domestic abuse and its wider effects on children and families. For a start, it seems he is judging the priorities of his constituents based on what he hears most in conversation. People talk to him about robbery of their sheds and houses and these, therefore, are the matters of most importance. By contrast, he appears to insinuate that because he is rarely approached about domestic violence, that it is not a significant issue; that it, therefore, does not warrant the same level of his time and consideration, or, in turn, the funding he part controls.

The very nature of domestic violence is that victims do not often talk about it openly, especially given that women (the overwhelming majority of its victims) are so often living under threat of harm to themselves or their children. In fact, they avoid talking about it, not just because it is deeply personal and difficult area of their lives, but because talking about it would be likely to threaten the safety of them and their family even further. The most dangerous time for any victim of domestic violence is when they try to leave.

Given their circumstances and experience, I am hard pressed to think of a less likely confidante for any woman in this predicament than a middle-aged, middle-class, male councillor with a reputation for nastiness and a void of empathy,  so it is hardly surprising that this is not a matter  Owen has to face on a regular basis. In fact given that his views on the matter have now been publicly shared, he has just made that far less likely, and indeed removed any chance that someone might view him as a route to support.

There are multiple barriers for women escaping abuse in seeking and receiving support: actual physical danger of attack, fear, feeling that you are responsible, lack of refuge places or family support. Congratulations to him for having just put up another obstacle!

Domestic violence, some statistics suggest, affects one in four women in their lifetime and there is a reason that Theresa May, leader of the Conservative party that Phillip Owen claims to represent, has prioritised it recently – it is increasing. Looking at convictions alone the volume of successfully prosecuted domestic abuse cases rose in 2015/2016 to 100,930, an increase from 92,779 in 2014/2015.

This is the highest level ever recorded. In short therefore, even if he was not chairing a committee (a role which affords him a substantially increased allowance) and even if Owen’s only responsibility as a councillor were to his own constituents in Kimberley and Nuthall, it is highly unlikely that he could afford not to prioritise domestic violence support in his area.

The scale and impact of statistically proven male violence against their partners, in the home, is such that it is highly likely that at least one person in the very room in which Owen spoke these heinous words is experiencing or has experienced a form of domestic abuse themselves. It also means that, potentially, one in every four of the women he claims to represent may need domestic violence support at some point.

I think we can all agree that any crime is a traumatic thing to experience, and nobody should have to tolerate having a shed broken into or being burgled. I don’t doubt that crime is rising, the cut’s Owen’s own party have made to national policing budgets have had a huge impact https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/police-funding-cuts-failing-to-respond-rising-crime-terror-inspectorate-report-efficiency-home-a8044866.html – but, is the rate of these crimes really as high as one in four; and – even if it were -what is the comparable damage and trauma, and how relevant are those issues to the safety of children?

NSPCC data that suggests that over 140,000 children in the UK live in households where high-risk domestic abuse takes place. This means there is serious risk of injury or death. The most basic training in Child protection teaches that the existence of domestic violence in a home is one of the single most important indicators of risk of harm to a child. This is why if police attend an incident in a family home they HAVE to report it to children’s social services.

This is without even considering the long-term psychological damage and life-limiting potential of witnessing a parent abused by another parent. Let us not forget that children are victims of domestic abuse too. It is both truly terrifying and unforgivable that the Chair of the children’s committee at Nottingham County Council is so very ignorant of this matter. By not recognising domestic abuse as an issue – including as an issue for children – not only he is doing them a disservice, he is potentially complicit in their ongoing entrapment and abuse.

When it comes to attitudes around violence in relationships and families we all have a choice – to be part of the problem, or to be part of the solution. It’s clear he has chosen his side. We the people of Nottingham County can only hope he reconsiders. The consequences if he doesn’t will be severely damaging. Will Kay Cutts now ask for his resignation from the County Council, and will Richard Jackson do similar for the Borough? If they truly believe in Theresa May’s stated belief in tackling domestic violence and modern slavery, then they will. If they are happy to serve with a bigotted misogynist in their ranks, expect him to be spouting more ignorance at the next council meeting. LISA CLARKE.

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TOWN HALL UPDATE

Apologies for the delay in this update: as you will know if you follow my other week, i’ve been rather busy.

 

I wrote the following on Facebook immediately after the meeting:

Right, a quick synopsis of the council meeting tonight regarding the Town Hall.

Before I was leaked the confidential papers about the bidding process to keep the building in the community, the council were ready to vote to make sure that that bid would not be accepted, and that the Church bid would be the only one going forward.

We changed that. Thanks to whoever leaked the document to me, the people who subsequently analysed it, and all those who turned up tonight – they all made the council keep the community bid in the running. It’s not the war won, just a battle, and there will plenty more fights to come.

They didn’t accept this defeat lightly, however. The Leader of the Council, Conservative Richard Jackson called the leak and the exposure of the conflicts of interest as ‘disgusting’ ‘untrue’ and claimed I was a member of the community bid – I’m not and the community bid will be lodging a formal complaint as such.

But the leak shone a light where it needed to be shone and exposed the council. They claimed it was a ‘disgrace of democracy’. I would argue quite the opposite – the disgrace lies solely with the ruling party of the council, who for personal gain hate transparency, hate public input, hate democracy.

The fight continues. Thank you, everyone.

 

So, a victory of sorts for the community bid, although it is clear the council are desperate to get the building off their hands as soon as feasibly possible.

 

But again, I attended a council meeting and was subject to being lied to and my professional reputation trashed by councillors that write about – with no right of reply. I do have an outstanding complaint, which was, by the council’s own guidelines, should have been dealt with in 20 days. It’s now 120. As such, I’ve opened a complaint with the Local Government Ombudsman on this failure by the council to reserve the case, and will be taking further legal action in due course. The council treating the people they are tasked to serve abysmally? Well, what a neat way to segue into the Redwood Crescent debacle….

 

BROXTOWE BUILDING SCANDAL: COUNCIL NOT OUT OF THE (RED)WOODS YET

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I visited Redwood Crescent on a warm day back in May, and met Kris Poole and Robert Pitchfork to talk about what was happening on their street. What they told me shocked me: and as regular readers of this blog know the utter ineptitude of the current administration  I intended to write up a piece a few days later, but circumstances conspired and a few months on it still sits half written and much-added to on my hard drive.

In brief – very brief, because the amount of stuff the wonderfully tenacious Poole and Pitchfork have turned up deserves to be given credit, and will be published soon – Broxtowe bought up a row of garages on Redwood Crescent and sold them at a startling discount to a company, Precision, that was ran by a guy who’d already screwed up a build in North Notts. The developers then built some atrocious houses – or rather, didn’t build them, leaving them an absolute eyesore in the centre of the close. Who allowed this, and who knew what seems to either point to gross ineptitude, or something rather more sinister and corrupt. If info I’ve received recently checks out, we can assume the latter and expect a few arrests down the line. Small consolation for the residents, who have to live with this mess on their street.

As with any brewing scandal, the story moves fast, and from what I heard happened at full council when residents got to ask (carefully pre-approved) questions to the council. As usual, they were stonewalled:

To Cllr Kerry  The council’s Garage Strategy put forward the option of demolishing garages in order to redevelop land for affordable housing. Can you please explain how the sale of land at Redwood Crescent to a developer who then wants to rent them out for over £1000 per month fits with this?

Cllr Kerry: “Due to an ongoing international investigation, legal advice is that I am unable to talk about this”.

To Cllr Jackson: When did you first become aware of possible improprieties in the way that the land at Redwood Crescent was handled and how did you attempt to rectify that situation for the benefit of residents?

Cllr Jackson: After taking external legal advice I am unable to answer until internal investigation has concluded. Investigation findings will be published as soon as allowed.

Open, transparent, democratic. None of these words are in Kerry or Jackson’s vocabulary, it seems.  Perhaps after sacking Councillor Owen, Councillor Jackson can also do the honourable thing and follow?

He won’t obvs, but maybe something else will force his hand. If it’s not an impending criminal charge (watch this space) then maybe it will be the civil war in his own party. Yes, the Tory Brexit schism has hit Broxtowe….

SOUBZ V DODDY: THE BATTLE GOES ON.

Broxtowe Councillor John ‘This budget will stop cancer‘ Doddy is also the chair of Broxtowe Conservatives but isn’t content to swim in such a small pond. What he really craves, and which sources close to him tell me has become an obsession, is to be an MP himself. There is one impediment to this: we already have one here. I’ve written about her once or twice.

Yet this is a party where Brutus would feel great kinship, where Boris  Johnson’s personal ambition overrides any sense of duty; where the whip’s office seethes with conspiracy and threats; where Jacob Rees Mogg can seize power in a coup so subtle we’re only just realising it’s happened. Doddy decided to try the ol’ dark arts himself.

Seeing that Soubz was in a position of vulnerability through assuming the pariah status of the Tory’s voice of anti-Hard Brexit, and noting her small majority will disappear when the next election is called (November?) due to a resurgent UKIP targetting her seat, he decided to survey local members on their thoughts on her performance. The results of this would then be very powerful ammo for calling for her deselection, and leave the path clear for Doddy to march into the Commons.

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Unfortunately, he bungled it, and Soubry got wind of the survey and hit back in the strongest terms. I’ve printed it in full here as it is quite scathing, and gives some startling insight into the workings of the local Tory party:

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A complaint about Doddy was submitted by Soubz to Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis, though asking him to make an ethical / procedural judgement on this is like asking Piers Morgan to do some proper journalism. 

Stung, Doddy put his tail between his legs and retreated, sending Soubry this contrite-soaked reply:

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Blimey. And just as internal divisions within the party in Westminster put the public well behind their own careers, so to in Broxtowe. Wonder why your complaint hasn’t been dealt with, why Councillors ignore you, why that bit about ‘representing residents’ seems secondary to their own ladder-climb? Wonder no longer.

BROXTOWE: SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER.

You’ve probably heard of the plans to abolish Broxtowe, and have the county council absorb it and other borough councils. I have been predicting this for some time and pointing out that the trashing and degradation of a once-great council is not an accident, it is ideology. I was accused of scare-mongering and peddling conspiracy theories about this, but its now proven to be true. This story obviously deserves more than a brief footnote, and I will try and do it justice soon.  For now, any financial help to keep this blog running and allow me to take time out of freelancing to write it is appreciated: https://www.paypal.me/BEESTONIA

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TOWN HALL: A CONFLICT OF INTEREST?

COUNCIL MEETING TONIGHT (weds 4th July) TOWN HALL 7PM START; ATTEND AND PROTEST

  • Conflict of interest suspected in the bid process
  • Officer in charge of bid process has links to evangelical church bidding
  • Local gov procurement expert damns council’s process
  • Calls for bid process to be restarted with greater transparency
  • Legal action being prepared against council

In our last report, we scrutinised documents we were shown that outlined the process the council used for assessing the future of the Town Hall, in particular bids that would have ensured the building would have remained in community hands.

While we were looking through the documents, we were tipped off that there was another potential conflict of interest involving the officer advising on, and evaluating, the bids. This brings into question the neutrality of the bidding process – as well as the flawed methodology employed in the process we outlined in the previous article, a major breach of the procedure may have occurred.

One of the bidders, as we briefly mentioned in previous article, is a local evangelical church, which we shall not name for now. They are pretty much awash with money, having several rich backers and a tithe system that has allowed them to raise millions in funds to increase their property portfolio.

It is a member of the powerful Evangelical Alliance, a growing organisation of churches which, while doing a fair bit of good work at home and abroad, have a stridently homophobic attitude and advocate gay and lesbians ‘transform’ and join the church. They are quite a vocal bunch, and not fond of dissenting voices: organisations that advocate that gay love is, well, love, are thrown out of the organisation. But my personal views on this should not taint my oversight of the process, right?

What struck us about the leaked notes on this bid was how positive the evaluator judged the bid, in both language and willingness to take it forward.

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Compare to the community bid

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This is simply untrue. Yet if it wasn’t for getting sight of this leaked document, this would have been hidden from sight. Rendering a document non-public allows a multitude of sins.

Before we get to the information about why this might be so, and why the process looks subject to a conflict of interest, we were contacted by a procurement expert / Member of the Institute of Purchase and Supply who came across our campaign. She was horrified by what she saw

…really looks like the weightings prove that the council are favouring certain bidders which in my mind is unethical and against procurement guidelines…

and

…I am sure they will have broken more than one guideline. I recently had to back off an interview panel because I knew one of the candidates and I fail to see how someone with a personal interest in a bidder can form a major part in the assessment and awarding process.

(that bit will become clearer further down the page)

also

I know the govt depth I worked for would never have allowed such a shambles!

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Is it just a lack of professionalism, or is something more sinister happening?

The aforementioned officer (who had control of the evaluation process and wrote the leaked report) is a key member of the church bidder’s sister church in Nottingham, a fellow member of the Evangelical Alliance. His family members are also personnel at the church, and he has conducted missionary work on their behalf.

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We have strong evidence to suggest that the officer did not declare this potential conflict of interest and offer to be recused from the process. In not doing so, we believe his professional neutrality could not be guaranteed, and the process was thus inherently flawed.

More evidence to back this up comes from a further reading of the document. While the rules towards bids are applied stringently on the community bid, with no supporting evidence requested, extra time given, the church bid gets an unprecedented extension to its bid

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We have not named the officer to avoid embarrassment to himself and his colleagues, and we hope that his failure to disclose this conflict of interest was an oversight, rather than a clear case of pushing through his personally preferred bid. Either way, we do feel that the process is invalid and the council should rethink the process from scratch, with much greater transparency and emphasis on retaining the building for public use. Flogging it to friends is not an option.

I am aware at least one party is ready to issue a legal challenge made via the Local Government Ombudsman and other routes if this is not the case and the council bundles through the report’s findings to be voted on by Full Council.

The Town Hall should represent the best of local democracy, a monument to transparency. Tonight we will find out if those who sit in it are worthy to do so.