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Thursday, 26 August 2010

Lock Stock... bang to rights

To be elected a councillor, anywhere in the UK you have to be qualified to stand.

This means you need an address in the borough that is either your principal place of residence or employment for the preceeding 12 months from the date of nomination.

To prevent our illustrious representatives from having any shadow of doubt on their personal affairs benefitting from their time as an elected member, they are required by law to complete a "declaration of interests" and this shows any property they own, or rent, together with any company they are connected to that does business with the council.

At meetings if an item is to be discussed that is somehow connected to the building where they live, or involves the company they own or work for, the councillors are supposed to declare an interest. Best practice is for councillors to actually leave the room while these matters are under discussion, but failing that should sit there with their mouths firmly closed until the meeting moves onto the next item. A tall order no doubt for some.

It is a legal requirement that each time the content of the lodged "declaration" changes, it is to updated promptly.

Hornet was surprised therefore when flicking through the DoI of councillors to see that Cllr Shireen Ritchie seems to live nowhere. The question to list "any land in the borough which you have a beneficial interest" she says N/A. Not applicable?

This includes property you own a freehold or leasehold, or have a tenancy. In otherwords, if you live in your own home or you rent it, list it.

Hornet suspects Cllr Ritchie, whose claim to fame is landing an unsuspecting public the potential Tory candidacy of pop sensation Adam Rickett, actually does live somewhere, so wonders why she has omitted it from this legal document.

An oversight or a monumental error?

Hornet isnt actually surprised she has no address in the borough, that probably explains why she doesnt advertise her surgeries.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Time to reflect

The 70th "anniversary" of the Battle of Britain was marked on 20th August by a reading of the famous Churchill "few" speech by actor Robert Hardy in Whitehall. 

Hearing his stirring words were actual veterans of the conflict and Dame Vera Lynn, followed by a flypast of  Spitfire and Hurricane fighter planes.

If it was not for their incredible bravery and self sacrifice of the RAF servicemen and women, it would have been very likely that we would have been defeated in the Second World War and our lives could be far  different than they are today.

Let us at this time spare a moment, to reflect on the sacrifices of all the civilians and armed forces of the two wars in the last century, and be thankful that they did so much for so many.

Whether or not you believe the wars in Iraq and Aghanistan are justified, we must support the brave men and women serving our country today in the middle east. They are not politicians, and are just doing their job. We are proud of every single one of them.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Boodles Orange Fool

A while back Cllr Moylan, while he was in this country anyway, hoped to join the Gentlemens Club in St James called Boodles. Boodles is a pretty exclusive place based in St James, having moved from Pall Mall about 200 odd years ago.

Notable past members include actor David Niven, anti slave trade campaigner William Wilberforce, fashion icon Beau Brummell and politicians John Profumo and Sir Winston Churchill

He was proposed by his rather grand neighbour, but a year or so after his candidacy was first mooted it was quietly withdrawn.

Curiously enough, Hornet learns, that this was shortly after the Great Architect himself attacked the design favoured by Boodle’s most prominent member, the Prince of Wales, for a new Classical Italian style entrance at Kensington Palace, which he scathingly likened to "something from a garden furniture catalogue".

Hornet would like to know how many times Cllr Moylan has looked at a garden furniture catalogue.

According to the London Evening Standard, they suggest it is Cllr Moylans role within Transport for London that has angered the Boodles Gentlemen, who who are infuriated by TfL extracting huge fines for petty traffic offences.

The Standard even alleges that the proposer of Cllr Moylan has been on the receiving end of a £60 traffic penalty. The friend who owns a villa in Corfu next to Lord Rothschild’s, has written an angry letter to Moylan complaining about parking fine!

Hornet wonders where the letter was sent? To the town hall, or maybe to Moylans holiday home, no matter Hornet is sure if requested Cllr Moylan could get his mail couriered over to him while abroad, shame we cant say the same about his Boodles membership card.

Trebles all round!

SNIP need support

Information has reached Hornet, in a roundabout sort of way, about a campaign group set up to fight plans for the new Iranian Embassy in South Kensington reported earlier right here. The Group called SNIP (Stop New Iranian Embassy Plan) gathered at the Town Hall last week to rally against plans to build the modernist embassy on the site of a multi-storey car park.

Neighbours of the site have complained to the Council that the plans are large and out-of keeping with the surrounding area. The group is objecting to the plans for a new embassy on several grounds.
It believes that the modern design is out of keeping with the surrounding 19th century architecture, and particularly St Augustine's Church, which is just 20ft away.

SNIP, and Hornet urges people to look at the plans on the website of the council here and to register your views accordingly.

RBKC make Exhibitions of themselves

Kensington & Chelsea-ers, and the numerous visitors to our world class museums in South Kensington cant help but notice the flurry of activity going on "redeveloping" Exhibition Road and the surrounding area. The council have appointed a private developer in the latest stage of the £21.8 million contract.

The contractor has been ordered to lay pristine granite paving slabs, making the Exhibition Road area a single surface spanning from South Kensington Station to Hyde Park.

Using what the councils say are "high quality dark and light granite slabs to create an impressive interlocking design that is expected to last for up to 100 years without significant repair - far longer than a conventional road surface which is expected to last only 25 years"

Very commendable Hornet hears you say.
Perhaps. But Hornet wandered by a couple of the workmen laying these beautiful granite slabs, and as usual attracted a little attention from the hard hatted chaps.

Speaking to them, Hornet was surprised to learn that these slabs are, so these chaps said, imported from China rather than using a home grown supplier, or one a little closer. The transportation costs of these monolith slabs must have been just as mammoth, on the purse and the environment. Even if it came from the granite quarries of India, its still a world away.

Still, if it is China, what with our Dear Leader cosying up to Iran, why should a far east dictatorship regime be any different?

So  next time you go down to South Ken, and marvel at the wonderful new paved surfaces, each step you are taking has a massive carbon footprint, and could have been mined by political prisoners and/or child labourers.

Well Done to the Chief Architect.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

New Competition... "Wheres Danny"

As you get off for your Summer hols look out for the Lesser Spotted Daniel Moylan, who used to reside at the Town Hall, but has on 17 occasions so far not been seen in his usual roost.

If you see him on the beach, or in a restaurant then ask him if he is missing any meetings at the Town Hall but if he is reading his council papers dont disturb him, he is doing something to justify his allowance.

Dinner in America

Anyone could, quite legitimately attend a conference, or an exhibition in connection with running an organisation. Businesses do it all the time, Directors go off to presentations and seminars to discuss new ideas, best practice and for networking.

The same could be said for local government.

Do you think its worth though, the dear Leader of K&C the unbeknighted Cllr Merrick Cockell flying to America to attend a conference on the merits of having "one single phone number for a city" - we kid you not.

Well he did, and here is his expense summary that council tax payers coughed up for him, £3367 in total to prove it.

Now looking at the summary, you can see $2000 for the hotel, £2000 for the flight, and then about $260 for incidentals and you could be forgiven for thinking, well thats reasonable (if you set aside the actual reason for the trip for a moment).

But Hornet can reveal the "incidentals" of about $260 do not really paint a real picture, oh no. Its a lot murkier when you look carefully at the actual hotel bill, that Hornet has acquired.

And here is his actual hotel bill, the rather plush Sofitel in New York. The first item is the Limosine from the airport to the Hotel. Hornet goes to New York from time to time and usually uses a taxi to get downtown. It doesnt cost $130 a time like Cockells Limo, and Hornet cant bill it back to the council tax payer either. Of course it was limo that took him back to the airport as well, costing another $130.

Cllr Cockell has to eat and drink, and he chose to use room service, fair enough. But then why bill the room service to the council? In the heady world of business that Cllr Cockell used to know from the time he ran an import/export business from the basement of the local Tory Office, its usually off limits to bill-back room service as its prices are at a premium.

And he did it more than once, so thats a very expensive lager the council tax payers bought him.

There is also the little question of the $180 dinner at the Four Seasons...   ...that must have been a big dinner, with some alcohol for just one person, or was it more than one person? If so, whom? More importantly, what was the point of the rather expensive dinner in a luxury hotel?

Questions need to be asked, and answers should be forthcoming.

You will notice as well the council paid over £2000 for return flights with Virgin Atlantic. Hornet usually flies to New York for around £400, sat somewhere near the back on comfortable seats, usually with BA. So its clear Cllr Cockell didnt fly economy class but business class or maybe more.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a Director of a private company, like Cllr Moylan is, (and Cllr Cockell was) jetting off on business and his company picking up the tab for the expenses and the flight upgrades, the room service, the limo, and the expensive dinner at the Four Seasons. Its the companies money, they earned it  they can spend it how they like.

RBKC isnt a private company. It doesnt have any money of its own, the residents of K&C fund it, and Cllr Cockell shouldnt be allowed to jet off in luxury, be put up in luxury and driven about in luxury at the residents expense. Especially to junkets that frankly have a very loose connection to running a local council, halfway across the globe.

News has just reached Hornet that this isnt the only trip funded by taxpayers to America for Cllr Cockell. Watch this space.

Apology to Cllr Moylan re Expenses

A little while ago Hornet reported that Cllr Daniel "Holiday Home" Moylan managed to squeeze over £800 to have council papers couriered to him while he is abroad either "on private business or while at his holiday home" on four occasions.

Hornet was wrong, and for that unreservedly apologise to Cllr Moylan, because it was actually seventeen times at a cost of £2230.

This then reinforces the thoughts of Hornet when we discussed this issue previously.

On seventeen occasions, Cllr Moylan was abroad at a what must have been a critical time and had to have his council papers couriered to him, and this cost the council tax payers of K&C over £2000.

£2000, thats more than the average monthly wage of a nurse, or a rookie policeman. It would pay a nursery teacher for a few weeks.

Cllr Moylan is a successful businessman, with various directorships of sorts on a number of property companies, he earns money from most if not all of them, he earns money from Transport for London, and is paid a handsome wage from K&C Council.

Who the hell does Cllr Moylan think he is?

If he had to have papers couriered to him seventeen times then, frankly, it takes the mickey. Cllr Moylan clearly fails to recognise the significance of his actions. There is nothing wrong with having a holiday home, or going abroad for business, but there is a big problem if it interferes with your role as a councillor.

Cllr Moylan must repay all the money spent on courier charges, and spend more time in the Town Hall and less time in his speedos relaxing around the pool. You are elected to serve the people of K&C, so start acting like it.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Cockell in a right Pickle

Hornet learns that our illustrious leader the unbeknighted Merrick Cockell has fallen on hard times.

He used to receive a handsome booty from London Councils, but has since been booted from the position of Chairman. So he lost the £20,000 that came with his sinecure chairing of the closest thing to a quango.

Then he was just down to his £15,000 from the Audit Commission, and the near enough £70k from the council tax payers of Kensington and Chelsea as their Leader.

But wait...    the new ConLib Government bruiser for Communities and Local Government has landed Cockell in a right pickle, by announcing the abolition of one of his paymasters the Audit Commission.

Thats £35,000 off his £100,000+ income a year, so he's probably scrabbling around to find ways to fill the financial void and avoid the hard times experienced by many of his boroughs residents. Hornet wonders if it means he will revert to his old ways of lavish expense claims, at the expense of the council tax payers.

Hornet suggests something he could do, don't go for that hotel lunch, head down to PizzaLand, they do a great Four Seasons.

You've got Mail

When you have a new puppy and it sees a bee it plays around with it for a bit but when the bee has had enough it zaps the little fella on the nose. That puppy wont go anywhere near a yellow stripey buzzy thing again!

A cow grazing on the field surrounded by a lightly electrified fence, will only try to barge through it once. A couple of volts from the live wire will definitely make the docile beast think again before trying to emulate Steve McQueen in his famous movie role.

So you would think that Mr Phelps would have considered carefully before sending out yet another unsolicited mail to a whole host of unexpecting (and perhaps disinterested) individuals. Yes, folks Phelps is still reeling from the recent turn of events, and it seems to Hornet that he is playing out to be the victim in all this.

A concerned resident has sent to Hornet an email, from Phelps to most of his former colleagues at the Town Hall, claiming that the complaint made to the Police about his emails has been dismissed. He goes onto accusing an individual of making the complaint in the first place.

The individual in question happily set about putting Phelps right, as the complaint to the Police came from the Officers at the Town Hall and not from the concerned individual who was merely contacted by the Police in connection with their enquiries.

Phelps should learn a very big lesson from this, and accept the consequences of his actions and perhaps uninstall his email programme.

Coming Soon...

 The newest soap opera this side of Walford, look out as we introduce each of the characters...   soon

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Out and about...

Wandering around Earls Court this week, Hornet has spotted tatty Focus leaflets littering the floor, and clutches and huddles of LibDem people - complete with those little orange diamond badges. Obviously these are the LibDem's bussed in from other parts of the capital, as they were poring furiously over local maps trying to get their bearings. 

Not a Tory in sight though. 
Anyone would think there is an election!

Iran raises the steaks in Kensington

It is scandalous that in this day and age the people running the show think they can sweep decisions under the carpet and ride roughshod over the people in their community. Tinpot dictactors, leaders treating the place like a personal fiefdom, however you describe it, its 2010, and yet some people still can be deprived of their basic rights.

Hornet isnt talking about the long oppressed people of Iran, whose plight is certainly bad, no, we're talking about the people of K&C who the council thought they could basically ignore when it came to the planning application for the proposed new Iranian embassy in the borough. 

It certainly wont please everyone, It is an obvious effort to break certain (cultural) stereotypes about Iran, as well as an attempt to reach out to the rapidly increasing Muslim population in the UK. A "progressive" Iran is a good image; I'm not sure how many people will actually buy that in RBKC, especially if you live next door to it. .

The new building will be neighbours to the Grade II listed St Augustines Church in Queens Gate, and few metres from the old Iranian embassy building that was stormed by the SAS back in the 1980's. Under the original Town Hall plan, the planning application would be decided sometime in September. Unlike other planning applications though, it wasnt placed on the councils website to solicit residents views and its absence was explained away "for security reasons".

Suddenly now, following a public outcry, the councils website carries the planning application and reportedly the hearing on the application has been put back to October or November.

At last, democracy prevails, there is hope for Iran.

In an intriguing twist to the tale someone booked the Town Hall for a dinner party, described by the Town Hall as a "non political cultural group" but advertised on the Iranian embassy website as a "celebration by the Islamic Republic of Iran".

It is widely reported the leadership of the council were informed well before the event the true nature of the event and its organisers, and how such events are often portrayed on State TV back in Iran as evidence how high regarded their Government is considered in foreign countries. In other words, any dissidents in Iran, you are on your own. A propaganda coup in no uncertain terms.

The leadership failed to prevent the "event" from going ahead.

Hornet welcomes diversity, but would probably forego an invitation to break bread with those governments who stone women to death and hang adolescent males just because they are gay. Actually, if it were up to Hornet we would have told the organisers of this "dinner" or celebration where they could put their booking application form.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Hornet notices on RBKC website there are three councillors for Brompton Ward, but according to the local Tory party website there are only two.

Does 1A know something we don't?

Postcard for Cllr Moylan

According to the council website, Cllr Moylan has on occasions had council papers sent to him abroad by courier, paid for by the council.

This is to enable him to continue with his council duties. In 2008/9 the council coughed up over £800 to do this, that's enough to get you to Thailand and back!

The council say he has reason to travel abroad on private business and that he has a holiday home overseas.

Hornet has looked at his declaration of interests and can see he holds various positions on various companies, mostly associated with property, and all seem to have UK based portfolios. This is publicly held information freely available, you can see it for yourself on the RBKC website, or the website of TFL.

Now that got us wondering....

If you need your council papers couriered to you because you are away on business, you must be away for quite some time. If you were popping over to Frankfurt for a business lunch, or to Paris to meet a client, then you wouldnt be away for weeks at a time, would you? 

If that is the case, and it was a quick jog over to London City, nip over to the continent on one of those whispering jets, do the business and then back again, why would you need your council papers couriered to you?

But then, if you were away for weeks at a time, then what use are the papers to you? You cant attend a meeting in the Town Hall, you are out of the country, and on business, so wouldnt have the time...?

But if you are away for weeks at a time, what about your constituents who elected you?

Then we noticed the council said "he has a holiday home overseas", so then it all kinds of adds up. 

How many of these couriered papers are sent while Cllr Moylan is relaxing in his holiday home? Does it count as a "business trip" if he has to be there while his home is fixed, or repaired or improved?

Most people in the real world have jobs that require them to take their vacation at approved times, usually when the business can accommodate you not being around.   

Hornet tried the Moylan approach with her employer, can they courier the work out to her as she intends bug**r off and sit on a roof terrace in Tunisia sipping some dry white wine for the next two weeks. The employer offered to personally deliver her a P45 instead, to her desk the same afternoon for suggesting such a laughable request.

So why should being an elected councillor be any different?
If the council business is so important that it needs his attention, why on earth does he decide to swan off on holiday at this critical point? 

Or, if his business interests conflict time-wise to such an extent with his duties as councillor, then he surely needs to consider his position, rather than have the best of both worlds leaving the council tax payer to pick up the courier bill.

Stand up and be counted

Now Hornet doesnt propose to be an expert on the internal workings of the Conservative Party in K&C, but we think it is a fundamental rule that you join the party first, and then you apply to become a candidate in an election. 

Of course we are not suggesting anyone has broken any internal rules nor committed a crime, what the Tory party does or doesnt do is completely its own business.

No matter whose toes are trodden on. 

So how much time was there between certain people joining the party and then becoming a candidate...?  Years?   Months?  Weeks?   Days?   Minutes?

Hang on a second, that Tardis outside Earls Court Station....  it doesnt actually work does it?

Tory Cllr Phelps and Cllr Daley resign

Earls Court Councillor Barry Phelps last month resigned his seat from Kensington & Chelsea, after it was revealed that from his council email account had sent inappropriate emails to a number of unwitting recipients. 

The emails contained old fashioned "victoriana" photos of young males, with captions added by Phelps laden with sexual overtones. 

Many of the pictures had a nautical theme, with boys either dressed as sailors, wearing only trunks on the deck of a boat, or wrestling on a beach. Another featured a young man standing in front of a menacing-looking priest. The caption read: "Prey. Sorry that should be pray." The website has more details.

Fortunately one receipient did the right thing and informed someone in the Residents First group who immediately informed the Council and this set in train the sequence of events that ended up with a double resignation.

Another recipient was the Conservative Councillor for Cremorne Ward, Mark Daley, who had, Hornet understands, set up an auto-rule on his mail account to automatically trash anything authored by the rather email trigger happy Barry Phelps.

This proved Cllr Daleys undoing, since as he failed to report inappropriate emails to the proper authorities he may have been adjudged guilty and therefore also fell upon his sword. Hornet understands the reasons for this but realises Daley is, if the account is true, an innocent party in this rather ugly affair. 

Not so much for Barry Phelps, who at previous standards board hearings has had to defend himself from other accusations in the past, such as failing to correctly complete his declaration of interests (Nov2007), but it seems his latest foray into standards board territory was one too far.

Phelps resigned, and so did Daley, that way escaping a deeper probe into the affair which probably would have exonerated Daley but wouldn't have helped Barry's case much.

The by-elections are due to be held on Thursday 16th September 2010.