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In the run-up to next weeks local elections, we take a look at the labels being fired at Independent candidates…

Lately, you may have heard, or seen on social media, the phrases “Shy Tories” or “Labour Independents” when the two main parties refer to Independent candidates for council or the role of mayor. It’s all very confusing. How can someone be both?

The local Conservative Party has taken to referring to Independent candidates as “Labour Independents”, meanwhile Labour repeat the “Shy Tory” mantra as their insult of choice.
For so long, politics in Middlesbrough has been all about such division and polarisation. You can be Labour, or you can be Conservative, with both parties highlighting the negative aspects of the other. The Labour Party stereotype the Tories as ‘uncaring’, while the Conservatives stereotype the Labour Party as financially inept. And this has worked to keep Middlesbrough politically polarised for decades.
What we are seeing in this election is the rise of a viable, capable third option. An Independent mayoral candidate supported by an increase in Independent candidates to become your local councillors. And the two main parties are scared to death of them!
The ongoing Brexit fiasco in Westminster has woken voters up to the fact that, when push comes to shove, the priorities of party politicians is “party-first; people-second”. Independent candidates stand on the simple manifesto that they will represent YOU, and you alone. No party agenda, no skeletons to keep locked in closets, no brown envelopes for their friends.

    So, what are the political leanings of our Independent mayoral candidate?

Independent candidate Andy Preston is probably the main target of the “shy Tory” / “Independent Labour” labels being bandied around by the two parties. And, to an extent, both parties are right! Labour point to his success as a businessman, which must surely make him fit the stereotype of a Conservative. And the Conservatives point to his work with some of our communtiies most vulnerable as evidence that he’s Labour in disguise. And nobody can argue that either party is wrong. But wait…

… a strong social conscience and a smart business head are not the traditional negative traits that both parties use to condemn the other. Those are the very same traits that both Labour and the Conservatives have used to promote themselves!

And those parties believe that you should NEVER have the option to vote for both! And for decades, you never have! Labour are all about the social policy, while the Tories favour big businesses and ‘never the twain shall meet’. Until now.

I feel that Andy Prestons campaign posters are coloured red AND blue for a reason. B ecause you get the best of both. His manifesto is driven by a social conscience the Labour Party would proudly run up billions of pounds worth of public debt to support but his business skills and proven financial acumen, worthy of the most ardent Conservative, means that he really is THE viable option for taking Middlesbrough forward, solving the towns Labour-created debt crisis (Middlesbrough taxpayers have funded payments of over £17,000,000 in interest on loans over the last four years) without storing up more financial problems for the future. And THAT scares the hell out of both Labour and the Conservatives.

So, when Labour call Andy a ‘shy tory’, what they are admitting, without actually saying it, is that he is financially astute and able to bring investment -jobs- to the area. And when the Conservatives call him ‘independent Labour’, they’re inadvertently saying that, once the finances of Middlesbrough Council have been fixed, the money the town generates will stay in the town and will be used to support ALL communities in the most appropriate way for each.

    What about our Independent candidates for council?

As well as some established, very hard-working Independent councillors standing for re-election, we also have a huge swathe of new Independent candidates standing in other areas of town. Driven by their disillusionment with how party politics has devastated our town, these people stand on a simple manifesto. They do not represent the interests of a political party, they represent YOU and your community, because they are a part of that community. So many of our current councillors, particularly amongst the Labour Party, don’t even live in the areas they claim to represent. And they don’t need to! Why? Because they don’t really represent those areas!

A vote for a party candidate is a vote for party policy. And when party policy conflicts with what is best for the community they represent, they MUST put party policy first and communities second. That is true across all parties.

Let the party politicians continue to play their silly games in Westminster. When it comes to putting Middlesbrough right, lets take back control from the political parties and elect people who WILL do the best for their communities because they CAN do the best for THEIR communities.

Vote for your independent council candidates and Andy Preston for mayor on May 2nd.

Make May 2nd ‘Independents Day’. Not just for your community, but for Middlesbrough too.

John King

*about the author. John King has been an advocate for local government to be in the hands of independent councillors and an independent mayor for many years and supports such candidates, but has no official affiliation with the campaigns of either Andy Preston or any of the independent candidates standing for election.

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I would like to take this opportunity to those present at the above meeting who may have suffered any discomfort at being removed to the quadrangle during the stoppage in tonights Full Council Meeting. It seemed an extreme act by new Chair cllr Bob Kerr to pursue, in order to uphold the flawed constitution of Middlesbrough Council, which blatantly contradicts the spirit of legislation passed by government to allow the recording of public meetings of the council.

In the coming days, I hope to release the video recorded of the whole episode. The police intervention, where officers try to imply that I committed a ‘disturbance’ and intimidate me into compliance; film of Mayor Mallon coaching new Chair Bob Kerr in his handling of the situation and film of various public servants trying to convince me to stop filming or leave; the role played by Chris Snowden, Mayor Mallons Independent political adviser, who’s a member of the local Labour Party, who notified the Chair that filming was taking place; and the legal people at Middlesbrough Council who also made every effort to thwart a member of the public from recording a public meeting of public servants in a public building, all funded by public money.

I hope that my actions tonight will encourage an open debate between the council, it’s councillors and most importantly, the public as to what the public expects of their council. At present, the public are ‘invited’ to attend Full Council meetings. However, they are poorly publicised and, when you do bother to go, admission is via a ‘back door’, in the inner quadrangle of the building, well away from the doors which most members of the public would perceive as the entrance to the Town Hall, with absolutely no signage to direct members of the public to the meeting. As you will see in the footage, the council chamber itself is not equipped for large volumes of public observers. With this in mind, and with the Minister for Local Government calling for local councils to be more accessible to the public, it is now time to call for all public Middlesbrough Borough Council meetings to be broadcast live, warts-and-all via the internet. Any refusal by our tax-funded council must be met with one simple question.

“What are they hiding?”

For the record, for those in the media reporting that I was refused entry upon return to the meeting, this is not true. Having made my point and recorded the actions of the Chair and council, I felt it best for others in attendance to be able to return to the meeting. As such, I left the meeting of my own free will, when I decided it was appropriate to do so, and did not attempt to return to the meeting. One other member of the public, who had not recorded during the meeting, was also denied access to the rest of the meeting, without justification.

EDIT: My apologies, in my haste to get a statement out into the public, I omitted to thank everyone at the meeting who expressed support for my stance against the dictatorial regime of our Labour-led council. I have to admit that having Town Hall security staff, the police and the councils’ legal advisers all trying to intimidate me was unnerving, and their words of encouragement and practical support in supplying legislative references to support my stance were very well received. In particular from those individuals with whom, in the past, I’ve had run-ins or been less than complementary about either here on the blog and elsewhere online.

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As a ‘Nectar’ points collector (the wife swears by Sainsburys!) I received an email this afternoon advertising that you can now ‘spend’ your points on swimming at local pools. I threw my postcode into the locator to see where the nearest pool was and, as it happens, the nearest one is at the Otium Health Club located in the Thistle Hotel on Fry Street. Then the next nearest one is Stokesley Leisure Centre, then Chollerford. Which suggests that neither Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar & Cleveland nor Hartlepool Borough Councils have subscribed to the offer, even though other local authorities have.

The way the scheme works, pools are rated as either ‘silver’ or ‘gold’. There are three options for the type of ticket you can claim Child, Adult, or Family (2 adults, 2 kids), from a Child ticket in a silver-rated pool for 300 points to a family swim in a gold pool for 3000 points.

Wouldn’t it be great if hard-up local families could use their municipal pools by spending their nectar points, rather than cash? If all four councils joined the scheme, giving their pools the ‘silver’ rating, it would enable so many people to have some fun, take their kids out for some family time and get some exercise at the same time, pricing a family ticket at the equivalent of £7.50.  It would also help to promote our pools to people that might not otherwise visit them, raising their revenue and helping to keep their heads above water (pardon the pun!) in times where public funding is very limited.

You can read more about the Nectar Swim Scheme by clicking here.

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We’ve all seen the left-wing rent-a-mobs protesting in the streets about the cuts and Labour politicians whining about companies avoiding paying tax by exercising totally legal ( but morally bereft) tax reduction policies. This recently included a number of our own Labour councillors and our Labour Police and Crime Commissioner marching through the streets of the town waving union banners and flags.

Turns out that the LABOUR PARTY has failed to deny that John Mills, owner of shopping ‘channel’ JML, was advised by them on how best to make a very large donation to the party in the form of shares, rather than cash, thus avoiding paying around £1.5 million in tax as detailed in this item in the Telegraph. That amount could, as Guido Fawkes says, pay 70 NHS nurses for a whole year.

If any of our Labour politicians ever utter anything about tax avoidance (which went on unchecked under a Labour government and apparently, now goes on within the Labour Party itself) ever again, there is only one word which should be uttered in response.

‘Hypocrites!’

Which is a shame. There are few things that I agree with Labour on but ensuring that big businesses fulfill their moral obligation to their customers, for whom the tax system generates the funds for everything that we rely upon the state to provide, and not just their legal obligation was one of those few that I thought Labour agreed with. Obviously not, at least when it comes to their own dealings.

Labour, looking after the working man. Especially those that work as tax avoidance advisors for the Labour Party!

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Judging by the way that the hit-rate for this blog has shot up over the last few days (despite not having had time to post for a few weeks), there are people waiting to see what I have to say on the subject of the elected mayor and the petition to ‘do away’ with the role.

There are those that are claiming that Mallon has publicly declared that he will not stand again in 2015 simply because he was already aware of Bert Wards petition to remove the post of elected mayor. That may be the case. Certainly, a vote to get rid of the elected mayor would be an indictment of Mallons disgraceful performance while in the role and Ray Mallon knows this. People will vote based on their experience of having an elected mayor and the only elected mayor that they have ever experienced is Ray Mallon, who has laid waste to vast parts of the town – Gresham, St Hildas, Grove Hill, to name but a few, with his string of ‘Visions’ followed by broken promises, failed policies and financial armageddon. By 2015, Mallons legacy for this town will be clear. A lack of social housing, created by his unfettered demolition programs, a lack of employment due to his failure to secure private investment in the town, a lack of money to put things right, because of his over-zealous insistence on borrowing more money to throw at his crackpot ideas when the government stopped throwing cash into the MBC begging bowl, a lack of a town centre because Mallon decided to try and build a new one on Cannon Park. As for the never-going-to-happen casino, the redevelopment of Middlehaven… FAILED, FAILED and FAILED AGAIN.

No wonder people think that an elected mayor holds too much power and want to go back to a committee system.

But wait.

We decided to try the elected mayor system because we were fed up with Labour riding rough-shod over the town. That was under the committee system. A return to the committee system represents a return to the totalitarian rule of Labour – a step backwards by over a decade. Middlesbrough is already seen by many as being 30 years behind the rest of the country. Do we really want to go back another 10?! The phrase ‘designed by committee’ is a derogatory term, used to describe anything that has been created by an army of people who have followed the Peter Principle and risen to their level of incompetence, which describes the current council executive perfectly! An example of ‘designed by committee’ is illustrated by this video (click here). Is this really what we want for the future of our town, especially when you consider the quality of the people that are currently in the positions which would fill those committees?

The arguments against the elected mayor system include the ideal that it gives too much power to one person. And it does give a whole raft of powers to one person but it also gives the Good Ship Middlesbrough a ‘captain’. Someone with a defined plan for the future, a firm hand on the tiller, someone to steer the town where it needs to be going. The problem in Middlesbrough isn’t that the council has a mayor elected by the people of the town; the problem is in the person incumbent in that role.

In IT, there is an acronym which describes the same scenario, where a service user complains that the system doesn’t work and calls for it to be repaired, only for the issue to be with the way in which the system is being used. PICNIC – Problem In Chair, Not In Computer. I would paraphrase this acronym to describe the current situation in Middlesbrough Council and the mayoral system. PICNIC – Problem In Candidate, Not In Constitution.

The very fact that Mallon is now saying that he supports a referendum on whether to keep an elected mayor should ring alarm bells with the very campaigners that are starting this petition. Consider the outcome if we lose the elected mayor. We go back to the Labour cabal having total control over Middlesbrough. Q.)Who benefits from this? A.) Labour and Mallon. Labour benefit because they maintain control without the inconvenience of having to maintain a symbiosis with a loose-cannon mayor over whom they exercise very little control, as they replace him with a blatantly Labour-compliant patsy (rather than the Labour compliant patsy in Independent clothes that we have now!). Mallon benefits because the people he’s kept sweet in Middlesbrough for the past decade maintain power – giving him value as a ‘consultant’ to his many friends with fingers in many pies throughout the borough. Not having a directly elected mayor to replace Mallon means that there will be nobody in a position of authority to expose how things have been done during his tenure – he gets away with all that he has done. There will be nobody to hold him to account, as Labour will have all the power and they’re in it just as deep as Mallon is – up to their necks! Why do you think Ray (and, therefore Labour) are keen to get rid of the elected mayor system? They have no control over it! Better to sell it as a disaster to the people of Middlesbrough and allow them to do what they always do – vote to abdicate their freedom to the Labour shills that infest our Town Hall.

To support the removal of the elected mayor role, Mallon is pointing to Hartlepool, where this has already happened. But the step-back that Hartlepool has taken is only a relatively recent occurance – the impact of this decision will not be borne for a number of years. If we want to see what the affect of a reversion to the committee system will entail we should stop looking to Hartlepool and swing our heads towards another of our other neighbours – Redcar & Cleveland Council, where people are planning to march in the streets – not just in Saltburn, the movement is spreading across the whole of the old ‘East Cleveland’ area, in protest against their council, culminating with a petition for a call for a vote of ‘No Confidence’ in the Labour compliant Leader of the Council George Dunning, following years of an arrogant council approach where the ‘consultation’ process has been little more than a propaganda exercise where the electorate is totally ignored and the will of the council is imposed, based on the lie that they have a mandate to do it because they were democratically elected to do so.

Middlesbrough needs someone to stand up to Labour. And the best way to do this is for the right person to be elected to the role of mayor. This can not happen if we vote to get rid of the directly elected mayor. It is true that the system puts a lot of power into the hands of one person and, in the wrong hands, as has been apparent during Mallon tenure, this can have disastrous implications for the town. But in the right hands, that ‘power’ can be used to put things right; to undo Mallons failings, to turn the town around. Without someone with a firm hand on that tiller, the Good Ship Middlesbrough is on course to go over the Niagara Falls, and, as it all comes crashing down, all a ‘committee’ will do is debate starting another committee to allocate places on the lifeboats, by wich time we will all be underwater.

Bert, in my opinion, we should be campaigning to put a credible candidate forward to replace Mallon. The system hasn’t failed, it’s just being abused by the parasites that infect local government. We don’t need a committee system, we just need to decommission Robocop and replace him with someone that has no ties to to the present council, the police authority, the Labour party – a new broom to sweep clean – from the top downwards! Getting rid of the elected mayor simply based on Mallons abuse of the role is simply cutting off your nose to spite your face!

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I’m sure I won’t be the first person to make readers aware of the latest suspension at Cleveland Police, as reported by, well, pretty much the whole of the media. This latest independent investigation is yet another off-shoot from Operation Sacristy.

But, so far, all reports have referred to an un-named ‘executive coaching company’. When I first heard it, I thought they meant a coach company but, having done some basic digging, I suspect that this may be the company in question, an outfit called ‘Enabling Development’.

Certainly, they cite Cleveland Police as one of their clients, along with many other  However, it is not clear how long they have been the ‘executive coaching company’ of choice at Ladgate Lane.

Also amongst their client list are North Yorkshire Constabulary. And they were cited as the executive coaching service provider in a similar investigation into the financial claims for development training for that forces former Deputy Chief Constable Adam Briggs. You can download the report into that investigation by clicking here.

How rank and file officers face the public on a daily basis wearing the uniform of an organisation so badly tarnished by the actions of it’s senior officers and local politicians is beyond me. Both they, and the general public of the Cleveland Police catchment area deserve better.

I wonder what comment will come from PCC Coppinger, the representative of the public, about the latest suspension.

One question that the client list of a company such as Enabling Development does make me ask is this. Why do both the public AND private sector have so many employees in executive positions that clearly are not up to the job, to the extent that employers need to fork out on coaching? Is it that they see it as a cheaper option to select someone for development than it is to hire someone already suitably qualified? With regard to the private sector, I’m not too bothered how they waste their money, as long as a consumer,  don’t end up paying for the coaching or the shortcomings of under-qualified executives.

But in the public sector it’s different. The money spent comes from all of our pockets. I have concerns that, as is often the case when these financial improprieties are uncovered, it’s the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We should be told just how much of our local taxes are spent on such mentoring services, what benefit the public gains from them and what safeguards are taken to ensure that, once senior officers have completed their course of coaching, they don’t clear off to a better paid role elsewhere, leaving our force to find funding for the next prospective senior officer ‘on the make’.

Just as a footnote, on Enabling Developments ‘Key People’ page, it shows that their ‘Public Sector Guru’ is a lady called Joyce Liddle, who just happens to be Professor of Leadership at Teesside University Business School. So, now we have yet another link to our local public services. I suspect that yet another very large can of worms (or as the Romanians call them, venison!) is about to be opened.

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First of all, apologies for the distinct lack of output over the last few months. This is something I aim to correct and this is the first proper post of 2013. It’s been encouraging to see that, despite the lack of posts or any sort of promotional activity, the blog has still seen regular visits by a number of individual visitors.

While I’ve been away from the blog, I’ve been taking an interest in the shenanigans of our close neighbours at Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council regarding he introduction of parking restrictions in Saltburn. You can read more about it on the Gazette website by clicking here. You can follow the campaign to have the parking restrictions and charges thrown out by clicking here to see the campaigns FaceBook page.

All during the pre-consultation process, Saltburns only Labour councillor, Joan Guy, has made all the appropriate noises that she would vote to support a motion brought by cllr Philip Thomson (Con) to have the proposals thrown out. When it came to the crunch, cllr Guy toed the party line and vote against the motion to throw out the proposals. cllr Guy is also a member of Council Leader George Dunnings Cabinet, for which she receives an additional allowance of £9,680.

Now, those of you who have read this blog in the past will know that I have been quite harsh on Dr Tristan Learoyd. Dr Learoyd was elected as a Labour councillor in Marske but, when the LAbour-controlled RCBC announced dogmatic cuts designed to hit the worst-off, solely so that the Labour council could blame the coalition cuts and perpetuate Labour propaganda at the expense and discomfort of their electorate, Dr Learoyd resigned from the Labour Party. Dr Learoyd still represents the people of Marske but as an Independent councillor. It seems that my initial impressions of Tristan Learoyd may have been wrong. The man has seen the Labour Party for what it is – and he’s seen it from the inside. Maybe, like many, he initially swallowed the propaganda but, having seen the seedy, insidious underbelly of a Labour council, he’s seen the light. In the comments column attached to the Gazette story, poster ‘Tristanbythesea’ comments thus:

“I spoke up for this motion. “Jewel in the crown” was my quote, not Steve Kay’s…

Anyway…

Knowing we needed two more votes I directly challenged two Labour* councillors Quigley and Keenan to vote for this motion. Both councillors work in Tom Blenkinsop MP’s office, although they’re not employed by Mr Blenkinsop when acting as councillors, one would have though they would have been influenced by Mr Blenkinsop’s supposed position on this issue.

I read somewhere that Mr Blenkinsop was against the charges?

Unfortunately Cllrs Quigley and Keenan decided to vote against Cllr Thompson’s motion.
I was very disappointed to see that Cllr Guy, a Saltburn councillor, voted against the motion.
Special mention should go to Cllr Mark Hannon who defied the Labour* whip to vote for the motion.

I have heard a whisper that Labour* are planning to ditch the charges anyway and didn’t want to lose face in the council chamber by performing a U-turn in public. Hence the smoke and mirrors of “process” being quoted yesterday.

*I have reservations over using the word Labour – because the Labour Party died in 1995.”

Clearly, Dr Tristan Learoyd believes that the Labour Party of our forefathers is no longer. And this is a man that has seen the current party from the inside. What we need now is for the ‘I vote Labour because my Dad did’ Brigade to be exposed to the truth that they aren’t the same party that our parents voted for. This would be a great step towards breaking the left-handed throttle-hold on our town and Teesside as a whole.

The Labour Party is dead. Vive la Revolution!

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