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York Councillors Register of Interests – the unanswered questions

Upon taking office, each Councillor must record any Interests that they may have on a publicly available Register. The Register can be viewed “on line” at the Councils web site.

The list is intended to make clear what Interests individual Councillors may have and which might influence their voting behaviour. While it is mainly aimed at reassuring electors that Councillors do not bring influence to bear on issues from which they might personally benefit, it also provided transparency on any links with Companies, Trades Unions and other outside bodies.

Generally the system has worked well and until recently there seemed to be no reason to suppose that all Councillors had not been diligent in filling in and maintaining the accuracy of the register.

As reported on this site previously, concerns were raised about Labour Councillors not declaring an interest at the June Council meeting when a proposal to increase the number of Trades Union officials paid for by taxpayers was considered. The vote came only a few days after candidates at the local elections had confirmed, in returns lodged at the Guildhall, the amounts paid towards their election expenses by third parties.

Most were expected to declare contributions at least from the political party that had nominated them.
By the 26th October, 12 members of the Labour group had failed to register any donations towards their election expenses.

The guidance on completing the register is clear: “The Standards Board for England does not draw a distinction between direct financial assistance (payments of money directly to a Councillor for election or other expenses) and indirect assistance (such as payment for election posters or leaflets). You should register any person or organisation who has made a financial contribution (whether direct or indirect) to your election campaign or who assists you with the costs of carrying out your duties. This may include your political party”.

A complaint about this irregularity was registered with the local Standards committee.
A few days later several Councillors updated their Register entries with 2 now admitting a donation towards their election expenses having been made by UNISON (Cllrs Laing and Crisp).
3 Councillors (Hodgson, Funnell and McIlveen) continued to claim that they had received no help towards the costs of the election (although their running mates in the wards concerned had by then admitted at least a contribution from the Labour Party).

The Standards Committee must now decide whether the Register of interests is now accurate and what action to take – if any – on the votes which were recorded at Council meetings without the appropriate Declaration if Interest being in place.

Register of Interests. (Source York Council web site) click image to enlarge

Donations to political parties

Political Party funding third quarter 2011. click on image to enlarge

The Electoral Commission has published details of the amounts donated to UK political parties during the period between July and September this year.
The Labour party got most of its money from Trades Unions with the biggest donors being UNITE and UNISON.
Predictably the Conservative Party got most of its income from business and individual donations.
The Liberal Democrats depended largely on individual donations.
Biggest eye opener though is each party’s debts.
Labour owes nearly £10 million in outstanding loans dwarfing the £2.6 million owed by the Tories.
Seems that Labour – who claimed to be debt adverse at the last elections – are unable to manage even their own finances and now owe more than several medium size sovereign states such as Anguilla and Montserrat.

Largest individual donations to Political Parties (source Electoral Commission)

A York Christmas

The ever popular St Nicholas Fayre 24 – 27 November, has everything from gifts and crafts to the best local produce including venison, suckling pig, ostrich, kangaroo and wild boar. Why not try some famous Swaledale cheese or heavenly herbal punch made to a traditional recipe? ….See the City come alive with Victorian costumed traders, carol singers and the delicious smells of roasted chestnuts and hot chocolate laced with brandy.
The Fayre offers a range of markets specialising in gifts, crafts, and the very best in local farm produce. Outside markets move into Parliament Street, St Sampson’s Square and Coppergate. The magnificent medieval townhouse, Barley Hall, presents a special medieval market with live crafting, mulled wine and costumed traders.

Other events include
Fri 21 Oct 2011 – Sat 24 Dec 2011
• Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park – Christmas Adventure
Wed 23 Nov 2011
• Wines for Christmas at Fairfax House
Thu 24 Nov 2011
• Mansion House at Christmas at Mansion House
Thu 24 – Sat 26 Nov 2011
• St Nicholas Fair – Craft Event at Quilt Museum and Gallery
Thu 24 – Sun 27 Nov 2011
• St Nicholas Fayre at Barley Hall at Barley Hall
Sat 26, Sun 27 Nov 2011
• An Audience with Victorian Father Christmas at Clifford’s Tower
Sat 26 Nov 2011 – Sun 18 Dec 2011
• Christmas at Castle Howard at Castle Howard
Sat 26, Sun 27 Nov 2011
• Christmas Music and Lights at Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal
Sat 26 Nov 2011
• Four Seasons By Candlelight at York Barbican Centre
Sat 26, Sun 27 Nov 2011
• Meet Father Christmas at Castle Howard at Castle Howard
• Santa’s Steam Adventure at National Railway Museum
Sat 26 Nov 2011 – Sun 8 Jan 2012
• The Ice Factor – Outdoor Ice Skating at York Designer Outlet
Sat 26 Nov 2011
• York Walk – Choccy & Sweetie Tour at Museum Gardens
• York Walk – St Nicholas Tour at Museum Gardens
Sun 27 Nov 2011
• Artsmix- Christmas Contemporary Art Market at Castle Howard
Mon 28, Tue 29 Nov 2011
• Yorkshire Christmas Craft and Produce Market at Castle Howard
Tue 29 Nov 2011 – Sat 3 Dec 2011
• The Keeping of Christmas at Fairfax House
Wed 30 Nov 2011 – Sat 10 Dec 2011
• York Early Music Christmas Festival at National Centre for Early Music

For more details visit

Lib Dems back High Pay Commission’s proposals to curb excessive executive salaries

The High Pay Commission, an independent inquiry into top pay in the private sector, published its final report on Monday. Here’s how The Guardian reports its key conclusions:
The commission sets out 12 recommendations to tackle high pay. The main reforms include:
• Greater transparency in the calculation of executive pay to end the “closed shop” on pay decisions. At present, many people do not understand until it is too late how a vast salary – often composed of as many as seven different elements – is worked out.
• Putting employees on remuneration committees, a move included in the government’s own consultation remit.
• Publishing the top 10 executive pay packages outside the boardroom.
• Forcing companies to publish a pay ratio between the highest paid executive and the company median.
• Requiring companies to reveal total pay earned by the boardroom members.
• Establishing a new national body to monitor high pay.
In York Liberal Democrat Steve Galloway is backing the report.
“The excessive rises in executive pay are clearly unfair. They bear little or no relation to improvements in long-term company performance. This is particularly corrosive at a time when millions of workers are feeling the pinch.
“This report underlines the urgency of the work that Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable is doing to bring rewards back into line with performance.
“It is crucial that the proposals are now adopted by the Government without delay.”
Former York resident Vince Cable said:
“Many of the options we are consulting on are reflected in the High Pay Commission’s final report and we welcome their contribution to this important debate. The government will announce next steps early next year. In the last decade we have seen extreme increases in top executive pay which appear to be completely unrelated to the performance of companies. They are therefore acting against the interests of shareholders and consumers.
“There is widespread consensus, not just among the public but in the business community, that this is unacceptable and is undermining the credibility of our markets-based system. What I’m working towards is responsible capitalism where rewards are properly aligned with performance.”
I count myself an economic liberal, a believer in regulation-lite government. But Vince Cable’s moves appear shrewd to me, founded on three fundamental tenets of a free and fair market economy:
• Transparent information on executive pay, including how top executive pay relates to median employee pay, enabling shareholders to become more involved in the oversight of companies;
• The clear alignment of remuneration with performance — as Graeme Archer suggests in the Telegraph: ‘Make every listed company publish the ratio of their CEO’s salary to that of their lowest paid employee. Plot that ratio over the last five years, against the share price over the same period.’
• Pay structures that reward long-term and sustainable corporate growth, rather than salaries/bonuses that reflect short-term risk.
Liberals do not believe in a market free-for-all, recognising that the perfect free market in reality does not exist; that government intervention is needed to ensure a level playing field, with low barriers of entry and easy access to information. The party’s support of the High Pay Commission’s proposals seem to me entirely consistent with a liberal approach to market economics.

Mobile safety camera routes Wednesday 23 November – Tuesday 29 November 2011

North Yorkshire Police will be carrying out mobile safety camera enforcement on the following roads between Wednesday 23 November and Tuesday 29 November 2011.
• A59, Beamsley Hill, Harrogate
• Jennyfields Drive, Harrogate
• Skipton Road, Harrogate
• King Edwards Drive, Harrogate
• A61 Leeds Road, Harrogate
• A59, High Street, Starbeck
• Silver Street, Barton
• Leeming Lane, Catterick Village
• A6108, Darlington Road, Richmond
• A66, Gilling West
• A684, Aysgarth
• A6108, Middleham
• Gatherley Road, Brompton
• Brayton Lane, Brayton, Selby
• Barff Lane, Brayton, Selby
• A61, Green Lane, Brearton
• Northfield Farm, Cobcroft Lane, Cridling Stubbs
• A64 eastbound carriageway Bowbridge Farm Tadcaster
• A64 westbound Carriageway, Bowbridge Farm, Tadcaster
• Millfield Lane, Poppleton, York
• Beckfield Lane, York
• Green lane, Acomb, York
• Skipwith Road, Escrick
• A63 Hemingbrough
• Church Lane, Wheldrake
• B1257 Newgate Bank, Hawnby
• A19 Crathorne
• Station Road, Thirsk
• B6271 Great Langton
• B1264 Low Worsall
• Guisbrough Road, Great Ayton
• B1257 Great Broughton
• B1249 Staxton Wold, Staxton, Scarborough
• B1249 Foxholes to county boundary
• A1039 Filey Road at Flixton
• A165 Reighton by-pass
• A64 Malton by-pass, Malton east and westbound
• A64 Seamer by-pass Scarborough
• A64 Seamer Road, Scarborough
• A64 between Whitwell Hill and Barton Hill
• A64 between Barton-le-Willows and Jinnah
• A64 between Barton Hill and Whitwell Hill
• Stoney Haggs Road, Scarborough, southband towards Seamer Rd
• A170 Scarborough to Thirsk Road at Snainton
• B1257 Helmsley – Stokesley, Road Newgate Bank
• A170 at Scawton Moor
• A170 Eastgate Pickering
• A170 Wilton
The mobile safety cameras will be in operation at the above sites at various times during the dates stated. Cameras will not be in use on the above routes all day, every day. The above locations were accurate when this news release was produced.

Askham Lane roadworks

Askham Lane will be closed between 184 and 192 Askham Lane for urgent sewer work for a period between 22 and 29 November.

Pedestrian access will be maintained at all times.

Traffic lights will control traffic between Cornlands Road and Askham Lane

For further information please contact phone 01904 551367 or email

An alternative route for traffic travelling along Askham Lane will be available
• from the northern closure point via Cornlands Road, Gale Lane, Foxwood Lane and Askham Lane
• from the southern closure point via Cornlands Road, Gale Lane and Askham Lane

Witness appeal following Wigginton collision

Police are appealing for information following a serious road traffic collision on the B1363 near York

It occurred shortly after 1pm on Sunday 20 November 2011, between Wigginton and Sutton-on-the-Forest. The collision involved four vehicles, a blue Renault Clio heading out of York and a white Vauxhall Astra van, a black Suzuki Swift and a blue VW Polo, which were all heading into the city.

As a result of the collision the 64-year-old man, from Ampleforth, driving the VW Polo suffered chest injuries and the 28-year-old man, also from Ampleforth who was his front seat passenger, suffered a broken leg. The York woman driving the Suzuki Swift suffered chest injuries. All three were taken to York District Hospital, where they currently remain in a stable condition.

The road was closed for approximately five hours following the collision.

Traffic Constable Lee Cobb, of North Yorkshire Police’s Roads Policing Group, said: “This was a nasty collision which left three people requiring hospital treatment as in patients.

“I am appealing to anyone who may have seen the collision or any of the vehicles prior to the incident to come forward as a matter of urgency.”

If you can help to progress this investigation please contact TC Lee Cobb at Tadcaster Police Station on 0845 60 60 24 7 quoting reference number 12110196583.

Free cavity wall and loft insulation

The York Council has teamed up with the Yorkshire Energy Partnership to offer free home insulation to York residents through the ‘Warmer Warmer’ scheme.
Subject to a free, no obligation home survey, householders can get free loft and cavity wall insulation in their homes, on a first-come first-served basis. The scheme is open to all private homeowners in the City of York Council area, including landlords. The deal expires on 31 January 2012.
For more information or to claim your FREE insulation, call Yorkshire Energy Partnership on 01904 55 44 06 quoting ‘Warmer Winter’.
The £100,000 scheme aims to to tackle fuel poverty and keep the cold at bay during the freezing winter months and is being funded by national energy providers and City of York Council.

Labour and transparency

The last (Labour) government brought in a raft of measures which required public servants – when making decisions – to be open and honest about what may have influenced their judgements.

One of the consequences was that local Councillors were required to declare publicly if they had received any financial donations from, or had other links to, individuals, companies, Unions or other organisations which might benefit from a particular decision on which they were voting.

The move led to an improvement in the transparency of decision making. The new Code of Conduct was enforced initially by a National Standards Board but that responsibility soon passed to a local, independently chaired, “Standards Committee”.

Last week we published a list of Labour Council candidates who had declared on their election expenses returns the amounts donated to their campaign by interest groups such as the Local Government Trades Union UNISON.

A total of £ £2,385.65 was admitted as the cost of a 6 page glossy manifesto leaflet that had been printed and paid for by UNISON. It had apparently been delivered in all York wards except Heworth, Heslington, Haxby, Heworth Without, Huntington and Strensall. It remains unclear why electors were not given the manifesto in these wards especially as the total cost of the leaflet – according to UNISON – was £4724. Whether or not election expenses returns are accurate though is a matter that falls within the responsibilities of the Electoral Commission (and ultimately the Police) if inaccuracies are suspected.

A few days after the election expenses returns had been lodged with the Guildhall in June, the new York Council met to decide whether to change the budget for the current financial year.

One of the proposals tabled by the new Council Leader was to increase the amount allocated to the local government union to pay for their members to have “time off” to attend to union affairs. In total the cost of this concession was valued at £37,350. The budget amendment was carried with all Labour Councillors voting in favour of the proposal.

Councillors are not allowed by law to vote on issues in which they have a “prejudicial” interest. Essentially these are decisions where they might benefit from the proposal.

Councillors may also declare a “personal” interest. While this might not debar them from voting on an issue, it ensures that residents are aware of a possible influence on their voting behaviour.
At the June meeting the following Labour Councillors didn’t declare the Interest which arose out of the donation that UNISON had made towards their election expenses.
Cllrs Horton, Douglas, King, Scott, Semlyen, Looker, Watson, Alexander, Riches, Barnes, Fitzpatrick, Gunnell, Merrett, Cross, McIlveen, Burton & Jeffries.

5 other Councillors did declare personal interests either because they were current, or past, members of UNISON (Crisp, Fraser, Laing, Hodson & Williams)

(NB. Labour representatives for the Heworth and Heslington Wards had previously claimed that they did not issue the UNISON funded leaflet in their wards).

The issue is now one for the local Standards committee to consider.

We will publish later this week extracts from the standing Register of Interests which can be found on the Councils web site and which is supposed to list any donations made by third parties, including Unions, towards a councillors election costs. We have copies of the Register as it was at the end of October. It contains some surprises.

Labour turmoil as experienced Councillor quits

The media has reported today that experienced Councillor Ruth Potter has quit Labours ruling Council Cabinet in York. The decision comes only 6 months after she took up the post and against a background of increased criticism of Labours cavalier attitude towards consultation and expenses.
Labour cabinet members in York have already run up a £3750 bill for travel and hotel expenses in just 5 months.
1. Alexander £1,213.20
2. Gunnell £1,009.20
3. Simpson Laing £596.90
4. Crisp £518.20
5. Looker £295.35
6. Potter £67.50
7. Merrett £25.40
8. Fraser £24.30
• Total £3,750.05

The figure far exceeds anything claimed by leading Councillors over the last 10 years. It includes the now infamous visit to the Britain in Bloom awards ceremony, at the £119 a night St Andrews hotel in Scotland, by not one but 2 Labour Councillors. They were accompanied by 3 officials. Wouldn’t have been so bad if Cllrs Looker and Crisp had actually done anything to support the Britain in Bloom entry but it was all done and dusted by the time they took office.
Biggest individual claim came from Cllr Gunnell who handed over £954.00 of taxpayers money for the privilege of attending “The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Annual Conference”.
Meanwhile Cllr Alexander has been to roving the country at taxpayers expense. Trips to Leeds, London, Birmingham, Wakefield, Halifax, Durham, Sunderland, Scarborough, Doncaster, Thirsk, Skipton and Huddersfield have added up to an eye watering £1213 bill for taxpayers. He was even accompanied to Lewisham by Cllr Looker as they apparently both needed to see a “mobile phone service for reporting graffiti”.
Meanwhile Cllr Crisp has visited Blackpool twice. Something that leading Councillors from York managed to avoid during the previous 10 years!
NB. Cllr Alexander has defended the claims saying that Cabinet members have sometimes paid travel costs “including international flights” themselves. We await with incredulity details of which international destinations the Cabinet have been visiting….. and why!

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