Friday, June 19, 2009

Out and about

I've been on my travels again, visiting Local Strategic Partnerships and Parish Councils (at least those who wanted to hear from me) on the issue of the new waste disposal arrangements.

I think it's good for Cabinet Members to get out there and communicate directly with partners over key issues - I tried something similar in 2007. So in the last week-and-a-half I've been to North Road Partnership and Redworth Parish Council.

The question time after my presentation at North Road was stimulating, and I'm in the process of chasing down the answers to the questions I couldn't respond to then and there. The session at Redworth was very useful too, and it was good to hear very positive feedback on the revamped Civic Amenity site at Whessoe Road - I'm writing to Bruce Whitley at Wades to pass on their comments.

Perhaps inevitably, given the prominance given to the issue by some of the national media, debate turned to wheelie bins. When I set out the Council's objections to them, there were lots of nodding heads round the table. Wheelie bin supporters would get very short shrift there, I think.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey up Councillor. When are you going to replace your picture on this blog site? Red nose day has long gone. You look like Coco the Clown.

ex-labour said...

I think its quite fun!

Leave it up it shows you do have a sense of humour!

Paul Cain said...

I was back in Darlington last week for a few days (back in a miserably wet NYC now, though), and took some garden rubbish to the Whessoe Road amenities site.
Credit where it's due, it was one hell of a lot better than when I was last there a couple of years or so ago.
It did irk me a bit to have to separate everything into categories and drop it off at multiple points around the site - paper, garden waste, general household, cardboard, etc - although I can see the logic if it is being recycled.
There is this suggestion, of course, that it's not recycled at all - just chucked on a ship and dumped somewhere in rural China.
Councillor, you'd know: is that just an urban myth? Can you give us a brief outline of what happens to the stuff after we drop it off?

Darlington Councillor said...

Ahem.

Yup, the picture's staying. I was accosted in B&Q recently by someone who told me that they only think of me now sporting a Comic Relief nose. There are worse images...

As for Coco the Clown - actually I was aiming for Charlie Caroli...

And thanks, Paul for your question. I don't have the information to hand, but I'm fairly sure from my conversations with Wades that their market for recyclables is a lot closer than China. I'll get back to you on this point.

Tree hugger said...

Nick

Would it be fair to say that some councils rubbish (not saying DBC's) does end up in China or the likes?

I do think we deserve to know if our efforts are just wasted time?

Paul Cain said...

A very brief Google session produces this:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1942906.ece

And this:

http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Sky-News-Archive/Article/20080641246242

I'm not suggesting for one second that DBC and Wades does this, just to be clear, but these kind of shenanigans make a mockery of the recycling drive.

Even if, as I assume is the case, Darlington's rubbish is properly handled, residents have the right to ask why they should go to the trouble if, in other parts of the country, plastics and recyclables just end up on the streets of India or in a landfill in China.

DBC's environmental integrity is critical if any progress is to be made, so, a suggestion:

The DBC website should publish full details of the amount of each category of waste dumped at the civic amenities sites each month; and, critically, precisely where it ended up (recycling plant, landfill etc etc)

And let's see PDFs of delivery notes etc as proof. 'Redacted' to blank out commercially sensitive details such as price etc, if necessary.

Bureaucratic? It's what DBC does for a living.
Complicated? Yup.
Commercially sensitive? So what? It's a publicly-owned amenities site and users are being urged to recycle.

Doubtless there'd be other objections, but a commitment to publish the info, in good faith, would go a hell of a long way to persuading people to do their bit.

Councillor? A barmy idea? Unrealistic? Or is it something to aim for?

(Just checked and while the DBC website has details of how to handle waste etc, I can't for the life of me see any data or material indicating what happens to the stuff we recycle. If I'm wrong, apologies.)

Ian W said...

Paul you say ...

"Doubtless there'd be other objections, but a commitment to publish the info, in good faith, would go a hell of a long way to persuading people to do their bit."

I think we all saw what happens when you try to keep secrets recently, I refer to MP's Expenses I think it only correct we see what goes where and the revenue raised by this process (assuming it goes to DBC or do Wades keep the profits and DBC's only concern is to avoid fines for land fill from the good old EU, can someone clarify how the financial side works....who gets what from the Wades/DBC deal?

Anonymous said...

It's gone ominously quiet.

Paul Cain said...

Coun Wallis: Apologies for moving to a completely unrelated topic, but I see the Telegraph has this morning, Tuesday, published full details of MP expenses, uncensored, online.

Alan Milburn's make fascinating reading.

On top of his salary, in 2007/8, he claimed more than 161,000 quid in allowances. His biggest single claim, 90 grand, was for staffing, followed by 23,000 for second home allowances and then nearly 21,500 for 'incidental expenses'.

Blimey. Wish I could spend nearly the average UK salary on 'incidental expenses'.

What's really interesting are his outside interests.

At least 25 grand as a member of Lloydspharmacy Healthcare Advisory Panel;

At least 30,000 as a member of the European Advisory Board of Bridgepoint Capital.

At least 20,000 as a member of the Advisory board of PepsiCo UK.

Up to 25,000 for writing articles for The Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times and the News of the World.

And paid positions as a non-executive director of Diaverum Healthcare and a paid position as a member of the advisory board of another healthcare company, Covidien.

And he jointly owns a property in London, from which he received rental income.

So, with his MPs' salary of 65,000, I reckon he pulled in, in earnings,
at least 165,000 quid, plus 161,000 in expenses.

A total of 326,000.

That's based on the lowest-possible amount he is paid from his paid positions and does not include any money from his jobs with Diaverum or Covidien, details of which are not given. Both jobs are listed as 'remunerated employment' so it's fair to assume he gets something.

So apart from his job as an MP, he has 5 other paid positions and also does media work.

I imply no dishonesty on his part, seriously. For the record, I am certain everything he has done is within the rules.

Hardly seems to leave a lot of time to devote to sunny Darlo, though, does it?

Bridgepoint Capital, to which our MP is a paid advisor, is a venture capital company heavily involved in financing private health care firms moving into the NHS.

Does the Darlington branch of the Labour Party know this? Has it discussed this? What does it think about this? And what about the Darlo branches of the healthcare unions? Last time I checked, I don't think they were to keen on the creeping privatisation of the NHS.

Can you enlighten us?

And what do you think of his links to Bridgepoint, Councillor?

And his outside earnings?

ex-labour said...

PAUL

WOW and DOUBLE WOW he's on a nice earner no wonder we never see him in Darlington.

He clearly never has any spare time to do anything for his constituency.

Anonymous said...

Come on Councillor answer the questions.

Anonymous said...

On a separate point I must congratulate you on not claiming travelling expenses whilst you carry out your duties with the Fire Authority unlike the Doris and Brian Jones who are also on the Fire Authority and have claimed £721 between them.

Anonymous said...

shocking Milburn OUT

Anonymous said...

Lady Muck said.....

Horace and Doris out too.

Anonymous said...

Greedy troughers. The more they have the more they want.

Anonymous said...

Home truths from abroad says.....

I spied this on Guido Fawkes blog tonight

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Siyasat-e-Ruz newspaper

“Brown is one of the most inefficient politicians of England who has witnessed cases of financial corruption in his cabinet … and has moved his country towards collapse and destruction…”

Spot on Ayatollah, spot on.

Darlington Councillor said...

Right.

Firstly, I think I've dealt with the destination of Darlington's recyclables. I will suggest that the information is included on the DBC site for information. When the email system is up-and-running again, that is.

It will come as no surprise to regular blog readers that I've taken down one post that makes allegations against two opposition Darlington politicians. Whilst the person who left the comments may feel that they are totally correct, as a matter of policy I won't have my site used to make personal attacks of this kind by anonymous contributors.

Let me say this in general about expenses and DBC, however;

It's true I try and avoid claiming for car travel when serving as a DBC Councillor. That hasn't always been the case, but I feel now that I am sufficiently renumerated to bear the cost myself. So I've not claimed for mileage to and from the City of Durham as a member of the Fire Authority (where most meetings are held), and neither did I put in a claim when I travelled to Bristol and back for a conference there. I chose to go by car, and I thought it right that I bore the expense.

However, that is purely a personal decision, and I would strongly defend any councillor who chose to make a claim which involved travel outside the Borough boundary.

As an "arms-length" civil servant, I am able to claim back mileage for journeys incurred (to see clients in their homes, for example, or to go to regional Courts) and councillors should not be different.

A mature debate needs to take place about what it is reasonable for MPs and indeed Councillors to claim - to suggest that councillors are "troughing" for simply receiving a fair return for mileage (remember, we don't qualify as essential car users with a monthly allowance) is simply ridiculous. A sense of proportion needs to be maintained.

Finally - the 'V's for Victor. In my (paternal) family, children are blessed/burdened with the Christian names of forebears, so Victor was my dad's first name. James hates having Nicholas as his middle name. AJ has John as his middle name, which was my grandfather's name, and my dad's middle name.

Enough detail already!

Darlington Councillor said...

Finally, finally - I think I've dealt with our local MP Alan Milburn's situation before, but here goes for one more time...

Alan is, as they say, a big boy, and can defend himself regarding expenses and second jobs. I can only say that when I've spoken to residents who've approached Alan's office regarding problems, they've been dealt with promptly and courteously.

The local opposition can witter on as much as it wants, but Alan is well-respected as a highly effective local MP.

Horis and Doris said...

Nick

Whilst many admire your lack of greed in claiming expenses we equally hate the career claimers and I think we all know who the most prolific local pair are. As I am apparently not allowed to name and shame. I would suggest people keep an eye out for any claims made by H&D.
Not only do they now want as much expenses as possible they now want to monopolise our PCSO's, talk about selflessness in the face of adversity.

From TL Oct 26th 06 said...

Council expenses reach £10,000
DARLINGTON Borough councillors have claimed almost £10,000 in out-of-borough expenses in the past 18 months, The Northern Echo can reveal.

The figures, acquired under the Freedom of Information act, include more than £1,000 of hotel expenses in York and Harrogate.

Councillors receive a set amount each year to cover "in borough" expenses. When they work outside of Darlington, they can claim extra money.

continued...
Council leader John Williams, Conservative leader Tony Richmond, and Bill Dixon each claimed £240 for two nights' accommodation in Harrogate, in July last year.

Councillor Richmond also claimed £48.50 mileage for the 90-mile round trip.

The councillors were in Harrogate for a Local Government Association conference.

Coun Richmond said: "The constitution of Darlington Borough Council states that two members of the controlling group and the leader of the opposition must attend.

"The meetings start early and finish late, which is why we stayed overnight. I don't see the money, it strictly covers the cost."

Councillor Don Bristow, cabinet member for resource management, claimed £285 for accommodation in Harrogate, when he attended a public finance conference.

Councillor Brian Jones claimed £130 accommodation, and £51 mileage, for a three-day National Association of Councillors course at the Monkbar Hotel, in York, in January. His wife, Councillor Doris Jones, claimed £104 accommodation for the same course.

Councillor Bill Maybrey - who, like Coun Jones, represents Middleton St George - claimed £48.50 mileage when he attended the course.

Coun Maybrey said: "I stayed at the hotel, but my bill was paid directly to the course organisers by the council. The course's lectures don't finish until 7.30pm, then start again at 9am."

The amount claimed by councillors from April last year to August was £9,073.91p.

Council leader John Williams claimed the most - £1,474.90, mainly in mileage and train fares to meetings across the region. Coun Williams' last annual allowance, paid in March, was £28,544.

Coun Richmond claimed £945.86, the second largest amount of extra expenses. His last annual allowance was £15,850. The third largest amount claimed was by Councillor Chris McEwan, cabinet member for children's services, who claimed £808.39 - in addition to the £18,000 he collected in March.

Who claims how much

Top five borough council expense claimants, from April last year to August 2006:

Council leader John Williams: £1,474.90

Leader of the opposition Tony Richmond: £945.86

Cabinet member for children's services Chris McEwan: £808.39

Deputy mayor Marian Swift: £799.50

Cabinet member for resource management Don Bristow: £790.19

Anonymous said...

Councillor Brian Jones claimed £130 accommodation, and £51 mileage, for a three-day National Association of Councillors course at the Monkbar Hotel, in York, in January. His wife, Councillor Doris Jones, claimed £104 accommodation for the same course.

Nick this is from the Northern Echo.

Nu-Labour/Old Conservative said...

Suprised they didn't claim for the petrol twice despite going in the same car.

Coun Maybrey said: "I stayed at the hotel, but my bill was paid directly to the course organisers by the council. The course's lectures don't finish until 7.30pm, then start again at 9am."

Poor little angel how badly done to he is fancy having to start at nasty 9am and finish so late at 7:30 deary deary me.

There are thousands of people who work longer hours than that and have to travel further before and after who cannot afford to doss down in a ***** star hotel, poor little darlings.

They should all be ashamed thats how this lot in Westminster started the odd night out here and there then onto duck islands they are a disgrace to their electorate who are struggling, talk about fiddling while Rome burns.

Anonymous said...

Lady Muck says....

With the money Horace and Doris are raking in they can afford to pay for a taxi for the bobby from Darlington to Middleton St. George. They might stretch that to include Hurworth and Neasham. How about it you two?

Lord Snooty said...

I think not, why pay for a PCSO taxi when they are happy he (with no transport) will be based there?

They do love a committee and its "perks" lately they have been showing their true blue colours!

Beware MSG soon it will be Lord and Lady muck they already lord it out here in MSG, perhaps its time for MSG Parish to elect a new chairman or like other local Parish's re-elect every year instead of the Dorisopoly!

Anonymous said...

Horace and Doris says

Now stop it you lot.

MSG parish darent elect a new chair after all we have done for them.