Monday, 28 April 2008

Another lucky escape!

Was about to fly this weekend.

It was a bit windy, so thought I would play around with my wing on the ground. Us pilots call it "ground handling practice" and helps you develop more confidence controlling the wing.

Good job I did. As I was being pulled about by the wing - one of my lines broke.

Very glad it didn't happen while I was flying.

I really must put my wing somewhere safe - away from those people with scissors!!

Dog killer artist

In 2007, the 'artist' Guillermo Vargas Habacuc, took a dog from the street, tied him to a rope in an art gallery, and starved him to death.

For several days, the 'artist' and the visitors of the exhibition have watched emotionless the shameful 'masterpiece' based on the dog's agony, until eventually he died. Does it look like art to you? But this is not all... the prestigious Visual Arts Biennial of the Central American decided that the 'installation' was actually art, so that Guillermo Vargas Habacuc has been invited to repeat his cruel action for the biennial of 2008.

It's free of charge, there is no need to register, and it will only take 1 minute to save the life of an innocent creature.
Artists Liaison Direct
Jessica Watts Assistant to Alison Ward, New York
White Cube 48 Hoxton Square
London, N1 6PB
Tel: 0044 (0) 20 7749 7484

Friday, 25 April 2008

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Farnborough's newest Society

If you care about Farnborough - you will be a card carrying member of the newest Society in town

Common Sense rules over Clockhouse Car Park

Salisbury Road Car Park will remain free.
Following the proposal to instal pay and display machines in the free Salisbury Road Car Park, your Ward Councillors are pleased to announce that Council officers have changed their minds and are recommending the Cabinet reverse the decision.
This follows a very clear call from Ward Councillors backed up by a petition signed by 440 people and the Councils own survey, which confirmed what Ward Councillors and residents were saying. Our reasons were clear:
1. We did not feel the car park was being abused by the overwhelming majority of users. There was abuse by one or two selfish individuals (one of which in my opinion is abusing the use of a disable badge)
2. We do not want elderly residents and parents with sick children visiting the Chemist, Dentist or Doctor fumbling about trying to find change to feed a meter. (One resident described this as taxing the sick)
3. If charging were introduced - cars would park in residential roads close by and cause problems there.
As we approach elections in the Borough - this serves to demonstrate one of the important roles Ward Councillors take on - standing up for residents, even if it sometimes makes us unpopular with colleagues. Or simply put:

We asked - you said - we listened and took action.
Together we are making a difference

Fighting in Grange

Last night the Empress team raided Grange Ward to help our candidate Cllr. Steve Masterson.

Above: Tory Commander Mike Smith barks out his orders, while our candidate Gareth Lyon practises his cheesy grin for his acceptance speech in Council. Chairman Debbie Frew decides that Grange is such a complex ward it needs not one but two clipboards.

Above: Seasoned campaigner (old and bold) Cllr Brian Parker, the eligible (lock up your daughters) Cllr Steve Masterson (Grange Conservative candidate) and some plonker that obviously caught his thumb in a letter box!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Rushmoor's Annual Audit & Inspection Letter

Annual Audit and Inspection Letter (March 2008)

Key messages
Action needed by the Council

Purpose, responsibilities and scope
How is Rushmoor Borough Council performing?

The improvement since last year - our Direction of Travel report
The audit of the accounts and value for money
Data quality

Looking ahaead
Closing remarks
Availability of this letter

Key messages
1 Rushmoor Borough Council's performance indicators continue to show that it is performing well in comparison to other councils. It is not surprising therefore that its 2006/07 performance indicators did not improve at as significant a rate as for most other councils. This was mainly a reflection of starting from a relatively high level of performance.
2 Our overall conclusion is that the Council is performing well and is making good progress against its strategic priorities. The Town Centre redevelopments of Farnborough and Aldershot have been progressed, contracts are in place and work has already started in Farnborough. These schemes will act as an important catalyst for the future of the towns, provide improved facilities and be a benefit to the whole local economy.
3 The Council continues to prepare its accounts on a timely basis and performs well within our use of resources assessment. Further improvements can be secured but may require significant investment of resources. The cost of these improvements needs to be weighed against other pressures for resources.

Action needed by the Council
4 The main actions arising for the Council from this letter for the coming year are:
• to develop and monitor a revised recycling strategy to improve recycling rates;
• to ensure that the savings and efficiency programme is delivered;
• accountability for data quality needs to be formally defined and promoted, including the checking of data for accuracy before being submitted; and
• to prepare for the change in emphasis and the tougher test within the new Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) process which will provide a new framework for the next use of resources assessment.

Purpose, responsibilities and scope
5 This report provides an overall summary of the Audit Commission's assessment of the Council. It draws on the most recent Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA), the findings and conclusions from the audit of the Council for 2006/07 and from any inspections undertaken since the last Annual Audit and Inspection Letter.
6 We have addressed this letter to members as it is the responsibility of the Council to ensure that proper arrangements are in place for the conduct of its business and that it safeguards and properly accounts for public money.
7 This letter also communicates the significant issues to key external stakeholders, including members of the public. We will publish this letter on the Audit Commission website at In addition the Council is planning to publish it on its website at
8 This letter includes the latest assessment on the Council’s performance under the CPA framework, including our Direction of Travel report, and the results of any inspections carried out by the Audit Commission under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999. It summarises the key issues arising from the CPA and any such inspections. Inspection reports are issued in accordance with the Audit Commission’s duty under section 13 of the 1999 Act.
9 As your appointed auditor I am responsible for planning and carrying out an audit that meets the requirements of the Audit Commission’s Code of Audit Practice (the Code). Under the Code, I review and report on:
• the Council’s accounts;
• whether the Council has made proper arrangements for securing economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources (value for money conclusion); and
• whether the Council's best value performance plan has been prepared and published in line with legislation and statutory guidance.
10 We have listed the reports issued to the Council relating to 2006/07 audit and inspection work at the end of this letter.

How is Rushmoor Borough Council performing?
11 Rushmoor Borough Council was assessed as good in the Comprehensive Performance Assessment carried out in 2004. These assessments have been completed in all district councils and we are now updating these assessments, through an updated corporate assessment, in councils where there is evidence of change. The following chart is the latest position across all district councils.

The improvement since last year - our Direction of Travel report
12 Rushmoor Borough Council continues to make good progress against its strategic priorities. Forty one per cent of Rushmoor’s performance indicators are in the best 25 per cent of all councils. This performance is well above the national average.
13 Good performance is shown in meeting the Council’s five local priorities and wider community outcomes, particularly the redevelopment of Farnborough and Aldershot town centres, building new homes, and community safety initiatives. Harder to reach groups have been a focus for the Council, with initiatives such as a new customer service centre, work with older people and improved online access to services. However, further work remains to be done to improve access for all citizens.
14 Improvement, as measured by performance indicators, is at a slower rate for Rushmoor than for other councils. This may be due to the higher than average number of indicators for which Rushmoor was already assessed as performing well. Initiatives such as the process and service efficiency reviews have so far been slow to yield results. Benefits performance dipped during 2006/07 but this was dealt with immediately and performance is now in line again. Currently, 86 per cent of the Council’s targets for this year are on track to be delivered.
15 The Council is increasing capacity by working well with its partners, such as the local strategic partnership and community safety and learning partnerships. It also continues to be financiall sound and offer good value for money. Overall, the Council continues to demonstrate a positive direction of travel in its priority areas.

What evidence is there of the Council improving outcomes?
16 In 2006/07, the Council’s performance was very good, with 41 per cent of performance indicators in the best 25 per cent of councils. Although this is a fall compared with the previous year’s performance of 48 per cent, it continues to compare favourably with the national average of only 32 per cent.
17 However, it has not improved on its performance during the past year as much as other councils have. In fact Rushmoor had the lowest improvement rate for all districts. Only 35 per cent of indicators demonstrated improvement last year compared to an average of 58 per cent. This can be explained by the Council starting from a very high base and so it can be expected for it not to have improved as much as the others. Of the Council’s 120 BVPIs, local indicators and actions for 2007/08, 86 per cent were on target as of October 2007. This strong performance, an improvement on last year’s, is shown in the progress against its five priority themes explored below.

Safe – protecting and improving people’s lives
18 The Council has aimed to help people feel safer through reducing crime, identifying the needs of young people and improving residents’ health.
19 The Council has worked with the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP) to introduce patrol officers to the borough and to encourage the reporting of offences. The officers have recently attended 300 incidents of fly tipping, over 200 incidents of graffiti, inspected 803 reported abandoned vehicles and issued numerous fines. The Council has also held successful crime reduction weeks to make town centres cleaner and safer and has worked in more deprived wards to hold community information days, including liaising with young people to address
their concerns. Vehicle crime and robberies have increased and burglaries and crimes against the person have fallen. This shows a mixed picture on reducing crime, although anti-social behaviour is now being tackled more effectively.
20 To date the Council has not had much success with its traditional approach for engaging young people in democracy. It is now looking at other ways of working with the Rushmoor Youth Forum. However, there was an increase in online and text voting this year.
21 Healthy living initiatives are increasingly popular. As part of the Council’s work through the Rushmoor Local Strategic Partnership (RSP), over a hundred senior citizens took part in a ‘Stay Active and Independent’ event. This involved the Council working with other partners such as a local housing association and the police, in order to help older residents keep in good health. Activities included a ‘Spot the Hazards’ quiz, demonstrations and taster activities, such as line dancing and a short healthy walk. Community exercise classes for older people have increased from 80 to 200 attendees over the past year. This has all helped to improve overall residents’ health.

Prosperous – encouraging a healthy economy
22 The Council has aimed to regenerate town centres, tackle traffic congestion and promote learning opportunities.
23 The regeneration of Farnborough and Aldershot town centres is the Council’s biggest and most ambitious priority. Development of these town centres is going ahead as planned, with work at Farnborough already underway. The Council has helped to progress a £60 million development for Aldershot town centre. This Westgate development has a family-friendly focus, with a seven-screen cinema and restaurant complex due to be started in 2008. This is an important catalyst for the future of the town, as well as being an asset to Aldershot and its economy.
24 The Council has also granted planning permission for a cinema in Farnborough as part of the redevelopment there and supplementary planning guidance has been agreed to help steer future plans. It is also consulting residents on plans for these town centres and the major Aldershot urban expansion scheme. For example, there are prominent articles on the website and in the Council’s
magazine asking for views. Although outcomes have yet to be completed, these long term plans are progressing well.
25 The Council continues in successfully enabling the building of new homes and exceeded its target, with 825 built in 2006/07 - the highest level amongst the Hampshire district councils. Of these, 221 were designated as affordable homes, with the Council on track to ensure 485 by 2009. This work helps residents access quality, reasonably-priced homes.
26 The Council has completed a schools and council cycle plan and agreed a strategy for street parking, as part of its aim to reduce traffic congestion. This, for example, aims to regulate on-street parking and enforce fines, although the work has yet to deliver outcomes.
27 The Council has worked well with local schools and through the Rushmoor Learning Partnership, to improve educational attainment, as the borough currently has a lower than average GCSE level. For example, it is hosting an extended schools manager post this year and has received an £87,000 grant to help broaden school facilities strategically across the borough, rather than on an individual basis. This means that extended facilities such as study assistance, after-school clubs and family support can be offered in a more effective way.

Clean – looking after your environment
28 The Council set out to improve the cleanliness and appearance of the borough, encourage recycling and protect the environment.
29 The appearance and cleanliness of the borough is good and has improved further with initiatives such as a free collection for end-of-life vehicles, the South and South East in bloom awards which the Council won, and removing over 10,000 pieces of chewing gum from Aldershot as part of a clean-up campaign. Planning applications continue to be processed in good time with best 25 per cent performance, with for example, 97 per cent of ‘other’ applications processed on time.
30 The Alternate Weekly Bin Collection (AWC) six-month trial involving 6,500 residents was completed as planned in July 2007. While this increased recycling rates in the trial area to 36 per cent compared to 22 per cent elsewhere in the borough, consultation showed residents did not support the approach, and so AWC is not being continued. This has meant that recycling targets are still not being met, and are at 22 per cent at October 2007. This represents only a one per cent increase on last year. The garden waste scheme has not been as successful as hoped either, and composting rates are low. The Council understands the need to increase its relatively low recycling rates and is developing a strategy to tackle this. In the meantime however, the overall amount of waste collected remains low and in the best 25 per cent of all districts.
31 The Council has started some in-house work to help the environment and has produced a climate strategy. It is now working to ensure climate change initiatives are featured in planning documents, awareness is raised and that sustainable procurement is carried out. Initiatives this year include cutting gas use by 32 per cent by installing energy efficient water heaters and cutting electricity costs by £900 by introducing new lighting systems in the Farnborough Community Centre. A new biomass heating system is also being installed in these offices, which runs off locally supplied wood pellets and is carbon neutral. Fuel costs for this should be half the cost of gas or electricity. Other areas, such as travel to work plans, remain limited. Overall, the Council has made a positive start to protecting the local environment.

Quality – providing high quality services
32 The Council aimed to improve customer services, ensure the Council was financially sound and offer value for money. Customer services are improving. The customer service centre was opened as planned this year, with a fully refurbished reception area and customer relationship management (CRM) system to improve call handling. This highlighted a problem that 15 per cent to 25 per cent of calls were being missed. The Council addressed this by recruiting more staff which has reduced missed calls to around 10 per cent.
33 The CRM has increased sign-up for council tax by direct debit via the telephone, as well as for benefits customers to be paid by electronic transfer. The latter initiative has helped the Council be rated as 39th out of 353 councils for satisfaction with the service, according to the national benefit survey. However, in spite of this, all five benefits performance indicators dipped during 2006/07 due to staffing difficulties. Performance has improved again in the last six months. Overall, the initiatives are making the Council's systems easier to access for many residents.
34 The Council continues to be financially sound and offer good value for money. It again scored level 3 (performing well) for its Use of Resources assessment, including financial standing and value for money, Council tax remains relatively low and overall performance is good. This achievement demonstrates continued improvement as the criteria were more difficult than in previous years as the Audit Commission 'raises the bar' on the assessment process each year.
35 Overall, costs remain around the average although waste costs are high. While the Council's financial position has remained sound, the programme for savings and efficiency in 2007/08 has not delivered fully. Action is being taken to ensure this work is more robust and structured. This includes an estimated £80,000 saving from the imminent closure of the Aldershot Visitor Information Centre. The Council is continuing to work to identify further savings, including £1.4 million for next year. It has updated its priority setting and budget making processes with actions including presentations to councillors, identifying service savings areas, setting up a ‘task and finish’ group and conducting a citizens’ survey. This should help ensure effective use of resources is maintained despite increasing financial pressures.

Your voice – engaging with you
36 The Council aimed to promote a sense of community pride, encourage greater public involvement, communicate and consult with residents, work on community issues through the strategic partnership, and to support voluntary groups.
37 The Council has encouraged public involvement in a variety of ways. For example, it consulted widely with residents on agreeing future objectives for the Council, and is currently asking for views on the town centre redevelopments. It also encourages citizens to take pride in Rushmoor by nominating areas of the borough to be tidied up and by reporting environmental offences such as dumped rubbish and graffiti online. Last year, residents reported 25 cases of fly-tipping,
79 abandoned vehicles and 9 incidents of graffiti online. It has also worked hard to encourage local democracy. This year, it promoted voting via the internet, a new registration process and workshops at Aldershot Garrison to encourage armed forces registration. This led to a 9 per cent increase in people registering to vote and 18 per cent of votes were cast via the internet. However, turnout decreased slightly and did not increase by the 5 per cent targeted. However, this
project offered alternative access methods and helped to support greater public involvement.
38 The Rushmoor Local Strategic Partnership (RSP) continues to work on wider community issues, for example by improving educational attainment in more deprived wards and encouraging local businesses. It also works effectively through the crime and disorder reduction partnership, for example in developing local tactical groups with greater public engagement and work with residents and voluntary groups.
39 Harder to reach groups have been a specific focus of the Council. The customer first programme continues to enable easier access to services. A major consultation and partnership project with the Government Office for the South East, Police, local schools and voluntary groups is being implemented with the local Nepalese community. In addition consultations have taken place with disabled groups and other representatives such as local colleges to form an action plan to improve access and community cohesion.
40 Practical work carried out includes an audible website and the installation of induction loops. Internally, all staff have had equality awareness training, and the Council held a seminar on customer service for councillors, which implicitly covered equality and diversity issues. However, there was limited attendance for the seminar, and more explicit work needs to be done to develop councillors’ roles in this topic.
41 An equality impact assessment for customer services has been completed – though not yet actioned – and the Council is investigating the use of detailed data sets to target harder to reach groups more effectively. The Council remains at level 2 of the equality standard and has increased its performance against the race equality checklist to 61 per cent in 2006/07, although this is still below average. Overall, quality of life is improving for some harder to reach groups but further work remains to be done.

How much progress is being made to implement improvement plans to sustain future improvement?
42 The Council is developing plans to improve its services. This includes joint working through the Rushmoor strategic partnership (RSP). For example, the Council is consulting with residents on priorities to update the community strategy and Local Development Framework. It then plans to integrate these to include shared outcomes and better performance monitoring.
43 Work with officers and councillors has led to a number of proposed new priorities and re-allocation of resources as the basis for next year’s corporate plan, with, for example, a greater focus on stronger and safer communities and reflecting better existing priority areas such as community facilities. The Council is also part of a Hampshire-wide project to introduce a recruitment portal to encourage applicants from a wider community. In addition, the Council is working on a waste strategy to attempt to reach its recycling target of 40 per cent by 2010, although it is unclear what the plans for this will be.
44 Key objectives are being achieved within the Council’s improvement plans. Indicators at October 2007 showed that 86 per cent of the Council’s targets were on track, such as increasing benefits take-up and adopting town centre planning guidance.
45 Targets that are not being met include reducing the time taken to process benefits claims, and composting which remains at 4 per cent against a target of 6 per cent. Some priorities, such as promoting healthier lifestyles, do not have clear targets or do not have regular information available to easily assess what has been achieved. This is particularly the case with the Rushmoor Strategic
Partnership's aims, although this is now addressed within the full programme which has been put in place. Overall, good progress is being made in most areas.
46 Financial capacity is strong and staff resources adequate, with the Council having recently gained Investor In People (IIP) re-accreditation and restructured its services. Sickness absences have caused service disruptions in benefits and in customer services, although this has now been addressed.
47 A new member development charter has increased councillor capacity, for example, by an agreed programme of training in topics such as IT and finance. Savings efficiencies are behind target but the Council has drawn up plans to increase its capacity to develop a wider-ranging efficiency programme and is introducing other plans.
48 Many IT enhancements over the past year have increased capacity, such as e-procurement, a customer relationship management system, a new disaster recovery plan and mobile technology tests.
49 The Council continues to work effectively in partnership. For example, the Council is playing a leading role in developing new governance arrangements for the Hampshire Local Strategic Partnership and its local area agreement. Working with the LSP has resulted in a clearer shared understanding of the community’s issues at both county and at district level, such as the need to focus on educational attainment. It is also leading and participating in a range of improvement projects across Hampshire including collaboration in personnel and customer services. It is continuing to pursue a joint waste contract with a neighbouring council, which is being part-funded by the South East Centre for Excellence. This increased capacity should help the Council deliver its priorities more effectively in the future.

Other performance work
50 The Hampshire Local Area Agreement (LAA) is progressing well with good engagement and cooperation from all partners, including District Councils. The LAA runs from April 2006 to March 2009. The original agreement and action plan was signed in February 2006 and the outcomes, indicators and targets have been updated for 2007/08. The LAA helps focus the attention of partners on eight priority outcomes and four Flagship initiatives drawn from the Hampshire Sustainable Community Strategy and the eleven District Sustainable Community Strategies.
51 Hampshire Partners are setting up a Hampshire Senate This will bring together and streamline LAA and Hampshire Strategic Partnership (HSP) governance and is intended to improve leadership and accountability. The HSP with partners is currently refreshing its Sustainable Community Strategy – ‘Shaping our future together’ 2007-2017 to be signed off by June 2008. District Councils are engaged and contributing effectively to this.
The audit of the accounts and value for money
52 Once again I am pleased to report that the Council's annual accounts were produced on time, were supported by a high standard of working papers, and complied with recommended accounting practices.
53 As your appointed auditor I have reported separately to the licensing and general purposes committee of 27 September 2007 (nominated as those charged with governance (TCWG) for the purpose) on the issues arising from our 2006/07 audit and have issued:
• my audit report, providing an unqualified opinion on your accounts and a conclusion on your vfm arrangements to say that these arrangements are adequate on 27 September 2007;
• my report on the best value performance plan confirming that the Plan has been audited; and
• an unqualified opinion on the Whole of Government Accounts consolidation pack.
54 The Council took a positive and constructive approach to our audit and there were no issues arising to report to those charged with governance.

Use of Resources
55 The findings of the auditor are an important component of the CPA framework described above. In particular the Use of Resources score is derived from the assessments made by the auditor in the following areas.
• Financial reporting (including the preparation of the accounts of the Council and the way these are presented to the public).
• Financial management (including how the financial management is integrated with strategy to support council priorities).
• Financial standing (including the strength of the Council's financial position).
• Internal control (including how effectively the Council maintains proper stewardship and control of its finances).
• Value for money (including an assessment of how well the Council balances the costs and quality of its services).
56 For the purposes of the CPA framework we have assessed the Council’s arrangements for use of resources in these five areas as follows.

57 These headline scores are the same as last year and the council continues to perform well in the use of resources, meeting above the minimum requirements overall. This is a creditable achievement as the assessment process gets tougher each year. We have presented a report to officers with the detailed scoring and highlighting the areas where work is needed to meet new and tougher standards next year.

Data quality
58 Considerable weight is attached to published performance indicators as the basis for reducing the burden of regulation and awarding freedoms and flexibilities. This has made reliable performance information, and the quality of the underlying data, significantly more important. Regulators and government departments need to be assured that reported information reflects actual performance. This will provide confidence that they are focusing on the key areas for improvement.
59 The council's overall management arrangements for ensuring data quality are demonstrating adequate performance. Systems are in place to help secure the quality of data and to use it effectively in managing performance.
60 However, explicit some arrangements that define or document senior level commitment to data quality cannot be demonstrated. The council has not set out its expectations in relation to data quality in a formal strategy and risk analysis although some operational procedures are in place. Although resources have been improved to achieve quality data, a skills analysis has not been carried out to identify training needs.
61 Our analytical review and spot checking of performance indicators (PIs) identified that the PI values reviewed were substantiated by evidence. However, we found some errors in the PIs and changes were made to them as a result. In most PIs that required a change in figures, this was due to simple errors in calculation, rather than issues with the underlying data collection systems.

Looking ahaead
62 The Commission consulted on the changes to the key lines of enquiry for the 2008 use of resources assessment during April to June 2007. The Commission's response to the consultation can be found on its website. The key lines of enquiry for 2008 reflect some of the changing priorities for councils as they respond to the major challenges facing them and the higher expectations of them. Making further improvements in efficiency will be critical for councils in responding to the changing demographic profile of communities, increasing public expectations of
public services and expected constraints on funding from Government.
63 The key lines of enquiry give more emphasis, mainly at level 4, to areas such as: sustainability, working in partnership and using IT to secure service and value for money improvements; strategic asset management and joint procurement. These areas signal the changes which will be given more emphasis in the use of resources assessment under Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA), the new performance framework for local services.
64 CAA will provide the first holistic independent assessment of the prospects for local areas and the quality of life for people living there. It will put the experience of citizens, people who use services and local tax payers at the centre of the new local assessment framework, with a particular focus on the needs of those whose circumstances make them vulnerable. It will recognise the importance of effective local partnership working, the enhanced role of Sustainable Communities Strategies and Local Area Agreements and the importance of councils in leading and shaping the communities they serve.
65 CAA will result in reduced levels of inspection and better coordination of inspection activity. The key components of CAA will be a joint inspectorate annual area risk assessment and reporting performance on the new national indicator set, together with a joint inspectorate annual direction of travel assessment and an annual use of resources assessment. The auditors’ use of resources
judgements will therefore continue, but their scope will be widened to cover issues such as commissioning and the sustainable use of resources.
66 The first results of our work on CAA will be published in the autumn of 2009. This will include the performance data from 2008/09, the first year of the new Local Area Agreements.
Closing remarks
67 This letter has been discussed and agreed with the Director of resources and discussed at the March Board. A copy of the letter will be presented at the cabinet meeting on 22 April 2008. Copies of this final letter will be provided to all Council members.
68 Further detailed findings, conclusions and recommendations on the areas covered by audit and inspection work are included in the reports issued to the Council during the year.
Table 2 Reports issued: Report Date of issue
Audit and inspection plan March 2006
Annual Governance Report September 2007
Opinion on financial statements September 2007
Value for money conclusion September 2007
Final accounts memorandum September 2007
Data Quality report October 2007
Use of resources feedback December 2007
Annual audit and inspection letter March 2008
69 The Council has taken a positive and constructive approach to our audit and inspection work, and I wish to thank the Council's staff for their support and cooperation during the audit.

Availability of this letter
70 This letter will be published on the Audit Commission’s website at, and also on the Council’s website.
Kate Handy
Relationship Manager and District Auditor
March 2008

Monday, 21 April 2008

Police and BAE to pilot spy planes

Airborne military technology developed to track the Taleban in Afghanistan will be deployed in England to spot muggers, stolen cars and even illegal immigrants arriving by sea.
Police forces in Kent and Essex have begun a development project with BAE Systems, Europe’s largest defence company, to make unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) part of their arsenals. BAE’s high endurance rapid technology insertion vehicle (Herti) aircraft has been used by the British military in Afghanistan to direct bombing raids and to follow the Taleban back to their bases.
Police commanders hope that such military-grade equipment will be capable of automatically detecting crimes from the air and then directing ground forces to investigate further. BAE’s work with the Kent and Essex forces, called the South Coast Partnership, is part of a wider strategy that the company is adopting to move from pure defence into security. BAE wants to generate up to £300 million a year from civilian security operations, such as providing UAVs and monitoring the surveillance feeds from closed-circuit television cameras.
Read the rest of this item from Times Online

The Flying Frenchman

This is soo good. I love horses...

Saturday, 19 April 2008

A tale of two patients

Two patients limp into two different medical clinics, with the same complaint. Both have trouble walking, and appear to require a hip replacement.
The FIRST patient is examined within the hour, is x-rayed the same day, and has a time booked for surgery the following week.
The SECOND sees the family doctor, after waiting 3 weeks for an appointment, then waits 8 weeks to see a specialist, then gets an x-ray, which isn't reviewed for another week, and finally has his surgery scheduled, for a month from then.
Why the different treatment for the two patients?
The FIRST is a Golden Retriever.
The SECOND is a Senior Citizen.
Next time I'm sick take me to a vet!

Friday, 18 April 2008

Global Incident Map

This is a must have for news junkies!!

Car Park Row - Fact and Fiction

In the local Star newspaper you will read the following story about our local Car Park (above - note it is not looking too full!!):

I have responded to this as follows:

Dear Editor

Ref - Parking Plan sparks row. (Star 17th April 2008)

I like to think we have started a constructive and "grown up" debate about this issue. I am afraid I cannot ignore the inaccurate and dismissive comment about Ward Councillors not putting forward a sensible argument against the pay and display meters. This could not be further from the truth. Let us just sum up what the two sides of the argument about pay and display are.

Cllr. Dibbs and officers have argued:
1. A few people are abusing the 2 hour limit - therefore they must introduce meters which will stop this abuse. (Along with charging the 99% of people not abusing it.)
2. This is a key part of an overall Farnborough parking strategy.
3. It is easier for wardens to check pay and display.

The following objections were very clearly and loudly raised at the last meeting ward councillors had with Council officers and Cllr Dibbs and in a number of emails, which some of our residents were witness to.
1. This is a back door council tax that will hit tax paying residents more than any other category of people.
2. This will displace additional parking into residential areas where we are already experiencing problems.
3. We do not want families with small children and elderly residents visiting the doctor, dentist or chemist fumbling for change to put in a pay and display machine.
4. What ever system is in place - wardens will have to check it. Council staff should work to improve the life of residents, not the other way round.

In my mind the Salisbury Road Car park is a "no brainer". The Council's own survey showed clearly this was a well used car park that was working and serving residents well. I am in agreement with the survey evidence, residents, traders and the police. Everyone appears to be in agreement except Council officers and Cllr. Dibbs.

If I am wrong - please tell me if Cllr Dibbs has it wrong please tell him

And if you don't care - don't complain - you will get what you deserve.

Warm regards
David Clifford
Empress Conservative Councillor.
"Together we can make a difference"
Tel 01252 371111
Fax 01252 371112

Wednesday, 16 April 2008


My step-daughter and her husband have just bought a house in Canada. They have joined a "Lake" Community - it is a brand new community that has been created around a beautiful lake in Alberta which the residents have full and unlimited access to. The quality of life, standard of living, and cost of living are so much better than we have to put up with here. It is no wonder so many people are leaving Britain to seek a better life elsewhere.

We are over taxed, under paid,

over charged, under valued,

over crowded, under serviced,

over regulated, under protected,

over governed and under led.
And why? Because we put up with it and keep quiet!

Out and about in Empress

Out with some of our committee members canvassing in Farnborough. We have had a really warm response, and it has been great talking to everyone. Most nights we have had at least a team of four or five people. We are only out for a few hours each night Monday to Friday from 6pm to 8pm at the latest. At the moment we are in Empress Park, and will then be moving onto the Marowbrook Lane area. We are knocking every single door in the ward - we want to listen to everyone - not just our supporters. If you are out we are leaving a card with our candidates contact details, so that you can call him if you have any questions.

That said - most of you know we are always out and about in Empress - not just at election time.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

EU threat to local wine-makers (my mate Daniel Hannan MEP)

Daniel Hannan has taken up the cause of a fruit wine maker who faces a £30,000 bill because of a new EU Directive on bottle sizes.
Jerry Schooler of Lurgashall Winery has been told that his liqueurs, meads and fruit wines must be sold in 70, 50 or 35 centilitre bottles, rather than the 75 and 37.5 centilitre bottles he has been using for 24 years.
But Daniel believes that the ban has no basis in law. The European Directive under which standards officers claim to be acting provides for exemptions for small firms. The Directive lays down that “nominal quantities should generally not be subject to regulation at Community or national level”. It also specifies that “in certain sectors such deregulation could result in disproportionately high extra costs, especially for small and medium sized enterprises. For these sectors, therefore, existing Community legislation should be adapted in the light of experience”.
Daniel said: “If Lurgashall Winery doesn’t qualify for an opt-out under the terms of this Directive, who does? It’s a small firm, employing nine full-time and three part-time staff. It would suffer disproportionately from the compliance costs. All it is asking is to be allowed to provide customers with what they want”.
Daniel has officially asked European Commission to offer Mr Schooler an exemption from the rules. He is also informally urging the Enterprise Commissioner, G√ľnter Verheugen, to step in and solve what he calls “a remediable injustice”. At the very least, Daniel has asked for a suspension of the rules so that Mr Schooler can continue to use his existing corks, boxes and labels until they have been exhausted, and then gradually make the transition to the new sizes.
Daniel said: “Jerry is an award-winning wine producer, whose clients include royal palaces and the National Trust. If he is happy to sell bottles of a certain size, and if his customers are happy to buy them, what business has Brussels in coming between them and declaring such sales illegal?”
In December,
the EU threatened the entire English wine-making industry by seeking to impose ceilings on productions. A consequence of global warming is that the English Home Counties are now the fastest-growing wine producing region in Europe, and so stood to be hardest hit. Daniel and other MEPs managed to remove the proposed quota, and so preserved the competitors of local vintners.
Daniel said: “One consequence of climate change is that a higher acreage of southern England is now given over to viticulture than at any time since the reign of Henry II, during the last period of European warming. Our wine-makers stand or fall by the quality of their produce. They have never asked the EU for subsidies: unlike some of their rivals, they have stayed out of the Common Agricultural Policy. All they want is for Brussels to leave them free to compete”.

Read Daniel's blog on

The EU's hideous strength
Vive Sarko!
The sceptics were right before their time

Monday, 14 April 2008

Suspect brothel employing illegal Immigrants closed

Police have closed a suspected brothel in Empress, Farnborough employing illegal Chinese immigrants, who are now in the custody of immigration officials

My nephew Jared over reacts when asked to wash up....

Friday, 11 April 2008

Hospital Trusts will not merge

The boards of Frimley Park Hospital and Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals have decided not to proceed with plans to merge both hospital trusts at this time.

This joint conclusion was reached following a thorough eight month review to explore the opportunities and practical issues in combining the two trusts. Both trusts found the discussions to be a valuable process which helped to identify some potential benefits from closer working. The trusts concluded that for the time being they would work towards achieving some of these benefits by allowing existing clinical and support networks to mature and through the development of new networks.

Merger discussions were conceived from a meeting of senior doctors in west Surrey which foresaw (in the Matrix report) a merger between acute Hospital Trusts when clinical networks between the local NHS organisations had been further developed. This approach was consistent with Surrey PCT’s ‘Fit for the Future’ programme. Both Trusts have not ruled out the possibility of resuming discussions in the future.

This development does not have any bearing on existing emergency services and levels of care and both trusts share the vision of improving healthcare in Surrey. For example, together they will continue to work with Surrey PCT and other primary care trusts to provide a broader range of services for patients in Surrey.

Both trusts would like to thank all of those involved within our hospitals for their hard work in supporting the merger project.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Hours wasted because Ward Councillors ignored

We are in an awful process working to STOP our own Council putting pay and display meters into OUR own WARD local car park in Salisbury Road. Yes. It is bizarre but true. We are constantly talking to our residents, meeting the local beat officers monthly, having a quarterly meeting with police, residents and businesses. Talking to residents constantly. But does Ward Councillor opinion count for anything? At Rushmoor, and specifically in the Environment Department it does not. Decisions are made solely between a Cabinet Councillor and Officers.

THIS IS SO WRONG and an affront to local democracy.

So a decision is made and agreed by the Rushmoor Cabinet - because of the huge volumes of paper, the ward councillors missed the item that had reference to the car park in our ward. The first we know about parking meters going in is when Cllr Parker (fellow ward Councillor) reads an official notice on a lamp post.

The Ward Councillors had been forgotten!! Accidents happen.

So we had a meeting. We were asked if we supported the scheme - we made clear we wanted the proposal scrapped - Cllr Dibbs, the portfolio holder, wanted pay and display put in, as did Mike Bamber the Parking manager supported by John Edwards the Director. John Trussler our Highways Engineer was there, but said very little until the end.

Our decision was not final - there was a heated discussion with Cllr Dibbs and Mike Bamber who both advocated the case for meters. This was opposed by Cllr Parker and myself. We were getting nowhere. Finally John Trussler recognising the stalemate offered to take a survey. It was agreed. The results are as follows:

We now have to endure another meeting to "discuss" the results. What a complete and utter waste of my time, officer time when, if they had just listened to us in the first place, we could have avoided so much bad feeling.

Ward Councillor - WC - exactly what I feel like as a ward councillor on Rushmoor. Well if officers think they can sit comfortably on this WC they are mistaken.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The Tumble Down Dick - Farnborough

I have had a few letters and emails about the recent closure of this Farnborough Institution. The following are the facts:

The premises was subject to inspection under both food, and health and safety legislation, initiated as a result of a customer complaint, and a number of potential breaches were evidenced. Similarly the accommodation within the premises had been subject to action by the Council's Housing Service.

Having made the Area Manager with Punch Taverns aware of our concerns, he elected to visit the premises. Having seen the conditions for himself, the premises was subject to voluntary closure on 14th February with a view to a major refurbishment being undertaken. To date the business has remained closed.

Enquirers regarding the future of the business can be directed to the Press Office of Punch Taverns on 01283 523 551.

A note from my mate Daniel our MEP

Well, the four-month ban on communicating with Conservatives is over, the Euro-selections are complete and I am back as your candidate. Thank you to all those who voted for me; and thanks, too, to the many who voted against me (and, in some cases, took pleasure in letting me know precisely why).
There have been
grumbles about the voting procedure, but I’m pleased that more than 13,000 people voted in the South East – not counting the several thousands more who inadvertently spoiled their ballot papers as a result of the complicated voting system. Hard-core anoraks can view the full results here.
A lot of things have happened since I was last allowed to post these updates, though regular readers of my
blog will have been following them.
Tony Blair has been named as a
possible President of Europe. Several MEPs protested against the ratification of the European Constitution without the promised referendums, and were fined for doing so. I led a filibuster against the ratification of the Constitution, and was thrown out of the EPP for my pains, thereby fulfilling the pledge that I made at my selection.
Meanwhile, I was among the protestors who
lobbied Parliament for a referendum on the Constitution. And I was delighted by the 89 per cent “No” votes, and the high turnouts, in the ten constituencies lucky enough to be allowed unofficial referendums.
In the mean time, here are some of the thoughts I’ve had on a few random subjects:
Let’s have more conscience votes
Independent schools deserve charitable status
Children’s television rots our brains
Why MEPs won’t publish their expenses
Was Shakespeare anti-Semitic?
End the Cuban blockade
Cameron invites the cameras
The best biography ever written
Who has the best national anthem?
The case for Britishness
Brussels is subverted by lobbyists
Gordon Brown looks like Shrek
In praise of turkeys
That’s the last time I’ll plug my blog. If you’re interested, you can read me in the Telegraph every day at

Conservatives MEP selection corrupt

I have to say I am completely disgusted at the voting system employed by the Conservative Party to select MEP's. It has been a process Mugabe would be proud of - How can we sit here in the mother of democracies and accept a process that shows such blatent arrogance, dictatorship and lack of repect for grass root views. A process whose outcome was predetermined but crudely dressed up in democracy.
The ballot was such that your first choice got one point , second choice got 2 points etc. Hence, the candidate with the lowest points came top, second lowest 2nd etc. No problems so far! So tell me how and why have the sitting MEP's been pushed to the top regardless?

In our region for example Theresa Coffey came 3rd. But Central Office have placed her 5th behind the MEP's. As can clearly be seen in the above official results table for our region.

This is where we are told to keep quiet as it is the local elections and good party members should ignore injustice and be quiet.

I am by no means alone in this however. Go to the following Conservative supporter links:

Ignoring supporters wishes is no way for a modern party to behave. We do not ask for peoples opinions then ignore them without cost. We do not win elections by rigging them. We do not have the right to call ourselves a democratic party if we use undemocratic processes.

The key faults with our MEP selection were the following:

  • Grassroots members were prevented from deselecting incumbents.
  • Female candidates won better MEP slots even though they received fewer votes.
  • Strenuous efforts were made to prevent the grassroots from learning anything meaningful about the candidates that they were allowed to rank.
  • There were no official hustings and unofficial hustings were discouraged.
  • Candidates were only allowed to use template CVs to communicate with members and these CVs were edited at CCHQ.
  • Candidates were given lines to take.
  • The voting process was complex and restrictive.
  • Full results of the election process have been suppressed.
  • The proportion of spoilt ballot papers was probably higher than in 2007's Scottish Elections.
  • John Maples was responsible for candidate selection as well as being the returning officer.

One member concisely summed this all up by saying:

"We may claim the language of localism transparency and accountability, but we do not show those virtues in our internal affairs. The only conclusion I can reach is that, if we return to government, when we face a difficulty, our instincts will be to control, to centralise and to disenfranchise.
The Party is treating its members as if they are the problem. “Trust the people….unless they are members of the Conservative Party” is the approach.
The natural inclination of Party members is to be loyal. We want to win the general election and we don’t want to rock the boat. CCHQ seems to be taking cynical advantage of that, by rigging the rules and hoping we won’t make too much fuss."


1. The best Borough Council candidates in the local elections here in Farnborough and Aldershot are still the Conservatives by a long chalk.

2. The Conservatives are a great political party, but as with all things the people running parts of it make mistakes. I support Conservative Party values not the bad decisions of some people in leadership.

3. Evil prospers when good people do nothing.

I leave the final word with our Leader David Cameron:

"We want a Britain where politicians are less arrogant about what they can do for us, and more optimistic about what we can all do together "(David Cameron at Swindon - April 2007)

Monday, 7 April 2008

Canvassing in WestHeath

Tonight we went to help our friends in WestHeath. Steve Smith is a very hard working volunteer, and will make an excellent councillor for Westheath Ward.

Here we are looking like we have just escaped from Broadmoor Mental Hospital.

Despite this we got a very good response at the doors ... honest!!