Monday, 24 February 2014

Furnace Green Councillors Welcome Completed Tunnel Drainage Works


Furnace Green's Councillor Carol Eade at the resurfaced Tunnel
The installation of a major new drainage system in the main Railway tunnel between Furnace Green and Maidenbower has been completed on schedule, and in time for the start of the new half-term at Oriel High.
Furnace Green Councillors Carol Eade and Duncan Crow had been working with West Sussex County Council, Crawley Borough Council and Network Rail since last autumn, to get a permanent solution to the flooding that had dogged the site. The wettest winter on record had made an occasional flooding problem into a virtually permanent flood since the exceptional rains started in December.

Furnace Green Councillor Carol Eade said “I am delighted that our efforts have paid off. Duncan Crow and I invested a lot of time and effort to bring this about as we recognised it’s important to the local community, many of whom got in touch with us. Not only have we now got an excellent drainage system that has already proved its effectiveness in last week’s rain, we’ve had it completely resurfaced too.”

Councillor Duncan Crow saidIt is great news that Volker Fitzpatrick (Network Rail’s contractor) has completed the major drainage scheme in time for the school going back. While affecting many residents of Furnace Green and Maidenbower, it had especially impacted Oriel High pupils, parents and staff from Furnace Green and further afield over the last few weeks. I am very pleased that the efforts of both Carol Eade and myself achieved such a positive outcome on behalf of our residents.”

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

My statement to the Crawley News after £1152 a meeting UKIP Councillor claims "smear campaign"


UKIP's hypocrisy is almost off the scale
 
A journalist from the Crawley News has contacted me to say that UKIP Crawley Councillor Karl Williamson has accused me of a smear campaign, and that my original post exposing his appalling attendence and his £1152 a meeting, was offensive. He also stated that Cllr Williamson is not intending to resign. He is apparently considering legal action against myself, as well as another Councillor who tweeted a link to my blog. Below is my response I sent to the Crawley News. I appreciate they won't print all of it but I think it useful for my entire response to be seen so that context can be seen for any selective quote that might be used. Thank you for all the good messages of support I have received on this. I genuinely believe the residents of Southgate are getting a very raw deal and deserve better. 
 
 "I view it as an insult to the residents of Southgate if he does not resign and seek re-election as a UKIP candidate. When he defected to UKIP in July, his argument at the time for not resigning and standing as a UKIP candidate was the cost of a by-election. However, resigning now and holding a by-election this May would be at the same time as the existing Council election, and at no extra cost whatsoever to the taxpayer. Southgate residents should be allowed an opportunity to vote on his record and for or against his new political party. Southgate did NOT elect a UKIP Councillor and residents are being disenfranchised by the status quo.

He should of course resign because of his poor attendance and no obvious evidence of him performing the role in recent weeks and months.

Karl Williamson's suggestion of a smear campaign by myself and being offensive is ridiculous and clearly a desperate attempt to deflect attention from the real story which is how much taxpayers money he has received for attending so few meetings. I have reported nothing but facts regarding his attendance and allowances and would not intend to cause any offence to anyone by what I write. Given that UKIP and Cllr Williamson like to publicly criticise Councillors of other parties for the allowances they receive and infer that other Councillors are only in it for the money, it is right that UKIP's only ever Councillor in Crawley comes under scrutiny on this very subject. 

There is total and blatant hypocrisy here and it is right to expose it, however uncomfortable that may be for UKIP and Cllr Williamson. When 'he' recently wrote (many believed was written by Lee Gilroy) about "cosy allowances" that other Councillors were receiving in 'his' Crawley Observer newspaper column, he opened himself up to scrutiny on this topic. At £512 an hour and £1152 a meeting, I put it to you that no Councillor's allowances are as cosy as his! In the recent Hayward’s Heath County Council by-election in December, UKIP put out a leaflet with a big strapline of "Cut Councillor Allowances" at the same time their only Councillor in the whole of the north of West Sussex was receiving more in allowances for the work he puts in than any other Councillor in the whole of Crawley, Horsham and Mid-Sussex. The hypocrisy and lack of integrity of UKIP is absolutely staggering.  

Given that Karl Williamson as a Councillor has a chequered history of making false allegations and complaints, including Standards complaints against a third of all other Crawley Borough Councillors (of which not one has ever been upheld) I view his threats of legal action as yet another in a long line of attempts to bully other Councillors. I will not be bullied into silence as the public have the right to know the work rate (or likely complete lack of in his case) of a Councillor.

Please note that my blog articles featuring Cllr Williamson relate only in connection with his capacity as a Councillor and as a member of UKIP. I would not normally comment about where any Councillor goes on holiday or spends their time/lives as it is not anyone's business but theirs. However, when a Councillor appears to be absent over a sustained period and not performing the role (but still claiming the allowance) and when other Councillors mention that they believe he is abroad much of the time, it then becomes a matter of public interest. Los Angeles has been mentioned to me by other Councillors and it is perfectly reasonable for me to pose the question of residency. I believed the photo I used to have been taken in LA and the other guys in it to be from LA. However, as I could not be certain of this (and I was hardly going to phone Karl Williamson up and ask him, especially if he was in LA and the call charge is high) I changed the caption description very soon after publishing to ensure I have written nothing that could be inaccurate.

 I am regularly at the town hall every week and yet in the last eight months, I have seen Cllr Karl Williamson myself on just two occasions - once in September and once in December. He can not justify his lack of action as a Councillor and he has no valid reason for not stepping down. If he wanted to have moral legitimacy as a UKIP Councillor, he could resign and contest his Council seat under the banner of his new political party so that Southgate residents get what they vote for, not the sham they have now."

Sunday, 16 February 2014

UKIP Crawley Councillor threatens legal action after £512 an hour exposure


Say no to UKIP legal threat bullying tactics

Email sent yesterday evening by UKIP Crawley Councillor Karl Williamson.
From: "Williamson, Karl" <Karl.Williamson@crawley.gov.uk>
Date: 14 Feb 2014 19:25
Subject: Twitter
To: "Peck, Duncan" <
Duncan.Peck@crawley.gov.uk>
Cc: "Harris, Lee" <
Lee.Harris@crawley.gov.uk>, "Brown, Ann-Maria" <Ann-Maria.Brown@crawley.gov.uk>, "chairman.crawleyukip@gmail.com" <chairman.crawleyukip@gmail.com>, "Bloom, Howard" <Howard.Bloom@crawley.gov.uk>

Duncan,

Your recent 'tweet' from your Councillor twitter account - Cllr_Peck (see attached picture) where you spread untruths about me living in Los Angeles is totally unacceptable. Your posting is false, indefensible and defamatory about me.

Under English Libel laws, it has been established that a defamatory statement appearing on the internet is published at the place it is downloaded and subsequently read. Your twitter account is freely accessible within the UK, and as such is subject to the laws of defamation within this jurisdiction.

Now that you are on notice, please provide:

1) Your undertaking to immediately remove the defamatory information from your twitter account;

2) Your undertaking not to continue posting false, indefensible and defamatory information about me;

Please confirm your agreement to the above by midday Saturday, 15 February 2014.

Should you choose to ignore this request,  I will have no option but to instruct my lawyer to take further action against you and to seek the costs for doing so.

Regards

Karl

Cllr Karl Williamson
UKIP
Southgate Ward
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I have always taken a very dim view of bullying and will not tolerate it when I see it. My own experience is that bullies like to dish it out but cannot take criticism, and that they do not like exposure of their bullying behaviour. The email reproduced above that was sent last night feels to me like bullying. However the "Duncan" the email was sent to is not myself, but Maidenbower Councillor Duncan Peck.
 
The only thing that Duncan did was to tweet a link to my blog article that highlighted the shockingly low number of meetings that UKIP Councillor for Southgate Karl Williamson had attended over the last year. I calculated that he had attended 8 meetings that amounted to a total of 18 hours of meetings in one year, and that he had received £9220.25 from Crawley taxpayers for this, with no obvious evidence of other activity. This equated to £1152 a meeting or £512 an hour.
 

Simply posting a link on Twitter to my blog post has generated the ridiculous email above, which had the following notable people copied in for effect to make it look important - the Council's Leader, Chief Executive, and Head of Legal and Democratic Services; and also copied in was UKIP Crawley Chairman Lee Gilroy. It is my personal opinion that this email is an attempt to bully my colleague. Concerns about bullying do seem to follow some people around.

It is of course completely absurd to suggest that asking if someone lives in Los Angeles could somehow constitute defamation.  I can confirm that I do not live in Los Angeles (or spend most of my spare time there rather than in the UK) but if anyone were to ask if I do,  I would not react badly and threaten them with legal action! 

I presume that Duncan will treat the above threat with the contempt it deserves, and ignore it. If he does, I guess that Karl Williamson “will have no option but to instruct my (his) lawyer to take further action against you (Duncan Peck) and to seek the costs for doing so”.

It will be interesting to see whether Cllr Williamson follows through on this threat or whether it is all bluster and idle threats. While I strongly suspect it will be the latter, I guess that anyone who receives £512 an hour could afford a pretty good lawyer!

I hadn't intended to write about this again but I will not stand by while UKIP (the email is written in his capacity as a UKIP Councillor) make such threats.  I repeat my call from yesterday and publicly call for the resignation of Cllr Karl Williamson so that Southgate can elect a Councillor who could easily prove they are performing the role and representing residents. Southgate  continues to be badly let down by UKIP and deserves better.

Update 18th February - My response to the Crawley News after UKIP have no answer but to claim a "smear campaign" 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

UKIP Crawley Councillor pockets £512 per hour for a whole year of Council meetings

Good times - UKIP Councillor Karl Williamson (right) 
Ask any Councillor in Crawley (Conservative or Labour) as to who they believe does the least work out of all 37 Crawley Borough Councillors and ask who they hardly ever see, and the same name is likely to come up. That name is Karl Williamson who is the UKIP Councillor for Southgate, who along with Lee Gilroy left the Conservatives in July under a very dark cloud. This followed a huge 98% No Confidence vote in both of them by the Crawley Conservative Association after a widely-perceived failed takeover attempt of the Crawley party. Just three months later, they subsequently succeeded in taking over Crawley UKIP by using the same disreputable tactics of smearing an innocent colleague to try and seize their position 

Many Crawley Councillors suspect that Cllr Williamson effectively gave up the role of being a Councillor many months ago, but that he is continuing to pocket the allowance that is paid by Crawley Borough Council for performing the role. I have heard other Councillors say that they believe Cllr Williamson is spending most of his spare time living it up and staying with friends some 5450 miles away in Los Angeles California, or that he may even be living in LA, as opposed to serving as a Councillor in Crawley and representing his forgotten Southgate constituents. As cabin crew for Virgin Atlantic, it is conceivable that he could stay on in LA after working on flights or that he gets very cheap flights there on his off-days, or could that be occasional cheap flights to the UK from his LA home?

As far as I know, Cllr Williamson was last seen at a Council meeting two months ago on December 18th. While meetings are not the only part of a Councillor’s workload, myself and other Councillors see no evidence whatsoever of anything else being done in his capacity as a Councillor. Other Southgate Councillors tell me that they never see him in Southgate and that he virtually never attends the Southgate Community Forum.

In desperation, some UKIP people might point to his very dubious weekly Crawley Observer column as evidence of some activity. However, most people I talk to at the town hall share my view that it is actually Lee Gilroy writing what can only be described as bile, on the odd occasions that it isn’t the usual plagiarised rubbish from the UKIP national website, which the Crawley Observer shamefully continues to be silent about.    

UKIP are renowned for being a party full of bogus claims, inaccuracies and rank hypocrisy. Such examples include claiming their Councillors work harder than those from other parties and that they aren’t interested in claiming allowances. They also like to infer that other parties’ Councillors are ‘on the make’ when in reality, most Councillors I know do work hard. In Crawley, this bile has been spouted by Cllr Williamson and by UKIP’s new Chairman Lee Gilroy, who has also publicly stated that he wants to be UKIP’s parliamentary candidate. Let’s check their accuracy and the record of UKIP’s only ever Councillor in Crawley, by documenting what meetings Cllr Williamson has attended over the last year from today (13th Feb 2014 back to 14th Feb 2013) and how long those meeting were. All this information is freely available on the Crawley Borough Council website.

18th December 2013 - Full Council - 230 minutes (he left early)

12th November 2013 - Licensing - 60 minutes

26th September 2013 - Full Council - 155 minutes

10th July 2013 - Cabinet - 77 minutes

24th May 2013 - Annual Council - 46 minutes

3rd April 2013 - Full Council - 220 minutes

20th March 2013 - Cabinet - 97 minutes

27th February 2013 - Full Council - 195 minutes

That is it, although I'm happy to be corrected if there is anything to add. These 8 meetings that he turned up to in an entire year add up to 1080 minutes which is exactly 18 hours. Cllr Williamson has presumably received all of his annual basic allowance of £5949 plus no doubt claimed 5.5 months of an annual special responsibility allowance of £7138 from mid-February to the end of July which is a further £3271.58. Therefore in the last 12 months he will have received £9220.58 from Crawley taxpayers and attended 8 meetings totalling 18 hours for an entire year. This equates to £1152.57 per meeting or £512.25 for each hour of his 18-hour-year.

I see no evidence that Cllr Williamson has done anything at all in the last two months as a Councillor - other than presumably receive two month’s payment totalling £991.50. This situation really is disgraceful and therefore I publicly call upon Karl Williamson to do the decent thing and resign as a Councillor so that Southgate can have an active and dedicated Councillor to represent the neighbourhood. This would enable a by-election (at no extra cost to the taxpayer) to be held on the 22nd of May, at the same time as the existing Council and European elections. Southgate really does deserve better than UKIP. 

Update 15th February - he has threatened legal action. 
 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

An End In Sight To The Flooded Furnace Green/Maidenbower Tunnel

Furnace Green/Maidenbower tunnel in late December
In December and January, we saw record amounts of rainfall in much of the south of England, including here in Crawley with about 400mm of rain in the two months. If you get the train from Crawley to Chichester, you will see plenty of land under water on the way. To give this some context, the average annual rainfall for Crawley is 746mm. Even if February only has average rainfall (which isn't looking likely) we will probably have had our wettest ever winter in over 100 years. There has been a lot of flooding problems at times, although the major works that has taken place across Crawley in the last few years, including Tilgate Park and Waterlea Meadow, has saved many homes from being flooded such as in Furnace Green. Of that I have absolutely no doubt.


What hasn't been a success story in reducing the scale of flooding is the main tunnel (actually a bridge) linking Furnace Green and Maidenbower. This has flooded before during very wet weather but would usually drain away within a day or so. It was an occasional problem. The widening of the tunnel combined with the record rainfall appears to have conspired to keep the tunnel flooded for nearly all of the last eight weeks. It has been pumped out twice but the sheer amount of water in the ground and the relentless rain keep filling it up, although I haven't since seen it as bad as it was at the end of December/early January when I took the above photo.

Myself and colleagues, including fellow Furnace Green Councillor Carol Eade and Henry Smith MP, have been concerned at the length of time this has been going on, and have been liaising with West Sussex County Council, Crawley Borough Council and Network Rail for some time. It has been quite complicated regarding who has responsibility for what. We all want a long-term solution and all have been working for that aim.


The good news is that we do have a way forward. Network Rail's contractor Volker Fitzpatrick (who did the work to widen the tunnel) have offered to implement a drainage scheme as soon as possible, and West Sussex County Council and Crawley Borough Council are co-operating with this. The plan is to start early next week and have it completed by the 21st of February. I do not have more details at present but will update this blog post as and when I have them. We will also need to sort out who has legal responsibility for future maintenance, but both Councils and Network Rail are keen to get that resolved.


In the short term, more bad weather is forecast and more flooding may happen, but  this will get sorted. I can't guarantee that once the work is done, it will never flood again, but hopefully it will be the exception rather than the rule, and having it flooded for weeks should be a thing of the past.