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A plea to the South Tyneside Independent Alliance

with 13 comments

Councillors – please just register!

Email sent to Cllrs. Allen Branley, Jane Branley (Leader), Geraldine White, George Waddle, Gordon Finch, John Hodgson, Victor Thompson, and Ahmed Khan (deputy leader) – otherwise referred to as the South Tyneside Independent Alliance group of councillors.

I wrote to you in September of 2008 with a simple request regarding your party’s status and it’s absence from the register kept by The Electoral Commission, I did not receive any reply either from yourself or any of your colleagues.

Every party represented by more than one councillor on South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough is registered with the Electoral Commission, either directly through it’s national headquarters organisation or in the case of the South Tyneside Progressives through their local representatives. As a member of the public I am able to access party details through the Electoral Commission’s website and find information about officials, contact telephone numbers, and an annual statement of accounts to help aid transparency in seeing how these organisations are financed.

As you approach a by election which may result in an additional member to your ranks on South Tyneside Council, and during a campaign that most of you have assisted in with common purpose, can you  tell me:

a) Why none of your representatives were able to reply to my email in September 2008?

b) If your beliefs in transparency and accountability, as expressed in your literature, extend to allowing public scrutiny of your  party’s finances.

c.) Does the South Tyneside Independent Alliance have any intention of joining hundreds of other independent councillor groupings around England and Wales by registering yourselves with The Electoral Commission?

I hope I don’t wait another eighteen months before having to chase this one up.

Update 2:25 pm

I must thank the deputy leader of the South Tyneside Alliance for this prompt reply, which I am sure local readers will appreciate:

I am in receipt of your e-mail the dated 22/2/10 the contents of which have been noted.

As you seem to have a number of issues concerning the financial transparency, status and structure of the Independent Alliance I am inviting you to put them in person at our next monthly meeting which will be held on Monday 8th March at the Old Ship on Sunderland Rd at 7pm. The majority of Independent Alliance councillors will be present at that meeting and I am sure they will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have in person.

If you are unable to attend our next meeting you have an open invitation (like every resident in South Tyneside) to attend any of our monthly meetings which are always open to the public (unlike other political groupings). These are held on the 2nd Monday of every month at the Old Ship at 7pm.

We look forward to seeing you in due course.

Cllr Ahmed Khan

This is a start, but unfortunately it is not heading in the right direction, my email is noted but the requested action does not appear to have been taken, and so I needed to reply, thus:

Thank you for your prompt reply,

however my questions are not for my own personal benefit but for the many throughout the borough who may, for a variety of reasons be unable to attend such meetings, perhaps because of work and family commitments or failing health etc. It would be far more beneficial for these people to be able to access this information online, with the same ease as they could for say The South Tyneside Progressive Association or the East Cleveland Independents, if they were so inclined or interested.

I find it peculiar that the South Tyneside Independent Alliance should de facto require people to attend your meetings and listen to superfluous matters when it would be far easier to register your party with the Electoral Commission and make the necessary information available there. Why should our interested electors be made to climb hurdles and jump through hoops just to obtain details of your funding?

Is the process of registering at The Electoral Commission so difficult for a group of councillors to manage?

Update 9:05 pm

A further exchange of emails between Cllr. Khan and myself, first a second reply from Cllr. Khan:

Thanks for your e-mail once again.
I obviously misunderstood the motives behind your e-mail, I thought for a moment you were compiling another piece about the Independent Alliance for your blog. Whatever your reasons our offer remains on the table should you wish to avail yourself of it and I’m sure that if you or anyone else did attend our meetings we could set asdie the “superfluous” stuff to answer any questions at the begining of the meeting.

Alternatively if you or indeed any member of the public wishes to discuss the Independent Alliance please feel free to attend any of my Advice Surgeries or if you prefer, I can make a home visit at a time convenient to you.

Finally, please bookmark our website this will ensure that you are kept up to speed with any new developments concerning the Independent Alliance.

He’s getting like a seasoned professional politician now, not much different at all to the others! Notice how he completely evades the issue and refuses to go near it?

My reply:

I am sorry to say, but despite your offers of assistance at meetings that may not be suitable for many people, and the extending of an offer of home visits, you have quite firmly side stepped and evaded the issue before you, like a seasoned politician if I may say so.

Does your party have some difficulty in matching the behaviour of the South Tyneside Progressive Association, the Lib-Dems, the Labour Party, and the Conservatives, and applying for registration with The Electoral Commission?

If not, then why not go ahead and do it? I am given to understand that it is a simple enough procedure.

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Written by curly

February 22, 2010 at 12:40 pm

13 Responses

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  1. Looks to me as though they don’t want to let people know just what they get up to. Thought this was the electronic age. Why have to go to meetings at all? Only good thing about going to the meeting is, you may just get to meet the comedian who writes their scripts for them for the antics they get up to. Think it might just be the original scriptwriter for the Keystone Kops.


    February 22, 2010 at 7:16 pm

  2. Is Khan speaking with authority for the Alliance?
    Who gave him the authority?
    Is he allowed to just make up policy on the hoof?
    Where is his leader Jane Branley?
    Has she got anything to say about their accountability?
    Would Khan be open honest and frank about his financial matters at an Indy meeting?
    Is Khan the most expensive councillor we’ve ever had?
    How many thousands has he spent to get on the council?
    How many thousands of leaflets, newsletters, has he bought?
    How many thousands has he spent on his court battles?
    Has he paid for it all himself or does he have a sponsor?
    Has his financial backing and spending given him an electoral advantage?
    Why should I have to do things his way if I want to find these things out?
    Why can’t his party do it the easy online way like every other party?
    Do they have something to hide?
    Why can’t they do the decent thing and disclose their financial affairs, receipts, and expenditure online?
    Why should they dare to be different to every other party in South Tyneside?
    When is Khan going to give an honest answer about why they won’t register with the Commission?
    A lot of questions councillor, any answers?

    Mark Thompson

    February 23, 2010 at 1:29 pm

  3. It is simple really if the Independent Alliance registers as a political party, certain Cllrs within the group would have to resign from the Alliance because they stood on the platform of not being in a political party.

    Truly Independent

    February 23, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    • Ha ha, that is so funny! The only ones with real principles worth making a stand over, are the ones who left the Alliance.


      February 23, 2010 at 5:12 pm

  4. Aha!

    “Truly Independent” I think you’ve given the game away. Drat, drat and double drat.

    This isn’t about openness and transparency, despite the lofty claims from Graham. The group have offered to answer his questions on finance.

    It’s simply a naff ploy to put Independent councillors – who are formed in an alliance, rather than a party – in an awkward position for political gain.

    Time for some people to get off their high horses, and admit that far from being openness crusaders they’re simply mischief makers.

    David MacLean

    February 23, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    • Independent David?
      With a Leader, a Deputy Leader, a common cause, common literature, a common printer, common bloc voting habits, a concerted effort to help each other out in common campaigning, sharing common social evenings, sharing common fund raising efforts, common voluntary subscriptions?

      If it looks like a party, smells like a party, and behaves like a party, then surely it is a party?

      You may be right after all about the “awkward position” they find themselves in David, besides haven’t you got a newspaper to put together?


      February 23, 2010 at 5:18 pm

  5. I’ve seen with my own eyes the division of opinion on various issues.

    I’ve sat in council meetings where half the group voted one way, and the other half another way.

    An example that springs to mind is the various different approaches taken over special school closures.

    I don’t believe they’re a party, but that’s my opinion. Yours is different.

    But here’s something you wouldn’t know from reading this blog; despite the excitement about Electoral Commission ‘probes’, they’re planning no such thing.

    A quick phone call to them earlier this week found they were totally ambivalent about the entire situation.

    Their own guidance even says that – and this is an extreme example – a group of independents being elected, then actually calling themselves a party on their literature and in the chamber, still wouldn’t infringe the rules.

    It’s not their problem, so they won’t investigate.

    It’s worth reading published guidance before using questionable terms such as “probe”.

    I don’t mind political point-scoring. It’s part of politics and every political party in the borough is as keen as the next to gain advantage.

    I only feel the need to get involved when point-scoring is done in such a sanctimonious way.

    David MacLean

    February 23, 2010 at 6:39 pm

  6. A journalist criticising someone for hyperbole? Priceless.


    February 23, 2010 at 8:32 pm

  7. Hang on Birdman, the feeder of filthy seagulls, you were closer than any reporter in town to the Indies, just had to read your Twitter alongside Khans to work that out. You of all people should know they behave just like any other party, so don’t come high and mighty here.

    Looks to me that curly has written about another blogger saying hes gonna write to the commision asking questions, probing the alliance, just the same as curly did ages ago, what you getting so excited about?

    Everyone noes its a volunary thing but why are they not volunteering?

    Dave Smith

    February 23, 2010 at 11:09 pm

  8. I don’t know why David Maclean wastes his time with these Independants.

    Do you know David that on Thursday 25th the Council holds their annual budget meeting. The agenda for this meeting lists a motion from the Independant Alliance. Is it about monetary fiscal policy? No. Is it an alternative budget? No. David, it’s a motion on canine motions. That’s right dog fouling!

    It gets better David. One of the 4 streets mentioned in the motion to be specifically targeted is Highfield Road. Which, according to the Council’s website is where Gordon Finch lives, and who is a signatory of the motion.

    Redhead Park is one of three parks mentioned in this Independent motion which happens to be the Branley’s nearest park. Both Jane and allen are also signatories.

    Ahmed Khan happens to live not too far away from one of the other other parks selected for special treatment the South Marine Park. Ahmed is a signatory on this motion.

    Any comments David?


    February 24, 2010 at 1:45 am

  9. Heaintheavy you are right about the motion, But what i cant understand is WHY is it that there is only 7 independent Alliance councilors who have signed it When there should be 8.


    February 24, 2010 at 9:39 am

  10. A journalist criticising someone for hyperbole… couldn’t make it up. Ooops sorry that’s just what David used to do in the Gazette.

    I spy

    February 24, 2010 at 5:18 pm

  11. At least now we know exactly why Khan and Branley and other Indy supporters tried to cajole me into asking these sort of questions in The Old Ship. They have a protocol for meetings whereby they expect confidentiality, unless a campaign meeting decides otherwise.

    There is nothing open or democratic about a political party which won’t open it’s books to the public, and wishes to stifle public knowledge of their activities. Their total silence and failure to respond to email requests asking when they intend to register with the Electoral Commission is nothing short of disgraceful.


    April 4, 2010 at 6:49 pm

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