Fly posting – The Ex-Councillor, Mr Hughes

Rotherham Politics brings you another interesting exchange of E-Mails regarding the fly posting of Mr Darren Hughes Election posters in and around North and South Anston.  I am most highly peeved that MY TAX MONEY has been spent on the removal of illegal fly posters.

From  S Thornton
To    K Battersby
25th May 2012

Dear Mr Battersby,

It has been brought to my attention, both through the local papers and through local “blog” pages, that the Election posters placed in North and South Anston by Mr Hughes were removed by RMBC workers.

Could you please supply the following information:-

Were the posters erected by Mr Hughes for his campaign removed by RMBC staff?
If yes, how many staff were involved ?.
How long did it take for the staff to remove the posters (hours or days)?
If the staff did remove the posters, has Mr Hughes been sent an invoice to cover the cost to the Taxpayer ?.
What was the cost to the Taxpayer ?.
Did the invoice (if sent) cover costs for fuel for Council vehicles ?.

The information you supply maybe given to the wider Public.
I look forward to hearing from you in the near future, thank you for your time.

S Thornton

A reply duly came:

From K Battersby
To   S Thornton
CC  (Employee RMBC) (Employee RMBC) (Employee RMBC, Chief Exct office ?)
25th May 2012

Mr Thornton, thank you for your e-mail. I can provide the following initial answers to your questions.

Were the posters erected by Mr Hughes for his campaign removed by RMBC staff.

Yes that is correct.

If yes, how many staff were involved.

I think it is two. (employee) can you confirm please.

How long did it take for the staff to remove the posters (hours or days)

I don`t have an exact record, but I recall that it was two occasions.

I would have said it was in the order of a couple of hours.

If the staff did remove the posters, has Mr Hughes been sent an invoice to cover the cost to the Tax payer.

No.

What was the cost to the Tax payer.

As we have not prepared or sent an invoice, I do not have a cost.
These were staff already employed and funded by the council.

Did the invoice(if sent) cover costs for fuel for council vehicles.

N/A.

Stuart replied to Karl Battersby in the following terms:

From S Thornton
To   K Battersby
30 May 2012

Dear Mr Battersby,

Thank you for your reply, I am very disappointed that RMBC staff have been employed on the removal of “private” Election fly posters.
The Election posters were erected by a private individual, Mr Hughes, who was at the time an RMBC Cllr.
The posters were his private property and therefore if they were removed by your staff Mr Hughes should be sent an invoice for the work involved.
My Tax money and the Tax money of the rate payers of Anston should not have been used for this “removal”.
I dispute your answer in which you say that the removal of these signs took “a couple of hours” by the sheer number of signs put up I think this would have been impossible to do in a couple of hours, the signs appeared to have been erected over a number of days.
Your reply states that “these were staff already employed and funded by the Council”  This is stating the obvious, all staff employed by the Council are funded by the Council.
The point you completely miss is the fact that these two persons were already employed on Council business and had to be taken off the tasks they were allocated to remove private signs put up by an individual who also happens to be an RMBC Cllr at the time.
Are we now allowing RMBC Cllrs (as he was then) free use of Council facilities.

I now request under the Freedom of Information Act the following information (if a cost is either charged or quoted, I request an explanation as to why you are charging me for Council services and not Mr Hughes).

(1)  Exactly how many staff were employed on the task of removing Mr Hughes Election posters.

(2)  Exactly how long this task took in hours.

(3)  Were the staff employed, taken off another”job” to remove these private Election posters.

(4)  Who made the decision not to send Mr Hughes an invoice.

(5)  Do you have any plans to invoice Mr hughes in the near future.

(6)  If the answer to question 5 is no, please give a detailed response as to why no invoice will be raised.

Karl Battersby again responds:

From  K Battersby
To    S Thornton
31 May 2012

Mr Thornton thank you for your latest email. I can provide the following response to the questions you have asked;

(1) Exactly how many staff were employed on the task of removing Mr Hughes Election posters.

One operative, along with a cherry picker

(2) Exactly how long this task took in hours

Four hours, two two hour stints.

(3) Were the staff employed, taken off another “job” to remove these private election posters.

Yes and No, this employee has a substantive role which is to repair lighting columns, however it is within his remit to from time to time remove fly posted materials when required as when they are at height we can only take them down using the cherry picker.

(4) Who made the decision not to send Mr Hughes an invoice.

Current Council policy is to remove fly posting and where the poster can be identified we write to them not to do it again. If they re offend in the future we would then raise an invoice for the cost of removal.

5) Do you have any plans to invoice Mr Hughes in the near future.

No

(6)  If the answer to question 5 is no please give a detailed response as to why no invoice will be raised.

See question 4

Regards Karl Battersby

It was at this point I gave up.  It is quite clear that our Tax money was used to remove illegal fly posters and that Mr Battersby was not going to ruffle any feather by charging anyone.
I suspect, but cannot prove it, that Mr Hughes was called in to the office, told what a naughty boy he was, but don’t worry we will take them down.
Was this because he was a serving RMBC Cllr?.
That it was thought Mr Hughes would win the election, and then nothing more would be said was also possible.
Its my understanding that it took a full four days from the date of the complaint to the removal of the posters, was this just coincidence that it happened to be the last full week before election, Mr Hughes got an “extra” four days publicity. you make up your own mind.
Same old story, ask a question of RMBC, straight into defense mode and fob people off with rubbish answers, dig deeper and all seems not to as appears.
Did you notice that my FoI request did not “attract” the usual line of how much it had cost to process.
If RMBC staff are going to continue to flout the rules and waste my Tax money on their cronies then maybe we need more exposure of this kind.

S Thornton.

10 thoughts on “Fly posting – The Ex-Councillor, Mr Hughes

  1. Dear Mr Thornton, spot-on.

    Has Kan-Do Karl listed the cost of his responses to you?

    If not why not, as this very area is minutely micro-managed by the Jobsworths at Town Hall Towers when they respond to legitimate requests for information under The Freedom of Information Act.

    I have too many examples to list where they have costed 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 20 minutes at this-that-or-the-other spurious notional cost.

    When they try that tired old trick with me I always again ask for a detailed breakdown of how they’ve arrived at their ridiculous spurious notional FOI cost.

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  2. Just as well Darren is not to be charged for taking them down!

    He will be in enough trouble already, what with paying for them and putting them up in the first place, coupled with his other election costs, postage, printing etc, he must be having some trouble staying within election limits, I would have thought?.

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  3. Just wait until RMBC have to remove Darren Hughes posters from all over Rawmarsh after he wins the seat left open by Police Commissioner Wright.

    Anyone up for being an Independent candidate for the ward?

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  4. What a bunch of Tossers they are down at THT – Er, er , er, it costs £25.13p for the time spent compiling the Freedom of Information request on the zillions they wasted on sending Dodger and his chums on various junkets.

    Well what did it cost to remove illegal posters that were posted by the known culprit – Oh, who gives a toss, it’s only residents’ money and it’s the same bottomless pit that keeps me and my mates on the big fat salaries that we’ve grown accustomed to.

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  5. I would like to make some factual corrections to your posting.

    a. Prior to erecting my election posters, I checked what the correct procedure was. Most councils have a policy specifically for election campaign posters ie that candidates may put posters up but must take them down by a week after the election.

    b. On checking, I found that Rotherham has no policy on this. I contacted the Rotherham planning department and was told campaign posters were acceptable during election times and that there was a legal requirement for the posters to be removed within a specific time frame following the election. I proceeded to have the posters erected.

    b. Following a complaint from an opposing candidate I was contacted by the Director of Streetpride and asked to remove the posters. I asked if this was
    correct as there was not a specific policy and there seemed to be some
    confusion between council departments. I was advised by Streetpride
    that no action would be taken until the situation was clarified.

    c. Several days later I was informed that the posters would need to be
    removed. RMBC policy for fly posters is to advise and request that the
    posters be removed within 7 days. I agreed with the Director of Streetpride that I would arrange for the posters to be removed myself by the
    weekend. If I had not removed the posters by this agreed timescale
    Streetpride officers would remove them.

    d. I arranged for the posters to be removed only to find as we started to remove them (within the agreed timescale) that RMBC officers had already started their removal. Despite this, the vast majority of posters were taken down by my arrangement.

    I am a little surprised that Mr Thornton has made this posting as he was one of the people who approved of my posters in a similar fashion in 2008, and who himself displayed posters during his own election campaign.

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    • So what you are saying is that you decided to risk it!

      The most amusing part of it all, it was those, no doubt very expensive posters, that was the final straw for voters and resulted in you losing the election!!

      Are you going to ‘carpet bag’ once again to Rawmarsh?

      I can assure you that if you do, you will likely lose!

      Don’t you live in Catcliffe? try there!

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    • These are not facts! They are a thinly disguised attempt to spin the facts in your defence.
      You will perhaps discover, that the Rawmarsh electorate are the most sophisticated in the Rotherham Borough. They can smell a Tory a mile off!

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  6. Being wholly objective about this, it would appear that DTD was well within his rights to put his posters up – the real abject failure, yet again, lies with THT. In that they don’t have any means of preventing such littering of the street furniture and when it happens, they are more than happy to squander residents’ hard earned cash on it.

    RMBC strikes again.

    Like

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