A roadworks coincidence

We were going to comment today about the excavation at the corner of Upper Gordon Road.  As quite a few people have said already, the work to repair electric cabling seemed to have ground to a halt.

So yesterday morning we took the photo above.  But, later, as we were leaving the town, we saw that work had restarted at last.  We took our second photo, below, to record the fact.  Maybe it’ll be possible to use the pavement again before too long!

Thames Hospice shop staying smart

Paul has send us some comments about the Thames Hospice shop in the High Street.  He wrote:

“The man I spoke to was five hours into reconstructing one of the ornate pillars outside the shop.  The original Portland stone has been so weathered.  If you look closely at the pillars you can see sea shell fragments in it!!!

“Congratulations to all concerned for this excellent work it’s a credit to Marrick Interiors of Guildford and the craftsperson”

The Chief Executive’s ‘pay rise’ – compliance with policy?

We’ve barely mentioned it before, but we submitted a Freedom of Information request when the Chief Executive’s ‘pay rise’ – subsequently called an Additional Duties Allowance – first hit the fan.  What we wrote was:

“Please would you provide me with the full text of all borough council procedures that are applicable to: i) determining the size of ii) approving, and iii) implementing and paying any financial award or financial allowance granted to the Chief Executive.  Please could you detail the posts involved in carrying out these procedures.

“I already have copies of recent Draft Financial Statements and Pay Policy Statements – though I do not believe that the 2019-2020 Pay Policy Statement is readily available on the council’s website. “

Note, we only asked about procedures; not whether they had been followed.

A few days ago we received a reply.  It said “The information you requested is below.”  Attached were two documents – the recent Pay Policy (which, as we’d written, we had already), and the Exceptional Payment Policy (EPP).  The EPP is attached – click HERE to read it.

Now, ordinary people such as the Eye, on reading the EPP, might think that it has nothing whatsoever to do with financial allowances to the Chief Executive.  However, the council sent it in response to the Eye’s request, so it must be relevant….  In which case, here are a few extracts:

“All payments will be authorised by the appropriate Executive Head/Head of Service in consultation with the Human Resources Manager who will monitor consistency of application and check that the criteria [which must be met in order for a payment to be made] have been applied. In some circumstances CMT [the Corporate Management Team] may be requested to authorise the allowance payment.”

“All exceptional allowance applications and agreements will be confirmed in writing clearly stating the start date the review dates and if known the end date.”

“The reasons for receiving an additional duties allowance are:

-temporarily filling a post until a substantive appointment can be made
-filling a key post while another employee is on maternity/paternity/parental leave
-filling a key post to cover long term sickness absence, filling posts due to other temporary extended leave arrangements, e.g. secondments”

“If the employee is carrying out additional duties that fall within their current grade, they will be entitled to receive an additional duties payment of up to 5% of their salary for their current scale point.”

“Where it is not possible to identify a specific end date at the commencement of the allowance period, it must be reviewed at least every 3 months or more frequently if felt appropriate by the Executive Head/Head of Service.

“Only in exceptional circumstances should the duration exceed 12 months for …the….additional duties allowance. If at any point during the period it is anticipated that the duration will equal or exceed 12 months, advice must be sought from the Human Resources Team on the effect this may have on the contractual rights of the employee.”

Readers will need little reminding that, in contrast to the above, the Chief Executive received a Additional Duties Allowance of about 12% per annum, backdated for three years.  We’re not aware of any claim that the allowance was for any of the above stated reasons.  As far as we know, no end date has been announced, or that the allowance has been reviewed every three months.  Further, we’ve never seen any suggestion of compliance with the requirement: ‘if the allowance continues for twelve months or more, advice from Human Resources MUST be sought.’

Our rough estimate is that the Exceptional Payment Policy has not been followed on four or five counts.  ‘Exceptional’ seems a very appropriate word.

(We ought not to overlook the absence in the Exceptional Payment Policy of any suggestion that councillors, including the Leader of the council, make any input to the awarding process.)

We’ll be watching to see whether the independent investigation into the ‘pay rise’ takes any of the above into account.


PS. We will be asking the borough council to carry out an internal review to confirm that the EPP is relevant to our FOI request.


Park Street in Heatherside??

We’re more than slightly puzzled by this ‘roadworks’ sign on the approach to the railway bridge in Park Street.  It seems to warn that ‘Park Street, Heatherside’ would be closed overnight on 14th September.  Heatherside?? Or are we just misunderstanding what it says?

Does anyone know whether the road under the bridge was actually closed on Saturday night?

More flats, at long, long last

It was announced years ago (we reckon it’s years) that ‘Building 207’ – once known as Compass House – on the London Road would be turned into flats.  The building was apparently emptied, but nothing much seemed to happen afterwards.

At least nothing happened until recently, when the foyer windows at the front were ‘whitewashed’.  And, even more recently, hoardings were erected at the back of the site.  It appears that work is underway at last.

Do signposts matter?

As we wandered along Pembroke Broadway, in front of the Signature building, we noticed that the road sign showing which way to go to the Leisure Centre was a bit pointless, as the Leisure Centre is now closed – with hoarding around it – for the next couple of years.

What’s the likelihood of the sign being altered?  Zero, we suggest.  As we’ve suggested quite often, the priority seems to be to HAVE signs.  Whether they’re accurate or useful is apparently beside the point.

That was Marc Daniels, that was.

It’s a bit like a gap in a row of teeth;  Marc Daniels’ building is virtually no more.  It’s going to be replaced by the “erection of a four storey building to provide hairdressing salon, with coffee shop, with 8 No one bedroom flats over…”

The hoarding in front of the building says that this will take ‘approximately eighteen months’.

A ladder with a life of its own?

We first because aware of what was apparently an abandoned ladder when we saw it leaning against the leaded glass window of the empty building on the A30 service road.  It didn’t seem a particularly good idea to rest it there…

Anyway, a few days later the ladder had been removed and was lying in front of the derelict building.  There must be a story here somewhere?

(It looks as if it’s a rather lightweight ladder.  Not really ‘builders quality’.)