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Maggie’s Wisdom

maggie-2The following quote from Margaret Thatcher was sent to me tonight by a colleague:

The problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money

I thought it was very apt in the current economic climate!

January 31, 2009 Posted by | National | Leave a comment

Did No-one See it Coming?

gordon-brownOne of the constant mantras from this Government is that the current financial crisis was unexpected and unpredicted. According to Gordon Brown, Britain is uniquely well placed compared to other major industrialised countries. This has been somewhat blown out of the water by the recent IMF report which found that Britain’s recession is likely to be worse than any of our major competitors and significantly worse than the EU as a whole. The UK economy is predicted to shrink by 2.8%, compared to an EU average of 2%. Only Ireland is likely to fare significantly worse than us.

So should the Government have seen this coming?

It doesn’t take too long looking on financial websites to find people who were sounding alarm bells about the level of debt as long ago as 2005. This article is particularly prescient about the reckless lending that was being undertaken by some banks.

The truth is that many people were warning about the huge growth in personal debt, the over-inflated housing market, and the risky lending of so many of our major banks. Because he had received such a good economic inheritance, Gordon Brown believed that the economic rules of the past no longer applied and that the good times would continue to roll. Now the bust that countries face is roughly equal to the size of the boom they enjoyed. The UK’s boom was heavily dependent on personal and corporate debt and unsustainable levels of Government spending.

During his Labour Party conference speech in 2000, Gordon Brown said “We will not put hard won economic stability at risk. No return to short-termism. No return to Tory “boom and bust” and he then continued “why did the Tory party give Britain twenty years of stop-go, twenty years of boom and bust? It is Labour that is now the party for stability and growth.” How hollow those words sound now!

I fear that we must now go through a prolonged period of recession to correct the imbalances that were allowed to bloom on “Boom and Bust Brown’s” watch as Chancellor. Whoever wins the next General Election is going to face economic constraints not seen since at least the late 1970’s and possibly since the immediate post-war period.

Britain is broke and the truth of this fact is only beginning to dawn on the British public. When the penny finally drops, Labour are likely to suffer electoral meltdown on a scale that will make 1997’s Conservative rout look mild.

January 31, 2009 Posted by | National | 8 Comments

Salter’s Silver Jubilee

25-yearsWord reaches me that the irrepressible MP for Reading West, Martin Salter, will shortly be holding a big party to commemorate his 25 years in Reading politics. Prior to his election in 1997 as MP for Reading West he was a Reading Borough Councillor for Park ward (I believe) from 1984-96 and Deputy Leader of the Council from 1987.

If anyone is going to the party (which will probably be held in East Reading) or knows any more about it I would be very interested to hear from you.

 

UPDATE: Jane Griffiths has this article which suggests that Martin’s party will be in Reading East constituency, at either the Old Town Hall or 21 South Street. Both are Reading Borough Council venues, so I am sure he will pay normal commercial rates -won’t he?

UPDATE 2: A source tells me that Salter’s party happened Friday night and that Feargal Sharkey performed “Teenage Kicks”!!

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Local | 2 Comments

Poll of Polls – January 2009

polls

am a firm believer that you shouldn’t get too excited over a single poll and so I thought it would be interesting to monitor the monthly averages.

December saw eight polls but with considerable variety of results and thus the averaging helps to smooth out the ups and downs:

Cons

Lab

Lib Dem

07-Dec-08

Populus

39

35

17

11-Dec-08

ComRes

37

36

14

11-Dec-08

MORI

41

36

11

12-Dec-08

YouGov

41

35

15

14-Dec-08

ICM

38

33

19

14-Dec-08

MORI

39

35

15

18-Dec-08

YouGov

42

35

14

21-Dec-08

ComRes

39

34

16

Average

40

35

15

 

January has also seen eight published polls from all of the major polling organisations but this time there has been a remarkable consistency of results:

Cons

Lab

Lib Dem

08-Jan-09

YouGov

41

34

15

11-Jan-09

Populus

43

33

15

15-Jan-09

ComRes

41

32

15

16-Jan-09

YouGov

45

32

14

18-Jan-09

MORI

44

30

17

23-Jan-09

ComRes

43

28

16

25-Jan-09

ICM

44

32

16

29-Jan-09

YouGov

43

32

16

Average

43

32

16

 

There has been a significant shift away from Labour to the Conservatives, with the monthly lead increasing from 5% in December to 11% in January. Using Martin Baxter’s Electoral Calculus Predictor, this would give the following number of seats in the House of Commons:

 

Cons

Lab

Lib Dem

351

244

25

Conservative Overall Majority of 52 seats

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

New YouGov Poll – Tory Lead at 11%

yougov3

 

 

 

 

 There is a new YouGov poll reported tonight for the Daily Telegraph:

            Conservative          43% (down 2%)

            Labour                       32% (no change)

            Lib Dem                    16% (up 2%)

This is consistent with all recent polls.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

“Ayo Gurkhali!” (The Gurkhas Are Coming)

gurkhaThat is the traditional war cry of the Gurkha soldier and I couldn’t be more delighted by the news that the Home Office is to relent and allow Gurkhas that served the British Armed Forces prior to 1997 the right to move to and settle in the UK.

I have the deepest respect for the Gurkhas, having served with them in the Falklands and seen them in Iraq, where they guarded coalition facilities. They are deeply respectful and very courageous people and when they are selected to serve the Crown they deserve our support and assistance.

In Reading we have a sizeable Gurkha community and I was privileged to meet many of them and be presented with a miniature silver Kukri which I treasure. But the plight some of them face here is shameful. Some are living in poverty, without rights to work and support themselves and we as a nation owe them some mutual respect. The Gurkha Justice Campaign was established to fight for their rights and I was pleased to lend my support to it.

Let us hope that the Home Office today will find a fair way to implement the High Court ruling that the Gurkhas won and put this shameful period of our history behind us.

 

As Sir Ralph Turner said they are the “Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you.” 

 

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Defence, National | 1 Comment

A Long and Heated Council Meeting

rbc4For those Reading people that follow this blog I thought it might be of some interest to give you a summary of key meetings and my views on events.

Last night’s Council meeting agenda is here. The meeting started at 6.30pm and finished at approximately 11.15pm. And that was after a full day at work for most of us!

Item 3. Petitions:
Rob White of the Green Party presented a petition for sight lines at the Alfred Sutton puffin crossing to be improved by moving trade waste bins. I did not note down the response but I believe that it was agreed that a more suitable location will be found.

 

Item 4. Public Questions:
1. Mr Rex Hora asked what was the conclusion of the report on the condition of Huntley & Palmer locomotive number 1, which he wants to see restored and displayed in Reading as a tribute to the history of Huntley & Palmer’s biscuit factory.

Cllr Hoskin (Lab) replied that renovation cost would be around £25,000 and annual maintenance £750. Potential sources of funding have been identified for a large part of the cost and other sources are being sought. Challenges remaining include, a location to display the locomotive, ownership of it and the funding of ongoing maintenance.

2. Mr Mark Drukker asked if the Council Leader would reassure Reading people with Israeli connections that it opposed the “demonization and vilification of Israel and of Jews” and if it would not pass “any ignorant or one-sided statements concerning the tragic situation in the region”.

Cllr Lovelock (Lab) gave no such reassurance and merely read her one-sided motion that she was to propose later in the evening.

3. Mr Graham Bennett asked what steps were being taken to ensure pavements are clear of bins and that a hygienic environment is maintained.

Cllr Gittings (Lab) outline procedures to issue warning letters and enforce them. 570 warning letters have been sent. 10 have resulted in a fixed penalty.

4. Mr Graham Bennett asked whether residents in Cardigan Gardens have been incorrectly informed that bins were not being collected on the scheduled day due to traffic congestion and that they had therefore left their bins out for the occasions when refuse vehicles could reach the road.

Cllr Gittings (Lab) said that due to enforcement of double yellow lines and purchase of a smaller refuse vehicle this was no longer a problem. Bins should therefore normally be returned to where they are presented but Cardigan Gardens is now on the exception list and bins will be collected from and returned to the property.

5. Mr Graham Bennett asked how many fixed penalties have been issued for leaving bins on street and how many were in Redlands ward.

Cllr Gittings (Lab) said 570 warning letters have been sent. 6 have resulted in a fixed penalty (see answer 3 which said 10).


Item 5. Questions from Councillors:
1. Cllr Bayes (LD) asked what proportion of children currently with a Child Protection Plan have been seen by their key worker at a frequency laid out in their Child Protection Plan  and no less than once every 10 days as laid out in procedures?

Cllr Lovelock (Lab) waffled and admitted that only about 70% are visited in line with their protection plan but the aim was 85% during 2009/10.

2. Cllr Bayes (LD) asked what proportion of these children have an up to date ‘chronology’ describing key incidents in a child’s life.

Cllr Lovelock (Lab) replied that 87.1% have up to date chronologies of which 84.5% were satisfactory or better. A further audit will be undertaken in April 2009 and it is expected that 100% will be satisfactory.

3. Cllr Bayes (LD) asked what proportion of staff had received training on the Berkshire Child Protection Procedures in the last 12 months.

Cllr Lovelock (Lab) answered that 5 new staff members have yet to receive training. (Note she did not answer the question put)

4. Cllr Epps (LD) asked whether the Council was for or against the third runway at Heathrow.

Cllr Page (Lab) spoke at length without answering the question . He highlighted the number of aircraft noise complaints received by the Council as 2008-3; 2007-3; 2006-4: 2005-1.

I asked a supplementary question as to why Reading’s Labour Executive had not joined the group of west London Councils that were opposing Heathrow expansion.

Cllr Page (Lab) indicated that he was prepared to look at this and bring a motion setting out a proposed Council position to Full Council.

5. Question 5 was withdrawn.

6. Cllr Stanway (Cons) asked how much funding had been given to Berkshire Maestros (young musicians).

The answer is not printed in the Council papers but I believe that Cllr Hartley (Lab) replied indicating some form of indirect subsidy from the Council (although direct grants were withdrawn some years ago as Labour deemed the “Maestros” to be elitist)

7. Cllr Stanway (Cons) asked what support was given by the Council to Farmers’ Markets as part of its commitment to reduce “food miles”.

Cllr Gittings (Lab) stated that support given by the Council up to April 2007 has not been asked for recently. The Council lists the markets in its magazine, it uses local caterers wherever possible, there is a 70% increase in allotment lettings, and there are 15 community gardens in borough schools.

8. Cllr Watson (Lab) asked for an update on Home Energy Week in Oct 2008.

Cllr Gittings (Lab) stated how many residents received free low energy light bulbs, RBC had launched a home energy efficiency scheme, a ‘Heatseekers’ cavity and loft insulation offer for over 70 year olds, Warm Front Central Heating grants of up to £2,700, advice was offered on social energy tariffs, and energy saving tips were broadcast around the town.

9. Cllr Byrne (Cons) asked what use has been made of central Government assistance packages for those with mortgage problems.

Cllr Ennis (Lab) spoke at length about all the Government’s various schemes but when asked by Cllr Byrne as a supplementary how many requests had been received the answer was “none”!

10. Cllr C Harris (LD) asked what mechanisms exist to audit front line social workers.

Cllr Lovelock (Lab) outlined various mechanisms including case file audits and independently commissioned audits.

11. Cllr C Harris (LD) asked what proportion of Child Care workers have had completed appraisals which included their casework performance in the last 12 months as well as written goals with clear targets.

Cllr Lovelock (Lab) replied that 40 out of 45 staff have up to date appraisals and that all would include casework performance. The remaining 5 would be completed by the end of January 2009.

12. Cllr C Harris (LD) asked what proportion of Child Protection cases where harm is suspected (i) have had a strategy discussion within one day and (ii) have had a child protection conference completed within 15 days.

Cllr Lovelock (Lab) said that 97.86% had had an initial conference within 15 days. Time-scales for the initial strategy discussions however are not collected electronically and therefore were not available.

13. Cllr T Harris (Cons) asked if the lead Councillor could explain why a 1 star CSCI (Commission for Social Care Inspectorate) rating was deemed acceptable.

Cllr Orton (Lab) said RBC has not said that a one star rating is acceptable. RBC was surprised and disappointed at the rating because it believed that so much had been achieved.

14. Cllr Epps (LD) asked what were the travel expense costs for the current and previous financial years broken down by a. Air b. Taxi and c. Other.

Cllr Lovelock (Lab) replied that 2007/08 totalled £166,000 and the year to date was £147,000. They are not available by mode of transport without considerable staff time being used.

15. Cllr Swaine (LD) asked (i) how many people had fallen into arrears with Council Tax payments, (ii) how many have had fines levied, (iii) how many had negotiated arrangements, and (iv) how much money had been raised in fines?

Cllr Lovelock (Lab) stated that (i) reminders issued were:

            2006/07           45,993

            2007/08           27,328

            2008/09           39,343

(ii) numbers of accounts subject to summons costs were:

            2006/07           12,564

            2007/08             9,865

            2008/09             6,690

(iii) numbers of arrangements were:

            2006/07             6,794

            2007/08             5,368

            2008/09             4,545

(iv) costs collected from summons and liability orders were:

2006/07           £490,000

            2007/08           £549,000

            2008/09           £389,000

The council had bankrupted 2 people this financial year and three last year resulting from the above actions.

Reports
Item 6. Climate Change Report
Recommended Action: To adopt the Climate Change Strategy for the period 2008-2012.
The Lib Dems moved an amendment to add some report back to Council and an annual progress report to the Environment Scrutiny Panel which was unanimously accepted, as was the amended main recommendation.

Item 7. Adoption of the Reading Central Area Action Plan
Recommended Action: That the Council note the Inspector’s Report that found the RCAAP to be “sound” and adopt the main report.
This was agreed unanimously.

Item 8. Housing Revenue Account – Financial Plan 2009-10
Recommended Action: A rent increase of 4.9% for Council Tenants from 1 April 2009 and approval of the capital works programme. Tenants’ groups had been consulted and agreed to the increase.
This was agreed unanimously.

Item 9. Recommended Financial Matters by Cabinet
Recommended Action: That the Council Tax collection rate target be set at 97.75% for 2009-10, the Council Tax base be set at 52,532, and that no change be made to existing discounts.
This was agreed unanimously.

Item 10. National Identity Cards
Recommended Action: The Chief Exec to write to the Home Sec to say RBC opposed identity cards and would not participate in any pilot schemes.
Cllr David Stevens (Cons) proposed the motion and with Lib Dem support this was passed with Labour abstaining.

Item 11. Local Area Agreement 2 Review and Refresh
Recommended Action: to note the process of the agreement and the Director of Resources to sign off the revised LAA2 after Cabinet consideration.

The Lib Dems moved an amendment to change National Indicator 35 (Preventing Violent Extremism) to refer to ‘All Extremists’.

This was agreed unanimously.

The Lib Dems then moved a second amendment to bring the Report back to the next Council Meeting with a fuller list of indicators.
The second amendment was defeated by Labour and Conservatives voting against, with only the Lib Dems in favour.
The main amended report was agreed unanimously.

Item 12. Civic Headquarters Relocation – Programme Management Arrangements and Civic Board
Recommended Action: Re-establishing the Civic Board with a wider membership to oversee the project and investigate all alternatives. Nominees were:

            Labour: Cllrs Lovelock, Hoskin, Orton and Page

            Conservative: Cllrs Cumpsty, Skeats, Steele and Townend

            Lib Dem: Cllrs Goodall and Swaine

Many thought it odd that while the two major parties had nominated their Leaders and senior figures to sit on the Board, the Lib Dems nominate two very new and inexperienced Cllrs.

The motion was agreed with Labour and Conservative support. The Lib Dems abstained.

Item 13. Scrutiny Work for 2008/09
Recommended Action: Note work done in 2007/08 and work planned for 2008/09.
A Lib Dem amendment to note the welcome improvements to scrutiny since the Opposition parties took over Chairmanship was passed with Conservative and Lib Dem support.

Item 14. Standards Commitee and Remuneration Panel Membership
Recommended Action: To appoint Tina Barnes to the Standards Committee, and to appoint Annette Hendry and Francis Connelly to the Remuneration Panel (Janet Brown and Helen Hathaway had resigned).
This was agreed unanimously.

Item 15. Lead Councillor for Children’s Services
Recommended Action: To appoint Cllr Ennis (Lab) as new Lead Member for Children’s Services and Cllr Edwards (Lab) for Housing.
Cllr Ballsdon made a very effective speech castigating Cllr Ruhemann’s failures over many years and deploring his ungracious resignation. However, she welcomed Cllr Ennis to the role, as did a number of other Cllrs in the chamber. She also condemned Cllr Hartley’s (Lab) failure to attend a single meeting of the Children & Young People’s Strategic Partnership Boards by-monthly meetings in the last 3 years
She moved an amendment to the motion (seconded by Cllr Bayes (LD)) which would compel the new Lead Cllr to report back regularly to the Education & Children’s Service Scrutiny Panel for the next two years. It called for Opposition members to be invited to the induction meetings for the new Lead Cllr and a formal and public apology to the people of Reading and the children affected by the failures identified in Ofsted’s JAR report.
The amendment was carried by Conservative and Lib Dem votes with Labour voting against.
The final amended recommendation was agreed unanimously.

Motions
Item 16. Support for Local Businesses
Moved by Cllr Mike Townend (Cons) with some minor changes to the original wording. It was designed to provide cash flow help to local small businesses by improving payment terms from 30 days to 20 days, with the aim of reducing to 10 days. There was a minor Lib Dem amendment and the amended motion passed with unanimous support.

Item 17. Patient Referral

Moved by Cllr T Harris (Cons) the motion sought a review of the patient referral system and for the Chief Exec to write to the Secretary of State for Health to call for the “The Appointment Line” system to be scrapped and replaced by a system that works.
Labour moved an amendment to bring the matter to scrutiny for a full report, which was accepted by all parties. The amended motion was passed unanimously.

Item 18. Israeli Invasion of Gaza
Cllr Jo Lovelock (Lab) moved the motion as printed in the Agenda. This was immediately condemned by Cllr Duveen (LD) in a very personal speech in which he accused Labour of siding with Hamas. I then moved an amendment which sought a more balanced statement whilst recognising the tremendous suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza. I called for immediate reconstruction and support for the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal. I pointed out that Labour’s motion was a parroting of Martin Salter’s comments in the local press and that while he has been very vocal in Reading, a quick check of Hansard showed that he had not raised the matter in the House of Commons once in this session or the last Parliamentary session. He could have used an Adjournment Debate or requested a Westminster Hall debate on events in Gaza. He had done nothing. So Labour’s motion was posturing and playing to the gallery (which incidentally was packed with representatives of the local Muslim communities). A series of speeches followed including some very moving personal stories. For me one of the most moving was Cllr Steele’s (Cons) speech about his experiences in Northern Ireland and the bombings that had permanently damaged his hearing.

My amendment was passed with Conservative and Lib Dem support against Labour opposition.

Cllr Epps (LD) then moved a further amendment which, whilst generally acceptable, included an element calling for trade sanctions against Israel. Labour supported this amendment along with most of the Lib Dem and Conservative Cllrs and it passed. I and some Conservatives abstained, and Cllr Duveen (LD) voted against it. The same was repeated on the substantive amended motion, with only Cllr Duveen voting against.

Item 19. National Review of Housing Finance
Cllr Ennis (Lab) moved a motion welcoming the Government’s national review of Council housing finance. It also resolved to write to both Reading MPs to ask them to sign the Early Day Motion 355 on Council House Building.
The Lib Dems moved an amendment to support cross party working on this, which was passed unanimously.
The amended motion was then passed unanimously.

 

Item 20. Safeguarding of Vulnerable Children
A changed wording was to be moved by Cllr Ballsdon (Cons) but in view of the debate under item 15 earlier in the evening this was not moved.


The meeting closed at around 11.15pm after approximately 4 hours 45 minutes.

January 28, 2009 Posted by | Local | Leave a comment

Welcome Glenn

glenn-goodallI am pleased to welcome another Reading Borough Councillor to the blogosphere. Lib Dem Cllr Glenn Goodall started blogging a couple of weeks ago but has only just come onto my radar. As he has been completely open as to who he is I am delighted to add him to my links and suggest that you have a look at his blog here.

I have always found Glenn to be a decent and friendly individual and I am sure that his comments will be a welcome addition to the Reading blog scene.

Still no Labour Councillors have dared to share their views through a blog!

January 28, 2009 Posted by | Local | Leave a comment

New ICM Poll – Tory Surge Confirmed

icm

 

 

 

There is a new ICM poll reported tonight for tomorrow’s Guardian:

            Conservative          44% (up 6%)

            Labour                       32% (down 1%)

            Lib Dem                    16% (down 3%)

It is remarkable how consistent all the major polling organisations now are, both in terms of the Conservative lead and the individual party’s vote share.

Political Betting observes that the Lib Dems appear to be the subject of a severe squeeze at the moment, when they might have hoped to capitalise on disaffection with Labour.

UPDATE: The Spectator reports that every polling organisation now has the Conservatives on course for an overall majority and UK Polling Report has this.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 3 Comments

Obama To Adopt Radical Gay Rights Agenda

gay-rightsDays into his first term as President, Barack Obama is already following through on campaign promises with a radical “gay rights” agenda that will delight his liberal supporters and have some reactionaries spluttering over their hash browns.

He has set out an agenda that includes the following:

Repealing the Clinton “don’t ask don’t tell” compromise on gays in the military in favour of allowing gay people to serve their country without fear of expulsion. The White House website says “The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited… The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.”

Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples. Civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples will be permitted and the Defense of Marriage Act will be repealed. Federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status will be extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.

Employment laws will be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. This will extend protection against discrimination across the entire USA at Federal level for the first time.

The development and implementation of a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. Obama will support age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within the prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through the public health system. He also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchanges, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users.

Not all of this will be easy to enact. The religious right will be enraged and no doubt some in the US military will mount a fierce defence of the current position but he has set out his ambitions clearly and publicly. If he is successful these measures will bring the US into line with most other western nations. I think that he is wise to set this out early and seek to implement it while he is in the first flush of post election euphoria. The longer it is left the harder it will be to do. But 10 out of 10 to Obama for ambition and honesty. He deserves to succeed.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | International | 4 Comments

New ComRes Poll – Labour Slump Below 30%

comres1

 

 

 There is a new ComRes poll reported tonight for tomorrow’s Independent:

            Conservative          43% (up 2%)

            Labour                       28% (down 4%)

            Lib Dem                    16% (down 1%)

This 15% lead confirms the position reported in all other recent polls and would see David Cameron in 10 Downing Street with a substantial majority.

UPDATE: Political Betting has a story on it and UK Polling Report has this.

UPDATE: Iain Dale has an interesting point about Cameron winning back the C2 voters that propelled Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair to power.

January 25, 2009 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

The Foul Stench of Labour Sleaze

lords1Back in the 1990’s at the end of John Major’s premiership, much was made of so-called “Tory Sleaze”. A few Conservative MP were (rightly) pilloried for accepting cash for asking questions in the House of Commons. Yes, ASKING questions. The sums were very small, around £1-3,000 per question but the whole issue became known as “Cash for Questions”. It was seen as symptomatic of the terminal decline of the Conservative period of Government and helped to ensure the landslide defeat in 1997.

In came the new Labour administration with a young and fresh faced Prime Minister Tony Blair who promised to be “whiter than white” when it came to the standards observed in public office. This was quickly blemished by the Bernie Ecclestone affair when Labour were found to have taken a donation of £1m into the party at around the same time as Ecclestone’s Formula 1 motor racing empire was exempted from legislation to ban tobacco advertising. But the impression stuck that Tories were sleazy and Labour was run by “a pretty straight sort of guy” and therefore could be trusted.

An under-cover Sunday Times investigation has blown the last vestiges of this impression out of the water today with the finding that Labour Peers were prepared to accept sums of up to £120,000 to change laws to benefit individual businessmen. The article names the four Labour peers as Lord Truscott (a DBERR minister), Lord Taylor of Blackburn, Lord Moonie and Lord Snape. A variety of other party’s peers either did not return the Times’ calls or refused to co-operate once they knew the terms. So this was not just asking a question, it is actually Labour peers agreeing to take money to change laws that affect all of the rest of us.

The House of Lords Code of Conduct states that peers ‘must never accept any financial inducement as an incentive or reward for exercising parliamentary influence’ and the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Christopher Kelly said: ‘I understand that the Leader of the Lords is investigating and I will await the outcome of that investigation to see whether this is an area the Committee needs to look at further.’

This is very serious for Labour. It has the smell of a decaying administration about it but also the sight of Labour politicians profiteering at a time when the country is dire economic straights is potentially deadly. The Conservatives should not be afraid to keep up the pressure on this matter, in the same way that Labour did in the run up to 1997.

UPDATE: It has been suggested to me that in order to be impartial I should have included the fact that the Lib Dem General Election central campaign in 2005 was 50% funded by the convicted fraudster Michael Brown who donated £2.4m of other people’s money to the party.

January 25, 2009 Posted by | National | 3 Comments

Getting Things Done

potholes2That’s what we all aspire to do as locally elected representatives.

As I have argued in previous articles, Acolaid totals alone are not a true measure of a Councillor’s activity. There is far more to it than that but I am pleased that in recent weeks I have had a number of minor successes in getting things done for my ward residents:

  

  

  1. I have had a number of the paths next to the Milestone Way (behind Dumbarton Close) swept and deep cleaned of moss and accumulated leaf fall.
  2. I had the hedges on Grove Road cut back after a complaint that they were over-hanging the pavement and brambles were a hazard.
  3. I have had agreement for a dog waste bin to be installed in Buckingham Drive.
  4. Most recently I reported numerous potholes appearing in the Milestone Way car park, which could be dangerous. I am delighted that these will be repaired shortly.

All of this is relatively small scale stuff but is the “bread and butter” of being a Councillor. Each of the people who reported items 1-3 above now feel that their concerns have been listened to and acted upon and the wider community should also feel that things have been done to improve their environment.

Incidentally, Item 4 above came about following one of my trips to the glass recycling bins in the car park. I was surprised at how the surface has deteriorated in the last month or so during the cold weather.

My colleagues in Peppard Ward have been doing exactly the same and our Peppard Conservatives website records some of the successes.

Next Tuesday night we have a Full Council meeting where we will be debating a very full agenda including the mess in the Children’s Services Department and a replacement for Cllr Ruhemann who resigned as Lead Councillor, a Conservative motion on how to help local small businesses in the economic downturn, reports on Climate Change and Identity Cards, and a very biased Labour motion condemning Israel for attacking Gaza and seeking trade sanctions against Israel. You can find the full agenda here. I am sure it will be a very long meeting!

January 25, 2009 Posted by | Local | 2 Comments

A Policeman’s Lot IS a Happy One

ian-blair

 

 

 Well if you are at the top it is!

 

 

 The Times today has an article showing the salaries of top ranking officers:

Police chiefs’ basic salaries:

Met Commissioner £247,194
Met Deputy Commissioner £204,075
Northern Ireland £183,954
West Midlands £172,458
Strathclyde £169,584
South Yorks £140,847
North Wales £126,471
Fife £120,720

I was staggered that they earn so much. No wonder that there is a shortage of money for Constables on the beat. For comparison note that the Prime Minister of the country earns about £190,000.

To add insult to injury The Times reports that senior officers have been raking in bonuses to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds each. Under a scheme introduced in 2006 Chief Constables can be entitled to 15% of their massive salaries in bonus.

And people wonder why there is a suspicion that crime statistics are fiddled!

January 24, 2009 Posted by | National | 1 Comment

Recession Tracker

recessionIf like me you like charts and graphs to help you understand what is happening then the BBC Website’s new Recession Tracker pages will be of interest. Constant economic data can be confusing to follow unless you can understand the historical context and these charts help to do exactly that.

The GDP, inflation and interest rate charts are most interesting to me as they illustrate how the economy is falling off a cliff at the moment. I also suspect that house prices have a long way still to fall before they bottom out.

Whatever your view of Government policy the prospects at the moment are dire and very many people are going to lose their jobs and homes before this is over. Added to that, we are going to be saddled with a huge debt burden for many, many years to come. It would be interesting if the BBC added a chart for the UK national debt. There is some information here and here but I would like to see a long term table published.

UPDATE: The Guardian has a very interesting piece about the causes and predictability of the current UK recession.

January 24, 2009 Posted by | National | 1 Comment