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Police and Crime Commissioners Explained

August 30, 2012 Posted by | National | 2 Comments

New(ish) ICM Poll – Labour Lead Static at 5%

There was a new ICM poll in the Guardian on 27 Aug while I was away in Poland showing Labour’s lead static at just 5%:

         Conservative              34% (no change)

                                                    Labour                        39% (no change)

                                                    Lib Dem                      15% (up 1%)

                                                    UKIP                              4% (up 1%)

ICM tends to show the lowest Labour leads but is also regarded as the “gold standard” among political pollsters.

ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1002 adults aged 18+ on 24-26th August 2012. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.

August 29, 2012 Posted by | Polls | | 3 Comments

Future Frigates are Unveiled by the MOD

The latest design of the Royal Navy’s next generation of warships has been unveiled today by the MoD. Images show the basic specification of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship (T26 GCS), a significant milestone in the development of this programme, which will sustain thousands of jobs in the shipbuilding industry.

The multi-mission warship, which is due to come into service after 2020, will be used by the Royal Navy in combat and counter piracy operations and to support humanitarian and disaster relief work around the world. Since 2010, the MoD has been working with BAE Systems to determine the ship’s basic capabilities and baseline design. Now that has been endorsed, the programme can progress to the next part of the assessment phase, which will examine the detailed specifications of the vessel.

With a displacement of around 5,400 tonnes the T26 GCS will be around 148m in length (the equivalent of around 15 double decker buses), and one of the most advanced vessels in the Royal Navy’s fleet. It will also be very large for a frigate. It is bigger than the earlier Type 42 class of Destroyer and much larger than all previous classes of Frigate.

It is expected to feature:

  • vertical missile silos capable of housing a range of different weapons;
  • a Medium Calibre gun;
  • a hangar to accommodate a Merlin or Wildcat Helicopter and a Flexible Mission Space for Unmanned Air, Surface and Underwater Vehicles, or additional boats; and
  • the most advanced sensors available to the fleet.

The T26 GCS is one of several projects, including the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, which will see UK shipbuilding provide world class equipment for the Royal Navy. The assessment phase for the T26 GCS is expected to be completed around the middle of this decade when the main investment decision will be made. At this point the budget will be confirmed and orders placed. The MOD’s current planning assumption is for the construction of 13 vessels to replace the existing Type 23 class. However, the number of ships to be built will not be confirmed until after the main investment decision.

Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff, said: “The Type 26 Global Combat Ship will be the backbone of the Royal Navy for decades to come. It is designed to be adaptable and easily upgraded, reacting to threats as they change. I am delighted the programme has been endorsed by the investment approvals committee. The build of these vessels will secure thousands of skilled jobs across the UK, helping to sustain an industrial surface warship capability.”

Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, First Sea Lord, said: “TheT26 GCS will be a multi-mission warship designed for joint and multinational operations across the full spectrum of warfare, including complex combat operations, maritime security operations such as counter piracy, as well as humanitarian and disaster relief work around the world. It will be capable of operating independently for significant periods or as part of a task group and will play a major role in the defence of this country for many years.”

There is no doubt that this is an impressive looking piece of kit but it seems that the MOD and the Royal Navy are once again going for expensive quality over quantity. Ships can only be in one place at a time and the key to this class will be the number that can be afforded. With the Navy down to a mere 19 escorts now it is operating with no marginal capacity. There is a strong case to be made for a class of smaller utility frigates or corvettes which would be cheap to build and maintain. They would also have much greater export potential which would add to the jobs dividend. I fear that the Type 26 will be very expensive and very few in number. The promised jobs bonanza would therefore turn out to be a dream.

It should be remembered that the excellent Type 45 Destroyer was meant to be a class of 12 ships. This was cut to 8 and then just 6 – half the original number. There is no sign of any export orders as they are so sophisticated and expensive that only developed nations could afford them and these are the nations which have their own shipbuilding programme. A cheaper general purpose frigate class could have significant export potential to developing and smaller nations, as was the case with the Leander class frigate.

I would be amazed if as many as 13 Type 26 class ship are ordered. My guess would be that in a shrinking fleet we would do well to end up with 8!

August 20, 2012 Posted by | Defence | Leave a comment

New ComRes Poll – Labour’s Lead Trimmed to 9%

There is a new ComRes online poll published in today’s Independent on Sunday which shows the Labour lead being trimmed to 9%:

           Conservative            33% (up 1%)

                                        Labour                      42% (no change)

                                        Lib Dem                    10% (no change)

                                        UKIP                            8% (down 1%)

In further findings:

Although the Olympics made 71% feel proud to be British, and 51% thought they would probably provide a boost to the economy, its only political impact would seem to be to have reduced support for Scottish independence, both in England and Wales and in Scotland.

The London 2012 Olympics have made me feel more proud of Britain

Agree 71%

Disagree 21%

The Olympics will probably boost the British economy

Agree 51%

Disagree 29%

And fewer people say that they have cut back on the cost of their holiday this year:

I have scaled back my holiday plans to save money

Agree 48% (-12 since August 2011)

Disagree 46% (+12)

Generally, people are pessimistic about the economic outlook, however:

I think that the general economic condition of the country will improve over the next 12 months

Agree 24%

Disagree 54%

The more affluent social grades are more likely to be optimistic: 28% of AB voters agree, compared with 17% of DE. Compare this, however, with the 16% who replied “improve” when asked by Ipsos MORI last month: “Do you think that the general economic condition of the country will improve, stay the same, or get worse over the next 12 months?” (Improve: 16%;  stay the same: 33%; get worse: 48%.)

Scotland should be an independent country

Scotland (sub-sample of 172)

Agree 31% (-7 since May 2011)

Disagree 49% (+3)

England and Wales

Agree 24% (-8)

Disagree 50% (+8)

Don’t know 27%

As for the sporting legacy, the effect of the Olympics seems limited:

Some members of my family intend to take part in more sport as a result of the Olympics

Agree 16%

Disagree 63%

London produced the highest level of agreement, 20%.

Leadership ratings

Since last month Nick Clegg has seen a modest improvement in his personal rating, possibly because of his stance on House of Lords reform. Despite this, fewer people than last year now think that being in coalition has helped show that the Liberal Democrats are a credible party of government.

David Cameron is turning out to be a good Prime Minister

Agree 27% (no change since last month)

Disagree 54% (0)

Net Agree -27

David Cameron scores better than the other main party leaders among voters of their own parties: 69% of Conservative voters agree.

Ed Miliband is turning out to be a good leader of the Labour Party

Agree 25% (0)

Disagree 45% (+3)

Net Agree -20

Nick Clegg is turning out to be a good leader of the Liberal Democrats

Agree 20% (+3)

Disagree 55% (-4)

Net Agree -35

Coalition

I would prefer Labour and the Liberal Democrats to form a government rather than the present coalition between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats

Agree 35%

Disagree 43%

Among current Liberal Democrat voters, 36% agree but 40% disagree. However, among 2010 Lib Dem voters, 50% agree. 73% of Labour voters would prefer Labour and the Liberal Democrats to form a government rather than the present coalition between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, while 14% disagree.

Being in coalition with the Conservatives has shown the Liberal Democrats to be a credible party of government

Agree 18% (-6 since September 2011)

Disagree 61% (+9)

59% of current Liberal Democrat voters agree, but just 33% of 2010 Liberal Democrat voters agree. Just 9% of Labour voters agree.

David Cameron was right to abandon the attempt to make changes to the House of Lords

Agree 29%

Disagree 34%

Don’t know 37%

Conservative voters are most favourable to this U-turn, with 50% of Conservative voters agreeing, and 20% disagreeing. Almost one in four of Nick Clegg’s own voters – 23% – also agree, while 43% disagree. Of Labour voters, 20% agree, while 45% disagree.

Nick Clegg was right to say that Liberal Democrat MPs will vote against the plans to reduce the number of MPs and change constituency boundaries

Agree 31%

Disagree 29%

Don’t know 40%

This is seen as the right this to do by the majority (53%) of Liberal Democrat voters. Nearly half (49%) of Labour voters agree. Just 15% of Conservative voters agree.

Paralympics

People with disabilities are often regarded as second rate citizens

Agree 66%

Disagree 23%

Older people are more likely than younger people to agree: 43% of those aged 18 to 24 agree, compared with 74% of those aged 45 and over.

The Paralympics are more about political correctness than about excellence in sport

Agree 20%

Disagree 63%

I sometimes feel uncomfortable around people with disabilities

Agree 22%

Disagree 72%

Younger people are more likely than older people to agree: 27% of 18 to 24 year olds agree, compared with 19% of those aged 65 and over.

Methodology: ComRes interviewed 2,024 GB adults online from 15 to 17 August 2012. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults and by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at ComRes.

August 19, 2012 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour Lead Cut to 8% – With Boris it Would be Closer!

There is a new YouGov poll for tomorrow’s Sunday Times newspaper which shows Labour’s lead being cut to 8% with the Lib Dems and UKIP neck and neck:

                   Conservative               34% (no change)

                   Labour                         42% (down 2%)

                                                     Lib Dem                         8% (down 2%)

                                                     UKIP                               8% (up 2%)

There is a lot of hints that the poll shows that if Boris were Conservative leader the gap would be 2% less. When I have more info I will update.

Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 6 Aug.

August 11, 2012 Posted by | Polls | | 7 Comments

Sir Chris Hoy – A British Olympic Hero!

August 7, 2012 Posted by | National | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour Increases Lead to 10%

There is a new YouGov poll for tomorrow’s Sun newspaper which shows Labour’s lead increasing to 10% with the Conservatives, Lib Dems and UKIP unchanged:

                   Conservative               34% (no change)

                   Labour                         44% (up 2%)

                                                     Lib Dem                       10% (no change)

                                                     UKIP                               6% (no change)

This poll is bang on the recent average of Labour leads with YouGov. It will be interesting to see whether the success of Team GB in the Olympics or today’s coalition spat over House of Lords and Parliamentary boundary reforms have any effect in the coming days and weeks.

Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 31 July.

August 6, 2012 Posted by | Polls | | 4 Comments

London 2012 Olympics – A Success in Every Way

I have to admit to being totally captivated by the London 2012 Olympics. I have already written about the spectacular opening ceremony so will not dwell on that but it really was an excellent start to what is proving to be a superb games. Whilst the first couple of days saw some disappointments for Team GB the last few days have been nothing short of breath-taking. The same sections of the media which seemed to be relishing every problem and isssue in the run up to the start are now the ones cheering the loudest at every new medal won! I must also admit to getting very fed up with the people who predicted doom and gloom, and who predicted ever diminishing numbers of medals for Team GB after the competitive events began.

As I write tonight (Sunday 5 August) Team GB has 37 medals in total of which 16 are Gold, 11 Silver and 10 Bronze. We are third in the overall medals table with only USA and China ahead of us. I will happily stick my neck out and say we are well on course to beat our medal haul from Beijing 2008, which was already our best performance in 100 years. Then GB managed 47 medals of which 19 were gold. For many years GB averaged about 5 golds at each Olympic games until Prime Minister John Major set up the National Lottery in 1994 with one of its expressed aims being the funding of sport in the UK. The effect was not felt in 1996 in Atlanta when the UK gained a single Gold but from 2000 at the Sydney Games with 11 Golds the impact was noticeable.

This weekend has seen a feast of medals across a wide range of disciplines. Mo Farrah got Gold in the men’s 10,000 metres, Andy Murray at last triumphed at Wimbledon to get a Gold in the men’s Tennis singles, Max Whitlock and Louis Smith got Bronze and Silver respectively in the men’s gymnastics on the Pommel Horse, and who could forget Jessica Ennis storming to win the Gold in the women’s Heptathlon? Of course there were many more including sailing, cycling, running and long jump.

It is very noticeable that the GB Team is winning medals across a broad base of events, unlike the USA which has garnered around half of its medals in swimming alone, many of them won by Michael Phelps. The great sporting superpowers of Australia and Russia have underperformed this time. Australia has managed a single Gold and Russia just four. Even tiny New Zealand has managed three Golds!

The whole of Great Britain seems to have been captivated by the London games and it is great to see football taking place all round the country, sailing in Weymouth and rowing at Eton. The Olympic Torch relay really seemed to have captured people’s imagination with big crowds turning out despite sometimes appalling weather. I helped with the relay when it came through the London Borough of Hillingdon and in my day job have played a small part in supporting the security of the Games. The Royal Mail has also had the good sense to produce a stamp for each gold medalist and painting a Post Box gold in their home towns is just inspired.

The organisers have done a fantastic job. Everyone I know who has gone to the Olympic Park has been impressed with the facilities and the organisation. Even the media have been praising the logistics. Sebastian Coe has been a great team leader and Boris Johnson has made sure that the city was ready to host this huge event. Maybe one day Seb will succeed Boris as Mayor of London, perhaps when he moves from City Hall into 10 Downing Street!

On Thursday I have tickets for the Hockey in the main Olympic Park and next month I will be going to the Excel Arena for the Paralympic Games. I am collecting the commemorative Olympic pins for each of the London Boroughs, so if anyone has any to spare please let me know. I understand that most are quite scarce now.

Whilst I am intrigued to watch the closing ceremony I know I will be sad to see the London Games come to an end. It is likely that for most people alive today this will be the only UK-based Olympics in our life times. I am therefore determined to make the most of it and think most British people feel the same. I am delighted that the athletes have risen to the occasion and given their all. There are no “plastic Brits” in the events I am watching, just individuals who have trained unbelievably hard and are proud to be representing their country in the greatest sporting event in the World.

Well done to all the athletes, the volunteers, the armed forces, the organisers, the Mayor of London, John Major, and most of all the British people for getting behind the Games and cheering on our athletes.

The next Olympic Games will be in Rio, Brazil in 2016 and I am determined to be there to cheer on Team GB!

August 5, 2012 Posted by | International, National | Leave a comment

Reading Council Warns of Increased Car Park Charges

Drivers are being reminded by the Council that some steeply increased car parking fees come into effect next Monday (August 6).

In June Reading Borough Council’s Labour Cabinet agreed increases to many tariffs for car parks across the borough. The changes – which come into effect from Monday August 6 – are part of a regular review of charges by the Council and NCP, the Council’s contractor.

Short term tariffs at Broad Street Mall, Civic Offices B and Queen’s Road car parks remain frozen at £1.60 for one hour, £3.20 for up to two hours and £6.50 for up to four hours, with the night rate (6pm to 8am) also frozen at £3.50. There is a 10% rise of £1 – from £10 to £11 for up to six hours parking at the sites and a rise of £1 from £14 to £15 for between 6 hours and 24 hours parking.

At Kings Meadow, car park short term parking up to 2 hours increases by 11% from £1.80 to £2 and the tariff for 24 hour parking remains frozen at £7. The tariff for parking at Kings Meadow on a Sunday or Bank Holiday will now mirror the normal Monday to Saturday rate having previously been at a reduced rate of just £1.

At Hills Meadow, short term parking for up to 2 hour rate, goes up 6% from £1.70 to £1.80 and parking for up to 24 hours will rise 20% from £5 to £6. Regular weekend visitors to Hills Meadow are particularly asked to note that from Monday August 6 onwards normal weekday rates will apply to using the car park on both Saturdays and Sundays. Previously parking was free on Saturday afternoons between 1pm and 6pm, and there was a £1 charge for parking on a Sunday.

NCP will be putting up advance notices in Hills Meadow in the days leading up to August 6. On Saturday August 11 and Saturday August 16 warning notices rather than penalty notices will be placed on vehicles which are not displaying a valid parking ticket. This is being done to ensure motorists are fully aware they could be fined in the future if they do not display a valid parking ticket.

Parking tariffs for Chester Street, Recreation Road and Dunstall Close remain frozen at current rates. At Cattle Market, parking for up to 24 hours goes up 12.5%  from £4 to £4.50, the previous reduced rate of £3 on Sundays and Bank Holidays will be scrapped and normal weekday charges of £4.50 will apply – an increase of 50%! Parking on Saturday for up to one hour remains frozen at 50 pence. HGV parking goes up 15% from £6.50 to £7.50.

The full list of charges can be found here, under Agenda Item 15, Appendix 1.

The other proposal in the Cabinet report for micro park and ride schemes at Clayfield Copse and Palmer Park was dropped after mass campaigns at both locations.

August 3, 2012 Posted by | Local | Leave a comment

Labour Council Pulls the Rug from Under the “Cultural Partnership”

At a very angry meeting of Reading’s Cultural Partnership last night, Labour Cabinet members announced that they were removing the dedicated £74,000 ring-fenced grant funding from the Cultural Partnership and taking it back into general Council funds.

The Cultural Partnership was founded during the time of the Conservative-led Council in order to attract and support all parts of Reading’s cultural community, helping it to prosper and grow in a creative and mutually supportive environment. To give it real decision making powers, a ring-fenced budget of £74,000 was allocated to the Partnership, in order that cultural projects and organisations could be awarded grants. As the cultural community were deciding on the grants rather than just a political party, the desire was that a wider, more diverse, group of people would benefit from the work of the partnership.

Cllr Andrew Cumpsty, Conservative Spokesman for Culture and Sport attended the meeting and summed up the angry mood last night by saying, “Those people who have worked hard to establish and grow the Cultural Partnership felt betrayed and shocked at the actions of the Labour Council in pulling all the grant-giving funding from the Cultural Partnership.”

“When the Conservatives led the Council, we believed in the Cultural community of Reading, which is why we started the Partnership and supported the grant funding powers. Labour made this decision without consulting any members of the partnership and I am afraid that it signals a return to the ‘Command and Control, we know best’ Labour Party. Why are they so afraid to allow the cultural community to have control?”

Amongst disarray at the meeting, Cllr Cumpsty intervened to suggest that the Labour Party go back to their Cabinet, rethink their decision and come back to the Cultural Partnership with a return to the original concept in September.

“The Labour Party now has a chance to re-think their idiotic decision”, said Cllr Cumpsty, “I just hope that on reflection that they agree with my firmly held conviction that it is the community and not Labour politicians who know best when it come to understanding our rich cultural offering in Reading”.

Conservative Group Leader Councillor Tim Harris said, “Once again Labour is removing power from the people who really know best. Since Labour regained majority control of the Council their old arrogance and centralising tendencies are showing themselves again. Conservative Councillors will continue to hold them to account and stand up for the majority of Reading residents.”

August 2, 2012 Posted by | Local | 1 Comment