Friday, July 30, 2021

Music to start the weekend: "I Need a Hero" (with the Mandalorian Season 2 finale sequence)

The UK Vaccination programme is now estimated to have saved 60,000 lives

Figures from Public Health England show that Britain's historic vaccine programme has helped save 60,000 lives, and the government, NHS and health professionals continue to urge everyone, when you get the call, get the jab.

  • Thanks to the continued success of this historic vaccine programme, the present wave of infections seems to be peaking and has not generated the level of hospitalisations and deaths which it previously would have. The majority of people in Cumbria's hospitals with COVID-19 now (late July) actually came into hospital for other conditions. Vaccination is protecting the most vulnerable, as we learn to live with the virus.
     
  • Our vaccines have already helped prevent 22 million infections and 60,000 deaths, which is why we are encouraging everyone who has not already done so – including young people and pregnant women – to come forward and get the jab.
     
  • Day by day, jab by jab, we are strengthening our defences against the virus and call on everyone to play their part in this historic effort.
  • If you have any concerns about whether vaccination is right for you or your family, discuss them with your GP, midwife, or an appropriately qualified medical professional.

(From Today's "Independent")


Summer School

The government has announced that more than half a million children across England will benefit from a summer school over the summer holidays, backed by over £200 million of investment, giving pupils the best opportunities to fulfill their potential as we build back better. 

  • The pandemic has had a huge impact on the last school year for pupils – and it is important to help everyone affected catch up on lost learning and missed experiences before the start of the next academic year. 
     
  • That is why the governmetn has invested over £200 million into helping schools put on summer schools and provide vital learning opportunities for pupils – boosting pupils’ learning and their confidence with extra lessons and extra-curricular activities like sports, music and drama, which 2,820 secondary schools, almost three quarters of those eligible, have now signed up to. 
     
  • This will help set pupils across England up for the future, giving them the best opportunity to reach their full potential and get the world class education they deserve.

Comment moderation now turned back on for three weeks.

I apologise to those like Jim King and Gary Bullivant who post on here under their real names and those anonymous posters who have posted constructively, but a sick anonymous troll has forced me to turn comment moderation back on.

Sadly some very unpleasant people think it is OK to post things online while hiding anonymously behind a computer screen which they would never dare to say to anyone's face.

People sometimes joke about this sort of thing coming from people tweeting from their mum's basement though in a well-connected community like West Cumbria where everyone knows everyone else those of us on the recieving end have a better idea where some of these posts are coming from than the perpetrators may realise. I have some strong suspicions about where some of the anonymous online poison in West Cumbria comes from and that it is from people who really ought to know better.

I adopted a strict rule a few years ago when a critical comment was made on an obituary post, which caused grief and offence to the family of the person who had died, that I do not allow negative comments on obit posts. It is common for the family and friends of people who have died to look at the internet and see what has been said about them and I was determined never to allow my blog to be used to hurt innocent people in that way again.

Most people have respected that rule, which is why I was able for the last few years to comply with a request from a regular reader and poster to turn off comment moderation.

However, today someone who presumably thinks he or she is funny put a nasty comment on an obit post. I have deleted the post but I am not putting up with the possibility that it or something else nasty might be put on instead. Sadly therefore the individual concerned has managed to put me in a position where the least worst option is to turn comment moderation back on. 

The alternative would be to not allow comments on obit posts at all, but that would prevent anyone who wanted to post a tribute to the deceased from doing so.

I will try to make sure I check what has been posted on a reasonably regular basis and will generally let through comments which are not offensive, especially those which are signed, even if I do not agree with them.

This position will last for a little over three weeks.

I will review the policy on Sunday 22nd August and may turn comment moderation back off at that stage.

Flooding protection

Great news that more than 1,000 flood schemes will benefit from over £860 million of investment this year, supporting homes and families against the devastating impact of flooding.

  • Flooding can devastate communities – too many homes and families across the country have sadly fallen victim to this, and so we must put the necessary protections in place to tackle it. 
     
  • That is why the governmetn is investing over £860 million into boosting the design and construction of more than 1,000 flood alleviation schemes in 2021-22, and outlining our record £5.2 billion of investment over the next six years to protect 336,000 properties from flooding and coastal erosion as part of the Flood and Coastal Erosion Investment Plan, accompanied by a consultation in the autumn looking at how we can better protect frequently flooded communities, tighter guidance for planning authorities to better protect and prepare for flooding, and setting out how households will benefit from improvements to flood insurance. 
     
  • This will help to guard homes and families from the devastating impact of flooding, allowing people to feel reassured about the safety of their home.

Quote of the day 30th July 2021

 


Thursday, July 29, 2021

Investing in education

Today, at the Global Education Summit in London, the Prime Minister called on world leaders to make a transformative investment into children’s education to avoid a legacy of wasted talent due to the pandemic - as we lead the way in building back better across the globe.

  • The pandemic has devastated children’s education around the world, with girls in particular risk at never returning to school and too many of them out of school before the pandemic even hit, so it is vital that we do not leave behind a legacy of wasted talent. 
     
  • That is why the Prime Minister today called on world leaders to invest in children’s education as the UK and Kenya host the Global Education Summit in London, where funds will be raised for the Global Partnership for Education – which the UK has already committed £430 million to – and why we are leading international efforts to get 40 million more girls into school, and 20 million more to reading age by 10 over the next year, spending £400 million in aid on girls education this year. 
     
  • Investing in education will enable children around the world – girls in particular – to learn and reach their full potential as we recover from this crisis and build back better, greener, and fairer societies.  

Putting more police on our streets

Yesterday the government announced the recruitment of nearly 10,000 additional police officers, meaning we are almost half-way to delivering the Conservative manifesto promise to put 20,000 extra police officers on the streets by 2023, making our streets and communities safer for everyone as we level up the nation.

  • When he became Prime Minister, Boris Johnson made a commitment that we would recruit more police officers, cut crime, and make our streets safer. 
     
  • Yesterday it was announced that – nearly two years into our programme – an additional police 9,814 police officers have been recruited across all 43 police forces in England and Wales, meaning we are nearly half-way to delivering on our promise to recruit the extra 20,000 new officers by 2023.
     
  • Through putting more police on the streets, launching our Beating Crime Plan, and progressing with our Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill – we are making our streets and communities safe for everyone as we build back better.

Thursday music spot: Purcell's March from the Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary

Cllr David Greenhalgh RIP

I am shocked and horrified by the news that Councillor David Greenhalgh, leader of Bolton Council, died earlier today at the age of 53.

















I had met David several times over the last few years and both liked and respected him as one of the best leaders in local government I have ever met and one of the nicest people in politics.

In a joint statement, Bolton council's deputy leader, Coun Martyn Cox, and the council chief executive, Tony Oakman, said: "We have just learned the very sad news that Bolton Council Leader, Cllr David Greenhalgh, has passed away.

"David served as a local councillor in Bromley Cross for many years, becoming council leader in 2019.

"He was greatly respected and had many friends both in the town hall and the wider Bolton community.

"As an individual he will be greatly missed by many, and it will take some time to come to terms with our sudden loss.

"Our thoughts at this time are with those closest to him."

Councillor Nick Peel, the leader of Bolton's Labour group, paid his own tribute to Coun Greenhalgh.

He said: "Despite our political differences, David has been the leader during a very difficult period of time with the Covid pandemic, and I know that he worked long and hard hours during this time on behalf of us all, with little regard for his own need for time off.

"David was a good humoured and conscientious councillor, and I always enjoyed his good-natured company, on those occasions when we could be less formal.

"I am sure I speak for us all when I say that in the true spirit of the Labour Movement, we offer our deepest condolences and care to his family, friends and colleagues who will be feeling devastated at this time."

Coun Roger Hayes, the leader of the Liberal Democrats group on Bolton Council, said: “He was an extremely nice and kind person and irrespective of any political differences I have always found him to be straight, honest and very open.

“A very big loss to both Bolton and the Conservative group.

“It’s sad, devastating news.”

Similar tributes have been paid to David by both Conservative and Labour MPs, from neighborouing authorities and from organisations as disparate as Bolton Wanderers and Bolton Council of Mosques. You can read some of them on the Manchester Evening News site here.

Condolences thoughts and prayers to those closed to David. He was a good, kind, intelligent man who deserved the respect in which he was held on both sides of the political divide and will be greatly missed.

Rest in Peace.

Britain's economic recovery

This week the IMF announced that the UK’s economy is set to be among the fastest growing in the G7 this year – showing that Britain's economic recovery and the government's plan for jobs are working.  

  • There are positive signs that Britain's economy is rebounding faster than initially expected – with the IMF forecasting the UK to have the joint highest growth rate in 2021 among the G7 economies at 7 per cent.
     
  • But there are still challenges ahead as a result of the impact of the pandemic – which is why we must all remain focused on protecting and creating as many jobs as possible and why the government's plan for jobs is so important.  

Quote of the day 29th July 2021

 


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Midweek music spot: Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto for 2 Violins in A minor,

Beating Crime, part three

Today the government has set out extra measures to tackle the drivers of crime, building on our Beating Crime Plan. 

  • The Beating Crime Plan sets out measures to cut crime and hold criminals accountable, but it is only right that we support offenders who wish to turn their back on crime and lead productive lives.
     
  • That is why the government has launched a scheme to break the cycle of reoffending, by providing temporary, basic accommodation to keep prison leavers off the streets, recruiting 1,000 ex-offenders into the Civil Service by 2023, and investing £80 million in drug rehabilitation. 
     
  • These measures will break the cycle of reoffending, drive down crime, and save thousands of law-abiding people from becoming victims.

The new Disability strategy

A new National Disability Strategy was launched today by the UK government, which will improve the everyday lives and opportunities for people with disabilities as we build back fairer - delivering on a Conservative manifesto promise.

  • Everyone should be able to participate fully and freely in our society, but many disabled people feel held back by a lack of opportunity and accessibility. We must fix this and make our society fairer for everyone. 
     
  • That is why the government has today announced our new National Disability Strategy – which includes 100 immediate commitments including improving accessibility of homes, investing £300 million to support young people with special educational needs and disabilities in schools, piloting an online work passport to help smooth the transition into employment, and consulting on introducing disability workforce reporting for large businesses.
     
  • This strategy will deliver lasting change for people with disabilities, levelling up opportunity and improving their everyday lives as we build back better and fairer. 

Boosting a green recovery

It has been announced today that 90 green projects and 2,500 jobs will receive a multi-million pound boost, stepping up action to boost nature recovery across the country. 

  • From new ‘insect pathways’ to tree planting projects in deprived urban areas, these projects will help build, improve and restore our natural environments for future generations. 
     
  • The Conservative government has announced that 90 innovative projects will be awarded funding through the second round of the £80 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund, supporting 2,500 green jobs, planting almost a million trees, and boosting nature recovery across the country. 
     
  • This funding will restore our natural environment for the benefit of both communities and the economy, helping us work towards net zero emissions by 2050 and creating more green jobs along the way.

Quote and Comeback of the day 28th July 2021

 An organising campaigning for a republic has a twitter campaign which makes the following point:


"Would you fly British Heir Ways?

It had a picture of a man in a pilot's uniform seated at the controls of an aircraft, holding his thumb up with the captions "I didn't learn to fly, but my dad was a pilot so we'll be OK." and "Hereditary jobs don't work."


Dsnny (@InTheLionsDen_) pointed out this morning on Twitter that this is perhaps not the most ideal analogy for the monarchy with five words:

"We don't elect pilots either."

Beating Crime, continued

 


  • If we are to succeed in levelling up this country, we must give everyone the security and confidence that comes from having a safe street and a safe home.
     
  • That is why the government introduced this week a Beating Crime Plan, which builds on the achievements of the past two years – more police, more resources, and tougher sentences – to provide our law enforcement with everything they need to prevent, deter, and crack down on crime.
     
  • This plan will give the law-abiding majority the respect and support they need should they fall victim to a crime, whilst cracking down on those who persist in breaking the law.

We are doing this by:

  • Introducing our Beating Crime Plan, delivering the most comprehensive and far-reaching strategy of its kind yet. This plan is our blueprint for cutting crime and increasing confidence in our justice system. By combining prevention, deterrence, and enforcement, it will put victims first and support the dedicated and hardworking men and women from across our criminal justice system who keep us safe. 

Reconnecting the police with the public:

  • Providing every person in England and Wales with access to the contact details of neighbourhood police officers, ensuring the public know that local help is always available. 
     
  • Allowing the public to access a range of police services in one online platform, making our forces more accessible than ever. 
     
  • Developing a league table of 999 and 101 calls, letting the public know how responsive their local force is when they call them for help.
     
  • Asking the police to regularly report on how police officers are being deployed and the results they are achieving, giving the public confidence that their local police are performing.
     
  • Working with CrimeStoppers and Neighbourhood Watch, raising awareness of hidden harms in our communities.

Intervening early to prevent crime from occurring:

  • Investing £17 million in youth interventions, providing high-intensity specialist support to young people to stop them from entering a life of crime.
     
  • Investing £45 million in our schools-based Support, Attain, Fulfil, Exceed and Alternative Provision taskforces, providing vulnerable young people with support to make the right decisions.
     
  • Expanding our use of electronic monitoring for serious offenders and tracking the movements of criminals upon release from prison, supporting our police in deterring and detecting further crimes.
     
  • Trialling the use of alcohol tags in offenders guilty of drink-fuelled crime, helping to reduce violence and other alcohol-related crime.
     
  • Introducing Knife Crime Prevention Orders, prohibiting those most at risk from carrying knives.
     
  • Holding annual Homicide Summits, attended by the Chief Constables of police forces with the highest homicide rates, creating solutions to the biggest issues in cutting murder rates.

Giving the police what they need to fight crime by:

  • Relaxing voluntary conditions on Section 60 stop and search powers, reducing the number of weapons on our streets.
     
  • Commencing provisions in the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 to ban a range of knives and firearms, making it harder for criminals to access dangerous weapons.
     
  • Establishing a multi-agency response to anti-social behaviour, combining resources to better prevent anti-social behaviour.
     
  • Expanding the role of Police and Crime Commissioners, allowing them to use their local expertise to cut crime.
     
  • Expanding the Acquisitive Crime GPS tagging project, providing us with data to monitor patterns of crime.

Building our capability to deal with fraud, cyber and online crime:

  • Continuing to shut down scams and fraudulent websites, making it harder for fraudsters to target the UK.
     
  • Replacing Action Fraud with an improved national fraud and cybercrime reporting system, improving our understanding of how fraudsters are operating.
     
  • Publishing a new National Cyber Security Strategy, increasing our response to cybercrime and driving collaborations with the National Cyber Security Centre and National Cyber Force.
     
  • Working with the tech, financial, telecoms and accountancy sectors, restricting the opportunities that fraudsters seek to exploit.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Testing, testing

The government has announced 1,200 new testing sites to allow thousands more critical workers to test daily instead of self-isolating, to protect staff and minimise disruption

  • Protecting critical workers from infection so that they can perform their key roles, while avoiding staff shortages, is a priority to continue our recovery from the pandemic. 
     
  • That is why it has been announced that 1,200 extra sites will open to provide daily testing to critical sectors including the armed forces, prisons, and waste management, building upon the 800 sites being set up for our police, firefighters and supermarket staff, so that more critical staff can test rather than self-isolate.
     
  • Ensuring more sectors are able to continue operating safely by testing rather than isolating, will make it possible to protect staff and our essential public services

The National Adoption Strategy

The government has announced a National Adoption Strategy, which aims to make sure every adoptive family in England is receiving the same high quality service no matter where they live.

  • A loving family is key to boosting life chances, which is why steps have already been taken to ensure children and young people in adoption services can be matched with the families that are right for them, but we know there is more to do.
     
  • That is why the government has this week set out a new National Adoption Strategy, backed by £48 million, to improve adoption services across England, with better recruitment across the country and removing unnecessary delays, providing more training for front line staff, and setting out a new framework of national standards to end the ‘postcode lottery’.
     
  • This is part of a plan to level up opportunities for vulnerable children in care so that every adoptive family in England receives the same high quality service no matter where they live.

Quote of the day 27th July 2021

Most of the quotes in the "Quote of the Day" section of this blog are intended to be inspirational, cheering, or make a political point I agree with.

And I try to include at least ten positive posts in this blog for every post attacking another party or perspective. However, there are times when a quote from another party cries out to be repeated, in order to critically examine it, particularly when a Labour MP manages to put into a few words much of what is wrong with the Labour party.

Labour MP Jess Phillips did that recently when she told the Sunday Times

"The only way that a woman will become Labour Leader is if men don't stand."


Some people will read those words and detect an atrocious sense of entitlement. Others, including me, will see in them an admission that Labour is sexist to the core.

No men stood aside for Margaret Thatcher and she beat them fair and square to be elected leader of the Conservative party and then Prime Minister.

No men stood aside for Theresa May and she beat them fair and square and was elected the second female leader of the Conservative party and Britain's second female Prime Minister.

So Jess Phillips is saying that the Labour party can't manage something the Conservative party has done twice in the past few years - elect a woman leader on merit without rigging the election.

Perhaps Labour ought to apologise for all the accusations it makes about the Conservatives not being interested in women and look a bit harder at themselves.

Monday, July 26, 2021

One Step Greener

The government has announced the first 13 ambassadors from the One Step Greener initiative, bringing together people from all walks of life to inspire and encourage others to follow in their green footsteps and help to tackle climate change.

  • We all have a role to play in tackling climate change, and with 100 days to go until COP26 we are calling on people to share their stories and inspire others as we build a more sustainable and greener future.
     
  • That is why the government has announced the first 13 One Step Greener ambassadors – including Dame Jackie Daniel, Hugo Chambers, and Toby McCartney – bringing together businesses, community groups, and schools who best symbolise climate leadership to showcase their stories at the crucial summit in November.
     
  • In addition, a further 13 ambassadors are being sought to show how they are championing climate initiatives in their communities and inspiring others to follow their lead.
     
  • By sharing their stories, these One Step Greener ambassadors will inspire others to embrace their responsibility in protecting our planet and continue the fight against climate change.

Preparations for COP26

Yesterday and continuing today, the COP26 President-Designate brought together ministers and representatives from more than 50 countries to lay the groundwork for success ahead of November’s COP26 negotiations.

  • Alongside national efforts in tackling climate change, we must work with our international partners to ensure that definitive action is taken to drive down emissions and protect our planet.
     
  • That is why Alok Sharma has brought together representatives from over 50 countries for two-days of informal, closed-door meetings to encourage frank conversations about the issues in fighting climate change – the first such meeting for more than 18 months.
     
  • By engaging with difficult issues, representatives will be able to build common ground and find a unity of purpose ahead of November’s COP26 conference, ensuring we remain on track to reduce carbon emissions before it is too late.

Daily contact testing

Over the weekend the government announced an expansion of daily contact testing to emergency services and some transport sectors, ensuring that frontline workers can continue to keep us safe while remaining protected from the virus.

  • As part of the targeted contact testing of workers, we have engaged with the emergency and transport sectors to understand how workers can continue to safely deliver their vital services, despite cases rising in the coming weeks.
     
  • That is why the government is expanding our contact testing scheme to police and fire services, Border Force, and some transport workers, replacing self-isolation with daily testing for those identified as contacts of people with coronavirus, with an expected 200 additional testing sites being opened.
     
  • By doing this we can ensure our emergency and transport services will continue to keep us safe while offering them protection from the virus.

Beating Crime

Writing in the Sunday Express, the Prime Minister outlined the Government’s Beating Crime plan, setting out proposals to introduce effective localised policing, reduce crime, and make our communities safer - ahead of its publication next week.

  • Far too many of us know the powerlessness and anger felt when we are victims of crime, and despite crime falling by 9% in the year before the pandemic, we must do more to ensure this trend continues.
     
  • That is why the Prime Minister has outlined a Beating Crime plan, which will introduce a named police contact for every community – someone who knows the strengths and vulnerabilities of our areas and who can provide residents with an officer that sees crime in context.
     
  • The government will also publish league tables for 999 and 101 call answering times, put more police into dealing with anti-social behaviour, expand the tagging of offenders, intensify our war on county drug lines, and bring together police, employers and health experts to develop practical steps to cut drug abuse across the country.
     
  • These proposals are another step in our efforts to make communities safer, and by building on the objective of recruiting 20,000 extra police officers and providing police forces with the resources they need, we will continue to cut crime across the country.

Monday music spot: Vivaldi's Concerto No.10 in B minor for 4 violins

Quote of the day 26th July 2021

Tom Harris on why parliament has, and should have, a rule against MPs calling each other liars. He argues that, if there were no such rule ...



Sunday, July 25, 2021

Sunday music spot: Mozart's "Kyrie Eleison" (Lord have mercy,) soloist Julie Fuchs

Delivering on Conservative promises

In some ways it doesn't seem all that long that Boris Johnson has been PM - there was only about seven months of "normal" politics before the pandemic started, not that this period seemed all that normal at the time - but it is two years.

Here is a list of some of the things the Conservative government has achieved in that time

Key achievements include:

  • Rolling out a historic vaccination programme, delivering the long-term protection that has allowed us to unlock our country. Almost nine in ten adults in the UK have now received a first vaccine dose – with almost seven in ten having also received a second dose. Every adult has now been offered a first dose, and by the end of September will also have been offered a second.
     
  • Getting Brexit done, leaving the EU, delivering on our promise to the British people. We have implemented the decision which the British people took in 2016 and taken back control of the issues that matter to the British people. Leaving the EU has given us the freedom to develop one of the fastest vaccine roll-outs in the world, establish eight freeports across the country, install a points-based immigration system, and negotiate new trade deals with the EU and almost 70 other countries.
     
  • Delivering the biggest cash boost in history for our NHS and enshrining that increase into law, safeguarding it for future generations. We are investing an additional £33.9 billion into frontline NHS services every year by 2023-24, the largest and longest funding settlement in the history of the NHS.
     
  • Confirmed £3.7 billion to build 40 hospital projects across England, so more people have top-class healthcare services in their local area. 40 hospital projects will be built by 2030 as part of our £3.7 billion package, with 8 further new schemes also invited to bid. This is the biggest hospital building programme in a generation, and delivers on our manifesto commitment.
     
  • Delivering a £14.4 billion funding boost for schools over three years, levelling up education across the country. The funding package for 5-16 schools includes £2.6 billion in 2020-21, £4.8 billion in 2021-22, and £7.1 billion for 2022-23 compared to 2019-20. This will bring the schools budget to £52.2 billion in 2022-23.
     
  • Introduced the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, giving people the skills to find and create new and better jobs. The Lifetime Skills Guarantee gives adults the chance to take free college courses valued by employers, as well as a new entitlement to flexible loans to allow courses to be taken in segments, boosting opportunities to retrain and enhancing the nation’s technical skills.
     
  • Recruited almost 9,000 new police officers, delivering on our pledge to hire 20,000 by 2023. We have already recruited 8,771 new officers, and we are on track to recruit 20,000 extra officers by 2023. As part of this year’s £636 million police funding settlement, more than £400 million will go towards recruiting additional officers.
     
  • Boosted police funding by £636 million this year, ensuring our frontline officers have everything need to keep us safe. This brings total police funding up to £15.8 billion for 2021-2022, including £400 million to recruit 20,000 new officers by 2023, £914 million for counter-terrorism policing, and £1.1 billion to target national priorities such as reducing serious violence and clamping down on county lines.
     
  • Overhauled terrorist sentencing and monitoring laws through our Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act, keeping the most serious offenders off our streets. Our Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act ends early release for terror offenders who receive Extended Determinate Sentences, where the maximum penalty was life, and forces them to serve their whole term in jail.
     
  • Introduced our Nationality and Borders Bill, to fix our broken asylum system. Our Nationality and Borders Bill is the cornerstone of our New Plan for Immigration, delivering the most comprehensive reform in decades to fix the broken asylum system. The Bill has three key objectives, to make the system fairer and more effective, to deter illegal entry into the UK, and to remove from the UK those with no right to be here.
     
  • Increased the National Living Wage to £8.91 an hour, supporting hard-working families. This is a 2.2 per cent increase in the NLW, the equivalent of £345 extra per year for someone working full time. This increase strikes the right balance between supporting the living standards of the lowest paid, while ensuring businesses can thrive as the country continues to recover from Covid-19.
     
  • Oversaw the highest number of new homes built in over 20 years, helping more people get onto the property ladder. There were nearly 50,000 completed homes in the first quarter of 2021 – the highest figure in over 20 years and a 4 per cent increase compared to the last three months of 2020. During the same period, over 46,000 home builds were started, the highest number in nearly 15 years and a 7 per cent increase on the previous quarter.
     
  • Investing £3.6 billion in 101 towns through our Towns Fund, boosting local economies and creating jobs. The funding will support locally-led projects to transform disused buildings and public spaces, fund renovations to attractions, deliver new green transport, and create opportunities for people to develop new skills.
     
  • Delivering the biggest reforms to our railways in 25 years, with simpler, modern fares and reliable services for passengers. Through the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail we will set up a new public body, Great British Railways, who will integrate the railways, owning the infrastructure, collecting fare revenue, running and planning the network, and setting most fares and timetables.
     
  • Launched a £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, investing in infrastructure that will improve people’s everyday life. The Fund will invest in local infrastructure that has a visible impact on people and their communities, such as town centre and high street regeneration, local transport, and cultural projects. At least £800 million of this fund will go towards Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
     
  • Establishing eight new Freeports across England, boosting jobs, investment and communities now that we have left the EU. New Freeports will be based in East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe & Harwich, Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside – and will be special economic zones with different rules to make it easier and cheaper to do business.
     
  • Set out a Ten Point Plan to unleash a green industrial revolution, creating jobs as we build back greener. The Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan will mobilise £12 billion of government investment to create and support up to 250,000 highly-skilled green jobs in the UK, and spur over three times as much private sector investment by 2030, helping us to meet our world leading target of being net zero by 2050.
     
  • Committed to reduce our carbon emissions by 78 per cent by 2035, as we work towards being Net Zero by 2050. We were the first major economy in the world to set a legally binding target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 – and have enshrined into law a new target to reduce our emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. We have already reduced our emissions by 44 per cent between 1990 and 2019, while also growing our economy by 78 per cent – the fastest rate in the G7.
     
  • Boosting our defence budget by £24.1 billion over the next four years, helping to create a stronger, more secure Union – better equipped for a more competitive age. This increase – the largest investment since the cold war - will bring total Defence spending to £188 billion over the coming four years, as we modernise for the threats of the 2020s and beyond, contributing to national prosperity in the process.
     
  • Published the Integrated Review of security, defence, development and foreign policy, defining the UK’s place in the world. The Integrated Review – the largest ever review of our defence and foreign policy – sets out our vision for a stronger, more secure, and more prosperous UK, working with our allies to shape the international order and promote openness, democracy and free trade.
     
  • Signed almost 70 trade deals worth almost £900 billion into law, signalling to the world we are once again a sovereign free trading nation. Our historic Trade Act allows us to put the agreements we have struck as a newly independent twenty-first century trading nation into law. For the first time in almost 50 years, the interests of the British people and their businesses’ can be put first in our trade agreements.

 

The story of a plot to undermine vaccination programmes by spreading Anti-Vax fake news

There is an interesting story on the BBC website here about a plot to recruit social media influencers to spread fake news and undermine the vaccination programmes in Germany and France.

The plot failed because the people they tried to recruit were horrified and blew the whistle.

The BBC tried to trace the plot back to see who was behind it, getting as far as "a Russian man called Stanislav Fesenko."

The Russian embassy has, of course, denied that the Putin regime in Russia had anything to do with this.

Yeah, right.

The Fraud investigation into SNP finances

No political party gets everything right - none should be above scrutiny or criticism.

There are a number of aspects of the current fraud investigation into the SNP's finances which give particular grounds for concern - and I will let this piece from the Sunday Times speak for itself.




Quote of the day 25th July 2021


 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Quote of the day 24th July 2021

 


Saturday music spot: Grand Admiral Thrawn's Theme from the Star Wars universe

It is extraordinary how much background material exists besides the films for the Star Wars universe, some if it "Canon" (e.g. recognised by Disney who now own te franchise as part of the "official" timeline) and much that currently isn't. 

 A surprising number of the major characters from Star Wars have their own theme tunes, and I rather like this one for Grand Admiral Thrawn. 

For many Star Wars fans, Thrawn, or to give him his full name, Mittth'raw'nuruodo, is their favourite blue-skinned red-eyed military genius. Many, though not all, of the bad guys in the Star Wars universe are almost pure evil and hence a little bit boring. 

Thrown, by contrast, is a much more complex character, and depending on which book you are reading or series you are watching, he varies between a villain who thinks he's a hero, or a good guy who ends up on the wrong side. (Two of the inspirations used by his creator, Timothy Zahn, were Generals Erwin Rommell and Robert E Lee.) 

Anyway, here is the Grand Admiral Thrawn theme.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Cutting energy bills by making switching easier

The government has announced plans to drive down energy bills for millions of families across the UK, so they have money more in their pockets.

  • The best way to get better service is to unleash a wave of competition within the energy market if managed properly this should also keep bills low so households across the UK can keep more money in their pockets.
     
  • That is why the government has today published proposals to trial automatic switching for customers on expensive default energy tariffs to cheaper deals, helping 15 million households save hundreds of pounds more a year on their energy bills.
     
  • Alongside these proposals, the government has announced that the Energy Price Cap, introduced in 2019 to protect the 15 million British households on default tariffs, could continue for longer - helping those on the highest tariffs save between £75 and £100 a year on dual fuel bills.
     
  • Making it easier to switch to a better deal on the market, will help people to keep more of what they earn.

Ensuring food supplies

The government has announced the rollout of daily contact testing for our critical food supply workers, minimising the disruption caused by rising COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks, while ensuring workers are not put at risk.

  • As part of the government's close engagement with the food and drinks sector, new targeted testing is being introduced for certain workplaces to ensure supermarket shelves are stocked and fridges are full.
     
  • That is why the requirement is being ended for vital food supply workers to self-isolate if they are identified as contacts of people with coronavirus,  and instead allow them to take daily tests at work if they test negative each day, with an initial 15 priority testing sites being rolled out today. 
     
  • By helping minimise the disruption caused by rising cases in the coming weeks, we can ensure our highly resilient food supply chain continues to keep food in strong supply while keeping our workers safe.

Music to start the weekend: Overture from Handel's "Solomon" (a.k.a. the arrival of the Queen of Sheba)

Quote of the day 23rd July 2021

“The point of using that really was to try and drive the Remain campaign and the people running it crazy.”

(Dominic Cummings on why he insisted that all Vote Leave campaigners repeated the misleading claim that Britain's weekly contribution to the EU was £350 million.

Let there be any misunderstanding, if Dom Cummings said it was raining I would look outside to check but in this instance he has finally admitted something I have believed for five years was his real strategy. 

And let's be honest it worked exactly as planned.)


Thursday, July 22, 2021

Thursday music spot: Bach's Fugue in G minor BWV 578

More competition in the UK digital economy

This week saw the announcement of new proposals to increase competition in the UK’s digital economy, making sure the public gets the best services at fair prices.

  • The UK tech scene is thriving – but we need to make sure British firms have a level playing field with existing tech giants.
     
  • That is why the government is proposing new powers for the digital markets watchdog, so they will be able to suspend, block and reverse decisions by tech giants, as well as issue fines of up to 10 per cent of  turnover for serious breaches.

  • These reforms will help to champion competition in our tech sector – protecting consumers and boosting the UK’s start up scene.

Protecting the consumer

This week the government announced new consumer protections to stamp out exploitation of online customers – building back fairer after the pandemic.

  • When consumers part with their hard-earned cash – they have every right to expect they will get their money’s worth.

  • That is why the government has announced an arsenal of planned reforms to boost competition and shield the public from rip offs – including by requiring prepayment schemes to safeguard customers’ money, tackling subscription traps by making it easier to cancel; and making fake business reviews illegal.

  • As we build back fairer, these reforms will protect the public from being hoodwinked and help small businesses thrive.

Quote of the day 22nd July 2021

 


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

New local government structure for Cumbria

After extensive debate among councillors and over thirteen thousand responses from local residents and organisations, the government has this afternoon announced which of the local proposals they have accepted for reform of local government in Cumbria, North Yorkshire, and Somerset.

I am very pleased to see that they have gone with the option I preferred and have been arguing for in Cumbria, which is two unitary councils for Cumbria, one covering the current areas of Copeland, Allerdale and Carlisle, the other the current areas of Eden, South Lakeland, and Barrow & Furness.

This was the preferred option supported by Copeland council and Allerdale council. There were a total of four options for reform involving a change to a unitary model put forward by local councils - and it is perhaps worth pointing out that all four of the councils involved - Cumbria County Council and all six districts - supported one of those four options for unitary local government.


The Secretary of State has asked the existing councils and their partners to work collaboratively and constructively together to drive forward the process of establishing unitary councils.

Local Government Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:

"I have always been clear that any restructuring of local government must be locally-led and will not involve top-down solutions from government.

Residents, businesses and service providers have had their say on what will work best for their area and now councils in these three areas can start planning for the next step.

Where there is local support, changing the structure of local government can offer better value for money and improved services for residents."

This follows an announcement by the Prime Minister last week whereby he set out his vision to level up and unite the whole of the United Kingdom. In a speech, he set out the government’s role to:

  • empower strong local leaders by taking a more flexible approach to devolution, with new ‘County Deals’
  • focus on growing the private sector by creating the conditions for long-term growth and productivity;
  • invest in infrastructure and connectivity;
  • ensure that people have access to good public services, and the skills and training needed to get good jobs; and
  • improve the quality of life in communities through cutting crime and regenerating towns and high streets

Moving forward, Parliamentary approval will be sought to implement these locally led plans for the area. At the turn of the year, a draft structural changes Order will be laid in Parliament. This will include plans for the necessary transitional arrangements, including elections in May 2022 for the future unitary councils.