Showing posts from March, 2005

More Bad News on Pensions

I become more and more convinced that the damage they are doing to the country's pension provision is on its own sufficient grounds why Britain absolutely cannot afford the re-election of the Labour government. It is bad enough that in his first budget Gordon Brown made pension funds liable to Advanced Corporation Tax, a form of double taxation which effectively takes £ 5 billion a year from pension funds. This was the first and worst "stealth tax" - Mr Brown hoped that people would not realise that a change to something with a remote-sounding name like "Advanced Corporation Tax" meant that their pensions were being taken away. Then Mr Brown introduced an atrociously complicated "pensions credit" system which destroys incentives to save because anyone who does invest for their future loses 40 pence of pensions credit for each pound of income he or she provides. Surprise surprise - as incentives to save have been destroyed by Gordon Brown, the level of

Butlins Swimathon completed

Well, I managed it. Of the twelve times I have now completed the Swimathon, today was the hardest, because I have been out of action for the past two weeks with a nasty chest infection, and have not 100% recovered. I had decided beforehand that if I found myself in real difficulty I would abandon the swim rather than risk making myself ill. The pool at the Cockermouth swimming centre is 25 metres long, so to complete the 5000 metres challenge I had to swim 200 lengths. In the past when in better shape I have swum the full 5,000 using front crawl, and completed it in under an hour and a half. However, I knew that would not be possible this year and I would need to conserve my strength to finish at all. So I mainly used breast stroke, mixing in one length of front crawl with nine lengths of breast stroke so as to use a different set of muscles. It took me two hours, which is the longest time it has ever taken me, but I'm quite pleased just to have finished. Sponsorship money from the

A595 Campaign

This weekend I have been canvassing in the Holmrook area. I was not surprised to find strong opposition to the idea of De-Trunking the A595. This road is the only effective way to reach a large area of Cumbria. It is the only road access to an important national facility - the Nuclear Waster repository at Drigg. It is the main route from a large part of Copeland to the most accessible District General Hospital, currently at Whitehaven. (That argument will be even stronger if the hospital is moved.) The relevant Health And Safety authorities have also advised that we need evacuation routes to both North and South from Sellafield. The only possible evacuation route to the South is the A595. In my view, and that of every local resident with whom I have discussed it, the arguments to keep trunk status for this road and indeed improve it are overwhelming. I will be attending the Public Inquiru next month with local County Councillor Sue Brown to make this point.

School Meals

Does anyone reading this have a view of the quality of School Meals in Cumbria ? I have followed with interest the debate touched off by Jamie Oliver on the subject of school meals. The Secretary of State for education seems very defensive on the subject. The meals served to my children in both the nurseries in Cumbria which they have attended - attached to schools in Gosforth and Whitehaven - seem to be both tasty and nutritious. However, a member of my family with three school age children in another part of Cumbria reports that her fellow parents are very concerned about the quality and type of food. I would be very interested to know about the experience of other parents in Cumbria, especially in Copeland. Please feel free to make a "comment" or send me an email at

Butlins Swimathon 2005

I shall be taking part in the Butlins Swimathon this Easter for the twelfth consecutive year. Unfortunately there is no participating swimming pool in the Copeland Constituency, and the Bricket Wood pool where I have taken part in the past is currently closed for repairs. Instead I have applied to take part in the session at the nearest participating pool, which is Cockermouth. Swimathon is the largest charity swimming event in Britain: there are a number of possible challenges but the headline event, which I managed to complete for the past 11 years and am attempting again, is to swim 5,000 metres in one session. 70% of the money raised by the Swimathon this year will go to the Children's charity NCH, the remainder will go to the Swimathon foundation which makes grants to local good causes. If anyone would like to sponsor me, please drop me an email at

Hostpital Petition handed in

To Carlisle on Wednesday to hand in the Hospital Services petition. An initial count suggested we have about 1,000 signatures in total on our petition, which reads as follows: "We, the undersigned, call on the North Cumbria Acute Servies Health Trust and the Primary Care Trusts to retain District General Hospital Services on a site within the Borough of Copeland. These must include and ITU with Accident and Emergency, and shoud also include as many other hospital services as can safely and effectively be provided." (There were two slight variations on the wording - for example, before the Trusts made clear that there is no proposal to close Millom Community Hospital we also had a line supporting the retention of that hospital. But neither ) I am still waiting for one or two colleagues to return the forms on which they have been collecting signatures, and will forward these when I get them. I handed the main body of the petition, with 715 signatures, to Nigel Woodcock on Wedne

Council Tax Set

Copeland's council tax has now been set for the coming year and - surprise surprise - residents face yet another above-inflation increase. The largest element of the council tax goes to fund the county council and the biggest single reason why it was above inflation is a less-than generous grant settlement from Central Government. Council tax rises have been particularly painful for the elderly and those on fixed incomes. I an very glad to be able to support the policy of using some of our £4 billion of tax cuts funded by savings in government administration to halve the council tax bills of pensioner households.