Showing posts from March, 2006


Yesterday my four-year old children were sent home at mid-day without lunch because their school was affected by “industrial action.” At the school’s main gate other children the same age had to cross a picket line to get to their classes. Across Cumbria 27 schools were affected, 14 of them in Copeland. The people who went on strike yesterday have every right to be angry with Gordon Brown and John Hutton over their pensions, but I hope that great care will be taken on all sides not to use children’s education as a pawn in an adult dispute. There are three points on which I agree with the strikers. - The first is that everyone is right to be concerned about their future pension arrangements and entitled to lobby to secure the best deal they can. - The second is that the government has shown bad faith to the public sector in general including local government workers on pensions, and much of the blame for yesterday’s strike rests with the government. - The third is that there are stre


I completed the Swimathon in an hour and forty minutes, which represents a twenty minute improvement on last year. I am still collecting sponsorship (so it’s not too late) but would like to thank all the BT colleagues and councillors of all parties (and none) who have already sponsored me.

Helping first-time buyers while protecting the Environment

The difficulty of first time house buyers in finding a home is a real problem in many parts of the country. The problem gets most recognition in the South East, where exceptionally high house prices don’t just crucify young people looking for a home but make problems for entire communities as employers, including public services such as schools and hospitals, cannot find enough staff because people cannot afford to live there. But this is not just a problem in the South East – it also affects many parts of Cumbria where house prices are several times higher than they were in the year 2000. House prices in villages like Gosforth and the area around Keswick are about as high as they are in many parts of the South East: it is just about impossible for a young person setting up their first home to stay in the area unless he or she wins the lottery or inherits the cash from Mum and Dad. So I welcome proposals endorsed by Conservative leader David Cameron, to help first-time buyers and ensur

A non-budget – and an ongoing scandal

Gordon Brown’s tenth budget was something of a non-event – long on political knockabout, short on real action, short on real news. He continues to increase real taxes by stealth using “fiscal drag” e.g. not increasing allowances in line with inflation. When Brown’s promises are examined in detail they often look more and more hollow. Take the promise to make spending in state schools match what is currently spent in cash terms in private schools. As the BBC’s chief political correspondence pointed out, If you look for the details of this promise in the Treasury's Red Book – which gives the details of the actual proposals rather than the political rhetoric - and you find that the "long term ambition" to match what private schools spend in state schools comes with no figures attached, no target date and no explanation of how it will be paid for. In other words this promise is totally meaningless. All the government would have to do to meet it is to increase spending on stat


This is Swimathon week, when several thousand people at hundreds of swimming pools up and down the country will be doing sponsored swimming activities to raise money for charity. This year the main beneficiary is the children’s charity NCH. Unfortunately neither the Copeland pool in Hensingham (which has some rebuilding work today) nor the Keswick pool are taking part this time. I will be doing the swim in Harpenden. The one participating pool in Cumbria this year is Workington; we’ll have to see if we can get a few more involved next time. Initially the Swimathon involved a 5,000 metre swim (that’s about three miles for the non-metric amongst us) – there are now shorter challenges for those who are not up to that and a 10,000 metre challenge for those who are exceptional swimmers. I hope to try that in the next year or two but it won’t be this year – I will be quite happy if I finish the three miles. Anyone who would like to sponsor me, please drop me a line at charityswim@chris4copel


Accordingly to a leaked report, the review group considering the future of maternity services in Cumbria was split about how to proceed, and one of the options they have considered would require about a thousand women each year to travel from West Cumbria to Carlisle to give birth. One option in the report was to upgrade the maternity units at both Carlisle and the West Cumberland hospital in Whitehaven. The other option was to downgrade the West Cumberland maternity unit to a midwife-led unit and for deliveries requiring support doctors to take place in Carlisle. Apparently the review group was not able to reach agreement on either of these options and is working on a new proposal. On the face of it, the arguments for retaining and improving doctor-led units on both sites appear overwhelming. Midwife-led maternity units have been successful in some more urban parts of Britain, but such units are usually within fifteen minutes “blue light” ambulance ride of a doctor-led maternity unit