Showing posts from February, 2008

Post Office Consultation starts 18th March

Residents of Gosforth have written to me expressing concern that their Post Office, closed due to local circumstances, will be a serious loss to the village if it does not re-open. They and residents of other towns and villages in Cumbria and elsewhere, are right to be concerned. The loss of a post office can be a hammer blow to a local community. The government needs to provide more support to keep these offices open. There will shortly be a consultation on the future of post office in Cumbria which I understand is due to start on 18th March. Get ready: we will need as many letters and petition signatures as possible to SAVE OUR POST OFFICES

Copeland Budget 2008/2009

Copeland Council's budget and council tax were set today. The Copeland element of Council tax will rise by 3.9% - the government settlement, made at the time when Gordon Brown appeared to be about to call an election was reasonably generous but they also put a large number of constraints on how the council can use the money. The cumulative impact on local residents and particularly pensioners of successive council tax rises over the past decade has been serious. The effect on council tax of Gordon Brown's policies as Chancellor and Prime Minister will not be remembered as one of his positive accomplishments

Two West Cumbrians honoured

I was delighted to see David Gray and Jim Close made Honorary Aldermen of the Borough of Copeland today. As councillors for Gosforth and Frizington respectively, both David and Jim worked extremely hard for their communities for many years. David continues to serve Gosforth as a Parish Councillor.

Matthew Paris on laws that actually work

Matthew Paris had a piece in The Times yesterday which ought to be compulsory reading for all MPs and all aspiring MPs. And we all should be required to say publicly whether we agree with the points he makes. As Matthew points out, far too many laws have been put on the statute book, not because they are workable leglislation but to "Send a message" or make a point. Far too often Ministers or MPs propose or pass a law and then before the ink is even dry on the document confirming Royal Assent they start trying to get round it. The article should also be compulsory reading for Matthew's fellow political journalists: be an extreme irony, the author of one of the articles on the facing page would be wise to think a little further about the points he makes (she refers to using laws to sending a message about an admittedly serious problem in almost exactly the language which, as Matthew Paris points out, has led to so many bad laws. The article can be found at http://www.times

Whitehaven Golf Course

There have been a number of questions asked and concerns raised in comments on this blog about the sale by Copeland Council of Whitehaven Golf Course, which took place before I was elected to the council. There are also some issues about planning matters relating to the site and particularly the footpath diversion. The District Auditor is investigating a complaint about the arrangements for the sale, and it would not be appropriate for me to make a final judgement on the matter until the report into that investigation is published. However, I have had some lengthy conversations with senior officers of the council and with councillors about the sale, and I think it is right to put on record that 1) I am assured that all documents which the District Auditor asked to see, including the valuation of the site, have been made available to the Auditor. 2) The bidder for the freehold of the site already held a 125 year lease of the site which had 120 years left to run. In this circumstance the

Report back on Millom Neighbourhood Forum

Attended the Millom Neighbourhood Forum this evening. There were two major presentations. The first was from the County Council's Adult Social Care department on the current proposals to replace six residential care homes in Cumbria with new and better buildings, mostly adjacent to or near local community hospitals. There was also a presentation on the local Nature reserve and how it can help with the economic regeneration of the Millom and Haverigg area, and the usual round of grants applications. The Care home proposals is the first part of a package aimed at a major improvement of the care homes in Cumbria. Two of the six care homes due to be replaced are in the new Copeland constituency: Lapstone House in Millom and Ravensfield Care Home in Keswick. In the case of both Lapstone House and Ravensfield, the plan is to replace the existing homes with a new and better building adjacent to the local community hospital. The idea of a "Health Campus" in Millom bringing togeth

£11 Million cut would "cripple" Cumbria's police force

The Chief Constable of Cumbria has warned of "catastrophic" damage to policing in the county if the recommendations of a report from the former Northern Ireland Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, were implemented in full. The Flanagan Review of local police funding suggests that Cumbria is top of a list of "winners" under the current arrangement and proposes an alternative funding formula under which Cumbria constabulary would eventually receive £11 million a year less than now. It appears this is partly because of the success of Cumbria police in reducing crime. The Flanagan formula looks at crime levels now which seems reasonable at first - until you realise the Cumbria Constabulary is effectively being punished for being the most efficient police force in the country. However sensible the Flanagan formula might look at first sight to people in London or Northern Ireland, this sends out all kinds of wrong signals. One has to ask whether Sir Ronnie and his commi

The day Labour's reputation for economic competence died

Responding to the government's announcement that the Northern Rock bank is to be nationalised, the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne said: "This is the day when Labour's reputation for economic competence died" "Now the taxpayer will bear the full risk of lending £100 billion of mortgages in an uncertain housing market." The amount of taxpayer's money which is affected just too huge for the mind to fully grasp. The risk to the taxpayer of an earlier government guarantee was described as "Thirteen Millenium Domes" - this is more like Fifty Millennium Domes.

Whitehaven hospital to lose maternity beds ?

The Whitehaven News has a story suggesting that as part of the reduction in bed numbers following on from the "Closer to Home" consultation, the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven might lose eight maternity beds, (dropping from 23 to 15). It is also suggested that there might also be losses in the SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) and paediatrics. For more details see the "Support West Cumbria Hospital Services" blog - follow link at right.

Why we need more sceptics

No, this post isn't mainly about Europe. It's about an word which was usually misunderstood in the past, and has been even more distorted by being completely misused in we debate the European Union, but represents an approach which the events of the past couple of days demonstrate to be needed now more than ever. If you asked me to nominate the most misused word in the English language, I would have to say "Sceptic." The original sceptics were often misrepresented in ancient Greece, where the word originates, and subsequently, as being hostile to all religion. Some of them certainly were, others just as certainly were not. But what it "sceptic" means is "seeker after knowledge" e.g. one who tries to establish the truth, rather than taking things on faith. In other words, we do more than a little violence to the English and Greek languages of we use the expression "Euro-sceptic" to mean those who most loathe everything to do with the Europ

There must be one law for everyone

There is only room in any country for one system of criminal justice. And everyone, regardless of their status, sex, race or religion, must be equal before it. British law must apply to everyone in Britain. It is, of course, open to anyone who considers that current UK law does not include things which they believe to be right to campaign for an act of parliament to add to, amend, or repeal existing laws. That new law will then apply to anyone in the UK. The recent comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury about Islamic law have touched off a furore because they have been interpreted as meaning that there might be one law for some citizens and another law for others. If that was what Dr Rowan Williams meant, I would have to fundamentally disagree with him. But I am not absolutely convinced that this is what he was meant to say. I have not yet been able to find a full text of Dr Williams' remarks. He certainly does not appear to have been supporting the more extreme forms of Sharia l

Footpath diversion proposal

Copeland Councl's planning panel met today. They considered a number of planning applications, and were asked to comment on an application to Cumbria County Council to make permanent the diversion of a public footpath in the vicinity of Whitehaven Golf Course. Copeland's planning panel decided not to raise objections to the proposed diversion, which will go to the County council for a final decision. I have suggested that the county should consider imposing conditions to ensure that any costs of this diversion should be borne by the developer and not the taxpayer.

The Right to Know

David Cameron, leader of the Conservative party, has unveiled plans to bring greater transparency to MPs’ expenses. With the introduction of a “Right To Know” form, all Front Bench members of the Conservative Party will be required to publish comprehensive details of their office expenses. The public is rightly concerned about transparency in politics, and this action will provide reassurance to taxpayers that their money is being used properly. All MPs are currently required to submit their expenses to the House of Commons, but only a selection of items are made public. Our “Right To Know” proposals will provide greater transparency by requiring a much higher level of disclosure. Details to be published will include: * A comprehensive list of staff, their positions, and in which office they work. * Details of family members employed, including their salary band. * A breakdown of the 'office running costs' to show what is spent on equipment, office rent, telephones, parliame

Labour to discipline MPs for wanting to honour manifesto pledge

Four Labour MPs, all of whom are former ministers, are facing the threat of disciplinary action from the Labour party because they want Labour to honour the manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on the European Union reform treaty. Every other government in Europe, and every remotely independent body who has compared the two treaties, says that the new reform treaty is substantially the same as the constitutional treaty which was voted down by French and Dutch voters and on which all three main parties in Britain promised at the last election to hold a referendum. The Labour government are just about the only people in Europe who consider the two documents to be different. The four MPs concerned are Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Graham Stringer and Gisela Stuart. Ms. Stuart was one of the British representatives on the body which actually drafted the original EU consitutional proposals. So if anyone is quailified to say that the new document is largely the same, she is. The four rebels h

Frank Field on "Conwaygate"

I am grateful to the bloggers on "political betting" for drawing my attention to a balanced and intelligent speech from Frank Field, a Labour MP who would be back in the government if Brown's "Big Tent" policy was reality rather than spin, in the parliamentary debate on Derek Conway. He makes some interesting points about what lessons should and should not be drawn from "Conwaygate" about improving the effectiveness and integrity of public life. You can see the full debate in Hansard. "Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): I should like to support the Chairman of the Committee on Standards and Privileges in respect of the motion and to draw some general points from his report, as he did. I do so knowing that while we may individually be held in very high esteem by our constituents, collectively that is not so; it is difficult to think how much lower our collective reputation might sink among voters generally. There are at least four lessons to draw

Last day for hospital consultation

Today, Friday 1st February, is the final day of the "Closer to Home" consultation about Hospital and Health services in most of Cumbria. I strongly encourage any resident who cares about local health services in West Cumbria (or North and Central Cumbria) and has not already taken the opportunity to feed your views back to the PCT to do so today. You can still feed in your views to the PCT at