Showing posts from April, 2008

The 10 tax fiasco

There may be those who are not themselves on low incomes and who imagine that last week's U-Turn has solved the problems created in Cumbria and elsewhere by the abolition of the 10p starting tax rate. Sadly, it has not. The concessions promised by Alistair Darling may have averted a government defeat yesterday, but they have barely begun to work out how the promise to compensate those who lose out can be kept of how the money required can be paid for. For a start, until the implementation of the promised concessions, full details of which will not be released until the "Pre Budget Report" in the autumn, the five million people who were adversely affected by this tax change will still be paying more. In a constituency like Copeland that probably means that nearly 10,000 people are currently losing out by anything up to £464 per family. Affluent and middle class people who lose some money but are promised it back in a few months can afford to borrow against that promise o

Valley Residents and Tenants Association meeting

I attended this evening's meeting of the Valley Residents and Tenants Association at St Gregory's & St Patrick's School. The main item on the agenda was the road and traffic position in the area, with concerns expressed including - 1) The One Way system in Foxhouses Road, Calder Avenue and Esk Avenue is regarded by many residents as having failed, exacerbating the safety and congestion problems it was meant to help. (The same point was expressed local the Conservatives when we did a survey canvass of Harbour Ward). In particular it creates bottlenecks on the few legal routes out of the estate, particularly at the junctions of Calder Avenue and Station Road, Station Road and Coach Road, and the Eastern end of Coach Road. 2) The signing priority at the junction of Coach Road and Station Road results in some drivers rat-running round The Gardens into Station Road 3) Another side effect of the one-way system is to funnel a much larger amount of traffic through Calder Avenu

Panorama report on hospital superbugs

I was very concerned about the information presented in the Panorama programme last night about the c-diff superbug, which now kills about 6,000 patients a year, more than MRSA. I have commented in more detail on the "Save West Cumbria Hospitals" campaign blog, see link at right.

The 10p tax row - the problem is not over

Gordon Brown's U-Turn on the abolition of the 10p tax band may have forestalled an embarrasing defeat in the House of Commons next week but it has not solved the problem which this regressive tax increase has imposed on 5 million less affluent people. Many of those affected may get a backdated compensation payment later this year, but for the moment they are paying the extra tax. Since the precise details of the compensating measures have not been agreed - and at least some of those who lose out through the abolition of the 10 tax band will not benefit from the proposed corrective measures - those who are affected will suffering a significant degree of uncertainty about how much of their money Gordon will give back in the Autumn. The fact that some of them will get some jam tomorrow does not alter the fact that all 5 million of those who lose out from the change are experiencing unnecessary government-inflicted hardship now. And in the meantime all the civil servants who are franti

European bodies infuriate both English and Scots patriots ...

It is ironic that on St George's day, European institutions have managed to annoy both English and Scots patriots. The European Union is proposing to set up European "transnational regions" which link various areas of England and the UK with parts of other countries on the other side of the English Channel or North sea rather than the rest of our own country. Rightly or wrongly this has been seen as an attempt to wipe England off the map by breaking the country up between three regions which also incorporate parts of other nations I'm not completely convinced that this was the intention - after all, the French are hardly going to go along with the break-up of France, which would also be implied by the proposals if you were to suggest that the transnational regions were to replace existing countries. However, it is beyond dispute that this is another PR disaster for the EU and it is extremely likely that these "transnational regions" will be yet another burea

Happy St George's Day

Today is St George's day. Just as Scots are right to celebrate St Andrew's Day, the Welsh celebrate St David's day, and Irish people throughout the world celebrate St Patrick's day, today we should celebrate the English national day.

What a load of rubbish

A Whitehaven man with four children has been fined because he put slightly too much rubbish in his wheelie bin and the lid would not quite close. We have had a lot of fierce arguments at Copeland Council meetings about the refuse collection service. My colleague the Conservative group leader, Councillor David Moore, has asked on more than one occasion that the council's policies om rubbish collection should not be implemented in a draconian way. No doubt we will hear more of this case, but at the moment the information available to me is what has been in the newspapers. On the basis of the story as reported, it appears to be unfortunate that David Moore's advice was not followed.

Swimathan completed

I completed the Swimathon on Sunday in one hour 47 minutes. Thanks to all those who sponsored me.

Swimathon 2008

I will be taking part in Swimathon 2008 today at the Lakes Leisure pool in Ulverston. I aim to swim 5,000 metres (200 lengths of the pool) to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer care and the Swimathon foundation. If anyone would like to sponsor me, please drop me an email.

What the papers say

A leader in today's "Daily Star" newspaper, quoted without comment as it speaks for itself. Darn Gord Thrashing Gordon Brown has now been accused of trying to fiddle the forthcoming local elections. Ministers are supposed to avoid making big policy promises in the three weeks before the poll. This is to stop them using their government powers to woo voters and gain an unfair advantage. But yesterday they suddenly announced new anti-terrorism measures, including 300 extra police officers and support workers. The Tories say this is shameless electioneering and have made an official complaint. But we would urge them to calm down. Mr Brown could offer the country free beer and 10% wage rises all round ... and he would still get thrashed at next month's ballot.

Post offices, Flood prevention, Nuclear plans

This afternoon was the April meeting of Copeland Council. Issues discussed included * the Shoreline management plan and flood prevention (see previous post) * proposed Post office closures * Radioactive Waste Management * A Copeland "Business Summit" * Consultation on a possible Town Council for Whitehaven * Next year's Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Copeland On Post Offices closures, it was agreed that a special two-day meeting of the Economic Development O&S Committee will be held on 16th and 17th May. After interviewing interested parties, including the Post Office Ltd, sub-postmasters, and community groups such as Age Concern and the Disability Forum, that committee will make a response to the Post Office on behalf of the council.

Coastal erosion and a prospect which does not bear thinking about ...

During a discussion on coastal protection and flooding at Copeland Council this afternoon, Conservative group leader David Moore raised the situation of the coastal road into Eskmeals, which is likely to fall into the sea within ten years if nothing is done. This is one of only two routes into Eskmeals, which contains a Ministry of Defence firing range, and the other road is tidal. As Councillor Moore pointed out, the Eskmeals firing range employs a hundred people and provides a national facility. There is also a considerable amount of ammunition stored at the site. If the coast road is allowed to fall into the sea and no alternative provision is made, that could potentially put those jobs and that service at risk. But how could we tolerate a situation where the emergency services might have to wait for the tide until they could get through. The idea of a fire raging near an ammunition store while the fire engine is unable to get through until the tide goes out really does not bear thi


I see that there has been some controversy over Blake's hymn "Jerusalem". At my old school, this hymn was so popular with believers and non-believers alike that groups of boys would sometimes spontaneously begin to sing it - for example at the end of assembly on the last day of term. Funnily enough, if you had told me that a clergyman well known to me would have been the person who started the controversy by banning the hymn from his cathedral, and asked me to guess who it was, I would have guessed right. Canon Colin Slee, now Dean of Southwark, who according to the media has taken this step, was previously sub-Dean of St Albans while I lived there. I should stress that he was always polite when we met and I am sure he was completely sincere on the occasions, which happened more than once, when he expressed opinions which I was very surprised to hear. If it were central to the message of "Jerusalem" to present as literally true the legend that Joseph of Arimathe

Comments policy on this blog

This blog is meant to be capable of being read by a family audience. I will not accept profanity on it, and neither will I accept libellous comments. I have only deleted about three comments from visitors to the site in the three years this blog has been in existence, including the one I removed today. I don't accept that blocking an average of one comment a year can be described as intolerance of disagreement. Nevertheless, I want to reiterate my policy on comments, which is 1) Any post which contains profanity is likely to be deleted. 2) Any post which I consider potentially libellous will be deleted. 3) Posts which do not break either of the above rules and which are signed will usually be left up even if I strongly disagree with them, though of course I will normally post a reply 4) However, I reserve the right to delete posts which I consider to make unfair attacks on anyone, and I am particularly likely to delete such posts if the authors do not have the guts to sign their na

Conservatives hold Millom Town Council seat

Congratulations to Councillor Brian Crawford, the excellent and hard-working Conservative candidate, who won yesterday's by-election for a seat on Millom Town Council representing the Holborn Hill ward.

Post Offices, Jobs, and Hospitals

Attended the Economic Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee at Copeland Council this afternoon and a meeting at Gosforth to campaign to keep the local post office this evening. The main item at the Copeland Council meeting this afternoon was the proposals to close eight post offices in Copeland. Councillors of both Conservative and Labour parties were very concerned about this. Other items on the agenda included * A report on "nuclear opportunities" with a presentation on job opportunities - which included the bombshell that there is some uncertainty about whether funding is in place for the promised new hospital in West Cumbria. See item in the "Support West Cumbria hospitals" campaign blog (link at right) * A presentation from local businesses on Whitehaven Town centre and what could be done to support more regeneration * A presentation and report from the Cumbria Tourist board with a ten year strategy paper for tourism in Cumbria The public meeting in Go

Set up a Royal Commission on MPs' and Councillors' pay

The constant stream of stories about what MPs are paid and can claim on expenses, and how this might change, is bringing both parliament and all MPs, including those who are reasonable in what they claim, into disrepute. Both the Conservative and Labour leaderships have accepted that MPs should no longer be in a position to vote on their own salaries. It is time the government stopped dithering and acted on this. And they should deal with the equivalent situation for councillors at the same time. There should be a Royal Commission to set the remuneration for both MPs and councillors. Something similar should be put in place for the devolved bodies after consultation in the constituent nations of the UK. To ensure that Commission members do not have any axe to grind, and cannot easily be influenced by the government, its members should not be serving MPs or councillors, should serve for one, reasonably long term after which they should not be eligible for re-appointment: they would also

The Dog and the Wolf

The late Poul Anderson once finished one of his novels with the following poem Would you know the dog from the wolf? You may look at his paw, Comparing the claw and the pad; you may measure his stride, You may handle his coat and his ears; you may study his jaw; And yet what you seek is not found in his bones or his hide, For between the Dog and the Wolf there is only the Law. No country's legal system is perfect. But laws are one of the things which hold human society together. And one of the marks of a civilised society is that the laws apply to those in authority as well as everyone else. One irony of this, is that sometimes it may appear to be harder to enforce the law if the people responsible for doing so also have to stick rigidly to it themselves. Sometimes it is incredibly infuriating when you see powerful people - such as developers - appear to flout the rules, and it can be very difficult for the authorities to stop them without flouting the rules themselves. That does n

The Great Bus Stop fiasco - postscript

We had a report today at a Copeland Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee about the enforcement of the new smoking legislation. So I thought I would ask if there had been a single complaint to the council about smoking in bus shelters, or any other incident where council staff had become aware of people smoking in them. As I expected, not a single example of a problem with people smoking in bus shelters has come to the council's attention since the new legislation came into effect. So as we said at the time, and the council eventually accepted, the idea of removing panes of glass from bus shelters to take them out of the scope of the "No smoking" legislation so the council could not be sued for failing to stop people smoking in bus shelters was completely unnecessary. Big surprise !