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Showing posts from March, 2009

March Meeting of Copeland Council

The March meeting of Copeland Borough Council will be held at 2pm this afternoon in Egremont. It is open to the public. It will be interesting to see how open the Labour executive are to a full and frank discussion of the Audit reports on the 2006/7 and 2007/8 accounts which were finally signed off on Friday - some of the worst Auditor's reports I have ever seen.

Cameron: We will build a more responsible society

In a speech to the Welsh Conservative Party Conference, David Cameron stressed his desire to bring about “deep, positive and lasting change” by building a more responsibility society. He warned we’ve seen “too many of the ugly things” that happen when people duck responsibility – and promised a Conservative Government would try to put an end to irresponsibility: “That is our mission: to help build a responsible society where government leads by example and lives within its means. Where strong families give every child a stable, loving start. Where doctors and teachers and police officers are trusted to use their judgement. Where their vocations are valued and where everyone understands that we are all in this together that life is about ‘we’, not just ‘me’.” David explained that economic responsibility is at the heart of our plans to improve financial regulation, reform welfare, rebalance our economy and tackle Labour’s Debt Crisis – and that professional responsibility is at the centr

Copeland Council Audit Reports

Copeland council has just had some very damning reports from the Audit Commission in respect of the accounts for 2006/7 and 2007/8 which were finally signed off on Friday. These reports are in the public domain and should be of concern to local residents. The key Audit summaries for 2006/7 and 2007/8 are accessible on the Council website with links from the agenda page for the meeting at which they were presented. That was the Audit Committee meeting on Friday (27th March 2009). You can get there by as follows: go to the council website (link at right or type in www.copelandbc.gov.uk). Follow links for "Council and Democracy" then "The Council" and "Committee Meetings" and then select the Audit Committee meeting on 27th March and click on the agenda. Or you can go straight to the agenda by clicking here. There are links on the agenda page to each report. I particularly recommend the Annual governance reports for 2006 to 2007 and 2007 to 2008, and the Use

A government beyond satire

Reading today's papers I am finding the antics of the present government beyond a joke. If a popular novelist wrote a work of fiction in which this weekend's headlines had appeared it would be laughed off as too implausible. All governments make mistakes, including both Conservative and Labour governments. Although the last Conservative government did get many things right, the tories have had to learn some hard lessons about some of the mistakes that were made, which we have done. The extraordinary thing about the way the Brown government is behaving is that they appear to have copied and exceeded all the worst Conservative mistakes, as well as adding more than a few of their own. And as a result they are fast becoming a laughing stock, trashing the reputation not just of the Labour Party but of British politics, and dragging everyone involved in politics through the mire while they do it. As a candidate without a private fortune who is contesting a constituency well over thre

Matthew Parris shreds Brown's Euro-speech

Nearly a million and a half people have watched the Youtube clip of Conservative MEP Dan Hannan tearing into Gordon Brown after his hapless address to the European Parliament. So much so that it has eclipsed Brown's speech itself. I was interested to read Matthew Parris's take on the original speech to which Dan was replying, which he describes as "one of the worst speeches by a British prime minister it's been my misfortune to encounter in 40 years following politics." and "This hole in the air encased in a suit of clunking verbal armour? This truck-load of clich├ęd grandiloquence in hopeless pursuit of anything that might count as the faintest apology for an idea? Words fail me. They certainly failed Gordon Brown" If such a thing were possible, Matthew Parris was even less impressed by Gordon Brown than Dan Hannan was. You can read his full article here.

Audit findings on the sale of Whitehaven Golf Course

There was an objection to the Copeland Council accounts for 2006/7 in respect of the sale of land at Whitehaven Golf Course. In response to this the Auditor included the following in his annual governance report. "During the audit I considered issues raised by an elector in respect of the arrangements in place for dealing with a sale of some council property. I concluded that I did not need to exercise my statutory powers in this respect but I made recommendations to the council to improve its arrangements. The council have agreed with all the recommendations and implemented them with immediate effect."

Auditors slam Copeland Council

The Audit committee of Copeland council met today. The good news: a few days from the end of the 2008/2009 financial year, Copeland Council's accounts for 2006/7 and 2007/8 are finally being signed off, months behind schedule. The bad news is that the Auditors have made a series of absolutely damning reports on Copeland's financial management. Copeland is officially one of the eight worst district councils in England in terms of management of it's resources. The last occasions I read a report as scathing about the financial management of a large organisation as the official Audit reports on Copeland Council which were presented today, those reports were about Worldcom and Enron. Here are some extracts from the reports from the Audit commission. The "Annual Audit and inspection letter" begins as follows Key Messages "Overall, the council has inadequate arrangements for managing the use of its resources. In this respect, Copeland was one of only eight district

Save the Great British Pub

With nearly 6 pubs closing every day of the week, and local pubs under threat, Conservatives believe that the Government should be doing more to save the Great British pub. 33% of the price of every pint goes in Beer Tax to the Chancellor. Now the Government plans to increase beer tax further. We are calling on the Government to help save our pubs and safeguard jobs by: * Cutting taxes on lower alcohol drinks such as low alcohol beers and raising taxes on problem drinks like high strength ciders and alcopops in order to use the tax system to target binge drinking whilst ensuring that responsible drinkers and the traditional British pub are not unfairly penalised * Enforcing existing laws to deal firmly with irresponsible drinkers & premises * Trusting adults to make informed choices, not punish them for the actions of an irresponsible minority * Supporting the British pub as a vital part of local communities You can sign a petition to show your support for British pubs at http://ww

What the Governor said

Bank of England governor Mervyn King, appeared before the Treasury Select Committee yesterday and expressed his opposition to any further fiscal stimulus. He said: "There is no doubt that we are facing very large fiscal deficits over the next two to three years... I think it's right to accept that when the economy turns down and the automatic stabilisers kick in, so the increased benefit expenditures and lower tax revenues are bound to lead to higher fiscal deficits. And it doesn’t make sense to try and offset that. "So we are going to have to accept, for the next two to three years, very large fiscal deficits. But given how big those deficits are, I think it would be sensible to be cautious about going further in using discretionary measures to expand the size of those deficits. That’s not to rule out targeted and selected measures that may find those areas, whether it’s in the labour market, whether its in corporate credit, that can do some good. "But I think the f

Our strategy to reform financial regulation

David Cameron set out our strategy to reform financial regulation in a keynote speech in London today. In particular, he took head on and answered a question which a number of commentators have asked: how can the Conservatives, a party which believes in markets and deregulation, deal with a crisis in which markets have failed, partly due to poor regulation? His answer is that we don't want the abolition of markets, but markets that work with effective regulation simply of the things which need to be regulated, bringing "law and order" to functioning markets. The text of the speech was as follows: Bringing law and order to the financial markets "In Birmingham ten days ago, I argued that we have to leave behind the failed economic consensus of recent years, break from the past, and develop a plan to address the four fundamental weaknesses in our economy. I said that our routemap to recovery will mean solving Labour's Debt Crisis, restoring financial confidence, ta

Euro Team confirmed

The full slate of Conservative candidates for the North West in the elections to the European Parliament on 4th June has now been confirmed as: 1. Sir Robert Atkins 2. Sajjad Karim 3. Jacqueline Foster 4. Alex Williams 5. Greg Morgan 6. Anthony Samuels 7. Peter Wilding 8. Andrew Large

What Peter Lilley said about the FSA

I don't make a habit of raking over the history of ten years ago or more, but just occsionally Labour ministers should be challenged on their constant re-writing of history. Usually Labour do this so they can peddle scare stories about the Conservatives which have no more basis as a description of David Cameron's Conservatives today than the new Labour narrative of the past has to historical fact. A good example was Question Time on Thursday night, when Labour minister Tessa Jowell made a number of wild and inaccurate allegations about the record of past Conservative governments and the comments made by past Conservative opposition spokesmen. For instance, she said to Ken Clarke something along the lines of When you were Chancellor there were no controls on the financial system at all. (I've not used inverted commas because I can't swear those were the exact words she used, but that is definately the meaning of what she said.) In fact the Bank of England was responsible

The Sun endorses DC's economic priorities

David Cameron made an important speech yesterday about the difficult decisions the next government will face, whoever is elected, and the need to get public borrowing under control. His speech had a strong endorsement from The Sun today which you can read here. Two strong endorsements for DC from The Sun in a week: is Rupert Murdoch finally getting ready to give up on New Labour? If so he's not the only one.

Par for the course

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I heard that an Italian Professor, Ettori Gotti Tedeschi, has apparently nominated Gordon Brown for the Nobel Prize for Economics. But it's only par for the course. How could it be any more ridiculous than the joint nomination of Tony Blair and George W Bush for the Nobel Peace Prize ?

Public Meetings on New Nuclear Build

There were two public meetings today, in the afternoon and early evening respectively, at Whitehaven civic hall. The subject was the nomination process for sites to be considered for Nuclear New Build. It was estimated that about 300 people attended one or other of the two meetings, which were chaired by David Moore, leader of the Conservative group on Copeland Council, in his capacity as chairman of the local nuclear consultative committee. Presentations at the start of each meeting gave an outline of the local "Energy Coast" masterplan and the process for nominating sites. It would appear that three sites in Copeland are likely to be put forward as possible locations for nuclear power stations when the deadline for nominations closes on 31st March. The NDA will be nominating land at Sellafield, and RWE will nominate sites near Kirksanton and Braystones. These nominations will be followed by an extensive period of public consultation before the government decides which of th

Check your brakes if you live in Egremont Road

I also attended a West Cumbria Police Consultative forum in Mirehouse, Cumbria this evening. A number of issues relating to local policing were discussed. One alarming item of news raised by a member of the public concerns the fact that there has been within the last 72 hours a rash of vandalism of cars in the Egremont Road area of Egremont Road Whitehaven. Some of the cars affected had their brakes sabotaged. The police are onto this one: in fact the resident who raised it had learned of the problem via a document put out to local residents of the affected area by the police: he was asking if there was any progress in catching the perpetrators. It is very important that the dangerous idiots responsible for this outrageous set of vandalism are caught and put behind bars before the matter becomes a murder inquiry. If you live in Whitehaven and you see someone doing anything suspect to a vehicle which could be vandalism, call the police at once. And if you live in the Egremont Road area,

Feedback from West Cumbria Waste partnership

I attended as a member of the public for part of the West Cumbria MRWS partnership meeting in Cleator this afternoon. This body has been set up to bring together organisations with an interest in whether the councils in West Cumbria apply to host a new Nuclear Waste repository. It has been set up to advise on whether to make a "Decision to Participate" and will wind up when that decision is made. (It was an all day meeting, and I was not in a position to attend the whole day, so I went to the session on Public and Stakeholder Engagement which began at lunchtime.) Positive reactions - pleased to see a wide range of relevant authorities, interest groups and experts there, providing skills from economics to geology. Both Copeland and Allerdale councils were represented, as were Parish councils, and the NDA. The people running the session bent over backwards to get every view represented. They were also serious about trying to get genuine engagement with local people and carry th

Sun supports DC's call to freeze the licence fee

Today's editorial in The Sun, which you can read here, backs David Cameron's call for a freeze in the television licence fee.

Cameron: Freeze BBC Licence Fee

David Cameron called today for the BBC licence fee to be frozen for one year. Speaking at his regular Press Conference today, he said: “First of all, can I take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support over the death of my son Ivan. Sam and I were very grateful not just for all of the texts, emails and letters from members of the media, but for being given some space at a difficult time. I’m fully back at work now. At our last press conference here I announced the creation of an Economic Recovery Committee to advise us on economic policy. That’s now up and running - we had an excellent meeting shortly after the launch, and George Osborne chaired another meeting last week. At which David Freud joined the Committee. Whoever wins the general election, the next government of this country will need to make a clean break with the past and set about fixing our economy. I’m absolutely determined to do that, and it means speaking very clearly and frankly about what’s gone wrong,

Feedback from Copeland Council OSC Management

Copeland Council's Overview and Scrutiny Management committee met this morning. Main items of the agenda were reviews of the O&S Committee structure and the council's training programme. Councillors were of the opinion that to help our staff provide better service to the public we need to offer more customer service training to all employees. In relation to reported proposals for New Nuclear Build, the committee also agreed to forward a recommendation that the council would support better public consultation about such proposals at an early stage.

How a dozen people disgraced a whole community

There are plenty of people in this country, including large numbers of the indigenous community as well as more recent immigrants, who think that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. Nor is this opinion unique to followers of Islam: it is shared by plenty of Christians, Hindus, Bhuddists, Agnostics, and Atheists. However, most people who don't agree with the war have the sense to focus their disagreement on the politicians who ordered it, not the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who were sent, at the risk of their own lives, to remove Saddam Hussein and try to rebuild order in Iraq when that was done. So I have no sympathy whatsoever with the dozen or so idiots who demonstrated against the Royal Anglian Regiment in Luton last week. They were aiming at the wrong targets and their placards were silly and offensive. But there are two important points to make before people start over-reacting. 1) One of the differences between Britain and, say, Saddam Hussein's Iraq is that in this co

Eric Pickles on the need for Doorstep campaigning

Eric gave an interview with the Telegraph a few days ago which you can read here. He points out that to win elections you need to have a message which everyone can understand and relate to: the internet is useful but it does not remove the need for doorstep campaigning.

Swimathon 2009

I will be taking part in Swimathon 2009 next month to raise money for Marie Curie cancer care. Any offers of sponsorship would be much appreciated. You can do this online at the Swimathon website here.

Attack the guilty and leave the innocent alone

Some MPs and MEPs have brought disgrace on their country and damaged their own parties by misusing the system of parliamentary allowances. There have been unfortunate examples in most parties of inappropriate behaviour and it is the responsibility of all parties to see that those responsible are dealt with. This cannot be tolerated whoever does it. That is why David Cameron has effectively sacked a number of MPs and MEPs and he was right to do so. It is equally important not to blacken the name of politics further by going after the innocent. It is patently obvious that MPs cannot possibly represent an area like, say, Copeland properly unless some arrangement is made to enable them to live in or near Westminster when parliament is sitting and their constituency when it is not. Equally, there have to be clear rules to ensure that the payments available to support second homes are not abused. It has also been sadly obvious that some of the MPs - in, alas, more than one party - who have b

Throwing custard proves you've lost the argument

I am not a fan of Peter Mandelson and am inclined to agreed with those who think Heathrow was built in the wrong place and should not be expanded. But throwing custard over him was an entirely inappropriate way to make that point. It just makes those who oppose the runway look like adolescent idiots who can't win the argument - an appearance which is most unfair to those who have put the case against the runway in more constructive ways.

Harman to propose repeal of Law of Gravity ...

A spoof news report on the Daily Mash here suggests that Harriet Harman is proposing to repeal the law of gravity. Note that although the Daily Mash is often extremely funny the site is not suitable for children. Another comic website here can be used to send spoof letters of apology, supposedly from Gordon Brown.

Carlisle Council by-election results

There were two council by elections yesterday, both held by the defending party. The Conservatives held Belah ward with a majority of nearly 400 over Labour The Lib Dems held Castle ward with a majority of 161, also over Labour, who had been in second place when both wards were last contested. Full results were Carlisle, Belah Ward Con 700: Cllr Gareth Ellis elected. Lab 307 Ind 221 BNP 142 LD 79 Grn 61 Carlisle, Castle Ward Lib Dem 465: Cllr Colin Farmer elected. Lab 304 BNP 255 Con 143 Green 125 Congratulations to Gareth Ellis, who I was delighted to see elected: he had previously been a councillor in the marginal ward of Botcherby, and I think he will be an excellent representative for Belah ward. The Farmer family will have to be on their toes when recorded votes take place on Carlisle council: the newly elected Councillor Colin Farmer joins his parents, both representatives for Morton, on the council. (When a recorded vote takes place, the officer clerking the meeting calls out th

Of Helicopters and "Helicopter Money"

What an irony that news reports this morning about the Bank of England's proposal to enlarge the money supply, or "Quantitative Easing," were almost immediately followed by the story that the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has criticised the government for inefficent procurement of helicopters. The reason it is ironic is that what is now called "Quantitative Easing" is extremely similar to what used to be called "Helicopter Money." An earlier advocate of spending your way out of a recession, the economist John Maynard Keynes, suggested that the government could print large sums of money and bury it down mine shafts. The hope was that intrepid citizens would go and get the buried banknotes and then spend the money, injecting cash into the economy. There were no helicopters at the time he was writing, but his later "Neo-Keynsian" acolytes suggested you could give an equivalent boost to the economy in times of recession by sending he

Crucial Economic measures delayed

The main criticism which the Prime Minister was making of the Conservatives for the first two months of this year was to allege (wrongly) that our policy on the recession was to "do nothing." Which makes it ironic that, as William Hague pointed out at Prime Minister's Questions today, crucial economic measures which the government had said they would put in place to help businesses have been delayed. He highlighted the example of the Government’s loan guarantee scheme, which was announced in January and due to be launched on 1st March, but is still not operational. This flagship scheme, designed to get credit flowing to businesses again, has yet to guarantee a single loan – and, as a result, companies are going under and jobs being lost. William stressed that there was “a failure to implement right across the Government’s economic policy” and listed other Government measures that have been postponed: * The jobs recruitment scheme has been delayed until April * The mortg

West Cumberland Hospital to stay on current site

A meeting of the NHS Trust board has agreed that West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven should stay on its current site. For more details see the Whitehaven News site here or follow the link at right to my hospital campaign blog.

Neighbourhood Forum Meetings

Keswick & District Neighbourhood Forum Meeting this evening at the Friends Meeting House, Keswick (opposite Booths), 7pm Bransty & Harbour Neighbourhood Forum Meeting tomorrow evening (3rd March) at the United Reformed Church Hall, 7pm Agenda items include (1) Whitehaven Public Realm Improvements - Civic Quarter & Mount Pleasant. Sherrie Robinson, Project Manager (Whitehaven Regeneration) will talk about the planned improvements for the area across the front of Whitehaven Civic Hall and the Daniel Hay Library, to be known as the "Civic Quarter" and also environmental improvements to Mount Pleasant Park. (2) Traffic Update David Bell, Senior Traffic Engineer - Copeland, Capita Symonds will give an update on work to be commenced following the Whitehaven Town Centre - Traffic Regulation Order Review in the Market Place and other roads in Whitehaven. Plans will be available on the night. (3) Concessionare Fares Copeland Borough Council will have a display &am

Great minds think alike ...

Two days ago in my post "The Price of Freedom" I quoted Ben Franklin's words, as slightly modified by Chris Roberts, "The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance." Yesterday David Davis made the same point in support of the Convention on modern liberty. You can watch and listen to his excellent interview here where it was posted this morning on PlayPolitical.com.

3000 people queue for 150 Jobs

I am grateful to Dizzy Thinks, via political betting, for drawing my attention to this this story in the News of the World about Twycross Zoo, which advertised 150 vacancies, mostly for unskilled workers, and had a queue of 3,000 applicants turn up to their recruitment day. There was a four mile traffic tailback. It does bring home to you the seriousness of the situation, and how we need the right action to deal with it. It seems that long lines of people looking for work are common to the final months of unsuccessful Labour governments. Remember "Labour isn't working?"