Showing posts from June, 2010

Performance in the public sector

I know from personal experience that not all council planning departments are like the one described by "Matthew Walker" recently in the Daily Mail. (Hat tip to Conservative Home) - the article is here . His account begins: "Monday morning, it's 10am and I'm late for work - but there's no point hurrying because even though I should have been at my desk 30 minutes ago, I know I'll be the first to arrive at the office." Well, as a planning chairman and later planning portfolio holder I regularly held meetings with officers at 8.00 am. I never had any objections when I asked to have a meeting set up at that hour, and in the process I usually saw plenty of officers in the planning department at their desks well before nine. And no, I don't believe that people other than those at the meetings came in earlier than usual for my benefit. If a department was determined to pull the wool over the eyes of councillors they might possibly arrange something

If footballers had to stand for election ...

The tone or the press comment in today's papers about the England Football team, manager, and the FA reminds me of nothing so much of the way they wrote about MPs during the expenses row and for most of the time since. In one respect however, footballers have it rather easier than politicians - they don't have to go round knocking on the doors of members of the electorate and asking the public to vote them into their jobs.

Proposal for a new book

Military historian Kenneth Macksey wrote a very interesting book a few years ago called " Why the Germans Lose at War ." Perhaps he should bring out a sequel, "Why the English lose at football." You can buy the book he actually has written at Amazon here .

The Freedom of Copeland

Absolutely fantastic conclusion today to the Whitehaven Festival In the morning we had the first ever outdoor meeting of Copeland Borough Council to confer the Freedom of the Borough on the cadet forces and on Britain's armed forces. It is hoped that next year they will take up that right by marching through the town. Can I apologise to those who told me they had difficulty hearing the meeting. I have fed this back so that if something similar is organised in the future we can try to get a more powerful PA system. A wonderful and well supported festival continued, with magnificent weather and wonderful acts. I found the climax to the Red Arrows presentation, when they "Sky-wrote" the image of a heart in the sky above Whitehaven Harbour, profoundly moving. A great event and a credit to all who helped organise it.

Whitehaven Festival

Spent this afternoon with my family at the festival. Glorious weather, great attendance, looks to be another huge success.

Whitehaven Festival gets under way

After a traumatic few months for West Cumbria we have something to celebrate today as the Whitehaven Festival gets underway. This will culminate on Sunday, Armed Forces day, with a special meeting of Copeland Council held at the Harbour to give the freedom of the borough to the local armed forces units. There will be a Red Arrows flypast at the conclusion on Sunday afternoon. Details of the festival are as follows (with thanks to the Whitehaven News and the festival committee) Concert hours Saturday – 6pm-10pm Sunday – 4pm-7pm. Festival hours Saturday – 10am to 11pm Sunday – 11am to 6pm Fireworks Firework displays will at the harbour from 10.30pm to 11pm on Friday and Saturday Park and Ride There is no park and ride service this year. For details of other bus services please contact Stagecoach Full itinerary The full itinerary of events with times and locations is only available in the programme - price £1 from Richardson's shop in Lowther Street, The Whitehaven News office or volu

Feedback on the June meeting of Copeland Council

Copeland Borough council met this evening in the Copeland Centre at 5.00 pm. The meeting began with prayers and a minute's silence in memory of those who lost their lives on 2nd June. Highlights of the meeting included 1) This was the first meeting under a new constitution which is designed to create more opportunities for open debate and contributions from the public. It is important that these opportunities are better publicised. For instance, it has been made easier for members of the public to ask questions of leading councillors at full council meetings and a trial is being introduced of a systen under which members of the public can ask questions at meetings of Copeland Council's executive about matters on the agenda. We need to make sure that this is properly publicised because those rights are worthless if nobody knows how to take them up! 2) I raised the issue of proposed changes to the fire service in Whitehaven - it was agreed that the council's Overview and S

Westminster Hall debate on the West Cumbria shootings

There was an excellent parliamentary debate yesterday in Westminster Hall about the tragic events which took place in Copeland on 2nd June. This debate showed parliament at it's best. It can be read in full either at the Hansard website or here at ""

Peter Walker RIP

Hat Tip to Conservative Home for advising me that Lord Walker, who as Peter Walker was one of the leading moderates within Margaret Thatcher's government, died this morning. They quote the Worcester News as saying "The former Conservative MP for Worcester passed away early this morning at St Richard's Hospice in the city. He had been suffering from cancer. Peter Walker was MP for Worcester from 1961 to 1992." "Lord Walker held a number of Cabinet posts during his parliamentary career. He was Environment Secretary and Trade and Industry Secretary under Edward Heath, and Energy Secretary and Welsh Secretary under Margaret Thatcher. The founder of the Tory Reform Group, Lord Walker was appointed a life peer after his retirement as an MP in 1992. "Lord Walker was surrounded by his family when he passed away this morning." Peter Walker was one of the few who proved that you could be "wet" (e.g. moderate) in the political sense without being wet in

Feedback on Copeland Planning meeting

About forty or fifty people turned up in Whitehaven civic hall this evening for the public meeting about the new local plan for Copeland. Under laws passed by John Prescott, the new style set of documents is called a "Local Development Framework" or LDF. Formally this was a consultation on the preferred options document which will be used to write a "Core Strategy" around what sort of development Copeland as planning authority will promote. Examples of the proposed planning policies on which the council is asking for comments from residents are guidelines for where in the Borough (outside the national park) housing development should go. The proposal in the consultation document is that the council should aim for the following mix: 47% in Whitehaven 10% each in Egremont and Cleator Moor 12% in Millom 21% in 12 larger village areas which are allocated as "local centres," namely * Arlecdon/Rowrah * Beckermet * Bigrigg * Cleator * Distington * F

DC: today's budget is right for our country

David Cameron writes: I'm not going to hide it from you - what the coalition has announced is tough. But let's be clear, it's also entirely necessary and entirely unavoidable. Never forget - Labour left us with one of the worst economic inheritances imaginable. They racked up one of the biggest budget deficits in Europe - with the government borrowing one pound for every four it spends - and they doubled the national debt. Doing nothing about this isn't an option. Greece stands as an example of what happens to countries that don't deal with their debts. And we cannot afford to be timid either - take just small steps now and confidence in our economy will fall, interest rates will rise, we'll carry on with this debt cloud hanging over our whole economic recovery. That's why these difficult times call for such decisive action. And that's what this emergency Budget is about. Unlike the Budgets of the past thirteen years it's not a random shopping list o

Brown's last budget

The guiding intelligence behind the measures announced today to start Britain on the road to recovery will be George Osborne. But responsibility for the pain rests with Gordon Brown. Nobody likes raising taxes. Nobody likes cutting popular spending programmes. And although the coalition government is committed to making as many of the savings which have to be made in administration and bureaucracy rather than front-line services, only an idiot could imagine that a deficit the size of Britain's could be cut without pain. But it has to be done, because of the mess Labour left behind. Gordon Brown's legacy is a completely unsustainable fiscal position in which the government was spending four pounds for every three it raised in taxes. In which government debt was heading for £1.2 TRILLION. In which the interest the government was paying on that debt was more than it spends on schools - and was the fastest rising part of government spending. If this problem is not tackled we are lo

Public Meetings: planning for Copeland's future

A series of public meetings are being held on the new "Local Development Framework" which will replace the local plan and set the new guidelines for what does and does not get planning permission. The title is "Help us plan Copeland's Future" and any resident with an interest or a view on whether new development should be possible on particular areas of land in areas of Copeland outside the Lake District National Park should think about attending. For example, if you live in Whitehaven and think that housing development on one of the fields around the town near your home would be a good idea, or if you think it would be a terrible idea, it might be in your interest to drop along to the civic centre tomorrow night. Meetings are: Whitehaven : tomorrow evening (Tuesday 22nd June) at 7pm, Whitehaven Civic Hall Mid Copeland : Thursday 24th June at 7pm, Seascale Methodist Hall. North East Copeland : Tuesday 29th June at 7pm, Cleator Moor Civic Hall. South Copeland :

Osborne asks Hutton to review public sector pensions

Former Cumbria Labour MP and minister John Hutton has been appointed by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition to head a commission into public sector pensions. Chancellor George Osborne said the projected rise in the cost to taxpayers of public sector pensions was "unsustainable" and must be tackled. Mr Hutton's review would come up with "early steps" by September, with full proposals in time for 2011's Budget. The chancellor said Mr Hutton would be "clear and unbiased" in his review. Mr Osborne added that Mr Hutton's involvement meant that the proposals would have had cross-party input. In a Treasury statement, Mr Osborne said: "We must consider options for reform that are fair to the taxpayer and to people who work in the public sector. "I am delighted that John Hutton has accepted my invitation to chair the Commission. John is an experienced public servant, who I know will bring a clear and unbiased analysis to bear on this complex an

Labour's Legacy

The Conservatives have published "Labour's Last Will and Testament", outlining thirteen years of economic failures. Ahead of next week's Emergency Budget, this sets out why we must act now to reduce the deficit the previous Government left behind. Commenting on the release of the document, Conservative Party Co-Chairman Sayeeda Warsi said: "Let no one be in any doubt about the mess that Labour have left behind. We are all in this together and must realise the consequences of their 13 years in charge." This is Labour's legacy: Every man, woman and child in Britain now owes £22,400 We now have one of the worst deficits in Europe There are 2.47 million people out of work One in five young people is unemployed £3 billion on benefit overpayments and £10 million on tax credits for the dead Selling off Britain's gold at a 20 year low in the market. Sayeeda added, "The cuts that are coming are Labour's cuts." You can download the full document

Iain Dale decides not to stand for parliament again

I was sorry to read that my old University friend Iain Dale has asked for his name to be removed from the list of parliamentary candidates. I understand his reasons, which he explains here , but this is a loss to the Conservative Party and potentially to the country. For what it's worth I think that both the party and the country generally are becoming much less ageist: plenty of constituencies are willing to select younger candidates but the prejudice against candidates over the age of fifty is much less strong than it was fifteen years ago. Partly that is because many people are maintaining their health and vigour a lot longer and the selectorate have noticed. Parliament needs candidates with a range of ages, backgrounds, and life experience. So do local councils. And all parties need more people to come forward. (Hint - there are elections for Copeland and Allerdale Borough Councils next year. If you're a resident of West Cumbria and think you have something to offer, or are

False premises, patchy logic, right conclusion

In all my 49 years I don't think I've ever read a piece with so many hugely embarrassing basic errors which still staggers amusingly to a correct conclusion as the piece by Rod Liddle in this week's Spectator, under the title " Monty Hall will change the way you think ." I thought at first that Mr Liddle was making an ironic joke when he argued that what day of the week one sibling in a two-child family is born on affects the gender of the other sibling. Of course it doesn't: Liddle has messed up a gratuitously complicated conditional probability calculation. The same sort of mistake which Professor Sir Roy Meadow made when he didn't realise that being one of Britain's leading experts in paediatric medicine did not automatically confer any understanding of statistics, leading him to persuade juries to send innocent women to jail for murders which never happened. But the real joke is that although some of the details of Rod Liddle's article are comp

In praise of Cumbria's police force

I had intended to make yesterday's post "Time to move on" the last one in which I mentioned the shooting massacres. However, I heard a number of moving stories today, and I think there is a point which, while I have made it before, cannot be made too strongly, bears repeating, and should be the last word on the subject. On June second a large number of unarmed police officers, firemen, doctors, nurses, and other members of the emergency services knowingly put themselves in danger to do their jobs protecting the community or helping thne victims. We should be very grateful for the quality of so many of our public servants.

Judging BP

There are two equal and opposite mistakes to make in respect of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. One would be to rush to a premature judgement that negligence or culpable failings by BP were the cause of the disaster before any proper investigation has taken place into whether this is actually the case. There is a case to answer that some journalists, politicians and campaign groups in the States appear to have fallen into this trap. But an equal and opposite mistake, which some newspapers and politicians in this country have been urging on David Cameron, but which he has wisely resisted, would be to rush to the opposite conclusion that BP is innocent. There needs to be a proper investigation, preferably when tempers have cooled, into how the leak happened, why, and whether more could have been done to stop it and take corrective measures. This is necessary both to learn from what happened and reduce the risk of it happening again, and to ensure that any blame which is due is al

Moving forward after the Copeland gun tragedies

For the past week and a half the tragic events of Wednesday 2nd June have dominated events here in Copeland. All the West Cumbrian communities affected by the shootings are very tightly knit: everyone who did not personally know at least one of the victims of the massacre knows someone who did. At times the constant presence of the world's TV cameras has verged on the oppressive: at other times there have been moments of black humour. (During Prince Charles' visit a royal protection officer and a couple of local officers called down the manager of a TV business who was sorting out a TV connection on the roof of West Cumberland Hospital: the long drillbit on the Bosch drill he was using looked from the ground like a rifle barrel). And no, I'm not criticising anyone: they can't be too careful after what happened. This tragedy will never be forgotten and nor will any of the victims. The very commuity spirit which will enable Whitehaven, Seascale, Egremont, Gosforth, Wilton

Prime Minister praises West Cumberland Hospital

I arrived home after the Minute's silence today just in time to catch the second part of Prime Minister's Questions. Consequently I heard David Cameron's responses to a number of questions from Cumbrian MPs, and I also heard him give the strongest possible endorsement of West Cumberland Hospital. David Cameron was fulsome in his praise for West Cumberland Hospital, which he visited on Friday, and for it's staff: he particularly praised the work of the hospital in caring for the victims of last week's shootings.

Copeland unites in respect

The Ceremonies throughout Copeland today as a mark of respect for the victims of last week's shooting tragedies were very strongly supported. I attended the very moving ceremony at St Nicholas's gardens in Whitehaven: there were about 4,000 people there. I understand that the other six ceremonies held at the same time from Frizington to Millom were also very well supported by the local communities. One of the best things about West Cumbria is an incredibly strong community spirit. This area will get through it's grief at last week's murders, as it has come through previous terrible events, though people supporting one another. That was very evident today.

Services of Commemoration tomorrow

There will be civic services of commemoration at mid-day tomorrow, Wednesday 9th June, as a gesture of respect for the victims of the Cumbria shootings and their families. These will be held at Cleator Moor War Memorial Egremont War Memorial Frizington War Memorial Gosforth Village car park Millom War memorial Seascale beach car park St Nicholas Gardens in Whitehaven Everyone is invited to take part. You are advised to arrive by about 11.30 for an 11.40 start. Each service will culminate with a minute's silence at noon.

DC: Tackling Britain's legacy of debt

David Cameron writes: It's been a busy few weeks. I've been spending a lot of time with Ministers and officials, discussing the big challenges facing Britain and what we've got to do to sort them out. What I've found is getting into government is a bit like buying a car - it's only when you've driven it for a while, and taken a proper look under the bonnet, that you get a proper idea of the condition it's in. Nowhere is that more true than with our massive deficit and growing debt. For a while now, we've all known how bad things are. Last year, our budget deficit was the biggest in our peacetime history. And within five years, our national debt is set to double to £1.4 trillion. But what we didn't know for sure before is how much the interest on our debt is likely to rise in the years to come. We didn't know this because the last government refused to publish the information. Now we've got the figure, I can see why they tried to keep it secr

Standing room only as victims are remembered

Today's services to commemorate the victims of Wednesday's shootings were extremely well supported. I would not like to give a precise estimate of how many people were there this evening at St Nicholas's square, but despite the rain it was definately well into the thousands, and was standing room only all in the gardens and all around. It was a very moving ceremony.

Services of Commemoration

There are a number of services of commemoration today (Sunday 6th June) in various parts of Copeland to remember and commemorate the victims of Wednesday's shootings. These include an open air commemoration at the beach near the car park in Seascale at 2.30 pm and another at St Nicholas's Gardens in Whitehaven at 6pm this evening.

Giving the community space to mourn with dignity

Of course one can understand why, like everyone else, the media have been asking of Derrick Bird, "Why would he do this?" Of course, the tragic events of Wednesday have to be reported. And of course, after any such terrible sequence of events it is good practice first to establish the facts, and then when the dust has settled to review how emerency arrangements worked, both so that anyone who performed exceptionally well can receive due credit and so that any lessons can be learned to deal with emergencies in future. We should not be surprised however, if that inquiry concludes that nothing significantly different could have been done. As the PM said, you cannot legislate for a switch going inside someone's head. The events of last Wednesday here in West Cumbria have been reported to the nth degree. Some of those reports have been sensitive and constructive, one or two have not. Either way, four days on we are reaching the point where the world's press should draw bac

Service of Commemoration tomorrow

There will be a special service in the St Nicholas's gardens, Whitehaven, tomorrow (Sunday 6th June) to pay respects to those who were hurt in Wednesday's shooting incidents. The service will start at 6pm.

Matthew Parris on the Labour Leadership election

Matthew Parris has an interesting take on the Labour Leadership election which he summarises in the words " My choice for Labour leader? None of the above ." You can read it here .

Minute's silence on Wednesday 12th June

There will be civic services of commemoration from 11.45 to 12 noon at the venues below on Wednesday 9th June, a week after the shooting massacre, as a gesture of respect for the victims and their families. These will be held at Cleator Moor War Memorial Egremont War Memorial Frizington War Memorial Gosforth Village car park Millom War memorial Seascale beach car park St Nicholas Gardens in Whitehaven Everyone is invited to take part. Each service will culminate with a minute's silence at noon. Advice and information in connection with the shooting tragedy can be found on the Copeland Borough Council website here .

Cameron visits Copeland

Prime minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May visited West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven today to meet victims of the shootings on Wednesday. They then called at Workington police station to meet some of the police and emnergency services officers involved in the tragic events earlier this week. DC called it an "appalling tragedy" as more details emerged of the rampage. Cameron also hailed the "incredible" bravery of local people and emergency service workers caught up in the killing spree by taxi driver Derrick Bird,

The morning after

It is still difficult to come to terms with yesterday's terrible events. This morning on my way to work I passed the Morrison's car park where one of the shooting incidents took place and the scene looked completely normal. A few minutes later I crossed Duke Street, just around the corner from my office and a hundred yards or so from the first public shooting, and the only sign of anything unusual was the flowers at the taxi rank. The lady at the shop where I bought a paper and some milk had heard the shots but assumed it was a car crash. Copeland is a very low crime area and it will take people some times to come to terms with what has happened. But it is all too real for those who were injured and the families of those who died. We continue to remember them in our prayers.

The Copeland gun massacre

Words cannot adequately describe the horror of today's events in which Rowrah taxi driver Derrick Bird went on a rampage around Copeland. In the first public incident in Duke Street, Whitehaven, which is literally just around the corner from my office in Whitehaven Telephone exchange, Bird shot several fellow taxi drivers at the taxi rank. He then jumped into his car and headed south, leaving a trail of dead and injured victims at thirty locations including Egremont, Gosforth, and Seascale before finally turning one of his two guns on himself at Boot in the Eskdale valley. At the time of writing it is believed that twelve innocent people have been shot dead and twenty-five injured. (Postscript: the above figure for the number of deaths is correct - the gunman shot dead twelve other people and then himself - but the number of people who were shot but survived was eventually confirmed as eleven.) Whitehaven, Egremont, Seascale, and Gosforth are all very tightly knit communities where

Shooting Incident in Whitehaven

12.00 noon radio cumbria news There has been a shooting incident in Whitehaven. Apparently at 10.30am in Duke Street a man fired shots and several people were injured - unfortunately one person has been confirmed dead (bbc news site). A man has left town heading south down the coast and the police have advised everyone from Whitehaven to Ravenglass to stay indoors. 2.00 pm The police are now advising people in Whitehaven down to Millom and west to the Eskdale valley to stay indoors. It is believed that there are now 4 people who have died. 2.04 pm The police have advised that they believe that they have found the body of Derrick Bird in a wooded area in Boot. However the advice is still to stay indoors. 2.50 pm The police are saying that those who were sheltering can now go about their day to day business.