Showing posts from November, 2011

Autumn Statement

Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his 2011 Autumn Statement to Parliament. Responding to the Office of Budget Responsibility's updated Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the Chancellor has set out details of further action the Government will take to protect the UK from global instability and the euro area crisis and build a stronger, more balanced economy for the future. The Chancellor announced permanent reductions in spending to ensure that the UK meets its fiscal targets, using some of those savings in the short term to fund infrastructure investment to generate long-term growth. Alongside this, he announced measures to help households and businesses cope with higher inflation and to ensure that deficit reduction is implemented fairly. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said: "We are committed to making Britain the best place to start, finance and grow a business. "The measures I am announcing today will help us to achieve this by creating an en

West Cumbria libraries future confirmed

Cumbria County council has been considering the future of local libraries and has held a public consultation. Following the consultation it has been announced that three West Cumbria libraries which had been considered for closure will remain open. Among the suggestions was the possible replacement of 20 smaller community libraries – including Moorclose, Seaton and Distington – with borrowing points in community centres, shops or other locations. However, the council has announced that instead of closure it is looking at the possibility of setting up friends groups for Seaton and Moorclose libraries to enable the community to enhance the activities beyond those which the county council can fund and provide. Distington was be discussed by the county’s Copeland local committee last week. There, council officers have suggested negotiating with the community centre for it to take over the running of the library. Bruce Bennison, county manager for library service review, said: “We are takin

Thoughts on Advent Sunday

Today is Advent Sunday, which means a number of things * The actual official start of the Christmas season, so all the people who have put up Christmas trees, shops selling Christmas stuff, etc, etc are no longer jumping the gun * The start of the church's year * The start of the Advent season in which the Christian church looks forward to the coming of the saviour. The bible readings set for Advent during this season look to the coming of Jesus - not just his coming as a baby but as a man, and his second coming. As such they include some pretty apocalyptic stuff about the end of the world. As I was listening to one of those readings in St James' church Whitehaven this morning, I was reminded of those people and sects who have used these passages of the bible to predict the imminent end of the world. (Canon John Kelly made the same point in his sermon a few minutes later.) And yet, however, frightening these passages can be, the people who use them to predict the end of the wor

Prime Minister's Questions

Hat tip to the Guardian for organising a set of "Prime Minister's Questions" in which various people put a question to David Cameron. You can either read his answers here , or hear them here . A sample of some of the questions and replies: From Piers Morgan, TV presenter: If you could relive one moment in your life, excluding births of children and marriage, what would it be? DC ANSWER: "God, that's a really good question. Piers, why don't you ever ask really good questions like that normally? I think it would be this holiday in Italy when I met Samantha properly. It was that sort of carefree wonderful time when you get together with the person you end up spending the rest of your life with. That feeling of happiness and a wonderful holiday with your family around you and the sun is shining and the sea is beautiful and you're with someone who makes you laugh, makes you happy with that sense of excitement in the future." From Richard Dawkins, biologi

Beating the metal thieves

It is comparatively rare for a Labour MP to put forward something which I strongly approve of, but it has happened with this week when Graham Jones MP proposed the Metal Theft (Prevention) Bill in the Commons under the Ten Minute Rule. Bills proposed under this mechanism very rarely become law, but are a useful opportunity to highlight a problem, and the one Graham Jones has drawn attention to needs urgent attention. I hope the government will take the opportunity to implement something along the lines he is suggesting. As Mr Jones himself pointed out, metal recycling is a valuable industry, it is a sustainable means of reusing an increasingly important commodity. But we need to put this industry onto a regulatory basis which does not provide an incentive for thieves to steal metal which is still in use. It's not a new problem, but it is one which has become vastly worse over the past few years. About twelve years ago, around the start of my second period as a councillor in St Alb

How not to create jobs in Copeland, part two

The free-for all chaos with parking which has been experienced in Copeland over the past few months in the absence of any enforcement has not been good for local residents or local businesses, so I welcome the prospect that Copeland BC might be about to do something about this. What I don't welcome is the prospect of car parking charges being raised. We desperately need to get more people into the town centre, and parking legally rather than illegally. This is not a good time to put up charges from either of those perspectives. I still think the Conservatives were right earlier this year to propose a period of free car parking in the Copeland council car parks and I bitterly regret that the option to do this was not taken.

How not to create jobs in Copeland, part one ...

I fully understand the position of those Copeland Councillors who voted to grant planning permission for the new Harbourside complex. For one thing, councillors should never lightly ignore the professional advice of planning officers, and in this case the officers had strongly recommended that permission be granted. Councillors have a legal duty to grant applications for planning permission unless there are sound and clear cut planning reasons for refusal: "we don't like it" won't cut the mustard and I'm afraid even "the voters don't like it" won't be accepted either unless the council can show that public opposition is based on sound and clear cut planning reasons. E.g. if members of the public have objected to a planning application on the grounds that that some aspect of the proposal would create a risk of death or injury, and the council can produce hard evidence at an appeal inquiry that this danger really exists, a decision to refuse planni

Power cut in Whitehaven

Woken this morning by our burglar alarm going off because of a power cut covering part of Whitehaven. We were without power for about two hours. It is extraordinary how you don't realise how used you are to having something available (in this case electricity,) and how dependent you are on it, until it is taken away for a while.

Northern Rock sale

I thought that Richard Branson should have been allowed to buy Northern Rock four years ago instead of nationalising it. If that policy had been pursued by the last government, the bank would probably now be in a position similar to where it is today but without hundreds of millions of pounds of losses to the taxpayer. Mind you, that loss was not incurred today. Northern Rock had lost about £400 million in operating losses in the four years since being nationalised - and if it is successful under Virgin ownership, the taxpayer will ultimately get back as a result of today's deal approximately what the previous government originally put in, less those losses. Nevertheless, I am delighted to see the bank out of the public sector and being run as a commercial enterprise, which is where it belongs. Governments of whatever colour have enough trouble doing their own jobs. They should absolutely not be running banks. I'm also pleased that the new owners have guaranteed no compulsory r

Youth Unemployment

The latest unemployment figures, and particularly those for young people, represent a tragic waste which demands the most urgent attention. The government understands this. To get young people - and everyone else - into work we need to get the economy growing again, which means putting fewer burdens in the way of businesses, especially small ones, and that government at European, National, and local level has to think very hard about how to reduce the burden of bureaucracy. Abandoning the attempt to cut the government's deficit absolutely is NOT the way to help get youngsters or anyone else into work, because the immediate result if the government appeared to be going soft on deficit reduction would be that interest rates would go up. And even if that did not push Britain into the sort of crisis which Greece, and Italy have been having, it would certainly "crowd out" investment, especially by small firms, and make it harder for them to create jobs. We also need to watch

Boundary proposals consultation still ongoing

If you have views on whether Copeland should have an MP who also represents the Windemere area on the other side of the highest mountain in England and the deepest and longest lakes in England, there is still time to participate in the consultation process on the proposals put forward by the Boundary Commission for England. Written submissions can be made until Monday 5th December. These can be made: 1. By visiting the following website: . and filling in the online form 2. By e-mail: send representations for the North West region to 3. In writing: send representations to Boundary Commission for England, 35 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BQ

On Remembrance Sunday

From "For the Fallen," first published during the first world war "They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them."

Sajjad Karim on the Democratic Deficit

Conservative Euro-MP Saj Karim made the following response to an article by Larry Elliot in the Guardian about the cabal running Europe. Mr Elliot’s article can be read online here . Sir Larry Elliot’s article on Europe’s democratic deficit (Guardian 8/11/11) may have been stating the obvious but we do need to debate it. The European Union has always had a problematic relationship with democracy. Ireland said no to the Nice Treaty in a referendum and was ordered to hold a second ballot to ensure victory. Yes, a cabal runs Europe, it would be worrying if their policies were working but they are not. The trouble for the average citizen is that governments come and go but the policies remain. The question ‘why bother’ is then asked leaving a vacuum for a cabal to survive. Turnout across Europe at the last EU elections was 43%, hardly a ringing endorsement. Democracy is not a given thing; it is a concept to create, recreate and enforce. The power of the cabal will be broken when we learn

Lest we forget

Today is Armistice Day, the 93rd anniversary of the end of World War One: Sunday is Remembrance Sunday. At 11 AM on both days we will remember those who were killed in both world wars and all the other conflicts in which people have given their lives for others. We will remember them.

Greek Tragedy

Apparently now Greece will not after all hold a referendum on the bailout plan. It is interesting that President Sarkozy has suggested that Greece might have to leave the Eurozone if they don't accept the bailout plan. I suspect this will be seen as bullying in some quarters, and it is also a tacit admission that leaving the Euro is possible. However, he did have a point - operating a common currency without some attempt to harmonize economic policies is simply not possible.

Art wronger, vita brevis

A cleaning lady at the Ostwind Museum in the German city of Dortmund has destroyed a work of art which had been insured for $US 1.1 million by mistaking it for a stain on the floor and cleaning it up, according to a Dortmund city spokesman. If I were a shareholder of the insurance company who are going to have to pay this sum, or if I were the private collector who lent the artwork "When it starts dripping from the ceiling" to the museum, I would probably be having a serious sense of humour failure about this. And whichever member of the museum management and that of the contract cleaning company which employed the cleaning lady concerned was responsible for ensuring that the cleaners were properly briefed should probably be preparing to spend more time with their families. A work of art is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. But honestly, can any artwork which it is possible to mistake for a stain on the floor really be good enough that in a rational world it would

Greece, Democracy and the Markets

You can make a case that the decision of the Greek Prime Minister to call for a referendum on the Euro-deal was an act of lunacy or a stroke of genius. Certainly the manner in which it was done has sent the markets into a tailspin and terrified most of Europe's heads of government. If the Greek government does call a referendum on the package, gets it out fo the way quickly, and wins it, the results would be almost entirely positive. The fact that there was proven to be public support for the package, including the tough medicine to which is part of it, would make the necessary reforms much easier to carry out. And the precedent of involving the public in such decisions would be very positive. However, the way the proposed referendum appears to have been sprung on everyone could perhaps have been better handled. And if it fails the results for Greece and some of the other Eurozone countries, and those who export to them - like Britain - could be very bad news. I can see this one is

Health and Safety

There are none so blind as those who will not see and that perfectly describes a poster I saw today with the headline "Job Killer" which quotes a statement which David Cameron had made about health and safety rules destroying jobs and businesses, and misinterpreted it as a suggestion that the government is going to scrap all health and safety employment rules. This is not what the policy is about. It is not, and never has been, the policy either of the Conservative party or the coalition government that there is no need for legislation to protect the lives and limbs of people doing dangerous jobs. We have never suggested that there is no need for legislation to protect employees, customers and anyone else who might be exposed to genuine danger if industrial equipment is not maintained in a safe condition with appropriate measures to prevent it from causing such a risk. Nobody in their right mind would suggest that a facility such as, say, the plutonium containment facility at

Government grant creates 1000 jobs in West Cumbria

The Coalition Government's Regional Development fund is to give a grant of £5.5 million to the Energy Coast West Cumbria, which is expected to create 1,000 new jobs in West Cumbria. This is in response to a bid which was supported by local authorities and local business, and the money will help businesses in the area to diversify. This is one of three successful bids to the Regional Development Fund in Cumbria. Another is for tyre company Pirelli to develop more environmentally-friendly tyres at their plant in Carlisle, and the third is £2.5 million for Gilbert Giles & Gordon to rebuild and refurbish their turbine factory in Kendal. This is excellent news for Cumbria and shows that the government is taking the problems of the county seriously.