Showing posts from January, 2013

Copeland votes 6 to 1 for stage 4, Cumbria votes 7 to 3 Against

The cabinet of Copeland Borough Council voted by six votes to one yesterday to proceed to stage four of the MRWS process to try to find a more permanent solution to the disposal of the 200 tonnes of plutonium oxide and other radioactive by-products which are already here in West Cumbria. However, the county council's cabinet voted seven to three against continuing the process. The national media lost interest in Allerdale council's decision as soon as Cumbria CC voted against but I understand that Allerdale's executive voted by five to two in favour. Hugh Branney was the one Copeland cabinet member who voted against stage four, which will undoubtedly make him a hero in the eyes of some and a villain in the eyes of others. The decision did not split on party political lines. I've made no secret that I think it would have been in the county's interest and Britain's interests to proceed to stage four so that we could have established whether the geology

D-Day on nuclear waste

Copeland, Allerdale and Cumbria councils' cabinets vote today on whether the "MRWS" (Managing Radioactive Waste Safely) process should proceed to stage four, which is a five year desk-based study to see whether there is an area of suitable geology in a district which votes to proceed. * Voting to proceed to stage four is not an irrevocable commitment - we could still back out at any time up to the point when construction is due to start * Stage four will not mean intrusive large-scale excavations - it is a desk based study. * A number of people claim to know whether the geology is suitable. The simple fact is that not enough work has been done to allow either side of the argument to know this for certain, and the whole point of stage four is to start investigating the facts so that we can find out. * Those districts which are not taking part will not be affected in any way, shape or form. Suggestions that people in Eden, South Lakes, Carlisle or Barrow have anyt

Dealing with Nuclear Waste

Three councils in Cumbria will be taking one of the most important local government decisions I have witnessed in my lifetime on Wednesday. The Executives of Copeland and Allerdale councils and Cumbria county council will vote on whether to proceed to stage four of the MRWS (Managing Radioactive Waste Safely). Constrary to the outrageous and disgraceful scaremongering which the anti-nuclear lobby, stage four is a DESK-BASED study, expected to last five years, to evaluate which areas within those districts which vote to proceed might be more suitable contenders for a repository for nuclear waste than the present arrangements. Suggestions such as were made at the public meeting in Keswick a couple of days ago - you can watch them on you-tube if you wish - that large items of drilling equipment might be taking samples on sites where they dominate some of the most beautiful views in the lake district are completely wide of the mark. There won't be any drilling unless stage five g

Holocaust Memorial Day 2013

Today is Holocause Memorial Day - the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It is a day to remember all those who have died as a result of genocide or attempted mass extermination of human beings, be they Jews, Russians, Poles, Armenians, Gypsies, mentally handicapped people, Tutsis or Hutus,  Freemasons, or any other group. Details of today's commemoration in the United Kingdom are given here . In the run up to Holocaust Memorial Day, I have been reading about how mass murder and attempted extermination remains a major cause of death and suffering in many parts of the world. I can recommend the "Genocide Watch" website at  run by a campaign group calling itself the International Alliance to End Genocide, for anyone who is interested in learning about this - especially anyone who is under the impression that genocide ended with the defeat of the nazis. The worst threats at the moment are, unsurpisingly, Syria, Sudan, and

Parliament acts to crack down on metal theft

I said in the previous post that I'm against extra regulation unless there is a very good reason. But I'm pleased that one bill for which there does exist such a very good reason is making progress. ​The new Scrap Metal Dealers Bill has been passed by the House of Lords without amendment and, therefore, does not need to go back to the House of Commons. The Bill can now go to the Queen for Royal Assent.   I have been lobbying ministers for some time for tougher action against metal theft and one aspect of this has to be tighter laws governing scrap metal dealers.   The new Bill will see the whole metal recycling industry better regulated, including a proper licensing scheme for both fixed site and itinerant dealers in scrap metal, as well as increased police powers to deal with those that fail to trade lawfully.   The insertion of a so-called “sunset clause” that had been called for by MPs opposed to the Bill in the Commons was not agreed by the Lords. It means th

Bad news on GDP

The economic figures released today were disappointing with a 0.3% drop in GDP quarter to quarter. There are all manner of reasons why the third and fourth quarters of 2012 were exceptional but the fact remains that we need the British economy to get back on a path to solid growth and it is taking far too long to do so. This is absolutely not a reason to abandon the government's efforts to cut the defecit and get on the path to reducing the national debt - the more the debt goes up the more crippling the burden of interest payments. But it does mean that MPs and Councillors of all parties need to think very hard about anything they can do to help legitimate British businesses to invest and grow, to support exports, and not to impose regulatory burdens or stand in the way of development unless there are excellent reasons.

Whitehaven Forum meeting, Greenbank, 7pm on 6th Feb, includes Hospital rebuild presentation

The next meeting of the Whitehaven Neighbourhood Forum will take place at Greenbank Community Centre at 7pm on Wednesday 6th February. The frst topic of the evening will be a presentation on the West Cumberland Hospital new build and refurbishment project by Les Morgan, director of the New Hospital Porject team. The presentaiton will cover services included in the hospital, layout, timsecales, and interim arrangements. Other topics include the proposed Whitehaven Foyer proposal to provide housing for young people, and"Reimagine Rosehill" which is a proposed £4.5 million redevelopment of Rosehill Theatre. There will also be community updates, including one from the Neighbourhood policing team, and discussion of community grant applications.

Cam Ross R.I.P.

Archibald Campbell Ross, known as Cam, who was the Cumbria County Council member representing Distington and Moresby division for the Labour party, died yesterday. He was a decent man who worked hard for his community and was widely respected. By law, there cannot be a by-election as his death took place less than six months before his council term would have ended at this year's County Council elections. Rest in Peace.

DC's Euro speech

Here is the text of the speech which Prime Minister David Cameron delivered today about Europe in which he promised an In-Out referendum if the Conservatives are in government after the next election. "This morning I want to talk about the future of Europe. But first, let us remember the past. Seventy years ago, Europe was being torn apart by its second catastrophic conflict in a generation. A war which saw the streets of European cities strewn with rubble. The skies of London lit by flames night after night. And millions dead across the world in the battle for peace and liberty. As we remember their sacrifice, so we should also remember how the shift in Europe from war to sustained peace came about. It did not happen like a change in the weather. It happened because of determined work over generations. A commitment to friendship and a resolve never to re-visit that dark past – a commitment epitomised by the Elysee Treaty signed 50 years ago this week. After the Berlin W

School closures in Cumbria today 22 Jan 2013

The following schools in Cumbria are closed or have limited opening today: Haltwhistle Community Campus - Upper and Lower school closed St Benedict's School in Whitehaven is Open for Key stages 4 and 5 only. (e.g. years 10, 11, 12 and 13.) Mayfield Special School, Whitehaven - closed. Whitehaven School - closed for students in years 7, 8 and 9. Students in Years 10, 11 and the 6th form should be in school as normal. St Bees Village Primary School - closed St Bees Pre-School - closed

The Big Freeze

Thanks to the Gulf Stream we don't often get snow in Whitehaven - there have been many occasions when my children complained bitterly that the rest of the country has snow and we didn't - but we've got plenty of snow and ice this week. Even more this morning than yesterday I had to drive my children to school yesterday after the school bus was involved in a minor RTA (no injuries as far as I can discover) before picking any students up. This morning the car's air thermometer read minus two while I was clearing the windows of ice. Take care if you are out and about this week.

BT survey shows Olympic legacy continues

In the past, cities which hosted the Olympic games often ended up with a big pile of debts and very little else to show for it. So it is not surprising that, in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, a number of people expressed fears that the games might cost the British taxpayer more than they were worth and leave little lasting benefit. I don't in any way wish to criticise those who expressed those concerns in advance as it is precisely because people were alert to those dangers that more effort was made, under both Labour and Conservative & Lib/Dem coalition governments, to ensure that the games left a positive legacy. But now that we see the results, we can celebrate the fact that London 2012 was not only one of the most successful set of Olympic and Paralympic games in living memory: there is evidence that they have left a positive legacy of increased confidence which continues into 2013. This week the prime minister welcomed a survey of Briti

Miliband slated for putting up Energy bills

The leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, has been slated by Yahoo's "love money" internet web financial advisor on the grounds that mistakes made by Red Ed when he was Secretary of State for energy are partly to blame for the current round of increases in fuel bills. In a "Lovemoney" article called Miliband's mistake pushes up energy prices the analyst argues that a "sloppy mistake" by Ed Miliband as Energy secretary in 2009/10 was a major cause of energy price hikes such as the 8.7% by which E.ON's bills will go up tomorrow, costing the average customer £110 per year. There have been similar price rises well ahead of inflation from other suppliers. The article describes how "one of the biggest mistakes" in recent energy policy was made in dealing with transmission investment costs. It says that "The problem Miliband faced was how to transport the electricity created by new wind farms to the national grid. Expensive ne

Paperless NHS could free £4 billion for patient care

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that going paperless would save the NHS £4billion, improve services and help meet the challenges of an ageing population.   In a speech to the Policy Exchange yesterday, the Health Secretary described the benefits that would be brought by improved used of digital technology, highlighted in two separate reports. These benefits include: savings of over £4billion, freeing up professionals’ time to spend caring for patients, and giving patients more options alongside visiting a surgery in person. The Health Secretary outlined the following advances which could be made: Secure online health records - enabling individuals to access data held about them easily Paperless referrals – instead of sending a letter when referring a patient, the GP could send an email to the hospital they are referring the patient to Secure linking up of electronic health and care records plus the ability for records to ‘follow individuals’ (with thei

Take care if you're out and about this week

Do be careful if you are travelling in any part of Britain this week. After clearing the outside of my car windows and warming it up this morning it took a further five minutes to scrape the ice off the INSIDE of the windscreen. When it is this cold even pavements and roads which look safe can be treacherous.

Violence will not get the British Flag back up

One of the few encouraging aspects of the disgraceful situation in Belfast has been that prominent  leaders from both communities in the North of Ireland have been far more willing to make unequivocal calls for a peaceful political settlement and an end to violence than was sometimes the case in the past. For example, Peter Robinson, the Northern Ireland first minister and successor to Ian Paisley as leader of the DUP, said on television that the Union Flag will not go back up because someone throws a petrol bomb at policemen. Quite. What was depressing about the BBC report which showed him saying this is that such an obvious display of belated common sense was described as being seen by some of the people the DUP used to stand for as some kind of sellout. It isn't. It is a statement of reality.

Why election precedents should not be relied on ...

Hat Tip to Stephen Tall 's blog for pointing to this cartoon and article which explains in a humorous way why rules based on precedent to predict the results of an election cannot be relied on. The trouble is that in the run up to every election you can always find something which has never happened before which would have to happen for any given candidate or party to win. Sometimes the argument by precedent is a fairly powerful one - because what would have to happen for a party to win is genuinely unlikely. An example would this article on "Labour Uncut" which suggests that Labour's poll lead is a lot less solid than those people who are betting on a Labour win at the next election think, points out that in recent years no opposition has gone on to form a government after the following general election without being at least six points ahead two years before the election. They also argue that to have a good chance of winning the opposition has to be twelve

On the benefit cap

I take no pleasure in the need to cut benefits in real terms, which is what capping the increase in many state benefits below the rate of inflation effectively does. Capping people's income is not something which should be an end in itself or any grounds for celebration. The problem is that while the economy is taking a long time to recover from recession, the incomes of all too many of the people in work who actually pay the taxes which fund those benefits is also flat. Millions of low paid workers who are paying tax to support the welfare state have also had pay rises below the rate of inflation. It would neither be fair and right, nor in the long-term interests of any group in British society (including those who happen to be on benefit at the moment) if the real value of benefits were protected while the living standards of low paid workers who pay taxes to fund those benefits were not protected. This would be unsustainable for two reasons - firstly it sends out entirel

What kind of "Loyalist" throws rocks at policemen?

When I was a councillor I voted for civic buildings to display our national flag. This is not something which is a matter of partisan party controversy in most of the UK. But although I can fully understand why some residents of Belfast might be annoyed by the decision to limit the number of days on which the Union Jack is displayed, it is the genuine loyalists who should be most annoyed, and whose cause is most damaged, by violent protests on the subject. Peaceful, non-violent protests on the subject are entirely legitimate and part of the democratic process. But much of what we have seen over the past few days is none of those things. Can those so-called "loyalists" who throw rocks at members of the Northern Ireland police force, people who are pledged to protect the community and sworn to uphold the laws passed by Her Majesty's government, not see the utter contradiction involved in attacking British police officers in the name of loyalty to the British nationa

New online government services

The Government has published a list of the first wave of public services which it will digitalise by 2015   The list was announxed by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, shortly before Christmas.   The new digital programme will give the public quicker and more convenient services and will save taxpayers up to £1.2 billion by 2015 and around £1.7 billion a year thereafter. Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said: “Today we’ve set out exactly how we will make it easier for people to do things like apply for pensions and car tax online. As a result we will save people time, money and stress – while making the taxpayer savings in excess of a billion pounds and setting Britain up as a world leader.” The new digital services include: National Apprenticeship Service – candidates can search for vacancies and apply online. Employers will be able to advertise vacancies and identify candidates Tax self-assessment – a new, and for the first time entir

Twelfth Night

Traditionally today is twlefth night when all the Christmas decorations have to be taken down. We've just finished. It has been a good Christmas for us. Hope it has for you too.

Fisking Cristina Kirchner

The President of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who is facing a re-election challenge, has sent a spectacularly silly letter to DC, and wasted some of Argentina's scarce cash buying adverts to put it in British newspapers. Here is her letter, text in bold underlined , with a little light fisking (in parenthesis and italics) Mr Prime Minister David Cameron , (well, I suppose you had to get something more or less right) One hundred and eighty years ago on the same date, January 3rd, in a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism, (as opposed to the 20th and 21st-century colonialism which the 1982 invasion and your letter represent) Argentina was forcibly stripped of the Malvinas Islands, (This is a massive oversimplification. Britain had first claimed the Falkland islands in 1765. There was a dispute with first France and then Spain. The original British and Spanish settlers were withdrawn in 1774 and 1811, both leaving behind plaques maintaining their

Expectations management or fear fulfilment?

One of the more interesting sights of the past few days has been Labour-supporting pundits predicting a Tory victory in 2015 while coalition supporting ones predict a Labour victory. Paul Goodman, a former Conservative MP who is now executive editor of Conservative Home, predicted in the Telegraph that " It's two years away but the 2015 election is already lost. " A response came a few days later from Dan Hodges, a self described "Blairite cuckoo in Ed Miliband's nest" who has worked for the Labour Party and the GMB trade union but was nearly expelled from the Labour party last year for backing Boris over Ken. (He appears to have got away with it because Ken Livingston himself had publicly backed a non-Labour candidate a few months before.) Dan argued, also in the Telegraph, that " A Conservative win in 2015 isn't only possible: right now it's the most likely outcome ." Lib/Dem blogger Mike Smithson, founder of the Political Betting

2012 blog stats

2012 was the busiest year for this blog since readership figures began to be collected in May 2008, with 38,100 pageviews. In January traffic was running at roughly what it had been in most months since the 2010 election, but figures gradually rose during the year, and the December 2012 traffic figure - 3,876 pageviews - was the second highest monthly figure in the blog's history. (The highest was a spike of 7,209 in October 2010.) Because the human brain is built to find patterns, and does so whether they mean anything or not, I am unable to avoid being interested in the statistical happenstance that the blog had exactly 100 hits on New Year's day 2013. Logic tells me that this is just a statistical freak but the temptation to try to find some meaning in it is surprisingly strong. At the end of the day we are to some extent the prisoners of our emotions and a wish to find meaning in life - and this is for good reason because meanings are important, and often there real