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Tuesday 31st October 2006

Home Office fines Police £2.5 Million for 'Harebrained' Home Office Scheme

Today it was reported that the Home Office will repay only £4m of the £6.5m police forces in England and Wales claim they spent preparing for the mergers abandoned in July. All but four forces are getting their payment capped at £100,000. In an understated press release the Association of Police Authorities said the low pay-out was "regrettable"

This crazy scheme to make larger police forces from former Home Secretary Charles Clarke to make larger Police Forces never did make sense. The majority of police work is local matters to deal with. The change the entire Police system in the country to with deal with the terrorist threat was always overkill and would prevented the Police doing their day to day job in the most effect manner. So it is good that the new Home Secretary has ditched these merger plans.

The ditching of these plans is where the good news for the Police ends and the pain starts. Now we see that the Police authorities will have to pay more than a third of the costs. This money that was intended to help local areas similar to West End and Southampton instead the Home Office is effectively fining local Police authorities for having the cheek to say Home Office merger plans were daft.

This is quite simply wrong and Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Nick Clegg MP agrees when he said :-

"This is a slap in the face for taxpayers and the police alike. Millions of pounds have been spent on this unnecessary, harebrained scheme, and now the police are not getting anywhere near the compensation they deserve for the disruption inflicted on them by this ministerial wheeze. Many local communities who always resisted the Government's attempt to destroy local policing will now feel even more aggrieved that some police forces are suffering much greater shortfalls than others."

BBC Report - Police merger payouts criticised

Nick Clegg MP - Police payments a slap in the face

David Goodall's news: Policing is a Local Matter

Monday 30th October 2006

The True Cost of Climate Change

Today a report by top economist Sir Nicholas Stern suggests that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20%. In a detailed 700-page study he also says the cost of taking action now is just 1% of global gross domestic product. The report says that without action, up to 200 million people could become refugees as their homes are hit by drought or flood. Sir Nicholas said it was time to act "internationally, strongly and urgently." Environment Secretary David Miliband has confirmed the government is holding discussions on tackling climate change using green taxes.

This is very good news if the government is actually going to take the problem of climate change seriously and take a vast range of measure to transform this country into a carbon natural sustainable one, such a country would have and greatly improved quantity of life :-

  • Lower heating bills due to the use of renewable energy systems built into the majority of houses
  • Lower congestion due to vastly improved public transport - including tram and underground network in all major cities and a high speed rail network to replace the need for short UK flights like London - Manchester
  • Lower levels of asthma and allergy illnesses due to lower levels pollution
  • Quieter urban environment as there is greater use of electric vehicles
  • Renewed British industrial sector as the new industries of distributed electrical power, renewable energy generation and eco-homes take a world lead
  • Transformed energy sector with large off-shore and smaller on-shore wind farms; Tidal barrages and/or Lagoons; and electric generators capturing the wave and tidal current energy that abound in our seas; greater use of Hydro-electric power systems and clean-coal power stations that use carbon capture techniques
  • Improve farming and urban landscape with greater biodiversity and a greater range of locally produced produce in the shops where fair-trade as been practiced at home as well as aboard.

My fear is that the governments record on this is bad. So far carbon emissions are on the increase and renewable and distributed power systems are fighting to get the government's attention over Tony Blair's preference for the tried, tested and failed option of nuclear power.

In a joint statement Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ming Campbell and Shadow Environment Secretary Chris Huhne MP commentating this issue said :-

"This report strips away the final argument for doing nothing: the science is clear, and now so is the economics. We cannot afford not to act now to combat climate change. The Liberal Democrats are putting forward substantial proposals to reduce carbon emissions - in particular through a Green Tax Switch - increasing taxes on pollution and the production of greenhouse gases, and handing the money back in income tax cuts. It is good that the Government and the Conservatives now finally recognise the need for stronger action to tackle climate change. But warm words are not enough. They urgently need to move from targets and rhetoric to backing real practical action."

We really need action now.

BBC report - Miliband draws up green tax plan

BBC report - Climate change fight 'can't wait'

Offical report - Stern Review on the economics of climate change

Chris Huhne MP -government must act now to halt climate change

Sir Ming Campbell - More than warm words needed on environment

Sunday 29th October 2006

Green taxes must really be Green

Today there is a Sunday paper article that tomorrow a report from Sir Nicholas Stern will say action on climate now will be cheaper than action later and that the government is taking this as the green light to increase green taxes.

They are right to think that part of the answer is green taxation and using the taxation system to provide incentives for people to choose the environmental friendly alternative when purchasing goods and services. The real danger is that Gordon Brown will see this as an opportunity to raise taxation. The overall tax burden should not be increased as a result of green taxation. Any increase in green taxation should be matched by a cut in other taxes.

The other problem is that the green taxes our only really green if they are designed in such a way to encourage the use of a greener alternative. Currently Gordon Brown thinks his airplane passenger is a green tax - simply put it is not as it gives the passenger know choice of a greener option and it does not force the airlines to think about buying newer aircraft with better fuel efficiency and lower emission.

For airplanes a green tax would be tax on the plane based on the emissions of the plane, how full the plane was and how long the journey was. This way planes that have higher emission levels would pay higher levels of tax; airlines would pay for higher taxes for empty seats on the plan and for if the length of the flight was not optimum for fuel efficiency of the aircraft. In general this would mean that airlines would be forced to think about the greener option of newer more fuel efficient aircraft; airlines would be forced to pay a premium for polluting the atmosphere to fly nothing by empty seats around the sky this would make them think about the routes and times of flights they offer; and a tax based on the length of the flight would enable the train to better compete with planes on journeys like London - Manchester etc all of which should really be train and not plane journeys.

Gordon Brown even thinks his vehicle exercise duty is a green tax well this time he is thinking along the right lines in varying the car tax according to the emissions of the car. However the point about this tax is that it should makes car buyers think about which car they are buying. If this tax is working people should buy the more cars with the lower emission standards. This should in turn lead to a drop in the sales of high emission cars, which will in due course force car manufacturers to think about what sort of engine they power the car with.

The positive effect of vehicle exercise duty based on car emissions will only work if the differential between the highest and lowest emission cars is enough to really make the majority of people consider it as a big factor when car buying. The current differential equates to about two tanks of petrol for the highest rated cars and simply is not enough a really make people think about emissions when buying a car. If the differential was £2000 then that would be enough to start to affect the types of cars on the road and the engine that powers them. This would work in the same way as the change in unleaded and leaded petrol taxation affected the type fuel that the majority of cars required.

So green taxes are a good idea but they must not be used to raise extra revenue for the government and they must really be green. They must act as an incentive for people and companies to choose the greener option when purchasing services or buying products.

Commenting on these reports that the Government is thinking of using green taxes to curb climate change, Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary Chris Huhne, said:

"The Green Tax Switch put forward by the Liberal Democrats is about taxing pollution not people, and handing back green tax revenue in income tax cuts."

"The Labour government's record on climate change is dire. Carbon emissions are up, and the only reason we are meeting our Kyoto targets is because of the accidental cuts in emissions as power stations switched from coal to gas."

Chris Huhne MP - Green taxes must not be stealth taxes

Friday 27th October 2006

Muslim cleric puts Islam in a poor light

Today a top Muslim cleric in Australia has put a poor light on the faith he is suppose to promote. Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilali's comments about women's dress only add the stupid comments in this country about Muslim women wearing the veil, he is quoted as saying :-

"If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside... and the cats come and eat it... whose fault is it, the cats' or the uncovered meat?"

In referring to women as the uncovered meat and men as the cats he said the uncovered meat is the problem and he added :-

"If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab [headscarf], no problem would have occurred".

After the storm of protest these comments caused the Sheikh Hilali has quite rightly apologised and has since said :-

"I unreservedly apologise to any woman who is offended by my comments. I had only intended to protect women's honour."

And he went on

"Women in our Australian society have the freedom and the right to dress as they choose."

The problem is some people actually believe his orginal comments are correct, when the real truth is :-

  • Women should be able to wear what they like, when they like, whether it is normal clothing on the high street or a bikini on the beach without fear of sexual attack.
  • Men who sexual assault women are in the wrong and to suggest that men who see a women without an headscarf on are bound to attack is an insult to every respectable man on the planet.

This time I am very pleased to see that the Sydney's mosque association have barred this cleric from preaching for up to three months and I hope that Muslim councils and association around the world will take similar action in the future to other clerics who take their time in the pulpit to preach disharmony and division instead of the love of God and your fellow man.

BBC report - Australia Muslim cleric suspended

Thursday 26th October 2006

White Paper on Local Government a misses the mark

Today the Government published its idea of how to improve local government. The key measures included :-

  • reduce the amount of targets set by central government
  • increase the number of elected mayors
  • councils to create bylaws with without needing central government approval
  • council committees to have more power to review actions of public bodies, such as police and hospitals
  • opportunity for more councils to become unitary authorities

But this is a long way wide of the mark the main four measures should be :-

  • Fair Voting System - essential for democratic renewal so the voters can see their vote is not wasted. Voting for one person to control it all sets us back to the days of Robin Hood and Sheriff of Nottingham.
  • Abolishing the Council Tax and replacing it with a Local Income Tax - essential for fairness in local taxation. And also essential as a precursor to change the funding of local government away from big central government and towards direct local taxation i.e. increasing local income tax rates and decreasing central government income rates to match. So you have no increase in taxation by you do have local government having control of their own finance and not central government who currently foot 75% of the bill for local government.
  • Returning Local Business Rates to local control, essential if local democracy is to have the freedom of action to deliver for the community. So that local councils and communities who invest in business can share it the success of that business.
  • Returning central government or quango powers and budgets to local government - this is essential if local people through the democratically elected council are to have a say in how their local services are run.

Commentating on this white paper Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Andrew Stunell MP said :-

"This is a completely wasted opportunity. There's no transfer of powers or money from Whitehall to town halls. There is no mention about scrapping the unfair council tax and nothing about making councils more accountable by introducing fair votes, as has been done in Scotland. This is an unimpressive rehash of tired and failed policies, rather than the radical devolution the Government promised."

Tony Blair appears to think that having one person in each area to sort out the problems is the main thing to do. Well this has not worked in central government with a powerful Prime Minister.

In all walks of life the best results are achieved by a well led team not a well beaten team.

BBC report - Councils to get fresh law powers

The Local Government White Paper

Andrew Stunell MP - Local Government proposals a missed opportunity

Wednesday 25th October 2006

London Borough to charge for residents' parking according to carbon emissions

Following yesterday's report from the Friends of Earth on how the Labour governments inaction is leading to increasing carbon dioxide emissions today we see some real action at a local level from a Liberal Democrat council.

Liberal Democrat-run Richmond-upon-Thames Council has drawn up plans to charge more for residents' parking permits for those with cars that produce higher CO2 emissions. The least polluting cars will pay nothing, and there will be a sliding scale for higher emission vehicles. Residents may also face paying more for second and subsequent cars. The proposals will be voted on in November.

Talking about this proposal Richmond Council Leader, Cllr Serge Lourie said :-

"Climate change is the single greatest challenge facing the world today. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand and pretend that it is not happening, or that dealing with it is up to somebody else. We must all start acting now at local level."

And backing the proposals from this one London Borough Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson on the Greater London Authority, Geoff Pope said :-

"I urge other London boroughs to follow Richmond's carbon charging in a drive to encourage motorists to switch over to low polluting vehicles. This is the sort of innovative local action that is essential to fight global warming. We also need much more urgency from the government to stop stalling over national environmental measures like road user charging."

These proposals are just the sort of local innovation in tackling Climate Change that should be encouraged particularly in those areas of the country where there is a high incidence high emission cars.

Richmond Council Press Release: Council to propose emission based charging for residents parking

Richmond Council's Consultation: Charges based on CO2 emissions

Liberal Democrat Council proposes green tax switch for residents parking

Tuesday 24th October 2006

Carbon Emissions set to rise to highest level since Blair came to power

Today from Friends of the Earth research shows that UK carbon emissions are set for a substantial rise. Friends of the Earth based their calculations on government figures and predicted a 2.1% rise in carbon emissions from 2005.

This report only highlights the government's complete lack of real action on Climate Change. This issue is the biggest thread to the country and the wider world yet it still does not really feature in Government policy in the way it should. To force Climate Change action into all areas of policy should not be a matter of party politics. The only party political arguments should be what Climate Change action is best for each area.

The simplest thing any government could do is to give financial incentives for environmentally good behaviour and financial disincentives for environmentally bad behaviour. This is exactly what the Liberal Democrat Green Tax Switch would do and commenting on this Friends of the Earth research Chris Huhne MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment secretary said :-

"The Government is being far too complacent about our own record on climate change. The worst offending sector is transport, where emissions are up 18 per cent since 1990. We need green taxes to shift our car stock to more environmentally-friendly models and ensure that aviation is sustainable, whilst using the revenue to cut income tax for the least well off."

This government must take real environmental action cutting money from coastal flood defences to boost grants for micro-generation is not real action is it just like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Friends of the Earth: UK Carbon Emissions Still Rising

DEFRA - 1990-2005 figures greenhouse gas emission figures

DTI - Energy Trends

Chris Huhne MP - Government complacent over emissions

Monday 23rd October 2006

HEWEB LAC meeting

Today it was the start of half term for the school pupils but back to council meeting for the councillors of Eastleigh Borough Council's - Hedge End, West End and Botley Local Area Committee. Normally we have a mixture if planning and other issues to determine usually today we had just planning matters.

After much discussion particularly on the first two applications all were accepted or rejected as per the recommendations from the planning officers although with some modifications. The first two applications were for of 23-29 Shamblehurst Lane South, Hedge End and the Gospel Hall plan for the Land north west of St Johns Road, Hedge End.

The first one centred on the demolition of 3 houses and the building of 8 houses plus 5 flats in their place, this is typical of a number of applications we see. However the consent asked for was only outline permission. The developer was not after detailed permission they only wished to know if the principle of such a development, the position of the new houses/flats and the access to the site was acceptable. However as with a number of applications the devil is in the details which we were not asked to adjudicate on in this outline application. This meant valid concerns on over looking could only be partly addressed by bans on places where windows would obviously cause a problem. The main change thought of by a number of people and suggest by me to the committee was the removal of a planned garage from the plan so that one neighbour did not look at a brick wall immediately before their dinning room window. After this the outline plan was approved.

The second problem application centred on the building of a Gospel Hall in an area designated as countryside. Surprising because of the building use, design and location there were no objections from the public or the council officers to the application at the meeting. The only real question from the public and the councillors is would approving this application set a precedent for other applications. The answer was it would not set a precedent and approving this application would not tie our hands as councillors to either accept or reject other application to build in countryside areas. After this the detailed plan was approved.

Planning matters are always a difficult issue and not all the public realise that as councillors we are performing a judicial function which can and has been overruled on appeal if we do not follow the planned rules strictly. Hopefully these two cases highlighted show some of the problems councillors face.

Hedge End, West End and Botley Local Area Committee

Friday 20th October 2006

Integration debate valid but start point is wrong

Today the employment tribunal case involving Muslim teaching assistant Aishah Azmi highlights the current problem about the debate on of the Muslim veil. The tribunal correctly said that the full veil was inappropriate for her working environment and that the Conservative led Kirklees Council had handled the case poorly. This mirrors the problem of the Labour Government it started a valid debate on integration by focusing on the some Muslim women who wear a veil rather than raising the general issue of how best to integrate a society whilst still enabling those who wish too to have a different aspect to their cultural identity.

In a joint statement from the Liberal Democrat shadow ministers for Women and Equality (Lorely Burt), Home Office (Nick Clegg), Communities and Local Government (Andrew Stunell) and Education (Sarah Teather) summarised the Liberal Democrat position well when they said :-

"There are legitimate debates to be had about the integration of different communities in Britain. It is right for concern to be expressed where communities are felt to be living in separate or parallel worlds. But doing so by way of an attack on the wearing of veils is about the worst possible manner to launch such a debate. As one Minister after another joins the fray, the risk of appearing to demonise a whole community grows. We strongly restate the basic liberal principle that people should be allowed to wear what they wish, unmolested by the Government, as long as it does not prevent a person carrying out their public duties and responsibilities."

In my view the way to start such a debate would be to start a series of talks with various religious and community leaders about the how best to break down social barriers between communities. The opening questions of the discussion should be :-

  • What cultural practices by other people cause a problem for you to integrate more fully ?
  • Are you aware that some of your cultural practices cause a problem for other people to except you more ?

The resulting discussions from these two questions could then lead to a greater understanding and hopefully and greater level of tolerance by both sides of the debate. These discussions should be :-

  • high profile
  • done as a series of meetings
  • should happen at both a national and where applicable local level too
  • a summary of the discussions should be agreed and published after each meeting.

There is a debate to be had but a series of one sided attacks from governments ministers is not the correct way to start it.

BBC report - MP tells veil woman 'let it go'

Thursday 19th October 2006

People wait for nursing care and nurses wait for job

Today a survey from by the Royal College of Nursing has found newly qualified nurses cannot find jobs, as almost three quarters of newly qualified nurses are still searching for a permanent job months after graduating.

Yet again another report highlights the madness of the current NHS system. The system has people waiting for hospital care caused by a lack of hospital space combined with a lack of nurses and doctors. To partly tackle this more nurses are been trained yet when they are qualified after years of training there is no job for them.

Steve Webb Liberal Democrat shadow Heath secretary commenting on the survey summarised this particularly well when he said :-

"They were encouraged to train by this Government, yet ministers have let the NHS deteriorate to such a point that they are now unable to find jobs. This is a waste of money and a criminal waste of talent. Many nurses will now be driven away from the job they spent years training for."

BBC report - Most new nurses still job hunting

RCN press release - Majority of new nurses unable to find jobs in the NHS

David Goodall's Views: Health - NHS

Wednesday 18th October 2006

Millions Register Opposition to Post Office Closures

Today the opposition of four million people to post office closures were registered with the Government when Britain's biggest domestic petition was handed into Downing Street. The petition is the focus of a rally by thousands of postmasters demanding urgent action to safeguard the country's post offices.

The government argument is that to keep the Post Office network up and running would require large amounts of government subsidy and therefore the network must be shut down to it's barebones. This is typical old Labour thinking that any industry can only be saved using subsidy when the cause of the problem may be nearer to home. i.e. a lack of investment in infrastructure combined with excess red tape and a lack of imagination in what a vast government network of local offices could offer in terms of national and local government service.

Ed Davey MP Shadow Trade and Industry commenting on the petition said:

"The Government has presided over a decimation of the post office network. Now it seems their solution to 'stabilise' the Post Office will involve thousands more branch closures, bringing hardship and financial exclusion to millions. We are the only party to propose a viable, forward thinking and long term solution that will protect the Post Office network. I am delighted with the level of cross-party support we received for the Liberal Democrat opposition day debate on Monday in support of the Post Office and Royal Mail networks."

Both Labour and Conservative governments have reduced the Post Office network and neither has taken the steps to revitalise this important network, only the Liberal Democrats have a plan that will not only keep the Post Office network in existence but will also improve the service.

Guardian: Millions register opposition to post office closures

House of Commons - Debate on Post Office

Liberal Democrat Campaign: Save our Post Offices

Local post offices disappearing at an alarming rate

Tuesday 17th October 2006

Major Threat to UK but Labour and Tories vote to take no real action

Last night Labour MPs voted down a Liberal Democrat call for a greener tax system, with the Conservatives abstaining, despite David Cameron's claims that the environment is a priority for him. Yesterday in parliament it was opposition day to put motion to house so Liberal democrats tabled a simple motion called for a greener and fairer edge to the country's taxation system. The day motion called on the Government :-

"to increase green taxes on new high-emission cars and on aviation while using revenue generated to cut direct taxes, particularly on low earners, so that there is no overall rise in the burden of taxation."

Commenting on the debate Chris Huhne MP, Shadow Environment Secretary said:-

"Yesterday's debate showed how little the other parties have to offer on the environment. For all David Cameron's rhetoric, the Conservatives have not put forward a single specific policy on the environment. While Labour has been going backwards and has presided over a rise in carbon emissions. This makes the Liberal Democrats' Green Tax Switch campaign all the more important. It is vital that we continue to press the case for practical proposals to change our behaviour, benefiting those who change the most and making our society more sustainable."

I agree with this if this government really wishes to tackle climate change it will involve in a change in peoples behaviour and this will only happen if there is both a financial carrot and stick. To pretend otherwise is just not living in the real world and is the politics of soft options. Real government requires that a government make real decisions with the intent on really engaging with the problem and not just put a good spin on superficial policy changes.

Liberal Democrat: Green Tax Switch campaign

House of Commons - Debate on Green Taxes

Monday 16th October 2006

Important Domestic Violence report highlights Police best practice

Over the past couple of years the Police have run a number of campaigns to tackle the important issue of domestic violence and today the Home Office published a report into the "Lessons Learned from the Domestic Violence Enforcement Campaigns 2006".

It highlights a number of issues:-

  • Domestic violence accounts for approximately 15% of violent crime nationally, accounting for 31% of all violence against women and 5% of all violence against men.
  • On average, two women a week are killed by a current or former male partner.
  • One in four women will be a victim of DV in their lifetime and women experience a greater risk of repeat victimisation and serious injury.
  • Eighty-nine per cent of those suffering four or more incidents of DV are women.
  • One incident of DV is reported to the police every minute.

The report looked at three main areas were practical steps could be taken:

  • 1. improved investigation at call receipt/control room.
  • 2. improved evidence gathering at the scene.
  • 3. targeting of offenders.

The report makes 14 specific recommendations and highlights a number of best practices produced from different Police Basic Command Units around the country. These recommendations should all be implemented and the best practice ideas spread to all Police command units who can then adapted them to their local situation.

However where the report calls for specialised units and officers specifically to tackle anti-domestic violence this should result in new recruitment and extra officers and not just a reduction in the normal beat/shift officers so they can take on new roles. The Home Secretary should not implement this report by robbing Peter to pay Paul. Extra money and Police officers should be produced to tackle this problem which is after all 15% of all violent crime in this country.

And finally I will add I am recommending this report because of its quality and not just because my brother Martin is one of the main authors. Although that as given me an extra insight into the hours of hard work and travelling that the team put into producing the report.

Home Office: Domestic Volence Press release

Home Office report - Lessons Learned from the Domestic Violence Enforcement Campaigns 2006

David Goodall's Views: Police

Friday 13th October 2006

UK presence makes Iraq situation worst

The Head of the British Army Chief of the General Staff Sir Richard Dannatt has said today that:

  • The presence of British troops in Iraq exacerbates the security problems
  • And those British troops should get out some time soon

This news from Sir Richard Dannatt is only really news for Tony Blair and George Bush for many other serious commentators have been saying this for months. Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne said exactly the same during the Leadership Question Time back in February.

The problem is Iraq was invaded with only real detailed plans for the initial toppling of Saddam Hussein and none for the hard work for of making the peace afterwards:-

What should have happened :-

  • The UN should have taken over the peace keeping/making operation from the start.
  • The countries of the invading coalition should have handed over to a security UN force made up mainly troops from Muslim countries and then left.
  • The main work of the UN would have been reconstruction of the infrastructure which should have been complete at a high tempo.
  • The reconstruction work should have been complete by Iraqi and not US firms as creating mass unemployment in the way the invasion did also created too many idle hands.

What needs to happen now :-

  • The UN should take over the peace keeping/making operation in support of the legitimately elected government of Iraq.
  • The countries of the invading coalition should hand over the security operation to a UN force made up made up of troops from Muslim countries acceptable to the government of Iraq.
  • After handover to the UN force the invading coalition forces should then leave completely as their presence only acts to provide targets and acts a recruitment aid to the anti-government forces.
  • This over handover process should take about three months and not longer than 6 months.
  • The main work of the UN other than security should been reconstruction of the infrastructure. It is a scandal that years after invasion basic electric and water supplies have still not been restored.
  • The reconstruction work should be completed at high tempo and in high profile manner with at least the same emphasis as the security operation if not a greater emphasis.
  • The reconstruction work should completed by Iraqi firms and paid for by Iraqi oil plus donations from the US and UK as creating mass unemployment in the way the invasion did also created too many idle hands. And as the old saying goes idle hands make mischief.

And today Sir Ming Campbell leader of the Liberal Democrat has again commenting on the remarks from Sir Richard called for a change of strategy as he said:

"If you take Richard Dannatt's comments at face value, he is talking months, not years, as the length of time before British troops withdraw from Iraq. Brick by brick government policy on Iraq is collapsing. There is no doubt that there is a slide towards civil war. There is a desperate need for a new strategy led not by the US, but by the UN, providing for a peace process with a reinvigorated reconstruction programme and concerted international and regional engagement"

All we can do now is hope that Bush and Blair start to listen to the voices of reason.

BBC report - A chasm impossible to close?

Sir Ming Campbell - Iraq policy is collapsing

Thursday 12th October 2006

Ruth Kelly rejects local planning decision

As if to prove that country is far too centrally run and controlled today the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Ruth Kelly, has approved the Wildern Mill flats scheme, against the wishes of the local Borough Council and the wishes of the local people.

The concerns over the parking scheme were completely ignored by the Inspector who heard the Planning Appeal at Eastleigh's Civic Offices in June who recommended approval to the Secretary of State. Why were these concerns ignored ? Well the plan provided the correct number of required spaces so strictly speaking this meets planning rules. The fact that the placement car park will probably mean that residents of the new housing scheme will park on roads inside and outside the site rather than in the car park is not Ruth Kelly's concern, as she will not have to deal with the problems that arise or answer to the people for her actions.

Speaking on the matter local Wildern councillor and Eastleigh Borough council leader, Keith House said :-

"Amazingly, almost all of the evidence put before the Appeal by the Council, by local residents and by myself was discounted by the Inspector, and the Secretary of State has refused to even consider additional contributions to local infrastructure or affordable housing. This appears to me to be in clear breach of national government policy, but the drive by the government to approve housing schemes on industrial sites seems to have won the day."

This decision is a real pity for the people of the area and the very reasonable arguments put by the TAGRA residents group. I am sure that the Borough Council officers and members will now work hard to ensure that if the scheme is developed, the developer is made to stick to all the 29 conditions imposed on the scheme by the Secretary of State's Inspector, however these conditions only cover some and by no means all of the issues raised by residents and the Council.

Wednesday 11th October 2006

Police Community Support Officers for West End before Christmas

Today while England's football team were losing to Croatia, West End Parish council had their normal monthly meeting at which the local Police beat officer reported the crime statistics for the period. The statistics were low and he had some more good news the Police Community Support Officers for West End should be in post before Christmas. This will give him extra support on the ground and he very much welcomed this assistance.

To keep the Support Officers local Parish and Town Councils across the borough are paying for the cost of the officers. In the areas where there is no Parish and Town Council the Borough Council is acting as a Parish Council and paying the cost of the officers.

These officers will provide the much needed physical Police presence and can hopefully assist with problems round the area like the current problems of anti-social behaviour in Telegraph Woods.

Hampshire Constabulary: Police Community Support Officers

David Goodall's Views: Police

Tuesday 10th October 2006

Health Service must be local

Today there is yet another report on the state of the nations health which shows that the NHS must be more locally controlled and run as there are wide local and regional variations in health needs, Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Steve Webb MP said :-

"The huge variations in health outcomes across Britain show the need for public health policies tailored to local circumstances. All too often the NHS has been run as a single monolithic organisation from Whitehall. It is time to free up local NHS managers and clinicians to tailor the service that they provide to the particular needs of the local area."

This highlights again that a Minster or quango sitting in London can not possibly determine the budgets of every health provider in the land. The budgets must be driven from the bottom up and not the top down. It is insane to continue with the present finance system where the government centrally determines the budget, sets targets and then blames the health providers when they meet the health targets but overshoot the budgets.

The government can not be both poacher and gamekeeper.

BBC - North-south health divide remains

Steve Webb MP - Public health must be priority not afterthought

David Goodall's Views: Health - NHS

Monday 9th October 2006

NHS health medicine from Cameron is the wrong answer

Today Conservative party leader David Cameron has called on Tony Blair to back his plans for an independent NHS whilst addressing the King's Fund. Mr Cameron said he will be seeking cross-party support for a NHS Independence Bill and that a "new direction" is needed. Well Mr Cameron you will not get cross party support.

The NHS is not the same as the Bank of England, independence from the one politician involved in its running will not solve the problems of the NHS as Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Steve Webb MP said :-

  • "David Cameron seems to be asking the right questions, but coming up with the wrong answers."
  • "Stopping political interference in the NHS is essential, but we shouldn't be handing power over to another unelected quango - independent of politicians, but accountable to no one."
  • "The real challenge is to create a locally accountable NHS, so that communities have a genuine say in the running of their local health service."
  • "Without connecting patients' needs to the shape of their health service, any independence will create another layer of unelected bureaucracy."

And Steve is right the NHS is too centrally controlled simply giving that central control to someone else will not help and that that body will be unaccountable to the public it serves will make things worst. As a country we need a health service that is responsive the needs of local people. This will only happen when it is accountable to local people and run by local people who also use it.

BBC - Cameron wants 'independent' NHS

Steve Webb MP - NHS must be accountable to communities not quangos

David Goodall's Views: Health - NHS

Thursday 5th October 2006

Labour prison mismanagement hits new highs

Today it is reported that the prisons in England and Wales are almost full and are set to burst next week with room for only about 200 more inmates left. Now at crisis point the government is looking at doing something. Its options now at this late stage are limited and they include early prisoner releases and deporting some foreign inmates, both of which amount to the same thing let prisoners off and let them go home plus the added bonus for foreign inmates that the British Tax payer will pay the air fare too !!

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Nick Clegg MP says:-

"This crisis is the result of inexcusable incompetence right at the top of the Labour Government. It is a huge embarrassment for John Reid who, despite all his tough talk, has sat on his hands for nearly six months while a serious problem became an emergency. Labour have thrown thousands of people into prison without either creating the necessary capacity or adopting the measures needed to stop them re-offending after they're released. As a result, prisons are acting as a revolving door, overflowing with thousands of repeat offenders."

If the government real was tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime they would do something to reduce re-offending. About 60% of prisoners are reconvicted with 2 years of release and 50% of all prisoners are at or below the reading level for an 11-year old, this rises to 66% for maths and 80% for writing. Prisoners need:-

  • compulsory education often missed earlier in life,
  • compulsory drug treatment which continues on release.

Non-violent offenders should be compelled to 'pay back' to victims and communities by carrying out community service chosen by local people. One example of this is a pilot car repair scheme by the Liberal Democrat council in Liverpool that reduced 'joyriding' re-offences from 70% to just 7%.

BBC News - Prisons reaching 'bursting point'

BBC In Depth - Prisons in the UK

Nick Clegg MP - Governments prison crisis jeopardises public safety

Wednesday 4th October 2006

Tax and benefit system traps the poorest in society

Today the Institute for Fiscal Studies released a report funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which concluded that despite the Labour government's stated aim to 'make work pay', Gordon Brown's over complex system of means tested tax credits and benefits has weakened incentives for many people to stay in work and increase their earnings. Its key finding was that :-

"The weakest work incentives are faced by people on low incomes who face having their means-tested benefits or tax credits withdrawn if they increase their income. Such disincentives are much greater than those imposed on high-income people through higher rates of income tax. Over two million workers in Britain stand to lose more than half of any increase in earnings to taxes and reduced benefits. Some 160,000 would keep less than 10p of each extra £1 they earned."

This result means effective income tax rates in excess of 50% for over 2,000,000 of the poorest people in Britain and effective income tax rates for over 90% for over 150,000 people. This is supposed to be a Labour government the party of the ordinary working man and woman. Well it is not, with its operation of the tax credit and benefits system, plus its failure to reform the child support agency, the Labour party after nine years in office is the party that kicks someone when they are down. Commenting this report, Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, David Laws MP said:

  • "It is inevitable that Labour's obsession with means testing and an increasingly complex benefits system has led to reduced work incentives."
  • "Britain should be a land of opportunity, not a state of dependency."
  • "It is insane that low paid workers can lose over half of any increase in their earnings through tax and the withdrawal of benefits."
  • "It is critical that we simplify our tax and benefits system to make it fairer and better understood. Citizens need to know that by working harder they can improve their quality of life."

I agree with these statements in this country we need a simpler and fairer income tax system that is properly integrated with the benefits system so that people keep more so of their hard earned money than the state takes away. This is needed to encourage people to improve their talents to the best of their ability. This talent is currently trapped by this government made poverty trap of a taxation system.

It is only by promoting entrepreneurial people and enterprise that as a country we can build a more prosperous nation that can look after the frailer and weaker members in society. This is not possible with a poverty trap taxation system that holds people back and acts as a ball and chain on business as it fails to encourage people into the workforce.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies: Labour's tax and benefit reforms weaken average work incentives

David Laws MP - Government must make work pay

David Goodall's Views: Benefits

David Goodall's Views: Taxation

Tuesday 3rd October 2006

Tragedy hits US school again

For the eighteenth time in the last 9 years a gunman armed to the teeth has walked into a school in America and killed completely innocent children. Yet still there is no thought to even restrict the sale of weapons even a little bit by President George W Bush. Is it just me shouldn't this continuing tragedy in schools and on the streets in the US lead to real action from the national government there.

Here of course just one similar incident in Dumblane brought about tight restrictions on the use of guns and this has limited the attacks of the type that occur in the US. However the inaction of the US administration is affecting this country as the gun gang culture is starting to spread here.

We can do more here to educate young people about the dangers of guns and show how it has really affected American life to persuade them it is not a good example to follow. However as a country we should also have a word with our 'special friend' in the US to at least start to tackle the gun culture problem. If necessary this should be a very public and open criticism of the inaction on this issue for if our relationship is one of true friendship then such words should be possible to speak.

BBC - Tight-knit Amish shaken by attacks

Monday 2nd October 2006

Chris Tapp - Freedom of Borough

Today it was time to say thanks for all the hard work put in to the Borough by the recently retired Chief Exec of Eastleigh Borough Council.

Chris Tapp retired last April after 14 year in charge in Eastleigh and 40 years in public service. All sides of the chamber thanked Chris for his hard work. In doing so they also recognised that without the hard work of all the staff at Eastleigh the many achievements, like Beacon council awards and so on would not be possible. Chris also received warm words from Barton Pevril College where he a governor and from other councils he has worked with in his 40 year career.

Every now and then it is good to stop the hectic of everyday and say thank you and this is one such time.

Thanks Chris you did a great job.

David's Blog Archive

September 2006