Thursday, 29 December 2011

CCTV Car Review Required

CCTV Car Timeline (KM Group)

Many people reading this blog will be aware of the authors views on the Medway Conservative CCTV cars which are a law onto themselves. Symbolic of the administration, many consider it a 'white vulture', a flight of fancy, whilst others are apparently 'almost' demanding these cars on their street corners

Medway Conservatives claim there is a groundswell of support for the vehicles - yet never substantiate this - nor do they choose to mention it once on the Medway Conservative website or the Rainham Central website. So many passionate advocates that, from my recollection, it did not feature on any electoral leaflet in the local election.

I along with most people somehow find it hard to believe that there is a massive hidden majority out there who are salivating for one of these vehicles down their road, but if you believe the (Rainham) Tory spin in the press; these cars are the salvation of the Medway roads and a paragon of virtue.

Or course I am willing to be proved wrong and I am sympathetic to the argument that people want appropriate enforcement of parking and scrutiny. But sub-contracting out two vehicles to a potentially poor contractor who inflicts much reputational damage onto the Council, should and needs to be scrutinised very closely. I believe some Tories are in denial about this.

Let me explain why.

Universally despised wherever they operate these cars are seen as the physical embodiment of an overly centralist and controlling local authority. Many Conservative Councils will never introduce such schemes, and the leading campaign group Big Brother Watch, who oppose the cars, is being managed by a former Conservative PPC. Let us be clear; many authorities do have the opportunity to introduce the cars but choose not to...

And why? There is something fundamentally wrong about being caught breaking the same rules it imposes on everyone else which it does on a regular basis (see here, here, here, here, here and here) and the inequity of the fine; it has created more front page scoops than any other story added up over the last 2 years and it will continue to do immense damage to the trust of politics in Medway.

Indeed, the only positive news on the cars can be found on the Medway Council website, who have ironically awarded the vehicles several Customer Service awards. The cruel irony is that the car was awarded an award in April 2010 not because of customer support, but one month after it issued an eye-watering 2,762 tickets against residents in March 2010.

This type of public back-slapping angers the public immensely. It should.

The leading supporter of the cars is none other than Councillor O'Brien. Indeed, such a supporter that he has stated that "at every single community meeting I go to I have residents almost demanding the CCTV car."

Well if residents of Rainham are 'almost' demanding a Council spy car on every road that settles it. In fact the only (not almost) cases I get are people moaning about the inequity of the vehicles choosing to fine people in narrow terraced streets, where parking can be difficult at the best of times.

And are the cars raising important sums? The vehicle (s) has made a revenue of £770,000 over four years or £192,000 per annum. In the grand scheme of Council budgets this is pathetic sum and could be more than corrected by increasing number of actual wardens, or constant use of fixed site camera's.

The argument of course used to oppose any review is that the cars are fulfilling a service and slapping down those who are inconsiderate.

This I believe is woefully ignoring the fact that 1 in 4 of the fines is overturned on appeal and as to why only two-thirds have been paid. It would ignore the challenge tabled by many that these vehicles has been anything but professional with 30 CCTV car staff having left since 2008, of which six were sacked, five were laid off and 19 have left of their own accord. No review and we may continue with a management failure caused by inappropriate recruitment or staff training.

The Tory line that the number of tickets is reducing proves CCTV enforcement is having a positive effect is also totally unsubstantiated with fact, and actually ignores the reality for why a review is necessary

Lets just look at the Tory CCTV Car in more detail
  • Tory CCTV car has issued over 55,000 tickets, but only two-thirds have been paid due to disputes. A quarter have been cancelled after residents fought and won
  • Tory CCTV car has made revenues of £1.6m since 2008, with £771,000 remaining after costs
  • Staff have cost £421,000, the cars have cost £319,000 and fuel, maintenance and the 'uniforms' have cost £31,000
  • 30 staff have left since 2008. Six were sacked, five were laid off and 19 left of their own accord
  • Number of tickets issued has declined since November 2010 with only 754 tickets issued in October 2011
  • All tickets issued could be void due to 'blunders' in the paperwork

So why the review?

The above facts make a review sensible. Backbench Councillors would then be able to ask the decent and substantive questions about the operational effectiveness of the cars.

Labour have been consistently aware of the public concerns of the vehicles which is why we called for full review of them in the local election 2011. Despite protests from leading Conservative Councillors that the cars were well managed and popular the facts now stand for themselves.

At present, the Tories have refused the opposition demands for a full operational review

We know there is some sympathy in the ranks; even some Conservatives dont like them. Both Alan W Collins and leading Medway Youth Chairman (who represents only one and a half constituencies) Joe Armitage have both savaged the vehicles. With friends like those there is a small glint of light that they may reflect more widespread opinion...

It is time the CCTV car had a full review so that backbench and opposition Councillors can undertake a proper and thorough assessment, so that if appropriate we can scrap the cars when the contract expires in April 2013.

Cameron's Trap

Christmas is such a good time of year; not only do you get to catch up with family and friends but the blackberry stays silent. It happens once every twelve months and by goodness it is welcome.

I have spent lots of days catching up with friends, family and former political campaigners and have been careful to drop the politics for a week or so.

I note today two interesting pieces of news that are on the face of it bad news for the Labour Party but are actually nothing of the sort given the position in the electoral cycle. Firstly the relative failure of the 'registered supporter' project established in September 2010, and secondly the paper by Gregg McClymont and Ben Jackson published today on the 'Cameron Trap' which has some very strong warnings on Labour economic re-positioning which does need to take place.

Firstly, I shall deal with the obvious Tory spin on the membership question.

Whilst it is true that the number of registered supporters are small it is worth remembering this was established only last year and as a result of the relative success of the French scheme and those in North America. It is worth noting that the French scheme has seen success as a result of over a decade of right-wing dominance in France and at a time when the French left are selecting a potential presidential candidate. In North America, the established political networks and partisan support base is particularly pronounced; unlike in the UK people actually register their political alliegiance and fund parties through 'Action Committee's.' It is therefore utterly inappropriate for journalists (who are currently fawning over Cameron) to compare the scheme in the UK with other countries when we have had 18 months of Labour opposition. Keep the scheme in place and nurture it; it will reap rewards slowly and surely...

Incidentally what the right wing journalists wont tell you, because that would be balanced, is that whilse the Labour membership (those that pay) has increased from 156,000 (2009) to 193,000 (2011) the Conservative Party membership has actually been declining since the election of David Cameron. The Tories have been clever not to reveal membership figures but it is almost certainly going in the wrong direction - as a result of ageing / death of the blue rinsers and the unattractiveness of the Tory brand to young peoply. So for sake of clarity the Conservative Party membership number is carefully guarded, but we can guess it is below the 177,000 reported in September 2010. I would hazard a guess that it even could have gone below the 156,000 figure.

What should worry the Conservatives is that Labour now has a period in opposition to attract new members (and we see them locally just on twitter alone); the same was not said for David Cameron who lost a third of his own parties support as a result of stitching up local selections and gerrymandering A-lister selections (who failed to get elected in the most part). As a result the modern Conservative Party is totally reliant on money from the financial services sector (that is the same bankers who caused the crash) and very rich hedge fund speculators. There is a rich seam here to be reaped by Labour at a better time...

Incidentally, whilst we are talking about membership figures; the Rochester & Strood CLP last tally was higher than the local Conservative Association and more importantly we know where the funding comes from; so Boris Island believe me is worth the Tories worrying about. We know the numbers and the contributions from moles and sources. The talent attraction that has occured locally to the Medway Conservatives almost exclusively comes from the English Democrats. Hoovering up extremists on the right is a dangerous move...

Which brings me onto the second question is the conclusions of 'Cameron's Trap' paper from Policy Exchange, which are endorsed I would add by the majority of Labour members.

Whenever I am told the membership of the Medway Labour Party is very left wing (which is not often) I merely point to the the CLP votes at the leadership elections in 2010. The Blairite candidate won the majority of member support across Medway and second was the next most Blairite candidate.

That tells you that the Medway Labour membership is wedded to the centre and is distrustful of very left wing positions.

The message therefore from Gregg and Ben can not and should not be ignored by those who want a Labour Government and who also want to appeal to our membership support.

The conclusions are not to be driven into a Council of despair:

•Refuse to be driven into a simple defence of the public sector and public spending and instead mount a patriotic appeal to the nation to improve growth and living standards.

•Put forward a more convincing strategy for private sector growth than the Conservatives. A key element of a credible growth strategy would need to be a widely-supported active industrial policy. In this way “Labour can evade the trap of the ‘tax and spend’ argument of 1992, by making the key measure of governing competence the creation of new and sustainable jobs that improve living standards. Labour is more comfortable than the Conservatives with the idea of an activist state: the Conservatives have reason to fear a political contest organised around which party can best promote growth rather than which party can best reduce spending.”

•Aggressively highlight the Coalition’s preference for regressive charging mechanisms to fund public services. Labour can counter this by offering more progressive funding mechanisms, and developing new welfare policies that reduce economic insecurity by pooling risk. Crucially, these approaches need not require significant additional spending.

Labour must: “embrace the successful electoral pitches of victories in 1945, 1964 and 1997. Each of these elections involved an attack on a Conservative party that had presided over a period of economic decay. 1964, with its focus on economic underperformance and relative decline, presided over by an out of touch Tory elite, is particularly resonant given the likely electoral battleground in 2015. A patriotic, national growth appeal is therefore essential to highlighting the inadequacy of Conservative political economy.”

Following on from my post on the economy on growth I believe the above to be absolutely correct; the Tories will of course try and de-stabilise Ed Miliband because they realise the threat.

Rule number one; ignore your opponent if they do not represent a threat. The fact Tories are moving onto rule number two, which is to undermine Ed Miliband, shows full well they can see the threat. And so they should; they see the same polling we do...
What the papers wont tell you is that most people think Labour actually the argument right on the economy since 2010 and the warning of the double dip. Most people also think Labour are articulating their views and is the party most alligned to them. They also rate Labour as united as it was under Tony Blair (a record for us given the usual period of lefty antagonisms which come about after loosing government).

The Tories can also see the economy worsening and the electorate warming to the economic argument from the left on the squeezed middle. The Tories also know (and it is constantly trumpeted by the right wing press) that they have a lead on economic trust or credibility which they must maintain at all costs.

The issue is trust on the economy but it is one best solved by reasoned change on deficit reduction and continuing to bang the drum on growth, spreading fair deficit reduction on the broadest shoulders and listening to people. Remember; the last spending review announcement in November saw George Osborne move the goal-posts to effectively following the Darling deficit reduction strategy... so no lectures required.

Ed Balls is the most effective spokesperson on finance Labour has and we have articulated the correct economic argument. Regaining the trust of the electorate will take time and is best reinforced by a stable and united party not gazing inwardly, at either safety first positions, or by having another leadership election. Irrespective of who wins in London in May 2012; we have the best team at the helm for the times we are in, and are polling well given the underlying lack of trust in the economy the electorate still has with Labour (see time based polling demographics above on government satisfaction).

There will be no leadership election just a sensible and rational opposition articulating the sensible middle ground and undermining the Tory argument from a position of sense.

Keep on focusing on the econony; set out a vision for growth and continue to highlight the Tory failures on the squeezed middle and remember Cameron didnt get a majority last time with all the fair winds at his disposal; 2015 will be even harder and a united Labour team with a consistent and strong message to the voter segment most targeted by the current, out-of-touch Tories may see us win.

Monday, 26 December 2011

School Days

Christmas is a family time which is why I have refrained from tweeting and posting on politics; it is sad to observe those with families who at this time cant drop the subject for a few days whilst with their loved ones.

Somethings are more important and one of those is family.

Attending the Christmas Mass in Rochester Cathedral on Saturday evening took me back to my school days in the Cathedral Choir and as a full scholar at the school.

The piece is very closely attributed with the school which is why it struck a chord so to speak at the end of the service.

I also understand from the organist that it has been (rather...) played at the Grammar School founders day as well.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Bus & Train Fare Rises

Despite the focus today on the rise in train fares and the comments in the local press we could be forgiven for thinking that they were the only one's to suffer from fares.

You would be wrong...

Conservative MP's seemingly happy to talk about train fares in today's Messenger have totally airbrushed the thousands who use buses across the area.

It annoys me enough that I have been working with bus users and residents on sourcing the real impacts of cuts on local bus services. Working with the Tory-led Council who seem happy to ignore the cuts in government grants and the fact that local authorities should be open and transparent about why local services should be getting more expensive has been tricky. The responses have seemed evasive to accepting any responsibility on bus usage and there is a total lack of clarity on the manner in which reductions in subsidy are consulted upon, in advance, with local representatives.

Instead, it seems Councillor's are only spoken with after decisions have been made.

It is simply living in denial to claim that bus users in Medway are not suffering a worse deal. Not only have they had to spend a fortune on the over-budget bus station but they are now seeing real cuts to services and fare rises, in an area with an already poor reputation for value for money.

There is no doubt that many feel burnt by the bus station fiasco which will cost twice the original budget estimate of £5m. The news today that the Pentagon bus station car park will cost £160,000 just adds to the woe.

So why do bus users get ignored? Partly this is because the media tend to be focused on the more middle-class 'train users' who have more political influence but also because bus users tend to have lower overall fares and we assume that many will only make small journeys and so the increases will be less significant.

Of course the cumulative damage of rising bus fares on poorer communities is significant. Cuts to bus services and rises in fares mean that low-income families with no car are at risk of falling into poverty.

We know buses are vital, connecting people with town centres, jobs, colleges, shopping, family and friends, and when bus services are cut, people’s lives are badly affected

Indeed, the Tory-led government’s budget allocation for Medway transport was significantly cut by the government from £3.5m per year to £1.5m per year.

As a result Medway has seen

  • Single fares up by 10p or 20p. e.g. Single fare on the 181 from Street End Road to Weeds Wood will go from £2.20 to £2.40 (9% increase)
  • Inner Medway day ticket up from £4.00 to £4.20 (5%)
  • Inner Medway week ticket up from £16 to £17 (6%)
  • Inner Medway 4-week ticket up from £47 to £50 (6%)
  • Inner Medway annual ticket up from £470 to £500 (6%)
  • Medway day ticket up from £5.20 to £5.50 (6%)
  • Medway week ticket up from £21 to £22 (5%)
  • Medway 4-week ticket up from £68 to £72 (6%)
  • Medway annual ticket up from £670 to £720 (7%)

The popular ‘Happy Max’ deal and evening fares will no longer be available.

The Labour opposition in government has called time on the private-sector operations which have left services fragmented and disjointed. It is now time, according to the Shadow Transport Secretary, to look at options to bring some services in-house and for residents to be given a proper consultation on services and fares. I agree.

Labour Councillor's will continue to stand up for our residents who use buses and trains. We believe that with this government fare isn't fair.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

11+ Fiasco; Tory spin cycle continues

Despite the volume of news over recent weeks around the closures of Care Homes and the opening of the 'dynamic' open-plan bus facility in Autumn the issue of the 11+ fiasco continues at a pace behind the scenes.

Let us remember that hundreds of parents of potential grammar school pupils were mis-managed by the Education department overseen by the Tory Councillor Les Where's Wicks.

The Portfolio Holder who spent the days after the fiasco at Conservative Conference and who took 13 days to apologise.

Peter Read - the independent education expert - is currently pulling his hair out at the utter incompetence and chaff that is being dispensed by the ruling Tories to hide the mismanagement.

Remember; we never did get the full report published on the scale of the incompetence involved merely a covering paper on recommendations.

Despite his attempts to get detail on the fiasco he has been met with a cold wall from the Tory-led Council; some might claim to hide the fiasco and its impacts on MPs who should actually be holding the Council to account for its actions.

Medway Council took 43 working days to respond to his Freedom of Information request, only a month after the legal deadline of 20 days to reply, rejecting his request. See bottom of page for more.

The original article by Peter is here. Copied below

p.s. If I were a parent looking to send a child to a Grammar School in this Tory-controlled area i'd be very worried indeed.


I remain very concerned about the Medway Test shambles, which the Council appears to be trying to bury, hoping that everyone will forget about it, although its ludicrous claim that no children were disadvantaged by the problems stands as a PR disaster, in that it angered so many parents, who would otherwise have just written the matter off to incompetence.

I hear that the Local Government Ombudsman is preparing a draft report which, if it is subsequently published, should shed further light on the mystery of why Council officers and members made so many public statements that proved wrong.

My problem is that, in trying to understand further what went wrong, ...........

I submitted a Freedom of Information request on 22nd October, which the Council is required to respond to within 20 working days. When 32 working days had elapsed without response, apart from the standard next day acknowledgement, I was starting to suspect that this was a deliberate strategy to deny me the information I was seeking. I therefore submitted a complaint on 8th December about the matter.

To cover myself, I sent a simpler FOI request on 11th December, seeking a subset of the previous, in case the Council was going to wait until the last moment to tell me I had asked for too much information (or am I being cynical?). However, I have not even had an acknowledgement of this second request (although I wrote again to the council asking if there was an acknowledgement to come) and don't know if the council is going to treat it as the previous one.

I have therefore, on 20th December, sent a second complaint, about the failure to acknowledge. I am well aware that the many parents who complained both at Stage 1 & Stage 2 of the Council Complaints procedure regarding the Medway test received uniformly unsatisfactory responses, and some have subsequently taken their complaints off to the Local Government Ombudsman (see above). In this case, my next step is the Information Commissioner's Office, but what a waste of everyone's time, when all I need is an answer to my questions.

I am not a Medway resident, but parents who complained about the Medway Test to local Councillors or their MP have also received a brush off with superficial responses.

Can anyone advise me if there is a simpler way to secure my information without going through what is a tiresome process?

I know, because I had similar problems a few years ago with other FOI requests, and finished up complaining to the Council about the failure of the Complaints Officer to act. On that occasion I decided I had better things to do when in retrospect I should have pushed on, as I will on this occasion.

On the positive side, I find that normally I get an excellent service from the education admissions department and the Department that co-ordinates FOI, who are most helpful, so I can only conclude that there are other reasons for the current obstructiveness by Medway Council (motto - Helping You!).


After a delay of 23 days beyond the required deadline, and 14 days after filing a formal complaint about the lack of response, Medway Council has deigned to contact me. What a coincidence that that it happedn on this date. However, apparently, my request fails because: it contains Information that is likely to inhibit the free and frank provision of advice or the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation; Third party personal data; and Confidentiality.

There are actually ways to provide most of the information requested without breaching the second and third aspects of these, and there is great public concern about the quality of provision of advice, which should surely be in the public domain. For example - the one document I did receive was that issued to Medway Test Review Panels, to explain the circumstances of the problems at the Medway Test Centres.

The first two sentences of this are: Some of the signs directing families to the registration area were not clearly displayed and therefore parents were uncertain of exactly where on the site they needed to be.This meant that a high volume of children and parents arrived at the sports hall later than the scheduled registration time.

This is frankly rubbish and has been thoroughly demonstrated as such by many parental testimonies. Parents knew where the sports hall was by seeing the long queues that went much of the way round the building which had been built up before the registration desks were opened. Parents certainly had the intelligence to work out that they joined the back of the queue!

If this is the quality of information being served up to the Review Panels, it is surely in the public interest to understand how this level of misinformation could be disseminated so long after the original incidents. I could go on, and shall do so in another place.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Estuary Airport looms in Cabinet

Much expectation today as the Medway Council Cabinet met for the last time in 2011.

One man who was very much in the room, but not literally, was Boris Johnson. Conservative Party Mayor and hotly tipped to be the successor to David Cameron.

There were several important items on the agenda but two particularly stood out; firstly the conversation around the Local Council Settlement grant (the one this blog indicated was utterly disengenuous and more Tory spin) and the Estuary Airport campaign paper (released at 2.59pm) to an eager press and rather thin audience

The agenda item (linked here) on the Local Council Settlement Grant

Interestingly; the Conservative portfolio holder for finance effectively cut and paste my key points on the settlement.

The fact is, and he admitted it, Medway residents are suffering from a Conservative government and that this can not continue.
  • Government has included the Council Tax Grant with the formula grant which is highly disingenuous. Removing this grant the figure is actually where the Medium Term Financial Plan predicted which is good news for the Council... (though im sure better news would have been more money)
  • Floor damping still continues despite the election of a Conservative Government in May 2010 (see Tory hypocrisy on this issue here, here, here and here). This was a major campaign issue under the Conservatives; now under their own government are strangely silent
  • Councillor Jarrett has also raised the prospect of a 5.1% rise in Council tax for the 2013/14 budget year. Though not relevant to the below, the fact the Council Tax Grant has remained flat since 2011 means that after inflation Medway may be signficantly out of pocket by 2013/14. Jarrett is warning the Department no doubt of the political risk. The department has continued to 'lock' all Council tax increases at 3.5% so Councillor Jarrett may have to call a referendum, should this lock be repeated next year. Labour will no doubt keep an eye
  • Coupled with Medway Conservative deficits in revenue budget (£5.1m) and capital budget (£2.8m) all eyes on our benches will be on Q3 forecasts. My question at last O&S on this regard shows there may be some light here. Interesting also the budget assumptions include reductions in adult & care spend for 2011/12; the consultation exercise it seems concluded?
  • The Department for Local Government has also published a disingenuous table on reductions in 'spending capacity' for local authorities rather then the below. Details foundhere show Medway has seen a 3.1% cut, £6.36m or the equivalent of £57.46 for every household in Medway. The Tories have form here on spinning the truth
All of the above points were confirmed by an increasingly angry cabinet; many feel utterly duped by the Conservative Local Government Minister who claimed that Medway would not suffer inappropriately if they were to take power.

The second major item of note was on the Estuary Airport (linked here)

There was a noticeable shift today from the administration that since September (though this blog would argue since 2010) the external environment has changed on the airport proposals to bulldoze over the Peninsula.

There is, finally, as this blog has complained about time and time again, a recognition that simply sitting on hands and lobbying the occassional verbal riposte simply wont do.

It comes as Conservative Ministers are proving evasive in Westminster over the Airport proposals.

Whether it has been imposed on Medway Tories or not, and this blogger suspects it has been, the Local Enterprize Partnership (comprised of South East Council's) have established a working group on aviation expansion in the region. Medway is now obliged to sit at the table which could be seen as a positive to setting out an alternative position to an Estuary Airport, but alternatively, could be seen as a way of silencing our independence and actually squashing us in other Local Authority consensus.

Indeed, the simple fact is this LEP Aviation Group may indeed propose aviation expansion in the Estuary, as Paul Carter suggested a few weeks ago. A letter read out from him today categorically refused to support our Authorities objection to the scheme. This could squash Medway on the negotiating table and leave those in Hoo in a worse position. It is worth noting that other Council's sitting on this body would include those opposing expansion at Gatwick and Southend.

The Tories in Medway have also set up a new Council Cabinet Advisory Group, similar to that set up in 2001-2003 with the hope of leading any opposition to an airport proposal. The composition of this group must of course be equally weighted and its conclusions should be actively considered; this blog wants to wait and see the final outcome and composition of this group.

So what does this tell you. Firstly that despite the bland assurances from our MPs; especially Mark Reckless and Tracey Crouch who now have egg on face over this issue, that aviation expansion is to be seriously considered by local authorities in the region. It is not simply an electoral ploy to play to West London because the Chancellor has himself waded into the debate setting a national context and ruling out Heathrow expansion. Secondly, that Medway is now part of a wider process which could govern (and neuter) a response to any proposals. Thirdly, that the Conservatives on the Council are worried about the current impact (on Peninsula residents on house prices, business plans and communities) and now consider this a plausible existential threat.

Some proposals to be welcomed on face value today but also somethings to be very concerned about.

It's about time.

p.s. Our MPs can not be let off the hook either; they have woefully failed to represent us on this issue and for that they must be pursued and pursued vigorously.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Ward Improvements

Labour Councillor's work very hard in the wards they represent and are proud to serve in Medway.

Whilst some call it publicity it is actually very important to communicate; to be outward facing to the electorate and to talk about the issues that impact them. Taking it out of the Council chamber and onto the street corner.

Gone are the days when public servants could sit in the gilted office; the public expect their elected representatives to be on the ground and working for them.

A few snippets of work undertaken over the last couple of months will be posted over the course of the week.

This includes; alley-gating, new play areas, road re-surfacing, pavement slab replacements, graffiti removal and salt-bin replacements.

Railing Improvements for Luton Road

Reported in November by several parents at Luton School.



Constitution Hill Re-surfacing

The road was in a very poor state. Reported to Council in July; re-surfaced in December.



Over the course of this week will be posting a series of improvements which have been led by the Labour team in 2011

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Dementia Statistics

Demographic changes to dementia

Very interested to note a number of press reports on Dementia over the last couple of days.

The Conservatives in Medway are claiming that demographic pressures are downward and that a reduction in numbers are causing services to be un-used.

Of course this is not accurate with an increasing requirement in future years which is why closing and privatising centres on the back of downward pressures on 'Council' statistics is baseless and actually concerning.

Incidentally we saw the same Tory-trick on statistics to close Primary Schools which led the School's Adjudicator over-turning the administrations judgement.

We all know the Medway Conservatives changed the eligibility criteria in 2008 making those previously eligible to use Nelson Court, Robert Bean, Platters Farm and Balfour inelgibile. We all know that they have already budgeted for care home closures before the consultation had even started in an arrogant act of subverting the consultation exercise itself.

Councillor Jarrett is now taking the lead after the Portfolio holder, David Brake, made quite inaccurate remarks to Cabinet on redundancies only a few weeks ago.

In his piece to the Messenger:

"The Balfour Centre provides day care, but since the introduction of personalized budgets by the last Labour government there is more choice available. Now increasing numbers of people are taking the payments to which they are entitled and using to buy a host of different services"

No one opposes the move towards 'personalised budgets' for those who are capable of managing their own budgets. However, in cases of hightened dementia individuals are unable to manage personal budgets and therefore the Council does take responsibility.

In addition, Councillor Jarrett has deliberely ignored the fact his administration fiddled the eligibility criteria in 2008. Once again paiting a woefully inaccurate position of the reasons why numbers are being reduced. Incidentally the centre being proposed for closure is at 70-80% of capacity which favours well with other private-sector providers; so that argument is also utterly without logic.

"All provide a good standard of care, but at more than twice the cost to be found in other parts of the care homes market in Medway they no longer represent good value for money"

Taking into account that Jarrett has mis-spent on countless capital programmes and on revenue budgets to the tune of £7.9m; the man has lost grip of the Council spending talking about value for money has to make you cry.

This is a false argument because the centres being closed & privatised deal with very specialist cases and can not be 'averaged' out across other care homes who may have individuals with little help or need. In addition, the option to create a social partnership with other local authorities could reduce costs by creating back office synergies - this option has been totally ignored by the Conservatives who favour a wholly private sector option - which indicently for high-need dementia care could be as expensive in some cases.

"Medway will not be closing any of the three homes"

The fact is he can not guarantee that once these homes transfer to private ownership that they will not close; as we saw with Shaw's Wood in Strood, the Tories make grand statements only to be found inaccurate twelve months later.

Time and time again the Tories paint a dishonest picture of the truth.

Financial times are tight but as a Society is simply a case of basic moral right that we care for our most vulnerable in the best way possible.

If we cut the stupid expenditures on Tory pet-programmes we would not be in such a difficult spot and that is the fault of the Cameron Conservatives; who are self-evidently not compassionate

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Feltham by-election swing significant

A victory for Labour in a marginal London constituency which should send a shiver down the spines of the elitist Cameroons who have taken over the Conservative Party.

A party of the elite and not the grammar school boy.

The election result was a major slap in the face and should send a warning signal to David Cameron and his 'chums' that the economic plan set by George Osborne simply isnt working. Cutting too far and too fast is putting people out of work.

Labour warned that a douple-dip recession was likely in May 2010 and sadly our warnings, made time and time again, are sadly being proved right.

Now is the time for the Labour Party to set a credible deficit reduction plan and focus relentlessly on getting people back into work and paying our way back into recovery.

Dithering Tories are in total denial about this seat. A seat held by the Conservatives from 1979 to 1992, and was one which Cameron should have won in May 2010 had the public trusted the Tories with the keys to Number 10 last year. They have written off a seat that Cameron had targeted only last year.

Meanwhile, former Conservative Councillor John Ward has insinuated other reasons:

"such as the futility of putting up a non-Asian candidate in such places. With the "them and us" culture that has been nurtured and encouraged by the political Left, that in itself was almost certainly a significant vote-loser. Mark Bowen simply wasn't "one of us" to a large proportion of the electorate – nowhere near all, as it's mixed there, but enough to make a big difference".

With attitudes like these you will never form a decent majority

The public dont trust the right, their 'ideology' or their aristocratic leadership or the views of the grassroots right wing on equality of opportunity irrespective of wealth, race, background, creed or colour.

That message should be ringing loud and clear in Tories ears. Why did Cameron loose last year? Where was the Blair swing after the worst recession and poor leadership of Brown? Why are Labour polling in the high 30s / low 40s? Why dont people like us? Why are we out of touch? Why is our party, our youth wing and our national party, managed totally and almost universally by an out-of-touch (and public school) elite? Why are we not the party of the grafters anymore?

Party Candidate Votes % ±%

Labour Seema Malhotra 12,639 54.4 +10.8
Conservative Mark Bowen 6,436 27.7 -6.3
Liberal Democrat Roger Crouch 1,364 5.9 -7.8
UKIP Andrew Charalambous 1,276 5.5 +3.5
BNP Dave Furness 540 2.3 -1.2
Green Daniel Goldsmith 426 1.8 +0.7
English Democrats Roger Cooper 322 1.4 N/A
London PBP George Hallam 128 0.6 N/A
Bus-Pass Elvis Party David Bishop 93 0.4 N/A

Majority 6,203 (26.7%, +17.1% from GE)
Rejected ballots 75
Turnout 23,299 (28.8%, -31.1% from GE)
Labour hold: Swing +8.6% to Labour

Turnout 23,299 (28.8%, -31.1% from GE)
Labour hold: Swing +8.6% to Labour


It seems that the 'right-leaning' and non-Conservative Conservative John Ward has jumped on my assertions that this seat was a marginal seat and has made some quite dubious suggestions on postal votes
  • This seat; held by the Conservatives between 1979-1992 (Patrick Ground MP) and was a target seat for the Conservatives in 2010 (Number 81 on list). It was classified as marginal by the Conservatives themselves and most pundits.
  • Postal Votes; The spin that this is postal votes is also spurious. Firstly because none of the same people can actually tell you the postal vote turnout; and the fact they ignore the fact that postal votes can be submitted up until polling day itself. Also postal voting is an accepted form of voting so to disparage a voting method which many Conservatives use to vote as well; is stupid. People should be given more ways to vote; with appropriate checks and balances in place. This did not win or loose the election for Labour.
  • The contradiction; the Tories have been polling higher in all polls up until the day of the vote which makes the result even worse for them. Despite the fact they were ahead they still had an 8.6% swing against tells you everything about the leadership, or lack-of of David Cameron
  • Lastly race; the insinuation 'Bowen' wasnt one of us is accurate; but it is nothing to do with race. It is to do with the fact that the Conservatives have not done enough to reach out to communities in the UK; if Conservative values were right, they would have voted for them.

This is a seat the Tories should have won in 2010 and didnt. It is a seat that epitomises the arrogant, elitist and out-of-touch approach of David Cameron which can not be ignored. He simply does not connect which is why he lost here in 2010, again in 2011, and didnt win a majority and on this score, wont ever.