Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Lied to over bus station

A good header; how long have the public waited for this mea-culpa of incompetence?

Many of my regular readers have no doubt been waiting for any comment on the front page of the Monday Medway Messenger.

Whilst it would be remiss of me to make Cllr Jarrett look any less in grip of his brief he seems to have done it all by himself.

Anyone reading this piece will now utterly dismiss his arguments on all the other fiscal matters which he was trying to appear credible; I suspect Cllr Jarrett was trying to lance the boil of the bus station but to do it at the same time as you are trying to sell you own Tory Party on local finances; Not sensible at all.

I have to give it; makes the gaffe over city status look like a walk in the former Brook park (before it was uprooted).

I also suspect many of the officers were not briefed in advance; the thunderous looks from the officer bench said everything... they of course said nothing... which said everything.

The KM article echoes my interpretation of the budget meeting and those from other press articles; a total lack of control over the finances and £14.3m announced cuts to front-line services.

As I stated last week; it is all very easy for Cllr Jarrett to come out now and blame Medway Renaissance and officers, but that does not fit with the pattern of obfuscation that we have observed from Tories for a year or more.

I would suggest the Tories either knew and didnt tell us last year or they didnt and do not have a grip of the finances

The issue of the bus station is not new; it has come up monthly since January 2011 when Cllr Vince Maple led on the timetable and cost for the bus station; Labour have since asked question after question on the fiscal position on the station and have poured over financial statements to discover the truth.

The answers given by the Tory Council leader and Deputy leader at Full Council were not substantive in any way; coming so close to a local election and the convenience becomes apparent. The lack of clarity after the election surrounding the Arriva negotiation and the fact the station was half-complete on opening is of course not only Medway Renaissance - many of these things were under the direct control of the Council at this point.

The simple truth is the Tory leadership could and should have been open and transparent with the public from the start. The mea-culpa has all come a bit late am afraid.

We knew it was a financial noose but it seems the Tory backbenchers were oblivious. Many (now stupidly) fobbed Labour off as nay-sayers, as 'Medway knockers' or even harsly labelled as supporters of the old bus station. I dont expect any acknowledgement or admittance they were wrong; an apology is too much to ask.

Tories of course spent months refusing to accept our reasoned argument that this bus station was a botch job; now finally they can admit it was.

Dont expect a rush to advertise it!

Rodney sighted on Peninsula

Labour rejects the airport. The Tories are the only party backing it.

The lesser spotted Cllr Chambers has been sighted; indeed after three years of dithering on the airport we finally see him don a pinstripe (shirt) for the non-doorstep campaign on the Grain Peninsula. All smiles it would seem from the boys in blue.

No comment from him, or them, on the cross-party letter from Justine Greening MP. All conveniently forgotten; but then the media weren't invited apparently. The self-appointed guru is managing the brief.

And talking about invites; it seems that the Rural Liaison get-together / update / meeting / event scheduled for next Tuesday 6th March is closed to the public. Instead it would seem the only people invited are the great and the good from the Parish Councils only***. Many of the 'great and good' are of course Conservative Parish Councillors whose interest could, perhaps, maybe be split.

All very different of course in 2002/2003 when the then Conservative opposition organised open village meetings and tried to engage the public. In addition, no lamp post posters and no delivery for the posters as far as I can read. Punters are expected to pro-actively collect the posters from a number of newsagents.

Labour has just distributed several thousand leaflets on the Peninsula; with a £50,000 budget you really can afford to deliver leaflets to residents.

The good and bad news for residents is the low-octane 'pie-in-the-sky' campaign poster has now, well eer, flown on to a full consultation by the government despite the assurances of our Conservative MPs.

We finally have a half-decent campaign poster; all a bit late but still welcome

Copryright: Christopher Irvine; all rights held by the photographer

Incidentally; still have not received my 2p sized campaign badge; I had thought that some bright spark in the postroom could have included it in my regular weekly mailing. I suspect they may have read my mischievous tweet last week; my grapes are waiting.

*** The Council have since clarified that this is actually a meeting of the Rural Liaison Committee which is the Council's liaison forum with the Parish Councils. This meeting, although called a Committee, is really a Forum and is therefore not subject to the access to information rules and is not open to the public. Still; a meeting like this, no advertising, no lobbying, no communication... I let the public decide.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Ready for Change

It seems the Medway Tory back-benchers are in a fractious mood at the moment with briefing and counter briefing winging its way to this blog on potential changes to the cabinet from May this year.

The briefing have got more and more detailed; from potential splits over Care Homes to personality disputes at the very top. This is a group that is simply not functioning or firing on all cylinders.

Of course outwardly this blog has to be careful not to mention names or details but evidence of this can be seen in snippets; from some looking for new jobs whilst others trying to blame everyone but themselves. The carefully managed press narrative has also gone into overdrive with some pretty ‘fruity’ statements from a group in power. Add in the usual in Council about ‘communism’ and ‘socialism’ and you see that you have more meat chucking to the benches then usual; if they cant agree on policy then at least they can agree that the opposition are a bunch of far-lefties. Alas; it is fiction.

Many will rightly state that this blog has predicted changes at the top of the local Conservative Group before only to be left looking stony faced when we get the same line up year on year; this is largely caused by the fact that certain groups tend to lead on the briefing with an implication that changes are indeed expected.

Last year the election result put an end to such talk; not only because the Tories returned with a similar number of Councillors but the leadership faction had ensured 'its' people were in plum seats; we saw chicken runs and last-minute selections to ensure the end result was favorable to the managing clique.

The simple and inconvenient truth is the current cabinet is dated; it is compromised of many of the faces from the 1980s and early 1990s (when I was still in Primary School). Many who perhaps had drive and ambition once, but now go through the motions when reporting to O&S meetings; some indeed have barely a grasp of their brief. One or two of the more capable ones are carousing around Kent for votes for the Tory selection for Police Commissioner, so clearly have ambitions beyond our lowly Council borders.

Whilst we can all laugh at the musings of Cllr Tom Mason and the anodyne remarks of Cllr Wildey. The more ‘capable’ when compared with a number who have simply mismanaged their brief; Cllr Wicks, Brake and the finance team over failed Council tax collection and the bus station (see today's news for confirmation). It is simply not funny that multiple millions of our taxpayers money is not managed by the best people for the job, objectively speaking.

The opposition of course is in a bind; allow the sunset cabinet to continue and we reap the rewards in every cycle of news caused by poor political leadership, or actually, state the truth that many voters (from all parties and none) expect a capable administration comprised of the best talent. The opposition also has the interest of Medway at heart; and as such a capable cabinet would be a far more welcome position, allow for local renewal and some new policy and focus. It may even improve the woeful record on local fiscal credibility!

The renewal in the Labour Group gives many on the Tory backbenchers a chance to do the same; grab the chance.

I know my piece will be taken as mischief making and in a sense it is; but there is some salient points within. If you do not renew yourselves you will continue to make the same mistakes; and as the national context gets progressively more difficult, the window to make meaningful change decreases as the clock winds down to the inevitable swing against; that is something those on the back benches with capability can ill afford.

The Tory Group, for better or worse, does have some talent on the back-benches. It is time the sunset brigade stepped aside and allowed some of its future to step forward and make a mark.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Blue Waffle Plan

It is worth commenting upon the other important item on the Council agenda on Thursday which was the Council Plan

The Council Plan is supposed to be a detailed and 'overarching business plan' which is a 'key part of the budget and policy framework' for the Council and its administration. In essence this is the bit written by the Tory cabinet themselves and by which you, the taxpaying public, are supposed to be holding our Tories to account.

No you really should (please click); remember this is a Cabinet spending millions of pounds of your money and this is the culmination of their political endeavours. This is a document in the past with key metrics, key targets and ambitious political objectives for our area.

This is the most anodyne document that you will ever read; devoid of any meaningful and measurable metrics with which to hold the Council to account in a year of cuts. This is of course the point; for if the statistics get worse there is no obligation on anyone do anything whatsoever about it.

Medway Council; an organision with a turnover into the multiple hundreds of millions of your money; your taxpayers money.

If I were a Tory backbencher I would be insulted that a collection of 35 intelligent adults could not have sat down and cobbled together something an average A-level politics class could have sat down and done better.

There is nothing on fiscal credibility or dealing with the Council tax liability specifically. Surely one we have all identified needs dealing with?!

Please find below some of the choicest parts of the cabinet 'overarching business plan' and make your own judgement about credibility.

p.s. tbc (means to be confirmed). ?!

This document lacks any ambition for Medway.

It has no targets, no ambitions, no teeth and is a recipe for inaction. It is not worthy of being an overarching business plan. There is plenty in there that is the preseve of the NHS and Police and arguably not the Council.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Budget full of broken promises

YourMedway piece highlighting Tory failure over tax

Having attended the budget meeting last night it was a parody of party positioning and would have been a turn-off to all those with an open mind.

I suspect that is why we are getting fewer and fewer people attending Council meetings; the ability to influence or get an answer from the ruling elite is well known. People have become openly cynical of our political discourse and the corrosive nature of our democratic structures

At one point last night I almost filmed the proceedings on my iPhone but it does raise a question; there is a reason why other Councils film their meetings and why we dont. The Tory front-bench is utterly closed minded.

And that is where the deep problem lied in the budget. The simple fact is this budget did not have the consent of the public when compared with the open and transparent processes at other Labour, Conservative and Green Councils up and down the Country. Many of these organised open forums where community priorities could be set and where the public could be allowed to take part in the difficult decisions that need to be taken place. Despite the assertions of the far left; if your budget is cut by £14.3m we all need to make tough calls.

Yesterday was about the centrally imposed will of the sunset Cabinet on the rest of the Council. The opposition of course challenged with the resources we had available; but when you are fighting an administration with paid accountants and staff, it is simply unrealistic to expect an opposition to come up with a multiple-hundred page document. The public know this.

The speech from Cllr Jarrett started off sensibly; he made a critique on the Cameron Conservative Government claiming that the direct grant settlement was outrageous, that DCLG was spinning the truth on cut percentiles, and that floor damping remains despite the pledges of the Conservatives in opposition. He therefore fully supported the opposition view that the context of this budget was a failure of a Conservative government to not only represent Medway residents but in also communicating with them in a straight fashion. I could almost have been forgiven for thinking he was making an opposition speech at one point...

But then however came the blame part.

Despite months of documented incompetence on programmes and projects, with copious overspends, and a litany of errors, there was absolutely no acceptance that this is actually the fault of perhaps a poor model of financial governance and control. The blame was put on officers (now retired) and organisations (now defunct) who quite conveniently are not around to defend themselves.

Of course the fact that blame was put on officers and defunct organisations perhaps suggests systemic weakness. The fact I believe systemic weakness is endemic is just highlighted by the constant news stories to this effect. There was no acceptance that systemic weakness is currently an inherent problem at all.

There were copious allegations of incompetence, a bit of xenophobia (the anti-Scottish jibe on Brown) and the usual taunts and yah-booh which comes with these events. Accusation of lies and contortions are usually the preserve of those caught in the spotlight with nowhere to hide; the simple fact is we were getting a fog of blame from the administration which only serves to highlight an understanding that failure had occurred but an unwillingness to accept it was the fault of political leadership. Now we can debate the level of blame; but to absolve yourselves of all blame is unbelievable.

So once blame and incompetence had been spread onto everyone else we came to the pledges. A claim that front-line services would not be impacted despite a £23.5m cut last year and a £14.3m cut to this years budget; when we did see and are currently observing cuts to front line services. Again, a truly honest politician would have stated that because of the centrally imposed Conservative cuts some uncomfortable judgements had to be made to square the circle.

As it was there was abject denial about this. The pledges on Free Swimming, Sure Start, Concessionary travel and the Freedom Pass were all well made; but the public need only look to which party suggested these things in the first place; Labour motion after Labour manifesto committment.

I am very happy to argue on these points; but Tories take the credit for actions which they themselves opposed, then introduce and then under-fund. As a public we then see cynicism erode our political discourse; as promises are broken time and time again.

And this was a broken promise budget. A bad deal for Medway. Its background was Tory cuts, its foundations based on documented concern over financial transparancy, consultation and management and its conclusions were Conservative; cuts to services for the most vulnerable, be that Sure Starts, Care homes and supporting people budgets.

Medway Messenger telling the truth to Tory myths; they are targeting vulnerable for cuts

I believe a different approach could have secured our support. A truly open and transparent budget process with the public on priorities, an awareness that whilst blame can be spread to the government for not being fair that some of the reasons are systemic weaknesses in the political management of the Council that need to be overcome.

Many of the positions in the budget my colleagues supported and like many members of the public there is good and bad in everything. We did support the Council Tax freeze, the investment in an anti-airport campaign, free swimming and the token move towards travel for our young people.

Whilst delivering my speech last night I was challenged for pitching my speech to the public through the Medway Messenger [and its readers]; too right I was - thousands open to reason as opposed to the tired and trite dogma of the ruling elite in a room with an audience of a dozen political hacks... Why do you think I blog?

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Budget shows Tories cant be trusted

I will be joining my colleagues tomorrow to vote against this bonkers budget from this Conservative administration

I believe it is a bad deal for Medway residents, and one based on a flawed prospectus and a total lack of contact with the public that we are elected to serve.

The basis for this budget is a Local Grant settlement which saw a reduction of £14.3m to our annual budget from Eric Pickles; added up to last years cut of £23.5m and we see a Conservative government happy to take from Medway residents to pay for other more wealthy authorities in Surrey and Sussex. I simply can not sit back and accept that our residents have to pay for residents elsewhere who live in relative affluence.

I also believe that despite all the promises Medway continues to suffer from floor damping and our Council continues to have £5.9m of outstanding Council tax to collect. This is outrageous and unacceptable.

When Tories are talking about fiscal prudence the evidence stands for itself as this blog has regularly commented upon to much annoyance to those who would rather not allow any form of free speech. Sanctions are the preserve of the desperate; not the strong.

Despite almost a decade of Conservative-rule we enter another budget cycle having no apology for the failure to account for the previous year Council overspends on the bus station, school projects and other major works.

It is another balanced-budget on paper only; for we all know they will then break their own rules as soon as they vote it through.

Despite the Conservative Press there are measures within the budget which are positive, many of which largely lifted from our Local Election Manifesto and Motion submissions including;

  • Freeze in Council Tax to help families who are struggling to balance family budgets
  • £50,000 toward an anti-airport campaign (at last!!)
  • Keeping the lowest Council Tax in Kent which is a legacy of Medway Labour on the creation of the Unitary Authority
  • Funding for Free Swimming which the Tories scrapped in 2010
  • Retention of Concessionary Travel for elderly residents
  • Moves to introduce Medway Freedom Pass for young people; but we are concerned about future sustainability (as indicated last year)
  • Continued investment to reduce unemployment including Apprenticeship schemes
I do not support and am concerned by measures in the budget:
  • A cut to Sure Start funding which will impact families and young children
  • Doubling of car parking charges. At a time when inner city centres are suffering fall in footfall
  • Rise in rent charges. At a time when families are struggling to balance family books
  • Cuts to Supporting Adult Budgets at a time when people are struggling to get a job
  • £250,000 cut to road maintenance budget at a time when residents have had to stomach years of traffic jams on the Brook and in Chatham

The budget is about making choices about funding for services but it is also about consulting and taking residents with you. Do we pay for golf courses or do we pay for care services? Do we pay for better roads or more libraries?

Whilst the Tories can jump on asking the public to decide priorities I believe, and I believe the public believe, that we should be asked.

The Tory group in Medway claims to listen but in the last two months has rejected a referendum on an airport, rejected any consultation on the budget and failed to fairly consult, to my mind, on the closure to care homes.

In a period of austerity the public should be allowed to answer the tough questions and set the local priorities, with full awareness that a time of deficit reduction we all need to tighten our belts.

Some Tories will pretend it is not an either / or but to them they have chosen to make the cuts in particular areas; they have picked a focus.

If Labour were in power we would make different choices based not on the whims of a sunset clique, but on detailed consultations with the public.

Monday, 20 February 2012

It's Codswallop from Downing Street

What a total farce of a day; this is the government of the UK picking winners and loosers for its dead-duck Health Bill.

Lansley is a chancer. He lacks intellect and capability. Bring in Jeremy Hunt...

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Big Airport Weekend

A very successful weekend with 25 activists from across Kent Young Labour, Labour Students and from the CLP itself. A couple of thousand leaflets delivered and for the most part; very dry indeed.

A number of the video's below from the weekend and the leaflet beneath:


Thursday, 16 February 2012

Flailing under Pressure

Tory Comms policy; lots of hot air and subject to sudden movements.

Have to say am a little bit bemused by the sudden ramping up of the rhetoric by the Conservatives in advance of the budget meeting next week.

I think we can all tell they are getting rattled under pressure.

We all know the Conservative group is in acrimony at the moment but lashing out in an uncoordinated and uncontrolled way makes a Group that is nominally in control, look like its out of control and desperate.

We have reached the point where the responses to our charges are either incoherent, disingenuous or on the spurious golf course claims; simply baffling!

This is the first indication that the controlled press and management is beginning to fall apart. A group, once proud of presenting a coherent message looks divided and weak.

Power is about projection and perception; getting either wrong can be fateful.

For an opposition the current babbles are an absolute dream; Tories underneath harbour views most salient and rational people would find concerning. Allowing them to express these openly; please continue...

Foot-in-Mouth this week

i) Releasing a press statement claiming that Labour were going to sell-off the Rochester airport and Deangate Golf course, on the same day your privatise and propose the sell-off of Council care home assets.

The press release was of course baseless, but the timing was very poor indeed. Not only does it look uncaring about the major issue of the day, but it also looked deliberately timed to change the media discourse. Of course it was not, but a sensible press person would not have encouraged the Tory blogosphere to go heavy on it; which they then did.

For fact; there no supporting Council documentation or recent Labour Policy to the claims. The two issues have not been on any agenda for at least a decade - indeed so long ago - I was in my late teens when the campaign in the airport was last considered

The press will consider it a political attack and badly timed given the news that day.

Dont let it stop the Peninsula Councillor's stand in front of a Council owned golf course sign; especially a couple of days before their voters are about to be canvassed.

Conclusion: Home goal based on a fiction; not good when you need to highlight fiscal credibility in less than a week.

ii) The statement taking credit for the 11+ Test movement

Of course there is plenty of independent commentary about how this issue has been a monumental failure of political leadership. Adding to my own timeline of events, we have also seen Conservative bloggers calling for the resignation of the portfolio holder who managed this farce.

The fact is Tory Councillors parroting out a line that all is well because of them is to be scoffed at. The Tories not only hashed up the enquiry process but they were the ones who sanctioned the move of the 11+ test into the 'Test Centres' in the first place in 2006/2007.

Conclusion: Claiming credit for an action you originally proposed and pursued year after year. Apologise, apologise, apologise.

iii) The claim that Free Swimming for Pensioners and Young People was a Tory idea

Alas utterly untrue; not only was it introduced by Labour but the Tories scrapped it in 2010, before undertaking a u-turn and re-introducing the Labour policy. Of course we are very happy to see it.

Highlighting opponents achievement was and can be clever. The problem is that once challenged with the truth it reinforces the notion you are being dishonest.

iv) Claim they are responsible for the lowest Council Tax

Alas utterly untrue; the Conservative administration inherited the lowest Council tax. The origin of this Council Tax was the creation of the Unitary Authority in the late 1990s which scrapped the borough and parish council system, so reducing our tiers of government to one level. For better or worse; the Unitary Authority creation was a legacy of Medway Labour.

Highlighting opponents achievement was and can be clever. The problem is that once challenged with the truth it reinforces the notion you are being dishonest.

v) Attacking the 'fraudulent claim'

I have since linked this to the Audit Committee reports which shows that fraudulent payments from Medway Council are amongst the worst quartile in the Country.

Incidentally; appreciating the free advertising to that particular list, it was notable none of the other salient points on botched projects, sell-offs, credit card payments and historic vandalism were challenged.

Conclusion: Never highlight your opponents argument; oops I think I just have...

Oh well.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Two-Faced Tories

A little sneak peek for Saturday...

The big No-Tory Airport event on Saturday is open to everyone who believes David Cameron and the Tories have fibbed about the Estuary Airport.

Do drop me an email even if you are not a Labour voter / supporter but are interested in opposing the Conservative government plans.

Lets send Cameron a message that he will not forget. No Airport.

The Record of Shame

Meanwhile; whilst we talk about a lack of respect for the people of Medway the list continues. Lets look below at the alleged Medway Tory record
  • £86,000 on Council Credit card bills. Poor financial control
  • One of the poorest Local Authorities for fraudulent payments in the UK. Lack of financial control over procurement
  • £5.9m un-collected Council tax. Worst in South East
  • £1.2m Woodlands School fiasco. Poor financial control.
  • £35m under-investment in Medway roads. Lack of investment
  • Chatham bus station balls-up. Full cost £10m on public purse
  • Lodge Hill consultation a sham and had to be extended. 5,000 homes proposed in an area with lack of transport capacity
  • Sell off of Nelson Court, Platters Farm, Robert Bean Lodge and Shaws Wood Care homes
  • Medway Tunnel fiasco purchased behind closed doors and potential for Tory Toll. Time bomb left for residents
  • The 11+ Fiasco caused by incompetent management in education
  • 'Better for Less model' with 'over-egged' savings according to Unions
  • Closure of the centuries-old Rochester Market to provide income generating car parking
  • Closure of Dickens Centre in Rochester highstreet
  • Sell off Tourism Information Centres
  • New taxes; vulture car, Allottments tax, charges up.
  • Bus route cuts
  • Strood Market threatened
  • Destruction of Aveling and Porter building to provide income generating car parking
  • Destruction of riverside wharves to provide thusfar non-existant development
  • Vandalism (tree felling etc) of The Paddock and overspend on the Brook regeneration
  • Vandalism of Riverside Gardens (tree felling etc) for "Dynamic" Bus Station
  • Sell off land opposite Rochester Airport for development
  • Failure to ensure the refurbishment of Pentagon toilets despite allegedly wasting £200,000 earmarked.
  • Medway Magna allowing to submit proposals for the destruction of Capstone Valley
  • Selling off parts of Watts Meadow for development
  • Selling off Copperfield Green Space for development
  • Stoke Crossing Fiasco over run
  • Walderslade School cost over run
  • Proposed closure of St John's C of E Infants and St Peter's Primary School
  • Closure of Ridge Meadow Primary school
The list goes on and on and on and on and on.

Dont let the Tories distract you; incompetence comes as standard with the Medway Conservatives.

Tory spin hides real story

Whenever the Tories whip up a head of steam on a non-issue you know they are trying to conceal a real story or when something going on behind the scenes.

The fact we got so much of it today suggests both. A concealment of the real story and something behind the scenes.

The suggestion that anyone wants to flog off Rochester Airport or a random golf club on the Peninsula is absolute rubbish. The point made today was clear; instead of focusing on non-issues the Council should be focused on the matter at hand; the care homes closures.

The fact the Tories tried to spin a story on safeguarding Council assets on the same day as they privatised three cares homes is about as brazen as you get.

This is three publicly owned care homes, which care for hundreds of residents, privatised after a consultation which was quite frankly an utter shambles. And the Tories then complain about a sell-off of private land that happened when I was a mere teenager, from 1997-2002.

Clutching at the proverbial straw

Instead today we witnessed the shameful positioning of Tories trying to change the story.

The story today is simple; the Tories agreed after 8,000 signatures and significant public anger across the entire towns to privatise our last remaining care homes.

The consultation behind these closures was a sham; pre-budgeted in outcome and without considering all the options on partnership models it was all but decided before it even started. The fact it was in the budget for this year says everything about the intent of the Tories.

The big question I posed in the winter was why the Council had not considered social partnerships like the Norse Group. Social partnerships which are owned by and established limited companies in the ownership of the public sector. I was given short shrift but the question remained on my mind.

It is now interesting that Medway Community Healthcare - a NHS sponsered social partnership - is now putting an interested enquiry into the Balfour Centre.

My question then and it is now; why has it taken this long for a social-partnership to be looked at as a viable alternative to pure privatisation? Why was this not considered from the outset?

In addition, have significant questions about the timing of this bid. Why has it taken so long - indeed an 11th hour intervention - for MCH to submit a bid?

The timing is very interesting; whether any Council officers had previous conversations on an MCH bid prior to a formal application would be of public interest. It is very likely that conversations must have been had for them to make a business case for the service.

The Tories today have been remarkably loud; they are only ever thus when there is internal instability. I suspect that the decision to privatise homes must have weighed heavily on the more decent of back-benchers.

Whether there was a wobble in the ranks remains a mystery, but them jumping at Cllr Maple today suggests to me there was and whats more it was serious.

A reshuffle of Cllr Brake may be on the cards...

There remain significant questions about the timing and nature of the new bid for the Balfour Centre but let us not distracted; the last of our public care homes were sold off to the highest bidder today

Monday, 13 February 2012

End the Big 6 Energy Fix

We all know that the big six Energy companies have an effective oligopoly over the market and are pricing the poorest into the cold.

Since the Compass launch of the ‘End the Big Six Energy Fix’ campaign on Friday they have had over 5000 signatures – a fantastic start.

On its front page on Saturday The Independent revealed that the big six energy firms are due to make a £15bn windfall.

As someone who hasn’t yet signed they need your help in turning up the heat on the big six energy companies. Will you now sign the petition?

Today the true cost of energy profiteering really hit home, when it was revealed that deaths from hypothermia have doubled in the last five years.

And whilst millions of Britons struggle to make ends meet with 5.5m households in fuel poverty, the big six energy companies are struggling with a very different dilemma – what to do with all their windfall profits. Sound like a fair deal to you?

This is exactly why we want the Government to impose a levy on the big six energy companies to help insulate people’s homes and make their gas and electric bills more affordable. They’ve already imposed a levy on the North Sea oil companies – so why not the energy companies too?

They want to get to over 10,000 signatures by the end of this week, so that in the run-up to the Budget in March they can pile on the pressure for the Government to take action.

So sign the petition now and then share on Facebook, Twitter and email everyone you know:

Let’s work together to End the Big Six Energy Fix and try to ensure that next winter nobody has to be left in the cold.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Another myth busted

One of myths that is trotted out by local Conservatives is that we are only subsidising 'Labour voting' areas of the UK.

It seems the myth spread by some misguided right wingers is factually spurious. Would not be the first time...

Whilst some form of redistribution from poor areas from wealthy regions does indeed occur from the wealthier South to poorer areas in the North, it is particularly interesting to see which part of the UK takes the most subsidy.

It is the Northern Irish which seem to get the highest level of subsidy, with Belfast one of the lead cities in terms of capital receipt direct from the government.

According to the Belfast government website the public sector plays a huge role in Belfast's economy. Almost two out of every five jobs are in public administration, education and the health sector.

The table shows that London, South East and Eastern regions are subsidising the more industrial areas of the United Kingdom and in particular Northern Ireland (29.4%), Wales (26.0%) and the North east (22.2%).

I suspect the Tories, who rely on the DUP for votes in the House of Commons may not feel comfortable but it appears true, it isnt just Labour voting areas that need help.

£6m Outstanding Council Tax Bill

Do you honestly think that Medway Conservatives are fiscally competent?

The news that Medway was the worst local authority in the entire South East for uncollected Council Tax with almost £6m outstanding is an outrage which serves to highlight the total incomptence of the current Conservative administration.

This figure has worsened on my piece in late 2010 when the Conservatives had failed to collect £4m in Council tax. This is now the twelfth year running that our bill has continued to rise.

Over the same period we have seen other Authorities reduce the outstanding Council tax debts so there is simply no excuse. Unless you consider incompetence as an excuse?

This blog would suggest that the local Tories have just continued to blindly ignore the problem; this has those that pay Council Tax continue suffering the cuts to Sure Start, Libraries and other services which impact the front line, whilst a number of people are getting away with out paying.

Despite all the hot air about managing your money sensibly this current Council stands in shame as the worst performer when compared with all the other 67 Authorities in the South East. A position which serves to highlight why the Conservatives locally can not be trusted with the finances on the Council.

The Council spin machine incorrectly stated that this was only in comparison with smaller district Councils. However Slough, Southampton and Brighton & Hove are all Unitary Authorities so this is a flawed response.

We have yet to have any apology from the Medway Conservatives and not one member of the administration has deemed it appropriate to comment on their shameful legacy.

As the budget day approaches the public can smell the stench of Tory mismanagement as predicted by this blog in December. The simple fact this is but the latest in a sorry saga of financial mismanagement.

Councillor Jarretts budgetary incompetence is well documented and this latest piece of news just serves to reinforce his record; no grip, no clue, no future:

The above is merely the tip of the iceberg but adds up to multiple millions of pounds of your money squandered.

The incompetence permeates every level of the local Conservative Party; they have simply lost grip of good financial governance.