Monday, 30 July 2012

A Reality Check

I saw an interesting piece on the news last weekend, after the Tory MP criticised the Olympic opening ceremony.

It was reported Downing Street was unhappy with the Cannock Chase MPs outburst as they were concerned about the Tory brand being retoxicified.

Today it is being reported that Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt had sympathy with the Cannock Chase MPs views.

It is becoming every so clear that, this Conservative government is a government for the Conservative funders, the corporate class and the super rich.

Neoliberals claim that we are best served by maximising market freedom and minimising the role of the state. The free market, left to its own devices, will deliver efficiency, choice and prosperity.

It is the Conservatives devotion to neoliberalism that causes this denial of reality in the economy.

The Conservatives funders use campaign finance, networking and lobbying, big business recruits this government to champion their interests, you can see this squalid reality at work in Cameron's speech last week. "We have listened to what business wants and we are delivering on it. Business said, 'We want competitive tax rates,' so we are creating the most competitive corporate tax regime in the G20 and the lowest rates of Corporation tax in the G7 …".

In the NHS we have seen the calamitous Health and Social Care Act, this leaves our beloved Health Service at the alter of the insurance companies that finance the Tory party, like the PFI schemes allowing profit out of health. The Conservatives promised no top down reorganisation of the NHS at the election of 2010, they knew if they did, they would be seen as the same old Tories, TOXIC.

Now we see Adrian Beecroft, the venture capitalist and friend of the Conservative party, writing a report that would like to wipe away workers rights, this to benefit the corporate class, by the way this report is not evidence based, merely the musing of a venture capitalist. again same old Tories. TOXIC

When this government has cut benefits to the working poor, in terms of housing benefits, working tax credits and soon Council tax benefits, they will also restrict access to justice for poorer people and at the same time giving tax cuts to the super rich, these are the choices.

The Conservatives supporting their funders, at what point will they wake up, austerity is killing the goose, real lasting damage is being done to our economy and peoples lives, Conservatives are largely clueless in how to rebuild a shattered economy, because they are wedded to neoliberal thinking, they cannot comprehend that their political ethos are the problem, this is why the conservative brand is TOXIC.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Does it smell like coffee, Mr Osbourne?

Today, it is really time that this chancellor and this government recognise that their economic strategy has failed, the economy is smaller today than when they came to office in 2010 with their grubby little coalition agreement.

It was predicted this week that the British economy would return to growth, yet the economy has shrunk by a eye watering 0.7%.

George Osborne's ill-judged plan has turned Britain's recovery under the previous labour government into a flatlining economy and now a deep and deepening recession. UK output is 4.5% lower than it was when the economy peaked in early 2008.

Conservative Britain is the worst performing country in the G8 group of industrialised countries, apart from Italy.

The Labour Party warned that Austerity alone would not repair the economy, it is clear George Osbourne, the part time chancellor, has utterly destroyed confidence of consumers and investors a like.

If you destroy confidence, you raise tax and you cut public spending and reduce public investment, then you cannot be surprised if the economy crashes.

To quote the Deputy Prime Minister before the 2010 General Election the Lib Dem's agreed with LABOUR that severe cuts to our vital public services would damage economic growth, in Nick Clegg’s own words to Reuters "My eight-year-old (son) ought to be able to work this out -- you shouldn't start slamming on the brakes when the economy is barely growing. "If you do that you create more joblessness, you create heavier costs on the state, the deficit goes up even further and the pain with dealing with it is even greater. So it is completely irrational."

But of course, as sir Alan Budd said after the 2010 General election the economy would grow more strongly than Mr Darling gloomily forecast. Something is going badly right.

Unemployment, he said, will be almost 200,000 lower than had been feared. Economic growth will not be quite as strong but the tax revenues – which are far more important – will come in much higher than forecast 

The so-called structural deficit (the amount of overspend that will not be eliminated by an economic recovery) is a little bigger than had been estimated. But crucially, Mr Osborne's election goal – to abolish "the bulk" of the structural deficit by 2014 – would have been easily achieved had Mr Darling remained in place. No more taxes need to be raised, or budgets cut, to honour this Tory manifesto pledge."
British house prices, which have recovered faster than anywhere in the world and should grow by 10 per cent both this year and next."The British economy is doing remarkably well. Manufacturing is bouncing back.

So he concludes that as he doesn't need to make savage cuts to sort out the deficit.

Compare and contrast, under Labour a recovery, under the Conservatives double dip recession, with the Lib Dem's verbally agreeing with labour and the same time voting with the conservatives.
The lib Dem's have betrayed voters on the economy, on tax on education and Tuition fees and EMA on the NHS, on the ballot paper next time around read the betrayal party.  

Sunday, 22 July 2012

One eyed governments

An interesting story circulating in today's media is the global super-rich elite had at least $21 trillion (£13tn) hidden in secret tax havens by the end of 2010, according to a major study.

Now whether the tax evasion is this large is open to debate, but what is clear the super rich are industriously using professional enablers in private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries to avoid their moral responsibilities.

It will be undoubtedly true that many British tax payers will be involved in this activity of tax evasion.

Whilst the cuts in public spending, cut to the tax credits and benefits, whilst tax increases has faced many, some of the super rich has cocked a snoot at the millions who are suffering.

Yet we have a coalition government that is for the millionaires not for the millions.

This government chooses the soft options, taking housing benefit from the single under 35 year olds, taking tax credits away from low income families and we are seeing vital services vanishing.

This coalition Conservative government rhetoric is about demonising the poor, yet it was bankers, hedge fund managers and investment bankers who did their very best to bring the world economy to it's knees with casino capitalism.

The real issue for the economy is the loss of tax revenues, the morality of casino capitalism, is narcissistic, they believe themselves so important the millions has to bow down to them, they believe they are untouchable.

They think themselves beyond progressive taxation, beyond regulation of the markets, they will leave us all, because they think themselves so valuable. 30 years on, and that bubble has burst.

Making money on leverage debt is a mirage, a dream built on sand.

Money invested in production to create wealth for the millions not the millionaires create real wealth, the dreadful outsourcing and race to the bottom is a self serving prophecy.

Do we have politicians who will engage with this agenda, shaping an industrial/growth strategy, or will the Conservatives continue to be the mouth piece for their funders in the City of London, the investment bankers, the hedge fund managers and the insurance giants.

These vested interests are the ones that are supporting the millionaires against the millions, with this in mind the Conservatives will be unable to tackle this dangerous self interested lobby.

Friday, 20 July 2012

A Self serving prophecy

So Mr Osbourne, Austerity is working (sic).

Today we have discovered that it is likely the government will have to borrow an additional £20 billion, this financial year.

A rise in government spending to cope with higher social security bills, combined with a fall in tax receipts, has left the Treasury scrabbling to meet its borrowing target for the end of the year.

The International Monetary Fund has also warned the government that it risks permanently damaging economic output unless it spends more on infrastructure projects and delays welfare cuts to boost confidence and private consumption.

Mr Osborne now has a very difficult choice, he can either scrap the national debt target, which would be a political embarrassment, or he can impose greater cuts and tax rises in an attempt to get back on track. If Mr Osbourne is consistent and believes that his targets need to be hit, further cuts would almost certainly further weaken an economy suffering its second recession in three years.

The UK is back in recession after the economy shrank by 0.4% in the final quarter of 2011 and by 0.3% in the first three months of this year.

On Monday, the IMF lowered its growth forecasts for the UK to 0.2% in 2012 and 1.4% in 2013. In the spring, it had forecast growth of 0.8% this year and 2% next year, every economic organisations have over estimated the level of growth within our economy, but like all monetarists cannot accept their medicine is in part the cause of the lack of growth.

This is the problem for this government, economic activity is likely to fall short of what it forecast earlier this year, and this is likely to see the deficit rising higher both from extra spending but also from a lack of tax receipts, so in effect this is Austerity policy is a self serving prophecy.

The government needs to invest in infrastructure and develop an industrial strategy as a foundation for future growth, as Einstein said doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, well that's insanity.

Mr Osbourne, time for a holiday? Call an Election and you can have a permanent one, before you cause more misery.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


Looking at the Independent an interesting story caught my eye, it is the rise and rise of Special advisers under this government.

It turns out that a list of 81 ministerial "Spads" released by 10 Downing Street, one more than at the end of the last Labour administration, includes 19 working for David Cameron and 14 for Nick Clegg.

Now in these times of Austerity, when we all have to tighten our belts and we're all in this together we see the bill for Special advisers is up almost 30% on the £4.8 million paid in 2010/11.

This money not helping anyone except ministers that promised a bonfire of bureaucrats, and Nick Clegg who told Gordon Brown they should be funded by their own political party,  Does Nick Clegg really need 14 Special advisers? Especially as he knows everything that he says, he will reverse at the earliest possible moment.

Sounds a bit like cutting MPs to save money whilst increasing the costs in the House of Lords, but that's OK Dave, that's just for political advantage, but not for your advantage Nick. And Nick you did get a referendum on the alternative vote, a system no one wanted.

I left thinking what is the point of Nick Clegg, Can anyone help?

Monday, 16 July 2012


Today the International Monetary Fund downgraded this country's growth forecast for this year, meaning we have the weakest growth rate of the developed nations.

The IMF are predicting 0.2% growth for 2012, this will mean effectively a twelve months of recession. The IMF are cutting the prediction for 2013 by one third to 1.4%, but as the IMF has a long term record of over predicting growth in the economy, the medium term growth of the British economy is looks at the very best, flat.

In policy terms the Conservative government has no answers to the malaise in our economy, instead the chancellor spends time looking around for people and causes to blame, he is a man in power who does not like the responsibility of it.

The economy is still about 4% smaller in Gross Domestic Product than in 2007 and if the economy had grown in line with the average the economy is 12% smaller than could responsibly expected.

The only silver lining in all this is, thanks to the Labour government not entering the Eurozone at least we have control of our currency, this gives us flexibility that struggling eurozone countries does not.

The problem in the economy is that well paid full time jobs are not available, with short time flexible jobs keeping unemployment levels down, but this is not giving confidence in the economy.

So Austerity is working, Cuts in benefits and tax credits, cuts in public sector spending has choked off construction, 40% of the construction industry is reliant on the public sector, public sector workers are being made redundant, increases in taxes has also damaged disposal incomes, fuel costs keep rising and as food also costs more, wages are at best stagnant, with companies taking profits rather than awarding pay rises.

With all this happening, tax receipts are not going to recover, this means the government will not meet it's targets and we know George Osbourne will borrow at least £158 billion more than he said.

The government needs to do more, it needs temporary tax cuts to boost spending, it needs to invest in affordable housing giving a boost to construction and infastucture and it needs to develop an industrial strategy with a government investment bank (called RBS).

The time has come for the hand washing to stop and the government working for the millions not the millionaires.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

A New Dawn?

Last evening the Shepton Mallet Town Council finally heard the message that the Town does not want to spend money on a feasibility study into a civic centre (or whatever it's called). The Council rescinded their earlier decision to do so.

The Council also decided to conduct a Neighbourhood Plan with full public consultation, this to be worked up in the coming period.

This offers all members of our community an opportunity to shape the Shepton we want.

Hopefully this will offer a new dawn.

This is all good news. Hopefully after all the issues that are outstanding with the civic hall can be dealt with, and the community are given answers to remaining questions.

There were a number of councillors who switched their votes, this was encouraging, I have to say both Cllrs Cook and Gibbs did explain their decisions to switch their votes, others did not, with cllr Champion not voting at the first meeting having left for explained reason before the vote on a feasibility study.

I thought an amusing incident happened during the debate on rescinding the feasibility study, Cllr John Parham rebuked both cllr Cook and Gibbs for changing their minds and changing their votes and suggested training for those members, as it was important for councillors to understand the necessity of making the right decision..

Nothing funny in that you may think.

Until you realise that cllr Parham was against building a civic hall, voted for a feasibility into an ill defined community building and just to get a full set, abstained on rescinding the feasibility study, now anyone for training?

Being involved in the debate you realise the supporters of the feasibility study and a civic facility have not established a coherent argument for either the need for a facility or the public desire for one. This is particularly frightening as these people were prepared to spend tax payers money on it.

Some councillors has chosen to reopen the costing for the previous Town Poll on the Civic facility, the Council took legal opinion and paid for the poll, this is how the issue should stay. Resolved for the Council. We should move on.

A number of Councillors did accuse, me, Will and Garfield of being anti democratic and not respecting the 12 councillors who voted for a feasibility study.

This only holds water if you believe the Townspeople views are less important than councillors, one councillor even suggested that the three councillors had bullied the remaining councillors by getting an 1800 or so petition, this to me is perverse, democratically elected councillors have the right to engage with the community, it is clear that the councillor who made that comment knows that the voters are king although he voted against rescinding the feasibility study, he knew that a majority of cllrs could not continue in the face of huge community opposition.

For the Record for rescinding the money for a feasibility study;

Cllrs Champion, Cook, Dunscombe, Gibbs, Kennedy, Me, Lovell, Shearn

Against rescinding

Cllrs Bartlett, Curtis, Height, Kinneston, J Marsh, T Marsh, Marvin


Cllr Parham

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Weekly update

This week has proved to be another busy week.

The Town Council's groundcare contract is up for renewal and the Council is in the process of procuring a new contract. This is currently being run in conjunction with Mendip Council.

On Monday evening I spent the evening re reading all the paperwork and revising the current groundcare issues to produce a question bank of questions so when I showed the respective firms around the Town Councils grounds I could score each company in a transparent way.

Tuesday was the ill fated Council Meeting, I can safely say I have never attended such a angry council meeting, A councillor refusing to answer straight forward questions, another councillor using private emails, there is no doubt the Town Council needs to pull itself back from the brink of implosion, will it? We'll see.

Wednesday evening I spent time dealing with my Internet Service Provider attempting to deal with the security of my account. I fielded a telephone call from a constituent to deal with a problem.

On Friday evening I was hoping to attend a police event at kilver Court, dealing with their project around drug awareness, especially cannabis, unfortunately I was working until 10pm so I was unable to attend.

Today, I involved with a fundraising money collection for the new skatepark at Tescos, held a meeting with councillors on the groundcare contract, I also visited the Tourist Information Centre, I am the link councillor, to talk through all the issues with the manager.

I read 150 emails dealing with council matters this week.

I finished the day off catching up with a friend and realise how tame Shepton really is.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Times are a changing

Today we saw further evidence that the country is thursting for change, yet our politicians are simple not up to that change.

In the same way back at the end of the 1970s the public grew tired with strikes and trade union leaders not in tune with their membership, today we have seen our government not take the big step and support an independent judicial review of the current banking scandal.

The tradegy is the Conservatives and liberal Democrats have placed themselves on the out side from public opinion, there will be more scandals with banks and those who support a wider investigation into banking will point to the timidity or worse of this government.

Government has to be in tune with the public mood, the public has utter revolution for the bankers, sickened by their excesses, Jon Mann the Labour MP said of Bob Diamond, the former Barclays Bank CEO, his annual bonus was equal to the budget of the largest homeless charity in the country SHELTER. The Chancellor of the Exchequor likes to say were are all in this together, but this is utter garbage and the public knows this.

If any individual was to commit fraud then they would be arrested, what's different about the ibor scandal? All in this together Bob?

George Osbourne is an utter disgrace in attacking Ed Balls in the Spectator, why does Osbourne not support a judicial review and allow his claims to be investigated? Why? Could it be because he is more concerned with politics, he runs the economy like he isn't in charge, he spends the whole time talking about (misrepresenting) Labours record. A posh boy whos out of his depth, he reminds me of a teenager who likes debating with having to take responsibility.

People are sickened by all this, people are genuinely struggling, they see a political system on the side of the powerful, a political system that is out of touch by politicans who do not live normal lives, this is dangerous.

Democracy only works when people buy into it, change is needed, democracy and transparancy is needed as a disinfectant, to clean up the times in which we live. Do we have politicans big enough to see that through?

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Council meeting

What an extraordinary Council meeting held last evening.

Members of the public wanted to know from cllr Marvin his relationship with Architects in relation to the civic hall, Mr Evans asked two simple questions, however cllr Marvin refused, or claimed the 5th Amendment, to answer the questions.

Cllr Kennedy read out emails between cllr Marvin and the Architects, again Cllr Marvin refused to comment on those points.

Then cllr Parham furnished with possibly hacked emails, certainly obtained without the permission of the private email accounts.

I guess that this had clearly been thought out by cllr Parham when he clumsily tried to insinuate that in this mail trail I had either used foul language or had made comments about him (his defence was I was part of a chain), he wanted the public to believe this, my only contribution to that chain was to offer a proposal to move the Town Council forward, I was pleased after I challenged him he did agree with my statement, but I wonder if I had not challenged him he would allowed this false position to prevail.

But for clarity I publish my contribution to the mail chain;

That this Council resolve to conduct full public consultation to ascertain the wishes of the widest cross section possible of the residents of Shepton to settle the priorities and aspirations for the future of the town.

In particular, it should aim to establish a set the best options for any future use of community funds that meets the public aspirations, (including the £200,000+ collected and initially earmarked but not legally tied to a civic or community facility).

This Council agrees to allow the community engagement working party to bring forward a proposal for an independent body to conduct full consultation at the best value to the tax payer. Council will then be in a position to respond to our townspeople.

This council agrees that the results of community engagement is shared with the community and will develop new arrangements of working to allow Sheptonians real input into the governance of the Town, to make Shepton Better.."

So there we are. This is hardly worth comment is it not?

This is extremely concerning particularly concerned that my computer could well of been accessed to get these mails, it is also concerning that other personal matters could be in the view of someone else, being on my personal email account, not the council address.

I do believe it wrong for anybody and particularly an experience councillor to read out in public, emails that are essentially private and none of the people in the chain have given permission for public airing or the councillor asked if he could air, or even informed myself he had received these mails. this action does not engender trust!

Still ultimately it will be for people to decide on this, but I have contacted the Police and other agencies to investigate.

Two other pieces of business to be reported.

The Town Council wants to remove the avery birds in Collett park, the Council has no management plan, no responsible person and the Council seemly do not wish to continue to manage a risk. Cllrs Champion and Curtis did try to remove the birds without public consultation, this extraordinary following fast on the back of the Civic Hall fiasco, however we will now include consultation before making the decision in September.

The Prison has offered a visit for councillors, clearly this is related to the prison museum, but I think it is worth a visit, cllr Jeanette Marsh thought it wise to remind cllrs that the prison is not a 'peepshow', I thought this utterly disrespectful and cllr Kennedy told her so. It is utterly dreadful that cllr marsh should consider her colleagues as treating prisoners in this way, rather than showing general interest in a working prison that is in our Town.

This was a really poor meeting, the next meeting on Tuesday 10 July, I predict another difficult meeting.

Monday, 2 July 2012

1,776 not out

The last week and a half a small band of Shepton people have challenged the Town Council's decision to spend £15,000 on a feasibility study for the Civic hall/hub thingy.

In a short period we have amassed 1776 signatures to ask the Town Council to rethink the whole notion of the civic hall.

Shepton People are angry at a time of public sector cuts and reduced incomes the Town council should be so indifferent to these concerns instead they want to spend money on a project no one execept a very few wants.

Tomorrow evening the Town Council meets.

Does the Town council has the courage to admit it was wrong? That will be interesting.

I desperately hope the Council admits its mistake and then moves on, to start the process of trust rebuilding with the people of Shepton.

Update tomorrow.

Friday, 29 June 2012

A Right Royal Do

When many families are genuinely struggling because of falling incomes, inflation and more insecure working conditions, it is good to see the future Monarch getting a 11% increase in funding from tax payers.

It is a genuine concern about the level of spending by the prince of wales family amid austerity for many members of the public during the recession.

The modern mantra of "we're all in this together" seems not to apply to the Prince Charles and his family.

A breakdown of staff numbers showed that Clarence House and Prince Charles's country home in Gloucestershire, Highgrove, employed the equivalent of 135 staff. 

His accounts disclose a slight increase in staff who work for the prince and his family. They include two valets, a butler, an equerry (Historically, it was a senior attendant with responsibilities for the horses of a person of rank. In contemporary use, it is a personal attendant, usually upon a Sovereign, a member of a Royal Family), a master of the household, three chauffeurs, 10 house managers and housekeepers, five chefs and kitchen porters and 19 gardeners and estate workers, eight press officers .

It is good to see the future monarch being a good employer, pay for most staff had been frozen last year and, the Prince of Wales' tax bill rose marginally from £ 4.39m to £4.49m.

His accounts also showed an increase of 3% in the income that the Prince of Wales receives from the Duchy of Cornwall (this crown lands given to him for being the son of the queen), the estate given to the heir to the throne to provide him with a living, to £18.3m.
Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, said "Year on year, Charles continues to spend more public money on travel, much of which is for personal trips. When the country is facing sweeping cuts to public spending, Charles Windsor wilfully helps himself to whatever travel funds he wants or feel he needs."

Thursday, 28 June 2012

We need disinfectant

Whether it is politicians, media or corporate Britain, there seems to be a lack of integrity in the higher reaches of the British establishment.

Whether it's politicans protecting their generous pensions, or expenses, or snidey comments against tax evading comedians yet happily supporting other tax evading singers, or members of their cabinet.

News International that systematically hacked people's telephones, had inapproporate relationships with politicans and politicans that were their cheerleaders in government.

Now we have the Barclays story of systematically ripping of borrowers for profit.

Confidence is built on trust, how can we trust people whom are not straight and do not tell the truth.

It appears we live in an age where cutting corners, wheeling and dealing is acceptable, where is the moral code that telling the truth is paramount seems at best an option.

Then of course when these people get caught out, there raw hide becomes very sensitive, the fact that businessman like Nat West Bank whom cause misery and concern with there computer systems, or Barclays and their borrowing little scheme the directors insult our intelligence by offering not to get their bonuses, yet this level of failure in public life, would demand sacking and resignations or even prison.

I am a great believer that the best disinfectant is public exposure, bodies that are open and accountable are those organisations that have less corruption, the MP's expenses scandal made their system more transparant.

Like wise if Leveson reports that a more open transparant media is needed and this is enacted by politicans then that will benefit news.

The problem of overly powerful corporate bosses, is they are unchecked, they seem to be above the law, they display an arrogance that they are worth millions, whilst telling workers not to have pay rises, cuts to their pensions and less good conditions.

The system will not change until people pressure the establishment for change to a more moral, trustworthy, open and transparant country.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Out of Touch

The more I've hear of Dave Cameron, the more I think that he is out of touch, the boy with a silver spoon, who with his closed mind talks utter none sense on tax evation or should I say fails to act upon and now on benefits for the under 25s.

The thing you hear on the door steps is that politicans are out of touch, politicans do not have the answers.

Shepton Mallet Town Council who paid for a Town Poll on a civic centre, they spent £2000 and 90% voted against, local cllrs ignored the vote and carried on.

Now proposing to spend £15,000 on a feasibility study, people are furious and rightly so.

 This anti politician view is easy to understand with UK families are facing an uncertain financial future with one in five admitting they are living on edge.

Cameron chooses to talk in populist terms about scroungers, but it is this government that has cut child credits and increased the cost of living with increased VAT and Fuel taxes.

61 per cent of children in poverty have working parents, up from 45 per cent in the mid-nineties.

The extent of low-paid and low-hour jobs is one of the reasons, alongside the impact of benefit cuts, which are likely to lead to an increase in poverty among all groups by 2020.

The truth is that just one in eight claimants is out of work (not a statistic that you'll find reported in most papers). The majority of those who claim housing benefit, including the under-25s, do so to compensate for substandard wages and extortionate rents. A recent study by The Building and Social Housing Foundation showed that 93 per cent of new housing benefit claims made between 2010 and 2011 were made by households containing at least one employed adult.

Whether locally or nationally politicans have to be more open, tell the whole truth, this is the only way to regain the trust of people.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Predictable, Nasty and Tory

After Slick Dave opened the debate on tax evading comedians he has felt the slight heat because of tax evading Tory Donors and government ministers being named and shamed, Dave has now opened up the predictable debate on benefit scroungers.

The benefit of Dave choice is housing benefit, after restricting the under 35s to claim housing benefit for a single room, he is now proposing to remove Housing benefit for under 25s completely.

Dave like all good Tories like to divide and rule, he thinks it acceptable to remove all housing benefit for under 25s, but will not reform housing benefits for the retired members of the community, Dave understands that politically it would death to attack retired people, but politically acceptable to attack young people.

Most people understand that the housing benefit budget is out of control, but we have to ask why this is? Governments have refused to invest heavily in housing, this has allowed supply and demand to become unbalanced and imbalanced between tenures, when this imbalance is acute, prices rise, both in rents and purchase price.

Dave believes that the system currently sends the signal you are better off not working, or working less.

Full time employment is declining, with the growth in employment is in casual and part time employment, that is generally low paid and insecure, these jobs depend on in work benefits and housing benefit. Dave is so out of touch he fails to grasp that job opportunities are very limited, he is in denial about the double dip recession made in Downing Street by him and Georgie boy.

Dave sees the benefit system as the old poor laws, charity by the state to the work shy and feckless. Yet the welfare system should be based on the principle of social insurance.

Surely it is immoral for someone who has worked and paid taxes for near on ten years, who for no fault of their lose their job, be denied housing benefit, our benefit system is based on the contributions from taxes.

Dave and Georgie wants to appear tough on the poor, doing it in a way to use the Daily Mail speak, scourgers, work shy and feckless, it is understandable that low and modest income earners feel some sympathy with that sentiment.

But it is Dave and Georges economic strategy of austerity that has caused lowering incomes and increasing insecurity, shouting at the victims of their economic experiment, may get them applause, but will not tackle the fundamental ills of the housing market or the malaise these incompetent public school boys have resided.

Austerity is stripping skills from business, undermining those businesses ability to expand in the future, in yesterdays post, the HMRC were losing skilled staff, through redundancy and retirement, this restricting the HMRC's ability to collect tax, manufacturing and construction companies are no different, this austerity is hurting now and will damage the future and tax revenues.

Lazy Dave can stigmatise the victims of his austerity plan, his failure to develop the supply side of the economy and induce demand is more difficult, name calling is easy and sometimes popular.

Dave is a predictable, nasty and true Tory.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

A John Major Moment?

The most excellent David Cameron(sic), this week made a comment on the tax affairs of Jimmy Carr, comedian and satirist, he condemned his tax affairs although legal as "morally wrong".
Is this a John Major moment, the moment when John Major launched his "back to basics" campaign, a foolish wheeze to capture the moral high ground, sounds familiar?

History tells us the media then latched onto this moral crusade and buried the Major government in a tomb of sleaze, for which the Conservatives never recovered.

So what of David Cameron's wheeze on tax? The Daily Mirror immediately latched on to Conservative ministers & Conservative funders who exploit tax loopholes.

A more hostile media might ask why some celebrity tax evaders are not criticised for being morally wrong and others seem to be fair game. This says more about David Cameron than anyone else.

I suspect if the media dig they will find several years of news copy of government supporters who avoid tax through loopholes.

The battle against legal tax loopholes is a constant one, as the omnishambles of charity donations proved. However it is rich to criticise those exploit loopholes as this is the job of the treasury to close them as they are identified.

A news article in the guardian today says billions of pounds in potential revenue is tied up in tax tribunal cases because of a lack of government resources to deal with them, according to HMRC staff.

This is attributable to this governments cuts to the public sector and HMRC.

The potential funds due from more than 20,000 cases that have yet to be resolved, would take about 38 years to clear at the present rate, according to an internal estimate by HM Revenue and Customs.

Gareth Black, president of the Association of Revenue and Customs, the union representing senior tax officials at HMRC, has called for more investment in order to collect more tax and has said job losses had contributed to a failure to collect a further £1.1bn in taxes, which was also echoed in a public accounts committee report

This is a further example of the government is shooting itself in the foot, by cutting tax-gathering budgets this is grossly counterproductive, this will not save money, it will cost money.

Tax avoidence will increase and revenues will diminish. It is simply not possible to cut tax gathering resources and simultaneously pledge to close the tax gap.

The Guardian reports HMRC has a disproportionate number of senior staff close to retirement and the department's elite specialist investigations unit, which handles the most difficult avoidance cases. Staff numbers have also fallen, from nearly 100,000 in 2004-5 and likely to fall further to 55,000 by 2015. Experts have also said staff were not being properly trained and equipped for the job.

The union called for an additional investment of £260m over the next four years in key areas, including corporate tax avoidance, which would allow it to recoup an extra £6bn in currently lost tax.

So perhaps the real issue here is not Jimmy Carr, but the inability of the government/s to provide the HMRC with the resources to tackle large corporations and powerful individuals who are determined to successfully aviod tax.

As for Dave Cameron, he showed his character of being unpleasant to someone who criticises him and his friends, without seeing the bigger picture.

A John Major moment? Probably not. But if the media embarrass the Conservatives they know who to blame. Just call me Dave!

Friday, 22 June 2012

What is civic pride

Is This Shepton's Vision Of Civic Pride

Since the decision by the Town Council to spend £15,000 on an ill defined feasibility study for the civic hall, I along with cllr Dunscombe, Irene Handley have been walking the streets collecting signatures against this plan.

We have seen astonishing developments this week.

On Monday we held our first meeting to discuss how we were to tackle the Town Council, because their decision to spend £15,000 without feasibility brief, without the identification of need or identification of anything.

We decided to arrange a petition, the Council had rejected the Town poll,  of those who voted 90% did not want the Town Council to proceed with a Civic Hall, our thinking is that if 400 plus of voters were not enough the if we could produce more, this could convince the Council they were barking up the wrong tree.

Then on Tuesday Somerset BBC radio did a piece on the Civic Centre, the leading light on the Town Council stated

1. A local community hub for local agencies - Youth Club Closed, the Tourist Info Centre, been asked?, others unspecified no hard facts there then!

2. Capital fund since 2008 - the Town Council sold Great Ostry ten years ago or so 100K of the fund came from it's sale.

3. He said 4% turned out, actually it was over 6% of which 90% voted against what %is 50 people who wanted the civic building, surely same side of the coin!

4. They are nowhere near a feasibility brief and the feasibility study can be concluded  in 6 weeks?

With such a grasp of figures should we continue?

Then on Wednesday a local Architect posted that he had carried out a feasibility study for the Town Council, with an image of what the " Shepton Mallet Civic Hall" this to be at Collett Park.

I have emailed the Architect asking if  he can confirm the Shepton Mallet Town Council instructed you to carry out the works below?

Feasibility studies have been carried out for Shepton Mallet Town Council with the idea of providing a new community and public building to host a number of events such as town council meetings, weddings, town council offices, meeting rooms and a cafe. Located adjacent to Collett Park in the centre of the town.

The new building will hopefully provide a new hub to the town and to promote the town centre’s revival.

Can you inform me of whom contracted you to carry out this feasibility study, on what date were you instructed to carry out this work and what was the nature and methodology of your work and the cost agreed to perform this task?

I have not yet received a response.

On Wednesday evening we started our petition, what a response! What is interesting over 90% of people are agreeing that at this time a Civic Hall or is not what this town needs, with a handful agreeing with a Civic hall, with slightly more than a handful not interested in the issue.

The public are very angry, comments like "crazy", "how dare the spend money on this whilst the kids have to raise their own money for the skateboard park", "waste of money", "another crazy idea", "more worthwhile things to spend on", and finally "sort yerselves out"

This evening we had another evening collecting signatures, we are well on our way to collecting a huge number by the 3 July, I'm sure if the Council do not listen then we'll get even more signatures.
The thing talking to people is you realise the sense of place is not defined by palatial palaces, people who are struggling, realise that this Civic Hall is a million miles from the needs of our Town.

I can list; the risk to our hospital, Youth centre closed, very, very limited bus service after six pm in the evening and Sundays, the community have a multitude of concerns that the council should be dealing with.

Councils are there to run high quality services, they are not there to compete with the private sector for weddings and corporate events, I believe community cohesion is very important, Councils needs to access the needs of the community and cross match with health and social needs and social  economic data. Then put in coherant plans to deliver what the community wants.

From this week the community is showing extreme cohesion, sadly against the Council that is meant to represent Shepton.

Now that is sad.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Monday, 18 June 2012

Hard times

Lots of really interesting stories around today, the relentless evidence of the times getting harder for people on modest incomes.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation are reporting that an average household pre-tax-and-benefit income fell over 7% between 2007-08 and 2010-11, after accounting for inflation, as rising unemployment and the recession took their toll.

There is real evidence that young people are struggling to get onto the housing ladder, this is caused by, by record levels of student debt, low levels of interest on savings and stagnant wages ... mean that the government is sitting on a housing time bomb.

Almost 7 million working-age adults are living in extreme financial stress, one small push from penury, despite being in employment and largely independent of state support, these 3.6m British households have little or no savings, nor equity in their homes, and struggle at the end of each month to feed themselves and their children adequately.

The households in trouble include couples without children who earn a gross annual income of between £12,000 and £29,000, or couples with two children on between £17,000 and £41,000.

The stagnating economy, increasing unemployment, rising prices, falling incomes and cuts to public services – 88% of which lie ahead over the next four years – meant things would get worse for those on low incomes

These seven million people who work hard, do the right thing for their families

and expect that a fair society that rewards effort and where work pays, these people have seen their incomes reduced, living costs increased and new taxes and some benefit cuts.

If proof was needed that austerity was grinding ordinary decent hard working people over the edge this evidence proves it.

We've seen a double dip recession made in Downing street, this is not merely statistics it is delivering real damage to people lives, this out of touch, incompetent government needs to change economic tack, if they don't the social damage will be huge.

Saturday, 16 June 2012


Reading the Independent today and an article caught my attention.

The article 'Draconian' judge says riot sentences were fair', this an article talking about the sentences given to people after last years public disorder, one sentence could my attention. District Judge Tan Ikram said "I can assure you, no politicians told me or any of my colleagues what to do. We applied the law."

The British establishment knows how to act, it acts to protect the establishment, whether it is Prime ministers doing the work of wealthy and powerful or it is the press barons protecting the establishment power and wealth.

It was obvious to anyone who saw the public disorder last year, that it was completely sickening, loutish behaviour that beyond decency.

Mr Ikram says judges got sentencing "just about right" and insisted each case had been treated fairly on its own merit despite the all-night court sessions and political outrage.

Having not seen the evidence, or condoning the crime, but on the face of it sending a teenage girl to jail for eight months for stealing a bottle of Lucozade and a bag of sweets during last summer's riots, seems to me more harsh than would be sentenced if not part of the summer public order problem.

This is one example of where the establishment is sending a clear message to the population, young people have taken a real mauling from this government, they have lost out monetarily and opportunity, with a disillusioned youth it must terrify the establishment that the disillusioned youth may vent their frustrations on the streets.

Politicans never needed to tell Judges what to do, Judges know their responsibility, protect property,wealth and the nautral order of things.

Should the judges not say the devil makes work for a million young people Not in Education Employment or Training, if people have a stake in our society they are less likely to destroy it.

Our country has become valueless, instead of society feeling responsible.

I remember a poem from school, to paraphrase heaven and hell were the same, sat around a table with long sticks to feed themselves, in heaven they realised they had to feed each other because the sticks were too long to feed themselves and by doing this everyone was fed and was happy, in hell everyone was selfish and could not help everyone to help themselves, they were hungry and unhappy. 

If those sticks were our establishment would we lock up our young people or would we contribute to give them a future?

Friday, 15 June 2012

Weekly update

The response to my blog on the community thingy has been very good, with the vast majority of comments of disbelief at the Town Council are continuing there plan for a community building.

The less public response has also been enlightening.

I have received emails from councillors and it is apparent they do not seem to understand what they are doing, in regard to the planning for the community building.

It would appear there is a email circulating that is at best described as a back of a fag packet idea for a feasibility study, yet having decided to spend £15,000 on a feasibility study, if you do not know what you are to do a feasibility on, how do you know how much it will cost?

It feels like a lot of scurrying around to dig themselves out of the hole they have placed themselves in.

I believe the public of Shepton Mallet deserves better than this, this council is dysfunctional, seemingly incapable of thinking beyond their blinkered view.

This morning I was part of a meeting that discussed the current Shepton Town Council groundcare contract.

The contractors have planted the beds in the Town, to my designs, I think they look good.

We have agreed to plant the beds up for next spring with polyanthus and tulips, although we await the cost.

The Town Council had planned to pay for two additional grass cuts in Shepton, the contractor told us that due to the contract extension with Mendip Council it was pointless to pay for these as the contractor is just cutting each town and then moving on on a rolling programme, if the Shepton Mallet Town Council were to pay for these additional cuts, other towns would benefit from the Shepton rate payers generosity.

The semi amusing fact is that our District councillors were unaware of this! What else are they unaware you may ask?

The Town Council has agreed to pay for the Town Centre weeds to be sprayed.

This weekend I will be reviewing the tender bids for the new Shepton Mallet ground care contracts, so happy reading for me.

The casework I've handled this week, parking problems, grounds maintenance issues.

That's my update this week.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Community Thingy

Last Tuesday the Town Council agreed to spend £15K on a feasibility study on a Civic Centre/Community centre/hub, I’m sorry I cannot be more precise as no written report was submitted to outline what the proposition was, it was agended as a feasibility study on a civic centre, but it was clear the proposal was for something other than that agended. But I am unsure what sort of facility the feasibility study will be based upon.

No evidence was given at the council meeting on current community space provision; it's strengths and weaknesses, on what community space is available, the quality of that space, the cost of that community space and the occupancy of that space, so no justification was made for additional community space. All these facts should be measured against the social and economic needs of the Town.

There were no aims and objectives or coherent vision produced for the of their grand plan, despite having nine months to do so, still the Council decided to tender for a feasibility study, presumably someone knows what should be included in the terms and reference and detail of the feasibility study, but remarkably this was not even discussed or placed before the Council meeting.

Not so many years ago Shepton 21 produced a feasibility study for a community hub type project, this is freely available and you would have thought that this would have been revisited before contemplating spending an additional £15,000.

On the same council agenda, the council asked me to lead a working group to revisit and produce an updated and coherent Town Plan, this to address the needs of the Town. The Council has had a capital budget for many years, so it would be reasonable to wait until the spring when the Town Plan is complete before spending £15,000, so not to prejudge the views of Sheptonians.

The only community view we have heard on a proposed Civic/community building was the Town Poll that was held last year and 90% voted against spending money on such a building.

The Shepton Mallet community has many challenges, we’ve seen cuts to our bus services, our youth centre has been closed and the outreach work will be finished in August, we are in danger of losing our hospital beds and the Town Council is spending more on partnership funding for Mendip Council’s cuts and there is no doubt the pressure on the Town Council budgets will increase.

The former clerk told me “you can only spend £1 once”, I say it is better to invest in our young people, our older people and the sick and projects that make a direct improvement in community life now, rather than waiting years to build this community/civic building and we should not even start until the people give a majority view.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Shepton Mallet at it's Best

Today was the annual Collett Day, the Town's fair in the park.

Firstly praise for Jeff Curtis for the organisation and the perfect order for the Sun, it shone all day. Fantastic.

Collett day is Shepton at it's best, John Kyte Collett must be looking down and be quite proud of himself for the donation of the park to Shepton.

For the record, I won a DVD on the British Legion stand, a bottle of wine on the Whitstone School Stand, a watch at the Whitstone School Ghana stand. It is a great event to support Shepton's community groups.

Just images from today. Thank you Shepton!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Osbourne, King, Van Halen and a large Cigar

Having recently purchased Van Halen newish Album, A different Kind of Truth, I was listening to the track Big River, I had this vision of Mervyn King and George Osbourne in a small (ok you know it would be a palatial yacht) rowing boat drifting down a river both puffing on an old cigar, with Dave Lee Roth booming out Big River, oblivious to the fact they were yards from a rather massive waterfall.

Today we saw the Bank of England leave interest rates and Quantitative Easing the same.

It would appear the Bank of England are in denial, they seem not to accept we are in a double dip recession, or what some are calling the great recession.

They cannot accept that Manufacturing orders are reducing and confidence is low. They cannot comprehend that construction is contracting, this largely to government spending cuts.

We are seeing Mervyn King, an overly cautious Governor of the Bank of England, it is clear there are two problems with the economy, one is confidence and two is demand.

Recently the International Monetary Fund's managing director, Christine Lagarde, said the Bank of England should consider lowering interest rates further to help the UK weather the eurozone debt crisis. The IMF also advocated an expansion of its quantitative easing programme.

Likewise George Osbourne, needs to use his instruments, such as reducing VAT, giving National Insurance holidays for employing young workers, reforming tax to encourage financial houses in invest in longer infrastructure projects, and for government to invest in longer term projects that gives the British economy returns in the longer term and creates demand in the short term.

I fear Both King and Osbourne are not hearing this advice, they've got their ipods on, with the economy heading over the waterfall.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A modern conservative joined up policy

Remember the year 2012, in an allegedly modern civilised society celebrating the monarchy sixtieth year on the throne, a tale that Charles Dickens would of been proud to write.

The tale of Close Protection UK is a modern example of Conservative thinking, if you disect the Tory DNA, this story is what they are all about.

Mr Beecroft wants a no fault, fire at will policy for workers, Osbourne and Cameron are attracted to this policy.

The Tale of Close Protection UK then takes the fire at will to the next step.

With full time employment decreasing and youth unemployment over one million at over 20%, young people are particularly at risk of employers who see an opportunity to exploit the youngs willingness to work.

It would appear instead of using police for security for the Royal boating event on the River Thames for the Diamond Jubilee, government chose to use a private company, this was obviously done to reduce costs, with at least 30 job seekers working for free and another 50 "apprentices", who were paid £2.80 an hour.

Some of these people who worked unpaid stated they were deposited from Bristol and elsewhere in the middle of the night before the pageant and they had to camp under London bridge overnight, to change into security gear in public, had no access to toilets for 24 hours, and were taken to a swampy campsite outside London after working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain on the banks of the Thames on Sunday.

One woman said there was no access to usable toilets for 24 hours. They were given a paper bag in the morning, with a sandwich and a bag of crisps and told not to eat it because it was their lunch. In the sheeting rain, without any sleep, their lunch disintegrating in their hands.

John Prescott told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, "it's a breach of the responsibility of the company under the security kind of agreements in the industry to have some proper regard for their employees. Not only was it under the bridge, but they were then sent to a camp which they described as 'swampy and wet' after this event."

Molly Prince, managing director of Close Protection UK, said errors had been made but insisted the conditions reported had been exaggerated.  "It was badly handled and for that we've extensively apologised. We're not in the business of exploiting free labour."

But this is what is going on, government demonises the unemployed, government weakens employment protection and companies exploit the "business opportunities" because Labour is seen as a comodity, to quote Winston Churchill "bad employers will be undercut by the worse".

The next business opportunity is to bid for the contract at the Olympics, at which they will be paid £8.45, because it's the minimum wage but which conditions will they be paying for? How will they be sleeping? Who is responsible? This government that exploits cheap labour.

The demonisation of the poor and unemployed has been the Conservative government's achievement, the government believe that it is the unemployed that has caused their own problems, they have shifted the responsibility of training away from a civilised society and onto the individuals training at below minimum wage rates.

Whilst the Conservative friends in the hedge funds propose even worse working conditions for employees and cuts to welfare, they carry on as normal, it is a truly modern conservative policy.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Off into the unknown

Tonight we held the June meeting of the Town Council, it lasted an incredible four hours.

The meeting was moved to Paul's Street rooms as Mendip Facilities were not available although booked.

The Town Council have agreed to spend £15K on a feasibility study on a Civic Centre? Community Hub? a community thingy or somemit? you know? No written report to outline current provision it's strengths and weaknesses, no justification of the aims and objectives of the grand plan, still they passed it going out to tender on a feasibility study,presumably someone knows what they want feasibility on, we await developments.

I was clear, I wanted to survey on what community space is available, the quality of that space, the cost of that community space and the occupancy of that space. No report has been submitted on that basis.

I said what was the aims of objectives of the feasibility study, what do we the community space to do? Whom is it to be delivered for, yes a verbal list was produced, but how does that fit in with the social and economic needs of this Town.

Why was I as a Town Councillor treated so poorly that these two points on type of accommodation and the aims and objectives of the feasibility not presented in a written report?

Still the Town Council will be spending £15K of the tax payers money this equates to about £5 on tax, yet complain when I used my casting vote to raise tax by £1.25 a year to fund additional grass cuts across the Town and weed spraying to the Town Centre.

I note one Conservative councillor suggested that Tadley acres should get better treatment to the rest of the Town, what a cheek!

The Town Council is to host PACT meeting (this a public meeting to allow public to raise it concerns of public disorder, crime and problems within the community)in the public forum, I have had experience in chairing PACT and understand the resource required this is why this is a poor idea, largely the town council without resources to support peoples complaints, we know that the Police and principled Councils making cuts, why should a small Town Council want to take responsibility for other better funded organisations, the trouble with this plan is that when a big difficult issue arises and needs extra finance and expertise is required, the Town Council will be left alone hoisted on it's own petard, await egg on the Town Council face!

It would appear that Shepton cemetery is to be recycled, with a metre of top soil added to increase the ground available for burials, I asked about double graves, in Mendips plan only single graves will be allowed, it looks like Mendip will be taking the play area at Meadow rise back to the cemetery, again a verbal report, more questions than answers, a pretty shabby way to carry on, anyway, the feedback will have to wait a month.

The Town Council is potentially extending itself beyond it's financial spending power, the Council will have a choice, like the grand old Duke of York, march the community to the top of the hill only to disappoint or increase tax dramatically, you have been warned.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Half a diamond and missed opportunity

Thirty years ago, I left secondary school, this was as the first Thatcher recession was coming to an end.

We were to be on the crest of a wave, we were told, North Sea oil would give us wealth, we were told the new computers and technology would offer well paid jobs and shorter working hours and of course, the crushing of the Trade Unions would make industry more competitive and better jobs.

So what has happened in the second half of the Queens reign.

North Sea oil has begun to run out, this has largely been used to pay for economic failure in terms of welfare payments.

Full-time employees in the UK work for the third-longest amount of time in the EU, completing an average of 42.7 hours a week compared to the EU average of 37.4 hours, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Not only has the number of hours not reduced, the type of employment  has also changed in 1952 40% of people were employed in Manufacturing today it is only 8%, with the service and financial sectors growing to fill the void.
 In the 1950s, there were 350,000 people registered as unemployed was a good measure of the number of jobless people of working age receiving benefit payments from the state. In 2012, the equivalent figure is 4 million
The share of skilled manual workers in total employment has fallen from 18% to 10% in the past two decades (there are currently 3.1 million). Secondly, there has been a rise in skilled employment of people performing managerial, professional and technical jobs – so-called knowledge workers. The share of people in these occupations has risen from a quarter to 44% (there are currently 12.7 million). And thirdly there has been a rise in mixed but essentially low-skilled employment performed by a group classified as ‘personal services’ and ‘sales and customer services’ workers, of which there are 4.7 million. Their share of employment has risen from around 6% to around 16%.

Since then wage inequality has increased considerably. Available comparative figures for all full-time male employees show that weekly wage dispersion – measured by the ratio of the top 10% of earners to the bottom 10% – has increased from 2.5 in 1975 to 3.75 in 2011. By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, the share of wages in UK GDP was lower (53%) than in 1952 (58%), with profit-earners rather than wage-earners taking a bigger slice of national income.

There has been a change in the type of employer, with fewer people working for large companies to smaller firms, with men enjoying less employment tenure with females has enjoyed better tenure of employment, this is explained by better maternity and flexible working.

The 1980' and 90's were far from golden decades, characterised by numerous periods of stagflation with sluggish growth and double-digit price inflation, two deep recessions, and often a double-digit unemployment rate. The stop-go of the initial post-war decades had given way to ‘boom and bust’.

Capital has often said that Labour had to become more flexible and productive, Labour has become increasingly flexible, many workers have lost employment rights, with more flexible contracts, from loss of sick pay, fewer paid holidays and loss of occupational pensions.

At the same time the Labour market was changing from manufacturing to service sectors, western capitalism was experimenting with deregulated financial and investment banking, this was a system of leverage debts and fancy products that seemly no one knew or understood, in effect the banks owned worthless assets and paid to much for them, leaving banks to be effectively insolvent, only government action saved them.

This credit crunch has seen the Bank of England pump in hundreds of million of pounds into banks in the form of Quanative Easing, this to restore banks solvency and to create liquidity so banks have the confidence to lend again.

So western capitalism's is at a cross roads it can change was the neo liberal economics of the previous thirty years that has polarised rich and poor, that has seen the productive economy shrink to a more fair and productive economy with all workers getting their share.

The queen is worth £310million in 2012 in 1971 the queen was worth £2million or equivalent to £21million today, so at least the Queens finances has done well in the last thirty years.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

More Blood Letting Mr Osbourne

If we did not need more evidence that the Conservative governments economic strategy has proved to be wrong, the latest manufacturing output figures confirm the worst slump in three years.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said: "The data indicates that the sector is contracting at a quarterly rate of around 1%, suggesting that manufacturing will act as a major drag on economic growth in the second quarter.

Markit economist Rob Dobson said the weakness of UK manufacturing was in large part due to domestic demand.

Mr Osbourne has presided over a double dip recession, this recession was designed by No.11 Downing Street, stripping demand out of the economy by cuts in public spending, he has destroyed confidence in consumers and he increased taxation/reduced tax credits on ordinary people, taking more demand out of the economy.

If this austerity programme had seen a large fall in the deficit with improved manufacturing output with an increase in full time jobs this could justify the cuts, but the reverse has been the result, with short time work, falling manufacturing output and an additional £158billion of borrowing.

It is clear the Conservative government needs to increase demand in the economy, this by building houses, investing in industry, through using the RBS as an investment Bank, time limited tax cuts, like VAT and in the longer term the introduction of a financial transaction tax, we have to move away from making money from leveraging money to producting wealth for the many.

Mr Osbourne your blood letting has caused a double dip recession, we cannot afford more blood letting. The choice is between decades of stagnation or improved living standards.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Free Tickets

The Town Council receives free tickets for the Bath and West Show, this allows free entrance.

Like the free entry to the chairman lunch at the Shepton show, I do not take the tickets.

For transparancy the following members will be using the free tickets;

Wed 30 May – Cllrs Bartlett (conservative) and Terry Marsh (Independent)

Thur 31 May – Cllr Parham (conservative)

Fri 1 June – Cllr Curtis (independent)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Children paying too high a price

Under the previous Labour government Child poverty was greatly reduced this was down to state intervention. Labour knew that by intervening to provide extra cash through tax credits, cash transfers and accessible public services played a key role in reducing child poverty in the UK and protecting children from deprivation.

Today Unicef has published a report that says progress in protecting children from deprivation 'will be undermined by spending cuts',  this independent report suggests that much of the good work that Labour did to address child poverty is being undermined by the Conservative government. Government cuts that are short sighted that are too deep, this with the double-dip recession created by the government by their ill judged austerity drive will actually push more children and families below the breadline.

The report says "Failure to protect children from poverty is one of the most costly mistakes a society can make. The heaviest cost of all is borne by the children themselves. But their nations must also pay a very significant price – in reduced skills and productivity, in lower levels of health and educational achievement, in increased likelihood of unemployment and welfare dependence, in the higher costs of judicial and social protection systems, and in the loss of social cohesion. The economic argument, in anything but the shortest term, is therefore heavily on the side of protecting children from poverty."

Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children's Society, said: "It would be a grave injustice if we allowed the burden of the current economic turmoil to fall on the shoulders of disadvantaged children."

The Child Poverty Action group states;

There are 3.8 million children living in poverty in the UK today. That’s 29 per cent of children, or more than one in four

Work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty in the UK. Almost two-thirds (58 per cent) of children growing up in poverty live in a household where at least one member works

Child poverty imposes costs on broader society – estimated to be at least £25 billion a year. Governments forgo prospective revenues as well as commit themselves to providing services in the future if they fail to address child poverty in the here and now

Child poverty reduced dramatically between 1998/9-2010/11 when 900,000 children were lifted out of poverty. This reduction is credited in large part to measures that increased the levels of lone parents working, as well as real and often significant increases in the level of benefits paid to families with children

Under current government policies, child poverty is projected to rise from 2012/13 with an expected 300,000 more children living in poverty by 2015/16. This upward trend is expected to continue with 3.3 million children projected to be living in poverty by 2020

It is clear investing in children creates a more equal and fair country, it offers more opportunities and less chance of dependency, only a conservative government would be so blind to the case for investing in children.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Pressing fairly

Like many, I have watched the Leveson Commission with a great deal of interest, it seems particularly interesting how the interaction between politics, media and police has become blurred.

What started out as an inquiry into press standards now seems to be something a great deal bigger.

My experience of dealing with the local media has largely been excellent, reporters are decent people trying to do their best in reporting local stories.

I have on only one occasion been in dispute with a local newspaper, it was clear then that the Press Complaints commission was a toothless body that was not fit for purpose.

The Leveson Commission has to establish the principle of the freedom of the press, only a free press allows for a free society, people in public life have to be open to public scrutiny, the public interest has to be defended.

Often politicians and celebrities complain about press intrusion and at the same time courting the media.

It's like the politician that places his family on election material then complains about when he or she is caught having an affair, if you don't want your family involved, don't include them in your election material and don't preach about family values.

The other side of press freedom has to be press responsibility, printing a story that is not correct is hurtful, and unless neglect can be proved the Press Complaints Commission will allow the media owners off scot free.

Leveson has to recommend an independent press complaints body, that has teeth and allows individuals a cost free right of appeal to stories that damage their reputations, this should be paid for by a levy on the press owners. At the present time only wealthy people can afford High Court Injunctions, justice should be for all not just the rich and powerful.

Leveson also needs to look at the diverse owners of the media, at the current time too few people own too much of the media, diversity of ownership should help develop a more innovative approach rather than the barons who try to control the diet of news.

The shabby behaviour of some of our news media should not allow our news media to be placed in a straight jacket.

I want a media that challenges government and private business and people that do wrong, I want to live in a free society, I do not want government controlling the media, but the media must be challenged also, it must be fair and not printing stories that have no base in fact or are illegal.

That is the challenge for Leveson, can he meet that challenge?

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Warm Words and Cruel Neglect

Today the Conservative government announced that Shepton Mallet would not benefit from the £1.2million they set a side for the Mary Portas project.

The Conservative government obviously in the spirit of Simon Cowell, is working with Mary Portas to help regenerate twelve High Street, with the added twist that Mary Portas will make a television series out of the process.

Minister of State for Communities and Local Government Grant Shapps, meanwhile, said the competition had "captured the imagination of the nation with communities across the country uniting to support their High Streets".Mr Shapps clearly using the Simon Cowell marketing technique there.

Shepton's High Street needs to be modernised, in the previous year, I have held meetings with Somerset County Council officers, Mendip District Council Officers.

Mendip District Council has £30,000 left of the Tesco legal agreement money left, this has to be spent by August 2012. I held a meeting with Somerset County Council where we discussed them using their contractors to draw up a scheme to improve paving and the Street Scene within the High Street and Town Street, this was to be designed so work could be completed as money became available. For reasons I do not understand this work has not been conducted.

I've met with Mendip District Council staff to discuss how the Tesco monies can be released, with all the reorganisation at Mendip, it appears no member of staff is responsible for regeneration funds, or they are too busy doing something else, the facts remains that there is very little to be seen for the money funded to Mendip for the Tesco store at Townsend.

The facts remain, one of the key elements to a successful Town Centre is an attractive environment. This will mean better paving and street scene, improved street furniture, improved traffic flow of people with improved signs from car parks.

The second key element is improving the promotion of the Town Centre, there is a need to arrange a full calender of events and draws the townspeople into  the Town Centre, the Town Centre should be seen as the Towns hub.

The third part of the Town centre is business support, this is very much for businesses to decide but all businesses need to change, they have to adopt to the Internet commerce and the challenging economic conditions.

With or without Mary Portas, all stakeholders need to be involved in working to develop our Town Centre, sadly the principled councils are losing their expertise in regeneration, this in response to government financial cuts, this is the real world, £1.2million with a glamorous women presenting a TV show.

In truth all levels of government should be working to rejuvenate our Town Centre.

Like most things this Conservative government does, when you look in the cupboard it is always bare. Warm words and cruel neglect.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Sunlight from the Parish to the government?

As a Town/parish councillor I am expected to agree to the Councils code of conduct, I have to legally declare, what my financial interests are, what clubs I'm a member, my political party, even my trade union.

It is not only expected, rightly so, to declare an interest and leave the meeting where a item is discussed that you,your friends or family have a financial or strong personal relationship. If a member of the public believe you have an interest, a member could decide to leave the meeting.

Furthermore, if you come to a meeting of a parish council having agreed a position without knowing all the facts, this is predetermination, this offence will make it impossible for the councillor to participate in the debate. There does not have to be any offence, a member of the public can say it was their preception of wronghood, the councillor could then face months of investigation.

You may ask, why this is important. The government and the previous government set down these rules for parish and principled authority councillors to follow, Members of Parliament decided this is what local representatives should comply with.

Interestingly Shepton Mallet Town Councillors do not receive any expenses for their duties, the Chairman does receive an allowance to cover costs for their year of additional expenses.

Contrast and compare with the parliamentarians, whom claiming for manure, duck houses or anything they thought they'd would. There is no doubt that being a parish councillor costs each councillor financially, I've never heard anyone complain, because we do it for our Town.

The government has recently introduced that police can now investigate alleged corruption, say if a councillor was a working party leader organising a new contract, secretly he supported one company, his office had passed information to that company, so that company would win the contract.

That councillor would have broken the code, in terms of confidences, predetermination and acting on behalf of a company and not necessarily the Town they represented.

So we move on to the BSkyB bid we know David Cameron knew Jeremy Hunt was pro-BSkyB before he gave the Department of Culture, Media and Sport control of the bid, after taking it off Vince Cable because he was too biased.

We know the Culture secretary office was in constant communication with friends of BskyB.

So from what we know, if Jeremy Hunt was a parish councillor, he would be in more than a spot of bother.

Perhaps the Government, Police and Media could use some parish council transparancy?

The Leverson Commission is allowing sunlight on some murky and pretty unedifying going ons.