Tuesday, 30 April 2013

What disarray

Tonight was the Annual Town Meeting this the meeting where the chairman of the Council reports to the community of the successes of the previous year.

What a wonderful start, we were locked out of the meeting for half an hour, what anecdote of the previous year. 

The meeting started with a report of the new Neighbourhood plan, this one of the positives of the Town council years, this opportunity to explain the plan was delivered in a rather defensive mode, with rather unpleasant discussions and when I tried to raise a point about the prioritisation from the public consultation and the community buy in from the consultation, the Chairman did not want to let me speak, in fact I was made to feel my presence was not required.

These discussions should not distract from the importance of the Neighbourhood plan and the councillors have distributed leaflets to townspeople to get involved.

Then we came to adopting the minutes of the previous meeting last year, members of the public did not have copies of the minutes, one member of the public told the annual meeting this was against standing orders, one councillor then tried to make the point about the previous clerk and the way he left the Council and then total pandemonium took place, the councillor jumped up and walked to the front of the meeting to make his speech, Conservative members walked out, the spouse of the clerk called the police, she then rejoined the meeting.

This led another member of the public to make a speech about the utter shambles the meeting had turned into, it was agreed that the clerk should read the minutes.

The meeting at that point regained a little dignity, with the Chairman leading thanks to those councillors who had worked for the Council, with my efforts on the Collett park contract was thanked, which I appreciated.

Then we moved to public forum, where further discussion of the ending of the previous clerk employment, the chairman made a long speech outlining how we had arrived at the current state of affairs, closure of the date for applications for the clerk and admin assistant close on Wednesday.

There was discussions about the hospital and I asked about the new NHS leader who said hospitals should shrink or close with community care in the community the best way forward and I asked if this was discussed in the working group, I'm not sure councillor Champion understood the point I was making, but he say the hospital was important to our Town, with hearty hear hear from the public.

Some discussion about a councillor who wrote a letter to the press about pot holes and grass cutting, the councillor did not respond.

As we were leaving on the pavement in Commercial road a policeman came towards us, I advised him that the meeting was over and the best thing he could do was have a cup of tea as the event was over, at this the Chairman and his wife stopped the policeman to tell of the councillors behaviour, a conversation between the Chairman and Policeman ensued with the councillor offered the chairman's job next year by another councillor at this the Chairman and the councillor was advised to go home by the policeman, I walked away feeling we had hit a new low, what disarray!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Campaign report two

The campaign continues a pace.

What is coming across from talking to people on the doorstep is that people are unhappy with their councils and they feel Shepton is neglected.

I never understand why Shepton has such poor public transport, why is it Shepton is the only Mendip Town not to have direct bus services to the northern cities of Bath and Bristol?  We have a population of 10,000 people, this neglect must stop. There is a solution of redirecting a bus service and this needs to be done.

It is also clear the neglect in our Town centre needs attention, action needs to be taken in the regard to the derelict buildings, the bags of rubbish, this made worse by poor planning decisions needs to be remedied, fly tipping is a real problem and needs urgent action. The Council spends thousands of pounds funding CCTV, it's time this system was used to catch the perpetrators.

Your Councils need to work to help develop business and help people to find employment, it is clear that all layers of government must help the growth in our economy, whether this is through business support or use of local companies or better bus services to access work.

Funnily I came across the latest Lib Dem leaflet, I see they are complaining about the increase in council tax because of the reclassification by government of the average band D grant. Two things to say about this; 1. The Lib Dems accepted the local government settlement, Tessa Munt has been loyal to the CONDEM government on 99% of the time she attends voting on every 4 out of 5 votes, 2. The Libs Dems supported a 2% increase at the Town Council which would of made the situation worse. I voted for a freeze in Council Tax.

The good old Lib Dems can't be honest about the length of time a candidate has lived in Shepton now being disingenuous about Tax, the same old Lib Dems say anyhing do anything for your vote and then support the Conservatives in Parliament.

The fable of the frog and the scorpion applies here, it's in their nature.

My focus is on better public transport, grow the economy and opportunity for all in Somerset

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Back to the future

It is quite fitting this week that George Osbourne should shed a tear, unemployment is up by 70,000, youth unemployment stands over a million and is higher than total unemployment when Mrs Thatcher came to power in 1979, sadly Osbournes tears were not for these millions of people, but one at her funeral.

It has become obvious to anyone that this governments economic policy now is in tatters. The OECD some time ago said Osbourne needed a plan B and now even the IMF has called for changes to the economic policies of her majesty's government. Although it must be said that the IMF has only recently changed it approach.

The Labour market continues to be more flexible, we are seeing the spread of zero hours contracts moving from the supermarkets into the service industries such as catering. There are also many people in part time work.

Osborne has lost his last piece of statistical safety as unemployment rises. Exports tumble, despite a 20% fall in sterling. RPI inflation runs at 3.2% while wages have fallen 10%, not back to pre-crash levels until 2020, according to the Resolution Foundation.
With all this poor economic news where is growth going to come from? The government has to breath life into the economy before the situation gets a whole lot worse.

We have also seen lower high street spending have underlined the fragility of the economy.

It is becoming obvious that Osbourne has no solutions to our economic wows, he has played his hand and he has failed, no one but the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats believes in Osbournes plan.

All the old divisions of the 1980s are resurfacing, we live in a country that is economically failing and becoming increasingly socially divided, a more brutal country, where fear rules, I fear that as the general elections approaches the governing coalition will focus on social division as a way of diverting the focus from their economic failure.

Labours job must be to produce a genuine alternative, tinkering is not enough, neo liberal economics has failed, we need to rebuild the economy around production and skilling the workforce, the current policies are working, we need an alternative that grows the economy, that retrains the workforce and invests in new technology.

Frankly, It looks like history repeating, this time North Sea Oil will not pay for welfare.


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Campaign report

So nearly a week into this election campaign and the weather is staying with us, (every Englishman likes to talk about the weather), and the campaign is going rather well.

In Shepton West the second leaflet delivery is going out and the first in Shepton East, the canvassing is well up on 2011.

Tonight I have come across  one and only one, the tactical voting bug, this put out by the rather threadbare lib Dems, now this all they have to say. Policy wise they have to ask the Tories what their policies are.

They claim to be the alternative to the Tories, yet the Lib Dem MP agreed the front loaded cuts to local government and this has led to cuts in vital services. But like Pontios Pilate, they wash their hands of responsibility for cuts to housing benefit, the bedroom tax, increases of Council tax to the poorest and real terms cuts to in work benefit, all they want is your vote. I had the first person in the week talk about the wasted vote, remember only Labour offer real change, with a different set of values, than the Lib Dem Conservative administration that taxes the people on ordinary income (in net terms) and allow bankers to carry on regardless.

I enjoyed seeing a lib Dem leaflet that talks about honesty and next to that headline is claiming the Lib Dem standing for the Mendip byelection is Born and Bread in Shepton, but on Shepton.org the same candidate says he moved to Shepton in 1962 and he is more than three years older than me. If you are not prepared to tell the truth about the little things then what are you going to say over the big things, oh yes, no VAT increases and they did, no increases in tuition fees and there were and no top down reorganisation to the NHS etc etc. 

And the Tory candidate posing outside the Treatment Centre provided for by labour and the community hospital beds that are under real threat from the Lib Dem and Tory alliance, this threat to the hospital beds are driven by the top down reorganisation of the NHS neither the Lib Dems or Tories promised, with the new head of the NHS wanting to close or shrink hospitals.

People think voting is not important need to stop and think, the only wasted vote is a vote not used, if your vote is not used then you may get a council like the national government that is governing on an agenda not put to the electorate.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

It's the economy stupid!

Having been out all day and turning the television on to listen to the news, it appears the debate about welfare hit new lows with George Osbourne using the tragic deaths of six children to score points on welfare.

With all this excitement by the chancellor it is worth noting who receives welfare according to the Department of Work and Pensions in 2011/12 : 42.3% elderly, 20.8% low income, 18.4% families, 15.5% sick/disabled & 2.6% unemployed

But the debate about welfare is a sideshow, the real focus has to be on the economy, about real productive jobs and how Britain pays for itself in the world.

The economy stagnates, the government fails to invest in infastructure that will allow the country to flourish once the economy starts to grow, we only have to look at communications.

The government like those before the birth of the welfare state wish to blame the poor for their own circumstance, the figures supplied by the DWP shows that it does not fund the feckless and under the last labour government unemployment was low, the governments narrative on welfare is based on the odd case and uses it for the majority, it is easy sloppy politics, it is understandable when the majority are struggling, low or no pay rises, with living cost escalating and living standards falling, that when these people are told by leading politicans of the excesses of the poor, you can understand the outrage, but this outrage is based on largely urban myths.

Why does Iain Duncan Smith suggest he could live on £53 a week, when asked by hundred of thousands to do so, he then calls it a stunt.

The Labour Party must of course expose the misinformation being peddled by the Conservative and supportive Lib Dems, but they must argue for jobs and opportunity and education and training and people fulfilling each and everyones potential, welfare should be about protecting the vunlerable and sick, but it must also be only about protecting people in times of unemployment, but this has to be linked with job seeking and retraining.

The (any)government has to offer retraining opportunities and support, people cannot rot, this government should do less condeming and offering more opportunity.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Starting my Campaign

4 weeks tomorrow will be polling day for the forthcoming Somerset County Council elections.

I will be standing for the Labour Party for my home Town, Shepton Mallet.

In these times of Austerity it would be easy to promise this or that, but what I can promise is that if elected i will work hard for Shepton and my fellow residents, my policy interests are education and the importance of early years intervention, if all children are exposed to language and literature in their early years those childrens educational achievement will be greater in later life.

There is no doubt Shepton is badly served by public transport and this needs urgent revision.

Young people have taken the brunt of the governments cuts, Shepton has no youth service provision and your county councillor needs to work to improve opportunities for young people.

Shepton needs to improve it's cultural services, sports, arts and community involvement.

It is an obvious statement to make but Shepton has been neglected by local government, this largely the way councils run their services, in the last 20 years or so, either Lib Dems or Conservatives have represented Shepton at County Hall.

In those 20 years public services has been lost from Shepton, too many to list but access to services are harder, contacting your local police is harder because the loss of the police office, poor bus services for employment or to access out of Town entertainment, the services people depend upon are going and going fast.

Is Shepton's voice being heard?

On Sunday I wrote of the years of neglect in regard to safety around Shepton schools.

If elected I will promise to make Shepton's voice heard!

There is also a District Council byelection in Shepton West, I will be standing for this also.

Mendip Council has failed Shepton in regard to housing, in getting enough affordable housing for rent and for sale. The need to strengthing Mendips policy on lettings and making sure only high quality housing is offered to people.

There are too many examples of poor planning in and around Shepton, there is a need to beef up Mendips policy on quality of design so that new development is compatible with a historic market town.

There is a need to protect our open spaces within Shepton, with the Mid Somerset Showfield and West Shepton playing fields being prime examples.

Council needs to do more to support business and business development to help create jobs.

I helped the Town Council and was involved in Mendip's selection of the new groundcare contractor, we now have to ensure the quality promised by the contractor.

I will be visiting many of Shepton's residents in the coming four weeks and I look forward to meeting and discussing Shepton and our Council futures.