Tuesday, 30 April 2013

"Which candidate are you?"

This week I have diverted my priorities from knocking on doors and asking to help residents with council matters to delivering leaflets telling them what the Liberal Democrat team has done to help them. It makes sense as the elections are on Thursday. Helping residents should be a continuous process for any activist and even more importantly it should be a continuous process for the incumbent county councillor. This hasn't been the case in Morecambe South and I have discovered that virtually nobody knows their county councillor. He was a member of the Labour Party eight years ago and defected to the Tories four years ago so both parties have to take responsibility for this state of affairs.

Today I was working with another Liberal Democrat activist and we were delivering the final week's leaflet. We were on a fairly modern estate where most people are out at work when we passed the Tory candidate for Morecambe South who was with the Tory candidate for Morecambe North. The latter said to me (fairly abruptly and some would say rudely) "which candidate are you?". I replied, "and which candidate are you?". I suppose you could call my reply abrupt or rude but I was just copying his phrase, and my question was much more apt. He was in the wrong county council division. Then I turned to the Morecambe South candidate. I held out my hand and said "hello I'm Michael". Before the two of them saw us we had noticed that they were almost playing 'knock and run' but were leaving leaflets at the same time.

More important than their campaigning techniques, what was the Morecambe North candidate doing? There are three options. Firstly he could have given up any chance of winning in Morecambe North. Secondly he could be taking the electorate for granted in Morecambe North (let's see if he gets elected). Thirdly there could be just two activists who are both candidates and they are sharing the work between two county council divisions.

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P.S. I understand that the Conservatives may not wish to be bitten by dogs but I do wish they would push their leaflets through the letterbox. It is an advert that the resident is not at home, the leaflet can get wet, and with some letterboxes the rain can get into the vestibule. A less honest leafleter may have taken these leaflets too.

Added 3rd May.
P.P.S. The count is now completed and Labour have won in Morecambe South. I did manage to speak with a few people including the Morecambe North Tory (MNT).
Me: "Hello, which candidate are you?"
MNT: "I'm ......., which candidate are you?"
Me: "I'm Michael Gradwell, Liberal Democrat"
MNT: "We've already met. Well I hope you come last"
Me: "I hope you come a wonderful second - it sounds so much better"

And that's how the conversation ended. MNT did spend most of his time scrutinising the Morecambe South votes rather than  his own, so I can now narrow my options down. The MNT had not given up any chance of winning, so I must be right with either option two or option three.

History repeating itself

I am borrowing a few history books from Morecambe library at the moment and one is called 'The History of Morecambe and Heysham' by R.C. Quick. If you want to borrow it I'll take it back to the library next week. I can't see a publication date but it does have lists of the great and the good which finishes in 1962/63 so I would guess it was published in the same year.

On page 25 you can read about how Morecambe made progress as a holiday resort because the civic leaders took their opportunities which included an emphasis on road links. What is now the main road between Morecambe and Lancaster was only built in 1922, 'a fine wide road'. The building of Westgate was 'bitterly opposed'  by several members of the town council but that is how Morecambe's West End was opened to tourism. That is how it thrived. Who would have thought it but we now have some councillors who remain bitterly opposed to the building of the link road to the M6. This road which hasn't been built even yet, is mentioned in the library book from 50 years ago.

Get to page 29 and it tells you that the development of Morecambe and Heysham is tied to the link road to the M6 and after it is built there will be an additional road from Lancaster and Morecambe College to Heysham. This is the Heysham bypass and has already been built, so the history book couldn't quite look into the future. On the other hand there is no mention at all of the now discredited western route.

Compare that to the front page of today's Visitor. The headline is 'Fresh bid to halt M6 link project'. Protestors have launched another legal challenge. It would be interesting to note how much the legal challenges have cost the taxpayers. This one is based on five grounds, one of which is 'that the scheme was never a nationally significant infrastructure project'. Never? Well I don't think Alfred the Great thought too much about it but the infrastructure developments of the twenties helped Morecambe to become an attractive destination for the nation, but they are right - it isn't now. However it is essential for the economic development of the Morecambe and Heysham peninsula just as it was in the twenties.

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Monday, 29 April 2013

On seeing the first independent leaflet in spring

I saw my first independent leaflet yesterday evening. Still none has come through my door but someone was kind enough to show it to me. I still don't know the candidate's views on any subject. He has one positive contribution to make and that is that he is an experienced party politician because he is a member of the Morecambe Bay Independent Party. I have just checked Wiki and they are called Morecambe Bay Independents and the Wiki site makes for interesting reading.

The main thrust of the leaflet is that residents should not vote for the three main parties. I think it is because their party doesn't like the other parties but I'm not quite sure why. What I do know is that the Morecambe Bay Independents, who are only standing in Morecambe and Heysham, will not get far in Preston with a philosophy of putting Morecambe first. I am not even sure what that means. Do you put Morecambe first by lowering the council tax or raising it? As far as I can tell the MBI members who are standing as independent candidates have no policies for Lancashire County Council. They don't have individual policies and they don't have them as a party.

You may have noticed a hint of irony when I wrote about offering help to the Labour Party in my blog on Saturday. You may have noticed a similar hint of irony when I wrote about the spirit of a true coalition on Thursday. I did make it fairly clear that I didn't want the Conservative candidate to win. However there is no sense of irony in this blog entry. I have no idea what the Morecambe Bay Independent Party is standing for in these elections - just to clarify this, they are independent candidates with some dependency on their party and I wrote a blog about this on the10th April. They criticise party politics but act as a party. I haven't quite worked that one out either. There's no irony in this blog.

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Saturday, 27 April 2013

Council Communication and Potholes

Over the course of the last few months I have knocked on nearly two thousand doors and many residents have told me about their concerns. I'll share one of those concerns with you. There is a road in Morecambe called Mattock Crescent which doesn't have many residents and I only met around half of them but almost all of them were concerned about the state of their road. I saw their point. It is probably the worst road that I have seen in Morecambe.

Two residents told me that they had been in touch with the council and had been told that the road would be resurfaced this year. Another told me that a council worker had come round with white paint a few months earlier and this identified areas that would be repaired. Another resident told me that the council had told them the road would be resurfaced and then it was cancelled and now it was down again for resurfacing this year.

I could go on with many more details of how residents told me about the responses from the council. I’ll just mention two more. One person told me they had complained to the council for three years. Another resident had threatened to withhold his council tax until the road was resurfaced. These two examples typify the message that I was getting. Almost everyone had been in touch with the council.

On the 19th February I asked the council about their plans for Mattock Crescent and on the 7th March I received the reply that the council did “not appear to have existing records, so we have logged them for you”. Incredible! My reply was measured: ‘I am very surprised that you have no existing records ...In brief, many residents have told me that they have been in touch with the council…’ and then I mentioned some of the stories that I heard.

The people who live on Mattock Crescent wanted my help because they were fed up with the way they had been treated and sometimes it is easier to argue a case if it you are not affected  personally However I received no reply so I wrote again on the 7th April asking for an update. I did get an answer on the 10th April telling me that my enquiry was still showing under investigation. So I didn’t get any answer and I am still waiting. I did put out a street leaflet for Mattock Crescent on the 12th April letting the residents know what was happening.

Today’s headline in the local newspaper, The Visitor is 'Potholes cause residents misery', and yes, Mattock Crescent is prominent in the report, and no, there is no reply about resurfacing. Incidentally, a mattock is a kind of axe used for digging. It sounds like they need more than a few mattocks.

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An offer of help for Labour.

With less than a week to go before the elections on Thursday 2nd May I have been getting more and more help which is great as I can't remember ever getting this much assistance in previous campaigns (and thanks to all who are helping). Bearing in mind that county divisions are twice as big as council wards, it now looks like everyone will receive two leaflets (three if you count one in November). That's not bad considering the normal resources locally but this time a third of the electorate will also have had a knock on the door along with a follow up leaflet, and a third of the electorate have already received a street leaflet based on the issues that were raised on the doorstep.

As you can guess, there is overlap in those who receive the street leaflets and those who receive the leaflet reminding them that I have knocked on the door, which means that many voters will have received four leaflets along with a personal call. It's not been a bad campaign so far.

On the other hand I have still received nothing from the Greens, Socialist Labour, Independent, UKIP or Labour parties. I met someone putting out leaflets for Labour this evening and I asked her to swap leaflets but all hers were addressed and then she told me she couldn't find a house. Luckily I was able to point her in the right direction. If Labour want any more help in getting to know the area then I will be glad to offer it. Their candidate doesn't live in the area so hasn't had any leaflets himself, but I will also let him know my address so that I can have one of his leaflets.

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P.S. I did receive the Labour leaflet this evening (Monday 29th April) which isn't bad as there are three days till the election. I don't suppose I am getting a second or third leaflet and I still haven't received anything from those other parties.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

In the Spirit of a True Coalition

I have knocked on a great number of doors to offer help in the months leading to next week's local elections and yesterday evening I was delivering leaflets to some of those houses. I don't do the usual political things like kissing babies. I do stroke cats and dogs but not in any political sense, so it was surprising to get two people coming up to me and shaking my hand. They were pleased that I had made the effort to knock on their door and told me that they had never had politicians do anything like asking their view or coming to the door offering help.

When I got home I was surprised to see the leaflet on the table which was introducing my Tory candidate (the only party to put anything through my door) as I had received it months ago and it had been filed. The A5 leaflet didn't say much but it did have a photo of the candidate who wasn't the candidate when we first received it. There was also a brief personal statement. In fact the candidate had knocked on my door and handed the leaflet to my wife. Well done to the Tory candidate. I also have to praise one of her team as this person had the chance to remove one of my leaflets from a porch but didn't (I went back to check).

So in the spirit of a true coalition I send her my best wishes with the hope that she comes a magnificent second (with the proviso that I would say this to all other candidates).

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Something To Chew On

So Luis Suarez has been banned for 10 games by the Football Association for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic. I have been listening to one commentator tell me that the ban is excessive and should have been 8 games. How do they make a judgement like this? Does it depend on which part of the body they bite or how hard they bite? Does it depend on whether the person who is bitten falls over and rolls on the floor?

I don't know whether the FA ban should have been 8 or 10 games or even 3 games as Suarez himself suggests, but I am sure that there will be many others who will now try to copy this tactic on the football field. I can't help wondering about the kind of punishment that would have been given out if the bite had been part of an unprovoked attack in a city centre. If custodial sentences are handed out on these occasions then I think Suarez and the fans who think his punishment is excessive are lucky that the police have not become involved.

It is hard to think of a defence for biting but many Liverpool fans either think that defending Suarez is easy or they are too concerned with having their best players on the pitch and not watching the games. Now there's something to chew on (is that the right expression?)

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Paying for management mistakes

My local hospitals have had more than their fair share of problems and back in September I was warning against job cuts despite all that has been made of ring-fenced funding for the NHS. My trust has had significant management problems and this caused me to write a blog. I do not feel that staff (and consequently those who use the NHS in my area) should be affected because of management mistakes and I could see a way around the financial problems without cutting jobs. The health care regulator, Monitor, came in October last year because of the well documented problems with the maternity services. They uncovered many other problems and in February this year they started to make changes in the management team.

At that time Sir David Henshaw became the interim Chair and said that the trust had spent extra money in order to make services safe. Well we do need a "safe and sustainable" service but I still had the fear that jobs would be lost, and job losses would affect the service. Now the trust is warning of job cuts. 'In a letter to staff, trust chairman John Cowdall and chief executive Jackie Daniel said any schemes would have to be assessed to make sure they did not have a negative impact on patients'. It will be interesting to see which job losses, and we are talking of up to 260 posts, have no "negative implications" on patients.

In September the Trust management were not mentioning job cuts even though I could see them coming. They did not have a list of detailed options but they were able to say that they would consider better helicopter links across Morecambe Bay. Have we really had managers working for seven months to get to the stage that I was writing about at that time?

In any case I think it's irresponsible for Barrow's Labour MP John Woodcock to say  "This alarming plan shows that the swingeing cuts being forced on our hospitals means that up to one in ten nursing and support posts could go". This whole situation is everything to do with the Trust making the public pay for the consequences of its own past mistakes, and nothing to do with any government-backed proposals.

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Saturday, 20 April 2013

Leaky arguments

There have now been three arrests for the leaking of information about the Cumbrian police commissioner Richard Rhodes' £700 expense claims for two chauffeur-driven trips. Richard has now apologised for the expenses, and has paid them back, but the people arrested still face substantial jail terms for making public what should have been public anyway.

Something is not right here. This is not a private company we are talking about. As Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, has said: “Details of the expenses of public officials ought to be publicly available anyway, we shouldn’t have to rely on leaks to find these things out. ..Most councils publish this information on a regular basis so why not the police commissioner?"

In fact, police commissioners expenses are supposed to be regularly published. According to the Daily Mail, "PCCs, who earn £65,000 to £100,000 depending on the size of their force, must disclose their expenses every three months, but more than half the 45 in England and Wales have failed to". The PCC elections were back in November, and the expenses were apparently incurred very early in Mr. Rhodes' tenure, so I have to wonder when the expenses would have been reported if there hadn't been a leak. The decision to repay the expenses was also apparently taken after the leak occurred. Would that decision have been taken, if there had been no leak?

The Home Secretary has said that PCCs are ultimately "accountable to the electorate", and the public will decide if they have "done their job properly", but how can the public decide such things if the only information they get is from leaks that are then aggressively pursued?

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More Mobile Madness?

Following my last blog about mobile phones (Phone-y Fears) I should add that I have worked in many physiotherapy departments and they have signs telling you to switch off your mobile phone.
Back in the early days of the mobile phone when making calls and storing addresses was all they could do, we were given a reason for this. We were told that our short-wave machines affected them - in particular, that the list of addresses could be affected. One physio was upgrading her phone and had no further use for it so she put it directly under the treatment head for a few minutes. Nothing happened!
There were other signs warning patients with pacemakers not to enter because of the same machines. I have to say that nobody that I know ever did a similar test on a patient with a pacemaker but somebody could try it on a pacemaker which is not attached to a patient. I get the impression that this sort of test would not be carried out because there may be someone who would take the hospital to court if anything ever did go wrong even if it were coincidence.
I appreciate that safety is important, but I also hope that all these warnings are based on rationality and evidence, and that we aren't jumping through hoops just because of a dubious legal climate and health and safety excesses.

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Friday, 19 April 2013

Changing the World

I first stood as an election candidate in the eighties and I have been helped by many people over the years, and I distinctly remember knocking on doors with one man the first time I stood. I was asked why I was standing. I knew that the Liberal Democrats (then the Liberal Party) were the closest party to my views. I wanted a better democracy with a fairer electoral system. I wanted greater participation by the public in our local councils. I felt that candidates from other parties could get elected without working hard and they could carry on as an elected representative with the same attitude.
I could probably have listed many other reasons why I was standing but none stood out as a great response to the question as to why I was standing. My much more experienced friend replied for me. "He plays rugby and he likes to get hurt". Actually, though, over the last few years I have been writing blogs and within each individual entry is my response to that question. I'm standing because I want to...

Change the world.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Phone-y Fears

I recently bought petrol and noticed a sign that has been seen on garage forecourts - No Mobile Phones. I did search the reasons for these signs and discovered that while there have been lurid reports of terrible accidents caused by mobile phones on garage forecourts, those reports are all false - see http://www.snopes.com/autos/hazards/gasvapor.asp

To summarize that page: the American Petroleum Institute said "we can find no evidence of someone using a cellphone causing any kind of accident, no matter how small, at a gas station anywhere in the world", and nobody has ever demonstrated that an accident of any kind is even theoretically possible. The lurid tales that suggest otherwise are purely urban legends. There are circumstances where mobile phone use is inadvisable, for instance they shouldn't be used while driving, because they are a distraction, and they should be switched off in hospital operating theatres because they can interfere with delicate electronic equipment there, and in cinemas and at live stage events they can be a nuisance; but none of those reasons were applicable on this particular garage forecourt.

In short, there was no reason for any such sign. I mentioned this to the person who served me, and I added that there was more chance of causing a spark by dropping the phone (i.e. while fumbling to switch it off, in order to ensure it wouldn't ring). To my amazement I got the reply "yes, that's why we have the signs".

What next for garage forecourts? No heavy objects and carpet slippers only?

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Sunday, 14 April 2013

A Challenge for Sebastian Vettel

I can't speak for all the other candidates, especially the independent, but I think there is consensus that a move to 20mph is good. I have spoken to the police and they are happy with it too. They told me that studies have shown that average speeds have come down. These speeds are still over 20mph but some drivers will be sticking to the limit. Unfortunately other drivers will still want a race.

Many residents have told me that the new speed limits are a waste of time and money because they have seen the costs and they still see the racers. My favourite quote of the campaign so far has to go to the person who told me "I defy Sebastian Vettel to get up to 20mph". He was referring to a small cul-de-sac with brand new 20mph signs. You may have similar signs near your house.

The police told me many things and in the view of one officer there was "too much signage and too much lineage". I have written about excess of advertising and informational signage being confusing early this year, see my Road Safety v Revenue. I was also writing about confusing signs way back in 2009. It's a theme that doesn't go away. Speed limit signs are more important than advertisements, and they're usually more important than informational signs, and it can be a problem when there aren't enough of them, but they can still be used to excess. It is a pity that the council didn't think a little more about their 20mph signs. It is an even greater pity that  we have macho drivers who dont worry about the consequences of their actions.

Change the world.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Coalition Information

Isn't technology wonderful? It can open up political debate and here is a recent example. The Labour candidate asked me on Facebook what I thought about the coalition. I was able to reply that he could search politics for novices coalition and he would find my views and he could do this for most subjects.

Soon after this the Labour Party candidate gave me a very nice link to my blog entitled 'Irresponsible Conservatives'. He may be having second thoughts as my next blog was called 'GCSE maths would help Labour' and he may be having further doubts when my next blog entry questioned the differences between the Labour Party and the Socialist Labour Party.

It's a pity that there was no political debate but at least the electorate also get the opportunity to read my views and they could add theirs. Now that's democracy.

P.S. Just in case anyone wants to keep count, there are 39 blogs where I've mentioned the coalition. These include
where I go into why it was necessary to go into coalition,
on the need to let voters know that there are differences between the parties, and on how the Liberal Democrats do exercise a moderating effect,
Where I touch on the nature of coalition, in particular on how we can't always get our own way on everything, no matter how desirable that may be,
where I cover just that (i.e. how policy is made), with specific reference to NHS reform and to alcohol pricing,

and many more.

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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Completing the Lineup

Earlier this week the list of candidates was published for the Lancashire County Council elections in May. I have already helped two residents when one asked me if there was an independent candidate and the other asked if there was a UKIP candidate. I am so helpful that I was able to say yes to both questions.

I did manage to let the UKIP supporter know that it was an election for the county council. I have previously written about a UKIP candidate who did not have a clue about county council responsibilities and I would guess that their supporters know even less but at least their policies may be found on the internet. I would encourage everyone to find out all they can about the policies of all parties as then we will have informed voting.

Then we have the Independent policies. My last blog entry was about the level of independence for the independent candidate. What is my independent candidate's views on any subject? I will probably never know. I may receive his leaflet and it may include a personal statement, but I have a strong feeling that it will be a leaflet that covers more than one county division in which case it is not 'independent' individual viewpoint but that of a group of people who all belong to the Morecambe Bay Independent Party.

There are of course candidates for the main parties represented in Westminster, Conservative, Labour, myself for the Liberal Democrats. I have already mentioned the Independent party and the Socialist Labour party in my last two blogs because I knew they would be fielding candidates. To complete the lineup I suppose I should mention that the Green party too are fielding a candidate. Amazingly, you can even find a mention of him, along with a brief description of his party's plans for Lancashire council,on the Lancaster Green Party web page. They even have a manifesto! Kudos to them for that. I suspect that for some of the other parties we'll just have to wait for the leaflet which may or may not come, and if it does come may or may not say anything about the County Council and its functions.

In case anyone has had any trouble finding the full list of candidates for Morecambe South, I've reproduced it here:
Darren Clifford - Labour
Roger Dennison - Independent
Michael Gradwell - Liberal Democrats
Harris Kaloudis - Green Party
Gina Loxam - UK Independence Party
Barry John Maguire - Socialist Labour Party
Susan Sykes - Conservatives

And here's all the Liberal Democrats who are standing in the Morecambe and Lancaster area.
Lancaster Central - Michael John Mumford
Lancaster South East - Janie Elizabeth Kikman
Lancaster Rural East - Joyce Pritchard
Morecambe South - Michael Gradwell (yours truly)
Morecambe West - Harry Philip Armistead

Please make sure to vote and...

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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Independent? It Depends

There is an independent candidate in Morecambe South who happens to be a member of the Morecambe Bay Independent Party. There are other candidates in Morecambe in a similar position. I don't suppose it is a big deal for their party members to stand as an independent as long as they are not standing against other members of their own party. So the party must have cleared these individuals to stand. Interestingly there are no county divisions in Morecambe in which an independent is standing against an independent which makes me think that they are not as independent as they make out.

I am looking forward to the independent leaflet. Will it be in a similar format to the other independent candidates? If so who is actually writing the literature? Who is in control of this independent thought? Why do I think that someone unknown is controlling independent thought?

I have already knocked on this candidate's door and spoken with his wife. I have left my card and delivered two leaflets, but even if I had known that he had been chosen (elected?) as the independent candidate I would have not changed a thing. My views and my party's are well documented. I  wonder if I'll find out what he thinks.

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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

People's Front of Judea or Judean People's Front?

In Monty Python's Life of Brian there is a wonderful sketch about political parties that may be very similar at first glance but they may also be so different that they are not talking to each other. I was reminded of this a few days ago when I was knocking on doors. One resident told me that I needn't bother knocking at the house next door as a candidate lived there. My immediate response was that I certainly would be knocking on that door as I would hate it if they missed me out.

I didn't know that I was speaking with the candidate's wife so, after asking my usual questions about whether I could help in any way I asked if she were standing as a candidate and she told me that her husband was standing. I asked for which party and she answered the Socialist Labour Party. So we have a Socialist Labour Party candidate standing against a Democratic Socialist Party candidate although the latter is usually known as a Labour Party candidate.

This is great news for me. A split in the socialist vote can only help all other candidates. It makes you wonder which side the socialists are on.

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Sunday, 7 April 2013

GCSE maths would help Labour

Labour are attacking the reduction in the top rate of tax with a banner headline saying '£100,000 win for everyone earning one million pounds'. Let's do the maths. The top rate of tax applies to earnings over £150,000 so if you earn £1,000,000 then a 5p in the pound reduction in the top rate would apply to earnings of £850,000. It is fairly easy to work out that this would give individuals a saving of £42,500 which happens to be less than half of the £100,000 claim by the Labour headline.

I don't agree with a reduction in tax for the wealthy. I do agree with Tim Farron who says "Cutting the top rate was a stupid thing to do... We should pledge to restore the 50p rate at the next election". Compare this with the Labour position. After 13 years in office they managed to apply a 50p rate for 36 days. Hardly a ringing endorsement of a higher level of taxation for the wealthy.

There is an argument that lower taxation for the rich promotes growth, in particular small business growth. There are also high profile stories of people like Gerard Depardieu leaving France because of their high level of taxation.  Don't believe the scare stories. It's not millionaires but people who earn one million pounds per year (there is a significant difference) who would be affected and if they want to leave the country because of the odd £42,000 then let them. It is small change in their pockets but if they think it is important then let them go. It is morally wrong to have such social division in this country so let other countries deal with this particular dilemma.

As for the simple errors in Labour's advertising, it is a shame that their advertising is undermined by not getting a maths GCSE student to help them out.

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Saturday, 6 April 2013

Irresponsible Conservatives

On Sunday I wrote about Tory electioneering and was looking forward to the way they would present their 2% cut in council tax. I received their leaflet two days ago and the headline is '2% Cut in Council Tax, No Cut in Services'. They give no explanation as to how they have achieved their goal and the reason is that there is no explanation to be had. The Tories ignored advice from council officers as well as the neutral advisers to the Conservative administration who told them "the Council does not yet have a detailed plan in place to manage the reductions beyond [this financial year] 2013/14."

It is going to get worse. This year the 2% cut will cost Lancashire County Council £7.3 million and if you lose this much money then you'll need to raise the tax bills by so much more than inflation just to keep still. In fact it is much worse than that. Budget cuts of £250 million are expected to hit the Council over the next four years.

If you are thinking that a council tax reduction is good for you then think about who it is bad for. It is bad for those who rely on council services that may be cut and it is bad for those who could really do with a service that could improve. I have written about the cuts to council tax subsidy but there are many other council services that could improve. Advocacy support for those with serious problems in the benefit system. Extra respite support for carers who save the County Council money. Energy saving grants. The list is endless. It is really bad for those in need. I spend my time knocking on doors and everyone wants something more from the Council so to that extent we are all in need, but some have more need than others.

Now think of the people who will be better off. This is easy. If you have a really big house and a really big council tax bill then you have an even bigger saving. You've guessed it. The Tory cuts are better for the rich.

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Friday, 5 April 2013

Andrew Mitchell still not smelling of roses

It was quite obvious, by Andrew Mitchell's own account, that plebgate did not leave him smelling of roses. I had to laugh when I heard on the 6.30pm ITN news that the Independent Police Complaints Commission would not be investigating his complaint. They said the Metropolitan Police's own inquiry was being carried out in a "robust and thorough" way.

If you can't remember what caused the stink then take a look at my blogs for the 24th September or 20th December  2012, and remember that if you are in a hole the best advice has to be stop digging, especially if you are stood on manure.

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How not to devise an immigration policy

Since I have been knocking on doors I have met quite a few people who don't like immigration. Here is the gist of one conversation from a couple of days ago.  I ask if there is anything that I can take up with the council for the householder and the reply is yes, stop letting all the immigrants in. I reply that my daughter went to Australia a couple of months ago and ask if that is alright. The answer is yes so I ask why. My question is answered with a question. Did I bring her up well? I answer yes which means that it is alright for her to go to Australia.

There we have it. Immigration is alright if you have brought your children up well, but who decides when children have been brought up well? I have moved away from David Cameron's remarks about UKIP supporters being closet racists but I can see where he got the idea.

"Don't get me wrong", was this resident's concluding remark, "I have a lot of friends who are foreigners."

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Wednesday, 3 April 2013

£7.57? IDS? That'll be the day.

There is no doubt that Iain Duncan Smith, or anyone else for that matter, could survive on £53 per week. There are calls for him to prove it after he made the claim that he could survive on the equivalent of £7.57 per day if he had to. I am sure that he could calculate his budget for one week or maybe two or three or more. I don't know his personal circumstances but it may well be that he pays a gardener more than £53 per week. He could cancel the gardener. He may pay more than £53 for one meal. He could avoid restaurants for a week or two.

It may be that he has really expensive overheads but he has calculated that there are benefits to cover them. Well not any more since George Osborne decided that benefits should not cover essentials.If a market trader tells Radio 4 that his housing benefit has been cut and £53 is all that he has left to live on, then IDS should not be surprised of a strong reaction if he says anyone could live off £53 if they had to.

It's not about £53 for a week, it's about £53 week after week. It's about no hope of changing the situation. It's about the arrogance that says it is alright to cut benefits to the poorest. If only IDS could understand that.

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

NHS - Discussion, not Insults

Today is the first working day of the NHS reforms which allow doctors in clinical commissioning groups to make financial decisions. Everyone knows that the NHS isn't perfect so maybe it is better to allow more services to go out to tender. Competition allows for choice and if clinicians are making that choice then surely standards must be raised.

On the other hand doctors have been trained to treat patients. Professional managers surely make for better management and it would not be difficult to take the views of the clinicians into account. An additional bonus is that doctors would then be able to remain aloof from any decision that is detrimental to their patients. It isn't the doctors fault that they can't help their patients in the way that they want. It is the fault of those nasty managers. Doctors may have great expertise in saying no to their patients but now they have one less explanation available to them.

There are two polarised views. We have the Health Minister, Anna Soubry telling us that "the health service will improve, work smarter and, importantly, build an NHS that delivers high quality, compassionate care for patients." We have Andy Burnham telling us that "far from letting 'doctors decide', ministers are forcing the medical profession to open up all NHS services to the market... Hundreds of new private companies now risk fragmenting patient care when more integration is needed." Andy seems to have forgotten that Labour Governments have been advocating a mixed economy in the NHS for years.

The reason for my blog is not the NHS changes which seem to have been in the news over the last few years, it is a Facebook comment today from a Labour supporter: "We will be outside Lancaster Infirmary tomorrow night (tonight) 8 pm as the staff shifts change over to remind the public and staff of all the cuts for the NHS this nasty Gov are doing and going to do, when top bosses are on hundreds of thousands of pounds on pay and bonus's." Which cuts? Why nasty? 

There may be concerns about who is supplying the care and about continuity of that care but those concerns were there last year and they were there when Labour were tendering the services. The two key questions are does it matter who makes the decisions, and does it matter who provides the care. Ideological debate doesn't make one side nice and one side nasty but it is nice to discuss the changes rather than listen to insult.

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