Friday, August 10, 2007


New Home for the Blog!

My blog has a new home! From now on, new posts will be made to a brand-spanking new shiny Lib Dem blog site, accessible at

So keep reading me from there!


Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Lib Dems declare war on poverty and inequality

Radical new proposals to reduce poverty and tackle inequality in Britain have been launched by the Lib Dems. The plans aim to reverse Gordon Brown's dependency culture by giving people educational and employment opportunities as well as incentives to work and save. And they sound like good sense to me, as well as clearly differentiating us from the other two parties again.

Five million people will be lifted out of relative poverty, with 10 million fewer means-tested benefits in payment, by 2020 according to the new proposals, which are contained in the policy document Freedom from Poverty, Opportunity for All: Policies for a fairer Britain

The policy proposals include:
· Introducing a 'pupil premium', with £1.5bn extra targeted at the children with the greatest need. The Pupil Premium will give more money to pupils from the poorest backgrounds and help bring funding in the most needy state schools up to private school levels.

· Reforming tax credits by ending the overpayments crisis and taking higher earners out of the system all together.

· Increasing Child Benefit by around £5 per family per week, taking 150,000 children out of poverty.

· Replacing Job Centre Plus with a new 'First Steps' agency to be a single one-stop-shop for all benefit and tax credit claims, while outsourcing properly funded employment support to the private and voluntary sector. A single working age benefit would also be introduced.

· Immediately restoring the earnings link to the basic state pension and in the long run introducing a citizens' pension. Establishing an Independent Commission on Public Sector Pensions to ensure that they are fair and affordable - with any savings re-invested in a higher state pension.

At the moment, Britain remains a society of massive inequalities of both income and opportunity. It is a national disgrace that Britain is the developed country where your chances in life are most dependent on your family background rather than your own abilities and hard work.Once again the Lib Dems show a radical, optimistic and workable way of combating poverty and rejecting Gordon Brown's blueprint for a state of dependency, where the spread of mass means-testing has undermined incentives to work, save and even form stable families.

The Liberal Democrat vision is of a society of genuine opportunity where instead of treating the symptoms of inequality, we treat its causes - poor educational opportunities, unemployment, bad housing and unstable families.

The pupil premium would help to tackle disadvantage where it matters most - in education from the very first days in school. Our aspiration is that the most deprived pupils have the same financial backing as those privileged enough to go to private school.We live with a welfare system where millions are trapped in dependency and in low income work. Incredibly complex and chaotically administered means-tested benefits have placed millions at the mercy of a failing central Government bureaucracy.

Our proposals for Tax Credits will give people an assurance that what is given to them will stay with them, and by removing millions from means-testing we will strengthen incentives to progress in work. By taking higher earners out of Tax Credits altogether, we are able to invest in education and the universal Child Benefit, lifting 150,000 children out of poverty. Instead of complexity and dependency, we will offer real opportunity.

In combination with our tax proposals we are able to both tackle poverty and ensure the vast majority of families will keep more of their income, as they move on to better paid work.Our new employment policies will take the task of finding people work away from failing job centres, and give it to local charities and companies with much better prospects of finding people permanent employment.

It is a disgrace that after 10 years of Labour government 2.7 million people are still trapped on Incapacity Benefit. We will use the innovation and local expertise of the private and voluntary sectors to improve people's prospects of finding employment.With these policies, the Liberal Democrats are declaring war on inequality. And it’s about time.


Monday, August 06, 2007


Transport moving in the right direction

The Lib Dems have launched new transport polices to create a zero carbon transport system by 2050.The plans include a commitment to double investment in the railways by introducing a toll on road freight and a charge for internal air flights.

The plans will be debated at the autumn conference in September, which unfortunately I won't be at because it takes place about as far from my house as is possible without the addition of a passport.

The proposals potentially release £12 billion for spending on rail improvements in the next five years, and I tink they're fantastic, so it's probably a good thing I won't be able to give voice to my approval at conference and risk ruining the whole thing with the weakness of my arguments...

Proposals include:

1) Introducing a distance charge on road freight, related to weight and emissions, as an incentive to shift freight to rail, raising at least £600m a year.

2) Establishing a new 'Future Transport Fund' to fund a programme of investment on our railways; removing bottlenecks, providing more trains and reopening lines

3) Backing new North-South and East-West high-speed rail lines to the best European standards to replace internal flights

4) Toughening new legal limits on the average emissions of new cars sold in the EU, to be reinforced with a steadily declining total that reaches zero by 2040

5) Introducing a new 'Climate Change Charge' on internal flights, except life-line routes, starting at £10 per ticket to help fund the 'Future Transport Fund,' which will generate at least £150m a year

The plans mean that we'll put our money where our mouth is, and give real committments to spending money on improving public transport. No bribery and half-promises like the government's TIF bid - this is real money for real improvements.

This is radically different from Labour half-heartedness, and a world away from Tory bluster.It is a real set of solutions that will make a real difference.

The plans will shift freight from road to rail, cut carbon, and improve mobility as the rail network begins to run out of capacity. They also put the onus on technology as a way of beating our climate crisis. Cutting carbon emmissions from cars to zero by 2040 means that tomorrow's cars need to be cleaner and smarter. And the companies that make these cars will deservedly get lots richer by making them and selling lots. I think if we spur on industry to make the green agenda part of their business plans, to make the environment an economic incentive, then we will crack the climate crisis much sooner. And these policies are the right way of going about it.



At home

I am working from home today, allowing me to get on with work without the distractions of a noisy office andf the phone ringing every thirty seconds. This afternoon was also supposed to be when Tam got back from her two weeks away, but unfortunately she is stuck on the M6 and has been in the Stafford area since about 13.00...

Her return can't come soon enough. In the two weeks she has been away I have regressed to the level of a caveman in terms of my domestic arrangements. I have taken the opportunity to live alone with gusto, and have foregone such things as fresh food and fresh air with alarming ease. You would think that a man of 26 would find it difficult to live with curtains closed for upwards of 10 days, but the resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me...

I honestly fear that if her departure were to become permanent, my diet of darkened rooms and ready meals would render me utterly useless to the world in about three months. My brain would cease to function as a neurological agent of thought, and instead exist only as a Tesco Value Lasagne. Happily though, the regimen of working life means that I do occasionally venture outside, and have myself an apple, and so I am relatively cogent most of the time.

Today I have pressed the Council again for immediate action on the wall that has been knocked down in the Village, exposing an old cemetery that is of historic and archeological value. It borders a car park, but those doing the work appear to think that flimsy fencing is enough to stop people wandering into the site and doing as they please. It isn't. So I sent a very forceful email to the Director of Environmental Services yesterday, and this was followed up by a second email from Cllr O'Hanlon, and a telephone call from me, today. I am assured that the Planning Department will send someone down today to make the necessary security arrangements and ensure that nothing silly is done again.

I have also had a first look at a new version of blogging software which is going to be piloted by the Lib Dems, and which I may be migrating to in the near future. It has lots of exciting twiddly bits to it that means readers can link to unimaginably entertaining sites such as this. So watch this space in the future, because if a shiny new blog screen doesn't put me into the top 55 in Iain Dale's top 100 blogs, well I'm at a loss as to what would, frankly.


Sunday, August 05, 2007


Recess? What recess?

August is when the Council is on recess, allowing Members to concentrate on ward work and have a week or two off to go on holiday. Unfortunately the coming week is probably my busiest yet in terms of Council work. On Tuesday I have an appraisal with my Group leader. And on Thursday I am going to a meeting on Butterstile Lane which I suspect may be the inaugural meeting of a homewatch scheme there. In between those two meetings is the emergency meeting of the Council called by Labour to discuss the future of Radcliffe Riverside High School. So all in all it is not the start to the recess that I was expecting!

Still, at least the sun is shining today, giving me the ideal excuse not to watch the Charity Shield, and to go to the park for a nice walk instead. If I leave my phone at home and my leaflets in the car, nobody can find me there...


Friday, August 03, 2007


Busy bee

I am a bit busy to be blogging today. I could spend a few minutes thinking of a part of my day to recall to you. But nothing momentous has happened, so I would be boring both you and me. Instead, I will leave it at this, excpet to say that I made enquiries with the Council about what to do if the people next door to you leave their house, it ends up empty, and the blue/brown/green bins are all full of household waste. Someone asked me because this has happened to them, and nobody's collecting it. I await a response.

Anyway, back to work...


Thursday, August 02, 2007



It's amazing what deals are possible if you shop around.

I fancied a few days in London at the end of October, since my trips to London at present invariably follow the pattern of motorway-friend's house - restaurant - friend's house - trying to sleep on floor - motorway - home. I quite like the idea of going to London and being able to take in the interesting parks and buildings and history, withough looking at my watch the whole time and panicking about the looming spectre of the M6 and work the next day.

Unfortunately, under normal circumstances it is more expensive to travel to London than it is re-launch a manned space programme. It is also more complicated, due to a ticketing arrangement that was clearly put together by the world's second largest committee (the world's largest committee is of course a meeting of Prestwich Local Area Partnership with everyone in attendance).

And then of course there is the issue of paying for an hotel. Prices indicate that all London hotels are in fact hollowed-out diamonds, staffed exclusively by members of the Monaco royal family. There is no way I am paying more for five days in London than a break of similar duration in Dubai.

However, a bit of exploring has led me to discover a Travelodge offering a stupendous discount and allowing me to stay for £25 a night. Unfortunately they double the rate for the final two nights of my stay, which means I have to check out and then back into another room in the same place. But even at £50 a pop, it is still about one tenth the price of anywhere else.

And, as luck would have it, I chanced to log onto the train ticket website as the moon was at the correct angle or something, because I picked up two £12.50 single tickets and can thus get down and back both quicker and cheaper than if I took the car.

Now all that remains is for me to negotiate the London Underground when I get there, and of course buy myself some food. I once went to an Aberdeen Angus Steak House in Leicester Square and paid the best part of £20 for a charred piece of gristle about the size of a postage stamp. I shan't be making that mistake again...


Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Children's Centre Update

This morning Cllr O'Hanlon and I met with staff from the Early Years team at the Council regarding the proposed Children's Centre which may be built at Butterstile School. I am a governor at the school, and of course also a Councillor for the local residents, which could put me in a bit of a bind if the school want the Children's Centre and the residents don't. There have been concerns about parking and traffic congestion from residents, and concerns about governance and cost overruns from the school and the Council. So much so that original plans have now been scrapped, I learned today. In their place has come a new plan which saves money by rejecting the idea of a new-build Children's Centre, and instead uses two classrooms at the school, and provides for the construction of two new classrooms for the school to use for teaching instead. Unfortunately, the plans don't as yet mention details such as parking provision.

Cllr O'Hanlon and I have asked for details to be given to us at the earliest opportunity, and have asked once again for a meeting to be organised between local people and the school and the council to thrash out any problems and keep in mind the concerns of locals as part of consultation. The entire process is being rushed because of the government's deadline to spend the money, which is worrying given the crucial role the Children's Centre will have on the community. We should be getting it right, but as ever there isn't enough time or money, and it's frustrating. I will be pressing for far more joint discussions between the (whole) governing body and local residents as this progresses. The project impacts on too many people to just be a decision made by the headteacher and chair of governors.

One of the other key issues around the Children's Centre, particularly given the topic of last night's LAP sub-group planning meeting, is to make sure that outreach work in areas of deprivation like Rainsough and Carr Clough continues. We have the ideal opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by using some of the money to renovate the derelict shops on Rainsough and installing a Children's Centre outreach point. Unfortunately the government guidance states that the centres should preferably be sited on school sites, so it hasn't been included in plans this time round. We will be making sure that outreach work to our most needy communities isn't forgotten as this project develops, and that it is as effective as possible. As time goes on, I will be pressing for ever-closer working relationships with Salford CC in the hope that we can link Rainsough renovation with the Children's Centre project.


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