Wednesday, January 31, 2007


A virtual tirade of nothingness

Tonight my post-Christmas diet goes down in Hindenburg-disaster style flames, as I entertain a couple of friends with the aid of a Domino's pizza or two. Does the fact that it's buy-one-get-one-free make it half-fat as well as half-price? I do hope so...

Unfortunately, due to a busy day at work and an evening that has so far mainly consisted of a fortnight's worth of ironing, I have nothing else to say. It's on nights like these that I find myself starting to agree with those who say that blogging is little more than the digital age's finest example of utter self-absorption.

The "no blogging at work" situation is as reported yesterday. The flat is now priced correctly for the world to see, after a laboured conversation to the estate agent concerning the undeniable logic that a £50,000 price increase wasn't what I had in mind when I asked him to reduce it a bit.

And nothing has happened in my world since yesterday apart from that.

Politically, Cllr O'Hanlon and I have been discussing a potential way forward on the Hilton Lane issue, and the latest developments on The Retreat, but even here there's little to report I'm afraid.

And, since my pizza-wielding pals are due any minute, I won't start writing about important things like the news, because I won't be able to finish in time.

Maybe tomorrow,


Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Internet Porn and Incompetent Estate Agents

A couple of things have happened today, although nothing of any great depth. Like my A-Level History essays all over again, I will write down everything I know, and leave analysis as an afterthought... It worked then, so here's hoping it'll work now.

First there was the extremely irritating decision by my work to class the Blogger site as "pornographic" and therefore unsuitable for updating during the working day. Which means I have to do it at home. I can't even view my own blog, which is about as far from internet porn as it's possible to be. I tried logging on at lunchtime, only to discover that the world's most hyper-active firewall had blocked me. And then, having rung the IT help desk (a case for the Trades Descriptions Act people if ever there was one), it transpired that even though it was technically feasible to circumvent the block, the guy on the other end of the line was just too damn unhelpful to do anything. So I am to blog at home from now on.

I went leafletting last night, with my mum along for the exercise too. We went to Prestwich Hills, and also the new estate at the bottom end of Butterstile Lane with Fitzgerald Street and Riverview Close on it. Just a brief spell last night, but it did result in a resident contacting me again about the Hilton Lane / Scholes Lane junction, and possible pedestrian provisions. She showed me a letter from the Council saying that it would cost £1.2m to upgrade the junction. Whilst I don't doubt the figure is true if the whole thing was re-routed, dug up, and then repaved using solid Andean gold, all we're asking for is a red/green man pedestrian light and a "wait" button. I will liaise with Cllr O'Hanlon and see what we can do.

It was also the Prestwich Area Board last night. Cllr Ann Garner can do a better job of explaining what went on than I can, so read her blog to find out more!

And, in a final gesture of defiance from the day, our estate agents managed to catastrophically misinterprate a simple request to reduce the price of the flat we're selling. It was previously on the market for £120,000, and I asked them to reduce it to "a hundred and seventeen thousand." I have checked their website tonight, and found that it is now on the market for £170,000.

Any takers?

Thought not...



Is Manchester the best bet?

So, roll up, roll up, it's time to spend Grandpa's inheritance money on 200,000 goes on a 20p slot machine... The super casino is coming to town.

I think it's great news for Manchester, but a disaster for Blackpool. Looking at it from the ignorant by-stander's point of view (what other view point do I ever have?!), Eastlands has had, and continues to have, fantastic regeneration activities. A new stadium, the whole "Sportcity" development, new flats and the biggest ASDA the world has ever known. Blackpool has nothing of the sort. Plus, Blackpool is a "destination" in its own right, but one that has faded into obscurity. It would fit perfectly with the associated new hotel / leisure activities that a super-casino would bring. People would go to Blackpool simply for the casino, and stay around for the other new stuff, which would be great for the town. It'll bring extra money in, and allow Gypsy Petulengro and all the other fading Blackpool seafront businesses to spruce themselves up.

There are more articulate people than me who can argue Blackpool's cause. I am surprised that they didn't convince.

The casino is just an addition to Manchester. To be honest, I didn't even know we'd bid.

Still, at least it's in the North West! I'm not one of these nay-sayers worried about platoons of degenerate gamblers stealing from my house to go and stick a fiver on another desperate game of roulette. I am glad that it's here. True, there are tragically addicted people suffering from the illness of gambling addiction. But the new laws give safeguards to protect others from falling into the same cycle of problems. And they give options and help for the people already suffering. And to think that not building a big, regulated casino would somehow stop addicts from gambling is, I think, wrong. I am ten mouse-clicks away from losing a fortune everytime I log onto the internet. And who's watching over me? Nobody. At the super-casino there'll be people to help. Much of Manchester's bid (and all the others, I would think) was predicated on social responsibility, and the safeguards put in place for everyone involved. Gambling is great fun and very exciting for almost everyone who takes part. We shouldn't ban it or send it underground due to outdated restrictions.

It's the people who own that big casino at the bottom of Bury New Road near Strangeways I feel sorry for... It's only been open six months and already it's doomed! I'd stick the whole lot on a horse and have done with it...


Monday, January 29, 2007


Congestion Charging

Lot's of people have been talking about congeston charge plans in Manchester in recent days. I always like to be first with the pressing issues, so here are my brief comments, only a week after everyone else made their's...

My view is that there should never be road charging on commuter routes. I think it's a regressive tax that penalises poor people trying to get to work.

Improve public transport, sure. But I think it's illiberal to effectively force people to use it. And what recourse do users have if things go wrong, since it's run by private companies?

If we must have road charging, I'd love to see a link between the DVLA database and the Inland Revenue database to ensure a road-charge based on income, the emissions of the car, and the number of adults in the car. I think that would be fairer.

But that's never gonna happen. And as a result, I quite like what the Manchester Lib Dems have suggested. The Council group on Manchester City Council have suggested five key tests on which to judge the merits of congestion charging. These are:

1) The plans cannot put Manchester jobs at risk or the city at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the region.
2) The plans need to be effective at reducing congestion where there is currently a problem.
3) The plans cannot start until there are improvements in public transport. That means Metrolink "Big Bang" finished and other transport powers like re-regulation of the buses.
4) Any money raised from the charge needs to be spent locally.
5) The plans need to be simple, transparent and easy to understand.

I would add some more to point 3), namely that Metrolink needs to be cleaner, more reliable, safer and cheaper than it is now.

But other than that, I think that's a very sensible stance to take at the moment on this issue for Manchester.

As ever I welcome the thoughts of anyone who wants to give them.


Sunday, January 28, 2007


Sunday Sunday

Today's leaflet-arama has been fairly intense. A group of us were out this morning, and were split in half so that I actually have no earthly idea which bits of the ward the other half did. I know that we did Fairfax Road and the surrounding streets.

I came back then and, with lunch in between, did Mountside Crescent, Arthur / Herbert / Mellor Streets, and Church Drive, partly with the help of my new leaflet partner in crime Laura. Thansk to Laura for helping out. I also distributed my street letter about Tulle Court to lots of people in the surrounding streets, bringing them up to speed with the latest developments.

Tonight I am not doing any more leafletting (it's dark and rainy, for one thing), and instead am settling down to watch Top Gear. I have no idea what Horse Power really means. Nor do I have the foggiest clue what "lb/ft of torque" is all about. But I do like Jeremy Clarkson racing a rubber dinghy to Norway with a Farrari, or whatever crazy stunts he's pulling this time. So I'll watch it as a good way to round off the weekend...


Saturday, January 27, 2007


Leafletting and Lottery

Today's Focus-distribution-related excitement focused on the Bland Road and Carr Avenue areas, where four of us ventured this lunchtime. No angry dogs to report, although several tricky gates, and one person who was moving things from his house to his car, and had his car radio on so loud that for a moment I thought the Radio 1 Roadshow had come to Prestwich.

After coming down from the inevitable high that is posting hundreds of leaflets through letterboxes, I went into Manchester to find another estate agent to sell my flat. And then to look at fireplaces with a friend in Levenshulme. Very domesticated all round.

The evening was spent at another friend's house, watching Wayne Rooney destry Portsmouth on BBC1. And then tonight's lottery results are perhaps the most irritating ever. We did win £10, which was marvellous, but we were just one number away from each of the other three numbers. Thus I was about as close as possible to being a multi-millionaire, yet have only a tenner to show for it...

Still, whilst I may not have the bank balance of a millionaire, I am still living the millionaire lifestyle, sat here on my own on a Saturday night typing my blog... Oh no wait, this is NOTHING like the millionaire lifestyle... All my friends are busy tonight, or away, and thus I am resigned to an early night. Such is life I suppose...


Friday, January 26, 2007


Tulle Court Residents Letter

The new St Mary's Focus has been printed,a dn deliveries start in earnest from this weekend. The problem with Focuses coming out every 6 weeks or so is that things move on quicker than that. But just because Focus may become out of date, don't think we stop caring. There is an article in the current Focus about the "rat run" proposals at Tulle Court - proposals which have now been shelved thanks to local campaigning supported in part by local Liberal Democrats.

So, lots of local people will be receiving Focuses in the coming weeks telling them old news about the rat0run. With that in mind, I have written a letter to go inside Focus, which will be delivered to all the houses near to Tulle Court. And this is what it says...

"Dear Neighbour,


On Wednesday 24th January I joined around 60 local residents at St Mary’s Church for a meeting to discuss Tulle Court. It was great to see so many people turning out to hear from the speakers, including representatives from the building contractors, the architects, and owners of Tulle Court.

There was some good news - the proposed "rat-run" linking Church Lane and Church Drive no longer forms part of the plans. The campaign to stop it, started by local people and supported in the current issue of St Mary’s Focus, has worked.

But there are also some major concerns highlighted by residents. These include the types of building materials to be used, the parking provision for the new homes, and concerns over privacy for existing residents. There are also worries over the increase in traffic caused by construction vehicles.

The proposals for the development will be put to the Council’s Planning Committee on 27th February. If you wish to raise any concerns at all for the Committee to consider, these must be submitted IN WRITING to the Council by February 25th.

The re-development of Tulle Court is key to the continued regeneration of the Prestwich Village area, and it is vital that everyone has their say. Local Liberal Democrats support local peoole, and are more than happy to help you contact the Council to give your views, whatever they are.

If you would like to talk to me about Tulle Court, please do get in touch - my contact details are at the top of this letter.

Kind Regards,

Richard Baum - Liberal Democrat St Mary’s Focus Team"

Obviously my contact details arenb't at the top of this blog, but if you want to have your say on Tulle Court, we're always here to help. Please get in touch via a comment on the blog or by calling me on 0161 798 4996. Or by email to




Last night's netball match was really very exciting. I had never been to a netball match before, but I was amazed at the speed and skill involved in the game. I think a lot of people see netball as something that doesn't really happen outside of school, but they're wrong and this was a highly enjoyable way to spend an evening. And England won! By miles! 64-30 I think was the final score. If only our cricketers were as good. Or even 10% as good...

There was a massive crowd as well. The MEN Arena only had three sides downstairs and the middle bits of upstairs open, but I would say these areas were almost completely full. I must have been one of only about 30 men in the entire bulidng though, which was an odd experience. It was like being back at the Take That concert again...

I think I may make some enquiries about actually playing netball. It looks like an enjoyable activity - although having spoken to some of Tam's friends there last night who do play it regularly, I think I may struggle to find a men's team. Although apparently in New Zealand and Australia it is actually more of a man's game... Maybe our women can play the Aussie men, and show the cricketers how it's done!

I am off work today - and am taking full advantage of the excitement of a day off by... going to various estate agents and trying to sell my flat. Who says I don't live dangerously eh?


Thursday, January 25, 2007


Basketball for girls...

Yesterday’s governor’s meeting was very interesting – we were talking about the plans for the new Children’s Centre to be built at the Butterstile site, which of course means lots of issues for local people like parking and traffic congestion. And lots of issues for the school community, such as who will be in overall charge of the school site now that there’s a Children’s Centre there as well… All of these issues are being very carefully considered before the plans move further.

Tonight I am going to see some international netball. Tam is taking some of the children from her school to the MEN Arena for the Test Match against South Africa, and I am heading down to enjoy the match as well. The only thing anyone says to me when I mention England netball is “Ooh, doesn’t Tracey Neville play for them? The sister of Gary and Phil?” And of course all three Neville children are Bury born and bred. So it’s something for us all to be proud of! Even though I have a feeling she may have retired… Although I’m probably wrong.

All in all it will mark a novel end to my working week. I am taking full advantage of my work’s flexible working policies and having a flexi day on Friday. Followed by a day “working from home” on Monday. It almost makes me wish I didn’t have to deliver hundreds of Focus leaflet over the weekend.



Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Action Update - Tulle Court

Tonight I attended the meeting of local residents concerned about the redevelopment of Tulle Court in Prestwich, at St Mary's Church.

It was certainly an interesting meeting. I was surprised by how many people were there (I thought there was a service on in the Church when I arrived!). It certainly arouses some passions in local people, who were as interested as me in the detailed plans presented by the architect.

I was glad to hear that the rat-run proposal has gone. I think everyone in Prestwich will be relieved by that. But I was also glad to hear so many people raise legitimate concerns about parking, materials for building, and the way the new homes may intrude on light and privacy. It will be interesting to see what the decision of the Planning Committee is on February 27th.

Should any local resident wish to present their concerns to the committee, this can be done in writing before the meeting. And local Liberal Democrats (like me) are available to assist in submitting local people's views (of all kinds) should anyone wish for help in any way.

On a personal note, as a resident of Clifton Road, I wasn’t best pleased to hear that Church Drive will be used as the access road both for the new houses, and for the demolition/construction workers, since they’ll have to pass my house to get there. I will raise this issue to ensure that it isn’t overlooked, since most of the people there tonight were from the other side of Tulle Court.

What wasn’t in doubt at al tonight though was that people on all sides recognise that not enough consultation was done on this. Hopefully local people will have their say at the Planning Committee.



Action Update - Scholes Lane / Hilton Lane junction

This evening I received a letter from a local resident concerning the junction of Hilton Lane and Scholes Lane at Bury New Road. So I gave her a call to talk it over.

It seemed mad to her (and, I must admit, it seems a little crazy to me too) that there are no crossing facilities for pedestrians there. They must take their chances with the cars when attempting to cross. This is doubly risky given that there is a big secondary school nearby, as well as a couple of primary schools. Not to mention the houses and shops needing access as well.

The lady I was speaking to suggested that perhaps we move one (or more) of the surplus sets of lights from the 500yd stretch of Prestwich Village that has half a dozen of them... Whilst I would if I could, unfortunately traffic lights can't just be uprooted and re-planted elsewhere.

But I will certainly contact the Council to see if we can investigate putting in some kind of pedestrian crossing facility at the junction. It is dangerous without one.


Butterstile Governors Meeting

This afternoon is a special meeting of Butterstile Primary School's governing body (of which I am a member) to discuss plans for the new Children's Centres in Prestwich, one of which may be sited there. The plans are exciting, but we need to make sure that they are right for everyone, and not implemented without a proper consideration of the impact that they will have on lots of different groups. I'm looking forward to a good discussion at the meeting later.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Spicy chicken, The American President, and nice legs

I have been very busy today. Apart from work, which of course took up the bulk of the day, and involved slicing through the usual entanglement of red tape that strangles even my most simple requests, I had my Dad emailing me saying that yesterday's blog-based crime-query exchange made him look "like a Tory." Let me just confirm to the reading world that he is anything but.

At least, that's what he says...

I went out to dinner with a friend tonight, and we broke several cardinal rules by spending the entire time talking about politics and religion. It's a good job it wasn't a first date, as I doubt there'd have been a second! Not least because, as well as the dodgy conversation, the whole thing took place inside the Printworks branch of Nando's, which is hardly the candle-lit romantic hideaway that I would like for such an occasion.

Still, it was an interesting chat, and there was no quibble over the bill at the end like there would've been after a date, where I'd have ended up paying after some fake platitudes from her over splitting it. It's the law of dates, I think.

We were talking about the American Presidential election, and how interesting it is that two of the leading Democratic challengers are a woman (Senator Clinton) and an African American (Senator Obama). Two things occurred to me over my piri-piri spiced chicken burger. First, that it's incredibly important for the whole world, not just America, who wins the election. The leader of the USA really is the leader of the free world, in charge of a foreign policy that can set the tone for every single one of us. I think we should all take an interest in the outcome of the election. And second, that having a female or a black President would have the potential to be such a milestone, bringing a set of agendas to the fore that have always been in the background before. It could really be an interesting time.

But then I ate some spicy nuts and two glasses of Sprite, so whatever trifling thoughts I was having about American politics got lost in a haze of fizzy pop and my burning mouth. And the conversation turned to my pal's new boyfriend.

And that was the end of that...

And now I am home tapping away at this, whilst Tam sits in the lounge on the phone to a variety of friends in turn, trying to organise a "girly" holiday. The entire thing appears to be about as easy as getting twenty fruitflies to dance the rhumba in unison. Not made any easier because the girls on the other end of the line seem to have a severe form of attention deficit disorder. I am only hearing half the conversation, obviously, but if the plane taking them on holiday veers as spectacularly as the conversations to do with the booking, then we are all in trouble. Topics covered so far include:

1) The Special K Diet
2) How awful it is that "Lost" is only on Sky
3) MSN Messenger's flirting potential
4) Netball
5) Nice legs and their effect on jean-wearing
6) An occasional mention of going on holiday, maybe.

We shall see how the conversation pans out. We may have a holiday organised by bedtime. We may not. Either way, I imagine I will hear LOTS about it between now and lights-out tonight.

I honestly can't wait.


Monday, January 22, 2007


Saturday Party and Latter Day Saints

My weekend was very amusing. I had to be scant on the detail prior to Saturday because I was arranging a surprise party in Oxford for an old friend who is leaving for a new life in Australia in a couple of weeks. But he didn't find out, and the party was a huge success. You can read about it, and see the photos here, if you are interested in what I get upto between postings.

Tonight, as well as writing a ridiculously lengthy reply to my Dad's crime queries, I had a visit from some doorstep Mormons. I always try to talk to people who come knocking at the door for any reason (religion, a change in power supplier, political canvassing or whatever) because having canvassed at election time I know that there's nothing more nerve-wracking than knocking on strangers' doors, nor anything worse than getting short shrift from those inside.

They were only young guys, these Mormons, probably younger than me. They were impressed that I had heard of them, and that I knew about Utah and about the big Mormon church in Chorley. But when I started mentioning Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints I don't think they warmed to my cheek...

I felt particularly bad for them though, because it is freezing outside and I doubt they are getting much of a warm reception from many people around here. I am full of admiration for their spirit, even if I had to say no to their offer of a spot of prayer inside with me.

And, having been door-stepped by them, our conversation was interrupted when I myself was door-stepped by a neighbour (and clearly a reader of Focus), who rushed out towards my house and enquired "Are you the Liberal Democrats?" I said that yes, I am ONE OF the Liberal Democrats (there are a few of us, even in Bury), and she said "you won't win round here - I'm a friend of Ivan Lewis' wife" before disappearing back inside her house. There then followed a lengthy explanation to my startled Mormon friends about who I was, who Ivan Lewis is, and why Cllr Donal O'Hanlon would find it odd that people think the Lib Dems will never win round here. It's only 8 months since Donal and the rest of us did just that...

It's too late to do anything about it now, but I think that next time anyone comes round trying to sign me up to something, I should go to the door armed with a Lib Dem membership form and try to beat them at their own game!



Dear Dad...

I arrived home from work to find an email from my Dad challenging the post I'd put about our five steps to a safer Britain crime policies. He wondered whether I'd respond on the blog and, never one to shirk a challenge, here is his answer. Below are his points (numbered), with my responses in italics.

Point 1
(a) You claim that the Government has earmarked "millions" to ID Cards. How many "millions", how many Police Officers will it pay for, and how much will be left over? Anyway, I believe that however much the government has "earmarked", it will be paid for by individuals, when they apply for the cards.

You are right Dad. I was mistaken when I said Labour were ear-marking millions to the ID card scheme. I should have said "billions!" A report by the London School of Economics puts the cost at anywhere from £10bn to £19bn. And yes, a lot of it will be paid for by the individual when they apply for the cards. But this raises two points:

First, I for one won't be happy at having to pay upto £200 for an ID card, and neither will lots of other people (especially people who are strapped for cash). I'd like to spend my £200 on a holiday, rather than the ID card necessary to get through passport control.

And second, "applying" for the cards is all well and good, but they are to become compulsory (and if not actually compulsory, then necessary to access vital services and therefore compulsory in all practical senses).

So there is no choice in the matter. Even after you and me have both paid our £200 (and then paid it again five years later when our biometrics change. ANd then again every five years thereafter. And £200 each for all of our children every five years), the ICT required to support the system is hugely expensive, paid for through taxation and, if the past is anything to go by, likely not to work.

How many policemen? Well, £10bn equals a hell of a lot of policemen. In fact, using mental arithmetic and a dodgy knowledge of how much policemaen earn, I reckon that just £1bn equals the salaries for about 3,000 policemen for a year.

(b) Do the Lib Dems have a problem with the concept of ID Cards? If so, why?
Yes, we do. ID cards are expensive and illiberal, and the government's various reasons for wanting to implement them (to fight terrorism / to stop benefit fraud / to keep out illegal immigrants / take your pick) make little sense. Foreign terrorists aren't likely to care, and if they have the money to finance international terrorism, then they won't be stopped by having to buy a fake ID card. Home-grown terrorists will have ID cards anyway. Benefit fraudsters are fraudsters, and therefore what's to stop them fraudulently obtaining an ID card? And illegal immigrants won't have any other forms of legitimate ID anyway, so why create another form of ID for them not to have?

Aside from the Lib Dem reasons, I have my own reasons. The government have a wealth of information about me, collated through m many dealings with them in every day life (from buying a TV licence to taxing my car). They also have my NI details, and thus know I am entitled to benefits and services. I have a passport and a photo driving licence. I haven't commited a crime, and there is no reason for the government to have my fingerprints, irises, or other biometric data. There is simply no benefit to me whatsoever in having another form of ID.

Point 2
Is it fair to say that crime can be cut simply by closing a few pubs or clubs? What about the late-night kebab houses and their ilk, which seem to attract their fair share of problem-causers? And how would the mechanics of making it easier to close such places work, that differs from current legislation? And by the way... why not do something amazing - like closing down the car parks adjoining pubs, and allowing Police Officers to breathalyse drivers BEFORE they drive off?

Yes, I think crime can be cut by closing pubs and clubs where there are problems. But it's about more than that. It's about giving local communities real power to use their local knowledge to grant licenses sensibly. There are lots of non-licensed premises where trouble occurs too, like kebab-houses. But a lot of the trouble is alcohol-fuelled, and stems from nearby licensed premises. Also, with extra community policemen, we can go out into the communities and tackle the problems.
We would change the law so that local planning and licensing committees are much more free to decide on what licenses are granted where in local communities. These committees are made up of locally elected Councillors who are hamstrung by central government legislation. Why not free them to do the job that local people want them to do? This is of course part of the wider Lib Dem challenge to the government to grant local people more power through de-centralisation, more powers for local government, and the ending of centralised target-driven reforms.

Your point about pub car parks is a good one. I don't think that they should all be shut down, because lots of people (including me) drive to pubs and don't drink. But I do think that the penalties for drink-driving should be greatly increased, and that police should have the power, in certain cirumstances, to breathalyse people leaving pubs and heading towards cars.

Point 3 & Point 4 & Point 5
The logic of "life meaning life" makes sense. But, for non-lifers, how does society meet the costs of keeping prisoners behind bars for the full length of their sentences? To meet such costs from prisoner income derived from work, prisoners would have to be paid a proper income. Where would the money come from, to pay them? And how much would be left over, to pay for the training and training that would be compulsory? How would the secure psychiatric system work, given the appalling lack of investment in that area now? And beyond that, what would be left over for the victim compensation.
The idea of clear sentences, and of prisoners serving the whole of their allocated sentence, will cost no more money. Today, a prisoner receiving a ten year jail term may be released in 7 years. This isn't fair on the victim of that crime. Under our proposals, the judge in that case would decide on a suitable minimum term, and the criminal would serve at least that length of time. He wouldn't be released a day early. This provides transparency and clarity, and no victim is ever let down. It doesn't necessarily mean longer sentences. The judge may decide that the minimum term should be 7 years. But at least everyone will know where they stand from day one.
I think compulsory training is a great idea, and will end the scandal that sees only one in eight prisoners working every day when in prison, and only 10% of prisoners entering the workplace when released. Half of all male prisoners, and two thirds of female prisoners, have no qualifications. It is a scandal that they are detained by the state for prolonged periods, and emerge without any qualifications or experience. The facilities are there already, they just need to be taken up by the entire prison population.
You are right to say that mental health care for people guilty of crimes is woefully under-funded. That's why the proposals announced today allocate an extra £1.5bn to this area, to be paid for using money now allocated for the building of new prisons. We argue that there is no point in building more under-performing prisons. Why not invest in making prisons work instead? People inside need triaining, work opportunities, and psychiatric care if needed. If they are left to rot, then they are released with little hope but to re-offend.
Victims compensation would be paid for through the establishment of a Victims Compensation Fund, paid for by prisoners earnings. We would lso make the system significantly quicker and more flexible, reducing costs in the process of allocating funds, and generating money through savings to be re-invested.

If any other members of my close family have policy related questions, please fire away...



Liberal Democrats - Serious about cutting crime

The Liberal Democrats today launched their “Five Steps to a Safer Britain” campaign, highlighting the ways that we will work to cut crime and make communities safer. I think the policies really do make sense. They’re outlined in full below.

Point one, we will put more police officers on the beat. The government has ear-marked billions for their ID card scheme. They will do little to tackle the reality of daily crime on Britain's streets and estates. But police officers can. That is why we would redirect money for ID cards in order to expand our police service. That is why Liberal Democrats say that we can cut crime.

Point two, we will take back our town centres. It is unacceptable that members of the public fear crime on their streets. It is not liberal to tolerate intimidation and disorder. So we will empower members of the public to tackle this problem for themselves. By amending the Licensing Act, we can make it easier for local communities and councillors to close pubs and clubs that create problems for local people. That is why Liberal Democrats say that we can cut crime.

Point three, we will have honesty in sentencing. Under Labour, the average so-called life sentence is just eleven years. And thousands of offenders spend less than half of their sentences in jail. No wonder the public has little faith in sentencing. Liberal Democrats believe that sentences should mean what they say. Life will mean life: only those that judges believe should stay in prison forever will be given a life sentence. And nobody will be released earlier than the minimum term that they are given.
We will also create Public Services Sentences. These will punish non-violent criminals by giving them rigorous community work as an alternative to prison, which will be more productive and a more effective deterrent. That is why Liberal Democrats say that we can cut crime.

Point four, we will make prison work. The current situation fails both the prisoner and society. Prisoners who do not participate in education or training are three times more likely to go back to crime. Yet well over half of offenders receive no training. And only one in five of prisoners exceed the standards expected of an 11 year old in writing.
Instead, we will treble the number of prisoners working, and make education and training compulsory. And for those with serious mental health problems there will be increased provision of secure mental health services. We can foster skills amongst our prison population and create opportunities for those who would otherwise return to a life of crime. That is why Liberal Democrats say that we can cut crime.

Point five, we will introduce an entirely new approach to compensating victims of crime. It will be fairer. It will be simpler. And it will be swifter. It is only fair that money raised by prisoners in employment should go towards compensating their victims. Prisoners shouldn't sit in their cells for twenty three hours a day: they ought to be engaged in work that is productive and useful.
By making prisoners do real work for a real wage, we can also instil a sense of responsibility, enhance their skills and ensure that victims are properly compensated. Prisoners will literally pay for their crimes, whilst gaining the skills and experiences needed to dissuade them from further offences. That is why Liberal Democrats say that we can cut crime.

I think these policies really make sense. They will give communities the power and the resources to change things for the better themselves. They will make sure that punishments are sensible, straightforward and clear. And they offer support where it is necessary. They make clear that prison needs to do more to make sure that the people in it don't come out and re-offend. They make clear that the victims of crime should be recompensed and that the perpetrators of crime should be dealt with effectively.

And they show that we really can cut crime with policies that are proven to work.


Friday, January 19, 2007


Through all kinds of windy weather

Yesterday’s atrocious weather caused some damage in Prestwich – I saw lots of debris lying around, with signs uprooted near Tesco, and an enormous tree blocking Whittaker Lane. I hope no readers of the blog were adversely affected in any way.

The worst it got for me was an extremely lengthy journey to The Trafford Centre – so I suppose I got off lightly!

It does strike me as remarkable though how our transport network can grind to a complete halt in bad weather. Us Brits are famous for coping well in tricky situations, but we make it a lot more difficult for ourselves, with fools like me adding to traffic woes by deciding the Hurricane Night is a good time to go shopping...

I’d spent the day at work in Oldham, a town which is windy on the best of days. And yesterday was far from the best of days. I have honestly never seen anything like it. I could barely walk through it, and a number of my colleagues got off lightly when a large glass panel blew off the roof and landed feet from their cars. A window was blown out of the building opposite, and at one point I did think that I would be blown clean away and wake up in Muchkin Land.

I am away this weekend, so there’ll be no blogging. Or, indeed, any leafleting. I wouldn’t have liked to have been out yesterday evening! Although if the gusts had been times right, I could have floated from door to door...

Have a good weekend.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Football, Property Hunting and, of course, Leafleting

Last night’s game was fairly entertaining. I am not a City fan, as mentioned, but it’s not very often I get to see a Premiership team, and so this was a rare treat. City won 2-1, but Sheffield Wednesday gave them a hell of a game, and their fans were in excellent voice, even though the ringleader, an exceptionally fat and topless man, was arrested and led away before my eyes just minutes into the second half.

The City of Manchester Stadium is very impressive. I have been there a couple of times before. Once for the most boring game in football history, when City drew 0-0 against Fulham a couple of years ago. And once for an Oasis concert. It looks spectacular lit up at night. A credit to Manchester.

Tonight’s leafleting bonanza focuses on Sedgley Ward, where the last of the “Happy new Year” Focuses are delivered a mere two weeks after New Year.

Prior to that, I am visiting a ludicrously over-priced house on behalf of my mother, who is trying to move house at the moment. She has succeeding in selling up, but has as yet found no replacement. So we are traipsing round a £200,000 box in Whitefield this evening.

Prior to that, I am heading to my flat to stick an enormous sign on the window to complement the estate-agent’s sign that has been placed there. Our estate agent thinks that, in order to earn the 1% commission that he will acquire when (well, “if” really) our flat is ever sold, all he needs to do is chuck a sign in the window and stick his fingers in his ears until someone knocks on the door. I prefer a more direct approach, and so will be blu-tacking a gigantic sign that reads “2 bed, 2 bath duplex £119,950” in the window. I am hoping that it will be visible from London, where flats that size cost twice that much.

And prior to that I am leaving work.

The muse still hasn’t really returned, so apologies for another pretty boring post. I don’t know where I left it (the muse), but I promise that I am searching for it, and hope to recover it soon.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Wednesday on Tuesday

Another busy day at work today, and since thinking about that makes me want to run far away, I shall talk about trivialities instead.

Tonight I am going to see Manchester City play Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup. I am a Bury fan, but since they were expelled from the competition this season for fielding an ineligible player, I will have to look further a-field to find a cup game until next year (when Bury will doubtless lose in the first round to some non-league team).

It’s £15 to get in, which is apparently reasonable, but nothing compared to the £42 I paid for a season ticket at Bury in 1993. That’s 23 games for the price of three at City. And City have slashed their prices tonight!

I think it’s a little concerning that, at 25, I find myself harking back to “the old days.” But I am harking all the same.


Monday, January 15, 2007


No news is...boring news.

I have little to report today, sorry. It has been a day of thwarted ambitions and workplace irritations.

I have stumbled back onto the diet-wagon after yesterday’s pub disaster. So I am hungry and irritable. I won’t give up with this until I can get into the “skinny fit” t-shirt I got free with an 8-pack of Grolsch without looking like I’m 7 months pregnant.

The trials of my flat continue. I have recently purchased a flat that I am now looking to sell. Resultantly I need to discuss several things with the property management company, who appear utterly unwilling to engage in conversation, other than one-way ones involving bills coming from them to me. So I have rung them three times today, to no avail. In my desperation I have contacted Watchdog. It isn’t really a matter for them, but I was annoyed.

I have been busy with work too, so haven’t got much to say on the events of the world either, I’m afraid.

What I do know, and what I forgot to mention yesterday, is that there may well be a Croma Italian restaurant opening in Prestwich Village. There is one in Manchester (off Albert Square) and another in Chorlton. Planning permission has been applied for for one of the vacant units underneath Radius.

I don’t know the detail of the application, so can’t comment on that. But a “cool” Italian chain like Croma opening up in Prestwich is certainly a good thing, I think. It will do much to attract people to the Village, and be a boost for the other businesses there. And, of course, the quicker the vacant units underneath Radius are filled, and more businesses move into Prestwich, the better.

Maybe more on the world at large tomorrow. As I say, very little today.


Sunday, January 14, 2007


Food, Fido, and Fire in the Clouds

OK, let's get the nastiness out of the way first - today was the day that the diet came crashing down to Earth in a ball of flame and molten rock. There was just no need for the enormous pub lunch of fish and chips. And there was certainly no need for two side orders. Or, indeed, dessert.

The saying goes that if you can't have a little of what you like once in a while, what's the point in being alive? Well, this afternoon I took that maxim to its logical conclusion and had a frankly enormous amount of what I liked. And now, I think to myself, as I sit here with my stomach gasping for dear life, what's the point of being alive? Surely not to feel this bloated...? I shall have to re-mount the diet wagon in the morning. An unpalatable prospect if ever there was one.

All of which is a depressing (but very tasty) ending to an otherwise fairly hectic weekend. The new edition of St Mary's Focus has been finished, after a photo session starring Cllr Donal O'Hanlon and me this morning. I will be sending it on to get it printed this evening, and hopefully it will be hitting some doorsteps next week.

Also, we finished leafletting the latest Sedgley Focus too. I was out in the George Street area yesterday with the Garners (Cllrs Ann and Andrew) and Cllrs D'Albert and Pickstone, finishing off deliveries for the month.

I hadn't noticed before, but there seem to be a plethora of enormous alsations around that area, each and every one just lurking in wait to frighten me half to death with a bark, before lurching towards my flailing fingers like a starving man having a sausage dangled in his face. The concentration of massive dogs in that area is just huge. I don't know why. And yet there are no small, yappy dogs (maybe they've been eaten by the big ones). Just huge German Shephards with their deep, sonorous growls. At one point, trying to squeeze a Focus into what must have been a contender for the coveted title of"World's Smallest Letterbox," my fumblings disturbed the beast within, who must have been a contender for the even more coveted title of "World's Biggest Dog." I heard what I thought was a herd of bison stampeding towards the door, only for the homeowner to handily open the door, thus clarifying the genus of his pet (canine), but also forcing me to come face to face with his gigantic dog, which growled at me, but thankfully didn't rip my head clean from my shoulders, a feat which it could easily have accomplished I'm sure.

Anyway, dog-dramas aside, the day was rounded-off with two trips into town. First to see a friend of mine who had had her ear-drum removed on Thursday. I was surprised to hear that they grow back. When my Mum said to me as a child that "you learn something new every day," I never imagined that I'd learn that.

And then in the evening we were back in Manchester. First we went out with a friend of mine, who was celebrating a promotion at work. She decided to go to Cloud Bar, on the 23rd floor of the new Hilton Hotel. We parked at Spring Gardens, timing our journey on foot to absolute perfection, coinciding it with a downpour so fierce that it drenched us both and snapped my umbrella in half.

I am not really one for pretentious bars (anything that requires me to change out of my trainers in order to gain entry to what is, in essence, a pub, gets a big thumbs down), but the views from that hight really are spectacular. I recommend the trip just for that alone. In fact, that is all I recommend, since the drinks are stupendously pricy (very nearly a tenner for a cocktail, and a fiver for some mineral water!), and I felt intimidated by the stylishness of everyone else in there (Tamsin included). Thankfully, our stay was ended mercifully quickly when a fire alarm went off. "A-ha!" I thought, "an escape to somewhere priced with just the millionaire, not the billionaire, in mind!" Of course I had forgotten everything I learned watching "The Towering Inferno," and had neglected to remember that, in a fire situation, lifts are not allowed. So we had to trudge all the way down from that great height using the stairs! Which actually took about as much time as we'd spent up there to begin with.

I'm sure I'll be back up there before long though. I wonder how long I can spend in Cloud Bar admiring the view and ordering tap water before they throw me out...

And then after that, we saw "Cyrano de Bergerac" at the Royal Exchange. The play was great, but you can read better reviews of it than I can write, so I won't write one. What I will say is that I have never seen a play with as many lines for the lead character as this one. How on Earth he remembered them all whilst simultaneously remembering to actually act a part as well is a mystery.

And today we went to Dunham Massey with some friends (there are a very few photos here). Before the horror that was the pub lunch...

I hope you all had good weekends too.


Friday, January 12, 2007


Last night, tonight and tomorrow

Last night the rain held off, thankfully, and we just had to contend with the darkness, wind and cold. Still, we were successful, and shipped 300 leaflets before 21.00.

We (and by “we” I mean “Team Baum” of my mum and me) did all of Hilton Lane, Spring Vale, a couple of side streets off Hilton, Kersal Road, and then drove up to Prestwich Hills and did there as well. Mum has remarkable stamina for someone of her incredibly advanced years. I think I may have been more tired than she was after we’d finished, although I think I maintained a manly aura of calm which didn’t reveal my inner exhaustion.

When I first started with all this a couple of years ago, I noticed that some of the more dedicated leafleters had cars stuffed full of crumpled old leaflets and piles of disorganised papers from their various rounds (I thought that they had personality issues, and were possibly clinically insane). Yesterday I peered into the back of my Punto to discover that I had become one of these people. Which either means that I am now as dedicated as them or, more probably, I had just forgotten to do a couple of streets and thus had 50 leaflets left over.

Tonight I am putting the finishing touches to the new Focus, which will hopefully be hitting people’s letterboxes in the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately, the winter time really isn’t the time to get photographs to go with the stories. When we go and visit places where the issues are, it’s dark, and obviously we can’t take photos. So the weekend sees us racing around trying to snap photographs. I do get the occasionally funny look posing for photos next to particularly un-picturesque local spots such as the Metrolink sign outside the station, and some abandoned garages. Maybe the baffled passers-by think it’s some kind of art project.

Also this weekend I am heading to the theatre to see Cyrano de Bergerac at the Royal Exchange. I can’t remember whether I have mentioned this before, but a season ticket there (six plays) costs barely £50, which is great value. And it’s for Saturday nights too!

Anyway, I’d best get back to work.


Thursday, January 11, 2007


Weather, Diet, and David Beckham

I appear to have picked the windiest and wettest day on record to go out leafleting later. We have 200 St Mary’s focuses left, and tonight they will be distributed, with the help of some (barely) willing assistants. Unfortunately, if the rain continues to pelt the earth at its current rate, either the Focuses will have been reduced to mush, or Prestwich as a whole will have been washed away and the whole thing will become meaningless anyway.

My office is at the top of a hill, and is pretty windy on the best of days. Today it’s like something out of the Book of Revelations outside and it’s sounded like we’re being harangued by an incessant puffing monster. There’s also a gap somewhere meaning that the wind screams into the room like a million lobsters being boiled at once. It’s very disturbing. And the enormous (and, I imagine, very heavy metal flagpole outside the window is swaying more violently by the minute...

The headline of The Metro today says that January looks set to be the warmest January since the first recorded temperatures of 1659 (by which I assume they mean in the mid 17th century and not at one minute to five). Whoever gave them that statistic has clearly not walked through Oldham any time recently, where it is colder than ever.

Today then, other than the wind, I have been concentrating on:

1) The diet – which I think may be getting easier. Apparently my stomach shrinks after a few days, making it less gaping than before, and thus less likely to bully me for food. The challenge of the weekend, when I am more likely to be out of the house and near to restaurants and takeaways, remains to be overcome though. Today's intake of toast (2 slices) and grapes (10) for breakfast, followed by my fruit mixture for lunch, hasn't left me barely conscious and delerious as in previous days.

2) David Beckham, who has signed for LA Galaxy on a deal worth £500,000 a week, which is a ludicrous amount of money, but sounds even more ridiculous in American, where it is of course $1m a week. Bear in mind that the average working person earning £25k pa won’t earn Beckham’s monthly salary in TWO working lifetimes. And also, whereas I will take 25 years to pay for my flat (which is why it is on the market!), Beckham could afford it at about quarter past four in the afternoon on the second day of his contract.

But is he happy?


Assuming then that I don’t get blown into the sky on the way home from work, I am digging out the old football from the loft later – it seems there’s money to be made if it turns out I’m any good…


Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Up North

Tonight I am heading up North, following in the footsteps of many famous explorers and braving the wilds of… Tottington. Just call me “Sherpa Rick” from now on.

It’s a meeting about our campaign in Bury North in May, as well as the future plans for the Wards in that constituency. It will hopefully give us the chance to meet some of the many new members we’ve acquired there recently as well. And it will get me out of the house, where the remnants of Christmas (two dozen Chocolate Oranges, some Lindt Lindor and a box of Roses the size of a studio apartment – the price I pay for going out with a teacher whose kids give her pressies) serve to tempt me into a chocolate-fuelled eating frenzy around every corner.

The bedrock of Liberal Democrat support in Bury is in Prestwich, where we have 6 of the 9 Councillors, with plans on place for two more (with any luck) this time round. We’ve done less work in Bury North, because in the past there were more active members in the South. Now of course we have much more members up there, giving us the chance to work with them and bring more success for us there. We’ve got dedicated members in lots of Wards up there, and in the past we’ve come close to breaking through in some areas. Tonight’s meeting will give us a chance to see where we’re at.

In other news… Day three of the “Eat-Very-Little-But-Actually-I-Think-I’m-Eating-A-Bit-More-Every-Day diet is progressing with stomach-acid digesting slowness. It is thirty minutes since lunch, and five hours until tea. And it feels like the other way round.

I am counting the calories though, and I think I am still well ahead of the game. Emaciation is but a few short weeks away, I’m sure! Hurrah!


Tuesday, January 09, 2007


And United Utilities said "Let there be light!" And there was light... But I was still at work...

Well, Tamsin just rang to say that the power is back on at Casa Baum. I hope that all the other houses affected by the outage this morning are back up and running too. I think one morning of stumbling about in the dark is enough.

The last 24 hours have been busy. At the Executive last night, we outlined plans for revisions to meetings – more opportunity for policy debate to arouse more interest from “regular” members, for instance. I presented my first report as Membership Secretary, happily reporting that our Membership figures have greatly increased since the last quarter. And we spent a lot of time talking about fundraising. There’ll be a lot of events coming up in the next year, including quizzes, another annual dinner, and a summer barbecue amongst others. So watch out for them and come along.

And then today has been a busy one at work too. I did have time this morning to talk to Cllr Donal O’Hanlon about ideas for the new St Mary’s Focus. The Metrolink and Tulle Court issues are hot potatoes at the moment, so I think they’ll play a major part!

The mention of “hot potatoes” is not doing wonders for my hunger pangs. Day 2 of “The Great Post-Christmas Eat Very Little Detox Diet” is proving challenging. Not least because I couldn’t find enough food in the darkness this morning for a proper breakfast. I face a stern challenge this evening, as I am off to the pub to bid farewell to my friend Mike, who is back to his job in California for a year, having popped home for Christmas. And, as everyone knows, pubs house crisps. And they are DEFINITELY not allowed at the moment.

It’s gonna be tough…



Power Cut in Prestwich

71 homes in Prestwich were affected by a power-cut this morning, and mine was one of them. As of 9am there was still no power to the homes in the Warwick Street and Clifton Road areas, supplies having been lost at around 4 o’clock this morning.

I have been in contact with United Utilities on several occasions to find out how long the outage is likely to last. They tell me that the problem is with underground cables, and that engineers arrived on sight at 09.10. So hopefully the problem will be sorted out soon.

The number to ring them on, should anyone need it, is 0800 169 0701.

The lack of electricity really makes me think how much I take it for granted! This morning was a real struggle to get ready, stumbling about in the blackness at 7am, tripping over my shoes and the bed and just about everything else.

First I thought I’d ring the supplier and find out what was going on. So I located the Phone Book, just underneath the Yellow Pages which toppled from the book-case onto my head. Finding UU’s number was challenging, but I achieved it using the light from my mobile phone – a stroke of ingenuity for which I was very proud.

Having ascertained from United Utilities that it really was a power cut, and thus thankfully avoiding the prospect of venturing into the cellar to look at fuses, I had to feel around the kitchen for bowls and breakfast cereal, and then eat the lot in the dark. And of course, it’s day 2 of the “eat very little and be permanently hungry” diet, so I wasn’t looking forward to my half-plate of slop in the first place.

Getting dressed was equally difficult, and I decided to forego shirts requiring cufflinks today, in favour of button cuffs. Struggling with cufflinks in the twilight would have meant me still being there now! In fact, the only way I could find a shirt and tie combination that matched was by opening the curtains and letting the street lights shine in. So I apologise to passers-by who may have glimpse my torso, and thus got off to a shocking start to the day.

My shower is electric of course, so that didn’t work either, necessitating a trip to use the ones at work. I am not used to showering in quite such close proximity to Peter from the HR Department, but it was fairly pleasant, and we are the party of liberals everywhere after all…

Hopefully, by the time I get home later, power and normality will both have been restored.


Monday, January 08, 2007


More on Metrolink, and tonight's Exec meeting

Tonight is a meeting of the Bury Liberal Democrats Executive Committee, where we’ll be talking about plans for the future, and the recent events in the Party locally. The Executive is a great way for the Council Group to connect with the “regular” members, and it’s great for me because I get to boast about our massive membership increase to a whole new bunch of people!

Today has been a busy one at work, and in between that I have been doing some research into the Metrolink issue as well. Yesterday’s letter to GMPTE is only half the story. Metrolink's Bury line will be closed completely or in large parts from May-September, and will be closed through Prestwich from June.

I’m sure my call for more information on this, made in the letter yesterday, will be answered. But there are several questions that exist beyond that. We still need GMPTE to help Prestwich by:

1) Giving a commitment to provide extra buses on existing routes to cope with the inevitable increased demand.
2) Introducing a bus service to Bury New Road that is as frequent as the 135 on Bury Old Road, to compensate for the closure of Prestwich Metrolink station, a vital link between Prestwich Village and Bury and Manchester.
3) Providing assurances that Metrolink replacement buses will be no more expensive than regular buses.
4) Promising Metrolink Season Ticket holders a pro-rata refund on the price of their tickets whilst the Metrolink is closed.
5) Mitigating the impact of large buses driving down small streets to get to Metrolink stations.

The more people I speak to about this, the more worried people I meet! We’ll keep the pressure on and let you know the outcome.


Sunday, January 07, 2007


Action Update: Potential BIG problems with Metrolink

I share the worries of a number of local residents, who have contacted me saying theat they're getting quite worried about the closure of Metrolink, which is happening in the Spring to replace the tracks. The whole line will be shut for months, but nobody seems to know anything about it. I have written a letter to Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE), and this is what it says:

Dear Sir / Madam

In my role as a local Liberal Democrat campaigner, I have been contacted by a number of local residents expressing their concerns over the cessation of Metrolink Services for major engineering works this Spring and Summer.

Whilst we welcome the long overdue replacement of tracks, we are very concerned on a number of fronts.

Many local residents know very little about the proposed closures. The lack of publicity on your website, on Metrolink trams and stations, and in the form of direct mail to passengers is disturbing, and is not allowing passengers enough time to find alternative travel arrangements.

People need to know when the Metrolink will stop running, how long it is stopping for, what benefits passengers will see when it re-opens, and crucially, what alternative arrangements will be put in place to help them get around.

There is confusion and a lack of information about how alternative travel arrangements will impact on local residents. Obviously many residents rely on the Metrolink to get to and from work, or to access shopping, leisure, health and other services near to the network. Depriving them of the Metrolink will be a major blow, although I appreciate that urgent work is needed. However, we are concerned that, again, no information has been forthcoming to local people about alternatives.

Will replacement buses run?

Will fares on such buses be comparable to the Metrolink, or to buses?

Will replacement buses run to every station? If they are to run between every station and be the same price as a Metrolink ticket, passengers will naturally turn to existing (quicker and cheaper) bus services.

What extra buses will run on existing routes?

What provision is being made for Metrolink season ticket holders?

Many local residents are now getting very anxious. Hundreds of people will have to find alternative arrangements, and they need to make them now. Provision on Bury New Road in particular is a concern of mine, given that the existing major bus route (the 135) runs down Bury Old Road, and many on Bury New Road rely on Prestwich Metrolink station.

Please can you provide me with answers to my questions, and make such information available to the general public on your website and elsewhere. Without it, I fear a real problem for commuters, anger, annoyance and dissatisfaction for the people in my Ward, and a huge increase in cars on the roads.

Yours Faithfully,

Richard Baum (St Mary's Ward Liberal Democrats)

This issue needs sorting quickly. I will keep the pressure on, and keep you informed if I get a response.



I actually do things other than leaflet, on occasion...

I often wonder whether anybody reads this blog other than my own family, and those with an interest in Prestwich local politics which goes beyond the healthy.

I have come to the conclusion that, probably, nobody other than the two categories mentioned actually does read it. But, in case anyone else does, and is interested in my social life, here is a link to some photos of what I did last night. It was a very good friend's birthday, and we went round to his flat for a celebratory time. There were some people there who I don't see very often, and some friends of his who I don't really know very well. One of them is a political scientist who, as part of her doctoral research, looked into why there aren't many young women involved in local politics. We had a very interesting chat, during which we gave our views on why this might be (we were both concerned that, whatever the reason, the fact remains that there aren't many interested), and at the end I tried to get her to join us and become a young woman involved in local politics.

Like so many young women to whom I suggest things at parties though, the answer was a definite "no."

Anyway, that was last night. Tomorrow is a new day, and a new week. And a new diet. I have decided that, since the Christmas period was an absolute disaster on the food-intake front, I will go for a radical two-week plan based on the "Special K" diet. This is, in essence, a bowl of Special K for breakfast, one for lunch, and a healthy and balanced tea. Since I don't like Special K (and since it costs rather a lot for what it is), I am trying the "Crunchy Nut Cornflakes" diet, which works to the same rules, just with a different cereal.

I may also sneak some fruit into there at breakfast and lunch, since I don't want to stop getting my 5-a-day. Resultantly I may have to minimize the dinner. So, on reflection, it mightn't be that similar to the Special K diet after all... My thinking is:

Breakfast: Bowl of Crunchy Nut, plus a handful of grapes (I like grapes, you see).

Lunch (if not light-headed through hunger, and if I've not given in to the cake-related tempations of work's food trolley): Bowl of Crunchy Nut, plus apple and two nectarines (I like apples and I really like nectarines).

Tea (if still alive): Maybe a bowl of soup or a sandwich, topped up with another apple and/or nectarine.

Looking at that paltry food intake, I'm not sure whether it's good for me or not... But the Special K Diet looks about the same, and you're supposed to drop a jeans size in a fortnight. We shall see. I shall keep you updated!



Exciting times behind us, exciting times ahead!

This has been a busy weekend. Yesterday Sedgley campaigner Steve Wright and I joined the Lib Dem Council group at St Margaret’s Community Centre for our annual away day. Although the undoubted highlight was the Marks and Spencer sandwich lunch we had, there were also interesting reflections on some of the achievements that the Bury Liberal Democrats have made in 2006, including:

- Playing a leading role in the successful “Save Prestwich Arts College” campaign
- Winning a seat in St Mary’s for the first time ever, coming from third to first and defeating The Mayor.
- Holding seats in Sedgley and Holyrood again
- Recruiting many new members and activists to help with our year-round campaigning
- Continuing to press for improvements to traffic flow in Prestwich
- Our work with the Heaton Park Action Group

And many other successes. We also outlined our plans for 2007, including winning or holding seats in the elections in May, continuing to campaign on behalf of local people all year, and leading Prestwich to bigger and better things.

It really was an exciting day, and there’s clearly going to be lots happening with the party in the coming year.

One of the great things about the Prestwich Liberal Democrats at the moment is that members are joining all the time. Across Bury our membership has increased dramatically in the last twelve months. This isn’t really surprising – locally we are growing, with more Councillors than ever before. We are the only effective opposition in Prestwich to the Labour Council who want to close our schools and can’t manage our money properly. And nationally, we are the party of fairer taxes, real action on the environment, and protection of freedoms.

Today, when we went leafleting around Kings Road and Albert Avenue at lunchtime, and Ostrich Lane at teatime, we were joined by a new leafletter, which is fantastic to see. We leaflet all year round, letting local people know what we’re up to, and the more help we can get, the better. If you are a member of the party and would like to help us, do please get in touch via the blog or by email/phone ( or 0161 798 4996). You can help as much or as little as you want. Delivering just a few dozen leaflets takes no time at all but is a massive help.

If you want to join the party in the first place, to lend your support with membership or to help with campaigning, please visit this site for more information.

You’re always welcome!


Friday, January 05, 2007


Action Update - Tulle Court rat-run proposal

I have been contacted by a number of local residents expressing their concerns regarding the proposed changes to Tulle Court in Prestwich Village. A planning application has been submitted, including changes to the road nearby.

Whilst Prestwich Liberal Democrats welcome the proposed improvements to Tulle Court itself, we echo residents’ concerns that proposals to create a link road between Church Drive and Church Lane could be hugely detrimental to the local area.

Such a link road is certain to become a rat-run, with drivers seeking to avoid the traffic problems through Prestwich Village.

Church Lane, Church Drive and the surrounding streets are currently quiet. This new rat-run will mean more pollution, more noise, and more dangerous cars for local residents.

Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for improvements to traffic flow through Prestwich Village. After the Labour Council installed half a dozen sets of traffic lights in just a few hundred yards, Liberal Democrats have succeeded in changing parking arrangements, improving signalling, and installing improved safety features to remedy the situation. The sustainable solution is more improvements like this, not sending cars racing down side-streets.

Encouraging motorists off the main road and on to residential streets means more danger for local children, and less custom for local businesses. It means more cars speeding down residential streets, and less pressure on the Labour Council to sort out the real problems on Bury New Road.

The redevelopment of Tulle Court will be a wonderful boost to the area. Let’s not ruin it by risking pedestrian lives and creating a dangerous rat-run.

I will be writing to the local newspapers about this, and campaigning to stop the development of the rat-run.


Thursday, January 04, 2007


The Car's The Star

A thought crossed my mind this morning as I drove to work.

Well, a number of thoughts really. First, that driving by myself 11 miles to work was not the most environmentally friendly way of doing things. But then I thought that the public transport options involved in going from Prestwich to Oldham (walk to Metrolink station followed by Metrolink to Bowker Vale followed by walk to bus stop followed by bus to Oldham) aren’t very attractive either.

My journey isn’t typical. Most people are going from Oldham to Manchester in the morning, not the other way round like me. And the quickest way from Oldham to Manchester goes nowhere near Prestwich. Resultantly, there’s no direct route on public transport, despite it only being 11 miles.

But even so, the public transport option is very bleak: The journey by car takes less than half an hour. The journey by public transport takes over twice as long. By car it costs about £3.50 a day (petrol and parking). The Met/bus combo costs nearer a fiver. More still if I want to go home via a drink in Manchester, which I do fairly often.

And that’s before we factor in possible delays, overcrowding, dirty trams and buses, and the fact that I get the impression that the vehicles and some of my fellow passengers aren’t particularly safe to be travelling on/with.

I’m all for public transport, where it’s practical. I think there should be more buses, especially in rural areas or serving communities not otherwise well served by transport. I think we should invest far more than we do in making public transport an appealing choice, rather than a necessary annoyance.

I think public transport should be cheaper to use, cleaner, and more reliable. And if this means paying more for it out of taxation, then so be it. The alternative – raising fares for users as happened this week – isn’t fair and does nothing to boost the reputation of public transport.

But I also think that there needs to be an acceptance that the car will always be the premier mode of transport – always favoured, always supreme, and always ALWAYS with us. I don’t care if the trains get to become diamond-encrusted bullets capable of floating me to London in an hour for £25. There are times when I’d still like to take my car, because I like listening to the radio, and driving between places not served by a train, and coming and going when I please. And not sharing.

Cars can be made so much less damaging than they are. There are hybrid cars on the market at the moment. Why aren’t there more? Where are the subsidies to make them more appealing than petrol driven ones? Subsidies to manufacturers and consumers? The same goes for LPG. Why do we hear so much about alternatives to the car, and so little about alternative ways of using the car?

Reducing the number of cars by forcing people from the roads through congestion charging, bus-lanes and guilt-tripping is illiberal, and I don’t like it. More people are using public transport, yes. But how many do so because they want to, and how many because they now have to?

People need to have choice in how they reduce their carbon emissions. Which is where the Liberal Democrat policy of increasing tax for fuel inefficient cars comes good. Why penalise everyone when some are more guilty than others? Why present public transport as the only alternative when hybrid and LPG and non-oil cars are another?

We need far more publicity on alternatives to petrol-based cars. And if the reason that there’s no publicity is because there are no options, then we need to fund research into these options quickly. People just won’t get out of their cars, so lets make the best of it and at least make them as clean as we can.

That was my thought anyway.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Sharing time with Caring folk

I went back to work today, and my first task was to attend a meeting with some Social Care providers regarding a Service Level Agreement they want my help in writing. It was in a far-flung Council care facility which, sitting as I do in my ivory tower, I didn't even know existed until today. The reach of Council tentacles far and wide never ceases to amaze me. It's a wonder to behold the services we provide.

It was a sobering experience though to realise that the care staff I was meeting hadn’t had a Christmas break at all, and have to be available to work 365 days a year for low pay, looking after the most vulnerable members of society.

It’s good for me that I can help them, although sometimes I think that what I do is so far from the cutting edge of service delivery that it barely makes a difference.

Not this time though – with any luck the Service Level Agreement will clarify expectations and roles on both sides, and improve the service that’s delivered to the people who need it.



Welcome to 2007

I’m back in town for the foreseeable future (well, the next couple of weeks at least), so the incessant recording of my life’s trivialities that is this blog returns.

I am very tired today, having had to return to my working-week sleeping pattern rather too abruptly. I lay in bed last night at 23.30, having barely been awake for twelve hours previously, staring at the ceiling and trying to work out how few hours were left before I had to get up again. Even such a disheartening calculation didn’t send me off to sleep.

When I was blasted awake at 07.00 by my alarm clock screeching the Radio 5 Live headlines, I honestly couldn’t understand what was going on. Normally Tamsin’s sedate “birdsong and babbling brook” alarm clock slowly brings me round at 06.50, but when she’s on holiday the first thing that greets me is Nicky Campbell shouting at me.

I banged the clock so that it would shut up, but having endured a fitful night of staring at the time and counting down the hours until I had to get up, I couldn’t quite understand that now was the time. A few minutes of dozing, then a second of blind panic that it might be 10.30 all of a sudden, led me into the waking world and blinking grimly into the sun.

I had a fantastic new year, the photographs of the night before, and morning after, are available for view, comment, and disappointed head-shaking.

I am looking forward to the year. There'll be a good campaign in the Spring, and here's hoping for Liberal Democrat gains in Prestwich and across the country.


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