Tuesday, July 31, 2007

London Transport

I've been spending a few days working in London proof-reading & editing some technical documents for a software development bid we are working on. Its not the most exciting work but a good little stop gap until my next project starts.

It gave me the chance to catch up with Shaun in the evening, a friend I worked with about 7 years ago when we were working with Pfizer. Shaun is now at the University of London and is on his summer break doing some temporary work for Transport for London promoting the Oyster Card.

Oyster is fantastic, I have one and it gives me discounted travel on buses and tubes, capped at the cost of a day ticket if I use it a lot. Shaun told me that the buses are capped at £3 so if you make 3 journeys, you can travel around for the rest of the day on the buses for no extra cost.

Public transport in London is getting better all the time and I rarely bring a car into the city as it becomes a liability. Some of my work colleagues are a bit snobbish about public transport and prefer to use taxi's, but I love it its usually so easy and fast.

London have some ambitious projects planned to continue to improve the infrastructure. I would like to see a ring of Park & Ride around the M25 to make it even more convenient. It has to be stick and carrot, you need to give people a viable alternative to using their cars before they will make the switch. In may towns and cities this simply does not exist.

A good integrated transport system is an asset to any city and does contribute to the strength of its economy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

High Rising - Single out on Monday.

Some friends have a band, High Rising who are releasing their first single on Monday. Its worth checking out to add credibility to your MP3 player and help an up and coming band.

High Rising are stalwarts of the Warwick Music Scene, what you did not know Warwick had a music scene! Probably the most vibrant since the Beatles did their last gig at the Cavern and headed down to London. High Rising are more ground breaking than the Sex Pistols, crazier lifestyle than The Stones (Anthony once rode his bike into the canal), bigger than Arctic Monkeys, Louder than Metallica.... you get the picture.

Seriously, check out the myspace, listen to the songs and if you like what you hear follow the link to download the single, I would recommend the B side She's not worthy'. All for the bargain price of 79p!


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Nigel Rock selected as PPC for Kenilworth & Southam

Nigel Rock was selected last night as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for neighbouring Kenilworth & Southam. Nigel is an experienced councillor on Stratford District. I shared a platform with Nigel some months ago for a question time event and I am confidant will be a real asset to the party in Kenilworth.

As many of the issues we face in this part of Warwickshire affect both constituencies and our District Council covers part of Nigel's constituency I look forward to working with Nigel over the coming months.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Great Western Festival 2007 - Saturday July 28th.

This posting is an unashamed plug for a great event in aid of a great cause at the Great Western Inn, Coventry Road, Warwick.

The GW Fest is an all day music festival featuring a wide range of some of the best acts from this area. I was incredibly impressed last year with the standard of organisation and quality of the acts. Last year the festival raised over £4000 for Myton Hospice a local charity that relies on fundraising and voluntary donation to continue its fantastic work.If you do come along, come over and say hello, I will be somewhere near the sound desk making the recordings for the 'official bootleg'.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Ealing Southall - You really could not make it up !

This has got to be the most interesting by-Election in recent memory. We have had mass defections of local councillors, Tory MP's getting caught posting spurious messages on websites and a Conservative candiate that joined the party some minutes before being delcared as the candidate.

It transpires only days before Tony Lit's road to Jerusalem conversion to the Conservatives he was photographed at a Labour (!) fundraiser where it is alleged he donated £4,800 to the party. As far as we can tell he was not offered a Labour Peerage.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Parking Spaces halved in Warwick Parking shakeup.

Yesterday morning I went to have a look at the new road marking in Guy Street in Warwick. This is in preparation for the new Decriminalised Parking that will come into force next month.

Now the streets in this area, Guy Street, Cherry Street and Broad Street are popular residential streets of Victorian terraced houses. Each house is about the width of the length of a car. So it does not take a genius to work out that if each household has one car, there will be only just be enough spaces for all the cars.

Local residents have told me that plans were for double yellow lines to be painted along one side, and that is what I found when I arrived. This halves the parking spaces for these roads with no realistic alternative as to where people can park.

Now the roads here are narrow, yet for as long as I have lived in the area residents have managed quite well by parking on both sides, part on the pavement (that appears to be allowed in other local streets where marked) and still have space for service and emergency vehicles.

One proposal residents would like considered is to make each of the roads one way and for careful marking of parking bays on each side of the road part on the pavement to allow enough room for pushchairs. It will be tight of course, yet residents would be happy with this.

This was discussed at the Warwick Area Committee on Tuesday night and I hope that changes can be made before it is too late.

There is one glimmer of hope if changes cannot be made before it comes into force. There will be a review of the impact following the start of the changes and there may be an opportunity to rethink the parking in these roads then.

Of course in the short term this will not help residents who will simply have no where to park.

If you are affected by these changes in these streets or anywhere else in Warwick & Leamington please email me.

Details of the changes can be found on the Warwickshire County Website.

Lib-Dem Shadow Health Secretary Praises Warwick Hospital Turnaround.

Alan Beddow (second from right) and Norman Lamb MP (Right) talking to staff at Warwick Hospital.

I visited Warwick Hospital on Tuesday with Norman Lamb MP who is the Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary. We had the opportunity to talk to Chief Executive, Glen Burley and Trust Chairman Graham Murrell to discuss the recent challenges the hospital has faced following its record £13.8M debt last year and the hospitals plans for the future.

Now there was a media storm some months ago along with some wild statements made by some of my political opponents which I can only describe as scaremongering.

Of course the hospital has faced serious challenges many created by the constant reorganisations and changes in government policy. There has been cost cutting and the hospital should never have been put in the position it has been.

I know from talking to people who work in the hospital that they have faced a very stressful time. I have the utmost respect for our local health professionals and it is largely due to them that the hospital has managed to turn this situation around.

So I was encouraged by our meeting with the hospital bosses on Tuesday, the debt has not gone away, rather has been refinanced which does spread the problem a little and the finances of the hospital are in a far better state.

More encouraging are the exciting plans in place that will secure the hospitals future on the Lakin Road site. Warwick Hospital plans to develop an ambulatory cancer unit, which will make treatments more convenient for patients in the area. The new centre is set to become the first in the country to receive the Macmillan Charter Mark for Cancer care. The hospital also plans to provide a new paediatrics unit on the site.

Norman Lamb agreed that the hospital has had a difficult year managing its debt and coping with constant government reorganisations. He agreed that the hospital must be commended for turning around the financial situation. Norman recognised that this required some tough decisions and it has been a difficult time for its staff. He was especially interested in some of the new plans for the hospital and agreed that the future now looked more secure and will deliver quality services to patients from the Hospital.

There are still issues with healthcare locally and I will be spending some time over the coming months talking to people across Warwick & Leamington to understand the full range of their concerns.

The hot issue at the moment is that many doctors’ surgeries are no longer taking blood samples and some patients now have to travel to the hospital for this service.

On the whole though the picture is encouraging and I am happy to report that Warwick Hospital is not going to close, A&E will remain as will Maternity and a full range of services.

If you have concerns about healthcare or the hospital please email me

Mail Me about this issue.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sedgefield Labour Shame.

I have just been watching YouTube footage from the Launch of the Lib-Dem by-election campaign in Sedgefield. The footage shows a disgraceful attempt by a mob of Labour activists to disrupt the event. [See Report from the Northern Echo]

I cannot see how this helps the Labour campaign at all, there were Labour councillors in the mob who should know better and show a bit of respect rather than to be part of such a disgraceful display. They were behaving more like football hooligans than serious politicians. It is this sort of thing that switches people off from politics.

I am happy to say that my experiences in Warwick & Leamington are very different and on the whole limited to attacking each other only on policy and of course a little friendly rivalry.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Taking Liberties

I got home from the by-election in time to meet some friends from our local party at Warwick Arts Centre to see Taking Liberties. This film takes a humourous look at the serious subject of the erosion of our civil liberties and freedoms under Blair's Government.

Two things struck me about this film.

Firstly how many of our rights and freedoms have been taken from us, its all to easy to forget in the constant stream of media. These freedoms have been fought for since Magna Carta (did she die in vain) almost 800 years ago and are vital to the health of our democracy, yet in just 10 years of New Labour many of these foundation stones have been removed.

The second thing that struck me about this film was that the hero's of today's Britain are the ordinary people who have stood up and been counted, people who have found imaginative and intrinsically British ways of peaceful protest. I have massive respect for these men, women, young people & fearless old ladies who have risked much to stand up for our rights. In some ways I feel encouraged, it is people like this that has made Britain Great!

The Freedoms that are essential to a civilised democracy covered in the film include:

  • Right to protest
  • Right to Free speech
  • Right to Privacy
  • No Detention without Trial
  • No Extradition without evidence
  • No Torture

I hope Gordon Brown will repair the damage done to our freedom & democracy by doing the following.

  1. Restore our right to protest outside Parliament, he might not like what they are saying but should rejoice that we live in a country where they can say it.
  2. Clear the names of those who have been falsely accused of crimes, found innocent and yet are still being treated like terrorists.
  3. Scrap the one sided extradition treaty with the US that allows us, any of us to be sent to America to face trial without a scrap of evidence being seen.
  4. Stop turning a blind eye to extraordinary rendition flights being refueled in British airports and thereby being complicit in torture.

That's just for starters.

I shall climb off my soap box now, but do go and see this film!

Campaigning in Ealing Southall.

On Wednesday I headed down the M40 to lend a hand in the Ealing and Southall by-election. Every time a by-election is called recently I cant stop remembering 'the only gay in the village' Dafid's line in Little Britain. "Its not just a by-election, us gays and straights can stand as well you know!"
Heartened by this and the news that the wheels had come off the Tory campaign so early in the contest, (having selected a candidate who had joined the party milliseconds before, thus alienating many of the local activists.) and ignoring my sat-nav as it tried to funnel me onto the M4 (yea right!) I trundled down to Southall.
My earliest memory of Southall was in the 70's aged about 7 sitting in the back of my parents car. I remember passing a large park that was packed full of Indians with turbans. Coming from a small village in Worcestershire where the nearest thing we got to an ethnic mix was my friend at school who had been on holiday to Spain that summer, I was fascinated by the colourful sight.
Southall had not changed much and I passed rows of interesting looking shops many with piles of fresh fruit and veg lining the pavement. A Tory radio car passed, I have not seen one of these for years. It announced a simple message, Vote Conservative for Family Values, Vote Conservative for Lower Crime. How they were going to achieve this was unclear.
My sat-nav, having recovered from my ignoring its instructions earlier had caught up and led me to the campaign HQ on a small industrial estate near the station. Like all Lib-Dem by-elections it all seemed incredibly well organised. I teamed up with three people from Simon Hughes office and armed with a huge pile of newspapers and a map we headed out to deliver.
We dodged the rain throughout the afternoon and managed to deliver seven rounds. The problem with delivering newspapers is that your hands get covered in print.
I really think we can win in Ealing and Southall, we have an excellent candidate in Nigel Bakhai and hope to help out again before the end of the campaign.
Oh, this Blog is worth a read Ealing Southall Watch.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Ridgeway School Rebuild Madness.

I attended a Governors meeting last night at Ridgeway School which caters for children with special needs from across the area. The hot topic on tonight's agenda was the rebuild of the school. Ridgeway is currently housed in old buildings that are considered 'not fit for purpose'.

The plan was that Ridgeway would move to the old Round Oak buildings in Lillington while the school was being rebuilt around it. Recently though we have learned of a decision to rebuild the school while it is open.

Have they gone totally mad!

The school is on a small site and most of the school would need to relocate to temporary classrooms while the building is demolished and rebuilt in stages. I can think of so many reasons not to do this, here are my top 3. (Politicians can only think upto 3. Look out for this when listening to them on TV and you will see what I mean.)

  1. It will cost far more, temporary classrooms will have to be built with toilet facilities, access ramps, etc. Estimates suggest the build will take 60% longer, which of course means more labour costs.
  2. There will be significant disruption, half the site will be closed off to the builders, half the school will be knocked down and rebuilt and then we assume the other half, so there will be a lot of moving around. Many of these children do not cope well with disruption and need a good routine.
  3. Health & Safety. Some children have complex health issues. There will be dust and noise from the build. A classroom was shut this week due to asbestos. Some of the children are severely disabled.

It is unthinkable that children, many with a range of disabilities some of them severe, should attend school on a building site. I have discussed this with some of my colleagues on the County Council and the matter being raised at the Warwick Area Committee on July 10th. Members of the public can attend the meeting that will be held at 6:00pm at Shire Hall.

I am hoping that common sense will prevail.