Thursday, November 29, 2007

1.6 million UK children 'homeless'

I watched a program last night about homeless Children. There were 250,000 homeless children in March this year. Some of the families featured were victims of nothing more than a failure of the authorities to talk to each other and sort out the paperwork.

Regardless of the circumstances this is an issue that has devastating effects on the families. Schoolwork is affected. Children are scared of what will happened to them. The threat of going into care hanging over their heads.

Little things we do not realise about this problem. How do families eat in Bed and Breakfast accommodation. Some families are living on a diet of pot noodles, while another lived by heating tins of beans on the radiator.

The program highlighted to me just how flimsy the processes in place to address this problem are.

Some of these families were working, although on a minimum wage. There is something seriously wrong if working families are denied the opportunity for decent homes for their families.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pink String and Sealing Wax

I got an email from my Mom this morning, a concept I am still getting to grips with. In it she recalls how data was sent from Government departments when she was in the civil service.

"Seriously, what idiots sent these discs off. When I worked in government departments important post was put in stiff manilla envelopes, then the proverbial 'pink string and sealing wax' was applied. Yes, literally, pink strong tape and the knot sealed with hot sealing wax. It was then taken by taxi by a member of staff across London and signed for at the other end. Accomplished very quickly - No Mess."

It got me thinking, this is not so much an issue of technology, its more contempt for the value of the information being transferred.

Monday, November 26, 2007

More Labour Party Funding Shocks.

There is another storm at the moment about donations to the Labour party.

The Labour general secretary Peter Watt, has resigned after it was revealed that a businessman made donations of over £600,000 to the party via three other people.

The Labour official said that he had known about the arrangement and that he had no idea that there was anything wrong with this.

I cannot believe that the Labour official did not know this was against the rules. Electoral Law is basic stuff for anyone active in Politics. The Labour party must have the same type of training available that we have in the Liberal Democrats.

The law governing donations is there to make sure that everybody can see who has been donating money to political parties. This helps to make sure that this is not in return for favours later on.

This is as fundamental as learning that you should not go through a red light when you are taking driving lessons.

Perhaps what Peter Watt really meant is that he did not think he would get caught.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A calamitous week for the British Public

Its been a calamitous week for the British Public.

We have each put £900 pounds of our taxes into Northern Rock something in the region of £20-30 Billion and it looks as though we may not get our money back. Yesterday it was revealed that the Government had lost a CD containing the personal details of 25 Million People.
Perhaps only Nick Clegg can save us from this calamity.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Packmores Trees & Community Base

I popped into the Packmores area residents meeting this evening. The main discussion were the tree's in some of the nearby roads. Listening to the residents and looking at the trees and pavements its easy to see the cause of the problem.

If you look at the trees its clear they used to be cropped to about half their current height. Some years ago funding was cut and this stopped. The trees have grown and this has caused problems with leaves clogging gutters, blocking light into homes and the roots have grown bringing up the pavements.

People in this road feel that the council has neglected them. Years of cost cutting has resulted in additional costs elsewhere in pavement repairs and unblocking gutterings and drains.

The most exciting news from the meeting were the plans for a new community base in the area, which will include space for surgeries, small training sessions, mums and toddler group, and a workers base in the old sheds area under Sussex court. This will provide a real focus for the area and I will post more about this as plans develop.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Phil Bennion gets to #2 on European List.

I had some great news yesterday. The results of the Selection for the West Midlands European List were counted.

Now that the selection is over I can be more public in my support for Phil Bennion. I supported Phil as his campaign manager during this contest because I believe that Phil has the Experience, Expertise and Vision to make an excellent MEP, representing the West Midlands in the European Parliament.

I have worked with Phil over the past 12 months and accompanied him on a visit to the European Parliament for briefings with some of our current MEP's in June. Phil plays a leading role in our European Party and is well respected in Brussels and in the West Midlands.

So I was especially pleased that Phil was selected into the number 2 position on our list, which gives him a really good chance of success in the European Elections in 2009.
There has been a lot of debate in recent months about the future of the European Union. Phil's vision for Europe is clear. Europe must step up to the issues that affect us in the 21st Century.

· Addressing Climate Change
· Facing the challenge of Globalisation
· Combating Terrorism and Organised Crime
· Securing Liberalised Trade

As the candidate already working at the heart of European Politics, Phil is best placed to stand up for our Liberal values within the European Union, make the case for Europe campaigning in our region and fight for the reform that is needed if Europe is to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
I wish all our candidates the best in the campaign for 2009.
Photo:- Alan Beddow with Phil Bennion at the Launch of Leamington SPAce earlier this summer.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tea to the people

I have been working out of a large office near Winchester for a couple of months now. This particular office has negotiated a catering contract with a national organisation. They operate the canteen, vending machines and small retail outlets around the site. As we are situated in the middle of nowhere, with no nearby retail alternatives the catering company is effectively operating a cartel.

Although the building I work in has a rest area, it seems none of us can be trusted with a kettle. It is not as if the people working on this site lack the necessary intellect and motor skills to be able to operate such complex equipment. Many here have engineering & computer science degrees. Some of the leading inventions in IT have come out of this place, including the very first hard drive.

So for our own safety kettles are prohibited. The conspiracy theorists amongst the workers (and there are many) suspect this is a plot to maximise the market for the catering cartel and some have suggested their employer may be taking a cut.

Someone working here full time could easily spend over £1000 a year on tea and coffee alone and whilst I am only here a few days a week for about 6 months I do have some sympathy.

Imagine my admiration for the resoluteness of the workforce when I went into the rest area the other week and saw that someone had set up an ‘illicit independent tea enclave’ Someone had gone out and purchased two microwave kettles (we do have microwaves) a box of tea, milk & sugar and had put up a sign declaring an independent ‘Tea Coop’ and inviting people to make donations of needed commodities.

So now we are free from the oppression of the catering cartel (Junta) and can make our own tea and coffee, the only risk we face is from superheated water, which is what happens if we leave it in the microwave too long. The provisional peoples government of the ‘Independent Tea Enclave’ have issued a public safety directive (printed out a web page highlighting the risks and pinned it to the wall) and so all will be well until the military police (health and safety) find out and the microwave ovens are declared enemies of the state (unsafe) and taken from us.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Do we want more Supermarkets?

Yesterday the Competition Commission called for a revamp of the planning system to allow more supermarkets to open in some areas of the UK.

The Commission seemed to be more concerned with allowing more competition between the major supermarkets and less concerned with the impact this would have on independent retailers and our town centres.

I am concerned that this will add weight to the proposed change to the 'Supermarket Needs Test' that would give local authorities less power to assess whether a supermarket is needed in a community.

As I said in an earlier blog we have a diverse selection of independent shops in Warwick & Leamington and a balance of supermarkets on the whole, where they are needed. I am concerned that if this is unfettered we could end up with our towns ringed with supermarkets, trade sucked out of the town centres and the District Council powerless to do anything about it.

This is part of the drift of power away from our local council towards Westminster which risks making British towns soul-less clones of each other.