Thursday, 31 March 2011

Three numbers that tell you a lot about government cuts

A few days ago I was talking with an old friend about the massive cuts the government have made to public services.

My friend said to me that given the current economic situation cuts were necessary (and noone would deny some are). He went on however to comment that there is so much waste in the public sector (and there is some) ordinary people wouldn't notice any real change to the services that they use.

In response to those comments I have been doing some digging around to see whether my friend was right or not.

I wanted to know just how governmental cuts will affect ordinary people in Leicestershire.

I've come up with just three numbers that highlight how our Conservative / Lib Dem Governments cuts will affect us directly in this county.

Those three numbers are: 135, 3400 and 1500.

Firstly, 135 is the reduction in police officer numbers in Leicestershire in the past two years.

When I mention this figure I'm not talking about back office staff (although 98 of those have been cut as well) but real police officers. I would question whether the ordinary person in the street can expect the same level of service from our policemen and women when nearly 6% of officers have been got rid of?

The second number of 3400 is the number of Leicestershire people who will no longer be able to access social care services due to the County Council deciding not to assist those with 'moderate' needs.

Now on the face of it many people would question just how severe 'moderate' care needs are. The County Council's own website gives an example of a lady aged 86 who 'is partially sighted, has limited mobility following hip replacement surgery and needs help with personal care in the mornings and assistance in cooking a hot meal'.

What is our society coming to when we can no longer provide care to significant numbers of people in this county suffering from this and similar levels of need?

My last number is 1500. This is the number of jobs expected to be lost at Leicester hospitals over the next four years.

Our government promised they would maintain NHS budgets, yet in 2011/12 (because budgets haven't gone up with inflation either) the hospitals we use in Leicester need to save £38 million.

Once again ask yourself can we expect the health service to maintain its current levels of service, or go downhill?

So next time someone says to you that we won't notice the difference to public services just remind them of those three figures and let them ponder a while.

Many thanks to County Councillor Max Hunt for assisting me with this data. All information has been provided in written responses to member questions or obtained from .

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Why Labour is the best choice for Thringstone

Last night North West Leicestershire District Council held its final meeting before the district council elections on May 5th.

As is usual with these things the meeting itself was fairly non-controversial and representatives from Labour, Conservative and BNP parties took the opportunity to thank officers and retiring members for their efforts over the past four years.

And now it is up to those seeking re-election, or standing anew, to go back to their wards and make the case as to why voters should trust them.

Whilst nominations do not close until next Monday I believe the time is right to outline why I believe Labour is the best choice for Thringstone and the whole district.

The key message from Labour is that we believe that we are the right choice in making the district a better place to live.

We are the right choice for putting the heart back into the local community.

We know that in North West Leicestershire previous Labour administrations didn't always get it right, just as we know that the current Conservative administration hasn't always got things right.

We don't see it as our place however within this election campaign to simply point out what others have done wrong.

It is our job to deliver a positive agenda for the next four years where we can say what we intend to do. What's more we are not precious about our aspirations for North West Leicestershire, we invite all political parties to join us in making the district a better place to live.

In Thringstone your Labour candidates understand that housing is a big issue, our aims are clear in what we envisage for villages such as Thringstone and Whitwick:

A Labour controlled council will pledge to enable villages, like Whitwick & Thringstone, to keep their identities in the face of future housing development by protecting our valuable green spaces.

Wherever possible we will seek to build new Council housing and will oppose any proposals to change council tenants security of tenure.

We will work with the voluntary sector in determining best use of Section 106 grants and other development levies.

We understand that the district council must lead on environmental issues. A safe and clean environment is a key priority for the whole district. If we are elected we will seek to:

Adopt a comprehensive programme for the regular emptying of public waste bins. We believe that no public bins should be allowed to overflow.

Crack down on domestic waste being deposited in public bins.

Labour will ensure that the existing resources of the council are used to promote healthy initiatives. We will liaise with every school in the district to develop and improve ‘walking buses’ and other healthy and environmentally sustainable initiatives.

Continue the good work of the current administration by taking a firm stance on un-licensed textile bag collections.

A Labour council will not tolerate environmental street crime. We will be proactive in the enforcement of littering and dog waste clearance.

Labour will campaign to ensure that all communities will have access to a range of children’s play facilities.

We will seek to lead in preserving local community transport schemes, acting as advocates and where possible providing funding to continued delivery.

Villages have been badly affected by the global recession and local factors. Although Thringstone is lucky to have excellent community groups, such as Friends of Thringstone, our village has been affected too.

A Labour council will seek to enable the economic regeneration of our smaller communities.

We will be advocates of our town centres and we will seek to ensure they are developed based on what our residents actually want.

We will work with local communities to protect and establish village pubs, shops and post offices and as Councillors we will seek to provide those businesses with our custom and promote them throughout the district and wider.

Most importantly, Dave Everitt and I will seek to represent the people of Thringstone to the best of our abilities.

Your comments and views, as ever, are welcome.

Your Labour council will ensure that any new development must include social and affordable housing, particularly in villages, in order to enable young people  and families to stay in the communities in which they grew up .

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Friends of Thringstone Litter Pick

This morning Dave Everitt and myself had a great time taking part in the Friends of Thringstone litter pick.

Your local Labour candidates have taken part in every organised litter pick with Friends of Thringstone for the past year.

We feel passionately about our village and make sure we are proactive in making it a better place to live.

It was fantastic to work alongside other volunteers and local Brownies in tidying up Thringstone.

It isn't just about turning up at council meetings, it's about what you can do for your community.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

A tribute to a friend

Sometimes we get wound up with our interests and viewpoints that we let big things pass us by.

Just that has happened to me today.

In getting wound up about political matters in the Coalville Times I missed something altogether more poignant, and for that matter, important.

I didn't notice that in the obituaries that an old schoolfriend has passed away.

My earliest memories of  Adrian Coombs was when we started primary school together back in the late 1970's.

It's fair to say that in those dim and distant memories Adrian was never one of the 'cool' kids, but then neither was I.

More important than being cool Adrian was kind and warm-hearted more so, looking back, than any of the in-crowd ever were.

I left Thringstone primary school after four years to move to a different school, although I continued to live in the same village. As is often the case in those awkward early years when you leave school you lose touch with classmates and that is exactly what happened with the vast majority of children I had previously spent lessons and lunchtimes with.

With Adrian, however, it was different. Although I didn't see him every day, or even once a month for that matter, when I did come across Adrian he was always genuinely interested in what I was up to - I'm sure he was like that with everyone.

As we grew up our paths crossed less and less but on the rare occassions we saw each other Adrian always demonstrated, to me at least, the kindness of spirit that he always had.

A few years ago I heard that Adrian had had some major health difficulties and had moved back to the area. As a result I started encountering him in and around Coalville increasingly frequently.

Adrian was a regular visitor to where I work and our brief chats had become more frequent (until recent weeks). Every time I spoke with him Adrian continued to show his lifelong interest in others but at the same time he coudn't help but be effusive about his fantastic family, particularly his young daughter, regularly giving me updates.

We never went out for nights out together, or to the football, or anywhere for that matter but from those formative years I have no hesitation in saying that Adrian was my friend. I will miss him.

My thoughts go out to his family.

Business Improvement District Bandwagon Jumping

Blimey, there seems to be an awful lot of bandwagon jumping at the moment about the proposed Business Improvement District in Coalville.

As the voting period for the BID nears its conclusion we see in todays Coalville Times letters from two local Councillors from minor political parties who are voicing their opinion against an introduction of the levy.

Where were those two councillors in the run up to the vote? Were they advising local businesses about the impact of the bid? I don't think so.

However, without blowing ones own trumpet (and bearing in mind I'm no supporter of the current NWLDC administration), back in January I blogged on this site, started posting tweets and sent an unpublished letter to The Coalville Times giving an impartial low down on the BID proposals.

You can see the blog here:

It's very simple, you can rely on small parties with no realistic chance of taking power to be reactive and inflammatory (as we see in todays Coalville Times).

Or you can support experienced and responsible parties who lay out the facts and believe in local business people making their own informed choice.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A startling lack of impartiality from NWLDC officers

I have just read Vision, the periodic magazine issued by North West Leicestershire District Council, and am astonished by its lack of impartiality.

In their publications local authorities are obliged to remain completely above party politics. Irrespective of the personal and private views of council officers they are supposed to ensure that anything which goes out from the authority remains free from political bias.

Yet, on page 3 of the March edition of Vision (issued only two months before the district council elections) officers have allowed a quote to be published from Conservative Council Leader, Richard Blunt saying 'We are planning to freeze Council tax for a further four years'.

Such a quote can in no way be judged to be impartial.

Noone knows what the outcome of the coming elections will be (or spending plans arising from them). Such a quote can only be made assuming that the current political administration will remain in power post May 5th and as such allows the Tories publicity of a political viewpoint, at the taxpayers expense, to every home in the district.

Allowing such a quote in the magazine is a grave error on the part of officers either as a result of a clerical error or, much worse, potentially bringing their political impartiality into question.

In my view all of the other political parties should be angered by this mistake and allowed a right of reply to Councillor Blunts comments, issued to all homes at the councils expense.

From a personal point of view I would hope that Labour would not take up such a right, rather seeking to save taxpayers money.

We do election campaigning at our own expense!

In a just world North West Leicestershire District Council should issue a full apology by media release to the electorate immediately for this mistake - I wonder if they will?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Forestry Commission Land Poll - The Results

Back at the start of February the proposed sell off of Forestry Commission land was THE main story in the news.

A government blinded by ideological cuts were determined to go toe to toe with millions of ordinary, concerned individuals who held dear the notion that public ownership of our woodlands was a nationial right, and not something to be simply sold off.

So, on 1 February, I set up a poll on this blog to gather an impression from my readers what they thought about the proposed sale.

Things have moved quickly since then.

The pressure on the government got considerably worse and eventually they anounced that they had decided to reverse the proposals.

Whilst this is fantastic news it did make my poll a bit null and void!

In any event I did let the poll come to its natural end and so here are the results:

Question: Should the Government sell of Forestry Commission land to private owners?
Yes: 4 votes (15%)
No: 22 votes (84%)

In essence the poll shows what we knew all along which was there was overwhelming opposition to the sell off.

Although the sell off was undoubtedly a stupid idea from the outset the Government are to be applauded for realising this and withdrawing the proposals. It would have been easy for them to carry on regardless and I give them credit for seeing sense (although I feel that the ultimate pressure was probably from them seriously upsetting their core constituents in places like 'leafy Surrey').

In closing this poll off I want to highlight just one point.

The proposed forestry sell off was stupid. Nevertheless the Government were right to investigate it as an idea in the same way as they were right to stop it. (All governments should investigate, propose and consult on their ideas)

My point however, is that this whole episode cost the public purse a significant amount of money in developing business cases and all that goes with it, the old saying about 'speculating to accumulate' comes to mind.

All I would say is, when government can spend money developing and consulting on  proposals on the scale that they have done they should be a bit more thoughtful when highlighting 'waste' in local government.