Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Labour's Office of Budget Irresponsibility.

Last night's cabinet featured a savaged by a dead sheep attack on me from the former lead Councillor for the Environment, Paul Gittings. He might have had a point if he hadn't left me with a complete shambles to sort out.

Because of the way the council works, changes to fees and charges had to come before last night's Cabinet otherwise they couldn't be implemented on January 1st when VAT increases. I was actually asked to move the increases forward by businesses who use council services who didn't want to put up their fees once for the VAT increase and then have to do it all again for the Council's annual inflation increase.

Rather predictably, this led to a case of faux horreur from Paul Gittings who had left me with the local equivalent of the "I've spent it all" note from Liam Byrne. As we saw with Labour's burying away unbudgeted their donation to the Reading Taxi Association of £20,000 for their taxi marshals, Labour hid a myriad of completely unfunded subsidies and concessions that had no budget line item and untangling Labour's robbing Peter to pay Paul method of budgeting is essential if we are to rescue the Council's finances.

Going through the basket case that Cllr. Gitting's left me with inevitably meant that individual items taken in isolation from the full budget package that will be announced in February doesn't tell the whole story.

For example, a Lib Dem budget concession from two years ago, which I had to remind Cllr. Gittings that his group fought tooth and nail against, was for free bulky waste collections for those who couldn't afford it. Grudgingly they agreed to it to get their budget through, but do you know how much he budgeted to pay for it? Bugger all! Once again it came out of Labour's magic pixie pot of cash and one of the reasons why their budgets always overran and your council tax constantly went up. When I allocate concessions it will be budgeted and financed, not by sticking my fingers in my ears singing la-la-la hoping know one will ask awkward questions.

The more I dig through the way Labour ran this town the more bankrupt they are exposed as being. They wouldn't understand fiscal responsibility if it sat up and bit them on the bum and Cllr. Gittings has proved himself not fit enough to run a whelk stall let alone a service with a £13.6m budget.

I can guarantee you one thing - Labour will not set an alternative budget this year. They can't. They have objected to every one of our attempts to save money and restore accountability to the council tax payer... apart that is from the closure of the civic offices at weekends, which rather tellingly Jo Lovelock told us she agreed with because the unions had asked her to do it.

No, their real problem is that if Labour attempt to set a budget it would expose the black hole at the very heart of their financal planning. Their strategy for the next election is to promise a helper monkey for every household and hope that no-one asks them where the money is coming from.

One thing is certain. The days of Labour handing out pensioners' council tax without accountability are over and not before time. Reading simply cannot afford a Labour council any more and nor can the residents.

The trouble with cats...

... is that they are always bringing you "presents".

Thanks Matilda!

Monday, 29 November 2010

NUS - Couldn't Put It Better Myself

When you consider the NUS as a national voice, the fact that they were not able to stop top up fees being introduced in 97; the fact that they weren't able to stop top-up fees going up in 2004; the fact that they didn't even get a seat at the Browne review 2009 showed that they aren't necessarily a national voice.

Aaron Bali, Southampton University Student. South Today 29th November

Correct. They are Labour stooges who think a graduate tax is a "progressive"answer.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Fetid Dingos Kidneys

How can you tell when the South East Regional Manager of UNISON is making things up?

Easy... he posts another blog entry.

It's not just him dancing to the tune of his political masters and fabricating news, the whole Labour Party membership is at it hoping for a state of collective amnesia. They've resorted to making up garbage about the upcoming local elections and a pact that only exists as Labour wishful thinking. They clearly do not understand politics in the modern age. I can assure you that every ward will have a Lib Dem candidate campaigning on Lib Dem policies not the Coalition's.

Also exposed is their latest attempt to smear the Lib Dems in the form of a handwritten letter to the Reading Post purporting to be sent in by me for the letters page. Luckily it was easily seen through, like their party, but unfortunately I think a taste of things to come. I'll be an interested by-stander in the Labour game of "how low can we go?" I'm expecting to be surprised about the depths to which they'll stoop. They're crawling on their bellies but they can get lower and will.

Their only tactic seems to be throwing their own faeces at opponents hoping some of it will stick. Well, I've got news for them. I'm cleaning up their crap faster than they can fling it and that includes the mess they made of the council finances.

In some ways it is sad to see that all that's left of the once proud socialist party is a hysterical banshee wailing at anyone stupid enough to believe their lies. Since they are no longer representative of Labour, they should perhaps change their name to the Guilty Party.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Students Are Revolting

The days of student protest ain't what they used to be.

I'm no stranger to direct action. In 1984 I took an active part in the occupation of Portsmouth Polytechnic (I was also in Trafalgar Square during the Poll Tax Riots, but that's another story!) The action was over the introduction of non-refundable deposit for breakages, charging for coursework notes and an above inflation increase in accommodation charges. You may laugh at it now, but it was a big deal then and we occupied key Polytechnic buildings as part of our campaign. Not to close them but to keep them open!

We had heard that the vice-president had plans to shut the place down completely if we occupied their administration offices so we occupied all the key buildings and lecture halls which whilst they remained occupied could not be locked.

When they threatened (in an attempt to alienate the unions and stop students completing coursework) to shut down the ICL mainframe, I reminded them that I'd done my industrial training at ICL and could actually do a checkpoint restart on a P series 2960 which at the time was a black art involving a ferret and eye of newt. A truce between the Poly with the unions meant that I could spend the rest of the occupation running the telephone exchange which in the days before mobile phones allowed us to keep one step ahead of the authorities. Eventually the Poly obtained a High Court Summons which brought it to an end.

After a suitable gap to save face and a charge of £50,000 to the Students Union for the breakage of two ashtrays the conditions were rolled back and a victory of sorts claimed by both sides. What characterised it though was our Student Union president was a Liberal not a crazed Socialist Worker nutter (our joke was they were neither socialist or workers!) and we were disciplined and did everything to keep public sympathy on our side.

The tragedy of the tuition fees protests is that it will only end one way - with tears and recriminations. There is no achievable objective, no get out clause for the protesters and no face saving position on offer from the protagonists. You need all for a successful campaign.

I have to admit that on my list of political priorities, student tuition fees are not up in my top ten. Don't get me wrong, I am against the whole idea of charging students to do their first degree and it would make my top twenty, but really, it's not what gets me up in the morning and pops into my head when I go through the to-do list of wrongs to be righted that day.

The problem with many Lib Dem supporters is that they've allied themselves to the rhetoric of the playground, talking of 'treachery' or 'back-stabbing'. They have left themselves no-where to turn because if they now take back that sort of language they themselves are traitors to their own cause. Oh, the irony!

It is of course nothing of the sort. Lib Dems in the coalition are no more guilty of treachery than is a parent who has promised a petulant teenager an X-box Kinetic for Christmas, then finds themselves having to explain to their child that they've just been made redundant and they won't be able to buy it after all. When to tell the children that there is no Santa Claus it one of the difficult things about parenthood. Telling your own supporters there's is no money because Labour spent it all is another. Everyone has to grow up and face the real world at some point. What we are seeing play out are the teenage tantrums and the inevitable running up the stairs screaming "I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!" whilst the family are trying to work out how to afford the food bill.

I have no sympathy for any of the MPs or Parliamentary candidates whining now who were either too naive or stupid enough to sign up to a pledge that took no account of whether Lib Dems would be in a position to deliver on that promise. The more intelligent recognised post election what was going to happen and concentrated on mitigating the disaster of implementing Labour's Browne report unaltered. We only have 57 MPs and the changes as the result of Lib Dem pressure has at least resulted in the proposals being labelled "progressive" by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. It is still Lib Dem policy to scrap them but the weeping and wailing by some activists shows that even members of my own party do not understand the difference between coalition and majority government. You have to do things you don't like to get the things you do. If you don't like it, campaign for a majority Lib Dem government instead of bleating about betrayal or leave the party.

The fundamental problem is that University is no longer a place where one goes to advance one's education. It was turned by Labour into a sausage factory for the young. One of the most evil works of genius perpetuated by the last Labour govenment was the sleight of hand that not only removed hundreds of thousands of young people from the unemployment figures but also got them to pay for the privilege themselves. Under Labour students were forced to rack up debts of £20,000 for the right to sign on for a £16,000 a year job as a temp when they finished their degree.

This is not helped by a generation of politicos who in the words of Yeah Yeah Noh have gone to "University straight from nursery" and who have lost touch with what's important to ordinary people. It might play out well in The Guardian's "Comment is Free" but in the real world most people don't give a rat's-arse about students. I know with the self-importance of youth many of them won't like to hear that, but it's true. Deal with it. Try knocking on a door in Coley Park and whine on about how unfair tuition fees are if you don't believe it.

There is no right to a free education, anymore than there is a right to a free NHS. We all pay for the NHS in one way or another. In some areas, such as prescriptions, eye tests or dentistry most people already do pay.

If it really does increase earnings then the state should put its money where its mouth is as it will reap the benefits from increased tax receipts. The problem arises when the tax collected from those increased earnings does not keep pace with the cost of providing that education. That happens when students leave university and take up jobs that can be done by less educated students. This rush to get people off the job figures has created job inflation where a degree is an entry level qualification for office filing jobs. And no-one wants to talk about the elephant in the room, just how many Politics with History students and Media Studies graduates does the country need?

Yet, the Labour position on tuition fees is a joke. They introduced them. They doubled them. They were going to put them up to £5,000 anyway and it was their Browne (sic) report that recommended removing the cap not the coalition. Labour students are behaving in a manner not inconsistent with prostitution, as in:

"Would you have sex with me for £1m?" "Yes"
"Would you have sex with me for £10?" "No. What sort of woman do you think I am?"
"We know what sort of woman you are. We're just haggling on the price."

That's Labour's position on tuition fees - merely haggling over the price. I'm a Lib Dem, I don't believe in tuition fees and would scrap them tomorrow if I was incharge. The way to acheive that is to ensure that we have a Lib Dem government. The simple truth is that Labour backs tuition fees 100% and it was Labour who forced students into this debt mountain in the first place. Labour have no solutions.

Baudelaire said this about the situation:

The greatest trick nuLabour ever pulled was to convince the young they never existed.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Demand a Refund!

One of the big problems in Reading is the lack of parking which is often compounded by inconsiderate parking. A great deal of my time has recently been taken up with problems over missed bin collections. In some part this has been caused by people parking on pavements whilst in other parts of Katesgrove grass verges have been turned to mud as cars off-road to avoid blocking the road itself. In some cases though it just has to be put down to inconsiderate drivers.

A clampdown on inappropriate pavement parking is welcomed by many. Missed bin collections cost the council tax payer because we have to send the crew on a repeat visit; parked cars force children's buggies into the road; they block access for the blind and disabled and cause access problems for emergency vehicles. Many people have said about this initiative "about time too".

Something needs to be done as at the moment the council is unable to act becuase only the police have any powers. The "solution" is to give agents acting on behalf of the council the ability to act. And this means issuing fines when necessary.

However, unlike the previous Labour administration, it is recognised that a blanket ban across town is not the answer. There are some streets where custom and practicality means that it is not necessarily dangerous to do so and in fact if it were to be imposed, it would actually make things worse. It's why the coalition asked ward councillors as community advocates to identify streets in their wards where pavement or grass verge parking needed to be regularised, or excepted from the orders.

Labour councillors have decided that they are going to refuse to take part at all in the process of consulting over parking on verges and payments and are letting their residents down in an act of political petulance.

I think it's more than that. I believe that they are in breach of the council constitution which states:

2.3 Roles and functions of all Councillors
(a) Key roles
All Councillors will:
  • (ii) act as community advocates and leaders by:
    • promoting and representing the Borough and the local communities and bringing their views into the decision-making processes of the Council and partner agencies;
    • being the advocate of and for their ward and local people and communities living within it, including responding to petitions;
    • providing information to, and promoting local democracy, participation and engagement by, sections of the local community
  • (iv) balance different interests identified within the ward and represent the ward as a whole;
  • (v) be involved in decision-making as provided by the Constitution, including:
    • executive decisions by Lead Councillors through Cabinet

At the very minimum, residents with a Labour councillor should be demanding that they pay back the £8,224 that they are collecting in allowances whilst refusing to do the role for which they are being paid the money and failing to fulfil their job description.

It should also be noted that this is not a principled stand. Whilst they are whining like stuck pigs over the £75,000 "income" that they trumpet as being a cash-cow generator, the Labour administration budgeted and spent £600,000 by fining the poor if they were late paying their council tax. In one case Labour's policy of squeezing the poor until the pips squeaked made a family with four children homeless which then had to be picked up by the housing department at huge cost to the council tax payer.

Again, I won't be lectured by a bunch of Labour charlatans who have never had the interests of the residents of the Borough at heart. Simply their own warped and narrow political self-interest.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Green Week Question Tme

I'm looking forward to Thursday when I will be doing a Question Time style debate at the University. Especially looking forward to meeting Henry Kelly. I promise, there will be no Game for a Laugh or Going for Gold jokes.


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Labour acting in UNISON.

Let's start this post off with a statement of fact. I am a member of UNITE. Before I was made redundant, I was a union rep. I fully support the right of unions to organise and protest and represent their members. I helped organise a strike picket in defence of pay, employment and pension rights at Fujitsu. Cllr. Debbie Watson was our union organiser.

But what we are seeing in Reading is a complete corruption of union ideals. Union members have been fed a lie that their best interests are served by supporting Labour.

I have an internal Reading Labour Party email detailing how they were going to spend UNISON members money on the Labour Party's election postage. They are as close locally as you can get to a single organisation as you can get.

Yet, if you are a UNISON member, especially a low paid UNISON member, ask yourself why hypocrites like Tony Jones are paid with your subscriptions to promote and act as apologists for that Labour Party when Reading Labour has locally prevented the introduction of equal pay for men and women across the council for over 5 years whilst at the same time the Reading Labour party used your equal pay money in their council budgets to pay for their pet projects.

If you work for the council, ask yourself this, are you best served by a Reading Labour Party that views equal pay for women as something that can be put off because it was the only way to balance the books.

Reading Labour should hang their head in shame that it is the Lib Dems and, to Labour's complete and utter shame, the Conservatives who will be bringing equal pay to this town. Not them... the so called party of the working class.

They are quite frankly a disgrace to the name 'Labour' and should be actionable under the Trades Description Act. and have let really hard working union members down. And your union supports them with your money. And pays Tony Jones.

Some people foolishly thought that Tony Jones was making a principled stand against a Reading Labour Party that had lost its way and no longer represented ordinary working people. I learned pretty quickly that it was simply a matter of his ego and the result of internal faction fighting. He hated the local Labour Party leadership and they hated him.

I am also loving Chris Maskell's sudden conversion to Labour loyalist. He had actually written to council officers asking them to change his details on the web site and council documentation before chickening out at the last minute leaving Tony Jones out on a limb.

As a paid UNISON official Tony Jones epitomises the major weakness of British unions. Charles de Talleyrand-PĂ©rigord said that he was more afraid of sheep led by lions than lions led by sheep and you couldn't find a bigger sheep leading the lions than UNISON’s Regional Head of Local Government for the South East of England. He doesn't scare anyone with his new found bile. Now he barks once more to his Master's voice, he may give the appearance of being a wolf, but a sheep in wolf's clothing he remains. A complete fraud and a real class traitor like the rest of Reading Labour and yet another example of a union official getting fat off the proceeds of members' subscriptions without having earnt it, you know, by doing something simple like getting equal pay for women with a Labour council in control for 23 years. #labourfail

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Hold the Front Page

I know this is fresh from a blog post about sticking to the argument rather than making it personal, but in this case I'll make an exception. Tony Page really plumbed the depths in last night's cabinet meeting telling the public that if a woman should be attacked or assaulted in Reading then he would hold me personally responsible. What an odious little man.

The more I think about it, the more I see quite what a disgusting thing it was to say and Labour's sewer politics in action. I hope he'll reflect on what he said and will apologise like Harriet Harman, but (as his made up election stories proved) even if he did say sorry he'd have his fingers crossed behind his back whilst he was moving his mouth. With talk of "final solutions" and racist terminology, the so called "progressives" are sinking to the bottom of the cesspool. I expect nothing in the way of apology from him, or at least not a sincere one. He seems totally incapable of simple decency.

My crime? Getting rid of Labour's £16,000 subsidy to the Reading Taxi Association to employ two taxi marshalls to keep the private private hire trade at bay.

And let's lay one canard shall we. This is not a cut. It wasn't a budget item. It is not in the "Detailed Budget Book". It was something that Steve Waite had told councillors had "No net cost to the council." I'd have cut it even if there was money overflowing from council coffers. The council is not in the business of subsidising private businesses from the council tax. Yet even the private businesses don't want them.

Here are some of the overwhelming responses the council got when asking whether we should keep the taxi marshalls:

Cab Association
When they were introduced we thought they will help form the queues of passengers.
Hire another enforcement officer as that would be money well spent.

Thames Valley Police
If there is a late night levy imposed then part of it could be allocated to taxi marshals,

BID District
This is non-essential.

I believe that this should be funded from the taxi companies.

Pub Watch
I do not believe that the service adds value and improve the public perception of the town centre.

Private Hire Association
Many drivers would prefer the withdrawal of the so called taxi marshalls and rather support the similar work already being done by the local police and Council enforcement officers.

The only people who spoke up to keep taxi marshalls were the Reading Taxi Association, but should we be surprised when Labour has two black cab drivers as councillors. Maybe Mr, Page will also extend his fatwah to his council colleagues if anyone gets attacked. After all, it is the RTA who decided not to contribute anything to it despite a clear agreement that they would. The question is why did the Labour administration decide to pick up the tab without even putting it in their budget. Were they trying to hide it? Did they think that no-one would notice them dipping freely into their magic pixie pot of money... what you and I would call council tax?

You would think that two private security guards were all that stood between a sophisticated evening out and complete anarchy in the ranks. Yet, Reading Borough Council already has a dedicated taxi enforcement team that checks the licences of drivers and cabs, performs spot checks on vehicles and ensures the safety of the public.

The problem with Councillor Page is that he doesn't think £16,000 is a lot of money to lavish on his pet schemes. I do. Especially when those who really should be paying for it refuse to.

It's like discovering your neighbour is stealing your electricity then complaining about being cut off when you find out about it.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Bishing the Bashop.

Standards aren't what they used to be.

Not for the first or (probably) the last time I've been reported to the local Standards Board. It's a tool that has been used by Labour to harass opposition councillors for quite some time because once a complaint has been made the rules are that the complaint is confidential. So why can mention it this time?

The difference is that the two complainants have made it very public knowledge. Breast obsessed shrinking violet Richard 'Basher' McKenzie, who holds the record for the worst Labour election candidate ever, is crying into his mummy's apron because of a running joke I was having on Twitter with some followers. The trouble with bullies like Basher is that he can dish it but he can't take it.

Another person reported me for tweeting during a full council meeting. Well, since the council adopted a policy of allowing webcasting during council meetings, letting people know what's going on during them is no longer the preserve of Labour's stalinist state. Okay we haven't got the cameras in there yet, but the principle has been established. It is council policy to let people know what is going on live in meetings. However, it's fair enough to not like tweeting so I wouldn't have minded if the person lodging the complaint about me hadn't himself also posted on Twitter during the meeting. One rule for him, another for someone he doesn't like for disagreeing with him. Can't have anything other than the sanitised Labour/Green approved version of events to get out there can we? So hey why not report me. After all, there's nothing to lose. By complaining he's not wasting his own money, just the council's.

But this two faced attitude is prevalent with Labour. I got a telling off from a local journalist for sniggering at the back during CCEA whilst listening to yet another pile of utter tosh from Tony Page. I probably deserved it, but the same journalist was sitting next to Cllr. Jones during a planning committee meeting when he called the Chair a 'silly cow'. No admonishment or a squeak written about him. Not a word about him reading TV Quick during a full council meeting or his frequent swearing at other councillors. He spent the last full council meeting waving his mobile around and reading emails, yet two weeks later reported me to the Chair for tweeting during a licensing committee meeting and got a slap down. I'm not on the licensing committee I can tweet during it if I like. You're not the boss of me now. Get used to it.

As we saw with Harriet Harman's 'ginger rodent' jibe, Labour have lost it nationally and locally. They are intellectually bereft. They have no answers to simple questions like "Tell us one thing that you would cut to save a single penny of your £44bn?" or "Name one tax you would put up like you've said you would Mr. Johnson?"

One of the fundamental rules of debate is "It is not the man, but the measure, that is the subject of debate." They have not the measure, so they play the man.