Friday, 31 December 2010

A Year in Review

A little late but never the less, I did promise one!

January 2011 saw Daisy Benson selected to fight Reading West for the Liberal Democrats. For some unfathomable reason I chose to take voluntary redundancy after 22 years with ICL/Fujitsu Services so that I could work full time on her campaign as election agent. Our starting fighting fund? £4,000! It was hardly going to be a fair fight with one party backed by multi-millionaires and hunt supporters from Aldershot and the other with stockpiles of union funds and facilities.

The big lesson for me was finding the public responding to a positive campaign. It was helped by both the Tories and Greens agreeing to a clean campaign but we soon discovered why Nasty Naz wouldn't sign up for it. Actually that's a little unfair. Naz himself isn't that 'nasty' and a quite pleasant person but as he refused to apologise for Pete Ruhemann's catalogue of lies and smears in Labour leaflets ultimately the nasty moniker was a fair one.

Whilst this was going on, my normal council work saw me responsible for putting together the Lib Dem budget. It was clear that when I required access to officer time and more detailed budget figures that I was being blocked by Labour. This made it impossible to set a Lib Dem budget which required major changes to the way some of the council services were delivered. With that avenue blocked by them, all that could be done was to take the Labour budget and whittle away at it. However, I did have a few tricks up my sleeve and came up with an alternative budget that was signed off by the Section 151 officer as being 'not at risk' which would have seen lower council tax for 2010/2011 and no cuts whatsoever to front line services. Labour's "lowest possible budget without cuts to front line services" was a demonstrable load of cobblers.

However, because of Labour's shenanigans I was given no opportunity to propose it. My experience since then, now that I have full access to the accounts, is that a 0% budget was perfectly achievable last year with no cuts.

The election itself was a stagering vindication of the Lib Dem approach. In Reading West our share of the vote went up by 9%. I'm immensely proud of what we achieved with such limited resources and learned many valuable lessons for next time. Across Reading we polled 26% of the vote which proportionately should have given us 12 councillors. Each year since 2006 we have made year on year gains in terms of the number of councillors, the only party to do so.

Post election it was clear that stability was needed in Reading. Two years running where the budget had been set against the odds because Labour refused to negotiate resulting in another year of the same would be a disaster. We had been told the previous October that £20m savings would have to be found over 3 years and it was clear that regardless of the outcome of the national election that Reading needed a stable platform because setting a budget was going to get harder. Setting a legal budget is the responsibility of all councillors. As well as that I'd also lost all confidence in Labour's financial competency to create a budget on their own.

Whilst nationally Labour rejected any idea of co-operation, viewing Lib Dems as lobby fodder rather than political partners, what became quickly clear is that locally they wanted to do exactly the same. They just weren't interested in forming a joint administration. They wanted all the cabinet posts and offered us nothing in return.

Contrast Labour's position with that of the Conservatives who were prepared to give Lib Dems the lead councillor positions of Housing, Health & Community Care and the Environment and Sustainability. In terms of our party policies, these are where many of our campaigns were and we had the most to contribute to the agenda. In the end, it was a unanimous group decision to form a coalition something I myself would have laughed at only a month earlier during the heat of the campaign.

Later in the year the higher education debate rumbled on with several Lib Dems getting their nickers in a twist over it. I hope it's been a lesson for them - don't sign an NUS Labour pledge! Being outsmarted by Aaron Porter does not look good. In fact I have more respect for Lib Dems who were prepared to say; look, it's still our policy to scrap tuition fees as a matter of principle, but given the hand we have been dealt this is the best deal for poor students. It is.

In 1983 I was offered a job repairing computer terminals. A week later a place came up for me at Portsmouth Poly and I remember clearly what formed my decision making. I came from a poor, single-parent family having grown up on a council estate and what scared me at the time was failing a year and leaving Poly with a debt I couldn't pay off. That's what would have stopped me starting a degree. I would not have gone to Poly under Labour's student loan system, I simply could not afford to take the risk. I would have gone under the new proposed system. And before Labour supporters delude themselves further, in August 2009 Peter Mandleson was floating the idea of £7,000 fees and that was before Alistair Darling's £44bn savings announcement. Sensible people know it would have been no better under Labour and without a reform to their loans system it would have been far far worse for the poor.

The surprise of the year for me is how well the coalition is working. We are still two distinct parties and both locally and nationally each party has members upset with one thing or another in the agreements but there are two main things I bear in mind:

(1) There is no Santa Claus
(2) You can't always have what you want

Since May I have not seen a single constructive comtribution to the debate from Labour, other than opposing everything - including their own manifesto commitments!

Looking forward, I wouldn't rule out a future coalition with Labour, but they will have to do a hell of a lot of growing up if they want to be relevant in a world of pluralist politics.

New Labour - P!$$ing Your Money Up the Wall

As always suspected Labour p!$$ed away £292m of our money on a scheme they knew was unworkable.

Here are two interpretations of the fiasco:

Damian Green, the home office minister, said: "The Identity Card Scheme was intrusive, bullying, ineffective and expensive.”

And

Andy Burnham, who oversaw the biometric cards while a Home Office minister, said: “The Tory-Lib Dem government are trying to make the cards a totem of what our government stood for– but I think they were a good idea and many people are still be in favour of them."

Where Labour completely fail in their reaching out to Lib Dems (blooming perverts!) is that whilst they continue to defend their authoritarian centralism agenda and fail to apologise for their vast waste of public money, they can bog right off.

And of course it was a totem of what Labour stand for and an apposite one at that. Wasting public money on things that have negligible benefit is all that New Labour was all about. The fact that Andy Burnham is still so unapologetic exposes New Labour as the Stalinist bunch of control freaks we know them to be.

Revealed the full shambles of the id card trial in Greater Manchester

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Now here's a thing...

...if a councillor works as a freelance consultant he or she doesn't have to declare his or her client list to the council.

To be honest I've been pretty disappointed by the local awkward squad. They seem to prefer picking at scabs like Shinfield Road rather than attempting to pour salt on a big festering sore that has been oozing pus across Reading for the last 23 years.

A Rotten Borough - Part LIX

Doing the end of year clear up you always come across some of the old leaflets and flyers delivered by the various parties. Amongst them I found one from the Reading Labour Party delivered in April 2008 in two versions, Urdu and English, but strangely enough only to Muslim voters. In it they value the support of the Muslin community and that Labour and they have acheived "much together", including:

  • Labour provided premises for the Pakistani Community Centre
  • Labour enlarging Park Hall for the Pakistan community
  • "Your Labour MP and councillors hold special advice sessions at the PCC."
  • Labour "helped with planning permission for every mosque in Reading"
  • Labour got sites for the Abu Bakr and Jamme Masjid mosques.
  • Labour acquired the land for the Green Road mosque.
  • Labour paid the salary for a year for a Muslim Development Worker in west Reading.
  • Labour paid for elderly luncheon clubs and youth clubs for the Muslim Community
  • Labour funded courses at the WEA Asian Women's Learning Centre
Martin Salter is also organising a visit to Kashmir and Pakistan taking former councillor and PCC commitee member Christine Borgars [who according to the PCC website "remains active in Reading Labour Party including managing their campaign database."]

Of course, it wasn't Labour who paid for these things, it was the council. As this was an election leaflet for Katesgrove, the recipients didn't have a Labour MP who could hold advice surgeries in East Reading at the PCC. Alongside the clear inference of bribing the Muslim electorate with council cash, there is what appears to be a clear case of Labour admitting to predetermining planning decisions.

It would seem that the only reason Reading Labour exists is to take money from the general population and hand it to people they think will vote for them. I'm indebted to the members of the Muslim community who saw through their motives, gave me (and translated) these leaflets and voted them out of Katesgrove. :)

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Reading Labour - A House Divided

With the Shinfield Road traffic scheme continuing to be a poison legacy to the town from Labour, it is probably worth reminding people exactly who the individuals were who were responsible for it.

Reading Borough Council Cabinet - 15th February 2010.

147. SHINFIELD ROAD CIVIL ENFORCEMENT AREA WAITING RESTRICTION – PETITION AND OBJECTION
“Objections to RBC’s proposals for Shinfield Road. We the undersigned, agree with increased safety and a better environment for the area. But we object to specific parts of RBC’s plan for the following reasons:

1. Removing the roundabouts will increase traffic and congestion levels.
2. The study ignores crucial factors and lacks scientific rigor.
3. No provisions for a pollution monitoring system have been made public.
4. The plan is neither generally balanced of cost effective.
5. The plan is specifically unfair to the area’s residents and workers.
6. RBC’s proposals may be illegal.”

The reaction of those in charge to this petition:

Cabinet resolved –
(1) That the petitions be noted;
(2) That the Borough of Reading (Shinfield Road) (Civil Enforcement Area) (Waiting Restrictions) Order 2009 be introduced at the appropriate time as advertised;
(3) That the Head of Transport be authorised to make minor changes to the Order if appropriate;
(4) That no public inquiry be held into the proposals;
(5) That the objector and lead petitioners be informed accordingly.

Now who was responsible for giving the go ahead to the scheme and despite objections agreeing to implement the scheme? Let's look at the members of the cabinet present at the meeting: Councillors Lovelock (Chair), Edwards, Ennis, Gittings, Hartley, Hoskin, Page, Orton and Tickner.

Is this the same Councillor Orton who also said: “The Shinfield Road scheme is clogging up cars and buses alike. As local councillors representing South Reading we are experiencing the problems ourselves and are having them reported to us daily. We can’t go on like this. The lead councillor for transport has promised a review in six months. This is not good enough.”

Councillor Page has despite the chaos strongly defended the cabinet decision - a cabinet decision that Councillor Orton was equally responsible for making. I think the residents of Whitley arre owed an abject apology from one of their councillors and Rachel Eden and Jim Hanley should make a public statement distancing themselves from their ward colleague's behaviour if they want to be taken seriously with their complaints.

Labour's way locally and nationally is to completely screw up things, crap all over residents and voters, then attack those who try to clean up their mess. Like Labour, it doesn't wash.

Councillor Orton should either publically apologise to his residents for his actions or shut up.

Monday, 20 December 2010

A Cautionary Christmas Tale

Mr. Reading New-Labour was once the boss of a small company in Berkshire but he wasn't very good and was sacked by the shareholders over two years ago. He pretended to his family that he was going to work each day but the truth was that his 'salary' was being paid by a loan from Ocean Finance.

In an attempt to get out of his financial calamity before anyone noticed, he bet all the family's Christmas money on a dead cert given to him the day before by a man he met walking a dog on a bit of string. Not unsurprisingly the nag called "Boom & Bust" came last in the 2:30 at Newbury.

Faced with owning up to what he'd done, he instead stuck up two fingers to his family and left them desperately trying to work out how to pay the rent and forced to eat cornflakes for tea. He stole what was left in the house-keeping jar and pissed off down the pub.

During the evening Mr. New-Labour bought strangers pints in an attempt to get them to like him and put it all on his bar tab. He would also pick fights with imaginary rabbits and asked anyone who showed concern if they would lend him £10 to buy them a drink. The regulars kept their distance but he didn't have to drink alone. His shop steward mate, propped up the bar with him, sipping his mild, buying his buddy pork scratchings paid for with the money the union man had fleeced from the pub's poorly paid cleaning staff with empty promises of campaigning for equal pay.

The landlord finally slung Mr New-Labour out after he asked him to settle his bar tab and discovered that he didn't have anything on him except for an IOU from Liam Byrne.

Mr. Reading New-Labour was found on Christmas morning lying face down in the gutter covered in his own vomit.



Update:

In case anyone is reading this after the hysterical rantings of someone who doesn't mind spreading lies about Lib Dems but gets his knickers in a twist when Labour's lies and untruths are exposed... exactly where did I say "dead in his own vomit". I didn't. That would somewhat dent the morality element of the tale. Waking up the next morning remorseful for what he has done would be nice. Won't happen though.

But when it comes to nasty, Reading Labour are hoping that a local resident is attacked or assaulted in Reading so that they can personally blame me for it. Tony Page said so in public at a Reading Cabinet meeting.

Lovely people aren't they!

How Labour Works

Reading Labour have been quite gung-ho about their "decapitation" campaign in Redlands. That might have had some momentum if their 2010 candidate had continued with her candidacy, but for some unfathomable reason she has handed over the reigns to complete unknown Jan Gavin.

Of course, Kelly Edwards decision to stand in Whitley rather than Redlands has absolutely nothing to do with her working for Green Issues, who are currently enagaged in "community consultation" over the redevelopment of the former Courage brewery site in Whitley ward. No doubt she has been allocated work outside the Borough of Reading and has nothing to do with that particular brief and I wouldn't want to suggest the two are linked.

It is more likely that she feels she has a better chance of winning in the Labour rotten ward of Whitley than staying and fighting for the ward she felt would be better served by her only 9 months ago.

I also hear that the dead hand of Trish Thomas is also still at work in Reading (she who demanded a recount of the 2008 Katesgrove result to keep David Sutton's defeat out of the ITV lunchtime news). Mrs. Hanley has been complaining to Mrs. Ruhemann about those nasty Lib Dems. You would hope that she would get a life after retiring from the council, but it's not that simple it would appear.

Talking of dead hands, just why would John Howarth be in regular correspondance with Rajinder Sohpal (former Labour councillor and RCRE bigwig) given that both appear on the face of it to have given up working for Reading Labour?

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Oh, what a tangled web

I guess the Corporate, Community and Corporate Affairs Committee performance from Labour was as predictable as Tony Page complaining about paying a measly 20p to use Reading's swanky new toilets (annual net cost to the council tax payer £230,000). It seems that even with the huge budget savings that the whole country knows have to be made because of the mess Labour left us in, they are quite incapable of controlling their bladders and seeming unable to stop spending a penny in public, especially if that penny isn't actually theirs, it is the public's. Forget the bank that likes to say 'yes', they are the party that cannot say 'no'.

Covering up their bottomless public money pit with a white handkerchief and erecting a "nothing to see here" sign might have been sufficient to scare Scooby Doo and Shaggy away whilst they hope to return but it took breathtaking arrogance to think no-one would start digging up Labour's corpses.

They are reduced to throwing tantrums in press releases and on the Post's letters pages hoping their scary ghost stories about what the nasty coalition are planning to cut in Reading will have any effect. In truth all their moaning about the coalition cuts are worthless fish and chips wrapping. Why you ask? Because you can't cut something that doesn't exist!

Admittedly it is difficult for the average voter to work out the intricate complexities of Labour's fiscal methodology, so I've developed a quick and I hope helpful guide to budgeting the Labour way. I've found Labour's budget process can be more easily understood by the layman or woman if we substitute quantum physics as relatively simple analogy to explain their methods.

If you've been awake listening to D:Ream's Labour 1997 election theme 'Better Get Only Can Things'  backwards, you may have been lucky enough to have heard Professor Brian Cox explaining how Schroedinger's cat can famous exist in two places at the same time, that is in the box and simultaneously in kitty heaven, That holds true until the moment that you open the box, when Schroedinger's moggie in an act of self-centred attention seeking decides right then and there whether he is alive or dead.
[Experimenter's Note: I have discovered that if you are forced to substitute a tin of tuna for the recommended cyanide capsule, the cat always seems to choose being alive. This may be the same experimental result that led Stephen Hawking to announce that the was no need for a God to cause the big bang. The cat did it.]

Now, if you are still following, if we compare Labour's fiscal policy using the Unionised field theory we discover that in the even stranger world of Labour quantum physics, their budget items don't exist anywhere at all and you don't even need to open the box to know there's nothing in it. Liam Byrne left a note to tell you. Brian Cox fans may have heard him refer to this on BBC2 by its other name Lovelocks 3rd Law of Complete Inertia.

This may all be too complex to grasp for some Labour party members, so specially for them the Janet and John special relative theory explains that for every possible combination of political policy the Labour particles will hold the exact opposite charge and become an anti-Abbey-Matter particle. Should they ever accidentally come into contact with a real budget setting process they will implode releasing energy in the form of a massive stream of "budget variance" muons and at the same time magic cash out of thin air using Einstein's famous formula E=Magic Cash2?

I have posted about Labour addiction to creating hidden subsidies before but yesterday I found what can only be described as a brand new fundamental particle. After overuse of practical cats, let use something veggie to describe the new exciting discover... how about a quark? And then a sub-type, in this case a charmed budget. Yep, there definitely something odd about this discovery.

It would appear from considering the evidence that Reading Labour's free spending of the taxi licence money to pay a private security company for taxi marshalls may, how shall we put it, not actually have been allowed under the legislation that covers fees and charges. You see, I was checking how other councils operate their taxi schemes, with the idea of picking up best practice when I found a comment in a report to the Darlington taxi licensing committee. Page 5 of their 2010 taxi fees and charges report says this:

18. It would be difficult to interpret the legislative provision for use of the fees to include the
use of taxi marshalls who are associated with the dispersal of patrons rather than directly
associated with the provision of a taxi rank and to do so would leave the Council open to
challenge by the trade. Members are aware that the Council’s responsibility is to provide a
safe means of travel for the travelling public. Initiatives to protect the trade are however,
encouraged such as the installation of CCTV and protective shields in vehicles. Ultimately,
however, although the Council provides a licence for the trade the actual business of private
hire or hackney carriage work is the responsibility of the trade member.

Or if you prefer non-officer speak, it is not a smart idea to use money collected as taxi licence fees to pay for taxi marshalls because in Darlington they clearly believe that the law does not allow it.

Meanwhile over in the People's Republic of La-La-Land, Reading Labour thought it perfectly permissible to help themselves to the taxi licence fees receipts and spend it on something that doesn't exist... a bit like Britain's gold reserves, eh?. Now a sensible person seeing first the police refuse to cough then the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership withdraw leaving no money to pay for it may have if they were doing their job properly would probably have cut their losses at that point and ended the contract. But you see that doesn't take into account Labour's gag reflex. "No money? No worries! We'll use someone else's!" The only fly in the ointment would appear to be that they didn't have the legitimate right to use it.

However, is it worth kicking up such a fuss about a measly £16,000. This year (2010/2011) Labour had budgeted for taxi licencing to make a loss of £81,000 when the law provides for councils to recover ALL their reasonable costs of running the licensing and enforcement teams from the fees charged.

I think someone should to tell them it's in their own self interest to 'fess up to where they have buried the rest of their bodies before I dig them up. It's only a matter of time before I find more.