Euro-vote-match, erm, I’m almost a LibDem it seems

I tried out the questions at votematch – which helpfully tells me who I should vote for in the European elections on Thursday.

Putting aside the fact that I returned my postal vote yesterday, my results were:

Labour Party	49/74
Liberal Democrats	49/74
Green Party	44/74
Conservative Party	38/74
Krishnamurty Tayya (Jury Team)	26/74

Not too surprisingly, on European issues it seems that both the Lib Dems and Labour reflect how I feel. Looking at the analysis, it seems that the result is partly influenced by the fact that I think ISP’s shouldn’t be allowed to package up the internet into “channels” – going against the whole _point_ of the internet, and mainly a result of lobbying from BT, et.al.

I’d recommend giving it a go, if only because it forces one to think about the issues at a European level. Shame there isn’t one for County Council elections.

Ian McCartney standing down

I just read that Ian McCartney is standing down at the next election. A sad day, indeed. I’ll always have a soft-spot for him – he was the first MP that I voted for when I was young and about to head off to Uni (I think it was the first time he stood for Makerfield) Indeed the Makerfield constituency takes in Abram, where I went to nursery, Platt Bridge, where I went to primary school; Ashton where I went to secondary school and Orrell where I went to sixth form!

He has been a brilliant advocate for my mum’s basic skills organisation (Working Wonders) and I’m sure for other groups working in his constituency.

I wish him the very best.

Congratulations to Mr Beale and Holland Moor Primary School

I just read this report saying that Holland Moor Primary School had been recognised as one of the outstanding schools of the country.

It’s no surprise. I visited this school when I was a Councillor in Moorside and it is an amazing place of learning. Mr Beale, the headmaster, has built a school that equally concerned about the locality and nearby residents as it was the children.

Their commitment to special needs learning and also to using more male primary school teachers was great to see, as well as the place having a real ‘buzz’ (there were visiting musicians when I popped in during the school day).

Holland Moor Primary deserves all the awards and recognition it is currently receiving and I wish them all the very best.

Conservative Ormskirk leaflet

I received the Conservative leaflet today – well, to be precise I found it on the pavement while out delivering my own! Unfortunately it’s the only place I get to see their leaflets because they don’t deliver to our house (booo!)

Am I alone in thinking that they don’t seem to be interested in local issues? The leaflet covers some vague generalities – but very little about West Lancs or Ormskirk in particular. Having seen leaflets from Up Holland and Burscough it looks like they have the same front and middle across Lancashire and the only thing that differentiates them is the back page.

I scoured the pen portrait on the back page for some mention of the fact that their candidate lives in Parbold, but couldn’t find anything. I suppose they don’t want to print that.

However, it was good to see that they acknowledge that he has, in fact, been an Ormskirk Councillor for nine years – certainly not the “new voice for Ormskirk” which they claimed last month!

And yet, for someone who has been a councillor representing Ormskirk for nine years, the leaflet doesn’t contain a single practical thing he’s done. Instead it lists the various “portfolios” that he held at the Council, and doesn’t even say what he did when holding those portfolios. It also doesn’t say that he was shifted “sideways” (that’s me being generous!) out of the ruling cabinet and into overview and scrutiny last year.

While he’s been holding all these important council jobs the Conservatives have (amongst other things):

  • refused to give pensioners free rail passes – despite the Government giving the Council money that could implement this;
  • turned down government money which would have paid for free swimming for under 18’s (in Wigan, for example, they’ve brought in free swimming for all);
  • let parks and playgrounds (like the one in Halsall Lane) become derelict;
  • failed to collect so-called “section 106” money from developers including one sum of over £125,000 from developments in Skelmersdale;
  • closed cash offices in Ormskirk and Skelmersdale, and as a result rent arrears have soared;

One thing the Tories have done is demolish four houses at a cost of over £600,000 so that a new town hall could be built – which I understand might not even be built!

Their leaflet is scattered with the usual tosh about Conservative councils costing less – which frankly doesn’t mean anything. For every survey or bit of research that shows one side, there’s another bit of research that shows the exact opposite. We usually use the “Labour councils cost on average £160 per year less”. These claims are unimportant – actions, as they say, speak louder than words, and in West Lancs we’ve seen money wasted and some actually lost while on the other hand they’ve claimed that there isn’t enough available to implement basic services that our neighbouring Councils are able to provide.

Their candidate has been at the centre of these discussions – making the decisions when he was on the cabinet and refusing to question them when he was chair of scrutiny.

Obviously I don’t expect them to print this in their leaflets, but I’m astonished that they don’t print _anything_ about what he’s done. I’ve lived in Ormskirk for three years and I don’t know what he’s done for the town. Could it be that in the nine years as a councillor he’s done nothing at all???

Lies, damned lies and expenses

There is nothing good so far from the expenses scandal that has overwhelmed politics over the past week. I’ve avoided blogging anything since there have been many many articles and blog posts about it. However, the reaction on the doorstep can’t be ignored.

I’ve been out canvassing most days since I was selected in February. Mostly people have been concerned about what is happening in Ormskirk: the decline of the market town, the local road system, pensioners travel passes, lack of free swimming, the university – and overwhelmingly, I must stress, a majority of people who enjoy living in the town and who are generally happy with the status-quo.

That changed last Friday. People _rightly_ are furious about what has been happening in Parliament. Knocking on the door and introducing myself as Labour’s county candidate for Ormskirk opens the floodgates for people to express clearly what they think of politicians (and believe me, I’ve heard the whole spectrum).

First, to set out what I’ve done in the past… when I was a district councillor, I didn’t claim any expenses. I attended two or three courses over the four years – about taking minutes and dealing with the media. Practical stuff that I hoped would make me a better representative, but not a penny in expenses.

The reaction on the doorstep is very clear: those MP’s who abused the system stole from you and me. I agree with this. When I canvass areas that are what we might call natural labour areas, the anger and hurt is much more intense. Those MP’s, from all parties, who effectively defrauded us deserve no better than common criminals. Regardless of the initial good intentions they might have had when going into politics; to succumb to the corrpution in parliament, is wrong and they ought to pay the price.

Waving cheques on the TV is not good enough. Indeed, paying back tens of thousands of pounds with the stroke of a pen adds insult to injury. At the very least there are MP’s who should lose the whip and others who should resign. It isn’t in the gift of party leaders to sack MP’s from parliament, but if it were, then they should.

I joined the Labour party in the early nineties. After growing up in Abram, close to the Bickershaw Colliery and having known friends who lost their mining jobs and later watching the excesses of Thatchers and Major’s governments. I believed – and still do – that our common endeavour to make our society better can only be achieved through Labour policies. But I’m ashamed by what has been published this week.

We have MP’s who previously claimed that they published all their expenses on their websites, now saying that they’ll publish their receipts – after they’ve gone through them. It’s not good enough. The imminent publication of this information has been known about for the last year. For someone to publish details a few days before parliament, and then try to claim a moral high ground is to assume that the public are morons.

Only total and absolute transparency will work in the future. Every last line of expenses should be published and made available in the easiest possible format. Personally, I think it should be published as an XML feed (I’ll write more about this when it’s not the middle of the night). But regardless of the mechanics, anything less than absolute transparency – on absolutely everything that an MP recieves – would be an insult to all those people so very angry about what has been published.

Fighting for Lancashire’s Future – Labour’s County website now online

Lancashire Labour’s campaign website http://www.fightingforlancashiresfuture.org.uk is now online.

It sets out what Labour has done over the past four years and how Labour will preserve and improve the services if given the opportunity over the next four.

At the heart of County services is support for people of all ages, their communities and local businesses. I believe that only Lancashire Labour has the record and the policies to help people in the coming years – compared to the cuts that local Conservatives have promised.

Noise Inaction Week – 18th – 22nd May

Only weeks after Tories on the Council rejected the modest proposal of additional noise abatement cover during Freshers Week in Ormskirk. They are now publicising their plans for noise action week.

From the article:

The Council has a duty to reduce or stop unwanted noise under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993 and can force entry into a house to turn off a ringing alarm or seize stereo systems if necessary.

Despite this statutory duty, the Council refuse to have officers working at night-time when most of the problems occur.

And their “public awareness” scheme for noise action week comprises of a stall in the Concourse between 10am and 3pm on Tuesday 19th and a stall on the Ormskirk Thursday market on the 21st. I doubt this is going to reach those who are responsible for the night-time noise that blights lives across the District.

Some credit is due… at least they are doing something slightly more than the absolute bare-minimum. However, when I’ve been canvassing, I’ve had complaints about noise nuisance from residents along Churchfields, Moorgate, Dyers Lane, Burscough Road, Station Road, Sephton Drive and Lea Crescent. People there feel helpless about the problem simply because we have a Council that doesn’t take the problem seriously.

The Labour group of councillors has tried repeatedly to get better noise abatement cover. They have suggested it in successive budgets and have raised the issues through several resolutions to Full Council. Every time the Conservatives have rejected the idea. Most recently, by telling residents that it wasn’t a problem.

If the Council is for anything it should be helping those whose lives are blighted by noise nuisance – but it refuses to take it seriously. Simply holding a street stall mid-week, during the day, at the officers convenience, shows what they really think.

West Lancs pensioners let down over rail passes

A recurring theme on the doorstep is the disappointment and anger from pensioners about the decision to refuse free rail passes by the Conservative Council. It’s made worse by West Lancs being bordered by Merseyside and Greater Manchester where pensioners receive free rail travel.

Our MP has rightly demanded that the Council should spend the extra money that it received for concessionary travel on free rail passes.

However, we need to find a way forward that gets beyond party politics and helps pensioners in West Lancs. If Labour and the Conservatives just keep throwing bricks at each other then nothing will change.

Greater Manchester and Merseyside have “Passenger Transport Executives” which consider integrated transport across all their boroughs. I believe that Lancashire County should have the same – pulling together public transport, subsidies and concessions under one roof.

The County have an Overview and Scrutiny committee which can review issues that aren’t necessarily part of the County’s remit but that affect the residents in Lancashire. Members of the public can currently make suggestions of subjects that they want the committee to scrutinise.

To try and move things forward with the local travel passes, I have written to the County Council asking that the O&S committee reviews the free train passes in Manchester and Merseyside, with a view to implementing the scheme across Lancashire. Of course, they might want to consider something else, but given that local Tories in West Lancs aren’t likely to budge on the issue, we need to keep trying other avenues.