Sunday, 30 December 2007

Council Tax Cuts.....Not impossible

The Hartlepool Mail recently reported that additional government money might allow the rate of increase of Council tax to be lower this year. Not a cut in bills, just a reduction in how fast they are going up.

Are Hartlepool residents supposed to be grateful for a slower rate of increase? How about an actual cut in Council Taxes? Other Councils are doing it! Why not Hartlepool? Surely Councillors have a duty to rein in spending, eliminate waste and inefficiency and cut bills.

Last year Hammersmith and Fulham cut council tax by 3% and are planning to do it again this year. They achieved substantial savings through competitively tendering of council services, cutting waste and reducing bureaucracy. Savings in backroom operations and smarter working even allowed for a reduction in office space, saving their taxpayers £468,000.

While cutting tax Hammersmith & Fulham’s rating increased from 3 to the top-rated 4 stars, they are introducing 24-hour town centre policing and increasing spending on parks. Clean streets, recycling, tackling anti-social behaviour, improving health and education and promoting affordable home ownership are their top priorities.

Hammersmith and Fulham have shown you can reduce the tax burden on residents while improving the way the council runs things. Why can’t Hartlepool Council do the same? Before anyone says it’s because Hammersmith and Fulham are rich, affluent, southerners the local authority is ranked 59th out of 354 in England for average deprivation, which admittedly is better than Hartlepool in 8th place but still much closer to the bottom than the top.

Hartlepool Council PR Bill rises 201% in 9 years

Council taxes have doubled over ten years but there is still (supposedly) not enough money to run local services. Freedom of Information Act figures for local authorities in the UK show that in 1996/97 Hartlepool spent £428,169 on publicity. Nine years latter that had grown to £1,292,000, an increase of 201.8%. Could this be just one example where too much of the extra money didn’t actually go towards improving crumbling services? In today’s spin lead environment maybe glossy newsletters, costly advertising and PR are valued above policing, refuse collection and other things which actually improve quality of life for ordinary people.

The only North East Council with a bigger percentage increase was Tynedale which spent £21,000 a decade ago and £80,000 in 2006/07, an increase of 281.0%. However, also note these figures are for 10 years. Hartlepool’s 200% plus growth was only over 9 years.

Tynedale are the 39th smallest local authority but their total spending was the 20th lowest. Tynedale therefore actually spent less per head of population than some much bigger authorities. Hartlepool reversed this position. Hartlepool is the 131st smallest authority but the 116th highest spender on publicity. Hartlepool managed to spend considerably more per head of population than some much bigger local authorities.

There should be one priority at local level. Delivering front line services in a cost effective manner. Self-congratulatory magazines telling people how wonderful their Council is and press releases that no-one reads should not be allowed to take vital cash away from services people really need.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Traffic Analysis

According to the “traffic analysis” I can get from my hit counter I get on average 11 people a day viewing this blog. (That’s about 10 more than I expected). Since I started in September there have been 1,163 page views by 587 different people. Half my hits are return viewers and half are one offs. Monday and Tuesday are my busiest days and Friday is the quietest. 14 people even viewed me on Christmas day and my record high since I started the blog was Thursday27th December when 16 people logged on.

One other interesting piece of information is I can find out is how people find my blog. A “direct hit” is someone who has me on favourites. The other way is through a” referring URL” for example today someone found the blog by Google searching “steve allison Hartlepool” and another Google on “ghost hms trincomalee” also brought up my blog. I can’t actually back track to an individual as I only use freeware to generate the statistics but no doubt there are programs out there that would tell me by name who was logging onto my blog. I’m not sure I’d really want to know that…….but remember, nothing is secure in cyber space!

If you think you can do a better job then stand for election yourself

Certain themes come up regularly in Hartlepool Mail letters. Common subject is how useless are the MP, Mayor and Councillors. Derek Lax’s letter this week was an example attacking the Mayor and the MP. At least he wasn't having a go at me!

Actually I agree with many of Mr.Lax’s points regarding the New Labour Clone MP, who I consider is a professional politician dedicated to his career, and the Football Mascot Joke Mayor who I think can’t believe his luck to be elected as two fingers to the establishment.

However, both the MP and the Mayor were democratically voted into office and to do so they had to get off their behinds and offer themselves for election. Regardless of what you may think of their politics they both, as individuals, deserve every credit for getting involved and having a go.

So, I fundamentally disagree with Mr.Lax on his wish that he had abstained. If the MP hadn’t said “I’ll save Stadium” he would have been criticised for not caring. At least the Mayor’s column, despite what you may say about its content, is an attempt to communicate with the people of the town.

If Mr.Lax thinks the MP, the Mayor (or Councillors) are not worth voting for then rather than abstaining he should put up for office himself.

No doubt 2008 will see a fair number of letters criticising the MP, Mayor and Councillors. To the future authors of these letters I say this. If you think you can do a better job then stand for election yourself.

Can anyone tell me again how EU Membership helps our “Peace and Prosperity?”

Christmas, a time of peace and goodwill. Peace is one of the twin arguments used to justify EU membership. According to EU supporters only membership of the EU has been able to suppress war and conflict in Europe. The pro-EU lobby forget about the UN and of course NATO and its role in keeping Europe free from war, even though the French put national interest first and refuse to join. Being in the EU didn’t keep the UK out of a war in Iraq that has been going on longer than World War Two.

The second argument is the EU is needed for increased European Prosperity. However, the Norwegian President recently admitted his personal dream of Norway joining the EU is dead and buried. Recent polls show less than 1 in 3 Norwegians in favour of Norway joining the EU. This is despite warnings of dire economic repercussions for staying out before the last referendum, where Norwegians voted down membership for the second time. The reason Norwegians want to stay out? Their county and their economy are doing very well on its own, thank you.

Outside the EU Norway enjoys peace and steadily increasing prosperity. Norway controls its own economy, borders, fishing and immigration. Inside the EU we have British soldiers killed in Iraq, financial crises, open borders, unlimited immigration, loss of our national fishing grounds and ever increasing regulations from Brussels destroying our international competitiveness. Can anyone tell me again how EU Membership helps our “Peace and Prosperity?”

Thursday, 27 December 2007

What Politicians say.....

Can you recognise this famous soundbite of a previous era which has been revised to make it suitable for a NuLabour Spin era

"The Government can find no evidence that in the course of military engagements of which we have a historical record, the level of indebtedness of such a considerable proportion of the overall
population to such a relatively insubstantial number of fellow members of the national community has amounted to anything approaching an equivalent order of magnitude."

Yes, its Churchill's famous few quote brought right up to date!!!

Parish Polls

Not many people know that the following extraordinarily democratic provision exists in England and Wales. It can be usefully exploited by activists on any number of issues. We need more of this kind of direct democracy.

Under the 1972 Local Government Act, civic Parish Councils in England (Community Councils in Wales) can vote to request their local District Council to hold a referendum on any issue of concern to the local parish.

Once the Parish Council has voted in favour, the District Council has to carry out the referendum.

1 - Choose the issue.
2 - Decide the wording of the question.
3 - With at least five other local parish residents, approach the Parish Council and request a Parish Council meeting.
4 - Advertise the meeting.
5 - At least 10 people must be present at the meeting, where a formal motion must be put forward to support a referendum (the wording of the referendum must be part of the resolution) and a vote taken.
6 - The motion can only be carried if a third of those present, or at least 10 (whichever is the least) vote in favour.
7 - Take the resolution to the District Council and submit a request for a referendum, invoking your right under Schedule 12, Part III, para.18(4) and (5) at page 2275 of the Local Government Act (1972). In Wales it is Schedule 12, Part V, para.34(4) and (5) at page 2279. The District Council must respond within a week and the referendum has to be held within 14-25 days of the request being submitted.
8 - Publicise the referendum and campaign for your cause.

Note, all those entitled to vote at local elections, including the parish councillors, are entitled to vote when the motion is tabled, with the person presiding having a casting vote, as per para18(1) and (3). Para 18(1) states that, "each local government elector may, at a parish meeting or at a poll consequent thereon, give one vote and no more on any question."

Getting the Council to do anything about the issue is, of course, the next step after winning the referendum, but your case will be strengthened with a democratic mandate.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Merry Christmas

Under the tree for me from my kids was a book of bad jokes. Maybe they thought I would stop telling the one about a man with a wooden leg called Smith (I don't know what his other leg is called!). So, here goes

"Why couldn't the skeleton go to the Christmas Party?"
"Because he had no body to go with!"

Merry Christmas.

Monday, 24 December 2007

It's just Politics

Every now and then a letter writer in the Hartlepool Mail will make a plea that all the Councillors put politics to one side and all get behind the Mayor for the good of the town. The latest person to make this naive request being the Mayor's Father. It might surprise some people to learn that I don't sit at home trying to think of ways to put Hartlepool down and so I would be delighted to get behind the Mayor but of course it's not a one way street. I cannot recall any occasion where the Mayor has shown the slightest interest in working with me on anything. He is the Mayor, he has the power to choose who he does or doesn't work with and he has on many occasions been very sarcastic about me and my habit of asking questions. After one Council meting where the Mayor was not only sarcastic but made an attempt to have me removed from the chamber on some pretext I asked him why he felt it necessary to be so unpleasant and rude to me. His response was something like "Well, YOU started it!". If that is how he feels I am sorry, I try never to be personal but some people seem to take it all personally which is a shame.

I was first elected as a local Councillor in 2002, in the same local elections as the Mayor first won office. I can honestly say I was proud, excited and keen to do my bit for Hartlepool and the people who voted for me. (I was also very surprised to have won but that's another story). I naively assumed someone would interview me, explore my background, qualifications and experience and suggest where I could be of most use to the Council and the people of the town.

I remember reading an interview with the Mayor in the Hartlepool Mail not long after his election. He was asked about his cabinet and he told the Mail he intended to speak with EVERY COUNCILLOR before making up his mind on Cabinet posts and Portfolios. Well, 5 years on, I am still waiting for the Mayor to speak to me!

As I soon learned the only thing that decide what committees you sit on and influence what contribution you can make is POLITICS. This is why Hartlepool is run by the Officers. Not because Council Officers are power hungry demons intent upon running every aspect of people's lives. Hartlepool is run by the Officers because the Councillors (including the Mayor) are all too busy playing politics to do anything else. The Mayor repeatedly says he wants to stay out of Party Politics (look at the make up of his cabinet to see how successful he has been there) however the Mayor is actually a very good politician who knows all he has to do is keep the football supporters happy and Hartlepool Council Officers sweet and he has a job for life. The Mayor doesn't need to bother about anyone else because there is his core vote and provide he keeps them he is in clover.

Getting back to politics. The best way for me to ensure something is passed, or something is supported is for me to oppose it. You can guarantee anything I'm against the Labour, Lib-Dem and usually the Tories and many of the Independents, will be all in favour of. Anything I support is immediately voted down. Hartlepool Council Chamber isn't a group of people all trying to do their best for the town, its several groups of people all trying to do their best for their party or themselves. There are some exceptions obviously but not that many. I can't say I know very many people all that well in the Council, I think its inappropriate to foster personal friendships with Officers and most of the other Councillors would be too suspicious of my motives to take a hand of friendship if it was offered. I think the best way to sum it up is a quote I heard on TV once-

"This is politics, there are no friends here, just enemies and temporary allies of convenience"

All in all that sounds pretty accurate to me.

Merry Christmas

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Yellow Box Road Junction

Driving into town this afternoon to do some Christmas shopping I saw a blue light ambulance coming up in my rear view mirror. As it was a fairly busy road I indicated, pulled over and went half onto the pavement to clear the road. The car behind me beeped his horn and swerved past me. I assume he hadn’t seen the blue lights because as he overtook me he managed to block the ambulance and bring it almost to a halt. After the ambulance passed I indicated to pull out to rejoin the traffic. Fifteen cars were tailgating the ambulance and not one of them let me out into the traffic. Mind you it’s the same on dual carriageways of course. Everyone stays in the outside lane because they know if they move into the inside lane then no-one will ever let them back out again!

I did wonder if they now require lack of consideration for other road users as part of the driving test. However, that’s not fair on younger drivers; it is all ages that seem lack even basic consideration. I have checked that it is still in the Highway Code that you stop at Red Traffic lights since it seems to average at least two cars through on red these days. Turning right at lights without a right filter light is almost impossible as by the time the last car has gone past that went straight over on red then the other lights are already green. Try to pull out of a side street to join a main road, even if the traffic on the main road is at walking pace it is a rare driver who lets you out. Many drivers will close up the gaps as tight as they can, in what I can only assume to be a deliberate effort to not let anyone in. When you’re in a stream of traffic and you see up ahead a car trying to turn right across the flow it’s a matter of a few seconds to ease the accelerator, open a gap and let them cross, but no-one does.

Does anyone remember the road safety adverts about Yellow Box Junctions? These are designed to keep traffic flowing and as they used to say on the adverts “Yellow box junctions make everyone do what good drivers have been doing for years”

I have tried to explain to people that maybe if they treated every junction like a yellow box and showed a little consideration for others then they might get some consideration in return. This concept seems beyond most people once they get behind the wheel of a car. It’s like the answer to traffic congestion is very simple, Stop everyone else from driving, congestion is definitely caused by “other people’s cars”

Friday, 21 December 2007

Call for a Referendum

Heads of State and Government and foreign ministers of the EU 27 member states congregated in Lisbon to sign the Reform Treaty and officially called it the "Lisbon Treaty".

However, for the treaty to come into force it needs to be ratified by the parliaments of all 27 member states. So far only Ireland will be holding a referendum. Other countries which had promised a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty have decided not to hold one on the Lisbon Treaty. These are the Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

France and the Netherlands, where the Constitutional Treaty was rejected in referendums in 2005, do not plan to hold another referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Calls for referendums persist across the EU since the argument that the Lisbon Treaty is the same "cosmetically revised" Constitutional Treaty has been generally admitted, foremost amongst whom is Valéry Giscard D'Estaing the president of the convention that drafted the Constitution.

On 12 Dec 2007 several MEPs staged a protest inside the Hemicycle in the European Parliament in Strasbourg demanding for a referendum on the new treaty. The protest, which included banners and T-shirts, was staged during the signing of the Charter of Fundamental Rights which will be annexed to the Lisbon Treaty. The charter was signed by Commission President Barroso, European Council president Jose Socrates (Portuguese prime minister) and the president of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Pöttering, who were booed during their speeches. The protesting MEPs were ordered out while ushers were sent around to confiscate banners.

"This is the new EU in action, showing the world a united face as they steam-roll towards their own super-state while totally refusing to allow anyone to see a different point of view", said Nigel Farage MEP, co-president of the IND/DEM group in the European Parliament.

It is not too late. Log onto

and vote NOW

A Career in Politics

As a prominent local politician and senior figure in UKIP I am sometimes asked about a career in politics. Of course that is very strange because as far as a career is concerned I have done everything wrong.

Firstly I left it far too late to have any real chance. I was over 40 before politics even figured on my radar, prior to that I had a real life, working, bringing up a family, paying the mortgage. So if a 20 something asked my opinion on a career in politics I'd say they have left it a bit late (unless daddy has lots of money to burn or they are related to several prominent politicians, in which case why ask me). To have a chance now you need to be in Student Politics, active at University, local politics and definitely a local Councillor in your 20’s. Anyone over 40 looking for a career in politics who isn't an MP already has missed the boat and anyone over 50 might as well pack it in right now.

Secondly I didn’t choose the right Party. Does anyone really think Tony Blair joined the Labour party out of conviction? It was pure opportunism!

Look at the historical picture. A 30 something MP elected in 2005 for Labour has until 2010 to make it to the front bench and then the cabinet because after 2010 they will be looking at 10 to 15 years in opposition, by which time they will be 50 and the young Turks will be elbowing them aside. Any Labour MP over 40 in 2010 might as well resign if they are in it for power. Of course if they are in it for an easy life and a nice pension then stay in and take up golf. The 30 something Tory MP elected in 2005 has to face remaining in opposition till 2010 but will then have 10 to 15 years in power before the pendulum swings again.

So which Party to join is about timing not political conviction? The politically ambitious 20 year old should join the Labour Party. However, be prepared to work very, very hard, turn up at by-elections, deliver leaflets, get elected as a local councillor and never, ever go off message. Remember you are competing against people the same age as you with 10 years solid records in the Labour Party. The Holy Grail at this point is some sort of paid job with the Party, MP’s Researcher, Constituency Agent, bag carrier, anything that gets you “inside” Experience in the real world is not an advantage. If you can’t get a Party Job then something in the public sector is an acceptable alternative.

Get selected as a Candidate for the 2010 General election. Which constituency is less important than being on the ballot paper somewhere! If you can spot a safe seat where the incumbent is stepping down in 2015 then target an adjacent seat and get yourself known in the area. Move house if necessary. If you win a seat in 2010 then that’s great but your target is to be in the Commons by 2015 in your early 30's. Ten to fifteen years in opposition, then into government in 2025 in your 40’s as an experienced MP ready for High Office. If the same 20 year old joined the Tories and entered Parliament in 2015 then they would have 10 to 15 years in government but would be the new boy (or girl) and unless they attended Eton and were members of the right clubs and societies at Oxbridge then they are unlikely to reach high office (Of course attending the right schools and Oxbridge also helps tremendously if you want to be a Labour Party Politician). Tories then face 10 to 15 years in opposition from their 40's onwards and be well over 50 or close to 60 by the time the Tories got back in again. Too old by far.

So it’s about timing and picking the right horse for an ambitious political animal. It has nothing to do with convictions or beliefs. A professional politician will always choose career over anything else.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Christmas fare

The Headland Parish Council Christmas Carol Singing didn't happen this year. Despite it being mentioned in the Parish Newsletter and a few hardy souls turning up the Parish Offices were in darkness. A little bird tells me the Parish Councillors couldn't find the song sheets from last year and so they gave up and went home. Unfortunately a break down in communications resulted in another Parish Councillor going out and buying three dozen mince pies which she was then left with. Mind you the cancellation of the sign-a-long did save her from some considerable embarrassment when it was discovered the planned traditional mince pie Christmas Fare that would have been on offer were in fact PORK pies!

Traffic and litter

All around Hartlepool there are small parades of shops. In many of these areas there are empty and vacant shops which bring down the visual appeal of the area, reduce the footfall and number of shoppers visiting the area and act as a magnet for trouble and anti-social behaviour. An empty shop is definitely bad news for all the other shops.

So when someone comes along asking to renovate an empty unit and bring it back into use you would have thought it would be welcomed. Not at Catcote Road Shops. According to some Councillors there is too much traffic already in the area and anyway the shop would cause litter.

It doesn't matter what type of shop that opened it would cause more traffic, surely that is the idea, we want these small local shopping parades in use. As regards litter then the parallel that comes to mind is with dog fouling. You can't blame the dog, its the irresponsible owner that leaves the mess behind. Similarly you can't blame the shop owner when an irresponsible member of the public throws litter on the street.

However, Hartlepool Planing committee don't see it like that. Application REFUSED. If we are going to do this then why don't we just knock the shops down. Simple solution, if there are no shops then there would be no litter and no traffic or parking problems!

Never make a decision.....

Hartlepool Council Planning Committee excelled itself on Thursday. Eight applications came before the committee, one was rejected and the other seven were deferred to later meetings. Four of the deferred applications related to business either wishing to expand or to start up in the town. One applicant wanted to open an Italian Hot Food take away and he was deferred due to potential litter and traffic problems. This young man already had a restaurant in another part of Teesside, if I was him I think I would forget Hartlepool and set up my next venture somewhere a little bit more welcoming.

I am your father.......or is he????

They say you can't please all the people all the time and as a Councillor I learn that lesson on a daily basis. Nice letter in the Hartlepool Mail last night from a Mr Alan Drummond.. I have been told this is Stuart Drummond's father but not being a friend of the family I don't know if this is true.

Anyway, Mr A.Drummond is having a go at me about my position on the Tall Ships Race coming to Hartlepool. I have said on numerous occasions, and will repeat it again, that I sincerely hope the Tall Ships visit is a huge success and will give it all the support I can. However, I remain concerned that Hartlepool taxpayers may end up with a massive bill when we are continually being told Council Taxes need to rise and services must be cut because of lack of available funding.

The information I have been able to obtain about the Tall Ships has only been given to me because I ask questions. Unfortunately some people's response to being asked a question is not to answer it but to attacking the questioner. I can understand that if the question is highly personal or intrusive into your private and family life then you are under no obligation to answer and indeed I have myself refused to answer such questions. However when the question relates to spending millions of pounds of public money then I don't think expecting an answer is unreasonable.

Prior to me asking questions there was almost no information available at all about the Tall Shops Race. I'll bet not many people outside the select few insiders of the Mayor's kitchen cabinet have actually seen the submission made to the Tall Ships Organisation, let alone looked into what it means for Hartlepool. It appears to me that the Mayor has committed Hartlepool taxpayers to an open ended contract with the Tall Ships Organisers with potentially no limit to the amount of public money that this event could cost the town. None of this money was budgeted for, nor did it appear in the forward plan for the town.

The Mayor appears to expect the event will be self funding but so far over £2 million pounds of public money has been allocated to the Tall Ships race.

As a Hartlepool Councillor I therefore see it as my duty to question how Hartlepool Taxpayers money is being spent, to challenge controls being applied and promote the achievement of best value. This is not negativity. These are things I was elected to do. I am not a Councillor to be a nodding dog agreeing with everything that comes out of the Civic Centre. In my opinion if a scheme is not robust enough to stand up to challenge and scrutiny then it should have been better thought through before it was proposed. Unfortunately for the Tall Ships Race it wasn't thought through at all. The Tall Ships Organisation had to ring Hartlepool and ask them too bid! Prior to that no though whatsoever had gone into the project. The hastily put together bid was accepted and a management structure agreed by Cabinet. It then took 9 months to put together the working parties agreed in April 2007 and the"Cross Party" Group of Councillors responsible for strategic overview of the project hasn't even been constituted yet let alone had any input to the project.

I sincerely hope the Tall Ships Race is fantastic but me asking questions will not bring down the project if it is robustly managed and run.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Answer No:3 Broadcasting Council Meetings

My last question of the night raised the possibility that meetings of Hartlepool Council might be broadcast on the new Hartlepool Radio Station. "Maybe" was the answer but once again no debate or discussion was allowed and so the issue couldn't proceed.

Ultimately I would actually like to see Council Meetings streamed live onto the Internet. Councils already doing this have seen a huge increase in public interest. Waverley Council ( reporting up to 600 people logging on to watch and participate in their meetings through on-line polls, e-mail questions and comments.

Unfortunately the Labour Group again shut down any chance of discussion or debate on this issue. I did wonder what they were scared of? Could it be they don’t actually want the people of Hartlepool to see what really goes on in Council Meetings?

Answer No:2 Translation Costs

Second question was related to the need for Hartlepool Council to translate documents into 10 languages.

The only figures the Mayor could produce were from 2002 showing that there was indeed as small number of residents of the town who did not have English as their first language. Unfortunately there was no way to demonstrate one way or the other that these individuals needed translations or that they would be disadvantaged by the absence of such translations.

The Labour government just last week adopted the UKIP Policy that translation should not be provided as a matter of routine. Translations should only be carried out where need could be demonstrated and where it could be proven that individuals would be disadvantaged by the lack of translation. Failure to learn English is now accepted as the biggest single barrier to integration and so excessive translation actually makes the problem worse.

Unfortunately no debate or discussion was allowed so the matter ended there, FOR NOW!

Answers.....No:1 The Anhydrite mine

I asked three questions at full council on 13th December . The Labour group generously allowed answers to be given to these questions but didn't allow any debate or challenge to take place. I wouldn't be surprised to learn the Labour Group are working on a method to even block questions at future meetings. After all politicians are masters at not answering and evading questions but just think how much easier it would be to just not have any questions asked in the first place.

The first question asked the Mayor to update the Council on the
Anhydrite mine Investigations. These apparently continue to move forward, all be it slowly. Site work was unexpectedly extended due to a deep band of gravel that was not detected in preliminary work. The rotary drilling system initially used was unable to cope and a slower more traditional technique of percussive drilling had to be used. Site work is now complete; an interpretive report will be with the Cabinet in February followed by public consultation/briefing in March. Council Officers have done their very best to move it along as fast as possible and would like me to pass on the Council's thanks to the residents for their co-operation and patience throughout the whole process.

Wind power con trick

UKIP has always questioned the wisdom of wind power and UKIP party policy is pro nuclear on the grounds that there is no really viable alternative. Last week the government announced the UK will build 7,000 giant offshore wind turbines by 2020, equivalent to one every half mile of coastline. To achieve this will require two of the 2,000 ton turbines to be commissioned every working day until 2020. Denmark, the world's largest offshore wind generator, has never managed to build more than two a week.

The turbines will have a capacity of 33 gigawatts. However, as wind blows intermittently, they only generate on average a third of the time. Wind power therefore needs other back up sources that can come on and off line at a moment's notice to balance supply and demand. The proposed UK Turbines will require a grid system capable of withstanding power swings of up to 33GW. Unfortunately the only outside backup on which our island grid can depend is a 2GW connector to (nuclear powered) France.

Denmark, the country with the highest concentration of turbines in the world, exports more than 80 per cent of its wind-generated electricity to prevent its grid being swamped when the wind is blowing. When the wind is not blowing Denmark then needs to re-import power from Sweden and Germany. The Danes learned their lesson and decided in 2002 to build no more turbines. We British have still to learn that wind power might be appear green and cuddly and please the tree huggers but is not a viable large scale alternative. Remember "green" not only means environmentally friendly, it has another meaning: someone who is naively foolish and dangerously gullible.


It was an early start this morning as at 8am I attended the annual remembrance and wreath laying to commemorate the bombardment of Hartlepool by Imperial German Warships.

It was shortly after 8am on 16th December 1914 that three German heavy cruisers Blucher, Seydlitz and Moltke emerged from the mist approximately 4,000 yards of the coast of Hartlepool and opened fire. The bombardment continued for about three quarters of an hour, 1,150 shells were fired into the area killing 112 and wounding over 200. Amongst the casualties was Theo Jones, the first soldier to die on British soil in the Great War.

The service was lead by a Salvation Army Major, who ironically is a German by birth but who has served the Salvation Army in postings in many different Countries. The Major spoke of the need to reach out to other countries in peace and understanding. A sentiment I agree with 100%. As a member of the UK Independence Party I am often accused of being anti-European and a little Englander. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I love Europe and would never wish to see another war engulf the Continent and the whole world. However I don’t want the undemocratic European Union having control of my life. I don’t believe the only way to live in peace is by giving up our nationality and our British Culture. I am not a European Citizen, I am a British Subject.

Why can we celebrate every culture in the world and spend millions of pounds encouraging immigrants to this country to retain their own cultures but not protect our own. Why is it considered racist to expect if people from abroad want to live in this country then they should speak our language and abide by our cultural norms and standards?

I recently listened to a Radio Program where one of them studio guests was a “Cultural Diversity Trainer” and she described her job as training local government officers about other cultures so that they did not inadvertently give offence if they had to deal with people from other cultures. This seemed to be entirely the wrong way to go about it. Instead of expecting British Officials to adapt to foreign standards we should be explaining British Culture to people who come here so that they do not take offence where none is intended.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Questions answered, but debate blocked

A School Carol Service or a Full Council Meeting. Hard choice to make? Well I decided that attending the Council meeting had to come before my son's school carol concert. This is not a mistake I will make again as it was proved last night that questions and debate are dead in Hartlepool Council.

In the minutes of the October meeting I had abstained from one vote because I was not allowed to speak during the debate. I asked for my abstention AND the reason for it to be minuted, unfortunately only the fact of the abstention was recorded, WHY was not noted in the minutes.

This however was only a foretaste of things to come last night. The Chairman of the Council announced that as there was a full agenda he was not going to allow debate on Councillors' questions, just the question, then the answer and then move on. This was agreed by the Council WITHOUT a vote. Myself and one or two other Councillors did object but we were ignored. There were 9 questions and some of them would have produced an interesting debate. The Mayor even said in his answer to my question on radio broadcasting of Council Meetings that he had been looking forward to hearing the opinion of other Councilors. Unfortunately the debate was not allowed.

I had prepared some quite detailed submissions as part of the anticipated debates and I know at least two other Councillors were looking forward to contributing. If time pressures are not allowing full debates in Hartlepool Council meetings then maybe it is time to return to monthly meetings rather than every six weeks?

If back bench Councillors Questions are now to be closed off without debate then it is another nail in the coffin of democracy in this country.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Questions and Motions

Unfortunately being the "only UKIP on the Council" makes it difficult to get motions for debate onto the agenda as it needs four other Councillors to sign the draft motion. However, there is still "Question Time" which allows Back Bench Councillors such as me to table questions to the Mayor and his Cabinet. So my Questions to the Mayor for Full Cabinet on December 13th are as below.

  1. Will the Mayor please provide an update to this Council on the status of the Anhydrite Mine Investigations?
  2. The notice for my last ward surgery included information in several languages other than English. Given recently published guidelines by the Labour Government that translation into languages other than English should only be carried out in a targeted way would the Mayor identify which communities and approximately how many individuals, within the town and St.Hilda Ward in particular, are being targeted by these translations?
  3. Will the Mayor join with me in congratulating Jason Anderson and the team at Radio Hartlepool on their achievement in obtaining their broadcast licence? Will the Mayor also consider inviting Radio Hartlepool to broadcast the proceedings of Full Council Meetings so that the people of Hartlepool would have the opportunity to listen to the deliberations of the Council over matters of importance to them and the town?

Interestingly enough there is also a motion for debate put forward by the Independent (Administration) Group which refers to the EU Common Fisheries Policy and another motion about Post Office Closures. Both of these are obviously subjects dear to my heart but I was not asked if I wished to support either motion, even though there is a Post Office in my ward and both the other two councillors (Independents) which represent my ward did sign that motion.

When I found out about these motions I e-mailed the Leader of the Admin Group to tell him I was disappointed not to be asked to sign them. His reply was quite illuminating.......

I received your e-mail on Motions for Council. These were raised at our last meeting and all agreed, so they had first call on signing them. This has nothing to do with co-operation, and everything to do with a group signing there own motions. If we were short on those who wished to sign then I would of gone outside the group looking for support for them.


I felt it was a bit sad that the Admin Group appear to be behaving in exactly the same way as the other Political Groups on Hartlepool Council. If a post office is under threat then surely a motion signed by all three of the Ward Councillors is a stronger statement than a motion that excludes one of them. Similarly a motion referring to the EU Common Fisheries Policy would of course have my support and possibly the support of some of the Tory Councillors as well. The decision to snub me was even more bizarre given the political manoeuvring the current "leader" of the Admin Group is up to behind the scenes and of course he wasn't that reticent when asking me to second his nomination as Vice Chair of the Council last May!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Growing presence on the web

For several months I have run a daily Google alert on "UKIP". When I started this (in fact checking back it was nearly three years ago), the Alert might pick up a news story, article, blogspot, etc with the UKIP tag once or twice a week. Today the list of hits rand to several pages, too many to actually look at them all. I have however picked up a new link for my own blog after discovering a blog by "Greg Beaman, UKIP PPC for Wyre and Preston North" Greg being the UKIP Organiser for the North West. I look forward to reading his ramblings; sorry I mean "concise political insights"

The other heartening thing to see was a link to a story in the Newcastle Journal on-line from the UKIP PPC in Berwick on Tweed, Michael Weatheritt. He has picked up on the fact that you are charged to park at a hospital when visiting a patient but you can park for free for as long as you like when visiting an inmate of one of her HM Prisons. Seems a bit unfair? Ironic that if you visit someone in hospital due to a mugging or an assault then it costs an arm and a leg to park your car. Go and visit the Mugger in prison and you can park your car for free. Of course you'd need to be quick to visit someone in prison; after all they don't seem to stay in long these days. When "Life" means 7 years then a sentence for mugging an old age pensioner is usually suspended as its not worth sending the scum down for the few hours the actually spend inside under the “revolving door” policy.

The only slight down side of the growing UKIP presence on the web is that the main news outlets and big circulation newspapers still seem to be operating a no UKIP Policy. However, as UKIP continues to grow then no doubt that will eventually change.

Return of the Constitution

The news seems to be leaking out that sixteen member states of the European Union have broken cover to try to make sure that the so-called European reform treaty is amended at the last moment to transform it into the rejected Constitution.

Just two days before the treaty is to be signed in Lisbon, they have called for the EU flag, anthem and motto to be restored to the discredited document. They also want to impose the euro currency on all member states and celebrate a “Europe Day”. It means that what was 96% of the old constitution is now 100%.

The 16 countries calling for the restoration of the constitution are Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia. The significant country missing is FRANCE, perhaps the new President isn't as keen on the EU as previous French regimes, maybe there is still some hope.

Of course Gordon Brown has a diary clash which means he can't go to Lisbon to sign the Constitution, sorry TREATY, it won't stop him being judged by history as another British Prime Minister who betrayed his country (although Scotland is doing OK at the moment so maybe he isn't betraying HIS country, he's just trashing England and Wales. Perhaps Scottish history will remember him as a great Scottish Patriot who worked for years from within the Westminster system to destroy the "Auld Enemy, the damned English").

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Enjoy alcohol in moderation

Here is a snippet that is just too good not to pass on. I of course cannot vouch for the accuracy of the report as after attending the Headland Memorial Service on 11th November I went home for my Sunday Lunch.

However, after the service outside the Civic Centre it is undoubtedly true that all Councillors were invited to enjoy the hospitality of the Coast Watch at the former Hartlepool Yacht Club Building. I know this for a fact as I received an invitation myself but as I was attending the service on the Headland and the new footbridge is not yet in place I was unable to make it to the bash.

Several Councillors did go along and after allegedly consuming considerable quantities of complimentary alcohol, a small group of Councillors moved on to The Clarendon in Whitby Street to continue their drinking session. By this time one Councillor in particular had allegedly gone a few over the eight and when a fellow customer at the bar complained to the Councillor that he was standing on his foot the worthy local representative apparently suggested in return that the customer went and got fu*k*d.

Facing the possibility of a hospital appointment for the inebriated Councillor, it must have appeared discretion was the order of the day and it was time to move on to the Park Hotel. Unfortunately by the time the group reached the Park Hotel the whiskey drinking Councillor was reportedly 'out-of-his-head'. This may have contributed to his decision to ask the leader of his own Labour Group to come outside, allegedly with the aim of kicking his effing head in. At this point I was told the landlord of the hotel barred the Councillor from the establishment.

The merry group then reportedly made their way back to their respective homes having full-filled their civic duty. The Councillor at the centre of these alleged high jinks is, wait for it, a member of the licensing committee and is up for re-election next year. As far as I recollect he was also banned from driving after being found to be over the limit outside the home of Hartlepool’s previous MP. That ban of course has now been completed and the Councillor is back behind the wheel perfectly legally.

Points or Freeze.......

The introduction of a points system for immigration was a policy of the UK Independence Party for many years. Of course UKIP Policy is now a five year freeze to allow the social and economic infrastructure of this country to deal with the millions of immigrants already here. However, the fact that the Labour Government has announced the introduction of a points system only puts them about five years behind UKIP so there is hope the LIB/LAB/CONs will one day catch up to UKIP.

The Labour spin machine however is still in full swing as the points system applies only to immigration from outside the European Union. Migration from within the EU is still totally uncontrolled.

Have you noticed the clever way the spin machine is trying to separate the two issues on "Immigration" and "Migration" when to the man (or woman!) in the street the two issues are synonymous. A long as this country stays within the European Union then we will have an open door for "migrants" from Rumania and Bulgaria and once Turkey joins the EU there will be 60 Million Turks also given the automatic right to "migrate" to the UK.

Most people I speak to are actually less worried about immigration than they are about migration. When you talk about immigration and dig right down it is actually Islamic fundamentalism that is the issue. When you talk about migration it is the economic and social impact of unlimited Rumanians and Bulgarians that is mentioned.

However, if the Nu Labour Government can adopt one UKIP Policy then one day they might adopt more and revert to their previous opposition to the Federal European Superstate and accept this country would be better off out.

To translate or not to translate......that is the question

After pinching UKIP's former immigration policy it is fantastic to see the Labour Government are now pinching UKIP's Policy on foreign language translation of official documents.

For several years UKIP have been against the automatic translation of public sector documents into a wide range of languages. In almost my first meeting as a re-elected UKIP Councillor in 2006 I asked Hartlepool Council to look at the necessity of including on Ward Surgery Notices translations into several languages that no-one in my ward actually spoke. Predictably the debate went nowhere as the LIB/LAB/CON (and some Independents it must be said), almost fought each other to be first to demonstrate their Politically Correct Credentials by denouncing as racist even the questioning of the necessity of multiple language translations.

I think I even used the words that the government guidelines now quote "Is it essential that this material is translated - and what is the evidence of both need or that people will be disadvantaged without it?" I have tabled another question on this matter for the December 13th Council Meting. I wonder if the LIB/LAB/CON will be so keen to denounce the Labour Government guidelines as they were to denounce me?

Eat British Food.

Gordon Brown may be keen to be seen as “British” but his government is far from patriotic when it comes to buying British food.

On average half of all the food served in public sector organisations is imported. Almost 40 per cent of food stuffs which could be produced in Britain is flown or shipped into the country. The government’s own figures (Source: Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative) showed between July 2006 to June 2007 that 40% of the beef eaten across Government is imported, 60% of all mutton and lamb in Whitehall comes in from abroad and 75% of beans and peas served in the NHS are foreign.

There is a huge gulf between the words of “British” politicians and the reality of what is on their plates. The Treasury, the Ministry of Defence and HM Revenue and Customs being the worst offenders. The official Whitehall line on where food comes from is that discriminating in favour of local producers would breach EU law.

Leave aside any talk of "food miles" and the environmental impact of sending basic foodstuffs half way round the world. Can you imagine a French or Spanish Minister of Agriculture tolerating a situation where their military were not fed home produced food? Indeed about the only thing the French or Spanish will be eating that is not home produced will be fish since thanks to Brussels control of our fishing grounds British Fish is now available right across the European Union. Unfortunately very little of this fish is caught by British Fishermen whose livelihoods, like those of many Hartlepool skippers and crews, have been destroyed by the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

... and now live from Hartlepool Council Chamber ...

It’s not all toil at the political coalface for us Councillors. Just returned from as very pleasant evening at the Camerons Club in Waldon Street. A fundraiser for the Christian Aid Christmas Appeal and the Greatham Sports Field Association. A local band “The Hobbies” were playing and they were very good. Their website ( says they have only been together for a year. They started playing as a hobby (hence the name) but are now getting gigs and from what I could see of them they are really enjoying themselves. Good luck to them in the future.

During the evening I chatted with Jason Anderson, of Radio Hartlepool, and congratulated him, again, on the award of the licence. Their website ( is currently under development but will no doubt be ready to rock and roll when the station goes fully live. I suggested to Jason that Radio Hartlepool might like to broadcast Hartlepool Council Meetings, possibly late evening as something that would help people drop off to sleep. As we talked it actually started to seem more and more like a good idea, whether this is a result of the beer we had consumed I couldn’t say. However I do think I might see what the reaction to the suggestion would be should I raise it at next week’s Council Meeting!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Zero Council Tax

Hartlepool Council hold £32 million pounds in their reserves and it has been suggested we could use some of this to pay off Council borrowings or even support services without increasing Council Taxes for at least the next few years.

However, according to the Finance Department the reserves enable Hartlepool Council to make an investment income of approximately £270,000 a year. So if we used reserves to repay debt owed by the council then we would lose this income. However, as we would not be paying interest on borrowings we surely would be better off in the long term?

Not so says the Fiance Department. Interest payable on loans was only 4.21% last year and earnings on cash investments were 5.07% (which isn't THAT good! and 5.07% of £32 million is actually about £1.6million so working backwards from £270,000 income at 5.07% only about £5.5 million of the £32million is actually invested? Where is the other £26million?).

If Hartlepool Council can borrow at 4.21% and get an investment income of 5.07% then I suggest Hartlepool Council go out and borrow a billion pounds. We can then cut the Council Tax to zero and live off the investment income.

Sad Loss

It was with some considerable sadness that I learned of the death of James Atkinson at the weekend and my deepest sympathy goes out to his family.

It was only recently that I discovered James and my father actually served together in their Navy Days. James was serving on board a Royal Navy Destroyer escorting a convoy to Korea and my father was a Merchant Navy Officer on board a troopship in the same convoy. I personally served with James on the Unit Management Committee at the Hartlepool Sea Cadet Unit and on the Board of Governors of the Hartlepool Sixth Form College. I was also a member for several years of the Hartlepool Rotary Club of which Jim was a regular attender.

James was a gentleman in the real sense of the word and will be missed by many in Hartlepool.

Member's Seminar

One of the many meetings and events I get invited to as a local councillor is a series of briefings entitled "Members Seminars"

These are timetabled into the Civic Diary at 10.00am on the first Tuesday of every month. They are often cancelled due to nothing to discuss (or nothing that they want Back Bench Councillors like me to know about). Unfortunately a register is taken at these seminars, not going means your are marked absent and so it affects your official attendance figures at the end of the year.

Today's seminar was about Educational Achievement in Hartlepool in 2006-7 and the targets for 2007-8. Out of 47 Councillors a grand total of 14 turned up. 6 independents, 3 lib-dems, 4 Labour and me for UKIP. No Conservatives made it to the Seminar. I thought "Education, Education, Education" was the mantra!

Anyway it was very interesting, full of positive messages about how wonderful Hartlepool Education is, how all our schools are improving like mad, educational attainment is going through the roof, absences (truancy) is falling, exam results are going up, fantastic news. Of course Hartlepool Council policy is NEVER to admit anything is less than perfect otherwise you are accused of bringing the town down. Now I am 100% in favour of encouragement and rewarding achievements but the "all must have prizes" philosophy is not one I subscribe to.

The entire seminar was aimed at saying how well the underachieving schools had improved, how much support there was available for pupils who were not achieving 5 A* to C Grade GCSE's, how exclusions were being brought down by targeted assistance to pupils with problems and an especial plea to Councillors present to ensure the local paper was given the right message about why one school was much worse (in performance table terms) than any of the others.

However, the atmosphere got a little frosty when I enquired about the other end of the spectrum. What support were we giving gifted and talented pupils to enable them to achieve to their potential. Unfortunately we ran out of time before that point could be really answered. I am sure Hartlepool Council is supporting its gifted and talented pupils just as much as it is supporting its less academically able. Obviously however this is not something that can be talked about!