Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Rip off Britain

I spent this afternoon collecting a couple of people from Newcastle Airport. The plane was scheduled to land at 14.15 but actually came in 20 minutes early. This of course meant the baggage handling systems were completely unprepared for the flight and the early landing time was eaten up by waiting in baggage reclaim.

Newcastle Airport recently reduced the “drop off and pick up” waiting time to 10 minutes. After which Car Parking Charges come into play and the next 5 minutes cost £1 rapidly rising to £6.50 if you stay over 45 minutes.

Of course once you have landed it can take quite a while to clear baggage reclaim and passport control. In my case this afternoon these took about an hour. So had I arrived at the time announced on the Newcastle Airport on-line Arrivals board I would have been looking at around £11.50 for my Parking ticket (£6.50 for the first hour and then £5.00 for the second hour or part hour). To try and beat these charges many people now park on the road outside the airport or in lay-bys on the approach roads and wait for a phone call from the passengers to say they are ready to be collected. The 10 minute free periods is then just about enough to swoop into the airport, load passengers and cases and leave before the charges start to mount.

Unfortunately for the passengers I was picking up they had to use a payphone to call me. Minimum charge for the call 40p. This works out at 20p a word for the message “We’re here” Even worse he only had 30p in change so had to put a 50p in the pay phone, which of course did not give change!

I was told today that due to the success of people avoiding the parking charges the airport are considering dropping the 10 minute free period completely.

Rip off Britain indeed! No opportunity is lost to extract cash.


Complaints about £50,000 for Russell Hart to chair the Hartlepool Hospital Trust Board are sadly pointless. Mr Hart belongs to the select group of “Quangocrats” who control huge sections of public life but who are not answerable to the public in any way.

Recent research revealed “quangos” (quasi-autonomous non-government organisations) of unaccountable political appointees are estimated to control £123 billion a year of public spending. That is over 21% of all public spending. By comparison elected local authorities control only 15% of public spending. Hartlepool’s Mayor receives far more than Mr.Hart but at least Stuart Drummond was democratically elected to his post.

At national level the residents of the North East make up only 2% of Quango members. The North East is the worst represented region in the country! The North West and West Midlands each have 5% of the quango seats, Yorkshire and the Humber have 6%, East Midlands 7%, the South West 9% and East of England have 10%. The remaining 56% of the Quangocrats are from London and the south-east.

Four London Boroughs (Camden, Westminster, Islington, and Kensington & Chelsea) have 15% of the national total of quango board members. This small section of the capital has more influence than the North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humberside combined.

The government insists people appointed to the boards of public bodies are appointed solely on merit. (Apart of course from rules to cover gender and ethnic diversity!) but it does appear a London Postcode (and possibly Labour Party Membership?) helps enormously.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Mortality amenable to healthcare

The Taxpayers Alliance has recently completed a statistical analysis of World Health Organisation data into performance of the NHS estimating the number of deaths that could plausibly have been averted or to give it its full title “mortality amenable to healthcare”.

Amenable mortality in the UK is 26.9 per cent higher than the European average. It is 48.6 per cent higher than in the best performing country, France. Just achieving the same level as the European average would have saved 17,157 lives in 2004, (the most recent year for which data is available). In context, this is over five times the number killed in road accidents and two and a half times more than deaths related to alcohol in 2004.

Mortality rates have been improving but the rate of improvement under Labour since 1999 is almost exactly the same as the rate under Thatcher and Major. Huge increases in spending from 1999 have made no discernable difference to the long-term pattern of mortality. Indeed 73% of additional NHS spending has gone on wages and increases in staffing. Unfortunately not on Doctors and Nurses but on managers and senior managers who increased their numbers more than twice as quickly as the number of clinical staff.

The NHS was the envy of the world but has been left behind by healthcare systems that don’t suffer from political management, monopolistic provision and centralisation. Any criticism of the NHS of course is almost a suicide note for a British Politician so we are stuck with a decaying, bureaucratic system which only those who can afford private health care manage to escape.

Read the full report at

You can see a new cartoon every day by clicking "View Today's Cartoon" between the Visitor Counter and the Daily Dilbert on the right side of this screen.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Hereditary Politics

I have a client on Humberside who I visit regularly. Quite often the conversation turns to Politics and last week the subject of Members of Parliament came up. As most people will know Hull has that giant of the British Political Scene, Mr John Prescott, as its MP. Mr Prescott is reportedly stepping down at the next General Election, maybe to spend more time playing Croquet? It can't be to spend more time with his family as his son is apparently expected to take his dad's seat in the House of Commons.

This got me wondering how many MP's were in fact the sons, daughters, nieces, nephews or other relatives of former MP's. Peter Mandelson was I think a third generation politico. I believe that Hilary Armstrong the Durham MP took her fathers seat. Another Hilary, Hillary Benn, had a famous MP father, and Tony Benn's granddaughter is being tipped to become an MP at the next General Election. She hit the headlines when the election was rumoured to be in October when she asked Gordon not to rush to the Polls as although she had been selected to be a Candidate she would still be too young (minimum age to be an MP is 18) too be allowed to stand in October.

Hereditary politics in America has its Bushes and its Kennedy’s and possibly the Clinton's but her hopes appear to be fading. America however does not come close to matching Japanese politics where their parliament has more than 30% of elected members from all parties that are second-, third-, fourth- or even fifth-generation politicians. The fourth generation of one family even boasts two brothers who hold senior positions but in rival parties.

At one point Cherie Blair was said to be considering a safe Labour Seat in Liverpool and the Blair Children are well connected into the political elite of the world. Hereditary politics provides candidates with the three things they need to get elected. Insider access to the party machine at a top level, access to money and backers, and instant name recognition with the media and the voters. A fourth possible advantage could be that Daddy (or Mummy) would know where the party's "bodies are burried" and would give the next generation considerable leverage in getting what they want. Keeping these things in mind any bets on when a new “Blair MP” will grace the green benches?

What is a Police State?

Now the Inland Revenue has joined the growing list of organisations that can bug your home, intercept your telephone calls, read you post, copy your e-mails and generally intrude into every aspect of your life. What will it take to make the people of this country realise we are living in a Police State. Maybe it will be when everyone is queuing for their compulsory DNA Test so they can join the register of potential criminals sorry I mean register of ??? Well what would you call it? The purpose will be to allow the Police to trawl the register to find people to arrest! Surely this makes it a “Potential Criminal Register” by default?

The “everyone” on the register will of course exclude MP’s and their families, Celebrities and major donors to the Labour Party.

Let’s look at a couple of characteristics of a Police State.

In a Police State the government is run by unelected elite not a democratically elected parliament.

Well this is partially true in the UK and becoming truer every day. No on has ever voted for Regional Assemblies, but they exist and have enormous power over ordinary people. No one has ever voted for the 1,000’s of Quangos that exist but they are tremendously powerful. The New Labour Government increasingly uses appointment to the House of Lords as a way of getting their placemen into positions of Power without the bother of getting them elected. And of course the European Union, run by the “Commission” who are 100% appointed.

In a Police State when elections are permitted then usually only one party is allowed to stand so the ruling elite is ensured that the right candidate always wins and takes their seat in a sham parliament that exists to give an appearance of democracy where in fac5 none exits.

Again this is partially true in the UK and becoming truer every day. The UK allows political parties to form but then rigs the electoral system to ensure only the Lib/Lab/Con can ever win. There are obviously the rare exceptions such as a Hospital Campaigner, anti sleaze candidate or highly supported local independent but even these really serve as exceptions which prove the rule. For all their public fighting the three main parties are actually almost identical policy wise. All three support the European Union and all three want the UK destroyed as a political entity. Voter numbers are falling at every election, not because of voter apathy but because most people now know their vote is meaningless as it is irrelevant which of the LIB/LAB/CON are in power. They really are all the same.

I could go on but the majority of the population don’t appear to care. Interestingly many of those that do care are leaving this country in droves The UK is facing the biggest brain drain in 50 years and according to figures from the Taxpayer’s Alliance no other nation is losing so many of its graduates and professionally qualified people. Britain’s lost of more than one in 10 of its most skilled citizens equals an emigration rate higher than any country in the world apart from Mexico. The key reasons for leaving the UK are quality of life, intrusive laws and stifling bureaucracy, increasing and unjust taxation and a general feeling that an overly meddlesome state is leaving people unable to control their own lives.

Saturday, 23 February 2008


Went to see "Jumpers" at the cinema last night. The basic premise looked quite good and it was based on the books by Steven Gould. Unfortunately the film started in the middle of the books so you missed the background, most crucially who were the "Paladins" and why were they killing Jumpers. If you like lots of special effects, a few good fight scenes and a sort of poor man's "Matrix" then this is a film for you.

My son Edward (Aged 15) loved it because it was just like a big computer game. I see some considerable merchandising opportunities and "Jumper for the X Box" would be a good bet.

However if you like a plot, decent character development and a point to a film (other than as a vehicle for merchandising or a sequel) then leave this one alone. At the end it was perfectly set up for a sequel as indeed the next book in the series would pick up almost exactly where the film finishes. The other weakness in the film is its total lack of shape changing lizards and even though I listened very carefully there were no references to Common Purpose anywhere in the dialogue. (That last sentence was a joke!)

Friday, 22 February 2008

Spoken in jest!

Had my highest ever hit rate on my blog today with almost 100 page views.

I was delighted until I looked into where the hits were coming from!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a tongue in cheek piece about Barak Obahma mentioning Common Purpose in one of his speeches. The piece was intended to poke a bit of fun at the conspiracy theorists that see shadows everywhere. Unfortunately my sense of humour has now got me into trouble again. My piece has been taken as gospel truth by some internet residents. I am getting messages of congratulation for exposing the conspiracy. It is my own fault for forgetting conspiracy theorists have absolutely NO SENSE OF HUMOUR. How can anyone take it seriously that we are being controlled by a race of shape changing lizards from outer space?

Mind you! Did you see that Dr.Who episode, the one where there were lizard like creatures that lived inside human skin suits and took over the government. After all let's face it Torchwood is a real place you know! I've been to Cardiff, I've seen the secret invisible elevator that takes you into the secret headquarters.....must be all true......STOP IT NOW......JOKE!! PLEASE JOKE!!

North Sea Region

Recently obtained a copy of the final report of "Project Seaport". This is a European Union initiative between five harbour towns (The Hague, Bremerhaven, Nieuwpoort, Zeebrugge and Hartlepool. The report was the usual glossy production claiming all good things come from the EU and how we should all be grateful for being allowed to be members. It even seemed to imply the new Headland Town Square was a result of the EU. The role of the SRB and North Hartlepool Partnership was glossed over (well totally ignored actually).

The most interesting thing for me was that the report clearly identified Hartlepool (and the entire East Cost of England) as being part of the "North Sea Region". For those who don't know this is one of the regions into which the EU hopes to eventually split the UK (as shown on the map at the start of this post).

Notice that Scotland also effectively ceases to exist and Wales is put together with Southern Ireland as one region, Northern Ireland joins part of Scotland and the Western side of England in the Atlantic Region. Even worse for the people of Kent and Sussex, according to the European Union they are actually part of France having been rolled in with the Calais area on a map drawn up for Brussels showing these areas will belong to the "Trans-Manche Region".

Once these supra-national regions are established it will enable the European Union to remove all references to England (and Scotland) from the official Maps of Europe.

How long before Hartlepool Borough Council is printing letterheads showing the address as

Hartlepool Borough Council
Civic Centre
Victoria Road
Hartlepool TS24 9DE
North Sea Region
European Union

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Difficult decision

Probably the most difficult decision today related to an application to build a sheltered scheme for people who were at risk of homelessness.

There was lots of talk about institutionalising people and was the scheme in the right place. Our wan-a-be Labour MP made an impassioned speech about needing to care for these people and I assumed the Labour Whip was in and the scheme would go through. However, we are often told there is no whip in planning. In most meetings this is obviously not true and the majority Labour vote is en-bloc. In this meeting however there was an equally impassioned speech from a Cabinet Rebel who wanted the scheme throwing out. I must admit I listened to his speech and was swayed by it but for a brief moment considered ignoring it and allowing my personal feelings to take over since this same cabinet rebel has had more than one nasty, personal dig at me in Council meetings.

However, I decided that it would be petty and small minded to vote against a proposal just because of who made it. After all it often appears to me that certain Councillors vote against anything I say just because it is me saying it and I wouldn't want to think I allowed myself to sink to their level.

So I voted "NO" and in fact the scheme was rejected.

The papers before Planning did say the Council owned the land but Cabinet had agreed to sell it to the Housing Association subject to planning permission for this development. Hence my use of “Cabinet Rebel” in describing the speaker against the development. As a Cabinet Member he had already agreed to sell the land in the Cabinet Meeting but was now speaking against it in the Planning Meeting. The doctrine of collective cabinet responsibility obviously doesn’t apply in Hartlepool.

My final thought on the matter related to the site itself. Almost half an acre of town centre land. I wonder what that would go for on the open market?

Common Sense Breaking Out! Is there an election coming?

I was almost convinced that common sense was breaking out in the Planning Committee when the case of the "Unauthorised replacement of a garden wall in the Grange Conservation Area" came before us.

The householder had replaced his front garden wall after he noticed that it was starting to lean and he was concerned that it might become dangerous. (He produced a letter from his builder that the wall had in fact originally been built without foundations and this was why over the years it had gradually started to lean).

The replacement wall looked quite nice to me, dwarf brick to about 2 feet and then iron railings up to the pillar height at each end of the wall. A matching set of driveway gates completed the renovations. Unfortunately for the householder he had neglected to get planning permission so he was instructed to apply for retrospective permission, which he subsequently did. The recommendation to the planning committee was to "REFUSE" which would then have required him to knock it down and replace it with something more suitable.

If for one minute I'd thought the householder was trying to pull a fast one and deliberately get round planning controls then I might (for a few seconds at least) have thought about making him knock it down. But, we were not discussing an unauthorised block of flats in the middle of a green belt! These were perfectly nice walls, gates and railings. The Committee threw out the recommendation and granted approval. The householder and his wife were obviously pleased (and no doubt relieved since knocking down the wall and rebuilding something "approved" would not have been cheap) in fact I thought the lady was going to cry when the application was granted.

Common sense in planning, you can tell there is an election coming!

Tough on Conservation, tough on the causes of Conservation

Conservation areas were again on the planning committee agenda. Approval was granted to demolish a house in Hart Village that was being touted as of major architectural importance and vital to the character of the village. I went to look at the site before the meeting (not on the Councillor's away day minibus trip I must add, I go on my own and in my own time) and thought pulling it down was a kindness.

No doubt the "Conservation, Conservation, Conservation" Crowd will disagree but I think if we listened to them we'd still be living in caves.

Can you just see it, a group of cavemen gathered round a newly constructed mud hut...."Sorry" says the Chief Conservation Caveman, "but there is no precedent for huts in this settlement. We've had caves here for generations and building huts definitely detracts from the authentic Stone Age character of our community."

"But," objects the miscreant who has dared to erect this hut without proper planning permission and in contravention of fire regulations, "but, it's a lot warmer than a cave, has better drainage, good ventilation and I've introduced a revolutionary new concept called a Chimney. No more coughing and red rimmed eyes from all that smoke in the cave."

"I don't care" says Chief Cave Conservation Officer, "We live in a cave, that’s why we are called cave men. Now I'm not against progress but we have to remember that Ancient Britain might withdraw grant support for digging new caves if we start building huts and we are hoping to attract tourists into the area, if they can see huts at home then why would they come here? We have to preserve our caves. Anyway rules is rules. Pull it down and get back in a cave where you belong!"

New Sports Hall for Eldon Grove

Planning Committee today got of to a flying start when it was agreed that we defer a decision on the Eldon Grove Sports Hall so that we could have a "site visit" by the Planning Committee. I did ask if there was any Councillor who didn't know where Eldon Grove was? I voted against the site visit since in my opinion this is an excuse that is used far too often to avoid making a decision, especially on something that might be contentious. Why do the planning committee need to go to look at Eldon Grove to discuss a building that isn't there yet?

Thinking about it brought to mind the time when we bought a new TV last year. We couldn’t decide what size to get so we went home and I made a series of Cardboard templates of the various sized TV's we had looked at and we tried each in turn in the room until we decided which on we liked. Maybe the Planning Committee will be offered a life sized cardboard cut out of the new sports hall to help us make a decision?

Personally I think most sports halls are ugly box like buildings. Just look at the monstrosity on the back of the Borough Hall if you want an example of how the architecture should not be done.

Monday, 18 February 2008

European Directive CE 14225

I'm sure I don't need to tell anyone about European Directive CE 14225. This piece of legislation makes recreational divers diving suits into Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hence brings them under the control of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The HSE rules require extensive testing and certification before PPE can be sold in this country. Commercial diving has been under HSE supervision for years but now recreational diving suits must undergo tests for puncture, tearing, dryness and thermal properties before they can be sold in the UK.

It is estimated that every time a manufacture makes any change to a diving suit then it will cost around £4,000 to get the suit design re-checked. On a personal note, this makes my diving suit illegal! I have been using it for almost 16 years and it has given me good service. OK it getting a bit faded and there are a few patches on it (not all in matching colours) but it’s been a good servant to me. Unfortunately the neck and wrist seals do need replacing periodically. They are very thin and stretchy neoprene which needs to fit snugly round my neck to keep the water out but not so tightly that I can't breathe. The chances are that when my seals need replacing again then the suit will have to be consigned to the dustbin as it lacks the CE Mark of Conformity required by European Directive CE 14225.

The Trading Standards people are said to be allowing old suits to remain in service for a period of grace and will not be actively pursuing anyone using a suit manufactured and sold prior to European Directive CE 14225 becoming law. However, should anyone using a none European Directive CE 14225 compliant suit be involved in a diving accident of any kind then I am sure the insurance companies will be quick to cut off any cover. Typhoon Diving, based in Redcar, has been selling diving suits for over 60 years without any problems. Unfortunately for them the £4,000 per suit design is going to be just another EU added cost of staying in business. A cost that will ultimately have to be paid by the consumer, in this case the growing number of UK divers who enjoy going down and getting wet whenever they can!


There is lots of publicity around the Cod Quota and the problems of British Fishing. However, very little seems to get into the press about the plight of the shark or the Spinney Dogfish. In particular the Porbeagle Shark, one of around 130 species of shark that inhabit European waters.

The Porbeagle is now on the endangered species list after populations have dropped by 90%. In 2007 the UK agreed a reduced quota for 2008 from 422 tones to just 4 tones after the EU Commission proposed a total ban on commercial Porbeagle fishing. France and Portugal then successfully lobbied the EU Commission for a revised quota for their fishermen of 586 tonnes an increase of over 25% on last year.

In the Pacific 9 out of 10 sharks caught are thrown back after just the fin has been cut off. Shark meat is in fact almost worthless (Porbeagle Shark meat is sold in French Supermarkets for about £1 a pound). It is the fin, which makes up less than 5% of a shark's body weight, which is of most value. Shark fins are in high demand in the Far East as an essential ingredient in soup! However, according to a World Conservation Union Report the most dangerous place in the world to be a shark is the Mediterranean! Almost half the species in the Mediterranean are currently facing extinction. The decline in shark numbers is so bad that even so august a body as the United Nations General Assembly is now calling for an urgent review of shark fishing policies.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Just call me "Skipper"

Success! As you might be able to tell from the title I passed my exams. I'm now the proud possessor of the RYA Shorebased Certificate for as a Day Skipper for sail and power craft.

To quote my log book, this gives me the background knowledge to skipper a small yacht in familiar waters by day. Might not sound that impressive but it’s a start.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Subject Access Check

Just a bit more on Security vetting and checks.

I discovered a while ago that under the Data Protection Act everyone is entitled to see what information is held about them on the Police Computers. This is called a "Subject Access Request".

You have to fill in a form, provide various items of proof of identity, etc and 21 days later a letter comes back detailing the information the Police hold on you. Out of interest I applied for my records just before Christmas. "Nothing Known" was the reply.

The Police can (and do!) make a charge of £10 for providing this information. Anyone who wants to see their record can use the link below to access the Police Website at the appropriate page.

Security Clearance

Received notification today that my British Energy Security Vetting had come back clear. This therefore allows me onto site at Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station.

To obtain this clearance has taken several weeks and required me to submit a load of information about my identity, declare any current or pending criminal or civil convictions (should say here that I have no such convictions and no pending cases either) and declare I was not linked to any proscribed organisations. A dire warning was given when filling in the form that even an undeclared speeding fine could result in security clearance being denied!

I of course had to be difficult since an employment check is part of the process. I have been self employed for over 20 years so getting my boss to countersign the forms was not possible! Copies of the last few year's Inland Revenue self assessment codings and a letter from Hartlepool Borough Council confirming I was a Councillor eventually did the trick.

Happily the British Nuclear Security Forces have confirmed I am who I say I am, a bona fida resident of the UK with a pristine employment record, no criminal or civil convictions and no known associations to any undesirable or illegal organisations. I was a bit concerned that my (lapsed) membership of Hartlepool Rotary Club would be a black mark. Also it was nice to know that being a member of UKIP is obviously not a criminal activity (yet?).

So far so good

First RYA Day Skipper exam over and I feel fairly confident, think I got most of the right answers but I'll find out tomorrow after the second paper. Today we covered the joys of Chartwork, dead reckoning and course to steer, being initiated into the wonders of a vessel on passage records the time, log reading and positions in the log book. At 1400 the position is 46 24.89N and 006 21.30W, plot this position on the chart. If the boat is steering 205(M) at 6 Knots then plot a DR for 1500. If the tidal Stream is 186(T) at 1.2 Knots then what is the EP for 1500? Good Stuff ehh!

Friday, 15 February 2008

Ah the weekend at last........

Ah the weekend at fun filled days sitting my RYA Day Skipper exams, was supposed to be revising and doing practice papers for the last two weeks but as per usual my bag with the books, charts and instruments has sat unopened since I finished the last teaching session two weeks ago.

After this there is my VHF Radio Exam (8th March) and my Sea Survival Course (To be arranged) before I head off to the Med in April to do my Watch Leader Practical Assessment (5 days at sea, including 2 night watches).

It’s a busy busy life! Once I have all of these under my belt then the opportunity exists to spend the winter months sailing the Caribbean as a crew member on big sailing yachts, maybe its a (another) mid life crisis!!

Haven't you ever fancied just throwing your kit into a duffle bag and running away to sea? or joining the circus? or anything like that? If my knees were still up to it I'd quite fancy being a ski bum in the winter and a scuba diving instructor in the summer! Unfortunately the knees definitely wouldn’t take the strain!

Council Tax 3.9% Rise

The Council meeting last night set the Council Tax rise at 3.9%

The meeting was also notable for several other reasons. My failure to convince the Council to spend £21,875 to introduce web streaming of the Main Council Chamber (and main Committee Room) was not unexpected, but the fight goes on since they didn't totally shut the door on the idea. A debate on whether we should have all up elections every four years did get interesting and there were some rare moments of agreement between myself and a couple of Labour Councillors. However, when the meeting went into closed session the result was the most disgraceful decision I have ever seen from the Labour Group, (aided by a couple of compliant Lib-Dims). As it was on "pink papers" I will not discuss it here. Actually I'm not discussing it because I have been asked not to by the organisation it affects; if it was just council procedure rules hiding the truth from the public then I'd publish and be damned! It’s been a while since I was at Standards Board, wouldn't want people to think I was slipping! More detailed posts will follow on the above issues.

But, getting back to the subject of this post, Council tax and the 3.9% rise. This was despite a better than expected settlement from the government. The Mayor had his usual whinge about Floor Dampening and the Labour Group Leader made his usual Party Political Broadcast about how wonderful the Labour Government was, all Hail Gordon from whom all blessings flow, etc and that we should thank the Labour Government for their largess. I am certain that if brown nosing was all it took to become a Labour MP then young Brashy should be gracing the green leather benches by now! (Actually brown nosing is probably the key skill for a Labour MP, after all it’s what most of them build their careers on!)

During “debate” a Lib-dim complained that the Police Precept had to go up because of immigrants coming into the country and the police needed more money to deal with them. All the fault of the European Union SHE SAID! Wonders will never cease a Euro sceptic Lib-Dem! Has she ever read her party policy on the European Union?

I felt I had to congratulate the Mayor and senior officers on the budget documents. The care, attention to detail, presentation and sheer hard work that went into the documents were obvious. The budget documents were in fact so outstanding that they qualified the budget as, in my opinion, as good a piece of creative writing as I've ever seen on the Fantasy and Fiction Shelves at W.H.Smith.

That of course that was interpreted as an attack on the Mayor and the Officers, and surprise surprise that was indeed how the Labour Group chose to play it. The only surprise to me was one Labour Councillor getting very snide and sarcastic about me personally. It wasn't the personal attack that surprised me, just the individual making it, I'd always thought better of him. Just shows how wrong I can be. The Labour Councillors failed to understand (or chose not to listen more likely) that I also said that, in my opinion, the local government budget process was fatally flawed and unfit for purpose and that is why I couldn’t support a budget that was produced through a process that should be torn up and re-drafted from scratch.

At some point someone is going to have to stand up for the Council Taxpayers of Hartlepool and stop them being treated like sheep to be shorn shorter and shorter every year.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day. As a sad Councillor I will not be spending Valentine's night snuggled up with a loved one! I will be at the Full Council Meeting of Hartlepool Unitary Authority to set the Council Tax for the next twelve months. I really must get a life!

Friday, 8 February 2008

Get my Anorak On!

I am being forced to declare an interest in a previous post regarding toy busses.

I personally collect die cast scale model replica Ford Model T Panel Vans in authentic period liveries. It's only a "small" collection of just under 6,000 and I do actually have some busses (when they come as part of a set including a Van I really want). I am even a member of the LLEDO Collectors Club, Lledo being the name of the original founder of the company, John O’Dell, but spelt backwards. It is possible I failed to declare this membership on my Councillors Interests; do you think I could be up in front of the Standards Board for this?

John O’Dell was one of the original founders of Matchbox (remember them) but set up Lledo after the mass produced Matchbox brand collapsed in 1982. John bought back all the tools and dies for a song and went into small scale, collectable model production in a factory in Enfield. First deliveries were made around April 1983 of the "Days Gone" range and the company turned to the promotions market, offering the models to companies as a quality, British made vehicle to carry logos for gifts, product launches and special promotions etc. These promotional models were mostly produced in limited edition runs of 500 or 1000 models. The sixth type of Lledo model to be produced (the classic Model 'T') was an instant hit and remains one of the most popular and sought after model types throughout the Lledo range. As more and more models were introduced and the collector base grew many more companies began to see the potential for commissioning their own promotional models and the Lledo range became increasingly popular.

Since 1999 the Lledo factory in Enfield, England has ceased producing Lledo models and the new owners, Corgi, now manufacturers Lledo models in China. Because of this the earlier models are often the more sought after on the collectors market.

Don't Believe a word.......Labour Manifestos not worth Paper they are printed on.......Confirmed in Court

It was officially confirmed in Court this week that Manifesto Pledges were not expected to be honoured and Politicians making such commitments were under no obligation to keep their promises. These astonishing claims were made by Gordon Brown's barrister at Brighton County Court in a case brought against him by a member of the UK Independence Party.

The Prime Minister’s Barrister made this admission in open Court while arguing that Gordon Brown had not committed a breach of contract by refusing to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Constitution.

Sadly the legal challenge demanding the Labour Party fulfil their Manifesto Pledge has been thrown out, but, it has placed on record an admission from Gordon Brown's legal aides that Labour Party’s manifesto commitments are not worth the paper they are written on.

I always thought you read the Party Manifesto and if you agreed with it then you voted for it. That basic assumption is now officially dead and buried. Mind you it was dead and buried in Hartlepool a long time ago. The Manifesto Pledge on the Hospital for example, forgotten as soon as the Polls closed. Of coursed the Labour defence team could have quoted Hartlepool’s own Mayor. He ran on two manifesto promises, free bananas for all school children and cuts in Council Tax. Neither Policy has seen the light of day again after the votes were counted.


"manifesto pledges are not subject to legitimate expectation" is the legal jargon.....

Or in laymens terms,

"I will promise the earth for votes, but don't expect me to do it once I get in"

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Working Time Directive

The strict limit on working hours contributes massively to the reduction in competitiveness of our industry, however in the words of Tony Blair

"Holders of political offices in the UK are not defined as "workers" under the terms of the European Working Time Directive and are therefore not subject to working time limits: as such they do not need to opt out"

So there it's official, politicians in the UK don't do any "work"

Template Change

I hope this template is easier on the eye. The same local Councillor who was dreadfully ignorant and insulting about toy buss collectors, sorry die cast scale model replica busses in authentic liveries from the original bus company, also complained his eyesight wasn't up to the grey on green of the last template.

(Die Cast ) Scale Model Replica Busses

Had to correct a well known local Councillor this morning when he referred to people collection toy busses! TOYS! TOYS! How dare he. I assured him the correct term was high quality collectable scale model replica busses. It's very important to get the terminology correct.

Stainless Steel Milk Churn

Been let down by e-bay! It's not true you can get anything on that site. Plenty of 10 Gallon Aluminium Milk Churns but a distinct lack of Stainless Steel Vessels of that size. Just have to keep looking.

YouGov Referral Scandal!

I always said I wouldn't be the sort of Councillor who only pops up at election times, but would do my best to keep my ward residents informed about goings on in the Hartlepool Council Chamber. Not being in receipt of a "Communications Allowance" like the MP or having the benefit of a weekly column in the Hartlepool Mail like the Mayor (and the MP, again) I have limited opportunities to do this. I try to write fairly regularly to the Hartlepool Mail and Northern Echo Letters Pages and offer both the Mail and the Echo local stories when I can. However, with both these newspapers the Editorial policy decides what they use and what they leave out.

Visiting all areas of the ward as often as I can is also a priority but considering it runs from the Heugh right through to Central Estate and across to Baker's Mead it is difficult to cover it all as often as I would like. The other problem with visits is that you spend two hours talking to three or four people and no mater how often you do that there are always hundreds of others who claim to never see you. However, them’s the breaks!

About the only way I can see to make some contact with all residents is by producing a regular newsletter. I spend over £1,000 a year on printing and distributing my newsletters. That is £1,000 of my own money. There is no Council allowance or public subsidy to produce this newsletter. Probably the fact that you have to put your hand into your own pocket is why very few other Councillors bother with producing one.

This week my Spring 2008 newsletter is being distributed through letterboxes in St.Hilda Ward and so far I have had a reasonable response. Most people, even those who would burn in hell before they would vote for me, seem to appreciate the effort and of course they can have the satisfaction of ripping the newsletter to shreds (maybe after they have read it?). However, one irate resident was sufficiently incensed to e-mail me, (twice, and write to the Hartlepool Mail), about a snippet I put into the newsletter regarding the "YouGov" Opinion Polling Organisation.

I have included a link for people to sign up to the YouGov Panel should they wish to participate in their surveys. This link is a "referral link" as that is what I am doing, referring people to YouGov. YouGov themselves suggest using this link. There is no charge to anyone who uses this link but I do get a credit for anyone who signs up. I think its 50p in vouchers but I'm not sure as I've never actually received a "pay out" as you have to amass £50 in credits before YouGov send you anything.

The lady in question has e-mailed me twice. The second time to tell me she had written to the Mail but wanted to get my comments on the use of a referral link in my newsletter. I look forward to reading her letter, which I noted she said she had already sent! If this is the case then nothing I say to her afterwards is going to make the slightest difference is it!

From her reaction to the use of a referral link I assume it would it be fair to say she must consider the other issues raised in the newsletter to be trivial or unimportant? The loss of democracy, police forums, collapse of the fishing industry, closure of Remploy and the cynical manipulation of the Hartlepool hospital Site must to be insignificant compared to the possibility that I might make 50p (in vouchers I think!) from someone joining the YouGov Panel as a result of my referral.

Ah well, another vote lost. (Or more probably another vote I never had, and now never will!)

Busy Busy Days

I'm getting seriously addicted to the statistics package I have loaded onto my blog to monitor how many people look at this blog, when they look and where they come from.

The most interesting thing to me is I am developing a pattern of low hit rates on Saturday and Sunday but high hit rates on Fridays and Mondays! I wonder if that means people check before they leave work on a Friday and then look again on a Monday morning to see if I've been active over the weekend. At this rate I might just have to upgrade my hit counter and pay for one that tells me more!

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Bumper book of government waste

I am currently reading the "Bumper Book of Government Waste" by Mathew Elliott and Lee Rotherham. I recommend it to anyone who has the slightest interest in where the money goes too that disappears from their pay slip every month.

The authors have assembled figures showing that every year the UK Government wastes £101 Billion pounds of our money. That's enough to fill the two largest freight ships in the world (400,000 ton vessels that are too big to go through the Panama Canal) to the brim with pound coins and still have £13 Billion left on the dockside.

Unfortunately that idea wouldn't work as there are only 1.4 billion pound coins in circulation in the entire world......

Frightening book!

Just what Britain needs .......another Lawyer

I suppose that as a proud middle class parent I should be delighted that my daughter wants to be a lawyer (Well it was that or Merchant Banker, or her third choice City Dealer). However I can't help but sometimes think that Lawyers are to blame for quite a few of the world's ills. I remember watching a program (fictional) about young Lawyers in London a few years ago. One character got very depressed about a case she lost and how the law had failed to bring justice and protect her innocent client.

A slightly older lawyer looked at her in amazement and asked if she really believed the law existed to protect the innocent and bring justice into society? Get real he said "The law exists to make sure the rich get richer" he then added "and I personally intend to ensure I am one of the rich"

"They" are everywhere

Please read this in the spirit in which it was intended....with my tounge firmly in my cheek!

Listening to the radio this morning I heard Barack Obama giving a speech about the Super Tuesday Results. At the end he urged all Americans to go forward together and to find a COMMON PURPOSE.

So they you are proves it that THEY really are everywhere!

Ask any conspiracy theorist and they will tell you that over the last few years the UK has been systematically infiltrated by a criminal conspiracy operating under the innocuous-sounding name of Common Purpose. This organisation describes itself as a charity and says it has no hidden agenda, but to many conspiracy theorists it is clearly nothing other than a treasonous agency of the Jewish Illuminati. It operates under a highly secret code of practice which includes the Chatham House Rule of conspiratorial silence in pursuit of its deviant psychopolitical agenda.

According to those who KNOW THE TRUTH, Common Purpose’s main objective is to form a secret network of leaders at every significant level of UK society, thus filling in the gaps not covered by freemasonry. High-pressure techniques designed in the Tavistock Institute are used to brainwash potential "graduates" in radical socialist theories, Europhilia, and "diversity" (a cover for brain-dead uniformity!). The course attendees will thus be indoctrinated automatically to discriminate against anyone considered obstructive to the interests of the newly emerging post-democratic EuroSoviet.

So there you are…..the Truth is out there……

but only if you believe it.......

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

They've had our fish! Now they want our Oil and Gas

Without doubt the World is going through an energy crisis. Oil at $100 a barrel and China and India taking increasing shares of energy resources. Russia, as the world's biggest supplier of gas using its power to exert political pressure and the Middle East remaining unstable.

However, behind the pro and anti nuclear debate another fundamental change in the UK energy position is taking place. For decades the UK has been somewhat insulated from the worst of world energy pressures by North Sea Oil and Gas. However, the European Union’s New Constitution (The Reform Treaty), signed in Lisbon (belatedly) by Gordon Brown, classifies national energy assets, such as North Sea oil and gas, as “Community Assets” over which management and control can be taken by Brussels once the treaty is ratified.

British assets transferring to EU Community Property has happened many times before. Possibly the most notable was the loss of British Fishing grounds, a UK asset that served us well for generations, which passed to Brussels under a Common Fisheries Policy. This opened British waters to all EU Countries and resulted in the subsequent destruction of British Fishing to keep Spanish and French Fleets in business.

Control of North Sea Oil and gas fields are now yet another asset the British are giving up to the EU. I hope we do a little better from the Common Energy Policy that we did from the Common Fisheries Policy. Let’s face it; we could hardly do any worse!

Monday, 4 February 2008

Big Brother is watching you!

Driving down the Hart by-pass this afternoon I notice a new surveillance camera had been added to one of the lamp posts looking a traffic coming into town. Now we all know that we are them most heavily observed country in the world but surely there must be some control over what is erected on lamp posts by the side of the road. Try putting an election poster on a lamp post and see what happens to you. I will investigate and report back! If I could work out how to include photos into my blog then I’d even let you see what I mean.

Friday, 1 February 2008

RYA Day Skipper

My head is full of buoys, lights, anti-collision rules, safety briefings, types of flares, true north and magnetic north compass deviations. I've been swatting up for my RYA Day Skipper Course which continues in the morning. So far we are two days into a six days course and quite a lot of the stuff is coming back to me from my days as a member of Tees Sailing Club. Of course in those days I sailed dinghies or small keelboats, neither of which had a chart table or required me to worry too much about tide tables, navigation and procedures for helicopter rescue. The radio we had on board was one of the CB rigs (remember them) and I don't think we carried flares. We did however always wear life jackets, so we weren't totally irresponsible.

I do remember one day when we had been racing and it had all gone pear shaped. I must have been about 15 or 16 at the time and my younger brother was crewing for me. On the way back into harbour we were both blaming the other for our dismal performance and we got into such a massive fight in the boat that I actually threw him overboard and even hit him with the paddle when he tried to climb back in. I then sailed off and left him to swim ashore. Happy days!

Funding a life style

Tonight’s Hartlepool Mail included a small article from a regular series entitled "My night out"

Mail readers are encouraged to send in details of what they do on a night out in Hartepool, how often they go out, how much they spend, favourite drink, best food, what they like about the night out in Hartlepool and what's the worst thing about a night out on the town. The featured reveller tonight was a 23 year old, unemployed male.

On a night out in Hartlepool he likes Yates and Bar Paris, Joe Rigatonis and Marco Polo but if he's just out with his friends, rather than his girlfriend, it will probably be a take away. He estimates he spends £50 on a night out but only hits the town a couple of times a month. He also spends about £150 a month on fashion. So that’s around £250 a month on clothes, drinking and eating out.

Not bad for a 23 year old, unemployed bloke, living in Hartlepool. As he's still below retirement age (65 for men and 60 for women) and assuming he's capable of working, available for work and actively seeking work then he will qualify for the 18 to 24 year old Job Seekers Allowance of £46.85 per week. Giving him an income between £187.40 for a four week month and £234.25 for a five week month.

So by my calculations he is over £60 a month overspent on a four week month and still £15.75 short on a five week month (Assuming of course he doesn’t slip in an extra night out on the long months!). I wondered how he funds the shortfall from his £250 a month socialising and also how is he finding money for things like food, rent, electricity, gas, council tax, etc? As he's not married he could still be living with his mum? Maybe she funds the rest of his life style?

I wondered if he's ever considered becoming a Hartlepool Borough Councillor? Most of them don't see anything wrong with Hartlepool Council spending considerably more than the Council's Income! But of course if Hartlepool Council does get short of money they don’t have their mum to bail them out, they have something even better, they can always put the Council Tax up a bit higher next year and the people of the town have no alternative but to pay it!