Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2010

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2010.

I’m being “Vexatious

Reviewing 2009 I realised I ended the year in dispute with Hartlepool Council over secrecy and behind closed doors decision making. Thos was actually exactly the same way I started 2009. Not much progress there you might think but I am a couple of steps close to achieving a more open council. (More details here). The Chief Solicitor is now of the opinion that my requests for information could be seen “vexatious”. I’m looking forward to seeing his justification that an elected Councillor trying to discover what Hartlepool Council is doing is “vexatious” It should make interesting reading!

I’m the Hardest Working St.Hilda Ward Councillor. That’s OFFICIAL!


Hartlepool Council have introduced a new scheme to measure how much work a Councillor does. I was apparently the second worst Councillor for going to meetings in 2007-8 but I am now the hardest working of the three St.Hilda Councillors according to the 2008-9 figures which placed me =31st out of 46. The other two St.Hilda Councillors being 37th and 43rd out of 46. (More details here).

Mandelson, Freeman Of Hartlepool

I was one of the handful of Councillors who objected to the way the Freedom of Hartlepool was awarded to Lord Mandelson. In my opinion he did nothing for Hartlepool other than use it as a safe seat for his political ambitions. Mind you, the Labour party have abused Hartlepool for years and the people still vote them back in! They say people get the government they deserve. Just look at the lies told by labour about Hartlepool Hospital! I hope everyone remembers this at the next elections. Read More here).


Steel Making and Corus Closure


Every government since 1972 has collaborated in the slow death of UK steelmaking. I said at a Hartlepool Council Meeting that, “So long as the UK remains in the EU then steelmaking will continue to die and will eventually disappear totally from the UK” There was not one single Councillor in the Hartlepool Council Chamber who dared to contradict me! No matter how much they may now demand action to save steelmaking the Labour, Liberal-Democrat and Conservative Parties have all actively participated in killing steelmaking in the UK and they know it! (read more here).

Tall Ships!

Where do I start? Of course there will be no doubt that regardless of what really happened the Tall Ships will be a huge success for Hartlepool, bring in millions of pounds and create hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs and put Hartlepool on the international map for other reasons than having Peter Mandelson as a Freeman and a monkey as Mayor. Yerr, Right! I just hope everyone enjoys the Party. The Council Taxpayers will be paying for it for years to come! Read More here.

Expenses

Just in case anyone cares I have never claimed a single penny in expenses for any Council business. When first elected I did take a fax machine as I was told it was important to be able to receive information that way. I think the only time it was ever used I had to get a new printer ribbon as it had dried up completely. In the spirt of "payback" I'm more than happy to return it to the Civic Centre. When I was first elected I also took a shredder but it was so inadequate to the job I bought an industrial size one myself. I'd also be happy to return it to the civic centre! I didn't take the Filing Cabinet as I already had one myself. I don't get a council laptop or anything like that.

Where to end?

I started this entry with a note about secrecy and behind closed doors dealings. It was agreed that the Councillors’ Register of Interests was going to be available on line this year. Unfortunately it has yet to appear. If anyone would like to see mine however it is here on my blog.

I could go on and on. The scandal of the Headland Residents living with dust from the Port Operations (See here) is something that needs to be dealt with in 2010 and the success story that is the Heugh Battery Trust should be celebrated (See here). My initiative to get live internet streaming of meetings in the Civic Centre will also continue in 2010, this however is being resisted by the Council as a whole, possibly because they are scared that the residents might find out what really goes on! Anyway, enough for now.

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2010 to everyone.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

'But we've always done it this way' – it's time to take a sideways look

http://www.publicservice.co.uk/feature_story.asp?id=13335&topic=

Tinkering around the edges of outdated business models will never produce the efficiencies currently required from all parts of the public sector, says Neil Malpas

A new era of frugality will only add to the pressure on public sector organisations to improve performance and deliver even greater value for money.

Many bodies in the public sector, however, are hugely inefficient because of the business models they use, in terms of where they allocate resources and how they deploy staff.

Changing the way existing processes work can have a dramatic impact on both performance and the bottom line. One example of this is Doncaster Prison. Most prison models work around the various stages a prisoner encounters – pre-screening, entry, care in prison, leave and ultimately the probation system – but these aren't what really impact on the individual. It's the other things – the separation from their partner or children, being distanced from the job market and having nowhere to live on release – that make reoffending more likely.

By looking at things from a personal perspective and introducing projects to provide prisoners with accommodation on release and a "Lads and Dads" programme to maintain contact with their children in the meantime, Doncaster Prison has been able to ensure prisoners retain links to the real world, resulting in a lower rate of reoffending and making significant savings for the taxpayer.

Another example is a police force that had a problem with incidents such as car thefts or bag- snatching, which can have a huge impact in terms of people's perception of policing in the local area. By reallocating people with specific skills to the parts of the police process that took the most time and effort, the force was able to achieve a significant reduction in "volume crime" figures.

But simply juggling the existing setup will only result in a tiny percentage improvement. To multiply that, bodies need to look at things from a new perspective. Any organisation can do that if they have people – perhaps managers within different departments – who have been there and done it before. But there should be no sacred cows – everything must be up for review.

Managers need to take a bit of time looking at what has been done in the past to try to improve processes. But often in the public sector there is a strong desire to avoid projects "not invented here" and this lack of ownership needs to be suspended. Take the time to look more broadly across similar areas and departments and other public-sector organisations. Set aside some time for some creative thinking, if only to establish that there really isn't another way to do it.

Sometimes an external partner is needed to provide that kind of sideways view. We were recently asked to look at a public sector organisation that had 26 locations across the UK and ran a fairly straightforward process. The business itself was also asked to provide its own analysis. Its cost-efficiency programme revolved around closing two offices because two towns contained two sites. We came back with one location across the UK and a completely different setup. Turkeys are never likely to vote for Christmas but it also shows the value of having been through similar projects in the past and having a fresh approach.

Such an analysis should also include an evaluation of outsourcing. Some elements of an organisation's operations have to be kept in-house and those can then be subject to more traditional efficiency programmes – cutting costs but also implementing measures to improve people and the support they get to do their jobs. Other processes can be best provided by external providers; in which case it's about looking at the scope of any project and the levels of risk transfer. But that can only be done if organisations have already evaluated the business processes through experienced eyes.

Using a partner organisation can also create a greater degree of flexibility in projects that remain in-house, but this will only work if there's a genuine relationship based on visibility. If everyone only sees their own bit they will never be able to help respond to client requests or spot potential problems in the future.

Another area where effective business modelling can have a real impact is project rescue. Often the trend here is to flood the project with extra people, but that simply hides the issue for another two years. Where projects are going wrong – rather than just having the wrong programme director or a poorly skilled team – a complete redesign is usually required, looking again at how things are being done and the overall structure of the project. Again, it's looking sideways at what's not working rather than simply trying to fix the broken parts.

The next few years offer an unparalleled opportunity for public sector bodies to improve efficiency. But that will only be possible if they're prepared to challenge the way things have always been done.

More people work in NHS than ever

More people work in NHS than ever, but the growth is seen as the 'last stage before the tanker slows down and turns'

http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=11654&topic=

There are more people working in the NHS than ever – 400,000 more than when Labour came to power in 1997 – but as budgets get tighter it could be a short-lived boost.

The latest figures show that more than 1.6m staff work for the NHS, following an increase of 18,000 in the second quarter of this year and 23,000 in the third quarter. However, the good news needs to be tempered with caution for the future, the NHS Confederation has warned.

Pointing out that the number of NHS jobs being advertised is continuing to go down, policy director Nigel Edwards said: "We suspect this is the last stage before the tanker slows down and finally turns. People still do have growth money this year and they are pursuing targets and other government objectives. Furthermore, some of this recruitment will have been taking place before people had fully woken up to the scale of the problem to come. We think the decline in the number of jobs advertised, however, is significant."

The NHS figures were part of an increase in public sector staff in general, taking the number to more than 6m, despite councils getting rid of 3,000 people and public corporations taking on 5,000 fewer employees. However, some have attributed part of the rise is public sector workers down to the fact that banks are now in the public sector. In Scotland, a 6.4 per cent increase is being put down to the reclassification of Royal Bank of Scotland Group and Lloyds Banking Group as public corporations.

At the same time, the Office for National Statistics has reported that the number of people claiming unemployment benefit rose by 21,000 in the three months to October to 2.49m, the smallest quarterly rise since last May, but the 7.9 per cent unemployed rate is still the worst for 13 years. The ONS pointed out that full-time employment f

the rise of town hall propaganda?

http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=11673&topic=

Local newspapers are being "driven out of business" because of the proliferation of council funded publications, the Conservative shadow local government secretary has claimed, writes Dean Carroll.

Looking to the media landscape ahead should the Tories win a general election, Caroline Spelman indicated that town halls would be required to review their own publications to check they were not "going beyond their remit". She revealed that a Conservative government would also evaluate the Local Authority Publicity Code "with a view to tightening it up", adding: "At one time, literature from the town hall was confined to updates about bin collections over Christmas or changes to library opening times – now they have evolved into fully fledged newspapers."

Spelman held up Boris Johnson's scrapping of The Londoner newspaper, which saved £2.9m, as a good example for councils to follow. A Tory policy note revealed that concern had grown over "the rise of town hall propaganda" due to generous budgets at council-run publications like Tower Hamlet's East End Life, which had double the number of staff as the commercial rival the East London Advertiser.

But Local Government Association chief executive John Ransford told Public Servant Daily that councils had developed their own titles because "local newspapers have abandoned reporting of local political situations", adding: "They will report issues like bypasses, housing developments and big planning stuff but the reporting of what the council does and the way it does it has virtually disappeared in regional and local journalism.

"During the 1970s and 1980s, there would always be two or three local papers attending committee meetings. Reporters would cover meetings and challenge councillors and officers afterwards; they would start editorial campaigns and set debates going."

The Office of Fair Trading recently warned that commercial newspapers were facing increasing competitive pressures from public sector titles. Advocating discussions between local authorities and news organisations to establish a way forward, Ransford said: "It's important that there is a vibrant local media and so I think it is important that councils have talks with the local press to see if arrangements can be reached.

"Access to information and criticism is part of our democracy. That is important as getting people out to vote so councils must explore locally how things can be achieved – there will be different answers in different places. I don't think there is a simple answer."

Asked what he thought the biggest threat to paid-for local newspapers was, Ransford said: "The market has changed with the creation of free newspapers, the internet and the economic situation people have been in – our whole way of sourcing information is now different. You can access news online through a phone now. But personally, I still like physically reading a newspaper and I find it difficult to read things on screen."

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Secrecy and behind closed doors decision making

Secrecy and behind closed doors decision making goes on all the time at Hartlepool Council and ordinary back bench councillors are deliberately kept in the dark! That is the only conclusion I can draw from the way “Pink Papers” are still being used in Hartlepool Council.

I have had an on-going battle with Hartlepool Council in my efforts to get access to information. As an elected member of Hartlepool Council I try to represent my constituents to the best of my ability but am frustrated in this aim when I am denied access to information about what is happening. The whole debate around the granting of the Freedom of Hartlepool to certain individuals is obscuring an even more important issue, namely the use of Pink Papers in Hartlepool Council to block openness and transparency and keep not only the people of Hartlepool in the dark but also to stop Councillors such as myself finding out what goes on.

Pink papers were used to stop me finding out about the on-going re-organisation of Hartlepool Council and I have repeatedly been denied access to other information I have requested. I am now at the point where I am making requests under the Freedom of Information Act in an attempt to get access to Hartlepool Council papers. It should be unbelievable to Hartlepool Residents that an ELECTED COUINCILLOR is being forced to take these steps to get information and shows how secrecy is a way of life at Hartlepool Council! If an elected councillor can’t get information then what chance does a member of the public have?

The Council meeting in December did acknowledge that Pink Papers needed to be more widely available and so approved copies of the papers to the Chair of Scrutiny Co-ordination Committee and the Chairs of the four Scrutiny Forums. A move by myself, and supported by some other independent thinking Councillors, to have papers also sent to the leaders of the Groups on the Council (Labour, Conservative, Lib-Dem and Admin) was blocked. The pink papers are now available to the five Chairs, who all happen to be Labour Councillors, but not to anyone else. Pink papers are therefore fully available to the Cabinet and just under half the other Councillors, the Labour half, the rest of us are still cut out of the loop.

Democracy in action? Not in Hartlepool ? Not under this Mayor and the Labour Group.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

16th December 1914

The Heugh Costal Defence Battery stood ready for almost 100 years, but went into action against an enemy for less than an hour. However, in 2000, almost fifty years after it had been closed, a small group of amateur enthusiasts decided that the Heugh Battery and the 42 minute Bombardment of Hartlepool were too significant historically to be allowed to be forgotten. Working without funding, electricity or even permission to be on the site they formed the Heugh Battery Trust, had the site scheduled as an Ancient Monument and began to restore the site as a museum and tourist attraction.

Six years latter, Griff Rhys Jones, presenter of the BBC Restoration Programme, described the battery during filming of the TV show, as “A truly wonderful site worth preservation.” Mr. Rhys Jones also declared that it was his intention to visit the site again in the future.

It was on the morning of 16th December 1914 that three German battleships, carrying twenty 11” guns and dozens of smaller calibre armaments, emerged from a light fog off the north east coastal town of Hartlepool. Opposing them, the Heugh Coastal Defence Battery had two 6 inch guns, supported by the single 6 inch gun Lighthouse Battery.

When the German ships steamed out of range 118 civilians were dead, over 200 wounded, the town’s gas manometers were in flames and hundreds of houses were destroyed. Mark Marsay, in his definitive account of the Bombardment of Hartlepool, “The Day the East Coast Bled” estimated that property damage was £200,000 in 1916 values. Military losses were 15 killed and 37 wounded. Private Theophilis Jones of the Durham Light Infantry, who was on sentry duty when the attack commenced, was the first British soldier to be killed by enemy action on British soil during the Great War. A plaque now marks the spot where he died.

Originally built in 1859 the Heugh Battery was designed to guard against possible French invasion; the first armaments were nine 68 pounder breech loading cannon. These were progressively upgraded until 1907 when the guns that engaged the German battleships were emplaced. The Heugh Battery continued to receive new and updated guns after the Great War and ultimately contained Mk 24 radar aimed guns with a range of around 14 miles.

By the 1950’s the technology to launch a nuclear attack by long range missile had made coastal defence obsolete. So, after almost 100 years, the Heugh Battery was closed, the magazines and emplacements were backfilled and most of the buildings demolished. The site became a playground for generations of Headland children and the Battery Command post, with its commanding view of Hartlepool Bay, became home to a bird watching group.

However, the concrete revetments were too massive to be removed. It was their continued existence, nearly fifty years later, that fired the enthusiasm of the volunteers who became the Heugh Battery Trust.

Having the site scheduled as an Ancient Monument opened many doors for funding but ironically placed huge restrictions on the Trust as regards what it can do during its operations. Today there is still water ingress into the refurbished underground magazines and efforts to stem the leaks are hindered by the inability of the Battery Trust to do any digging on the site without the approval of English Heritage.

“Battle damage” Trust Chairman, John Southcott, explained as he pointed out the main features of the brick built, barrel roof of the magazine, “If the water is coming in because of deterioration of the site then we can repair it. However, if it’s due to battle damage then its part of the history of the site and so has to be left alone”.

The site was only accessible to visitors by appointment or on special open days until 2008 when it had the honour of being officially opened, on 18th November, by HRH the Duke of Gloucester. Visitors today can see not only the excavated magazines and restored revetments, with replica guns emplaced, but also the best collection of artillery pieces and associated artefacts anywhere in the north of England. The collection of large calibre guns exceeds that of the Leeds Armouries. The Heugh Battery also recently acquired a Challenger II Tank to go with their Ferret and Warrior armoured cars.

Steve Waites, Projects Director at the Battery, is happy to accompany visitors around the main workshop. Standing beside a grey painted 25 pound light artillery piece, he used the gun to illustrate how activities on the site are now entering a new phase “Until now most of the work has been preservation” he explained, “but now we are going beyond that with this Second World War 25 pounder which we are going to restore to working order.” The provenance of the gun is not totally clear but does have one verifiable claim to fame. The gun was definitely fired at Arnhem! Unfortunately not during the 1944 battle but at the 1977 filming of ‘A Bridge too Far’.

The Heugh Battery is located on Moor Terrace, The Headland, Hartlepool. The site is open 10:00 until 16:00 throughout the year Thursday to Sunday. Special events are advertised on the Trust Website (www.heughbattery.com). Admission is £4.00 for Adults. Children (under 16's)/NUS/OAP £2.50, Family Ticket (2 Adults and 2 Children) £11.00. Veterans, current service personnel and under 5's Free.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

How to spot a socio path

While such personality disorders as psychopathy, paranoia and obsession/compulsion all have strictly defined criteria, psychiatrists are still struggling to decide precisely what constitutes a socialised psychopath.

One of the more obvious characteristics of socialised psychopaths is that they give the impression of talking "at" you. Prof Jeremy Coid describes it as like being regarded as a cardboard cut-out. "Even in a sexual relationship with them, you are still just an object for their personal gratification," he says.


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The following questionnaire is based on research and experiences of socialised psychopaths.

For each trait, decide if it applies to the person you suspect may be a socialised psychopath, fully (2 points), partially (1 point) or not at all (0 points).


Do they have problems sustaining stable relationships, personally and in business?

Do they frequently manipulate others to achieve selfish goals, with no consideration of the effects on those manipulated?

Are they cavalier about the truth, and capable of telling lies to your face?

Do they have an air of self-importance, regardless of their true standing in society?

Have they no apparent sense of remorse, shame or guilt?

Is their charm superficial, and capable of being switched on to suit immediate ends?

Are they easily bored and demand constant stimulation?

Are their displays of human emotion unconvincing?

Do they enjoy taking risks, and acting on reckless impulse?

Are they quick to blame others for their mistakes?

As teenagers, did they resent authority, play truant and/or steal?

Do they have no qualms about sponging off others?

Are they quick to lose their temper?

Are they sexually promiscuous?

Do they have a belligerent, bullying manner?

Are they unrealistic about their long-term aims?

Do they lack any ability to empathise with others?

Would you regard them as essentially irresponsible?

A score of 25 or above suggests strong psychopathic tendencies. This does not mean the person is a potential mass-murderer: socialised psychopaths are not mad, nor do they have to resort to violence. Even so, a close professional or emotional relationship with a socialised psychopath is likely to prove a damaging experience.

(With acknowledgement to an article by Robert Matthews in the Sunday Telegraph Review, May 4th 1997)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Corus Announce New Plant to be Built

Did anyone notice the announcement last month by Corus that it plans to build a 20 million euro steel plant in the Netherlands, with the help of 15 million euros from the EU and 5 million euros from the Dutch government.

Of course this has nothing to do with the long term plans drawn up in the 1950's by the The European Iron and Steel Community to control steel making in Europe.

Our government is unable to help Teesside due to EU Rules! This is the same EU which is paying for new steelworks in Holland! Ironically of course it is the British Taxpayer who will be funding most of the new steelworks through our contributions to the EU Budget. Maybe this is one of the “silver linings” the Mayor was talking about at the Council Meeting on Thursday!

What links the Copenhagen conference with the steelworks closing in Redcar

www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker

What is the connection between Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian railway engineer who has been much in evidence at the Copenhagen climate conference, as chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and an Indian-owned steel company's decision to mothball its giant Teesside steel works next month, ripping the heart out of the town of Redcar by putting 1,700 people out of work?

Nothing of this complex story is likely to be heard in the dreary concrete shed outside Copenhagen where, as temperatures drop towards freezing, 17,000 prime ministers, officials and climate activists are earnestly discussing how the planet is warming up towards extinction. But it certainly sheds a little light on a colossal worldwide racket these delegates are helping to promote, because the end of the story is that we shall all be paying to export thousands of British jobs to new steel plants in India, for no gain in the reduction of worldwide CO2 emissions.

Thirty years ago Britain's state-owned steel industry, over-manned and highly subsidised, was the most inefficient in Europe. By 1988, after Mrs Thatcher's privatisation and having lost two thirds of its workforce, it was as efficient as any in the world. In 1999, for reasons never fully explained, much of it was sold off to the Dutch firm Corus, which in 2007 was bought by the Indian giant, Tata Steel.

One of Corus's prizes was the Redcar steel works, once Europe's largest blast furnace. It is this which is now to be mothballed, according to Corus because of worldwide "over-production". But this is transparently not the case, since its new owner, Tata, is planning to more than double its steel production in India over the next three years. Furthermore, only last month Corus announced plans to build a 20 million euro plant in the Netherlands, with the help of 15 million euros from the EU and 5 million euros from the Dutch government. Our Government says it is unable to help over the closure of Redcar because this would not be allowed under EU state-aid rules, although Gordon Brown says he may be able to offer a little "re-training".

The real gain to Corus from stopping production at Redcar, however, is the saving it will make on its carbon allowances, allocated by the EU under its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). By ceasing to emit a potential six million tonnes of CO2 a year, Corus will benefit from carbon allowances which could soon, according to European Commission projections, be worth up to £600 million over the three years before current allocations expire.

But this is only half the story. In India, Corus's owner, Tata, plans to increase steel production from 53 million tonnes to 124 million over the same period. By replacing inefficient old plants with new ones which emit only "European levels" of CO2, Tata could claim a further £600 million under the UN's Clean Development Mechanism, which is operated by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – the organisers of the Copenhagen conference. Under this scheme, organisations in developed countries such as Britain – ranging from electricity supply companies to the NHS – can buy the right to exceed their CO2 allocations from those in developing countries, such as India. The huge but hidden cost of these "carbon permits" will be passed on to all of us, notably through our electricity bills.

Thus, at the end of the day, Redcar will lose its biggest employer and one of the largest manufacturing plants left in Britain. Tata, having gained up to £1.2 billion from "carbon credits", will get its new steel plants – while the net amount of CO2 emitted worldwide will not have been reduced a jot.

And the connection with Dr Pachauri? Directly there is no connection at all. But it just happens that Dr Pachauri's other main job, apart from being chairman of the PCC, is as director-general of the Tata Energy Research Institute, funded by Tata, which he has run since 1981.

He may not benefit in any
way personally from Tata's exploitation of the various
carbon trading schemes set up to implement the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, but it is the IPCC which provides the recommendations which drive those schemes, Last year, on official figures, buying and selling the right to emit CO2 was worth $126 billion across the world. This market, now enriching many of our leading financial institutions (not to mention Al Gore), is growing so fast that within a few years it is predicted to be worth trillions, making carbon the most valuable traded commodity in the world.

Forget Big Oil: the new world power is Big Carbon.Truly it has been a miracle of our time that they have managed to transform carbon dioxide, a gas upon which all life on earth depends, into a "pollutant", worth more than diamonds, let alone oil. And many of those now gathered in Copenhagen are making a great deal of money out of it.

Christopher Booker's The Real Global Warming Disaster (Continuum, £16.99) is available from Telegraph Books for £14.99 plus £1.25 p&p.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Steel Making been a dead man walking for over 50 years

Most points I raise during a Hartlepool Council meeting result in a brisk come back from the other political parties. Labour are usually first into the attack but certain Tories, Lib-Dems and Independents can usually be relied upon to follow the Labour lead and attempt to shout me down.

Tonight however was different! After 8 years as a Ward Councillor I made a point in full council that reduced the other councilors to shamefaced silence. Not one councilor contradicted me or attempted to put an alternative viewpoint. The silence was total!

During the debate about the Corus closures several councilors, including the Mayor, made speeches demanding help for the steelworkers and insisting “the government must do something”. The Mayor even said the closure had a “silver lining” as it brought new money and opportunities into the town.

Unfortunately the end of steelmaking on Teesside was inevitable when the European Iron and Steel Community came into being in 1951. This was the first step in the formation of the European Union and when the UK went into the EEC in 1973 accepting the eventual loss of steelmaking in the UK was part of the price for joining, (along with concessions over agriculture, fishing and trade with the Commonwealth).

Steelmaking in the UK has been a dead man walking ever since!

Every government since then has collaborated in the slow death of steelmaking. I said at the Council Meeting tonight, “So long as the UK remains in the EU then steelmaking will continue to die and will eventually disappear totally from the UK” There was not one single Councillor in the Hartlepool Council Chamber who dared to contradict me! No matter how much they may now demand action to save steelmaking the Labour, Liberal-Democrat and Conservative Parties have all actively participated in killing steelmaking in the UK and they know it!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Dust everywhere!

For generations Hartlepool people have made their living from the sea as fishermen, deepwater sailors or working at the port. In recent years, however, residents living on the historic town wall, who are closest to the water front, have become concerned about possible health implications of the port’s operations.

A member of the Town Wall Action Group, spoke out at a recent public meeting attended by the local authority, port operators and ship owners. “Dust from the port covers our homes and cars every time a ship is being loaded,” he explained. “It discolours window frames and eats holes in the paintwork of our cars. God knows what it’s doing to people who breathe it in?”

Irvines Quay is the area of the port being blamed for the problems. The quay is used for loading bulk carrier ships that take crushed scrap for recycling. Some of the scrap is stored under cover but large piles are left exposed to the weather on the quayside. When lifted by grab crane these piles produce clouds of dust, which is spread by prevailing winds over homes on the Hartlepool Headland. It is this dust that is causing health fears amongst residents.

The local authority, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, regulates any nuisance from a port, including the loading and unloading of cargos. The Port Operator stresses it complies with all appropriate health and safety regulations and has been licensed by the local council.

The company loading the ships has funded an independent laboratory to carry out monitoring of the operation. This monitoring identified that the dust contains mainly iron oxide (rust) but also with traces of titanium, nickel and heavy metals. The analysis showed the levels detected are within the permissible health and safety limits for these substances set by the UK Environment Agency.

The Tees Valley Public Health Authority were asked to reassure the Headland residents that there was no evidence of unusual health problems in patients registered with the GP’s Practice in the in the area. An analysis, by the Chief Public Health Consultant, Professor Peter Kelly, of 4,000 medical records showed no significant statistical increase in liver problems or skin complaints, these being the two conditions most commonly associated with metals contamination. “I found that in terms of heath deprivation the Headland is not significantly different from the overall Hartlepool average.” said Professor Kelly at the public meeting. Professor Kelly did then agree that a further study should be undertaken, to look at levels of cancers in the area affected by the dust.

During the heated public meeting correspondence about the issue was produced that went back over 20 years. Local Councillors demanded that the Borough Council needed to do something about these problems. “It is well past time that these operations were shut down once and for all! “said one Councillor.

Residents were not reassured by the results of the meeting. There are still very real and unaddressed fears that a long term health problem is building up.

While waiting for the results on the cancers study the campaigners are compiling a dossier of evidence from people in the Headland area who think they have been affected by this dust problem. “Everyone should ensure their problems are included in the dossier” said a local campaigner “We are taking this right to the top, all the way to Downing Street if necessary. We are not going to just let it drop for another 20 years!”

Monday, 9 November 2009

why did Robin Hood steal from the rich?


Why did Robin Hood steal from the rich? Simple: the poor haven’t got anything worth nicking. I tried that joke in the Nottingham Archers’ shop and it didn’t even get a groan. They’ve heard every Robin Hood joke ever told. Modern bows, using space age materials, mean that today anyone can participate in Archery. You no longer need a huge chest and an arm of iron. Being able to punch your arrow through the armour of a charging knight is not a requirement. Contests are now decided on accuracy, not who can shoot the furthest or fastest. A competition standard bow and quiver full of personalised arrows will cost less than £400. Compare this to a set of golf clubs or tickets to Leeds Festival and it’s not a huge entry price to pay to enjoy a sport that is a bit different from the usual student activities.

Just don’t mess with me!


It’s been three hours since I shook down my illegal gambling den. The ‘take’ will be building up nicely. It should give me enough money to fly to Cuba and make a few investments. No, I’m not a big time international criminal; I’m addicted to ‘Mafia Wars’ on Facebook. One of over 6 million people now playing on line, every day. I started as a humble ‘Street Thug’ doing muggings for a few dollars to increase the size of my ‘family’. Progress can make you a ‘Big Boss’ raking in millions from deals around the world. I now own casinos in the USA and cigar factories in Cuba and have reached sufficient status to allow me to ‘wet my beak’ (as we Mafia say) in the Russian organized crime scene. So far I’m only running an unlicensed Moscow taxi rank, but I’m not stopping there! Just don’t mess with me!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Freemen and Aldermen

In a heated meeting last night Hartlepool Borough Council approved seven names to go forward for consideration as Freemen and Honorary Aldermen of the town. Speculation that Peter Mandelson was one of the potential new Freemen has already been reported in the local newspaper and been the subject of some correspondence in the Hartlepool Mail Reader's Letters Page.

The names being recommended had been selected by the Council’s Civic Honors Committee from nineteen original nominations. The Full Council met tonight in closed session to debate the selection and to confirm, or reject, the recommendations.

According to the Agenda each of the seven names would be debated individually and voted on individually. This gave the Council the opportunity to accept or reject each nomination on their own individual merit. The Labour Group, detecting that possibly not all seven of the names had an equal level of support, proposed that the list should be accepted as a single package, thereby removing the requirement for discussion of individual nominations.

This "all or nothing" proposal was opposed by several Councillors who felt each name should be debated on its own merits. The choice of individual debate or a single "all or nothing" decision was put to the vote and the Council tied 19 votes to 19 votes. The Council Chairman, Councillor Carl Richardson (Labour) used his casting vote to force through the all or nothing option. One Councillor at the meeting described the decision as "Democracy as they know it in North Korea".

At times after this the meeting descended into chaos with the Chairman rejecting potential points of order and failing to recognise Councillors indicating they wished to speak. When the vote was called for confusion reigned over what exactly the Council was being asked to vote on.

The vote on the Freemen and Aldermen nomination was finally taken on a roll call basis, with individual members being asked to register their vote so that it could be recorded in the minutes.

To approve a Civic Honour requires a more than two thirds majority of the votes cast to be in favour. When the Roll Call was completed 22 Votes were recorded in favour of the seven names and 10 were recorded against. The majority of the Liberal Democrat group showed the courage of their convictions and abstained from the vote. Of course "Courage" and "Convictions" are not two words normally associated with Liberal-Democrats. All the Conservative Councillors present voted against the motion with the exception of Conservative Councillor Pauline Laffey of Park Ward, who voted for the motion. Councillor Laffey’s support was enough for the motion to approve the seven names by a single vote! The look the Conservative Leader's face when he realised it was one of his members who saved Labour's blushes was a picture! Once again Laffey shows her "Blue Labour" rosette. I am sure she will get her reward from her Labour Comrades in the future. After all it was John Bercow's tactics of sucking up to Labour that got him the Speaker's Chair in the House Of Commons. I wonder which chair Pauline Laffey is expecting in return for her loyalty to the Labour Cause?

Although reports in the local press have identified Peter Mandelson as one of the new potential Freemen of the town this cannot be officially confirmed. The names of the individuals to be honoured will not be officially released until they have been approached to confirm they will accept the honour should it be formally offered to them. Until this time Hartlepool Council are applying the Local Government Act 2000 to officially keep the names confidential.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Shorthand and Blog Review

I've been a bit busy the past few weeks. Too busy to blog to be honest! I am trying to learn T Line Shorthand in order to pass the NCTJ Exams and qualify as a 'Junior Reporter' and this has been takingup almost my every waking moment. The shear frustration of learning one way of doing it, trying to apply the rules and then being told about all the exceptions! Drives me mad! And in fact I've just seen its 8.59am so I've got to go to Sharthand NOW!

Before I go I must share one website I found recently, http://www.politics.co.uk and in particular http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/stephen-allison-$1325866.htm which is about ME, yes someone has actually gone to the trouble of reviewing my blog! and here was me thinking no-one actually read it apart from me amd my mother!

Anyway they say:

"A strange personal-diary-cum-political commentary that is occasionally unintentionally funny.

Mr Allison must be a refreshingly unaware sort of chap for someone involved in politics, and that makes this blog both rather endearing and occasionally, we have to say, hilariously pompous at times.

Overall it's rather sweet and enjoyable, although as hardened hacks we admit to finding the publication of his daughter's A level results a little much to stomach."

They rate me at 5.5/10. Not sure if that's good, bad or just an average score given to most people. When I have time I'll investigate more. NOW I'M OFF TO SHORTHAND!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Newspaper Endorsements!

As a Journalism Student (yes me a student again at my age!) I was interested to read the YouGov poll regarding the degree of importance people attached to the endorsement of a political party by a major newspaper. Of those polled 61% said the endorsement was important or very important, 36% said it was not very important or not important at all, 4% didn't know (yes that's 101% but figures are rounded!).

The poll also found 63% agreed with the statement that Labour has lost its way. However, less encouraging for the Tories, only 29% agreed with The Sun's published view that they were backing the Tories because 'the Conservative leadership can put the 'great' back into Great Britain'

You can see the full research here

Support for UKIP is up

The traditional assumption that support for political parties other than the main three disappears at a general election has been challenged by private polling seen by the BBC.

Support for Labour is languishing at 20%, while the Lib Dems are down from 21% to 18%. But support for "others" - UKIP, the Green Party, the BNP and other small parties - has doubled, from 9% to 18%.

The polling suggests a surge in support for UKIP, in particular. Figures show support for UKIP is at 6%, up from 1% in summer last year who said they would vote for the party in a general election.

Read the full article here.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Busy Day

Spent the morning in a lecture about Media Law. Quite scary when libel payouts were being discussed. This afternoon was Principles and Practices of Magazine Journalism. The reading list is huge! Ordered some from Amazon and reserved the rest from the Library. Discovered that there is no Union Bar at the St.Peter Campus but there are a couple of pubs in walking distance. I thought journalists were a hard drinking lot but obviously not! Maybe they just need to warm up a bit. Handed in my first "think piece" and will be discussing it tomorrow. It was about achievement versus effort in Higher education. "Males more optimistic, but to their detriment” makes a good headline but the team from University of Wales Institute leave a hole, big enough to drive the metaphorical bus through, when they declare their findings are based upon a sample of 112 psychology students. It is difficult to see how these can be seen as a representative group from which to draw general conclusions.

If the issue is one primarily of self belief then the environment in which the students grew up, their aims and aspirations would be significant factors in the results obtained by the study. The males in the study having a greater belief in their own abilities than their achievements apparently seem to justify. The female students appear to accept they needed to work harder just to achieve the same level of results. Psychology is fast becoming one of the most popular undergraduate degrees according to the UK Careers Advice Website. It is attracting a higher number of students who have no clear idea of where their future career will take them. The level of vocational motivation in such students would understandably be much lower than in students studying Medicine, Engineering or Teaching.

Speaking as one of the new middle class and a father of two teenaged children, both currently studying for higher qualifications, I can say that my daughter works harder, is more focused and more determined than my son. However, that has been the case since they were young children. My daughter was a first grandchild for both mine and my wife’s family. My son was the third grandchild, but critically the first grandson. The way in which the working class grandparents reacted to them was very different.

As the oldest grandchild, my daughter was always encouraged to excel. As the oldest grandson, my son was always expected to excel. A critical difference.

It would be a much more significant finding if the research were repeated and the same results obtained using students from different social backgrounds and on a range of vocational courses. Drawing general conclusions from such a narrow sample cannot be either statistically or socially valid.

Anyway, shorthand starts next week as well. 100words per minute! not as easy as it sounds. Booked tickets for Al Murray on 8th October and Jimmy Carr on 17th January. Well if I'm in Sunderland I might as well make the most of it! NCTJ Exams on December 10th for Court Reporting and January 14th for General Reporting, plus 3,000 word assignment to be handed in before Christmas. I think I'm going to be a busy boy!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Stage Coach Top Men in Hartlepool Meeting

Further to the recent North Neighborhood Forum I have been in discussions with Stagecoach and have been trying to put together a public meeting to discus the services relating to St.Hilda Ward. I have now been able to arrange for the Managing Director of Stagecoach North East, Mr.John Conroy and the Commercial Director, Mr.Robin Knight, to attend the meeting. These are the two top men in the North East and they do not attend meetings like this very often. This being the case I don't think the agenda should be limited to just St.Hilda Ward!


The meeting will be on Wednesday 7th October in the Borough Hall, 6.00pm for 6.30pm. As these are the top men I am opening the meeting to anyone in Hartlepool who wants to attend.

I have contacted the Mayor and all the Hartlepool Borough Councillors for whom I have e-mail addresses to ask if there are any specific questions that anyone would like to ask these two Gentlemen, petitions to present, etc, I can then put together an agenda to kick the meeting off. The Borough Hall is booked till 9.00pm.

I have also spoken to the Hartlepool Mail about the meeting and they will be running a feature about the meeting next week. I hope we can drum up a good cross section of the Councilors and general public to come along to get these two Directors out of their comfort zone. I cannot emphasize enough that it has been stressed to me that these people don't come down from their "Ivory Towers" very often so we have to get it right on the night as we in Hartlepool will probably only get one go at it.

Like losing a limb!

I have been the victim of a vicious and nasty attack! For once this wasn't in the Hartlepool Council Chamber, it wasn't even in the Hartlepool Mail or a stab in the back from someone in UKIP! No it was a virus that wiped out my computer. It required new hardwear to actually get my machine moving again, although we did also eventually find two re-sets on the mother board that weren't even shown on the manufacturer's schematics! One advantage of the whole incident has been that I've re-loaded my PC with Windows XP and dumped that bloody awful Vista!

So normal blogging service should be resumed from now on.

I was a little bit misty eyed on Thursday when the UKIP Regional Organisers met in London and I wasn't there. The end of an era, the new North East RO was in attendance and as soon as he is confirmed in place I'll be passing my responsibilities in that area over to him. Good luck Gordon is all I will say, oops I've let it slip now! From the reports I've had I didn't miss much at the meeting, the former UKIP Leader and former UKIP Treasurer turned up and I don't think I'm on the Christmas Card List of either of them!

I am still undertaking responsibility for producing the General Election Address but of course that depends upon who is elected as the new leader of UKIP since he (or she) will then be able to bring in their own team should they wish it. Good luck to them as well.

I attended my first session today for my NCTJ course, I have to learn shorthand! it is apparently fairly easy to learn but hard to acquire the minimum speeds, sounds like Chess, easy to learn how to play but very difficult to become amy good at the ngame. As a "magazine" journalist I only (only!) need to get to 80 words per minute, if I was doing the News Option then it's 100 words per minute. Core modules in semester one are Principles and Practices of Magazine Journalism, Media Law and Media in Society. In Semester two Media Ethics is compulsory. Media Ethics? Contradiction in terms?

The course leader turned out to be a former colleague of Piers Merchant from his days on the Newcastle Journal. He, like all of us was very sad about Pier's death. A good man taken too young.

I haven't been neglecting my other duties while the PC has been down. The sixth form college governors meetings and of course Council work have all been on-going. In fact I have a major announcement going out next week in the Hartlepool Mail about Stage Coach and the buss services in the town. Actually I think I'll preview that now in another post!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Join my Mafia

Join My Mafia: http://apps.facebook.com/inthemafia/status_invite.php?from=721583184

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Curate's Egg

Well, what a can of worms my last post has opened up! I contacted several senior party members asking for their opinion. A sizable minority have just ignored me, which of course tells me something and the rest of the feedback has ranged from very, very supportive through to brutally dismissive! You really do find out who your friends are when you stick your head above the parapet on this sort of thing don't you!

On the other hand there might not even be a Leadership election, let's face it if Nigel Farage changed his mind and decided to stay on as leader then he'd be re-appointed by acclimation!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

UKIP Leadership

You can always tell how busy I am by the number of blog posts I make, well since the UKIP Conference last week I have been both surprised and pleased by the large number of calls and e-mails I have received urging me to consider putting my hat into the ring for the Leadership of UKIP after Nigel announced his retirement on Friday. My initial reaction was to dismiss these suggestions out of hand, but some of the more persistent callers asked me to think it over very carefully.

Over the past five years I have seen, from quite a senior position, how the UK Independence Party operates and became convinced some time ago that things needed to change organisationally in order for the Party to continue to progress. One thing that definitely needs to be addressed is the perceived imbalance in the party where the financial muscle of the MEPs is seen to allow them to wield disproportionate influence. I do believe that many of the MEPs themselves agree that the Party is now too big for this concentration of power to be sustainable. Nigel’s admission that the Leadership was too much for him to handle along with his other roles being an illustration of this.

To this end I am now seriously considering seeking the necessary 50 signatures to permit me to submit my name for nomination as a Candidate for Leader of UKIP. This is in the belief that it should not be an MEP who takes this role forward in the domestic arena. MEPs have a job to do exposing the EU beast for what it really is. The Leader of UKIP in the UK needs to concentrate on modernising the party and bringing in management practices that are fit for a party that is growing in influence at every election we fight.

If I were to stand and be elected I would devote myself full time to the post. I would cease promoting my private business interests and would not seek election as a MP or MEP during my tenure as Leader of the Party. When the Party Leader, or indeed any Party Officer, is a UKIP MEP and therefore in receipt of a substantial salary as a result of their UKIP activities, I think it is unreasonable for them to expect additional payments for carrying out Party Officer roles. However, were I to become Party Leader I would expect a salary commensurate with at least minimum wage, and I would expect the Party to cover the expenses incurred while on party business. I do not think this is unreasonable as I would still need to live and support my family. I would publish an on-line diary of my activities and my expenses so that there was complete transparency of what was being spent and on what. I do not think it is unreasonable to expect this as unless the Party are willing to support the Leader in this way then only those with a private income could ever aspire to senior posts.

UKIP advertises itself as a Party of real people, not career politicians. However it appears to me that our over reliance on MEPs to fill senior posts leaves us open to the accusation that we are no different to the other parties. UKIP must open up its senior positions such a Leader and Chairman to real people, not career politicians, for despite what our MEPs may say I believe that once the have been elected, and in some cases re-elected, as Members of the European Parliament then they have embarked on a political career. This is why I would NOT seek election as a Member of the European, or Westminster, Parliaments while I was Party Leader.

I believe I have the management and personal skills necessary to lead our party and the ability to build a team where each member plays to their strengths. Working with Nigel Farage as the political Leader I would very much see the Role as a Chief Executive role rather than the predominately public facing role that Nigel undertakes and which is undoubtedly one of his strengths. UKIP needs MEPs as our political face, we need the NEC as our senior management body overseeing a Business Plan for the Party, we need an efficient secretariat carrying out party administration and we need a united membership going forward together. These are the things I would work towards as key steps on the way to getting our country back.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

You couldn't make 'em up!

These are taken from real complaints made to Councils in UK, you couldn't make 'em up!

1.. It's the dogs' mess that I find hard to swallow

2.. I want some repairs done to my cooker as it has backfired and burnt my knob off.

3.. I wish to complain that my father burnt his ankle very badly when he put his foot in the hole in his back passage..

4.. And their 18 year old son is continually banging his balls against my fence.

5.. I wish to report that tiles are missing from the outside toilet roof. I think it was bad wind the other day that blew them off.

6..My lavatory seat is cracked, where do I stand?

7.. I am writing on behalf of my sink, which is coming away from the wall.

8.. Will you please send someone to mend the garden path. My wife tripped and fell on it yesterday and now she is pregnant.

9.. I request permission to remove my drawers in the kitchen.

10.. 50% of the walls are damp, 50% have crumbling plaster, and 50% are Plain filthy.

11.. I am still having problems with smoke in my new drawers.

12.. The toilet is blocked and we cannot bath the children until it is cleared.

13..Will you please send a man to look at my water, it is a funny colour and Not fit to drink.


14..Our lavatory seat is broken in half and now is in three pieces.

15..I want to complain about the farmer across the road. Every morning at 6am his cock wakes me up and it's now getting too
much For me.

16..The man next door has a large erection in the back garden, which is Unsightly and dangerous

17..Our kitchen floor is damp. We have two children and would like a third So please send someone round to do something about it.

18..I am a single woman living in a downstairs flat and would you please do something about the noise made by the man on top
of me every night.

19..Please send a man with the right tool to finish the job and satisfy my wife.

20.. I have had the clerk of works down on the floor six times but I still have no satisfaction

21.. This is to let you know that our lavatory seat is broke and we can't get BBC2.

22.. My bush is really overgrown round the front and my back passage has fungus growing in it.

23..He's got this huge tool that vibrates the whole house and I just can't take it anymore.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Heugh Battery Open Day



Went to the Heugh Battery open day this morning. It always amazes me how far the place has come from those days only a few years ago when it was a derelict site and the only people there were bird watchers and a few kids playing in the gun emplacements. The Chieftain Tank is a great addition to the collection and it will be fantastic to watch it being restored. Anyone with an interest in military history should definitely give the place a visit. After the Battery we went for lunch as the Cosmopolitan. Great Sunday Lunch, very reasonably priced.

Votes for Prisoners

Dostoevsky wrote that "the degree of civilisation in a society can be judged by entering its prisons". If that is right, British civilisation is none too healthy just now. Record numbers of inmates are crammed into the jails. The difficulties of sardine-tin rehabilitation are exacerbated by a doggedly vengeful refusal to reward convicts who mend their ways or show regard for others. Last spring Gordon Brown vetoed an overdue rise in the meagre pay prisoners can earn by spending time productively. This month a tabloid scare story led to certain social events being banned. But the most gratuitous stricture of all predates any red-top campaign. In a report last week a UN committee warned that the voting ban in prisons may be at odds with the international covenant on civil and political rights. The ban dates back to a musty statute from 1870 - a time when the franchise was a privilege, reserved for a minority. Today the vote is everywhere considered a right - except within jail walls. No one believes disfranchisement is a deterrent; nor does it make sense as a punishment: the purpose of prison is to deprive people of their liberty, not their political voice. Sheer lack of thought meant that - until Strasbourg intervened - the ban often effectively applied to remanded prisoners, not convicted of any crime. If inmates were encouraged to take an interest in society, then perhaps fewer than two-thirds would reoffend on release. As it stands, in more than one sense, they are barred citizens. It is time to give them the vote.

(This article was first published on line at www.guardian.co.uk on Monday 22 September 2008. It appeared in the Editorials & reply section of the print edition of the Guardian on Monday 22 September 2008.).

Political Parties and Elections Act 2009

The Political Parties and Elections Act became law in July this year.

It introduces a range of significant changes to how political parties are regulated. However the Act also provides for a process of introducing individual electoral registration in Great Britain from 1 July 2010.

The Act" identifies registration as the bedrock of the democratic process, and it’s important that electoral registers are as complete and accurate as possible – so everyone who is entitled to vote can, and no one is on the register who shouldn’t be. The Act will move the UK from a system of household registration to a system of individual electoral registration which will require the "voluntary" collection of personal identifiers - National Insurance number, signature and date of birth - from electors, to make sure that the conditions are appropriate before any move to compulsory provision of identifiers. The Commission will be working closely with those who maintain registers and run elections across the UK to increase the number of eligible people on the electoral register and to support the successful introduction of individual electoral registration."

Read that carefully.

It's a NATIONAL ELECTION REGISTER, another government data base, this one listing everyone in the country eligible to vote, their personal details, National insurance number, date of birth, even signature. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Tut Tut ! Naughty Liberal Democrats

The Electoral Commission announced today (20th August) that the Liberal Democrats’ Twickenham & Richmond accounting unit has forfeited four impermissible donations totalling £1,328.20.

Under Section 54(1) of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA), registered political parties must not accept a donation from an impermissible donor. Political parties and their accounting units have 30 days to check that a donor is permissible and either accept the donation, or return it if from an impermissible donor.

Four donations of £332.05 were received by Twickenham & Richmond Liberal Democrats on 31 December 2008, 31 January 2009, 28 February 2009 and 31 March 2009 respectively. The donor, Jonathan Kramer, was not registered on a UK electoral register at the time of the donations and therefore the donations were impermissible.

The Twickenham and Richmond Liberal Democrats have voluntarily forfeited the donation, and therefore legal action by the Commission is not necessary.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Moss Missives

I Twitter, I blog and of course I write to the Hartlepool Mail, but today I subscribed to my first "News Feed".


I now subscribe to the "Moss Missives" blog of Richard Moss, the BBC's Political Editor for the North East and Cumbria. He bills his blog as irreverent, but hopefully insightful, northern take on reporting politics for Look North and the Politics Show.

If anyone wants to link to it then click here. It looks pretty good.

Don’t put up council tax!

“Don’t put up council tax” was the quote from the Deputy Mayor in Friday’s Mail. There must be an election coming because this is the Deputy Mayor who holds the Finance Portfolio and who, to the best of my recollection, has NEVER voted against a Council Tax rise in the entire time Hartlepool has suffered under the Mayoral system. Last year Hartlepool’s two UKIP Councillors, myself and Martyn Aiken, were the ONLY Councillors to vote “NO” at the meeting to formally set Council Tax. A few Independents abstained but every other Councillor voted YES to the Council tax increase. The Labour Group voted en-bloc to put up the Council Tax and their poodles in the Lib-Dems and brown noser Tories dutifully supported the Labour group.

I intend to keep the page from the Hartlepool Mail and should the Deputy Mayor once again propose an inflation busting rise I will point to his remarks and ask him what changed his mind? Many years ago there was a move for a zero based budget for Hartlepool Council, it never happened If anyone asks about it now there are just shrugs. It is down to Councillors to decide what the level of Council Tax increase should be. I will be voting “NO” to any rise next year, as I have voted “NO” every year whilst I have been a Member of Hartlepool Council. Maybe, just maybe there will be more than the lone voices of UKIP speaking out for Council Taxpayers next year?

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Very Proud Dad



According to the UCAS Website Rosie's place to read Law at Kings College has been Confirmed. UCAS don't say what her A Level grade are but as the offer was conditional upon 3 A Grades it isn't too hard to work out what she got? Of course she was sitting 5 A levels so we know 3 are A and one is almost certainly a B (She needed 124 out of 120 in final module for an A in English Language) so its only really General Studies that she has to go into 6th Form College to collect. She'd been asked yesterday to go in early this morning for a photograph with the Hartlepool Mail so we had assumed it was good news but its nice to get confirmation from UCAS. Well done Rosie, very proud Dad!

PS.

Now CONFIRMED Rosie's A level Grades,
English Literature A,
History A,
Sociology A,
General Studies A and
English Language B.

Very Very Very Proud Dad

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Swine Flu Update

If you wake up in the morning looking like this then DON'T GO TO WORK

The Train now standing.............


I am quite a fan of Grand Central trains. The Hartlepool to London Service is a little Gem which we should all support when we can. If Grand Central were able to get approval for a fourth daily train, leaving London about 7.00pm, then the service would be just about perfect. One thing I have noticed however is the increasing frequency with which the train tannoy crackles into life with a barrage of announcements to advise passengers that for their "comfort and safety" they must not smoke or use mobiles in the "quiet carriages" and should take "a minute or two to read the safety information provided".

I actually like to travel in the "quiet coach" when I can. No beeping of mobile phones, no loud conversations from the next seat about who is doing what to who or who is sleeping with who, or even about who is next for eviction from the Big Brother House, the Celebrity Love Island or the Jungle, etc. The provision of WiFi meaning the little Netbook comes out, log on and off I go. Alternatively I read some papers, twitter or even blog. However, the peace of the "quiet Coach" is regularly disturbed by the Train Guard's announcements. If I'd thought about I suppose I'd have assumed it was like the Air Stewardess doing the "put the life jacket over your head and tie the tapes at the side in a double bow. Do not inflate your life jacket until you are outside the aircraft" speech, it has to be done but no-one listens after the first few dozen repetitions.

What I have learned today however is that the train companies are assaulting our ear drums because of European Union Regulation. Yes, the EU is even regulating how often and on what subjects our Train Guards should be communicating with us. Train companies are compelled to bombard us with this useless information by EC Regulation 1371/2007 on "rail passengers' rights and obligations", under the European Commission's "third package" on "further integration of the European rail system".

One of the subjects the Lib/Lab/Con politicians keep quiet about is just how much of what goes on in Britain these days is due to the orders of our real government in Brussels. Unfortunately keeping quiet is not something Train Guards are now allowed to do. So next time you are on a Train and the Tannoy is telling you that "Smoking is not permitted anywhere on this train" and "For your safety and convenience smoke detectors are fitted in the toilets" just remember, its nothing to do with your safety and convenience, its about the EU regulating just one more detail of your life!

Actually I suppose we should be grateful the announcements are only in English! i would think it's only a matter of time before Train Guards need to speak 27 Languages!

Character is what you do when something goes wrong

"anonymous" is leaving comments on my blog about alleged financial irregularities from UKIP MEPs and daring me to publish them. I make it quite clear that I don't publish anonymous comments that I don't agree with, it's my blog, why should I? If "anonymous" would care to put his (or her) name on their comment then I'd be happy to publish them and engage in debate.

Anonymous is raising the old chestnut about a UKIP MEP making fraudulent benefit claims. This is just untrue and I'm fairly sure anonymous knows this but chooses to twist the facts to suit his purpose. A UKIP MEP CANDIDATE, in 2004, did make benefit claims that subsequently turned out to be fraudulent. That is true. However, immediately the facts were known UKIP suspended the candidate and demanded his resignation from UKIP. When the Candidate refused to resign then he was expelled from UKIP. The candidate was NEVER a UKIP MEP. Where the water gets muddy is that UKIP didn't find out about the alleged fraud until after 2004 nominations had closed. The candidate in question was on the published list and so UKIP couldn't remove them. Unfortunately UKIP did well enough in that election that this Candidate's place on the published list was high enough to get him elected and he was therefore legally entitled to take the seat as an independent if he wished to. That is what he did! He never sat as a UKIP MEP and no-one was more angry about his taking the seat than UKIP. UKIP tried for 5 years to get him removed but the European Union Rules didn't allow that to happen. Of course he is no longer an MEP as UKIP took the seat back in 2009!

So the facts are that in 2004 a UKIP CANDIDATE was alleged to be making fraudulent benefit claims. IMMEDIATELY this was know by UKIP the Candidate was asked to resign from the party and step down as a Candidate. The Candidate refused and was expelled from UKIP. Unfortunately under EU Rules as nominations had closed it was not possible for the candidate's name to be removed from the ballot paper. When that candidate was subsequently elected he was entitled to sit as an independent MEP, which is what he did. UKIP tried for 5 years to get him removed but the EU Rules protected him. He lost his seat in the 2009 election when UKIP won it back.

So when faced with a situation of alleged sleaze UKIP acted quickly and firmly and expelled the candidate. There has never been a UKIP MEP convicted of benefit fraud. UKIP also reviewed their selection procedures for 2009 to include Police Background Checks to ensure the situation could never arise again. These checks were not in place in 2004, at that time UKIP had only been in existence 10 years ans so was still fairly naive when it came to things like this. UKIP is considerably more professional and better organised now!

So a test of Character is what you do when something goes wrong. UKIP acted firmly and quickly to sort out the problem and prevent it happening again.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Snouts back in trough

The Daily Telegraph has disclosed that MPs have started a new scheme which allows them to claim a £25 a night subsistence allowance when staying away from their designated main home.

MPs have ignored public anger over their expenses by quietly introducing new rules which allow them to claim up to £9,125 a year without having to produce any receipts.

The payments for MPs have been approved despite widespread anger over MP’sexpense claims following recent disclosures in the Telegraph.

The allowance, which is nearly double the previous £4,800-a-year limit for unreceipted claims, will be paid in addition to expenses for mortgage interest, rent, council tax and utility bills.

The new allowance has been approved without any public announcement or debate in Parliament by a small committee of MPs chaired by John Bercow, the new Speaker, and including Harriet Harman, the Labour Leader of the House and Alan Duncan, the Tory frontbencher at the same time as MPs leave for their summer holidays.

Gordon Brown and David Cameron have both promised to clean up the parliamentary expenses system. Mr Bercow had campaigned to replace Michael Martin by promising reform, and Miss Harman and Mr Duncan had both said that expense claims which were not backed up by receipts would be unacceptable, but the new rules state that no receipts are necessary for the subsistence payments, and that it is “for members to decide” how the money is spent.

MPs will simply have to say how many nights they have spent away from their main home “on parliamentary business” to receive the flat-rate sum, and there is no way for the information to be independently verified.

The Telegraph has featured MPs who spend hardly any time at their designated main home, and who would be ableto claim thousands of pounds a year. Before this, MPs could only claim up to £400 a month without receipts for food when away from their main home.

Under the new system they could theoretically claim £775 if they said that they had stayed away from their main home for an entire month.

An MP who stayed away from their designated main home for an entire year, like Ann and Alan Keen, could claim £9,125 a year on top of mortgage interest payments under the new system.

The fact that such a substantial amount has been agreed by MPs without public debate is certain to anger voters.

The introduction of the new Green Book is one of Mr Bercow’s first acts as Speaker, and may undermine his claims of reforming Parliament.

The Changes to the House of Commons regulations have been decided upon by a small committee of six MPs including Miss Harman and Mr Duncan. Both MPs have publicly stated that it is unacceptable for expense claims to be paid without receipts. Miss Harman said in the spring:

“There would need to be receipts for all claims. I really do think that that is something sensible which we could decide for ourselves now.”

Mr Duncan previously said:

“The second home allowance was often just paid once a month without receipts, which is an unacceptable system in the modern age.”

The subsistence payments are likely to raise concerns that MPs are seeking to limit public exposure of how they spend their allowances.

The House of Commons, Miss Harman and the Tories have all declined to comment.

General Notice of Registrable Interest

FORM OF GENERAL NOTICE
Register of Members’ Interests - 2009/10
General Notice of Registrable Interests


I, Stephen Allison, a member of the Hartlepool Borough Council, give notice that I have set out below under the appropriate headings my interests which I am required to declare in accordance with the Council’s approved Code of Conduct for Councillors and Co-opted Members as set out in Part 5 of the Council’s Constitution.

1) EMPLOYMENT, OFFICE, TRADE, PROFESSION OR VOCATION

a) Every Employment, office, trade, profession or vocation that you declare for income tax purposes;

Project Manager,
Property Developer,
Hartlepool Borough Councillor.

b) Give a short description of the activity concerned: for example “Computer Operator” or “Accountant”

Carrying out work for a range of clients in public and private sector advising on quality systems, operational management issues and undertaking specific projects as instructed. Management of property in the private and commercial rental sector. Representing St.Hilda Ward as an elected Member of Hartlepool Borough Council.

c) Employee should give the name of their employer. If employed by a company, give the name of the company paying your wages or salary, not that of the ultimate holding company;

Self Employed. Registered Office 13 Beaconsfield Square,
Hartlepool TS24 0PA.

d) Where you hold an office give the name of the person or body which appointed you. In the case of a public office this will be the authority that pays you;

NOT APPLICABLE.

e) If you are a partner in a firm, give the name of the firm;

NOT APPLICABLE.

f) If you are a remunerated Director, give the name of the organisation;

NOT APPLICABLE.


2) SPONSORSHIP

You should declare the name of any person who has made any payments to you in the last year towards your expenses as a Councillor or towards your election expenses. You do not need to declare the amounts of any payments: only the name of the person nor body making them.

NONE.


3) CONTRACTS WITH THE AUTHORITY

a) You should describe all contracts, of which you are aware, which are not fully discharged, and which are;

(i) Contracts for the supply of goods, services or works to the authority or on the authority’s behalf, and

NONE.

(ii) Between the authority of which you are a member, and either yourself or a company in which you have a beneficial interest or of which you are a Director;

NONE.

b) You need not say what the financial arrangements are but should say for how long the contract is;

NOT APPLICABLE.


4) LAND IN THE AREA OF THE AUTHORITY

a) You should include any land in the area of the authority in which you have a beneficial interest (that is, in which you have some proprietary interests for your own benefit). You should give the address or a brief description to identify it. If you live in the authority’s area you should include your home under this heading as owner, lessee or tenant.

NOT APPLICABLE.

b) You should include any property from which you receive rent, or of which you are the mortgagee;

1 off 3 Bedroom House, Owton Manor Area.
2 off 1 Bedroom Flats, Murray Street Area.
1 off 3 Bed roomed House, Town Centre Area.
1 off 1 Bedroom Flat, Hart Lane Area.
1 off Commercial Shop Unit, Hart Lane Area .
2 off 1 Bedroom Flats, Town Centre Area.


c) “Land” includes any buildings or parts of buildings;

NOT APPLICABLE.


5) LICENCES TO OCCUPY LAND


a) You should include land in the area of the authority which you have a right to occupy, but neither own nor have a tenancy of. You should give the address or a brief description to identify it.

NOT APPLICABLE.

b) “Land” includes any buildings or parts of buildings.

Parts of a four bed roomed house on Headland which I occupy as a part time resident and use as my full time business address.


6) CORPORATE TENANCIES

You should list any tenancies of a property of which you are aware where the landlord is the authority of which you are a member, and the tenant is a company in which you have a beneficial interests, or of which you are a director.

NONE.


7) INTERESTS IN COMPANIES AND SECURITIES

a) You should list the names of any companies, industrial anmd provident societies, co-operative societies, or other bodies corporate that (to your knowledge) are active in the authority’s area and in which you have a substantial interests. You need not show the extent of your interest;

NONE.

b) You have a substantial interest if you own shares or other securities in the company with a nominal value of more than £25,000 or more than 1/100th of the issued shares or securities. If there are several classes of shares or securities, the fraction 1/100th applies to any of these classes. These limits also apply to deposits with industrial or provident societies, and co-operative societies;

Zurich Assurance Mixed Investment Bond,
GEC/Marconi Pension Fund,
National Grid Ordinary Share Account,
Sun Life of Canada Pension Fund.

c) A company or body corporate is active in the authority’s area if it has land or a place of business in that area;

Newcastle Building Society Cash ISA,
Darlington Building Society Instant Saver Account,
Northern Rock.

d) The requirement covers shares and securities held in the name of other people in which you have a beneficial interest;

NOT APPLICABLE.


8) OTHER INTERESTS

You should give the names of any bodies of which you are a member, or are in a position of general control or management and are within the following categories;

a) A body to which you are appointed by the authority to be its representative;

Heugh Battery Trust.

b) A public authority or body exercising functions of a public nature;

North East Ambulance Trust,
Hartlepool Sixth Form College.

c) A company, industrial and provident society, charity, or body directed to charitable purposes;

Tall Ships Youth Trust.
Friends of the HMs Trincomalee.

d) A body whose principle purposes include the influence of public opinion or policy, and a trade union or professional association;

Association of Manufacturing Managers,
Better Off Out Campaign,
British Sub-Aqua Club,
Cleveland Bee Keepers Association,
Convocation of the Senate of London University,
Country Landowners Association,
Fellowship of the University of Cranfield,
United Kingdom Independence Party.


I recognise it can be a criminal offense to:

(1) Omit information that aught to be given in this notice;
(2) Provide information that is materially false or misleading;
(3) Fail to give further notices in order to - bring up to date information given in this notice – declare an interest I acquire after the date of this notice and have to declare.

Signed: Stephen Allison

Date: 14th August 2009

Tall Ships will bring £10m to Belfast but £50m to Hartlepool

According to the Belfast Telegraph the Tall Ships will blow £10m into the sails of Belfast's economy. Hartlepool are Estimating £50 Million? Time to check the sums maybe?

The full article in Tuesdays Belfast Telegraph reads.......

The maritime boost will be enough to create an additional 550 jobs in the tourist industry, Naomi Long added.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors are set to descend on Belfast to see the 40 sailing ships on their four-day visit to Northern Ireland.

The festival, which begins on Thursday when the vessels sail up Belfast Lough, is set to be one of the largest public spectacles ever staged in the region.

"This will be the biggest event that Belfast has ever hosted and the single biggest event on this island this year," said Mayor Long.

"We will have visitors from all over the world and they will enjoy the warmth and hospitality for which Belfast people are renowned."

The Tall Ships are calling into Belfast as part of their race across the Atlantic and back, which is staged every eight to 10 years.

They left Halifax, Nova Scotia last month as part of a loop which began in Vigo in Spain and took in Tenerife, Bermuda and Charleston and Boston in the US.

The last race was in 2000 and the last occasion the ships arrived in Belfast was in 1991.

"No-one could have foreseen the dramatic improvements in our city in the intervening years since 1991 and I am delighted that we have managed to retain what was best about our city and marry it with the new, to make Belfast an exciting happening place," said Mrs Long.

Belfast City Council is the biggest single funder of the event, contributing £1.1 million towards the total cost of £2.4 million.

Other funding has been provided by Belfast Harbour Commissioners, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the Stormont's Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Department of Social Development.

The Lord Mayor added: "The council has taken the decision to invest heavily in the event because we are aware of the benefits the Tall Ships can bring in terms of revenue. I confidently believe that the city's economy will be boosted to the tune of £10 million.

"Hundreds of thousands of people will visit the city during the four days. Many will be staying over in our hotels and guest houses, eating in the restaurants and I am sure many will take the opportunity to shop in the city when they are here."

The festival will run until Sunday and consists of a range of free activities and entertainment, including fireworks, continental markets, funfairs and concerts, all based around the docks area of the city.

Belfast Tall Ships

According to the Belfast Telegraph The biggest ever international attraction to come to Northern Ireland got under way on Thursday when the majestic Tall Ships sailed into Belfast.

Over 400,000 people, including tens of thousands of tourists, are expected here during the next four days for the Belfast Maritime Festival. After seven years in the planning the eyes of the world will be on Belfast when the Tall Ships arrive later this morning.

Video: Tall Ships arrive

Around 40 magnificent vessels will sail up Belfast Lough as part of the largest public spectacle ever staged in the province.

The festival, which will run until Sunday, consists of a range of free activities and entertainment, including fireworks, continental markets, funfairs and concerts — all based around the docks area of the city.

The massive event is expected to generate up to £10m for the local economy.

Writing in today’s Belfast Telegraph, Lord Mayor Naomi Long said it is “Belfast’s moment to shine”.

Chair of Belfast's Tall Ships board Dr Gerard O'Hare said: “What people can look forward to is the biggest show in the country, the biggest event ever to be held in Ireland in maritime terms.”

==================================================================================

Did anyone note the visitor estimate? Over 400,000 people, including tens of thousands of tourists! Hartlepool are expecting over twice that number! Time to look again at the sums?

New Dayton Business Journal Reader's Poll Shows Daytonians Want Real Leadership

New Dayton Business Journal Reader's Poll Shows Daytonians Want Real Leadership

DAYTON--Today the Dayton Business Journal published the results of its most recent Business Pulse survey where it asked its readers: "Who do you think should be the next mayor of Dayton?"

Independent mayoral candidate Gary Leitzell claimed victory in the poll by a wide margin, winning 51% of the vote, with incumbent Rhine McLin earning only 44% (five percent of voters chose 'other').

Comments left by readers at the Dayton Business Journal website indicate that Dayton residents are tired of the "politics as usual" games that have led to Dayton's faltering economy.

Today, Mr. Leitzell released the following statement:

"This new poll clearly shows that the people of this city are hungry for real leadership from a true Independent, who will focus on creating a new, business-friendly Dayton. The future of our city hangs in the balance and it is time we stop playing politics and start playing economic hardball--creating and retaining jobs and attracting new businesses."

Mr. Leitzell is available for further comment at 937-253-1359


Jason Webber
Press Secretary -- Gary Leitzell for Mayor
Cell: 734-731-1114

Monday, 10 August 2009

Its a damp and miserable Monday Morning

Just got back from dropping son and heir at Brinkburn Youth Center, he's off for a bonding session with the Hartlepool Grant Givers Group and I'm looking at my diary for the next few days.

Sandra is well on the mend now so my nursing duties are less onerous. After dropping Son and heir we went to B&Q and bought new side and end panels for the downstairs bathroom and so fitting them is on my list, along with finishing the end panels, plinths and cornices in the kitchen. These are good "indoor jobs" since its raining today. Going to McIvers for working dog mix has been delegated to daughter and light of my life so that's one job crossed off.

Tuesday is looking busy. Ward Walk abouts at 10.00am on Central Estate and 2.00pm on the Headland. (No "attendance points" for these of course). Taking Sandra for pre-operative evaluation at 12.50pm and there is a Blood Donor appointment for 4.00pm so that looks like a busy day.

Wednesday is planning committee, always fun and the register is taken for these meetings so important to be there! Then a meeting with a constituent about some problems they are having (no attendance points). Also trying to find out about Housing Hartlepool and their apparent 53 week year when it comes to rents? Not sure what that's about but no attendance points here either. Meeting at 3.00pm to discuss General Election planing for Stockton North and South. Son and heir back Thursday and Friday I'm working in Ferryhill, some real work for which I get paid! Its always a problem fitting this in but I do try to earn some money whenever I can, it helps to pay the bills.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

"Selective Licencing" for Landlords

Hartlepool Council is bringing in "Selective Licencing" for Landlords in certain parts of the town. On the face of it it's hard to see how anyone can disagree with the scheme. However if you look at the requirements most of them are already law and none of them address problems caused by tenants. Once again the scheme seems to start from the premise that all private landlords are exploitative scum who need to be controlled. All tenants of course are wonderful people who need to be protected and Housing Associations can do no wrong.

Just look at the "Selective Licencing" requirements.

1) That a current gas safety record is provided to the authority. This is already the law for all rental properties and has been for years.

2) That electrical appliances and furniture are kept in a safe condition and a declaration is provided to the authority on demand as to the safety of such items. Once again, Health and safety legislation applies already.

3) That smoke alarms are installed in the house and are kept in a proper working order. A declaration must be provided to the Council on demand as to the condition and positioning of alarms. Try getting buildings insurance without this?

4) That a written statement of terms (such as a tenancy agreement) is provided to the occupier of the property. Once again the Law already covers this.

5) That references are demanded from any prospective occupants. (We will be strongly recommending that landlords make use of the Council's Good Tenant Scheme when deciding on a prospective tenant's suitability). Not worth the paper they are written on!

What about use of the Certified Bond Scheme, also the law now, how about some form of protection for landlords when Housing benefit is now paid direct to the tenant who is under no legal obligation to pass it on? What about some form of protection for Landlords who have received housing benefit from their tenants who are subsequently found not to be entitled, its the landlord that is made to pay it back, not the tenant who made the false claim.

It is fashionable and expedient to blame the ills of the rental sector om scum private landlords. The selective licensing is just another stick to hit landlords with while ignoring the fact that many of the problems are caused by scum tenants who know the system inside out and play the system for their own advantage. The responsible Landlords will comply and absorb the extra costs and bureaucracy. The irresponsible landlords will ignore it. If the existing laws were enforced then this scheme would not be necessary. Its another example of adding more laws to those already being flaunted. Responsible car drivers for example (those with road tax, MOTs, insurance, legal tires, working exhausts, obey the sped limits, etc) are well aware that the irresponsible drivers get away with murder, but do the law put their efforts into catching the irresponsible ones or do they chase the mainly compliant driver since they know they are a softer touch? Enforce the existing laws on the bad landlords before bring in more laws to punish the good landlords! Fewer laws more strictly enforced. That's the answer! We don't need yet another set of Local Authority Busy Bodies throwing their weight around!