Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Headland Parish Council

I attended a meeting last night of the Headland Parish Council. I hadn't been to one of these meetings for several months but judging by what went on last night I hadn't missed much.

Discussions about dog mess and litter bins were topped by a heated debate on the colour of lights on the Christmas Tree. One Parish Councilor bitterly denouncing the "blue and white" lights and claiming everyone she spoke to hated them and wanted coloured bulbs. Another Councilor said people he spoke to liked the blue and white as they were fresh and clean, very modern looking. Modern Looking! He might as well have gone into St.Hilda's Church and spat in the font!

To pass the time I tried to put the people there (less than a dozen including the Parish Councilors themselves) into some sort of hierarchy of who detested me the most. Ranging from would like to dance on my grave, through wouldn't pee on me if I was on fire, to mildly contemptuous down to didn't have a clue who I was. I didn't make the mistake of assuming anyone there actually liked me!

The discussion then went onto Parking problems on the Headland. A subject which generates considerable correspondence to me as a local councilor and which I once even made the mistake of trying to do something about! I am not short of enemies on the Headland, (I sometimes think the candidate that gets elected on the Headland is not the one with the most supporters but is in fact the one with the fewest enemies). Putting my head above the parapet on the parking issue has probably made me more enemies than everything else I've ever done combined. I wish the Parish Council Chairman ever success in his efforts to sort out the problem!

The Parish Financial report was presented and on the 31st January they had £11,281.73 in the bank an will be adding another £8,000 from the Parish Precept this year (up from £6,000 last year). Not exactly sure what they plan to spend this money on? Talk about spending £2,000 on Christmas lights was included in the previous discussions on the colour of the bulbs but in the six month period July 31st 2008 to January 31st 2009 the Parish Council bank balance has run at a positive balance of over £11,000. Credit Crunch, what Credit Crunch?

Personal Data Lost

I heard another story on the news today about a local authority losing personal data (Name, address and contact details of its staff) and was horrified to then discover that I too had "misplaced" a comprehensive list of the names, addresses and contact numbers of thousands of people in Hartlepool and the wider Teesside area.

How could I be so careless with such data I berated myself! Had I left it on a train? Had it been stolen by terrorists? Were evil criminal masterminds even now poring over the information and plotting dastardly deeds.

Luckily the data was recoverer from my daughter's bedroom where it was found propping up a table leg. I told her that the BT Phone Directory was not for that and it shouldn't be removed from its secure storage on the telephone table in the kitchen. Kids eh. No sense of data security. I shudder to think what could have happened if this information were available to just anyone!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Mushroom Growth Report

As a back bench mushroom I continue to be sprayed with shit and kept in the dark.

The Hartlepool Council Monitoring Officer has issued a comprehensive "Guidance Note" on the issue of requests for information. In which he totally neglects to point out that the main provisions of the legislation are NOT applicable to Elected Councilors. Strange that this wasn't mentioned! More shit spray anyone?

My freedom of Information request was acknowledged by Hartlepool Council, on 6th January. It is now 27th January and so far no information has been received or no reason for denying my the information has been provided. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 requires public authorities to comply with requests promptly, and they should provide information within 20 working days. This makes Monday 2nd February the deadline by my calculation. I continue to sit in the dark but the clock continues to tick down the Council's allowed time!

Pubs and the Smoking Ban

As a general policy UKIP is opposed to prohibitions and bans. UKIP does however recognise that the smoking ban has been popular amongst certain groups, such as families and those wishing to eat out in pubs. What is badly needed is a more common sense solution than an outright ban to address the problem that 39 pubs a week are closing. Many of which can be blamed on a fall in takings of 8 to 10% due to the ban and the fall in AWP ( Amusement with Prizes ) Machines takings by 20%.

UKIP would amend the smoking ban to allow pub landlords to provide contained and ventilated 'smoking rooms' within pubs and clubs, where customers desire it. This would also reduce noise and intrusion to the pubs neighbors from outside smoking areas. Where it was not possible, desirable or affordable to construct contained smoking rooms, UKIP would give pub landlords and club managers the right to declare their pub or club 'all smoking' or 'all non-smoking' as long as there were clear warnings and notices outside the building highlighting this status.

UKIP also supports the continued use of patio heaters for outside and smoking area use. We firmly oppose moves by the European Parliament to ban them on environmental grounds, despite the fact that their impact is negligible compared with other emissions. Patio heaters are valuable in retaining business under the current rules from customers who smoke, rather than forcing them to stand out in the cold and rain, or to buy cheap supermarket beers and stay at home.

The Stranger

Was sent this by e-mail by my father today. By the looks of the FW: he got it from friends in Majorca but I don't know where it originally came from. It did however make me think...........

"The Stranger"

A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small Scottish town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. I n my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mum taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger...he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.

If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first league football ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind.

Sometimes, Mum would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)

Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honour them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home... Not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our longtime visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush. My Dad didn't permit the liberal use of alcohol.. But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly and pipes distinguished.. He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.

I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced - strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents and myself yet he was seldom rebuked... And NEVER asked to leave.

More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents' house today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His name?..... .. . Television

He has a wife now.....We call her 'Computer.'

Goodbye Greenwoods

Was in the shopping center today (Monday) and saw that Greenwoods had closed. Not a great loss to most people I'm sure but as a Greenwoods Loyalty Card holder it made me sad to see it go. Most of my shirts are Greenwoods, both of my anoraks came from Greenwoods and quite a few of my pairs of trousers and jackets. OK a lot of my clothes now also come from Matalan but Greenwoods was the place I went when I wanted better quality and at a not much higher price. Farewell Greenwoods, I for one will miss you and its just another nail in the coffin of Hartlepool Shopping Center. What we need are more pound shops and more mobile phone shops, these will pull us out of the recession.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

An offer I could refuse

I have been with Direct Line Car Insurance nearly 14 years. Part of this is due to the shear convenience of not having to fill out forms every year to renew my insurance as the company send me a letter about a month before my renewal is due telling me to "Do Nothing" and my insurance cover will automatically renew as it falls due. Now as a 48 year old with 5 years no claims I pay £246.75 fully comprehensive including Motor Legal Protection and No Claim Discount Protection.

Every year I co on-line and get comparison quotes and its always about the right amount. This year I tried "" and they couldn't even match the price, their best quote was £1 more expensive. So much for "guaranteed to save you money"

However, I did learn a couple of things this year. Despite 14 years with Direct Line I only have 5 years (Maximum) No Claims Discount. Other firms allow this to build up to 7, 8 or even 9 years but if I wanted to transfer to them they would only start me on 5 years since they take as their start point whatever your current company allows you. This imposes a financial penalty if you want to transfer from Direct Line to another insurer. You could say that was just good business or you could call it a bit sneaky!

The second thing I noticed, which was the real jolt, was that Direct Line offer a monthly payment option of £22.61, giving a total payable of £271.61, which equates to 23.6% APR. Now as were are currently experiencing the lowest rate of interest in living memory I find it very hard to stomach a 23% APR. This is going beyond good business practice and in my opinion is getting into the realm of seriously ripping off the customer! An offer I definitely have no trouble in refusing!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

50 reasons to leave the EU

With Thanks to Trixy (More to life than shoes)

1) 75% of our laws are now made by the EU. Roman Herzog the former German President recently said that 84% of the laws in Germany are now passed in Brussels.

2) Democratic Deficit: The Commission are unelected and unaccountable. Turnout for the EP elections is less than 50% across the whole EU, despite voting being compulsory in some countries.

3) Common Agricultural Policy: Funding farmers for not producing (formerly wine lakes, butter mountains and now non-existent olive groves, dairy herds and vine yards), the farce of subsidy payments whereby DEFRA was fined £300 million for late payment of subsidies, paid from British taxes that had been sent to the EU and partially returned.

4) Galileo satellite system: Multi billion pound 'grand project' that is driven by delays, costs and technical problems. Will be superseded by competition. The need to pay for this project is the main reason for the hated road pricing scheme.

5) Retirement home and pension funds for politicians rejected by the electorate: Neil Kinnock, anyone?

6) Airbus: Business driven by politics, and a black hole for tax revenue.

Failing business model driven by EU politics not markets and business requirements, resulting in the collapse of the A400M which is supposed to provide heavy military lift.

7) ID Cards: The drive for ID cards the database state is coming from the EU. You can't buy cigarettes in Germany unless you use your computer chip ID

8) CFP: Destruction of European fishing grounds and wrecking the livelihoods of British fishermen.

9) Strasbourg: £250 million a year, for what?

10) Corruption: Edith Cresson employing her dentist as an advisor on developing world aid, Santer Commission resigning in disgrace, covered up accounts scandal within the Committee of the Regions, Eurostat being described by the House of Commons as 'a grand enterprise of looting'…need we go on?

11) OLAF: A anti-fraud body that arrests investigative journalists rather than criminals

12) Groundwater Directive: Desert Orchid could not be buried at Kempton Park

13) Weights and Measures: Unnecessary criminalisation of selling in pounds and ounces

14) Crowns on Pints: Replacement of 300 years of tradition for a wannabe super state symbolism.

15) Accounts: Have not been signed off for 12 years. The one time a professional accountant raised the problems with the accounts she was fired.

16) Cucumber Directive: what's wrong with them being bent?:

17) Ladders: The EU has ordered us on how we should and shouldn't use ladders. Why is our money being spent on legislation which we do not need. Do they think we're idiots?

18) Football: The EU wishes to decide who can play for British clubs, how much they can be paid:

19) Balkans: EU forces watched while 6000 were murdered at Srebrenica

20) Euro: One interest rate for 13 countries with massively different economies does not work. High inflation in some countries, stagnation in others. One size does fit all.

21) Immigration: not having the power to decide who can and who cannot come to live and work in a country is a basic requirement of a nation. The enlargement of the EU to include Eastern European countries has seen the highest level of immigration into Britain ever. The UK is not allowed to deny entry to people from the EU with criminal records, nor are they allowed to deport criminals from the EU once they have finished their sentence.

22) Regionalisation: The aim to rearrange police forces, ambulance crews and fire crews to a regional structure is driven by the regionalisation project of the EU, which has also brought in an extra layer of government in the form of regional assemblies which are unwanted, unelected and unaccountable to the people they are supposed to represent.

23) Habeas Corpus: The replacement of our Common Law and its protection of freedoms by the Napoleonic code which sees people as guilty until proven innocent. It would mean the removal of trial by jury and imprisonment without trial. The classic case of this is the Greek plane spotters.

24) PC lexicon: The European Commission has issued a document to go to all member states informing them of the language they are able to use and words which are forbidden, in the event of a terrorist attack. They have refused to release this guide, but admit it exists.

25) Mandelson: Twice thrown out of the British government, and yet his new position makes him more powerful than Gordon Brown.

26) Europol: The fact that police can have immunity under the law breaches the basic idea of legal equality. They do not swear allegiance to the British Head of State and can therefore ignore the requests of our government.

27) EuroGenFor: A European paramilitary force designed specifically for the putting down of civil dissent

28) Working Time Directive: The EU, not the individual, decides how long they can work for. This has caused financial problems for some people who cannot do enough hours to earn a decent wage. High profile cases of Ambulance crews not being able to answer emergency calls because they have to take a break, meaning lives are lost. Yet, parliamentary assistants aren't covered by this.

29) Red Duster: Attempt by the EU to replace the red ensign with the EU flag, meaning that vessels are covered by EU law rather than British law.

30) Aid Policy: The UK pays about 15% of the EU aid budget, which, as Clare Short pointed out, is often used for political ends rather than to help those who genuinely need it.

31) Flight Taxes: The EU talks about the importance of free movement of people but is attempting to scupper its own plans by imposing extra taxation on flights. Against the wishes of their own President.

32) Education: The EU is trying to create a common history syllabus, airbrushing out most of our history. The World Wars become European civil wars and the EU will be the bringer of peace.

33) EU Constitution: Despite the French and Dutch rejecting the EU Constitution, the EU leaders are determined that it is ratified. This weekend's 50th anniversary Berlin Declaration is all part of this process.

34) Anti Americanism: The EU's main foreign policy objective is driven by contempt for Europe's greatest ally. The deliberate repudiation of the Marshall plan, and 50 years of defensive shield, like a teenager who resents their free rent

35) Climate Change: An unproven theory which has been taken up with some vigour by the EU who see an opportunity to increase their power. They are using the concern people have about global warming to increase their influence and how people view the institution and are opposing a fair and open debate on whether climate change is as devastating as certain organisations make out. In short, they have made denying it the new witchcraft.

36) EU 'open skies' deal: Despite the British Transport Secretary voting against the decision, the EU has decided that foreign airlines can bid for British take off and landing slots from Heathrow to JFK. This shows that we have so little power that we cannot even decide about our own airport slots.

37) Beef Ban: Despite being found guilty of every rule under the sun, France continued to ban the imports of British beef for ten years. The EU did nothing to make them abide by the law. It took the promise of a separate Parliament to make them lift the ban. (see ' Strasbourg')

38) Rapid Reaction Force: The creation of European Military capacity as a direct challenge to the NATO alliance. Understaffed, undermanned, under equipped and unnecessary.

39) Ruddy Ducks: The EU eradication plan for much loved bird in England to protect a Spanish duck.

40) Employment Law: Where to start? The new age discrimination laws are yet another reason against a small business employing someone, as these laws make them a liability. Gender discrimination laws and positive discrimination openly discriminates against women, and questions whether women in jobs are there on merit, or because of a quota.

41) Iran: The EU's Trialogue has allowed the Iranian authorities to continue with their nuclear weapon programme, providing a massive threat to the stability and security of the Middle East and beyond.

42) Hamas: A terrorist organisation now part funded by the British taxpayer via EU aid.

43) Propaganda: The endless drive to ensure that everyone learns to stop worrying and love the European Union. Essentially using our money to tell us what to think. The latest idea includes a film prize in which entrants must be subtitled in all official European Languages: Text only film.

44) Diplomatic Corps: The slow replacement of National diplomatic representation around the world and the creation of the EU Diplomatic corps, (External Action Service) despite their being no legal basis for such a thing.

45) Energy Policy/Russia: The EU is relying more and more on Russia for its energy sources despite Russia recent use of energy in its brinkmanship with the Ukraine and Georgia putting the EU's energy supply in great danger.

46) Lobbying: 50,000 lobbyists from big business, the NGOP sector live and work in Brussels, doing deals behind the scenes and affecting the rule making without any recourse to public debate

47) Transparency: The Council of Ministers still meet in private. 3,600 working groups meet in the European Commission, nobody is allowed to know who sits on these Committees.

48) Regulation: Estimates on the cost to British business of regulation are approximately £40 billion since 1998:

49) Misuse of Metaphors: Trains, tracks, on, off, back, forth, up, down.

50) EPP: The Conservative Party's friends in Europe are lead by a French farmer who is under investigation in a massive corruption scandal.

51) France: Plus ca change, plus le meme chose

Still Fighting for Information

I ended 2008 locked in battle with the Hartlepool Council Secrecy Unit, otherwise known as the Mushroom Growers Group (MGG), since its policy is to keep everyone in the dark and spray them with manure at regular intervals. The MGG are still denying me any sight of the external advisers report on senior management structures within Hartlepool Council. I have therefor made an official request under the Freedom of Information Act to be shown this document. The request was made by e-mail between Christmas and New Year but wasn't acknowledged until 6th January, doubtless when the MGG ended their extended Christmas break. My request has been passed to Hayley Martin, Solicitor, to deal with. Hayley has been newly appointed to the position formerly held by Alyson Carman (who in turn is now the Legal Services Manager/Solicitor). The duties assigned to Hayley’s post apparently include matters relating to FOI and DPA (not sure what this is but it sounds important, it has its own TLA after all). Hayley will apparently initiate contact in due course in relation to my request. The Freedom of Information Act allows 21 days to respond and no doubt the MGG will use ever single day. Well its now Sunday 18th and so far absolute silence!

PS TLA = Three letter acronym for those who were

PPS lol = text speak short hand for "laugh out loud"

Belated Happy New Year

A very (belated) happy new year to all my readers. It has been quite a while since I've put finger to keyboard to make a post on my blog. Thank you to those who have e-mailed me direct to ask if I'm OK, I can assure you all is well on planet Stephen Allison. I have heard a rumour that I was very ill, hence lack of bloging and my recent weight loss (now just over 15stone) was due to illness not diet. I am happy to also squash that rumour. I have not felt better for ages and in fact this weekend came across my old Loughbrough Students training uniform. The "purple" was a bit faded and as it has been in the back of the wardrobe since 1986 I suppose that's not surprising. However, the good news was that it still fits me. Still a bit snug across the belly but definitely not too spray on to wear even after 23 years.

Anyway I hope that normal bloging service will now be resumed and I can continue through 2009 to bore you all with my meanderings. 2009 will be a busy year. The European Elections are coming up and so is the Hartlepool Mayoral contest, both fights I hope to take part in. The year unfortunately started on a bit of a downer with Rosie not being offered a place at Cambridge but the silver lining to that cloud is that she can go to her first choice, King's College London. She and I are booked in for an open day in early February so that should be a nice bit of father/daughter bonding. My son also got some bad news. After over two years of interviews, courses, tests and assessments, (including 3 days at Portsmouth where he passed the Admiralty Interview Board for Officer Selection) he had now been told his hearing is not up to standard in one ear. Edward was born with high pitched hearing loss in one ear, this had been included in the Medical Section of every Royal Navy form he has ever filled in, however it has taken until now for the Navy to tell him the hearing loss is too severe for him to be accepted. He's obviously upset but the fact he's got this far when he has always declared this condition is really what is getting his goat. They say bad things happen in threes so that's two down and one to go.