Saturday, 28 February 2009

© Philip Pullman 2009

Thanks to Blogers4UKIP for this. Philip Pullman, children's author, wrote the following for the Times; an article which was 'pulled' from their website shortly after publication. However thanks to Google (you know - the site that 25 MPs wish to 'censure' due to its 'monopoly' and commented upon in the previous post) it has been found. Whilst a long read, it is quoted in full:

Are such things done on Albion’s shore?

The image of this nation that haunts me most powerfully is that of the sleeping giant Albion in William Blake’s prophetic books. Sleep, profound and inveterate slumber: that is the condition of Britain today.

We do not know what is happening to us. In the world outside, great events take place, great figures move and act, great matters unfold, and this nation of Albion murmurs and stirs while malevolent voices whisper in the darkness - the voices of the new laws that are silently strangling the old freedoms the nation still dreams it enjoys.

We are so fast asleep that we don’t know who we are any more. Are we English? Scottish? Welsh? British? More than one of them? One but not another? Are we a Christian nation - after all we have an Established Church - or are we something post-Christian? Are we a secular state? Are we a multifaith state? Are we anything we can all agree on and feel proud of?

The new laws whisper:

You don’t know who you are

You’re mistaken about yourself

We know better than you do what you consist of, what labels apply to you, which facts about you are important and which are worthless

We do not believe you can be trusted to know these things, so we shall know them for you

And if we take against you, we shall remove from your possession the only proof we shall allow to be recognised
The sleeping nation dreams it has the freedom to speak its mind. It fantasises about making tyrants cringe with the bluff bold vigour of its ancient right to express its opinions in the street. This is what the new laws say about that:

Expressing an opinion is a dangerous activity

Whatever your opinions are, we don’t want to hear them

So if you threaten us or our friends with your opinions we shall treat you like the rabble you are

And we do not want to hear you arguing about it

So hold your tongue and forget about protesting

What we want from you is acquiescence

The nation dreams it is a democratic state where the laws were made by freely elected representatives who were answerable to the people. It used to be such a nation once, it dreams, so it must be that nation still. It is a sweet dream.

You are not to be trusted with laws

So we shall put ourselves out of your reach

We shall put ourselves beyond your amendment or abolition

You do not need to argue about any changes we make, or to debate them, or to send your representatives to vote against them

You do not need to hold us to account

You think you will get what you want from an inquiry?

Who do you think you are?

What sort of fools do you think we are?

The nation’s dreams are troubled, sometimes; dim rumours reach our sleeping ears, rumours that all is not well in the administration of justice; but an ancient spell murmurs through our somnolence, and we remember that the courts are bound to seek the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and we turn over and sleep soundly again.

And the new laws whisper:

We do not want to hear you talking about truth

Truth is a friend of yours, not a friend of ours

We have a better friend called hearsay, who is a witness we can always rely on

We do not want to hear you talking about innocence

Innocent means guilty of things not yet done

We do not want to hear you talking about the right to silence

You need to be told what silence means: it means guilt

We do not want to hear you talking about justice

Justice is whatever we want to do to you

And nothing else

Are we conscious of being watched, as we sleep? Are we aware of an ever-open eye at the corner of every street, of a watching presence in the very keyboards we type our messages on? The new laws don’t mind if we are. They don’t think we care about it.

We want to watch you day and night

We think you are abject enough to feel safe when we watch you

We can see you have lost all sense of what is proper to a free people

We can see you have abandoned modesty

Some of our friends have seen to that

They have arranged for you to find modesty contemptible

In a thousand ways they have led you to think that whoever does not want to be watched must have something shameful to hide

We want you to feel that solitude is frightening and unnatural

We want you to feel that being watched is the natural state of things

One of the pleasant fantasies that consoles us in our sleep is that we are a sovereign nation, and safe within our borders. This is what the new laws say about that:

We know who our friends are

And when our friends want to have words with one of you

We shall make it easy for them to take you away to a country where you will learn that you have more fingernails than you need

It will be no use bleating that you know of no offence you have committed under British law

It is for us to know what your offence is

Angering our friends is an offence

It is inconceivable to me that a waking nation in the full consciousness of its freedom would have allowed its government to pass such laws as the Protection from Harassment Act (1997), the Crime and Disorder Act (1998), the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000), the Terrorism Act (2000), the Criminal Justice and Police Act (2001), the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (2001), the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Extension Act (2002), the Criminal Justice Act (2003), the Extradition Act (2003), the Anti-Social Behaviour Act (2003), the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004), the Civil Contingencies Act (2004), the Prevention of Terrorism Act (2005), the Inquiries Act (2005), the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005), not to mention a host of pending legislation such as the Identity Cards Bill, the Coroners and Justice Bill, and the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.


And those laws say:

Sleep, you stinking cowards

Sweating as you dream of rights and freedoms

Freedom is too hard for you

We shall decide what freedom is

Sleep, you vermin

Sleep, you scum

© Philip Pullman 2009

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

01429 221151

After learning about the impending demise of 101 I checked the Cleveland Police Website. Their instructions in an emergency are to dial 999 and ask for police. No mention of 112? The Cleveland Force ask that the 999 service should be used only to report an urgent incident which is happening now or one which has just occurred needing an emergency response.

If you wish to report a crime or other non-urgent incidents in Hartlepool then the number is the catchy and easily remembered 01429 221151. No mention of 101 either!

Alternatively the Public Service Desk on 01642 301207 provides general advice to members of the public on a range of police related matters that do not require an urgent police response, or ordinarily, would not require a personal visit from a police officer or community support officer.

And just to show the Cleveland Force is in the forefront of new technology an SMS Text Messaging Service will start on 22 April 2008. This service however is ONLY available to Deaf People, Hard of Hearing and Speech Impaired People.

Please note that on February 26th 2009 the Official Cleveland Police Website showed the SMS Service WILL START on April 28th 2008. So despite the "last modified" date on the bottom of the page being given as "12 August 2008" the website is at least 10 months out of date if the SMS Service thinks April 2008 is sometime in the future.

Never mind 112, what about 101?

Hot on the heels of European 112 day comes a briefing from "publicnet" that claims the British Public are totally confused over what situations warrant 999 calls. One in four adults thinking 999 could be used to report graffiti, vandalism and other deliberate damage to property and one in five saying they would call about a stolen bike.

Almost no-one questioned had any idea how to contact the police in a non-emergency situation. More than half of adults either didn’t know their local police force helpline number or were unaware that such helplines existed. Almost 85 per cent of people also had no knowledge of the national, non-emergency 101 number that was introduced in 2006 and I must admit to being in that half myself and as a result the Home Office has decided to discontinue funding the national 101 number.

Now I thought Room 101 was where everyone faced their ultimate fears? Apparently not as a quick google of 101 emergency number did produce the above image, multilingual of course as it was produced in Cardiff.

I just wonder how many languages these "101" stickers were produced in and exactly much the failed 101 experiment actually cost? Still money no object when it comes to public safety and bank bail outs.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Your Knicked Mr Jazdy

A lovely snippet from the Daily Mail regarding the most reckless driver in Ireland. A Polish migrant worker, Mr Prawo Jazdy, racked up over 50 separate driving offenses in a few months in Ireland but gave a different address every time and thereby escaped justice. However, the career of this particularly dangerous driver has now come to a halt. Irish Police Officers taking down the details from Mr Jadzy's documents had been copying the name from the top right hand corner of the Polish Driving License. Unfortunately that is exactly what Prawo Jazdy means, "Driving License"

The Irish Police now have 50 driving offenses under the name of Mr Driving License all shown as outstanding on their national police computer. Unfortunately for the Irish there are about 200,000 Poles now in Ireland, none of which are called Mr License, First Name, Driving!

Thursday, 19 February 2009


Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Heaven , God went missing for six days. Eventually, Archangel Michael found him on the seventh day resting. He enquired of God, 'Where have you been?'

God pointed downwards through the clouds. Archangel Michael looked puzzled and said, 'What is it?' 'It's a planet,' replied God, 'and I've put LIFE on it. I'm going to call it Earth and it's going to be a great place of balance.'
'Balance?' inquired Michael, still confused.

God explained, pointing down to different parts of the Earth.

'For example, North America will be a place of great opportunity and wealth, while South America is going to be poor; the Middle East over there will be a hot spot, and Russia will be a cold spot. Over there I've placed a continent of white people and over there is a continent of black people.'

God continued, pointing to the different countries.

This one will be extremely hot and arid while this one will be very cold and covered in ice.'

The Archangel , impressed by God's work, then pointed to another area of land and asked, 'What's that?'

'Ah,' said God. That's the North of England, the most glorious place on earth. There are beautiful people, seven Premiership football teams in the North West alone, and many impressive cities; it is the home of the world's finest artists, musicians, writers, thinkers, explorers and politicians. The people from the North of England are going to be modest, intelligent and humorous and they're going to be found travelling the world. They'll be extremely sociable, hard-working and high-achieving, and they will be known throughout the world as speakers of truth.'

Michael gasped in wonder and admiration but then proclaimed, 'What about balance God, you said there will be BALANCE!'

God replied very wisely, 'Wait till you see the bunch of tossers I'm putting down South !

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Celebrate 118, Sorry I mean 112!

If you've been living in a cave since 1991, when the 112 emergency telephone number was introduced, then you might have missed the festivities to celebrate that back in January 2008 a mere 22 per cent of EU citizens knew they could dial 112 anywhere in Europe, BUT now thanks to tireless campaigning that this figure has jumped to 24 per cent. So, did you miss it? I'm afraid I did. What with everything else going on in the world I was just too busy to celebrate the first European 112 Day.

Never mind, there's always European 112 Day 2010 to look forward to showing that Europe delivers significant results for its citizens.

In case you are interested the European Union Council Decision on 112 was adopted in 1991 when Members States were requested to introduce the single European emergency number 112. Following this in March 2002 the Universal Service Directive was adopted. The EU Commission sees 112 as one of the key instruments for the free movement for citizens within the EU. This was why 112 was created in 1991 and has been progressively introduced in all EU countries, with the current exception of Bulgaria (for some unexplained reason).

They can try to take our pounds, try to take our ounces, try to take our yards, try take our miles but they will never take our 999!

Monday, 16 February 2009

Information DENIED

After the Full Council Meeting last Thursday, when I pointed out I had been waiting over the allowed 21 days for my information request to be answered, I have now received a determination of my request. What a surprise INFORMATION REQUEST DENIED!

The reasons for continuing to keep me under mushroom conditions (kept in the dark and sprayed with S**t) are given below. Please note its not even addressed to me personally but "Dear Sirs" so is probably the standard response sent by Hartlepool Council to anyone who dares to ask for information of any kind.


Dear Sirs

Further to your request for information I am now in a position to provide a response.

The Local Authority holds the information you have requested, however the information is being withheld as the following exemptions apply: -

Section 44 – Disclosures prohibited by another piece of legislation

Section 44 (1) (a) provides for the exemption of information where its disclosure is prohibited by other legislation. As the information requested is exempt information under Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, it can not be disclosed.

Section 41 – Confidential Information

The information you have requested contains confidential information that has been obtained from an outside organisation. It is considered that disclosing the confidential report provided by the external agency would constitute an actionable breach of confidence.

Section 40 – Personal Information

Part of the information requested contains third party personal information and is exempt from disclosure under section 40 of the Act. Disclosure of this information would breach the first principle of the Data Protection Act 1998. The first principle requires that data must be processed fairly and lawfully. Processing of personal data includes disclosure to another party. It is considered that disclosure of the information requested would be contrary to the third parties expectations of how the information would be further processed.

Public Interest in Disclosure

The Authority has considered the decision in Commons v IC & Leapman, Brooke and Thomas (EA/2007/0060 etc.; 26 February 2008.) by applying the following test: -

• Is there a legitimate public interest in disclosure?
• Is the disclosure necessary for that legitimate public interest?
• Is the disclosure nevertheless unwarranted because of an excessive or disproportionate adverse effect on the legitimate interests of the individual(s) concerned?

Given all the circumstances in this case, the Authority considers that it would not be in the public interest to disclose the information requested.

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original request and should be sent to Chief Executives Department, Legal Services Division, Level 3, Civic Centre, Hartlepool, TS24 8AY,

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF,

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Cowards and Liars

I normally delete anonymous comments since I think if people are not willing to put their name against their opinions then they obviously lack the courage of their own convictions, plain and simple cowards and not worth bothering with. However I will answer the anonymous person who made the following comment about my post on last Thursday's Council Meeting

He (or She) said. "What about the fact that you asked a question at Council that quoted figures that were patently untrue? You said absenteeism was running at 12%, when in fact it is 4%. How do you think that affects the workforce?"

If they had actually bothered to read the question, (or even listen to it as they were probably there), they would have seen that the figure of 12% was actually asked as a question. I did not quote it as the absenteeism rate, I asked if it was 12%. The EXACT words I used were "........absent from this, or any documents that I have access to, is any comment on the absenteeism rate at Hartlepool Council. I have some information that could show it is about 12%?"

Can you see it was a question? Probably not. As to how it effects the workforce then I would have thought having the correct figure made public can only help them since whether the anonymous commenter likes it or not more people in Hartlepool were likely to think the figure was actually 12% than 4%. However, if there is one thing I have learned about many people in Hartlepool Council Chamber it is that they don't allow little things like facts get in the way of their opinions. After all since when have Labour politicians let the truth spoil things?

Quiz Night on Thursday 26th February 2009

Hartlepool Branch of UKIP are holding a Quiz Night on Thursday 26th February 2009

Venue, Hartlepool Cricket Club starting at 8.45 pm .

Tickets £1.50 ea., includes a free raffle and a light snack.

All Welcome.

Tickets can be bought in advance or pay at the door but it would be helpful to know in advance anyone who intends coming to the quiz.

Contact Eric Wilson (Hartlepool Branch Chairman) on

Lacking Dutch Courage

Interesting article below by Dani Garavelli from Scotland on Sunday, entitled "Lacking Dutch Courage". I will be charitable and assume from the use of past tense that Dani no longer regards members of UKIP as wild eyed oddballs. The really telling paragraph however comes right at the end. With the sentiments in this last paragraph I agree 100%

Anyway, enjoy......
IT'S weird and somewhat unsettling to find yourself allied with members of UKIP you previously regarded as wild-eyed oddballs, and with Tory peers whose very existence you disapprove of. And it is bewildering to feel the need to rally to the defence of as distasteful a figure as Geert Wilders. But convictions are convictions, no matter how odious the personalities of those who set out to test the limits of them. And freedom of speech is one of those convictions that go to the very heart of what it used to mean to be British. This is something the Government seems to have overlooked in its eagerness to get the rabble-rousing Dutch MP off its soil before his anti-Islamic opinions stirred up religious division in a country already riven by them.

Far from highlighting its liberal credentials, the way it capitulated in the face of a prospective Muslim backlash showed how far the country has travelled since the publication of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses in 1988 prompted Iran to issue a fatwa against him. Back then, the Government of the day was prepared to break diplomatic relations with a foreign power to protect the rights of individuals to insult religions. This Government doesn't even have the gumption to take on a handful of extremists within its own borders.

It isn't as if the pendulum has swung that far since the Rushdie affair – that where once we sought to protect the rights of people to offend, we now protect the rights of people not to be offended. If that were the case, buses wouldn't be allowed to carry slogans saying: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life"; and everything from the plaster cast of Christ with an erection exhibited last year in Newcastle's Baltic Vaults, to Jerry Springer: the Opera would be banned.

Thank goodness they're not. After all, religious arrogance ought to be challenged and the world would be a lot less vibrant place if it weren't for the clash of ideologies, even when the differences are expressed in intemperate language.

I have no problem with comedians, humanists or politicians having a go at clergymen who oppose gay rights, abortion or the ordination of women.

But it is strange to live in a country where Christian sensitivities are ridiculed, while Islamic ones are pandered to; a country where the right of Orangemen to walk through Catholic heartlands (and Catholics to march through Protestant ones) is defended to the death, but an elected member of a friendly country who has been invited to the UK by members of the House of Lords can be thrown out for voicing his controversial opinions.

But then the very showy ejection of Wilders was not motivated by a desire to protect religious freedoms, it was motivated by the fear of those who do not accept that with democracy comes the right to comment, criticise and lampoon.

It mattered not that turning the Dutch MP back guaranteed his 17-minute film Fitna would be seen by three million people – via YouTube – rather than a handful of peers, because the point was not to stop the dissemination of his opinions, so much as to underline Labour's disapproval of them.

Admittedly, Wilders made it easy for them by being so loudly provocative. Demanding freedom of speech for yourself, while calling for the Koran to be banned, is both unpleasant and intellectually unsustainable. And anyone who has ever said, "I believe we have become too tolerant of the intolerant" virtually invites the response "OK, then, get lost."

I don't like the way Wilders chose to make his film; interspersing images of terrorist atrocities with lines from the holy book of Islam was gratuitously emotive. I believe he should do more to distinguish between the minority of fundamentalists who support the jihad, and the more moderate believers who make up the majority of Muslims across the globe.

And of course I think his call to halt Muslim immigration and ban the building of mosques and Islamic schools is repellent. But I do think other people need to distinguish between the expression of hostility towards a particular religion and inciting hatred of individual followers.

Yes, Wilders is clearly less than enamoured with Islam: just as Donald Findlay is less than enamoured with Catholicism; and Richard Dawkins is less than enamoured with all religion. And, just like them, he uses rhetoric which is often scathing and contemptuous. But is his central premise – that verses from the Koran have been used to justify acts of terrorism – really so outlandish? Or does portraying him as a bigoted madman just obviate our responsibility to take this difficult issue on board? And doesn't the fact that Gordon Brown appears to be so scared of engaging in any kind of debate on Islamic fundamentalism almost prove his point: that our civil liberties are being jeopardised by those who think the answer to having their beliefs challenged is to threaten civil disorder?

Personally, I think that's a legitimate topic for debate amongst Islamic as well as indigenous communities. But even if I didn't, I would think Wilders should be allowed to speak.

One thing that particularly perturbs me about this whole affair is Liberty's deafening silence. Why has Shami Chakrabarti, so strong and articulate when it comes to the torture of inmates at Guantanamo Bay, not spoken out on an issue which is central to her cause? It strikes me it may be because increasingly freedom of speech in this country means the right of those who belong to the liberal consensus to castigate, satirise and offend those who oppose it. And that's no freedom of speech at all.

Dissapointed but not suprised

At full Council on Thursday night I received my usual verbal kicking from the Labour Party. However this time it was even more grossly unpleasant and personal than normal. I've become used to the fact that most times the Labour Group have no answer to my questions other than to attack me for daring to ask them. The tactic of shooting the messenger rather than dealing with the message being the first one the Labour Group reach for. Anything that even hints that anything is less than perfect in "their town" is immediately denounced as talking the town town and anyway we all know its the fault of the Tories under Thatcher don't we.

This particular meeting however had Councilor Brash quivering with moral outrage as he tore into me for daring to ask, on behalf of a constituent, about absenteeism levels at Hartlepool Council. His lip trembled as he paid fulsome tribute to the hard working families of Hartlepool, sorry wrong Labour Sound bite there, I mean of course the hardworking employees of Hartlepool Council, who struggled through the snow to carry on their endless and thankless task of providing four star services to the socially deprived masses of the poor and downtrodden who live under the terrible conditions imposed on the town by monsters such as Margret Thatcher!

Councillor Brash once again attacked me for not paying Council tax in the town. The fact that he's wrong there doesn't matter to him of course and how that is related to absenteeism levels in Hartlepool Council isn't quite clear to me. I think he was trying to make the point that like him and a large number of his supporters I shouldn't care how high Council Taxes go because I don't pay them? He then had a go at my attendance at Council Meetings and pointed out three years ago I had the second worst attendance of any Councillor (the worst was by a labour Councillor but we won't go there). The point he missed there of course was I don't measure my performance as a Councillor by how often I sit in endless meetings but by how much I contribute to meetings that effect my constituents and the town as a whole. I've been a Councillor for several years for example and there are many Labour Councillors with excellent attendance records who I've never heard speak. Their only function is to vote how they are told to. Their contribution to the debates and discussion ZERO.

Councilor Hargreaves then weighed in with a speech about Occupational health and with a voice dripping with concern suggested I might like to see the Occupational health nurse because asking this question clearly showed I was ill and in need of help. Thank you Councillor but I'm keeping my paranoia under control. Are you?

I was born in (the now demolished) Cameron Hospital, attended Fens Junior School (the same school as our current MP) and Hartlepool Grammar School for boys. Was a member of 54th Hartlepool Cub Scouts, played in the Hartlepool Table Tennis League and sailed my racing dingy in Hartlepool bay most Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays during the racing season for years. I even participated in the "Icicle Series" which was sailed in the dock, in the pre-marina days, every Sunday Morning from October to March. Both of my Children were born in Hartlepool Hospital. Apart from three years in Kent in the mid 1980's I have worked in Hartlepool all my life, setting up my first business in my bedroom at my parents house in 1986, a business that I still operate and which has kept my gainfully employed now for 23 years. Going backwards my family has been in Hartlepool for generations, Boagey and Bond being two well known names in my family tree. My grandfather on the Allison side being one of the residents of the Croft! To attack me for not caring about Hartlepool is not only inaccurate its wrong! However, since when has the Labour Group cared about truth or honesty? Spin, spin and more spin, that's the Labour way!

The answer to my question about absenteeism by the way eventually came out as 9.1 days per employee per year. That of course was an average so some long term sick will balance people who are never off. I'm not quite sure which part of my question attacked the hardworking employees of Hartlepool Council but of course if Councillor Brash is so quick to leap to their defense and protect them from questions that HE thinks are attacking them, then maybe the general public might think there is no smoke without fire? Rightly or wrongly there are members of the public out there who consider Hartlepool Council to be over manned and a soft touch as an employer. We cannot challenge that view if every time someone asks a question the immediate reaction is to try and ridicule the questioner rather than deal with the question itself!

I have always tried to keep personalities out of public politics. There are some members of Hartlepool Council that I think off as loathsome and who make my flesh creep at the thought of them. However, I hope I would never use personalities in debate. If ever I have done I apologise now. Council debate should be grown up discussions about the issues not childish name calling or petty point scoring about who is a fat bastard with body odor problems.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) the number of foreign workers in the UK increased by 175,000 to 2.4 million last year while the number of British workers fell by 234,000 to 27 million.

This information has apparently been released by the ONS without pre-warning the government. Advance knowledge of these statistics and the ability therefore to spin and leak the information in a way that maximises the benefit to the government has been a huge benefit to Brown's government (and Blair before him of course).

Controlling the numbers, how, when and what is made public became so much part of the spinning apparatus built up in Alistair Campbell that everyone was starting to question the accuracy and reliability of all government statistical announcements. The setting up of the ONS was supposed to add confidence in the figures, but I'm sure no Labour Minister thought the ONS would ever dare to act without government's advance approval. However, if the ONS is really going to release figures without spin or without the government "filter" then maybe such information may once again become believable.

For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

I am indebted to someone (who shall be nameless!) who sent me this explanation by David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D (Professor of Economics) as to how the tax system really works. For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to £100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay £1.
The sixth would pay £3.
The seventh would pay £7.
The eighth would pay £12.
The ninth would pay £18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay £59.

So, that's what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. 'Since you are all such good customers,' he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by £20.' Drinks for the ten now cost just £80.

The group realized that £20 divided by six is £3.33. But if they subtracted that from everyone's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid £2 instead of £3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay £5 instead of £7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid £9 instead of £12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid £14 instead of £18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid £49 instead of £59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

'I only got a pound out of the £20,' declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, 'but he got £10!'

'Yes, that's right,' exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a pound, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I did'

'That's true!!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get £10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks'

'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor'

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

Will the last Englishman to leave the country, please turn out the lights, because there will be no one left, willing pay to the bill

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Who is reading my blog?

Received a comment on my post on the "Medium Term Financial Strategy" from "Jonathan" which got me very excited! I can't say for certain that this is the same Jonathan who is leader of Hartlepool Council Labour Group but what an honour if it is! Imagine someone as important as that taking time to read my blog!

You can read his comment under the post in question. His main "constructive" criticism is that the document is the culmination of 9 months work and that scrutiny considered it back in October and again last month. With backbench Councilors making a series of recommendations that would alter the document considerably.

After receiving his comments I returned to the 9/16th inch thick document to look for these recommendations that will alter the document considerably. I found them on Page 33. They consisted of 29 lines of text (including the blank line after the header, 3 blank lines separating the three points and a final blank line before the next header). The resulting 24 lines of text not only gave the input of Scrutiny Co-ordinating Committee (detailed report considered by Cabinet on 23rd January) but also the Trade Union and Business Sector Representatives and feedback from the various political groups.

The considerable changes the Cabinet have been "asked to consider" from back bench scrutiny are concerns about the proposed additional 1% efficiencies, particularly for Adult and Community Services!

The Political Groups, Trade Unions and Business Leaders wanted representation made to the government about the floor dampening adjustment, assurances that compulsory redundancies would not be made before redeployment of staff to post currently filled by agency staff and that the council undertake a review of pricing policies in 2010/2011.

I'm not sure which of these represent considerable changes to the document? Although in the spirit of constructive criticism I would point out that if the document was the result of 9 months work it must have been started in May last year and was first considered by Scrutiny in October! That's not exactly hands on by Back Bench Councilors during the formative stages!

Silly me thought scrutiny was set up to keep back bench Councillors out of the way by giving them the appearance of being involved in real decision making when in fact they are not. Scrutiny is of course great if you want your photo in the Hartlepool Mail looking sadly at pot holes in the road! but doesn't actually do anything about anything

Pass me the John Lewis List old boy! More subsidised drinks anyone? Don't worry the taxpayers will pick up the bill!

Wasn't it fantastic that an MP has been taken to court, and lost, for breaching her "duty of care" to a constituent. MPs actually have no statutory obligation to their voters, something that is very evident by the contempt most MPs appear to have for their constituents, with the safer the seat the less interest the MP has in keeping the voters happy. However the Commons code of conduct says they have a "general duty to act in the interests of the nation as a whole and a special duty to their constituents".

The MP in question made the headlines last year after she and her husband (also an MP) used £175,000 of public money to buy a flat near Parliament when they already had a home just nine miles away. The revelation earned them the sobriquet "Mr And Mrs Expenses". Of course judging by the headlines today she isn't doing anything the Home Secretary isn't doing so should we be surprised?

I am not saying all MPs have their snouts in the trough but it definitely appears as though many of them are doing very nicely! Pass me the John Lewis List old boy! More subsidised drinks anyone? Don't worry the taxpayers will pick up the bill! Hartlepool's former MP, Peter Mandelson even claimed £2,981 for fitting a shower and decorating the bathroom in his constituency home in July 2003, a year before he resigned to become a European Commissioner and the current Hartlepool MP, Iain Wright, was shown on a list published by the Telegraph in July last year as one of those MPs who use Parliamentary Allowances to employ family members.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Medium Term Financial Strategy 2009/2010 to 2011/2012 Supporting Documentation Booklet

I usually try to keep my posts short and pithy, not always succeeding I know, but I couldn’t even pretend to brevity when trying to make sense of the contents of a whopping tome that I received this week, over half an inch thick of paper, entitled “Medium Term Financial Strategy 2009/2010 to 2011/2012 Supporting Documentation Booklet”

When this arrived I set about trying to understand it for the Council Meeting on Thursday 12th February and prepare meaningful comments and questions on a document that runs to 100’s of pages and which has been produced by dozens of highly paid local government officers who work full time on this sort of thing. The questions of course having to be limited to 1 minute maximum as that’s all the time I am allowed in a Council Meeting to ask such questions. It’s an impossible task. It’s like expecting a part time game keeper to keep tabs on dozens of professional poachers over an estate covering hundreds and hundreds of acres. If he’s lucky he might catch one red handed but the vast majority will get away Scot free.

Even catching a poacher won’t be enough if the Magistrates, police and the other estate workers are all supporting the poachers. In Hartlepool’s case of course the Magistrate is the Mayor, the Police are the cabinet and the other estate workers are the Lib/Lab/Con Councillors who all co-operate with each other to make sure the poor long suffering public outside the civic centre are kept in the dark as much as possible and any Councillor like me, who dares to ask questions, is hounded out or at least marginalised as far as possible to minimise the "damage" they can do.

The buzzword bingo card filled rapidly as I read the document. Strategy, framework, challenging, structural deficits and income stream all appeared on the first page. Demand lead nature, business transformation program, sustainable basis, efficiency targets, headroom in budgets, comprehensive spending review and cost pressures were scattered about page 2. The word Prudential didn’t appear for several more pages but then prudential borrowing began to crop up more and more. Is this the same Prudence that Gordon Brown applied while Chancellor to get us all in the mess we are in now?

Of course not everyone is in a mess! According to Section 6.5 on Page 15 “the Council is isolated and largely protected from the turmoil in the world economy” At last an admission that the Council and the Civic Centre exist in a different world to the rest of us. Page 15 also contained the suggestion that the Council should borrow money to buy land and property while it was cheap since the private sector (not living in an insulated and protected bubble) were having to sell assets and reduce overheads. The Cabinet approved this idea? We had thousands of houses a few years ago that we just gave away and we still give Housing Hartlepool land at knock down prices whenever they want it. The lunatics really are taking over the asylum!

Unfortunately it makes no difference how many questions I ask since the Mayor and Cabinet have agreed to it all already and the ordinary Councillor like myself is mealy an inconvenient rubber stamping exercise.

The document did also finally put in black and white the fact that the Tall Ships budget depends entirely on Park and Ride Income and also noted the impossibility of getting insurance against the risk that the income didn’t cover expenditure. Insurance companies identifying too many variables to adequately assess the risk. Don’t worry though; if it doesn’t work the Council taxpayer will pick up the bill.

A potential saviour appeared on Page 31, the Business Transformation Program has identified £8.2M in “gross cashable opportunities” I think that means savings? However reading further showed that taking these savings would incur £3.1M in redundancy and early retirement costs and of course it didn’t allow for the cost of employing the consultants or the costs of actually implementing the other suggestions. I learned for example that the cabinet have already agreed to reduce the existing 5 departments to 3. No doubt this is in the confidential papers that I'm not allowed to see as I can't demonstrate a "need to know" after all who do I think I am? Anyone might think I am trying to do my job and represent the people who elected me!

The reduction of 5 departments to 3 will doubtless allow for the creation of three “super directors” who will all need big pay rises. This in turn will trigger rises for the Chief Executive and Assistant Chief Executives to maintain their salary differentials. The last time Hartlepool Council reduced the departments, from 6 to 5, it ended up with a bigger bill because the increases given to the Chief Executive, Assistant Chief Executives, remaining Directors and Assistant Directors totaled more than the savings made by removing a director (who also trousered a £400,000 pay off). The cumulative savings by the Business transformation program it was claimed will eventually be £5.9M. Unfortunately not until 2016/2017. For an organisation “largely protected from the turmoil in the world economy” then that sort of time scale is no problem and anyway most of the current people involved will have moved to pastures new long before that and so have moved far beyond any possible accountability or responsibility for their decisions. For the general public, people being made redundant now (and without six figure pay offs), people losing their homes now, pensioners living on fixed incomes or those people reliant on investment income to survive and not being “largely protected from the turmoil in the world economy” for them 7 or 8 years in the future is a long way away. People need help now!

Friday, 6 February 2009

Freedom of Information Act

Still no response to my request for information! The mushroom continues to grow!

How the World Works (Part II - UK Version)

The squirrel works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks he's a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the squirrel is warm and well fed.

A social worker finds the shivering grasshopper, calls a press conference and demands to know why the squirrel should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others less fortunate, like the grasshopper, are cold and starving.

The BBC shows up to provide live coverage of the shivering grasshopper; with cuts to a video of the squirrel in his comfortable warm home with a table laden with food.

The British press inform the public that they should be ashamed that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so, while others have plenty.

The Labour Party, Greenpeace, Animal Rights and The Grasshopper Council of GB demonstrate in front of the squirrel's house.

The BBC, interrupting a cultural festival special from Notting Hill with breaking news, broadcasts a multi-cultural choir singing 'We shall overcome'.

In response to pressure from the media, the Government drafts the Economic Equity and Grasshopper anti Discrimination Act, retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The squirrel’s taxes are re-assesses and he is fined for failing to pay them on time (retrospectively).

The grasshopper is provided with a council house, financial aid to furnish it and an account with a local taxi firm to ensure he can be socially mobile. The squirrel's food is seized and re distributed to the more needy members of society, in this case the grasshopper.

Without enough money to buy more food, to pay the fine and his newly imposed retroactive taxes, the squirrel has to downsize and start building a new home. The local authority takes over his old home and utilises it as a temporary home for asylum seeking cats who had hijacked a plane to get to Britain as they had to share their country of origin with mice. On arrival they tried to blow up the airport because of Britain 's apparent love of dogs.

The cats had been arrested for the international offence of hijacking and attempted bombing but were immediately released because the police fed them pilchards instead of salmon whilst in custody. Initial moves to return them to their own country were abandoned, because it was feared they would face death by the mice. The cats devise and start a scam to obtain money from people's credit cards.

A Panorama special shows the grasshopper finishing up the last of the squirrel's food, though spring is still months away, while the council house he is in, crumbles around him because he hasn't bothered to maintain the house. He is shown to be taking drugs. Inadequate government funding is blamed for the grasshoppers' drug 'illness'.

The cats seek recompense in the British courts for their treatment since arrival in UK .

The grasshopper gets arrested for stabbing an old dog during a burglary to get money for his drugs habit. He is imprisoned but released immediately because he has been in custody for a few weeks. He is placed in the care of the probation service to monitor and supervise him. Within a few weeks he has killed a guinea pig in a botched robbery.

A commission of enquiry, that will eventually cost £10,000,000 and state the obvious, is set up.

Additional money is put into funding a drug rehabilitation scheme for grasshoppers and legal aid for lawyers representing asylum seekers is increased. The government praises the asylum-seeking cats for enriching Britain 's multicultural diversity, and dogs are criticised by the government for failing to befriend the cats.

The grasshopper dies of a drug overdose. The usual sections of the press blame it on the obvious failure of government to address the root causes of despair arising from social inequity and his traumatic experience of prison.

The cats are paid a million pounds each because their rights were infringed when the government failed to inform them there were mice in the United Kingdom .

The squirrel, the dogs and the victims of the hijacking, the bombing, the burglaries and robberies have to pay an additional percentage on their credit cards to cover losses. Their taxes are increased to pay for law and order, and they are told that they will have to work beyond 65 because of a shortfall in government funds.

MP's Jobs SAFE

The British population may be pleased to know that at least Members of Parliament are safe from having their jobs taken by people from other countries within the European Union. The law does not allow Citizens of other countries (including other European Union member states) to stand for election to become a Member of the United Kingdom Parliament.

So although European Union Laws do not allow Gordon Brown to deliver on his promise of British Jobs for British Workers at least we can all rest easy in our beds knowing that no matter how bad it gets none of our MPs are under threat of being replaced. Amazing isn’t it how MPs seem to manage to get themselves exempted from legislation they seem happy to inflict on the rest of us!

Monday, 2 February 2009

British Jobs for EU Workers

Gordon Brown’s boast of British jobs for British workers is now coming back to haunt him. He really should have said “EU jobs for EU workers” because so long as we stay with the European Union it is illegal to make any difference between British and European. Even the Government’s claims to be getting tough on immigration only apply to people from NON EU Countries. The British government cannot restrict access to British jobs to anyone from any of the 27 countries that make up the European Union. To do so is illegal!

European Union laws are now above British Law. The “law of the land” now comes overwhelmingly from Brussels and not Westminster. Don’t look to the Tories or the Lib-Dems to do anything different by the way as the big three parties, along with the Trade Unions in most cases, are 100% united in their unwavering support for the European Union Project.

At long last the poor old dumped on British public are beginning to have their eyes opened to the so-called “benefits” of EU membership. The question now is, will they have the courage, or the will, to do something about it and stop voting for the Lib/Lab/Con? There is an alternative. The UK Independence Party wants to withdraw from the European Union and once again have British Laws made by the British Parliament. It is only when Westminster is again in charge that “British Jobs for British Workers” can be something more than just a sound bite!

Sunday, 1 February 2009



The squirrel works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building and improving his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks he's a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the squirrel is warm and well fed.

The shivering grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.