Sunday, 26 December 2010

I'm too busy updating my Facebook status to get any work done!

I go online most days. How anyone survives without e-mail is a mystery to me! I do research look up information, events or activities. I can’t remember the last time I went to the cinema, theater or out for a meal without checking times and reviews and often booking on-line before I leave home.

However, I know how addictive aimlessly cruising the information super highway can be. Facebook, Blogging, E-bay, Discussion boards, etc all take up hours and hours without even noticing how much time is passing. So, I always try to be aware of how much time I waste. Wasted time is easy for me to measure; it’s time I’m not doing anything productive; it’s time when I’m not generating income. As a self employed person I get paid for what I produce and not just for turning up and sitting at a desk. No-one pays me for what I look like I’m doing. I get paid for achievements, not just looking busy.

I was therefore interested by reports of a “secret” audit of internet use at Waverley Council. This revealed Facebook was the most popular site visited by Council employees during working hours! Not far behind were E-bay and a gaming website. One unnamed worker averaged 90 hours a month on the internet!

Waverley Council now hope to save £100,000’s by restricting inappropriate website access from Council owned computers. I wonder what savings a similar “audit” at Hartlepool Council would produce? Staff on Facebook or close a Library? What would you chose?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

£2 Million Pounds at risk of being lost!

Hartlepool Borough Council, with funding from the Environment Agency, is carrying out a study to develop a scheme to improve the existing coastal protection provided by the Town Wall. The Town Wall provides protection from coastal erosion and coastal flooding to the highway, residential and business properties behind the wall, but is itself at risk of significant damage due to coastal erosion.

The first stage of the study was to determine the existing condition of the wall, and the ability of the wall to withstand future storms. The results of this first stage of the study were presented in a public consultation event held in the Borough Hall in July 2009.

The second stage of the study looked at a range of options to deal with the risk of flooding and coastal erosion at the Town Wall. Each option was evaluated on the basis of the storm protection provided, the environmental (including historic nature of the wall) and visual impacts and cost. As a result of this option appraisal process a preferred option was then selected.

A consultation event was held on 24th August 2010 in the Borough Hall to provide local residents and other interested parties with information regarding how the preferred option for the scheme was selected and to obtain feedback from local residents with regard to the acceptability of the preferred solution.

Over 200 invitations to the consultation event were sent to interested parties by post, and 300 invitations were distributed by hand to local residents in the area considered to be at risk from flooding in the future. These invitations were supported by press releases and public notices.

Only twenty-five members of the public attended the consultation event. Those attending were asked to complete feedback forms to enable Hartlepool Borough Council to gauge the level of support for the proposed solution, and seventeen forms were returned. Of the seventeen members of the public who returned the forms, eight were broadly in favour of the preferred solution, while nine were not in favour of the preferred solution.

A description of the proposed solution and timetable for future events is attached for your information. This solution was selected as the most advantageous scheme and has the highest chance of receiving funding from the Government. There are other possible solutions but analysis has shown that it is extremely unlikely that they would be funded. Copies of the presentation and posters provided at the August 2010 consultation event can be downloaded from www.hartlepoolcoastal.com/townwallfeedback.aspx or viewed at Bryan Hanson House.

The benefits of the scheme are that erosion / deterioration of the wall is dealt with in a manner acceptable to English Heritage and the standard of flood protection to the properties is significantly increased. This will secure the future for residential and business properties in the current flood risk zone.

The limited feedback from the consultation event shows a fairly even balance between support for and opposition to, the proposed solution. Unless further support for the scheme can be demonstrated from the local community, there is a real danger that the £2m funds currently allocated to the construction works will be redistributed nationally and the opportunity to implement improvement works lost.

In order to determine whether further support for the scheme exists within the local community, the Council are therefore asking the residents of the Headland to complete the Feedback Form by the 31st December 2010.

The Town Wall is an important part of the history of Hartlepool, particularly the Headland area and plays a key role in the every day lives of the residents of the Headland. It is therefore essential that the Council are able to gauge local opinion with regard to any decisions relating to the future of the Town Wall and that local views are expressed and taken into consideration in the decision making process. We would therefore urge you to complete the Feedback Form.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Hartlepool Council Crisis Response

I read an interesting article in the Public Service News (http://www.guardianpublic.co.uk/crisis-management-training) this week that was based on the premise that crisis-situations appear to have become the norm in today’s society as opposed to the exception.

The list is fairly impressive, from mad cows, avian flu, fuel blockades, climate change, predatory paedophiles, feral hoodies, economic collapse, terrorist plots, volcanic eruptions, etc, etc. and it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that politicians and their officials are generally ill-equipped for dealing with the non-routine challenges, threats (and even opportunities) provided by crises.

Beyond the UK there are a host of centers of excellence, like the European crisis management agency and the Australian and New Zealand School of Government, that specialises in preparing politicians and officials from all levels of government for the challenges of governing under pressure.

Participants are placed in a central control room and fed snippets of information from a variety of sources using live video streams, email, faxes and a variety of other real-time tools. As the pressure builds and the information becomes more complex the group is instructed to prepare a number of briefings for the council leader. As the information coming into the control room changes so do the demands placed upon the teams.

Scenarios often include appearing in front of the media at very short notice in a full press conference in which they feel the full force of a media feeding frenzy. The most significant and valuable element of this exercise is the manner in which it provides a fairly raw but incredibly valuable insight into how crisis leadership demands a quite different set of skills and assumptions than are commonly honed in day-to-day 'normal' politics.

There's a paradox here the frequency of major emergencies is set to increase because public services are under greater pressures, but we still fail to train decision-makers in the art of governing in a crisis. There is a huge difference between 'coping behaviour' and 'crisis leadership' and it is exactly this fact that makes this kind of project so important.

I wonder how Hartlepool Council would perform in a major emergency? Something really significant like the pies running out at Victoria Park or Drummond getting stuck in the WC? I would have thought the first response weapon in Drummond’s Crisis kit is give Paul Walker another pay rise, no doubt followed by another council re-organisation and a press release urging calm but re-assuring the people of Hartlepool that the Tall Ships will be returning soon!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past!

As I sit in my office looking out of the window, watching the white flakes drifting higher and higher I am worried that I'm having some form of hallucination! The country can't be paralysed due to the weather because snowfalls are now just a thing of the past! I know that's a fact because I read it in the Independent nearly 10 years ago!

Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past was the title of an article by Charles Onians, published in the Independent on Monday, 20th March 2000. According to Mr Onians Britain's winter ends tomorrow (21st Match 2000) with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

He then went on to write.........

Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain's culture, as warmer winters - which scientists are attributing to global climate change - produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.

The first two months of 2000 were virtually free of significant snowfall in much of lowland Britain, and December brought only moderate snowfall in the South-east. It is the continuation of a trend that has been increasingly visible in the past 15 years: in the south of England, for instance, from 1970 to 1995 snow and sleet fell for an average of 3.7 days, while from 1988 to 1995 the average was 0.7 days. London's last substantial snowfall was in February 1991.

Global warming, the heating of the atmosphere by increased amounts of industrial gases, is now accepted as a reality by the international community. Average temperatures in Britain were nearly 0.6°C higher in the Nineties than in 1960-90, and it is estimated that they will increase by 0.2C every decade over the coming century. Eight of the 10 hottest years on record occurred in the Nineties.

However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event".

"Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said.

The effects of snow-free winter in Britain are already becoming apparent. This year, for the first time ever, Hamleys, Britain's biggest toyshop, had no sledges on display in its Regent Street store. "It was a bit of a first," a spokesperson said.

Fen skating, once a popular sport on the fields of East Anglia, now takes place on indoor artificial rinks. Malcolm Robinson, of the Fenland Indoor Speed Skating Club in Peterborough, says they have not skated outside since 1997. "As a boy, I can remember being on ice most winters. Now it's few and far between," he said.

Michael Jeacock, a Cambridgeshire local historian, added that a generation was growing up "without experiencing one of the greatest joys and privileges of living in this part of the world - open-air skating".

Warmer winters have significant environmental and economic implications, and a wide range of research indicates that pests and plant diseases, usually killed back by sharp frosts, are likely to flourish. But very little research has been done on the cultural implications of climate change - into the possibility, for example, that our notion of Christmas might have to shift.

Professor Jarich Oosten, an anthropologist at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, says that even if we no longer see snow, it will remain culturally important.

"We don't really have wolves in Europe any more, but they are still an important part of our culture and everyone knows what they look like," he said.

David Parker, at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Berkshire, says ultimately, British children could have only virtual experience of snow. Via the internet, they might wonder at polar scenes - or eventually "feel" virtual cold.

Heavy snow will return occasionally, says Dr Viner, but when it does we will be unprepared. "We're really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time," he said.

The chances are certainly now stacked against the sortof heavy snowfall in cities that inspired Impressionist painters, such as Sisley, and the 19th century poet laureate Robert Bridges, who wrote in "London Snow" of it, "stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying".

Not any more, it seems.

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/snowfalls-are-now-just-a-thing-of-the-past-724017.html

I wonder if he might just have been wrong?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Hartlepool State of the Borough Debate

I often say to people that you can tell how busy I am by the amount of blogging I do. When I'm busy the blog takes a back seat. So as you can tell by the month long absence from the bloggosphere I have been very, very busy recently. However I just had to make a comment about the forthcoming Civic Event in Hartlepool. Thursday sees the annual "State of the Borough Debate"

To use the word "debate" in anything connected with Hartlepool Council is totally erroneous. There is no way Mayor Drummond will engage in any form of "debate"

On Thursday Drummond will make a speech telling everyone who bothers to turn up what a fantastic place Hartlepool is, what a huge success the Tall Ships was, how lucky Hartlepool is to have such a great team of Officers running their town BUT hard times are ahead because the dastardly Tories and their poodles the Lib-Dems are going to take away the money Drummond has been spending like mad for the past few years. Drummond will then take a few questions from the floor and read out the answers he has previously prepared (or had prepared for him).

THIS IS NOT DEBATE.

Debate has proposition which is proposed and seconded and has people speaking for and against. There is rebuttal and summing up followed by a vote.

Mind you, there is no debate in the ordinary council meetings. The rules don't allow debate! There are a series of speeches and forgone conclusion in the Civic Chamber.

There is no chance for any rebuttal of points made and there is no summing up allowed against the motion, only the proposer is allowed to speak more than once (although it has been noted that under the Chairmanship of Cllr Richardson the "one speech per member" rule has sometimes been "one speech per member unless you are Labour then you can have another go if you like").

No-one who knows what the word means would recognise what goes on in the Hartlepool Council Chamber as "debate"

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Gordon Brown goes on a visit to Israel

Gordon Brown goes on a visit to Israel. While he is on a tour of Jerusalem he suffers a heart attack and dies. The undertaker tells the British diplomats accompanying him, “You can have him shipped home for £5 million, or you can bury him here for £100.” The diplomats go into a corner and discuss for a minute. They come back to the undertaker and tell him they want Gordon shipped home.

The undertaker is puzzled and asks, “Why would you spend £5 million to ship him home, when it would be wonderful to be buried here, and you would only spend £100? With the money you save you could help pay off some of the deficit, help pay for the Olympic Games, or even help the elderly.”

The diplomats reply, “Long ago a man died here, was buried here, and three days later he rose from the dead. We just can’t take the risk.”

Saturday, 9 October 2010

How private and NHS work differs!

My wife runs her own private chiropody practise in the Arches, Park Road, Hartlepool and she works a half day Saturdays,. This morning her first patient didn't turn up and so never one to waste a few idle minutes Sandra logged onto the internet and updated her Facebook status

Sandra Morag Allison is waiting 4 1st patient, 10mins late - a no-show methinks! :-( could have had extra sleep, not happy!

and this resulted in the following reply from one of the people she trained with.....

XXXX XXXX Interesting how private and NHS work differs! A no show first thing is my idea of the perfect start to the working day.... bring on the second cup of coffee!! Hope you're not working all day? :(

Says it all really!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Shame Councillor Brash wasn't "angry" earlier!

I was very interested to read that Councillor Brash was angry at the shortfall in the funding for the Tall Ships race and his demands that someone be accountable. Well in my opinion a fair portion of the blame should be laid squarely at Councillor Brash’s own door as leader of the Labour Group on Hartlepool Council.

While I was a Councillor for St.Hilda Ward I spoke out many times about the costs of the event and even specifically warned that it was folly to rely on the park and ride scheme to fund the Tall Ships. It was obvious to me that the event was going to end up considerably in the red and cost Hartlepool residents a great deal of money unless the project was very tightly controlled and monitored. I remember Councillor Brash having some fairly pointed things to say about my “doom mongering” at the time. It is a shame Councillor Brash refused to listen to what I was saying, preferring to go for party political point scoring rather than taking action to control the overspend. It's all very well being "angry" now it's too late to be of any use.

Hartlepool Councillors had years to question the way the Tall Ships event was being organized but they failed to do so. As almost a lone voice of caution I was told I was being pessimistic and talking Hartlepool down. I take no pleasure in being proved right about the spiralling costs of the event but I think it is wrong of Councillor Brash to now say he is angry about something he and Hartlepool Councillors, especially those who were on the Tall Ships Management Board, all failed to prevent.

Stephen Allison
(Former) Councillor St.Hilda Ward

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Socialism, great, in Theory!

An economics class was discussing alternative economic models and how they worked. Several members of the class insisted that socialism was the only fair economic model and that it worked because no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism. All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A.

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B.

The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.

As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy.

When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

The scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when government takes the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

Could not be any simpler than that.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A defeat for democracy

According to the BBC News the people of Stockton have decided against an elected Mayor.

They have chosen a leader and cabinet system which I actually think is even WORSE than having a directly elected mayor.

The people of Stockton will end up with someone with all the powers of an elected mayor and with the four year term of an elected mayor but whom they have no direct role in choosing. This puts power directly into the hands of the party groups. A victory for the political class and a defeat for democracy! Mind you, as only 19% bothered to vote then democracy is pretty much dead in Stockton anyway!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tees-11295057

PS 13,445 opted for a council leader with a cabinet system, and 12,513 for a directly elected mayor with a cabinet. I wonder how many spoilt papers there were?

Which party is ukip closest to?

I have been following a very interesting debate on another message board about "What is UKIP" and which of the main parties is it closest too. The exchange has been spoilt somewhat by one idiot who seems to think insults are a substitute for reasoned debate. However that is a usual tactic of the losing side, if you can't win the argument just resort to accusing the other contributions of being racists!

Anyway, UKIP has its own policies and its own views. It is definitely noticeable that UKIP was ahead of the curve on many things. Nuclear Power for example which UKIP has supported for many years and which is now Labour and Tory Policy. Controlled immigration which UKIP also advocated for many years and which is now accepted by Labour, Lib-Dems and Tories, (they of course want controlled NONE EU Immigration but UKIP just want controlled immigration), and now the re-introduction of Technical Schools, which was also part of the UKIP pro-grammar school policy, has been advocated by the Tories. So it's difficult to pigeon hole UKIP as right/centre/left since UKIP has elements of them all. Basically UKIP want what's best for Britain and don't care whether that is left/right/centre ideas, there are no bad ideas, its putting them into practise that's the problem. The European Union wasn't a bad idea, it was a great idea as a free trade block, a "Common Market" as it was originally sold to the people of the UK, I am myself 100% behind that. However, what that common market has grown into is an example of a bad implementation of a good idea! The European Union is not what I signed up to when we went into the Common Market!

Friday, 27 August 2010

UKIP NEC

Thank you to all the UKIP members who voted for me for the NEC. My first meeting is on September 2nd. Full result will follow tomorrow, but here are the seven first places.


Steve Allison 2275
George Curtis 1849
Hugh Williams 1748
Jill Seymour 1696
Mick McGough 1604
Elizabeth Burton 1548
Julia Reid 1491

http://www.ukip.org/content/latest-news/1831-chairman-welcomes-new-nec-members

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

I love this Doctor!


I love this Doctor!

Q: Doctor, I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?
A: Your heart only good for so many beats, and that it...don't waste on exercise. Everything wear out eventually. Speeding up heart not make you live longer; it like saying you extend life of car by driving faster. Want to live longer? Take nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: You must grasp logistical efficiency. What does cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So steak is nothing more than efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef also good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And pork chop can give you 100% of recommended daily allowance of vegetable product.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
A: No, not at all Wine made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that mean they take water out of fruity bit so you get even more of goodness that way. Beer also made of grain. Bottom up!

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have body and you have fat, your ratio one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A: Can't think of single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No pain...good!

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU NOT LISTENING! Food are fried these day in vegetable oil. In fact, they permeated by it. How could getting more vegetable be bad for you?!?

Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?
A: Definitely not! When you exercise muscle, it get bigger. You should only be doing sit-up if you want bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy?!? HEL-LO-O!! Cocoa bean! Another vegetable! It best feel good food around!

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming good for your figure, explain whale to me..

Q: Is getting in shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! 'Round' a shape!


Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets.

And remember:

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - chocolate in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO-HOO, what a ride!!"

AND.....

For those of you who watch what you eat, here's the final word on nutrition and health. It's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional studies.

1. The Japanese eat very little fat
and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat
and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

3. The Chinese drink very little red wine
and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine
and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do. And:

5. The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats
and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

CONCLUSION:

Eat and drink what you like.
Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Judge people as people

Some comment are being made on the UKIP Members Forum about the age of the NEC Candidates and the need for a “younger” NEC. The youngest candidate is 40 and the oldest 73 (although two of the lady candidates have not given their ages, preferring to say OAP and Retired) giving an average age of 57. So as a mere 50 year old there are 9 candidates younger than me, 1 the same age and 26 older than me.

Quite frankly the sort of ageist comments I as reading on the UKIP Members Forum make me ashamed to be a member! If the comments were based on race or sex then there would be uproar! Why is it acceptable to dismiss someone on the grounds of their Age but not race or sex!

I know a few 40 year olds who are ready for their pipe and slippers and some 80 year olds who could give people 30 years younger a run for their money! My father for example was born in 1932 so that obviously make him well past it. If anyone would care to look at my Facebook page on my “Ground Source Heat Pump Project” you could see photographs of him driving a bulldozer! Hardly ready for his box yet!

I just did a quick calculation on the average length of UKIP Membership and it comes out at just over 6 years. The shortest membership before standing for the NEC is less than 6 months and the four of the candidates have been UKIP Members over 15 years. I come in right on the average, just over 6 years. On this comparison there are 20 candidates who joined the party after me, 2 at the same time and 14 with longer service than me! So does that mean anything? Looking at age against length of membership shows no significant correlation. The candidate who joined less than 6 months ago is only 54 and there are candidates in their 40’s and 50’s who have been members more than 10 years.

Of course there is a definite need for new blood and fresh ideas, but the benefits of experience shouldn’t be ignored. I remember when I was Head Of Elections I was constantly bombarded with helpful suggestions from new members, all painfully keen and determined to get their country back. Balancing this energy and determination without letting them slam head first into a reality check was always difficult. The standard idea was usually to do with newspaper advertising! “Lets take out full page adds in all the National Newspapers! That will let people know we are here!” Why did they assume no-one in UKIP had ever thought of that? I used to say “Great Idea let’s do it. I know some very good designers and copy writers who could put some ideas together. The cost for a full page in The Times is about £25,000. Will you give me the cheque now or should I just get their advertising people to invoice you?”

The other “idea” was to get on the TV more! Totally brilliant, why hadn’t anyone thought of that before! It’s so simple. The reality there is that you get on the TV through years of hard work, networking, and building relationships. You don’t get on by ringing the producer of Question Time and shouting at them! Which was what some new members have actually done and which has set back years of small gains in a few minutes! All political parties, pressure groups, Z list Celebrities and people looking for publicity for their cause want to be on the TV! You have to make yourself attractive to them so that they come and ask you to be on their program, you can’t do that by calling them names and reporting them to their bosses for bias when they don’t agree with you!

Anyway, that’s off the point. Regardless of how long someone has been a member it is patronizing in the extreme to dismiss people on the basis of their age. It is just as well I’m banned from the Members Forum for the duration of the NEC Election because I would really be letting rip! People who can be so casually ageist make me sick. They are the sort of pathetic, small minded and closed minded, bigots that UKIP can do without. Judge people as people, not by some meaningless criteria like their date of birth!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Get some help! Please

I had a good chuckle today when a “newsletter” came through my door supposedly giving the real story of me and my time as a Councillor for St.Hilda Ward and urging people not to vote for me. Didn't the author realise the elections were months ago? Where had they been since May?

As the elections were several weeks ago; the document’s contents are so outrageous; its claims so laughable; and its "facts" so totally wrong I did consider it might be a very bad (but quite costly to print I would think) joke. However, when I read it a bit closer I realized the anonymous publication is so filled with bitterness and bile that I really think the author has some sort of mental heath problem. I did wonder why the document wasn't written in crayon, after all anything sharp can be dangerous in the hands of people who write rubbish like this!

I don’t normally respond to anonymous attacks, if someone hasn’t got the balls to put their name on this sort of tripe then they are not worth bothering with, BUT, in this case I am so concerned that the author is seriously deranged that I am worried about their state of mind and I must respond by urging them to seek professional help immediately!

The author obviously no longer operates on the same time line as the rest of us, hence the references to an election several weeks ago, and anyone carrying around such a twisted world view, as evidenced by the opinions in the document, is either not taking their medication or needs to review the dose they are on. They are seriously in danger of losing touch with any slight vestige of reality that they may still able to recognise.

Please don’t just let your bitterness continue to twist your soul and eat you away. You are obviously a big fan of the late Pat Price but that can be addressed by counselling and therapy. You should contact your doctor as soon as you can!

Don't ignore the signs! You need help!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

UKIP Leadership and Smoking in public places!

There is a debate currently under way on the UKIP Members Forum regarding the future leadership of UKIP. As a candidate for the NEC I am banned from contributing until after the elections, (a stupid decision in my opinion that shows UKIP to be still in denial about the internet) so even though in several postings I am being mentioned by name I cannot respond! Frank exchange of views? What’s that?

A couple of the posters are definitely not fans of mine and I suppose that by now I should know it’s a waste of time trying to argue with people who have made up their minds. From a posting of over 700 words one person has homed in on the 15 words that deal with his obsession! He's ignored everything else I've said! So, for avoidance of any doubt on my position I will state very clearly my views on smoking:

I think smoking is a nasty habit, but if people want to do it in the privacy of their own homes then that is their choice. However, I don’t want to be made to breathe in their second hand smoke so in my opinion smoking should be banned in any public place, including walking down the street.

According to my fan on the forum;

“this draconian move would totally alienate us from working class voters!”

Quite interesting assumptions here that it’s only working class people who smoke? Actually the person who posted that does appear from some of his other postings to be a bit of a class warrior and it wouldn’t surprise me if somewhere in his personal baggage was a huge chip on the shoulder. There we are, now I’m making assumptions on some flimsy evidence!

Another poster waded in with;

”If he wants to ban smoking in the street then forget him. Will end up just portrayed as another fruit bat from the fruit bat party. We need a leader who knows what the public want, not just push their own crazy ideas.”

He is also making assumptions. How does he know the public want to smoke in the streets? Research I’ve seen shows that people DON’T want smoking in the streets. Many people I speak to think UKIP is the fruit bat party because of its support for smokers! Of course this is one of those no-win situations. The smokers are fighting to protect their human rights to smoke and the anti-smokers fighting for their human rights not to breathe in polluted air.

The fruit bat comment is I think either supposed to be funny or just an insult? What’s wrong with fruit bats anyway?

I haven’t been able to engage in open debate on these points, due to the forum posting ban, but I wonder what the position of these individuals is about the Burka? Should it be banned in public places? Or is it just the “right” to smoke that should be enshrined in civic liberties?

The whole thread is actually pointless because I have no desire to become Leader of UKIP.

A more thankless task I couldn’t imagine! Even if I did want the job I couldn’t afford it. The post is unpaid and you have to cover your own expenses. Anyone without access to a considerable private income, a very good pension or an MEP’s salary and allowances would find it impossible to do the job. I consider myself to be reasonably comfortably off, due to my own hard work, some good investment decisions over the past 20 years (and a wife who has her own business!), but I’m not in the income bracket that allows me to become leader of UKIP, thank goodness!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Reduce the number of councillors

I would like to support Stuart Drummond’s call for a reduction in the number of Councillors. It is high time that some useless, dead wood was cut in the civic centre.

There are 48 Councillors and just reducing this number to 47 could save almost £100,000 a year. How could this comparatively huge saving be achieved from only a reduction of one councillor? Well remember the Mayor is also a Councillor! His basic allowance is the equivalent of over a dozen ordinary Councillors.

Getting rid of 12 ordinary Councillors, who represent the individual wards and town residents, is one option. Getting rid of one Mayor is another. Both will save about the same amount of money.

Of course Stuart is very keen to reduce OTHER councillors but not so keen to see himself get the chop! However I suppose that’s life. When a business is in trouble you rarely hear a highly paid Manager explaining that times are hard so his job is under threat, oh no, its always a dozen minimum wage workers from the shop floor that have to go so the manager can stay!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

This is an unusual paragraph

This is an unusual paragraph. I'm curious as to just how quickly you can find out what is so unusual about it. It looks so ordinary and plain that you would think nothing was wrong with it.. In fact, nothing is wrong with it! It is highly unusual though. Study it and think about it, but you still may not find anything odd... But if you Work at it a bit, you might find out.. Try to do so without any coaching!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Tall Ships 2015 or Libraries 2011?

The Tall Ships have sailed away the Mayor and Cabinet are desperate to get them back again. This is nothing to do with putting Hartlepool on the map, generating millions of pounds (mostly for traders who came into town for the 4 days and then left, taking the money with them) or for the undoubted good time the majority of those attending enjoyed.

The real reason, in my opinion, is there are only so many pictures of the Mayor pushing a brush and “clean sweep” stories that even the Hartlepool Mail will print. This means the Mayor needs something to talk about for the next few years. A big party like Tall Ships also provides a perfect distraction to keep resident’s attention away from the sad state of the town’s finances!

Given the choice of Tall Ships again in 2015 or branch libraries around the town, what would be the decision?

Northgate Branch Library on the Headland for 5 years or the Tall Ships for 4 days?

Just the salary alone of the Council's latest employee, the Tall Ships Manager (now a permanent employee of the council not just on a fixed term contract till the race was over) would keep the library open. This is the point the cheerleaders for Tall Ships are missing. No-one has said it wasn't a great event and very enjoyable, however it wasn't Free despite what the publicity claimed. It was free to attend but it cost Hartlepool Council £millions to host! When they talk about another few £million for Tall Ships in 2015 what about Libraries, public sector jobs or other council services under threat in 2011?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

England win world cup

I met a fairy who gave me one wish. "I want to live forever" I replied. "Sorry" she said "it too general, I can only grant wished for something specific." I thought about if for a while and then said "OK then. I want to live until the next time England win the world cup".

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

What is the exact nature of the coalition?

One of my favourite websites, Politicalbetting.com, was asking this question and gave four possible answers!

1) Lipstick on a pig: a hard-line Conservative government with some Lib Dem detox;

2) An exceptional response to exceptional times, where getting the economy back on track is the sole priority of two right-thinking parties;

3) A true fusion of Lib Dem and Conservative aims to produce something that is better than the sum of the parts; or

4) A left-wing Conservative conspiracy with the Lib Dems against the right wing of the Conservatives?

What do I think? Well I am very tempted by (4) but I couldn't find a suitable image to go with that one so I'll have to settle for he picture below........



http://www3.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2010/08/09/what-is-the-exact-nature-of-the-coalition/

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

UKIP Friends Of Israel

Despite the ban on campaigning for the NEC and being blocked from the Members' Forum I have been having some interesting e-mail exchanges on various points regarding UKIP and my views on where the party is going. One member I've been exchanging views with made the blanket statement he would not vote for anyone who has an MEP as their proposer, seconder or as one of their assentors. Obviously as someone with an MEP as a Proposer and 4 others as Assentors I will not be receiving a vote from this individual.

This member seemed to regard anyone with an MEP on their list as one of the enemy within and obviously a former Tory intent on holding the party back. The suggestion was made that members of UKIP with left wing leanings, former Labour Party members, etc should form a group to push a more left wing, socially fair, agenda. I actually think we should all just be members of UKIP and not Former Tory-UKIP or Former Labour-UKIP. The labels don't help in my opinion.

My background is Old Labour but with a dash of paternalistic Tory, I believe 100% in equality of opportunity but don't believe you can impose equality of achievement. A government should protect its people from exploitation but cannot protect people from their own stupidity; the line unfortunately sometimes gets very blurred. I'm very much a libertarian when it comes to freedom of choice but very much against freedoms that impact on other people. I would allow anything between consenting adults in their own homes but am in favour of the smoking ban in all public places, including the streets. I would remove speed cameras but would have life with hard labour for any driver who killed someone through reckless or dangerous driving, maybe make them diffuse road side bombs in Afghanistan?

Some of those ideas make me quite far to the right; others make me a libertarian, others left wing! The labels are meaningless these days.

The basic principle to which all members of UKIP subscribe is that we don't want to be in the EU, after that we splinter dramatically! I support a confederate system and believe a single world government is actually an inevitable and possibly a desirable thing BUT only as an overall co-ordination body, not a sovereign body handing down laws to be obeyed.

So, I’m not a supporter of special interest groups of any kind. I think they are divisive, elitists and quite often populated by people who know they are right and everyone else is wrong. For example, I object very strongly to the "UKIP Friends of Israel" Group. Not that I have any issues with Israel and anyone who wants to be a friend to that country. I do however object to the attachment to the “friends of Israel” the name of another organisation of which I am a member, i.e. UKIP.

In fact I object so strongly I'm thinking of forming a "UKIP Friends of Palestine" just to make the point, or how about "UKIP Friends of the IRA" or UKIP Friends of Mugabee? At what point do you decide someone or something is worth the tag “UKIP Friends of……”

UKIP shouldn’t endorse any special interest group of any kind. We should be totally inclusive. If I want to be a friend of Israel then I’m perfectly at liberty to be one, I shouldn’t however presume to have the name of UKIP tacked onto my group.

Monday, 9 August 2010

A bit of a sore back!


One of the results of installing the pipework for my ground source heat pump has been a sore back brought on by overdoing the shovelling and spreading of sand bedding for the coils in the base of the trenches. The mild sounding "sore back" actually describes a condition that has been going on now for nearly three weeks and at more than one point saw me actually crying with the pain. So much so that I was even taking pain killers that Sandra had left over after her hysterectomy! A trip to the Chiropractor provided some relief and I'm going to the Osteopath on Wednesday to see if he can help. Unfortunately the only cure appears to be time and even though the thought of spending a month laid flat on my back sounds very enticing I just don't have the time to do it.

My inquisitive nature and access to google search has enabled me to find out a bit more about back problems. Lower back problems are very common in the UK and were regarded as just one of those things we would all probably suffer from at some time in our lives. The problem is so widespread as to not even be regarded as an illness needing treatment. In any year around seventeen million people in Britain experience back pain or lower backache and the UK government spends two thousand million pounds on paying benefits to people with backache and the UK National Health Service spends another five hundred million pounds on their treatment.

Now I'm going to lay on the floor and stretch a bit! Ah the pain! but I'm a man so I'll just suffer in silence, stoic and uncomplainingly!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Amazing Traffic Flow

We were planning on avoiding the Headland for the 4 day Tall Ships visit but the ban on cars entering the Headland means its actually easier to get in and out that it is on a normal day. Went to my parent's for lunch and got my normal parking spot, no problem. I have seen the Headland itself busier on a normal carnival day. The only hold up was a couple of minutes for double parked taxis on Northgate, but then taxis stop like that any time not just for Tall Ships.

Definitely loads more people today but still hard to see how there are 250,000 (PLUS) the route in from the A19/Sheraton Flyover was clear all the way, takes longer on a normal Sunday, lots of pedestrians on the short stretch from gate 10 to Central Park but the parking area itself was easily less than a third full. I watched people coming in/out via gate 10 and numbers over a 15 minute period were less than 100 at around 2.00pm. The stewards with their little clickers were working overtime and I saw one visitor who was counted in and then went back to help carry a buggy over the rough strip and was counted in again by the same Steward!

I was impressed with Rovers Rugby Club initiative, they must have creamed a fair bit off the main park and ride sites! At least that money will stay in Hartlepool!

Tall Ships Huge Sucess

I decided I couldn't just leave town. It's like watching a car crash, you know you shouldn't, you know people are getting hurt but you just have to watch anyway!

The Tall Ships was always going to be a success, not even the incompetence of Hartlepool Council could totally screw it up. I believe you should always aim high but you should also be realistic. The problem was always going to be making it live up to its vastly overblown hype!

At one point there were 120 ships predicted, then over 100, then up to 100 and now actually around 60 turned up! The local economy was going to benefit by £50,000,0000 then £20,000,000 then £16,000,000, ultimately who knows but I did see an awful lot of out of town burger vans, German sausage and Paella stalls! Its like the Headland Carnival, every year it brings money onto the headland, the vast majority of which leaves town when the travelling fair moves on.

The 1,000,000 visitors was always a massive exaggeration, and I know people who are not coming because they are expecting huge crowds and so are staying away. The traffic control measures are hugely over the top, I even saw Hartlepool congestion warning on the M62 near Hull last week! and the yellow lines are a comedy classic.

However, the general public in Hartlepool will never find out exactly what it cost and what benefits it did bring to the town since the Council PR Machine will bury the truth under layers of hyperbole and spin.

To use an analogy that the football supporter can understand I think the Hartlepool Tall Ships will be like a report of a match that England won 1-0. Yes it was a win and we got the 3 points. The Headline "England Win" is true and accurate and if you leave it there then you are probably very happy. However if you read the report you discover the opposition were down to 9 men, England missed 5 open goals and the star player injured himself tripping over his own lose boot lace and will be out for the rest of the tournament. The win is still a win but the performance of the team was abysmal and the result should have been 5-0 or even 6-0, something that will be extremely important at the end of the qualifying stages when goal difference might be the thing that will keep England off the top of the Group!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

AGE OR EXPERIENCE (OR PRIVATE INCOME?)

There have been a couple of questions on the UKIP Members Forum which I would like to answer but of course NEC Candidates are banned from posting so I can't respond. However, on the subject of disappointment regarding NEC candidate ages and there being no candidate under 40 years old!

I think that is a problem not only with UKIP's NEC but with other areas of UKIP as well. When I was a young lad in my 30's I was too busy earning a living, paying my mortgage and bringing up my family to consider membership of anything like the UKIP NEC. I didn't have the time to take a day off work every month or the spare cash to travel to London for meetings. I left the Hartlepool Rotary Club because it was a Monday lunchtime club and while it was very pleasant to spend three hours over lunch it wasn't something I could do every week.

The need to have both the time and the money to participate in things like UKIP NEC is the reason why its membership is restricted to those who are either retired, have a private income or who are MEPs (anyone else receiving any income from UKIP being disqualified from standing but of course allowed to participate as non-voting members). This is why UKIP is run by such a small group, it’s the people with the time and the money to be able to afford to do so. These same people also control the purse strings when it comes to employment opportunities within UKIP!

These are reasons why I support the move to hold NEC Meetings at the weekends. To allow working people to put they forward as candidates. I was also quite taken with the idea of moving the NEC around the country but the practicalities make that difficult and I’m sad to say that the road, rail and air travel infastructure in the UK mean that London really is the only place to hold this type of meeting.

Look at the Leadership candidates, the same criteria, either retired, have a private income or who are MEPs or with a seat in the House of Lords, no-one else can afford to do it. Its the same with Party Chairman, and this is no reflection on Paul who I think is excellent but who I don't think should be Party Chairman, his primary role should be using the tag "MEP" in the political arena, not sorting out party administration, however only those people who can afford to do any of these jobs (Leaders, Chairman, NEC) can go for them. So UKIP can never have people in posts by virtue of ability, the key criteria is can they afford to do the job and on that basis you will very rarely have anyone under 30 with the financial security to afford to do it and if they were able to then if they had any political ambition they would be in the Tories (or Labour) where their money would buy them a safe seat in Parliament!

www.vote-steve.info

Friday, 6 August 2010

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Loads of Money!


The Mail (27th July) reported that Hartlepool Council bought the derelict Morison Hall for £60,000. How can the council justify spending money acquiring property when it is busy selling off other assets as fast as it can? £60,000 is the same amount for which the Council allegedly sold Rockhaven in Victoria Road, citing lack of funds for essential repairs for the give away price.

If the Council had to sell Rockhaven because they couldn’t afford to maintain the building then how will the council be able to afford to renovate the Morison Hall?

Mayor Drummond said the Council will now be advertising for “development partners or local businesses who we can look to go forward in partnership with.” However, the auction details gave the Guide Price as £50-60,000. Unless Hartlepool Council were so incompetent that as the only bidder they opened at the top price then someone else must have also been bidding? In which case there was a developer, or local business, already interested. Possibly that potential partner is expecting a considerable incentive to take the project forward with the council. A similar deal to Rockhaven perhaps? The Council pays all the renovation costs and then hands over a £350,000 building for a fraction of its market price?

Hartlepool Council obviously has £1,000s sloshing around in its coffers for speculative property deals. There can therefore be no shortage of cash in the town’s current account. Making talk of impending cuts and overspends just hot air and scare tactics!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Countdown

A feature of the drive from the Headland into town is the “countdown clock” on the historic quay. This displays the days to go to Tall Ships. It’s just as well it is not displaying the cost of the event since the clock would now be showing in excess of £3,000,000. This huge figure includes over £1,000,000 for the event management (event infrastructure, entertainment programme, event staffing costs and site preparation). The firm providing at least some of these services, Touchline Event Management, went bust last week, but was immediately bought out by Churchill Contract Services, a contract cleaning company, based in Hertfordshire. So there is a sizable amount of the money associated with the Tall Ships Event which will be leaving the town rather than being retained in the local economy.

Apart from yellow lines everywhere the likely legacy of the Tall Ships coming to Hartlepool will be a huge debt and a cadre of qualified Ship Liaison Officers, ready to spring into action at a moments notice should ship liaison ever be required again. I have heard a rumour that Mayor Drummond’s next brilliant idea is setting up a training academy to ensure Hartlepool can supply the world with fully qualified flag sellers for Coronations. Given the advanced age of our current monarch then flag seller at coronations might be a better long term career move than Tall Ships Liaison Officer?

Friday, 23 July 2010

Life was better in the 60s?

I have been asked if I think life was better in the 1960s? I was born in 1960 and I then lived in the country with the 9th highest male life expectancy in the world of 68.2 years; now that life expectancy is 76.5 years. In the 1960s most forms of cancer were a virtual death sentence; by 2008 more than half of patients diagnosed with some form of cancer were surviving. I remember waking up in the 1960s with frost on the inside of my bedroom window and having to book an international telephone line to speak with relatives in Australia. Now I have central heating and can call Australia direct on my mobile. In the 1960s only 2% of children had the opportunity of a University education, now every child has that opportunity.

Today we are better educated (or at least have better qualifications), are physically more comfortable and living longer, healthier lives. Of course we won the world cup in the 1960s, something that has eluded England ever since. However, was it better in the 1960s? My view is it was certainly different, but that doesn’t mean better or worse. Admittedly there was no MRSA in hospitals but people still died in the 1960s of illnesses which are routinely treated and cured these days. Try surviving cancer in 1960 and look at your chances today. House prices were lower in the 1960’s but the increase in prices since then are an inevitable result of a free market and capitalist economy. Price controls on housing may be an answer but after that where do you stop? Wages control? Not minimum wage but maximum? Then you are into progressive taxation? Fix maximum you can earn and then have 100% tax band after that? Central command and control economies have never worked very well in the long term if you look at the USSR as the obvious example.

People trot out the “statistics” on social mobility being better in the 1960s. Well we’d come out of a war less than a generation earlier and wars are very good at creating the opportunities for social mobility. The First World War created the biggest social mobility ever in the country! It also depends upon what you mean by social mobility? Do you mean we all have to live in bigger houses? We all should have estates in the country and titles? We all have to be Directors of BP? My son has just signed on with Carnival Cruise Lines (Owners of Cunnard amongst others), as an Engineering Officer Cadet, his Granddad was an Engineering Officer with P&O so does that mean my family has stagnated or even gone backwards? My daughter is studying law at Kings College London so I think she's done OK so far? Education was apparently better in the 1960’s and there was apparently full employment. Actually there were still pockets of unemployment even in the 1960’s. If we cut the UK population today back to the same level as 1960 then our unemployment problems would vanish overnight!

Conventional wisdom now teaches that we were a more law abiding society in the 60s. There were no Soham Murders or police facing armed villains. Of course Britain did have The Moors Murders in the 1960s and the Kray Twins were running the East End of London. Drugs are a problem today that didn’t have as high a profile in the 1960s but that didn’t mean drugs were only invented in the past decade.

I am very wary of the rose tinted spectacles, looking back at the "golden age" For one thing we cannot go back to the 1960's, the world is a totally different place now. I was born in 1960 so the whole CND bit is a mystery to me, I never lived in fear that the world could end in mushroom clouds at any moment, and I think that was something the 1960 generation used to worry about?

So, I don't think today is any better or worse than the 1960's, I think its just different, and one thing is definitely certain, we have to live now and get on with it as until H.G.Well's time machine is available we can't do anything else.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Ironically, apparently and possibly allegedly!

So word has come down from on high that, after checking the nominations and withdrawals, there are now 37 candidates for the 7 available vacancies on the NEC. No mention of who these candidates are of course, that is still privileged information. Ironically the fact that there are 37 Candidates is only available to you if you subscribe to the Members’ Forum Daily E-mail; there is no mention of it on the main party website. I say “ironically” because NEC Candidates have been banned from posting on the Members’ Forum. Apparently at the instruction of the NEC at their meting in June. Again I say “apparently” because mere members like us are not privy to the decisions of the NEC until a sanitized version of the minutes is published, on Members’ Forum. The secrecy and high handed attitude of the NEC is one of the things that we need to change.

One thing that does give me some hope for the future of UKIP is the growing acceptance that local council elections are an important route to getting our country back. I have been singing this song for many years but it is only recently that other members of UKIP have been picking up the beat. One of my aims, should I be successful in being elected to the NEC, is to get campaigning and elections up the agenda.

Question Time tonight is coming from Hartlepool and I will be in the audience. Whether I am picked for a question I don’t know and won’t find out until the program is ready to start. Any of you who have been to Question Time will know it’s not actually a live show; it’s recorded an hour in advance. I spent a few minutes on the phone to Nigel yesterday giving him a run down on local issues and my expectations of the audience. Not difficult to predict a left leaning audience, heavily biased towards the public sector. The North East now has over 60% public sector employment and in Hartlepool I think the figure is closer to 70%. There simply is NO private sector left up here. The biggest “private sector” employer was a Call Centre which closed a few weeks ago with the loss of 700 jobs. After that we have firms who are technically private sector, such as a couple of construction firms but all their work at the moment is building or refurbishing social rented housing, part of the pseudo private sector that has been created by selling off council owned houses to housing associations. More manipulation of the figures! Perhaps this is where I should say "allegedly"

Remember you can ask me anything about my aims and objectives for the NEC at my www.vote-steve.info website. I’m not allowed to carry out ant overt campaigning but can respond to questions. Also I can read postings on the Members’ Forum I just can’t respond to them, not even in Private Messages, heaven forbid that communication might occur in this party, the world would probably end.

Friday, 16 July 2010

NEC Nominations closed!

Well it's after 5.00pm and according to the daily e-mail newsletter ”NEC nominations closed today at 5pm; there has been a huge increase in the number of candidates this year. Full details will be released once all of the nominations have been checked. There are 7 vacancies for the NEC this year.” So I don't know if I'm standing or not?

I did think an interesting scenario might develop if a nomination that was submitted on time was subsequently rejected! Let’s say someone has proposed two people or an assenter has signed 8 sets of papers. Under Parliamentary or Local Government rules that would mean who ever submitted last would be disqualified. Of course under those rules the candidate would still be able to get alternative signatures since nomination forms are checked as soon as they are submitted, not after the deadline has passed.

The whole nomination process has been a revelation to me. I was asked by Rob to be one of his assentors and I agreed. He e-mailed me the form; I signed it and e-mailed it back to him. Job done in less than an hour. Rob however has experience of the way UKIP run these sorts of procedures and asked the Returning Officer if an e-mailed copy of the form was acceptable. Unfortunately the answer was NO. Only original forms, signed in ink, were acceptable. WHY? I have agreed contracts worth £100,000’s using faxed paperwork. I have just stood guarantor for my daughter’s rent on her student flat next year and it was all done electronically. When I submitted my expenses return for the elections this year I sent it in electronically and the Election Office at Hartlepool Council had no problem accepting them!

UKIP really is still in the dark ages when it comes to modern technology. It is ludicrous in this day and age that pieces of paper need to cris/cross the country so that they can be signed in ink. It’s the same as not being allowed to campaign for the NEC seats. Why not?

If I am successful in being elected to the NEC then I will be looking for major changes to the way the NEC is elected and how it operates. I would like to see the NEC Elected at the Annual Party Conference, or if not elected at least NEC Candidates having a hustings session as part of the conference program. Let the membership meet the candidates, question the candidates and form an opinion, not be limited to 150 words and a small photograph.

UKIP needs to be in the 21st Century, procedures like this one are stuck in the 19th.

UKIP need a strategy and business plan. The NEC must listen to the membership and report back to them. I hope my plain speaking, northern voice can help shape a NEW NEC, to take on executive power, in a fully fledged party, inspiring and leading the fight to get Britain out of the EU.


If you haven't seen it yet don't forget to visit my Campaign Website at www.vote-steve.info

Nice to see a bit of colour

The latest Hartlepool Street Art project “Paint the town in yellow stripes” looks like being a huge success! There is yellow paint everywhere! Thought up by the Mayor and Cabinet and fully funded by the residents of the town. Possibly not be the best use of public money in the current financial climate but the yellow paint is apparently vital for smooth traffic flow during the Tall Ships.

Hartlepool residents might be surprised to learn that the Tall Ships is not the only event being held in the UK this year. The Celtic Manor Club in Wales are expecting sell out crowds for their event and are adopting a “park and ride” scheme of their own.

The Highways agency has suspended all works on access routes and land at the former Llanwern steelworks will be used to accommodate up to 12,000 cars travelling from the east and another site will provide space for up to 3,000 cars arriving from the west. Both sites will include facilities for security and ticket checks before people take coaches to the sell-out event. Up to 30,000 people a day are expected through the two sites.

No plans to paint the town yellow have been adopted, no residents parking schemes introduced. Of course, it’s only the Ryder Cup so it’s not in the same league in the international sporting hierarchy as the Hartlepool Tall Ships! Is it?

Organisers also identified the need to minimize disruption for residents going about their normal business, something the Mayor and Hartlepool Council obviously have no interest in doing if reports that Headland residents will be turned back if the Headland is "full". My mother is almost 80 years old and a little unsteady on her feet, she can't walk long distances any more. If she can't guarantee to get back to her house then she will effectively be made a prisoner in her own home for the duration of the event. My wife runs her own chiropody business from a surgery in Park Road and also visits people in their homes, she has effectively been told to close her business while the Tall Ships are in town as she won't be able to get to her patients and her patients won't be able to get to her surgery!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

The Eve of D-Day

I haven't had much opportunity to blog recently, installing a ground source heat pump and researching an MA Dissertation on Elected Mayors in the media have been taking up quite a lot of my time. However, I've been persuaded to stand for election to the UKIP National Executive Committee and tomorrow is the last day for submission of nomination papers so I thought I'd better get my finger out.

The election for the next UKIP NEC is looking like it will be a crowded field. I’ve heard reports of around 40 candidates standing for the seven seats and I personally have signed nomination papers for three people, it was four but one of them told me she had enough other assentors so didn’t need me! Tomorrow is the close of nominations so we may find out for sure then. Or knowing UKIP we probably won't find out officially for several days after that since there is a “cooling off period” where candidates can withdraw their names. Working on the basis that knowledge is power and the most important thing in UKIP seems to be keep the power in a small, select group, then there is scope for some behind closed doors horse trading once all the names are in, but before the final line up is released!

Even when the names of the candidates are released how exactly are the UKIP Membership going to be able to make an informed decision from a passport sized photograph and a 150 word statement? An impossible task I would have said, especially given the ludicrous rules imposed on the candidates to prevent anyone actually campaigning! Of course if anyone happens to ask me to visit their branch!!!!!

Surely we want people in UKIP with campaigning skills? So why ban campaigning for seats on the NEC. Of course the ban assists those people who are already well known in the party and those who can get a proposer, seconder and assenters who are also well known! Let's face it; the NEC has a very poor record when it comes to accepting new, radical or different ideas.

Anyway, if we accept the proposition that UKIP exists to get the UK out of the EU, which I assume we all do, otherwise why are you a UKIP Member? then as far as I can see there are three ways out; the EU collapses under its own weight and ceases to exist; UKIP members armed with Baker Rifles stage a coup, take control of the government and unilaterally withdraw our country from the EU; or, we grow into a mass political movement and win enough seats in the House of Commons to democratically achieve the aim of withdrawal.

The first scenario is actually a possibility, it happened to the Soviet Union and could happen to the European Union given enough time, and unfortunately it will also drag the UK down at the same time. Withdrawal by force has a poor record historically, the Hungarians showed what happens in these cases and of course the Southern American States are still smarting today over their treatment after they left “the Union” . So that leaves the ballot box. For which we need campaigners! So what do UKIP do? Ban Campaigning! Who makes up these rules? Surely it’s time we changed them?

UKIP needs a NEC with a strategy and business plan. The NEC must listen to the membership and report back to them. I hope my plain speaking northern voice can help shape a NEW NEC, to take on executive power, in a fully fledged party, capable of inspiring and leading the campaign that will get Britain out of the EU.

I do have an NEC Campaign Website if anyone would like to know more.....?

Monday, 14 June 2010

Public leader, party leader or policy leader?

In many discussions about the effectiveness of elected mayors there is general agreement that one of the key functions is to provide leadership for their local authority. Mouritzen and Swan (2002) classified mayoral leadership styles into three types; public leaders, party leaders or policy leaders.

A public leader is the citizen’s champion, determining the direction the people want their area to take and promoting activities that bring this about;

a party leader is concerned mainly with the implementation of their party manifesto;

the policy leader is focused on operational or administrative leadership.

To function as a public leader requires a long term vision for the way in which their area should develop. This vision should be produced in close consultation with the communities outside the traditional civic arena. Public leaders cannot associate themselves with too many special interest groups. Giving special consideration to one group or organisation, for example the local football club, will undermine any claim to be a wider, general public mayor.

Party mayors are constrained by their party manifesto and party hierarchy. In many cases it is arguable that a party mayor is in power on behalf of the party and not him or herself and so has less direct influence. Hambelton and Sweeting (2004) concluded that the power of political groups to control local leaders was declining and so party mayors were becoming more independently minded. However, Copus (2006) found there was no evidence for this and felt they had underestimated the resilience of local political parties.

“Local political parties retain the right to select mayoral candidates; any party mayor that strays too far from what the local party think fit, could suffer the ultimate sanction of de-selection” (Copus 2006).

The policy mayor is focused on the organisation of their local authority and its ability to provide services, which after all is the principle function of a local authority. This can also be classified as taking on a corporate leadership role.

It is suggested by Mouritzen and Swan that policy mayors can be further subdivided. A policy innovator produces new, original and challenging policies towards service delivery; a policy administrator is concerned more with the details of policy implementation; and policy designers look at implementation of mainly externally generated policy but without concern for details. There was also a fourth category of the policy caretaker mayor; these seem to be content to leave both the detail of policy formation and the administration of service delivery to the bureaucracy of the civic centre.

Copus (2009) highlights the problem faced by elected mayors seeking to take on a corporate role;

“The English Mayor faces a tussle for parity of esteem and power with the chief executive in relation to the overall bureaucracy, or must operate to ensure that the chief executive plays a sub-ordinate organizational leadership role to that of the mayor.” (Copus 2009).

The need to control civic centre empires has led three elected mayors to completely dispense with the post of chief executive and to take on that role themselves. They have appointed a Head of Paid Service in a Managing Director type position which clearly make it sub-ordinate the elected mayor as chief executive.

Lerch and Wilson (2000) say regarding elected mayors that; “Leadership is an inspirational process, inducing others to follow.” And they contrasted this with; “as distinct from office holding, or responding to system driven sources.”

Whether an elected mayor is a leader or an office holder appears to be a function of the individual’s personality, their abilities, the political setting of the local authority and their interaction with the existing bureaucracy of their civic centre.

Which leadership style produces the best results is impossible to quantify as the standards by which a mayor is judged a success or failure are not universally agreed. However, the ultimate arbiter for an elected mayor must come through the ballot box. Applying the criterion of fighting sucessful elections then that makes three time winner Stuart Drummond of Hartlepool the most successful elected mayor in British history to date.

The triumph of the political class

"The Media Class and the Political Class share identical assumptions about life and politics. They are affluent, progressive, middle and upper middle class. This triumphant metropolitan elite has complete;y lost its links with a wider civic society - farming, the professions, small business, trade unions, the shop floor, which characterised British public culture throughout the most confident period of parliamentary government during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is obvious that the politicians and the media have far more in common with each other than they do with voters, readers and the public"

Peter Oborne (2007), The triumph of the political class (P259), Simon & Schuster, London

Friday, 11 June 2010

Ground Source Pipes Arrive

The underground pipework has arrived for the ground source heat pump. Now all I have to do is dig 600m of trench work, about 1.5m deep and bury is all.


This will be three off loops each 200m long, making 600m in total.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Is withdrawal from the Eu the MOST important issue facing the UK today?

Back in 1943, before even I was born, a very clever chap named Abraham Maslow produced what I still think is the definitive theory of what motivates human beings.

Someone once summed it up by asking "Do you worry about the colour of the curtains when the house is burning down?"

Maslow said motivation changes as the personal circumstances of an individual change. The most basic needs are physiological (breathing, eating, sleep, etc). You can't motivate a starving man with a bar of gold but he will do almost anything you ask him to for a bowl of rice. Then comes safety (Shelter, health, etc). That bar of gold is useless to someone dying of a curable disease, but offer some medicines and away you go. The other levels are love/belonging, peer recognition and then ultimately self actualisation which is the level at where you think for yourself.

SO where does withdrawal from the EU come on that pyramid? You can't eat it, it won't keep the rain off, you can't have sex with it and I'm damn sure it does nothing to provide me with peer recognition. So the only people who will put withdrawal from the EU at the top of their list are those people who have reached the very top of the motivational pyramid, those people who actually THINK. So that's a tiny, tiny minority!

Applying the same analysis to those who claim "it's the economy, stupid" shows that this is not true either. I've already said a bar of gold won't motivate a man dying of disease or someone drowning can't be helped by a bar of gold (indeed it might be what is pulling him under).

Do the same with people who are motivated by "Freedom" or "love of democracy" a man being imprisoned doesn't have much use for a bar of gold and democracy won't cure a dying man.

"the ecconomy" is just as much an abstract concept to most people as "the EU" or "democracy" or "Freedom"

So, Is withdrawal from the Eu the MOST important issue facing the UK today?

What's the answer?

Actually, it is the economy, but only so far as a good economy creates the condition where the other needs can be more easily met. So governments need to set out its policies from the bottom up; agriculture/food, water, housing, health, defence, child care, education, representative democracy, personal freedom and a sovereign Britain (in that order).

Of course that presupposes you think the EU is a bad thing and a Federal European Superstate is not a good ideas.

If you are convinced that the EU is a good thing then maybe your priorities would be; agriculture/food, water, housing, health, defence, child care, dumbed down education, the appearance of representative democracy, personal freedom within strict rules and a sovereign EU Commission in total charge (not necessarily in that order).

I can see you!

Local authorities do it, tourist destinations do it, even educational establishments do it, let’s stream our webcam!


There is loads of debate about the use of CCTV Cameras monitoring our every move and of course the dreaded Gatso speeding cameras that seem to have sprouted up on every roadside.

The outputs from these cameras are restricted to a few people and for clearly defined legal use, but, there is another type of camera out there, streaming its output to the internet, that anyone can access who has the right URL.

Smile, you are on webcam!

The Data Protection Act 1998 is the key piece of legislation and the Data Protection Commissioner’s Code of Practice on CCTV gives guidance for webcam operators.

Webcams should not be installed to capture close-up images of private areas such as houses, gardens or offices without the written permission of the owner. However, there is no requirement to warm people they may be on a webcam in public and semi-public spaces, provided that individuals cannot be identified from the webcam output.

If individuals are likely to be identifiable, for example a webcam transmitting a high definition image at a live event, then reasonable steps are required to warn members of the public that a webcam is being operated. This is usually done with notices outside the venue or a note on posters or tickets.

The same rules apply to a webcam in a public space like a street or a park. If individuals can be clearly identified then the operator should put a warning notice near the webcam.

Once upon a time I had the “snowcams” of several Alpine resorts saved to my desktop. Sadly these days it’s more likely to be a camera that shows me the traffic on the A19 Tees Flyover that is linked to my favorites.

Here are some North East Webcam links.

Roker Beach

Tyne Bridge

Durham City Skyline

Sunderland University (The St.Peters Car Park!)

Any suggestions for more interesting views?

I did try to get Webcams into Hartlepool Council Chamber but the move was blocked, predictably, by the Labour Group, I doubt very much that they wanted the people of Hartlepool being able to watch the antics of their councillors!

Friday, 4 June 2010

Google "Hartlepool Art Gallery"

Try this little experiment.....

Google "Hartlepool Art Gallery"

When I tried it about 15 minutes ago I got a link to:

www.destinationhartlepool.com

which opens with......

"Welcome to Destination Hartlepool
The Official Website for Tourism and Business in Hartlepool"

Under Latest News..

Current exhibition at the Museum - Tataow! Cook, Tahiti & Tattooing

Great I thought I'll go and see that tomorrow......Oh hang on, its 5th June tomorrow and the exhibition runs from Saturday 20th February to Sunday 11th April! Does that mean I've missed it?

It's OK though, there is a big event planned for July 4th and 5th, Hartlepool Dockfest 09 - Ah, I've missed that as well, it was LAST YEAR!

Who is responsible for letting this website get so behind the times I ask myself?

It's not easy to find but right down in the bottom left hand corner is a little logo and "Terms of Use" Just in case you can't find it the link brings up a box that tells you (amongst other things) that:

"This website is maintained by Hartlepool Borough Council for information and communication purposes."

I wonder if the website operators will get it updated in time for the Tall Ships?

Thursday, 3 June 2010

If you have a hit counter on your blog you can also usually find out who is visiting your pages. So a big thanks for the peek from Nick Wallis, Labour Councillor for Haughton West ward and Cabinet Member for Sustainable Environment and Climate Change on Darlington Borough Council. I returned the favour and pinched the poster below, very good I thought and very true!

Pravda Publications or vital sources of public information?


In 2005 the Local Government Association (LGA) launched its “Reputation” campaign with a 12 point plan for local authorities to improve their public image and increase the value residents placed on local authority services. One of the key recommendations was that councils should publish a regular council magazine or newspaper.

The reputation plan even identified a council produced magazine as “the most cost effective form of communication for getting a council’s key messages across, giving statutory information, gathering feedback, setting the record straight and counteracting rumour.” (LGA, 2005).

Eleven of the north east of England’s local authorities signed up to the campaign immediately and began to produce magazines of varying standards of professionalism and with varying cost (Association of North East Councils, 2006). By 2009 nearly every local authority in the country was producing such a magazine (LGA, 2009).

The emergence of council run publications has had a serious effect on local newspapers and a House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee highlighted four principle arguments against council publications (HOC, 2009). There was insufficient distinction between local authority publications and independent newspapers; the council publications diverted advertising spend away from the traditional press; the inclusion of public notices in council publications rather than the traditional press; and the content of council publications was not sufficiently objective or independent (including allegations of "council propaganda").

The argument that there is insufficient distinction between local authority publications and newspapers is difficult to sustain in the case of the Hartlepool council Hartbeat magazine as Hartlepool is served by three daily newspapers, two are evening publications, the Hartlepool Mail (Publisher Johnson Press) and the Gazette (Publisher, Trinity Mirror) and one, the Northern Echo (Publisher, Newsquest) is a morning newspaper. There are also free papers such as the Hartlepool and Peterlee Star which is published weekly. All are published in newspaper format. The Hartbeat magazine is published only four times a year and is in A4 magazine Format.

However, the front cover of Hartbeat does not specifically say the magazine is designed, printed and distributed by Hartlepool council. In very small text it does give the website address but it is not very prominent. Anyone not familiar with the publication might be confused about its provenance.

The criticism referring to the inclusion of statutory or public notices is also not totally sustained by the Spring 2010 Issue. Page 48 does give information about ward councillor’s surgeries, although details are published for only eight out of seventeen wards in the town. The criticism of the Commons Select Committee however seemed to be mainly concerned with statutory notices and there were no examples of these in the Spring 2010 Issue.

Many other local authorities are now looking at in-house publication and the use of local newspapers, for statutory notices. Hampshire council chiefs recently identified that by moving only to on-line publication, via the council’s website, they could save a considerable fraction of the £1.5m annual costs they incur by advertising everything in local newspapers or in council publications (Southern Daily Echo, 2010).

The criticisms made by the Select Committee of diversion of advertising revenue and in particular the lack of objectivity, can both be clearly be seen in the Spring Issue of Hartbeat.

Hartbeat is an unremitting diet of good news about Hartlepool council and its “partners”

The use of unsupported statements is illustrated on pages 20 and 21 where a double page header says “Yes, we use our local library for all sorts of things….” This is a blatant political statement and is related to the on-going debate over public library provision in the town. There is no evidence provided for library use in the town.

On page 6 the magazine trumpets the achievements of the council in imposing the lowest ever council tax rise. However, it fails to mention that figures release by the Department for Local Government and Communities show Hartlepool borough council charge the third highest council tax in England. Hartbeat Magazine is correct in saying it is the lowest tax increase ever, but neglects to mention that at 2.5% it is still above the national average increase of only 1.8%

Page 6 also contains a “Thumbs up for new power station” This is based on the council’s own polling data using their Viewpoint Citizen's Panel. This was set up in 1999 and consists of around 1,200 residents who are claimed to be a representative cross section of the Hartlepool community. The headline “Local people have given an overwhelming ‘thumbs up’ to a new power station being built in Hartlepool” is therefore based on a private poll about which no details of the actual membership of the panel are available and which do not comply with any of the standards set by the British Polling Council or the Market Research Society Code of Conduct.

According to the LGA Survey of local council newsletters the average cost in 2009 of publication and distribution for a unitary authority magazine, such as Hartbeat was £82,000. Page 3 of the Hartbeat magazine make the statement “Hartbeat aims to be a self funding publication”. In response to an enquiry about the funding of Hartbeat magazine the Hartlepool council PR Department supplied the information that Hartbeat has a design, printing and distribution budget of just under £1,800 per issue. The PR Department also claimed that in 2009/10 the magazine did not use this budget and actually produced an overall surplus of almost £2,000. It was also noted that Hartbeat was printed by an out of town firm. A great example of Hartlepool Council failing to support local companies.

An enquiry to the advertising agency handling Hartbeat gave prices for a full page advertisement as £500 (plus VAT); a quarter page was £200 (plus VAT). These were provided verbally as the Agency does not have a published rate card for Hartbeat magazine. The Agency is based in Northallerton and also handles the advertising for the Darlington Town Crier (Darlington Borough Council, 2010).

The Spring 2010 issue of Hartbeat is a 64 page magazine and contains 10 pages of clearly identifiable external advertising, (such as Pages 2, 7 and 17), plus 3 pages of what could be counted as advertising but is internal council generated (such as the Maritime Experience Advert on Page 10. The Maritime experience is council owned and operated). There are other pages that could be advertising, pages 9 and 40 refer to NHS Services in the town but it is unclear wether or not these are paid for advertisements. Similarly the full page from the Cleveland Police Authority (Page 35) could be a paid for advertisement.

Assuming the NHS, Police Authority and Colleges all pay for their advertisements then a total of 19 pages are paid for copy, giving an income of £9,500. This would hardly be a significant sum to Trinity Mirror Group, Newsquest or Johnston Press however; if the same scenario is being repeated across the whole of the UK then significant sums will become involved.

Public Sector accounting practices do make isolating costs very difficult. Page 18 of Hartbeat gives information about the “Milestone year” for Housing Hartlepool. Housing Hartlepool is the major social housing provider in the town. It was set up as a stand alone organisation in 2004 by members of the council’s own housing department to take over the council’s housing stock in the town. It is not clear from the context in Hartbeat if this is editorial or paid advertising.

According to Alex Aiken, Head of communications at Westminster City council. 'Councils should be reviewing very seriously what they produce. Councils claim that it is made viable by its advertising but most of that is council advertising so you are just transferring money between departments..' (Quoted in Harrison.C, 2010)

The House Of Commons Select Committee did identify some good examples of council publications. Stevenage borough council's Chronicle and Portsmouth city council's Flagship were singled out as good examples of council produced publications. Like Heartbeat, both of these are magazine format and distributed on a quarterly basis.

Unlike Hartbeat however they both clearly state they are published by the local authority. Also unlike Heartbeat they carry no classified advertising and are produced only for the purpose of providing public information on local authority services.

The select committee report also criticised council magazines that contain comments only from elected members who were cabinet members. In Hartbeat the only councillors mentioned are the Mayor, Stuart Drummond, The cabinet member for performance, Robbie Payne and the cabinet member for Children’s services, Cath Hill. There are no backbench or opposition councillors mentioned anywhere in the publication.

In this respect Hartbeat does not reach the extremes of some other council publications. One issue, selected at random, of Tower Hamlets’ publication, East End Life, included only references to the council's ruling Labour cabinet. The issue of 16-22 March 2009, mentioned them by name 27 times, including six mentions of the same councillor, and carries 12 pictures of them. (Gilligan.A, 2009)

Hartbeat magazine is undoubtedly a propaganda tool for Hartlepool council giving a positive spin on the council’s performance while presenting information on their services. It is unclear how Hartbeat magazine can claim to comply with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) guidance to local authority newspapers and magazines. This guidance clearly says that “any publicity describing the council's policies and aims should be as objective as possible, concentrating on facts or explanation or both.”

Council run publications are now being challenged in many areas. The financial considerations increasingly being superseded by the potential loss of local media and the resultant decline in the scrutiny they traditionally bring to bear on local government.

According to the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, “Council produced newspapers are a ludicrous waste of money and a very real threat to the democratic process, which is why I instantly scrapped Ken Livingstone's self-serving propaganda sheet The Londoner saving £2.9 million of council tax payers' money a year to be spent on, amongst other things, 10,000 trees.” (Croydon Guardian, 2010).

Writing in the London Standard, Roy Greenslade describes council run publications as; “no more than ‘Pravda publications’. Even if they do not specifically push council policy - and most do -they certainly do not criticise that policy. They may act as a (heavily censored) forum for critics, but they do not campaign against decisions. Nor, of course, do they investigate councillors or council officers.” (Greenslade.R, 2009).

The problem was summarized in the government report, Digital Britain. This concluded that:

“While local authority information sheets can serve a useful purpose for local residents and businesses, they will inevitably not be as rigorous in holding local institutions to account as independent local media...the Government is therefore inviting the Audit Commission to undertake a specific inquiry into the prevalence of this practice, its impact and to make recommendations on best practice and if restraints should be placed on local authority activity in this field.” (HOC, 2009).

The Audit commission’s report in January 2010 concluded with the recommendation “that councils review the value of their spending on communication with the public and their editorial policies to ensure these are politically neutral and publicly defensible.”

The recommendation was not implemented before the 2010 General election but the incoming coalition government’s legislative programme did include the commitment to “impose tougher rules to stop unfair competition by local authority newspapers” (HMG 2010). It may be therefore that the days of council “Pravda publications” are numbered.

REFERENCES

Association of North East Councils, 2006, Dialogue magazine, The Reputation Campaign, [online] www.northeastcouncils.gov.uk/global/assets/documents/asset20081021122813.pdf (Accessed 3 May 2010)

Croydon Guardian, 2010, Boris Johnson condemns London's council run newspapers as 'waste of money' [online] http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/local/croydonnews /4870945 (Accessed 25 May 2010)

Darlington Borough Council, 2010, Town Crier, [online] www.darlington.gov.uk/dar_public/ documents/Generic/towncrier/march08.pdf (Accessed 21 May 2010)

Gilligan.A, 2009, The propaganda newspapers, [online] http://www.thisislondon.co.uk /standard /article-23724285 -the-propaganda-newspapers.do (Accessed 1 June 2010)

Greenslade.R, 2009, Council papers are bad for local journalism, and democracy, [online] http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-business/article-23679090-council-papers-are-bad-for-local-journalism---and-democracy.do Accessed 30 May 2010

Harrison.C, 2010, Payback time, Corporate Communications Magazine, [online] http://www.corpcommsmagazine.co.uk/features/658-payback-time (Accessed 23 May 2010)

Hartlepool Borough Council, 2010, Hartbeat, [online] www.hartlepool.gov.uk/site/scripts /documents_info.php?document ID=747 (Accessed 3 May 2010)

HMG, 2010, Freedom, Fairness, Responsibility [online] http://programmeforgovernment.hmg.gov.uk/files/2010/05/coalition-programme.pdf (Accessed 22 May 2010)

House Of Commons, 2009, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Future for local and regional media [online] www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910 (Access 5 May 2010)

House Of Commons, 2009, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Digital Britain [online] www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200934/cmselect/cmcumeds/43/5082.htm (Accessed 25 May 2010)

Local Government Association, 2005, The Reputation Campaign, [online] www.reputation.lga.gov.uk/lga/core/page.do?pageId=1 (Accessed 3 May 2010)

Local Government Association, 2009, Survey of Local Authority Newsletters, [online] www.lga.gov.uk/lga/aio/1857732 (Accessed 5 May 2010)

Southern Daily Echo, 2010, Councils consider axing newspaper notices, [online](http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/8189645.Councils_consider_axing_newspaper_notices/). (Accessed 2