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


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.....?