Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year - And Thanks!

Thanks to the brilliant team of supporters who have delivered nearly 10,000 calendars from the Labour Party in Minster and Redlands wards in Reading between Christmas and New Year's Eve!

Best wishes from Liz Terry and me - we all know what we have to do between now and 3 May 2012, so take the rest of the evening off.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

National Trust Cuts Solar Power Plans

While the Coalition government is preparing it's appeal to the law courts which ruled their cuts to solar panel "feed in tariffs" illegal, the National Trust has decided that only two of its 14 planned solar projects would now go ahead.

Solar panels on country mansions were part of the trust’s plans to halve its energy use over the next 10 years and save money at the same time.

Under the “feed-in tariff” scheme, the Government offers to pay for any surplus energy fed into the grid from solar panels. However, despite teh recent set-back in the courts, the government is still planning to reduce the payment to owners of panels to 20p per kwh of electricity, rather than 42p, making it a much poorer investment for households and businesses.

Their claims to be the "greenest government ever" now seem a remote and sadly hollow claim - remember that next time Lib Dem Environment Minister Chris Huhne starts to lecture us.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

RBH: Return Of The Chief

Royal Berks Hospital: Deserves Better Leadership
Word reaches me that Ed Donald, CEO at the Royal Berks Hospital, was due to return to work today.

If this is true, then those responsible for the botched attempt to remove him earlier this month should now look at themselves and consider their own positions.

We are proud of the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading - shame on those for tarnishing it's name.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Election Would Finish Us, Nick Clegg Tells Lib Dems

Clegg knows he and the Lib Dems are finished - they have no where to go
Here's an interesting confession from Cleggy - and explains why the Lib Dems are so desperate to hang on to power, regardless what Cameron does.

The Liberal Democrats would cease to exist as a party if they brought down the Coalition over Europe and triggered an early election, Nick Clegg warned his MPs last night.

The Deputy Prime Minister told a private meeting of more than 100 MPs and peers that he would not play “Russian roulette” with the Conservatives over David Cameron’s rejection of a new European treaty.

He said: “I don’t want to be the last leader of the Liberal Democrats by provoking a general election today.”

Mr Clegg’s public attacks on Mr Cameron over Europe have raised questions about the future of the Coalition but the Deputy Prime Minister told his party he intends to remain in power with the Conservatives until the election due in 2015.

Earlier, Mr Clegg had seemed to backtrack from his former position by ordering his MPs to back a Commons motion “commending” Mr Cameron for rejecting the treaty. Mr Clegg has denounced Mr Cameron’s refusal to endorse a treaty aimed at creating a fiscal union between eurozone countries, suggesting the decision could harm British interests.

But Liberal Democrat MPs were told to vote in favour of a Commons motion describing the Prime Minister’s veto as “a vital means of defending the national interests of the UK”.

Lib Dems were also ordered to back a motion for “a rebalancing of the relationship with our European neighbours”, echoing the calls of eurosceptic Tories.

It was tabled by the Ulster Unionists and backed by the Conservatives, while Labour were opposed. To avoid the spectacle of Coalition MPs voting both ways — and a government defeat — Lib Dem MPs were whipped to vote in favour, too.

The decision exposed Mr Clegg to allegations that he has had three positions on the treaty in five days. Having initially given Mr Cameron lukewarm support on Friday, a Lib Dem backlash forced him to criticise the Prime Minister on Sunday.

So there we have it - the Tories can do what they like until 2015 and their Lib Dem poodles will just suck it up!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Lib Dems: Yellow To The Core

Lib Dems in action today.

1. Nick Clegg hides away from Parliament as Cameron makes his statement on using the veto in Europe.

2. Glenn Goodall runs away from the voters in Redlands in the face of near certain defeat come next May (as I long predicted).

Lib Dems: "a particular brand of cowardice and lack of confidence in your own beliefs".


Friday, 9 December 2011

RBH: Doctors "Spitting Blood" At Move To Sack CEO

Consultatnts & GPs Fury
Word reaches me that there is something of an internecine power battle unfolding within the Royal Berks Hospital.

Following the clumsy attempt to sack CEO Ed Donald (who contrary to some reports has not been sacked and has refused to resign) has caused considerable uneasiness about the future of the Trust Chair and Non-Executive Directors.
The botched move has caused "fury" amongst senior medical staff, some of whom are said to be "spitting blood" (never a pretty sight in a hospital), having moved a vote of no confidence in Trust Chair Colin Maclean at a packed meeting earlier this week and demanded the return of their CEO.

The Non-Exec Directors, who include RCRE's Rajinder Sophal, should also be aware that the local PCT and new South Reading Commissioning Group of GPs are also said to be up in arms, with threats of removing £5million worth of patient contracts if Donald is not allowed to return to his role.

Some Governors are now said to be calling for the removal of all the NEDs - let's hope they have the back-bone to see it through.

Nurse, scalpel please!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Government Delay Private Sector Pensions: "Devastating" For Younger Workers

The Government's decision to delay the new national pension scheme (Nest) will have devastating consequences for young workers.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the Government's decision to delay the new national pension scheme (Nest) will have devastating consequences for young workers.

While most attention focused on this week's disclosure that everyone born after 1960 will have to work one year longer before receiving their state pension, an apparently technical statement sneaked out on the eve of the Autumn Statement will hit millions of young and poor people much harder.

They are the groups most likely not to have any company or occupational retirement scheme if they work in the private sector. The poor are most likely to be excluded because of their lowly place in corporate hierarchies and, in any case, many struggle to make ends meet at the end of the month – let alone a working lifetime.

Young people often lack company pensions because they have more immediate concerns – such as paying off student debts – or they work for small or start-up companies that regard retirement planning for junior employees as none of their business.

More than seven million workers without any retirement savings were told three years ago that they would gain a legal right to have one from 2014 onwards. Better still, employers would have to contribute at least 3pc of payroll toward the new National Employment Savings Trust (Nest).

Now the Government has decided to delay implementation by one year. That may not sound like much but the power of compound interest means the cash effect will be substantial.

For example, as the graph illustrates, a 22 year-old earning £15,000 a year who delays starting a Nest pension by just one year will cut his pension fund value at the new retirement age of 67 by £26,000. A 22 year-old earning £25,000 a year who delays starting a Nest pension by a year will cut his fund value at 67 by £43,000.

That's a high price to pay for this young worker having an extra £600 before tax in his or her salary because they won't have to make the employee's 4pc contribution until one year later. The explanation is that they will also miss the benefit of the employer's 3pc contribution – £450 in this case – and 1pc tax relief or £150. Most importantly, these modest sums will then be denied the powerful effect of compounding over long periods of time.

That raises the more positive point that younger people are best placed to make the most of this week's bad news because they have time on their side. The same cannot be said for older workers without pensions who will have to wait another year before starting to build up the Nest egg.

Julian Webb of Fidelity Investments predicted that 50 year-olds on national average earnings could receive 10pc less pension because of this week's about-turn by the Government. He said: "Delaying saving for retirement is rarely a sensible decision and will result in lower incomes for some of the poorest people in society.

"The eventual result is that people end up needing more support from the state in retirement, which will further undermine the perceived benefits of these savings. In effect, the Government is foregoing future benefit savings to reduce employer and employee costs in the near term. This looks like borrowing by the back door."

Nobody needs to tell Michelle Mitchell, a director of the charity Age UK, about the reality of poverty for people who rely on state benefits. She said: "This is an extremely disappointing decision about Nest and one that will affect millions. It is appalling that many employees will miss out on at least a year's worth of contributions and a decent retirement."

Friday, 2 December 2011

Lib Dems: Come Home To Labour

Just as thousands of disaffected Lib Dem voters are turning to Labour up and down the land - including here in Reading - news reaches me of a possible high profile switch amongst their steadily decreasing band of councillors.

Secret, tentative, informal and completely unofficial talks have apparently taken place with at least one Lib Dem councillor (a former Labour Party member in their past) who seems to be increasingly fed-up with the role their national leadership is playing in propping up the right-wing toxic Tory Government.

The cuts to Working Tax Credits, Child Benefits and OAP Winter Fuel Allowances may just be the last straws to force a change. On the other hand, our friend may feel obliged to wait until after next May's impending disaster at the polls before jumping ship.

Take it from me, there will always be a place in the Labour Party for people who are prepared to work hard in their community and stand up for decent hard working people and those less well off.