Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Nick Clegg: You Can't Trust Anything He Signs

So Nick Clegg has "co-signed" a letter with Shirley Williams calling for changes to the unwanted NHS Bill - though the Tories are already claiming this is a joint effort with them!

In a response to stern questioning from shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, Mr Lansley said "My right honourable friend (Mr Clegg) together with Baroness Shirley Williams was explaining to their Liberal Democrat colleagues the amendments which we have been working together on in order to make sure there is further reassurance, that is literally true." So much for all that posturing of standing up to the Tories.

But hang on, Clegg has form when it comes to signing things.

It was Clegg who "co-signed" the original White Paper which originally proposed these expensive and unnecessary proposals for the top-down reorganisation of the NHS in July 2010.

Not Worth The Paper It's Written On
And it was Clegg who also along with Cameron signed off the original NHS Bill in Cabinet in December 2010. He then took to the airwaves in January 2011 to defend the plans. His MPs have backed the bill in parliament at every stage so far, and in the committee it was his Lib Dem health minister who led rejection of Labour's amendments to make the changes Clegg now claims he wants.

And we all remember Clegg's signed "Pledge" not to increase university tuition fees before the last election.

One is left to conclude that this latest autograph has less to do with the NHS, but more to do with trying to save his skin at the forthcoming Lib Dem's Spring Conference in Newcastle / Gateshead early next month.

At least one local respected Lib Dem, Gareth Epps, has had the guts to ask if this latest Clegg tactic is "Good News Or A Ploy?" Of course, Daisy Benson and Redlands Lib Dems have continued to back Clegg and this NHS Bill every step of the way.

Monday, 27 February 2012

More Misery As Coalition Rule Out Cuts To Fuel Duty

As Petrol Prices Rocket, The Goverment Makes More In VAT

George Osborne has all but ruled out any cut to fuel duty in the Budget.

Of the current average pump price of 135.4p a litre, around 81.2p is taken in tax (58.6p is fuel duty and 22,6p is VAT) - a de facto tax rate of 149.9 per cent. Some stations are now selling at 150p a litre.

But with petrol more highly taxed in Britain than in almost any other country, how on earth are hard-working families and businesses supposed to afford these eye-watering prices?

Petrol Already At £1.50 A Litre On Some Forecourts
And with continuing troubles in the Middle East and Nigeria and pressures elsewhere, it looks like the misery is likely to get worse while the "millionaire row" cabinet turn a deaf ear. Before the election, the Tories promised a "fair fuel stabiliser", which would reduce the level of tax when crude oil prizes rose. But not now.
Currently, VAT is charged at the standard rate. So as the price of fuel rises, the amount of VAT taken by the taxman also rises.

So come on Chancellor, announce a temporary cut in VAT and give us all a break!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Lib Dem / Tories: "If Only The Public Weren't So Thick, They'd Support NHS Changes"

Redlands Lib Dems Support The Tories' NHS Bill
The Lib Dem supported Tory government now seem to be adopting the position that if only the public weren't so thick, we'd all rush to support their wrecking proposals for the future of the NHS.

They don't put that way of course. Rather, they say that they "must be better at selling the bill".

Did they not notice that just three days after meeting former salesman David Cameron in 10 Downing Street last week, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health called for the NHS Bill to be dropped?

How shameful then that Daisy Benson and her Redlands Lib Dems still support the changes in Reading.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Have You Met My Intern?

David Cameron introduces Hilary Clinton to his intern - Nick Clegg.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Redlands Lib Dems Support Damaging NHS Changes

Redlands Lib Dems Support Damaging Changes

Now, their latest candidate in Redlands has admitted that he too supports the controversial Health & Social Care Bill - a bill many Tories are openly calling "unnecessary and unpopular".

So there we have it, those against the Bill:
  • British Medical Association
  • Royal College of GPs
  • Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
  • College of Occupational Therapists
  • Faculty of Public Health
  • Royal College of Midwives
  • Royal College of Nursing
  • Royal College of Ophthalmologists
  • Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health
  • Royal College of Pathologists
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists
  • Royal College of Radiologists
as well as 3 Tory Cabinet Ministers and the majority of the public.

Those in favour of a bill that will see much greater use of private beds in NHS hospitals and damage children's health: 
  • David Cameron
  • Nick Clegg
  • Daisy Benson
  • The next Redlands candidate - who, as of yet, hasn't owned up to anything - other than supporting the NHS Bill and having been a Boy Scout: nothing about where he lives, whether he is married, has children, or anything else.
Why so coy?

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Council Budget: Guest Blogger

Here is a guest post from Labour Cllr Sarh Hacker about last night's meeting at Reading Council.

Cllr Sarah Hacker
"Our budget has been passed.

Well, back from the Council meeting where the budget was passed with full support from all parties, apart from the Greens.

The Greens put forward a motion to increase the Council Tax by 3.5%, following what the Green council in Brighton have done. Strangely, they didn't say what this rise would pay for. This amendment to the budget was rejected.

Times are hard. Many people have already lost their working tax credits, with more to follow. Food prices are going up, energy prices are on the rise, petrol is getting more expensive again. If you get a payrise, it is likely to be below inflation making it, effectively, a paycut. Many people aren't getting a payrise at all and, with unemployment rising, people are facing the possibility of not having a job at all.

With costs rising faster than pay people are struggling. I know people who are having to decide between heating and food so, when offered the choice of no Council Tax rise, or a rise of 3.5%, I know what most people would go for and it's not with the Greens."
Thank you Sarah. You can find Sarah's blog site here.
PS. The Council budget was amended to remove the proposed 25% increase in the cost of a 2nd Residents' Parking Permit - something I lobbied hard about. I'm happy to acknowledge that was also something the LibDems wanted: gosh, is that why I'm described as an "independent thinker"!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Council Budget 2012: Lobbying For Change

Reading Council meets to set it's budget for 2012/13 tonight.

Since the background papers and reports became available for last week's Cabinet meeting, I have been lobbying my Labour Colleagues in the ruling group to make some changes.

Tonight, we will find out if I succeeded. Update tomorrow!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Family Friendly Museum In Redlands

A Family Friendly Museum On Our Doorstep

A museum in Redlands has been short-listed as one of the best in the UK for families.

The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) in Redlands Road has made the top 20 long-list for the annual family-friendly museums award.

the Kids In Museums organisation says of MERL “There’s a large, welcoming family space as you walk in, with comfy sofas, activity tables, backpacks to take around with you and games to take into the garden.

Lots of nooks and crannies with odd farming machines and implements, film clips about dying-out crafts, challenging displays about food miles as well as traditional displays of fascinating and gruesome items from the past."

Why not tell Kids In Museums what you think about our fantastic local museum  by emailing award@kidsinmuseums.org.uk

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Editorial Comment

Community Champion Chris Maskell
The Editor is happy to pass on the following message from Cllr Chris Maskell:

"I nearly fell off my seat laughing. If they had looked at posting dates and times they might have got a clue. They are sad."


But hey, when has the truth ever bothered the Lib Dems? They are so negative and increasingly desperate.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Scandal: US Consultancy Firm Behind The NHS Changes

A shocking expose in the Daily Mail shows why this Coalition can't be trusted with the NHS.

Cameron & Clegg: No Turning Back

The firm that hijacked the NHS: The Mail on Sunday investigation reveals extraordinary extent of international management consultant's role in Lansley's health reforms.

The Daily Mail claims that many of the Health and Social Care Bill proposals were drawn up by McKinsey & Co, the company and that the international management consultant's involvement in the NHS reforms is so great it sometimes even hosts meetings of the 'Extraordinary NHS Management Board' convened to implement the proposals.

Last June, David Bennett, the head of NHS regulator Monitor, flew business class to New York, where he stayed at a five-star hotel and attended a lavish banquet, all paid for by McKinsey and Company, the international management consultants.

Mr Bennett may not have broken the law. But as a former McKinsey executive, he should have known he was displaying questionable judgment – because Monitor’s future role, which is being massively expanded by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s controversial Health and Social Care Bill, includes regulating health service contracts potentially worth many billions with McKinsey and its clients.

McKinsey also worked closely with previous government and on disastrous Railtrack privatisation under John Major.

Meanwhile table-thumping Cameron lashes out at Cabinet back-stabbers and vows there won't be a U-turn, while "Half of Cabinet in despair over health reforms.

Labour's Andy Burnham, shadow Health Secretary, said he would be demanding an urgent review of McKinsey's role in light of the Mail on Sunday's disclosures.

He said "The Government needs to tell us how much McKinsey has earned in total from this re-organisation, whether Ministers have followed proper processes in awarding contracts and whether any inside knowledge of policy has been used for commercial gain."

Meanwhile Cameron and Clegg have agreed to push ahead with the changes.

Footnote: Cabinet member William Hague has worked for McKinsey & Co where fellow Tory Archie Norman wassaid to be  his mentor.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Let's Keep Talking

Turning Ideas Into Action

Last summer Labour took back control of Reading Council and launched a new way of working with local people, aimed at building long-lasting relationships with local residents and providing new opportunities to influence Council decisions and services.

The ‘We Need to Talk’ public engagement initiative focused on the difficult decisions facing the council in the current economic climate and gave local people the chance to have their say on the issues that matter most to them and their communities.

Redlands Labour Councillor Jan Gavin reports back here on the success of the first round of  "We Need To Talk" initiative and the next steps to be taken, including:

■ On-going work on the ideas and suggestions from phase 1 of the consultation

■ A database of residents who wish to be consulted or involved further, on specific subjects or generally

■ Linking the engagement programme and the budget setting process, including ongoing dialogue about the hard decisions the Council must make in the face of a reducing budget

■ A ‘Let’s Talk Health’ initiative to help shape local priorities

Jan Gavin, who is also Reading’s Lead Councillor for Service Delivery and Improvement, said: ‘This administration promised residents that we would listen to them, so we have started a conversation with residents about what is most important to them. Even though there is less money, we want to work with residents to find new and better ways to deliver improved services. Residents will be able to see in the budget for next year that we have listened and taken action on what they have told us matters to them. This is not a one-off, we will continue to listen and talk to residents.’

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

£8Million Wasted On Happiness Survey

Happy? The £8M Question
DREAMER David Cameron's Happiness Index has got bigger — and the cost has soared to £8MILLION.

His much-ridiculed probe has been expanded to cover "the meaning of life".

And the bill will end up being FOUR TIMES the original estimate after the Government admitted that the Office of National Statistics has a £2million-a-year budget for it every year until 2015.

When the PM unveiled his pet project in 2010, he said it was to probe what makes the nation happy or sad — studying the effect of things like unemployment, family, education and crime.

But it has been expanded into deeper philosophical issues. The "Measuring National Well-being" survey — to be sent randomly to 200,000 households — will now include four "subjective" questions:

So, ask yourself the following questions - then ask yourself if the money could have been better spent on other things.

1. How happy did you feel yesterday?

2. How anxious did you feel yesterday?

3. How satisfied are you with your life nowadays?

4. What extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?

They were unearthed by Shadow Chief Treasury Secretary Rachel Reeves. She said: "It's shocking. Cameron needs to get a grip." A No10 source said: "It will be very useful."

Monday, 6 February 2012

Harry Potter Switches To Labour From Lib Dems

Expellum LibDebum
Daniel Radcliffe, the Harry Potter star, has switched his allegiance from the Liberal Democrats to Labour, branding Nick Clegg a "whipping boy".

Radcliffe, 22, was a vocal supporter of the Lib Dems in the 2010 General Election, but supporting the party has become "unviable" since Nick Clegg became Deputy Prime Minister.

He said: "Nick Clegg has been totally used by the Tories. Anything they don't want badly reflected on them, they reflect on to him. It's very unfortunate when you think how impressive he was in those pre-election debates. But he has made so many concessions."

Radcliffe is the latest celebrity in a growing list to desert the LibDems. Bella Freud, the fashion designer, Colin Firth, the actor, and Kate Mosse, the author, have also abandoned the party since it entered government.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Lib Dem Davey "Not Fit" To Be Cabinet Minister

Nick Clegg Welcomes Ed Davey To The Club
When I heard that Ed Davey had been appointed to succeed the embattled Chris Huhne, I have to admit to asking myself "Who he?"

Then Gareth Epps provided me with an answer.

I've always believed that Gareth is a thoughtful, rather than tribal, Lib Dem. But the forthright manner of his denouncement of Davey took my breath away.

Well done Gareth for calling as he sees it - a rather refreshing act in a sometimes less than sincere world.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Lib Dem Chris Huhne Charged With Perverting The Course Of Justice

Chris Huhne and Daisy Benson pose next to stationary cars
Well, the news we've been expecting for a while has arrived: leading Lib Dem Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, has been charged with perverting the course of justice and now faces a criminal trial and the loss of his Cabinet position.

Who will replace him? Too soon to bring back another disgraced ex-Cabinet Minister David Laws, and the rest are a bit thin on ther ground. Who cares. The Lib Dems are a spent force in terminal decline locally and nationally.