Sunday, 27 April 2008

What do posters tell you about Local Elections?

It may be childish but my top moment of this weekend was Saturday morning canvasing in a "Safe LD" ward in Colchester. As a tide of young blue rosette bearers hit the patch I cockily knocked on the sitting LD councillors' door. "I'm just canvassing for the Conservative Party" I piped as the team passed by. 11.30am on the Saturday before election day and he was putting his feet up at home. You should have seen his face when he realised we were on his home turf. I was told that the Greens are picking up lots of LD protest votes and judging from the huge number of Green posters in his neighbours' windows there are a large number of disaffected LDs. We ran through our entire stock of Tory posters by lunchtime and had to send back for more.

The night before I'd been canvassing in another LD stronghold in S Cambridgeshire. Lots of LD posters around but in two hours I didn't meet a single LD voter... only Tory or undecided.

Talking of posters, given the global credit crisis, I've been dreading a moment when I turn a corner and become overwhelmed by FOR SALE posters. There are a lot more about and I hope that this is not a sign of things to come, these were in Harlow on Saturday afternoon. There I found another buoyant Conservative team and a lot of disaffected Labour voters - many of whom just said they wouldn't bother to vote.

The weekend rounded up in North London today Backing Boris with Richard Fuller, our candidate for Bedford. In five hours canvassing no posters (any colour) seen but I found a great election buzz, everyone said they are going to vote. Many have already, the vast majority I spoke to were for Boris - and I was stopped on many doorsteps to discuss the intricacies of the second preferences.

I know that just a few hours in each constituency doesn't give a full picture, posters don't vote but Thursday's result will be very interesting.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The cost of Gordon's U Turn

One bit of me is pleased that Gordon U turned and will give money back to the 10p tax payers. They need to keep that money – but what will his solution cost?

Taking with one hand through income tax and giving back to exactly the same people with the other through credits is a woeful waste of money.

A troll through HMRC’s last report shows the cost of collecting income tax is just 1.25p per £ but the cost of returning it ranges between 3.42p and 4.58p per £ - the higher figure being when you also build in the cost of preparing for new credits such as the one suggested.

Therefore for every pound Gordon taketh and giveth back he chucks down the bureaucratic drain around between 4.67p and 5.83p.

So the offer is I'll take your money throw 5% away and give it back in a while (without interest?).

Furthermore the wastage must be even higher since these are based on average figures, yet the cost of administering tax collection must be higher when dealing with a large number of lower income payers rather than a smaller number of higher income ones.

And is even more complicated since many younger people change jobs and working hours more often so all the credits will need frequent re-calculations.

To cap it all there is the concern that not everyone hit by the loss of the 10p band will be eligible for credit.

What a lot of questions.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Think before voting for single issue candidates

In the past few weeks I visted various parts of the East of England helping with local election campaigns. Dotted around there is the usual variety of "worthy independents" and single issue candidates. Think ahead - what will you want your councillor to do for you?

I've been a local councillor for the past couple of years - It has opened my eyes to the plethora of issues our councillors deal with.

So what has been in my inbox this month?

From the very local - trying to rehouse an elderly disabled couple, the planning issue that threatens to close a village pub, and do we protect our green lanes?;

To the mid sized - this morning's meeting helping to find a temporary home for the 80 children of the after school club while their building gets urgent repairs, will the post office be on the closure list?

To the big picture - brokering a meeting to get progress on our overcrowded killer roads, how should meagre handful of police officers prioritise their workload?, helping one of our largest local employers get their questions answered about threats to their industry.

To the massive - what do we do about the ludicrous location proposed for Gordon Brown's Eco Town? where do those 26,000 new homes go (that many just in one little district... 3 million in the Region),

Yes, local politics is about local people and local issues - but it would not be possible to work on so many issues without being part of a team - the team support provided by being a member of a political group is invaluable.

When you elect a councillor they will be with you for a number of years - no one can predict their future inbox contents - Think twice before voting for a single issue candidate or "worthy" independent.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Safety Petition

Please consider signing this petition on the 10 Downing St website re the A1307.... and do remember to click on the link in the return email to confirm your signature (I forgot .....).

I'm always in doubt about whether these petitions are listened to - and petitions have been put together about this tragic road before - but something must be done and hopefully this will help keep the pressure on.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Local Elections and the Internet Campaign

I do like this view from the duckpond on Linton Conservatives. The Website is packed up with a huge amount of local info and comment.

From the feedback on the doorstep this evening it has got local people thinking in an area that has traditionally been a LD stronghold.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

"Development" and its unpleasant consequences

One of the things I enjoy most about politics is the variety of different issues I see… no day is ever the same but often there is a common thread. The past few days have been all about growth and some of the less pleasant consequences.

On Friday morning I found out that one of Gordon Brown’s potential controversial Eco-towns in Cambridgeshire involves not only concreting all over green fields but also all over one of the East of England’s major aquifers. I'm not a geologist – but at a time when we are all concerned about increased flooding and the long term water supply as years get dryer it does seem rather foolish.

Later I went to Newmarket where people are worried about increased low flying aircraft. This is the home of UK horse racing and our bloodstock industry that together are estimated to bring in around £1 billion a year into the economy. It is a huge employer. I met with Jim Paice MP, shadow minister for Agriculture. We expected a couple of locals to turn up. Actually we were greeted by representatives of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association, the National Stud and numerous other Stud owners. They know that tranquillity is vital to their industry. For over 20 years the US Military have respected a 7,000ft “no fly” zone. Now our UK government's quango NATS are suggesting that every flight stacking for Stansted should be able come as low as 4,000ft right above their heads. Local people feel the NATs consultation is a pre-determined sham. It would be pretty easy for this industry to relocate overseas. I would rather keep the jobs.

Yesterday I was down in Thurrock helping for the local elections. Its one of the most marginal councils in the UK and again development is top of the agenda. 18,500 new homes planned across this part of the Thames Valley. Local election candidates also told me how parts of the district have seen a huge change in their ethnic mix just over the past two years. Uncontrolled immigration is a huge issue for them. A year ago I warned that as the economy dips resentment increases. I also got to see Steve Metcalfe, the candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock. He has a fantastic motor!

This afternoon back to the outskirts of Cambridge. Cambridge City Council is currently a LD stronghold. The Conservatives do not have any councillors and are fighting hard. On the outskirts of the City I met our candidate, Peter Hase, a successful local businessman and father. Residents have become resigned to the thousands of homes that are being built just across their garden fences BUT they want to have local councillors who make sure there are still green spaces around their homes, places for their sports and someone who will stand up for them against the developers. A bit of opposition will help to keep everyone on their toes.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Enjoying seeing the police around

I popped out this evening to help Roger Hickford, one of the Conservative party's excellent local candidates for May 1st election.

We were in Hildersham, a small village a few miles outside Cambridge. Here elderly residents in a quiet close were recently the subjects of a frightening distraction burglary. One of a series across large stretches of Cambridgeshire, Essex and Suffolk.

Whilst we were there the police arrived. This evening they had special permission to stop and question each car entering the village and were near the close. Local people here often complain that there are not enough police around, we know that Cambridgeshire Police are very short of resources.

People this evening were very pleased to see the police, they stopped and chatted and passed on local news. Roger had a chance to update the local officers on some recent events in the larger villages. Even if the distraction burglars are not caught this evening, having a few police around has helped make people feel safer. I wish it could happen more often.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Good News and Very Sad News

Firstly thank you to everyone who voted for me in the Euro-Selection election. I am very honoured to be offered the highest possible ranking and I know that there will be a lot of work to do. At the initial selection meeting I asked the audience what they would want from their Euro MP ... again I throw that question to my blog readers.

On my way back from holiday I received the devastating news that another teenage young life has been lost on our local road. A girl that I remember as a beautiful and highly talented child. She died crossing the road after getting off the bus to go home.

This accident happened on exactly the same stretch of road where another teenager died last year. Tragically work on the safety improvements approved since the first accident will not start until this summer (that is nearly 18 months on).

In my very local area I'm trying to arrange a cross party meeting of locally elected representatives prepared to think out of the box, to try to find some ways our road can be made safer. How long does it take to arrange a meeting??? - quite a long time as the road covers not only district but also county boundaries. I have yet to hear of a council that has spare money for its highways budget but there must be ways to speed up the decision making process and to think across county/district borders.