Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cameron Sets Out The Election Choice

The Conservatives met in Brighton this weekend for their last gathering before the General Election. David Cameron set out some of the changes that could be expected from a Conservative Government. The essential message was a stark choice of 5 more years of Gordon Brown's tired government making things worse or David Cameron and the Conservatives with the energy, leadership and values to get the country moving.

An accompanying leaflet summarises the position:-

We can’t go on like this. Vote for change and:

1) Change the economy. Back aspiration and opportunity for all. Gordon Brown’s debt, waste and taxes are holding us back and threatening the recovery with higher interest rates. We need action now to cut the deficit, help keep mortgage rates low and get the economy moving.

2) Change society. Mend our broken society by encouraging responsibility and backing those who do the right thing. Make Britain the most family friendly country in Europe. Back the NHS, which matters more to families than anything. Reform education, with new schools - and standards and discipline for all. Tackle welfare dependency and the causes of

3) Change politics. Give people more power and control. Sort out the mess of MPs’ expenses, cut Parliament, Whitehall and the cost of politics. Make politics more local, more transparent, more accountable.

Governors Disappoint Cheam Park Farm 105

Governors of Cheam Park Farm Junior School voted to keep the lower admission number at a specially convened meeting on Thursday thus denying 15 local children a place at the school in September.

The comments section of my previous article shows the passion and anger of parents about this decision. I've been fortunate that my two children have had the school places that they wanted throughout the various stages but I well remember the worry at each stage. I can understand the frustration of the disappointed parents and the concern as to what will happen next.

I am an advocate of headteachers and governors having more individual control of their schools. Local Authorities, Government and OFSTED place a huge bureaucratic burden on schools with directives and new policies coming in at an unbelievable rate. However, this doesn't mean a free-for-all. Schools need to understand their communities and serve them, not divide them as has happened hear. The school has confirmed its desire to work with the infant school to bring them closer together over the next couple of years but that will be scant comfort for those who will have to look further afield for a place for their children.

Diana, Sue and Juliet have led a fantastic campaign, bringing so many people together. Having seen their grit and determination, I suspect the battle isn't yet over.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Pledge No. 4 - Zero Tolerance Policing

Crime remains at the top of residents’ concerns in Sutton. We will give no-nonsense political leadership to get police officers back onto our streets, doing the job that they want to do and making the arrests to end anti-social behaviour.

We will work shoulder to shoulder with our local police by giving them extra powers to do their job properly including ‘dispersal orders’ to break up and move on intimidating gangs and groups of youths.

We will also extensively use the ‘Community Payback’ scheme to make convicted offenders repay the community for their crimes.

My ward colleague and our Spokesman for Crime and Disorder, Councillor Eric Howell says: “Every resident has the right to feel safe at home and on our streets. That’s why we want to give strong political leadership. Too much violent crime has been driven by alcohol and drugs. Our approach is simple, those that offend will be arrested.”

Our Commitment: We will use all available powers to push for real zero-tolerance policing.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Parent Pressure On Cheam Park Farm Junior School

I joined concerned parents and grandparents outside the Civic Offices in Sutton this morning who are protesting against changes to the admissions to Cheam Park Farm Junior School. Eliza Philippidis (pictured), one of our excellent Stonecot ward candidates for the local elections on May 6th showed her support as well holding one of the many signs designed by the children.

Philippa Stroud and the local MP have worked with parents on a cross-party basis seeking to get the school to reverse their decision to reduce their intake to 90 from 105. The junior school works closely with Cheam Park Farm Infant School but the reduction in numbers means that children now in the infant school are not guaranteed a place and with massive pressure on school places, they may need to travel some distance to get to school in the future.

I am glad to say that the pressure opened a small chink of hope. We went into the Schools Admission Forum which had this as a topic of discussion. The Forum is only an advisory body as the school, as a foundation school, is in charge of its own admissions.The Chair of Governors told the Forum that she was calling an extraordinary meeting of the governors to consider taking in all children from the infant school who wanted a place, at least for this year. Hopefully they will see sense and go back to the higher number permanently. Smaller class sizes are all very well but if your child can't get into that school, they are not much good to you.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Panic Spending Before Election

Public services are in a bit of flux at the moment. With the political debate in Westminster being about how deep cuts are going to have to be rather than whether they will happen, the various public bodies are running around looking busy.

Here in Sutton is no different. We are slowly grinding to a point that we might be able to put a spade in the ground and build a new school. We are still waiting to buy the land from the NHS Primary Care Trust. The Epsom & St Helier NHS Trust are seeking planning permission to build a new wing on the St Helier hospital site. Sutton Housing Partnership, having acheived a two star rating from a government inspector, are looking to start a major repair plan for the social housing in the Borough. All of this is to be done using government money, £38m, £220m and £112m respectively. What's the common link, they're all competing in trying to push the projects forward to demonstrate progress before Whitehall comes a-knockin' and looking to see who's is the first budget to cut. It seems to be a super version of when roads and parks around the borough get spruced up before the end of the financial year.

The whole process remind me of an old joke when two hunters see a lion eyeballing them. One starts putting on a pair of Nikes. The other explains that they wouldn't be able to outrun a lion even with a change of shoes. The first hunter says, "That's fine. As long as I can outrun you."