Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cable the Fall Guy

Whilst Nick Clegg is giving his best blokey approach to politics the truth is somewhat murkier. The Liberal Democrats took a £2.4m donation from Michael Brown, a man living in Majorca through a company that was registered in the UK but has never seemingly traded. Instead the money came from Brown defrauding people. The Electoral Commission inexplicably ruled that the Liberal Democrats did not need to return the stolen money because they accepted it in good faith.

In the video above, John Sopel gives Vince Cable a roasting over his claim to want to fix politics whilst holding on to stolen money. It seems that Nick Clegg is being allowed to sail through whilst Cable takes the flak on the real background of the Liberal Democrats.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Vince Cable Exposed

It'll be interesting to see how the Chancellors' Debate gets reported in the media with Vince Cable's foresight exposed as more Mr Magoo than the Oracle at Delphi. Andrew Neil and Stephanie Flanders grilled Cable about his flip-flops over the past couple of years showing how a third party politician with little prospect of having to deliver can appear polished without sufficient scrutiny of their track record, but will wilt under the heat of the spotlight. The quote of the interview was from Andrew Neil: "Isn't it true Mr Cable, that the biggest myth of this campaign is your reputatation."

I doubt if Adam Boulton needs too many lessons from Andrew Neill but we'll see if tonight is the day that Nick Clegg understands that you can't form a government simply by stepping away from Westminster and joining the finger wagging alongside the crowd. Even the most optimistic polls for the Liberal Democrats suggest that they will form a coalition with Labour. This either gives us 5 more years of Gordon Brown with him having come a distant third in the election or a second successive unelected Prime Minister if Brown resigns. This is hardly a good start in fixing our broken politics.

Hat Tip for video: Guido Fawkes

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sutton Conservative Manifesto for Council Elections 6th May 2010

Over the last few weeks, I've shared our thoughts on 11 key issues from Council Tax to grit bins. However, the Councilin its entirety is much more than that with a budget exceeding £400 million each year. We have spent a number of years, speaking to residents, collating local statistics and researching good ideas from nearby Councils. Our Manifesto is the result of this with 100 costed ideas for positive change here in Sutton. You can read it in your browser by clicking on the image above or download a copy here.

Despite the economic climate, we remain ambitious for Sutton. We all live in the Borough and so know that Sutton is a good place to live, but we also know that it could be so much better. Our collective experience in business and the public sector gives us the knowledge and confidence that to better services do not automatically follow ever-increasing budgets. We want to see a Council working smarter, using our money more effectively, directing more of it to making a difference to residents rather than meekly meeting Government targets. The 100 pledges contained within will start the reintroduction of fresh-thinking in Sutton.

Let me know what you think and join us in changing the future of Sutton.

Pledge No. 11 - Aim To Freeze Council Tax For Four Years

Times are tough economically. Local residents are feeling the pinch of the recession and unemployment has risen sharply, yet we still have one of the highest council tax levels in London. Since council tax was introduced, the Liberal Democrat-run administration has increased council tax by over 205%; four times the rate of inflation.

Quality services and real value for money can, and should, go hand in hand. By making adjustments to the way Sutton Council is managed and by working with a Conservative Government, a Conservative-run Council intends to freeze council tax
for the next four years.

Our Commitment:We believe in real value for money whilst seeking to reduce the burden on taxpayers. We aim to freeze council tax over the next four years.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pledge No. 10 - Closing Down Nuisance Pubs & Clubs

So much crime and antisocial behaviour in our Borough is fuelled by alcohol. Whether it is being sold by careless landlords to binge drinkers or by irresponsible shop owners to underage children, we need to bring this to a stop.

In the first 100 days, a Conservative Council will begin to review the licences of troublesome pubs and clubs in the borough and if they are seen to be the catalyst for crime and antisocial behaviour, we will shut them down. We will keep under review closing times to ensure that we are not importing disorder from outside the Borough carried out by those attracted to late-night drinking in Sutton.

Our Commitment: Within the first 100 days of a Conservative Council, we will start a review of all licenced premises known to be trouble spots and if necessary, shut them down.

BBC Politics Show

Last Sunday, the Politics Show on BBC featured Sutton as a Council in London pioneering Smarter Travel Sutton. This is an initiative from Transport of London, with money bid for using the support of both parties in Sutton. It fits with our philosophy of encouraging people to do the right thing rather than using the stick. It fits less well with the rigid anti-car policies of the Liberal Democrats.

My main issue with the Liberal Democrat Council is that they have run out of their own ideas, living off their legacy of past glories rather than building on it. There comes a time for nearly every political adminstration where they forget why they sought election in the first place, complacently defending their actions from an ivory tower. We have reached that place in Sutton. The political administration is buffered by an excellent team of officers running the corporate council on a day to day basis. Many of the mistakes when residents see red are as a result of political interference. Councillors should be elected to enhance the Council not hinder it.

I hope that you see with the pledges that I am posting and the full 100 pledges of the main manifesto that we want to build on the good things that the Council do, eliminating the bad including the waste within the Civic Offices and the poor decisions made without consulting residents. Sutton is a good place to live, but it can be so much better. We need some fresh thinking to make this happen. The Conservatives have the new ideas to bring positive change to Sutton.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pledge No. 9 - Rewarding Residents Who Recycle

As a Borough, Sutton sends 70% of its waste to landfill and recycles and an unimpressive 22% of all produced rubbish. With landfill tax set to reach £40 per tonne on top of the actual cost of landfill, it is time the council took real action.

A Conservative administration will tackle this unsustainable statistic. Our responsibility is not to settle for a Borough that feels good about recycling, but one that is actually good at recycling. We believe people should be rewarded for doing the right thing. We believe in the carrot, not the stick. This is why we will introduce incentive-based recycling. Drawing on successful examples from elsewhere, we will offer financial rewards for residents who help the Council and help the environment.

Land fill taxes are increasing rapidly. The Council faces swingeing fines by the Government if we miss our target to reduce the amount of waste disposed of in landfill. This will fall on the taxpayer in the form of increased Council Tax, so we need to tackle the issue now. The Council saves money by diverting waste away from landfill; we will pass on savings to residents.

Our Commitment: We will develop a system of financial rewards and incentives for people who help the Council and the environment by recycling more of their waste.

No Joined Up Thinking in Sutton

Apparently Sutton's gully cleaning machine has just gone past my house. The drips of water on the road demonstrate the problem of lack of preparation as they show that the machine is spending more time cleaning the white lines in the middle of the road than it is the gullies.

In another move, the Council are looking to introduce a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) around Carshalton Beeches Station, including Salisbury Road where I live. Now, either the Council believe there is a parking issue in the area, in which case it would have been sensible to have given advanced notice to ask people to move their cars, or they don't in which case, why waste money on a consultation about a CPZ? We live in austere times and this is one small example where smarter working would give residents more for less. The process would have cost less and the gullies would have been cleaner.

You may wonder why there is a picture of a big cat here? It is a Snow Leopard, a rare animal that has never been filmed until recently. It took David Attenborough's team three years to get a glimpse. Still, it's easier to get a picture of this than it is of Sutton's solitary gully cleaner.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

David Cameron Comes To Cheam

The traffic wasn't the only thing congesting the crossroads in Cheam last Saturday with a massive crowd packing the centre of the village to get a glimpse of David Cameron.

He came the day after his announcement on transferable tax allowances for couples either married or in a civil partnership who pay the basic rate of tax. Philippa Stroud has had an enormous influence on our family policy and so it was fitting that the future Prime Minister followed up his announcement with a boost to Philippa's campaign to join him in getting elected in Sutton & Cheam.

A pack of journalists surrounded him from the moment he arrived. He flew through being on a tightly managed schedule but he did meet 'real' people, not just hand-picked party apparatchiks and supporters. I was with a number of families. David Cameron spent time talking to the younger children. The media were keen to speak to David Cameron; not the future PM, but the owner of David Cameron Hair on the Broadway. The two Daves had chatted about the Scottish roots of their name. Apparently Cameron the hairdresser thought Cameron the politician needed 'funkier hair'.

The atmosphere was positive and uplifting giving us all a feeling that the election campaign had really kicked off well here in Sutton.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pledge No. 8 - Supporting Our Armed Forces

Junior ranks fighting on our behalf in Afghanistan are among the lowest paid public sector employees in the country with basic pay as low as £15,000pa. Some young married soldiers are below the poverty line, yet we ask them to do things without question that we couldn't even imagine.

Sutton Conservatives are committed to give soldiers, normally residents in Sutton, deployed on active service overseas a 50% council tax rebate. As well as basic financial support and cover for services that they are not using, such a commitment is symbolic in honouring the Military Covenant and acknowledging the risk and sacrifice that these men and women take on behalf of us all.

Our Commitment: We will give British soldiers and reservists deployed on active service overseas a 50% council tax rebate as a small token of our support for their commitment and sacrifice.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Last Straw For Sutton Residents

New figures recently discovered by Sutton Conservatives puts the cost of the Liberal Democrat straw café pet-project in Manor Park at an eye-watering £196,000.

The initial cost agreed by the Liberal Democrat-led Sutton Council in September 2009 was £116,000 but by 18th March 2010, the cost had risen by almost 70%.

Liberal Democrat council papers boast that the straw café is expected to generate a rental income to the council of £6,000 per annum. It would take nearly 33 years with full time tenancy to reimburse the council’s coffers with the amount spent on the café.

Lack of affordable housing is a key issue in the London Borough of Sutton. If the £196,000 sum wasn’t spent on the straw café, Sutton Council would be able to use that money to build four new properties from scratch thereby alleviating the pressures of the housing waiting list.

Hot on the heels of the Sutton Life Cente, it's unforgiveable to waste almost £200,000 of taxpayer’s cash in this current economic climate on building a café made from bales of straw. With the chronic shortage of housing in the borough, it is inconceivable that such a large sum of money is being wasted in this way. £200,000 would pay to take four families desperately in need of permanent accommodation off the waiting list and into new purpose built affordable housing units.

Sutton’s Liberal Democrats have made their choice, its own pet projects before people. The controversial Sutton Life Centre was reported last week to be making a loss before it has even opened. This straw café is also destined for that list of failed projects. It is high time they understood that taxpayer’s money isn’t their plaything; the council are privileged to be the custodian of resident’s hard earned cash and with that privilege comes the responsibility to manage funds properly and offer real value for money. This is another sign of a tired administration taking residents for granted and forgetting why they sought election in the first place. In another introspective project, we are told that Sutton is to be a 'One Planet Borough' by 2025. I'm hoping we'll acheive something similar after the local elections on 6th May, when a Conservative Council returns to live on the same planet as Sutton's residents.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Pledge No. 7 - Supporting Our Small Shops

Businesses and shops play a vital role in breathing life into our local areas. The recession has taken its toll on chains like Woolworths and Threshers, but there are areas in the Borough that have suffered in the good times. Big companies like Canon, Homebase and recently Zurich Insurance have moved out of the borough to go somewhere that offers them more, in their bid to remain competitive. Small shops have also gone, leaving empty shells behind. Wallington Square has had several empty shops for nearly two decades. North Cheam is scarred by the eyesore that is Victoria House. South Sutton has another landmark building, Sutherland House that is gradually crumbling with the retailers below struggling to attract sufficient numbers.

Sutton High Street has been allowed to develop without a tight strategy. You know that the target market of the High Street has changed when Poundland gets undercut by the 99p store. It is not all about Sutton. The Borough is made up of a collection of villages each with their own characteristics, all surrounding the busy town centre. These villages each need a solid plan to make the most of their features.

A Conservative Council will not be satisfied with a strategic plan for the borough. We will aggressively market the borough to businesses and retailers, actively encouraging the businesses that residents want to see and use, to come to the Borough. We will tackle the landmark buildings that are falling into disrepair. They are the first view of the Borough that many visitors see. We will ensure that easy and affordable 'stop & shop' parking is available in our smaller High Streets to attract passing trade for smaller shops, working with local businesses to involve them in a sustainable solution to parking issues. Finally, we will use planned changes to Business Rates under a Conservative Government as a marketing tool to give incentives to businesses to relocate and send a clear signal that Sutton is open for business.

Our Commitment: We will actively approach and encourage businesses to come to Sutton and will ensure that affordable 'stop & shop' parking is available in our smaller High Streets.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Celebrating 13 Year of Effective Waste Maximisation

The Guardian is running an advert from a hitherto low-key Government Department, the Department of Government Waste. It begins "The Department of Government Waste was set up in 1997 with a remit to make Britain a world-leader in spending public money from inception, our strategic objective has been to maximise expenditure and minimise frugality, in order to deliver sweeping cost inefficiencies for taxpayers."

The Department has its own website and video from the Secretary of State, the ubiquitous Robin Ewe, both worth a look.

H/T Conservative Home