Wednesday 24 August 2011

Visit of Chris Holmes to Ferry Meadows

Yesterday, in my capacity as Nations and Regions East representative for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough I had the pleasure of an early morning trip to Ferry Meadows to meet Chris Holmes - winner of  paralympic gold medals - on his visit to Ferry Meadows.  The Peterborough Evening Telegraph story about the visit is here.

The visit was memorable for a number of reasons.  Of course meeting someone as successful as Chris Holmes was a privilege, but that is also true of meeting some of the young local disabled paralympic hopefuls.  Chatting to them about their regular very early morning training sessions and the level of commitment they have to make was a real eye opener for me.

I also had a chat with a couple of the guys involved with the Peterborough Adapted Cycling Scheme who provide handbikes and facilities for the disabled around Peterborough.  The scheme is, apparently, highly successful, with regular sessions at Peterborough Athletics track as well as providing equipment at Ferry Meadows.  As someone who does a bit of cycling, I was extremely impressed with the hand bike I was shown around and somewhat surprised to be told it was ten years old and that the modern ones are much more high tech.

Both Sailability, which provides sailing experience for the disabled, and the adapted cycling scheme are very accessible to Whittlesey people -so please recommend them to anyone you know who could benefit.

Friday 19 August 2011

Not fit to do the job

Labour MP for Glasgow South, Tom Harris MP has just tweeted this:

Grateful that there were no British victims of this mornng's terrorist attack in Kabul.

It has sparked something of a storm and quite rightly so.   Here is a quick screen print of immediate responses:

This is the story.  Nine people, presumably working in support of the British cause were killed in that attack.  It smacks of the same attitude adopted by Harold Wilson when he pulled British troops out of Aden in the 60s and left behind a slaughter of those who had supported them.  He is currently justifying his comments - he should just apologise.

Monday 15 August 2011

£20m contribution to superfast broadband

We had a special Cabinet Meeting at the County Council today, to agree a contribution of up to £20m towards superfast broadband in Cambridgeshire.

I fully support this and spoke in favour of it today.  Broadband is as much of an infrastructure issue as Highways and Schools and getting ahead of the game across the County will significantly benefit our economy.  As such, the investment should easily pay for itself.

I look forward to seeing how the project progresses.

Friday 12 August 2011

Tidy Fenland

This is the text of a press release from Fenland District Council:

Litterbugs to be hit with £75 penalty

Most people don't drop litter but the small minority who do could be in for a nasty shock.

Anyone caught in the act is likely to be hit with a hefty fine as Fenland District Council steps up its “Tidy Fenland” campaign.

Council officers will be patrolling the streets and open spaces in all four market towns over the next two weeks, ready to punish any litterbugs with instant fixed penalty notices of up to £75.

The enforcement move is the latest stage in the campaign, which was launched earlier this year. Until now it has concentrated on raising people’s awareness of the problem and drawing attention to the costs of clearing up.

Every kind of throwaway rubbish is being targeted, with a particular focus on “food on the go” litter, such as takeaway cartons and sweet wrappers, and cigarette butts, which are the most widespread problem.

Councillor Peter Murphy, FDC’s portfolio holder responsible for the environment, said: “Eight out of 10 people don’t drop litter but we all suffer from the thoughtless minority who do. It’s not just the fact that they create a horrible mess which spoils our towns and villages; it’s also that it costs us £1,000 a day to clear it all up. That money could be much better spent on other things.

“So we’re asking everyone to take a pride in their local environment and to either put their litter in a bin or take it home with them. And we’re warning those who just chuck it on the ground that they’re liable to be hit in the pocket with a £75 penalty.”

FDC has been working with town councils and local communities to identify the main problem areas. The Chambers of Commerce are also involved, as are the various Street Pride groups, and many local businesses have signed up to a voluntary code of practice supporting the campaign’s aims.
“Tidy Fenland” is one strand of a wider “It’s your Fenland – be proud of it” initiative designed to engage local communities in looking after their environment.

The riots, what they mean and what they don't

I have had loads of discussions online and offline about events across the country last week (if you talk politics with just politicians you become islolated).  Monday night in particular was horrific - I was actually at the quiz in The George in Whittlesey whilst events were unwinding on the television there, and it was quite surreal how the quiz slowly started to take second place to what we were seeing on the screen.

My first comment is about policing.  It is quite clear to me that initially the police failed us as members of the public.  The response was feeble and only improved after, it seems, David Cameron got involved and gave them what for.  That's not about the officers on the ground it is about the leadership.

The police do not lack the tools to crack down on protestors and looters, they lacked the leadership to make it happen.  When people blame Tory cuts etc. they need to recognise that the failed leadership derives from the culture of 13 years of Labour rule which will take time to drive out of our system.   The issue was not about police numbers, the issue was about leadership and direction.  When Labour pretend the police issue is about cuts, it is an argument of convenience.

Similar can be said about many (not all) Labour politicians rants about the causes of the riots. Riots in modern, free countries are not caused by EMA or tuition fees.  They are caused by irresponsibility, bad parenting and a lack of respect.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Those politicians like Ken Livingstone and Harriet Harman who try to blame cuts are not explaining the reasons, they are excusing criminality.

There are plenty of families in difficult circumstances who will have kept their children in, will not have allowed them to take part in this activity and who would have been horrified to discover they had.  The difference between the dos and do nots in these circumstances is not about material possession, nor is it about education - it is about respect, a sense of responsibility and good parenting.

Anyone that knows me and my politics knows that I am passionate about the issue of deprivation.  I recognise  how tough deprivation is - I saw it in Nottingham as a parliamentary candidate and I saw the dire housing estates that people are being asked to live in - and yet were paying rent to a Housing Provider with a recent history of corrupt practice; I know that deprived communities need support.  But the evidence of the last week also proves something that people like Iain Duncan Smith have been saying for years - that improvement has to be driven from the bottom-up not from the top down - for many individuals one handout leads to an expectation of more, it is not a recognition of the need to improve your circumstances.   In this respect we need to nurture the spirit that came out of the cleanup campaigns to drive change.   We also need a ramping up of parenting programmes - with an expectation that any parent who is labelled as "failing" or in danger of failing will attend, at the same time making sure that our law is changed so that failed parents take legal responsibility for the crimes committed by the children that they are failing - helping parents by giving them the skills whilst making them personally accountable for their failures has huge potential and it enforces responsibility in two directions - but it has to be got right and the intervention has to be early.  Sure Start Children's Centres have huge potential here and local Authorities have a responsibility to ensure they are a priority (note the word Local Authorities here - that's the age we live in - it's down to them not Government - and down to you to hold them to account if they don't do it).

One other thing people need to recognise is that jobs will only come to a community or a location if those communities prove they are ready for them and will respond positively to them.  The rioters who use lack of jobs as an excuse (excuse not reason), have done a huge amount to ensure that employers won't move into their area.

I want to finish by talking about the economy.  We need to make people aware of the danger of the Ken Livingstone's of this world who cannot see beyond their nose economically.  We live in difficult times - the same week riots were taking place in England world stock markets were in turmoil, largely because of a sovereign debt crisis in the EU (i.e. Governments in the EU have borrowed too much money).  In Britain we stand almost alone in our recognition of what this means and have a Government with the foresight to deal with it.  The US recently raised the limit on the amount they could borrow, the result was a lowering in confidence in their ability to pay the debt back and a reduction in their credit rating - which could result in higher interest payments on their debt.  Similar is being predicted by some for France and Germany.   The same company that lowered the US credit rating made a clear statement that Britain was safe whilst it remained committed to dealing with its problems.   What does that mean - and why is that relevant to the riots of last week?   Because a lower credit rating means higher interest rates and higher repayments - which means more taxation and even less money to spend on state infrastructure.   Ignoring the problem now will mean greater cost down the line and even greater cuts.

Could we tax the rich more?  Possibly, but it raises very little additional tax and the evidence suggests that overdoing it stifles investment.

I also want to make the point that responsibility has to come from every direction.  The incessant and irresponsible marketing, the obsession with the bottom line, despite the consequences, which we are seeing in business also has to change.  Business growth has to come from beating the competition, from being innovative and leading edge and from expanding your business base, not from using subtle or not-so-subtle marketing techniques that squeeze more and more money out of the same people.  Businesses need to be responsible as much as individuals do.

Thursday 11 August 2011

More about an elected Mayor

This article in the Cambs Times is a good one, and quotes some of my Twitter posts to the person desirous of wasting more of your money on another fruitless Mayoral referendum in Fenland.

He has now been advised that the idea is off the agenda for at least four years because there has to be a gap of 10 years between such referenda.

So what is the response?.  To raise his sights to wasting even more money on an even more fruitless idea - a Mayor for the whole of Cambridgeshire.  This is about ego not fact - please don't sign a petition to support this idea.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

More comment from ECOPS

This also from ECops:

We are urging social media users not to believe everything they read on Twitter or Facebook – unless it’s an official feed.

We have been receiving a number of calls and Tweets, following rumours and speculation circulating on social media sites.

There is no truth in these rumours, and we have been working hard to reassure the public through their official Twitter feeds @cambscops and @suptpaul.

We would urge people not to believe everything they read on social media sites – unless it from an official police feed. There are a number of unhelpful postings and rumours that are simply untrue.

We are also actively pursuing anyone we believe to be using social networking sites to incite violence and disorder.

Young people are particularly reminded of the risks of committing serious criminal offences with items they post on social networking sites.

We continue to monitor the situation across the county – as well as other parts of the country, and are committed to keeping the people of Cambridgeshire as informed
as possible through our official channels.

Anyone concerned about issues in their area can keep an eye on our Twitter feeds @cambscops and @suptpaul

Tuesday 9 August 2011

ECops comment on disorder

I got this via Ecops and thought it worth cutting and pasting:

Dear Resident,
We are urging residents to remain calm amid untrue rumours of disorder across the county.

We are receiving a number of calls regarding rumours of incidents across Peterborough and the rest of the county. Several false rumours are also circulating on social media sites 

There is no truth in these rumours and no incidents have been reported in Cambridgeshire.
We would stress there have been no incidents of violence and disorder reported in the county. Businesses and residents should continue with their lives as usual.

We are monitoring the situation in London and other parts of the country. However there is no information to suggest there is any threat to this county. 

We urge people to not pass on these rumours via email, text or via social media and to follow us on Twitter @cambscops or @suptpaul to get the most up-to-date information.
Our officers have been assisting the Metropolitan Police to deal with incidents of violence and disorder in London. 

We have sent two Police Support Unit’s of 25 officers to the capital yesterday and today.
We are monitoring the situation in London and other parts of the country. At this time there is no information to suggest there is any threat to Cambridgeshire but we have contingency plans in place.

Our message is clear, there is no threat to the people of Cambridgeshire or local businesses and people should carry on with business as usual. 

We understand there may be concerns and feelings of vulnerability within a number of communities and are working closely with our partners and community leaders to address those concerns. 

Patrols in the county have been increased as a precaution. 

Violence, disorder and any other criminality will not be tolerated in Cambridgeshire and we will deal swiftly and robustly with anyone who uses the emerging issues in London as an excuse to break the law in this county. 

Kind Regards,

Your Neighbourhood Policing Team. 

Sunday 7 August 2011

It's more than just walking

Sunset near Goswick
I have just got back from 5 days of walking the Northumberland Coast Path.   A sixty mile walk from Cresswell in Northumberland to Berwick Upon Tweed.  It was an intriguing few days, helped by the fact that we decided to camp along the walk (something that is a bit difficult for the first half!!).

I can’t say enough about the beauty of the Northumberland Coast.  Magnificent beaches, castles, rocks and cliffs make it a spectacular journey - I described Northumberland as Britain’s best kept secret and I really do think that’s appropriate.  But we also met some fascinating people and received some amazing hospitality.
Bamburgh Castle
On the second night we stayed at the Camping and Caravan Club site at Beadnell Bay.  We got there at the end of our longest day and were absolutely shattered.  The managers at the site recognised this and were kind enough to let us stay in an already erected frame tent that was empty for the night rather than put our own tent up.   It didn’t save us much time, but it was a lovely gesture that they did not have to make.  The next day’s walking, from Beadnell to Belford was pretty wet and we got to Bluebell Farm campsite at Belford pretty soaked (being wet doesn’t have to stop you enjoying yourself by the way - it was a great day’s walking), as a result we asked the owners of the site if we could use their bunkhouse instead.  It would have been really easy for them to say no - we were the only guests at the bunkhouse and it was probably not worth the few extra pounds they made to open it up for us.  But they did, and indeed put the heating on so we could get everything dry overnight.  Again, we would have coped without this, but it was a nice gesture that made life easier for us.

On another night we reached a remote campsite and I mentioned to Angela (my amazing wife) that I would love a beer, although we had no chance of finding a shop, ten minutes later we bumped in to someone we had briefly bumped into a few days earlier and he immediately offered me a beer.

On our final night we met Aaron who originates from Wexford in Ireland.  He was getting somewhat frustrated with life and so sold everything he owned, bought some camping gear and went walking around Britain.  When we met him he had been walking for four months, wild camping most nights.  We ended up walking the final stretch of the Coast path with him and I have to say I totally admire what he has chosen to do.   How many of us would have the courage to do something like that?

Long walks like these are great experiences.  It is the second one Angela and I have completed and it certainly won’t be the last.  They are great for meeting people, learning about life and a great way of seeing our marvellous country.