Friday 15 March 2013

Leaked emails and misuse of the internet

Once again I find myself at the wrong end of a leak from someone at Fenland District Council after an email sent by me to my political group was leaked to the press. There are all sorts of reasons this has happened, and they are all about individuals protecting themselves and are not about public interest.  This sort of leaking is the act of cowards who do not have the strength of character to voice their own opinions and choose instead to sneak behind people's backs through the media.  I have said before and I say again that the best service our local journalists could do for the people of Fenland is to expose these self-serving cowards rather than encourage them.

Those that have released these emails know that by leaking them they will create the impression that they are the totality of the debate, when in fact there have been many conversations around this topic, so it is an attempt to distort the public view of what is going on. I stand by what is reported, they are my words.  However, the broader media reporting of this issue has ignored the most important point - this is not a victorian rebellion because a councillor may or may not have accessed something pornographic.  I have been round for a long time, I know the way the world works, I know the sorts of things many hot-blooded people use the Internet for and have no issue with them using their own technology in their own time for doing so (as long as it is nothing illegal).

The point that has been missed is that there is a suggestion that a councillor may or may not have accessed pornography using a laptop that has been funded by the taxpayer. If this had been an employee of Fenland District Council or, I suspect, any other council, they would have been suspended whilst the issue was investigated and if their conduct was found wanting, they would face being sacked. It must not get to a situation where employees of Fenland or our residents could claim that an issue that would have such serious consequences for them may not have been treated in such a serious manner just because it was a Councillor. I make the point that Councillors and staff have to sign and agree acceptable use policies which specifically prohibit the use of computers to access pornography.

The process now being undertaken now is exactly the right one.  Whatever comes out at the end of this should be informed by the recent Standards Committee decision, but not dictated by it.  It is right for political groups to take their own view of serious issues like this including taking wider public concerns and the impact on Council staff into account as well as giving all members of that group an opportunity to listen and challenge about the issue.

I want to say now that I have not come to any conclusions about the rights and wrongs in this case, I just feel that it is absolutely right that this is given scrutiny within my political group in Fenland.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Sainsbury in Whittlesey - please write and Support

As you will recall, when the Sainsbury Supermarket, Country Park and Business Park in Whittlesey were approved  by the planning committee, they had to be referred to the Secretary of State for approval.  This is done via an organisation called the National Planning Casework Unit.  I can confirm that this has now happened and they have committed to make a decision by 21st March.

I would please urge anyone who cares about this to drop them a line to make representation.  The reference numbers to use are:

NPCU/CONS/D0515/71212 and NPCU/CONS/D0515/71214 

And the email address to use is:

Please use whatever reasons you think are appropriate, but the ones I shall be raising are:

1.  That the Sainsbury/Country Park/business Park solution has huge popular support in Whittlesey
2.  That the country park addresses a recognised shortage of open space in Whittlesey as identified in the extant District Wide Local Plan and Fenland District Council's 2006 audit of open space.
3.  That the business park will make Whittlesey more sustainable by creating local jobs.
4.  That representation from Tesco and/or Co-op will be for commercial reasons rather than planning
5.  That this is a local issue not one of National significance and therefore should be decided locally.

I would please urge you to make representation, it is important that we prove what we all know, that there is huge local support for the Sainsbury offer.

Friday 1 March 2013

For the few who care, my views about Eastliegh

I am sure no-one really cares about My views about the Eastleigh by-election, but I am going to say my bit anyway.

There is only one party that can truly celebrate yesterday's win and that is UKIP. They provided a natural place for protest votes and harvested them in spades.

The Conservatives were the biggest victim of UKIP's success and I hope the message hits home that we need to be seen to be more Conservative (I don't mean more right wing, I mean more Conservative) and also sell our successes better. Conservatives are dealing with immigration, with net migration down by a third since 2010, the economy is slowly rebalancing itself in favour of the private sector, we are committed to solving the problems caused by an over-bureaucratic EU (including promising an in/out referendum) and most people are supportive of benefit reforms. We can also and be clear these are not areas where the Lib Dems in the coalition are natural supporters. The Conservative message is not getting across - and it needs to.

Whilst the Lib Dems can afford to do a tiny jig to celebrate the fact that they won, the underlying message must be scary. The Lib Dems have historically excelled at by-elections, often polling way above National expectations, partially because they seem to be able to pull in volunteer support from across the country in a way that others struggle to match. This time they suffered a 14% swing against them. If they perform like that now, imagine what it will be like during an election campaign when their support is much more spread out.

The Labour Party had a disaster with a tiny swing in their favour, this was not the performance of a party that is heading to Government.