Tuesday, 29 December 2009

New Year Love bomb by David Cameron Working?‏

There has been quite a lot of blogging from Lib Dems on the continued Love Bombing of the Lib Dems by David Cameron. David Cameron New Year message can be read here on Iain Dales Blog.

Cameron has been using the same words as Nick Clegg such as progressive politics, fairness and change. Using these words of course does not mean that the Conservative party is any of these things especially when compared to the Liberal Democrats. I really see the Lib Dems 10k tax threshold for Income Tax and National Insurance for example as a fairer tax policy then the ones offered by the other two main parties. This would give more incentive for low earns to work too, More carrot than stick.

Mark Reckons thinks that this tactic is pathetic and transparent here, Liberal Neil believes that it could back fire here and the Norfolk blogger believes that the Tories offer a false Liberalism and would cut taxes for millionaires here.
Personally I think if Cameron can get this message out to the general public that this could work for them to a point. I know the Tories have done this in the past and will be really pushing this point home during the general election. This tactic could also damage the Lib Dems vote from wavering Labour voters because they could see the Lib Dems being more like the Tory party itself and rather then changing to Lib Dems may just abstain.

Conservative Blogger JR I think has got David Cameron's tactics down to what he is trying to do. Sway a few votes in the South West of England see JR's post here. JR writes 'This is prime Lib Dem/Conservative marginal territory. There are 18 Lib Dem held seats in the region and 8 of them would need a swing of just 5% (from LD to Cons) for them to turn blue. A further 8 would be taken by the Tories if there was a 9% swing.' JR points out that the conservatives need to gain seat of the Lib Dems in order to avoid a Hung Parliament.

Im also hoping that the next general election does result in a hung parliament as I would like to see the Lib Dems have a modern taste of power (since the days of David Lloyd George (Liberal Party)). This may be scary to some (perhaps especially to non Lib Dems) but I think this would be good for the party. This would demonstrate that a vote for the Lib Dems is not wasted, showing that they can handle real power other than private members bills and all party parliamentary groups etc. After all in the short term this is the only realistic power that the Lib Dems can have other than running major city councils.

David Cameron's love bombing perhaps shows that they would be willing to have a coalition with the Lib Dems and that they are no longer feel the need to compete with Labour but are now turning there attentions to the Lib Dems.

Local Blog Heatherwood Hospital Petition Reminder

Russ Bryant Number 10 Petition which asks the 'Prime Minister to Intervene in the Underhanded Closure of Heatherwood Hospital' can be signed here http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/ascothospital/

The deadline to sign up by is by 12th January 2010. The Petition currently has 2,424 Signatures.

Please do sign this petition so that Russ can reach his target of 2,500 Signatures.

Monday, 28 December 2009

World Debt Crisis

There is rightly a lot of focus on the UK’s national budget deficit which is on course to be a record £178 billion in the current financial. This is after Greece passed it "austerity" budget and the Republic of Ireland passed its serve budget cuts to keep them within the European 13% GDP borrowing rule.

The UK debt is rising at an alarming rate too and all the parties appear to have differing plans to deal with it (or not), before any downgrading of the UK's credit rating. I’m not sure any political party really has the whole solution or are in fact telling the public the full facts on what they will really do to get the UK back on track.

The UK of course is not the only economy with a large deficit. I have also noticed that so many of the world’s economies are in trouble.

Is the world sinking under a growing national debt or can the economic recovery turn it around before the taxes put us all back into recession? Its certainly a fine line between keeping the deficit down and reducing capital spending (spending which maybe helping the economic recovery).

The above chart can be found here from www.visualeconomics.com.

A great source of comparison between countries can be found at the CIA public library here.

UPDATE: the Conservative blog has details that could be showing that the UK is now borrowing at a rate of 17% of GDP see here .

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Will Former MP's Help Their Replacements and What is Phillip Lee Doing?

I recently received a Christmas card from Dr Phillip Lee the Conservative PPC for Bracknell who is standing in place of soon to be former MP, Andrew Mackay.

This Christmas card got me thinking. What has Dr Phillip Lee been up too? and will Andrew Mackay help him get elected next year?
If Andrew Mackay MP did campaign on behalf of Phillip Lee. I guess it may not be to Phillips advantage if he did as he would want to Avoid any rub off from the expenses scandal.
Will former MP’s campaign to help their replacements?
I guess they could make a difference for those people loyal to the former MP for whatever reason. If the former MP’s not only endorse them but also persuades those constituents who the former MP helped to lend their support onto the new PPC.
What has Dr Phillip Lee been up too?

Dr Phillip Lee who was selected as Conservative PPC on Saturday 17th of October 2009 has not updated his website since he won (See here). His last blog was on the 19th October. I understand that a new website is being developed for his main campaign to be elected in Bracknell as MP. However I was surprised that there were not any updates since October. Phillip Lee of course is still a working doctor and I imagine he has a lot of organising to arrange within his work if he is to become a full time MP.

I would however like to know if Phillip has had chance to come back to Bracknell to visit perhaps the new college building or to talk to the council. Many PPC’s from all the parties write into the local papers to correspond on various issues. There is quite a lot of banter between them on the pages of the Bracknell Standard, but I have yet to see one from Dr Phillip Lee. He probably has visited sights and people in Bracknell, it would be nice to have an update. So for the moment I just wondered where Dr Phillip Lee is.

My review of the Bracknell Open Primary can be read here.

Also Dr Phillip Lee PPC was kind enough to answer some question on this blog here before he was selected.

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Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas Card to all my Readers

Merry Christmas to all my blog readers. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

Many Thanks for visiting, reading and interacting on this blog.

I leave you with this link where you can send Political Christmas cards to your friends from Martin Rowsons of the Guardian here.

I leave you with my Christmas card too you all from this site, hope you like it.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

SNP Tactical Voting Gives More Reason for Tory PR Support

Snptacticalvoting is living up to its name with this post on Anti Tory Tactical Voting. The idea behind it is that if there are no Tories in Scotland then it would “Arguably offer up an ideal platform for the SNP to advance its arguments that Scotland should govern itself”. I agree with Jeff of Snptacticalvoting that it would.

But this does brings up a different question. Why do the Tories still not support Proportional Representation?

I don’t know if it’s because I have always lived in Tory territory in the south and now in Bracknell Berkshire. But it feels as if tactical voting is mostly directed against the Conservatives then the other parties. Tactical voting exists because we have the First Past the Post System. Under a proportional representation voting system there would be no need for it.

The Tories need a massive swing to win the next general election of an extra 117 seats. As shown in the table on the left using the swing-o-meter found at http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/. This example would result in a hung parliament (obviously this does not allow for all the local issues and variation which will be part of this election.).

If I were a Tory then I would see this as being very unfair and I would support Proportional Representation like Single Transferable Vote.

A good explanation of which is provided here by the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland were STV is used for local council and Assembly elections.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

#Kerryout Could Keep Kerry McCarthy In

Is this a sign of things to come from the blogosphere As we all take part in an election battle are we the bloggers about to become a bit nasty.

I’m no fan of Kerry McCarthy MP, I follower her on Twitter and I'm quite unimpressed with what I read from her Twitter account. I don't think she is cut out to be an MP myself, but that’s just an opinion. I am also aware that she has had the famous 2nd bed expense claim. However I think this campaign is nasty and demonstrates how nasty the election could get on the blogosphere.

There has already been plenty of blogs written stating that this campaign is nasty (for example here on the Conservative Blog and here on the Norfolk Blogger) so I won't go into one on this blog as it’s been covered. However I just wondered how influential bloggers believe they are when trying to win seats.

Kerry McCarthy majority is 8,621 at the moment the top bloggers stats for November 09 are 241,208 unique visitors for Iain dale and 305,624 for Guido Fawkes. As a rough calculation that's split by 646 MP's is 473 for Guido Fawkes readers per consistency (Guido I must add has not covered the #Kerryout campaign. I’m just using the higher stats.). Now assuming all the blog readers were persuaded, then their still be falling too short of the line (of course this is rough as there’s many missing stats. like the actual majority now after boundary changes and some people would have already change their votes and the number of pro Kerry out blog readers adding up.).

I understand that all votes count but this won’t impact much on the ground. Of course the funds raised will help (although there is a limit of £12k that a party can spend on an election campaign).

It is possible that if a local blog tired this campaign it could have a higher effect if they have more local readers.

I guess the idea would be for the press to report this campaign, maybe locally to gain more supporters for #Kerryout. But could this be where it could all go wrong. The British people actually could react badly to a campaign like this if they are not given really good reasons as to why Kerry should go. They may even defend Kerry as the sense of fair play could enter the voter’s thoughts and they may get defensive. So if I was one of the bloggers who are supporting this campaign (like Tory Bear here) I think I would now end it and slowly walk away. This could be used against the Tory candidate. If that happened it would be quite unfair to the Adeela Shafi, who never asked for this campaign to begin with, but Adeela may pay the price of negative campaigning herself.

We will wait and see.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Local Blog - Gritting and the Snow

What the hell happened today Bracknell Forest Borough Council. Im sure the council will claim that the roads were gritted. However the roads in Bracknell, Crowthorne, Sandhurst have been covered in ice for a few days now and many roads do not appear to of been gritted.

So why does it appear that they have not been gritted. I have asked a number of local people and nobody appears to of seen any gritting other than the town centre. Today I did see a gritting vehicle stuck in the same traffic I was in.

Now I understand that this did take the council by surprise but I do wonder why nothing was done between the two large snow events we recently had in Berkshire. I also hear that there has been the same problem in Reading, Basingstoke and Wokingham as well as surrounding areas.

All this after the British public was told that there is enough grit for our roads. If so then please please do use it.

I was glad to see that people did come together to help, the Keith Centre was offering coffee and the use of its toilets and people were pushing each others cars up hill's. Plus the local police were very helpful. Thank you people of Bracknell, next time lets hope the council does better.

UPDATE: The council have been gritting many more roads and paths today. These roads were not gritted the first time round. This time if we have some more snow then atleast it won't fall ontop of a current layer of snow and ice.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

A Call to the World On Climate Change

Dear Fellow Citizens of Bracknell and the World,

What on earth is my granddaughter and her children and their children, and all of our descendants like them all over the world, going to use in the future for energy instead of fossil fuels - oil, gas & coal?

We take these currently absolutely essential energy sources so much for granted. Energy that we need to enjoy everything, watch everything, drive everything, dig up everything, cut down everything, move everything, grow everything, catch everything, make everything, cook everything, heat everything, etc etc etc. ad infinitum!







Now, will you all please listen?

It is my firm belief that a great many politicians and world leaders, and their citizens too, are at last waking up to the fact that we humans who are alive right now quite justifiably blame them and their predecessors for not acting in our best interests in the past and the present.

Clearly strong action to replace fossil fuels should have started decades ago.

Blaming man-made climate change as the need for action now just lets them off the hook considerably!

Remember, they were/are our leaders. They were/are supposed to be looking after their citizens best interests at all times!

It is all fine and dandy having a growing economy for a while.........
But, after a boom comes a bust, always.
Being rich for a while only to end up poor on a dying planet without enough energy to live decent lives later on in the future is hardly leadership or an intelligent solution - is it?

All of these politicians and world leaders must have known that the OIL, GAS & COAL would not last forever. I mean, we all know that - don’t we?

Surely they must have worked this out for themselves at some time - mustn’t they?

If they didn’t know that much, they were/are either just plain stupid and therefore, they were never ever properly qualified enough to be a politician or a world leader, either that or they must think that some supernatural being replenishes the supplies every night while we are asleep, perhaps?

Same difference?

It seems to me that this has been a case of the blind leading the blind for far too long!!! But some of us blind people can see things quite clearly – NOW! No longer can we let these blind politicians and so-called leaders lead us citizens into future disaster.

Please believe me!

Please will you at least listen to those politicians and leaders who now call for firm action against Man-Made Climate Change?

Maybe this is the wrong label for the right action.

So what??????

If we can get the right internationally agreed global agreement at Copenhagen, it will have the same effect as rationing Oil, Gas and Coal consumption all over the world - without starting WWIII over energy!
At least I do sincerely hope that it will..........!
Sadly, with a mere whisper of hope left now (unless you and they at the conference all wake up to reality too!) - I rest my case for "man-made climate change action"!

Yours most sincerely,


Post on behalf o Billbloggs by Dazmando

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Bracknell General Election Odds

Ladbrokes have released there odds for the Bracknell Constituency General Election they are;

Conservatives 1/100
Liberal Democrats 50/1
Labour 50/1
UKIP 100/1

I think its worth a flutter.

Of course your MP may of been chosen already by a few hundred people at the Bracknell Open Primary/Caucus. The words Safe and Seat come to mind.

Other odds can be viewed here

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Does The Tory Party Have Its Own Green House Effect

I think the recent Climate Gate email debacle and the prominence of columnist in a number of papers who have written about their climate change scepticism as well as the growing belief that 'this is a left wing' conspiracy about control and taxation could be building problems for the Tory party. This problem I believe could become as big for them as say the EU issue.

As I read a while ago Mark Reckons blog '
Are Tory bloggers out of step with membership on the environment?' I think this scepticism is shown up in the bloggers and indeed top Tory blogger Iain Dale while not claiming to be a sceptic has posted a number of articles 'Trust Us' Say Climate Change Scientists and Is the Climate Change Consensus Fracturing? And Indy Tries to Split Tories Over Climate Change as he believes the debate is not over. It certainly does not appear to be.

Also some Tories(Oliver Letwin and Iain Duncan Smith, sit on the advisory body) appear to be supporting the dossier issued by the European Foundation which can be viewed on the Thoughts Of A Conservative Christian blog here which gives 100 reasons why climate change is not man made. This was raised today by Jackie Smith and was not answered by William Hague (I have to add that this was a low jab at the Tories and after all its supposed to be Prime Ministers Questions).

On BBC Five Live today David Cameron said, "The way I would argue with the climate change sceptics is say look. If someone said to you that there is a 75 percent chance of your house burning down, even though 25 percent is quite a big number wouldn’t you take out some insurance, wouldn’t you take steps to try and stop it from happening? So even if your sceptical, even if you don’t think there a 100 percent certainty, isn’t it right to take some steps to protect against what could be calamitous for our planet for our children and as its moving quite fast for us as well”. So it’s very clear where David Cameron is on this subject.

I’m not discussing the merits of climate change here. I just wondered if these discussions have caused more Conservative members to become more sceptical. If so then given the Tory Party leadership are firmly behind they’re being man made climate change. Does this mean that this issue could also become a dividing line with in the Party?

Just by way of a note I noticed this 50 reasons why global warming isn't natural on the Short Sharp Science (New Scientist Blog), thanks to a Tweet from AdrianWindisch of the Green Party.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Local Blog: The Look In Café Could Close‏

Bracknell Forest Council is proposing to cut the £60,000 annual funding for the The Look In Café in the town centre.

The Look In Café is used by Elderly people many of whom can’t afford the prices of the coffee shops in town. It is also used to hold meeting of the Alzheimer’s Society who have drop-in sessions at the café. If a cut was to be made it is believed that the council would conduct a Consultation exercise.

This will be discussed at the todays executive council meeting.

I hope a way can be found to save this Café as it is an important service for Bracknell Senior Citizens. Perhaps by reducing the spend on consultants?

On the twelfth day of Christmas Strikes

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me,
Twelve Strikers Picketing,
Eleven customers waiting,
Ten lords aren’t flying,
Nine ladies not on dancing holidays,
Eight maids not going home for Christmas,
Seven continents without BA,
Six geese are the only ones flying,
Five golden wings,
Forty two Thousand BA workers striking,
Three French airlines laughing,
Two hundred and ninety two loss,
And a partridge in a Unite union!

Unite are planning twelfth days of strikes. I understand that its because BA are planning a cabin crew reduction which will result in contractual changes, extended working hours and reduced wages for new starters.

Problem is British Airways are fighting for their survival. After years of making profits they are now making a loss of £292m for the first part of the financial year.

It also appears that the union question of simply asking for a strike but not specifying any options on the length of a strike could lead to legal action by British Airways.

What is Unite thinking off here? I’m no fan of low cost carriers myself, as I don’t like being treated like cattle but BA does need to make cuts to survive. How on earth is 12 days of strikes during Christmas a good idea? Are they not concerned that their members may not have a company to work for in the future?

Did someone in the Unite offices think that choosing twelfth days was somehow Christmassy?
If this strike black mail does go ahead then I will feel very sorry for all those planned Christmas get a ways. I will also feel sorry for the possible future loss of our national carrier. Well-done Unite judging from what I have heard on BBC Five Live this morning, I think you have managed to get the British public to unite against you.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Tories Win, Tories Bloggers Lose?

After a quiet christmas for bloggers and blogging we all know that we can expect the bloggersphere to go mad during the general election campaigning period upto March or May.

At the moment the Tory bloggers are at the top and will be for the foreseeable future. However I think this may change if the Conservatives win the general election. It won’t be instant just a gentle drifting away to the independent/non-partisan blogs that are critical of the government (i.e. a Conservative government).

The problem for the Tory blogger is that there will be a settling in period, an uninteresting period for the Tories, not as controversial and some public slack. During this time the Labour party will be electing a new leader. There may be a number of interesting internal battles at this time within the Labour party. The details of which will be better reflected by the Labour bloggers.

At some point the government will inevitably trip up and those Tory bloggers that are critical or fairly report the situation will do well and shall remain popular. Those that defend the situation even if it is clearly wrong in the voter’s eyes will lose some readers.

I expect the critical Labour, Lib Dem blogs and others to slowly improve their readership numbers too (but not by as much as non-partisan bloggers) not through any great growth in support for these parties but because people who are not happy with government policy will turn to these blogs as they will be more critical.

So obviously if you’re a Tory blogger you will want the Tories to win the next general election but I do believe this could affect the rankings of some.

On the other hand if there is a hung parliament, then frankly I have no idea how this will affect the popularity of blogs other than providing many more issues for bloggers to tackle.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Can A Non Expert Comment?

To this post ‘Climate Gate’ I had a recent comment that really made me think about something else other than the subject matter too hand for which the comment was replying too. I also think that my reply is to long for a comment in this case.

Leonard Weinstein said...
"dazmando, I am a scientist (Physics and Aerospace Engineering) and have read much of the literature. I started out accepting the AGW position until I had gone into the issue in depth. I am qualified to give an opinion on the subject, and have been a skeptic for many years.

I find it offensive that you admit having little technical understanding on the subject, yet give a strong opinion. The large number of news media and politicians are also in that camp. If only highly qualified people that have INDEPENDENTLY reviewed the literature are counted, the skeptics are a large minority or even majority. However, nose counting is not science.

The evidence, especially in light of climategate info seems to support that skeptics have been correct. We all agree that coming out of the little ice age resulted in some warming, and humans cause pollution (dust, smog, dirty water, etc.) but calling CO2 and methane as major causes of the warming is not supported , and thus no major problem will result. It is clear the issue is not AGW, but an attempt to form a world controlling group that uses these excuses to tax and control the successful countries.”

Now as it happens I agree with Leonard’s last point that methane should be counted towards global warming. I also agree that nose counting is not science. I also agree that humans do cause pollution.

If it turns out that there is a conspiracy to “control successful countries” then fair dues. I think that if there is a conspiracy then those involved will be found out given time (i.e. 1. If the world does not get warmer. 2. This would be a massive cover up operation, one that could not be hidden). I also intend to read more on the subject from all sides of the argument.

However I’m not really replying to this point here. What I what to is explore this line here “I find it offensive that you admit having little technical understanding on the subject, yet give a strong opinion.”

Can a layman on a subject have a strong opinion? He is correct that I do admit that I'm not an expert. However I have read articles on both sides of the climate debate, therefore I am defiantly not an expert but I do have a considered opinion. I understand what the green house effect is and I also understand that there are a lot of variables too it, many more than the variables used in the most complicated computer modelling. Many people who believe in or indeed don’t believe in man made climate change do have strong opinion on it.

As an avid listener too the http://www.theskepticsguide.org/ podcast, I do also understand what to be skeptic means. I am a generally sceptical person on matters that do not have scientific evidence and I also admit that I am sometimes let down by my own human nature.

Newspapers columnist and Bloggers and Politicians for that matter also have strong opinions on subjects that they may or may not be expert in. We all do. Of course it is there job to find out all they can about the facts. But they are still not experts. Also if they didn’t have strong opinions then I’m sure none of these people would be writing or standing for councils/parliament.

I have diplomas in Computer Science and Economics and am currently doing my finals in Accountancy. Does this mean that my opinion on the bank bailout is more strong (or valid) then the average member of the public? Should only people who have studied politics be allowed to vote? Are only people who work within the church allowed to have strong opinions on god?

Or is some knowledge on a given subject (like we all have on most subjects) a dangerous thing? After all I have an opinion on Tiger Woods recent revelations in his personal life, but I don’t know him. I have an opinion on who should win the Xfactor, but I will never buy the records, I’ve not even watched the last 4 or 5 episodes. I have strong opinions on my football team (Reading FC) but I'm not a coach, so should I not express these opinions when I watch them play or go to the pub? Do I tell my fellow football fans that they don’t know anything about it? Their not professional players or coaches after all?

I know that if all the bloggers just blogged on subjects that they are experts in then I think we would not have such a range in bloggers and commentators. If this was the case then those experts that do blog should only let experts reply to their comments and the rest of us laymen can just read the postings.

Discussion is important for democracy and human nature and expression. So I think that non experts should still have opinions. Of course this is just an opinion feel free to comment (expert or not).

I also think that we all have a right to comment on subjects if you are influenced by its effects. For example I pay my taxes and use the resources of the planet and have to live within whatever climate we have. I watch my football team and have an emotional attachment too them, I pay money for football tickets and use my spare time to watch them; I hope that also gives me the right to have a strong opinion.

I would like to thank Leonard Weinstein. I think his post is very considered and I didn’t want to cause him any offence as he believes I have. I apologies for this, it is never my intention to offend. Unfortunately this does happen from time to time when you have strong opinions. The comment did really get me thinking about who can comment. I really do appreciate the comments I get on this blog as I think the debate here is much more important that what I write in the articles. I also get some very high quality comments which I find very helpful.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Climate Gate

More fuel was recently added to the ClimateGate scandal by the emails, from scientists at the University of East Anglia which is a top centre for climate research (one of many). These were seized upon by deniers and sceptics as evidence that the scientists have after all this time twisted data in order to convince the public that global warming exists.

The leaked emails expressed frustration that scientists have had an inability to explain a temporary slowdown in warming and they did discussed ways to counter the campaigns of climate change deniers. You see they did this because it is very hard to explain global warming as temperatures move up and down every year. The climate is affected by many variables. Of course these scientists should be upfront and honest but they are not the only ones recording and looking at this data, then telling the world about it.

Based on 140 years of recorded data, 1998 remains the "warmest year on record". This is the problem for the scientist who are try to explain the trend and not the weather. However since 1998 the temperatures as a trend have gone down and then risen again as a trend (not year on year). This can be very hard to explain. However the last 10 years still contain the 8 highest temperatures on record. See the graph below.

Yes there have been variances in the past in global temperature before it was recorded. But these changes have been put down to other short term events like volcanoes (for example eruption of Tambora in 1815 or Mount Pinatubo in 1991) or meteorite hits like the Tunguska Event. Picture below is of the Tunguska Event.

If there was a conspiracy this would be the most amazing world wide conspiracy in history and to what end. How does this help the governments of the world? What, they can tax us more? How does this help the scientists? Why would so many put their name and careers at risk. Err so the government’s wants to get rid of oil and coal use on which so many industries depend and pay huge taxes into western governments also depend, why on earth would they do that?

Some how this ClimateGate conspiracy really doesn’t add up. I just can’t see it being a conspiracy myself. With 7 billion people on this planet and increase of 4 Million in just 50 years, how on earth can that not have an effect? Mass industrialisation, global pollution, lakes drying up, glaciers melting and less ice in the north pole.

It is happening now people, I don’t like it myself, I don’t want to change my life style too but I can’t deny it to me it just seem so obvious that there is man made global warming.

World population graph here

See Bracknell Blog Can the Climate Change Debate Wait?

See Bracknell Blog Do We Need a Population Policy?

Friday, 11 December 2009

Local Blog - Questions For South Central Ambulance Service After Weak Performance‏

I attended the Reading Housing, Health & Community Care Scrutiny Panel in order to raise some questions after a recent comment left on this blog here. This was chaired by Redlands, Reading Lib Dem Councillor Daisy Benson, she has written a report on this meeting here.

This was after the Care Quality Commission rated the South Central Ambulance Trust performance for attending calls on time as 'Weak' See Bracknell Blog story here.

The South Central Ambulance trust gave a detailed presentation of why they had preformed as 'weak' in the report and explained how they were going to meet the target. The main reasons given were;

1. Increase in Demand from many area of society (i.e. Drunks and nursing homes, end of life.), Psychiatric referrals.

2. Effective 90 second drop in call time due to changes in the way the call is measured (i.e. from the start of the call not when the ambulance is sent). This required an improvement of 26%, the service achieved 19% improvement.

3. Difficulties in recruiting staff as many services were recruiting staff (including Australia) at this time to meet the new standards.

4. Degrees now required when the service could previously train the staff themselves.

5. Their own heart attack data was not correctly recorded.

6. Blood pressure was not always recorded.

7. A&E waiting effect.

After the presentation I asked a few questions.

I asked two questions the first was 'Does the pay structure of the ambulance staff adversely effect the recruitment and retainment of staff. And if so can pan and incentives be improved by offsetting against the high cost of cover/agency fees?"

The reply was quite long and included information about the agenda for change and detail about recruitment issues as listed above. (Which is the pay rate structure used by the service). They also added that they had recruited 300 additional staff.

I then asked "I do know about the agenda for change and the pay band structure but I am concerned about retaining staff as I am aware that this is an issue for some stations?", I was informed that it was not in Reading (perhaps I should of asked about Bracknell, however this was a Reading meeting so I didn't). I was also told that they have just recruited 17 more staff in the West Berkshire area. I do regret not asking about ambulance station Bracknell itself especially after the chair Councillor Daisy Benson did allow me to ask another question.

The South Central Ambulance is however confidant that they will meet the call targets (at the moment they are within the target but the winter months are normally harder to achieve). The service is also adding or added a new call centre service which allows better coordination between the 3 call centres and joined up emergency response allowing each sit to cover the other when busy.

I believe the representative from the Trust were very open and honest. The Reading councillors did raise a number of questions and there was a lot of concern about making partnerships work with other health related services to improve performance.

I was also concerned that the merger between the 4 counties of Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire that the old ambulance stock purchases for Oxford had delayed the purchase of Berkshire ambulances.

I will keep an eye on this and the other healthcares stories and attend meetings when I can, in order to raise more questions if required.

Readers of this blog may also be interested to read this story on Get Bracknell here http://www.getbracknell.co.uk/news/s/2062437_trust_action_on_child_protection where the NHS Berkshire East has been judged in a review to not be meeting the Care Quality Commission standards relating to ensuring staff can spot child abused.

Also please do go and to sign Russ Bryant Number 10 Petition can be signed here for keeping Heathwood hospital open in light of the Trusts funding issues.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Mark Reckons BBC Question Time Chat

Im covering for Mark Reckons BBC Question Time chat Today at 10.30pm. Link here http://markreckons.blogspot.com/2009/12/bbc-question-time-live-chat-10th.html

Please do come and join us. It's from Wootton Bassett today and includes 6 on the panel today. One more than usual 5 as the BBC was planning too drop former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown as they did with Jo Swinson MP a few weeks ago. There was also no Lib Dem's on the Reading Panel.

Andrew Mackay’s 2nd Home Boiler and Redecoration Claim

Andrew Mackay’s MP 2008/2009 allowances/expenses have now been published, they make interesting reading.

Bracknell’s MP Andrew MacKay resigned as parliamentary adviser to David Cameron and is due to step down at the next general election. This is after the revelations that Andrew Mackay and his wife, fellow Tory MP for Bromsgrove, Julie Kirkbride (who may now stand again in an open primary).

Andrew Mackay claimed a second home allowance of £12,000 a year in mortgage interest for their joint flat near Westminster. This was while his wife used her expenses to pay off a similar loan for their family home in her Bromsgrove. This was over a period of eight years.

Click on the pictures above to view them.

Interestingly I noticed these payments for a claim of £6,000 for redecoration, made up of £3,400 for paint to stonework, cleaning railings and paint for woodwork which didn’t include scaffolding of an additional £2,600. A new boiler was also claimed for £2,600. All this on a home where the payments should have been paid back to the taxpayer.

Andrew Mackay’s MP 2008/2009 allowances/expenses can be viewed from the Parliamentary website here.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Charlotte Gore - Better Than Ever?

Charlotte Gore recently changed her Blog site from a Lib Dem Blog to a non-partisan Libertarian blog (which is where her true heart really is).

I think Charlotte Gore is much better for it. Charlotte did not feel free to blog as freely as she wished. Charlotte Gore has held herself back from some articles through I expect a sense of loyalty. I also very much agree with Charlotte that the Lib Dems do have some central left tendencies. I think we are slightly held back by our central/left tendencies myself.

Charlotte Wrote "The adventurous, insatiable hungering drive for liberty, for free trade and free minds, to allow society to become whatever the individuals within make of it? As far as mainstream politics goes that idea is dead. Reds, Red Tories or Red Liberal – take your pick.

It’s not just the Lib Dems that need sorting out. It’s the whole political system and, sadly, the emphasis on voting systems and financial propriety don’t impress me much at all when on the other hand Lib Dems seem to seek the power to dictate the destiny of the British economy for our own good."

Charlotte Gore is right that the 3 main parties (yes I said it) are too socially close. Was it New Labour that did it? By moving Labour to the right they also managed to move the rest of us to the left, to become less radical and more moderate. Is this the real reason for low turnouts? lack of Blatant clear choice? Both the Tories and Lib Dem change slogans don't appear to be working.

I am still a Liberal Democrat because I believe in almost all of their current policies and their values. As per the web site (http://www.libdems.org.uk/) "The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.". Now I admit that's an almost impossible task but one worth going for I reckon.

The Lib Dems are however a Liberal party too and this does cause conflicts within the party as we have members who are Greens, Liberals and Social Democrats (minor left, fairness, social justice) as well as some members who are slightly to the right. Of course if the Lib Dems were a full liberal party then I think they would not survive. This is because total liberalism simply doesn't work on all issues (for example it works great in economic terms but not so well say in law enforcement).

I also don't feel this hold me back from being critical. It's worth remembering that criticising your own side is very important because they can't always be right and it’s good to learn from criticism and take it onboard.

Anyway I wish Charlotte well in her new blogging life, I think her blog is going to get better and better and do go and read That’s it. They broke me.

Also Do have a listen to http://houseofcomments.co.uk/ where Charlotte Gore talks about a non-partisan blogging the future.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Benefit Cheats Don't Just Cost You Money

I am not a big fan of benefit culture, well those of us that pay our taxes aren’t. I’m dead against those that abuse the benefits system. For example those young ladies who have a new born baby every year (I know people who actually do this) and therefore they don’t work and let their mothers take the strain. I’m against the rude somalian lady who pushes into you on the bus with about 7 kids in tow, who I’m paying for. Like many others this makes me very angry indeed.

The other reason why this benefit culture makes me angry is that it affects those that generally need some benefit or help. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not a pro lefty I just hate unfairness.

I live in a single bed room flat. My flats have about one third social housing. We have drug busts, alcoholics and good old street arguments, most people here however are civilised, hardworking and good people.

For example there is someone in my flats who gets many jobs but can’t keep them for a minute. This person does want to work but they have a number of problems that just add up, you know, there’s always a reason why something bad comes up. These reasons could be previous drug suppliers banging down the door in the middle of the night because they no longer work for them, a drunk mother arguing with them or there alcoholic neighbour banging on the door telling them that he hates them etc. Because this is the world they live in. At the moment this person is off work sick because their on some medication for something or other.

So because the government is being hard because of the cheats who know how to play the system their benefit has been stopped. Problem is now their not getting anything (for many complicated reasons), so what will they do now, well looks like its back to selling drugs.

They don’t have anyone in the system to turn too and on one for advice (other than me). They need some real guidance and direction for their life. Because their family is not giving them one and nor is society. Some time people do need help because not everyone can help themselves. But the system kicks the wrong person, the lost person not that bad benefit cheat.

I have a friend who worked for the home office. They also get angry with those who know how to play the system, who knows how too keep appeals and leave to remain running for years. These cheats mean that people who are generally fleeing from harm and do go though the system are sent back to face torture or worse. While others who are economic migrants get leave to remain.

So we don’t just need a hard system we need a system that actually works. One that is more personal. Not just passing people from one person to another but one where situations can be understood and therefore properly accessed.

So next time you consider benefit cheats remember it could be complicated and they may not just be cheating you and me out of taxes or services but are cheating those that really need these services or benefits that our once kind society thought was right to provide. Thanks cheaters.

Sorry if I just made you angrier, but it could be worse you could have just read the Daily Mail (now I’m really angry).

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Sunday, 6 December 2009

Thank You Bracknell Blog Readers

Thank you to all the Bracknell blog readers, linkers, bloggers, local PPC’s, councillor's and campaigners who have read and commented on this site.

I have been very pleased with the progress of our Bracknell Blog. It has become a hub for local issues and local comment as well as local comment on national issues.

I’m not one to publish readership figures but I do believe rankings are important because they help gain a readership see Reading List ‘Why it matters’ here.

This blog is now the 4th most popular political blog in Berkshire see here and has entered the top 100 Wikio blog ranks in November listed here. In October this blog was ranked 180 in general blog but was unfortunately it was not listed under politics on Wikio until November.

Bracknell Blog was helped by the Conservative Bracknell primary review here and the fact that the top ranked blogger Iain Dale stood in this primary in October, this helped the blog rise 380 general ranking points in October. The ranking has only fallen back by 15 points to 195 due to a continued increase in the readership trend.

So once again thank you to all of our very important readers.

Unfair Competition for UK and EU IT Workers?

IT workers have been subject to usually high competition from lower paid professional Non EU Workers (mainly Indian) within their industry. I expect this is not the only industry that is affected the same issue. This is of course an issue for all the EU nations but the UK seems to be effected by this problem to a higher extent.

This extract of a letter to Andrew Mackay Bracknell MP from A Bracknell blog reader explains the problem quite well;

Despite the worsening economic climate and the wave of redundancies affecting IT departments across all industry sectors, 35,430 UK work permits were granted to non-EU technology workers during 2008. Relocation of staff to the UK by companies with offices based in different countries represented around 80 per cent of work permit applications issued last year.

According to APSCo (Association of Professional Staffing Companies) the recession and a more restructive immigration system introduced in 2008 has “barely dented the influx of non-EU foreign IT workers coming to the UK”.

The intra company transfer system is being massively abused to bring in Indian IT workers at lower than local market rates.

Some company's "UK" staff must consist almost entirely of company transfers e.g. providing services to other companies and directly replacing local UK staff. Offshoring sucked the blood from the UK economy from the outside, this is doing it from the inside.

Indian work permits are harder to get than UK ones, shorter and need to applied for again if you exit the country. Other countries like Germany put a minimum 40k on the salary to avoid undercutting local rates and ensure the skill is in demand and unavailable (rather than a cheap replacement).

Would you agree with my view that the British Government should now seek to protect the British workforce as other countries protect their nationals. Inward investment is commendable, but not at the expense of hardworking British families and those who choose to live here and engage in the British way of life.

If the UK government does not want to have many more families consigned to living on the dole something needs to be done. Our heavy industry has been destroyed, leaving Britain a service sector country. Now our services are being "out sourced" and "off-shored". The cost of living means we cannot compete on price with countries where the cost of living is lower.

Shouldn't the British government have a policy that if a non-UK business wishes to acquire a UK business, then they may do so only if they guarantee that a large percentage of the current British workforce will be maintained? There should also be a limit on the ability of UK businesses to outsource. Protectionist perhaps (only within Europe though), but how else can the British workforce compete, survive this economic crisis and retain a skilled workforce in a vital sector?

Why am I writing to you about this? I'm sure the UK is not the only nation in Europe to suffer from such an influx. So I would like to understand what is being done to address this issue and protect jobs for nationals primarily in the UK, but also across Europe. What is the Conservative party doing to address these issues at home and in Europe? Are you putting pressure on the current government to do something about it?

Of course I can not agree with protectionism as I believe in free trade but it appear to me that a number of things can be done, like enforcing the law with regards to work permits and ensuring that IT workers are paid at least the market rate so that UK/EU IT workers are not undercut and therefore a level playing field within the UK is ensured.

In another letter to Steve Webb (Lib Dem MP) by a different Bracknell Blog reader the more complex issues are examined.

As a UK IT worker, I am concerned that weaknesses in the current UKBA Point Based System (PBS) are leading to the undercutting and displacement of settled workers by non-EEA(European Economic Area) IT workers via employer sponsored tier 2 visas. The tier 2 Intra Company Transfer visa is the most used route for this purpose, and in 2008 alone there were over 35 thousand tier 2 ICT visas issued to non-EEA IT workers (mainly Indian nationals).

This route is not for shortage skills and it does not require any resident labour market test. The majority of these non-EEA IT workers are brought in by IT Service companies and sent to work at client sites i.e. they are not used internally by the sponsoring company.

I would like to know the Liberal Democrat position on the following:

a) the current main protection for UK settled workers is the requirement for employers to pay the "going rate". The UKBA set this rate for different occupations and it is typically set at the 25% percentile salary. This is too far too low to prevent undercutting and displacement, and is not aligned with allowing employers to bring in the "best and brightest" from the global pool of talent. I believe the "going rate" should be set at the median salary as a minimum, but the 75th percentile salary would better reflect the migrant worker's status as "best and brightest".

Should the "going rate" be set much higher?

b) the new PBS has been operating for almost a year and from 5th October employers have been able to request next year's allocation of certificates of sponsorship (COS) i.e. they must estimate how many tier 2 visas they will sponsor in the next year and request that allocation of COS's from the UKBA. The biggest users of tier 2 visas (other than the NHS) are IT Service companies.

Many of these companies have made UK employees redundant in the last year.
Should companies that have made UK employees redundant in the last year be allowed to bring in large numbers of non-EEA workers?

c) I have a great respect for the UKBA and its difficult and growing role. The recent Migration Advisory Committee report on "Tier 2 and Dependents" mentioned the issue in resourcing the policing of the tier 2 system. It was intended to be self-policed by employers, who are also one of the main economic beneficiaries of the system. The UKBA need more resources to uncover and tackle abuses. In the US, there is a $500 "Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee" added to employer sponsored visa application charges.

Should a "Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee" be added to UK tier 2 employer sponsored visas?

d) The inability to find specialist skills in the UK is often quoted by companies as a reason for sponsoring non-EEA workers. These same companies either do very little training of UK staff or have been cutting training. In the US there is a $1500 "Scholarship & Training Fee" added to employer sponsored visa application charges. This is invested in training US citizens in shortage skills.

Should a "Scholarship & Training Fee" be added to UK tier 2 employee sponsored visas?
There are a number of misconceptions propagated by employers benefiting from sponsored visas for non-EEA IT workers (primarily tier 2 ICT visas for workers from India), and I hope some of the following will help debunk these:

a) Employers can't find people with the right skills in the UK...

No. The sector skills council has stated that there are no skills shortages in IT. Independent research by academics such as the highly respected Professor John Salt of UCL has shown that the vast majority tier 2 ICT IT workers are junior staff with standard IT skills. In the US, they have 4 "skill" levels for H-1B "employer sponsored visas for skilled workers" and 80% are at the lowest level (i.e. only have a couple of years experience) and the biggest users of H-1B visas are the same IT Service companies. The real issue for these companies is that they cannot find people with the right skills that are willing to work at below average salaries.

b) At least the workers are paying taxes here...

No. the large IT Service companies get dispensation from HMRC so they do not pay income tax or national insurance in the UK as long as they stay for less than 2 years. The employer also avoids employer national insurance contributions, the median stay is 18 months (according to NASSCOM).

The MAC report on "Tier 2 and dependents" said: "We were also told that, currently, an employer can issue a three-year certificate of sponsorship while the employee simultaneously tells HMRC that he or she is coming to work in the UK for under two years.

We understand that it is common for immigrants in receipt of allowances to claim that they intend to stay in the UK for one year and 364 days."

This probably costs the UK in the order of £1/2 billion in taxes every year, and the migrant workers gets free primary healthcare and education for their children.

c) Allowing multinational companies to transfer workers from offices around the world makes the UK an attractive location for businesses to invest, and creates wealth and jobs in the UK.

Yes, it does. Most companies transfer a small number of senior managers and unique specialists between offices, and this must be allowed under the GATS agreement. However the intra company transfer route was never intended as the main source of employees, nor as a route for supplying services to clients "onshore". Some large IT Service companies have 4 times as many tier 2 ICT workers in the UK as permanent UK employees. Unlike "well behaved" users of the system, many of the large (primarily Indian) IT Services companies do not invest much or create many jobs in the UK. In fact research by many sources (including Professor John Salt) has pointed out that many of the "tier 2 ICT" IT workers from India are brought across to learn the job in the UK from the UK workers and then the job is outsourced to India and the UK workers are made redundant.

d) if we reduced the number of non-EEA IT workers allowed to work here, then the work would just move offshore to India, and it is better to have the workers doing the job here
It is at least 3 times cheaper to do the work in India. The only reason the work is being done in the UK is because it cannot already be easily outsourced/offshored. As the workers do not pay taxes but consume resources in the UK, it is probably better for the UK if they were offshore.

These letters were provided to me by the IT workers who could not get a response from their various MP's see here. They are frustrated because they feel as if nothing is being done, therefore I decided to publish their letters to get the word out there on there behalf.

This story is also related to the report on Lloyds bank here who are being investigated by the Border Agency

Thursday, 3 December 2009

In/Out EU Referendum is still Lib Dem policy

Further to our recent post here on Bracknell Blog regarding comments made by Ming Campbell about potentially abandoning the pledge, it is still Lib Dem policy, as Nick Clegg stated in an interview on Radio 5 live earlier this week to have an in/out referendum on membership of the EU.

As others have pointed out elsewhere, policy is decided by the membership and the Federal Policy Committee, not the leadership or senior party figures.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

EU Referendum IN or OUT Not Happy

Today on the Daily Politics BBC2 show ex Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said "When the issue of whether or not there should be a referendum on Lisbon came up then we said it would be much more sensible to have a referendum on 'in or out' but the Lisbon Treaty is now history."

Nick Clegg confirmed that we would keep this pledge during the Liberal Democrat annual conference (I remember I was there). But now the position is not clear. Was Sir Menzies Campbell simply wrong or are the Liberal Democrats withdrawing the EU In/Out referendum.
Apparently this was one of the reasons why UK Independence Party thought a hung parliament would be a good thing as a coalition could of led to a chance for a referendum according to Lord Pearson.

Today on BBC 5 Live Nick Clegg said "The only way to sort out the debate about EU membership was to have a referendum in this country as to whether we stay in or stay out. What we can’t do is to be a member of a club and complain about it from the sidelines." So what is going on? I hope the Liberal Democrat stance is clarified soon.

I don't believe this is a vote winner especially after the conservatives withdrew their cast iron promise. This is a policy we should keep and if the Liberal Democrats don't then I for one wont be very happy about it!

Mark Reckons has blogged on this very point and I could not agree with him more see Lib Dems should not ditch the in/out referendum pledge

How Rude Cybersquatter Website Address Update

It appears that a John Pepin currently owns www.libdem.org.uk, which is currently directed to the UKIP Website.

It also appear that John Peterson owns the web site domain http://www.labourparty.org.uk/ which is currently directed to a web site called don’t vote Labour.

These domains are owned in the hope that the parties pay a sum of money to claim the domains. See this link here on Cybersquatters.

Oddly enough it also appears that no Conservative website name has been registered other than the ones already used by the UK Conservative party or other Conservative parties.

Perhaps I should Cybersquat http://www.myconservatrives.org.uk/ with http://www.libdems.org.uk/ in the hope of getting some money from them.

Mark Pack of Lib Dem Voice has noticed that this web site has been owned for quite some time and has pointed to a numer of web sites.

Richard Gadsden has commented that "political parties do not have rights in respect of their names comparable to those held by companies or trademark holders" which would make it hard to use nominet's dispute process to reclaim the Lib Dem name.

Thanks to Steve whose blog site is http://greengabbles.wordpress.com/ and Twitter account is http://twitter.com/stevegabb for the heads-up on this article.