Saturday, 30 May 2009

Andrew Mackay MP has a golden parachute

It has been reported here that Andrew Mackay MP will be paid a golden good-bye of £64,766 and his wife Julie Kirkbride a payment of £32,383. I am concerned that this news is likely to cause more anger directed at the couple.

After Mr Mackay’s statement that he will not stand at the next general election, he has received more support from his constituents as reflected in a poll on Bracknell Standard website. The question is asked: “How do you feel about Andrew MacKay's announcement to stand down as Bracknell MP at the next general election?”. A total of 51 % agreed with the following statement “Very sad, he is a very good MP and does not deserve this”. I feel this is a reflection on the work Andrew Mackay has done for Bracknell over his 26 years as MP and the relationship he has built over this time.

The fact that the golden good-bye can be paid could make it less likely for any MP to resign. A payment is only made when an MP loses their seat at a general election and not when they resign their seat for a by-election. This would make calling a by-election even braver.

MPs can vote to expel another MP if they are judged to have acted "dishonourably" but this would be unprecedented with the number of MPs who have already stated that they will stand down. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg recently said: "I can see no reason why an MP who is sacked or decides to stand down should be rewarded with a big, tax-free, lump sum payment." Can and will this be changed in time? We shall see!

Andrew Mackay and Julie Kirkbride feel that they have been a part of a media witch hunt. There was huge media pressure on Julie Kirkbride but in Andrew Mackays case it would seem to me that his constituents meeting was where he felt the most pressure. The media have been provided the fuel, all due to the allowances and arrangements made by the couple.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Bracknell’s Beautiful Parks and the Litter!

Over the last few years I have been walking, running and cycling around and through Bracknell. One thing that has really struck me is how good the parks in Bracknell are.

Bracknell is unfortunately far from perfect but it does have new town planning to thank for the green spaces, parks and pedestrian paths and cycle ways in every estate. One of my favourite routes is along the paths between Lily Hill Park and Coral Reef. Its goes through the back of Harmans Water estate, then through Forest Park estate over a bridge (A322) then continues beside coral reef and the outlook. This path is wide and does not follow any major roads.

At one end you have Lily Hill Park, which has Bracknell Rugby club, specimen trees gathered from around the world and Lily Hill House. Lily Hill parks restoration is also a testimony to what can be done by community groups, council and lottery funding. At the other end your find the Outlook which is very popular and well worth a visit.

The only thing really spoiling the Parks is all the rubbish. How can this be changed, everywhere I run there is rubbish. Fast food from Saturday night, Cans of Special Brew, Magazines and Papers. Why do so many people just not care?

I believe this a cultural thing for some akin to getting wasted every Friday and Saturday night, this needs to change! Plenty of people do take their rubbish home, but plenty just can’t be bothered. It’s also very easy to throw rubbish from cars and litter the foliage beside the roads and paths.

So what can we do? Bracknell could follow Maidenheads example of zero tolerance on litter, introducing litter wardens who charge fines for dropping litter (£75) and their Adopt-a-Street policy that I believe could be expanded to Adopt-a-Park where residents have regular street cleans.

I will be doing more some research in this area and I will blog again on this once I have enough information to see what action can be taken.

Info On Bracknells Parks

Maidenheads zero tolerance litter scheme

Keep Britain Tidy Campaign

Monday, 25 May 2009

What do we want? A By-election! When do we want it? Now!

Mr Andrew Mackay MP has decided to step down at the next general election. His decision came soon after the meeting with his constituents. After the meeting he still claimed that most constituents supported him on the night. The mood of the meeting was infact very angry and tense.

After this event, does this really mean that Mr Mackay can operate fully as a representative of Bracknell Constituents until the general election? Is this also in the best interest of the Conservative Party?

Without continuing support of both colleagues and constituents it will surely be hard for Mr Mackay to perform his parliamentary duties effectively. Surely a by-election would now offer a way of ensuring that the interests of the constituency will be properly represented.
Electors should be allowed to express their views through a by-election. This should be held as soon as possible.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Reaction to Andrew MacKay's meeting in Bracknell last night

Some of the writers on this blog were amongst the 400 or so constituents who attended the public meeting Andrew MacKay called last night.

During the meeting Mr MacKay stated his intention to put himself forward for reselection to his local party and that he wishes to stand again in Bracknell for the next General Election.

The feeling in the hall was very angry towards him and at least 80% of the comments were very negative towards him. There were many accusations put to him about his second homes claim and the ill feeling often spilled over into heckling and shouting with strong words used against him.

However on the media afterwards, Mr MacKay was trying to claim that the feeling of the meeting was with him and that 75% percent or more of the audience were with him. I am afraid that does not reflect the way I saw the meeting from where I was sitting. Watch this clip from BBC News where Mr MacKay is being interviewed by BBC South's Political Editor Peter Henley:

The gentlemen who interrupts Mr MacKay during the interview is absolutely right. He was misrepresenting the view of the meeting and another voice off camera later on points out that despite calls from the floor, the Chair of the meeting (David Osborn, the former Rector of Bracknell) refused to take a show of hands to gauge support towards the end.

In this piece from Sky News, Victoria Gatenby says that is is disingenuous for him to claim that he had the support of the meeting and that support is ebbing away from him, even amongst Conservative activists and that the feeling is he is unlikely to be reselected:

There has been further reaction to this story across the media and internet. Here are some that we have come across:

Here is the BBC News report on the meeting.

John Hicks from Radio Bracknell in a detailed and balanced review of the meeting thinks that the reaction within the hall may have signalled the beginning of the end for Bracknell's MP.

An article in the The Independent about the meeting and its aftermath quotes one of the comments from the floor that I also recall: "I have no wish to be represented by a thief".

This thread on the Conservative Home website (a site for Conservative grassroots activists) demonstrates the depth of Mr MacKay's problems. The majority the more than 40 comments at the end of the blog post are saying that he should stand down or be sacked.

Peter Henley, the BBC South Political Editor (who is an excellent and prodigious user of Twitter) tweeted this morning: "Tories saying MacKay is toast after last night. But spinning that Cameron wants to get in clean skins".

Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below. If you attended the meeting, perhaps you could detail your recollections of what happened.

UPDATE: I have also done a more detailed review of the meeting at my own blog "Mark Reckons" here.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

We want your questions for Bracknell MP Andrew MacKay

Andrew MacKay who has been caught up in the scandal about MPs expenses primarily for him and his wife between them claiming for two second homes has called a public meeting in Bracknell this Friday 22nd May at 7:00pm at the Kerith Centre in Bracknell. It is a ticket only event and you need to call 01344 868286 or e-mail The full details and map link are here.

We are interested in knowing what questions people would like asked or views you would like expressed during this meeting. Some of us who post on Bracknell Blog are attending the meeting. We have questions of our own but are also happy to try and put questions to him from people who cannot attend the meeting.

Please let us know in the comments below and we will do our best.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Andrew MacKay MP has Constituency Backing?

Andrew Mackay MP has been interview on Get Bracknell here. He stated that he has had 1 in 10 support from his Constituents via Email. He also states that he will individually phone those constituents that do not support him.

Get Bracknell website for the Bracknell Standard also has the following survey (16th May 09).
Should Andrew MacKay step down as Bracknell MP after he claimed unacceptable expenses?
Yes, he has lost the trust of his constituents 79%

No, he has done well for Bracknell over the past 25 years 13%

An investigation is needed before a decision can be made 8%

You can mail Andrew Mackay at to let him know your views.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Bracknell’s MP Andrew MacKay resigned today parliamentary adviser to David Cameron

It is a shame that the publics trust in our MPs has progressed to this low point, that MPs are now having to resign there roles within the parties because they have made ‘mistakes’.

I’m not sure how my MP Andrew Mackay could not of seen the wrong in claiming for a second home allowance while married to Tory MP for Bromsgrove, Julie Kirkbride who also claimed for a second home. However he didn’t appear to understand the wrong in this (See the Bracknell Standard article link here). I’m also not sure why it has taken the Tories so long to act, after all the Daily Mail reported this in April here. Lib Dem PPC for Bracknell Ray Earwicker also commented on this in April here.

Full details of the 2nd home claims can be found here.

Sometime next week Andrew Mackay will have a public meeting in Bracknell which while being brave to face the music, I believe it would be better to hold a by-election which I for one will be calling for. When the date is know we will publish it on this blog.

Local Blogger and fellow Andrew Mackay constituent, Mark Reckons also post his views at

More links to this story can be found on Reading List at

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Glossy BNP EU leaflet

It is a real worry that the BNP appear to make sense in there leaflets. A few weeks ago in Bracknell town, the BNP were out in force with their stall and leaflets and looking quite professional in there suits. Their leaflet reads like a list of headlines.

Most people would naturally agree with headlines listed here;

‘Housing British People First’

As you can see here from the council meetings in Barking and Dagenham where the BNP have 12 councillors. The BNP proposed the creation of what appears to be caravans and fabricated homes to house families, which could create a Ghetto.

If an asylum seeker turns up in a council borough they are not simply given a home. That never really happens. Within Bracknell, allocations of homes are scored on a points based system. There is no mention that being an “asylum seeker” awards any points, thus putting the rest the myth that they are instantly eligible for housing.

Housing provided to asylum seekers is not part of a council housing system or waiting list. Accommodation is funded by central government not the council and most often let from private landlords. Asylum seekers have no choice about where they live.

‘More Police on the Streets’

Within the leaflet the BNP appear to be suggesting that more police can be put on the streets by ensuring that the police are not used to catch speeding motorists but would instead be directed to the beat. I’m not sure this is a basis for a policy. Surely some funding is required and surely motorist should be caught if they speed after all the number of people killed on our roads in 2007 was 2,946 by comparison the number murdered in 2006/07 was 757 (national statistics).

I do know that the BNP would introduce capital punishment, which does not work. Plenty of countries with capital punishment still have plenty of crime. It normally means criminals try harder to hide their crimes.

The best way to stop crime is to stop people becoming criminals in the first place.

‘Lower Tax for Working Families’

The Liberal Democrats would raise the level for paying income tax to £10,000, this would make work much more worth while for the low paid. BNP state that they would raise this level to £15,000 by pulling out of the EU. I imagine they do not take into account any funds that flow back into this country from the EU.

‘A Better NHS with British Nurses’

‘Paid for by Not Investing in Foreign Aid’.

Our nurses should be paid more, but not at the loss of foreign aid or good foreign nurses. Britain is an important player on the world stage and we still care (at least I hope we do), after all this is the 5th richest country in the world. I wonder how many more refugees there would be in the world if Britain did not help.

‘Protect Our Beautiful Countryside’

Of course we should however did the BNP just put this in to make them look more all encompassing on policy.

‘Help Pensioners Not Banks’

We should always support our pensioners more. I’m sure all political parties want to address the low pension we have in the UK. The Liberal Democrats idea of a citizens pension is a good example of this. Many pensioners have large savings which would have been lost if banks were allowed to collapse. The government really had no choice just like other governments of the world who are also supporting their banks.

‘Save our Jobs from Immigration’

The leaflet refers to foreign workers, well what does this mean? What is their definition of a foreigner?

Yes there are a lot of people from the EU working here. But people do not consider that there are also even more UK citizen working in the EU. Brits live all over Europe and use the services in those countries. The BBC has some interesting figures on this see here.

‘No Involvement in Foreign Wars’

Well as much as it would be great to not be fighting in any wars unfortunately you can never say never and therefore cannot claim this as a saving. Of course going into Iraq was not the right thing to do in the face of terrorism. But fighting the Taleban in Afghanistan can be justified within this context.

‘Celebrating Our British Culture’

I wish we did. I’m proud to be British myself this is a great country. We are not the only country in the world with problems.

I don’t know the facts across the UK but I imagine most Melas or other minority events as referred to in the leaflet are paid for by the community. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all raised some money ourselves for St George’s day?

The BNP are trying to change their imagine, but I for one am not fooled into believing that the BNP are the best for me (I am single white British man). Just imagine what it would be like if the BNP got in. We would effectively be excluded from the world.

How could Britain be one of the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council if we refused refugees? How could our international businesses operate in a county that did allow them the flexibility to move workers from a given country to here and visa versa (e.g. directors or professionals). Would other countries respond by not accepting British citizens to live and work in their country? Would all the Brits in Spain have to apply for citizenship? It may seem unimaginable but things could progress to this point and that’s not to mention all the riots and unrest that could result.

I expect the BNP will also gain votes due to the recent exposures on MP’s expenses. All the above make me very concerned that the BNP will win seats in the European elections and receive extra funding as a EU group with other far right parties, this is just a step towards the goal of BNP parliamentary seats.

If you are interested in information on Asylum Seekers in the UK then please examine these links here and here

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Fix the Eyesore in the Middle of Bracknell Town

Since 3M moved out of the 3M building (Winchester House) in 2004 it has stood empty. This derelict building has progressively got to look worse and worse. It is not a great advert for Bracknell as it can be seen from all approaches into the town centre. Kid’s break-in, throw objects from the windows and there was a very dangerous fire to boot. These break-ins are even documented on web sites like ‘abandoned but not forgotten’ which post pictures from inside and views from on top of the 3M tower.

There has now been plenty of time to sort this building out. Design plans have been explored by the Council and Bracknell Regeneration Partnership for the redevelopment of this eyesore but nothing has been agreed. There would still be a long way to go on this even if agreement is made, as planning applications would have to be made and other consultations once a plan is decided on.

One sticking point would of been moving the Bracknell Town market, but could this not be setup in the town, near say the old Woolworths on a temporary bases. This could have made that part of town more vibrant and helped out the shops and the market.

I also understand that at the moment there is a pair of peregrine falcons nesting which has halted a planned cleanup ordered by the council which would have also made the building more secure. However if this was ordered sooner then the peregrine falcons may not of moved into the building and would not be holding up this work. We would still have an empty building in the middle of town but it would not look like an advertisement for vandalism and would improve Bracknell imagine.

It is really time to get moving on this project which is another demonstration of how slow this council is to regenerate Bracknell town.

Friday, 1 May 2009

What do residents in Bracknell Forest want?

No change, some change, lots of change!

Since the Conservatives gained overall control of the borough council in 1997 there has been little debate about what the borough needs or what its residents want. The absence of an effective opposition has allowed the Conservatives to largely dictate the political agenda and convince the electorate that it has been doing a good job. But has it?

Since 1997 council tax has more than doubled, front-line services have been pared to the bone and the town centre has continued to decline. The council has managed to spend over £6m on an inefficient electronic card scheme, lost £5m to two Icelandic banks, spent over £3m on just planning the proposed new town centre regeneration programme and sold off virtually its entire housing stock for peanuts.

Selling off the housing stock when there is a housing crisis nationally and there are over 4,000 people on the council's own waiting list was reprehensible but the council pushed it through. Similarly when a day centre for the elderly was closed and fortnightly bin collections were introduced, the council simply ignored the opposition.

Perhaps residents have concluded they are powerless to change things and have become resigned to being led by an unrepresentative minority at both national and local level. However, holding those in power to account is vital in such circumstances and if this cannot be achieved through the ballot box because of the inadequacies of our electoral system then other means must be used to force them to justify their actions. The media exposure of MPs expenses and the Government's total disarray over the treatment of Gurkhas shows what can be achieved with just a little more public determination and persistence.