News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Who knows what they will tax next?

18 Doughty Street has launched its first campaign in association with the Taxpayers' Alliance. Entitled "Who knows what they will tax next", the advert is designed to raise awareness of Government waste in an effort to push tax cutting up Britain's political agenda.

I'm sure that we all see examples of massive government waste on a day to day basis, and I would certainly like to see the growth of the nanny state reversed, with tax cuts being the flip side of that coin.

The next 18DS campaign will be against state funding of political parties.


What the Lib Dems said:

WE OPPOSE: Tuition fees & top up fees
WE PROPOSE: Scrapping student fees
Further education affordable to every student

Because of devolution in Scotland and Wales, the position on some issues is different there from England. For example, the Lib Dems have secured the abolition of tuition fees in Scotland.

Today's reality from the Scotsman:

THE financial crisis facing higher education deepened yesterday when one of Scotland's leading universities announced it would shed up to 250 jobs in order to afford increased salaries for lecturers.

The cuts made by Strathclyde University prompted warnings that others in the sector will soon follow suit.

The announcement comes less than a week after Dundee University revealed it was also cutting posts in order to turn around a deficit of more than £3 million.

The Lib Dems have long been shouting their Scottish Education policies from the rooftops. The Lib Dems abolished tuition fees there, they claimed (although graduates still have to pay £2000 a head), and would do the same in England. So it's not only in Shepway that the Lib Dems mouths write cheques that they can't cash. Remember th fiasco with the toilets being closes and grass verges not being cut? Imagine if it had been our schools, hospitals and police stations closing and carbon emissions that they were failing to cut! That's the real risk of voting Lib Dem - they can't be trusted at any level of government, from our town halls to the corridors of power in Westminster, Whitehall and Brussels.

Monday, January 29, 2007

19 Down, 11 To Go!

Today, two more Lib Dem Councillors in Shepway have announced that they are leaving their group. The move is the result of investigations into irregularities in their receipt of benefits alongside Councillors' allowances. Both North Down East (Hawkinge and environs) Councillors plead their innocence, and have suspended their membership of the Lib Dems pending the outcome.

The latest moves follow this month's shock resignation of the third Lib Dem Councillor for North Downs East, who now sits with the Independent Group with whom he intends to stand at May's elections. That resignation was the result of a dispute with his colleagues. Last month, one of the three Lib Dem Councillors for Park Ward resigned after a difficult period between him and his fellow Park Ward Councillor the leader of the Lib Dem Group.

As recently as 2004, there was a record 30 Lib Dem Councillors on Shepway District Council. Since then, a rash of defections, resignations and by-election defeats has reduced them to their lowest total since the 1980s. The fall from grace was sparked by a proposed 39% tax hike, the closure of all local toilets and other cut backs which included street cleaning and grass cutting services.

The Folkestone East by-election, won by a Conservative for the first time in my life, was sparked by another Lib Dem Councillor's family's fraudulent benefits claims. Another former Lib Dem Councillor, representing Morehall, has was also arrested over allegations of fraud relating to his former business.

Shepway District Council remains in No Overall Control with the balance standing at:
Conservative 18
Lib Dem 11
People First 10
Independent 5
Green 1
Vacant 1

Golden Arrow's Last Visit to Folkestone Harbour

The glory days of steam trains were re-lived today (27 January) in Folkestone when the Golden Arrow 'Boat Train' pulled into the Harbour station for the last time.
Hundreds of onlookers lined Folkestone harbour to see the Battle of Britain Class locomotive Tangmere pulling the train from Victoria Station in London.
The historic journey enjoyed by 250 enthusiasts was organised by the Railway Touring Company.

From Hawkinge Gazette and Channel Coast News

Friday, January 26, 2007

EU Constitution still won't die

Spain has today held a meeting of the 18 EU member states which have ratified the EU constitution in an attempt to bolster Germany's attempts to resurrect the rejected document. These Eurocrats just don't quite get democracy, do they? Every day I become more convinced that the powers that be are trying to implement the Soviet Union Mark II without the general population even having a say. We often worry about the United States of Europe, when they're really trying to build a European Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The EU constitution would include a common foreign policy and and would extend EU interventionism into almost every tenet of government. Our own government is far too intent on interfering in our lives as it is - the last thing we need is unelected European bureaucrats doing the same with bells on. The introduction of the EU constitution would be the final nail in the coffin for the independence of the member states. It would also enshrine the European Regions, which completely abolish England. The English will be reduced to the same struggle as other landless peoples like the Kurds.

For her part, Andrea Merkel, the CDU Chancellor of Germany, which currently holds the rotating EU Presidency says that to not complete the institutional reforms in the constitution would be an "historic mistake". Britain's real historic mistake was joining the EEC/EC/EU way back in 1973.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Virgin Media arrives in Folkestone

Folkestone has, over the past few days, become one of the first parts of the country to experience the rollout of Virgin Media. The first quad-play provider of TV, Telephone, Broadband and Mobile Communications has been born out of the three way merger of ntl, Telewest and Virgin Mobile last year.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to tell you about it until now, as the first thing the system upgrade caused was a seizure of our digital box. We've had virtually no TV or Internet access for the past few days. Jonick's Virgin mobile is out of operation too, but I don't know whether that's related. The good news is that the engineer came today, and after much persuasion has furnished us with a new box. It has immediately become apparent just how outdated our old Pace box had become. The speed is a massive improvement and the interactive services are now actually worth having. After years of suffering box crashes whenever trying to do anything remotely complicated, and long pauses for channel changes and EGP searches, we now have proper television, courtesy of our Samsung box (which is much better than my old Samsung E720 mobile, but that's another story).

The question I really have to ask, is why on earth have ntl not replaced the antique Pace boxes sooner. There must be people up and down the country like us, who are suffering appalling service and have no idea that it could easily be so much better. The Cablecos wonder why they have such high churn rates and low revenue per subscriber compared to Sky, but here's a major part of the answer. We were seriously considering switching back to Sky until now, and have been unable to use any of the premium services without our box crashing.

Sadly, the Virgin man did his best not to give us the new box - he should have known that he had met his match when he met the Hassetts! That doesn't bode well for the much hoped for improvements in Customer Service now that the Virgin brand is dependant upon ntl getting their backsides in gear.

Health Focus Group seeking volunteers in Morehall

Background to the study
This research is part of a wider investigation into health, health inequalities and health-related behaviour in South East England and North West France. The project is funded by the EU and aims to contribute to the improvement of health and health related behaviour of people on both sides of the channel.

The focus groups aim to be socio-economically and geographically representative of residents living in Kent, Medway and East Sussex. In order to do this the Townsend Index has been be used. Each electoral ward has been measured and placed into twenty tiers.

Methods to be used
The study will centre upon the use of focus groups. Focus groups involve around ten participants sitting down with a researcher who leads the group in a conversation about a given topic. In this case the topics will be health inequalities and public involvement in health care. The focus groups will be recorded and transcribed and analysed using a computer software package.

What will be expected from you?
Firstly, we will need to know your address to work out which electoral ward you belong to and to see if this is an electoral ward we are looking at. If you are willing to take part then you will be asked to attend one focus group with other members of the public. It will take under two hours of your time and refreshments will be provided. Your permission will be asked to tape record the session and you will be assured that the tape will be destroyed following transcription. Your participation is voluntary and you can withdraw at anytime without giving a reason. The information that you provide will not be shared, and will be analysed and presented in an anonymous format.

Further information
If you would like any further information then please do not hesitate to call or email:
Kirsty Carmichael
Dept of Psychology and Counselling
School of Health and Social Care
University of Greenwich
Avery Hill Campus
Tel: 020 8331 7560 or email:

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sport Centre Not For Sales

There have been persistent rumours in the town that the trustees of Folkestone Sport Centre are plotting to sell of the golf course to raise funds for the proposed new sport centre. I've spoken to some of the trustees, and am reassured that any such sale would only occur over their dead bodies.

I can only guess where the malicious rumours are coming from. In an election year I could hazard a pretty good guess at which bandwagon hoppers might be involved, especially given that a high profile opposition councillor will be seeking to retain her marginal Park Ward seat this year. Who ever it is, she's bonkers, as the rumours are undermining the efforts being made by both the Sports Centre Trust and Shepway District Council to preserve and enhance local sports facilities. Negotiations are at particularly delicate stage, and we should all be behind those who are trying to provide first class facilities for the town.

Wedding plans progressing

Corissa and I have been busily setting out our plans for the wedding over the first few weeks of the year. Corissa has already ordered her dress, and dresses for Carrie and Regan, who will be her bridesmaids. Today I've asked Jonick to be my Best Man - it's not every day that a Tory Councillor asks a member of the "opposition" to take such a prominent role, I'm sure. Not that he's a Lib Dem of course - you have to draw the line somewhere!

The other good news is that 4 members of Corissa's family, in addition to her parents and brother, will be able to make it. We plan to stop off in Ontario for a few days this summer to meet some more of Corissa's relatives, so hopefully it won't be the first time I get to see her extended family!

The date is pencilled in for 20th October. We have met with the Grand Hotel and the Hythe Imperial as potential venues, and on Saturday we're going to see the Burlington. They are the most likely reception venues at the moment.

Saturday is going to be a busy day. I've got a contact lense trial in the morning, then we're going to the Burlington in the afternoon and then straight up to Canterbury for Jonick's birthday at Planet Laser.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

McCarthy & Stone threatens Cheriton's services

I was astounded by an appeal lodged by McCarthy and Stone against a planning condition on their new Assisted living units in Cheriton.

In March 2005, McCarthy & Stone first requested permission to build 70 "assisted living" apartments and 10 affordable housing units on the site of the old dairy in Shaftesbury Avenue and Stanley Road, adjacent to Cheriton Rec. This proposal was refused due to its impact on neighbours through overlooking and because it failed to provide services needed by the local community - including those who would subsequently live in the flats - landscaping or amenity space for the residents. It also contained insufficient affordable housing for such a large scheme. McCarthy & Stone appealed, and lost.

In June, 2006, McCarthy & Stone submitted further plans for the site. These addressed the issues of overlooking and lack of landscaping and amenity space for residents. The plans were approved with various conditions attached - one being that the firm provides a "commuted sum" to pay for the provision of community services, as the plans still failed to do so.

McCarthy & Stone have now started building, but have launched an appeal against the provision of services for local residents, including those who will live in their property! The services which the money would support would include improvements to Cheriton library, a service which I am sure that many future McCarthy & Stone residents would like to use. So why are objecting to providing these services?

Their website boats:
"We also try, wherever possible, to build within easy walking
distance of the shops and other amenities, each scheme being designed to provide
an environment that is as peaceful and relaxing as possible."
McCarthy & Stone market themselves as being the top of the range when it comes to assisted retirement living, and charge their residents accordingly. Yet, it seems, they expect the Council Tax payer to provide the services to their residents and want to completely exclude themselves from the local community!

Lydd Airport expansion plans on display

The much talked about plans to expand Lydd Airport will be on display for public consultation and comment from Tuesday 23rd January. There has been much propaganda from both sides of the argument, and at last the silent majority caught in the middle will get to see the truth and make up our own minds. The plans are available between 8.30am-5pm, Monday-Friday at Folkestone Civic Centre, and at various other venues across Hythe and the Marsh.

There will also be public presentations at various locations, including Folkestone Civic Centre on Tuesday 6th February at 7pm. The deadline for comments is Monday 5th March.

Details can also be found online - Lydd Airport application Y06/1647/SH and Y06/1648/SH

Folkestone Town Council has been offered a presentation of the plans at the next full council meeting, and I look forward to seeing them and making up my own mind on whether the proposals will be good or bad for Folkestone and Romney Marsh.