Saturday, April 29, 2006

Crime really is falling in south Lincs

Delighted to see that almost all categories of crime have fallen in numbers in south Lincolnshire over the past year.

The Bourne Local newspaper reports on latest figures published by Lincolnshire Police.

House burglary and theft of vehicles are both down nine per cent on last year, robbery down eight per cent, vandalism down seven per cent, sex offences down 17 per cent and serious assaults down by 37 per cent.

It means there are hundreds fewer people becoming victims of crime here, which has to be good news.

The only rise in crime over the past year was thefts from cars - and police blame the increase in popularity of sat-nav devices which all too frequently are left on full view in windscreens.

Monday, April 24, 2006

I can see clearly now...

The current row over whether the NHS needs serious reform reminds me of what happened to my dear old mother a couple of years ago.

In her eighties and living alone, one of her great pleasures in life was reading. As well as mags and newspapers, she would rapidly soak up anything historical or contemporary on the royal family, as well as stacks of slushy novels.

When Mum's eyesight rapidly deteriorated, she was persuaded to go to an optician.

The optician referred her to a specialist at Lincoln County Hospital who diagnosed cataracts and told her she would need an operation in each eye.

Just one problem. The NHS list meant a wait of almost two years.

The specialist then explained there was a quicker way, but it would cost.

Mum couldn't wait two years. So she shelled out a whopping fee of well over £2,000 per eye..and instantly went to the top of the queue.

Of course, it was the same specialist - who had been trained totally at our expense.

He trousered an extra £4k - on top of his NHS salary - for just a few minutes of his time.

Nice work if you can get it.

Thank goodness Mum was able to see again before she died last Christmas. Even if she had to pay - through the nose!

I listened to the Prime Minister today talking about reforms to incentivise consultants to get the waiting lists down.

And I suddenly saw it clearly...

If the reforms to the NHS manage to wipe out the waiting lists, the greedy consultants won't be able to charge a fortune to jump the queue.

With record investment, waiting lists cut dramatically, cancer and heart deaths down and 300,000 EXTRA people working in the NHS than in 1997, I hope the Government pushes on with reform to improve health care - specially if it cuts out some of the greed.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Not cricket

Travellers often get a bad press, and as anyone who's been to Stamford this holiday weekend can see, sometimes they deserve it.

Stamford Cricket Club's ground (on the road in from The Deepings) is marked out for football at this time of the year. But it has literally been invaded with dozens of double-axle luxury caravans and trucks.

I can't see anyone being able to play any sport there this weekend - and when the travellers have finally been moved on, they'll no doubt be a clean-up.

I'd put money on us council taxpayers having to pick up the bill for that.

I respect traveller's right to their life-style, but only when they have respect for mine.

Anger on the Ermine

Despite the promises, there's still no sign of a county-wide strategy to deal with 10,000 surplus places in the primary sector in Lincolnshire's schools.

The ruling Conservatives are still pressing ahead in the face of massive opposition with their bonkers plan to close some infant schools and merge them with nearby junior schools.

What makes it so daft is that a few schools thought to be easy targets are being picked off.

In the absence of a strategy or even sensible criteria, the decision to close Ermine Infants in Lincoln is one of the daftest.

The Leader of the Council Martin Hill tried to stop me speaking at the meeting at which the Council was supposed to explain the plan to parents.

Officers and politicans tried to sell the plan as in the best interests of Ermine children.

But they forgot to mention that under their plan, there would not be enough places for Ermine children in the new all-through primary school on the estate.

Some Ermine children, will, in future have to go elsewhere for their education.

As I announced here last month, the head teacher of the Infants has resigned in disgust.

And as word is spreading, parents are perhaps justified in feeling the council hasn't been entirely open.

There's a new petition and talk of a march through the streets of Lincoln in May.

There's a city council election on May 4th on the Ermine.

Chris Burke, the county councillor for the Ermine says the county Conservatives have managed to turn an educational issue into a political battle.

And that is certainly not in the best interests of the children.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Speechley's old guard still part of the controlling Group

Following the scandal of his two predessessors, Martin Hill current Conservative Leader of the county council says we now have a new council and a new leader.

First Jim Speechley of Crowland went to prison for abuse of office, now Ian Croft of Bourne has been booted off the council for his conduct.

It's worth noting that many of those who re-elected Speechley as their Leader AFTER he had been shamed are still members of the controlling group at Lincolnshire County Council.

And Ian Croft didn't act alone in hounding out David Bowles, a decent, honourable and hard working Chief Executive.

Mark wins promotion


Contratulations to Mark Warrick, Vicar of DSJ and chairman of our parish council on his promotion.

He's been appointed to be the Rural Dean of Aveland & Ness with Stamford.

The even better news is that Mark and his family will be staying in Deeping St James.

Mark tells us that a Rural Dean is the link between the parishes of a deanery and the Bishop. The Rural Dean also apparently convenes meetings of the clergy chapter and the Deanery Synod.

Mark will be responsible for a huge area between Stamford and the Deepings in
the south and the Billingborough Group of parishes in the north.

Not sure how many parishes that covers, nor how many churches or clery, but I'm sure Mark can tell us.

I look forward to celebrating Mark's success next time I see him in the Waterton Arms.

Not sure whether to order him a pint of Abbott, or a Bishop's Finger!
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Friday, April 07, 2006

Filling their mouths with gold

I see some local dentists are reluctantly signing up to the new NHS contracts.

They are complaining that the Government are not paying dentists enough money for NHS work.

What the dentists don't mention is that under the new contracts, the minimum pay an NHS dentist would receive is £80,000.

That's some minimum wage!

I'm reminded of the infamous words of Nye Bevan when the 1945 Labour Government was trying to introduce a National Health Service for the first time in this country.

Both the Conservatives and the BMA were against free health care for all. As usual, Labour was also up against a reactionary right wing press. It was even claimed that the NHS was the first step towards a Socialist plan for Nazi control of Britain!

Bevan said that to get consultants to accept the principle of the NHS, the Labour Government had to fill their mouths with gold.

Seems nothing changes, except today it's the dentists greed we're paying for.

I have no objection to dentists doing private work - providing they pay for their own training and don't expect the public purse to pay.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Road to nowhere farce: the sequel.

A sequel to the ridiculous farce of the road to nowhere...

You may recall that developers refused to allow Lincolnshire County Council to open the new Bourne relief road until their spat over building a new primary school was sorted.

The developers were given planning permission for a multi-million housing estate on condition that they provide a relief road and a new primary school to serve the area.

They finished the road, but then had the County Council over a barrel by refusing to hand it over. So the road stayed closed for another four months while a wrangle over the new school festered on.

Eventually, the stalemate was ended and the road was opened. The county council told us that the developers had agreed to build the school after all...

I asked the Conservative Leader of the Council Martin Hill to hold a brief enquiry to learn the lessons of the farce. But he refused, saying it wasn't necessary.

Now the story is unravelling.

This week the County Council have announced that they don't need a new school after all - due to a large number of surplus places in Bourne's exisiting primary schools.

Here's a few questions I'll be asking for starters:

Are the developers to be let off the hook from a legal contract to provide a school?

Is there a compensation clause should the school not be built, bearing in mind the costs of a new schoolo would probably run to some £10 million.

Why have the county council suddenly discovered surplus places at the two existing schools?

If the school was not needed, what could have been provided as part of the Section 106 planning agreement and has the opportunity now been lost?

What a sorry tale of incompetence.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Whistle-blower says Tories who backed Speechley and Croft should resign...

More on Ian Croft's ban from public office in the Lincolnshire Echo.
See link below.

The Standards Board found that Ian Croft put his friendship for jailed Jim Speechley before the people of Lincolnshire. He concentrated on revenge, rather than cleaning up the mess following the jailing of Jim Speechley,

The Echo also reports that whistle-blower David Bowles has called on Tory councillors who backed Speechley and Croft to resign.

You couldn't make it up!

Cameron's timely visit to Lincolnshire

I see David Cameron, Leader of the Conservative Party, was visiting Lincolnshire on Friday afternoon - just as the Standards Board of England were banning a senior member of his party in the county, Ian Croft, from holding office for 15 months.

What impeccable timing!

Reminds me of a similar visit to Lincolnshire some years ago by one of his predessessors - IDS.

IDS promised that the Conservative Party would take "appropriate action" against Jim Speechley if the public interest report was as damning as it turned out to be...

But later, the Conservative Party flip-flopped and decided it was nothing to do with them.

They said it was a matter for the local Conservatives.

And despite the Public Interest Report saying Speechley was a bully who had presided over a series of unlawful payments, his mates on Lincolnshire County Council decided that the appropriate action was to give Jim a vote of confidence.

They re-elected him Leader of the Council!

Another Lincs Tory Leader thrown out of office.

The Tory who took over the leadership of Lincolnshire County Council from jailed Jim Speechley has himself been banned from holding public office for 15 months.

I understand that the Standards Board of England and Wales has decided that Bourne councillor Ian Croft breached the code of conduct in his actions following the jailing of his predessessor Jim Speechley.

Jim Speechley was jailed for 18 months in 2004 for misconduct in public office after he tried to alter the route of a bypass to enhance the value of land he owned near Crowland.

The Standards Board hearing heard that Mr Croft wanted revenge after former Chief Executive of the Council David Bowles became whistle-blower, called in the police and gave evidence against Speechley.

The board found that Ian Croft had consistently undermined Mr Bowles.

He took over Leadership of the Council after Speechley was finally forced to step down. But as the police investigated Speechley, Councillor Croft wrote to the council solicitors asking that Mr Bowles' contract be terminated.

Six months later, when Mr Bowles was off work with stress, he was ordered not to return to work. He disregarded this notice which was issued through the council's solicitors.

Eventually, David Bowles said his job had become impossible. He agreed to go in a settlement that cost Lincolnshire ratepayers close on half a million pounds.

The Standards Board found Mr Croft was in breach of nine counts relating to the code of conduct demanded of people in public office.

Ian Croft was forced to resign as leader in March 2005 after one of the most damning reports into a council ever issued by the Audit Commission.

Two months later, the good people of Bourne re-elected Ian Croft as their councillor.

But now they will have to elect someone else!