Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lincolnshire to spend £100k on legal fees to chase a star...

The Tories who run social services in Lincolnshire have decided to throw thousands of pounds in public money at a legal battle over whether they should be graded ‘one star’ or ‘two star’...It's total madness.

For the past six annual assessments by the Commission for Social Care Inspection, adult social services in Lincolnshire have only achieved an official ‘one-star’ rating.

But rather than focus on raising their game, council leader Martin Hill is diverting attention from the people who need real help to mount a futile legal challenge to the judgement.

The fact that they are prepared to spend up to £100,000 on legal fees rather than on getting on with the job shows why they only manage a one-star grade year after year.

Today, I’ve appealed to Martin not to lose the plot on this one.

It’s not too late for Martin to pull the plug on his daft commitment to go for a Judicial Review.

Doing the sensible thing now would save up to £100,000 in legal fees and allow us to get on with the real job of improving services. that's the best way of getting another star.

In a statement following representations by the council, the Commission has explained that their assessment of one star was based on a rigorous and detailed process. After an appeal by the council, an independent former director of social services was called in but the one-star was confirmed.

CSCI said: “The Commission was particularly concerned to find that in an inspection carried out in November 2007, the safeguarding of vulnerable adults was found to be ‘poor’. This is a worrying finding which means more work is urgently needed to ensure that appropriate safeguarding arrangements are in place for vulnerable adults in Lincolnshire."

And in the Commission's own words:

The Council needs now as a matter of urgency to channel its energies into improving the services it provides for the benefit of the people who rely on them.

Gordon Brown on Cameron grief...

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's touching words of condolence to the Cameron family in the House of Commons today, before he cancelled Prime Minister's Questions and normal politics for the day as a mark of respect:

I know that the whole House will want to express our sorrow at the sad death this morning of Ivan Cameron, at the age of just six years old, and our condolences go out to David, to Samantha and to the Cameron family.

I know that in an all-too-brief young life, he brought joy to all those around him. And I know also that for all the days of his life, he was surrounded by his family's love.

Every child is precious and irreplaceable and the death of a child is an unbearable sorrow that no parent should ever have to endure.

Politics can sometimes divide us, but there is a common human bond that unites us in sympathy and compassion at times of trial and in support for each other at times of grief.

Sarah and I have sent our condolences to David and Samantha, and I know that the whole country, our thoughts and our prayers, are with David and Samantha today.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Party politics on hold...

...following the tragic death of David Cameron's son Ivan early this morning.

Deepest condolence for any parent and family who loses a loved one, but particularly a child...

Boris's bad day just got worse...

As yet another top aide quits, more questions over the competency of the most powerful elected Conservative in the country...all on top of the warning Boris was given last night, now being reported by the London Standard, Guardian, BBC and Mirror among others...

Police Authority avoids repeat of last year's farce...

The amount Lincolnshire residents will pay for policing will go up by 4.9 per cent next year, following this morning's budget setting meeting of the Police Authority.

There was clearly no appetite to repeat last year's farce which saw Lincolnshire Police Authority put council tax bills up by a ridiculous 78.9 per cent, only to be 'capped' by the Labour Government who ordered a £50 rebate for every resident.

more later...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Boris rebuked by Standards Board

The most powerful Conservative in the country - Boris Johnson - has been labelled as 'unwise' in a rebuke by the Standards Board for his behaviour over the Damien Green affair...

Aberdeen Angus eat your hearts out...

The Best of British steaks are produced right here in's official - as if you didn't already know that!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Probe launched into Lord Ashcroft's donations...

Tomorrow's Sunday Mirror has news of an official investigation into how the biggest donor to Cameron's Tories bankrolls the Conservatives from the foreign tax haven of Belize.

If his donations are found to be unlawful, Cameron's Conservatives could be ordered to pay back almost £5 million which Ashcroft targets on key marginal seats at the next General Election.

UPDATE: The Sunday Times also has more on the story.

It seems the Electoral Commission began its investigation some months ago, after the Sunday Times revealed that £4.79m had been transferred via a chain of companies from Belize, the Central American tax haven, to Bearwood Corporate Services (BCS), a British company said to be controlled by Ashcroft.

Of course, it might all be very innocent and above board...

Man dies in Spalding air-crash...

A 50-year-old man has died after his single-seater aircraft crashed near the runway at Fenland Airfield near Spalding, here in South Lincolnshire.

Lincolnshire Police has said the crash was not believed to be suspicious and no other people or aircraft were involved.

The family of the man, believed to be from the Spalding area, have been informed of his death.

Sports Gaffe of the Day...

'They were good enough to win the game, but they might not have won the game...'

Alan Green, on BBC 5Live, this evening, commentating on Man U's apparent lacklustre performance against Blackburn Rovers which saw them win and go eight points clear in the Championship...Eight points ahead at this stage makes them the best in the land, lacklustre or not...

Good to see Derby County under Nigel Clough came out top in their 'Derby' match with Nottingham Forest...

Posh had a good win too...but not quite as decisive as Rushden & Diamonds' 9-0 away victory at Weymouth...

Don't miss the Rugby tomorrow...!

Pratt of the Day...

'There are 1,500 films out there this year alone, that's 1,500 stories: You do the maths.'

Some Posing Pratt waxing lyrical (ie, talking nonsense) this morning on BBC Radio Four about the Oscars/Grammies/Tonies/WhoCares...

Friday, February 20, 2009

A little balance after attack on Lincs PCSOs...

Lincs FM and Rutland FM picked up my post yesterday in which I strongly defend Lincolnshire's team of Police Community Support Officers.

They were unfairly attacked earlier in the week by Conservative county councillor Chris Underwood-Frost who sits with me on Lincolnshire Police Authority.

I'm pleased that local radio stepped in to offer a modicum of balance to the shoddy headlines offered by the Daily Mail and its Northcliffe owned stable-mates. Both stations have been running extracts on the hour throughout the day of an interview I did for them yesterday...

Confidence in the economy...

Plans to build a six-storey waterfront hotel in Lincoln which will create 90 new jobs have been unveiled in tonight's Lincolnshire Echo.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

In defence of police community support officers...

The Daily Mail seldom lets the facts get in the way of a good headline: as illustrated by their ridiculous attack a couple of days ago on Lincolnshire's police community support police officers.

The Mail discovered that PCSOs in our county have cost taxpayers almost £10 million, but only issued 15 fixed penalty notices.

To get its headline, the Mail joins up these two pieces of information to assert:

"It means each fixed penalty notice costs more than £650,000 in public money..."

That's complete Mail rubbish and sloppy journalism: the Mail wrongly assumes that the sole purpose of PCSOs is to issue tickets and dismisses out of hand all the other valuable work they do.

Issuing tickets was never meant to be a top priority for PCSOs. The clue the Mail conveniently misses is in the title of course...

The prime role of PCSOs is supporting full police officers and increasing the uniformed on our streets.

And in my humble opinion, they do an excellent value-for-money job for local communities.

Here in the Deepings, our PCSOs patrol our streets and give reassurance to local communities.

Before they existed, residents (and particularly former Tory councillor Victor Bulmer-Jones) endlessly whinged that we never saw a police officer locally. Now, thanks to the team of more than 150 PCSOs, we do - and satisfaction with Lincolnshire Police has risen since they were recruited.

PCSOs providng 'visibility' and 'reassurance' to local neighbourhoods actually frees up full police officers to concentrate on aspects of policing that demand a more than a month's basic training .

I was very disappointed to see one of my colleagues on the Police Authority quoted in the Mail's story thus:

One member of the Lincolnshire police authority admitted taxpayers would be alarmed by the details of the PCSOs' performance.

Councillor Chris Underwood-Frost said the £10 million spent on the team could have paid for 70 full-time officers.

He added: 'People aren't daft - the public know that this is just policing on the cheap. It's like sending the army to Afghanistan without any guns.'

Chris is one of the Tory councillors on the Police Authority who forced through the totally daft and eye-watering council tax rise of 78.9 per cent for policing last year.

Fortunately, the Labour Government sensibly 'capped' the Authority - ordered a refund of £50 for every council taxpayer in the county.

The comments attributed to Councillor Chris U-F suggest that Lincolnshire's 159 PCSOs each cost less than half that of a fully trained police officer.

The Tories hate PCSOs - largely because they were brought in by Labour and not them!

But if the Tories - or anyone else - seriously believe that PCSOs are a waste of money and should be scrapped, I'd invite them to go on patrol for a shift with our own PCSO Chris Clarke.

Last year, some toerag dumped a load of stinking rubbish in the cemetery behind my house. I called PCSO Chris and despitye it being a Sunday morning he was there in minutes. Even better, the toerag was caught and was duly prosecuted and fined. That's value.

Any local resident is welcome to pop along to the next Deeping St James Parish Council meeting at the Institute on the last Thursday of the month at 7.30pm when PCSO Chris gives his monthly report on his excellent work in our community.

Just a couple of weeks ago, for example, PCSO Chris reported on how he effectively dealt with an outbreak of anti-social behaviour in one part of our village.

My picture shows PCSO Chris a couple of years ago dealing with the fire which destroyed a row of shops on the old Todds Garage site.

Using Daily Mail logic, if this fire was the only one dealt with by PCSOs, Chris's presence for this picture cost the taxpayer £10 million...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Every little helps...Tesco 'scrooges'.

Tesco bosses have been dubbed scrooges after docking wages of low-paid workers who were snowed-in last week and unable to get to work.

Tesco is renowned as an employer that values it staff.

But their decision to make their workers pay the price for one day's bad weather tarnishes their hard-earned reputation for decency.

I don't know if anyone employed at the Deepings branch of Tesco failed to make it to work through the snow: but I wouldn't be surprised.

Frankly, anyone who attempted to drive through the worst of the local snow should be banned from driving - that's why there were sensibly no buses until after lunch on one of the recent snow-days.

I am surprised Tesco appear to be treating thousands of their shelf-stackers and till operators in such a miserly manner.

A company that posted profits of £2 billion last year can surely afford to make a gesture to keep their low-paid workforce on-side, particularly as Tesco are said to be losing market-share to Asda.

The irony is of course, that if their own workers couldn't get to Tesco's, they were probably not needed anyway, as the shoppers couldn't get there either..!

I hope Tesco do the decent thing and quickly announce a u-turn.

Making savings to protect profits is sensible: but by docking wages loyal staff who were unable to get to work in a once-in-20-year weather event, Tesco are skating thin ice.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Football Quote of the Day...

You have to win these games to win them.

Former West Ham manager Alan Curbishley shares his words of wisdom on BBC TV's Football Focus a few minutes ago.

I hear Portsmouth have shortlisted Curbishley after they sacked Tony Adams earlier this week.

Clearly a no-brainer.

Martin's 'Titian moment' over BNP victory...

Tory Leader of Lincolnshire County Council Martin Hill is unlikely to have won any friends on Fenside, Boston with his analysis of why they voted for a BNP councillor.

At Friday's county council meeting in Lincoln, Mark Anderson (Skegness, Labour) linked BNP winning their first seat on Boston Borough Council with lack of a coherent regeneration plan for the poorer parts of Lincolnshire.

In an astonishing outburst, Martin Hill blamed Labour for the BNP’s by election victory.

Martin insulted Fenside people, describing them as traditional Labour “who would vote for a dog” providing it was wearing a red rosette. But he said the BNP won because Fenside had given up on Labour.

Boston councillor Paul Goodale rose to his feet to say proudly that some years ago he was elected as a Labour candidate for Fenside…

Paul didn’t bark, but kept his cool, saying he now knew what the Council Leader thought of him.

Paul went on to point out that when he won his Fenside seat, the result was a LABOUR GAIN and he had in fact defeated a sitting CONSERVATIVE councillor.

I wonder if it was a donkey in a blue rosette…!!

In the coming months, I'm sure Paul will be making sure that his friends on Fenside get the knowledge on what the Tory Leader at the county council thinks of them.

I couldn't help thinking that this was Martin's 'Titian moment'...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Decision on gypsy sites delayed until June...

South Kesteven District Council are under fire for the time they are taking to make a decision over gypsy and traveller sites.

Given the local storm that was sparked when Grantham-based SKDC announced their shortlist of possible sites almost two years ago, it's probably not surprising they're not keen on re-opening the debate...

Tories reject council tax 'freeze'...

Prudent calls by Labour for a council tax freeze were rejected today by the Conservatives who control Lincolnshire County Council.

The Tories decided to demand an extra 1.75 per cent from every council tax payer in Lincolnshire.

The last thing Lincolnshire people who are struggling to pay their bills need is another Tory tax hike.

But the Tories weren't listening.

Labour demonstrated how services could be improved without any increase at all this year - largely thanks to a more than generous Government grant of more than SIX per cent.

That's on top of last year's even more generous in Government funding to Lincolnshire of more than NINE per cent.

So a 15 per cent increase in two years.

But still the Tories still can't manage without hiking council tax yet again.

The words 'total' and 'incompetence' comes to mind...

UPDATE: Coverage in the Lincolnshire Echo.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cameron's Tories caught trying to change history...

This one will go down in history as a classic.

It clearly shows there no depths or lies Cameron's Tories will not sink to...

Rather than admit that he was wrong in his crass attack on the Prime Minister yesterday, Cameron's Tories have been caught red-handed attempting to change a date in history to match his claim!!

The farce demonstrates that Cameron's Tories are more interested in stupid schoolboy stunts than the serious business of running the country and helping people through the global economic crisis.

As ever, the Tory cover-up is always worse than the gaffe itself.

Same old Tories. Or what?

UPDATE: Kerron Cross has an excellent post on how typical it is that Eton educated Cameron thinks that the date an artist died four hundred years ago (or 500 for all I care) was more important for a Leader of the Opposition than asking questions that might actually have some relevance to people's lives in the 21st Century...

Monday, February 09, 2009

Golly-gosh: Boris defends Carol Thatcher in BBC row...

Not surprised Boris Johnson defends Carol Thatcher after she described a black tennis player as a 'gollywog'...

After all, wasn't it Boris himself who described African people as 'piccaninnies with water-melon smiles...?'.

Same old Tories eh?

CCTV and Police catch suspects after card-skim scam

While most of us were still safely tucked up in bed early this morning, local police gave chase after two men were spotted apparently attempting to remove a carsd-skimming device from the hole-in-the-wall cash machine at the Rainbow Supermarket in The Deepings.

They were spotted tampering with the machine by South Kesteven District Council's closed-circuit TV controllers at about 5.30am. Police were called and chased two men.

A 32-year-old and a 29-year-old were arrested and taken to Spalding Police Station, where they are currently said to be helping police with their enquiries.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

snowed in, be patient...

Ok, so it's only six, possibly eight inches of snow here in the Deepings, and there are many who would question whether we've become a nation of softies saying 'it's not like in 1948 or 1962 when we made it through ten foot drifts in flip flops and no shirt and only an cold oxo for dinner...'

But most people in the Deepings have rightly decided to take the safe option and stay at home this morning. We're a sensible lot.

So far the vehicle count down Church Street, each one skidding precariously on top of the packed snow is barely one an hour. As yet, you can't see any tarmac. No buses yet today.

I'm told there's rain forecast for later which will hopefully thaw things out this afternoon. I'm reassessing my planned journey at noon!

Just be patient.

Better to be a live softie than a dead macho-man...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

Boris changes his story

Tories back softer gambling laws - then collect the jackpot

Another story to damage politics itself.

David Cameron is under pressure to pay back £200,000 received by the Conservative Party. The Times reveals today that that the cash was paid by companies owned by a slot-machine tycoon shortly after Conservative calls for gambling laws to be relaxed...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Watch out, there's a sneaky burglar down our street...

A cheeky burglar has robbed one of my neighbours right here on Church Street, DSJ...

The thief walked in through an unlocked backdoor last Friday lunchtime while the victim was at home and helped him - or her - self to a purse containing about £40 from a bag which was on a chair near the unlocked door.

Police are advising people to keep doors locked even when you're at home and keep your valuables out of sight.

Anyone with any information should call Stamford Police on 01780 752222, quoting the relevant incident number 193 of January 30. Or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Snow's gone, but local schools closed...

With tube and London buses at a virtual standstill and train companies advising only travel if absolutely essential, I decided to stop at home today.

True, there was only a light covering of snow on the ground first thing this morning had melted by mid-morning. But experience as a former commuter tells me that it was probably the wrong kind of snow! If I was lucky enough to make it to central London by lunchtime, I might arrive just in time to turn for home!

Right now, it's a beautiful clear winter day, but I understand the worst of the weather is expected to hit Lincolnshire later this afternoon with a forecast of four to six inches of proper snow overnight.

The Stamford Mercury has a list of local schools closed by today's snow.

UPDATE: No sooner has I posted than the snow started - and it seems to be settling...update from Peterborough Evening Telegraph.

UPDATE 2: Two dozen Lincs schools have looked at the forecast and already decided not to open tomorrow (Tuesday).