Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Boston bypass campaigners head for Mars...?

The battle for a Boston Bypass has turned a tad ugly according to BBC Radio Lincolnshire this morning. Presenter Rob Whiting told listeners that he agreed that Boston’s traffic problems were “bad, bad”.

He interviewed a leading campaigner from the Boston Bypass Pressure Group who demanded Lincolnshire County Council is investigated for what he called a catalogue of errors and delays.

Rod’s next guest was Conservative Leader of the Council Martin Hill (picture from LCC's know your councillor website).

Martin brushed aside the claims and said £6 million was being invested to ease Boston’s gridlock.

Then followed this exchange:

Rod Whiting: All right. Well the protestors have gone to the Local Government Ombudsman, the Audit Commission, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, David Cameron. Are you concerned?

Councillor Hill: Well, perhaps they’ll go to Mars next…

Welcome to Lincolnshire: you are more likely to die on our roads than anywhere in the East Midands

Maybe we should put up stark warning signs with this message on all roads leading into Lincolnshire following news of the latest road accident statistics.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Will Thatcher speak up for Pinochet this time...?

Lady Thatcher’s favourite tea-party chum, the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is reported to be under house arrest tonight on fresh charges in connection with the disappearances of political prisoners during his rule.

I wonder if the Iron Lady will be demanding release of her old friend, as she did last time he was arrested.

The odds of Maggie having much influence this time seem slim, however. The new charges stem from alleged torture at Villa Grimaldi, a secret detention centre where Michelle Bachelet, now president of Chile, once was detained, along with other political prisoners.

No anti-social trick or treating here thanks...

Tonight and tomorrow, expect a call from the Halloween trick-or-treaters. But Lincolnshire Police are warning pranksters they will take a tough line on those who take the joke too far.

They will be on the streets to deal with anti-social or intimidating behaviour, such as egg-throwing or misuse of fireworks.

They have also issued posters to elderly and vulnerable people who get particularly worried at a call from the tricksters.

Police spokesman Debra Tinsley said: "Even when the intent of callers is to have harmless fun, the effect may be to cause distress and intimidation to those who do not perceive a knock at the door on a dark night in this way.

She urged older people to:
* Always put the door chain on and look out of the window or spy hole to see who is there before opening the door.
* Take extra care if there is more than one person at the door.
* If you do not feel safe opening the door, then don't.
* If you get unwelcome callers and feel threatened, dial 999 and ask for the police.
* If you are especially worried, invite a friend or relative around. A fun evening should take your mind off of unexpected callers.

Lincs Police gets merger money

Lincolnshire Police Authority is to receive the full amount demanded from the Home Office for work preparing for mergers which never happened.

As a member of the Authority, I supported lobbying the Home Office for the full £287,600 spent by Lincolnshire Police, so I welcome today’s announcement which is reported on the BBC.

Mergers were recommended to the Government in a report by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabularies. The report, “Closing the Gap” identified worrying gaps in tackling serious crime and the threat of terrorism.

(see June archive for half a dozen posts giving the background to the proposed mergers).

Our Chief Constable in Lincolnshire, Tony Lake, agreed that that Lincolnshire Police was not currently fit for purpose and that mergers were the way ahead. The most likely outcome locally was merger of Notts, Derbys, Leicestershire, Northants and Lincs Police into an East Midlands force.

But there were serious questions including the costs of merger and future local accountability.

Mergers were eventually kicked into touch – at least for the time being – within weeks of Dr John Reid becoming Home Secretary

My personal view is that the money spent by Lincolnshire Police investigating how merger could work was not totally wasted.

The “gap” identified in the report is still there – but the merger talks brought a renewed spirit of partnership across police force borders towards closer working which will hopefully help contribute towards “Closing the Gap” in different ways.

By-pass campaigners say Lincs Tories have let Boston down

Campaigners fighting for a Boston bypass have blasted Tory-run Lincolnshire County Council for lack of progress. They have written to David Cameron, Leader of the Conservatives, asking him to urgently put pressure on the county council to get action.

I look forward to seeing his reply...

Long Walk to Freedom...?

Re-posted after computer crash...

Great news in the Sunday Times: Labour may force farmers and privacy obsessed landowners to open up Britain’s entire coastline to ramblers.

According to the ST, a proposal is likely in the new year to join up the jumble of thousands of existing rights of way into a properly planned walking network.

If true, it means ramblers will soon be able to follow the entire 11,000-mile coastline along a “round-Britain footpath”.

What an amazing challenge - walking round Britain and never being out of site of the waves!

The Times reckons that when open, it would take a fit walker well over a year to complete.

Currently, access is blocked to 2,000 privately owned beaches, sand dunes, cliff tops and marshes, which means ramblers trying to walk the coast are often forced to take long diversions inland.

It would be a major extension of Labour’s right to roam measures which became law last year, but which did not cover access to the coast.

The Times highlights The Wash as one of the coastal routes currently barred by holiday homes and caravan sites.

Watch out for farmers and landowners ironically objecting that ramblers will damage the countryside.

The Sunday Times also reports that some coastal military land may even be opened up under the plan.

I’m not sure how much of the Lincolnshire coast is currently open to ramblers and whether this proposal would include the RAF bombing range off the Lincolnshire coast where a Tornado ditched last week HERE.

If so, I hope they'll be issuing ramblers with steel helmets!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

High rate of baby deaths just a 'blip' says NHS consultant

The extraordinarily high death rate among babies in Boston is probably just an 'anomaly', according to a leading NHS consultant for Lincolnshire.

Dr Robert Wilson said the shocking figures HERE showing Boston has a higher infant mortality rate than anywhere in England, have already been investigated by his public health department in Lincoln.

Dr Wilson, a consultant with Lincolnshire Primary Care Trust, told The Boston Standard he had concluded it was 'most likely' there had been a 'blip' during the three years when the government study was carried out.

US stem-cell debate hots up: Watch Fox hit back at critics...

Actor Michael J. Fox who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease has hit back at the right-wing American radio host who mocked him on TV by impersonating tremors HERE.

Fox had appealed to voters in next week’s American elections to support candidates who backed stem-cell research.

But when Rush Limbaugh saw the TV ads, he claimed on his show that Fox was exaggerating the effects of his disease.

Not surprisingly, the storm has gone national across the US, with Limbaugh attempting to justify his attack. He accused the Democrats of having a long history of “using victims of various things”.

Now Fox has appeared on CBS, telling presenter Katie Couric, “I could give a damn about Rush Limbaugh’s pity or anyone else’s pity. I’m not a victim.”

Watch it here on Think Progress.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Careless Tories treble home care charges...

Serious concerns about the radical Tory policy to treble home care charges for some of the most vulnerable people in Lincolnshire have now turned to alarm.

As the Tories brushed aside one of the biggest ever ‘call-ins’ from ten Labour, LibDem and Independent members, more questions than answers have been raised:

· Despite earlier claims on local radio by Council Leader Martin Hill that “fewer than 100 people” would have to pay more, it has now emerged that the real number is nearer 2,000.

· Contrary to his claim that “the charges haven’t been looked at for some time”, the Council has now admitted putting the charges up – by inflation - as recently as last year – in addition to the increase from £3.50 to £5.00 two years ago.

· It is now known that the new benefits team to assist people get cash they are entitled to – so the county council can take more from them – has not even been recruited and will need full training.

· Despite claims the “the Government is forcing us to do it” and that Lincolnshire charges far less than other councils, Labour has produced evidence showing that the maximum hourly rate for similar services provided by four-star local councils across the East Midlands is £8.10. Labour-run Derby City and Derbyshire - both four-star - don’t charge a penny for their home care provision

By contrast, two-star Lincolnshire County Council is pressing ahead by almost doubling charges from £5.10 to £10 – after imposing a 40% increase just two years ago which they promised would balance the books.

The Conservatives refused to think again and pushed ahead with their plan to increase home care charges for elderly and disabled people to £10 an hour, with the maximum charge raised from £40 a week to £120.

Yet again, it’s the most vulnerable in our society who are coming under attack from an uncaring Tory Lincolnshire County Council.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Was actor Michael J.Fox faking Parkinson's symptoms..? You decide

Here's the sick clip of American right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh accusing actor Michael J. Fox of faking Parkinson’s symptoms to get sympathy in a TV ad.

Back to the Future star Fox fronted ads appealing to American voters to elect pro-stem-cell-research candidates ie Democrats, in next week’s midterm elections to give medical science a chance of finding a cure.

Conservative Limbaugh mocks Fox's involuntary shaking movements and says he's either acting or he's not taking his medication.

It's an outrageous attack rooted in offensive ignorance of an terrible disease.

My wife who has nursed many people with Parkinson's over her career, says the shakes of anyone with Parkinson's not medication can be far less controlled than Fox appeared to be.

Anyway, the focus on the need for stem-cell research sparked by Limbaugh's instant condemnation of Fox will no doubt help cement the right-wing meltdown predicted in next week's midterm elections and hopefully revive American hope of progress in medical science.

CLICK HERE to see the clip on Americablog.com, scroll down to the utube screen and click the arrow...

Comments welcome.

Sometimes things are not quite what they seem…

Terrified diners jumped for their lives as a car driven by a man with a gun smashed through a plate glass window of an Italian restaurant in Bourne on Friday evening, according to reports.

Then, as customers watched in horror, the car was smashed through the window a second time.

Armed police raced to North Street, Bourne responding to emergency calls from the public.

The driver was arrested at the scene.

But it was quickly established there never was a gun. So the armed officers were stood down, leaving local officers to investigate.

It turns out the 39-year-old Bourne man had simply been trying to reverse out of a tight car parking space when he slipped and accidentally drove into the front of the restaurant.

There’s no suggestion either in the updated police statement that the car was driven into the restaurant a second time.

The police statement goes:
It was established that the owner of the restuarant did not want to make a complaint against the individual as he did not believe it was a deliberate act.
Furthermore there were no patrons of the restuarant in the area where the window smashed, and despite them being very shocked by the incident, no-one was injured and therefore also did not wish to provide statements to ourselves.
Police say the man could have been released without any action. However, the investigating officers deemed that his actions were still reckless and therefore, after a night in the cells, issued him with an caution and sent him home.

Explaining it to the police is one thing. I wouldn't presume to guess how the hapless driver explained it all to his wife!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Our MP poses questions - but is he asking the right people...?

Conservative MP John Hayes asks loads of written questions to Ministers – more than 450 in the past year alone.

The latest enquires from the MP for South Holland and The Deepings seek to ferret out how much taxpayers money the Government has spent lately on promoting the sharing of best practice among local authorities on dealing with truancy.

Judging by the farce at Essex County Council last week, the answer might well be “not enough”.

Essex police and education officials launched their crackdown on truancy – on a teacher-training day when hundreds of local school-children had been given the day off!

So John’s latest question might have been better directed to those who run Essex – er, his friends in the Conservative Party…

UPDATE on RAF jet crash in Lincolnshire

BBC reporting that a jet-fighter has crashed near Holbeach - presumably on or near the bombing range. Crew said to have been rescued safely.


RAF confirms a two seater GR4 Tornado from RAF Marham - like this one - crashed into The Wash just after 11.00 this morning, close to Holbeach practice bombing range in Lincolnshire.

Two crew members ejected and have been picked up and are on their way to hospital.

An air sea rescue helicopter and the Skegness and Hunstanton lifeboats were scrambled to help with the rescue.

Hope at last for recycling in the Deepings...?

I have real hope for the first time that a solution can be found to improve recycling in the Deepings.

The issue came to a head last December when Lincolnshire County Council withdrew its popular “bring to vehicle” service on alternate Saturdays at Rainbow car park at a cost of £28,750 a year.

I always had serious concerns on safety as well as costs of the “bring to vehicle” service. It was well-used, and collected 280 tons a year in the Deepings alone. At least two thirds could have been recycled. Sadly, the whole darned lot was landfilled.

Since last December, there has been no alternative service and some people have resorted to flytipping bulky items.

Deepings Recycling Centre, a private site run by Ian Prentice on the former municipal tip in Deeping St James, has long been willing to host a regular waste skip, free to residents, providing the council covers the cost.

Ian, pictured here with me at his Recycling Centre, is a passionate recycler: I believe he would ensure that only non-recyclable material went in the rubbish skip and much more would be properly recycled.

By working together to build on the service already provided by Deepings Recycling, I am confident we can at last develop a hybrid service for our community that delivers exactly what we need at a fraction of the normal cost.

I’m hoping that as well as the regular waste skip, we can look at other ways Lincolnshire County Council can improve local recycling. For example, a proper green waste scheme, wood recycling, exploring new possibilities to recycle polystyrene which is currently landfilled. Can we improve facilities and reduce the costs of disposal of small amounts of asbestos safely to prevent it being fly-tipped?

Some 18 months ago, I invited then new portfolio holder for Waste, Councillor Lewis Strange, to the Deepings to look at our problem for himself. He came last December and seemed genuinely impressed at what he saw at Deepings Recycling.

Unfortunately, little seems to have happened since, partly no doubt due to the many other urgent priorities to get waste sorted in Lincolnshire to avoid the Government’s planned hefty fines for councils which fail to meet tough recycling targets.

(A couple of years ago, Lincolnshire was given a wake-up call when it was branded a “no-star, no-hope” authority on waste. I'm pleased to say here have been significant improvements since then).

I have been regularly prodding Councillor Strange for progress in the Deepings since last December and in May I formally tabled 15 written questions on the issue at a full council meeting.

I was delighted that he has now kept his promise to return to Deeping St James with a senior officer, Mr Richard Belfield.

The pair spent two hours discussing various possible options with Ian Prentice and myself. It was a very positive meeting, with Councillor Strange and Mr Belfield sharing our strong interest in working together to find a imaginative solution.

My photo shows Ian Prentice, his partner Jane, with Richard Belfield and Councillor Lewis Strange.

Mr Belfield said he started with a clean sheet with a goal of developing an innovative partnership. He said:
“We owe the residents of Deeping St James a 'duty of effort' to be creative in order to improve their quality of life in the area.”
A couple of months ago, the county council adopted a policy of making sure 90 per cent of Lincolnshire households are with seven miles of a waste and recycling centre.

Currently, Lincolnshire County Council has a dozen such sites. They cost at least half-a-million pounds of council taxpayers money to set up – the most recent at Louth will cost £606,000.

On top of the massive capital costs, running each centre costs thousands of pounds EACH WEEK.

For example, the Bourne household waste recycling centre at Pinfold Road industrial site – run by a private company – is expected to cost the Council £238,000 to run this year alone. That’s £4,577 EVERY WEEK.

So there is a real financial incentive if we can possibly do a deal by building on what we already have in the Deepings.

I want to make sure the Council explores every possibility to provide a decent local recycling service for the Deepings without wasting skips full of public cash.

I also raised the issue of why Deepings Recycling Centre can't be properly signposted. Mr Belfield agreed to investigate what could be done.

Currently, if you live in Deeping and contact Lincolnshire County Council for the address of your nearest recycling centre, they send you to Bourne which is signposted for miles around.

The council say they can’t advertise a private business like Deepings recycling. Yet the Bourne site is also run by a private company.

Driving an 18-mile round trip to recycle a couple of bags of lawn clippings is not my idea of saving the environment when we have a home-grown service on our doorstep we could be working with.

So as I said in January, watch this space, but hopefully not for too much longer!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Who'll get the sack...half a million nurses or half a million teachers?

Labour has now done the figures on last week’s Conservative Tax Report which outlined plans for £21 billion in tax cuts.

The planned cuts are so huge, that they could only be paid for with massive cuts in public spending affecting schools, hospitals and our police.

So, do you prefer to sack 525,000 teachers, or 600,000 nurses, or 210,000 doctors?

Or perhaps the Tories would rather scrap the current Government plans for 840 new schools – including the first new secondary school to be built in Lincolnshire for a generation.

The slash’n’burn same old Tory policy would mean spending cuts for the many to benefit a few – that’s why members of the Lincolnshire-based Midlands Industrial Council which bankrolls Camerons Conservative popped the champers last week.

You don’t have to take Labour’s word.

This from the financial wire service Reuters reporting on the Conservative Tax Report:

Robert Chote, Director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, told BBC Radio:

This package, if it were to be implemented in its entirety, is likely to benefit people on relatively high incomes rather than people on relatively low incomes.

That would certainly be true of the income tax cuts, which help people in the middle or towards the top, and the same with cuts in inheritance tax and capital gains tax.

Increases in environmental taxes tend to be, at best, neutral across the income distribution or tend to hit the least well-off harder than the best-off.

And today, hypocrisy as Cameron pretended to champion older people – without mentioning his commitment to scrap the New Deal for Older People which has helped thousands back into work.

Cameron’s Conservatives have slumped from plus-14 points in the polls when he became Leader to minus-2 points today.

Can't think why...

She’s not just Welsh, she’s stupid, says Jim Davidson

As I mentioned on Saturday when posting about Aberfan and Birthdays, my wife Gill is Welsh – and proud of it.

But it's caused a few problems from time to time. For instance, we used to have an English relative who thought it was a hoot to call her Blodwyn everytime he met her, followed by references to sheep. Really tedious - and offensive after a while.

So I say cheers to the teenage girl who objected to unfunny racist remarks allegedly made by so-called funnyman Jim Davidson and reported HERE.

Bar-worker Laura Davies says Jim Davidson refused to allow her to serve him because she is Welsh. She says he walked away muttering “I’m not being served by the bloody Welsh” at Telford Golf and Country Club.

Laura says: “It was racial abuse. I know my accent’s funny but no one has the right to speak like that.”

Nick-Nick claimed: “It wasn’t because she was Welsh, it was because I thought she was stupid.”

It doesn’t sound to me like Laura’s the daft one.

Jim Davidson’s ‘jokes’ about race and gays may go down a storm at Conservative Party conferences, but they have no place in the real world. Not even at Telford Golf and Country Club.

Judge backs Lincs fire-fighters in landmark case

Lincs and Notts fire-fighters won a landmark case in the High Court today.

In a test case, fire authorities sought a ruling that fire crews would breach their conditions of service by refusing to attend emergencies where there was no call for their specific skills as professional fire-fighters.

In a practice known as “co-responding”, Fire Authorities want to order crews to respond to medical emergencies if they are able to get to the scene before an ambulance.

The FBU accepted that lives could be saved but argued that trained fire-fighters had a right to decline to attend to medical emergencies under their current contract. They also argued that co-responding undermined the ambulance service.

The judge backed the FBU. According to The Times, he said providing treatment to casualties generally, and in particular to medical emergencies, was something that ought to be carried out by the ambulance service.

MP funded by ‘shady’ Midlands Industrial Council leads with his chin…

An MP managed to shoot himself in both feet when he raised questions on donations to political parties in the House of Commons.

Mark Pritchard, Tory member for The Wrekin rose to urge Jack Straw to ensure that any new rules on funding of political parties should apply to trade unions, as well as the private sector.

Jack fired back, accusing Mr Pritchard of “leading with his chin” on the issue, since he benefited from donations from the “shady” Midlands Industrial Council and the Tories were exploiting a loophole.

The exchange prompted Labour MP David Winnick to call for an inquiry into what he called “a sinister organisation”.

Here’s Jack’s reply to Mr Pritchard taken from Hansard:

May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that, as the Neill Committee on Standards in Public Life said in 1998, the trade unions are the most regulated of all donors?

During the 18 years of the Conservative Government, the trade unions suffered one adverse change after another in their financing regimes, while nothing whatever was done in respect of companies.

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman is leading with his chin on the issue, because there is one unquestionable improvement that we must make in regulation, which is to ensure that the unregulated funding of local parties by unincorporated associations such as the Midlands Industrial Council is brought to an end.

I note that although he spent just £11,000 during the four-week election period in 2005, he received a total of £55,000 in the eight months before the election was called from Lord Leonard Steinberg and the Midlands Industrial Council, and I assume that he spent that, too.

That shows that there is a glaring loophole continuously exploited by the Conservative party, enabling them to spend large sums of money and not account for them before the election period kicks in.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab):

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is scope for political parties to spend less before there is any question of further funding, particularly from the state? In addition, is there not a strong case for an immediate inquiry into the midlands industrial council? It is a sinister organisation—it is not accountable in any way, and it makes a mockery of the reforms that the Government have brought about.

Mr. Straw:
I strongly agree with my hon. Friend’s latter comments. I recall that when the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 was considered in the House, there were high-sounding comments from the Opposition, who said that they wished for as much transparency as we and the Liberal Democrats wished for.

Such comments have been repeated, but I note, too, that the Conservative party exploited a loophole in the law that allowed unincorporated associations, such as the Midlands Industrial Council, to give thousands and thousands of pounds to local constituency associations without the latter accounting for that or providing any details about who was behind those shady organisations until it was forced out of them.

For anyone interested, I’ve pulled information on Midlands Industrial Council together into a dossier – and updated it as more comes to light

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Truancy crack-down: great idea, what could go wrong...

Police and Council officials launching a crack-down on truancy could hardly believe their luck when they and discovered 30 kids with their parents and grandparents shopping in a local Tesco store...

Only after swooping to gather the vital evidence and interviewing all of them did the penny finally drop...hundreds of local school children had been given an official day off for teacher-training.


The gaffe happened in Essex and was reported in the East Anglian Daily Times.

I’m sure it could never happen here in Lincolnshire...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Birthdays and Aberfan...

Today’s special: My wife Gill is celebrating her birthday. We’ve had a great family day with our two grown-up daughters. We’ve walked in sunshine drenched woods, scoffed cream-teas at the Haycock, and let her win at ten-pin bowling…! Later we have a table booked at The Village Balti.

But as everyone knows, it’s also 40 years today since the Aberfan disaster. Like me, Gill was a teenager in 1966. Unlike me, she was born into a Welsh valleys mining community.

Her father went down the pit – and like most miners, Evan Bedford Thomas suffered a terrible disease-ridden end to his life.

Gill trained as a psychiatric nurse at University Hospital, Cardiff – where she later nursed some of the parents who had lost their children at Aberfan.
Reading an archived story on the BBC website today, I was not surprised to learn that Aberfan survivors still lead stressed lives.

Aberfan killed 144 people, including 116 children when their school was engulfed with thousands of tons of black slurry.

What makes Aberfan even more indelible is the fact that it was a man-made disaster which was wholly avoidable. Working miners who survived, wrongly blamed themselves for creating the tip that slid onto the school, killing their own children and grandchildren, but the real blame of course lay elsewhere.

A few months ago when Gill and I last spent a weekend visiting relatives in South Wales, we stopped off at Aberfan for the first time.

We were curious, but somehow disappointed with the Memorial Garden apparently opened by the Queen, on the spot where the doomed Pantglas School once stood. There was no roll of honour – although I understand there is a list of the names of the victims at the cemetery where many were finally buried.

Some time later, I was talking to a group of teenagers and mentioned Aberfan.
They’d never heard of it.

We must do more than simply say: “Aberfan: nuff said”.
Not just for the sake of those who died. But also for the sake of those who still live everyday of their lives with the trauma that is Aberfan.

Anyone for clubbing? Germans say no, Helmer says yes...

Those Germans are a funny lot. They’ve only gone and banned the import of seal products to register their protest against seal culling – I’m most grateful to Chris Gale for this news.

But I can’t fathom why the German Parliament has unanimously gone all mumsy on dumb animals…

Only the other day, East Midlands MEP Roger Helmer was telling a teenage girl from Lincolnshire that clubbing seals to death is “humane”.

Roger made his contribution on the very day David Cameron welcomed him back into the bosom of the Conservative Party after he’d been frozen out for more than a year…

Roger obviously knows much more than those nasty Germans about life and everything.

After all, isn’t Roger always very right...?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Welcome to the never-never land of Lincolnshire...

Last week Boston was named obesity capital of England: yesterday figures revealed that Lincolnshire babies are less likely to reach their first birthday than the average British newborn HERE.

And today, Lincolnshire is highlighted as one of the most debt ridden counties in the UK, according to the splash in tonight’s Lincolnshire Echo.

Can it get any worse?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Boston - capital of obesity and now child deaths...

Worrying news about Boston. Last week it was named as the town with the highest obesity rates in England. Today, government figures reveal that Boston bobies are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday than those born elsewhere in England HERE

One baby in every 85 born in Boston dies before the age of one. That compares with one in 160 on average across Lincolnshire and 200 nationally.

These statistics clearly need further study to find out if there's a common problem in Boston that leads to obesity and child deaths.

Foreign students boost education says Lincoln Head Teacher

Following last week’s racist and misinformed reporting about a Boston school HERE last week, it was refreshing to hear a head teacher say how foreign pupils add to educational experience rather than take away from it.

St Peter at Gowts Primary School in Lincoln has 23 non-English-speaking students with 11 different languages.

Today, Head Teacher Patricia Ward told BBC Radio Lincolnshire that the foreign students present an opportunity to widen the horizons of local children and enrich the curriculum.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Labour surfs Tory website to discover threat of massive cuts

Proposals by David Cameron’s Tax Commission for a massive £21 billion in cuts to public services were discovered today by Treasury Minister Ed Balls when he was surfing the internet!

According to the Financial Times, someone at Central Office put the plans on the Tory website by mistake.

The able Ed Balls went straight on to Channel Four News to expose the huge hole the figures would leave in public finances.

And who was the Tory spokesman on C4...?

The hapless Howard Flight, who had to be sacked by Michael Howard in the run-up to the last General Election over Tory plans for massive cuts to public services.

No comment.

...Except to note that this latest Tory threat to economic stability and record low inflation and interest rates, comes on the very day a United Nations report is published showing that £85 billion of inward investment came into Britain last year, making the UK the most popular destination for investment in the world.

Our nation's economic revival and stability hasn't happened by accident.

And now we have it, we can't afford to risk losing it.

Not even the Tories are that crazy…are they?

Had to chuckle reading the transcript of Lincs FM’s latest report on controversial plans to close infant and junior schools in the county and replace them with all-through primary schools.

The transcript read:
The future of two more Lincolnshire schools is up for debate. Lincolnshire County Council wants to merge Eastfield Infants & Nursery School with Lacy Gardens Junior School in Louth…

I don’t know whether that’s an accurate transcript by the team at Lincolnshire County Council, or whether something was lost in translation.

Either way, the proposals are in fact to create one new all-through primary school on the Ermine Estate in Lincoln and another at Louth.

It’s true that the real merger plans are completely bonkers for many reasons.

But I’m happy to put the record straight and report that the Lincolnshire Tories are not so crazy to propose merging schools which are more than 25 miles apart...

...But then again, when their back-of-a-fag-packet scheme to merge 17 schools was first revealed, no-one thought they could possibly be serious.

But they were deadly serious. A year on, we’re still fighting alongside parents, teachers, head teachers, and councillors of all parties and none, working to stop the plan and prevent the damage to childrens' education.

Money talks for Midlands Industrial Council

Members of the Lincolnshire-based club that bankrolls Cameron’s Conservatives HERE will be delighted with today’s news that the people charged with coming up with Tory policies are recommending massive tax cuts of £21 billion.

Many members of the Midlands Industrial Council who were named for the first time at the weekend are also members of the so-called Taxpayers Alliance which lobbies for tax-cuts.

Tax cuts for the few which will inevitably mean cuts in public services for the many...?

Same old Tories then.

Getting more recycling for less money...

Last January, I posted on the withdrawal of a vital recycling service in our local community HERE and finished by saying “watch this space”.

It’s taken nine months - the length of a pregnancy – but at last I’ve secured a meeting with Councillor Lewis Strange, Portfolio Holder for Waste. He’s agreed to meet me at Deeping Recycling Centre later today when I hope we can come up with a sensible solution to a real problem.

I'm still pushing to get a waste skip provided for at least one day a week at Deepings Recycling Centre.

I'm confident that it would lead to better recycling - as I know Ian Prentice who runs Deepings Recycling would not allow anything that is remotely recyclable to go into landfill.

It’s a service that could be provided for a fraction of the £1,000 every time we used to send three compactors once a fortnight to the Co-op supermarket car park.

What most people didn't realise was that everything that was placed in the compactors went straight into landfill.

This really is a case where we can achieve more recycling for less public money!

As I said in January…watch this space.

Monday, October 16, 2006


A great night out with a mate in Boston last week sparked memories of my days as a junior reporter on the local rag more than three decades ago 

My first job in newspapers was writing up the deaths and marriages on the Lincolnshire Chronicle– which was printed in those days on the ex-News Chronicle presses which had been moved up from London to the Standard works on Wide Bargate, Boston.

Once the paper was printed, press nights would be rounded off with a rowdy beer or three in the New Inn on Penn Street.
On my return last week I didn’t find the old pub - or even Penn Street.

But round almost every corner, I did manage to discover a fresh Batemans house.

And wearing my shoes that won’t go past pubs without going in, I was forced to sample a goodly quantity of Lincolnshire brewed Good Honest Ales. 

I also managed to stumble on the new “front” offices of the Boston Standard – no longer on Wide Bargate, but in a smart new shopping precinct, with a bill-board outside advertising this week’s big story.

What the headline would be? Perhaps HAVEN HIGH HEAD WELCOMES MIGRANT KIDS – following the inaccurate sensationalism in the Daily Express earlier in the week which I posted about HERE.

Wrong. Perhaps then the bill-board would be BOSTON FIGHTS FAT LABEL after the people of the town were labelled the most obese people in Britain HERE.

Wrong again. I could hardly believe how I’d missed the scoop of the century which shouted out at me from the bill-board: COFFEE MORNING PICTURE SPECIAL.
I kid you not. Have news values changed so much in 35 years?

Is Lincoln Imp in a wheelchair too cheeky…? You decide.

One of the all-night wheelchair protesters against trebling of home care charges has launched his own blog called Careless-Council.

Richard Van der Fransen reveals on his site how his amusing alterations to Lincolnshire County Council’s new logo didn’t go down too well with a council press officer.

I thought it was rather imaginative to put our Lincoln Imp in a wheelchair.

Here’s the original logo and Richard’s version.

Too cheeky? Judge for yourself.

By the way, one of the logos you see cost us Lincolnshire ratepayers £40,000.

The other one didn't cost us a bean.

(Richard and a colleague Brian Steel camped for 24 hours outside County Hall in Lincoln to protest against the prospect of their home care charges being raised from £40 a week to £120 story HERE).

Sea Containers sinks but trains still on track says GNER…

The Bermuda-based parent company of GNER which runs mainline East Coast rail services through Peterborough has filed for “bankruptcy protection” this morning.

Operators GNER are desperately trying to say that services will not be affected HERE, but the situation clearly throws into doubt the future of GNER, which operates trains between London and Edinburgh.

Sea Containers was widely thought to have overpaid in a £1.3 billion deal earlier this year to secure the East Coast franchise and is thought to have been working on plans to slash costs, leading to hundreds of job losses among its 3,000 GNER workforce HERE.

Sea Containers is seeking what is known as chapter 11 protection from its creditors.

City sources have also speculated GNER could be sold. But there are likely to be few potential buyers eager to buy a struggling train operating company – and any buyer would surely attempt to renegotiate the franchise at a lower rate.

It's another indictment of the totally incompetent way the Tories sold off and fragmented our railways in the dying days of the Major Government.

Donkey's arrival is good news...

Seems ages since I was able to post a good Lincolnshire donkey story (the last one was when the Lincolnshire Echo interviewed champion Skegness beach donkey Bruno HERE.

Happily, Bruno has become a prolific and faithful commenter on my blog, despite the distinct lack lately of news from the donkey world.

But the Echo has come to the rescue once again HERE with this lovely tale of the birth of baby donkey Una at a Lincolnshire farm.

The good news follows the tragic deaths of five adult donkeys and three unborn ones in a road accident near the farm last year.

According to the Echo, trespassers left a gate open: Children's favourite Barnaby and four others wandered on to the road and were hit by a car. Three of the dead donkeys were heavily pregnant.

Fortunately, Una’s mum and dad Clover and Peanuts were not daft enough to go out on the road, so survived the tragedy.

Baby Una has already made lots of friends with visitors to Rand Farm.

No meeting with Bruno is yet planned.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fair Deal Phil's Dossier on Tory cash club...and its members...UPDATED...

I've brought together all the Google searches, media coverage and other info which has come my way on the controversial club that bankrolls the Conservative Party and which is based in the Lincolnshire village of Bassingham, near Lincoln.

And I've updated it Tuesday, following further priceless quotes published in the Birmingham Post (see below).

My last post HERE carries the bones of this info, but I've now significantly updated it.

There's still a few gaps, and I'll update again as and when. All information will be gratefully received and credited as appropriate.

According to the Daily Telegraph HERE

* The Midlands Industrial Council was founded in 1946 as a pressure group to fight the Attlee government's nationalisation plans and to champion free enterprise.

* It has been giving money to the Tories for 60 years but only since the introduction of recent legislation on political donations that its existence become more widely known.

* Between April 16, 2003, and March 14, 2006, the Conservative Party received 52 donations from the MIC totalling £968,690.

According to the Sunday Times HERE

* Businessmen who join MIC become ‘members for life’.

* Most shadow ministers have attended MIC meetings and George Bridges, Cameron’s head of campaigns, is in regular contact with MIC.

* MIC meets up to five times a year in hotels or at the office of Edmiston. Members are charged a subscription and many choose to make far larger donations.

* Most of the money is then given to the Tories. Donations are also made to causes such as the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which campaigns for lower taxes. (see interesting MIC-Taxpayers Alliance close links below).

* MIC campaigns for lower taxes for business, less red tape and improved transport infrastructure. It is also considered to be Eurosceptic.

* MIC is an “unincorporated association” which means unlike companies or charities, it does not have to publish accounts or disclose its backers.

According to The Guardian HERE

* Days after Cameron became Tory leader, his constituency association in Witney received a £5,500 cheque from MIC.

* In the past three years the MIC has made 50 donations to MPs and Conservative Central Office totalling more than £950,000.

According to the Birmingham Post HERE

* MIC helps to fund the Conservative Party's national election nerve centre at Coleshill, Warwickshire, to the tune of about £1 million a year (which is owned by Bob Edmiston.

Political parties have been legally required since 2001 to reveal the identities of all backers who contribute more than £5,000. However, as an unincorporated association, the MIC does not have to publish accounts or disclose the names of its members.

Known life members are:

Sir Anthony Bamford – President of MIC who is reported to have given the Tories £1m before the last general election. Boss of digger company JCB, which he inherited in 1975 at the age of 29. Knighted by Margaret Thatcher in 1990. Recently accompanied David Cameron to India where the Tory Leader opened a £25m JCB factory. Donated to David Davis’s campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party. According to The Guardian, JCB Group pays the shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, £50,000 a year as its parliamentary adviser. David Cameron and Francis Maude, the Tory chairman, have used its helicopters.

Keith Bradshaw - part-owner of the Listers of Coventry motor dealership. Number 25 on the Midlands Rich List with £110 million.

John Butcher – former Coventry MP and Tory Industry Minister.

George Campion - Senior tax partner at Deloitte’s Birmingham office. He works in real estate transactions, analysing corporation tax and commercial implications. His clients include large multinational groups.

Robert ‘Bob’ Edmiston – Chairman of MIC. Multi-millionaire boss of car importers IM Group. Mr Edmiston was nominated for a peerage by the Tories last year. His nomination was blocked by the House of Lords Appointments Committee which vets potential peers. He was recently questioned by police investigating the cash for honours affair. He also owns Coleshill Manor in the West Midlands. The Guardian reported that before he was put forward for a peerage, Edmiston loaned the party £2m.

Contantine ‘Con’ Folkes – Boss of Folkes Holdings, one of the largest Midlands based private property companies with a mixed portfolio worth over £80 million.

According to PoliticalHackUK Mr Folkes has a special interest in taxation:

PoliticalHackUK writes: Folkes Forge - part of a Lye-based parent group which had been in operation for eight generations - closed in September 2000. Its closure followed the resignation of Folkes Group chairman and chief executive Constantine Folkes amid an Inland Revenue probe into the tax affairs of the group. Mr Folkes subsequently paid the group £3.5 million in advance of the outcome of the inquiry.
Needless to say, Mr Folkes blamed the government for the closure

Tony Gallagher – part of the Warwick-based Gallagher Estates UK, a commercial and residential property development and investment company. He is 13th on the Midlands Rich List with a fortune of £330 million. Responsible for building at least 51,900 British homes, says the Sunday Times. He has also donated to the Labour Party, according to the ST:
Gallagher attracted controversy in 2001 after it emerged that he and his wife had each donated £4,999 to the Scottish Labour Party. He was waiting for valuable planning permission on several projects in Scotland controlled by Labour councils and said at the time: ‘Frankly, whatever government of the day is in power, we always work with them, because that is the name of the game, isn’t it?’

Graham Hampson Silk - Hampson Holdings.

Steve Hollis – UK Head of Sales for KPMG, provider of financial services, such as audit, tax and risk advisory.

Kambiz ‘Kim’ Jaberi – Managing Director, Karins Catering of Bilston, West Midlands. The only known ethnic minority member of MIC. Karins Catering supplies airline meals: Clients include Gate Gourmet.

Kim Jaberi told the Sunday Times:
“I was invited to join about five years ago. We are self-made people who can tell politicians about transport, about climate change, about tax – about what real life is about.”

Chris Kelly – Chairman of road haulage firm Keltruck, West Bromwich. Described as "outspoken" by Birmingham Post. Donated to David Davis’s campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Chris Kelly formed Keltruck in 1983 and won the Scania franchise. In the 1990s later he helped form East Midland Commercials Limited, Scania Distributor for the East Midlands, which was acquired by Keltruck in November 2004. Keltruck employs some 500 people.

James and John Leavesley – The Leavesley Group. Staffordshire based property group which also has interests in agriculture, surplus equipment, machinery and vehicle sales, shipping containers, petrol retailing and farm quality assurance and inspection.

Lowe & Fletcher Ltd – Manufacturers of locking devices, corporate member of Midlands Industrial Council.

T. Miller and M. Miller - both of Harris & Sheldon Group of Companies based at Meriden near Coventry. From fishing tackle to suppliers to the automotive industry.

J. Brian Pettifer – Chairman and Chief Exec of Pettifer Group a Warwickshire based property development company with an office in Mayfair. Employs 300 people across the UK and develops edge of town retail parks.

Roy and Don Richardson - founders of Richardson Developments - whose projects included Ropewalk shopping centre in Nuneaton. In February they were rated 11th on the Midlands Rich List list with £380 million.
The Sunday Times reports: ‘(Roy) Richardson has also been linked to Labour. In 1997, the Richardson twins, worth £350m, met Lord Levy, Tony Blair’s chief fundraiser, at the House of Lords. The pair discussed donating £1m to Labour and are alleged to have asked for help with planning decisions, according to senior Labour sources. Levy is understood to have stopped the meeting immediately. The brothers deny raising the issue.’

R. Robinson (nothing yet known).

Graham Silk - who sold Wolverhampton and Blackpool airports earlier this year for £15 million. He told the Birmingham Post that MIC was simply a group that existed to lobby for a better deal for Midland businesses who were
"a good bunch of people who have worked hard to build their businesses up...I haven't really been involved for the past couple of years so I don't want to say too much.
"The council is obviously allied to the Conservative Party, my politics aren't a secret."

Peter Shirley - of Midland Chilled Foods whose new factory in Basingstoke, Hampshire was recently opened by David Cameron. Mr Shirley told the ST:
“I’m a member of the MIC. I was aboslutely amazed that it was David Cameron who came to the (factory) opening.”

“We’re not here just for donating money. We want to know that the Midlands economy is in good hands. We tell (Tory Ministers) that if they’re going to have policies, we would like to know what the heck they are.”
Richard Smith - Group Marketing Manager, Techtest of Leominster, Herefordshire. Donated to David Davis’s campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

David Wall – secretary of Midlands Industrial Council. Works for Bob Edmiston’s company IM Group. Wall told the Sunday Times:
“I’ve met almost every member of the shadow cabinet you care to mention. We are for the furtherance of free enterprise…We have a mutual interest on politics.”

The Sunday Times say there are also “non-active” members who claim not to be currently involved in the MIC. These include:

Sir David Lees – an advisor to David Cameron and Chairman of Tate & Lyle. Appointed a Knight Bachelor in the Queen's birthday honour list in July 1991.

Allen Lloyd – the Isle of Man based founder of the chain of Lloyds Chemists which he started with one shop in Tamworth, Staffordshire, in 1973. A workaholic and an avid collector of Jaguar cars, he made an estimated £32 million when he sold the group in 1997. He now owns property worth millions of pounds, including a Georgian coaching inn in his home town of Atherstone, Warwickshire.

David Samworth – owner of Samworth Brothers, makers of Ginster pasties and ready meals and operators of 13 companies split between Leicestershire and Cornwall. Turnover in excess of £450m, employs over 6,000 staff.

PoliticalHackUK reveals close connections between MIC and the Taxpayers Alliance. He writes:

Chris Kelly (MIC member) and Bamford are also listed as supporting the Taxpayers' Alliance (a Tory front group if ever there was one, despite claims to independence), alongside Constantine Folkes (MIC), Kim Jaberi (MIC), Michael Miller (MIC), James Leavesley (MIC), Brian Pettifer (MIC), Peter Shirley (MIC), Richard Smith (MIC). Spot the pattern? They've got almost a million reasons (and counting) for Cameron to cut the tax bill. Keltruck and the Taxpayers' Alliance sponsored a 1922 Committee dinner celebrating Baroness Thatcher's career.

Indeed, before the 2005 election, a number of the MIC members co-signed a letter to the FT promising that a Tory government

'would keep spending and borrowing under control and keep taxes down.'


UPDATED: Tuesday, 17 October with information from Birmingham Post and connections to Taxpayers Alliance made by PoliticalHackUK

LibDums poster leaves a nasty taste...

Peterborough LibDems have done themselves no favours by refusing to take down a bad-taste poster on their website.

I’m grateful to Elephunt for highlighting the issue which I’d totally missed in the Peterborough Evening Telegraph HERE

The elderly widow of prominent Conservative councillor Ben Franklin who died some months ago, was disgusted at a poster which depicted her former husband as “Franklinstein” prepared for the local LibDem website.

But even after complaints about the offence they were causing, Peterborough LibDems refused to take the poster down. Eventually, after more complaints, Lib Leader Sir Ming Campbell intervened and instructed the local party to do the decent thing.

They have now removed the offensive poster but, according the the ET, there are still three articles which refer to “Franklinstein” on the LibDem site.

Such nice people, these LibDems.

The real reason Tory donors were named...

The secretive 'club' which exists to fund the Tory Party yesterday claimed it had decided to release a list of its wealthy members “in the interests of transparency”.

Today, the truth appears somewhat different to yesterday's spin by the Midlands Industrial Council which is somewhat bizarely based at Bassingham near Lincoln.

Earlier in the week, it seems The Sunday Times managed to get a leaked list of the names and was planning a big exclusive today. The Times had been approaching various members earlier this week.

So the MIC – which had been under pressure from the Labour Party for months to end its secrecy, finally published the names yesterday. MIC had the brass neck to claim it was doing so "in the interests of transparency".

The Sunday Times story is on two pages HERE and HERE

I was amused by the comment of one member reported in today's Times story:
Peter Shirley, whose new chilled foods factory was recently opened by Cameron, said: “I’m a member of the MIC. I was absolutely amazed that it was David Cameron who came to the (factory) opening.

“We’re not here just for donating money. We want to know that the Midlands economy is in good hands. We tell (Tory ministers) that if they’re going to have policies, we would like to know what the heck they are.”

Er, so would we mere mortals!

Who's Who on Midlands Industrial Council

Here’s what’s come to light so far on members of the Midlands Industrial Council, which makes major donations to the Conservative Party and who today bowed to pressure and released a list of 22 of their members (not 20 as I posted earlier).

My information is culled from Google searches and the Press Association and it makes for interesting reading.

Three of those named - Sir Anthony Bamford, Richard Smith of Techtest and Chris Kelly of Keltruck also appear in the register of MPs interests as donors to the Conservative Party leadership campaign of David Davis.

The full list of names released by MIC is:

Sir Anthony Bamford - JCB boss, who inherited the company in 1975 at the age of 29.

Bob Edmiston - IM Group, car importers. Mr Edmiston was recently questioned by police investigating the cash for honours affair. He also owns Coleshill Manor in the West Midlands.

Steve Hollis – UK Head of Sales for KPMG, provider of financial services, such as audit, tax and risk advisory.

George Campion - Senior tax partner at Deloitte’s Birmingham office. He works in real estate transactions, analysing corporation tax and commercial implications. His clients include large multinational groups.

J. Brian Pettifer – Chairman and Chief Exec of Pettifer Group a Warwickshire based property development company with an office in Mayfair. Employs 300 people across the UK and develops edge of town retail parks.

Tony Gallagher – part of the Warwick-based Gallagher UK, a commercial and residential property development and investment company. He is 13th on the Midlands Rich List with a fortune of £330 million.

Don and Roy Richardson - founders of Richardson Developments - whose projects included Ropewalk shopping centre in Nuneaton. In February they were rated 11th on the Midlands Rich List list with £380 million.

Keith Bradshaw - part-owner of the Listers of Coventry motor dealership. Number 25 on the Midlands Rich List with £110 million.

John Butcher – former Coventry MP

Richard Smith - Group Marketing Manager, Techtest of Leominster, Herefordshire,

Chris Kelly – Chairman, Keltruck, West Bromwich. Chris Kelly formed Keltruck in 1983 and won the Scania franchise. In the 1990s later he helped form East Midland Commercials Limited, Scania Distributor for the East Midlands, which was acquired by Keltruck in November 2004. Keltruck employs some 500 people.

J. D. Leavesley and J. W. Leavesley – The Leavesley Group. Staffordshire based property group which also has interests in agriculture, surplus equipment, machinery and vehicle sales, shipping containers, petrol retailing and farm quality assurance and inspection.

Lowe & Fletcher Ltd – Manufacturers of locking devices, corporate member of Midlands Industrial Council

P. Shirley - Midland Food Group

David Wall – secretary of Midlands Industrial Council

R. Robinson

Kambiz Jaberi – Managing Director, Karins Catering of Bilston, West Midlands. Clients include Gate Gourmet.British

T. Miller and M. Miller - both of Harris & Sheldon Group of Companies based at Meriden near Coventry. From fishing tackle to suppliers to the automotive industry.

G. Hampson Silk - Hampson Holdings

Con Folkes – Boss of Folkes Holdings, one of the largest Midlands based private property companies with a mixed portfolio worth over £80 million.

No doubt more will emerge...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tory funding organisation bows to pressure...

BBC R4 are reporting that the Lincolnshire-based organisation that has given £1 million to Cameron's Conservatives has finally bowed to pressure from Labour and has named 20 people who contribute.

The Labour Party, which has long campaigned for full disclosure, has questioned whether the list released by the so-called Midlands Industrial Council is complete.

It has also challenged the Conservative Party to register the donations in the names of those who actually gave the money.

I have posted many times on Midlands Industrial Council most recently HERE

MIC is based in a house in the village of Bassingham near Lincoln and up to now the only two names known to be behind it were Robert Edmiston who was nominated by the Tory Party for a peerage earlier this year, and JCB boss Anthony Bamford.

David Cameron opened a new JCB factory in India a couple of months ago.

UPDATE: Link to BBC story HERE

Friday, October 13, 2006

Schools merger rejected - major victory for parent power

The Independent Schools Adjudicator has just rejected Lincolnshire County Council's plan to close a village infants school and merge it with a junior school.

It's a major victory for the parents and for common sense.

And it shows what happens when the Tories refuse to listen to sensible advice from parents, teachers, councillors of all parties and none, church representatives and governors.

The Adjudicator states in his finding:

"The County Council has failed to convince local people of its case and has not done as much as it should have done to set out its proposals for what facilities would be available under the new arrangements."

There's much more background to what happened in my archive for January/Feb/March.

Will comment more when I have read the Adjudication in full...and had a pint or two to celebrate!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

'We've trebled your care costs: but do you have any problems?..'

The Council which last week trebled home care charges for some residents is now offering disabled people someone they can talk to “about any problems they face”.

Wonder how many will want to talk about the problem of how to pay their bill for home care which is going up from £40 to £120 a week after a controversial decision by the all-Tory Executive last week...

After last week’s media mauling over home care charges HERE, Lincolnshire County Council has today put out a press release on “drop-in” advice sessions for disabled people in Gainsborough.

Strangely, the sessions are only “open to anyone with a physical disability between the age of 18 and 64 or their friends and relatives”.

Don’t know why anyone younger than 18 or older than 64 shouldn't be eligible for the same advice...

And I just wonder if this barrier complies with the Government’s new laws on age which came in to effect last week.

I’ll be asking questions…

Racist and misinformed...

That’s the verdict of the Head Teacher whose school was featured on the Daily Express front page story on Monday HERE, according to the Lincs FM radio station.

Here’s the full interview as broadcast:

A Lincolnshire school is dismissing accusations it chooses students based on their place of birth. A national newspaper is claiming Boston’s Haven High Technology College is selecting Eastern European children instead of local youngsters.

The Daily Express says parents are furious about the school’s selection process, yes the school’s Headteacher Adrian Reed argues the data is being taken out of context:

Adrian Reed:
After discussions with the Local Education Authority I agreed that I would suspend our pupil admission number, or PAN, and all students were then given a place. Those who were going for Appeal were given immediate places and the new arrivals into the town were given places.

All 21 families who moved to Boston from London, the north of England and Europe were allowed to send their children to the school. Currently the school has 82 students whose second language is English, only 12% of the total number of pupils.
Mr Reed says the newspaper’s claims are racist and misinformed:

Adrian Reed:
The local people know of our commitment to the local community. We are a full service extended school. We run adult learning, we run community learning. They know that we are committed to the whole of the community. I ‘m not going to get involved in any political, racist slurs at all. We serve local people and local children.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Flash floods close Deepings School

Hundreds of school kids at Deepings Comprehensive were sent home today after the drains couldn't cope with flash floods.

Several areas of the school are under water but I understand it is hoped to get mopped up in time for normal lessons tomorrow...

School Head nails untruth of Daily Express anti-migrant splash

The Daily Express stoked up migrant-bashing sentiments yesterday with banner front page headlines NO PLACE AT SCHOOL IF YOU'RE BRITISH.

The Express suggested that a Boston school full to British kids last month opened its gates to hoardes of Eastern Europeans. You didn’t need to go any further than the headline to get the picture.

The Express quoted "furious" - but unnamed - parents whose children were apparently refused a place at Haven High School, Boston, last month despite migrant children being accepted.

And in case readers didn’t fully appreciate the anti-migrant message, the Express story came complete with a predictable quote from Mark Simmonds, Tory MP for Boston with Skegness, naturally attempting to kick the Government over immigration.

BBC Radio Lincolnshire ran the story on their Breakfast programme, reading out quotes from the Express story.

Some time later the BBC managed to get hold of the Head Teacher of Haven High. Adrian Reed told a very different story to the one in the Express.

These are his words:
I’m rather concerned that information that I gave to the Sunday Telegraph during the middle of the week has been totally misquoted and

The Sunday Telegraph got hold of a letter that I wrote to the Local
Education Authority actually in 2005.

This is the last academic year, not this year. We had had children who
had been Appealing to get into Haven High because we were full and we were going through the processes of Appeals and all the legal process.

At the same time, we had a large number of families from Europe arrive in
the first days of term, so I did speak to the Local Authority and we both agreed
that we would suspend our pupil admission number to accommodate children.

But it was not only the European children. We also therefore suspended all the Appeals and gave places to everybody.


I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read the article (in the Express)
this morning but you don’t feel it’s at all a fair representation of the

Adrian Reed:

No it’s not. It’s totally inaccurate.

As I say, it was a letter that wrote to the Authority over twelve
months ago now and, at the end of the day, I take the approach that children
need to be in a school.

Whatever children, wherever they’re from, we need to make sure that our
children get into school and we were faced with a particular problem over twelve months ago and this seemed to me to be a proper response to it.

I’ll not hold my breath for an apology from the Express – nor hold out any hope for their readers to be told the facts. Who needs facts when you can have migrant-bashing dogma?

Clearly there are challenges facing some schools – particularly in the Boston area where the agricultural industry would come to a grinding halt without migrant workers.

The Express is not the only rag guilty of not letting the facts of a story get in the way of a sensational headline to deliver a political agenda.

But inaccurate headlines cause nothing but resentment and seriously damage to community cohesion.

FOOTNOTE: I watched a fascinating TV programme last night on the trial of Hitler's Deputy Rudolf Hess which chronicled anti-Jewish propaganda by the Nazis.

We all know where that led...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Conkers a big hit with local Head

Congratulations to St.John Burkett, who organised the Junior Section of the World Conker Championships at Ashton near Oundle over the weekend.

St.John is Head Teacher at the Linchfield Community Primary School here in Deeping St James.

The photograph is the Linchfield logo, which looks like a horse chestnut to me, but may well be an oak...

Any resemblance to the squidgy new Conservative logo is pure coincidence.

Mind you, the Tories might have saved some of the £40,000 cost of their logo if they'd asked Linchfield infants to do their best...

Trebling of care charges "called-in" for rethink...

A record number of county councillors have "called-in" the Executive's decision to treble home care charges for some vulnerable people.

Ten councillors - including myself - put their names to the call-in following protests last week HERE.

The decision by the all-Tory Executive will be scrutinised on Thursday, 26th October.

Despite the Tories having a built-in majority on the scrutiny committee, it will be an opportunity to at least appeal to them to have another look.

It will also be a chance for the portfolio holder responsible for the radical policy to hear the debate.

As posted HERE, Christine Talbot failed to present the policy to the Executive last week as she was at the Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth.

Chip'n'bin row hots up

Surfing the BBC TV East Midlands site, my attention is drawn to a headline about "a Grantham man" who claims that the electronic chips embedded in new SKDC wheelie bins are illegal.

When I run the clip, I am surprised to see that "Grantham man" is none other than John Ozimek, my neighbour here in Deeping St James, over 30 miles from Grantham!

But the BBC's poor knowledge of the geography of Lincolnshire doesn't take away from the story:

John claims the chips in South Kesteven's wheelie bins now being rolled out (sorry!!!) are illegal under the Data Protection Act.

He says that the weight of rubbish in your bin is a private matter, just like your earnings and that a local council would need specific Government legislation to collect and record this information.

Meanwhile SKDC are confident they are within the law.

You can see the full BBC clip at:


Sorry I couldn't make it work as a link...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Tories ahead in ICM poll

An ICM poll in tomorrow's Sunday Telegraph puts the Tories on 38%, Labour on 32% and the Liberal Democrats on 20%.

Tories who trebled care charges say champion vulnerable people!

I’ve just received a letter asking me to ‘champion’ the cause of vulnerable people.

Astonishingly, it’s from Christine Talbot, the Executive councillor responsible for trebling home care charges for some vulnerable Lincolnshire people!

The letter was written by Christine before she went off to Bournemouth for this week’s Tory Conference – missing the controversial Executive meeting where an officer was left to present her new policy HERE.

Christine is worried about getting the right ticks in the boxes next time the council is inspected. She writes to all councillors:
“…it would be helpful if all Members could champion the cause of Supporting People and the contribution the service makes to many vulnerable groups across
the county.”

I'm sure Christine is serious, but may I suggest she leads by example. She should meet the two gentlemen in my photograph, who camped outside County offices this week for 24-hours in a dignified protest against the prospect of their home care charges going up from £40 to £120 every week.

Ironically, Supporting People is the programme in Lincolnshire which is supposed to:

offer vulnerable the support services they need to enable them to live as
independently as possible in their own accommodation.”

It’s not been a good week for Christine.

As well as failing to show up for the Exec meeting which rubber-stamped trebling care charges, she went on national radio criticising David Cameron’s Tories for spending £40,000 on a new logo – just months after doing exactly the same thing herself HERE.

The only difference is that the £40,000 spent on Lincolnshire County Council’s new logo came out of our pockets as council taxpayers.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Right link to Echo logo story...

Apologies for putting the wrong link HERE about the Tory councillor who has hit out her own party spending £40,000 on a new logo – months after she backed a decision for Lincolnshire County Council to do exactly the same thing.

Here’s the correct link to the article in the Lincolnshire Echo is HERE

I blame the Tory gremlins!

Hot drinks row was storm in a teacup...

The row over a staff member being instructed NOT to offer two disabled protesters a hot drink HERE was all a misunderstanding, according to Tony McArdle, Chief Executive at Lincolnshire.

He tells me that the reason a staff member was told not to take a drink to the two gentlemen who had camped outside the county offices all night was because full cover was needed to stay at her desk – which would have been lost if she had popped out.

Tony assures me that the protesters were in fact offered an early morning drink by employees arriving at work.

I’m happy to put the record straight and accept that the instruction had not come from the top.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

New logo right for County, wrong for Party says Christine

The Lincolnshire Echo has picked up on my story of the Tory councillor who criticised her party for spending £40,000 on a new logo - just months after Lincolnshire County Council did exactly the same thing.

The county council spent £40,000 a new logo earlier this year, and the Echo reports that it also forked out £150,000 to update items like letterheads and signs.

Christine Talbot admitted to the Echo that it was "hard to criticise" the party's logo change in view of the county council's actions.

But she said the logo change came at the right time for the council - but at the wrong time for the Conservative Party.

And after that wriggle and spin, she added this:
"We've had nine years of spin - do we really want more?"
"I'm at the conference, surrounded by images of oak trees and I have to ask
whether this is the correct direction to be going in,"

Hypocrisy or what?

Tory hypocrisy on sorry tale of two logos

A member of the all-Tory Executive who spent £40,000 of our money on a new logo for Lincs County Council has criticised David Cameron for spending £40,000 on the Conservative Party's new squidgy tree logo.

Christine Talbot, who skipped yesterday's controversy over her plan to treble care charges for some Lincolnshire people in favour of the Tory Confererence HERE and HERE, was interviewed at Bournemouth for BBC Radio Four's PM programme.

Political reporter Caroline Quinn said some Tories worry there’s too much glitz and unnecessary changes like introducing the squidgy oak tree logo, and not enough substance.

First up was our "Chris" Talbot who said:

“When I first saw the tree I was absolutely alarmed and the amount of money that
was spent on it – I think £40,000 by a design company in London.

"We’ve got a lot more that we could be doing rather than all this PR business.

Which is exactly the point I made on this blog in March when Christine was backing the plan to spend £40,000 on this new logo for Lincolnshire.

Can't seem to link to my post on March 18th "New logo: Good use of your money?" - but it's there somewhere!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Less than a million now in Tory Conference Queue

Iain Dale has posted a fascinating insight into life in the queue for a pass to get into Conservative Party Conference from a would-be delegate starting their third day waiting, and waiting and waiting.

The embarrassment of having activists, delegates, journalists and even ambassadors queuing endlessly for clearance to get in has certainly wiped the smirk from the faces of those who highlighted delays last week at the Labour Party Conference.

I hope Iain will forgive me for lifting his photo of the Tory queue which I find faintly reminiscent of the highly effective "Labour Isn't Working" poster which helped Maggie Thatcher become PM in 1979.

The poster purported to illustrate the one million on the dole under the Callaghan Government. Once elected, Mrs T's policies ripped the heart out of British manufacturing, quadrupled the dole queue to four million and delivered the two worst recessions since the Second World War.

Maybe for the next election, Labour should have a poster illustrating the extra million people in work since 1997 - more than 100,000 of them here in the East Midlands.

It's ironic that now have a stable economy and almost full employment - nine years into a Labour Government - that this week Cameron and the Tories are talking about the importance of a stable economy.

They want us to think that boom and bust, Black Wednesday, spiralling interest rates, and four million on the dole had nothing to do with them...

They'll be telling us we need Prudence next!

But back to the issue of security...

It all changed a generation ago when the IRA almost wiped out the British PM and her Cabinet when they bombed the Grand Hotel at Brighton.

Today it has had to change again in light of the current terrorist threat.

The easy reaction now would be to cancel political Conferences.

But that would be giving the terrorists exactly what they want by destroying an essential part of the British democratic process.

All style and no (paint) substance...

When photo-ops work well, they can help deliver the intended message. But when they don’t work, they can deliver a totally unintended message…

...As Rutland MP Alan Duncan proved today when he posed for the TV cameras.

Fresh from his Conference speech, Mr Duncan rushed across Bournemouth for a stunt designed to demonstrate that Cameron’s Tories are normal, caring sorts of people.

At the weekend, David Cameron had posed with a cordless drill as if he was doing a spot of DIY at a worthy local renovation project the Conservatives have taken on during their week in Bournemouth.

All week since then, Tory MPs have been lining up for the cameras to repeat the stunt for their local media.

We are supposed to believe that they are all spending every spare moment at Bournemouth helping others. In truth, there’s probably a backroom team who actually do most of the graft.

Alan Duncan arrived at the project and donned someone else’s paint-splattered overalls to give the impression he’d been toiling for hours.

But anyone wearing overalls over the top of a sharp-suit can only look like a total plonker...and Alan didn’t disappoint.

Then he rather awkwardly picked up what appeared to be a one-and-a-half inch brush designed for window frames and tried to look as if he doesn’t actually get a man in when he needs a job doing at Casa Duncan.

He tentatively started dabbing the brush on a vast expanse of wall that had already been painted – and not with a one-and-a-half inch brush before moving off and picking on another expanse of wall.

But there wasn’t a drop of paint anywhere – apart from on the borrowed overalls – not even on the brush!

Who said the Tories are all style and no substance…?

Putting Politics before People...

The all-Tory Executive on Lincolnshire County Council today trebled care charges for some local people from £40 a week to £120.

But the councillor in charge of the radical new policy was at Tory Party Conference in Bournemouth - not at the crucial meeting in Lincoln to defend her actions.

Only four of the nine members of the all-Tory Executive were present for the start of the meeting - with two more arriving later.

So Councillor Christine Talbot, Exec Member for Adult Services, did not meet the two wheelchair-bound gentlemen who held a dignified 24-hour vigil outside the council offices to protest the charges.

And she was not there either to face the barrage of difficult media questions.Instead Christine was in Bournemouth.

Last night she was on the media - but not talking about the controversy she left behind at Lincoln.

Instead, she was giving her views on BBC Radio Four's PM programme about the image of the Tories under David Cameron and the squiggly oak tree logo launched this week.

I've just been interviewed on BBC Radio Lincolnshire about the so-called "fairer charging" policy and Yorkshire Television are also covering the story on Calendar tonight.

Of course, Christine is entitled to be at her Party Conference.

But wouldn't it have been sensible to have held such an important Council meeting on a day when at least the Executive Member could be there?

After all, that's what she's paid from the public purse to do!

This is not the behaviour of a caring council...

Staff members at Lincolnshire County Council have been ordered not to offer hot drinks to two wheelchair bound protesters on a 24-hour vigil here, outside county hall today.

The two gentlemen were protesting at massive increases in the costs of their care and when I met them I asked if staff had offered a hot drink.

I was appalled to learn that members of staff at county offices had been specifically instructed NOT to provide refreshments of any kind to the men or their carers.

I don't know where this ridiculous instruction originated but I will be raising it with the Chief Executive. We need to look after people - even protesters.

This is not the way a caring council behaves.

Our customers deserve better.

Protest over massive home care charges...

I woke in my warm bed this morning but outside there was a chill in the air. Thoughts turned to two disabled men who spent the night outside in their wheelchairs protesting at massive increase in home charges by Lincolnshire County Council.

Both men face almost three-fold increases in the cost of their 19 hours a week of care which means they can live at home, under a scheme which the county council call "fairer charging".

The Lincolnshire Echo reports here and here that their care bill will rise from £41 a week to £120 a week – that’s £480 a month.

The County Council plans to raise charges from £5.20 to £10 an hour after huge increases just a couple of years ago.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lincs Tory MP warns Cameron on "spin"

A Lincolnshire Tory MP has shattered the illusion of unity under David Cameron's leadership of the Conservative Party by leading demands for an early pledge on cutting taxes.

Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough, and chairman of the influential Public Accounts Committee, insists HERE that unless the Tories pledge reductions in taxes, they have no hope of being elected.

He claims the majority of the Tory MPs want David Cameron to set out an agenda for cutting taxes immediately.

He said shadow chancellor George Osborne was wrong to say tax cuts could destabilise the economy.

Mr Leigh told the Press Association:

"You can't win the next election by being all spin.

You will be torn apart by Gordon Brown, who will say you are all spin."

Mr Leigh was speaking at the launch of a leaflet by the Thatcherite No Turning Back group of MPs, which was fronted by right-winger John Redwood and titled "The Case For Lower Taxes".

The difficulty for David Cameron is that a few months ago he appointed John Redwood to head up his Economic Competitiveness Policy group.

Cameron defends secretive Midlands Industrial Council in C4 interview

David Cameron has tonight dodged direct questions about the Lincolnshire-based Midlands Industrial Council which has given almost £1 million to fund the Conservatives which I posted on earlier today here and here.

Appearing on Channel Four news, Chameleon Dave denied any knowledge of the millions of pounds in loans to the Tories when he was running Michael Howard’s General Election campaign last year.

He went onto claim he now had a plan to “clean up politics” and the first step would be maximum individual donations of, say £50,000 and limited state funding of political parties.

Transparency is what’s needed, says David Cameron who went on to claim that he had delivered transparency on donations to the Tories since he had been Leader….

Interviewer Jon Snow wasn’t going to let that one go...

Where’s the transparency at the Midland Industrial Council, which has funded the Tories under Cameron, including donations to Cameron's own constituency campaign asked Snow.

“If MIC is transparent,” he asked Mr Dave, “why is it not possible for me to find out where MIC’s money comes from?”

Mr Dave blustered that the Electoral Commission have given MIC a clean bill of health and that under his plan they wouldn't be able to give more than £50,000 - not the almost £1 million they have given recently.

Besides, he argued, the MIC don't just give to the Tory Party but also to political think-tanks.

Jon Snow accused the Tories of looking “murky” over the ownership of Tory HQ in London apparently owned by an off-shore company in the British Virgin Islands which hasn’t paid stamp duty on the deal.

With their record, the Tories have a brass neck talking about "cleaning up politics".

Let's not forget that Labour under Tony Blair was the first government to take action to clean up the funding of political parties and bring in transparency. The Tories fought to keep party funding cloaked in a veil of secrecy

They still refuse to reveal where their massive slush funds came from to bankroll their 1987 and 1992 election campaigns which kept them in office way beyond their sell-by date.

If Mr Dave wants to demonstrate transparency, open up MIC's books without delay.

Smile for the day...

Can't think why, but our vicar, the Rev Mark Warrick - that's him in the trilby - has drawn my attention to the following amusing story he has published in the latest issue of the Deeping St James parish magazine:

A priest walked into a barber shop in London. After he got his haircut, he asked how much it would be. The barber said, "No charge. I consider it a service to the Lord."

The next morning, the barber came to work and there were 12 prayer books and a thank you note from the priest in front of the door.

Later that day, a police officer came in and got his hair cut. He then asked how much it was. The barber said, "No charge. I consider it a service to the community."

The next morning, he came to work and there were a dozen doughnuts and a thank you note from the police officer.

Then, a MP came in and got a haircut. When he was done he asked how much it was. The barber said, "No charge. I consider it a service to the country."

The next morning, the barber came to work and there were 12 MPs in front of the door.