Sunday, 27 February 2011

Local man at the heart of referendum campaign in East Grinstead

Local Payroll Manager, Tony Joannou-Coetzee, is to campaign for a Yes vote on May the 5th in East Grinstead. Aged 47 and based in East Grinstead he has been recognised by the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign as one of 100 leading "Faces for Change".

With the AV bill finally on the statute book the Yes campaign has stepped up a gear across the nation with Tony leading the push as the campaign looks to speak directly to millions of voters and build on the lead it has developed in recent polls of the public.

Explaining his support for the campaign Tony detailed his story.

"In an effort to engage our local Conservative MP, I enquired about his thoughts on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill and was dismayed to discover that he will oppose it. His belief that the current system, having "stood the test of time", shows a lack of appreciation that this is simply because no alternative, until now, has been made available for the electorate to decide upon".

Conversely Tony, a prospective Liberal Democrat District Councillor, will be active in his support for this overhaul that has been long overdue. Tony, along with other AV supporters pictured, will do everything possible to make sure that the votes of all the electorate really do matter!
National Campaign Chair Katie Ghose said:

"We're delighted to have people like Tony at the heart of our movement"

"The stories of why people like Tony get involved are the real force behind the campaign. This isn't about party politics. This is about ordinary people showing why we've got to win on May 5th"

Monday, 21 February 2011

Ongoing NHS Reforms

One thing that this Country proudly offers its citizens is a free National Health Service and this has been the case since 1948.  In recent decades there has been facility for the wealthy, or through employment benefit packages, to circumvent the NHS and go to a private provider. 

Measures announced by Coalition (Conservative) Health secretary Andrew Lansley will give doctors and other front-line health professionals the opportunity to buy in services from a whole host of private suppliers rather than relying on their NHS colleagues as a natural default position.  Some have argued that this is the start of the privitisation of the NHS itself and, as a Liberal Democrat, I would be opposed to this.

The health of this country, as measured by life expectancy, is in excellent shape; let's hope by tinkering with one of the contributory factors to this condition does not, ultimately, have a negative impact.  The old adage 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' comes to mind! 

Like party stalwart, Lady Shirley Williams, I am "deeply troubled" by these proposals.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Gay Marriages; Straight Civil Partnerships!

Lib Dem Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone announced today that the Government is to open a consultation which will consider the following:

1.  Making marriage available to couples regardless of gender or sexuality and
2.  Making civil partnership similarly available to all

Continuing their strong support of the LGBT community, the Lib Dems are the first party of Government to promote this policy which, if successfully incorporated into law, will finally allow any couple that wishes to cement their union, by marriage in church, the capacity to do so.....although some organisations, such as the Church of England, have already said that they will not allow LGBT marriages on their premises.

And what of the Lib Dems coalition partners?  Never known for being a particularly pink-friendly party, it is gratifying that Teressa May, the Home Secretary, appears on this occassion to be sympathetic to the issue.  However back-benchers such as Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, have already registered their contempt for the LGBT community by declaring “Once we have departed from the universally understood framework of marriage, there is no logical reason why the new alternative institution should be limited to two people. Why not three? Or thirty-three?".  Leigh clearly confuses gay-rights with bigamy or should that be bigotry?  Leigh continues to rant that “same-sex couples already have all the rights of marriage in the form of civil partnership. Why must they also have the language of marriage?" failing to recognise that "they" also have rights and "they" also form part of the electorate that he is supposed to represent.

For those wanting to support this issue then please either get in touch or follow the link

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Councillors - communication & expenses; what the tabloid press won't say!

Once again the 'Stun' and the 'Tory Mail' continue to hoodwink the electorate - the former with outlandish tales of Council's wasting money on "surveys, adverts, questionnaires, public meetings, letter drops, focus groups and adverts to explain the impact of budget cuts" and the latter leading with an article yesterday on " Doing your civic duty never paid so well: How councillors' payouts have soared as local services face savage cuts".

It is somewhat galling for a first time campaigner like me to read this type of irresponsible journalism. 

Fact - the electorate WANT an open and accountable Local Authority so pray, Fleet Street hacks, how can this be achieved without communication? 

Fact - Mid-Sussex District Council recently voted for a reduction in Councillors' allowances, with Lib Dem support, by 5% in 2011-12.  The basic allowance in 2010-11 stands at £4,738.  If this is viewed as being paid “well” then maybe the journos on the same paper would like to be paid a similar amount?  Or would they consider a 5% cut in their salary?  Or maybe a cessation of their 'working lunch' expense accounts?

Whilst the Stun, Mail and Eric ‘I’m a man of the people’ Pickles can all take swipes at Local Government, how does this sit in with the flagship ‘localism’ bill which Cameron supports as part of his ‘Big Society’ ideal?  Equally would it really be fair to those  of us who volunteer hundreds of man-hours per year to undertake civic duties not to be reimbursed a token amount towards the actual expenses incurred?  Most of us do not abuse the system to provide for ornaments for our gardens after all!

Before suggesting that ALL councillors are feckless, money-grabbing and wasteful let’s start to embrace the fact that most of  these individuals, whatever their political colours, firmly believe in doing good for their communities.  Without them – what I wonder would those that criticise put in their place?

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Pickles in a pickle

I see that the Communities Secretary, former communist-supporting now Conservative MP Eric Pickles, is brandishing draconian rules on local authorities as his bizarre contribution to the localism ideology.  He is insisting that communication from Town Halls to the community that they serve be restricted to four newspapers a year otherwise, (big stick time by Mr Pickles), they run the risk of being reported to the auditor on the grounds of misuse of public funds.

So, let's get this right.....Central government says power to the people and Pickles long as you don't tell them about anything you do?

Pickles, whose first political flirtation was with communism, is now seen as so far to the right of the political landscape that even his own party Local Councillors are, according to 'The Guardian', hateful of him.  Moreover 91 Lib Dem councillors wrote to the Times this week complaining of the way Pickles treats them with contempt imposing savage cuts on Councils without due consideration of circumstances.

What a short term memory Pickles has.  He was after all temporary Tory leader of Bradford Council in the early nineties when I wonder if his 'northern charm' would have been equally engaging, as it is today, had the Thatcher Government chopped at local services like a mad axeman?

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Sussex to lose 1 in 6 police officers

Shocking news emerged this week with Sussex Police announcing the loss of 1 in 6 front-line police officers over "the next few years".  Whilst the claim is these will all be through natural wastage, the fact of the matter is that this county will be in the top 4 who are chopping the most roles - behind massive forces such as Greater Manchester Police and West Midlands.

Whilst our area is indeed a low crime one, let's hope that the loss of officers will not impact on this status.

As usual local, Conservative, MP Nicholas Soames was suitably vague in his reaction which has been quoted as "It's been known for  a long time that police budgets will have to be cut and there's a very good reason for that". One wonders what the good reason is when most people agree that front line policing is a necessity to maintain law and order.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

So, who, Mr Cameron is running the Country?

It is with alarm that we hear today that last year the City made up 50.8% of all donations received by the Conservatives.  Given the ongoing issues with regulation within the Square Mile, and the fact that 57 individuals, in donating in excess of £50,000, are now permitted direct access to the Prime Minister via the so-called 'Leader's Group', it does make one wonder where money really does talk.....or at least influence! 

Is it right in this era of austerity that non-elected elitist rich can determine how the rest of society should repay the Country's debt?  Moreover I belong to the school of thought that thinks it is the bankers, albeit on a global scale, are predominantly responsible for messing up the western economies.   These same financial 'experts' are now enjoying close relations with those that are charged with running the Country.......a worrying revelation indeed.

Monday, 7 February 2011

A nation of animal lovers?

I was shocked to read in this weekend's 'Observer' about how7,933 horses, often healthy and often thoroughbreds at the end of their career in racing, were sent off for slaughter last year to feed the demand for meat in countries that still have horse on their menus.  This is absolutely outrageous!

How can we as a nation that purports to love animals so much, allow this type of behaviour to continue.  Surely a healthy animal has as much right to life as a healthy human and whilst I get the concept of survival of the fittest, I would also argue that we have a duty of care to those specie that we could (and sadly do) dominate.

'The Observer' points out that there has been a staggering increase in the number of foals being born to supply the racing industry - now hovering around the 19,000 plus mark.  Tighter regulation, including birth control, would seem to be an appropriate starting point.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Knock on that door!!

Having done my first bit of door knocking (canvassing) this morning, I have to say that people are not aware of things like the Localism Bill or the Alternative Vote referandum and instead want to talk about lamp posts, grit bins and traffic issues.  It is an absolutely shame that democracy in this Country is viewed so cheaply by some; here we are with an opportunity to make a fundamental change to how we elect our representatives at Westminster yet for the "their all as bad as each other" brigade there is still a lot of convincing to be undertaken.  More on the 'Yes' campaign another time suffice to say that as a Lib Dem I strongly support it.

Friday, 4 February 2011

No health without mental health

Full praise to the coalition, and in particular the Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem colleague Paul Burstow, for their latest health initiative.  'No Health Without Mental Health' is designed to rid the so-called stigma attached to illnesses such as depression and anxiety by giving them the same importance, in terms of diagnosis and treatment, as physical health.

As 'Liberal Democrat News' reports today Nick and Paul have " delivered another key campaigning improve access to counselling for people with mental health problems, by continuing the roll out of cognitive and behavioural therapies".

What price the Tories on their own would have been so liberal and understanding in committing over £400m to an issue that affects 1 in 3 at a particular point in the journey through life.