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Showing posts from April, 2008

The ignored poor

The government have had a strategy for some time of ignoring those people who are on low pay, but don't have families.

That is how they ended up scrapping the 10p band and hitting this group of people particularly hard. When you take into account increasing food and energy costs there is a massive squeeze.

It will be interesting to see if they can bring something together that does not leave a big gap. I am not sure that this will be possible.

Election Results: Thursday 24th April 2008

Dover DC, Little Stour and Ashstone
Con 1109 (66.0; -1.9), LD Bryan Curtis 459 (27.3; +5.4), Lab 113 (6.7; -3.5).
Majority 650. Turnout 31.2%. Con hold. (Percentage change since May 2007).

Hinckley and Bosworth BC, Hinckley Castle
LD Bronwyn Witherford 802 (57.0; -10.0), BNP 264 (18.8; +18.8), Con 226 (16.1; -8.7), Lab 116 (8.2; 0.0).
Majority 538. Turnout 29.6%. LD hold. (Percentage change since May 2007).

HMRC Tax Credits - the saga of the cover-up continues

One reason used for HMRC to ask people to pay their tax credits back is the so called "no receipt" of the annual return. What it means is that if the annual return gets lost in the post then people have to repay all the tax credits and there is no way of changing this.

I did win for one of my constituents mainly by threatening judicial review. However, I have been researching this and there clearly are a lot of similar cases.

I have asked two parliamentary questions and my office has asked an FOI question to find out how many people fall into this category.

The First PQ got a sort of "none" answer. So I rephrased it so they couldn't squirm out of answering it and got a "disproportionate cost" answer. This normally means the answer is embarrassing.

Under FOI we got the answer "this information is not available at this level" we have appealed asking for the information from another level and will over time go to the Information Commissioner.

Adjourmment Debate on Public Family Law

The link is to the debate I initiated yesterday.

The song's artwork is as follows:

Foster Carers hit by targets

This news on community care is a bit out of date as the government have now scrapped the targets for Special Guardianships.

However, it is worth noting what has been said to the Select Committee.

Councils are threatening foster carers that they will remove children from their care unless they apply for a special guardianship order, a parliamentary committee was told yesterday.

Kevin Williams, chief executive of TACT, the largest charitable fostering agency in England and Wales, told the children, schools and families select committee that carers had said that they had been urged to move into special guardianship.

Best interests of the Child !!! What rubbish the system is.

Investigation process started at Council of Europe

This does not guarantee an investigation, but it starts the process off that is likely to lead to an investigation. It is very important.

The Parliamentary Assembly recognises that human rights are part of the Council of Europe’s key values. It recognises that systems are needed for the protection of children when they are at risk. The Assembly believes, however, that those who are tasked with protecting children need to be accountable for their actions and need to operate in a way which protects the human rights of those people they are dealing with

The Assembly notes that there is substantial concern that the secrecy of the Family Division of Courts in England and Wales has caused the development of an environment in which practitioners are not properly accountable. It notes that a number of people have emigrated from England because they feel persecuted by the authorities tasked with Child Protection.

The Assembly particularly notes the use of Section 54.4 of the 1999 Access to Justi…

Mackenzie Friend Guidance

The link is to details of the guidance on Mackenzie Friends.

I would argue that this a generally supportive approach which should be welcomed. The issue about when a MF can address the court is a complex one. This is generally done by the CoA, but the lower courts can get a bit picky.

Shock rise in violence against UK's children

The link is to an Observer story. Quoting from two parts:

The numbers, contained in National Health Service data, suggest that the incidence of intentional harm against children may be rising. Five years ago some 16,600 were counted as having suffered deliberate harm, but the figure rose to 21,859 last year.

Alison Kemp, reader in child health at Cardiff University, said: 'The numbers are high, and it is very hard to know whether they are really rising or not, because of differences in the way data is collected. But it seems to me that the rates of injury are certainly not going down.

In other words we really don't know what the situation is save that for all of the activity in "Child Protection" the outcome is really bad.

An important additional part is:
Kemp said it was increasingly difficult to report child protection concerns because of worries that doctors could be accused of misdiagnosing abuse: 'You can imagine that this is one of the most difficult things to…

An Engineers Guide To Cats

It is election time and I feel some cat photos coming on. After all I have spent some time in the studio recording a campaign song. Hence it seems the photos of various cats are called for. However, this Youtube (USA I think) will have to do for the moment.

Results: Thursday 17th April 2008.

Didcot TC, Didcot Park
Lab 378 (39.0), Con 334 (34.5), LD Tony Worgan 257 (26.5).
Majority 44. Turnout 22%. Lab hold.

Eden DC, Morland
Ind 198 (52.1; +7.1), Con 108 (28.4; -26.6), LD John Turner 74 (19.5; +19.5).
Majority 90. Turnout 38.1%. Ind gain from Con. (Percentage change since May 2007).

Suffolk CC, Stowmarket North and Stowupland
Con 834 (38.8; -0.7), LD Nicky Turner 781 (36.3; +18.1), Green 231 (10.7; +1.6), Lab 190 (8.8; -24.5), UKIP 114 (5.3; +5.3).
Majority 53. Turnout 27%. Con hold. (Percentage change since May 2005).

Further Results: -
10th April 2008.
Thatcham TC, North
LD Glyn Slater 831 (58.4), Con 591 (41.6).

3rd April 2008.
Penwortham TC, Charnock
Con 348, Lab 168, LD Andrew Fowler 161.
Con hold.

Elections Bias from 2007

Followers of Birmingham Politics know that in some polling stations there have been presiding officers campaigning for the Labour Party. This is not common, the vast majority are OK, but it does happen and it is a criminal offence.

For example for one of the presiding officers or voting clerks to put poll cards in the box photographed below (which is for Labour, but this is concealed) is a criminal offence. That, however, did not stop one of them doing this whilst I was present.

Postal Votes Ward Counts Birmingham

ASTON Count 1881
BILLESLEY Count 1314
BRANDWOOD Count 1471
EDGBASTON Count 1527
ERDINGTON Count 1163
HALL GREEN Count 1310
HARBORNE Count 1530
HODGE HILL Count 1288
LADYWOOD Count 1166
NECHELLS Count 1023
OSCOTT Count 1028
PERRY BARR Count 882
QUINTON Count 2091
SELLY OAK Count 829
SHARD END Count 1286
SHELDON Count 1561
SOHO Count 1017

US Army leads UK government on peak oil

The link is to a US Army report from 2005 in which on page 8 it says:

The oil market will remain fairly stable in the very near term, but with steadily increasing prices as world production approaches its peak. The doubling of oil prices
from 2003-2005 is not an anomaly, but a picture of the future. Oil production is approaching its peak; low growth in availability can be expected for the next 5 to 10
years. As worldwide petroleum production peaks, geopolitics and market economics
will cause even more significant price increases and security risks. One can only
speculate at the outcome from this scenario as world petroleum production declines.
The disruption of world oil markets may also affect world natural gas markets since
most of the natural gas reserves are collocated with the oil reserves.

Whereas the official UK government position remains no problem until 2030.

Evidence on databases making people unsafe

The link is to a story in The Sun.

A RUTHLESS rapist found victims by getting a job as a care worker and trawling a council’s database for vulnerable young girls.

Simeon Kellman, 43, used computer records to identify teenagers who had just come out of the foster care system.

The Government now want to make this possible on a national scale.

Don't blame the current Prime Minister

The current Prime Minister cannot really be blamed for the financial mess the country is in. That is because these things develop over a number of years. Instead the responsibility should lie with the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The Treasury was run with a concentration on short term tricks which caused long term damage for 10 years. The raid on pensions is still playing out. The change in banking regulation allowed the Northern Rock problem to be one which grew and grew.

There has been a tendency in government to concentrate on the short term issue which means that long term problems have grown.

One of the Treasury's recipies for financial success was an ever growing valuation of property. This was always an unsustainable solution. The lack of cheap housing for rent (Social Housing) also drove up the property market.

A second one is buying things on the "never never". Masses of public investment has been done expensively through PFI. These costs have come …

Results: Thursday 10th April 2008.

Herefordshire UA, Old Gore
Con 422 (37.9; -8.1), Ind 401 (36.0; -1.8), LD Josephine Lane 241 (21.7; +5.4), Green 49 (4.4; +4.4).
Majority 21. Turnout 46%. Con hold. (Percentage change since May 2007).

North East Derbyshire DC, Holmewood and Heath
LD Jan Robinson 382 (42.3), Lab 356 (39.4), Con 165 (18.3).
Majority 26. Turnout 25.6%. LD gain from Lab. (Lab x2 unopposed in May 2007).

From David Budd: -
Following a Conservative and Independent resignation from Wareham TownCouncil a by-election was called by a former Conservative Councillor whichwas to be held on 1st May in tandem with the District Council Election. Atthe close of nominations on Friday 4th April only two nominations had beenreceived, both from the Liberal Democrats, hence they were electedunopposed, these two gains giving the Lib Dems an overall majority on theCouncil.

WTI reaches new peak

The link is to a US story linking the futures prices of WTI (West Texas Intermediate) to Peak Oil.

The nature of the oil market is complex with there being different types of oil and a form of interlink between oil prices and the prices of other energy sources. There is also an interlink between food prices and energy prices. This occurs for two reasons. Firstly, the price of fertiliser (mainly produced from fossil fuels) affects the price of food - as well as other farming energy costs. A second link through biofuels also has an effect.

The effect of price increases is a reduction in demand although the price elasticity is not that great. Note the problems now for airlines a number of which are in serious financial problems.

Oasis Hong Kong Airlines stops flying amid increasing fuel costs
The 17-month-old budget airline carrier has become at least the fourth airline globally to cease operations in under 2 weeks amid increasing fuel costs. The announcement left hundreds of passengers stra…

Appeal courts reverses placement for adoption

The Bailii link demonstrates the Appeal court starting to do its job properly. A placement for adoption was done far too early without being in a position to consider whether it was good for the children. This has now been reversed.

I met someone with learning difficulties who had lost 6 children to adoption last Friday. She clearly had relatively mild problems and her case does need more consideration.

We are intending to work with advocates (both for children in care and adults with learning difficulties) to try to help them fight the adoption machine. A lot of the solicitors are more trouble than they are worth.

Labour postal vote fraudsters convicted in Peterborough

The link is to a prosecution in Peterborough. Sadly the same activity in Pendle never saw any prosecutions.

All parties have problems with people who abuse the electoral process. My criticism of Labour rests primarily on them changing the law to make electoral fraud easier as well as resisting tightening up on the rules.

I am also unhappy with our candidates last year being set up. There remains one outstanding case in Birmingham which we think will be kicked out of court in May.

Assessment centres

I visited an Assessment centre today. I don't think most people know what it is like to be in this environment.

Frankly the Assessment centres show an aspect of the system that needs to be seen to be believed. There is a form of assumption that parents are on the edge of murdering their children and are only held back by the fact that they have to phone the office every time the change a nappy.


This is a systematic problem for which the politicians and judges are equally responsible.

Childrens Database

The link is to The Times story about what it is proposed to keep about families in the new childrens index.

In essence it is the same as in any social services file. The difference is that the threshold at which such files are opened is essentially such to cover anyone who has taken their child to the doctor or hospital with a medical problem.

Results: Thursday 3rd April 2008.

East Devon DC, Dunkeswell
Con 349 (68.3; +5.2), LD John Gleed 162 (31.7; -5.2).
Majority 187. Turnout 31.4%. Con hold. (Percentage change since May 2007).

Fenland DC, Parsons Drove and Wisbech St Mary
Con 646 (61.8), Lab 191 (18.3), Ind 119 (11.4), UKIP 55 (5.3), LD
Christopher Howes 35 (3.3).
Majority 455. Turnout not available. Con hold. (Con unopposed in May 2007).

Housing Debate Yesterday

I raised a few points in the Housing Debate yesterday (see link). The key point is that bad and insecure housing results in all sorts of problems relating to Education and Health.

The government have sown a housing crisis.