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John Hemming's new year message 2010

Its that time of year again. Normally I don't comment much about local issues on my weblog as we issue leaflets to residents in Yardley. However, I will do this on this occasion (as I did last year).

Casework and the office
The last case reference of 2009 was 13945. Previous year ends were: 2008: 9836, 2007: 7763, 2006: 5597. The number has increased in the last year. Casework is very important as not only can we resolve issues for people, but also I learn what is going wrong in the real world - as opposed to the Westminster bubble.

There remain odd decisions made by the various governmental bodies although it does not seem to have got much worse over the year. The advice desert is also still an issue.

The team has run smoothly without any big changes although we moved away from alternating people in London with Martin being now full time in London. Neil also continues to help with the APPGOPO.

Yardley
Bakeman House having been dealt with we now have Wheeldon house being improved. Sadly although the Swan redevelopment started it has been held back by an inquiry into the Compulsory Purchase Order. This is sad as it has been quite difficult for the people living in Bakeman House, but we do expect an inquiry report relatively quickly in the new year.

The work at the Meadway has also continued and the Wagon and Horses site is now functioning as a supermarket. We also managed to get the plans to close two local fire stations stopped.

Sadly the government has rejected the proposal to get graffiti writers given the task of clearing up their mess. However, we have had a number of prosecutions of people who do this damage. It is important to note the effect of graffiti has been proven to cause behavioural shifts in people so that they commit other crimes. This research was published by the University of Groningen during the year.

Birmingham
The government have not been sufficiently supportive with JLR. They have allowed LDV to shut down and whereas the Cadbury proposals warrant a reference to the monopolies regulators the government have done nothing about this. I have written the appropriate authorities within the UK and internationally and the EC have not yet given clearance hence there is some hope.

Working Neighbourhoods Fund does have some difficulties in that if there are no jobs then you cannot get people into the jobs. I have had particular difficulties with the way in which AWM respond to requests for support by local firms. However, I will stay on the case here.

Hence I am a fan of using WNF to prevent redundancies and maintain local services on the basis that the underlying issues get resolved. However, the local Labour MPs seems to prefer cuts in council services to the use of WNF.

West Midlands
The regional grand committee was quite interesting. My use of the phrase "Greater Birmingham" resulted in very little comment. I do think it is in the city region's interest to represent it in a more cohesive manner and the use of that particular description would help us from an image perspective in the same way as "Greater Manchester" helps the city region around Manchester.

The regional select committees have, unsurprisingly, not got very far.

Parliament
I am still on Procedure, Modernisation and Regulatory Reform select committees. I also tend to do quite a few European Committees and Statutory Instrument Committees.
I continue chairing the New Media and Peak Oil Appgs and being a vice chair of Carers and Performers Alliance. I signed 1092 EDMs in 2008-9 and tabled 34 EDMs or amendments.

Campaign Issues
Justice for Families
Gradual progress is being made in ensuring that the child protection concentrates on protecting children rather than getting children adopted.

It has become obvious that the government got the formula for the adoption target wrong and this is being challenged. The problem is that although the targets have been scrapped the system is still behaving wrongly. More cases are going through to the European Court. We have managed to initate a formal inquiry in the council of Europe. Ofsted, however, are still covering up the number of child deaths and pressurising local authorities not to do Serious Case Reviews from time to time.

The government also have opened up further the proceedings in family courts although it appears that Jack Straw has been betrayed by teh civil servants again who are now trying to scrap the ruling of Clayton v Clayton.

Peak Oil
The Peak oil Website has details of this. During the year a whistleblower at the IEA explained how they have misrepresented the rate of decline in current fields. It seems quite likely that we are now in the peak oil plateau period where the price ratchets up until it destroys demand (with consequential financial effects). This means that economic growth has to be predicated on no greater use of resources. That is feasible, but difficult. What it leads to is that assumptions of a reversion to growth of say 3% are over optimistic.

Bingo
The campaign against the dual taxation of Bingo will continue. Some progress was made and VAT on bingo was scrapped, but the gross profits tax put at 22% (compared to 15% for all other forms of gambling). The government have now announced a reduction to 20%.

Government Accountability
We now have a process for referring the inadequate answering of questions to the procedure select committee.

Other Issues
The RDA has been shown to be wanting in terms of support for local businesses. The wider economic position is the biggest domestic issue as we now face a critical public sector funding position. Quantitative Easing has a limit as to how far it can go. The government's finances are staring at the abyss. However, no major changes will occur until the General Election unless we have a further immediate financial crisis.

International
Sadly the government have still not recognised that you do not make people like you by killing their relatives. We continue to try to use military means for political objectives. The subject of political anthropology is well studied and there is good reliable research, but this does not inform international strategy. A submission was sent to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court relating to what happened in Gaza.

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