John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Thursday, December 31, 2009
  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.
 
Sunday, December 27, 2009
  Enhancing Adoptive Parenting
The link is to a summary of the research on adoptive parenting performed by Alan Rushton and Elizabeth Monck.

It is also possible to order the more detailed research book from BAAF amongst other routes. During the quiet period of Christmas I have read the book.

The book itself looks at the question as to whether a specific form of advice for adoptive parents is of any substantial benefit. What is, however, important about the book is not just that question, but other aspects.

Social Care is an area which has very few randomised trials. What that means is you cannot really be certain as to whether the approaches taken in individual cases are one which one would expect to reliably produce positive results.

It is reasonably well known that adopting a child from care is more difficult than adopting a child from birth. Often the parents feel abandoned by the system and a very large proportion of adoptions from care break down at some stage with the child returning to care.

There has been a debate in Social work about the use of Randomised Control Trials. My personal view is in accordance with the authors who say on Page 20 "It is unethical to offer or impose a service that is ineffectual, and is wasteful of scarce resources to do so without seeking alternative approaches. An ethical approach requires that any intervention if properly and independently evaluated."

The report's main conclusions were that although the parenting advice made the parents happier the "advice did not prove more effective in reducing the children's psychosocial problems within the timescale of [the] evaluation" (p6)

However, hidden within the book on page 72 is an important conclusion. The study looked particularly at children who had behavioural problems based on an SDQ questionnaire and then looked at the records of the treatment of the children prior to them coming into the care system. On P72 it concludes:
"These data suggest that the experiences associated with coming into care and while in the care system may be more influential that experiences before coming into care in determining children's behaviour in the first few months [21 months] of an adoptive placement. However, it is important to note that the question of the children's resilience was not investigated; it is a complex issue and perhaps not surprisingly was not systematically commented on in the case notes. It may well be that the lack of significant differences between high and low-scoring children in their pre-care circumstances is in part affected by differential resilience. However, to set against that, it does appear that the subsequenct in-care experiences have an effect on the SDQ score shortly after placement. It would be necessary therefore to posit that high resilience to pre-care expereiences did not carry over into effective resilience to events during the children's time in care."

One area I have been concerned about beyond that of miscarriages of justice is that it appears to me that substantial damage is done to many (but not all) children by the way that the care system operates. Note in this that I am concerned about the systematic aspects. There is good care and you can have excellent foster carers constrained by the way the system responds in individual cases.

I have raised hackles by stating that some damage is done in the care system. We now have, however, two sources of good research about the comparative impact of damage done during children's time in care and that which occurs prior to being taken into care.

The other research is that of Mike Rutter which indicated that in terms of the Romanian orphanages the bad treatment (the lack of love) of the babies had more long lasting effects from age 6 months to 18 months in comparison to the first half year.

When you put this together with the statistics for the 6,000 children taken into care in 2006 (April 2005-March 2006) 1,710 were taken into care by 6 months, 1,000 from 7-24 months and 3,250 from 2+. (All figures for England source DCSF)

What these two pieces of reliable research point to is that for a material number of children it is likely that their problems when it comes to the disruption of an adoptive placement are caused by their experiences in care.

This has to be placed against the marginal justifications used for taking some babies into care. Many cases are based upon the mother needing therapy. Some are because the mother is a victim of domestic violence. I have even seen one based in part upon the mother breast feeding a new born on demand rather than having a routine for feeding. The evidence is that a proportion of these children will end up having serious behavioural problems and that the cause of that will be primarily their treatment in care rather than their care prior to being taken into care.

I spoke recently to the ministers responsible for this mess. They said that it should be about the children. I agree with them that it should be about the children. It is quite clear what is being done is systematically damaging to many children.
 
Friday, December 18, 2009
  Election Results 17th December 2009
Reigate and Banstead BC, Earlswood and Whitebushes
Con 391 (37.9; -12.8)
LD Steve Keith Oddy 313 (30.4; +6.6)
Lab 161 (15.6; -0.7)
UKIP 125 (12.1; +2.8)
BNP 41 (4.0; +4.0)
Majority 78
Turnout 16.38%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2008.

Party defending seat: Con. Cause: Resignation.

Great Sankey PC, Whittle Hall
LD Matt Newton 573 (63.0)
Con 336 (37.0)
Majority 237
Turnout 11.99%
LD hold.

Party defending seat: LD. Cause: Resignation
 
Friday, December 11, 2009
  Election Results 10th December 2009
Bedford BC, Kingsbrook
LD Andrew Gerard 661 (49.4; +3.1)
Lab 370 (27.6; +3.5)
Con 150 (11.2; -9.2)
Others Ind 85 / Ind 73 (11.8; +11.8)
[Green (0.0; -9.2)]
Majority 291
Turnout 13%
LD hold
Percentage change is since June 2009.

East Dunbartonshire UA, (Ward number 3) Bearsden South
LD Ashay Ghai 1110 (29.4; +3.0)
Con 1261 (33.4; +9.0)
SNP 783 (20.7; +1.6)
Lab 626 (16.6; -2.7)
[Green (0.0; -5.1)]
[Others (0.0; -5.7)]
Turnout not known.
LD gain from Con.
Percentage change is since May 2007.

Stage 1:
Ashay Ghai LD 1110
Rachel Higgins Con 1261
Fiona Grace McLeod SNP 783
Manjinder Shergill Lab 626

Stage 2 elimination of Shergill:
LD 1306
Con 1381
SNP 972

Stage 3 elimination of McLeod:
LD 1770
Con 1499

Hastings BC, St Helens
Con 609 (40.7; -17.9)
Lab 550 (36.7; +12.5)
LD John Tunbridge 210 (14.0; -3.2)
BNP 93 (6.2; +6.2)
Others (English Democrats) 36 (2.4; +2.4)
Majority 59
Turnout 37.4%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2008.

Nuneaton and Bedworth BC, Camp Hill
Lab 670 (47.1; +17.0)
BNP 478 (33.6; -2.6)
Con 275 (19.3; -9.7)
[Others (0.0; -4.7)]
Majority 192
Turnout 27.6%
Lab gain from BNP
Percentage change is since May 2008.

Peterborough BC, West
Con 1252 (58.4; +4.1)
Lab 341 (15.9; +0.9)
LD Virginia McDermid 224 (10.4; +7.4)
UKIP 177 (8.3; +8.3)
Others (English Democrats) 93 (4.3; -20.1)
Green 58 (2.7; -0.5)
Majority 911
Turnout 34%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2008.

Rushmoor BC, Heron Wood
Lab 437 (41.6; +11.6)
LD Philip Thompson 354 (33.7; -8.1)
Con 259 (24.7; -3.5)
Majority 83
Turnout 22%
Lab gain from LD
Percentage change is since May 2008.

West Devon BC, Tavistock South
LD Kirstie Clish-Green 523 (45.8; +33.5)
Con 450 (39.4; +13.6)
Ind 170 (14.9; -47.1)
Majority 73
Turnout not known
LD gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2007.

Westminster LBC, Queens Park
Lab 814 (62.6; +10.2)
Con 211 (16.2; -13.7)
Green 152 (11.7; +11.7)
LD Mark Blackburn 123 (9.5; -8.1)
Majority 603
Turnout not known
Lab hold
Percentage change is since May 2006.

Weymouth and Portland BC, Wyke Regis
Lab 579 (40.1; +3.9)
Con 486 (33.7; -30.1)
LD Trefor Morgan 268 (18.6; +18.6)
Citizens Party 111 (7.7; +7.7)
Majority 93
Turnout 33.41%
Lab gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2008.

Wyre Forest DC, Areley Kings
Lab 544 (38.3; +5.5)
Independent Community Health Concern 421 (29.6; -2.4)
Con 394 (27.7; -7.5)
UKIP 63 (4.4; +4.4)
Majority 56
Turnout 30.96%
Lab gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2008.

Goole TC, North
Lab 358 (42.0)
LD Brian Knight 322 (37.8)
UKIP 172 (20.2)
Majority 36
Turnout 17.7%
Lab hold

Hythe TC, West
Con 556 (54.4)
LD Neil Matthews 466 (45.6)
Majority 90
Turnout 34.6%
Con hold

Ivybridge TC, Ivybridge Woodlands
Ind 226 (55.7)
Ind 180 (44.3)
Majority 46
Turnout 11.87%
Ind hold

Rustington PC, East
LD Jamie Bennett elected unopposed.
LD gain from Con.

Stourpoint TC, Areley Kings West
Independent Community Health Concern 294 (41.9)
Con 238 (33.9)
Lab 136 (19.4)
UKIP 34 (4.8)
Majority 56
Turnout 33.86%
Ind gain from Con
 
  Parliamentary Expenses 2008-9 and Q1 9-10
The link which is also here is to my expenses claimed up to and including Q1 2009-10.

There is an error in the 2008-9 papers where some documents have been scanned more than once, but that is obvious if you compare the pages and the document reference numbers.

People will be able to note that the last time I made a claim for anything relating to my second home in London was on 31st March 2009.

As people know I took the view that the country needed to make economies. That, therefore, was a simple economy to make.
 
Friday, December 04, 2009
  Election Results 3rd December 2009
Redcar & Cleveland UA, Ormesby
LD Ann Wilson 1084 (73.5; +12.4)
Lab 210 (14.2; -5.0)
UKIP 103 (7.0; +7.0)
Con 77 (5.2; -14.4)
Majority 874
Turnout 29.55%
LD hold
Percentage change is since May 2007.

Thanet DC, Dane Valley
Lab 318 (34.2; -3.9)
LD Bill Furness 260 (28.0; +28.0)
Con 222 (23.9; -19.7)
Ind 130 (14.0; -4.4)
Majority 58
Turnout 17.0%
Lab gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2007.

Deal TC, North Deal
Con 529 (33.2)
Lab 337 (21.2)
LD Nathan Sewell 198 (12.4)
Majority 192
Turnout 21.26%
Con gain from Lab
 
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
  Zac Goldsmith and Richmond Park
Having a peer in the Tory Party whose tax arrangements are unclear (step forward Lord Ashcroft) is not that surprising. However, having a parliamentary candidate who is a "non domicile" is surprising.

The FT's Westminster blog points out on Richmond Park Conservatives Website That they say:
6. Tax the Super Rich and “non-domiciles”.
The over-seas population, living in this country, would make a financial contribution to it. Tax loopholes for the super rich would be closed by reducing the complexity of the tax system. This will pay for the previous two measures.


This is not just good news for Susan Kramer MP, but also a real challenge for David Cameron. Are his MPs really committed to the country?
 
  Do parents have rights in the family court
The link is to a recent judgment in which para 10 says:
I think it important to remember when one is looking either at the independent assessments by social workers or at applications under section 38(6) of the Act that one needs to be child focused. It is not a question of the mother's right to have a further assessment, it is: would the assessment assist the judge in reaching a conclusion or the right conclusion in relation to the child in question? And on this particular issue it does seem to me that the judge was exercising a discretion and doing so appropriately on all the facts available to him. He thus reached a conclusion which I cannot for myself say in any way is plainly wrong, and since he has based himself on the latest authority on the point and considered the matter carefully, I, speaking for myself, cannot say either that he has erred in law and would dismiss the appeal in relation to a further social worker assessment.

This is a decision of the court of appeal which says that the mother has no right to a further independent assessment. This particular mother has only had assessments done by the local authority or its employees since she gave birth to her 10th child. The court of appeal says that she has no right to an independent assessment.

It is Catch 22.
 

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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