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Showing posts from March, 2009

Other payments to MPs and Peers

Whilst people are at it we really should consider what other payments are made to members of the House of Commons and House of Lords. In the lords there is no "salary" only "expenses". Ministers' and other Office‐holders' salaries: 1 April 2008 Salaries of Ministers and other office‐holders detailed in this table are the maximum available; post holders may accept a lesser salary. Where it has been announced that post holders are drawing a lesser salary this is noted. Ministers (with the exception of those who are provided with an official residence or any Lords’ Ministers who receive Night Subsistence Allowance) may choose to receive £2,916 London Supplement or, if eligible, to retain the Additional Cost Allowance. Office‐holders in House of Commons Ministerial Entitlement (£) Total (including parliamentary salary of £63,291) (£) Prime Minister 130,959 194,250 Cabinet Minister 78,575 141,866 Lord Chancellor 78,575 141,866 Government Chief Whip 78,575 141,8

MP Expenses

There is a fuss about expenses going on at the moment. This comes from the fact that historically allowances have been used to boost MP pay. This was obviously a mistake, but has been hidden until the current decade. Gradually it has become clearer and clearer that what is going on is indefensible. My own view is that the rules of MP expenses should be determined by an independent body. The outcome of this would be properly justified. The expenses for 2007/8 have just been released. It is important to distinguish between those figures which are for supporting the constituents and those figures which are for supporting the MP. My own figures are: Constituency and Research Staffing: £82,588 (I have published a list of staff none of whom are relatives) Office Costs: £29,031 (basically 1772 Coventry Road and postage costs) Communications: £6,313 (annual report etc) Personal costs Additional Costs Allowance: £21,375 Travel by Car: £1,415 Travel by Rail: £1,737 I am one of few MPs w

Congratulations to the websters

The link is to a story on the Mail on Sunday where Nicky Webster and her new born daughter are pictured. Their sibling group of five is now split into three families. One sibling sees the other two, but the remaining two are isolated from their siblings. I know of other situations where judges are deciding to remove and adopt one child from a family whilst leaving the rest together with a grandparent. That is such an absurd decision as there has to be some other pressure on decisionmaking beyond "the best interests of the child".

Ofsted and Adoption

I have a response from Ofsted as to what they are doing now about encouraging councils to have more children adopted from care. They say: 2059SC - PAF CF/C23: Number of looked after children adopted during the year as a percentage of the number of looked after children at 31 March (excluding unaccompanied asylum seekers) who had been looked after for six months or more on that day (BVPI 163) Notes on Interpretation: This indicator is designed to give some data on the effectiveness of the end of the adoption procedure and seeks to encourage the use of adoption. For most children the best place to grow up is with their birth parents. Where this is not possible, society has a clear responsibility to provide children with stability and permanence in their lives. The Government believes that more can and should be done to promote the wider use of adoption which offers the only legally secure placement for children unable to return to their birth families. This does not mean that adoption i

Cassell/Times Justice for Families Event

Roger Kennedy of the Cassell Hospital organised as justice for families? event at which I spoke amongst others last Wednesday. It was unique in having system people and non-system people at the same event. I found it quite useful talking to some judges about the issues. We took four tapes of the speakers and have so far uploaded one of them. These are now on youtube. The presentation is available here.

Election Results 26th March 2009

North East Lincolnshire UA, Yarborough LD Peter Bailey 763 (35.8; +4.4) Con 513 (24.1; -0.3) Lab 437 (20.5; +2.5) BNP 370 (17.4; +17.4) The Generalist Party 49 (2.3; +2.3) [Ind (0.0; -4.7)] [Ind (0.0; -21.4)] Majority 250 Turnout 25.5% LD hold Percentage change is since May 2008 Redditch DC, Headless Cross and Oakenshaw Con 764 (48.2; -14.7) Lab 502 (31.7; +8.5) LD John Stanley 162 (10.2; -3.7) Green 113 (7.1; +7.1) Ind 45 (2.8; +2.8) Majority 262 Turnout 23.2% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2008 Newham LBC, Royal Docks Lab 723 (46.3; -0.2) Con 708 (45.4; +13.9) Christian Peoples Alliance 94 (6.0; -6.2) Respect 35 (2.2; -7.5) Majority 15 Turnout 22.8% Lab hold Percentage change is since May 2006 Wolverhampton MBC, Ettingshall Lab 1274 (58.8; +0.3) Con 449 (20.7; -3.8) LD Stephanie Kerrigan 366 (16.9; -0.1) Ind 77 (3.6; +3.6) Majority 825 Turnout 25.2% Lab hold Percentage change is since May 2008 Oxford City DC, Headington Hill and Northway Lab 548 (38.3; +2.0) Con 443 (31.

Politics in the UK is Broken and this is one reason why

The link is to the evidence session from the Procedure Select Committee. Questions are being asked of Chris Bryant MP (Rhonnda) who is Harriet Harman's deputy (ie the Deputy leader of The House). The enquiry is into written questions. In essence what he says is that if a minister refuses to give a proper written answer to a question then the solution is to beat the government at the next general election. This issue about the refusal to explain the details of policies is at the nub of how things go wrong so many times. Apart from using the Freedom of Information act it is difficult to find out precisely what is going wrong by using parliamentary procedures. If we don't know what is going wrong then we cannot fix it. The theory is that the legislature holds the executive to account in between elections. To hold to accounts requires asking questions and getting answers. However, at times the government simply refuses to answer. Here is an extract Q70 John Hemming: I think it i

Yardley Libraries

A number of people have contacted my office with questions about what is happening with the Community Libraries in Yardley. There are proposals on the agenda to have additional hours in Acocks Green, Sheldon and South Yardley. There are also proposals for some outreach work in Sheldon and to move Kents Moat Library from inside the Poolway Shopping Centre to just outside (in the Neighbourhood office). The Glebe Farm library is to remain as it is. The meeting is Thursday night.

Election Results 19th March 2009

Staffordshire Moorlands DC, Leek East Con 452 (38.7; -7.6) LD Roy Gregg 238 (20.4; +20.4) Ind 197 (16.9; +16.9) Staffordshire Independent Group 189 (16.2; +16.2) Green 91 (7.8; +7.8) [Lab (0.0; -20.4)] [Residents (0.0; -33.3)] Majority 214 Turnout 30.2% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2007 Salford City MBC, Pendlebury Lab 1055 (38.2; +1.3) Con 874 (31.6; +0.4) BNP 373 (13.5; +0.2) LD Paul Gregory 368 (13.3; -0.9) Ind 49 (1.8; -2.6) Green 43 (1.6; +1.6) Majority 181 Turnout 30.7% Lab hold Percentage change is since May 2008 Waltham Forest LBC, Larkswood Con 1393 (73.5; +19.4) Lab 255 (13.5; -2.1) LD Henry Boyle 144 (7.6; -4.1) Green 102 (5.4; -4.3) [UKIP (0.0; -8.8)] Majority 1138 Turnout 23% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2006 Thatcham TC, Thatcham South and Crookham LD Marvellous Ford 1053 (60.8) Con 680 (39.2) Majority 373 Turnout not known LD hold South Oxfordshire DC, Chiltern Woods Con 382 (79.4; +9.4) LD Philip Allison 99 (20.6; +5.2) [Ind (0.0; -4.1)] [Green (0

Jersey Prosecutions

The link is to an article in JEP as to whether it is possible to either have a private prosecution or judicially review a decision by the Attorney General in Jersey to prosecute. Viz it says: THERE is no mechanism in Jersey to launch a private prosecution if the Attorney General decides not to pursue a case. Attorney General William Bailhache told the States this week that private prosecutions were not part of Jersey law and added that there was a question mark over whether his decisions could be the subject of a judicial review. Mr Bailhache gave the information in response to a question by Senator Stuart Syvret, who asked what appeal mechanism was open to alleged victims of crime if the Attorney General decided not to prosecute. Mr Bailhache said that private prosecutions could not take place in Jersey, unlike in England as the laws were different.

Targets change priorities

The saga in the Health Service is the same as the saga in Child Protection. The introduction of targets changes the decisionmaking processes to lead towards hitting the targets. That is what they are supposed to do. In areas in which the decisionmaking processes are complex and require subtle judgment targets are more damaging in ways that cannot easily be forseen than in making rivets.

St Patricks Parade Birmingham 2009 Tipperary County Association

Today was the Birmingham St Patrick's Day Parade. It was the best weather for some time (probably since 2003 when the route was different). As usual I paraded with the Birmingham Tipperary County Association which is led by Bromsgrove Independent Councillor David McGrath. Often there are quite a few acoustic musicians, but I was the only one this time. The song we sing (A long way to tipperary) was in fact written by a London based composer, but the chords I have are as follows: G C G It's a long way to Tipperary, it's a long way to go, A A7 D It's a long way to Tipperary to the sweetest girl I know! G C B7 Goodbye Piccadilly, farewell Leicester Square! G C G A D G It's a long, long way to Tipperary, but my heart's right there. My own belief is that really there should be a D on the word "rig

Laming Report 2 - a missed opportunity

I have now had the time to read through all of Lord Laming's second report. The report at least recognises the increased numbers of child deaths since the first Laming Report's changes were implemented. It was difficult for Herbert Laming to question whether the changes that were introduced following his report into Victoria Climbie were the right changes. I did have a meeting with him, but unsurprisingly the report does not go into the basics. It does recognise some of the new problems (such as the Integrated Childrens System), but it does not make any attempt to look at the situation from the perspective of first principles or what happens elsewhere. Basically the system is in crisis. There is good practise, but the system still concentrates on recycling children between families rather than protecting children. There is also a large amount of bad practise that is not held to account. Unless we bring in proper accoutability for practise we will not improve the outcomes. One o

Government Cuts Guideline Council House Rent increase

Quoting from a letter from Margaret Beckett: We are therefore halving the national average guideline increase [of council house rents] from 6.2% to 3.1%. This is a typical example of the government looking both ways. They are trying to absolve themselves of all responsibility for rent increases, but benefit from the popularity from reducing rents. They are, however, offering some extra cash and it is unclear how much.

Election Results 5th March 2009

Broadland DC, Buxton date: 05/03/2009 LD Barbara Rix 555 (71.3; +50.4) Con 201 (25.8; -14.6) Green 22 (2.8; +2.8) [Ind (0.0; -38.6)] Majority 354 Turnout 40% LD gain from Con Percentage change is since May 2007 Carlisle City DC, Belah date: 05/03/2009 Con 700 (46.4; -20.3) Lab 307 (20.3; -3.4) Ind 221 (14.6; +14.6) BNP 142 (9.4; +9.4) LD James Osler 79 (5.2; +5.2) Green 61 (4.0; +4.0) [English Democrats (0.0; -9.7)] Majority 393 Tunout 31.4% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2008 Carlisle City DC, Castle date: 05/03/2009 LD Colin Farmer 465 (36.0; -8.3) Lab 304 (23.5; 0.0) BNP 255 (19.7; +19.7) Con 143 (11.1; -5.2) Green 125 (9.7; +9.7) [Ind (0.0; -15.9)] Majority 161 Turnout 30.4% LD hold Percentage change is since May 2008 North Warwickshire BC, Atherstone Central date: 05/03/2009 Lab 320 (37.1; -4.8) Con 221 (25.6; -17.9) BNP 186 (21.6; +21.6) Ind 136 (15.8; +15.8) [LD (0.0; -14.6)] Majority 99 Turnout 28.8% Lab gain from Con Percentage change is since May 2007 Newcastle Und

Ed Balls finds a way of making things worse

The link is from the COmmunity Care website. Children's secretary Ed Balls today declared that social work should become a Masters level profession to boost its quality and status. One of the reasons many local authorities are deemed "inadequate" is a shortage of qualified social workers. This means often that someone without the formal qualifications is in place. The "official" determination of inadquacy is something that really undermines morale. If Ed Balls gets his way this will mean more Local Authorities being deemed inadquate. One thing we need to do is to relax formal requirements for a while whilst we bring the standard of the service up (something mentioned to me by lower level managers). The government's proposal is the opposite of this.

Crown Dependencies and the UK

The link is to a court of appeal judgment about Sark which has relevance to the case in Jersey. This has the helpful part from the MoJ 18. In his witness statement, Mr P.F.U. Bourke, head of the European and International Division of the Ministry of Justice, stated, at paragraph 35: "Proper consideration is given to the Crown's responsibilities, so that if a Projet de Loi violated the Crown's international obligations or any fundamental constitutional principle, or if it would clearly not be in the public interest for it to become law, then a recommendation might be made to withhold Royal Assent . . .". 19. Mr Bourke described the constitutional position, as he saw it: "The United Kingdom Government is responsible, as a matter of international law, for any breach by Sark of its international obligations, including its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. . . . In addition, the Crown has ultimate responsibility for the good government of the

The RP case pops up again

The link is to the published judgment to a second appeal in the string of cases relating to RP v NCC. This judgment was published very recently. I asked a written question last Wednesday as to why it had not been published.