Friday, May 25, 2007
It could be that there are misunderstanding about ‘how things are done’ elsewhere – is it possible to make detailed comparisons between service provisions and costings for those services for various authorities – or would this kind of detail come under the obscuring cloak of ‘commercial confidentiality’? If it is possible I think it would be helpful for the Party to tabulate such findings and make them available to all LibDem council groups, especially ruling groups. We are in danger of damaging each other through Friendly Fire otherwise as some LibDem groups loudly defend going fortnightly and some disagree.
LibDem led Milton Keynes is determined to stick to weekly Collections. To outline Milton Keynes system –
Our contractors collection vehicles have three compartments – a ‘pod’ in the front and two separate collection in at the back. Glass goes into the front pod, recycling materials into the left-hand compartment, other waste into the right-hand compartment.
I really really don’t see who having a lorry collecting recyclables one week and then another collecting non-recyclables the next week is a cheaper system than a lorry collecting both weekly.
The rubbish is put out in sacks not wheelie bins, pink sacks for the recycling, black for general rubbish. Glass is in blue boxes.
A ’point team’ goes out in front of the collection lorry moving the sacks into a few bigger piles. When the lorry comes in, it has to stay in the street a relatively short time. Sacks are much quicker to deal with than wheelie bins (you don’t have to return the bins). So the collection is more efficient.
We have a separate fortnightly Green Waste scheme for the summer months, involving wheelie bins for which you pay an annual fee to the council. This takes in all garden waste (keeps it out of general rubbish) which is composted for local farms. We do also have a policy of supporting home composting.
We are also experimenting with a separate food waste recovery system, Leaflet explaining this in .pdf). The aim is to take out a really substantial part of the 'general waste' stream to landfill.
Finally we have one of the best Materials Recycling Facilities in the UK and this is geared economically to a steady weekly supply. (MRF guide on .pdf available)
From the ‘customers’ point of view weekly collections work hands down for me because:
1 I don’t have to remember whether this is a recycling or non-recycling week;
2 If I happen to be out of town on a collection morning, I only have to store rubbish an extra week. Being away on that morning on fortnightly cycles would require keeping the rubbish a month.
3 When dealing with rubbish I have both bags ‘live’ so it makes sorting out recyclables painless. My experience of fortnightly collections is that I get pessimistic about what is recyclable in ‘general rubbish’ weeks and put too much into the non-recycling bag.
In short – I need some evidence of the superiority of fortnightly collections for recycling efficiency, and citing 'unpublished reports' showing such superiority doesn't do it for me. I really want to know why this is supposed to work.
Presumably the argument is that this works out cheaper than one lorry collecting both each week because the binmen have less to do at each house and so move faster.
A smaller van started collecting glass separately once a fortnight about a year ago. The system was introduced by the inevitable pre-STV Labour council, but speaking solely as a resident, it has worked perfectly well as far as I know, and I've never heard anyone complain about it. I was surprised to hear of all the fuss it caused in nearby East Dunbartonshire where the ruling LibDem group was decimated on May 3rd, largely as a result of having introduced fortnightyly collections there, according to the press anyway.
Different councils have different ways of doing this and different issues are raised. Cherwell, where I live, has had alternate collections for several years and it is very successful.
I think that the main problem in Oxford is not the new scheme but the education of the public on the scheme and how to make it work for them.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Milton Keynes has a particular interest in this debate on Grammars, as before we became an Unitary Authority we were part of Buckinghamshire – and Bucks ran and runs a Secondary Modern system. The Tories in control of Buckinghamshire tried to build a Grammar in MK. They spent something like three million pounds on this project in the period leading up to MK gaining its independence. This included organising no fewer that three referenda on the subject, each of which resulted in a vote against establishing a Grammar. nevertheless they tried to go ahead and took options on land for a central site for the proposed new school.
This was financed by cancelling (in 1991) the construction of a desperately needed new comprehensive in my area and diverting the funds to the Grammar chase. The whole matter became of interest to m'learned friends and the Grammar project was successfully delayed until independence intervened.
When MK became an Unitary its first vote on education was unanimously to declare MK a Comprehensive School area. However the new council was obliged to take on its books the debt incurred by Buckinghamshire in its 'Educational Development' work prior to the split. It took nearly ten years for the damage in my area to be overcome.
Hansard 27 June 2000 cols 758 to 787
Labels: Grammars tories
Monday, May 21, 2007
This is the greatest Loss and dishonour the Queen hath had in her time…It seems
we are not moved with it, which whether it proceed more of courage than of wit I know not, but I fear that it is rather a careless and insensible dullness.
(John Chamberlain, writing to Dudley Carleton)
Here we are in Iraq with our troops staked out in basically untenable situations along the lines of retreat of our preponderant ally, and Brown apparently refuses to admit we are there in any kind of error. Let us hope that ‘insensible dullness’ is not actually what we observe from him when he finally gets to make decisions instead of touring the country in an unnecessary transition period doing King Lear impersonations. (We shall do such thinks, I know not yet what…)
England (reinforced by Scotland) of course managed to turn the military tables in Ireland with invigorated ruthlessness in the reign of the new King James Ist and VIth, not an option we realistically have open to us in Iraq. The 400th anniversary of the Flight of the Irish Earls is this year. So far historic commemoration does not seem to be disrupting the settlement in Stormont.
Most English (and come on admit it) Scottish and Welsh readers won’t have the slightest idea of what this Flight involved. So here are a few links giving background and discussion..
Let us hope that our British actions in Iraq do not lead to 400 years of international political poisoning requiring commemoration…
Universal enforced snooping is on the agenda. A real ‘New Labour theme.
Council staff, charity workers and doctors could be required by law to tip off police about anyone they believe could commit a violent crime. The Home Office proposals, leaked to the Times newspaper, insist public bodies have "valuable information" that could identify potential offendersLets be clear. If you know someone has commited a crime you tell the police. They prosecute, you are a witness and can have your evidence tested in court. This propsal is for something else entirely. A compulsory database of suspicions.
Look what this means in terms of the database society, discussed in detail back when NuLab effectively pitched its bid to be the Party of Databases. This ignores the danger of ‘data artefacts’ being created where so-called information from different sources gets linked in a database in a way which makes wild rumour an equal partner to painstaking forensic investigation.
LibDems believe – I think- that we can do better than a system that encourages imaginary connections from unrelated datasets seeming to support strange conclusions about individuals.
We do need to work on this though – part of our narrative perhaps?
Back in 2005 we had Blairs NuLab conference speech which in my view suggested a move towards a Soviet-style justice system for Britain, a point emphasised here as beefed-up ASBOs were proposed in January this year.. One thing to watch with Irn Broon is whether he rejects this creeping authoritarianism or gives it a boost.
Staying on the old Soviet theme, can’t resist this genuine Soviet-era samizdat joke.
Child in a Soviet school is asked by teacher ‘How big is the Communist Party?’
‘It’s five foot six tall’ says the child. (*)
‘Er – what do you mean?!
‘My dad is six feet tall. He comes back home every evening and puts his hand across his throat and says “I have HAD the Communist Party up to HERE”…’
Seriously, fear of children telling innocent tales to officials was one of the great fear inducers of Soviet society. Perhaps unfairly, the story flashed into my mind when I saw the BBC report…
(* story translated from the original metric for the benefit of Imperial Measurement diehards).
Saturday, May 19, 2007
If we are to get a new constitutional settlement as hinted by Brown we need to remember these simple principles.
Friday really showed why we need a Liberal Party in this country. I am proud it is my party.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
TAKING LIBERTIES uncovers the stories the government don’t want you to hear – so ridiculous you will laugh, so ultimately terrifying you will want to take action. Teenage sisters detained for 36 hours for a peaceful protest; an RAF war veteran arrested for wearing an anti-Bush and Blair T-shirt; an innocent man shot in a police raid; and a man held under house arrest for two years, after being found innocent in court. Ordinary law-abiding citizens being punished for exercising their ‘rights’ – rights that have been fought for over centuries, and which seem to have been extinguished in a decade.
This is all coming onto political ground we LibDems claim as our own. The Bindmans Debate showed how the Tories are trying to position themselves - we cannot be complacent. So we need to be on our toes and ready to take on board what develops in fora and in resources such as these. Oh and make it even more part of our instinctive narrative of course.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Even if you are part of the hearing world, its worth having a look at why Cliff Bastin, Francis Makenzie (MP), Harriet Martineau, Joshua Reynolds and Francis Maginn all made contributions to a richer and world and showed that wonky ears need not be a barrier to a full and rich life.
Our own Emma Nicholson is backing Francis Makenzie - see the videoclip linked from the 'See Hear' page.
I don't know who my vote is going to at this time...
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
One of the 'Misleading Cases' (Rex versus Engheim et al, if my memory serves) appeared to establish that the only liberty a Briton has in public is to pass at an even pace from one end of a street to another, arms held to the sides, breathing unobtrusively through the nose and attracting no attention.
Nowadays I am not so sure about the breathing bit.
If A.P Herbert was an MP today, New Labour would have expired years ago in gales of laughter.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Anthony Barnett commented on these replies:
…the two answers were a joy. Here is Meacher’s, “I am not at this stage in favour of electoral reform, but pluralism is important”. (At this stage! How about that for a radical challenge? Decoded it means, personally I agree with PR but my died-in-the-wool supporters won’t let me say so.) And here is McDonnell’s, “I’m a complete pragmatist – I support the electoral system that gets Labour to power, because that enables me then to achieve what I think would be a socialist advance.”
If you are a complete pragmatist why stop at stealing elections for the cause of socialism… why not chat up the army and try a pragmatic coup d’état?
Wonder if Broon will be asked about PR on Sunday?
We will know which of the two opponents has had his Granita moment on Monday when one steps down in favouir of the other.
(Incidentally is Irn Broon too obscure a joke to be an effective alias for Gordon Brown south of the Kingdom of Fife?)
Friday, May 11, 2007
Wonder if these reforms involve regulating lucrative tie-ins between government services and certain politically useful wealthy French individuals? Sarkozy’s shipboard host Vincent Bolloré for example, who told the press when the holiday story broke that he had no government contracts.
Bolloré’s ‘SDV Group Logistics’ company in fact has at least three lucrative contracts:
One: Carriage of the French Diplomatic Bag
Two: Transportation of cash by air for the Ministry of Finance
Three: Provision of air charters for the Ministry of Defence
New Labour's entangelemt with tobacco advertising at Formula One Grand Prix looks like nothing in comparison.
Hat tip and further link to Alex Harrowell on A Fistful of Euros.
One question is whether a backlash against Free Trade in the USA could bring in some kind of neo-protectionism.
‘Free Trade’s Great but…’ is a theme discussed by Washington Post commentator Alan S. Blinder who as a ‘Free Trader down to my toes’ writes an article ‘Trying to Save Free Trade From Itself’.
And more seriously Ralph Gomery ( a former senior vice-President at IBM who oversaw numerous globalisation processes from the inside) has published a critique of globalisation aimed at changing the policies of the Democratic Party in the USA. He now says that Free Trade as at present practiced may actually be harmful for existing highly industrialised countries and that new policies are needed. (That is, I think, he challenges in part the Rocado 'compartive advantage' paradigm) He is one of the organisers of the Horizon Project, which aims to ensure that ‘The USA remains the pre-eminent economic power in an age of globalisation’.
Note that an undercurrent of these arguments, if I read them rightly, is that Free Trade if actually practiced freely may be too good at spreading wealth to countries at present very poor, to the disruption of the currently relatively wealthy..
Yep that is the way it looks. But the money is manipulated because after all it is just paper and is assigned a value through all sorts of means which bankers can mess with. So China undervalues their currency thus has a massive knowledge transfer from all the nations of the world and even gathers all manufacturing into it self. We are totally dependent upon China for all our needs and that makes them the leader, not the United States.
Let’s clarify the wealth that is being given to poorer countries. You are asking, especially young single people in the US, to work three average jobs or more to make a living while they take a pay cut. LABORS wealth will be redistributed to these poor nations people. So at this point it looks more like a seesaw effect in which we give everything to the poor countries and we live in poverty while complaining that our youth don’t want to work for global 2 dollar a day wages because it doesn’t pay the bills in our own market. If you impoverish labor in your country, you impoverish the nation. And even more true in a global economy where the global elite have become decoupled from the nation state.
It’s a total rip off. It doesn’t make any sense. China and India at this point have all they need to raise their people out of poverty. Now they need to start building up their consumer base instead of depending upon western nations. Our labor is competing one-on-one versus their labor because they have the education and the same tools we created given to them by our own corporations.
In the end if they have massive unemployment, we have massive unemployment. If they have surplus labor we have surplus labor. If they live in poverty, we live in poverty. That’s the direction we are headed! How long will it take to raise their boat and that is how long it will take before we see wages and standards of living rise in America.
The only people that win are the international business owners who are making profits, not from innovation, but simply crossing a border where currency is a different value than our own and then selling back to higher currency markets. And that’s why China devalues their currency, to make sure they keep everything in their pocket while the entire worlds wealth is redistributed to them through stupid pieces of paper that has no meaning.
Then add in Western debt! People are buying on debt and losing income at the same time. That means higher defaults in the long run as most labor doesn’t have a clue that the economy is going down! Why? Because they are constantly being lied to that it is a strong economy and the sky is the limit! So max those credit cards. And so the dangers of politicians lying to the masses instead of telling the truth might cause us even greater harm. After all why pay down debt when job creation is amazing and the economy is booming? Never mind that the average world market wage is 2 dollars a day, so I suggest you do the math of where American labor is headed.
Just remember you are asking your neighbors and any laborer in America to live in poverty for someone on the other side of the planet who already lives in poverty. Then I hear so called free traders saying labor is too rich and doesn’t deserve what they have, so let’s redistribute it like a bunch of socialists? What happened to incentive to work and the fact that labor often won’t work below their market rate? Why is it okay to redistribute labors wealth, but not that of the wealthy because they say that violates their liberty and we can’t do that. Or it would hurt to many people if we stole from them so we shouldn’t do that.
This is getting old fast. Why do we believe this nonsense? I care about people all over the world, but I don’t want to live in poverty. The liars said it would raise them up to our western standards, not lower our labor to their standards. A tide that raises all boats only raises the wealthy globalists boats and it is totally obvious here and now.
We have our weaknesses and our strengths. The post-Blair political world offers unusual opportunities for us to play to our strengths.
One of these strengths is the weight and substance of our Parliamentary team. Our Foreign Policy team, starting with Ming himself, outshines the Tories and catches labour in a confused state. The Home Office Team led by Nick Clegg is the most effective we have had in decades. (If only this team, or one like it, had been in place at the last General Election…). The Environment Team led by Chris Huhne is unmatched in any other Party. And our Economics Team led by Vince Cable is the most substantial any Party has put forwards since 1997, possibly longer.
With a new PM due in June, lets assume it is Brown. I think Brown will want to fight the Tories on Substance. He will want to position himself to contrast real arguments with spin (not incidentally starting to heal the internal Labour hurts of the Blair Spin Years). He will have new people in lead team roles who can play for the future instead of marking time. He will want to provoke real arguments between these new team heads and their opposite numbers. This will end the reality-free politics opportunity Cameron and his backstage choir has had over the last year, flush him out into the open and tie the spin and smoke label to his heels.
In taking this stance to maximise damage to the Tories Brown will offer us an opportunity to engage at the most public political face. There will be a hard heavyweight slog between us and Labour (which it may even be in Brown’s interest to highlight as a contrast to the Tories antics, though he will hope that any advantage to us is temporary and ultimately comes to Labour) – and lots of opportunities to carry out guerrilla raids on the Tories.
What we need to avoid is falling into gimmicks and spin ourselves, just to get a headline in a particular news-round. So it is not encouraging to see the tactic of a motion for an immediate general election floated. It has an added danger which should be obvious to any experienced barrister, summed up by the tag ‘never ask a witness a question unless you know what the answer is going to be’.
We do not know what Brown wants as the Next Step. If he actually wants to provoke an early General Election we have offered him a great way to engineer this when he comes to office. Unlikely maybe, but an unnecessary vulnerability. I think we shoudl have looked to another way to stress our readiness to face any future, including a snap general election.
I did not vote for Ming but I always recognised his great strengths and I am glad that the public appear to recognise his bedrock trustworthiness. I thought and I still think that Ming has weaknesses in the (highly necessary) Performing Seal aspects of party leadership, but that he would be formidable in certain circumstances. These circumstances are about to become the live politics of the UK for the next 18 months or so.
I trust and hope that we can build on that strength and that Ming is not talked into ill thought-out stunts by clever backstage tacticians who have perhaps in the fog of the Blair Trivia Years forgotten (or never in their bones knew) what politics of substance actually means.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Britain’s most expensive state school is being built without a playground because those running it believe that pupils should be treated like company employees and do not need unstructured play time.The authorities at the £46.4m Thomas Deacon city academy in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, due to open this autumn, also believe that the absence of a playground will avoid the risk of “uncontrollable” numbers of children running around in breaks at the 2,200-pupil school.We are all Company Employees now it seems, at whatever age...
Dan Hardie sums it all up well...
The local parents were not consulted as to whether they wanted their children to be sent to a playground-less school. They now have no democratic way of changing this decision- short of hoping for a change of policy in London. That’s it, because the management of the school is answerable only to central government, not to anybody elected locally....
Here we have a clear example of why local democracy can’t be dismissed as the obsession of a few anoraks. Petty authoritarians, grasping architects, empire-building managers: these have always existed and will always do so. The way that we can keep them from doing too much damage is to give the people most affected by their policies the democratic right to vote them out of power.
This really is Blair. Worship of power manipulators, contempt for real people, centralisation of services, misunderstanding of the real value of 'Market Forces' and Business'. Oh and the asbo-isation of childhood. (all those uncontrolled young things running around...)
Now we must wonder how Iron Broon picks up these messes.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Which is a pity. For people of my generation, determined to make sure we didn’t repeat our parents’ experiences of European Civil Wars, the European Adventure is still something much more than a fishy fudge on marginal agriculture. So just a small reminder of part of the European ambition.
“The European Union is at the service of its citizens. While keeping their own specific values, customs and language, European citizens should feel at ease in the "European home".I at least am delighted and relieved to feel 'at home'.
Maybe we can make better use of this service for our own communities?
Saturday, May 05, 2007
In the news because of the great pet foods scandal in the USA involving products from China.
Apparently pet-food manufacturers in the USA have been buying raw materials from China that contains wheat gluten contaminated with melamine. Melamine is used in the manufacture of plastics, cleaning agents, glues and fertilisers. Hundreds of cats and dogs have been dying of renal failure as a result. There have been big product recalls for pet foods in the USA, and for the first time ( early May 2007) this extends to US-made products for the European pet market.
Is this something we should know about in Britain?
Are such contamiants also in products for the human food chain?
The bottom line issues of course are public health (not least in China, but also worldwide) and the implications for international trade. Because of the trade politics implications (the call for protectionism against China is growing in the USA) we should perhaps double-check the sources of such stories. It would be helpful if our parliamentarians could get some official statements on what the EU and UK are doing about such alleged contaminations, and getting action as necessary.
Our new councillor is in his twenties, and incidentally from an ethnic minority.
We had our big losses (four seats) last year when MK went from our control to NOC. In 2006 we were getting some feel on the doorstep of ‘Cameron Stardust’ working, especially with younger voters saying Cameron was ‘doing things’. This year that illusion seems to be wearing off.
Nationally, my feeling is that if the councils with all seats up for grabs had polled last year instead of this, we would really have been in trouble, with much more substantial losses across England than we suffered this year.
A sidebar – last year Northampton Tories sent big teams into MK to help their colleagues in election work, which was a strong factor in the Tory success in 2006. This year Northampton Tories had to stay at home to defend their own patch. And hooray to Northampton LibDems for turfing them out!