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Last Year’s Elections May Not Be Over Yet….

Local councillors and council officers  basing their decision making  on the assumption that we have a Conservative government until 2020 could be wrong::


In the news this week was the advice from the Electoral Commission to the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that they should apply for an extension to the legal deadline for investigation the 2015 general election expense returns from candidates.

The question is whether campaign activity which was included in the national Tory expense return should really have been included in constituency returns, and so would have taken them over the legal limits.

This all follows the digging by Michael Crick and Channel 4 into the way in which activities which were charged against the national election return by the Conservatives look to have included local campaigning for named candidates, and even the distribution of leaflets with the constituency candidate and agent imprint on them……..

……If all this ends up in convictions, it could result in MPs being disqualified and a round of by-elections being held to elect new MPs for those constituencies. It would only take a small number of voters in a small number of by-elections to change their views from 2015 and see the Conservatives lose their majority in Parliament.

 

Though this wouldn’t affect the Rayleigh and Wickford constituency.

support pharmacies

A Rayleigh Pharmacist Talks To The Echo

From the Echo last Friday:


…..Philip Hodgkinson, from the Grange Pharmacy, in London Road, Rayleigh, has launched a petition to gather support for a national campaign led by the National Pharmacy Association.

More than 300 customers have signed his petition, which agues more pressure will be put on GPs and hospitals if community pharmacies are forced to close.

Mr Hodgkinson said: “Doctors time is so critically overloaded that pharmacies are even more popular. When GP surgeries are closed, pharmacies are the first port of call.

“I think a lot of the ones in Rayleigh are quite well used, so I hope they all stay, but you never know. About 3,000 are under threat, it’s the complete randomness of it all that’s quite chilling.”

According to the Department of Health, funding for community pharmacies is set to fall from £2.8bn to £2.63bn from October, as part of the drive to find £22bn of savings across the health service by 2020. …

support pharmacies

Support Our Local Pharmacies

In another doctrinaire move, the government is  thinking about cutting the number of pharmacies in the UK. The website supportyourlocalpharmacy.org explains:


What is this all about, in a nutshell?

The Department of Health (DH) has indicated it believes that there are up to 3000 too many pharmacies in England.  At the same time, they have proposed a series of policy measures which would divert investment from local pharmacies to other care settings or to online suppliers of medicines.  Beyond this, there is little detail about the Government’s plans.  Nevertheless, it is easy to see that the current direction of policy, if not challenged, will lead to a serious fracturing of the pharmacy network in England.

Why are people saying that the Government’s proposals are wrong?

The Government is conducting a dangerous experiment which will see pharmacies close, thereby reducing people’s access to medicines and healthcare advice, and putting extra pressure on GPs and hospitals.   The proposals put at risk a part of the health system that holds the key to solving many of its problems. Patients would be the biggest losers.  There are particular concerns about the risks to the most vulnerable people and the most deprived communities, where local pharmacies are often (literally) a lifeline….

We have some very good small pharmacies in our district. The government is wrong to threaten any of them.

Find out how to help the campaign in support of local pharmacies here.

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Influential Tory Proposes Scrapping Retirement And Replacing Doctors With Volunteers

We don’t get too involved in national politics on onlineFOCUS, but we do keep an eye on what the other parties are doing. With Labour electing Jeremy Corbyn as their most left-wing leader in decades, some Conservative activists want to move even more extremely  in a right-wing direction.

A good guide to new Conservative thinking is “Conservative Home” , a website for Tory activists that describes itself as the “Home of Conservatism” . There’s been a couple of alarming articles recently by Henry Hill, who is described as  ” an award-winning centre-right blogger and assistant editor of ConservativeHome.”

First of all , Mr Hill proposes scrapping old age pensions:

“The entire concept of ‘a retirement’ is, after all, an artefact of the welfare system.”

and secondly replacing most doctors with volunteers:

Volunteers would receive pay, training, and legal rights to take time out of their ‘civilian’ life to work for so many weeks of the year in the NHS. This shouldn’t be impossible: the Armed Forces reserves already offer recruits the opportunity to train in a huge range of technical skills.

A larger, flexible pool of ‘physician’s assistants’ would reduce the NHS’s dependence on full-time professionals. This would not only ease immediate wage and staffing pressures, but make it easier for management to respond to future shifts in demand.

To be fair, most of the readers of the website treated his second suggestion with some ridicule:

Putting aside differences about how best to deliver healthcare or the current dispute with the BMA, we really need to stop embarrassing ourselves by talking with such certainty about issues that we understand so poorly. The idea that some flexible pool of physician assistant reservists might be called upon to leave their day jobs and perform appendectomies, insert central lines, start dialysis, run cardiac arrest calls, etc is frankly laughable. I really hope that Jeremy Hunt is being advised by more sensible heads.

But this gives a worrying insight into the mentality behind some of those wearing blue rosettes.

Hat-Tip : Pride’s Purge

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“Schools are being nationalised so they can be privatised “

Jonathan Calder writes here about the government’s decision to force all schools to become academies, away from local authority oversight and support :

….What I fear will come next is the gradual privatisation of what the Treasury has nationalised.

As John Elledge says,

Which schools have held out against academisation? They’re disproportionately small (larger ones are more likely to be able to afford in house IT teams and so forth). They’re disproportionately likely to be primaries (secondaries are larger). And they’re disproportionately likely to be rated outstanding (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it).

And what type of schools are disproportionately likely to be small but outstanding primaries? Faith schools.Taking on the churches my look a bridge to far even for George Osborne, but it is easy to imagine a campaign against small schools.

We will be told that they cannot offer the facilities and breadth of curriculum that our children deserve. Expect to hear the ‘global race’ invoked.

And what will become of these closed small schools? Just think of the prime building land they occupy in the centre of sought-after villages.

The forced application of a business ethos to education will result in narrowed educational provision and a diminished life in many communities, even if the schools stay in the public sector.

But is hard to resist the prediction that, at some point in the process, the Treasury will take the opportunity of cashing in and selling off schools to the private sector.

 

One local protection against school land being sold off is that Rochford District Council have specifically designated all the school land in our district as especially for education. There was one curious omission though – Rayleigh Primary School (Love Lane) wasn’t included on the list. Chris Black, as the only non-Tory on the sub-committee approving the list, spotted this and got the school added.

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Repost: So Much For Local Democracy…..

The Guardian reports :

Legislation to turn every school in England into an academy independent of local authority control will be unveiled in the budget.

Draft leglislation, to be published possibly as early as Thursday, will begin the process of implementing a pledge made by David Cameron in his conference speech last autumn.

The prime minister said his “vision for our schooling system” was to place education into the hands of headteachers and teachers rather than “bureaucrats”…

….Councils reacted angrily to the news. Councillor Roy Perry, chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: “Ofsted has rated 82% of council-maintained schools as good or outstanding, so it defies reason that councils are being portrayed as barriers to improvement. Ofsted has not only identified that improvement in secondary schools – most of which are academies – has stalled, but it has praised strong improvement in primary schools, most of which are maintained.”

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How Did Your M.P. Vote On Cuts In Disabled Benefits?

The Independent has listed the MPs that voted this week for a £30-a-week cut to disability benefits.

“Charities have warned that the cut to the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) WRAG would make it more difficult for disabled people to find work and that many struggled to afford food on the benefit at its current level. The Government however says the cut, which applies to new claimaints, will incentivise disabled people to find work.”

You can find the list here

It includes our local MPs James Duddridge and Mark Francois.

full fact

“Full Fact”

As some of our commenters have said recently, its hard to find impartial advice on the EU.  One possible source is the website for “Full Fact” – who describe themselves as follows:

We’re Full Fact, the independent, non-partisan, factchecking charity.

We check claims made by politicians, the media and pressure groups, and stop misinformation spreading by pressing for corrections.

We separate the facts from the spin and present our findings and sources so that you can judge the claim—and our factcheck—for yourself.
What do you do?

  • Factchecking
    We’ve published thousands of factchecks on topics that inform our readers, and the media, and help keep the players in public debate on their toes. We have also pioneered live factchecking in partnership with BBC Question Time, Sky News and CNN.
  • Corrections
    Corrections help stop misinformation spreading further. We’ve secured corrections from Ministers, government departments, MPs, the BBC, pressure groups and national newspapers.
  • Making factchecking easierFactchecking shows up the patterns in how unreliable claims get started and what we can do about it. Picking up on those patterns has led to big changes like the Daily Mail and Sun setting up their first ever corrections columns; Ministers being required to stop using unpublished statistics; and new efforts to make official statistics easier to use and understand.

Find them here

 

political betting

The Best Website To Follow For The EU Referendum Is Probably….

We will be having the occasional post at onlineFOCUS on the EU referendum, with local aspects as the starting point.

However if you are looking for the best website to follow the twists and turns of the campaign, it’s probably Political Betting

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Timid? Or Just Complaining Quietly?

Liberal England reports here from Leicestershire:

Leicestershire’s Conservative MPs were busy retweeting this photograph last week.

It shows them and the Conservative leader of the county council Nick Rushton meeting the local government minister Marcus Jones to press the case for more generous funding for Leicestershire.

The Leicester Mercury quoted Sir Edward Garnier, MP for Harborough:

“The difficult financial situation for Leicestershire County Council means that unless we get an improved funding arrangement, the services that vulnerable people need the most will have to be cut. I know the Minister fully understands the case we made and took into account our concerns as Leicestershire MPs and those of Coun Rushton. We will wait to see what transpires over the next few weeks.”

I would love to see a more generous settlement for Leicestershire, particularly if Rushton is right to say that we are the lowest funded county council.

But we are not the only Tory-run county asking for more.

Over to the Shropshire Star and the new leader of the council there:

Shropshire Council leaders today called for Government help to stave off the impact of multi-million pound budget cuts.

Council leader Malcolm Pate and the authority’s chief executive Clive Wright warned that without assistance they face a considerable reduction in the county’s services.

They have urged either an increase in the amount they can raise in council tax or an alteration of the formula by which councils receive central Government funding.

The formula cannot be unfair to everybody, so It looks as though Conservatives are really complaining that central government funding is not generous enough. Even David Cameron has been at it.

And they are right. It is not just the slightly quaint things this blog has a weakness for that will suffer – rural bus services, branch libraries – but central services like adult social care.

If there is a country vs court rebellion in the Conservative party, with their council leaders rebelling against the cuts they are being compelled to implement, all Liberal Democrats should welcome it.

Government cuts are biting – biting hard. And residents in Rochford shouldn’t be surprised if the District Council cut back on services, increased charges, and maybe introduced new charges because we are getting less money from central government. We have some talented council officers (both new ones and long-serving ones) who are coming up up with some rational, innovative ways to gain more income and keep a stable long-term budget. But apparently there’s no appetite at all for the Conservative councillors to complain to their party colleagues in parliament that they have got things wrong. One of us said to a thoughtful Tory councillor yesterday “George Osbourne is throwing local Tories to the lions like the Generals did to the troops in World War One”and the councillor didn’t disagree.

Back when the Council was Lib Dem controlled, we faced a new government policy that would cost us £112,000 in extra housing costs. Our response was to send an all-party delegation, led by Lib Dem Sylvia Lemon to meet with the relevant minister. And we got the cost removed from us.

Meanwhile, in other news, , the Government seems more generous to Google than with councils.

blue rosette

Did Your MP Vote For Houses That Are Fit For Human Habitation?

The Independent has the following report:

On Tuesday MPs voted down an amendment which would have seen landlords forced to ensure their properties were fit for humans to live in.

The amendment was defeated by 219 votes to 312 – a majority of 93.

… shadow housing minister Teresa Pearce called for the new rules to be added to the housing bill, rules which would require private landlords to ensure their properties were in a fit state…

So how did our local MPs vote on somethihg that would have required landlords to keep their houses and flats fit for human habitation? The Independent has this interactive map to tell us:

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East) voted AGAINST this proposal.
Rebecca Harris (Castle Point ) voted AGAINST this proposal.
Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford) DIDN’T vote.

housing map independent

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“An Astonishing Clause”

The ” Decisions , Decisions., Decisions” blog has an item here about “an astonishing clause” that the government has laid before parliament in the Housing and Planning Bill three days before Christmas. The legal jargon is not easy to follow, but would allow in some circumstances for “designated persons” (private consultants)  to process planning applications instead of the local council. The council would still make the final decision, but the consultants would get the fee..