Category Archives: Local Government

Half a century on; we still live with the concequences of the Beeching Reports.

True to my word about a year ago, I’ve written an article about Beeching! We’ve celebrated quite a number of milestones in the last 12 months, and another is looming; it is 50 years since Dr Beeching published his enquiry into Britain’s railways which lead to the systematic dismantling of the vast majority of the branch lines across this country. The Reshaping of British Railways and it’s sister report, the snappily titled The Development of the Major Railway Truck Routes published two years later set in motion the eradication of nearly 55% of all of Britain’s railways. The loss was felt across the nation and at a time when demand for rail travel is at a level that hasn’t been seen since the 1920s and our road network has reached saturation, we now suffer the consequences of those rather short-sighted actions. It has been widely accepted since the 1960s that the methods of obtaining the numbers used within the reports was underhand; choosing days to visit the stations when the number of passengers was going to be disproportionately low compared with peak times.

Britain's railway network is now less than half the size it was in the 1960s, yet demand for rail travel is higher than ever.

Britain’s railway network is now less than half the size it was in the 1960s, yet demand for rail travel is higher than ever.

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For the sins of the Father

Nick Clegg has today claimed that voters are finally hearing his admittedly very timid message on what precisely the Lib Dems are doing for them, apart from indebting their children to an insane degree. Unfortunately, having only heard the enchanting whispers of his closest viziers inside the Westminster bubble, he is completely unaware of the utter betrayal felt by the majority of those that voted Lib Dem in the last election. The coven surrounding him has apparently ignored the fact that the Faustian pact he made with Cameron will cost perhaps hundreds of Lib Dem councillors their seats, and the political career of a thoroughly decent ex policeman standing for London Mayor.

It is a fact that most voters do not vote for the candidate, but for the party. In this case, Brian Paddick could promise to end poverty in the East End, cure all known disease, and silence Bill Cash, and he would still be tarred with a brush that says “Yes, your flagship, single-reason-I-will-vote-for-you policy is to massively improve education, but the last time your party said that over half  of those in a position to do anything about it actively voted not to, or abstained which is even worse”. If a brush can say all that of course.

Brian Paddick is in an unenviable position of being what is nominally the third party candidate. In the last mayoral election, where the top three candidates were the same and the Lib Dems hadn’t yet been in government, Paddick still only got 9.8%  of the vote. Assuming the decimation of the rest of the party spreads to him, he is in for an absolute drumming. The polls for the past month don’t look as cataclysmic as they might, putting him at somewhere between 5-10% vote share, which is up from the 2% YouGov had for him in early 2011, though pollsters tend to advise a four % swing either way is feasible so maybe he’ll get -2% of all votes cast.

The advice that poor policeman Paddick should take is the following: Pull out of the election tonight. If the Liberal Democrats come behind UKIP or, if the Bromley voters have their way, the BNP, it will be the end of an electable Lib Dem party for years. London shouldn’t be a bellweather for the rest of the country’s politics, but it is; it’s just the parties involved are different. In Scotland, the SNP can take up left wing issues in opposition to a once dominant Labour, in Wales Plaid Cymru are doing the same. Both have sound policies, albeit with an unpleasant aftertaste of nationalism, and neither need a liberal party. Northern Ireland has never really hosted the main political parties, and now in England there are so many minor parties that the Lib Dems aren’t even considered as a protest vote anymore.

Even if the assumption is wrong and Mr Paddick does spectacularly well, scoring 15-20% for example, this would be a major disaster for the party faithful. Nick Clegg and sons would take this to mean that people actually do agree with what they have done, and press on kowtowing to the tories for the next three years of this parliament, meaning many more defections . It is not a pleasant catch-22 for any paid up member of the party.

I realise Brian won’t pull out, as he has been called on by the party to be a sacrifice to Ken and Boris for a second time, and no doubt some small part of him thinks he can win. He can’t. Luckily in the London elections the voters are allowed to put down a second choice. We need that to be Ken.

Whilst he has been an inexcusable idiot on occasion, think of the alternative. Four more years of Boris. Four more years of nothing at all. Ken achieved things such as the congestion charge, the ill named Boris Bikes and he at least attempted to reduce poverty. Alexander Boris de Pfeffer Johnson, of the House of Hanover, cousin to David Cameron, has done nothing tangible, except show the rest of the world that in British democracy it isn’t your policies that get you elected, it’s your hair.

Building on the Green belt should be the very last resort!

Anyone who takes a walk in countryside surrounding peaceful Wiltshire market towns such as Marlborough, Devizes, or Westbury would find it a crying shame that such tranquility might be spoilt by the development of new housing estates, and the increase in noise and pollution they can bring. In fact it’s not just that more houses potentially means loosing more green spaces, or the fact that villages surrounding towns eventually get swallowed up. I used the afore-mentioned towns because I live in Wiltshire, but they could in fact be any middle-sized town where successive governments have failed to make sufficient infrastructure provisions. These towns get developments tacked on around the edge of them without much thought given to the inevitable extra vehicle movements these extra houses create. suddenly you get to the stage where a by-pass is needed, but no by-pass can be built because it’s either too expensive, or there’s something in the way, like a hill, or a new housing estate. In a recent interview for BBC Wiltshire, Devizes MP Claire Perry argued that plans at both a local and national level would try to ensure that this didn’t happen in the future. Read the rest of this entry

Local Government and Localism

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Local Government is one of the most resilient and flexible features of our democratic model. It exists in a fully functioning form in places as disparate as Devon and Lewisham. Despite the great criticism that local government often has to endure from ministers over inefficiency and poor practice, the expectation that severe cuts to funding can go hand in hand with a steady or improved quality of service is more realistic for local government than any other sector. click here to keep reading

Will free schools succeed in Britain?

Michael Gove is not a man for standing still. Barely a day passes by without him meddling in some way or other, for better or worse, in our education system. It is however the creation of the free schools movement that will surely come to define his time as education secretary so as the first wave of such schools open up this week, what sort of impact are they likely to have? Read the rest of this entry

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