Leave Europe!

Here’s an interesting quote about Europe:

“Those who would pull us out of Europe must come to terms with the damage that would do to our people. Even the threat of withdrawal destroys jobs. Firms that invest in Europe often decide to come to Britain. Labour’s threat to withdraw makes companies hesitate to look elsewhere. That Labour threat is losing us jobs now.”

The author? Margaret Thatcher.

She attacked the then Eurosceptic Labour Party with these words while Prime Minister.

You could replace Labour with UKIP for Europesceptism but the sentiment would be the same about unnecessary risks to our economy and jobs.

EU Migration

It has been worrying over the last couple of years to hear so many concerns and fears about migration into the UK that felt really OTT. This has been used as the main part of the argument against remaining part of the European Union (EU).

So how bad is it – migration of EU citizens into the UK? 

Lib Dem Lord Oakeshott has asked a formal questions about this.

British figures indicate 2.3 million EU citizens living in the UK. This figure is pretty reliable because without a National Insurance number people are outside of reciving NHS treatment, being employed legimately, etc.

British consular authorities estimate that 2.2 million registered Britons live in the other 26 EU countries, excluding Croatia, which joined in 2013, with 400,000 of them being pensioners. Brits abroad don’t need to register with British consular authorities to work in EU countries, receive medical help, etc. The countries are stable so little risk to people so they don’t feel the need to register with British consular authorities.

The country breakdown says over 1 million British people live in Spain; France (330,000); Ireland (329,000); Germany (107,000); Cyprus (65,000); the Netherlands (48,000); Greece (45,000); Portugal (39,000); and Italy (37,000).

The government reply also indicated the real numbers could be much higher, due to “a high evidence of non-registration” in France, Portugal and Spain.

So the reality is more Brits living in Europe than EU citizens living in Britain.

What would happen if we left the EU? Would Brits have to return to the UK or do we think EU countries would still be happy seeing a mass exodus of their citiziens being kicked out of the UK. Could our NHS cope with an extra 400,000+ forced repatriated UK pensioners to the UK. Would those pensioners be able to afford a return to the UK property markets or would councils have a mass homelessness issue on a scale never seen before. Do we think EU countries would be gracious with Britain leaving the EU or follow narrow national interests even if BRtish citiazens suffer?

Clearly the free movement of people isn’t the problem it has reputed to be. BUT the ending of this free movement could be huge headache for the UK citiziens both here and abroard.

Bogus NHS Threat

Liberal Democrat peer Sal Brinton recently used a Parliamentary question to raise one of the most popular and emotive arguments used against the propposed TTIP trade deal (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership):

Baroness Brinton (LD): My Lords, there has been a great deal of scaremongering about the National Health Service and TTIP. Might it be helpful for BIS to highlight the EU directive on NHS procurement which makes it absolutely clear that the NHS will not be caught by TTIP contracts?

Lord Livingston of Parkhead: That is absolutely correct. In fact, Commissioner de Gucht has been very clear:

“Public services are always exempted … The argument is abused in your country for political reasons”.

That is pretty clear!

The US have also made it entirely clear. Its chief negotiator said that it was not seeking for public services to be incorporated. No one on either side is seeking to have the NHS treated in a different way. The EU is very clear on that and trade agreements to date have always protected public services. That will absolutely continue within TTIP.

So why are so many people linking the TTIP and suggesting the NHS will be privatised? My guess incredibly cynical electioneering.

No wonder so many believe Politicians lie and will do anything when this is clearly a case where some politicians and their supporters have been flagantry lieing.

Medicalise Drug Users

Britain has a long history of criminalising drug use. The war on drugs is a well documented failure. It has created a huge criminal community where the profits are so huge that violence to maintain them takes place.

A new Home Office report comparing the UK’s approach to drug misuse with that of 13 other countries concluded that drug use was influenced by factors “more complex and nuanced than legislation and enforcement alone”. It then explains that Portugal where drug users are treated as a health problem has seen a considerable improvement in drug user health. Portugal has taken this approach since 2001. So it’s well established. For Portugal decriminalistion has clearly worked saving many many lives.

The report also believes there is “no obvious” link between tough laws and levels of illegal drug use. That’s a pretty damning indictment of a huge anti drug user industry we have in Britain. This means we have a huge misallocation of precious national resources. Wasting billions of £’s each year which means we don’t have nearly enough cash to help drug users get better and kick addictions. The only people to benefit from the war on drugs are drug barons making huge illegal profits. We need to concentrate on those Mr.Bigs.

I’m proud that Lib Dem Home Office minister Norman Baker said the report, comparing the UK with other countries, should end “mindless rhetoric” on drugs policy. He made it clear the Tories have been suppressing this report for months.

We need a grown up policy about drug taking. One that is based on real evidence rather than hysteria. One that will help our country be better.


Farcical Southwark Cycle Strategy

Tuesday evening Southwark Labour agreed their Southwark Cycling Strategy. It has a number of flaws. One of the most stark omissions being around ensuring cycle facilities stay open.

One of the key objectives from a cyclists perspective: “Objective 2.6 Maintain cycling infrstructure and surfaces as part of our maintenance work programmes”

While they were doing this officers under their direction were arranging the closure, announced in Southwark News on the Thursday, of the closure for 18 months starting 3 November of one of the most key pieces of existing cycle infrasdtructure in Southwark. So much for maintaining cycling infrstructure.

Churchyard Row is an integral part of the Elephant & Castle cycle bypass. It is also a key part of Cycle Superhighway no.7. An alternative via St.Mary’s Churchyard Gardens has been suggest.

Churchyard Row is one of the most cycled parts of Southwark by far. It is baffling why Churchyard Row is being closed. Southwark council states to enable building works by Mace on the adjacent site but I can not imagine they would allow a Red route or A or even B road to be totally closed for 18 months and this cycle route is the equivalent for cyclists.

Cyclists are clearly second class citizens to Southwark Labour.

Churchyard Row is an integral part of the E&C cycle bypass – the northern roundabout being the most dangerous junction in Southwark by far for cyclists and in the worst ten junctions for London. The proposed alternative will be significantly less desirable. It will deter some from cycling at all and push others away from the bypass and Cycle Superhighwat and into using the most dangerous junction in Southwark for cyclists.

On this basis I have formally objected to this Traffic Management Order. The likely changes in cyclists behaviour from the proposal and resulting risks weigh far out weigh any inconvenience for Mace building works. The alternative route is also not a road which I understand is a requirement under the 1984 Traffic Act.

I have asked Council officials to explain why they think cycling through the adjacent park is a legal alternative road?

On a personal note I am shocked that the same week Southwark’s Labour Cabinet approved its Cycling Strategy for Southwark it has agreed this closing of one of the most important cycling facilities in Southwark. Farcical at best.

European Human Rights

Increasingly politicians and press from the right have been decrying the European Court of Human Rights.

November 1950 European Convention on Human Rights was agreed. But their is little point of a convention without the teeth of a court to uphold it. So the attacks on the court are really attacks on the convention. The convention was designed to ensure the atrocities of the previous 20 years could never start again for signatory countries. It was also meant to hold back communism. It has been wildly successful at both of those objectives so far.

The convention articles, summarised below, are the bedrock of a civilised democratic society. It’s hard to imagine Britain without them.  A number of treaties commit us to them – everything from Scottish Devolution, Northern Ireland Good Friday agreement to EU membership.

So why is it so lambasted now?

Are their plans to bring back the death penalty? monitor all emails? Make trials less fair?

The reasons given are spurious. The silly examples given are perfectly resolvable without going for this drastic proposal.

hopefully the British people will see this for what it is. An attack on all our rights.

Summarised Articles:

1. Respect and ensure rights of people within the area of countries signed-up

2. Life. No unlawful killings by the state, proper investigations of suspicious deaths, duty to prevent foreseeable loss of life.

3. Torture. Prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment.


Paedophilia Iceberg

Reflecting on the appalling Rotherham long-term child abuse, Jimmy Saville decades of abuse, many other public figures accused of casual child and other abuse, child abuse rings uncovered in Derby, Oxford, Rochdale, Telford and this week a paediatric haematologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital convicted of child abuse. Other systemic appearing abuse from religious leaders. The scale of child and adult abuse is colossal but increasingly what we’ve become aware of appears just the tip of the iceberg.

It is clear that for decades child abuse was ignored and covered up country wide. That suspicions were ignored. Victims ignored and worse – often the victims punished.

A number of separate enquiries have taken place essentially showing at best complacency on epic scales.

I’ve had a casework involving historic abuse and the police dealt with it sensitively and promptly.

We need every local authority and public body needs to assume that such abuse has occurred until they prove differently. We need to assume every public body is guilty of harbouring this historically. That every such body needs a systemic review of all the people ever in their charge confirming they didn’t receive abuse. That all Police reports need to be trawled to assess which ones abuse was not recorded but lesser crimes if any recorded and wrong police reports corrected and investigated where the victims wish this.

When we’ve purged our society of historic abuse and ensured all new allegations are properly investigated will we be truly fair and just society.

If you believe abuse is or has taken place whether you’re an adult or child get advice from the NSPCC   0808 800 5000, help@nspcc.org.uk or text 88858.

Southwark Businesses Owed £39M

Reviewing Southwark’s draft 13/14 accounts (page 138) they show a financial provision estimating that Southwark businesses with appeals against the Business Rates (NNDR) are expected to win £39M !

30% of this will come from Southwark Council and 70% from the Great London Authority and the Government. This is a result of the pickle of the Business Rates review in 2005.

The backlog created by appeal in 2005 is taking a very long time to resolve. Amazingly businesses typically have been waiting 8-9 years for their appeal with the Valuation Office Agency to be decided. It really is not clear when this huge backlog damaging Southwark businesses will be cleared.

Think how many extra jobs could be created if those businesses had that money sooner rather than later.

So at Southwark Councils Audit & Governance committee on Monday evening I asked, and the committee agreed, that we invite the VOA to attend our next meeting in September to explain how they will fix this and what Southwark Council can do to help resolve this.

Thank Christ!

Today the official church of English state, the Church of England, caught up with the 21st century – it agreed to allow women bishops.

Well done to Justin Welby for patiently workin to make this happen. Long long overdue.

We’ve now caught up with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the US anglican communion.

Why is this so important – the Church of England is the state church. It shouldnt be but it is. To have a state church until today discriminating against women was at best embarassing..


Think again!

Southwarn News editorial 26 June 2014…

“Only in politics could you have someone take up a new position, only to pronounce that it was pretty much a waste of time.

And the comments by the new chair of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) are so far off the mark you have to wonder how or why he was handed the job in the first place.

For many years, council assembly was a proper debating chamber, where the key issues of the day were hammered out in front of the public and the press. This was then effectively neutered when the Lib Dem/Tory coalition moved decision making to Cabinet meetings.

You can argue that this led to less theatre, more proper decision-making but what it also did was remove the element of debate.

As such, the role of chair of the SOC became of paramount importance – and this paper argued consistently that it should always be occupied by a member of the opposition.

We argues this when there was no overall control of the council – how much more important is it when one party now enjoys a huge majority?

Cllr Gavin Edwards rightly declares that the public doesn’t care. That’s a problem he and his political colleagues should be addressing But he then goes on to suggest that ‘[people weren’t missing much’. That is only true if it doesn’t matter to them what decisions are made about their children’s education, the homes they will live in, the services and benefits they rely on and all that a local council does.

Cllr Edwards should at least be promising to hold his party to account in his new role – rather than rubbishing it. But in truth, the body that scrutinises these massively important decisions should not be controlled by a member of the party that is making them. The administration badly needs to think again.“

NB. The change to a cabinet