Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Why cars drive fast and government goes slow..

I spent all evening at a public meeting about my local road. (Rural road, growing towns at each end, too many cars, 22 deaths in 10 miles - It is a familiar story up and down the country.)

We asked who wants a lower speed limit. Parish councillors want it, district and county councillors want it, the MPs want it, we even surveyed local residents over three quarters of them want it. That was nearly a year ago.

The simple solution might be to knock up a few 50 mph signs and send out an occasional copper with a radar gun....

But that's not how things are done.

Government protocol means the road must be subdivided into identifiable segments, accidents and traffic movements must be analysed in each segment, engineers must collate the data and benchmark against national guidelines, cabinet papers must be prepared and voted on. The new limits must be advertised, consulted upon, any complaints must be deliberated at partnership meetings. That's the bureaucracy bit.

Then for the policy - we learn that today you can't just drop a speed limit, trust most people to see the signs and obey the law (with a bit of help from the police). The caring nanny state means that the speed limit will only be dropped if traffic calming measures are introduced so that drivers can't speed. This might make sense on short stretches of urban roads but through miles of countryside?? Of course funds aren't available, bids need to be submitted. Our last bid took 7 years to get approved. I feel another year or two slipping by.

The Highways department are working overtime, they are doing a great job, many man hours are being spent on my road --- but the tangible results? Suffice to say that we left the meeting last night with an agreement on the timetable to produce a timetable. It was a major achievement.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

What skills does a candidate need?

I've just got home from the Maidstone and the Weald selection - leaving the association executive mulling over which of the final 5 applicants to chose as their candidate. It was great to be in the final 9. I've discovered a beautiful part of the country, learnt a lot and met some wonderful people. I have also been involved in a highly professional selection process.

James Brokenshire MP summed it up a bit like this.... "The Association has clearly defined what skills they are looking and is properly testing each of us on each of those those skills" (actually James described it even more intelligently than that). During the past 6 weeks we have drafted press releases, door to door canvassed, met representatives from the voluntary sector, and been interviewed and questioned at least twice. Ian Hislop was the question master this morning - I asked him if he felt better or worse about politicians after his experience. "Much better" he said. He went on to explain that he thought all the candidates were of a far higher calibre than he had expected.

There has been flak in the papers about the number of men and women in this selection - it was even suggested that I was there as a token girl. I've enjoyed this selection, enjoyed meeting all the candidates and will be sorry if the stories in the press distract from the most in depth selection process that I have been involved in.

p.s. have just heard that Helen Grant has won the nomination - she was charming and intelligent and will make a great MP

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

No time to be bored............

The wonderful thing about being involved in politics is that it gives me an excuse to get involved with lots of interesting things. Tomorrow I'm visiting Maidstone hospital. I wrote about C-diff being a killer many months before the media highlighted the problems at this hospital. I'm looking forward to meeting professionals on the ground and hearing their ideas about how we can do better.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Traffic, traffic, traffic GRIDLOCK

On Friday I spent 4 1/2 hours in traffic jams travelling less than 90 miles. I was going to write a blog on this but I was too cross.

Averaging 20mph I would have been better off (and happier) riding a horse. This was not London, Bangkok or New York gridlock. Most of it wasn't even motorway gridlock. This was just typical South / East England rural gridlock with a smattering of rain. Too many houses without decent transport links.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Why I support local A&E departments... A Christmas Story

When I was growing up there was a standing family joke that someone always ended up in the casualty department over the Christmas holidays. We were quite active out-door kids but sod's law always seemed to load the injury odds into the holidays.

I thought those days were long behind me but this year I was back in the A&E.

The Risk Assesment experts could write case studies on my accident. The scene was a Boxing day game of Kick-the-Can in the dark with loads of children. On the sensible side I was wearing trainers and the wine was still in the fridge. But in a race to free the homeside from opression, I tripped and landed thumb first.

The trip to the local casualty department was a good 20 minutes even in the rural solitude of Boxing day eve. I wasn't critically ill, I was not a major trauma case, indeed it turned out that I hadn't even broken my hand - but IT HURT and all I wanted to be at the casualty department NOW. . When we got there the staff were fantastic. x-ray, examination, strapping, home. This is the NHS at its best.

All across the country I have heard about rural A&E services under threat. Patients are told that their "local" A&E department has not got the modern equipment to cope with major trauma cases and everyone will be better off if casualty departments are centralised. My own experiences, over many years is that these are valuable services and should not be undermined.

Vicky's rule of (still very sore but unbroken) Thumb - Be really nice to Doctors, Nurses, Policemen etc etc --- you never know when you might need them.