Thursday, 20 March 2008

Avoiding the Easter Traffic, local issues and crime

The family are going away for Easter. We want to avoid the traffic. Aeroplane stacking is a hot topic in my area thanks to the Nats consultation on new flight paths. I am a big supporter of train not plane - where practical.

We will travel from Cambridge to Kings Cross, across the road to St Pancras for the Eurostar - dinner in Paris and then the night train down to the Alps. I first made this journey a few years ago when the youngest was 3 years old. I do recommend it.

Clearing the desk for a holiday is always challenging but there have been some positive results locally;

Yesterday my local council was declared as "improving with promising prospects" by the audit commission. This is a huge step forward from last year - It's been hard work and the first year of Conservative Control. It is not by any means perfect but it is good to have a third party tell you it is better!

Today we finalised the legal agreements for a final handover of Milton Country Park. They will be signed by the end of the month. 10,000 local people signed the petition to save the park so this will be welcome news locally.

Cambridge City Conservatives are also gearing up towards the local elections. Cambridge is the centre of Silicon Fen and very internet savvy so its good to see the local candidates using blogging to get their views across.

On the negative side, elderly residents in the area are being targeted by distraction burgulars pretending to be police officers. I have arranged a house swap so my home wont be empty. Please keep your eyes open for your older neighbours over the holidays.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

On blogging, banks and business - and where our money goes

Last Thursday I rocked up at the council cabinet meeting near Cambridge only to be accosted by one of the leading Lib Dems telling me that according to my blog I should be near Watford... it is possible to achieve more than one meeting in a day. It is possible to take an interest in regional, national and international issues without forgetting local concerns.

On Friday I took the East Coast Mainline to the Conservative Conference in Newcastle Gateshead. Great confereence but I came away with a local councillor's experience of the North South divide. The social action project was at a City Farm. I'm all for building bridges between rural and urban communities. I helped, but my southern council would never have the cash to even think about such a project. The cab driver told us he had just been ferrying OAPs to a "pampering day" at the Angel of the North on the council's expense... is that a good use of taxpayers money? Down here money is so tight we would never even consider this as an option but we do support volunteer and charity networks.

Whilst in Newcastle I received a message that my former employer of 12 years (JP Morgan) had taken over my former employer of 2 years (Bear Stearns). When I left Bear Stearns 4 years ago their claim to fame was decades of continuous profitability unrivalled in the international banking market. On the frontline we complained because Bear was so much more risk adverse than any of our competitors.

Bear eschewed "corporate giving" in favour of the individual donation. Every senior managing director had to give at least 5% of their earnings to charity. Money got to where it was needed and the donors sure made sure it was well spent. I hope that bit of the Bear ethos remains.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Across the East of England

This will be a busy week. Voting papers went out to all members of the Conservative Party in the East of England offering them the chance to rank their candidates for next years Euro-elections. It is a huge geographic area and we are trying to meet as many members as possible. A few days ago we were in Swaffham in Norfolk, yesterday we went South and were overlooking the Thames Estuary in Southend. We go back East to Ipswich tomorrow and then West of the M1 towards Watford on Thursday.

Today some of us joined the Eastern Region Conservative Women's Association conference. The topic was "growing older". The Chief Executive of Age Concern for Essex spoke not just about care of the elderly but about older people's concerns; isolation, fear of crime, rising food prices, heating bills, support for carers, pensions, lack of rural transport etc. He pointed out that in Essex alone the life expectancy can be up to 14 years longer between the most affluent and the most deprived ward.

Members of the Conservative Women's Association are a powerful group. It was good to see them unite members from across this wide area and to hear them focusing (yet again) on the key issues facing all our communities.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

More people vote against the EU Treaty than for their sitting MP

Congratulations to the people of Harlow and those across the country who voted so decisively against the Lisbon Treaty this weekend.

In Harlow 12,254 people voted against the Lisbon treaty. That is 88% of votes cast or 34.7% of the total electorate in this Ballot. In 2005 Harlow's Labour MP was elected with the support of only 26% of the total electorate. More people voted against the Lisbon treaty than voted for their sitting MP , as a proportion of those eligible to vote. The same is true in eight out of the 10 constituencies that held a referendum this weekend.

Campaigning in Bedford

Yesterday I went to Bedford. A coffee morning offered all the regions Conservative MEP candidates the chance to meet residents from across the constituency. The local Tories were an impressive bunch. I spent as much time hearing about the other charities they all support and the voluntary work they do as talking politics.

Fueled with caffeine, chocky bics and good cheer we then joined local councillor and blogger Andrew McConnell for a spot of canvassing in Brickhill. On the doorstep, I realised that Andrew has a strong local following, that people were genuinely impressed by what he has done to help them.

Antisocial behaviour was an issue (no surprise there). One resident showed me a bus stop that is regularly vandalised. It was daytime and the roadside was quiet but Andrew promised to return during the evening next week so that he can see the scene when its busy. An example of a proper hands-on local councillor.

Back in my own ward people are concerned about the changes to aircraft stacking and flight paths> I've been ploughing through the "consulation", talking to local residents and businesses. I have contacted the CPRE. They ask why planes can't stack over the sea.. That seems sensible to me. Any ideas welcome.