Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Watching out for your neighbours

Last night a few local residents and councillors met the police. With 2 days left until Christmas this was our quarterly chance to brainstorm about Crime in the neighbourhood and help plan police priorities for the months ahead.

The police were pleased that Christmas drink driving seems to be down (is this because we're not partying so much this year?), but there are still spates of break ins and anti Social behaviour about - as well as the repeated concern that many "crimes" that we know of on the grapevine are not being reported.

We agreed that one of our actions for the new year is to try to start up some more Neighbourhood Watch groups in the area. These seem to have lapsed in many places in recent years. I have no doubt that 2009 will be a time when we all need to care for our communities more in many ways.

If you are aware of good Neighbourhood watches in your area (especially in isolated rural communities) please do let me know. Ideas and sharing of good practice would be very welcome.

Monday, 22 December 2008

What about our next generation?

A friend just told me they had a letter from school... Dated the 9th Dec, posted 19th Dec. Aged 16 and after 11 years in formal education, 5 years at secondary school, their daughter HStar has finally been proclaimed a "gifted and talented" student.

You have to laugh or cry.

HStar's life at this school will finish in 6 months (they don't do post GCSE). She is set up for A Levels in English, History and Maths - but today she is "Gifted and Talented" for the first time in her life and is suddenly told her exceptional skills are in "Science".

HStar is of course totally perplexed.

We need to build our way out of this recession we need to encourage a skills pool for the future, but is this any way to give careers advice to the best and brightest of our next generation?

Christmas Thoughts

I've been wrapping Christmas Presents - Like everyone else we've cut back this year. The High Street Gizmo Gift to my sibblings has given way to a hamper of home made sloe gin, Chutney and other wares helping local producers. Each one also contains a gift or two supporting a charity and a pic'n'mix from Woollies.

It was Blitz Spirit last Friday with Woolworths Staff in my local store. They could not have been more helpful or kind, whilst facing huge uncertainty.

Today Rowan Williams has asked us to care for those whose jobs are lost, on the line or whose savings uncertain.

I am also worrying for

Charity Workers, where donations may be running down, they often are the front line in caring for the most needy

Our International Aid Projects, where the Exchange Rate collapse has impacted our already small assitance overseas

School and University Leavers this year, who fear they may hit a brick wall in the jobs market.... Not a lot is being said about this group by politicians at the moment...

My Local Communtity, where there has been a spate of burgularies... and a very fearful community as a result

BUT there is Good news.... This Christmas I have seen amazing generosity of local people in difficult circumstances. The annual Tory christmas bash also helped to support a local church and my own open house sent money to seven different charities. I am very proud of my local community.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Criss-Crossing the East of England

Last night I was soundly ticked off by a friend ... "you've not been writing on your blog" she said "what have you been doing?". So I explained that a few weeks ago I decided to set myself a personal challenge to visit as many of the 58 Westminster Constitunencies in the East of England before next year's European Elections. I guess I've been quite busy...

On Monday I heard from a friend of a friend who had just had to tell his 41 employees that their jobs were gone. On Friday I was in Mid Bedfordshire. Nadine Dorries MP had just come from a constituency surgery where she said every constituent was in tears. On one hand she's helping to deliver practical advice to those who have lost jobs with the other hand she holds the box of tissues. Local councillors were telling me about the plans to merge councils next June. Its going to be a difficult period for them... restructuring creates more job uncertainties both in the public and private sector.

Last night I was in South Cambridgeshire. Big debates here are happening about the desire to keep council services supported but keep the tax low. I learnt how private sector computer software businesses are being impacted by the current fear of investment but in the public sector I leant how Defra computer systems are still outdated despite massive spending.

Today I have been in South Suffolk. The conversation ranged from an expert in preventing pollution explaining how nuclear waste is managed, pensioners telling me how the interest rate cut has left their incomes highly precarious, but a leading Estate Agent told me that since the last rate cut he was seeing signs of buyers coming back into the market. The rural part time fireman also had a word on property prices - he explained how difficult it is to man the rota in villages where young people can not afford to buy homes. There is fear for the pound but the couple who manage holiday homes in rural England were hopeful. The expensive Euro means they predict better bookings next year.

This recesssion throws up a complicated jigsaw of issues. Gordon's VAT cut does not solve the problems. If you're going to throw money at a problem you should make sure the money is well spent - and I'm not convinced that is happening.