Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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Stop spending our money

A quote from Justice Secretary Ken Clarke on Sky News earlier was telling: “Public consultation is how we do Government these days.” One could infer from what Mr Clarke said it wasn’t always the case. And, of course, it wasn’t. When we had real leaders running the country, they ploughed on with the mandate given to them by the electorate. As I found when I was a councillor, the return-rate for consultation questionnaires is abysmal. In my view, the reason for this is the public don’t want to be bothered with the minutiae of government: that’s what they elect politicians to do.

But many of the politicians of today are so weak and feeble they must ask “mummy and daddy” – i.e. the general public – permission to almost go to the Treasury toilet. May I remind them the great British public are too busy being real mothers and fathers to their own children and getting on with their own jobs to have to veto every decision taken by government. Just do it – and if we don’t like it we will sack you at the next election. You are not our children – you are our servants. Get to work.

This talk of consultation is because of the latest Coalition Government U-turn – this time on the Pasty tax. Not wishing to go overboard with the food metaphors but this was a right political hot potato which should never have made it to second base in the budget drafting process (that’s if there was even a second base!) let alone make it all the way to the dispatch box. It was only ever going to end in tears if two Conservative chaps who have never had to scrape around for some change to buy a pint of milk at the end of the month decided to tax the working man’s lunch. And so it has passed. Chancellor Osborne is so sorry for his bad behaviour and has promised The Sun he has listened to the ticking off he has received and will try harder next time. There’s one word for that action: weak.

Taxing pasties might not have been the brightest idea but please don’t compound it by doing a U-Turn after half your parliamentary party has gone to their local media to tell their constituents what a sensible idea it is. Clegg does a good enough job at trashing the Tories – you don’t need your own side making fools of your backbenchers as well.

Of course, if we had a proper Conservative Government, we wouldn’t need to touch the beloved Cornish pasty. We’d cut public spending to force down the deficit. There’s plenty of scope. Hardly anything has been cut in the last two years – in fact the Government is borrowing more than Gordon Brown ever did to spend on a bloated welfare state to keep those who refuse to work tucked up in bed until midday everyday. And then there is the NHS which recently spent £17 on a gluten-free pizza, which doesn’t include handling and delivery charges. See? – plenty of scope.

I have a straightforward message to help the Government cut the deficit and bring down our debt: stop spending our money! As Aleksandr Orlov says: “Simples”.


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Ipswich Local Elections 2012 update – another Labour leaflet

Labour have been busy producing more literature and their latest missive came through my door earlier this week.

This time the candidate, Elango Elavalakan, gets a showing with a large picture of him on the front-page. The political party, Labour, is not put into the shade though – the word jumps out at you in the main large print headline. To emphasise their brand Labour use red and blank ink on a white background with the party’s rose taking prominence in the masthead as the logo in the top left hand corner and the title of the leaflet ‘Holywells Rose’. 

The back of the leaflet provides a potted biography of Elango, who hails from Sri Lanka. This side also uses the imperative ‘Vote Labour’.  Again, unlike the Conservatives, Labour seem to get that the vast majority vote for political parties not the candidate.

There is the usual spiel from Labour about how wonderful they are and how evil the Tories are.  I took Labour to task in my earlier post.

There is a section on the result of Chancellor Osborne’s budget. Unsurprisingly, Labour spins negatives out of the budget such as suggesting pensioners will pay more tax when in fact all that will happen is their age-related allowance will be frozen from next tax year. Some might say why the wealthy baby-boomer generation, who will be better off in retirement than their children will be, should get tax relief at all. So-called OAPs nowadays spend the kids inheritance jetting around the world and climbing mountains (literally!).

One thing which I find laughable about Labour’s rhetoric in their leaflets are their claims to be ‘Investing in jobs’ and ‘getting people into work’. Could someone in the Ipswich Labour party explain exactly how they are going to create jobs? They have absolutely zero power to do this unless they are going to create new non-jobs at Grafton House? If you are, please send me a link to these vacancies so we can see the proof. You would need to create several vacancies to reach £1.5M or is this being spent on pointless projects run by existing council officers which create not one new job?

Labour’s new election leaflet has been uploaded to ElectionLeaflets.org here.


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Ben Gummer’s tax statement will be in Budget

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer’s Ten Minute Rule bill back in January for every taxpayer to receive an annual statement of how their hard earned money is spent has grown legs and will now be included in George Osborne’s Budget tomorrow.

From 2014, you and I will know exactly how our income tax and national insurance contributions are spent by our government, when we start receiving our annual tax statement through the post.

Listening and viewing the reports on the airwaves today Labour are finding it very difficult to argue against this “transparent” measure. They must be secretly seething that their profligate spending to create a client state during their thirteen years in power will soon be exposed to the nation. Because, by a wide margin, most of our taxes are spent on welfare. A person earning £25,000 a year pays £1,900 toward the country’s welfare bill.
This will be an excellent political tool at the general election (still planned for 2015) as it will shed light on the murky world of public spending in a way the ordinary voter will understand and, more importantly, feel in their pocket. Not only will sunlight hit the client state but the searchlight of transparency will shine on the public spending guzzler that is the NHS too. Going back to our £25,000 earner, he or she is currently paying £1000 towards the health service per year!
The new tax statements will cost £800,000 a year to produce – a drop in the ocean with the benefit to democratic accountability far outweighing the cost.

Mr Gummer is to be congratulated for his campaign to introduce this measure. Yet again the MP for Ipswich has actually done something in Westminster which positively benefits his constituents. This is still a novelty in the town after having Chris Mole as our Labour MP for nine years who thought he was the Government’s ambassador to Ipswich rather than the other way around.

The introduction of personal tax statements is a game-changer in the world of party political campaigning. We are all going to be a lot more aware of how our money is spent, which will lead to high tax and spend parties like Labour with nowhere to hide.


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Ipswich Borough Council Meeting: 29th February 2012

Budget day took place in Ipswich on Wednesday this week, also a leap day, which led to strange goings on in the Council chamber.

Council Questions
Firstly, in Council Questions, Cllr Kym Stroet accused Cllr Jones of being a “scandalous” woman because she was a Labour and Co-operative councillor (fair enough) and because she lived with Labour leader Cllr David Ellesmere, which meant she had a vested interest in her campaign to prevent Tesco from taking over the Greene King pub on Woodbridge Road. The theory being Cllr Jones was a protector of the Co-op supermarket but it was unclear what her co-habitation arrangements had to do with this.  Cllr Jones retorted she was not “scandalous” and promptly sat down.
We then had a couple of questions from Cllr Debman about snow clearance outside residents’ homes and shops in the town centre. Considering we had double figure temperatures outside that evening this was a somewhat surreal set of questions. But Cllr Debman did have a point when he said residents were fearful of keeping the pavement outside their house clear of snow for fear of being sued. Cllr Phil Smart, Transport portfolio holder, said residents should fear not and he would ensure an article was put in The Angle (the council’s propaganda sheet) in time for next winter.
Cllr Carnall kicked off a theme which ran throughout the meeting: jobs and investment and Labour’s hypocrisy. The Tory leader asked Cllr Jones, Labour’s economic spokesman, what she was going to do to make the town centre more welcoming. She listed off numerous schemes, all of which either Ipswich Central (the town centre management company) or the previous Conservative-led administration had done, and tried to carry them off as Labour initiatives. Cllr Carnall reminded her the only thing Labour had done over the last few years was to oppose a major new £70M development on Grafton Way which will create 900 jobs.
Following a planted question from leading Labour backbencher Cllr Alasdair Ross about the Benefits service, which, naturally, Labour’s finance chief Cllr Cook answered by stating how wonderful the performance of the Benefits service now was under Labour, Cllr Carnall asked another question about how the Council was getting on with re-cooping the £5M invested in Icelandic banks which went bust in 2008. The answer was around 90% of the money will be returned, which Cllr Carnall reminded the chamber ran contrary to Labour’s manifesto at the last Borough elections which said the evil Tories had lost all of the money. 
Nevertheless it is another example of how the taxpayer is suffering in the worst recession in modern times.
Cllr Smart was given a kick up the backside by Cllr Tanya Maclure on the late issuing of orders for yellow lines, parking restrictions and the like. She also encouraged Cllr Smart to get on with the verge improvement works in Goring Road which were approved by the Community Improvements Committee over a year ago.
Housing Revenue Account Business Plan
Next up was the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Business Plan which was presented to the council for consideration with any comments being taken on-board by the Executive Committee who will make the final decision on the business plan when they next meet. The HRA is basically a pot of money used to administer council housing and receive rents from council tenants. It is a complicated financial arrangement which under the last Labour Government saw £7M a year being syphoned off to central government for re-distribution amongst Labour heartlands in the north of England. The new coalition government has now stopped this arrangement. 
Cllr Mowles, Labour’s housing portfolio holder, also announced Ipswich Borough Council was going back in time and was intending to build council houses again. Although they would love to build council houses at any time as it is another way of keeping their voters in their place (quite literally) it has also become necessary because Labour’s John Prescott presided over the lowest number of houses being built between 1997 and 2007 since the 1920s. This directly contributed to the housing bubble which means a whole generation of young people cannot afford a home of their own.  Just what the socialists want, of course.
Cllr Carnall quipped during the HRA Business Plan debate that there was no mention of re-instating Ipswich’s Area Housing Offices despite Labour saying in the last election they were “indispensable” after the Conservative-led administration closed the inefficient offices down.
Perversely, Cllr Mowles during the debate said he “apologised for raising political terms in this chamber” before he proceeded to say “Labour party”. If you can’t use political terms in a local government council chamber where can you? A very surreal leap day moment!
Corporate Plan
Then we moved on to the Corporate Plan (keep awake at the back!).
This is the strategy document which sets out what the council will be doing over the next five years. It is stacked full of waffle about bringing in jobs and investment (although Labour vote against any new jobs or investment) and how Ipswich will be looking to benefit from the Olympics legacy. Basically, the corporate plan is a waste of time – it is a typical New Labour document from a by-gone era when councils were encouraged to do everything for their residents and which has created the client state with millions of people dependent on state handouts to live. As Liberal Democrat Cllr Atkins put it succinctly, the council should be providing the basics like emptying the bins and mowing the park lawns and should forget about everything else like ensuring people eat five pieces of fruit a day and looking for non-existent community tensions – because the Socialists can’t afford such luxuries any more. Remember, there is no money left!
The Budget
Next up was the business end of the meeting: the Budget.
May be it was the leap day effect but more likely it was because of Cllr Ellesmere’s ego which meant he presented the budget rather than Finance Portfolio Holder Cllr Martin Cook. Oh, and may be it was because Cllr Ellesmere is the Labour parliamentary candidate as well!
One thing which struck me immediately was how bad Labour councillors are at speaking and presenting: they don’t even try to be coherent but instead mumble on about evil “Tory government cuts” and how their budget was for jobs and investment, despite Labour voting against 900 jobs and £70M investment in Ipswich only very recently. Contrast this with Cllr Carnall’s Chancellor of Exchequer style budget speeches over the last seven years.
There are basically two things in the Budget: Council tax will be frozen this year helped by a coalition central government grant and the socialists will be spending investing £1.5M in new jobs and skills development. Labour failed to explain how they will magically create new jobs in Ipswich apart from appointing an Equalities Officer at Ipswich Borough Council to tackle bullying and harassment at the council. From my experience in line management, bullying and harassment is something that mysteriously starts being reported when an employee is told to pull their socks up and do a better job. 
As Ben Gummer recently said in his Morning Ipswich Star column (not online), it would be far better if the council gave residents a tax cut which they would spend in the local economy and in turn would fuel more jobs and investment. It’s called capitalism. But of course socialists would rather create a bunch of non-jobs tasked with inventing claims of bullying and harassment. It’s like a George Orwell novel.
The Conservatives proposed a 3% tax cut in their response to Labour’s budget, which would pump £400,000 immediately into the Ipswich economy. This would be funded by getting rid of a redundant director (may be the one who never speaks!) and not bailing out Ipswich Buses’ pension fund to the tune of £140,000 (which is probably illegal), transferring the HEARS service to Suffolk County Council who are better placed to deliver an Adult and Social Care service and not recruiting the Stasi Equalities officer.
Tory leader Cllr Carnall, when opposing Labour’s wasteful budget, revealed the Labour administration also planned to let Ipswich Town Football Club off the hook by allowing them to not pay an interest bill of £17,500 on the debt they own the council for unpaid land rent. 
The Conservative Budget Amendment was voted on, with all Conservatives For, Labour Against and the yellow peril abstaining.  Paul Geater from the Morning Ipswich Star then left the press benches in the chamber without waiting to see if Labour’s budget was passed by the Council!
Before the vote, Cllr Maclure interjected in the debate and raised again the issue of the Labour council setting money aside for Ipswich Buses. She, rightly, accused them of being disingenuous by not stating what the money was going to be used for. The council is legally allowed to subsidise bus routes if there is a community need but Labour had not stated in the Budget they intended to spend the money on subsidised routes but instead put the money under the header ‘Support to public transport in the Town’. This led Cllr Maclure and the Conservative Group to suspect the money was going to be used to prop up Ipswich Buses pension contributions. Something which Cllr Smart did not deny. If Labour were to do this it would be for purely ideologically reasons: they see Ipswich Buses as a means to control the masses (their voters) and it must be protected at all costs. The problem is there is legislation preventing a council from running a bus company, they can only own it and operationally it must be kept at “arms-length”. Competition Law may also prevent a council from subsidising a bus company’s pension scheme as this would give Ipswich Buses an unfair advantage in the bus transport market (all bus companies would surely then ask why their pension scheme cannot be propped up by the taxpayer?). If Ipswich Buses is run so inefficiently it cannot service its pension scheme then surely it should go bust allowing a more efficient bus operator to take over the routes. Ipswich Buses is not the Labour party’s play thing: fair competition must take precedent to protect taxpayers and the passengers. This one will rear its head again I am sure.
Finally, the budget vote was held: Labour were For, the Conservatives finally voted Against something and, of course, the Yellow Peril Liberal Democrats abstained. 
Polling Station changes

The Council was asked by acting returning officer and chief executive Russell Williams to note the changes to the polling districts. The Council gave Mr Williams delegated powers to make these changes as Councillors themselves are not allowed to be decision makers in the way Elections are run by the Council, for obvious reasons.

One of the changes is in my former ward, Bixley, where the Broke Hall Primary School polling station is going to be closed and residents will instead be asked to travel to Copleston High School to vote, which is a fair walk from the Broke Hall estate. Cllr Kym Stroet, who represents my old seat, spoke against the proposal but the Council still “noted” the decisions made. To Cllr Stroet’s credit he voted Against the proposals and asked for his vote to be formerly noted.
Post-script
Labour Mayor Cllr John Le Grys doesn’t even try to be non-partisan as the Mayor’s role is meant to be. One case of bias was obvious when the allotted time for each speaker expired. When Cllr Carnall was speaking in the Budget debate he ran out of the time and immediately the Mayor started manically pressing on his microphone button so all we could hear was ding, ding, ding as the mad Mayor tried to stop the Tory leader from speaking.
Of course, it was a different story when Labour leader Cllr Ellesmere ran out of time. The Labour mayor just laid back in his chair and continued to chortle at the Labour leader’s bad jokes and even allowed Cllr Ellesmere to cross the chamber floor and slam a handful of 5ps on Cllr Carnall’s desk as part of a stunt to demonstrate how little the Tory 3% decrease would save residents. I’d rather have my 5p a week actually then give it to the socialist pigs in the trough at Grafton House.