Thursday, May 31, 2007

Not really a rubbish day!

The recyclables arrive at Alton
Above; Pro-Grow

The crane in the pit at Chineham

Today I went on a tour to find out just what happens to Hampshire's rubbish and recyclables after they have been picked up; not the most interesting way to spend a day you might think (actually it was fascinating!) and timely too given Miliband's new strategy paper.
By the end of the 1980s Hampshire County Council began to realise that they were facing a real waste disposal problem. Hampshire geologically isn't really suitable for landfill, the incinerators they built in the 1970's were knackered and waste levels in the county were continuing to rise.
By 1995 they adopted the Hampshire Waste Strategy document. It isn't a barrel of laughs to read but it was remarkably far sighted given the situation at the time. Out of that came Project Integra, a partnership between the County, the 2 unitary authorities of Pompey & Soton, the 11 District Councils of Hampshire and Veolia Environmental Services who run the sites.
They built three smallish new incinerators, the smallest of which is located at Chineham near Basingrad which is where I started my tour. Dustcarts deliver about 50 drops to the site per day where the waste is tipped in a bunker. A crane then grabs the waste (the crane driver looked so bored, he was positively zombie like), and places it into a hopper that drops onto a grate. This grate turns the waste to ensure the waste is all burnt effectively. From here the ash then has any metal removed for recycling as scrap while the ash itself is also sent for recycling (used in tarmac and the like). Hot gas produced by the process then heat a boiler where the steam powers a turbine. The resulting electricity is enough for circa 8,000 homes. After being cleaned up the gases are released through a chimney emissions being negligible. while the cost of this isn't cheap (the three sites weighed in at an eye-watering £130million) but given the rising costs of landfill, it could be argued that Southampton Council taxpayers got something of a bargain. Given the action that Council Officers have already set in train, cutting landfill from the city to below 2% seems to be an achievable target.
Off next to the Composting Site at the improbably named 'Little Bushywarren'. Here the county's green and garden waste arrives where it is first dumped and then shredded into long rows on a huge concrete floor outdoors. Regularly turned and watered if its dry (the water itself is reclaimed rainwater recover from run offs the concrete), this forms compost. After six months or so it then has any further impurities removed (tennis balls, golf-balls and plastic bags mainly) before it is chopped up more finely to produce a high quality, organic, peat-free soil conditioner sold under the proprietor name of 'pro-grow'.
Third on the itinerary was a visit to Alton's 'Materials Recovery Facility' as the recyclable sorting warehouse is called. Lorries tip kerbside collections of paper, card, plastic and cans onto the floor where they are fed onto conveyors by a mechanical shovel. A fairly unpleasant job, the waste is pre-sorted to take out the non-recyclable stuff people put in their recycling bin where the waste then goes into a huge colander (I think the technical name was trommel) where the rotating action separates out the waste into plastics and metals, paper and card and lighter paper made from newsprint and magazines. All this is happening very quickly- the speed of the conveyors is considerable and the process is dirty (the dust given off gets everywhere) and smelly.
The cans are pulled out by magnets, bailed separately to the plastics and then they are stored for recycling off site. Meanwhile, the newspapers and magazines go onto an optical sorting machine where the paper is sorted into low and high quality and dumped into a storage area. The same goes for the cardboard. Again all this is sent off site to a couple of paper mills for re-cycling. Apparently, although the railway is situated near by, it would be too expensive to send the waste from Alton but Fratton appears to be a more long-term prospect for movement of the recyclables by rail. Currently it is all sent by road.
So what did I think? Well the investment is huge but the end results are remarkable. This means we have one of the greenist councils in the country. the plant has probably another 30 years of life with the ability to expand capacity and upgraded so the future holds little fears from the governments new green taxes. That said, our high starting position means that further improving our performance will be difficult. There are issues over the contracts that were signed the day before Southampton became a unitary authority. Nonetheless I have been highly impressed with the Officers approach at the Council and Veolia show how a partnership with a private sector partner can deliver real results.
UPDATE: Looking for some photos as I finished this post, I came across Veolia's Hampshire site HERE. Typical!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"This is not the Time to be Mealy-Mouthed..."

If you can't stand the heat...Sir Keith sweats it out
Graham Brady is not of course the first politician to get in trouble for speaking his mind on an issue of the day. One of the more memorable of course was during a speech given by his old boss Sir Keith Joseph in October 1974. As he uttered the memorable lines, “our human stock is threatened” in relation to one parent families, the prospect of leadership of the Conservative Party was to desert him, never to return. That is not to say that Joseph was not to wield influence or even office as a minister again. He was key figure in the battle for ideas in the mid-1970s as the Butskellism consensus was demonstrably failing. It was Joseph that set up the Centre for Policy Studies that became so influential and for which Brady (and Willets,who sparked the grammar school debate), worked for in the late 80's and early 1990s. And declaring that 'Monetarisn is not enough', it was Joseph who wrote much of the 1979 Conservative manifesto. In office, he prepared parts of the economy for privatisation and introduced the GCSE as a minister in the 80's. Nicknamed the 'Mad Monk' due to his almost ecclesiastical delivery while breaking the consensus, Joseph fired straight from the hip ("This is not the Time to be Mealy-Mouthed: Intervention is Destroying us") whether he was speaking on television or at university lecture halls in the 1970s. It was a role he reprised when he spoke at Southampton University in about 1992. The speech which was delivered without a note for 40 minutes, had the audience, many of whom were far from politically friendly, spellbound. Tragically, less than two years later, he was dead.
One wonders if an elected politician, could survive within the party system for being so outspoken and not a little eccentric today. I doubt it.

An honorable but futile resignation...

take the strain...
pic courtesy Daily Telegraph on-line

Graham Brady has resigned. A noble but pointless gesture. Why? Because it will do nothing to change Conservative Party policies regarding grammar schools and it will deprive the front bench of one of its best intellects. I read his resignation letter with some sadness as I always rated him enormously. I first met him when he put his name go forward to be considered as the candidate for the Conservatives in the Southampton Itchen constituency in 1992. He wasn't selected but bounced back as the MP for Atchingham & Sale, an area known for the excellence of its state run grammar schools.
The New Statesman article was pushing it a bit but Brady probably didn't deserve the death by a thousand cuts before he resigned. Leaking that Cameron was 'furious', that he was 'dressed down' by Patrick McLoughlin, his chief whip, 'in the strongest terms' for his 'totally unacceptable' breach of party discipline and that he stood 'no chance' of remaining in his post past the summer really left Mr Brady with no choice. He had to go. As the Spin doctors told the press Mr Cameron had decided not to dismiss him instantly for fear of making him a martyr, Mr Brady was doing some spinning of his own, releasing figures to show that grammar schools benefited all pupils in the surrounding areas, not just those attending the local grammar... but Mr Brady must have known by then it wasn't a battle he was likely to win. Public opinion will never countenance the building of a new generation of grammar schools, ever. In 18 years of Tory government, the Conservatives made one serious attempt to create a new grammar school; in the leafy suburbs of Tudor Grange in Tory Solihull. When the proposal was put to parents it was roundly defeated by over 80% ending the dream of a new generation of grammars. As I have attended public meetings for the new schools competition in Southampton, all the indications are that public opinion has not changed unless it has hardened if anything, in opposition to grammars.
What a shame he has gone. What a pointless spat.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Heads won't roll...

no-neck or brass neck?

Following Labour’s climb-down over Housing Information Packs (‘HIPs‘) local MP Alan Whitehead was reported as saying he was ‘comfortable with the decision’ (Echo report 22 May). If so he shouldn't be!
Last week, Ministers asserted there were 1,100 accredited energy inspectors; By Tuesday, the figure had fallen to 520.
Ministers have pledged to consult on revised HIPs provisions, yet Government guidance says consultations should take 12 weeks. How can revised regulations be ratified and implemented by 1 August? The lack of consultation could in itself give rise to a further legal challenge.
In Southampton, Trading standards officers will be given the burden of assessing whether a property has 4 or more bedrooms which will require a HIP from 1 August; yet they have already complained that they will not be able to enforce this regulation effectively.
The Labour Government’s handling of Home Information Packs has been a complete shambles from start to finish. The current fiasco is not good for the stability of the housing market or the attempts to tackle climate change.
That said, don't expect anyone to resign. Why? Well Ruth is one of Labour's more high profile ministers and anyway most of this was down to her junior minister who was Yvette Cooper...and she is married to Ed Balls MP ...who we all known is a Brown favorite...who will be serving in his first Cabinet! Maybe however, I am just being cynical.
As Gordon himself said, " So as the world changes our priorities must change. And for us the way we govern must change too...part of experience and judgement is to recognise that when you fall short, you listen, learn and then are confident enough to set new priorities. And I have learned also that the best way to meet peoples priorities is to involve and engage people.
For me this starts with governing in a different way."
Couldn't have put it better myself!

Stop gangs hanging round our shops causing trouble!

A number of Councillors have had reports of troublemakers with nothing better to do hanging around shops, intimidating members of the local public and making a nuisance of themselves. As my picture above shows, this is becoming a real issue.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

HIPs delayed 'till August

Hooray! Who says they never learn?!!!!

Good news for the city centre!

Southampton is one city that has had more than its fair share of inappropriate developments over the years as can be witnessed by anyone driving around the city. However today I voted on the Planning & Rights of Way Panel for two very exciting schemes that could both breath life into our city centre. The first was a development of four seperate buildings, comprising a 21 storey hotel, an 'apart hotel' (hotel with guest kitchens effectively), some flats, an office block and a new public space area on the old Ambulance station site (off East Park Terrace and St Andrew's road). I was impressed how the developer had worked with the council to work up a much more ambitious scheme than they had originally intended. I thought it was a well balanced mix-use development in an area that desperately needs regeneration and hope the end result will look both striking and attractive. The buildings are effectively sold, the offices going to a major financial institution and the 200 bed hotel to Radison.
The second development was at the City College in St Mary's Street and involved removing the revolting 1960s concrete monstrosities and replacing them with some quite attractive new buildings as well as restoring the original workhouse, removing the porch the vandals had put on in the 1980's. The development will open up the aspect of the Church from the side of the college and again the scheme breath life into an area that needs redeveloping. A short description of the work can be read HERE
in some other applications of note, I voted to stop the destruction of some perfectly good family housing in Bassett, to be replaced by a most inappropriate block of flats (Labour & the Lib-Dems supported it), in favour of a new pontoon at Drivers Wharf and some new student accomodation and a bar next to the So-Bar in my old stomping ground in Bevois Valley.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Under new Management!

out with the estate owners, in with the estate agents to misquote one Tory...
For the record, here is a pic of the new Conservative group post the 2007 local elections in Southampton. Historic may be stretching it a bit but we are the first Conservative group to run the council since 1984!
As you can see, some are rather more photogenic than others!

Another £1million of Southampton taxpayer's money lost.

Proposed site of the new police HQ by the docks

One thing that probably would not have taken place had the Conservatives taken control earlier given their concerns in Southampton is the sale of public land at over £1million under market value. This is to allow Hampshire constabulary build an 'iconic building' on the former Norman Offer transport site. The Conservatives opposed the subsidy by city residents (for the constabulary covers the whole of Hampshire) at full council but lost the vote. Then the Conservatives were voted down at a scrutiny panel when they asked to investigate the decision.
In the long run (the site is due to open circa 2010) and will mean a large part of the civic centre will become empty as the police pull out (so Southampton council will lose this rental income), while the freehold of the police site at Hulse Road will be sold by Hampshire Constabulary (so get ready for another block of flats...) at the full market price- naturally! The capital receipt from this sale will be kept by the authority.
Sadly the Council exchanged contracts this week so there is no going back now...
For details of the scheme click HERE.

Whitehead goes for Hain while Denham doesn't support anyone!

That visit by Peter Hain in the local elections to Southampton did pay off after all (even if it didn't get them any votes!) as Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead has come out supporting the perma-tanned one.

Incidentally, while in the city Hain gave quite an interesting interview to the local university newspaper that can be read HERE.

Perhaps more interestingly, John Denham has declined to support any of the candidates, at least publically.- He's probably thinking he should have run himself.

The Telegraph have published a complete list online by the way.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Conservatives are leading the Council in Southampton for the first time since 1984!

New leader; Alec Samuels.

We did it!

At the Annual meeting of Full Council, the Conservatives were put in control of the city for the first time since 1984. It will of course be a minority administration and as such getting any decisions pushed through the council will be far from easy. That said, the new constitutional arrangements masterminded by John Prescott's old empire mean that the Cabinet have real power; not every decision has to go to be debated by the full council.
It could have been very different; what actually happened was the Lib-Dems sat on their hands as they said they would with the exception of Nora Goss who voted with the Conservatives to put us in. This was on the face of it surprising as Councillor Goss would not normally be considered a friend of the Conservatives. However, she was first elected as a Labour Councillor and she defected to the Liberals after what she alleges is some unpleasantness. Years later the Labour Leader June Bridle blocked her appointment as Mayor and then there are policy differences too for Goss is deeply opposed to some of the civic socialism practised by 'Old Labour' in Southampton. Had she sat on her hands and abstained, the casting vote of the newly made Mayor Stephen Barnes Andrews would have put Labour in so it was a close run thing. I am told that Nora Goss has no intention of approaching the Conservatives, she was certainly not offered any incentive to vote with the Tories and she plans to now generally vote with the Lib-Dems despite no longer taking their whip.
The Echo's take can be read HERE.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Brown roadshow rocks up in Southampton!

Gordon Brown 'jovial and chuckling' pictured in Southampton yesterday.
picture courtesy
The Daily Echo.
On Monday the Gordon Brown roadshow hit Southampton. Brown and entourage went to visit mother of four Sally Hatcher in part of what Nick Robinson has called the 'sofa offensive' at Swaythling Housing Association's new eco-friendly, 174 bed Glebe Terrace development. He is described in the Echo as 'jovial and chuckling' which is very much the demeanor captured by the Southampton Echo photographer above!
Apparently he was 'quick to remind her about child tax credits and flexible working' as he chatted freely about children, housing needs and getting back to work'.
Then it was was off to the offices of Southampton Voluntary Services in St Mary's Street where he was greeted by 'some of the 60 staff' (60 staff ?) and Labour activists where he delivered a speech that the Echo's Matt Smith described as 'playing to a largely Labour crowd.'
To read The Echo's coverage, click here and a bit of video footage here.
By the way one of Mr Brown's five new 'eco-towns' is to be on the HMS Daedalus site at Lee-on -Solent where he plans between 10,000 and 20,000 houses...
Mr Brown's official leadership site can be found HERE.
John Denham also mentions the visit on his website.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Southampton Needs a HIP replacement...

Everyone who is thinking about moving home
shortly could be hit by the HIP...

The way Britain buys and sells its houses is about to undergo a huge change with the imminent introduction of 'Home Information packs' but the danger is that these ill-conceived, bureaucratic, incompetently delivered proposals will do huge damage to the property market in Southampton.
Home information packs (HIPs) were supposed to reduce the misery of gazumping by speeding up house sales. Sadly, they will achieve the opposite. They contain nothing to prevent either side backing out of the contract. Labour's big idea – to make sellers conduct the survey – was scrapped last year when it had become obvious that mortgage companies would still require buyers to commission their own. What is left has become nicknamed the “half-HIP”, which unsurprisingly is as useless as it sounds.
Locally, the biggest problem in the housing market is the shortage of properties for sale, especially of family homes which has pushed up prices. It is true that stamp duty has certainly made people think twice about moving but the half-hip will add another £750 or so. £750 may be small beer compared to the cost of a property in Southampton, but it is another fee that struggling home owners will have to find up front. Crucially it is a cost you must bear whether or not you make the sale. Potential sellers can't even test the value of their property without a HIP, a real barrier to selling property in Southampton while the packs will end same-day sales. The National Association of Estate Agents called the HIP “purely an administrative burden to the process” of home-buying and selling which, it is convinced, “will adversely affect the market”. So why proceed? Because supporters such as the MP Alan Whitehead in Southampton Test are now using it as a prop for something completely different: the need to make homes more energy efficient. How so? A so called 'Energy Assessor' will give homes an energy rating, similar to that for washing machines, and suggest ways to improve them, rating the property A to G. The trouble is this government does not seem to recognise why people buy houses; will it be on its energy rating as opposed to say the property's location, the number of bedrooms, the size of the garden or even the price? Frustratingly for buyers and sellers there are currently only a few thousand trained energy assessors to cover the whole of the UK- delay seem inevitable as the packs slow down the sale process, creating worry and red tape at a time when rising interest rates could hit the housing market.
As the need to tackle climate change becomes ever more important, all homeowners need to take responsibility for their households. However, if this government continues to pursue environmental policies through what are widely regarded as stealth taxes, they will extinguish all hope of advancing the environmental cause with a growingly cynical public.
The way to stop gazumping is to create pre-contract contracts. The way to reduce home energy use is to build cleaner power supplies, targeting all homes intelligently, not just those which happen to come up for sale. for example, in the UK, it is estimated that there are eight million homes without cavity wall insulation and six million without loft insulation. Rebates on council tax or stamp duty, to get the work done, paid for by central government, could be a powerful incentive. VAT could be scrapped on green refurbishments, which currently adds 17.5 per cent to every bill. 'Smart meters' showing people how much energy they are using could be fitted by utility providers having been shown to reduce consumption by between 5 and 10%.
Last week Gordon Brown pledged that if he became leader of the Labour Party, he would govern “in a different way’’, listening to the people and learning from the mistakes of the past.
If so, the Chancellor will scrap HIPs now, before he takes over the reigns in Downing Street.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Freedom of Information Act was one Blair success- now underthreat!

Above FOI, Maclean & Winnick

The Freedom of Information Act of 2000 was unambiguously a good thing; it made ministers, civil servants, MPs, council officials and council officers all think carefully before they did things and to put it bluntly, made it harder for them to cover things up when they made a balls up. If you doubt that, have a look at this guide HERE and you will see what a powerful piece of legislation; the BBC's expert on such things Martin Rosenbaum, a fully paid up lefty but a great talent also has quite an interesting blog on the subject.

Shockingly Tory MP (and former Conservative Chief Whip) David Maclean has introduced a private members bill to amend the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to exempt from its provisions the House of Commons and House of Lords and correspondence between Members of Parliament and public authorities. Exempt MPs! Like the recent decision of parliament to award themselves an extra £10k 'communications allowance' (campaigning and self-promotion money more like), the general public are never likely to feel this is fair and proper. Maclean argues that correspondence with constituents must be protected from public disclosure but i think it has more to do with many MPs disliking scrutiny when it comes to things like having to publish their expense claims. I am gobsmacked by Maclean himself- a man who has worked hard and is an outspoken MP who has been battling MS since 1997. I have met him a couple of times, respect and like him and frankly thought better of him.

Thank-god for men like Tory, Richard Shepard then who wrote a critique of the bill for The Telegraph, Lib-Dem Norman Baker and Labour man David Winnick who talked out the bill. I read today however that it is to be revived and this time Labour Whips have actually sent out an 'unofficial' three-line whip to back an exemption and support the bill. Disgustingly because they know this to be unpopular, they have done this secretly while pretending to be neutral on the amendment.

No wonder politicians are held in such low esteem.

Good luck to the awkward squad; I hope you manage to talk out the bill so this dangerous and immoral legislation does not become law.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

On this day...

However he wasn't the first PM to announce he was to step down this day, not least because of decisions he had made over the conduct of war.
That honour falls to Neville Chamberlain who announced he was to stand down on the 10th May 1940. Chamberlain was forced to resign after Germany had invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and France and of course was succeeded by Winston Churchill. Nonetheless he remained very well regarded in Parliament despite being eclipsed by his successor.
I can't see that happening to either Tony Blair or Gordon Brown...

Deal or no deal?

deal or no deal...
'Labour woos the Lib Dems in bid to secure power' gushes The Daily Echo today. I saw a number of Labour Councillors on Tuesday evening and they are not only sure that they should form the administration, (indeed that they have a duty to do so apparently!) but also they are convinced that this is the eventuality that is going to happen!
Personally, I'm far from sure. After all the Conservatives won 9 out of the 17 seats they contested and the largest share of the popular vote which meant we now tie with Labour.
Surely Labour will not go ahead with the 'Single Service Partnership' outsourcing venture with Capita after all they said about it in their election leaflets? -And if they drop it, would the Lib-Dems really feel able to support them, bearing in mind how strongly they support the SSP project and the millions of pounds of public money already spent on the scheme?
At this point in time, Labour are not back in control in Southampton by a long-chalk, any claims by their members to the contrary is just wishful thinking.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Former speaker dies


I was very sorry to read that Lord Weatherill has died.
As Bernard ("Jack") Weatherill, he was not only a popular and effective Speaker of the House of Commons from 1983 to 1992 but also my local MP in Croydon, a seat he won in a by-election in 1963. My Grandparents campaigned for him in the 1970s and 80s, I remember them often sitting on polling stations taking numbers and the like.
After he retired, I met the great man at the House of Commons and had tea with him. As ever he was impeccably turned out and seemed to be relishing his role on the cross-benches. After a while John Major wondered over and I was surprised that Major, despite the obvious affection between them, addressed Weatherill as 'Sir', a convention that Prime-Ministers (and ex-Prime ministers) follow, apparently out of respect to the former Speaker's office.
Another little known fact was that he was a dedicated vegetarian, something of a curiosity in those days and something that caused a few awkward moments when he was attending political dinners.
As Speaker, it was during his tenure that the Commons was televised for the first time. I remember him chairing PMQs in his wig and thinking how he often let Kinnock get off the hook. In retrospect, I think I was viewing it all through rather partisan eyes. In any event, to be blunt, Thatcher still destroyed Kinnock twice a week anyway (and she was a huge beneficiary of the televising of parliament despite being opposed to it, at least initially). It seems that Thatcher herself was no great fan of Weatherill as Speaker, while according to The Guardian, he enjoyed easier relations with Major but I think history will record him as a man who was a great speaker, scrupulously fair and dedicated to the institution of parliament.
It will be doubtful that the same will be said about the current incumbent.

So what is to be to be done in Southampton?

Hand-wringing from the possible kingmaker...

Its not just the SNP who are trying to form some sort of administration...

The dust is begining to settle after the local elections in Southampton and the realisation of the results is begining to set in;

Conservatives 18

Labour 18

Lib-Dem 12

By law someone has to form an administration. Not surprisingly I favour the Conservatives taking control while of course Labour are ambitious to lead the council. The question is what will the Liberals do ? If they abstain, there will be a tie. The matter shall then be decided by the casting vote of the Mayor who this year happens to be...Labour.
So the bottom line is that either a majority of the Lib-Dems have to vote for us if some vote for Labour or just one of them has to vote for the Conservatives if the others all sit on their hands...

Friday, May 04, 2007

A good night for the Conservatives in Southampton!

not a happy bunny...

Labour were incredibly upbeat prior to the local elections in Southampton. They have the advantage of having run the city for many years, having two-Labour MPs in the city and generous money and campaigning support from unions like Unison (who took out a full page ad in local paper on Wednesday urging people to vote Labour). even so, I still don't really understand why thought they could buck the national trend to such a significant extent. On his quasi-official Labour blog, Matt Stevens wrote,

"The election appears to be going well. Met Cllr Dick at one of the school promotion evenings, who is convinced he is going to win Sholing, poor bloke….don’t think so. The parties’ polling is strong in this ward on the east side of the city."
Gavin got 1787 votes giving him a majority over Labour of 353! some of them thought they would beat me in Shirley ( my majority was just over 500) and that they would win at least one seat in Millbrook (their party came third behind the Conservatives who won the seats and the Lib-Dems!) and yet they still don't get it. I overheard a group of Labour activists talking about the Sholing result last night. One of them (I think it was June Bridle) said she couldn't believe that the Conservative Gavin Dick had kept his seat after a three week election campaign. Don't they realise that it was Gavin's work as a councillor, the fact he is a personable guy who knocked on thousands of doors and delivered tens of thousands of leaflets, disillusionment with Blair, a little perhaps political stardust with David Cameron and all the rest that won it?
Swaythling was a similar story. Jane Odgers got involved in politics because she didn't want a gypsy camp on her doorstep. The Lib-Dems just refused to listen and the result was they lost the seat. The public were disillusioned with the Lib-Dems in Millbrook for different reasons- they had elected a number of councillors who had defected or retired and the public saw through their absurd claims that a highly successful post office was to close and that the Tories were going to cut the number of fire engines (actually they were redeploying a tender and buying a new extra vehicle!) Millbook really was just coming home to the Conservatives, albeit after a lengthy tenure of Lib-Dem tenure.
So the composition of the council is now 18 Conservative, 18 Labour, 12 Lib-Dem. We gained 2 Conservative councillors (+3 if you consider our 1 in Milbrook was a Lib Dem defection) and
the Lib-Dems lost 4. We won in 9 out of 17 seats contested last night and came second in 6 while Labour won in 6 out of 16 seats. In contrast the Lib Dems won in 2 out of 16 seats.
In terms of the popular vote, the Tory Party polled 3366 votes more than Labour and 7143 more than Lib Dem.

It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Thank-you to everyone who voted for me- I won!!!

How did I get on?

Matthew Dean-Conservative Party 1762
David Geddes -UKIP 183
Graham Giles-Labour 1256
Pauline Harding-Liberal Democrats 395
John Spottiswoode -Green Party 327

Some other details; Rejected Ballot Papers 10 (about normal). The Electorate numbers 10291 (big ward) and the turnout was a highish 38.2%

The first thing to do is say thank-you to Shirley to voting for me; it was a good result for the Conservatives. A special thank-you to my agent Tony Forward and my campaign manager Terry Matthews. With Daphne Aitkienhead and Keith Vaughn, they did so much work so thank-you all; I owe you!

Labour ran a very credible campaign against me; in fact they worked quite hard doing a fair bit of canvassing and literature. however they didn't campaign on Southampton issues or really on policy (apart from being anti-'privatisation').

In terms of issues raised with me on the doorstep , the most common issues raised with me were (in order)
  • The state of repair of our roads and pavements (by quite some way the most important issue)

  • Keeping the weekly refuse collection (with a significant but vocal minority in favour of going fortnightly)

  • The level of council tax bills

  • Parking and congestion

  • Development- including pulling down houses and rebuilding flats, the lack of new affordable housing

  • Schools re-organisation (in Shirley, not as controversial/ significant as an election issue as I would have thought)

So I find myself writing this post from my laptop in the Conservative Members room!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Planes? battlebuses? Paid for by the council! Outrageous!

Local government turnout has generally been falling for years and in a democracy of course that is a bad thing. However I was astounded to hear that in Southampton, where I am standing, the Council have organized for a promotional aeroplane to fly over the city for the next few days and have open-top campaign buses with loud hailers urging people to vote!
First I heard of it was in the local press. My agent knows nothing of it. My party knows nothing of it. The proposal has never been discussed by full Council. In fact I'm not sure it has ever been discussed by any elected person on Southampton City Council!
What of the cost? Who is paying?
And what of the effects of such activity? What if the buses concentrate on one or two wards at the expense of others? What if the ward bus concentrates on areas that have particular issues such as Monks Brook? Or areas that in the past have tended to have a Labour bias such as some of the Council estates? Or affluent area of owner occupiers such as Upper Shirley Avenue?
I cannot (and I mean cannot) believe the Council has not consulted on this. Especially when I read that apparently this activity has never been undertaken by any other local authority.
It cannot be right.

The Act of Union is 300 today (ish) !

nice bedspread...

Today is a day of major cultural, constitutional, legal and historical significance, for as every constitutional historian (and a couple of generations ago, every schoolboy) knows, the Act of Union took effect some 300 years ago today. It has of course been a remarkable success with the Union certainly living up to the adage that the sum was greater than its parts but I do worry about the future.
The Institute for Public Policy Research recent report puts the flesh on the bones but those of us who were sceptical about the way Labour went about the Scottish devolution settlement in 1998 feel more than a little vindicated by events for the question that the brilliant and principled Labour MP Tam Dalyell asked on the 14th November 1977 has never been resolved.
Personally, I never much cared that McConnell didn't support England for the recent World Cup, however unneighbourly while Brown's clumsy attempts to do so only made him look something of a foolish opportunist. however, the issues of Scottish MPs voting on English & Welsh matters, the failure of the Labour party to secure a majority of the vote South of the border (and perhaps later and wrongly, the issue of having a Scot as PM), could all be running sores in future years. I have no doubt that further constitutional change to resolve these matters is inevitable.

However, the central point is that on its 300th aniversity, the Union has served us well. Long may it prosper!

And another thing...
No-one seems to be celebrating the Union!
The Telegraph picked up on the story in January but as of today, not one of the main unionist political parties has anything on their web-sites noting the anniversary -not even The Conservative and Unionist Party. It seems that despite their best efforts, Mr Mundell and Mr McShane have been ignored.