Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rubbish tax is rubbish - maybe

The report in yesterdays Guardian stating that the Government has cleared up the rubbish tax confusion did not to my mind clear up the confusion

In the article itself it seemed that there were two very different steers emerging depending on which line you read. On the one hand "a Defra document published on the official Whitehall website revealed that the climate change bill would allow local authorities to charge for waste in a bid to boost recycling" and on the other "paper versions given to reporters and MPs stated that the bill would only give local councils the power to run pilot schemes to encourage recycling"

These two different slants would seem to propose very different ways of going about things.

The first implies that households will be charged for the amount of rubbish they throw away. This would seem to be on the basis that the amount of non recyclable rubbish can be weighed and a bill can be issued. I am absolutely convinced that this method will not be a great success and will in all likelihood lead to two unwanted outcomes - an increase in the amount of rubbish fly tipped or taken directly to the local municipal site and an increase in neighbour disputes caused by people putting their rubbish into other peoples bins.

The second implies some kind of scheme whereby those who recycle through kerbside collection facilities gain some kind of reward which is offset by those who refuse to use such facilities receiving some kind of charge. This seems to be a more positive way to go about things but we have to ensure that every household has the facilities to recycle and I suspect the administration of such schemes will be relatively expensive and open to challenge. If someone does not put out any recyclables then presumably their normal bins will need to be checked to see whether or not their waste contains recyclables. This may also prove unpopular as the thought of the local authority rooting through peoples bins may not go down very well.

If implemented sensibly by local authorities this may help, if not do not be surprised to see the amount of fly tipping on the increase

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Personal advisers on commuting!

Apparently the government in the form of Ruth Kelly is planning "a big increase in access to 'personal travel plans' after trials showed huge decreases in car travel for only a few million pounds of public spending. Under the scheme, households and other organisations are offered personal advice, including a home visit, during which an expert analyses what journeys are made by car and how some could be replaced by other means."

As an aim this is to be lauded although I somehow doubt the cost effectiveness and long term benefit of such a scheme without a real focus on and investment in tow other key factors.

Firstly money needs to be invested in good, clean, regular and reliable public transport. The example which I gave a month ago of our local station at Aldermaston is a good one. As I said then "On a Sunday as the trains wend their merry way from Newbury To Reading and back again try guessing how many trains stop at Aldermaston. Yes you guessed it a grand total of zero. Slow trains go up and down and stop elsewhere but not here." Just how much extra would it cost to get these trains to stop? Very little I suspect.

Secondly I suspect that a far greater return on investment could be achieved through working with employers to see how technology to could be best used to enable a significant number of employees to work from home for part or all of the week. Personal experience would seem to indicate that the worst times to travel on the motorway network in this country are Monday morning, Friday afternoon and Sunday evening. At least two of these three could be addressed through and increase in home working.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Into the playoff places

Leeds are now sixth in the table after just thirteen games of the season and a mere four points off the top spot. Next weeks away trip to Carlisle should be interesting given the current state of the League Table although if Forest beat Oldham we could be back in seventh by then.

Today's Guardian had a great piece on Saturdays 4-2 demolition of Millwall.

The old adage of the home crowd being a 12th man does not do justice to
Leeds United's vehement support - 13th, 14th and 15th men should be added to
that cliche. This was Leeds' sixth home win out of seven, lifting them into the
play-off positions, and it is difficult to see how any team from League One will
emerge from this intimidating venue with three points

The attendance of 30,319 was the highest in the Football League this season
and the fourth highest in the country on Saturday, and it took the average at
Elland Road to over 27,000 - more than any Championship club and 6,000 more than Leeds themselves registered in the higher division last season. Only two other
teams in League One have an average attendance that stretches to five

They may remain in denial over what happened last season and during the
summer - the tickets for Saturday's match said Football League Championship, the
"Real League Table" printed in the matchday programme has Leeds top of League
One by some distance, and No15 in the squad is listed as "Football League" - but
the points penalty is unlikely to matter at the end of the season.
I certainly hope they are right!

The full article can be found under the headline "Leeds's baying Colosseum revels in ruthless mauling of the Lions"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My vote goes to Nick Clegg

So why am I backing Nick Clegg?
Well I suspect that this will be a two horse race with an extreme outside chance that it might just become a one horse race! I assumed that Steve Webb would also stand but he has now thrown his weight behind Nick Clegg.

Last time I gave my second preference to Chris Huhne and unlike previous leadership elections where there has always been one candidate (usually the winner) whom I would not give a preference to at all I would not have a problem if Chris was elected.

I don't believe that there are huge differences between the two likely candidates and I guess I reserve the right to change my mind if some really significant policy differences emerge.

For me the critical question is which of the two is more likely to be able to engage with and communicate to the electorate at large as opposed to just to friendly Liberal Democrat audiences? Who is most likely to speak in plain language? Who is most likely to understand the every day common issues which affect millions of people? Who is most likely to understand the issues which frustrate people and where we need to identify (and communicate) common sense (a particular bug bear of this blog at the moment) policies for the future.

Given that this is the critical issue for me there is only one answer - Nick Clegg.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Post Flooding Report - Phase 2 underway

The next phase of the restoration of our house has begun. However this is just another way of saying more demolition has taken place as the floors and skirting boards come out.

The good news is that there is relatively little damp under the floor and so with a bit of luck the final stage of drying out may be shorter than expected. It also looks as if they may have to remove less plaster than was originally estimated. More than half the floor cam out today and the rest goes tomorrow.

This picture shows the bomb site that is now our hallway

This was a bedroom believe it or not

And this was a bathroom!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The death of Common Sense

I was sent the following by friend and it precisely sums up the way I feel about modern life in the UK. Source unknown but this theme is one that The Liberal Democrats could do well to exploit. Most people know instinctively that the world has gone mad and common sense has been lost. We need to identify these issues and explain what we propose to do about it. That will be a great way to reconnect with the electorate

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.

No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
Why the early bird gets the worm;
Life isn't always fair;
and Maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6 -year- old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer Tylenol, sun lotion or a band-aid to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband; churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 3 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, Someone Else Is To Blame, and I'm A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More flooding related problems

More news on the flooding front as Gordon Brown attempts to persuade the electorate that he handled the flooding crisis well.

According to MSN "The Prime Minister has appealed to insurers to continue offering cover to people in high flood risk areas after the industry reacted angrily to flood defence spending.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) accused the Government of letting down millions of homeowners and businesses by failing to give enough money to help prevent floods.

It also warned that the shortfall in money announced in Tuesday's Comprehensive Spending Review could leave homeowners in areas at risk facing more trouble insuring their properties.
Before this summer's floods, the ABI had already called for the Government to spend £2.25 billion on flood defences during the coming three years.

But Chancellor Alistair Darling announced spending between 2008/2009 and 2010/2011 would total just £2.15 billion. The trade association said the announcement showed the Government had "completely failed to grasp the importance" of improving the country's flood defences in the wake of this summer's floods.

But speaking at Commons question time Gordon Brown insisted that differences with the industry over spending were "very small" and that the Government was doing everything it could to improve defences.

He also appealed to insurers not to deny cover to people at risk of flooding. He said: "I hope they will not take the step to deny people insurance."

Well Mr Brown I have a few messages to you with regard to flooding

1) It is almost certainly going to happen again and if your government has cut the money then don't complain when your government gets the blame

2) We have to stop building on flood plains at all costs - it is economic madness to continue

3) A lot of the flooding was not caused by flood plains from rivers it was caused by volume of water and high water tables. If we have a similar period of weather again the we are going to have similar problems. Money needs to be invested in drainage to ensure that water can be taken away to replenish reservoirs and that local drainage systems can be kept clear to handle high volumes of water. Money needs to be invested through local authorities and the farming community to ensure that this happens

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More lack of common sense

I missed this story which surfaced about a month ago. How old does the gentleman above look to you? 52? 62? Well actually he is 72 but clearly over 21

According to the BBC "Supermarket staff refused to sell alcohol to a white-haired 72-year-old man - because he would not confirm he was over 21. Check-out staff at Morrisons in West Kirby, Wirral, demanded Tony Ralls prove he was old enough to buy his two bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon. Mr Ralls asked to see the manager who put the wine back on the shelf. The grandfather-of-three said he had refused to confirm he was over 21 as it was a "stupid question."

Mr Ralls, a retired insurance firm regional manager, said he expected the store manager to resolve the situation but he was disappointed. "I felt like saying 'What do I look like? Are you a fool?' "He picks up the wine and, in the manner of a child taking home his ball, says 'Well, we won't serve you'."

The pensioner abandoned his shopping on the conveyor belt and left the store - but not before demanding a complaints form and phone number for Morrisons' headquarters.

I realise that retailers have to be careful but somewhere along the line surely there should be an element of common sense in deciding whose age needs to be checked.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ming quits

According to Sky News Ming has quit as party leader. The announcement was made by Simon Hughes and Vince Cable. Vince takes over as acting leader pending the election of a new leader.

Good news indeed. Ming was always a great foreign affairs spokesman but never made his mark as leader. Let us hope that we can now elect a leader capable of connecting with the electorate without references to things such as the "motor car"!

Top half and unbeaten

11 Games into the season and we are sitting in 12th place in the top half of the table and unbeaten so far. We are a mere 4 points off the playoff places and 6 points away from the automatic promotion spots. I have to say having seen the highlights of the 1-1 draw with Orient we are very lucky to be on 14 points although we missed a penalty they should certainly have won the game with a disallowed goal which clearly crossed the line. perhaps our luck has changed at last