Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Commons sends a strong message to the EU, "give us our money back"

Minutes before the result of tonight's EU budget vote was announced, Westminster — and Twitter, natch — was abuzz with all sorts of contradictory rumours. No.10 was saying that the rebels had won it; the rebels were suggesting that they'd just missed out. Who was playing whom?

But, in the end, the confusion may well have been due to the closeness of the result. The government was indeed defeated, but by only 13 votes. Here's how it broke down:

Ayes in favour of the Reckless amendment: 307

Nos: 294

What does this change? In terms of the specific matter at hand, the EU Budget negotiations, it's hard to tell. The government says, for now, that it will continue to negotiate for a real-terms freeze when the Eurosummit convenes next month — although don't be suprised if ministers suggest more frequently, as David Cameron did in PMQs earlier, that what they really, really want is a cut, but that, sadly, is undeliverable, etc.

But tonight's vote could well have wider rammifications. Even though the number of Tory rebels looks to be lower than for last year's Tory rebellion — perhaps around the 50 mark — it is still far from ideal for David Cameron to have the word DEFEAT splattered across tomorrow's papers. Questions will be asked about his grip over his party. Questions will be asked about the new whipping operation under Sir George Young. Questions will be asked about the Tory Party and Europe.

But more signficant than all of that is what Mr Cameron actually manages to return with from Brussels. At the moment, it looks as though he'll struggle to secure even a freeze. But, as I suggested yesterday, an extended negotiating period could strengthen the power of any threatened veto, as Europe quivers at the prospect of no agreement being reached.

There's no point making predictions, though. There are countless participants in this grim comedy, from Tory backbenchers to the governments of Eastern Europe — and that means uncertainty all the way.

Parent company of London Black Cab maker placed in administration

Today Pricewaterhousecoopers (PWC) confirmed that Manganese Bronze, parent of Taxi manufacturer London Taxis International had been placed in administration.

A statement was issued earlier today advising of the sad news:
‘Manganese Bronze Holdings PLC (the “Company”), the manufacturer of the world famous London taxi, announces that Matthew Hammond, Tony Barrell, Ian Green and Mike Jervis, all of PwC, were today appointed joint administrators (the “Administrators”) of Manganese Bronze Holdings PLC, LTI Limited, Manganese Bronze Services Limited and Manganese Bronze Property Services Limited (together the “Group”).’

The Administrators’ immediate priority is to secure funding to resolve the steering box recall announced on 12 October 2012. The Administrators are reviewing the Group’s current financial position to develop a range of options to rescue the business or alternatively dispose of its assets to an investor that can secure the future of the London taxi. The Administrators have immediately commenced discussions with a number of interested parties from the UK and overseas and ask any further interested parties to contact them as a matter of urgency.

As a result of the appointment of the Administrators to the Group, Grant Thornton UK LLP and MC Peat & Co have today resigned from their respective roles as Nominated Adviser and Broker to the Company with immediate effect. Pursuant to AIM Rule 1, if a replacement Nominated Adviser is not appointed within one month, the London Stock Exchange may cancel the admission of the Company’s securities from trading on AIM.

Accordingly the potential cancellation time and date is 7.00am on 3 December 2012.
The plain facts of the situation are that with immediate effect 156 members of staff will be facing redundancy – 99 jobs from the Coventry factory, and 57 staff members across the six regional dealerships. However unconfirmed rumours suggest that staff are not taking this decision lightly – Taxi blog claimed this evening that:
‘Workers at the troubled Coventry-based maker of London black cabs are believed to have locked themselves inside their factory after being told of job losses. Manganese Bronze had to call in administrator PWC after failing to gain new funding.’

Unite expressed ‘outrage’ that 156 workers were to be made redundant and called on the Government to step in to save the manufacturer of the famous vehicle.

National officer Roger Maddison said: ‘Only last night PWC were telling us there were significant interested parties. Now the administrators are ruthlessly sacking over 150 highly-skilled workers.

‘The black cabs are world-famous and we believe this company has a future. How can PWC treat this company as a going concern with virtually no staff?
‘The black cab is part of Britain ’s car manufacturing heritage. The Government must now be on standby to save this historic company from being left to the vultures.”’
AROnline cannot confirm this news at present, but rest assured we will give you the latest news on this potential situation as it happens.

New council homes planned 'for middle-class professionals'

The three boroughs of Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham are proposing to borrow against their “extremely valuable” housing assets to build the homes.
Today they will submit their plan for a pilot scheme of 300 homes on a new “middle-class” estate to the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles.

The councils say many working families on average incomes struggle to afford homes in central London, where a typical family home costs £1 million.
Officials from Mr Pickles’s department are believed to have worked with the councils on their plans.
The councils’ business case states: “Home-ownership is increasingly unaffordable except to households on very high incomes, and families on middle and lower incomes are being driven away from the area.”
The families living in the heart of London are either very wealthy — in second homes or properties that are larger than they need — or very poor, in social housing and often out of work.
Jonathan Glanz, Westminster city council’s cabinet member for housing and property, said the plan aimed to give hard-working people on average salaries “at least some chance” of living in central London. “At present they are simply priced out,” he said. “We need to continue ensuring that we provide for a wide range of people and maintain mixed communities, including middle-class people on middle-range salaries.”

Ministers have given councils more power to manage housing assets. However, the three London boroughs say they need further flexibility to deliver their plan. They want the freedom to borrow more money against the £2.4 billion value of their stock of 4,000 houses, and to charge higher rents to the middle-class families who move into the new homes.

The proposal, which would cost £53 million, would create a surplus from rents of £500,000 a year for the first 10 years. The councils also believe that the project will generate 700 jobs in the construction industry and create a culture of “ambition” among residents to move up the housing ladder and progress in their careers.

Gove unveils new 'real life' maths curriculum for sixth formers to encourage pupils to study subject

Pupils will be encouraged to keep studying maths until 18 with a new course which teaches them to tackle ‘real life’ problems.

Education Secretary Michael Gove today announced funds to create a curriculum aimed at sixth-formers who abandon maths after their GCSEs.

Youngsters would study the maths behind real-world scenarios such as the cost-effectiveness of washing machine insurance, the trustworthiness of opinion polls and the odds of lotteries being fixed.

Michael Gove today announced funds to create a curriculum aimed at sixth-formers who abandon maths after their GCSEs
Strategy: Michael Gove today announced funds to create a curriculum aimed at sixth-formers who abandon maths after their GCSEs
They would learn to interpret graphs, manipulate spreadsheets, estimate quantities and calculate probability and risk. The initiative is aimed at improving England’s dismal record at teaching pupils maths beyond the age of 16. Just 15 per cent of pupils carry on with the subject beyond compulsory education - among the worst study rates in the developed world.

The new course is part of a drive by Mr Gove to encourage the ‘vast majority’ of pupils to take maths until the age of 18 within a decade. He has already announced plans to make it compulsory for youngsters who fall short of C grades in GCSE maths to carry on studying the subject beyond 16. These youngsters will continue working towards GCSEs or pursue an alternative qualification.

The new curriculum - which would be optional - will be aimed at pupils with at least a C in GCSE maths who do not plan to progress to maths A-level. It aims to produce a generation of mathematically-educated citizens with reasoning and problem-solving skills that could be used in the workplace or for studying degree courses not directly related to science or maths.

Those considering taking a subject with heavy maths content at university would be expected to continue with A-levels. The initiative began with a blog published by internationally-renowned mathematician Professor Timothy Gowers.
The Cambridge University academic wrote a blueprint for a curriculum for teaching maths to sixth-formers through real-world problems.
The idea is being championed and turned into reality by the charity Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI), which will be granted funding of £275,000 from Mr Gove.

If the course proves successful after development and trials, it could be offered across the country from 2015.
To improve record: The initiative is aimed at improving England's dismal record at teaching pupils maths - just 15 per cent of pupils carry on with the subject beyond compulsory education
To improve record: The initiative is aimed at improving England's dismal record at teaching pupils maths - just 15 per cent of pupils carry on with the subject beyond compulsory education
Welcoming the initiative, Mr Gove said: ‘Professor Tim Gowers’s brilliant blog has sparked huge interest in how we could radically improve maths teaching.
‘I am delighted that MEI is trying to develop the Gowers blog into a real course that could help thousands of students understand the power of mathematical reasoning and problem-solving skills.’
While the course will require pupils to study ‘difficult’ mathematical and statistical content, the key focus will be tackling real-life posers.

Charlie Stripp, chief executive of MEI, said: ‘This is a new type of maths course that will start from interesting, difficult realistic problems, that students can see the point of solving, and show them how maths can help solve them.

‘Many students are turned off maths because they can’t see the point of learning maths techniques to answer textbook questions that seem irrelevant to real life.
‘We hope this course will motivate many more young people to take maths post-16, instead of dropping it after their GCSEs, only to regret it later when they realise they lack the skills they need.’

Government on track to save £8bn this year

Interim results show that government departments have saved £3.1 billion so far this financial year and are expected to save more than £8 billion by the year end.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said: “Our fundamental programme of reform is changing the way Whitehall operates and driving efficiency savings to make every taxpayer pound count.

“Thanks to the hard work of hundreds of civil servants in the Efficiency and Reform Group and beyond we have helped departments save £3.1 billion so far this financial year, putting us on track to save £8 billion by year end.

“We have said we want to be saving £20 billion a year by 2015 and savings of this magnitude cannot come by trimming budgets here and there. That’s why we are working to transform Whitehall into a leaner, more efficient machine that manages its finances like the best-run businesses.

“We are taking the tough decisions required to ensure that Britain can compete in a global race. We cannot go back to the old days of waste and profligacy.”

The interim departmental results of £3.1 billion announced today build on the £5.5 billion of savings in 2011/12 and the £3.75 billion saved during 2010/11. They include:

  • £680 million through the moratorium on consultancy and contingent labour spend and on extending existing consultancy contracts;
  • £170 million from reductions in the in-year cost of the government’s property estate, by exiting unnecessary properties, and questioning each and every lease break before they get extended;
  • £295 million by using government’s bulk-buying power and pooling spend on goods and services used by different departments; and
  • £900 million from salary cost, achieved by reducing the size of the Civil Service through stronger controls on non-essential recruitment.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

In the global race to succeed, Britain is picking up speed

David Cameron recently talked about being in a “global race”. Today’s Prosperity Index, newly published by the Legatum Institute, suggests that the UK is performing better than some may have suspected. Nathan Gamester is the Programme Director for the Prosperity Index at the Legatum Institute. The Prosperity Index can be found at Follow Nathan on Twitter.

During his conference speech earlier this month David Cameron focused his remarks around the idea that we are now in a global race. This, the Prime Minister said, means we face “an hour of reckoning” where our choices are to “sink or swim. Do or decline.”

The global race is very much on and, what’s more, the number of competitors is increasing. Advances in mobile technology across sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries mean that doing business around the world has never been easier.

If we really are in a global race, how are we doing? Are we falling behind our fellow competitors or surging ahead? Last week’s GDP growth figures may not have proven that we are up to full speed but they do suggest that something is working.

The growth figures are positive, but they don’t tell the whole story. The Legatum Prosperity Index™ is an assessment of what makes a country truly successful, encompassing traditional measures of material wealth as well as capturing citizens’ sense of wellbeing. Covering 96% of the world’s population and 99% of global GDP, the Index provides a more complete picture of global prosperity than any other tool of its kind.

The 2012 Index – released today – reveals that prosperity is on the rise in the UK. Overall, the UK has climbed one place in the rankings since last year and places 13th in 2012.[1] The UK also performs well in the Governance and Safety & Security sub-categories (ranking seventh and 20th, respectively).
So how does the UK stack up against the rest of the world? The UK outperforms America in a number of key areas including Entrepreneurship & Opportunity where the UK places sixth (compared to 12th for the US) and Governance where the UK ranks seventh (compared to 10th for the US). What’s more, with the US dropping to 12th position in the overall rankings, the UK is only one place behind and could even overtake the US by 2014 if current trends continue.

Within Europe, the UK is ahead of both Germany and France in overall levels of prosperity. However, Germany outperforms the UK on the Economy sub-category (6th compared to 26th, globally). Perhaps unsurprisingly, Scandinavian countries perform very well in the Index with Norway, Denmark, and Sweden ranking first, second, and third, respectively.

Although the UK performs well on measures of governance (7th globally), there has been a decline in levels of government approval over the last year. This has fallen to 50% (from 57% in 2011). However, this is still not as low as it was in 2009 when government approval stood at less than 40%.

China ranks 55th overall, due in part to poor scores in the Personal Freedom and Safety & Security sub-categories. China does, however, outperform the UK in the Economy sub-index, ranking 11th overall compared to the UK’s 26th.

Many countries in the Index rank similarly on GDP levels, but other factors such as Education, Health and Personal Freedom can highlight significant variation, demonstrating that national success is based on much more than material wealth.

The idea that GDP is an incomplete measure of national success has been argued by political leaders as different as Nicolas Sarkozy, Robert F Kennedy, the King of Bhutan and, of course, David Cameron himself.

David Cameron is right to say we are in a global race. We are at a time of flux, with many of the world’s nations in transition and looking for new ways to address social, political and economic issues. Today’s findings from the 2012 Prosperity Index combined with the recent GDP growth figures suggest that the UK is starting to pick up speed.

[1] Due to new countries being added to the Index, it may appear that the UK has not improved its ranking since last year (also 13th). However, if we consider only the 110 countries from last year’s Index, the UK would rank 12th this year – an improvement of one place.

Labour Police and Crime Commissioner candidates should come clean on UNISON funding

The Police Federation as the trade union for police officers. A pretty appalling outfit it is too. However for the Police Community Support Officers, and many police support staff, the union they tend to join is UNISON. They are the second largest donor to the Labour Party handing over £2 million a year. In return they have a big say in the selection of Party candidates - for instance for Police and Crime Commissioners.

UNISON are certainly throwing their weight around. The Labour candidate for Gwent has pledged to them to reinstate some Custody Detention Officers.

The "Annual Report" of UNISON's "Fighting Privatisation in Police and Justice" campaign says:

"Our ‘Stop Police Privatisation’ campaign continues and it is gathering support. We need to ensure that UNISON-backed police and crime commissioner candidates are fully supportive of this campaign and that they are signed up to UNISON’s agenda for police and justice."

Who are these UNISON backed candidates? How much money has each of them had? The Electoral Commission merely say that UNISON donations to the Labour Party nationally will be recorded. We are not told - and will never be told by the Commission - which Labour candidates are getting money.

Rachel Rogers in Dorset tweets that she hasn't had any.

Jane Basham, Labour's Suffolk candidate for the police and crime commissioner seems to be backed by UNISON as does Merseyside candidate Jane Kennedy who has declared: "UNISON, we can assure you we stand united against police privatisation."

Lord Prescott has denied taking the UNISON shilling. What of Shaun Wright in South Yorkshire and Mark Burns-Williamson in West Yorkshire. A spokesman for those two said: “All donations made to the Labour Party are declared to the Electoral Commission in compliance with the law.” Why not just answer the question if they are not ashamed of the answer?

The conflict of interest was summarised by Sam Chapman of the Top of the Cops blog.

He says:

It doesn’t feel right – you’re going to have to make decisions about staff whose representatives have given you money. You might have to decide, for example, about the balance of PCSOs versus police in your force, with the PCSOs in a union which has funded you and the police officers in the [Police] Federation, which hasn’t.

This is not to say that Police and Crime Commissioners should not have regard for the views of the Police Federation, UNISON and everyone else. For instance UNISON have called on PCSOs to have more power. I'm sure that in doing so they represent the views of the PCSOs and also the interests of law abiding members of the public. One of the most pathetic things I have ever heard at a Council scrutiny committee meeting was that PCSOs are instructed not even to use the power of citizen's arrest which we all have.

Usually the emotive reference to opposing police privatisation really means opposing reforms that would mean greater using for the private sector in back office functions to provide savings and release more money for front line policing.

These issues should be decided on merit. The problem is if a PCC has already been bought and paid for by UNISON.

Monday, 29 October 2012

George Osborne's 3p rise in duty 'will squeeze households for years'

George Osborne's planned 3p increase in petrol duty will strain household finances for another three years and cause more pain than it raises in tax, campaigners warned today.

Petrol price campaigners will present the Treasury with an analysis by economists on Monday showing a 3p rise in duty would cost the economy at least £1 billion - substantially more than the £800 million in tax it would bring in.

Robert Halfon, the MP for Harlow and petrol campaigner, believes the rise due for January next year will cost families £60 a year in petrol costs alone.

But it will also inflict wider, damaging effects on the whole economy, according to the new report from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR).

The NIESR economists found there would be a drop in household spending, leading to lower national income and around 35,000 job losses.

The cost to the economy could reach as much as £2 billion and cause 50,000 job losses, if the additional pressure on inflation causes the Bank of England to raise interest rates.

“The negative impact on growth is expected to persist into 2015, with a full recovery not anticipated for six years,” the report said.

"Any increase in fuel duty raises prices, and therefore causes a fall in households’ real spending power and reduces consumer spending. Lower consumer spending means that firms sell less, leading to bankruptcy and job losses, and putting further pressure on household income."

Quentin Willson, the motoring expert and spokesman for FairFuelUK, said fuel duty should be a “lever for growth” rather than the Treasury's “sacred cash cow”.

“We've proved our argument with robust financial research and modelling that shows if you raise duty you destroy jobs and damage growth,” he said.

Mr Halfon, who successfully campaigned for fuel duty rises to be deferred in the past, said the latest plan to increase tax for motorists does not make sense.

“Our economy has turned the corner, and it is now growing again," he said. "The last thing that we need is to crush that recovery with a £60-a-head tax on petrol and diesel.

Sources said the meeting at the Treasury between officials and fuel campaigners is “routine”.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Motoring Journo's love the new Range Rover

The journalists are back from Morocco having sampled the fourth generation Range Rover on some of the world’s most demanding roads for the first time. The question is whether the new car, which has consumed hundreds of millions in development resources is the leap forward over the outgoing L322 – itself hardly shabby – that Land Rover says it is. Let’s see what the major UK magazines had to say about it…
What Car?

You never quite forget that you’re driving a two-tonne, top-heavy SUV but the Range Rover is remarkably agile. It feels precise and confidence-inspiring at all speeds and on all surfaces – even sand and rocks. Best of all, it rides with a suppleness that eludes most luxury saloons, let alone other SUVs. It’ll get you further into the wilderness than most other SUVs, too.
Elegant simplicity is what the Range Rover’s cabin is all about. The excellent driving position means it’s incredibly comfortable, and you’ll also enjoy the traditional Range Rover visibility; you can see all four corners of the car from the driver’s seat. Most of the major functions are controlled by easy-to-use knobs, the dials are clear and the touch-screen infotainment system is intuitive and simple to understand.
I summary, it’s brilliant on- and off road and reasonably efficient if you buy a V6 diesel. Truly a rival for the best luxury saloons, and has a prodigious ability to climb mountains and cross deserts. It’s expensive to buy and will be painfully expensive to run if you go for one of the V8s.

The new Range Rover SDV8 is no bargain — the cheapest in the range is £70,000-plus — but this new model is better in every respect, and its margins of improvement are instantly obvious, even over a machine as good as the outgoing L322 Range Rover.
Our settled opinion must await a direct comparison, but we reckon it’s overwhelmingly likely this 2013 Range Rover sets a new SUV standard for the world. JLR certainly thinks so: brand boss John Edwards expects annual sales to eclipse the previous best (32,000 units in 2007) by posting ‘a figure with a four in front’ in the first full year, and it might even do better than that.
Auto Express

An automotive icon improved. The new Range Rover does the luxury thing better than many more expensive luxury cars, with off-road ability that’s the best bar none. It’s not quite perfect – access and space in the back isn’t fantastic and we’re not fans of the touchscreen infotainment system. But it gets closer to perfect than anything else at the money and is a fantastic engineering and styling achievement.

It’s very different to drive than the previous model is the short answer. The chief difference is in the steering, which feels much more direct than before, thanks to an all-new electrically powered steering rack and revised front suspension design. The sweetest steering version of all is the TDV6, thanks to it having the lightest engine (the 254bhp TDV6 is 200kg lighter overall than the new SDV8).
This makes a bigger difference than you might expect because both the ride and engine refinement seem to be better on the smaller engined model too, even though Land Rover says spring rates and damping are very similar across the model range.
While the TDV6 offers more than adequate performance (0-60mph 7.4sec, 130mph top speed), there’s a significant jump in perceived power when you get behind the wheel of the SDV8 that’s most noticeable when overtaking. Once up to motorway speeds though, there’s little to choose between the two diesel models in terms of quietness, with the bigger diesel turning over at a mere 1400rpm at 70mph.
It’s expensive when you compare it to the outgoing model. Ignoring the £71,295 TDV6 entry model, like-for-like pricing on the V8 diesel model has increased by close to £15-20,000 compared to its predecessor. Land Rover says the average price of the new Range Rovers it already has in its order bank is close to £94,000, and on the supercharged Autobiography models it’s running at close to £120,000.

Land Rover has created the ultimate luxury car that just happens to be rather good off-road as well as cossetting its fortunate owners. It’s taken a big leap forward dynamically, and built on the already world-class interior, to become what should be the best all-rounder in the world, even if the top-priced models are now £100,000-plus without breaking a sweat. We can’t wait to try on in a more representative test in the UK.
Currently, Land Rover can do no wrong, and it will be interesting to see if the L405 maintains the company’s momentum in the coming years – all the signs are that it will, and that the growing eastern markets that seem to have an insatiable appetite for this kind of car will find it an irresistible proposition.

Grayling opens door to human rights reform becoming key plank of the Conservatives' General Election campaign

Chris Grayling, the new Justice Secretary, has just been on Andrew Marr's show to reject Labour's call for an independent judicial inquiry into the Jimmy Savile affair but, more significantly, to point towards what he clearly intends to be a central issue at the next General Election - reform of human rights laws.

Mr Grayling said that he was determined to use the next two years to come forward with a "clear plan" that would correct the way that European judges were currently expanding the original understanding of human rights laws to give terrorists, for example, the right to avoid deportation. He said that there would be proposals in the next Tory manifesto to protect all basic human rights but there would also be proposals to stop the expansive interpretation of those rights by activist judges. He refused to say what form these proposals would take but diplomatically promised to build on the work that his predecessor, Ken Clarke, had already done.

Reform of human rights laws would, Grayling hopes, be one of the "EU veto-style moments" that he has previously suggested must pave the way to a Tory recovery in the polls.

Grayling has a reputation has a hardliner and his party conference commitment to increase the rights of householders to defend themselves against intruders will reinforce that reputation. On Marr he vowed again to ensure that courts should be on the side of the householder when any householder lashes out against burglars to protect themselves. Mr Grayling is more than the media caricature, however. Although his appointment is vital in rebuilding Tory law and order credentials - so battered during Clarke's time and his constant battles with Britain's best-selling tabloids - he also has a strong commitment to social justice and social reform. When he held the home affairs brief in opposition he invested much intellectual energy in thinking about prisoner rehabilitation. He brings his more recent experience of the Work Programme and its emphasis on payment-by-results to his new brief. His slogan - more people going to jail and fewer people going back - perfectly combines Michael Howard's belief in incarceration and every humanitarian's belief that most offenders deserve a chance to start again and rebuild their lives.

Thatcher seen as most competent of living Prime Ministers and Brixton's John Major as least out of touch

The latest YouGov poll for The Sunday Times not only suggests that Labour's lead may be narrowing it also asked questions about all five living PMs. It found that Margaret Thatcher was seen as the most competent and Gordon Brown as the most incompetent. Tony Blair was seen as the most in touch and John Major as the least out of touch. The results are summarised in the table below - please follow the colours ---

It's hard to judge Cameron at this stage of his time at Number 10. If the economy recovers over the next few years and he embeds the Gove and IDS reforms his numbers will improve substantially.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Italian Job tops the polls

The 1969 hit The Italian Job has taken the top spot a poll held for the Classic Film Festival that takes place at this year’s Footman James Classic Motor Show held in Birmingham on 16-18 November. More than 1700 fans voted for the popular British film, with Bullitt finishing a strong second.

Film fans votes in the folowing categories – favourite classic motoring movie; favourite classic car in the movies, favourite classic bike in the movies, favourite classic car chase, favourite classic in television and the classic they would most like to see on the big screen.

The Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger and Mini-Coopers in the Italian Job were voted favourite classic cars in the movies with the Triumph in The Great Escape and the Harley Davidson in Easy Rider voted favourite classic motorbikes in the movies. The Mini chase in The Italian Job and the Dodge Charger chase in Bullitt were voted first and second in the favourite car or bike chase category.

The Jaguar Mk2 in Inspector Morse and the Audi quattro in Ashes to Ashes were the favourite classic vehicles on television, while the E-type Jaguar and Mini-Cooper were the most popular requests for classics to star on screen. The competition poll forms part of the ‘Classic Film Festival’ which is being run by Footman James, specialist vehicle insurance broker and the Footman James Classic Motor Show.
A selection of the top films in each category will be shown as a Classic Film Festival series at Birmingham’s Electric Cinema, the oldest working cinema in the UK, in the weeks leading up to the Show in addition to being screened in the Footman James’ Vintage Cinema at the November Show.

A sad farewell to the Goebbels of the Gorbals

Nothing else in this world or the next could bring these two together, other perhaps than history’s most esoteric fancy dress party, but tonight Alastair Campbell and the late Mary Whitehouse will be united in a synchronised sigh of relief when the final episode of The Thick of It concludes on BBC2.

While one will be thrilled to see the back of his satirical alter ego Malcolm Tucker, the other will thank the Lord at whose right hand she surely sits for the demise of the sweariest show yet transmitted. The only programme ever to feature the title “Swearing Consultant” in its closing credits, Armando Iannucci’s brutal dissection of modern ministerial life will be fondly remembered for more than its inspired use of obscenity. It charted the fetid and fiascoid underbelly of government with as acute an ear and sharp an eye as its spiritual dam Yes Minister in the Eighties. What changed in the years between the elegantly cunning Sir Humphrey Appleby and the inventively profane Tucker, played with ineffable brilliance by Peter Capaldi, had nothing to do with the nature of politicians. In both, the ministers were barely distinguishable archetypes of spineless incompetence, dragged along like jellyfish by the undercurrents of Westminster life. What changed, after the advent of New Labour in 1997, was the power structure of Whitehall.
In Yes Minister, Jim Hacker’s special adviser was an irrelevant bit-part player, outwitted and sidelined with ease by the omnipotent Sir Humphrey. By the time The Thick of It arrived as an instant cult classic in 2005, the Rolls-Royce Civil Service in which he was the Phantom VI had been downgraded to a Ford Cortina by the rise of the Campbellian superpropagandist.

The distinction went deeper than any contrast in linguistic styles, plain enough though that was: where Sir Humphrey would answer a knock with a genteel “Enter, dear lady”, Tucker’s most memorable response of the kind was: “Come the f--- in, or f--- the f--- off.” But along with this progression from the mannered verbosity of the Oxbridge high table to the testosterone-fuelled diatribes of the Premier League dressing room, Iannucci noticed a more sinister development. It was hardly an opaque one, but he was the first to crystallise, for a satire-starved TV audience, that the true art of government was no longer governing, but appearing to govern. The medium had become the message, as Marshall McLuhan foresaw, and manipulating the media into parroting the party line the paramount concern.

The pen is not mightier than the sword, which is why insurgents so seldom prosecute revolutions with the Biro. But satire, which ever since the Aristophanic balloon-phallus has always tended toward the engagingly vulgar, can certainly wound. One of the many gratifying things about The Thick of It was Mr Campbell’s resentment, however hard he tried to disguise it in the transparent cloak of weary aloofness, at being unveiled as a comic grotesque – a psychotic tribal-loyalist clown trying to convince himself that he was driven by noble intentions rather than what he once knew (though not of himself) as psychological flaws.

In the usual way of those particularly adept at dishing it out, he did not like it up him. A few months ago, he couldn’t contain the rancour, and challenged Iannucci on the latter’s home pitch of wit when he accepted a birthday honour from the Queen. “So
@AIannucci OBE joins the Establishment he claims to deride,” he tweeted. “It’s probably more Establishment to order your army to march into other countries for no reason,” replied Iannucci. “Swings and roundabouts.” Magnificently, though the war was already lost, Ali ploughed on towards the valley of death with: “Three little letters can have more impact than you realise.” To which Iannuci’s reply was the lethally laconic: “WMD.”

The series ends with a nod to Campbell’s blackest hour, with a judge-led, Chilcot-style public inquiry (one the alarmingly thin-skinned Lord Leveson has mistaken for a personal affront) investigating the death of a man driven to suicide by a government leak. But as satire so often does (the first instalment of House of Cards, which began with Mrs Thatcher replaced by a weak and anodyne successor, went out a few days before she resigned), The Thick of It pre-empted more than it echoed. A few weeks before George Osborne’s misadventure of last Friday en route to London from Cheshire, for example, an episode featured Opposition leader Nicola Murray mired in a resignation-forcing debacle aboard a train.

If the show lost some of its bite with the arrival of the Coalition, a more omnishambolic but infinitely less malevolent administration than Blairite New Labour, it translated such internecine banalities as the turf war between Steve Hilton’s jargonistic utopianism and the earthier, tabloid-driven approach of Andy Coulson with real skill.

A show that might have been misrouted by the loss of its initial star, Chris Langham, to a conviction for paedophilia ends with the country obsessing about Jimmy Savile, and perhaps the symmetry hints that it is bowing out at the right time. But it never failed to perform the primary functions of political satire – to illuminate for comic effect why the public timelessly holds the political classes in contempt, and to prick the monstrous self-importance of such pustulent boils on the bum of the body politic as Alastair Campbell. It will be sorely missed by a small but loyal audience, and exceedingly hard to replace. Or as Malcolm Tucker, aka the Goebbels of the Gorbals, might prefer it, “If parting is such sweet sorrow… f--- off.”

Heseltine seeks to scrap dozens of councils

Dozens of district councils should be scrapped to streamline local government and promote economic growth, a government review will say next week.

The review by Lord Heseltine will also recommend the creation of “conurbation mayors” to represent the largest urban areas at a national level.
Lord Heseltine, a former Tory deputy prime minister, will also advise ministers to disperse the Civil Service throughout the country, sending more officials from London to regional offices.

The Heseltine Review was commissioned by George Osborne in the March Budget and its recommendations are part of a range of measures drawn up by the Government to promote economic growth.

Although figures this week showed that Britain was out of recession, economists said that underlying growth was weak and a slide back into a “triple dip” downturn could not be ruled out.
Much of the Heseltine review is said to focus on reforms to local government and parts of the public sector that would make the State better at promoting private-sector growth and job creation.

Many parts of the country have a two-tier system of local government. In total, there are 27 English county council areas, split into 201 districts. A piecemeal series of reforms in recent years has created about 56 “unitary” authorities, doing away with district councils.

Although controversial in some areas, Lord Heseltine is said to recommend that the unitary structure become the norm for England, as it is in Scotland and Wales.

While in opposition, David Cameron described Labour moves to create more unitary authorities as a waste of time that would create unnecessary tensions between councils.

Among his other recommendations, Lord Heseltine is expected to call for the budgets of Whitehall departments to be reformed, with money taken from each ministry and put into a central fund that would be used to back growth schemes.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Eighty couples to celebrate their Diamond Wedding in Jubilee Year

Over eighty East Sussex couples celebrating their Diamond Wedding Anniversary in this Diamond Jubilee year will attend a celebratory event at the Winter Garden, Eastbourne on Tuesday 30 October 2012.

Organised by East Sussex County Council's Registration Service, this unique event (2pm – 4.30pm), will be attended by the Lord Lieutenant Peter Field, High Sheriff David Allam, Mayor of Eastbourne Mike Thompson, County Council Vice-Chairman Meg Stroude and County Council Chief Executive Becky Shaw.

2012 is also the 175th Anniversary of Civil Registration and representatives from the General Register Office will join the celebration for afternoon tea with music from a quartet playing jazz standards from the 1950s. Vintage crockery provided by SEApink Vintage China Hire will add to the 1950s atmosphere.

Councillor Tony Freebody, lead member for community services, said: “This is going to be a wonderful event for everyone attending. Anniversary couples have sent in photographs of their wedding day and these will be displayed at the event. We plan to present the display to The Keep, our new historical resource centre that is due to open in 2013, together with photographs from the event as a record of this special celebration.”

Labour's u-turn on Boris Bikes

Next year sees an important expansion of Boris Bikes in the capital. Docking Stations for them will appear across Wandsworth, and in my borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. There will also be more of them in Lambeth and in Kensington and Chelsea.

My borough has already had an early start with some Boris Bikes available near Westfield in Shepherd's Bush. But next year they will become a familiar site on the streets across Hammersmith and Fulham. From May there will 60-70 docking stations in our borough each with spaces for a minimum of 25 bicycles.

This is fantastic news for cyclists - who will find it easier to get around, save money, and keep fit. But it is also good news for everyone else. It means less pollution and an easing of traffic congestion and crowding on the buses and tubes.

This is a transport scheme that will be available 24/7 for residents and other people within our borough. It is also an affordable way to travel with annual membership costing just 12p a day. That is important when people are considering whether to take a low paid job, given the cost of commuting.
Nearly half (47 per cent) of Barclays Cycle Hire members have reported in customer surveys that they started cycling in London as a result of the scheme’s introduction.

Setting it up in new boroughs will cost money. It is not just a few bikes and bike racks. I have visited the operations centre in Islington and have seen how sophisticated the technology is. However, the bill in Hammersith and Fulham is not being picked up by the Council Taxpayer. Westfield has paid for the initial racks. There will also be £2 million from property developers via the "Section 106" payments. Also, of course, there is the £50 million of sponsorship London-wide from Barclays.

The popularity and benefits of the scheme mean that generally the Labour Party is not so foolish as to try and obstruct it. Lambeth Council is run by Labour but is mustard keen and regard chipping in some of their Section 106 money as thoroughly worthwhile.

Labour-run Merton Council voted last month to negotiate for Boris Bikes to be extended to their borough.

Under the Phase Two expansion to Tower Hamlets the council, a notorious favourite of Ken Livingstone, was pragmatic enough to contribute £2 million to get the infrastructure in place.
Cllr Shahed Ali, a Labour councillor and Lead Member for the Environment, Tower Hamlets Council, said:

“Barclays Cycle Hire has already proved immensely popular in Tower Hamlets, with close to 45,000 trips starting or ending in the borough during January alone. The additional docking stations represent a significant investment in the borough from Tower Hamlets Council. The scheme will make cycling even easier and more accessible to residents and help improve the transport links across the borough.
Yet in my borough the Labour councillors tabled a motion, at our council meeting on Wednesday evening, which calls on "all possible measures to block" the expansion of "the Conservative London Mayor’s pet project.” In a blog the Labour Group leader Cllr Stephen Cowan says the Council's backing for the scheme "stinks." Cllr Cowan added that the council should not have "anything to do with the recently discredited Barclays Bank" whose £50 million London-wide sponsorship has been crucial.

Incidentally, a year ago the Labour councillors had voted in favour of extending the Boris Bikes to our borough.

In their bout of oppositionitis the Labour councillors have shown they are out of touch with residents. Even before this expansion takes place, there are over 4,300 registered users of the Boris Bikes scheme, as of September 23, in Hammersmith and Fulham. That is astonishing given that apart from near Westfield, the scheme doesn't operate in the borough. There are sure to be many more users by this time next year.

Boris Johnson says:

"It is unfortunate that Labour councillors are seeking, for purely political means, to halt the expansion of cycle hire to Hammersmith and Fulham. London now has the world's best Cycle Hire scheme, and residents of H&F deserve to participate in this."
Cllr Lisa Homan, one of the Labour councillors who spoke on Wednesday evening and a London Assembly candidate, complained that "many of those who use the Boris Bikes do so for fun". An astonishing objection, revealing a drab Socialist mindset.

Cllr Homan stood for the South West London constituency in the London Assembly which includes Labour-run Hounslow. Does that council agree with Cllr Homan? I predict that once the Docking Stations appear along King Street next year the call will go up for some along Chiswick High Road across the borough boundary. Will Hounslow Council seek to take part in the interests of their residents? Or will political prejudice prevail with a refusal to be involved in the Mayor's "pet project"?

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Right to buy is back on

COMMUNITIES Secretary Eric Pickles today blasts Labour for “blocking” right to buy schemes — and vows to make it easier for families to own their council houses.

Writing in The Sun, he pledges to revive Margaret Thatcher’s 1980s crusade for tenants to own their properties.

He claims Labour town halls are failing to tell tenants they can get a discount of up to £75,000.

Many offer little or no information on websites and fail to provide guides.
When residents in Labour leader Ed Miliband’s Doncaster constituency click to access the council’s right to buy webpage they are told it “no longer exists.”

Nearby Wakefield Council — in shadow chancellor Ed Balls’ constituency — does not mention right to buy on its housing page or in its guide to services.

Mr Pickles says: “Labour are actively blocking, playing politics and keeping people in the dark about their rights.”
Wakefield Council said its houses had been transferred to a not-for-profit organisation which administers right to buy.

Doncaster said its website was being redesigned.

Shame on Labour, I grew up on a Council estate and I recall seeing the optimism and aspiration amongst a number of families as they did something many never thought they'd be able to do. Margaret Thatcher did more for so many in this respect than many will ever give her credit for, changing many lives forever and inspiring another generation to believe they could aspire, work and achieve more. Well done Eric for putting focus back on this important policy!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

St Anne's School site in Lewes to be sold for ‘community use'

The site of the former St Anne's School in Rotten Row, Lewes is to be sold by the County Council – but for community use only.

It means that the site cannot be used for housing development and any new owner must show how they can work with current tenant, the voluntary organisation 3VA.

The sale of the site was agreed this week by the Deputy Leader and Lead Member for Community and Resources, Keith Glazier.

Councilllor Glazier said: "This is really good news and shows that we have listened to local people in Lewes and followed their wishes. The site will be put up for sale for community use only and we will seek bids that show how the site can continue to be used for the good of the community.

“As well as securing the future of this site for the community, the sale makes financial sense for all our council tax payers. The buildings aren't fit for purpose and the backlog of repairs would cost in excess of £1m. Also the ongoing maintenance and security of this site costs about £100,000 per year so a sale would remove this ongoing liability.”

The site is over four acres and includes the former school buildings. The school was closed by the County Council in 2005. Since July 2011 the Council has been working with the local community to consult on the future of the site. This resulted in the creation of the St Anne's Steering Group which has been working on how the grounds could be used for community purposes. The Steering Group enabled the County Council to enter into an initial one-year interim lease at nil rent to 3VA, who will manage the use of the grounds.

For more information please see the lead member for community and resources meeting papers for 23 October 2012 – agenda item 6.

More funding to create and safeguard jobs in East Sussex

More help is being given to create and safeguard local jobs thanks to a £750,000 ‘East Sussex Invest' grant from the County Council.

The cash is part of the Council's £6 million Economic Intervention Fund launched earlier this year. The Fund will provide direct help to businesses and communities.

East Sussex Invest (ESI) is designed primarily to secure companies moving into the county, support job growth at existing companies and may also give short-term, interest-free crisis loans to help firms to safeguard jobs.

Councillor Matthew Lock, Lead Member for Economy, says the East Sussex economy has had a real boost in the last few weeks with new grants and positive announcements.

“The message is despite the tough economic times we all face it's definitely not doom and gloom – we're fighting back!” said Councillor Lock.

“ESI is the second grant to come on stream from our £6 million Economic Intervention Fund, following the launch of ‘RuGEF' – our rural growth and employment grant which went live earlier this month.

“These grants are excellent news and follow the other success stories we've had in East Sussex. Sea Change Sussex has won a £5.5 million government grant for development in Hastings from the Regional Growth Fund and Newhaven learnt that its port will be used to maintain the proposed Rampion off-shore wind farm, subject to E.ON being granted a Development Consent Order. These initiatives will create new jobs and protect existing employment, so it's good news all round.

“We've already had applications for our RuGEF grant and if you think you qualify for that funding or for the ESI grant, visit our Business grants and loans section or email: for more information. You'll also be able to check out when other grants are due to come on stream”.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Greenwich Council takes money from schools to pay for union officials

Last week there was a Cabinet Meeting of Labour-run Greenwich Council. You might have missed School Funding Reforms Appendix B: Delegation of central services/budgets. It includes the following:

Trades unions recompense: provides re-imbursement for school based staff for trades unions activities. The local authority intends to request de-delegation. Proposed delegation formula:
• Primary: £3 per pupil
• Secondary: £6 per pupil
In other words the council has approved an arrangement where funding is taken out of schools to fund the salaries of trade union officials - including such crackpot outfits as the National Union of Teachers.

The political aspect of this decision is highly dubious. Even when the unions, such as the NUT, are not affiliated to the Labour Party there are not proper checks on how their officials spend their day. What is to stop them during election campaigns spending their working hours, funded by the taxpayer, campaigning for the Labour councillors who vote through this cosy arrangement?
Also some of the money will go to non-teaching unions to reflect the non--teaching staff at schools. Unions such as Unison and Unite who are huge Labour paymasters and thus where the conflict of interest is even more stark.

The sums involved are considerable. A typical secondary in the borough will be paying £7,000 for trade unions, and other secondary schools a similar amount. Greenwich Conservatives estimate this will cost primary schools and secondary schools around £120,000 in total (about £60,000 for each sector). This is money taken out of education and handed to the unions - who will then use it to organise demos about cuts.

Cllr Adam Thomas, who sits on the Royal Borough’s Children & Young People Scrutiny Panel, said:
“This is a disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money. We pay taxes to help children receive a good education, but the Labour Party in Greenwich are siphoning this off so that unions can spend more money supporting Labour candidates nationally and locally. In my opinion, this decision lays bare Labour’s priorities – when it comes to looking after young people in this borough, they will always put their own selfish interests ahead of their welfare and education.”
The good news is that a growing number of schools in Greenwich are academies and so outside the clutches of this arrangement. If the NUT go to Harris Academy Greenwich Park and ask them to hand over a few thousand to contribute to union salaries the school can politely decline the enticing invitation. Ditto St Paul's Academy. Also there's Corelli College. St Thomas More Roman Catholic School and Shooters Hill Post-16 Campus are in the pipeline to become academies. As the municipal empire crumbles so does the union one.

This is the context not only in Greenwich but around the country of union reps lobbying against schools being given the independence that academy status provides or against free schools being set up.

I don't doubt the ideological sincerity of the unions - they are dominated by the most fanatical left wing extremists. But in undertaking such campaigning - frequently resorting to bullying and dishonesty - they have a critical financial interest.

You thought the whole 'EUSSR' thing was over the top? Have a look at this poster

Take a close look at this promotional poster. Notice anything? Alongside the symbols of Christianity, Judaism, Jainism and so on is one of the wickedest emblems humanity has conceived: the hammer and sickle.

For three generations, the badge of the Soviet revolution meant poverty, slavery, torture and death. It adorned the caps of the chekas who came in the night. It opened and closed the propaganda films which hid the famines. It advertised the people's courts where victims of purges and show-trials were condemned. It fluttered over the re-education camps and the gulags. For hundreds of millions of Europeans, it was a symbol of foreign occupation. Hungary, Lithuania and Moldova have banned its use, and various former communist countries want it to be treated in the same way as Nazi insignia.
Yet here it sits on a poster in the European Commission, advertising the moral deafness of its author (I hope that's what it is, rather than lingering nostalgia). The Bolshevist sigil celebrates the ideology which, in strict numerical terms, must be reckoned the most murderous ever devised by our species. That it can be passed unremarked day after day in the corridors of Brussels is nauseating.

by Dan Hannan MEP, representing the South East of England

UK has never been more disillusioned with the EU

The British have never been more disillusioned with the European Union, William Hague will warn today as the Government fights a new rise in the Brussels budget.

The Foreign Secretary will use a speech in Berlin to insist that Germany must allow the UK to reclaim powers from Brussels or risk the collapse of the EU.

He will fire the warning shot as Britain and Germany continue to clash over the size of the future EU budget.

David Cameron yesterday vowed to stick to his guns and veto the Budget at a summit next month if it leads to an inflation-busting rise. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel is backing a larger increase in spending and officials acknowledge there will have to be ‘a negotiation’.

Mr Hague will today depict Brussels as ‘a great machine that sucks up decision-making from national parliaments’.

He will tell the leading German foreign policy think tank the Koebler Foundation: ‘This Coalition Government is committed to Britain playing a leading role in the EU.

‘But I must also be frank. Public disillusionment with the EU in Britain is the deepest it has ever been.

‘People feel that in too many ways the EU is something that is done to them, not something over which they have a say.’

Mr Hague will also warn that the last vestiges of support will collapse in the UK unless there is change.

‘People feel that the EU is a one way process,’ he will say. ‘That needs to change. If we cannot show that decision-making can flow back to national parliaments then the system will become democratically unsustainable.’

The timing of Mr Hague’s intervention is critical. The German government was yesterday forced to deny that Mrs Merkel is threatening to abandon an EU summit if Mr Cameron wields the veto over the EU budget.

In December 2010, Mr Cameron signed a letter with Mrs Merkel saying that the EU budget should rise by ‘no more than inflation’. Since then, the European Commission has demanded a trillion euro budget for 2014 to 2020, which would raise British contributions by £10billion over the period.
But while she has changed her position since, Mr Cameron told MPs yesterday that he stands by it.

In a dig at the Germans, he said: ‘Best to set out your position and stick to it, knowing that you have a veto if you need to use it.’

The PM said the case for a real terms freeze has grown over the last year.
‘If anything, the debt situation, the deficit situation, has got worse, so the pressure to deliver a sensible settlement on the budget has increased, so that is why we will be sticking to our guns.

‘I have not put in place tough settlements in Britain in order to go to Brussels and sign up to big increases in European spending. I don’t believe that German voters want that any more than British voters.’

But officials have made it clear that Mr Cameron won’t necessarily veto any above-inflation rise in the budget.
One senior source said: ‘What matters to us is our net contribution. That’s what we’ll be looking at.’

But insiders have made it clear that having vetoed one EU treaty it is ‘entirely possible’ that he will veto the budget.

German officials expressed irritation at the attitude of the British government. ‘There’s certainly a growing feeling among European partners and also in Berlin that Britain is less interested in any new form of cooperation,’ said one official.

‘That’s a pity, because it is an important partner and we need more integration in the EU.’

Monday, 22 October 2012

Award-winning children's illustrator coming to Lewes Library

Primary school pupils from the Lewes area will be meeting a top children's illustrator and author at their local library this week.

Chris Wormell, who has published his own illustrated books and acted as illustrator on other books, will be at Lewes Library in Fisher Street on Wednesday 24 October.

Chris has won many awards, including the Ragazza Prize at the Bologna International Book Fair for his book ‘An Alphabet of Animals' and the New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children's Book Award for ‘Teeth, Tails, and Tentacles'.

Chris will be meeting pupils from local primary schools and talking about his work which includes illustrations for top children's books such as ‘George and the Dragon' and ‘Two Frogs'.

The visit has been arranged by East Sussex County Council's Library and Information Service as part of an autumn celebration of children's literature. The celebration has been organised to coincide with the visit to East Sussex by Children's Laureate, Julia Donaldson.

Julia Donaldson, author of one of the country's best-loved children's books – The Gruffalo – stopped off at Eastbourne Library earlier this month, as part of a nationwide tour taking in 35 UK libraries. East Sussex was chosen by Julia, as part of her national Children's Laureate tour, because of the County Council's multi million pound investment in libraries.

Last year the County Council opened a new library at Rye and refurbished libraries at Wadhurst and Forest Row. This year work has started on a £6m new library and adult social care development at Seaford, and new library developments are also planned for Newhaven and Hastings.

Could you fill this space? – campaign to find new carers

A major new publicity campaign to find families and carers for children in need is being launched by East Sussex County Council.

Under the banner of “Could you fill this space?” the County Council is looking to reach residents who might be able to help a child in care by being the vital loving, caring support they need.

The campaign which launches this week will include radio adverts, banners and posters in local communities, and a special website providing a range of information about the ways people can help “fill a space” in a child's life.

TV celebrity and ice-skating star Jayne Torvill will be providing the voice for the radio adverts. As patron of the East Sussex Foster Care Association Jayne has been a regular supporter of services for children in care in the county.

The campaign images feature a child being held aloft on the shoulders of an adult – supported and loved, smiling and happy – but the adult has been removed from the picture and a cut-out left in place. The challenge to residents is “could you fill this space?”

Residents are being urged to visit to find out more about the campaign and the many different ways they might be able to help. They can also ring a special campaign hotline that has been set up on 01323 464129 to speak to a member of staff about the campaign and the different ways they can help.

We're looking for new foster parents who could look after a child in care either in the short term or for a longer period, as well as potential adoptive parents who could provide a child with a long-term home. But we also need families that could provide a short-term home and help to older children, or carers for children with disabilities.

Our Looked After Children service, which includes our Fostering and Adoption teams have been rated “outstanding” by the Government and so are amongst the best in the business.

Cllr Colin Belsey, the County Council's Lead Member for Children and Families said: “This is an exciting campaign that we hope will have quite a bit of impact in the community. We hope people will hear the radio adverts, see the posters, see the newspaper adverts and read about it in the papers.

“Carers come from all walks of life, and from all backgrounds. The main thing they have in common is the desire to make a difference for a child in need. We need all sorts of carers – short term foster carers, long term foster families, potential adoptive parents, people who can provide supported lodgings for teenagers, people who can provide breaks for disabled young people – and so there's a wide range of different levels of commitment”.

Cllr Belsey said the campaign was taking a different approach to previous recruitment activities. “Previously we've always gone out looking for specific types of carers. This time we're hoping to reach the many people out there who probably would like to help out a child in care but don't know how they might be able to do so.

“We'll be able to have an honest discussion with anyone who contacts us about what options there are, whether it's something that's suitable for them, and what is involved.”

And he stressed that anyone contacting the team would be under absolutely no obligation to get involved. “People should not think that they will be pressured into getting involved. We genuinely just want to speak to people to give them more information. We hope, of course, it will lead to more carers, but some may decide it's not for them.”

Cllr Belsey said that families who help by providing love and a secure home for a child in care, would face many challenges but also great rewards. He said: “These are vulnerable children who, for one reason or another, are not able to live with their birth families. What they need is the supportive environment of a loving home.

“Being a carer does bring many challenges but I know from speaking to many of our existing carers that it is also hugely rewarding. Carers should also be reassured that they will be given training and full on-going support from our outstanding team.”

So what about you? Have you got space in your home and your heart to help a child? If you want more information give us a call on 01323 464129 or visit

Defending the legacy

I had a quick spin in a Land Rover XTech special edition today. Once again, it’s almost impossible to justify why such a antediluvian, beastly, bumpy, lumpy and unwieldy has a place on the new car price lists in 2012. You can’t get comfortable, you need the window open if you want meaningful elbow room, and despite being fitted with the latest 2.2-litre turbodiesel and six-speeder, it’s not exactly economical.

Okay, it’s going to be near-unbeatable off-road, but for those who like to use their off-roaders, er, on-road, the Defender’s lack of usability is a genuine handicap.

But despite all that, and I am sure you know where this is going, I still adore the Defender. I absolutely adore the way it looks, and its sheer all-round classlessness. My London-bound friends will tell you that they’re all over the West End, and are currently the coolest thing to be seen in there. And at £27,995 for this one, it’s probably only Sloanies that will want to buy this. As a Defender you could conceivably trick-up a £3000 example to look largely similar to this car – and be just as bouncy and uncomfortable.

The one other thing I really like about this car is there’s so much heritage componentry in it. And it’s easy to find. I’ll post a few images below, and see if you can identify where they come from. As a BL aficionado, it’s a delight to see just how much Land Rover have dipped into the parts-bin. And that’s without taking into account the MGF window switches and Range Rover steering wheel.

MG launches ’6 BTCC Edition

Better late than never seems to be MG’s mantra at the moment. While the world waits for the MG6 diesel, the company has launched a limited edition version of the car to celebrate its participation in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC). Arriving too late to capitalise on the season as it progressed, and just in time to see Jason Plato not take the championship, the new car is an interesting addition to the line-up.

The MG6 BTCC Special Edition is finished with a Racing matt black roof and Racing matt black 18in alloy wheels, and comes with Racing black gloss sills, door mirror covers, lower front air dam and rear spoiler. There’s a BTCC badge on the grille, and a multi-coloured MG KX Momentum Racing team decal is on the bonnet extension panel above the front grille, on the fastback boot lid and on the front doors and wings just behind the chrome wing vent. BTCC Edition graphics are highlighted on the sills and also inside the car on the passenger facia.

The car is based on the SE version, and comes with the same equipment and after-sales package as that car.

Mini Cooper Register heads south

The first ‘Minis to Marseille’ event held by the Mini Cooper Register was a great success, with 17 cars and their crews enjoying a 1400 mile tour through some of France’s finest scenery. The Minis arrived in Marseille on 5 October, and a full week of challenging driving.

Traditionally Monte Carlo has been the final destination of club touring events in France, so this year the organisers decided on a change. The Mediterranean seaport was chosen because of its long standing connections with French motor sport, being the starting point for the famous Coupé des Alpes Rally and a regular destination on the Tour de France Automobile.

The route began in Vienne, from the premises Automobiles BMC, where crews had a chance for any last minute fettling or repairs ahead of the tour. Charade racing circuit was one of the first landmarks on a route that took cars and crews via St Nectaire, the Pas de Peyrol, Aurillac and across the Millau viaduct.

Avignon was the base for two days of motoring, with a 232-mile circular tour on the first day and the final leg into Marseille offering some physical highs and lows, with a gearbox testing ascent of the 1912m Mont Ventoux hill climb and then a scenic descent into the Camargue and a ferry crossing of the River Rhône. The Mini Coopers – three of them dating from 1964 – all stood up well to the rigours of brisk driving on roads of all sorts, with no major breakdowns.

Next year the Mini Cooper Register will be running a touring event in Ireland, from 19 to 26 September, and in September 2014 the club will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Paddy Hopkirk’s giant-killing victory on the Monte Carlo Rally with a run through France to Monaco, using some of the roads that featured in the 1964 rally.

“Like” your local Children's Centre

Facebook users will be able to keep in touch with their local Children's Centre at the touch of a “like” button.

East Sussex County Council's network of children's centres has begun a project to set up Facebook pages for each of its 31 centres.

In a pilot project three centres in Crowborough, Rye and the Churchwood Centre in Hastings are launching pages this month, enabling young families easy access to information about the centre and their activities, as well as the opportunity to keep in touch.

If the trials are successful the plan is to create pages for the remaining 28 centres in the new year.

Cllr Nick Bennett, the County Council's Lead Member for Learning and School Effectiveness, said: “We know a lot of people are using social media to keep in touch with each other and to keep up-to-date with groups and organisations they are involved with.

“Our plan with this project is to create social media communities around each children's centre which will enable young families to get easy access to information on activities at the centres, as well as ask questions of each other and staff.”

Cllr Bennett added children's centres provide a range of support services for young families with children aged 0-5, including activity groups, support groups, childcare, health services, family support, and employment advice. They also provide a wide range of other activities tailored to the needs of the local community.

“If we can build a social media community around each children's centre page, we'll also be able to use it to have a conversation with families about the services we are providing and how we could improve them.”

He urged families registered with the Crowborough and Rye Children's Centres and the Churchwood Centre in Hastings to visit the relevant Facebook page and “like” it.

“We're always looking for new ways of making our services easier to access and to finding ways of being in closer contact with families who use our services. The more people that like the pages, the more effective they will be.” He said.

The first three children's centres Facebook pages can be found at:

Rye Children's Centre on Facebook
Churchwood Children's Centre on Facebook
Crowborough Children's Centre on Facebook
For more information on the Children's Centres network in East Sussex see:

Cash windfall for East Sussex will boost jobs and growth

A grant of £5.5 million pounds to support jobs and the economy in East Sussex has been warmly welcomed by the Leader of the County Council.

Peter Jones says the funding for Sea Change Sussex for manufacturing projects and research and development in Hastings is a real boost for the area and for the rest of East Sussex.

The funding is part of the third round of the £1 billion Regional Growth Fund announced today (19 October) by the Conservative lead Government.

Councillor Jones said: “The County Council is responsible for managing this grant and we'll be working with Sea Change Sussex on this fantastic opportunity. The funding is great news for jobs and growth in Hastings – one of the most deprived areas of the UK – and it will also boost the rest of East Sussex as well.

“We want to help business and support economic regeneration right across our county. The County Council is providing a special £6m Economic Intervention Fund to do just that. The Fund aims to help our rural economy, support companies to relocate to East Sussex, provide investment for small and medium sized businesses and help the voluntary sector on projects that create jobs.

“The Intervention Fund is part of our overall four-year, £500 million budget for growth which includes funding for transport improvements and better and faster broadband.”

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Here are the candidates for the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner elections

Sussex police and crime commissioner candidates

Elections will be held on the November 15th to choose police and crime commissioners who will replace police authorities currently in charge of 41 forces in England and Wales.

PCCs, as they will be known, will be responsible for setting priorities for their police force, overseeing its budget and hiring the chief constable.

Those in the biggest force areas will get salaries of more than £100,000 and no prior police force experience is needed.

Nominations for candidates have now closed. This list of candidates is subject to confirmation.

KATY BOURNE - Conservative

Katy Bourne

Businesswoman Katy Bourne is a Mid Sussex district councillor and national chairman of the Conservative Women's Organisation.

A governor at Oriel School, Crawley, and Roedean School in Brighton, she lives in Mid Sussex.

Mrs Bourne has pledged to free up more money for frontline policing by reducing bureaucracy and waste, and to improve neighbourhood policing by putting more special constables in each community.

IAN CHISNALL - Independent

Ian Chisnall

Ian Chisnall is a community development worker, who works in the private, voluntary and community sectors.

He was born in Liverpool but now lives in Brighton. He says his experience of helping develop partnerships between agencies in different sectors would stand him in good stead for the PCC role.

Mr Chisnall wants sufficient resources for domestic violence, abuse and hate crime, better drugs education and to encourage self-policing for communities to free up resources for more serious crimes.


Godfrey Daniel

Godfrey Daniel, a mental health worker, is an East Sussex county councillor, a member of Sussex Police Authority and a former member of the Sussex Probation Board.

Mr Daniel is a former mayor of Hastings and has been a magistrate for more than 20 years.

He wants to crack down on anti-social behaviour through better neighbourhood policing and to plough more resources into investigating cases of domestic violence and hate crimes. He also wants Sussex Police to offload unnecessary assets.

DAVID ROGERS - Liberal Democrat

David Rogers

David Rogers has been a councillor in Sussex for more than 35 years, and has also served as chair of Sussex Police Authority.

He has pledged to listen to Sussex's diverse communities and act on their priorities.

He has also vowed to seek new ways to combat crime at its roots, saying: "It is not enough to just lock people up and throw away the key."

Mr Rogers lives in Newhaven.


Tony Armstrong

Tony Armstrong is a former Kent and Metropolitan Police officer, who was born in Tunbridge Wells but now lives in Burgess Hill.

He ran his own business as an executive chauffeur, before becoming a Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Officer for Worthing Borough Council. He resigned at the end of September in order to be allowed to stand in this election.

Mr Armstrong has said his priorities will be to ensure value for money and that any cuts do not affect frontline services.

He has also pledged to encourage the expansion of the Special Constabulary and police volunteers, and the deployment of greater numbers of road policing officers.

Friday, 19 October 2012

John Hayes MP, Energy Minister, a new Boris with the eloquence of Demosthenes and the common good written on his heart

The Prime Minister may not have come out of the last 24 hours particularly well but new Energy Minister John Hayes has had a good energy shambles. I wonder if a new star has been born? How many readers have seen (watch this Guardian clip from just after two minutes in), heard or read about John Hayes' performance at the despatch box yesterday? It took the breath away. The sketchwriters all feasted on his performance. Here is a selection of what they wrote...

Donald Macintyre in The Independent: "When the Labour MP Nick Smith congratulated the minister on his "chutzpah" before asking him if his Department had advised No 10 against the very policy Mr Cameron had announced 24 hours earlier, he said (astoundingly given the notoriously bad relations between his Energy colleagues and George Osborne) that it had "a wonderful relationship" with No 10 and the Treasury: "I say, with appropriate modesty, that that relationship has improved still further since my arrival."

The Daily Mail's Quentin Letts was equally amazed: "‘Alacrity and the defence of the common good – the heart of all I do,’ he said at one point, practically clutching his right breast and removing a tear from his eye. ‘Clarity is the prerequisite of certainty, certainty is the prerequisite of confidence and confidence is the prerequisite of investment,’ he said, quite unscripted... The Government would act ‘in weeks, rather than months’. He raised his chin and scanned the Chamber to ensure that it shared his astonishment at the Executive’s sense of urgency."

The Times' Ann Treneman who won sketchwriter of the year yesterday (for the second successive year) awarded Mr Hayes with a prize of her own: "“We all know that you are eloquent in the art of obfuscation,” soothed Labour’s Chris Leslie, “but will you set aside the flim-flam? Were you aware that the PM was going to make this announcement?” Mr Hayes, like an octopus, began to pump out black ink into the air. “The PM comes to this House weekly to be scrutinised. Does he give me notice of every answer and does he get notice of every question? Of course the answer is no.” Labour accused him of “linguistic acrobatics”. Mr Hayes loved that. “I add acrobatic skills to the many qualities been ascribed to me by this House!” It was a masterclass in gobbledegook. “More!” shouted MPs as a modest Mr Hayes bowed out." Taken from The Times (£).
Michael Deacon in The Telegraph wondered if Mr Hayes was a new Boris: "You could almost take him for a junior Boris, except that Mr Hayes is in fact six years older than Mr Johnson. And, if anything, Mr Hayes seems even more showmanlike. Everything he says sounds like a joke, but you aren't always sure whether it’s meant to."

The Speaker loved it too; at one point atrributing "the eloquence of Demosthenes" to the Minister. Ending the session Mr Bercow declared: "I think it is a fair summary to say that the House has enjoyed the scrutiny process over the past half hour." They really had. MPs shouted "More!".