Monday, July 31, 2006

Scrutiny in Merton

Well tonight I met up with the Chairs and Vice Chairs of scrutiny panels which included colleagues from across the political divide, we all got together and had a meal at Ya Halla restaurant in South Wimbledon (it is a Leabanese restaurant and I would recommend going).

Despite some of the differences I have with colleagues from the other side (many of which are voiced in this blog), generally speaking in my four years as a councillor in Merton, scrutiny has worked pretty well in terms of co-operation and bringing forward ideas. At times it also involved being innovative in making recommendations. As Labour councillors we are also not whipped so we are free to make up our own minds according to the issue, this allows freedom and flexibility in scrutinising Council decision-making.

With Merton Council being an authority with no one party having overall control this is even more important, from time-to-time we will have differences and politics will reassert itself but generally speaking as politicians we are here to serve the Borough of Merton. It is our duty to improve this borough and make it work better, though our ways and means may differ at times it is in the interests of no one to have an adversarial approach all of the time.

Generally speaking tonight went well and it was useful to hear views on a number of different issues from different political perspectives.

Warmest July on record

At the end of a record breaking month temperature wise with it now 'officially' being recorded as the warmest on record and what a scorcher it has been. I hope August is the same; despite my moans sometimes about the heat it is more the preferable to the cold winter nights that are again only a few months away. Long may it continue!

Academies opening in September

I enclose below the press release that was today issued by Merton Council on academies.

Academies opening in September
31 July 2006

London Borough of Merton confirms that the two new academies will be opening as planned on 11 September 2006. The old Mitcham Vale School will be known as St Mark's Church of England Academy. Tamworth Manor School will now be known as the Harris Academy Merton. All pupils should report as normal on 11 September at the two new academies. The council wishes to thank everyone involved, particularly parents and pupils for their patience during the uncertain period, which is now over.

Councillor Debbie Shears, Merton's Cabinet Member for Children's Services said: "I am delighted that the two new Academy schools will definitely be opening in September. This will provide an excellent opportunity for improving the educational experiences and life chances of young people in the area.' The council is pleased to be working closely with the two sponsors, the Harris Foundation and the Diocese of Southwark and their partners CfBT and TocH. The sponsors will provide a high quality education for pupils and bring about further improvements to both schools.

Dave Hill, Merton Council's Director of Children, Schools and Families said: "Families and pupils in Merton, and Mitcham in particular, will benefit from the opening of the two academies including the new sixth forms that will be developed at the schools." "We are confident that our consultation process was carried out properly and fairly and that the proposals are in the interest of all Merton children. The independent schools adjudicator and last week's High Court decision confirms our view."

Ends. Note to editors: All parents will be sent a letter from the council on Monday 31 July. Press Contact: Sapphira van Assema London Borough of Merton 020 8545 4654

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Lebanon and Israel, my personal view

While the ongoing dispute between Israel and Hezbollah has now been on going for a number of weeks, the events today in Qana had brought a new reality to the situation with the loss of dozens of children in the bombing by the Israeli's. Clearly the situation could now be spiralling out of control with increasing loss of life on both sides, a ceasefire needs to come soon otherwise this trail of destruction and loss of life will continue.

How do I view the situation?

I believe that Israel had a right to defend it self and to take action against Hezbollah. No country should have to put up with the attacks that Hezbollah have been waging against the Israeli state over many years. Along with their allies in Syria and Iran, Hezbollah are hell bent on the destruction of Israel and their building up of military arms over the past few years has showed that many within their organisation are intent on waging war. I believe that some of the action carried out by Israel was proportionate given the security threats they faced.

Where I believe that the action may have gone too far is in the bombing of key infrastructure like bridges and the airport in Beirut. The trail of destruction in this city, which is not near the Israeli border, will have an effect for years to come. This may potentially have the effect of destabilising Lebanon a country that has recently only got back on it's feet and removed the Syrian influence from Government. If the UN decide to withdraw and the scenes in Lebanon today are worrying, the civil war could re-start again along with the further destruction of Lebanon and increased levels of instability within the country. However if Hezbollah remain intent on continuing their bombing, then Israel should have the right to defend itself, but if this does happen the situation will only worsen with losses mounting on both sides.

A ceasefire does need to happen and soon, Hezbellah should cease their operations and return the kidnapped soldier and Israel should stop the bombing. The longer this goes on, the worse it can only get and the events of today demonstrate this point.

This region is crying out for stability, we need an independent Palestine but with a secure Israel. As a state Israel needs to feel secure from the threats it faces and until that is the case progress in the Middle East will prove elusive. Long-term military action is in the interests of no one and if the region is to prosper, security and stability is the only way forward.

The lights go out on Top of the Pops

Well tonight saw the last ever Top of the Pops, after 42 years it is no more. I must admit feeling a bit nostalgic about the end of the show, especially as it brought back so many memories from my childhood. Until tonight I had not watched it in years, but life moves on and with 24-hour music channels it has been doomed for a long time. Shakira went back to the top again tonight and as a big fan of her music this news did cheer me up. Anyway, Top of the Pops is now no more.

Good night and good luck

A very fitting post as it is the last one I intend to write before hitting the sac.

Anyway I finally got round tonight to watching on DVD Good Night and Good Luck which stars George Clooney and David Straithairn, I had hoped to see the film at the cinema but due to various pressures from the election and Council activities I never managed to fit it in

The film overall gave a very good insight into the tactics of Senator Mc Carthy, along with his anti-communist which hunts in the fifties which lead to many false accusations against individuals and groups. The work of the journalist Ed Murrow played brilliantly by David Straithairn played a crucial part in his eventual downfall despite being accused of being a closet communist by Mc Carthy. Although it was pretty short in length, it got to the point and as a film gave an accurate portrayal of events that happened relating to the investigation of government workers accused of having links with communist organisations.

I also watched The Weather Man starring Nick Cage and Michael Caine. The film was about a Chicago weatherman called Dave Spritz who while having a well-paid job as a weatherman has a pretty screwed up personal life. His father Robert Sprtizel is a successful writer and does not have a good relationship with his son and sees him as a bit of a failure. In the film it also details Dave Spritz dysfunctional relationship with this estranged wife and children who have a number of problems. On a number of occasions he has various food and drink items thrown at him in the street, which adds to the humour in the film. At the end he lands a top job as a weatherman in New York. Overall I found the film to be pretty good and Nick Cage put in a great performance as Dave Spritz, it also showed that while things may look good on the outside, issues existed behind the scenes and everything it not always how it seems.

I would recommend both films.

England triumph in test match

Well England have certainly hit form in the cricket with a comprehensive test win against Pakistan in three days and an innings win. I just hope they keep it up as we are need of a series win and Pakistan is the only country that has recently beaten us in a test series.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Mitcham academies get the go ahead.

Having just got back from Budapest, I am delighted to see that Rob Macdonald has lost his judicial review and that Tamworth Manor will re-open in September as an academy school.

Over the last year, this has been a major issue in Pollards Hill and as a governor of Tamworth Manor School, I know that this decision is the right one and I have no doubt it will significantly improve standards and drive up results. It is a shame that this judicial review prolonged the matter and of late has caused so much uncertainty for both pupils and staff at the school, I am glad it has now been resolved.

Mitcham Vale the other school in question will re-open on the same date as St Mark's Church of England Academy. In Pollards Hill, we also have a large Black-African population many of whom are very committed Christians. With the two faith based High schools in Merton being based in Wimbledon, faith school options were very limited especially as both Wimbledon schools were heavily over-subscribed and both Catholic. The new faith school will allow many more Pollards Hill and Mitcham parents the opportunity for their children to attend a faith school and with an every growing Christian population, it fills a much needed demand. The school will continue to open to both Christians and Non-Christians. Tamworth Manor will continue be a non-denominational school.

I would also like to extend my thanks to the work of the LB Merton officers especially Dave Hill the Director of Children Services. Special thanks also need to go to local Labour MP Siobhain Mc Donagh who acted upon the concern of many parents in the local area and was instrumental in helping us obtain two academy schools in Mitcham.

I enclose the news story below, I also enclose a Dfes press release about academies, which shows their popularity with parents, and evidence that they are driving up standards.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

2nd Test Match

Been a very good day in the cricket with Pakistan out for 119, I just hope England can sustain this momentum and build a big 1st innings lead as our record of winning test matches of late has been pretty poor.

Budapest Day 2

The second day of the Budapest symposium has been extremely useful in finding out more information about Egovernment and various ongoing projects that are taking place throughout the world. When I get back to London tommorrow, I will write more about the symposium but so far it has been an extremely worthwhile and useful event in terms of what I have learnt.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Arrived in Budapest

Well after getting up at the ridiculously early hour of 4 am, I am now in the beautiful city of Budapest for an E-Government symposium. Getting to the airport was ok (35 mins in a taxi), check in was a bit chaotic and on the other side my luggage which was at first lost (and I was worried man as the customer service Malev rep seemed pretty clueless and given the pile of unclaimed luggage it seemed to be a regular occurrence), Malev do not win awards for customer service. Thankfully it turned up, just before I had to deal with Hungarian bureaucracy and it was a great relief

Bumped into a fellow blogger and Oxford councillor Antonia Bance at the airport who was also off to the symposium and we had a chat about politics and blogging in general. It was could to meet someone else who also blogs away.

Staying at a Hotel in Budapest next to the Danube chain bridge and on the river, due to a shortage of rooms I have been located in a room over looking the Danube, chain bridge and castle. I can tell you it is a stunning view, the best I have ever had from a hotel room. I spent ten minutes just admiring the great view from my window.

The Conference gets under way later this afternoon and has many useful issues relating to E-Government. I hope to be able to update the blog again but it is going to be a very busy three days ahead and may not get the time. I am glad I have been to Budapest before as I will get very little time too see much over the next few days due to a very busy agenda and it is stunning beautiful city well worth visiting.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tariq Ahmad fails to get selected in Hove

Looks like Tory Cabinet member Tariq Ahmad's exit strategy from Merton Council has hit the buffers (and they have only been in power for two months!) with his failure to win selection as Conservative candidate in the Labour marginal of Hove.

Oh well better luck next time, he should now have more time now to spend on his cabinet post until the next opportunity comes along.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Merton Council call in of Corporate Branding and Budget 2006-07 Env enhancements

The recent Merton Council Cabinet decisions on Corporate Branding and Budget 2006-2007: Environmental enhancements have today been called in by members of the Council. The Way We Work Panel, which I chair, will consider the call-in request at it’s meeting on Tuesday 1st August at 7.15 pm in the Civic Centre,Morden, Surrey. I enclose below the call-in request text.

These are the first call-in requests for the minority Tory administration.

Title of the Decision: CORPORATE BRANDING

Reasons for the call-in and desired outcome.
Which principle(s) of the decision-making:
Due consultation and taking professional advice from officers
Clarity of Aims and desired outcomes.
Consideration and evaluation of alternatives
Reasons for the call-in and desired outcome.

Due Consultation and taking professional advice from officer: -
As the corporate branding affects the image and reputation of the Council there should have been full consultation with all Councillors and stakeholders. In fact there has been no consultation. The Decision should have taken following professional legal advice from the Monitoring officer that included advice on the impact on the Council's reputation of using slogans from the Conservative Election Manifesto and Campaign and also covered all relevant issues of intellectual property in the branding. These issues were not considered in the Report or mentioned in Cabinet. There should be a presumption in favour of openness: neither in the Report before Cabinet nor in the discussion before decision was any mention made that the new brand name was drawn from the title of the Conservative manifesto.

Clarity of aims and outcomes: -
Is the purpose of the proposed new branding to promote the Council or Conservative Councillors?Why were alternative straplines names being mentioned by Cllr David Williams at the Cabinet meeting held on 17th July, are we going to have a new strapline at frequent intervals?

Consideration and evaluation of alternatives: -
There was no evaluation of other straplines that had not been used as election slogans in the Conservative Manifesto. Witnesses requested: -Leader, Cabinet Member for Change Management and Performance, Chief Executive, Monitoring Officer and Communications Manager.

Specific information/documents requested: -
All e-mails, letters, or documents that include legal or professional advice offered in the consideration of the proposed strapline/branding that are not included in the report.

All material in e-mails, letters or documents that include alternative corporate straplines.


Which principle(s) of the decision-making:
Due consultation and taking professional advice from officers
Clarity of aims and outcomes
consideration and evaluation of alternatives

Reasons for the call-in and desired outcome.

1) Due Consultation and taking professional advice from officer: - (This part of the call in was rejected by the Council legal officer)
No consultation has been undertaken with scrutiny on the virement spending. The professional advice that lead to the amending of the recommendations at the Cabinet meeting.

2) Clarity of Aims and outcomes.
How it is intended to raise debt income to fund the proposal. The professional advice at the meeting that lead to the amending of the recommendations from parking income to debt income and the lack of clarity in the proposals

3) Consideration and evaluation of alternatives: -
The lack of consideration and evaluation of alternative options. The lack of risk management in the proposal and the potential risk to the Council.

Witnesses requested: -
Cabinet Member for Corporate Resources, Cabinet Member for Environment and Traffic Management, Director for Corporate Resource, Director of Environment and Regeneration, Monitoring Officer

Specific information/documents requested: -
All e-mails, letters, or documents that include legal or professional advice on the budget enhancement including legal advice on the recommendations. Further information on risk-assessment and potential risk to the Council from the budget proposal.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Tiger triumphs again

Another magnificent performance and a third British Golf Open for Tiger Woods. Tiger is a brilliant golfer and that was on show again today, he has now won 11 majors and is very likely to overhaul Jack Nickalus 18 majors in the next few years.

Over the whole British Open, he only used a wood once, which shows his high standard of golf, and his high level of shot accuracy along with his putting showed that he is a class above the rest.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tony Blair celebrates 12 years as Labour leader

Today sees Tony Blair celebrate 12 years as Labour leader and what a great dozen years it has been for the Labour Party. Many people like to bash Tony in the media, along with various blogs both on the left and right, but I have to say that I remain a fan of the Prime Minister and his achievements in office. When he took over in 1994, he had the determination to modernise Labour and make it electable, which was vital if we were to return to power. By abolishing the archaic clause four in 1995, he showed we meant business and were serious about being in government with an agenda that met modern realities.

As someone who did not see a Labour Government elected until 1997, what Tony Blair has done in office is pretty remarkable given that we had been out of office for eighteen years prior to his election. He has led the party to three election victories for the first time ever and all with big majorities, he is the most successful leader of the Labour party ever and that will be a record very difficult for any predecessor to emulate.

In Merton and in my own ward of Pollards Hill, we have massively benefited from having a Labour Government. Without it we would have no regeneration of the area, no neighbourhood policing, no modernisation of the local schools, poorer housing and of course we would not have the low levels of unemployment we have today with initiatives like the New Deal helping many of the long-term unemployed. Our successful management of the economy has meant that many people in the area have been lifted out of poverty and we have benefited from policies like sure start and the minimum wage.

I continue to remain an admirer of his record in government. I have enclosed below some our achievements in Government. In years to come people will come to recognise his achievements as Prime Minister and what he has done to change this country for the better. Below is also archives from the BBC website and a much younger Tony Blair!

Some of Labour's achievements since 1997.
1. The greatest period of sustained prosperity in the last fifty years.
2. Introduced the National Minimum Wage and introduced 4 weeks paid leave for all workers
3. Record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools, all class sizes under 30 for 5,6 and 7 year olds. and funding per pupil will have doubled by 2007-08.
4. Devolved power to the Scottish Parliament and Devolved power to Welsh Assembly, brought back city wide government for London
5. New Deal - helped over a million people into work and unemployment under a million
6 Free entry to all national museums and galleries
7. £200 winter fuel payment to pensioners & extra £100 for over-80s, free travel for over 60's and free TV licences for over 75's
8. Negotiated the historic Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.
9. Halved maximum waiting times for NHS operations and spending increased to the European average along with extra doctors, nurses and a the biggest ever re-building programme in the NHS.
10. Cut crime by 35%, record police numbers and increased neighbourhood policing

Tiger proves hard to beat!

Tiger Woods has a round of 65 at the British Open today and alongside Ernie Ells (one stroke behind) who has a pretty record at the major's, it is setting up to be quite an exciting two days ahead. This weekend may also be alongside the Nickalus V Watson duel in the sun at 1977 British Open (probably the best ever open). My money is on Tiger, you have to hand it to him he is one of the greatest golfers ever and could go on to the best ever (some say he is already!) and this weekend could well see a third triumph at British Open. The way things are looking it could also be a record open score beating the record held by Greg Norman beating the 267 set at the 1993 open. We could be in for another classic.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

British Open

The gold got underway at the Royal Liverpool in Hoylake today, Tiger Woods is looking good and only stroke behind. If he plays well then a third British Open is his for the taking and it will be the first one outside St Andrews where he won his previous two. Many Brits in contention and we could be in for an interesting three days ahead.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Record July temperature set

Well a new record temperature has been set for July and the heatwave shows no sign of abating.

Another scorcher

Well it looks like today is turning into another scorcher with maybe a record July temperature. Public transport is pretty unbearable at the moment especially the buses, making it a very uncomfortable journey to work. How I wish I was by a pool or better still a beach, still make the most of it because in a few months time we will all be moaning about freezing wet days.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Merton success at the British Renewable Energy awards

In recent years Merton has become a model authority in terms of renewable energy and has made a name for itself across the country. The policy of having 10% renewable energy was pioneered here and now been followed in many other places. Anyway I enclose below the news about out latest success.

Merton's success at the British Renewable Energy awards Congratulations to the Planning Policy team for picking up the award in the Regional category. "What Merton Council has achieved through its radical 10% renewable energy policy is to demonstrate the power of local government to combat climate change, while at the same time driving the renewable energy economy and lowering fuel bills for residents and businesses," said Adrian Hewitt, Principal Energy Officer.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Cabinet Meeting/ Budapest symposium

The Tory minority administration in Merton tonight approved adding the Merton Borough Conservative election manifesto title ‘Putting you First’ as the new council strapline to go alongside the Merton Council logo. However, in what seemed to be a change of view since last weeks Council meeting, they are thinking of using other straplines like ‘Working for you’, they believe it is consistent with ‘Putting you first’. I suppose if the branding gets the inevitable bad press, it will be quietly dropped and another u-turn enacted like their plan to change the Borough name to Wimbledon (hastily abandoned following a barrage of bad press). From what has been reported, it is clear that little research has been done into adopting this phrase and it is blatantly political.

The cabinet passed the delegation of responsibilities paper for the Cabinet Member for Environment and Traffic Management. This delegates responsibilities to the Chief Executive if the Cabinet member is unable to act through absence, or has a conflict of interest. If Tariq gets selected in the Tory marginal of Hove tomorrow, the Chief Executive might be using this power a great deal (a way out of difficult decisions for Tariq??) his absence could become a regular occurrence given that Hove is a marginal seat with a Labour majority of just over 400. Anyway, being the charitable person I am, I wish Tariq good luck with the selection tomorrow. With him being one of the ‘big’ Tory hitters in the cabinet, we may be shortly seeing a great deal less of him in Merton if he wins in Hove.

In terms of the other issues at Cabinet, it has been decided to put an extra £180,000 into Environmental Services. Originally the money was to have come from parking income, when the potential illegality of this was pointed out the recommendation was hastily amended to ‘debt recovery’ and other ‘efficiencies’. In their haste to get the resources agreed, it seemed they failed to check out the relevant legislation, as parking income surplus can only be spent on ‘proscribed areas’ and it seems this does not fall under this criteria. Some of their financial proposals seem to be speculative, and it is also clear that doubt needs to be cast on their ability to get the extra resources from ‘debt recovery’. Apparently, they also have more schemes lined up for this financial year. They also claimed to have evaluated various other options, though clearly it was done in secret and this seems to be another back of an envelope job given that the current proposals were only published on Friday.

Many other topics were discussed at Cabinet, they mainly went through on the nod though concern was expressed by my colleague Nick Draper in relation to the re-direction of S106 money (planning gain money) from Colliers Wood to help fund the CCTV going digital at Crown House(Merton Council's HQ in Morden).

David Williams mentioned my trip to Budapest for a Department of Communities and Local Government symposium. This should be a very useful event and will include issues like E-Government. I believe this trip will greatly assist in finding out more information about on-going developments in local government, but it should also be useful to my new position as Chair of the Way we Work panel. I will of course share the information from the Conference with other councillors who may be interested in this area.

The invitation arose out of the development of this blog, which apart from my political statements and my views on the Tory minority administration, also gives details of my activities as a Pollards Hill councillor. At times it also involves reporting on the more serious issues in my ward, including in the last few days the tragic murder of Egeli Rasta. Many councillors across the country are developing blogs and they are useful tool for communicating, even if the content is not liked in certain quarters, but that is democracy in action. I have to say setting up a councillor website has no appeal to me, and I believe that blogging is a far more effective method of trying to communicate. Hopefully, a few more Merton councillors will start blogging soon; it would be interesting to see a Tory Merton blog.

During the Budapest symposium, I hope to be able to give a full report on the blog about my activities.

I am sure most Merton Tories hope it will be a one-way trip to Budapest, but they will not get rid of me that easily.

Mitcham Common & Egeli Rasta

Just to let you know that Gareth Davies of Mitcham was today charged with the murder of Egeli Rasta and also charged with perverting the course of justice. He will appear before Wimbledon Magistrates on Tuesday morning. I attach the BBC newslink to the story.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Search on Mitcham Common for Egeli Rasta

Over the last few days, a search has been ongoing on Mitcham Common( most of which is within my Council ward of Polllards Hill) for Egeli Rasta an Estonian living in Clay Avenue, Mitcham. This search has included a Police helicpoter and a large number of Police officers, this evening it was the lead story on ITV London Tonight.

I understand that tonight, a body has been sadly discovered on Mitcham Common, it has not been confirmed whether it is the body of missing person Egeli Rasta. I understand a post mortem and formal identification is to take place shortly.

Can I take this opportunity of thanking the work of all those involved in the search for what has been a long operation. Mitcham Common because of the amount of scrub land is not the easiest place to conduct a search, and the work that has been undetaken has been painstakingly carried out. I would also like to extend my deepest sympathy and condolences to the bereaved.

I have attached the link to the BBC website.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

John McDonnell Labour leadership bid

I normally make it a rule never to attack people in the Labour party, but I make an exception when it comes to the John Mc Donnell's leadership bid when Tony Blair stands down. When I heard the news yesterday, I thought it was April 1st and the amount of time given to him on the media was quite amazing bearing in mind he seemed to have no supporters. He clearly was out for his 24 hours of fame.

Since his election to Parliament in 1997, he has been a serial rebel who has shown little loyalty to the Labour party, indeed he has been one of the top rebels in recent years. Loyalty is not one his traits.

The agenda that John Mc Donnell advocates would make Labour completely un-electable, indeed his statements yesterday were circa 1983 and the 'longest suicide note in history'. The work in modernising the Labour party and pursuing policies more in touch with the public, has led to the Labour Party winning three elections in a row with a comfortable majorities on all three occasions. If the party had followed the agenda of John Mc Donnell, we would still be in opposition with no serious prospect of power.

A leadership election will come in the next few years but do not expect this challenge to cause many headaches to the more serious candidates.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Appeal for Ravindram family

Last week saw a terrible tragedy take place on Arthur Road, Wimbledon Park and the tragic loss of three lives. An appeal has been launched for Gowri and Rasiah Ravindram, who tragically lost their two-year-old daughter along with Gowri’s parents.

Iain Simpson has launched an appeal as Chair of Wimbledon Park Residents Association for the family, and cheques should be made payable to WPRA and either handed into D Parry Pharmacy or the Newsagent's Kiosk beside the station, both in Arthur Road, Wimbledon Park, or mailed to Ravindran Family Appeal, C/o WPRA, 56 Home Park Road SW19 7HN.

I have tonight sent off a donation, and I ask people to donate to this appeal as they have lost their family along with their livelihood. Last night at the Council meeting Cllr Tariq Ahmad brought up the tragedy, that has affected the community and my deepest condolences go the family on their tragic loss of life.

Below is the link to the story in Wimbldon Guardian

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Cricketers return to form

Well it looked slightly dodgy this morning when England were 88-3, another collapse look imminent until Paul Collingwood and Alistair Cook but on a 221 partnership which has taken the score to 309-3 at stumps. With all our injuries and with the loss late last year in the series against Pakistan, we are in need again of a series win to get us back to form after the huge disappointment of the Sri Lanka cricket series.

Hopefully tommorrw we all add a few more runs and get a 500+ total, with this being a batting wicket we need to put on a big score.

GLA Powers Review

The Government has today announced a package of extra powers and responsibilities for the mayor and assembly. I have linked the GLA Press Release and the Department of Communities and Local Government document on the proposals. Below is a summary of the proposals, if passed they will have a major effect on London governance.

In summary, the Mayor’s new powers and roles are as follows:


Responsibilities of the London Housing Board will transfer to the Mayor.

The Mayor will prepare and publish a statutory London Housing Strategy and a strategic Housing Investment Plan, setting out the priorities to meet the housing needs of all Londoners.

The Mayor will decide the broad distribution of the affordable housing part of the Regional Housing Pot in line with the strategy. In short, the Mayor will decide in broad terms how public money for new affordable housing will be spent.

Learning and Skills

The Mayor will have a statutory duty to promote skills in London and will chair a new London Skills and Employment Board, drawn from business and other key sectors.

The Mayor will prepare a new statutory Skills Strategy for London setting priorities and budgets.


The Mayor will be able to direct changes to boroughs' programmes for the local development plans they produce.

The Mayor will have a stronger say on whether draft local development plans are in general conformity to his London Plan.

The Mayor will have the discretion to determine planning applications of strategic importance.


The Mayor will lead a London-wide waste and recycling forum, working in collaboration with the boroughs to improve performance in waste management and recycling. The forum will manage a new London waste and recycling fund.

London’s waste authorities will be required to be in general conformity with the Mayor's Municipal Waste Management Strategy, backed up by the Mayor’s power of direction.

The Mayor and Government will work together closely on the London component of the Waste Infrastructure programme.

Stronger powers for the Mayor to determine strategic waste planning applications.
A requirement for the boroughs to act in general conformity with the Mayor's Waste Strategy.


The Mayor should also appoint the Chairs and some board members of the Arts Council London, the London Regional Sports Board and Museums, Libraries and Archives London.

The Greater London Authority should consult arts, sport and other cultural delivery bodies in the future development of the Mayor's Cultural Strategy and national and regional strategic cultural bodies should consult the Greater London Authority on their strategies, where there is a London impact.


The Mayor will prepare a strategy to tackle London's health inequalities and promote the reduction of health inequalities in London.

The Regional Director for Public Health (RDPH) in London will act as Health Adviser to the Mayor and Greater London Authority Group.

Climate Change and Energy

The Mayor will prepare and publish a statutory Climate Change and Energy Strategy for London, stating how the capital should minimise emissions of carbon dioxide by the use of energy in London, help to eradicate fuel poverty; and harness economic opportunities for London from investment and innovation in energy technologies and energy efficiency.
He will also prepare and publish a statutory Climate Change Adaptation Strategy setting out how the capital should adapt to the effects of climate change.

The Greater London Authority will be subject to a specific duty to take action to mitigate the effects of climate change and help London adapt to its unavoidable impacts.


The Secretary of State will have regard to the Mayor's Water Action Framework when framing guidance to regulators in preparation for a review of water price limits.

The package of changes in respect to functional bodies , and additional powers for the Mayor in appointing to the bodies' boards, are intended to give the Mayor greater freedom of choice and more influence over delivery. The key changes are:

The Mayor will have the discretion to appoint political representatives to the TfL Board.

The Mayor will either appoint the Chair of the MPA or assume the role of Chair himself.

The Mayor will appoint two members of the LFEPA Board, and will be able to direct and issue guidance to the Authority.

The key changes in relation to the London Assembly are:
The Assembly will be able to set its own budget and will publish an annual report setting out its work and achievements over the previous twelve months.

The Assembly will be able to hold confirmation hearings for key appointments the Mayor proposes to make.

The Mayor will be required to have specific regard to the views of the Assembly and the functional bodies in preparing or revising his strategies. He will need to provide reasoned justifications where he is not acting on their advice.

The Mayor and Assembly will jointly appoint the Authority's statutory posts. Most other Greater London Authority staff will be appointed by the Head of Paid Service.

London Youth Games

Can I congratulate the success of Merton's youth at the London Youth Games. The squash team came out top and we won a fair play award which resulted in the presentation of a sword to the mayor. With the mayor showing it at council, it is probably a good weapon for calling councillors to order.

With 2012 only a few years away, it is important that we encourage our youth as I believe sport and competitive sport is essential to our success. At 2012 hopefully it will be a record medal haul for team GB, as the opportunity to perform on home soil should be a tremendous motivation for many young people involved in sport.

Merton full Council report

Well last night saw the first meeting of Merton’s no overall control full council under a minority Tory administration and as expected it brought it's fair share of interesting moments, along with hearing about some of their latest plans and proposals..

I had commented previously on David Williams and the proposed new slogan that they are proposing to brand the Council ‘Putting you first’. This of course was also the title of the Conservative Party manifesto for the Merton Council local elections, the election in which they failed to win overall control. Bearing in mind their dismal performance in Mitcham, maybe ‘Putting Wimbledon first’ would have been more appropriate. Along with the political letter posted with a Merton logo and address on their website, it shows that they are more then prepared to use to Council for political purposes. The issue about the logo and phrase is being discussed further at cabinet next Monday and when they were challenged on this issue last night, they basically confessed that it is a blatantly political phrase and the catcalls from some tory councillors gave this away. Under the Tories, using political phrases on Council headed papers seems to be accepted practice.

The plans of David Williams to drop Merton as a name and rename the Borough Wimbeldon seems to have been dropped, obviously when the cost implications were pointed out, he soon realised it would have been pretty costly in view of all the Budget savings they needed to make. No doubt he was also advised that it required a 2/3rds majority of Council and with Labour holding 45% of the seats it will not happen.

Anyway, in terms of the Council, they have now stated up front that they are looking for a zero per cent rise in Council Tax. Coupled with savings that were required for next year's budget, this equates to another £1.7 million savings to be found. The target of the Labour group had been a rise of 2.5% if we had stayed in power and this was in line with our three year Council pledge of 2.5%. In terms of Merton Council implementing efficiency savings, we have had one of the best records in London along with investing extra in our key priorities.

The savings that the tories are seeking for Merton Council currently total £16 million, coupled with some of their spending pledges, it is unclear where they are going to find the money from especially as they have pledged to re-invest £3 Million in frontline services (definition still unclear in what they refer to). At the moment, they are also discussing budget reductions in secret which they refuse to reveal. Apart from the budget savings, they will also have to find over £1 Million to implement single status. this is the creation of a single pay scale between officers and manual workers, if they fail to implement single status it could potentially lead to costly equal pay claims.

In terms of my question on performance targets and Merton’s journey to excellence to David Williams, none of the recent statement to the Cabinet was refuted (see Cabinet entry in June) and indeed he decided at the meeting to pass the question on to Cabinet member Corinna Edge. Unfortunately for her she fluffed the question, she was clearly unaware that she was to answer the question and it seemed that it had been passed on by Cllr David Williams as he was clearly standing by his recent comments and was unwilling to defend his comments at Council.

On service outsourcing, Cllr Sam George stated that in house bids on contracts will still be accepted, though it remains to be seen whether this will happen. Apparently they have big plans to outsource services within the Council and one director has already advised staff that this is likely to happen.

On parking issues, little emerged from Cllr Tariq Ahmad answers to questions. The Borough wide parking permit (no doubt to allow people from Wimbledon Village to park in Wimbledon town centre when they go shopping or commute to London) has been little progressed. The nature of the consultation has not been revealed, but with parking being already being so difficult in the town centre, I am sure residents in the town will not appreciate spaces being taken up by the Village people. It will be interesting to see whether this proposal is quietly dropped. The moratorium on controlled parking schemes also seems not to be in effect, indeed it was not categorically stated in the answer to a question from Cllr Ian Munn. With Tariq Ahmad on the Tory A list and short listed in Hove, he may be spending less time soon on Merton Council business and more time in Hove.

An interesting question on housing was raised by former Pollards Hill councillor(now Lower Morden) Barbara Mansfield on one and two bedroom flats. Barbara is the only Tory councillor living in Mitcham, which shows the state of the Tory party in the area, along with their dismal failure to win any seats in the Mitcham area since her election for Pollards Hill in 1990. Since her time in Pollards Hill they have thankfully never elected another Tory councillor. The question she raised, gave a good indication towards the attitude of the Conservatives towards Mitcham, the reasoning behind the question is that Mitcham is going down the pan (it is not) and that the regeneration schemes we had developed for the area would continue this trend. Talking about Mitcham, it was interesting that Cllr Mansfield presented to Council a petition to Council on a housing development very near her home in Mitcham and an apparent interest in an area where she is not an elected councillor.

The Barbara Mansfield question provoked an interesting response from Cllr Diane Neil Mills. This is a newly elected councillor from Abbey ward who was appointed to the cabinet straight away, such was the paucity of talent in the Tory ranks. Basically she agreed with Barbara Mansfield’s observations. With sites being fairly limited, this will be difficult to implement. I also wondered whether it is in anyway connected to thinking that they are more likely to be Tory voters if the houses are bigger(a wrong assertion). If you think any developers will be building affordable family homes in Wimbledon then the numbers will be very small. While it is right that a mixture is built, in reality this will be difficult to achieve given the very limited number of sites to develop housing in the Borough and providing affordable housing under the Tories is likely to be a very low priority. One thing that is guaranteed, you will not be seeing much affordable housing appearing in Wimbledon, though we could always do with some more being built in Wimbeldon Village where Cllr Diane Neil Mills lives.

Turning now to the motions, we had a motion proposed by George Reynolds on the absence of a specific member for equality. The Labour motion proposed by George Reynolds was described by David Williams as an ‘offensive motion’. I have enclosed the text below and will allow people to judge for themsleves whether they believe this motion to be offensive.

This Council regrets the omission to appoint a Cabinet member with
specific responsibility for equalities and asks Councillor David Williams to
reflect on the issue and to correct the oversight by coming back to the next
full Council meeting with an amended list of Cabinet portfolios and
responsibilities which contains a Cabinet title with defined duties that does
justice to the diversity of the residents of the Borough.

A hastily drafted amendment was drawn up by the Tories and that the role should be filled by Councillor David Simpson as Lead member. The motion did not seek to add equality to the Cabinet title. In relation to lead members, advice was given from the Head of Leagl that they have no constitutional position. Unfortunately we lost the vote on the Tory amendment, though whether equality is given more then lip service remains to be seen. Just out of interest, the new Cabinet Member with responsibility for Equality failed to turn up at the Joint Consultative Committee with ethnic minorities organisations on Monday night claiming ‘he did not receive the invitation’, it seems that in the Tories haste to change the meeting dates that this was not noted in his diary. I understand that many representatives from ethnic minority organisations were not very impressed. When I could not attend a Licensing Committee a few months ago due to a clash meeting with a Governing body to discuss academy status, Cllr David Simpson seemed to get great joy out of my non-attendance.

In terms of the rest of the meeting, the Council passed an amendment thanking the authors of the Community Plan which was of course the outgoing Labour administration. We welcomed the Council commitment to the plan and the commitment of the minority Tory administration to implement Labour plans.

With regard to future meetings, we have the Cabinet meeting next Monday and if it is anything like it's first meeting it should provide another set of interesting quotes. Blogging4Merton will continue to report on this and other matters relating to Merton minority Tory administration.

Cllr David Williams - Leader of Merton Council

Just got in from my first full meeting of Merton Council, the report will have to wait that bit longer as I am now pretty tired and I have plenty to report on. However I have written a small tribute too Cllr David Williams who spent a large part of the meeting tonight reading many printed pages of my blog (obviously more interesting reading) during debates, anyway I thought I would share my tribute to David.

I'd like to welcome my newest reader, Cllr David Williams, the Conservative minority administration leader of Merton Council. I hope he continues to use this blog as evidence to support his role as self-styled 'voice of the voiceless', 'king of diversity' and 'champion of equality'. Like my colleague Mark Allison stated tonight “he is truly the Sven Goran Eriksson of local government".

With all your reading of my blog tonight David, how about setting up a blog called 'Dave's Tales'? I am sure it would make interesting reading, you can tell us all about your plans to use the Merton Conservative election manifesto title 'Putting you first' on all Merton Council headed paper and using the Council logo, Council phone number, address and e-mail on a political letter posted on the Wimbledon Conservative website. You can also tell us all about the plans to cut the Council Budget by £16 Million next year.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Syriana and oil

I watched the film Syriana last night which stars George Clooney and Matt Damon. While the storyline in the film was fictional, it did have a serious message behind it and about the reliance we have as consumers on oil. The film overall painted a picture of the power of the oil companies in the world and the money there is to be made from oil.

With the supply of oil as buyont as ever along with the increasing demand from developing countries including China, it is clear that demand shows no sign of decreasing. The film details the volatility of the Middle East where 80% of the world supply comes from, this will only increase as supplies in the west diminish. With many regimes pretty unstable in the Middle East and governments that play lip service to democracy, the potential of the world to be held to ransom increases greatly.

In terms of future energy needs, the energy review that the Government is undertaking is essential, given that as a country we will run dry of North Sea oil in the next 15 years and we will also have to import more gas and oil. This has the potential to massively increase energy costs in this country unless we look into alternatives now and increase our reliance on unstable countries within the world.

I believe the Government is right to pursue nuclear energy as an alternative as this is a cheap source of energy in the longer term, while worries exist since Chernobyl, the record of these stations is pretty good and France produces 80% of energy needs from nuclear power. Other renewable like wind turbines, solar also need to be examined.

Likewise, in the longer term we will also have to move away from petrol guzzling cars and pursue alternatives, while technology has come on worldwide in leaps and bounds over the last twenty years, a need does exist to develop further alternative energy vehicles which have the same performance as existing cars but do not need petrol. A hard task but when you consider the advances in technology globally is more then achievable.


Over the last year the issue of gambling has come up as an issue. Yesterday in the USA, the House of Representatives passed legislation relating to gambling which by our standards is pretty puritanical and seeks to regulate the issue that is way beyond what I believe the role of Government should be in passing legislation.

While Internet gambling has been banned for a number of years in the USA, this legislation goes further in seeking to ban the use of credit cards and debit cards for overseas gambling sites. All sport betting is also banned except for horse racing; can you imagine a situation here where we could not have passed wagers on the World Cup?

In a country that contains Las Vegas which is greatest mecca to gambling in the world, it makes our attempts to set up one super casino seem small. The hypocrisy and contradictions are as usual plain to see in the land of the free.

I do accept that issues exist with gambling addiction and it is a problem like alcohol people face and need to have counseling or help. These do affect the welfare of many families and I know of people who have had addictions to gambling. However prohibition or seeking to restrict is not the answer.

Anyone addicted to gambling already has ample opportunity to splash their cash on the net or down the bookies without the need to vist casinos. I am not for Las Vegas in England (having been to the place twice it is very over the top but worth a visit); however it is for Government to balance up the responsibility it has to citizens coupled with the duty of the state to regulate certain activities of our citizens. Before you think I am a compulsive gambler, I like a flutter but I have never gambled in my life over the net. I am also not employed as a lobbyist on behalf of the gambling industry. However gambling is nothing new and it should not be for us to dictate an issue which ultimately lies as an issue of personal responsibility.

At least in this country, the Government has passed legislation which is pretty sensible. The legislation put down safeguards on Internet gambling which are fair and recognise the growth that has taken place in recent years. Also the protection of children is something that needs to be recognised and the legislation rightfully contains provision on this matter.

Tonight, Merton Council will debate its Draft Gambling Policy; I believe that the policy is generally a sensible document. During my two years as Chair of the Licensing Committee, we decided not to put in an application in for a super casino or a medium sized casino. I believe this was the right decision as we had no sites that could be deemed suitable in planning terms. In terms of establishing sites, I believe that great importance should be given to planning issues and the potential impact on residents especially if they are 24-7 along with the number extra people they would generate along with other associated issues. Any opposition I may have would come more this principle rather then the rights and wrong of gambling.

I have attached below the article from today's New York Times on gambling.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bombay train bombings

The news from Bombay about the train bombings is deeply worrying and shows the volatile nature of the world we are living in today. The incidents bring home the need for us to remain vigilant to the threats that are about in the world. In London, we suffered similar events just over a year ago and it also seems that terrorism has struck again on the 11th day of the month like in New York and Madrid.

My deepest sympathy and prayers goes to all the people that have been caught up in these terrible events that have taken place today in Bombay, along with those who have lost relatives in the bombings.

The fight against terrorism goes on and we should have no let up against the extremists that perpetrate these wicked and malicious acts of violence.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Preparing for Full Council on Wednesday

Tonight, we had our Labour group pre-council meeting, in the absence of the Chair it fell to me to Chair the meeting. Due to accommodation issues we were in the Council ante room, with over 20 in attendance it was pretty cramped and the lack of air conditioning did not assist either, a problem throughout Merton Council's buildings.

On Wednesday we have the first full Council since the election (excluding the AGM) and we will have our first opportunity to ask the minority Tory administrations about what they have been up to since taking office six weeks ago. The Labour group has tabled a number of questions.

I will hopefully be posting a full report of the Council meeting shortly afterwards. The meeting will no doubt have its share of entertaining moments along with the latest antics of the Tory cabinet.

Pauline quits Eastenders

After 21 years on our screen, Pauline Fowler played by Wendy Richard has called it a day. She has always been a bit of a winger in the soap and never my favourite character, but I have to admit Wendy Richard as an actress has a record second to none.

Over the years the Fowler/Beale family have moved from a prominent position in the soap and have been eclipsed by the Mitchell’s and Slater’s. In terms of leaving, it was the right decision as her character had more and more a peripheral role and it was difficult to develop storylines on Pauline.

With her departure it will leave only Ian Beale played by Adam Woodyatt as the only original character left. I have to say as a fan for many years of Eastenders, in recent years I have not really watched too many episodes and felt that many characters were sub-standard coupled with very poor storylines. I would not be surprised if it will be gone from our screens within the next decade.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Italy win the World Cup

Well tonight saw Italy win the World Cup for the fourth time and this time they got it right on penalties. In the final, France played the better football especially in the second half and in extra time. The match however was marred by the sending off of Zinedine Zidane, he was an absolute idiot in a moment of madness and in his last ever match. Zidane has been one of the greatest footballers ever but I am afraid people will remember that incident rather the some of the great performances he put on as a player.

The Italian team of 2006 was no vintage side, certainly not a touch on their great 82 side who I can still remember as seven year old winning the World Cup in 1982 with the great Paolo Rossi. However, in this World Cup defensively they were always very tight at the back conceding only two goals the whole tournament, one of which was a penalty. I believe better sides were in the World Cup but it is not always the best sides that come out tops.

Looking back at the World Cup, it is a shame England put in such an abject performances as they could and should have done a great deal better. Thankfully, Sven has gone but it has unfortunately been another tournament flop for England.

Federer wins again

Well he dropped his first set in the Championship but at the end of the day, he still came out on top. For a clay court specialist Nadal played very well and could challenge Federer in the future, he is by far the only other men’s tennis player in touching distance of Federer.

You have to hand it though to Federer, still only 24 and he has already won eight grand slams and the likelihood of many more to come. He has now won four in a row at Wimbledon, if he wins next year he will equal Bjorn Borg's five in a row and Sampras 7 Wimbledon's are in his sight. He is one of the greatest tennis players ever to grace Wimbledon and he may well be the greatest ever.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Mauresmo wins Wimbledon

Congratulations have to go to Amelie Mauresmo on being the first French woman to win Wimbledon since 1925. For many years she has been on the tennis circuit and until recently had enjoyed relatively little success, always seeming to fall at the semi-final stage. Her performance today was testimony to the serve and volley game and was a good match. With France in the World Final tomorrow it might be a double triumph for France this weekend. I also heard that she practiced at the British ambassador to France grass tennis court, which apparently is the only one in Paris.

Tomorrow sees the Mens Final and I am predicting that Rafal Nadal will win, ok Roger Federer it the hot favourite, but I believe the courts are playing slower and this has to be Nadal's favour. The form of Federer has been awesome but Nadal has a 6-1 record over him and psychological advantage after beating him in French Open Final.

Friday, July 07, 2006

7th July remembered

For me 7th July was just another day, the day before we had won the Olympics which was a great triumph for the city and a sense of euphoria existed.

Then on the morning of 7th July, that joy was shattered by the bombings in London.

On that morning, I had been delayed going to work, due in part I thought to just another set of transport delays that I incessantly complain about. Little did I know that something serious was afoot.

I ended up that morning at Waterloo and was thinking how the hell will I get to Kings Cross from here? At that stage I had no idea of the full chain of events that had already taken place in London. All the tubes had been closed with a power surge given as a reason. This I found strange as rarely had the whole tube system had been shut down. I boarded a bus, and when I got on I heard a message over the drivers radio for all buses to terminate at the nearest suitable point. My bus did start its journey, by this stage I knew something serious was happening. I rang a work colleague at work to say I would be late and she informed me that they had a colleague had reported of an explosion at Kings Cross very near to where I work.

The bus terminated at Aldwych, and I knew then if I was to reach work, I would have to walk. I managed to ring my mother to tell me I was ok (which was useful as by the time I got to Kings Cross the mobile network had crashed) Walking up Holborn was one of the most chilling walks I had undertaken, people were crowded round TV screens looking at the latest bulletins and the news was extremely worrying with reports of a number of explosions, though what had exactly happened at that stage still remained unclear. On my walk to work, I passed Great Ormand Street, ambulances were outside and little did I know that Tavistock Square explosion had taken place nearby.

As I get nearer Kings Cross, the traffic was gridlocked with the non-stop wailing of sirens, when I reached work, the radio was on and many were listening to the reports and the emerging sequence of events. That day in the office we were also trying to frantically track down people who had not turned into work, being so near the scene of Tavistock Square and right next to Kings Cross, many were deeply worried for colleagues who had not come in. With mobiles not working (they were overloaded) eventually we managed to track everyone down.

At work we had for the first time ever a roll call to account for everyone. Naturally many staff was very distressed at the event, some in tears. Many loved ones were ringing up to see if they got safely to work, they did but for some it was different.

That day I walked back to Waterloo, the streets were deserted, shops were closed, and a city that bustles had effectively ground to a halt due to these atrocities. The days after July 7th really brought home the events of that day. For many days afterwards posters of people missing were posted around Kings Cross, seeing many my own age was heartbreaking and many with all to live for. I especially remember seeing the picture of Miriam Hyman one of the victims of the bombings; this was hard to take, seeing that it could so easily have been me as one of the victims.

The flowers outside Kings Cross station contained flags of every different nationality which shows the sheer diversity of this city and the number of different nationalities living in this great city. One year on, the victims of this cowardly act will never be forgotten. London bounced back from the 7th July as it is a very resilient city, but the memories of the terrible events of 7th July will stay with me for ever.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

'Our greatest test since World War II'

I have attached the link of Ken Livingstone article on the BBC website 'Our greatest test since World War II', a year ago today we celebrated winning the Olympics and as a Londoner and a sport fanatic, I was overjoyed with the news especially as I thought we had little chance.

Just 24 hours later we had the London bombs, from jubilation to horror in the space of a day. I will comment further tommorrow, but the below article sums up to me why this city is the greatest in the world.

Comic Davidson declared bankrupt

Well it seems that prominent right wing Tory Jim Davidson has not paid a £1.4 Million tax bill(or more like tax avoiding) and has been declared bankrupt. I must admit that I will not be losing any sleep over this announcement. Thankfully he has cleared off our television screens and gone off too Dubai, no doubt to get away from the taxman(or hide his money)

I got the below description of Jim Davidson off the website and his comments sums up what a right wing bigot Jim Davidson really is and why we should be gald that he has left our shores. Indeed until quite recently he used to do a turn at their party conference and was a regular on the rubber chicken circuit for the tories. Though with Cameron's modernisation agenda he has probably been discarded(or at least we think). Still as a bankrupt he cannot become an MP which has to be a relief as talk existed one time of him joining the tory ranks in the House of Commons.

Jim Davidson is the classic celebra-tory.
Like many, he threatened to leave Britain in 1997 if Labour won the election.
He finally emigrated to Dubai in 2004, telling Des O’Conner…
“I could change my religion to Muslim and have four wives. Mind you I’d have four mothers-in-law if I did that.”

See what he did there? We can’t help but wonder how he feels about living with, ahem, Johnny Foreigner, but there you go.
Bewilderingly, he was made an OBE for his charity work in 2000.
Two years later he addressed the Conservative Party conference on defence policy, explaining:
“I don’t yet know exactly what I’m going to say, but I reckon it will be controversial stuff.”
Just like Sinderella, we presume. He was clearly the right man for the job - after all, he’d donated £5,000 to Iain Duncan-Smith’s leadership campaign.
Davidson is notably absent from the current Tory campaign, suggesting that their PR people have seen sense.

An uncle again!

Well I have just heard that my sister in law Julie has given birth to a baby boy at 8lbs 11oz, this will be my third nephew, I have not heard what they are going to call it yet but I am delighted at the news and that it arrived safely.

My congratulations go to both Julie and my brother Kieran; they will have their hands full with three kids under five! I also have another birthday to remember.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Portuguese theatricals come to an end

Some justice in the world, after a another night of phony injuries and diving at last we have seen the Portuguese lose and they are now out of the World Cup. The match tonight was not the most action packed and nothing at all like last night's classic. I am glad though to see France in the final and they deserve their win. Big Phil at the end was clearly very irate at the referee, no doubt down to the ref not falling for all their tricks.

Who will win the World Cup?

Well I would never have predicted a France V Italy final, but if I had to make a prediction, I would have to plump for Italy. They have that extra edge over France. However, with it being the last hurrah for many of the French team they could very well come out on top. A few weeks ago, both teams were playing dire; both have hit form and at the right time.

Academies letter from Siobhain McDonagh MP

I have posted a recent letter from Siobhain McDonagh MP about Academies and Rob MacDonald the person who has brought the judicial review.


Dear Sir,

I could not believe the mistakes in your article backing a court case brought by Rob MacDonald to stop 2 Mitcham schools becoming Academies.

You claimed the case is being brought by 'ordinary working class families', that the schools are not failing, and that consultation opposed academies.

Well, Mr MacDonald is a well-known Socialist Party activist - there is nothing ordinary about him at all. He doesn't even live in Merton, let alone speak for local parents. He is just a political ideologue.

And the schools really are failing. Figures for the value schools add to a child's education put one in London's worst 1% of schools, the other in the bottom 4%.

Local parents won't send their children there. Each had 240 places to fill this year, but only 50 applied to one, 82 to the other, and parents are always coming to my surgery desperate to get their children into other schools.

And as for consultation, one small, wildly unreliable survey did generate a few dozen opponents, but it allowed anonymous multiple responses and went out in areas miles from the schools. I carried out a much more reliable consultation that only went out in the the schools' catchment areas. Well over 500 replied, 80% in favour.

Mitcham's parents want higher standards and better discipline, and the choice to send their children to Academies. Incidentally, you may have wondered why Merton did not go Tory at the recent local elections, their only failed target in London. Well, Labour was pro-Academies. The Tories put out leaflets against them. They must be kicking themselves to get it so wrong. So should you.

Yours sincerely,
Siobhain McDonagh MP
Member of Parliament for Mitcham and Morden

Tamworth Manor and Merton Council Press Statement

Naturally, I believe the decision the High Court reached in granting a judicial review to Rob MacDonald was wrong. Thankfully it it is being fast tracked by the court in view of the time scales involved.

I have no doubt it will get the go ahead, as I believe the process was sound and in keeping with the law. While a time existed for people to oppose and voice their views(and many did) this court decision adds nothing to benefit the children of Tamworth Manor and Mitcham Vale.

I have enclosed the Merton Council Press Statement.

05 July 2006
Statement re Tamworth Manor and Mitcham Vale Schools 5 July 2006 Dave Hill, Merton Council's Director of Children, Schools and Families, said: "The council is delighted with the important decision made by the adjudicator yesterday in relation to the future of Tamworth Manor and Mitcham Vale schools. However we are disappointed that the openings could now be delayed because of the need for a full judicial review. It is the view of the council and all other parties that the children, young people and their families deserve reassurance about their position in September and the uncertainly brought about by the judicial review will make it difficult for them to obtain this. The council has been inundated with calls from parents of young people, asking about the outcome and strongly expressing their wish that the academies open in September."

Councillor Debbie Shears, Merton Council's Cabinet Member for Children's Services, said: "We are delighted with the positive decision made by the adjudicator but obviously disappointed that we won't have an official opening date by the end of the school year. "The council embarked on this process during the previous administration. Having committed to the September 11 openings, we now wish to see the issue resolved rapidly so the students and their families can concentrate on what matters most - their education."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Academies get the go ahead

The proposal for Mitcham Vale and Tamworth Manor to become Academy schools from September has been give the go ahead by the school adjudicator. This decision will mean that Mitcham Vale will become an academy sponsored by the Church of England and Tamworth Manor an academy sponsored by the Harris foundation.

This has been a long running issue in Pollards Hill and the whole process has occupied a great deal of my time as a councillor over the past year. I have been a governor of Tamworth Manor for the past four years, along with being a local ward councillor, school standards was a major issue in the area as Tamworth along with Mitcham Vale had low levels of attainment and falling rolls. If the status quo had continued, it would have been very likely that one of the schools would have closed as not enough pupils were going to either school. Both schools are in the same area and despite capacity for 240 at each school, they are barely half-full, many people in my local area send their kids to schools many miles away. In relation to Tamworth, the Harris Foundation has a proven track of record of success and in both Croydon and Southwark succeeded in turning around failing schools. I am confident that the fresh start will give the area a school to be proud of along with extra investment to improve facilities further.

It is a relief that the issue has now been resolved, though a judicial review is still pending about the consultation and process of turning the schools into academies. A great deal of planning had gone into the process and this will come to fruition in September.

I would have attached the link with the report but unfortunately the link is down, if you want a copy of the report, please e-mail me at


What can I say?

That had to be one of the best Semi-Finals that I have ever watched in the World Cup. It looked like the going to penalties when Grosso headed in. Both team played brilliantly, made England V Portugal look amateur.

I can see an Italy V France final, should be a classic though we have France V Portugal tomorrow.

What a scorcher/Andy Murray crashes out

Well what a scorcher today turned out to be, public transport made the journey too and from work very uncomfortable. The forecast for the next few days seem to be a continuation of this weather. While I do not mine the heat so much, the humidity is what I find pretty unbearable and Central London in July is horrible. Hayfever not too bad taking at the moment, taking tablets for it make life that much more bearable.

In the tennis unfortunately Andy Murray crashed out of Wimbledon, all over for another year. Will that elusive win for a Brit winning Wimbledon ever come? After all we have been waiting for seventy years.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Tony Blair Speech to Labour Party National Policy Forum

I thought I would post Tony Blair's speech yesterday to the Labour party National Policy Forum, he gets a lot of stick Tony but I think people should remember all our achievements in Government over the past nine years.

Like any government in power for nine years, a need does exist to renew and reform as the world of today is a lot different to the world of 1997. We have a lot to be proud of and a great deal of this is due to the leadership of Tony Blair over the past nine years.

The speech made gave a clear perspective of why we still need to have a Labour Government pursuing policies that have benefited this country along with outlining a forward strategy.

Speech by Tony Blair to National Policy Forum
Straight after the last election, just over a year ago, straight after Labour's only third term victory, coming straight after Labour's only ever two consecutive proper terms of office in 100 years, I said to the PLP that we had to get into the rhythm of government and to lose the rhythm of Opposition. By the rhythm of Government, I meant an understanding that Labour's unprecedented length of time in Government would be accompanied by an unprecedented level of challenge; and to be prepared for it. You win one election, as we did in 1997, by being an acceptable alternative to an unpopular Government; and with luck, as we did, you come in on the crest of a wave of enthusiasm for change. You win a second by governing reasonably. By the time you fight the third Election, people are making a clear choice. They are, by then, open to changing Government but have decided not to. This was us in May 2005, when despite a controversial war, and a fierce attack by parts of the media, we won a majority larger than that of most post-war Governments.

In the third term, the attack becomes fiercer still. Things achieved, are forgotten; things still to do, are evidence of dereliction of duty; things happen, the personal, the political and the perennial that distracts and disrupt the Government. The third term is unknown territory for us. The ground is bigger, more rocky and harder to navigate. The ambushes launched at us by opponents are sharper and more deadly. Look back at the 1980s and the then Tory Government and all of this is very familiar.

This is the time to hold firm; to make the right decisions for the country, no matter how difficult; to face up to the tough challenges no matter how daunting; and to renew not by returning to the past but by showing we have the drive, determination and vision to make the future work, not for a few but for all.

What sustains a Government at this point is self-belief.

We should have confidence in our record in Government. Of course, every focus at present dwells on the negative. But the lowest interest rates and the longest sustained period of low inflation for 40 years, 2 million extra jobs, employment the highest of any major industrial country, is an economic record we can be proud of. NHS waiting lists the lowest since records began and getting lower, cardiac and cancer care amongst the fastest improving in Europe and the largest hospital building programme for half a century is a health record to be proud of. Improving school results at every level, thousands of extra teachers and classroom assistants and the largest school-rebuilding programme ever, is an education record to be proud of. The minimum wage and Sure Start and inner city regeneration and 700,000 children out of poverty and two million pensioners out of acute hardship are things only a Labour Government would ever have contemplated let alone done.

Even in the area most difficult at present – the Home Office – you can set falling crime, record numbers of police and CSOs and asylum applications down to a quarter of what they were a few years back, against the negatives about foreign prisons and illegal immigration.

The point I am making is that in nine years of Government, on any objective basis, much has been achieved as well as much left to do. In our hearts, we know this.

Why have we been able to do this? Why have we won three terms? Because at the core of our project to govern has been an idea, an idea completely in tune with the modern age in which we live. It is the union of individual aspiration and social compassion, the belief that prosperity is not contrary to a society that is just and opens up opportunity to all, but dependent on it; that the more we develop our country's human potential, the more successful we will be, both in terms of economic efficiency and social justice. So much of what, traditionally, politics took as opposites, we have made partners.

This was a very explicit change in the Labour Party. But it was accompanied by something more implicit: a decision to adopt the psychology of a governing party. A governing party governs not for intermittent periods but for significant periods. To govern is to choose. Choosing is hard. Doing it for long periods is even harder.

So becoming a governing party means more than just trying to win. It means understanding and internalising the essence of government, which is leadership and not by a person or a few individuals but by a party. Leadership means doing the right thing, not always the popular thing. Usually doing the right thing ends up by being the popular thing. But it is "in the end". Meantime the pressure is on.So take all these things together and its not surprising it's a tough time. But step back and look at the fundamentals. There is no Big Idea coming back at us from the Tories, merely an ersatz version of our own Idea. The Lib Dems may do well in by-elections. In reality, underneath, they are in a kind of nervous breakdown utterly uncertain whether to go left, right or centre.

There is a saying in football: "form is temporary; class is permanent". Our form is tough right now, but our fundamentals are strong. This isn't a match; or even a cup competition; it's a league and we're not even near the halfway point of the Parliament. There are real issues we need to sort out – illegal immigration and crime at the top of them and we must work hard on them. There are issues which are causing concern now – NHS changes, schools reform, future energy policy, welfare and pensions. But these areas are where we need to have the confidence to see the difficult times through, for the good of the country.

So: how do we do it?

First, we get the policy and ideas right and the politics will follow. There is a myth in politics that strategy wins you elections. But strategy only works if built on sound ideas. We should have the courage to take the long-term decisions that are right for Britain. That's why pensions and energy policy are so crucial. And, of course, in each case there are hard choices. But stop making them and that is truly when the country decides to change. The same with public service reform and the Home Office.

Remember the last Parliament. Tuition fees were to be our poll tax. A few months ago, when opening the new National Science Centre, Vice-Chancellors of some of our key universities told me how the reform had literally saved them. And now even the Tories have been forced to admit their previous policy was wrong. Or take Foundation Hospitals. The end of the NHS, they were called. Today they have ½ million members, most are in surplus and are providing a first-class healthcare free at the point of use; and the Tories again have had to admit they're wrong.

And in each policy area, the twin concepts that have combined to create New Labour were and will be central: fairness and the future: the one about our values; the other about our willingness to implement them sensibly in the modern world. Carry on in this way and we will win. Policy is our strength.

Second, force the Tories also to choose, flush them out, because policy is their weakness. They believe the old rubbish about New Labour as a pure PR exercise. So they've copied the PR. But the PR only ever followed a genuine and painstaking policy rethink. This Tory Party hasn't yet worked out its fundamentals. So they decide to stay Eurosceptics. In order to keep their right wing happy they pledge to withdraw from the EPP and agree to amend the Treaty of Rome unilaterally. They think it doesn't matter. But it does. Tell me: how can they possibly represent Britain sensibly in Europe by breaking relations with Europe's Conservative parties? It's madness, especially with the new German Government, a key ally in Europe.

They know they need a law and order policy; and they know too they have been opposing tougher measures in Parliament – like the 90 days detention of terrorist suspects. So what do they do? They come out with a proposal for a British Bill of Rights, to be drafted by a panel of jurists, apparently. That's meant to appeal to those on the right worried about the Human Rights Act. But then they realise they can't withdraw from the ECHR without offending the centre. So they panic and say they'll have both. It is a recipe for complete and total confusion. And to cap it all, they say they'll entrench it, which would make our present problems even worse.

Or they praise family-friendly policy but vote against increased maternity pay and paternity leave. Or they'll keep our spending – they say – but make a "dramatic difference" to the balance of tax and spending over a Parliament. Where do they stand on energy policy? No-one knows. When you measure a Party up to the big challenges that determine a nation's destiny, then all the P.R. in the world won't compensate for falling short.

So let us test them, hard, on policy, force them to see whether they are willing to face up to the choices that our Big Idea implies, as well as its rhetoric.

And thirdly, of course, let us renew. Renewal is a great word – I used it myself at last year's Conference. But we need to know exactly what we mean by it. I want a Party debate about our future that is open, free-flowing and genuinely about where we go next on policy. Let everyone contribute and not just in this NPF but across the Party, the wider movement, and the communities in which the policy has to work.

By renewing I mean renewing so as to meet the challenges not of 1997 but those of a decade later. The need to renew is a need born of changing times not of changing politics. Renewal shouldn't be code for a reversion to the very attitudes and policies that brought us not three straight victories, but four straight defeats. Party membership won't revive by old ways of Party working but by new engagement and interaction. New ideas won't be about reworking old ideas, but by saying: what are the future challenges and what is a hard-headed modern way of ensuring they are met on a fair and equitable basis.

One theme I am sure will be paramount. To succeed in the early 21st century, we have to be the Party of individual empowerment. We use collective power. We stand for society, for partnership, for working together. But the aim has to be always to use this collective power to fulfil the desires and hopes and ambitions of the individual; not to give people what we think they should want; but what they actually do want. This is an age that needs still the solidarity of collective provision, perhaps more than ever. But it is also an age that demands such provision to be used to empower the individual to have more say, more control, more power over their lives and the choices they make.

The great progressive causes stand plainly before us: ending poverty and social exclusion; rising prosperity for all not a few; the chance not just of a job but a career; public services that are of high quality but based on need not wealth; international action for peace, development, democracy and security. We know them and they inspire us. It's why we are in the Labour Party.

But the hard bit in today's politics is not the 'what' but the 'how'; how do we achieve these causes in a world of globalisation, of rapid scientific and technological change, of changing social, family and community life; a world of mass migration, of global terrorism, of extraordinary prosperity in one part of the world and obscene poverty in another.

This is the agenda we need to work on, in order to renew: it is an enormous challenge for our young Party members and activists for the new generation of Ministers coming through.

And if we do it, we will come through.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

England cricket team/Freddie Trueman

It seems that the England cricket team may be slipping back towards old ways, a 5-0 whitewash from Sri Lanka, and along with their failure to win only two out of the last nine test matches since last years Ashes triumph things are starting to get worrying especially with the Ashes tests in Australia coming up shortly. Today's one day match was a bit of a disaster after posting a credible total it saw an abysmal display of bowling to see Sri Lanka win with thirteen overs to spare. Like the football team, they can and must do better!

Can I also play my respects to the Freddie Trueman, a truly great cricketer who sadly died today. In being the first English cricketer to take 300 test wickets he is a cricket legend and his contribution to Yorkshire also needs to be remembered.

A new star is born

Andrew Murray really needs to be congratulated on his magnificent victory against Andy Roddick in straight sets at Wimbledon. This is really a considerable achievement and it seems we have a new star in the making. The coverage has been overshadowed by the latest England football disaster but this is a brilliant result and I hope he goes on and wins Wimbledon. We need some tennis success now that Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski are fading stars.

England crash out

Well it all ended in tears again for England as yet again it was another penalty shoot out defeat. Unfortunately Wayne Rooney was silly and got himself sent off and despite England playing better with ten men this was still not enough. All in all the World Cup has been a big disappointment and good riddance as well goes to Sven Goran Erickson who thankfully is clearing off. Will England ever get it right at major tournaments?

Can I congratulate France as well on beating Brazil tonight, it was a prediction I got right so it is 2/4 correct.