Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Merton Tories Planning Policies

Well these are the policies the Tories in Merton are pursuing in relation to planning policy. They have sought external legal advice on the matter from a QC(and in the process wasted thousands of pounds) but many of the points within their proposed planning policies run contrary to Government planning policy guidance and the evidential base is lacking in many of the below points.

The person who has been busy pursuing this policy is Cllr Diane Neil-Mills who was only elected to Merton in May, but was appointed straight away to the Cabinet. Seeing the below, it is clear that some of the points raised are more prejudiced based then substantive. At the end of the day it is the same old Tories, Cameron may try to portray himself as moderate but Diane Neil-Mills and her colleagues are anything but moderate.

A debate needs to be had about our Local Development Framework(which has been delayed as they attempt to try insert some of the below points) but it has to be done in a sensible way and not in a knee-jerk way.

The below was released as appenidx to a Council question.

Merton Council Broad Policy Initiatives with Planning Considerations (Appenidx A)

General Development
1.1 Ensure that every development maximises the opportunity to enhance/improve the site, delivering high quality development with due respect for local character

1.2 Ensure that new development (particularly new housing) is only permitted in cases in which the infrastructure (parking, road capacity/rail/bus/schooling) is able to support the development

1.3 Protect precious architecture and rural beauty

2.1 Encourage/facilitate home ownership (including first time buyers), particularly in social housing developments (ie, that the target mix between social rented/shared ownership/key worker in new housing programmes reflects the current imbalance and is therefore more heavily weighted towards intermediate housing and less towards social rented)

2.2 Ensure new housing is built to a high standard and reflects the local character

2.3 Ensure that conversion of single home into multiple units is less feasible and desirable (ie, only allow conversion of family housing into flats when (a) there is a clear excess of family housing/shortage of small flats (b) the local street character will not be adversely impacted (c) there will not be an adverse impact on neighbouring properties (including privacy) (d) there will not be an adverse impact on on-street parking and (e) the flats will be of a sufficient standard (in terms of size, aspect, amenities))

2.4 Disallow construction of new social housing in areas in which current imbalance exists (eg, Mitcham) and use Section 106 funds (in lieu of provision of new social housing stock in kind) for replacement/improvement of existing housing stock

2.5 Prioritise construction of family homes (ie, three bedroom plus) in new housing developments (both private and public housing)

2.6 Make greater use of private sector to provide social housing

2.7 Ensure that new housing developments take crime and environment into consideration for design purposes (eg, landscaping and alley-gating)

Open Spaces

3.1 Protect open spaces and conservation areas (ie, disallow development of green spaces, restrict infill and garden developments within curtilage of existing homes)

4. Town Centre Development/Secondary High Street Improvement

4.1 Improve provision of parking spaces in town centres (eg, Wimbledon) and secondary high streets for shoppers and ensure that any new development in town centres (including residential schemes) permits adequate provision for off-street parking

4.2 Promote schemes to boost local businesses and improve secondary high streets

5. Mobile Phone Masts

5.1 Require all mobile phone masts to receive planning approval

Appendix B: Merton Council Specific Policy Initiatives with Planning Considerations of Immediate Concern

1.1 Encourage/facilitate home ownership (including first time buyers), particularly in social housing developments (ie, that the target mix between social rented/shared ownership/key worker in new housing programmes reflects the current imbalance and is therefore more heavily weighted towards intermediate housing and less towards social rented)

1.2 Ensure that conversion of single home into multiple units is less feasible and desirable (ie, only allow conversion of family housing into flats when (a) there is a clear excess of family housing/shortage of small flats (b) the local street character will not be adversely impacted (c) there will not be an adverse impact on neighbouring properties (including privacy) (d) there will not be an adverse impact on on-street parking and (e) the flats will be of a sufficient standard (in terms of size, aspect, amenities))

1.3 Disallow construction of new social housing in areas in which current imbalance exists (eg, Mitcham) and use Section 106 funds (in lieu of provision of new social housing stock in kind) for replacement/improvement of existing housing stock

1.4 Prioritise construction of family homes (ie, three bedroom plus) in new housing developments (both private and public housing)

Open Spaces

2.1 Protect open spaces and conservation areas (ie, disallow development of open spaces, restrict infill and garden developments within curtilage of existing homes)

3. Town Centre Development/Secondary High Street Improvement

3.1 Improve provision of parking spaces in town centres (eg, Wimbledon) and secondary high streets for shoppers and ensure that any new development in town centres (including residential schemes) permits adequate provision for off-street parking

Tory Cuts Hit Children in Need

While the Tories nationally may speak in moderation, here in Merton it is the same old Tories hitting the most vulnerable of people. I enclose a press release from my Labour colleague Maxi Martin.

Labour Councillors have sharply criticised the minority Tory administration at Merton Council for their proposals to close the Early Years Centre for children in need at Bond Road in Mitcham.

There are 31 Merton children currently attending the Early Years Centre, all of whom have special support needs. Some are on the child protection register while others are experiencing domestic violence at home, are living with parents with drug and alcohol problems or have a disability or special educational needs.

The council expects that closing the centre will save £241,000 in the next financial year. Twelve highly trained staff will lose their jobs at the centre as a result of the closure.
The centre offers a very specific, targeted service which gives intensive support to children in need. There is a high staff-child ratio, with early years staff able to undertake integrated family support on-site. The minority Tory administration plans to accommodate children currently at Bond Road - and not yet ready for nursery school - at other local children's centres.

Cllr Maxi Martin, Labour Spokesperson for Children’s Services, said ”I am appalled that the Tories have decided to cut services to some of the most vulnerable in our society – children with special educational needs, children on the child protection register and kids living in households where domestic violence or parental drug and alcohol problems are an issue. The Tory plan to send children with these complex needs to local children’s centres, which have no specialism in the issues which Bond Rd deals with, is totally inadequate and badly thought out. This proposal does not offer an acceptable level of intensive services to children in need or to their families. I am extremely concerned that these most vulnerable children in Merton will be less safe if these proposals to close the Bond Rd Early Years Center are carried out.”

Monday, October 30, 2006

2007/08 Merton Tory Budget proposals

The first of many postings to come on Merton Council. I will be posting further updates but these are the proposals that have been made so far. I have enclosed a press release from the Leader of Labour Councillors Andrew Judge.

The first draft of the Merton Tory Budget is now revealed. It does not read well.

Leader of Labour Councillors Andrew Judge said,

“I am appalled by the list of cuts in services, particularly to the most vulnerable. Tories need to go back to square one and start looking for alternative efficiencies and savings. They have no vision, little direction and are revealed as poor managers of the Council’s finances.

“Year after year, the last Labour administration balanced the books and received commendations from the auditors, whilst continuing to develop and improve services. We had one of the highest levels of efficiency savings in London. By way of contrast, these minority Conservative councilors have decided to opt for a comprehensive package of cuts.

“They have been more concerned with vanity projects to enhance their image like using Tory election slogans in the Council’s publicity and redesigning the offices of Conservative councilors at a potential cost of tens of thousands. The only sense of direction they seem to have is to try and blame Labour by referring to a financial £16m ‘black hole’. This is a misrepresentation because no such hole exists. They have simply added the planned level of savings for each of the next two years when the reality is that London Councils should make savings every year. The truth about Labour’s management of the Council finances is that in the last few years we paid off £54m of debt and only last year added £1.9m to the balances to leave £5.69m: the highest level for many years.


Key Reductions in Services:


· £250k saved by tightening of eligibility criteria for low and moderate cases in Older People’s services and Learning Disabilities, introduction of frozen meals service and “restructure/externalisation” of Home Care.
· Stop funding Day Care Voluntary Sector transport (£44k saving)
· Different day care client groups will be required to share transport (£174k)
· End £350 pw ceiling for Home Care (£500k)

· Closure of Bond Road Early Years Centre (presented as “reprovisioning” and not as a reduction in services) (£241k)
· £300k from savings in SEN transport due to early intervention and local provision strategy
· £135k from a reduction in SEN services and move towards early intervention
· £100k reduction in Community & Housing Voluntary Sector grants in 2008/09
· Children’s Centres Grant and Early Years and Childcare Grants being used to offset current revenue expenditure (£200k)

Also appear to be considering possibility of ending ringfencing of Carers Grant (not separately costed)

Other reductions in services:

· Cease work on untaxed vehicles (transferred to DVLA but service levels they will provide are unknown) (£86k)
· Reduced planned footway maintenance by 10% (although may be covered by capital instead) (£88k)
· Reduce street furniture maintenance by 10% (£21k)
· Reduce pedestrian crossing maintenance by 10% (5k)
· Reduce Waste Education by deleting post (£30k)
· Reduction in follow-up of environmental nuisance by loss of half a post (20k)
· Reduction in Environment and Regeneration Voluntary Sector grants (£10k)
· Reduction in Arts Grants to Voluntary Sector (£5k)
· Reduction of Wandle Industrial Museum grant (£5k)
· Possible reduction in Adult Education courses (not separately costed)

Key Increased Charges:
· Increase in Parking Penalty Charge Notice fines (£100k)
· More proactive Parking PCN collection (£150k)
· Increased resident parking permit costs (£28k)
· Increased charges for pre-application meetings with Development Control (£20k)
· Increased parking tariffs in Morden town centre and on street where <30p per hour (£65k)
· Increased charges for leisure services (£30k)
· Increased property rental income – may effect voluntary sector organizations (79k)
· Increased Adult Education fees (not separately costed)

Staffing Reductions:

· 51 definite job cuts (although about 15 of these will be vacant posts)
· Proposed to save £250,000 in Adult Social Services, some of this as a result of “restructure/externalisation” of Home Care.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Bangkok Observations

Well I'm flying back to London later tonight after three days spent in Bangkok. Having stayed here a few days the city has it good and bad points though it has certainly been an experience. The hotel I stayed in was the Prince Palace and I have to say it is the best of all the four hotels I have stayed in this holiday. It is slightly away from the main tourist haunts in Bangkok though many are within walking distance and I have certainly got a great deal of exercise the past few days. The taxis here are incredibly cheap(about 80p per ride) though I have walked out of a few when one refused to put a meter on(always a sign of a scam), I have also avoided the tuk-tuks out here though more from the perspective that the pollution out here is pretty awful, it seems to have very few standards when it come to emissions.

Having been to all the sights including the Grand Palace, Wat Po(recling buddy), the National Museum and today Jim Thompson's House, I have to say Wat Po was the most impressive. Currently I write this in an Internet cafe in Thanon Khao Sam which is the main tourist spot and has a great atmosphere at night(and well away from the sleazy part of town in Patpong).

What I have also noticed is that the King and Queen are revered here, you cannot not go down any street without seeing their picture. With the King celebrating 60 years on the throne decorations are everywhere. In most place their pictures are also on display. The country seems to be suffering no repercussions from the recent coup and the place is pretty stable.

Like the other cities I have visited it is a changing place, while you can see a large amount of poverty out here it is clear that things are starting to improve here though inequalities are plain to see.

Anyway I have a long night ahead as I'm flying via Dubai(changing planes) and hit London just before lunchtime tomorrow(assuming I get no delays or my connection is missed which can happen). When I get back I have a huge amount of Council work to catch up(skimming my Merton webmail plenty is happening) and will be posting some interesting info when I get over the jetlag(hopefully it will not be too bad) Been a tiring last twelve days but enjoyable.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Petronas Tower

Currently in Kuala Lumpa. The Petronas Tower is a pretty amazing structure to see from the outside, one of the tallest buildings on the world(a building in Taipei took the record) it is an architectural gem. Unfortunately during my two days here I'll not get the opportunity to go up to the top as it is closed from the Eid festivities at the end of Ramadan. Maybe another time??

This really is a rapidly changing part of the world, the level of building going in terms of infrastructure and building is quite amazing.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Singapore, what a clean place!

Arrived after a seven hour flight from Dubai to Singapore and what has amazed me in the few brief hours I've been here is how clean the place actually is with hardly any litter about. It is a huge contrast to the streets of London and many other cities I've been too in the world. With a ban on food and drink being consumed on the metro you also have no discarded food or other associated mess. The trains were spotless with no discarded newspapers left or anything and this is an extremely busy metro system.

The airport in Singapore is a breeze to get through with none of the hustle of Heathrow, everything is immaculate at the airport and the efficiency of the airport is first class. When I visit airports abroad they are streets ahead of Heathrow which is not my favourite place for flying out from given that delays are a regular occurrence, it is streets beind many other airports in the world.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Reporting from Dubai

Well I arrived here early on Tuesday morning and I'm here till tmoorow morning before flying on to Singapore.

This city is fast developing place, the rate of buildings going up is quite amazing including the tallest in the world. Apparently 20% of world cranes are in Dubai. The city it is really going for the tourist market and it will in my view become ever more popular in the years ahead, with huge devlopments under construction and hotels multipling at a high rate this will be a major destination. The city is also crammed full of huge mega malls including the Mall of Emirates, with this city also being a tax free haven some of the prices are a great deal less them at home.

Ther main downside of my trip is that it is still Ramadam which means you cannot eat in any restaurant till after sun down which happened about 15 minutes ago. Makes you fell peckish. The heat is also pretty cruel during the day, a huge contrast to London in mid October.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A night at the dogs

For the first time since I was kid I went along to the dogs on Friday night in aid of the Mayor of Merton's Charities. My success at picking winner was limited apart from the winning on the first race my betting success was limited and I ended the night in deficit. The night went extremely well and it raced a large amount of money for the mayor's charity. I enjoyed myself a great deal though hopefully in future I will enjoy more success at picking winners.

Congratulations Richard and Ailsa

Can I congratulate my Pollards Hill ward colleague Richard Williams on getting married to Ailsa Moisley on Saturday. I hope you have a long and happy marriage together which I'm sure you will. The wedding went extremely well with a wonderful firework display to end the reception.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Eastfields Station coming soon??????

On the front page of the local Guardian is Eastfields Station is to be opened by 2009. Great news if it does happen but the local area has been waiting for this station for seventy years and a touch of cynicism creeps in when I hear that it only a few years away as we have heard it all before.

When Merton Council was under Labour, the Council had been vigorous in pursuing the scheme, the obstacle was always the rail authorities who always had a ready-made excuse up their sleeve. This has been in various plans produced by railways both under BR and in latter years the then SRA who eventually dropped the plans. This time the saving grace may be Transport for London who may help provide funds, with the cost apparently being only £1.5 Million(less the cost of a new train) though no doubt a figure substantially higher if they are looking for an excuse. Even it did cost a few million more; it is a very cost-effective given the economic benefits it will bring to the area.

In terms of public sector projects for Mitcham, this scheme should to be the top priority for Mitcham. As for Cllr Diane Neil-Mills comment in the Guardian this week, I doubt very much that the minority Tory administration has successfully pushed the scheme forward and we really are not a great deal advanced on the position of a few months ago. The local Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh and local Labour councillors have been active in this for years long before Diane Neil-Mills displayed an interest in the matter (which was probably only this week). Though of course reading the story, Network Rail have the usual caveats to the scheme happening. I enclose the link to a House of Commons adjournment debate from Siobahin McDonagh in 2002 and a transport news website.



Chewing gum on pavements

While many make an effort to keep our environment tidy, the issue of chewing gum continues to be a scourge on out street scene. When I visited Harris Academy yesterday, chewing gum covered the playground and of course, this is replicated across the country including in nearly every school and footpath.

With so many people just throwing their gum on the pavement, it accumulates at a rapid rate. On the occasion I chew gum (usually on long flights) I have always disposed of it in a bin, even if people cannot find a bin they should put in papers and dispose of it later. The cost of removing gum is very high, removing graffiti is a fraction of the cost and Council's including Merton can only afford to remove gum from pavements about once a year and in some area not at all because of the costs involved. Even if it is removed, it will be covered again in gum within a matter of days.

In terms of control, it is clear we should not go down the Singapore line where gum is banned completely (no doubt I'll see for myself when I visit Singapore next week) but I do believe the time has come to impose a tax on chewing gum, initially at say 5p a packet. In Ireland, this has been successfully introduced. This could go towards the cost of gum removal and improve our street scene in the process. Fines for people caught dropping gum and for that matter litter should also be increased as dramatically as well. The time has come for action and it cannot come too soon in my view.

Rowan Road School

Living nearly right next door to Rowan Road school (which is just outside my Pollards Hill ward), I was shocked today to hear at my public meeting today to hear that somebody had been murdered locally and their body dumped at the school.

This is quite shocking and I understand somebody has been apprehended for the crime. I have long been concerned about the derelict school which has been bordered up but which seen regular trespassers on the site (a police car at the site was a regular occurrence) and indeed I rang the Police recently when I saw intruders enter climb over the fence.

They have now out in fencing around the school, about time too, it is a shame that it took an incident like this for the owners to improve security. The school site is an eyesore and hopefully the development of the site starts soon.

I enclose the story below.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mitcham Town Centre update

At Monday nights scrutiny panel on Mitcham town centre is was agreed to set up a sub-committee to look into the revised revisions to the planning guidance for the regeneration of Mitcham and report back on the consulation that is to take place on the planning policy revisions.

Due to most of the meeting being in private session along with being in another meeting myself, I cannot report on what went on but the meeting seemed to be more constructive then previous discussions. Whether it lasts remains to be seen, as the scheme does need to be viable and sustainable, regenerating Mitcham has to be a high priority of the Council though I have my doubts much will happen with the Tories running Merton Council.

A dismal result

Well it seems that England after a promsing start under Steve McLaren have gone back to old ways with a dismal result in Croatia tonight. England have a tough Euro 2008 group and could be in for a tough battle ahead if results do not improve, with Russia and Israel also in the group qualification is not a fait-accompli.

Sarah Newton selected in Truro and Falmouth

I was reading on the BBC website today that ex Merton Tory Councillor Sarah Newton and candidate in Longthornton ward last May has been selected as the Tory Candidate in Truro and Falmouth.

The seat is a very hard nut to crack for the Tories, given that the Liberals have notionally a large majority on the new boundaries. The seat of Truro and Falmouth is certainly as lot tougher prospect then the marginal ward of Longthornton where Sarah Newton failed to overturn a 42 Labour majority with the Labour majority increasing to over 250 votes. Hopefully she will have learned the lessons of that campaign as if they had won here it would have given them overall control of Merton Council, still when the Tories ran the campaign they did in Longthornton the result was no surprise.

No sign yet of Merton Tory cabinet members Tariq Ahmad (member of the A list) or Sam George (member of the B list) having got shortlisted or selected anywhere yet unless any one can tell me differently.

Windmill Trading Estate Planning Meeting

Tonight I had the public meeting in my ward on the Windmill, which was attended by over 50 people. The attendance may have been more but I did not know at the time I booked the meeting that England v Croatia was on at the same time.

Anyway I'm delighted to report that the application will be turned down by the Council to build 211 flats on the sight of the Windmill Trading Estate. The application has been an on going concern and I'm pleased that the decision has been made as we had almost uniform opposition to the proposal locally.

The next battle is the planning inquiry into the scheme, which starts on 28th November, residents will be out in force at the inquiry and I hope that the inspector upholds the decision of Merton Council.

Visit to Harris Academy

This morning, I visited for the first time the Harris Academy Merton that is located in my ward Pollards Hill. The school having been established on 1st September, as an academy along with the nearby St Marks Academy already seems to have turned a corner. I was very impressed by the new head Andy Halpin, a very straight talking person who has a clear vision of where he wants to bring the school.

I was also during my visit that over 700 parents attended a recent open evening, a quite phenomenal figure given that the old Tamworth Manor School would struggle to get three figures along to an open evening. Already 60 parents have made enquiries about transferring their kids to Harris Academy and already people are recognising locally that things have changed and now want to sent their kids to the school instead of running a mile like was previously the case. I have no doubt that this school will be oversubscribed this year.

What also impressed me are the firm line on school uniform and zero tolerance on not having the correct uniform, installing rules and adhering to them has to be key to installing a high level of discipline within the school. The behaviour of pupils in lesson was also exemplary.

The school is also to have a further £5Million spent to improve and modernise facilities further within the school, which is something I welcome.

Seeing the school and how it is has changed, I believe it has vindicated the decision that academy status will offer the school a whole new range of opportunities and improve standards. The decision of the then Labour controlled Merton Council in changing the status of the school was correct and I have no doubt we will be vindicated in making the school an academy.

Monday, October 09, 2006

North Korea nuclear test

The news that North Korea has exploded a nuclear bomb is a pretty worrying development given their crackpot government and they’re past behaviour in world affairs. Today's news that they actually have a bomb has to be of grave concern to many countries in that region; I just hope that some resolution is found to the matter, as negotiation up until now has proved pretty futile.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Busy weekend and a busy week ahead

Another weekend nearly over and just over one week until I am off on holiday, my first proper holiday since the local elections in May, which now seem like an eternity go. With various campaigning commitments in my ward, surgery and catching up on the casework along with sorting out my files (the paper pile grows ever larger by the week), coupled with a night out on the town with friends last night the weekend has been pretty hectic.

The week ahead is of course pretty busy, cabinet call-in meeting on Mitcham and a residents meeting in my ward on Monday, business plan event on Tuesday, public meeting about the Windmill Trading Estate on Wednesday. I also have a number of other meetings including a visit to the new Harris Academy in my ward. My ward colleague Richards Williams is also getting married to Ailsa this Saturday and congratulations are the order of the day. I hope the day goes very well for both of them and they have a very happy life together. Along with a variety of other stuff, I need to do council wise before I go away coupled with work commitments along with holiday plans, the week ahead will again be pretty hectic.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ryan Air and proposed Aer Lingus takeover

When I heard that Ryan Air is trying to take over Aer Lingus, I have to admit being a bit shocked. As someone who travel’s to Ireland usually a few times a year, I've used both airlines on a number of occasions, by having two airlines flying the route (along with BMI and Easy Jet) it does offer choice and diversity on who I choose to fly with.

Personally, I prefer Aer Lingus, Ryan Air has a pretty abysmal record as an employer in terms of employment rights and even makes staff pay for it's uniform and has a track record of being an anti-union employer. Having a relative who works for Aer Lingus, many staff I know will be deeply concerned that Michael O'Leary could be running their airline, as the whole culture of Ryan Air is so much different to Aer Lingus. In terms of customer service you get what you pay for with Ryan Air, at least Aer Lingus has some standards. In recent years Aer Lingus has modernised into a successful airline, from being on the point of bankruptcy after 911, its fortunes have revived. This meant taking tough decisions and reducing staff but they are now in a much better position to compete.

The other part that concerns me is competition, if this comes off it would have 78% of the London-Dublin market, one of the busiest routes in the world. At least at the moment Ryan Air has competition, eliminating it could effectively lead to a monopoly and ultimately higher prices, as they have no competition. The European Commission will no doubt be taking a keen interest in developments. While Aer Lingus flies to mainstream airports, Ryan Air usually flies to airports in the back of beyond, they will want to maximise their investment (and Ryan Air is a cut throat business) and they do not like flying to airports with higher charges.

Longer term if this does happen, I've no doubt that Aer Lingus will disappear as an entity within a few years and with their current growth who's to say that Ryan Air may even be targeting an airline like British Airways a few years down the line, it is not beyond the realms of possibility. The advantage is that competition in terms of airlines is quite vibrant here and long may it remain that way, in Ireland if this merger happens it will not be the case.

Aviation is changing as an industry and we are likely to see more takeovers/mergers in the next few years as competition becomes even more competitive. With it being an ever-growing industry and with tickets being pretty cheap the growth shows no sign of relenting. However mergers, which could be anti-competitive and undermine competition are not in the interest of the consumer and should be stopped.

Dreary damp day!

Well autumn seems to have well and truly arrived in London, cold, miserable and damp coupled with gridlock traffic this evening. The summer seems all but a distant memory and we have this to look forward too for the next six months!

On the positive side I'm off on holiday a week on Monday where it will be a dam sight warmer then London at this time of year. Something to cheer up me up on these wet dreary days!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cameron and the Tories

Well the Tory party nationally under David Cameron seems to be all things to all people these days. With the right wing rhetoric seemingly calmed down for the moment, hog a hoody, save the planet and caring Dave seems to be the order of the day. The Conference speech day was another illustration of that, lacking in substance of course but then again like the last Tory manifesto which David Cameron wrote (and was the shortest ever), being light on policy is one of his traits.

With the Tory party, allegedly on an agenda of modernisation, is his party really behind all this change? The reaction on the faces of some of the Tory faithful to his remarks on civil partnership in his speech probably sums up many of their true feelings. A friend of mine who had the misfortune of attending Tory Conference because of work, told me that he was shocked with the age of the representatives attending conference and some of their views. While Cameron may seek to build a party representative of modern Britain, judging by his observations he has a long way to go, the blue rinse brigade was certainly out in force at Bournemouth. Going through the various tory blogs this evening is also an interesting experience, as it is clear that Cameron and Maude have provoked a large amount of negative reaction, indeed the decision not to announce tax cuts is pretty unpopular. Along with the A list candidate controversy which seems to have turned into a bit of a disaster along with looking like more and more like a PR stunt rather then any serious attempt at getting more women and ethnic minorities into Parliament. The rumblings are bubbling away and the reaction of some to a speech by Francis Maude about candidate selection the other day shows that many are not behind the strategy.

How do I rate Cameron? He is certainly an improvement on recent Tory leaders (though the competition was not up too much) and even he recognises that the Tories needed to change if they are to be electable again. He should not be underestimated and I do not believe anyone in the Labour party does, but before long he will have to answer the tough questions on what they actually stand for (which seems to be very little these days). The Tories cannot go on forever being a policy free zone or adopting policies by jumping on any popular bandwagon, which seems to be passing like what happened in the past and may happen again if they are not doing too well. Many of his predecessors since Major started with talk of modernisation, but when the polls did not start to go their way they soon retreated into their old reactionary ways.

I believe that any of the serious candidates for Labour leaders will be formidable opponents and be more then a match for David Cameron. Indeed, Tony Blair is still streets ahead of Cameron as a leader and has already been more then a match for Cameron. The other question is how long the loony right in the Tory party will stay quiet, maybe they are no so desperate for power that they will keep their true views underwraps, somehow I doubt it and indeed the sniping from the right has already started on a range of issues including tax. The current opinion polls for David Cameron do not make good reading(level pegging, one point lead in the two most recent polls) and they have a long way to go to getting anywhere near winning an election.

Like Merton Council politics, we are in for interesting times ahead and time will tell whether David Cameron becomes merely another footnote in Conservative history.

Performance Mgt training

Tonight we had a training session on performance management at Merton Council. The session was pretty useful in how we can use the data and to how to go about obtaining the information. Data is now been produced by the Council on a monthly basis, which allows the data for the previous month to be seen on the internal intranet by the third week of the next month. I hope it soon put on the public website and not limited to the internal site.

In any assessing Council service performance, it is only in the last ten years that any kind of framework had been put in place. The job of scrutiny is to look at how the Council is performing and if necessary ask for further information and to challenge poor performance. However, it is also needs to look at other information including resident’s surveys and decisions of the Council in a range of different areas. Of course the best method in my views will always be to get on the knocker and engaging with community on local issues. This is the best method in my view on finding out for yourself views on the Council and I can assure you that I do this on a very regular basis in my ward Pollards Hill.

I think that a realisation does exist in local government that the number of targets does need reducing, some key performance indicators are effectively outside the control of the Council and others I doubt whether the performance indicators are really relevant and are of much overall use.

At the training session we also had somebody from the Idea, this is a very useful body that promotes improvement and development in local government and learning from best practice. A very useful publication has been written by the Idea on performance management and I would recommend reading through the document as getting a grasp of our whole performance management function is never the easiest of tasks. While the session was useful it was filled with gobbledygook and getting round all the acronyms we use is a task in itself. I have attached a link to the Idea website, www.idea.gov.uk