My manifesto as an independent candidate for Ridgeway East in 2021elections for Bucks Council

Ridgeway East

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20 November 2020

I am going to stand as an independent for Ridgeway East in the elections for Buckinghamshire Council next May.

Conservatives have a stranglehold on Bucks Council. They have a stranglehold on Ridgeway East.

I am the only person in Ridgeway East who has publicly and repeatedly challenged Conservative councillors to explain what they are doing.

To put it simply, I am the opposition to the Conservatives in Ridgeway East. If you don’t like what the Conservatives are doing, then you should vote for me.

Here is my manifesto:-

1. I will continue to do business with honesty, openness and transparency.

2. I will continue to respond to requests from residents promptly. If I can help, I will do everything I can to resolve the issues, straightforwardly and without spin. If I can’t help, I will say so and explain why.

3. I will represent the interests of all residents but I will put vulnerable residents first.

4. I will continue to think for myself. I will use my own judgement and common sense and not follow any party line.

5. I will continue to ask questions and challenge those with responsibility and power if I think they are doing the wrong thing, or not responding or evading issues.

 

Ridegway East is one of the most prosperous places in the UK. However, there are residents in Ridgeway East who are living in poverty, are in poor health or are lonely. And it is even harder coping with poverty when your neighbours are affluent.

Ridgeway East is threatened with developments which are eating into the countryside and putting pressure on local services. It will get worse.

Public services, such as social care, the NHS, public health and schools were at breaking point before COVID 19 struck. They still are.

Unemployment is hitting Bucks like everywhere else.

This is the result of 10 years of austerity by Conservative governments. 10 years of austerity advocated by Conservative- controlled Bucks Council. 10 years of austerity supported by your local Conservative councillors.

For 10 years, I have campaigned against the impact of austerity. I have campaigned to save Bucks Children’s Centres, to protect services at Wycombe hospital and to improve education for all children in Bucks. I have worked for local charities providing advocacy services for the vulnerable and rehabilitation for ex-offenders.

I have objected to local developments, sometimes as Chairman of my local residents’ association and sometimes on a personal basis. I have spoken at planning meetings on behalf of residents. I have protested about the illegal dumping of rubbish and other damage being done to our local environment – to the fields, the woods and the footpaths.

I have dealt with anti-social neighbours, collapsing garages, and blocked drains.

I have complained about the lack of response and help we have got from our local councillors.

I have campaigned against the secrecy and complacency which pervades councils and other public organisations at every level in Bucks.

So, if you want to vote for the opposition in Ridgeway East – I’m it.

Buckinghamshire Council’s new constitution treats the public (and opposition Councillors) with contempt

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11 August 2019

Last week Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, gave an interview (see link below). It was a remarkable interview.

It was remarkable because he said that if applicants who wanted to join the force had used terms like “piccaninnies” or said that women in a burqua resembled “letterboxes”, like Boris Johnson had done, they would not be recruited.

It is surely remarkable when an Assistant Commissioner says the Prime Minister would be ineligible to join the police because of his racist remarks.

The interview was also remarkable for Assistant Commissioner Basu’s good sense and judgement.

He pointed out that 80% of those who wanted to attack the UK are born or raised in Britain, which strongly indicates that domestic social issues are among the root causes. He said policies that went towards more social inclusion, more social mobility and more education were more likely to drive down violence than all the policing and state security apparatus put together.

He defined social inclusion as having a stake and a voice in the society in which you live. 

I’ve been wondering ever since how many of us in Bucks have a voice in the decisions which affect us.

Let’s put to one side what is happening at national level where we have a Prime Minister voted in by a tiny and unrepresentative part of society, who heads a minority Government but nevertheless acts in complete disregard of Parliament’s views and of the majority of people in the UK.

Let’s have a look at what voice we have at county level.

Next year Buckinghamshire Council will formally come into being and Bucks County Council and the four district councils will disappear. This autumn Buckinghamshire’s Shadow Authority, Shadow Executive and Shadow Overview and Scrutiny Committee will informally take over.

It’s the Shadow Executive, chaired by Councillor Martin Tett, which makes all the decisions.

And I wondered what voice does the public have at the Shadow Executive?

And the answer is very little indeed.

Under its new constitution, members of the public can ask questions of the Shadow Executive. However, questions have to be received in writing 5 working days in advance of the meeting and limited to 60 words. Any question has to be read out at the Executive meeting in under a minute. And there is no opportunity for a supplementary question.

The same rules apply to Councillors. It is opposition Councillors who would normally use this mechanism to ask questions of the Executive.

At the last Executive meeting, you won’t be surprised to know that only one person, Councillor Robin Stuchbury, asked a question which complied with the constitution. He was allowed to ask two of his four eligible questions. The answers were read out from a pre-prepared brief – and that was that.

Another councillor wasn’t allowed to ask his question at the meeting because he hadn’t complied with the constitution. I don’t know who that councillor was. I can only tell you that he said (off camera) that he didn’t know about the new constitution and didn’t have a copy.

You have to ask why anyone would take the time and trouble to make their voice heard on the basis of this constitution. Why would anyone go to an Executive meeting perhaps many miles away for the sake of asking a one minute, 60 word question? All you would get is a pre-prepared answer with no opportunity for a response however inadequate the Council’s answer might be.

Wycombe District Council, where I’ve asked questions, also requires questions 5 days in writing in advance. You used to have 3 minutes to ask a question and 3 minutes for a supplementary.  However, that was thought to give too much voice to residents and the times were cut to one minute. However, the supplementary question, where Cabinet Councillors had to think on their feet, could be very revealing (although mine were frequently shouted down by Conservative councillors).

I think the new constitution of Buckinghamshire Council treats the public (and opposition Councillors) with contempt.

The Council is responsible for a budget of about £1 billion/year and for providing services which are critical to the well- being and safety of residents. And yet those residents get a mere 60 seconds under rigid rules to try to bring the Executive to account.

60 seconds is now all we are worth.

You might also ask yourselves what sort of voice residents have in Bucks with other organisations which provide vital services to residents - (say) the NHS or the privatised academies. The answer is very little indeed. Even the charity which runs my local village hall gives residents no voice (see blog of 2 August 2019 under the Community page).

I’m lucky. I have the time, energy and experience to make my voice heard if I wish. You might ask yourselves about those who aren’t so lucky.

The Assistant Commissioner is absolutely right. People need a voice in the society in which they live – otherwise the frustration can become destructive.

Taking a break from it all

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31 March 2019

I’m taking a break. It might be a long break. It might be a short one. I might just blog occasionally – or I might not blog again at all.

I’m taking a break because I seem to be stuck in Groundhog Day. Everything is suspended because of Brexit - no new policies, no new ideas just the same old compulsion by local Conservative politicians to make cuts and privatise public services. And everywhere you look, there are the same disastrous consequences on health, education, social care, children’s services, youth services, the police and of course potholes.

We may get some progress on Brexit. But there is no happy ending to that story. We may see a change of Prime Minister but there is no shortage of candidates who will be just as bad – or worse. We may even see a general election but I very much doubt Conservative MPs will vote for one.

In Bucks, there's going to be unification of the county and district councils. But it will be the same politicians with the same agendas. All we will see is taxes go up and services go down.

So, as I seem stuck in Groundhog Day, I thought I would give it (and you!) a rest.

I’ve also had a stream of abuse, criticism and threats over the past 3 months. This doesn’t come from my blogging but from my role as the Chairman of my local residents’ association, a position I have held for the past three years. You might think this would be a non-controversial, gentle, voluntary job but my husband is now screening my e-mails from local residents. I am taking a break from this work too.

On a brighter note, I also decided to take a break from blogging because the local press are increasingly covering the things I am interested in. The Bucks Herald has always been pretty good but the Bucks Free Press’ reporting is now so much sharper under its new editor. Both are covering health, education, Children’s Centres, adult social care, not to mention the internal politics of the local Conservative parties.

The other good news is that there are an increasingly effective lobby groups for the vulnerable in our community. Charities and campaign groups are increasingly speaking out. Great!

And to finish on a really positive note, I went to the People’s Vote march last Saturday week with my two sons and two granddaughters. I had difficulty getting on the train at Wycombe to get into London as the train was packed with protesters. As we passed Beaconsfield and Gerrards Cross, the platforms were full of people wearing blue and yellow and waving banners and flags and placards.

And I thought if Buckinghamshire is turning out to protest, something revolutionary must be happening.

May the revolution continue.

P.S. Perhaps I might return and blog about the parish council? Now that would be an eye-opener!!

Going to hell in a handcart in Bucks

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23 February 2019

I’ve just had a short break so it seemed a good time to do a round up. However, it’s depressing to find how little has changed - and what has changed, is for the worse.

So I’m taking the easy way out. Here’s what I wrote in December 2017. All I’ve done is re-order it a bit and update it with a few changes.

Brexit

It’s an all-consuming, energy-sapping, shambles. Nothing else is happening. Parliament is log jammed.

- Steve Baker, Wycombe’s MP, ex-Brexit Minister and Deputy Leader of the European Research Group, continues to reject the Prime Minister’s deal in favour of a no-deal.  -

- Dominic Grieve has rebelled against the Government (at last) and might even leave the Conservative Party. 

- Cheryl Gillan is still on her rose-coloured Brexit planet. 

- David Lidington does …..well whatever the Government tells him to. 

- EU citizens are leaving the NHS in Bucks. 

- No-one has a clue about the impact of Brexit on Bucks. Presumably someone is doing some contingency planning??

 

Money

- Bucks County Council is still broke, running up a deficit year after year. 

- BCC’s Plan A - to borrow deeply to play the market – is not going well; it is heavily in debt. 

- Plan B – to make money by setting up commercial companies – failed. The companies all went bust with a loss of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. 

- Plan C - to unify all the councils in Bucks and cover its debts with the reserves of the district councils - has run into problems. The district councils are taking the Secretary of State to court and the legislation may not get through Parliament (see Brexit above). 

- Council tax is going up.

 

Education

- Schools continue to be underfunded. Academies struggle to stay solvent and some are starting to close. 

- The discredited 11+ carries on, discriminating against the poor, but grammar schools are expanding. 

- Children with special educational needs still struggle to get support. 

- Children continue to be excluded from school. 

- Local authorities continue to have responsibilities for education but no power. 

- Bucks County Council (BCC) still fails to scrutinize any of this.

 

Children’s Services

- Child poverty is increasing in Bucks 

- BCC’s children’s services still need improving 5 years on from OFSTED assessing its services as inadequate. 

- BCC still plans to cut millions of pounds from the budget for early help to vulnerable children and young people and to close all its children’s centres. 

- Over half the children looked after by BCC are still being sent out of county. 

- There is still not enough money to protect our children from sexual exploitation.

 

Adult Social Care

- There is no public information on the adequacy of BCC’s adult social care. 

- Many vulnerable adults have no valid assessment or care plan. 

- BCC still plans to close the only respite centre in Bucks for vulnerable adults. The replacement will exclude all but those with very serious and complex needs. 

- Cuts to disabled people have left many destitute and isolated. 

- BCC has set up a “transformation” project to find yet more ways of cutting adult social services. 

- About a third of care homes in Bucks are still inadequate or require improvement.

 

Health

- Targets for waiting times in Bucks for A&E, cancer diagnosis, and planned operations haven’t been met for years and are getting worse. 

- The GP surgeries are struggling and not carrying out all their functions. 

- The Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust is still broke and still has to make further massive cuts.

- Bucks is a pilot for privatising even more of the NHS. 

- Ambulances are still not getting to critically ill and injured patients fast enough. 

- Bed blocking is still a problem in Bucks but community beds continue to be taken out of service. 

- None of the local Conservative MPs seem to care what is happening. 

- BCC fails to fulfill its statutory duty to scrutinise the NHS in Bucks.

 

Housing

- Wycombe District Council sold 6000 council homes to Red Kite for £54 million in 2011. It was a £1.6 billion rip off. 

- WDC has still failed to spend one penny of the £54 million it got on new social homes.

- Red Kite Housing Association has still failed to build even one social home. It now proposes to sell off and rent some of its homes at commercial rates. 

- The number of families in temporary accommodation is going up.

- Universal credit has arrived in Bucks. 

- Developers plan to build even more homes (not affordable) on greenfield land.

 

Transport

- Potholes are here to stay. So are broken pavements and blocked footpaths. 

- BCC has virtually no money for its work to encourage children to walk to school.

 

Other things

- BCC still hasn’t accepted a single refugee from any of the Government schemes. 

- BCC continues to cut its library service budget and closed its mobile library service. 

- BCC continues to outsource and cut its youth service, public health services – and anything else which isn’t nailed down.

 

Criminal justice

- Crime, particularly violent crime, continues to increase.

- The Police and Crime Commissioner blamed it all on Eastern European gangs.

- Conditions in local prisons are still appalling. 

- The local probation service, owned by Spanish and American companies, still needs improvement. 

- Access to legal aid in Bucks is very, very limited. 

- The court service is failing. 

- Cuts to the budgets of every part of the criminal justice system in Bucks continue.

Does anyone hold power to account in Bucks?

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29 November 2018

 

I’ve taken a break for a couple of weeks and it’s a good time to reflect on what this blogsite is all about. My aim is to provide information and scrutiny on issues which affect people living in Bucks - issues such as education, healthcare, housing, and social services. It is about trying to hold local power to account.

In a county like Bucks, which has been dominated by one political party for 150 years, this is particularly important. And it is particularly important now as we see the impact of eight years of cuts with, for example, thousands more children in the county now living in poverty.

Other people are trying to hold local power to account. But not the people you would expect to take the lead.

Where, you might ask, are the opposition parties? The Labour Party in Bucks has thousands of members, many of them young and committed. Where are they? What are their priorities? What are they trying to achieve in Bucks? What are doing to hold local power to account?

Where, you might ask, are the local newspapers? Local reporters on the Bucks Herald and the Bucks Free Press do their best to report news accurately and they ask local politicians some awkward questions. However, neither newspaper has the resource to carry out investigative journalism and really hold local politicians to account.

The Bucks Herald was owned by Johnson Press until a few days ago but Johnson Press was forced into administration due to £150 million of debts. Johnson Press was taken over by a new company called JPI Media. The owners of JPI Media have agreed to wipe out much of the debt but the company still has to find £85 million to make up the deficit.

The Bucks Herald posted an article on its website on Wednesday from its “Group reporter” explaining how important local communities were to the new company and how it would hold local politicians to account. But the article failed to mention the takeover or the need to clear the debts. Nor did it mention that staff would take a hit on their pension under the new company.

Meanwhile, the Bucks Free Press is owned by a multi- billion pound American company called Newsquest.

I think it is true to say that the priority of both JPI Media and Newsquest is making a profit rather than holding local power to account.

And where, you might ask, are the local charities? Where are the charities who care for and represent the vulnerable children, the disabled, the elderly, and the homeless? These are the people who really know what is going wrong in Bucks. How are they holding local power to account?

Local power in Bucks is held to account – if it is held to account at all – by individuals, not opposition parties, not the press and not charities. These individuals do it with commitment and hard work with no funding or organised support. So thank you to them.

But I'm still waiting for others to step up.

I’m back and wondering if everyone is ready for another election

15 July 2018

 

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I’ve had a good break – no politics, a holiday and lots of sunshine. I’m refreshed.

 

So what’s been happening in Bucks in my absence? Has there been a revolution? Mass resignations? An overthrow of the old order? No, apparently not. How about a protest or a march? Did anyone storm county hall? Have there been fierce political debates on the radio and TV? No, apparently not.

 

Mind you, Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, cut a birthday cake for the NHS in Wycombe – but hardly anyone knew about it until she had gone. And Aylesbury Labour Party had a picnic in the park today to “chat about politics” and ask members if they have an issue they should be campaigning on.

 

Well that should really terrify the Conservatives.

 

Meanwhile, the Government continues to be consumed by Brexit and gives scant attention to the issues facing residents every day – healthcare, housing, social care, education, roads, etc. Local councils, schools, hospitals, the police, charities and residents have been left to deal with the savage cuts as best they can.

 

But you never know. There may be a general election in the autumn. That’s crunch time for Brexit and who knows what will happen.

 

So I thought I would do a quick round up of all the prospective candidates in Bucks. I didn’t do a lot of digging. If I couldn’t find the prospective candidates on a website, or Facebook or twitter, then I reckon he or she can’t be serious.

 

One thing sticks out. Apart from the Labour candidate in Wycombe, there aren’t any opposition candidates. You just wonder if the opposition parties are prepared for a snap election?

 

BEACONSFIELD

Sitting tenant Conservative Dominic Grieve

- Leader of the Tory rebels advocating a soft Brexit. 

- Threatened to vote against the Government, was reassured and didn’t. 

- Double crossed by Teresa May and put down an amendment for a meaningful vote on Brexit. Called on Tory rebels to join him in voting for his amendment.

- Was reassured by the Government and failed to vote for his own amendment.

 

A rebel who can’t bring himself to rebel. Let’s see how he votes when Bills on trade and the customs union return to the Commons this week.

 

WYCOMBE

Sitting tenant Conservative Steve Baker

- Resigned on 8 July from being junior Minister at the Department for Exiting the EU. 

- Not a great success as a Minister. Had to apologise in Parliament. 

- Became an MP to get the UK out of Europe. Ultra- hard Brexiteer who doesn’t want any half measures. Said "the European Union needs to be wholly torn down", considering it "an obstacle to free trade and peace among all the nations of Europe as well as the world". 

- Leading figure in Vote Leave campaign group. The Electoral Commission is investigating whether Vote Leave broke election law. 

- Hard right wing politician who believes the market will resolve all our problems.

 

A rebel happy to see the UK leave the EU without a deal. Has he put in a letter of no confidence in Teresa May? Will he too vote against the Government next week?

Labour prospective candidate Khalil Ahmed

- Councillor for Disraeli on Wycombe District Council and previously Mayor of Wycombe

- No other information on Labour Party website or Facebook or twitter

- Calls were made for his resignation as Mayor over his comments on the Charlie Hebdo attack in France

- He called for the resignation of the Leader of WDC over the bungled ANPR car parking system

 

And that’s it. No information on what he stands for or his priorities.

 

CHESHAM AND AMERSHAM

Sitting tenant Conservative Cheryl Gillan

-MP for over 25 years 

- Made a Dame in 2017 

- Was a remainer. After referendum said of Brexit “There’s a bright future ahead of us.” 

- Frequent blogger on her website. Latest blog says (in its entirety) “Democracy is always a work in progress. It is something which is a living entity and needs careful nurturing. To live in a democracy is a huge privilege, for which people in the past have given up their lives”.

 

Blandness personified. Will vote for the Government whatever.

 

AYLESBURY

Sitting tenant Conservative David Lidington

- Deputy Prime Minister  

- No idea about his beliefs and priorities 

- Will do whatever the Government asks 

- Good reputation as a constituency MP

 

Has been my MP for 25 years and I still don’t know who he is.

 

BUCKINGHAM

Sitting tenant Conservative John Bercow

- Speaker since 2009 

- Office of the Speaker is apolitical.

 

By convention the Speaker is unopposed in general elections. Constituents of the Speaker are therefore disenfranchised. So when will John Bercow step down? The previous 3 Speakers served for no more than 9 years each so is it time for John Bercow to let Buckingham residents have a vote?

Dishonesty, apathy and incompetence reign. I’m feeling jaded and taking a break.

7 May 2018

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Last week was a bad week so I am feeling depressed, fed-up and angry.  So I am taking a break.  It might be a long break or it might be permanent.

On Tuesday, I received an e-mail from the official in the Labour Party investigating my complaint of bullying and harassment against the Executive of Aylesbury Labour Party.  She ignored my repeated requests for someone from the Labour Party to contact Carmel, my colleague, who had made a related but separate complaint 4 months ago. 

She also ignored my request to know how she was going to handle my complaint but said I had to go to a meeting if I wanted her to continue her investigation.  I don’t know what she has done so far, or where the meeting is, who will be there, what it is about, or what will happen afterwards.  I have tossed the ball back in her court saying I won’t be responding again until she addresses my requests. 

It leaves me not believing a word the Labour Party says about supporting women and investigating complaints of bullying and harassment promptly. 

On Wednesday, I got a response from Bucks County Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Committee.  I had asked when one of the reports for its meeting on 24 April had gone on- line and how long that gave the public to submit questions before the Committee’s deadline.  The response said

“Public questions can be submitted at any time but the deadline for receiving questions for a specific meeting is 7 working days before the meeting.  The public questions were handled in accordance with the guidelines published on the Council’s website and Constitutional requirements.”

The honest answer was that it was impossible for the public to ask questions about the paper because it had gone on-line after the Committee’s deadline for questions.

I also asked if BCC believed this was a transparent, open or democratic way of making and scrutinising decisions.  The response was to describe the functions of the Committee.

The honest answer was no.   But apparently no-one had the guts or integrity to give honest answers.  

On Friday, I received a response to a freedom of information request to BCC.  I had complained to the Monitoring Officer because I couldn’t understand the original response, including some of the jargon.  The Monitoring Officer agreed that the “response could have been clearer and I have asked the FOI team to respond to you with an explanation of the terms used”.  I got the explanation but I was also told the law is “about access to information, it does not require an authority to explain its information or ‘translate’ it into ‘layman’s terms’”.

And I thought what an awful thing to say.  Of course a council has to explain things in layman’s terms; not only does it have a statutory duty, it also has to comply with the principles of public life on openness and accountability.  How can BCC be held accountable if it doesn’t explain what it is doing in a way that residents can understand?  Doesn’t BCC want to explain what it is doing?  Isn’t it proud of what it does?  What do I get next – a response in Swahili?

On Friday, it dawned on me that if Ministers decide to go with BCC’s proposals for one unitary council for Bucks, there will probably be no local elections until 2021 and we will be saddled with the current BCC Councillors until then.  Not only will they be mismanaging their current responsibilities but also mismanaging the districts’ responsibilities.   We can expect asset stripping of the districts’ property to start pretty soon to fill BCC’s empty coffers.

On Saturday, I looked at the by-election results in Quainton.  Well, the protest vote happened with a vengeance.  Unfortunately, in line with the national picture, the recipients of the protest were the Lib Dems who can only be described in Bucks as a watered-down version of the Tories.  They vote with the Tories and, apart from Brexit, their policies are indistinguishable from those of the Tories. 

The Labour vote at 9% is what you would expect in an affluent part of rural Bucks.   It’s what I got in East Ridgeway at the county elections (and I nearly doubled the Labour vote!).   So it’s not bad, just normal in Bucks.

The only ray of sunshine was to see Councillor Warren Whyte exposed this week.  All that talk of wanting to listen to residents’ concerns and work with them on the Children’s Centres was, as I suggested at the time, a load of rubbish.  The real reason was that BCC was threatened with legal action and had to think again. 

No wonder Warren Whyte went on extended leave and left it to his colleagues to explain.  

So it’s all very depressing – dishonesty, apathy and incompetence reign.  I’m feeling jaded and I’m going to take a break.

There are very few campaigners in Bucks.  By that I mean people who want to change things for the better on things which affect the quality of our lives.  These are people who are committed and are prepared to speak out publicly and protest, and keep on and on and on.   Quite a few of them are women as it happens and none of them do it as members of a political party.    Makes you wonder why.   I’ll leave you with that thought. 

My thanks to all of them including the resident who took legal action against BCC.  May we see more of it!

 

This is what the majority of voters in Bucks voted for – cuts, cuts, and cuts again.

21 March 2018

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The list below shows just some of the cuts affecting people in Bucks and made by public sector bodies.  This is what voters have got, and are getting, from a Conservative Government and from Conservative-dominated county and district councils in Bucks.    This is what most of the voters in Bucks voted for.  It’s presumably what they wanted.   

The list is simple and there are no figures – it’s just an attempt to show the range of the cuts.   

Neither is the list anywhere near comprehensive.  If you would like me to add anything, just let me know.    

The cuts in Bucks

Ø  Children’s Services, including cuts to the budgets of “children in care“ and “early help”

Ø  35 Children’s Centres – closure

Ø  Youth Service

Ø  Community Laundry - closure

Ø  Care for adults in care homes

 

Ø  Police

Ø  Courts Service

Ø  Grant to Women’s Aid

Ø  Prison Service

Ø  Probation Service

Ø  Legal Aid

 

Ø  School funding including cuts to schooling of pupils with “Special Educational Needs”

Ø  School transport

Ø  Careers Service

 

Ø  Libraries, including closure of Mobile library

 

Ø  NHS

Ø  Older People and Older People’s Mental Health -  cuts to BCC’s budget

Ø  Thame and Marlow community hospitals – closure

 

Ø  Waste management (BCC budget)

Ø  Grass cutting

Ø  Footpath maintenance

Ø  Road maintenance – maintained at level to repair winter damage but not tackle backlog.

 

Ø  Benefits (except state pension)

 

Councillor Johncock threatens to block my e-mail address.

1 January 2018        

Happy New Year.  And to kick the New Year off, here’s a sad little tale.

I sent the link to my blog below to quite a number of Conservative county and district councilors because, as a round-up for 2017, it covers many of their responsibilities.

Now here’s the sad thing.

The only responses I got from Conservative Councillors were requests to take them off my circulation list.  The requests came from Wycombe District Councillors John Savage and David Johncock.  The latter is also WDC’s Cabinet member for Planning.

I explained to both of them that it was my policy to send the link to my blogs to anyone or any organisation mentioned in the blog or responsible for the policies or activities covered; this gave them the opportunity to correct any factual mistakes and put their views. 

In response, Councillor Johncock said he would block my e-mail address.  

Now this raises a number of issues, not least that Councillor Johncock might be infringing my rights as a citizen to contact him as a local Councillor (as set out in WDC’s constitution).   

After all, it’s not as though Councillor Johncock has been overwhelmed with links to my blogs; I have only sent him three previous links in the past six months.   

I will take this up with the Chief Executive of WDC. 

But my biggest concern is the attitude implicit in Councillor Johncock’s threat. 

You see my views may be minority views in Bucks but they are part of the political mainstream and shared by thousands of residents.  And the picture I painted is a real one; there is increasing poverty in Bucks and increasing failure by the public sector to provide services because of the Government’s policy of austerity.    

Blocking my e-mail account will not make these facts go away. 

Conservative councillors may ignore uncomfortable home truths.  They may abuse Labour Party members who challenge them as Councillor Warren Whyte has done.  They may cover their eyes and ears.  But this will not change the facts. 

Conservative Councillors are responsible for much of what is happening in Bucks.  They are responsible for the policies of the Conservatives.  They are responsible for the homeless, the food banks and the queues in A&E. 

They have a responsibility to understand residents’ concerns and their views.  They have a responsibility to face up to the facts, to speak out about the appalling situation in Bucks and do something about it.

They should also remember they are accountable to residents.   And that includes me and other members of the Labour Party. 

So I will continue to send Conservative Councillors links to my blogs as I think appropriate.     

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My election result in Ridgeway East (a small part of rural Bucks)

6 May 2017

Note I resigned from the Labour Party on 18 January 2018, see blogs on the "Women's page.

As I rather expected, I didn’t win Ridgeway East for the Labour Party in the county elections.    

 

The projected national vote share, based on the county elections, is 38% for the Tories, 27% for Labour, 18% for the Lib Dems with UKIP plunging to 5%.    This led to a gain of 558 seats for the Tories and losses of 320 seats from Labour, 37 seats from the Lib Dems and 114 seats from UKIP.

 

Bucks is one of the most prosperous counties in the country and has been solid Tory for decades.  The vote share in the Bucks county elections is 53% for the Tories, 14% for Labour, 19% for the Lib Dems with UKIP plunging to 6%.   The Tories have increased their share of the vote by 12%, the Lib Dems by 4% and Labour by 2%.   This led to a gain of 5 seats by the Tories and 1 seat by the Lib Dems, all at the expense of UKIP which lost all of its seats.  Labour lost one seat and gained another.

 

Ridgeway East is one of the most prosperous divisions in Bucks.  Its vote share is consistent with the rest of the county albeit with a much bigger collapse by UKIP and with a subsequent much bigger swing to the Tories and to the Lib Dems.    My increase in the share of the vote from 7% to 10% is not bad for a rural part of Bucks.

 

My best guess is that the vast majority of ex-UKIP voters voted Tory, now that Teresa May is saying everything UKIP would have said.  As the Tories have moved sharply to the right, they have absorbed UKIP. 

 

At the same time, I would guess there are a significant number of more moderate Tories unhappy at what is happening and they have turned to the Lib Dems.  

 

I would also guess that much of Labour’s small (and continuing) increase in the vote share comes from new, young voters.   Its  membership is healthy (in both senses).

 

But your guess is as good as mine.

 

The depressing thing is that Bucks remains rock- solid right wing.   

It staggers me how poorly the Tories on Bucks County Council do their job – and yet get elected time after time.    But then, how do residents get to know that BCC is wasting their taxes and providing poor services?

                                           

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BCC – incompetent, complacent, uncaring and never comes clean

Councillor Robin Stuchbury - with my thanks

30 April 2017

I have now been blogging for 4 months and the county elections are on Thursday.  So I thought I would stand back and ask myself what I have learnt about Bucks County Council.    

 

Ø  Tory –dominated BCC is incompetent, including on financial management where it prides itself most.

It is a complete myth that BCC handles its finances well.  In reality, BCC is broke.  It has run its assets down, has operated at a loss under Martin Tett’s leadership and only keeps going by borrowing massive amounts of money (over half a billion pounds in the next two years).   The companies it has set up have failed or are in financial trouble.  It is speculating with taxpayers’ money.

 

Ø  BCC is incompetent in providing good quality services.  

Children’s Service is a disgrace.  Bucks still has the largest gap between the educational attainment of disadvantaged children and their peers in the country.  BCC has opted out of much of its education responsibilities.  Our roads are a disaster area.  I could go on and on and on…

 

Ø  Many Tory Councillors simply do not understand their briefs. 

With some exceptions, Cabinet members turn up to scrutiny committees, read the brief they've been given by officials and then hand over to those officials to answer the questions. 

 

Ø  There is a lack of scrutiny. 

Tory Councillors are asked friendly questions from their Tory colleagues and everything is nodded through.  There are exceptions but it is the few opposition Councillors who provide whatever scrutiny the Chairmen of the Select Committees allow.

 

Ø  Scrutiny of the work of other bodies, such as the NHS, is virtually non-existent.  

BCC has a statutory duty to scrutinise the outcomes of the NHS.  Have you heard one word of criticism from BCC about the NHS crisis now going on in Bucks? 

Have you heard BCC scrutinise the evidence for Buck’s selective education system?  I don’t mean a few friendly questions to the heads of the grammar schools.  I mean a real scrutiny.

 

Ø  None of the Tory Councillors care about the misery its policies and cuts are causing to people in Bucks.  

Or if they do, they are keeping it very quiet.  Not a word of apology to the thousands of children it has failed.  Not a word of apology to the clients and families of Bucks Care Ltd which the Care Quality Commission said provided inadequate services and put vulnerable adults at risk.   

Ø  BCC does not want residents to know what it is up to.    

If you don’t believe me, have a go yourself.  Choose an area of work BCC is responsible for.  Then try and find out how much BCC spends on it (and if that is more or less than in previous years), what BCC is doing and whether it is successful.

 

My thanks for information and comment to

-          Robin Stuchbury, Labour’s County Councillor for his polite persistence in asking questions and scrutinising the answers.

-          A few other BCC Councillors - the Lib Dems, Independents, and even some Tories and UKIP Councillors who have asked the right questions.

-          Labour Party colleagues who have pointed me in the right direction and know more about finance than I do.

-          Companies House which is invaluable.

-          OFSTED, Care Quality Commission, and other regulators

-          BCC officials who do an excellent job in what must be the most trying circumstances.

-          Whistleblowers everywhere.

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What this blog is all about

18 March 2017

Note I resigned from the Labour Party on 18 January 2018, see blogs on the "Women's page.

I’ve been doing this blogsite now for less than 3 months and I am pleased – and rather surprised – that so many thousands of people have read the blogs and given me positive feedback.

What I aimed to do was provide information and scrutiny about things that interest me as an active member of Aylesbury Labour Party.  Doing that depends, of course, on people and organisations providing me with information.   

No surprises here.  Where there is good news, I get information readily, in fact I don’t have to ask – the information comes out in a press release with a quote from a Councillor and photos.    

On the other hand, if I ask for information where the news is bad, it usually takes a mole wrench to extract the information and I just know something is wrong.  

You only have to read the blogs to see that organisations and individuals still try to bury bad news.    

A lot of people need reminding that, when they take up a public post, they are required to comply with the seven general principles of public life laid down by the Government’s Committee on Standards in Public Life.   This applies, for example, to Councillors, MPs and officials.

No-one seems to know what these principles are – and many don’t seem to care.  

So here is Principle number 5

Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

and Principle number 7  

Holders of public office should ….actively promote and robustly support these principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

Who could disagree?

But it doesn’t generally work like that in Bucks.

Quite often I have to use the Freedom of Information Act to get information – and even then I have to keep pushing.

The Freedom of Information Act gives everyone rights to get information from public bodies.  All anyone has to do is contact the body direct, make the request in writing, for example in a letter or an email, give their real name and an address for a reply. 

It should be easy – not a matter of being made to jump over hurdles, or having to understand complicated processes, or having to wait until the last moment to get the information.

The Freedom of Information Act is an enormous help in finding out what is happening in Bucks.  However, I know that if I have to exercise my rights under the Act to get the information I want, then something is wrong. Because the starting point should be a culture where information is given willingly and quickly.  If the culture is right – and culture comes from the top of the organisation – I wouldn’t have to repeatedly ask for information and wouldn’t have to exercise my rights.    

If you read the blogs, you will see something is very wrong in Bucks – a county where information has to be extracted like teeth.

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