Monthly Archives: July 2019

Let’s Transform UK Agriculture?

As John Redwood writes

“All the time we have been in the EU the Common Agriculture Policy has kept the UK under controls which have not suited us. Market share has fallen. We have seen more and more temperate food brought in from the continent, reducing our home market share. Food miles have increased, our roads have been clogged with more foreign trucks travelling longer distances with food imports.

“Much of our salad needs and flowers now come in from the Netherlands. Many of our vegetables come in from Spain. Large amounts of dairy produce come from France. Beef comes in from several countries, and pork arrives especially from Denmark. Many of these items are things we could grow or rear for ourselves. The Netherlands has no climate advantage over us. Low value vegetables should not be cheaper when hauled hundreds of miles from Spain.

“Once we are free to set our own tariffs we can remove all tariffs on food we cannot produce for ourselves. There should be no further need for taxes on citrus fruits, for example. We may also well decide to have lower average tariffs on temperate food than the EU makes us impose, as we will be levying them on the EU as well as on the rest of the world.

“We will also decide on our own levels of farm subsidy and how it should be allocated. The new UK system should place a premium on increasing our market shares. There should be tax and subsidy inducements to increase output and to mechanise farms. The UK should harness AI and robotics to the cause of farm improvement, building two industries at the same time. Intelligent use of newly targeted subsidies and sensible tariffs could give us a big boost with more home grown food and more domestic development of the technology a new farm should deploy.

“We need more investment in extending the growing seasons for vegetables, fruit and flowers and other market gardening activities. We could grow more with the right glasshouses and polytunnels, just as the Dutch do with similar weather.

“One of the important wins will be to resume our full voting membership of the World Trade Organisation. Once out we will decide our own tariffs for imports into the UK. We can exercise this freedom to take all tariffs off products we do not make or grow for ourselves, providing cheaper food and clothes for UK consumers.

“The EU imposes average tariffs of 5%, with an average 11.8% tariff on food. Dairy products are charged at a high 38.1%, fruit and vegetables at 11.5% and sugar and confectionery at 23%. Why shouldn’t we enjoy cheaper oranges and lemons from countries like South Africa, and cheaper wines from Australia and New Zealand?”

It Irks Me To See All This Railways Cash Being Promised

When none of it will be used

to help West Lancastrian elderly and disabled people to have parity for off peak travel on the Merseyrail service with the Merseyside/Liverpool City Region residents. It’s blatant discrimination. It’s gone on for years, around ten years since the infamous “Blakey/Cllr Grant emails” were uncovered and published on WLR.

On 23 February, 2011, “the Council’s current budget for discretionary travel concessions is £330,000 broken down as: Senior Railcards £60,000; Travel tokens £130,000; Community Transport Operators £120,000; Pre 9.30 and post 11.00 use of statutory bus pass £20,000. In addition the Council also provides grant funding to the Dial a Ride Service (via LCC) through its grants to voluntary organisations budget of up to £39,600”. 

Research shows that in 2014 and since then the revenue income of Merseyrail was £51 million, and Merseyrail paid out dividends of circa £14 million meaning a quarter of passenger fares ending up in the pockets of Merseyrails owners, Serco and Dutch state owned Abellio. Merseyrail, run by Serco and Abellio, said any “excess” profits are shared with local transport body Merseytravel. Utter bullshit! Define “excess profits”!

In the row over guards on trains the RMT stated “Merseyrail can easily afford to cough up and pay to keep our guards and if they don’t then Liverpool’s politicians should renegotiate Merseyrail’s contract. If Merseyrail don’t agree to new terms now, then the 30 year financing of the new trains easily allows enough scope for a new Merseyrail contract to ensure that revenues are retained to keep our guards”. And to ensure parity for those who live beyond Maghull!

You can travel free on buses, trains and Mersey Ferries* if you are over 60 and live in Merseyside. When you reach the State Pension age, you will be given a new national pass, which you will also be able to use on local bus services anywhere in England. The pass is valid during off-peak hours (after 9.30am on Mondays to Fridays and at anytime on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays).

Advice for Boris Johnson

The next few weeks will see an outpouring of advice for Boris Johnson

says Austin Mitchell. “All the commentators who’ve spent the last few weeks denouncing him as a walking disaster, womaniser and serial liar will rush to tell him to redeem himself by doing what they want.

“Which makes me, as someone impartially opposed to his politics, who found him good fun and a chance for a new start in our deadlocked nation, feel justified in offering my more friendly advice. Britain’s only human politician who finds himself in a deep hole deserves it.

“A new Prime Minister will have a short honeymoon before the carping commentariat get back to grinding their axes. Anyone is better than Theresa, and it will be nice to have a human in charge instead of a badly-programmed robot

“The Conservative Party will rally round with its usual mixture of loyalty and and grovelling servility. The electorate will like a new start out of a deadlock which frustrates them.

“So use that happy period – the only one you’ll get now that misery has become the national mood – to make a real new start and rally the people. They’re fed up with bickering deadlock and the long rearguard action of the recalcitrant Remainers. They can’t see why nothing has been done about their vote to Leave.

A new Prime Minister and a new Government can’t be doomed to pushing Theresa’s deal for a fourth time. It’s dead, deceased, and inoperable. So it’s right to demand a new negotiation from the EU which they’ll probably refuse, saying Theresa’s is as far as they’ll go. That puts them on the wrong foot.

React by doing the old Macmillan trick

“Announce the end of austerity, more borrowing and turn the spigots on to boost the economy. Then call an early election. That makes it shit or bust, but the lesson of Gordon Brown is that it’s better than struggling on with no majority and no mandate. A government with a majority of two can’t carry on. You have no alternative.

“The Remainers are wrong footed and (for the moment at least) Labour is in a mess which can’t be cleared up quickly. A leader determined on Brexit can undercut Farage’s party, while the Lib Dems are still tainted by the Coalition and their support for the euro. The excitement would delay the onslaught of carping which builds as the honeymoon ends.

“Denounce the intransigence of the EU. Show that “No Deal” would be its fault, ask for the nation’s backing for a fair deal, wave the patriotic banner, bash Corbyn and Boris can win. Then go back to the EU with new proposals which should include a promise never to impose a customs border in Northern Ireland, leaving them free to incur the odium if they want to.

“Add in a dollop of criticism of the damage agricultural protectionism does to developing countries, a promise of full rights to EU migrants who can support themselves and whatever covert trade deals we’ve been able to arrange against EU rules. Don’t threaten overtly not to pay Theresa’s ransom money – that will only unite them; just keep it covert, indicating that we’ve got to be prosperous to pay up.

“That’s a high-risk strategy. But Boris is a risk-taker and what’s the alternative? Only humiliating rejection by a stultifying EU, a long, whimpering failure as the country slumps back into bickering decline and a fun Prime Minister turns pathetic”.

Doubling Up In WLBC?

How ironic it is

to read that while agreeing to the upcoming voluntary redundancies of our Borough Solicitor and Borough Chief Planner that will cost, for the Borough Solicitor, £232,482, and for the “Director of Development and Regeneration £149,665, taxpayers will now pay for a “Part Time Fixed Term Planning Assistant Solicitor”.

Location: 52 Derby Street, Ormskirk, L39 2DF
Salary: £35,934 to £38,813 pro rata per annum.
18 hours per week (Flexi Scheme in Operation)

Post Type: Part Time
Hours: 18 per week
Published: Wednesday 26 June 2019
Closing Date: 23.59 hours BST on Sunday 18 August 2019
Reference: HR-0048-19
Please note the post is available due to temporary funding for a fixed term ending 31 March 2021

“West Lancashire has a diverse economy with market towns, small villages and thriving commercial areas nestled alongside rural countryside.

“The Borough offers a wide contrast between open farmland and small picturesque villages together with the larger vibrant market towns of Burscough and Ormskirk. Our largest town Skelmersdale is a hive of urban activity, combining thriving business districts, central and local shopping centres with plenty of green spaces and surrounding woodlands.

“An exciting opportunity has arisen for a skilled professional to join the Council working in our in our small, but supportive, Legal and Member Services team.

“We are looking to recruit an experienced and proactive planning solicitor to deal with a range of planning matters including planning application advice, certificate of lawful use, planning enforcement and appeals and Community Infrastructure Levy/Planning Obligation matters”.

Perhaps it is an opportunity to make sure that Serco doesn’t renege on its obligation to renew the shambolic “footgolf course” and “new 9hole course” at Beacon Park Golf Course, together with all the new “landscaping” that we must hope doesn’t ruin the 18 hole course? 

Labour Beating Up On Serco and Virgin Care?

And about time too! Labour have announced an insourcing revolution to reverse the trend of public services in West Lancashire being outsourced to private providers and instead bring these services back ‘in house’, to be delivered by the public sector.

Democratising Local Public Services: A Plan for Twenty-First Century Insourcing

Labour’s blueprint for a radical overhaul of local government was announced at an event in London held by Labour’s Community Wealth Building Unit, a network of councillors and experts working together to rebuild local economies, renew faith in local services and deliver a renaissance of local government in communities across Britain in the face of austerity.

West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper

said “Delivering good services for people should be the focus of our public services not profit, as our public services belong to the people.

“It’s time to end the outsourcing scandal which has seen private companies rip off the taxpayer, degrade our public services in West Lancashire and put people at risk whilst remaining wholly unaccountable to the people who rely on and ultimately fund these services.

“Nationally and locally, we’ve seen the mess caused by private providers like Serco and Virgin Care who seek to make profits from these contracts”.

Labour’s view is that “After year upon year of failures the public has rightly lost confidence in the privatisation of our public services and the carve up of the public realm for private profit.

“The government’s ideological pursuit of privatisation and outsourcing has seen the public pay the price as fat cat bosses count their profits. Labour will end this racket and ensure that our vital public services are delivered in the interests of the people our local authorities are here to serve, not in the interest of outsourcing firms’ profit margins and wealthy shareholders”.

In West Lancashire, Serco Leisure Operating Ltd, together with its partners Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd have certainly carved up the “public realm” ie Beacon Park Golf Course with its gross, now known to having broken planning conditions, landfill royalty ripoff. 

Only recently has the Chief Executive of Serco Group plc, Rupert Soames OBE, written an utterly puerile suggestion to Rosie Cooper MP that my concerns about the Serco receipt of royalty payments was focused on the possibility that the council (WLBC) received royalties from Oakland Golf and Leisure Limited. We know WLBC was never a royalty sharing partner despite our, the public, ownership of Beacon Park Golf Course. But Serco had its grubby hands in the royalty pot and received £183,864 while Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd hid its huge share among linked service companies. And never once was there any proof that VAT was paid on the thousands of landfill deliveries.  

If Labour DOES intend to ensure the public services ARE delivered in the interests of the public then the best place for investigation of the Beacon Park Golf Course is by reference to the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee!

Austin Mitchell Writes

Austin Mitchell

writes “The clamour against “No Deal” is Remain’s fig leaf. Nothing to do with reality, it’s based on the assumption that an EU, which Remainers love so much and paint as the only force for good in a darkening world, will crucify Britain, try to wreck our economy, try to dictate who our government should be and then blame it on us as a justified punishment for being so naughty as to to want to leave it.

“Blair and Brown have joined together for the first time since Granita to warn against it; Tory soon-to-be-ex ministers lament it; Labour, in their role as the New Liberals, denounce it; The Guardian turns its Remainer propaganda loose on it; and Lib Dems quake more at the prospect than they do at global warming, sexism or the fight for PR. Yet it’s permissible to wonder why, since if No Deal happens it won’t be us, but the EU which will produce it, none of this rage is directed at them.

“Rampant Remainers aim to tie government’s hand against it. Imagine the effect of that. Everyone entering a negotiation needs that threat in their pack. Without it, we go naked into the conference chamber. Because its 27 members all want something different, the EU can only agree on “no”. Remove the No Deal threat and there’s no incentive for that wobbly, would-be empire, to say anything different. They can just sit there chanting “nein, nein, nein” like a speaking clock stuck at nine o’clock.

“Yet if an unacceptable deal which we can’t get through Parliament is all that’s on offer, it means deadlock and “no deal”. The EU would then be insisting that we change our constitutional procedures, get a new government and deny the will of the people, then put all that to another referendum to require the people to change their minds. That’s EU democracy.

“To persuade us to enjoy that humiliation the “anti-No Dealers” have launched their third campaign of fear. The first, claiming there’d be huge damage if we voted for Brexit, failed to appear. The second, that leaving would be a disaster, failed to persuade, perhaps because we grew faster and had less unemployment than most of the EU. So now they’ve narrowed the terror down to “No Deal”

“though I don’t think that means that any other kind of deal is now acceptable.

“Yet even this new No Deal phobia isn’t credible. Many of the assumptions on which the claims by the Bank of England and the Treasury are made just aren’t true. Other problems are exaggerated. The assumption is that a malevolent EU will set out to damage us – an odd view from those who love it, and unlikely. There’ll be some disruption but fish gotta swim, planes gotta fly and I gotta get my pills or I die. It’s hardly logical to bash their nearest neighbour and trading partner while doing dirty deals with Russia. The harsher they are to us, the more they damage themselves – and particularly Ireland, just as a European recession looks likely.

“It’s true that the pound will fall but that will boost exports and tax imports. We should boost that right now by state aid to industry to seize its opportunity and backing for import substitution. Provide both and any damage from leaving can be countered by a spending boost to end austerity (itself the cause of our weakness), boost the economy, stimulate demand and lower the excessive costs imposed on manufacturing by council tax, water, power and port charges.

“In the unlikely event that the EU does try to cripple us, they will be damaging themselves, beginning a Trumpian trade war to defend their protectionist bloc, and holding back trade and developing nations by agricultural protectionism. All that not only goes against the spirit of the age, but adds both to the problems of recession the world is already facing, and to the economic damage imposed by the euro on its own weaker members.

“That doesn’t sound like the fairytale paradise Remainers claim the EU to be. But then I like Europe too much to believe they’ll be that nasty. It’s the Remainers who really want to punish us for voting Brexit. We’ve rejected the views of our establishment and our elite. That’s naughty”.

Now What Should Boris Johnson Do?

According to John Redwood

“He will intensify so called No deal planning and get ready to implement his promise to leave the EU on 31 October.

“The Cameron/May style of European negotiation travelling as a supplicant to the capitals of Europe did not work for them or the UK. The UK should accept the EU often expressed view that they cannot re open the Withdrawal Agreement. The EU then has to understand the UK cannot sign the Withdrawal Agreement.

“Once this has been understood it is then possible to discuss a potential free trade agreement and work on more improvements to trade arrangements for our departure. The EU Brexit officials would be welcome in London for positive talks on mutually advantageous trade arrangements . In the meantime WTO rules, a new lower UK tariff schedule and the WTO Facilitation of Trade Agreement will ensure trade continues”.

This Is An Inadequate School

This is an inadequate school

The Ofsted School Report on Ormskirk School May 2019

Overall effectiveness Inadequate
Effectiveness of leadership and management Inadequate
Quality of teaching, learning and assessment Requires improvement
Personal development, behaviour and welfare Requires improvement
Outcomes for pupils Requires improvement
16 to 19 study programmes Requires improvement
This is an inadequate school

Since the last inspection, leaders and governors have been too slow to bring about improvement.  Over this period, leaders and teachers have not been held to account effectively for the progress and welfare of the pupils in their care. Disadvantaged pupils and pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) do not make the progress that they should. Teaching is not consistently good. Pupils do not have enough time to reflect on their work and make improvements. Teachers do not consistently support pupils to develop accuracy and fluency in their writing. When teaching is not effective, teachers do not plan for learning that meets pupils’ needs and eliminate gaps in pupils’ knowledge, including in the sixth form. Pupils’ work is sometimes of poor quality; it is untidy, often unfinished and sometimes tasks are missing, particularly for boys.

Occasionally, bullying is not dealt with effectively by staff. Teachers have not used school policies effectively. As a result, pupils’ behaviour has declined since the previous inspection. A minority of pupils behave inappropriately in social areas and corridors. When teachers’ expectations are too low, activities fail to capture pupils’ interest. Pupils stop working and disrupt learning. This is not challenged consistently by teachers. The proportion of pupils who have been excluded for a fixed period is higher than the national average, particularly for disadvantaged pupils and pupils with SEND. The proportion of pupils who are regularly absent from school is high, particularly for disadvantaged pupils and pupils with SEND. Over time, in the sixth form, leaders’ actions have not had enough impact on improving teaching and outcomes for academic courses.

In accordance with section 44(2) of the Education Act 2005, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector is of the opinion that this school requires significant improvement, because it is performing significantly less well than it might in all the circumstances reasonably be expected to perform.

The current headteacher has been in post since Easter 2019 and, after only 20 days, is already having a positive impact on the school.

WLBC Rich List Update

Our West Lancashire

state “In terms of Transparency, the Chief Operating Officer post will carry annual remuneration of £94,500 and the Corporate Director posts will be £81,687.A redundancy payment of £112,386 will be made to the Chief Executive, £90,616 to the Director of Development and Regeneration and £64,205 to the Borough Solicitor. Redundancy costs have been calculated in accordance with the Council’s Redundancy Policy, which complies with the Local Government (Early Termination of Employment) (Discretionary Compensation) (England and Wales) Regulations 2006. Pension strain cost will also be paid to the Pension Fund of £0.422m. The pension strain cost has been calculated in accordance with the Local Government Superannuation Scheme Regulations.

“For clarity, the total exit costs for these three posts were presented differently to councillors in the report we considered last week. Namely:

“Chief Executive – £307,524
“Borough Solicitor – £232,482
“Director of Development and Regeneration – £149,665

“The total cost of £689,000 is the same but we feel it is important that the public see the figures as presented to councillors”.

Readers will wonder at the use by WLBC of the term “pension strain”. Whose strain? Council tax payers, of course. Just like the BBC and its new description of the recently introduced charge for its over 75s TV license fee to pay for “talent”!

WLBC Rich List Latest

Apply to leave WLBC, be paid compensation for loss of office!

Announcing the voluntary redundancy of Kim Webber

Chief Executive, WLBC also agreed further changes to the senior management structure and subsequent savings through the voluntary redundancy of John Harrison

Director of Development and Regeneration, and Terry Broderick, the very efficient 

Borough Solicitor. It is almost certain that Ms Webber will appear in the Taxpayers’ Alliance Town Hall Rich List next year.

From 4th November the Council will put in place a Chief Operating Officer model, and a Chief Operating Officer will be sought, supported by a Corporate Director of Place and Community and a Corporate Director of Transformation & Resources to make a saving of £0.314m per annum. Working together, the Chief Operating Officer and the Corporate Directors will deliver the Council’s objectives, together with further income, efficiency and service improvements. A redundancy payment of £112,386 will be made to the Chief Executive, £90,616 to the Director of Development and Regeneration and £64,205 to the Borough Solicitor.

Don’t be fooled by these figures. The trio of leavers will receive “Compensation for loss of office”, and as we disclosed at the time of the voluntary loss of office the then Director of Leisure and Well Being (left Jan 2018) received £84,323 compensation. There’s more! His “Total before pensions” was £150,688, followed by a further Pension Contribution of £ 186,663. The package cost us £337,351. He was mentioned in despatches by the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

You can read the details of how these “Loss of office they applied to leave” gifts are paid out on page 70 0f the “West Lancashire Borough Council Statement of Accounts 2017/18”.