Month: December 2019

Is This A West Lancashire Brexit Election?

You might be forgiven if you think Brexit is not an election issue in West Lancashire?

As Rosie Cooper issues her latest message, Brexit is nowhere in sight. Who you vote for to be your MP really matters, she claims. When you need her she’s there. On 12 December she needs you, be there. But not for Brexit?

Her case is for £40million for the West Lancashire College site; 17,000 extra NHS dental places; her campaign against fracking; Protecting Ormskirk Hospital from merger or closure; delivering Skelmersdale Railway [subject to funding]; Record of delivery, promise of more. But not one word about Brexit, as voted for by the constituency!

She complains that under Conservatives there is constant underfunding of Ormskirk Hospital and privatisation of local health services; 750 police officers cut from Lancashire Constabulary; 26% of children trapped in poverty, that’s 6,199 children; 6,820 pensioners set to lose their free TV licences; 87 people “dying a day” waiting for social care; overturned LCC rejection of fracking, with Altcar now under threat; and Conservative priorities are not West Lancashire priorities. 

But no mention of Brexit. Remainers in Brexit Leave constituencies are at a disadvantage. When we need to know how she would vote in a new parliament we don’t know!

Meanwhile, we hear that “Yesterday it was great to take part in the West Lancashire hustings on BBC Radio Lancashire. A shame that @rosie4westlancs decided not to attend” from Jack Gilmore the lonely Tory candidate seemingly abandoned by the local Tory Association.

Was Rosie not invited? Did she decline to attend? We should be told. 

Who Wants Proportional Representation?

Is it the case that election losers invariably blame the voting system?

The Green Party election candidate John Puddifer suggests “We need Proportional Representation to #MakeVotesMatter! Here’s who’s standing up for PR in West Lancashire. Find out which of your candidates promise to ChangeTheVotingSystem if they’re elected!”

In England, Scotland and Wales the voting system for the European elections is the d’Hondt system of proportional representation, regional closed list. In Northern Ireland the system is Single Transferable Vote. The ballot paper lists the name of each candidate and their party name. Rank the candidates in order of preference, a 1 next to your first choice, a 2 next to your second, and so on, ranking as many as you wish. 

Since 1999 voters in Britain have elected MEPs under a proportional representation system. The European Parliamentary Elections Act of that year introduced a regional list system with seats allocated to parties in proportion to their share of the vote.

In 2014, all MEPs in the European Parliament were elected under some form of proportional representation. Differences exist between Member States for example in the methods used (eg. Droop quota, d’Hondt system, Single Transferable Vote) or in the constituency unit (regional or national).

Of the 43 countries most often considered to be within Europe, 40 use some form of proportional representation to elect their MPs. The UK stands almost alone in Europe in using a ‘one-person-takes-all’ disproportionate voting system. If we exclude the authoritarian state of Belarus “Europe’s only remaining outpost of tyranny” France is the only other European country to use a ‘one-person-takes-all’ system (the Two-Round System).

Party List proportional representation is the most widely used form of PR in Europe, 31 countries use it to elect their MPs.

Might we assume that the “Green Party remain” candidate is naturally inclined to PR by virtue of his lack of confidence in the “UK Democratic system”? Votes DO matter so long as political parties persuade people to do so.

OWL Council Motion On Single-Use Plastics

Single-use plastics such as this

should be a thing of the past at the council if OWL’s WLBC motion wins support

“OWL councillors have been discussing how best to tackle single-use plastics recently and waste such as that shown above at a council event last week has spurred us on. We have now called a debate on making the council “single-use plastics free”. We are also asking that the council go further still in its role as a community leader and promote this campaign and best practice more widely in West Lancashire.

“Recent research shows eight million metric tonnes of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans each year, endangering marine life while it is estimated that plastics in landfill can take hundreds of years to decompose.

“300 million tons of plastic are produced around the globe each year. Of this, 50% is for disposable applications such as packaging. On the day our motion was tabled a 100 kg litter ball was found in the stomach of a dead sperm whale in the Hebrides including plastic cups; bags; gloves; packing straps; and tubing.

Motion

“Reducing single-use plastic (SUP) use in the Borough of West Lancashire. To consider the following Motion included on the agenda at the request of Councillor Adrian Owens on behalf of the Our West Lancashire Group

“Recent research shows eight million metric tonnes of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans each year, endangering marine life while it is estimated that plastics in landfill can take hundreds of years to decompose.

300 million tons of plastic are produced around the globe each year. Of this, 50% is for disposable applications such as packaging. The Government has previously considered a possible tax on single use plastics, but this Council believes that we should eliminate their use as soon as possible wherever practicable.

Council therefore resolves to

• Develop a robust strategy to make West Lancashire Borough Council a ‘single-use plastic free’ authority by the end of 2020 including an end to the purchase and procurement of SUPs through the Council’s supply chain and the transition to the use of compostable bags for litter collection by the Council’s Clean and Green teams;

• End the provision of SUP products such as cups and cutlery in council buildings and at council run events;

• Work with tenants and operators in commercial properties owned by West Lancashire Borough Council to encourage the phasing out of SUP cups, bottles, cutlery and straws;

• Encourage the Borough’s businesses, organisations and residents to go ‘single-use plastic free’ working with best practice partners to provide business support, practical guidelines and advice to help local businesses transition from SUPs to sustainable alternatives”.

Who could object? Surely no reasonable person could find a reason not to support the motion? We’ll see! 

More Cream In New Year For Councillors As Staff Are Made Redundant?

From Our West Lancashire

“West Lancashire councillors receive the highest basic allowance of any Borough in Lancashire and have done for almost 20 years. There are signs that some senior councillors in the Labour and Conservative groups might like to increase the bill for councillor pay still higher.

“Our West Lancashire has published our submission to the panel looking at the matter and we’ve asked the Labour and Conservative groups to do likewise and publish their submissions to the panel so that residents can see the stance they are taking. To date they haven’t done so.

“In January it is likely that 31 staff will be issued with redundancy notices – seven compulsory. In total, 39 staff are likely to lose their jobs from the recent restructuring agreed by councillors”.

WLBC has Current Vacancies listed here-Waste Services Manager; Principal Environmental Health Officer – Food and Safety; Corporate Health and Safety Officer; Clean and Green Apprentice; Clean and Green operative Scale 4.

But OWLs suggest that in January it is likely that 31 staff will be issued with redundancy notices – seven compulsory. In total, 39 staff are likely to lose their jobs from the recent restructuring agreed by councillors.

“Councillor allowances or “pay” in West Lancashire is voted on and agreed by… you guessed it, councillors themselves. Our West Lancashire believes that this process should be more transparent than it is. That’s why we are publishing our submission to the IRP for all to read. What’s more we are calling on the Labour and Conservative groups to also publish their stance on councillor allowances by releasing their submissions to the IRP.

“There is though a small group of outside people who advise on allowances. They are known as the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP). This month, they have asked each of the three political groups for their stance on councillor allowances as they conduct their review before providing their advice. Submission To The Independent Remuneration Panel West Lancashire Borough Council  from The Our West Lancashire Group Of Councillors.

“The panel requested the views of the Our West Lancashire Group on five matters relating to the Members’ Allowance Scheme at West Lancashire Borough Council.  Our comments relating to these five areas are detailed below. 1. Basic Allowance – The long-standing view of the Our West Lancashire group is that the basic allowance at West Lancashire Borough Council remains significantly out of line with other Lancashire councils. The allowance of £4842 per year is the highest of any Lancashire borough council and has been so for almost 20 years.

“In February 2019 the basic allowances for Lancashire Boroughs were: West Lancashire £4842 Hyndburn £4634 Chorley £4422.61 Wyre £4137 Preston £3831 Fylde £3750 Rossendale £3342 Lancaster £3383.5 Pendle £3000 Ribble Valley £3643 Burnley £3500 South Ribble £4605.25. Average £3924.2. The Lancashire average of £3924.20 is more than 23% lower than the West Lancashire figure of £4842.

“In the absence of regionally or nationally set figures for councillor allowances, Our West Lancashire believe that tracking the average allowance level for Lancashire councils is an appropriate mechanism to determine the basic allowance and would ask you to consider introducing this mechanism. It would make an annual saving of almost £50,000 a year at a time when approximately 38 council employees face voluntary or compulsory redundancy.

“This proposal also has the support of 86.5% of local residents in our most recent survey (October 2019) on this matter.

“Special Responsibility Allowances (SRA) The use of percentages of the basic allowance to calculate the respective special responsibility allowances has the advantages of ease of administration and understanding. The Our West Lancashire Group states our opposition to any increase in the total special responsibility allowances paid.

“The recent Sustainable Organisation Review Project (SORP) final report indicated that cabinet members were to take on a greater strategic role under the new management structure. However, senior councillors have always set the strategic direction of the council under previous structures. Councillors decide and officers implement. There is no evidence that this will be significantly different under the new structure.

Verging on the obscene?

“Given that the SORP is resulting in approximately 38 council employees leaving the council through voluntary or compulsory redundancy in the period between November 2019 and March 2021, it would rightly be viewed by external observers as verging on the “obscene” to increase special responsibility allowances while this process was underway. Any such increases in SRA would reduce public confidence in local government in West Lancashire and impact negatively on staff morale which is already fragile as evidenced by the staff feedback to the SORP report provided to councillors in July 2019.

“The Our West Lancashire Group reiterates our opposition to any increase in the total special responsibility allowances paid.

“Childcare and Dependent Carers Allowance. It is time the rate at which this allowance is paid was reviewed as it has remained unchanged for a number of years. While it is very rarely claimed, the Our West Lancashire group believes that local residents should not be deterred from standing for election to council by the costs of caring from children or dependent family members while attending official meetings in their role as a councillor.

“We would support this allowance being paid at the living wage hourly rate which is currently £9.30 per hour. As the living wage is reviewed and indexed annually, setting the allowance in line with the Living Wage would also future proof this element of the scheme.

“Travelling and Subsistence Allowances – no comments. General – no additional comments”.

Where Are They Now?

Back in early October it was “Congratulations to Jack Gilmore” 

who has been selected as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for West Lancashire” and there they were, all in the photoshoot, including Doreen, May, Wally, Mrs Wally.

Then came five

Then came two

Then came his Dad

Then came his friends

Then he buggered off to Southport to help someone else!

And with one week to go? It’s a poster.

Verdict? Must try harder!

On Being Boris

Boris Johnson’s dad Stanley

suggested that the UK public lacks basic knowledge when speaking live on the 29 November edition of BBC‘s Victoria Derbyshire. And his comments reveal what his family and the Conservative Party think about the British public, it “Doesn’t have that “degree of literacy”!

Responding to a comment from a viewer that branded his son “Pinocchio”, Stanley Johnson said “That requires a degree of literacy which I think the Great British public doesn’t necessarily have”.

The now prime minister wrote that working class men are “likely to be drunk, criminal, aimless, feckless and hopeless”

in a 1995 magazine column. He also wrote that the children of single mothers are “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”.

Mr Johnson has refused to apologise for the remarks.

Boris Johnson was educated at Eton and is apparently a descendant of King George II who begat King George III (enough said!). And it goes beyond Boris Johnson’s words and upbringing. Austerity policies have also reflected the classism of the Johnson family, the Conservative Party as a whole, and many Labour Party members too. In 2015, it was reported that the UK’s richest 1,000 families increased their wealth by almost £500bn since the financial crash, while the majority of us have faced brutal austerity cuts.

But there is a website called “Boris Johnson Lies” that documents pages and pages of what it calls outright lies from the Conservative leader. These span from claims about how many hospitals the Conservatives will build, to denying he said things he categorically has said to even lying about giving up drinking.

As for the working class propensity to be drunk, criminal, feckless and hopeless, is that so different from elected Members of Parliament with their expenses scandals, their drunken episodes and their lies and cheating?  Come next week we will have elected 650 more of the same!

 

It’s Called Democracy

In a Champion Letter to the Editor

JR of Tarleton writes about the “fundamentally flawed Brexit Referendum”, the one that resulted in 17.4 million people voting in the majority for leaving the EU.

I can only sympathise with JR, as I voted No to joining the Common Market. Lies were told then, they were in 1961, and they may have been told in 2016, but that’s politicians for you?

Historians know that the real problem for the British has been that, from the moment our politicians first decided in the 1960s and 1970s that we should join the “project”, they have never dared to admit openly to the British people that this was its true nature and purpose. And this had two particularly damaging consequences.

The first is that, right from the start, it created that need for a culture of deceit, whereby our politicians and civil servants have consistently tried to downplay the significance of ‘Europe’, and to present it as something different from what it is.

Apart from anything else, this has meant that every time the project has taken another step towards its ultimate goal, as that original “European Economic Community” first evolved in the 1980s into just the “European Community” , then in the 1990s into the “European Union”, Britain’s politicians have at every stage along the way, had to go through that process with which we are now so wearyingly familiar, whereby first they express opposition to much of what their continental partners are proposing, then find themselves having to agree to more than they intended, and finally have to hide from the British people just how much they have given away.

Edward Heath, then Minister of State for Europe, was sent off to Brussels to negotiate the terms of British entry. And when on October 10 1961 he made his opening speech to the other member governments, he could not have been more fulsome in expressing Britain’s desire “to become full, wholehearted and active members of the European Community in its widest sense, and to go forward with you in the building of a new Europe”.

It took some time before the biggest lie of all by the biggest liar ever?

“There are some in this country who fear that in going into Europe we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say, are completely unjustified”.

Prime Minister Edward Heath, television broadcast on Britain’s entry into the Common Market, January 1973. Below, Edward Heath signs the accession treaty for Britain to join the European Economic Community or Common Market at the Egmont Palace in Brussels, Belgium on 22 January 1972.

The proof?

“This country quite voluntarily surrendered the once seemingly immortal concept of the sovereignty of parliament and legislative freedom by membership of the European Union…as a once sovereign power, we have said we want to be bound by Community law”.

Judge Bruce Morgan, judgement in Sunderland metrication case April 9, 2001.

David Cameron said “In 45 days’ time, the British people will go to polling stations across our islands and cast their ballots in the way we have done in this country for generations. But this time, their decision will not be for a Parliament, or even two. They will decide the destiny of our country, not for 5 years or for 10, but in all probability for decades, perhaps a lifetime”.

JR does mention democracy, as in “The forthcoming election providing an opportunity to “democratically reassess everything. We should avoid being fobbed off with simple constantly repeated mantras like “Get Brexit Done”.

Presumably JR doesn’t mind hearing the constantly repeated mantra of “holding a Peoples’ Vote” despite the people holding a “perhaps in a lifetime vote” in 2016? But would he have been so desperate for a “democratic reassessment” if remain had won? I think we all know the answer to that?

How many UK Prime Ministers wanted Britain in the European Community, regardless of the public?

Just remember if you will that oft-quoted line from Heath’s White Paper circulated to every household in the country in June 1971 that promised “There is no question of Britain losing essential sovereignty”.  And now there is no question that it’s time it came back, it’s called democracy!