Sunday, 30 December 2007

Fun at the Panto

I am not ashamed to say it - tonight I had a GREAT time at the Panto! I went with the girls from the under 10 football team I help coach to the Central Chatham Theatre to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as a Christmas treat from the Club. I haven't been to the Panto since I was 10 myself and think I have sorely missed out as a result. The cast included Boyzone's Shane Lynch (not my cup of tea but others around me seemed to emit a high pitched scream every time he walked on stage) and Three Degrees star Shelia Ferguson. But the indisputable star of the show was Muddles, played by Paul Birling, who by all accounts appears to be a regular on the Chatham pantomime scene, and he had everyone doubled up in stitches, regardless of their age, with impressions galore and ridiculously funny panto jokes. The girls enjoyed it, the mums and dads enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it - my hands hurt from clapping so much! The Panto is on until next Sunday so if you want a couple of hours of entertainment go see it. PS - you don't need kids to go: the front two rows of the theatre were taken up by adults!!

Monday, 24 December 2007

Merry Christmas

As I get ready to sign off for a few days rest with my family and loved ones, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and peaceful Christmas.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Disappointing news on future of Maidstone A&E

BBC News is reporting tonight that the Health Secretary Alan Johnson has agreed in principle plans to downgrade Maidstone A&E despite massive local opposition and the rejection of the proposal by Kent County Council's NHS Scrutiny Committee.

It is quite clear that the Labour Health Secretary has not listened to people's concerns; obviously doesn't understand the local geography enough to appreciate that moving blue light trauma to Tunbridge Wells may well endanger lives rather than save them; and is clearly more intent on saving money and meeting targets rather than patient welfare.

Locals will feel desperately let down by the Health Secretary's decision, and their local MP who has supported this ridiculous re-organisation.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

BBC sees sense on Pogues song

BBC Radio 1 has backed down after a furore erupted over its decision to censor the Pogues' Fairytale of New York, undoubtedly one of the best Christmas songs ever, because "some members of the audience might find it offensive". I find most things played on Radio 1 not to my taste (more of a Radio 2, 3, 4 and 5 girl myself) but this really was political correctness gone mad. This decision was even more ludicrous given that Radio 2 were playing the unedited version! Thankfully someone at the top of the Christmas tree saw good sense and those who do listen to Radio 1 can now hear the song in all its 20-year-old glory. Of course after all this publicity, I bet the odds on the Pogues being number 1 have shortened!!

Christmas is taxing!

This time of year always brings out the best of the "festive" press releases and today the Tax Payers' Alliance (TPA) have published research which shows that British families will pay an average £225 in tax this Christmas as a result of their festive spending, which overall is expected to exceed £5.65bn.

The TPA have produced an excellent table which shows that if you were lucky enough to get hold of the much wanted Nintendo Wii, your efforts will result in a £27 contribution to the Treasury's black hole. The Apple iphone will result in a whopping £161 gift to the taxman, whereas the family tin of Quality Street (even minus the purple ones cunningly extracted by me) will see a charge of £1.40.

The full release can be read HERE.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

A waste of taxpayers' money

I have spent the morning catching up on some reading and have just read a fascinating article by Leo McKinstry in a recent Spectator which sums up everything that is wrong with Regional Development Agencies. They are a complete waste of money, unelected, largely unaccountable and Conservatives have always pledged to scrap them. Read THIS about our own South East of England Development Agency and decide for yourself if you think the money could be better spent elsewhere!

ps - the £51,000 Mr Braithwaite spent on taxis would probably cover the deficit for backdated police pay in the whole of Kent!

Friday, 14 December 2007

The picture Brown didn't want us to see


Yesterday, Gordon Brown missed the official signing of the EU Treaty officially because of a "diary clash", but more likely because he didn't want to be seen by the British public to be signing away our veto on European matters. Unfortunately instead of being snapped alongside his EU counterparts, he was caught on camera signing over powers to Brussels in a room by himself later on. The Government has tried to downplay the significance of the EU Treaty but as I have highlighted before on this blog, it is quite clearly the Constitution in all but name. The Prime Minister has refused thus far to allow British people to have a referendum on the Treaty - probably because he knows he'll lose it. You can join the cross-party campaign for a referendum by signing the petition HERE.

A feast at the Robin Hood

Last night a small group of us had Christmas dinner at the wonderful Robin Hood Pub in Bluebell Hill and it was amazing! They bought out a picture perfect bronzed turkey for us to carve ourselves along with a never ending supply of the usual trimmings. Adrian drew the short straw and donned on the chef's hat and apron to carve but allegedly the knife wasn't sharp enough (bad workman??) so it was whisked back into the kitchen for the Chef to do the honours. I left happy and very full and if you are looking for somewhere local to have Christmas dinner would definitely recommend a trip to the Robin Hood.



Sunday, 9 December 2007

Taste of Kent

In Sainsbury's today I was perusing the various British beers for sale and came across an "organic Whitstable ale". I am ashamed to say that I'd never heard of it before, despite further investigation finding that it is brewed in neighbouring Maidstone. Anyway, as part of my research I stumbled upon "The Taste of Kent Awards" (also helpfully highlighted in today's Kent on Sunday) and so as a huge fan of supporting local Kent produce (especially the local wines) I have now voted in this year's competition. You can too HERE.

Vexing news

A couple of stories in the papers this weekend have really vexed me. Firstly I think the decision not to back date the police's 2.5% pay rise to September is really disappointing - not least because it effectively means that their pay rise will amount to 1.9%. This was as a direct result of the Home Secretary ignoring recommendations by the Police Arbitration Board and as a consequence has left ordinary officers feeling betrayed and angry. Jan Berry, the Police Federation's chairman, and former Kent police officer, is an absolute first rate advocate of the police but I fear she has been badly let down by the Home Secretary on this issue, and now the Federation are considering how to react with possible unofficial strike action being an option. I very much hope that won't happen but at least two officers have told me how low morale is in the police force and this will just add to their despair. An excellent article in Kent on Sunday highlights the impact on Kent police officers.

Another story that has angered me is that pensioners who pick up their benefit through the Post Office on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday may not be able to pick up their pension before Christmas because the Government won't change the date to Friday 21st December. This means that pensioners will have only 3 hours on Christmas Eve to pick up their pension because of Post Office opening times over the Christmas week. Pensioner groups such as Help the Aged are deeply concerned that some will go without over Christmas because of this naive process driven approach. I hope common sense prevails.

Horse and Cart

For the first time ever, I have managed to sort out Christmas presents for my nephews and niece in good time. The Internet helped a lot but I had to pop into Toys R Us in Chatham to pick up a few more bits and pieces and found the most amazing gift for my little niece - a 3ft long lilac horse!!! I am sure she'll absolutely love it - and if she doesn't, I know her mummy will! It was a nightmare getting it from shelf to checkout to car but at least I provided some fellow shoppers with a reason to smile and pass comment. Goodness knows how I am going to wrap it. Thankfully I didn't break down on the way home - that really would have given the rescue serviceman something to smile about!





Saturday, 1 December 2007

COMPETITION: Football and Politics

An ex-colleague of mine, Tara Hamilton-Miller writes in her latest column in the New Statesman "Before the last general election there were only six professional football grounds in Conservative constituencies".

Annoyingly, this is one of my favourite quiz questions. I have even had the pleasure of supply the answer to Statto at a recent event! So I will send a bottle of champagne to the first person who can tell me the name of the six football clubs and their MPs. Send your answers to tracey@traceycrouch.co.uk

UPDATE:
We have a winner and the competition is now closed. Well done Alan for identifying that the grounds were: Barnet, Bournemouth, Macclesfield, Southend, Brentford and the one that everyone always forgets Nottingham Forest, which is in Ken Clarke's Rushcliffe constituency!





Thursday, 29 November 2007

Political Priorities

This morning I went to BBC Kent's radio studio for a discussion on political prioritisation following the publication of my newsletter which notes that my opponent missed a vital debate in Parliament on Maidstone Hospital because he was undertaking his ministerial duties in Luxembourg. Incidentally if I was in his shoes I am not sure I would have afforded my opponent such free publicity, but hey I was grateful for the opportunity! The important point coming out from the discussion this morning is quite simply if you are a Minister then your constituents clearly take second place in Parliament. It is not the case as was claimed that Government Ministers cannot speak in the House - technically they can seek permission to speak from the backbenches on important constituency issues. Maybe he just didn't think the crisis in our local healthcare was not important enough to use this power. When I am elected, I know what my priorities will be!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Shaw seeks redemption

My opponent is apparently very upset tonight that in my latest newsletter, delivered free to 40,000 people and at no expense to the taxpayer, I point out that he missed a vital debate in Parliament on the problems at Maidstone Hospital in order to present the UK's fishing priorities in Luxembourg. As a result he has challenged me to a live debate on BBC Radio Kent tomorrow morning. Tune in at 07.05am HERE and listen to him try and explain why fishing matters are more important than than the deaths of ninety people from C-Difficile whilst patients at the local hospital.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Weekly Conservative Newsletter

I feature in the latest Conservative e-newsletter, alongside news about our education plans and comment on the Government's troubles. You can read it HERE.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Frozen fingers, toes and nose

I went out with the team today in Larkfield to deliver our latest newsletter and nearly froze! I paired up with former postie Chris who kept reassuring me that I would "soon warm up" but it never quite happened and even now as I sit at home typing this my nose is still freezing cold. All the girly whinging aside, it was great to get out and about in the fresh air today, especially as it was followed by a steak pie at Wealden Hall! It was noticeably quiet in the streets I was delivering which can only mean one of two things - either everyone was huddled around their fires, or the Christmas shopping has begun in earnest! I had hoped to pop into one or two of the Christmas fares happening around the constituency today to pick up a few stocking fillers but sadly I ran out of time - I shall try and make one next weekend instead. In the meantime, I hope to be able to publish my newsletter online so that anyone who hasn't received a copy can read it here...but I am just trying to work out how to do it first!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Thousands of local families affected by catastrophic data breach

The news of the appalling breach of data protection at HMRC which has led to 25m people being exposed to potential identity fraud will have a massive impact on families across Chatham & Aylesford. The Chancellor was forced to admit that his Revenue & Customs Agency have lost in the post disks containing details of 25m child benefit claimants raising huge questions about the safety and security of personal information. The latest statistics show that in Medway nearly 34,000 families claim benefit for nearly 61,000 children, and in Tonbridge & Malling there are 15,000 families claiming benefit for over 26,000 children. That means tonight nearly 50,000 families across the region will be worryingly checking their bank accounts to make sure they have not been subject to fraud.

The Chairman of HMRC has rightly resigned but despite the Chancellor learning about this - the largest breach of data protection ever - 10 days ago, the public have only now been alerted to the problem and by all accounts as a result of the media finding out, rather than the Chancellor coming forward first.

This is a catastrophic failure but highlights why a database for ID cards, which will store an immense amount of information on each and everyone of us, cannot be trusted in the hands of Government.

A shocking failure on shoplifting

A report out today shows that Britain has topped the EU table for shoplifting with more than £1.5bn worth of goods being stolen per year. Sadly, I am not at all surprised. A few years ago, the Government decided to extend the fixed penalty notice system to include shoplifting as a way of fiddling the figures on crime but without any thought on whether a fixed penalty notice provided any sort of deterrent. Retailers at the time were opposed to the proposals but were simply ignored and now today's figures confirm their doubts. One of the main reasons for a notice not preventing low level crime is that the payment rates are very low - only half get paid within the 21 days required and each unpaid one costs £91 to enforce.

Shoplifting is not a victimless crime - we all end up paying higher prices for our goods as a result of theft - and it is quite clear that the current system is not working. I am horrified by this report - and I hope that the Government feels embarrassed and ashamed when it sits in a room with their European colleagues. What we need is a proper system of justice which is working effectively on all levels of crime - something we certainly don't have under this Government.



Friday, 16 November 2007

Local Labour Party wasting YOUR money

Despite there not being any such proposal votes were counted yesterday in a "referendum", called by the Snodland Labour Party, on car parking charges. Since the good folk of Snodland are too sensible to be fooled by Labour scaremongering on 8% voted in the referendum. However since the poll cost Snodland Town Council £2,200 it means each vote cast cost the Council £5! What a horrendous waste of money. The Town Council already has limited funds and £2200 could be much better spent in my opinion on town facilities rather than wasted on a politically motivated campaign. We will remind them that it was they who wasted the money, not local Conservatives, if the pot runs out!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

A weekend of Remembrance

I have spent the whole of this weekend remembering our war heroes and those they have left behind. Yesterday I visited the Royal British Legion Village and met many residents who over coffee and cake were proudly telling me their war stories. I had a mini tour of one of the courts and was very impressed with the living accommodation, shown to me by Squadron Leader Des Butters (pictured) who I think was equally impressed by my ability to identify his model airplane as a Lancaster Bomber - one of the finest aircraft of all time in my opinion. I was delighted to meet two gentlemen who had served in the (former) Rhodesian Army who live in a part of the village dedicated to them, but was perplexed that to hear that they cannot march down Whitehall as an individual unit but have a separate service instead. I thought after the Gurkhas were recognised that this issue had been rectified? I shall find out. I also met a number of ladies who had served during the war as Wrens who were telling me wonderfully naughty stories about being dispatch riders etc.

This morning I went to St Peter's and St Paul's Church in Aylesford and was treated to a congregation made up of many children in scouting uniforms. The vicar was wonderful and encouraged them to participate in the service, asking them questions etc - which had many of us giggling at their sweetly innocent answers. The sun was shining through the autumn leaves on the trees making the two minute silence both beautiful and moving. Then this afternoon I headed back to the British Legion Village for another service but this time alongside the many former service personnel dressed in uniform with the polished medals proudly adorning their breast pocket. I think one of the most touching sights this afternoon was watching the contrast of elderly gentlemen lay wreathes in memory of those colleagues who lost their lives, followed by two young army cadets marching in time, and with their whole lives before them, laying their own mark of respect. I felt honoured to be in the company of all those who served in our armed forces defending the country - may their time, and the sacrifice of those who did not return, never be forgotten.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Nine year old drug addicts

Richard Spring MP has posted the most shocking story on his blog on the number of children being treated for cannabis misuse. In response to a parliamentary question he has discovered that 9,150 children (up from 7, 571 last year) between the ages of 9 and 15 are being treated for drugs misuse - 56% of these are being treated for specific cannabis problems. My eldest nephew is 9 and loves nothing more than playing with his Transformers, building lego cars, or kicking a football. I simply cannot imagine a nine year old rolling, never mind smoking, a joint. Richard is quite right to say that the decision made by the Government to downgrade cannabis to class C was a big mistake. It has given the impression that cannabis is a lot safer than it actually is and sends out a dangerous message to our children. It is time to reverse this stupid policy - and hopefully then we will see a fall in these shocking statistics.

Frank knows the score...

The papers and blogs have all got excited at the news that England (and Chelsea) hero Frank Lampard has confessed he is a Tory. It is quite unusual - although not unheard of - for footballers to be so open with their political opinions but in a way I feel less surprised than some when they do. Football, like politics, is very tribal - you support your team when they up, and when they are down and as a supporter of both the Conservative Party and Spurs it has been a heartbreaking at times! I am glad Frank has come out as a supporter - it is nice to know that premiership footballers do think about more than just football, being a celebrity, or fancy clothes. There is an excellent article on football and politics HERE and well worth a read.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Holmesdale Technology College

This morning I had a tour of Holmesdale Technology College and I was very impressed. The school has tried to place itself at the heart of the local community so as you walk into the reception, and after you've got over the sheer "wow" factor of the huge airy atrium, the first thing you notice is a coffee shop open to everyone in and outside the school.

The School, built under the PFI, is a specialist Technology college and the ICT suites were incredible - long gone are the days where students crowded around a single giant computer with a flickering green screen to learn about QWERTY and RAM. This school is all wi-fied up and every student has their own specially configured laptop enabling e-learning at the highest level. But it is more than just the technology that impressed me.

The infrastructure is amazing and OK it is a new school and everything, but the architectural design and general maintenance of the building is enough to make any pupil want to come to school and stay and learn. Even though my school days are long behind me, just walking around this morning was enough to make me want to join a class - although I would have been hard pressed to decide which one to join!

Saturday, 3 November 2007

98% say YES to Save Capstone Valley


At the end of September, I launched a consultative referendum on Medway Magna's plans to build 9,200 houses in Capstone Valley. Throughout October people have been returning ballot papers, delivered and paid for by Chatham & Aylesford Conservatives, and today the "Count" on the Referendum took place at Lordswood Leisure Centre.

We had an excellent response to the campaign which has significantly raised the profile of the threat to Capstone Valley. A number of people have contacted me direct, stopped me in the streets or spoken to local councillors to voice their concern and offer their support for our campaign. It is quite clear that whilst people understand that there is housing stress in the area, building on one of the last remaining green spaces in Medway is a dreadful idea which will see a real impact on local services, and increase in traffic and a major blow to the environment.

We had 3238 ballot papers returned to various drop off points around Chatham and the results were as follows:

"DO YOU WANT TO SAVE CAPSTONE VALLEY?"
YES 3176
NO 21
VOID 31
TOTAL 3238
So Medway Magna should take note. Local people will not sit back quietly and let Europe's largest housing estate be built in the beautiful Capstone Valley.


Friday, 2 November 2007

And lifting the CIS Cup is...

I was in Edinburgh yesterday for various meetings with MSPs, officials and Ministers and happened to pop outside to make a few phone calls and stumbled upon the draw being made for the CIS Cup Semi-Finals. Whilst I wasn't allowed to pick it up and pretend I'd just won the cup I was allowed to sit next to it though...


Tuesday, 30 October 2007

The Challenge of Population Growth

I wanted, belatedly, to write something about David Cameron's speech yesterday on meeting the challenges of a growing population. I very much welcomed the speech - it is important that we don't shy away from discussing these issues especially as grown up debate needs to occur on what our infrastructure needs should be to cope with population growth.

With Britain's population set to rise to 71 million by 2031, David explained that increases in life expectancy, net immigration, and household formation were the principal drivers of demographic change. He laid out a strategy to ensure firstly, that our population grows at a rate that's sustainable and secondly, that we're prepared for this level of growth. To achieve a sustainable level of growth, David re-iterated Conservative policy of controlling net immigration with annual limits, reforming welfare to get people into work and reduce the demand for migrant labour, and tackling family breakdown. And he also explained how a Conservative Government would ensure the country is prepared to deal with population growth in the key areas of housing, public services and transport.

These are very important issues in Chatham & Aylesford and the speech is well worth reading in full. It can be found HERE.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Support the Poppy Appeal

This year's Poppy Appeal has been described as one of the most political appeal's ever. Good. For the past six months, the Royal British Legion has run an amazing campaign on the broken covenant between Government and those who go to war in a British military uniform.

Unlike the soldiers who went to war in the first and second world wars to defend the UK and its empire from conquest, today's soldiers go into war zones arguably less sure what they are fighting for and certainly less well thought about when they return. Never mind the lack of parades, the bunting, the slap on the back for a job well done, our forces are fighting with inadequate equipment, they are offered sub-standard treatment if they return injured, and often their spouses are left to fight for compensation or pensions through the courts.

The Royal British Legion do a fantastic job supporting those who deserve more from our Government, and in memory of my grandfather, grandmother, great-grandfather as well as those who do their bit in today's wars I shall be giving generously to this year's appeal.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Pretty in Pink

Tonight everyone had to wear pink to training as part of a fundraising event for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. The male coaches, joined the girls of all ages, and got into the spirit and many were wearing pink tops, trousers, leggings and even wigs! Here's Ricky with his daughter Lucy in matching wigs, and little Ellie with her best pink Chav look!

We were joined tonight by a touring team from Cyprus. The Paphos Cheetahs are the only girls team in the whole of Cyprus so can only play mixed opposition at best. They arrived yesterday and met the Under 14 Meridian girls for their first all-girl game at Bluebell Hill Cricket Club. The chairman asked me to help get some additional media for the girls and I managed to get Meridian to cover the game on last night's news bulletins plus thanks to my friend Tony they also got some excellent coverage back home in Cyprus. Ironically I was unable to watch the game myself because I was in a meeting with the Sports Minister!
I think the boys that are on tour with them this evening were all a bit shocked at having to train in pink this evening but they all seemed to be enjoying themselves all the same!





Sunday, 21 October 2007

How the bookies make their money

Last week, a leading bookmaker was tugging on the nation's patriotic heartstrings and offering odds of 10-1 that England would triumph at the football, rugby and motor racing. At work we were all pretty tempted but none of us got around to braving the chilly autumn wind and putting our money where our optimistic mouths were. As I sit down in front of the TV tonight with all today's sports sections piled up on the coffee table, I wonder to myself what were the odds of England winning none - and who is the lucky fellow (no doubt a Scot or a Welshmen) who has cleaned up this weekend?

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Charity Quiz and Coney Banks

It is half time in the rugby world cup final so I thought I'd update my blog. Last night local Conservatives took a table at the KM charity quiz. Despite not winning, we all had a great evening. The sports round we did quite well on, and rather surprisingly also the entertainment round. We played our joker during the current affairs round but were somewhat surprised when the questions were "what did Charlotte Church name her baby?" and "what number did Bobby Charlton wear on his England shirt?" Since I gave an interview in my Blackpool hotel room for the main quiz sponsor KMFM, I was at least able to answer "where was this year's Conservative Party Conference?"


Today, the team responded to a request from some of the returned surveys we sent out recently and went to Coney Banks to clear up litter from the around the woods, the footpaths and football pitches. In the space of an hour we'd filled 10 bin bags and cleaned off lots of graffiti from local signs. We met 3 dog walkers, one of whom spent 15 minutes telling me he was never going to vote Labour again because Gordon Brown had robbed him of £4000 from his pension. The sad truth is that it isn't the first time I have heard people tell me this and I know it won't be the last.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

David Davis comes to Chatham & Aylesford

Following a meeting with Kent County Councillors, the Shadow Home Secretary David Davis joined local Conservatives for our annual dinner at Wealden Hall in Larkfield. Over 70 people enjoyed a wonderful dinner followed by an excellent speech by David focusing on some key issues for us. It is quite clear from our own survey responses that crime, drugs and immigration are top concerns for local people and David outlined Labour's failures and Conservative policy on these three issues specifically. It was good to have such a senior and well respected member of the Conservative Party join us for the evening and look forward to welcoming him back in the near future.

Monday, 15 October 2007

A new star in the sky tonight

This is quite possibly the most personal blog post I shall ever write but I feel I must all the same. At 1.45am my mum called me to tell me that my gran had died. She had collapsed at her home in Folkestone, was rushed to the William Harvey in Ashford before being transferred to the Kent & Canterbury for emergency heart surgery. It was in the operating theatre that she passed away.

My gran, a true silver surfer, was a regular reader of my blog. She was very proud of my achievements and had always encouraged me in my ambition to go into politics. After my partner, she was the second person I called when I was selected for Chatham & Aylesford and she cried with joy "I am soooo pleased for you lambie".

Nana had lived by herself for over 40 years and was fiercely independent as a result. Despite having a career in social services looking after the elderly, she herself was not dependent on social care. Her caring streak has passed its way through the family. There are many reasons why I want to be a politician but the absolute ultimate reason is the so called "social work" element of the job. Making a difference to people's lives, whether it is individually or as a community, is what drives me on every day. And that is what my gran did with the elderly people she looked after.

Having spent a long time tonight talking to my sister we have some very fond memories of my gran to keep with us forever. Tomorrow she has the unpleasant task of informing her children about their "nanny". She will tell them that she is a new star in the sky. I don't care how old I am, tonight that is how I shall think of one of my greatest supporters too.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

An afternoon of amazing sport

I turned on the TV at 3pm and have watched some amazing sport ever since. It started with a workman-like performance from England's football team, which I flicked between that game and the incredible win by Scotland over Ukraine; followed by a mighty victory by the brilliant Leeds Rhinos over St Helens to win the Challenge Cup final, a game which had me jumping around my living room with every Leeds try; and finished by England's excellent victory over France in the Rugby World Cup semi-final. I am emotionally exhausted!

Looking back at a long week in politics

It has been an extraordinary week in British politics - both nationally and locally. Looking back it wouldn't surprise me if Gordon Brown regrets his decision last weekend to call off the General Election. He has probably had one of his toughest weeks in politics since he was elected to Parliament. His much hyped statement in Iraq ended up being met with scepticism because of the fiddled figures announced the week before; the Pre-Budget Report was universally written up in the media as a "magpie budget" and has already started to unravel; then on Wednesday the Prime Minister was mauled by a re-invigorated David Cameron leaving many on the Labour benches ashen faced and visibly angry that their good position in the opinion polls had been conceded.

Meanwhile locally, the Conservative campaign on Capstone Valley continues with many people coming up to me this week thanking me for holding a consultative referendum and expressing disgust at proposals to build 9,200 houses in the Valley. There has been distressing news from the Maidstone & Tunbridge Well NHS Trust with the news that the police are launching an investigation into 90 deaths from hospital infections. It is desperately important that this is dealt with quickly - people who are unfortunate enough to require hospital treatment need to know that they are going to be properly looked after in excellent conditions and that the only target that staff are trying to meet is to return the patient back to health as quickly as possible.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Brown v Under 10 girls football

This morning when I woke up all I kept thinking about was how the election had been called off because Gordon Brown had realised he was going to lose seats like Chatham & Aylesford and he didn't want to take the risk. I bought all the papers and was ready to spend my afternoon enveloped in political commentary and psephological analysis.

Instead all I have been thinking about is the under 10 girls football team I help coach, who lost this morning to a physically much bigger side. I know I am a girl but I can't help it! I keep opening the various broadsheets but my mind keeps turning back to the game.

The girls started brilliantly against a team who have been playing for a season already. So at one nil down at half time we were really chuffed and given our striker kept going on some amazing swerving runs into their penalty box we were all convinced that we had goals coming in the second half. Sadly that wasn't the case and the physical difference between an eight year old and a nearly ten year old became all too clear after a couple of our girls, including the keeper, went off injured after having the ball booted at them. They all played very well and by all accounts very bravely but if anyone knows of any coaching tips that helps young ones understand the concept of space please leave it in the comments.

I need to get the sad faces of the little girls out of my head but the one thing I know for sure is that unlike Gordon Brown, I wouldn't prepare the girls for the cup final, sort out the team and the tactics, get the kit all sparkly clean and advertise the game only to then call it off. In the words of an eight year old girl, it would make the team look like a bunch of scaredy cats!

Saturday, 6 October 2007

What an Amazing day!


What an incredible day! Firstly we managed to get the final lot of ballot papers out in our referendum on the future of Capstone Valley. All households across Chatham should now have a ballot paper and if returned will be counted on 3rd November. I delivered a batch around White Road and was touched by a young man with several gold pieces of jewellery, a cigarette and a scary looking dog telling me I was better looking in real life than in my picture which just goes to show that chivalry is well and truly alive in Chatham!

Next I met for a quick coffee with a local journalist before heading to Larkfield to examine a specific traffic problem that has been raised with me following the survey.

Then after a quick stop at Toys R Us for a present for my soon-to-be 5 year old nephew, I heard on the car radio the news that after marching everyone up the election hill, Gordon Brown has delayed the General Election until at least 2009. I am not surprised but I am severely disappointed. My own surveys have shown an increase in Conservative support across Chatham & Aylesford and as I have posted on this site before many people have told me they want to get rid of this Labour Government as soon as possible. And who can blame them when violent crime is rising, the NHS is in chaos, police are fed up with working to targets and immigration is out of control. Gordon Brown has said that he wants to show people his "vision for change" - the people of Chatham & Aylesford don't want to see a "vision", they want to see a change in Government.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

The Countryside Code

This morning I have been browsing videos on the recently launched Kent TV and came across this excellent video clip from the Creature Comfort creators Aardman. Since my campaign on Capstone Valley has gained so much interest and support I thought it would be more than appropriate to post the video on my blog!


Saturday, 29 September 2007

The Capstone Referendum

Today we set about delivering ballot papers to 22,000 households across Chatham inviting them to participate in a consultative referendum on Capstone Valley. We managed to get almost all the ballot papers out and having walked up more steps and climbed more hills than ever before I am this evening exhausted! The referendum got some good coverage on the radio and in the local newspaper and the feedback is extremely positive. I hope as many people as possible return the ballot papers and as a result of direct democratic action give the Chatham a voice on this issue.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Concrete or Countryside?

This weekend I am launching a consultative referendum on on Medway Magna’s proposals to build Europe’s largest housing estate in the Capstone Valley Park.

It is time to give the people of Chatham a real say in the future of Capstone Valley. Let’s find out whether people prefer concrete or countryside.

A letter will be delivered to over 20,000 households across Chatham in the next few days inviting people to take part in a consultative referendum on plans for 9000 new houses in one of Medway’s last remaining green spaces. A ballot, to be supervised by independent scrutineers, will take place on Saturday 3 November.

Twelve local shops throughout Chatham have agreed to hold ballot boxes for residents to return their ballot papers. Papers can also be returned to any local Conservative councillor and by post to me at 200 Canterbury Street, Gillingham, Kent.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Red Arrows and the Olympics

The Red Arrows have been told that they can't perform one of their spectacular displays at the opening ceremony of the Olympics because they are deemed to be too British!

Organisers of the event said that the Arrows' military background might be "offensive" to other countries taking part in the Games. The display team have performed at more than 4000 events worldwide, but the Department of Culture, Media and Sport have deemed the display team "too militaristically British".

Unsurprisingly, Red Arrows pilots are "outraged", as they had hoped to put on a truly world class display for the Games, something which had never been seen before. Being axed from a British-based event for being "too British" is an insult - the Arrows are a symbol of Britain and the Red Arrows have been excellent ambassadors for British overseas trade, as they display their British-built Hawk aircraft all over the world.

I first saw the Red Arrows when I was about 4 or 5 years old whilst out with my parents in Folkestone. Ever since then I have been mesmerised by their skills and have been to many airshows to watch them. Their flypast at the Games would no doubt have been truly spectacular. I hope that common sense prevails.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

I want a referendum rally

This afternoon I joined Kent MEPs Richard Ashworth (pictured) and Dan Hannan for a rally in Maidstone High Street calling on shoppers to sign a petition demanding a referendum on the EU Treaty.

The cross party campaign group "I want a Referendum" explains the case for a referendum quite clearly:


"The original EU Constitution was drawn up in 2003. It proposed a significant shift of power from Britain to Brussels. As a result in 2004 the Government decided it was so important that voters should be given a say on it in a national referendum.

In 2005 French and Dutch voters overwhelmingly rejected the Constitution in their own
referendums. But despite this EU leaders have decided to bring it back again, in the form
of a new treaty.

Now Gordon Brown argues that a referendum is now unnecessary because, he claims, the
revised treaty is substantially different to the original Constitution. But other EU leaders
are more honest:
• The author of the Constitution, Valery Giscard d’Estaing, says: “All the earlier proposals
will be in the new text, but will be hidden and disguised in some way.”
• The Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero admits: “We have not let a single substantial
point of the Constitutional Treaty go… It is, without a doubt, much more than a treaty.
This is a project of foundational character, a treaty for a new Europe.”
• The German Chancellor Angela Merkel says simply: “The substance of the Constitution
is preserved. That is a fact.”

Only 10 out of 250 proposals in the “new” treaty are different from the proposals in
the original EU Constitution. In other words, 96% of the text is the same as the rejected
Constitution. "


So it is clear that what we have now is practically what we had before. Back then a referendum would have been allowed - now it is not. Well I want a referendum so I have signed the petition for one - you can join me HERE.

Medway Court Crossing

This morning I joined Cllr John Balcombe in Aylesford to help campaign for a crossing into Medway Court. The developer was supposed to ensure adequate crossing and turning opportunities into the court but has yet to deliver either. The turning in and out of Medway Court is at the bottom of a hump back bridge and less than 15 yards from a blind bend. Cars may not exceed the official 30 mph speed limit during daylight hours but it is clear that the road layout makes it a very dangerous stretch of road. I tried to cross the road and had to sprint across so I can only imagine how hard it is for a parent with a push chair. I am now joining residents in their campaign before someone gets killed or seriously injured.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Busy working in the late summer sun

I was up early this morning and out delivering more surveys by 9.30am. There has been a phenomenal response and I am really enjoying reading people's comments about issues in their area. I can't wait to get started on rectifying the problem. One of the issues raised with me was about a planning issue on the Upper Luton Road. The residents were meeting the planning committee, who were on a site visit, and were allowed to ask questions with the officers. It was extremely interesting and at times heated but hopefully it gave the Committee, the officers and the applicant some things to think about. After a quick orange juice and lemonade it was back out delivering more surveys. And for once I was glad to have missed the Tottenham game...

Friday, 14 September 2007

The Nation and its Armed Forces

The day after the British Legion formally launched its campaign to Honour the Military Covenant, the Commons Defence Committee publishes a report condemning the appalling condition of military accommodation. The report noted that "disgraceful" accommodation was partly to blame for problems with recruitment and retention. the MPs said that occupants were facing long waits for repairs because of the failure of maintenance contracts. They also warned there was widespread confusion over who was responsible. Members of one regiment based in the UK told the committee that their colleagues in Afghanistan enjoyed better accommodation than them. The MPs described this as "a serious failure of policy" and said the problem was being "exacerbated by an alarming lack of recognition at senior levels that these problems are more than minor difficulties". It is not just in war that we should recognise the well being of our soldiers - they deserve better conditions at home as well. I have signed up to the Military Covenant - I hope you will do so too.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Saturday, 8 September 2007

I want a referendum



In the 2005 General Election the Government promised to hold a referendum on the proposed EU Constitution. Later that year, French and Dutch voters overwhelmingly rejected the Constitution in their own referendums.

But EU leaders refused to listen. They are now trying to reintroduce the rejected Constitution in the form of a new treaty. Although they have changed the name, the contents are almost exactly the same. This is a deeply dishonest process.

The author of the Constitution, Valery Giscard d’Estaing, says: “All the earlier proposals will be in the new text, but will be hidden and disguised in some way.”

The Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero admits: “We have not let a single substantial point of the Constitutional Treaty go… It is, without a doubt, much more than a treaty. This is a project of foundational character, a treaty for a new Europe.”

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel says simply: “The substance of the Constitution is preserved. That is a fact.”

Only 10 out of 250 proposals in the “new” treaty are different from the proposals in the original EU Constitution. In other words, 96% of the text is the same as the rejected Constitution.

A new cross party campaign entitled "I Want a Referendum" has been launched and like me you can sign support their campaign HERE.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

A&E petition - Downing Street's woeful response

Last month over 5000 people signed a petition posted on the Number 10 website calling for the reconsideration of proposals which will see the downgrading of Maidstone Hospital's A&E service. Today Downing Street replied. As you will see below the response is woeful. It is total fluff! The reply, quite clearly drafted by some civil servant in Whitehall who has never been to Maidstone, possibly even Kent, doesn't even mention Maidstone Hospital. It is some identikit response to probably a number of petitions lamenting this Government's cuts in NHS services across the UK. I am horrified. The 5000 people who took time out of their lives to go on to the Number 10 website to sign a petition, because they firmly believe that their blue light service should be nearby and not 40 minutes down the road, deserve much better than this. I think this response tells you all you need to know about this Government.

The Government's response
Although the Department of Health provides strategic leadership to the NHS and social care organisations in England, it is for local NHS organisations to plan, develop and improve services
for local people. These bodies are therefore best placed to respond to patients' concerns and needs. However, the Government has made it clear to the NHS that any changes to the configuration of local services should not compromise patient care and should show how the quality of care will continue to improve further in the future. Local services must continue to meet patient safety requirements and the standards set in National Service Frameworks and should demonstrate how they will use improvements in medical technology and techniques in future.
The Government is halfway through a ten-year plan to provide a modern NHS, responsive to patient needs and focusing equally on promotion of health and well-being, as well as the treatment of ill health. So far, the NHS has been leading the change, focusing on increasing capacity with more staff and more facilities. As a result, hospital waiting lists are now the lowest since records began, early deaths from cancer and coronary heart disease continue to fall and
patients have more choice and involvement in their own care. The White Paper Our Health, Our Care, Our Say: a new direction for community services focuses on a strategic shift that locates more services in local communities and closer to people's homes.
Similarly, the Department of Health's clinical reports, such as Mending Hearts and Brains and Emergency Access - Clinical Case for Change outline the opportunities to change acute hospital care in order to deliver the best possible services in future. These proposals build on the improvements that have already been made to health and social care and will reinforce the
Government's existing programme of reform.
Plans for the future configuration of acute services provided across the south east have not been determined at a national level. Any proposals for change that may be put forward by local NHS
organisations will be subject to extensive consultation with local people. This discussion phase will inform the proposals, and any significant service changes proposed will be subject to the full public consultation which is expected to take place in the autumn. The decision for the future service pattern will then rest with the Primary Care Trust (PCT), which will analyse the responses and decide which course of action to take.
Should formal public consultation be required, the PCT's final decision will be subject to scrutiny from the local authority overview and scrutiny committee (OSC), which is made up of elected
local councillors. If the OSC determines that the consultation has been inadequate or that the proposal itself is flawed, it can refer the decision to the Secretary of State who has committed to asking for an independent expert clinical opinion form the Government's Independent Review Panel for any cases referred to him.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Team Crouch delivers

Nearly 40 people came to help delivery 27,000 of my latest local surveys today. We spread out and managed to deliver surveys in four traditionally non-Conservative wards where it is already clear that people are fed up with being let down by this Labour Government. I spoke to people as I was delivering the surveys and one lady said to me she didn't go out and vote at the last election because nobody seemed to care about her or her area - it was run down because they had been forgotten. She was genuinely surprised and pleased to see me - and most importantly that I was willing to stop and listen to her views.

Out of all the letters delivered we only had one letterbox injury, although I had some pretty close calls myself. And the whole day ended with sandwiches and drinks in the pub after. It was a good day and now I look forward to receiving the replies and hearing what local and national issues are worrying people, which hopefully I'll be able to do something about.

UPDATE: Political blogger Iain Dale also joined us, despite being offered a ticket to watch his beloved West Ham beat Reading, and has written about his experience HERE.






Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Shameful

Yesterday I heard the awful story of a young paratrooper who was so severely injured in a roadside attack in Afghanistan that he lost his legs and suffered damage to his spine, skull, pelvis, hands and ribcage. Despite the fact that he will need care for the rest of his life, he has been offered a paltry £152,000 in compensation. If these injuries had been sustained in a car accident it is likely he would have received a lot more than this.

Putting this specific case aside, I believe the way our veterans are treated is poor, especially in comparison to other countries. Young men and women put their lives on the line for our country and yet when they return we let them down so badly. Soldiers are not particularly well paid so the very least they should expect from Government is a duty of care. It is hardly a surprise that army personnel and veterans feel completely disillusioned. The British Legion have launched a campaign called Broken Covenant which will focus on the need to boost medical care, strengthen the system of coroners' inquests to ensure swift closure for bereaved families, and provide more compensation. You can show your support for the campaign HERE.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Nearly 1000 more say NO to Capstone development

I spent the day in Chatham High Street collecting signatures against Medway Magna's proposals to build 9000 houses in the Capstone Valley. Opinion is so firmly against that we had people queuing to sign the petition and we got nearly a 1000 more signatures for our petition in less than 3 hours. I had a bricklayer sign the petition saying it may put him out of work but he "didn't want to see the last remaining green space in Medway developed into the largest housing estate in Europe as a result of John Prescott's plans to concrete over the South East". Quite!

The online petition is still available to sign online HERE.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

The closure of Maidstone A&E will 'put lives at risk'

A study by the Medical Care Research Unit at Sheffield University has confirmed the fears of local campaigners that the closure of Maidstone A&E will put the lives of seriously ill patients at risk by making them travel further.

Researchers found that the risk of death increased by 1% for every six miles travelled. Those with breathing problems were most at risk compared to those with other conditions. Their chances of dying were 13% if the distance to hospital was between six and 12 miles, and 20% if this was 12 miles or more. From Aylesford to Pembury is at least 18 miles and in traffic can easily take 40 minutes to get to by car.

This research clearly undermines the Government's claims that closures are based on clinical needs and the campaign against the closure of Maidstone A&E has always been focused around concerns about the distance to the new unit at Pembury. I hope that the Health Secretary will now consider this study in his deliberations on the future of Maidstone A&E, alongside the strength of local opposition against these proposals, and rule in favour of keeping this essential service open.

Monday, 20 August 2007

The EU Treaty - Referendum Required

It was reported today that a group of Europe’s “wise men” has said that the European Union treaty agreed by Tony Blair in June is substantially the same as the constitution rejected two years ago. The Group, nicknamed the Amato Group because it is led by former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, has analysed the new Treaty and found that it is practically the same as the Constitution voted down in referendums held in France and Holland in 2005. The new Treaty will see the creation of a new EU foreign minister, a new full-time president of the EU council of ministers, and a big cut in national vetoes over decision-making in justice and home affairs.

Open Europe, a European reform think tank, has published an excellent document comparing what UK Ministers are saying on the new Treaty and what the rest of the EU's politicians are saying. It makes interesting reading and can be found HERE.

Given what we know now why are we still being denied the opportunity to have a referendum on the new Treaty? We the British public are being conned about what is in this document. It is a constitution in all but name so I believe a referendum is required. I have signed the Telegraph's petition for a vote on the new Treaty - you too can add your signature HERE.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Am not quite Mary Poppins yet!



I joined local Conservatives today at the annual Kites Over Capstone event to collect signatures for a petition against Medway Magna's proposals to build 9000 houses in the Capstone Valley. Unfortunately the weather was atrocious and the event was called off half way through the day. We managed to get the signatures of those braving the persistent heavy rain but it was disappointing that the weather ruined a usually excellent event. Shame - I was looking forward to making and flying my own kite!

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Blue Bell Hill

I joined Blue Bell Hill Councillor Allan Sullivan today on one of his regular walkabouts and despite it being a little chilly I thoroughly enjoyed meeting local residents and discussing a plethora of local and national issues.

The main local issues raised today were changes to the bin collection service and a contentious planning application on Common Road.

On the changes to the bin collection, from September, a public meeting is being held on Wednesday 22 August at 7.30pm in the Village Hall to explain the changes. It is important to note that whilst there will be alternate weekly collections going forward of green and black bins, food waste can be put in either bin so effectively will continue to be collected weekly.


The other issue is the contentious planning application in respect of the land east of the Common Road Water Tower. The application is for the "change of use of the land to storage and stationing of a mobile home". Residents opposed to the application should write to the Planning Office at Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council citing Ref: 07/02245/FL.




Friday, 17 August 2007

Labour's threat to Capstone Valley

I am delighted to see that our local Labour MP has finally joined the Conservative campaign to defend against Medway Magna's latest proposals to build over 9000 houses in Capstone Valley.
He may, however, wish to consult with his new boss Mr Brown on his delayed support since the Prime Minister outlined proposals before the summer recess to increase housebuilding by reforming the planning system to make it more difficult for local objections to succeed. Following which the communities minister, Hazel Blears, conceded that the need for new homes must take priority over environmental concerns and said she could not given "categoric assurances" about redrawing the green belt.

It is quite clear that the Labour Government is not absolutely committed to protecting the greenbelt, which is essential for guarding against urban sprawl. The Conservative Shadow communities secretary Eric Pickles in response to this threat recently said: "I fear the greenbelt now faces a sustained assault from Labour's army of bulldozers and concrete mixers - with local communities powerless to resist Whitehall's Soviet-style targets. We need to build more homes and regenerate rundown communities – yet greenbelt protection must remain. The greenbelt defines and protects urban communities from sprawl."

I couldn't agree more.

Saving Capstone Valley from becoming another housing estate should not be a party political issue so I look forward to our local MP signing our petition opposing Medway Magna's proposals.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

The real definition of a "fairweather" supporter

I am supposed to be at White Hart Lane watching Tottenham v Everton but as I walked out the office the heavens opened. Not even my purple pac-a-mac, previewed rather fetchingly on this blog, would have kept me dry this evening. So Sky TV it is. More later on the Football Blog.

Monday, 13 August 2007

I'm back!

My apologies for the blogging silence recently but I have only just returned from a wonderfully relaxing holiday in France, where shamefully I did very little other than sample the local cheese and wine produce, lounge by the pool, and read numerous books. I love reading but unfortunately, other than for my work book club, rarely get the chance to read books.

I took 7 books away with me but only read 5: Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca (wonderful); Francis Elliott's biography of David Cameron (very interesting); The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency (excellent, poetic and easy to read); Claire Tomalin's biography of Thomas Hardy (my holiday favourite - nearly 800 pages of a brilliantly written insight into quite possibly one of the UK's best writer of fiction and, often forgotten, poetry); and finally Alastair Campbell's diaries (it pains me to have paid money into his pension pot but it was quite an interesting, albeit sometimes read with total scepticism, account of his time with Blair).

And whilst I was away -
  • the Maidstone A&E petition closed with nearly 6000 signatures but as far as I am aware no decision has been taken by the Secretary of State yet
  • Kent Cricket Club won its first trophy in ages with a win in the 20/20 cup, and
  • Tottenham lost their opening match of the season conceding a last minute goal - plus ca change?
I shall write more soon...

Friday, 27 July 2007

Over 5000 say NO to A&E cuts

More than 5110 people have now signed the petition to stop the Government cutting A&E services at Maidstone Hospital. Let's hope the Health Secretary is listening...

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

The £3.4bn cost of anti-social behaviour

Yesterday, the powerful Commons Public Accounts Committee published a report on tackling anti-social behaviour. I think the full press release from the Committee says it all and have reproduced it in full below but it is quite clear that, as Conservatives have said many times before, the Government's strategy on tackling anti-social behaviour is a dismal failure. ASBOs are simply seen as a badge of honour and the Government's attempts to punish offenders with fines are laughable - especially since less than half are actually paid. Goodness knows how many people have become needless victims of anti-social behaviour as a result of this Government's reliance on rhetoric rather than action.

PAC Press Release, 24th July

TACKLING ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR
Publication of 44th Report of Session 2006-07

Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:

“After dark our city and town centres are fast becoming no-go areas, with behaviour there ranging from drunken skylarking and intimidation to out and out criminal activity. No civilised country should have to put up with what can seem like an occupying army loose in the streets. The cost of responding to it is currently running at some £3.4 billion a year.

“A barrage of different anti-social behaviour measures was introduced ten years ago but the Home Office has not done any work nationwide to find out which ones work best. The National Audit Office found evidence that, for many tearaways, a simple and cheap warning letter was enough to deter further bad behaviour. But the government has not collected any information on the effectiveness of different measures on different groups of offenders.

“A hard-core of persistent offenders clearly regards ASBOs as part and parcel of its way of life and to be shrugged off accordingly. Enforcement action against these people must be absolutely rigorous and, where they persist in their breaches of Orders, there should be no hesitation in bringing prosecutions, Cases should also be considered for referral to the Crown Court which can impose custodial sentences. And we need to try to head off a new generation of persistent offenders, by directing appropriate support at families whose youngsters are at risk of falling into anti-social behaviour.

“The Home Office is notorious for a number of recent episodes where it provided duff information. The fact that it supplied the National Audit Office with incorrect data on perceptions around the country of anti-social behaviour does nothing to improve its reputation. The department should pull itself together.”

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 44th Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the Home Office and the Respect Task Force, examined evidence emerging from the sample of 893 cases of individuals receiving anti-social behaviour interventions reviewed by the National Audit Office.
The Committee had also questioned the Home Office about its recent disclosure that a backlog of 27,500 notifications of convictions of British citizens abroad had been passed to the Association of Chief Police Officers for checking and entering on the Police National Computer in March 2006 after being allowed to build up over several years.

Anti-social behaviour by a small proportion of individuals and families brings misery and despair to local communities. Responding to reports of anti-social behaviour in England and Wales costs government agencies around £3.4 billion a year. There are also significant indirect costs to local communities and businesses, as well as emotional costs to victims and witnesses. In 2003 the Home Office formed the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit with an annual budget of £25 million to design and implement the Government’s policy on anti-social behaviour. In September 2005 the Government announced the creation of the cross government Respect Task Force to take forward the anti-social behaviour agenda and in January 2006 the Government published the Respect Action Plan.

Anti-social behaviour measures were first introduced in the mid 1990s, and since this time more powers and measures have been added to give local authorities, the police and others a toolkit of measures with which to tackle incidents of anti-social behaviour. People’s perception of the level of anti-social behaviour varies by gender, area and age, with people most likely to perceive high levels in areas of greatest social deprivation. Comparable local areas use different approaches to dealing with anti social behaviour and there has been no comparative evaluation of the success of these approaches. Nor has there has been a comprehensive evaluation of the use and success of the different measures and powers, making it difficult for the Home Office, the Respect Task Force and those dealing with anti-social behaviour to assess what works best.

Of the sample of 893 cases of individuals receiving anti-social behaviour interventions, around 46% related to people aged under 18 and 54% were over 18. In the absence of central data and national evaluations, the National Audit Office had used the sample to determine the apparent impact of the intervention applied in each case, in terms of whether there was evidence of further anti-social behaviour within the period covered by the case file review, and if so, after how long and what further intervention then occurred. Some 65% of the people in the sample received only one intervention. The National Audit Office review also found, however, that a small core of people engaged repeatedly in anti-social behaviour with around 20% of their sample cases receiving over half of all interventions issued.

-ENDS-

Petition Update

Nearly 4,500 people have now registered their support for the petition on the Downing Street website calling to keep Maidstone A&E open. The petition closes on 3 August with reports locally suggesting a decision by the Secretary of State is expected shortly. Let's hope the Secretary of State listens to the people of Maidstone and surrounding areas.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

A shocking increase in violent crime

I have taken time out this morning to look through the latest crime statistics, released by the Home Office last week, and was horrified to learn that there has been an increase in violent crime, sexual offences and burglary in both Medway and Tonbridge & Malling.

In Medway, violent crime rose by 4% last year with the total number of incidents recorded standing at 5,536. Tonbridge & Malling saw a 2% increase in violent crime but a massive 24% increase in sexual offences. Kent as a whole saw a 3% increase in violent crime, much of which is related to the relaxation of licensing laws increasing the likelihood of violent behaviour in our town centres late at night.

These new figures continue to highlight the Government's failure to tackle crime and protect the public. They refused to listen to opposition on the changes to licensing laws, including Conservative calls to pilot the scheme and assess the consequences before implementing blanket changes.

What is most frustrating about these latest figures is that our police are working incredibly hard to combat crime but are constrained by red tape imposed upon them from Whitehall tying them to their desks rather than out on the streets. Furthermore, even when the police do catch them our prisons are so full that many offenders are not being either punished or rehabilitated properly thus seeing them back on the streets ready, and willing, to commit more crimes.

It is time for some proper action on crime. We need more prison places; more, and better, rehabilitation; a better anti-drugs strategy aided by a border police force; and a police force able to get on with doing their jobs rather than sat behind their desks filling out forms. I am under absolutely no doubt that this is what a Conservative Government would deliver.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Maidstone A&E petition in Top 50

The petition to save Maidstone A&E posted on the Number 10 website has now received over 3,800 signatures putting it into the top 50 petitions on the website. With only ten days to go it is important as many people as possible sign the petition letting the Government know precisely what local residents think of Labour's NHS cuts. Sign it HERE.


Petitioning in the rain for a safe crossing to the park

This morning I went out with Princes Park Councillor Pat Gulvin in the pouring rain to get signatures for a petition calling on Medway Council to provide a crossing of some sort across Princes Avenue to get to Downland park play area. Whilst there are two crossings on Princes Avenue they are at either end of a long strip of fast road, with the play area slap bang in the middle. Residents spoke to me during the local elections campaign and said they couldn't let their children go to the park alone because they were too scared of them crossing the road. Pat and I went out last week and tried to cross the road our self and it was a case of literally running across the road. It was dangerous and convinced us that something had to be done. We collected nearly a hundred signatures today from local residents which Pat hopes to present to the Council this week. Hopefully we'll see something done soon.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Consultation on cannabis is not enough

The Prime Minister announced today that the Government is going to conduct a consultation on the reclassification of cannabis. This is welcome but a mere consultation is not enough - it is time for action, and it is time they took responsibility for clearing up the mess they created in the first place!

In 2004, the Labour Government pandered to the liberal establishment and downgraded cannabis from Class B to C despite severe opposition from the police and anti-drugs campaigners.

Unfortunately the drugs section in last week's launch of Iain Duncan Smith's report on "Breakthrough Britain" was largely overlooked. This is a shame because in my view for society to really change then get rid of drugs from our streets should be one of our top priorities. In the report IDS calls for the reclassification of cannabis to Class B - not as you will note for consultation - as part of a national action plan to discourage cannabis use. It is quite clear, as the report puts it, that our most widely used illegal drug should not be in the category which conveys the impression to parents or children that we need to be less concerned with it than the other drugs classified. Modern day cannabis is a dangerous drug - especially when used regularly by youngsters - but current Government policy sends out mixed messages to children. I hope the Government sees sense and reverses their lunatic policy on cannabis, and if they don't then it will be one of the first things I propose to do when elected to Parliament.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

"An Election could not come soon enough"

I was out and about in Walderslade this morning talking to local residents about some of their concerns and not one but two people in succession, and completely unprompted, told me that a General Election "could not come soon enough". People feel tired of Labour and it is quite clear that, regardless of the attempts by the spin doctors, they don't think very highly of Gordon Brown. And why should they? His attempts to distance himself from the Blair administration are laughable. I listened to an interview with him this week when he said that his new Government was going to increase the number of grants available to University students.

Hold on a second.

Tony Blair's Government, of which Gordon Brown was Chancellor and therefore controlled spending of every Department in Whitehall, scrapped grants and introduced tuition fees. And now he wants to increase the number of grants available to people, so they can pay the tuition fees, that he introduced, in order to go to University. Announcing on the one hand that he is giving money whilst surreptitiously taking it away with the other hand is Brown trade mark. Thankfully, the public have more sense and are not fooled by this imaginative use of smoke and mirrors.