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.