Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Derbyshire County Elections 2013 (continued)

Apparently the county of Derbyshire is under the focus in these forthcoming elections (around two days away, this coming Thursday). National pundits are watching the county with regard to the bigger political picture. As Derbyshire County Council changed after 40 years from Labour controlled to Conservative controlled in 2009, people are watching closely to see if it will change back or if UKIP will be the King Makers?

The Conservatives haven't had an easy ride, with Robin Baldry caught fiddling his expenses and Juliette Stevens defecting to UKIP.

The current council make up is;
Conservative 31 councillors
Labour 23 councillors
Liberal Democrats 7 councillors
Independents 2 councillors
UKIP 1 councillor

Across the county the political candidates are

Conservative 63, Labour 63, UKIP 54, Liberal Democrats 48, Independents 14, Green Party 9, British National Party 4, Trade Unionist & Socialists Against Cuts 4, Socialist Party 1, Monster Raving Loony Party 1. For a full list please click on this link.

So there is quite a lot of diversity county wide to vote for.

There are always those who vote for their political 'tribe.' Those who always vote for Labour or Conservative. Or those who always vote against a certain political 'tribe.' It's the floating voters, the undecided, like myself, that I think can have the real impact. Those whose political allegiance changes with the political weather. They are more inclined to vote for a candidate who they like, regardless of political party.  This is where the local issues, as I've previously mentioned the potholes, the ambulance station closures, where the national pundits can't call. Where the issues effecting us in the High Peak are different from those in Chaddesden in Derby.

There are those who will give the ruling parties nationally a beating locally, mid-term, which seems to be the case regardless of who's in power.

A few more flyers came through the door namely for the Conservatives & Labour.

UKIP seem to be tweeting with their @UKIPBuxton profile. Labour have a profile and is steaming ahead with their hashtag #fairdealforderbyshire. Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats appear to have a local High Peak profile on Twitter. The Green Party have one with @High Peak Green, but have yet to tweet anything! Most candidates do seem to have a profile on Twitter, with social networking sites seen as a way to get their message across, some using them more than others. But Labour and UKIP seem to be the only ones locally who have any momentum on Twitter.

The flyers were for Conservative Pam Reddy and Labour's Cailin Bisknell.

Sadly Mrs Sea Duck appears to have filed the Conservative flyer in the bin already, so I was hoping to analyze that a bit more but can't due to not having a copy to hand. I do remember it mentioning the opposition to closing the ambulance stations and due to this opposition that there will be an ambulance hub in the High Peak. No there won't be! East Midlands Ambulance Service say it will be an ambulance station, location currently unknown, staffing levels currently unknown. It will NOT be an ambulance hub. The freezing of the council tax I really do like.

The Labour flyer does mention the ambulance station closures but only that the Labour group has fought against these closures. This is very true and quite a few of our local councillors of High Peak Borough Council have taken the lead to object to these plans. I understand that the local councillors unanimously opposed these plans. Notably Fiona Sloman (Labour) appeared to take the lead in Buxton and Lance Dowson (was independent now Labour) taking the lead in New Mills & Hayfield.

They too are saying that they have frozen council tax and pegged car parking charges.

I would be very grateful if someone could explained to me how one pegs a car parking charge?

Labour also want to move Buxton's library back to the town centre. The Buxton library is currently on Kent's Bank Road, up Heath Grove way. It's based in an old school, car parking is very good and free. The Sea Duck's use it often and I'm not sure that moving it to Buxton's town centre would offer the same facilities.

Nothing through the letter box from any of the other parties.

So it would appear that there is 'all to play for', in these coming elections. I for one will be interested in how these turn out.

As always I hope everyone who can vote does so and that the turn out is high.

Friday, 26 April 2013

County Council Elections 2013

I've been chatting to people about what they think about the County Council Elections this May. Quite a few people didn't know who they were going to vote for. Mainly on the basis of 'they're all as bad as each other.' However, I tried to focus conversations on what people were wanting from their council.

One of the main things that people mentioned was pot-holes. It seems like Mayor Giuliani's broken window policy many people feel that a pot hole means that those in power don't care. Mayor Giuliani of New York thought that broken windows left unpaired made people feel that things were going downhill and that those in power did not care so launched a policy of repairing every broken window reported or spotted. Pot holes seem to be classed in the same way by the people I spoke to. St John's road in Buxton and New Mills Newtown traffic lights seemed to feature in peoples evidence of this.

The second thing mentioned was the fear of loosing ambulance cover from the Being the Best proposals from East Midlands Ambulance Service. This seems to get classed as either 'insane or just plain madness' rather across the board from locals who cannot see the sense in the proposals at all. That East Midlands Ambulance Service were solely focusing on ticking the boxes for response times which are easier in the bigger towns and cities and relegating those of us who live in rural areas to second best. Feeling that EMAS have assumed the attitude of we can't hit the response times in the High Peak area so why bother. I'll blog a little more about the current ambulance stations situation this coming week as I think it's an essential service to focus on.

Other things people mentioned were housing, schools and more importantly after school care for the children as most families have both parents working. There was a mixed reception to the welfare reforms, namely some people were worse off and others thought that a cap on benefits was actually a good thing. Then the conversations moved to jobs. Or rather the lack of them. High Peakers do seem to be focusing on local issues, rather than national. However, on a national level one thing seemed to be apparent a 'fear' of immigration. Namely if more people come into the country then services will be reduced just by the increase in people using them. This was apparent on last nights Question Time on the BBC. Us Brit's seem to have developed a 'fear' of immigration?

I'm seeing more signs up regarding the election, mostly Labour with a few Lib Dems and Conservatives. As I previously mentioned, Labour do seem to have got their act together with regard to these elections. A lot of activity on Twitter, and canvasing and the signs in people's gardens. Fiona Sloman is getting a few mentions on Twitter though she doesn't appear to be tweeting much herself.
The High Peak Conservatives seem to have finally going on cyber space too. There were also quite a few placards seen showing support for their candidate Jocelyn Street.

The Greens seemed to not really being up for this round. I saw their leader on Question Time last night, she did seem to live in a Utopian world of her own, to brass tacks I didn't like her. I was toying of voting for the Green Party until then.

Apart from a few placards in High Lane (not our patch) I haven't seen anything of the Lib Dems and a few posters around were all I have seen of UKIP.

I really couldn't say which way this election could/will go. All I hope is that the turn out is high and that everyone who is able to vote  does so.

Friday, 19 April 2013

County Council Elections

There is quite a lot to blog about with what's happening in the World. Baroness Thatcher dying, the Boston Marathon bombing (horrid, simply horrid), North Korea acting like a child who's found their father's gun.  I decided not to focus on those things, important as they are and look slightly more local.

It would appear that the candidate nominations for the forth coming county council elections are now in. Nominations closed on the 5th of April. The three main parties, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Labour are fielding candidates in pretty much every area. Some areas of the High Peak will be able to vote for UKIP, Green Party and Independents. In my own area there are five candidates.

Tony Kemp for the Conservatives, who lives locally and was one of the Conservative councillors who turned up to discuss the housing plans for Buxton back in December 2012 when none of the Labour councillers did. Conservatives raise housing concerns.

Matthew Bain for the Green Party, again he lives locally and is focused on reducing the councils carbon foot print and moving the UK towards a low-carbon economy. The Greens have a small but loyal following in the High Peak area. Mr Bain is all for locally produced products (should like Redfern's Farm Shop then and Chatsworth Farm Shop .) As well as a fair distribution of resources for all, which sounds good but reminds me of Communism.  I do like his idea for more allotments and community orchards. That would be good for the local biodiversity.

Christopher Weaver for the Liberal Democrats, another local, this time from Whaley Bridge. Living and working in the High Peak for over 40 years, he's also been a local councillor for High Peak Borough Council. The Lib Dems do have quite a green manifesto, recognising climate change, moving towards renewable energy, they also would like to freeze council tax for as long as it is possible.

Fiona Sloman  for the Labour Party another local and councillor for High Peak Borough Council. I have spoken to Fiona before and found her to be very knowledgeable, as a former trade union officer she is very clued up on what people's rights are. She has taken an active role in fighting East Midlands Ambulance Service to save the ambulance stations in the High Peak. She hosted the public meeting at Pavillion Gardens. When I spoke to her regarding the proposed changes I got the distinct impression she was genuinely concerned about the issue, the impact it would have on the people of the High Peak, rather than scoring 'political' brownie points.

Bob Morris an Independent candidate, sadly I couldn't find a link for Mr Morris or any information regarding what he stands for. Thankfully the local paper had piece which noted that Mr Morris wished to put people before 'party politics.' A local man who runs a local business, focusing on education, better roads and transport (have you seen St John's road in Buxton, the pot holes by the traffic lights are just plain dangerous). Being Independent means he won't have a party telling him what to do just the people of Buxton.

I discussed the candidates with Mrs Sea Duck who dispaired that the Beer, Baccy & Crumpet Party wasn't standing in our area. As usual I would have liked more diversity of parties to vote for, I guess the old adage if there's no one you would like to vote for then you should stand yourself applies.

I just hope that everyone who is able to vote does so.

I have had a look at Twitter to see what the parties locally are tweeting, it appears Labour are the ones who seem busy in that side of the social media with the hashtag #fairdealforderbyshire, as well as to a lesser degree UKIP. There are webpages for the other candidates with a little bit about them (some very little), but the Labour party and UKIP seem to be the only ones using social media to their advantage, locally at least.

I know that Labour has been out canvassing  in Harpur Hill and Glossopdale but I have yet to see anyone else, no flyers or leaflets through the door. A few UKIP posters around. In our area Labour seem to have a distinct advantage with just a plain good old head start. But the discussions I have heard from the electorate seem to be of the lines of the usual 'they're all as bad as each other.' UKIP and the Greens are minor parties and therefore a waste of a vote (unfairly seen that way if you ask me). Labour got us into a huge financial mess. The Conservatives and Lib Dems can't seem to get us out of it.

As I noted before I just hope that as many people do vote in these elections as are able to do so.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Caught in a Web or Safety Net, benefits?

The changes to the benefits system went live today

I was on Twitter this afternoon and I have never seen it so angry.

Most of the tweets were about the changes to the benefit system. The Sea Ducks get child benefit for the ducklings but that's all. Mrs Sea Duck was getting contribution based Employment Seekers Allowance, but that was only for 26 weeks as I work full time. 26 weeks is the total length she can get ESA for when her partner is working full time so that ended about a month ago now.

The chattering classes and tweeting classes will always chatter and tweet. But why are they so steamed?

Yougov published a poll noting that 75% (three out of four people) thought us Brit's spent too much on benefits. Is that because they have a negative view of people who live on benefits? Or is it a system that has become a trap for people removing power from them to dictate their own life and aspirations. I spoke to a friend who receives housing benefit, his was going to be reduced by about £10.00 per week. The average loss for someone in the East Midlands is around £12.00. He's not effected by the 'bedroom tax.' If anything he's in need of another. He sleeps in the lounge of his flat while his teenager sleeps in the one and only bedroom. Overcrowded, but no houses available within the High Peak area. Caitlin Bisknell leader of High Peak Borough Council notes that there are 4089 properties to let for the council housing in our area. All are occupied and there is a waiting list of 5639! So probably not going to get a house soon my friend.

Thinking about people who live on benefits. There are some who are labelled 'Scroungers' but some have no other choice. A disabled person and their full-time carer I don't think should be labelled in such a way. Disability is not a life style choice. Disability could happen to anyone. At the same time there are those who will take everything they can get and more. Only today there was a conviction regarding the deaths of 6 children in Derby. The fire was set deliberately it is reported, by the parents so that they could blame his former mistress. Thereby obtaining custody of the children he had with her and then claim the benefits for the extra children. BBC Report

The honest answer to all this angry tweeting etc is I don't know. I do know people who have taken the life style choice of living on benefits. At the same time I know people who do work and the benefits help them make ends meet. With prices still going up for petrol, gas, food I can see why when some one who has 'done the right thing' according to George Osbourne suddenly find themselves worse off.

Gingerbread which is a single parent charity notes about the lack of flexible working hour jobs out there. That the 59% of single parents who work are going to loose out over the universal credit. I think this is quite a point. It's okay saying the people who can work, should work, but there has to be work there for them to do. They also have to be able to do the work. A parent within a family would have to work around the children's school hours. If these positions are not available then they are not going to be employed in them. Mrs Sea Duck has found this exact problem. One of us needs to work around the children's schooling hours and even though she has got to many an interview that flexibility just isn't there. Something I don't blame the employers for. If they need someone who can work weekends and start 9-5 then that's the person they're after.

At the same time I can see the negativity towards someone who chooses to live off the rest of us. The benefits system is in need of reform, but it needs to be a safety net rather than a web which traps people.

Okay I'll get off my soapbox now. Start talking about something less controversial like the weather again.