Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Great news on our Casino bid which -despite the soothsaying from our resident Lib Dem MP- has been accepted.

Bizarrely for a Liberal, the MP now opposes having a casino here because he thinks people cannot be trusted to gamble responsibly and they will immediately bet the farm (or should I say, the hotel) on the spin of the dice. Mmmm.

One reason I am so pleased about this is not just the immediate potential benefit of having a high-profile Casino as an attraction but also the knock-on this will have to other businesses and inward investment.

Such a public display of confidence in the Bay is surely hugely comforting to investors in other businesses; and I am thinking here of proposals like the £50m rebuilding of the Imperial Hotel, the £100m redevelopment of Goodringtons beach and water park, the proposal to build a cruise liner mooring dock in Torquay and the Northern Arm project in Brixham; all of which will require considerable private investment if they are to become a reality.

Business investors can't help being a little sheep-like - if one goes they all go. In our case this is one big -huge -step in the right direction.

Nick Bye, the team from the Town Hall and especially the Torbay Development Agency are to be congratulated.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Gay Adoption - the problem.

I am not a Catholic and I believe in equality. Why then, do I take the view that the Catholic Adoption agencies should be exempted from new gay rights legislation which would make it an offence for Catholic Adoption Agencies to refuse to place children with gay couples?

Most selection procedures are by definition a series of 'discriminatory' processes where certain people are automatically excluded while others are considered. These may or may not be entirely fair but are a necessary way of whittling down potential applicants. Hence 'graduate trainee' immediately excludes (discriminates against) non graduates even though some of those may be suitable for the job.

My understanding is that the Catholic agencies exist to find Catholic homes for children on the basis that the Children they place will be given a Catholic upbringing. It seems reasonable to allow them to pick couples who are within a marital unit that their Church recognises as an essential ingredient to a Catholic lifestyle; and thereby automatically excluding those who don't - including gay couples.

There was not a crisis here, it's hardly as if thousands of gay Catholic couples have been clamouring to adopt kids and can't; even the Catholic agencies don't deny these couples rights - they refer them to other agencies.

Well, I guess the mess is the Governments own making for yet again taking the law into places it shouldn't go.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Too aware to care?

The number of 'awareness' days has mushroomed to epic proportions. There are no days left in the calendar that have not been claimed by pressure groups, charities or campaigns as their 'day' to be aware of their cause.

This was a great PR idea originally - pick a generally quiet news day at a slow time of year and claim the day for your cause - and Bingo! guaranteed PR coverage.

Some are of course laudable. Who wouldn't applaud any attempt to make us more aware of the needs of the disabled, or the blind for example?

But the problem is the idea has become a victim of it’s own success. The sheer number of pressure groups colonising our calendar means that the net effect has become boredom and confusion.

Last Saturday was Penguin Awareness Day, for example and coming up -on Jan 31 - we have Headlice awareness day.

Even more pointless we have, later in the year, Scottish Franchise Awareness Day (12th April); Compost awareness Day (May 6); Fleet Driving Awareness Day (July 7th) and on October 14th, Angel Awareness Day.

But is a day enough? Why not bag a whole week instead? January is a very quiet news month so many organisations take a whole week. This week (22-28) Jan is World Leprosy Week, Cancertalk Week and Food Allergy & Food Intolerance Week, for instance.

And some charities and trusts go even further. January is Bedworth Lions Awareness Month, Scams Awareness Month, Hearing Clearer Awareness Month, and Glaucoma Awareness Month, to name but four.

So here is my solution. We should decide to set aside one day every year as National Unaware Day. For one special day of the year nobody will be allowed to claim it as an awareness day.

On this day you don’t need to worry about anything; have a completely carefree day - be blissfully unaware.

Oh, and on that day, don’t read the papers - there won’t be any news.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Has anyone under 16 in your family been given an Official Police Caution?

I am interested to hear from anyone who has a child who has been given what is called an Official Police Caution.

I would be especially interested in any case where the youth or child was involved in a relatively minor incident at school that ended up with Police involvement.

Police Cautions are increasingly being used in cases where in the past the matter would have been dealt with by the school issuing a routine punishment such as a detention.

The matter came to my interest when the 12 year old child of some friends was involved in a schoolboy scrap. To his parents surprise the Police were informed - although like me they expected the Police to have better things to do than become involved in playground disputes.

Far from it, the next thing was their son was being interviewed by two police officers.

The net result was that -as their son was not denying events and admitted that he had been involved in the fight- the police offered to close the matter after issuing an official Reprimand - which is a letter from the Chief Constable, basically.

How kind, thought the parents, until I found out for them that t
he boys name and offence have been placed on the Police National Computer. His reprimand for a "violent crime" will also remain on the separate Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) database.

A reprimand for a minor offence stays on police records for five years, but it remains on CRB checks indefinitely; which means that in future he could find difficulty in any situation requiring a police check (these days such benign passtimes as being a Parish Councellor require a police check).

Police defend their decision, officials say that if someone makes a complaint or reports an alleged criminal offence to the police they are obliged by the Government's crime recording standards to record the offence and investigate it.

What they don't so readily admit is that 'offences' dealt with in this way (with a written reprimand) are subsequently counted as a 'case closed' and also then count towards police clear-up rate targets.

So not only have the police become a self appointed judge and jury but they have a positive incentive to get involved in twelve-year-old schoolboy playground incidents because they can get a 'quick win' without a messy and long court case.

In the meantime -because the police can only issue a reprimand in cases where the 'offence' is not denied- honest and repentant kids get a criminal record where those who don't own up often get off because the cases aren't usually worth taking to court.

How fair is that?

Monday, January 08, 2007

In Britain most people have been able to forget about the problems associatied with 'the costs of living' for the last twenty years or so.

Because all through the latter half of the 1980's and the 1990's taxes and prices were falling and incomes were generally rising the cost of living was -pensioners excepted- not a big issue.

Since Gordon Brown took over the Treasury taxes have risen by 81% while incomes have gone up by 47% - but most of us have (up to now) been partly shielded from the effects of these mostly stealthy tax increases because of cheap imports from China and low interest rates which have encouraged a 'feel-good' factor based on borrowed money.

That honeymoon has ended. For the first time in nearly 50 years 2006 saw average spending power fall as the increased tax take finally began to bite while the prices of goods and services in the shops are
now rising by 4%.

And it's going to get more difficult; interest rates are up and expected to rise sharply as the independant Bank of England act to curb inflation. That means rising mortgage and credit card interest costs for millions of familes.

Rising costs of living and especially rising interest rates always cause a bigger problem to those on lower incomes; making it harder and harder for working people to make ends meet.

The number of households who cannot pay for their heating has increased by 1m in the last three years and 30,000 people are expected to go bankrupt in the first three months of 2007 alone, for instance.

For a while now we Conservatives have been warning that the bow-wave of increased Government tax-and- waste would eventually risk swamping the boat; that danger is now coming perilously close.

Pensioners have been complaining since 1998 that their incomes have been falling in real terms; whilst spiralling council tax and utility bills have been causing real pain and hardship.

Now it seems, the rest of us face the same problem.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Whats in store for 2007?

Well in the first instance locally we are pleased to announce that LORD TEBBIT (Pictured) will be the guest of honour at a spring Dinner we are holding to raise funds. The dinner, on March 17th, will be open to all and I am looking forward to hearing Norman speak again; he is funny, lively and very wise. His charicature 'tough guy' image is not at all accurate - he is in fact an exceptionally gentle and considerate man who shortened his political career to care for his wife Margaret who was disabled in the Brighton bombing; we are privileged to have him.

Then in MAY we have the LOCAL ELECTIONS for the council. All 36 seats are up for grabs and the Conservatives hope to make enough gains to win control of the council chamber from the Lib Dems who hold the balance of power at the moment; and have been using it to stop mayor Nick Bye from getting on with the job he was elected to do. I am confident we will both gain control and then deliver a better, more responsive and more focused council designed to give residents a cleaner, safer and more prosperous Torbay.

Later in the year TONY BLAIR will step down and most people still think that Gordon Brwon will succeed him (although I am still not so certain). If it is Gordon I expect a dazzling blaze of new initiatives designed to take the press focus off his 'personality' and on to his 'agenda'. I also expect a complete clear-out of the cabinet and in effect we will end 2007 with a new Government - one that we haven't had the chance to vote for.

Will there be a 'snap' election in 2007? No chance.

Well, politics is an uncertain game, so I am not going to predict anything else; except that I expect the Conservatives to end 2007 even further ahead in the polls than we are today.