Monday, 28 July 2008

1,000 ways for Brown’s state inspectors to enter homes across Lincolnshire

Giles McNeill expresses concern at unchecked state powers of intrusion

Giles McNeill, Nettleham Parish Councillor, expressed grave concern this week at the news that Government and town hall inspectors now have over 1,000 powers which allow inspectors to enter people’s homes and premises. Despite Gordon Brown’s pledge last year to cut back these powers, a further 16 new laws are being pushed through Parliament which entrench or extend powers of entry.

The Govenrment has recently published a full list of the state powers of entry that are now in force. There are now a total of 1,043 state powers of entry, and some 430 new powers of entry have been created by Labour.

A survey of state powers to enter people’s homes by the independent think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies, last year suggested that there were just 266 powers of entry. It warned that due to the “proliferation and variety of entry powers” householders cannot now “realistically be aware” of their rights and legal obligations.

The powers of inspection and entry include:
• Invading your home to see if your pot plants have plant pests or to check whether it has a so-called ‘plant passport’ (Plant Health England Order 2005).
• Inspecting a property to see whther performing animals, such as dancing bears, are being trained or exhibited without a permit (Performing Animals Regulation Act 1925).
• Surveying your home and garden to see if your hedge is too high (Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003).
• Inspecting a property to ensure illegal or unregulated hypnotism is not taking place (Hypnotism Act 1952).
• Checking that accommodation being given to asylum seekers is not being occupied by people who are not asylum seekers (Immigration and Asylum Act 1999).
• Carrying out inspections for the presence of rabbits (Pests Act 1954).
• Raiding a house to check if unlicensed gambling is taking place (Gambling Act 2005 Inspection Provision of Information Regulations 2007).
• Checking and seizing fridges which do not have the correct energy rating (Energy Information Household Refrigerators and Freezers Regulations 2004).
• Allowing state-sponsored bailiffs to enter your home and seize goods, using reasonable force if necessary (Tribunal Courts and Enforcement Act 2007)

In a speech last October, Gordon Brown pledged to curtail such laws with a new ‘liberty test’. He pledged that any change to entry powers would be accompanied by new guidance on their use and on the rights of members of the public to stop their abuse. But 16 new laws are now before Parliament which extending the powers - without any such guidance.

Conservatives are also warning that yet more intrusion is being actively planned by Labour. A cadre of council tax inspectors are being trained and an Orwellian computer database is being created for a council tax revaluation in England. Householders will be fined £500 for obstructing these inspectors.

Giles McNeill said:
“Day by day under Labour, the rights and liberties of law-abiding citizens across (area) are being eroded. Their plans for ID Cards and 42 days detention are examples. There has been a huge surge in powers of entry under Labour, entrenching and extending the surveillance state.

“We need measures to tackle genuine crime and terrorism. But the abuse of surveillance powers by town halls in some parts of the country shows the real danger of ‘function creep’ by state bureaucrats. Conservatives will cut back these unnecessary powers of the state to enter homes, starting off with abolishing council tax inspectors’ rights of entry and reining back in the nosey parker state.”

Monday, 21 July 2008

New figures expose Government failure on knife crime – Giles McNeill

Action needed to tackle worrying rise of young people carrying and using knives

Giles McNeill, Nettleham Parish Councillor, expressed deep concern today about new local knife crime statistics published by the Government, and called for action to tackle the growing menace.

The official figures published by the Home Office show that across Lincolnshire, there were 71 serious offences last year involving knives.18% of all wounding, grevious bodily harm or robberies were committed with a knife in Lincolnshire. Nationally, the figure is 19%.

Conservatives are calling for a series of urgent measures to reduce knife crime, which include:
· Anyone convicted of carrying a knife should expect to receive a custodial sentence. Currently, the Government is planning to allow offenders carrying a knife to be let off with a fine in some circumstances.

· Making it easier for police officers to stop suspects and search them for knifes and other weapons, and increasing use of mobile knife scanners on the streets and on public transport (as already being successful trialled in London by Boris Johnson).

· Providing more custodial places for young offenders, and increasing support for drugs and education programmes, and tackling the causes of knife crime such as family breakdown, lack of school discipline and welfare dependency.

Giles McNeill commented:
“I am very concerned about these new figures showing the the menance of knife crime on our streets. This is a shocking indictment of Labour’s failure to tackle crime and its causes.

“Our police have been tied up in so much red tape that they can only spend 14 per cent of their time on the beat fighting crime. At the same time our unprotected borders have allowed too many weapons and hard drugs to flow into our country. Labour have also failed to address family breakdown which sets too many young people on a path of crime.

“Conservatives would start tackling this crime crisis by freeing our police from red tape and targets so they can be deployed on our streets to catch and deter criminals. We need stronger deterrent sentences such as a presumption of prison for those convicted of knife crime. And we will address the fundamental causes of crime like drugs and family breakdown.”

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Poll Watch: ComRes (Independent on Sunday)

The latest opinion poll in The Independent on Sunday tomorrow records the lowest Labour share of the vote, 24 per cent, in a ComRes poll. The Conservative lead, 21 percentage points, is also equal to the biggest lead recorded by ComRes, for The Independent three weeks ago. The figures, with the change since the last poll for the Independent on Sunday in mid-June:
Conservative 45%(+1)
Labour 24%(-2)
LibDem 16%(-1)
Green 5%(+3)
Other 9% -2)
They also asked if people agreed or disagreed with the statement, "The Labour Party will lose the next election regardless of who leads it": 68 per cent agreed, including 38 per cent of Labour voters, and 22 per cent disagreed.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Free doughnuts and partisan propaganda won’t boost local democracy

Giles McNeill responds to Government proposals to change the way councils work

Giles McNeill, Nettleham Parish Councillor, expressed concern this week at proposals by the Government to scrap vital protection for local taxpayers from wasteful town halls and ‘jobs for the boys’ corruption.

They are also facing having to bankroll free doughnuts to bribe Labour supporters into voting, and allowing their salaried councillors to avoid turning up to meetings and vote ‘remotely’ instead: The proposals were outlined by Labour Ministers in a so-called ‘Community Empowerment’ White Paper.

Giles McNeill gave his backing to some of the proposals in the White Paper, such as:
· Greater scrutiny of unelected public officials, akin to Select Committees in Parliament.
· Promoting the transfer of assets to community management and ownership.
· Giving ‘backbench’ councillors more powers, such as through small budgets for their ward – a policy implemented by Conservatives at West Lindsey District Council a number of years ago.

However, in the small print of the White Paper, there are a series of more controversial proposals:
· Doughnuts to vote: Electors are to be given ‘incentives’ to vote in local elections, such as entry into prize draws or free doughnuts. In these ways, Labour councils could mobilise the disillusioned and demoralised Labour core vote at taxpayers’ expense.

· Propaganda on the rates: The Government intends to tear up the guidelines which prevent taxpayers’ money being spent on partisan propaganda by town halls. A survey by the Taxpayers’ Alliance last December highlighted that publicity spending by town halls has already soared to £450 million a year. The new partisan local publicity will be on top of the new taxpayers-funded Communications Allowance which funds partisan propaganda by Labour MPs.

· Jobs for the boys: Labour Ministers want to weaken anti-corruption rules that prevent council officers from being councillors, because so few people want to stand as Labour candidates to stand in local elections – there were none in the West Lindsey local elections back in May. Yet these rules were drawn up in the 1980s to stop local civil servants becoming politicised and present conflicts of interest.

· No need for councillors to attend meetings: Under new plans for ‘remote’ voting, councillors will not have to turn up at meetings. They will be able to vote and participate in meetings ‘remotely’. This will make it easier for Labour councillors to hold down multiple jobs, on top of cashing in on their councillor allowances.

Giles McNeill said:
“Councillors have a valued role to play in holding town halls to account, and act as champions of the local community. Yet I am concerned that the Labour Party wants to push through partisan laws that will allow them to bribe their voters, bring back jobs for the boys and slip in back-door state funding.

“But rather than these highly controversial changes, if Ministers were genuine about local democracy, they would hand back the powers that unelected regional assemblies and Whitehall quangos have seized from local communities. Unfortunately Labour is moving ahead with a barrage of new quangos that will take even more powers away from local communities. Only Conservtives will give these powers back to local people where they belong.”

Thursday, 10 July 2008

One year on: higher taxes, services cut and communities gagged

Giles McNeill comments on end of year report for Gordon Brown

Giles McNeill, Nettleham Parish Councillor, this week delivered his verdict on Gordon Brown’s first year as Prime Minister, highlighting Government policies which are adding to the rising cost of living, bringing about the closure of local services and silencing the voice of local communities.

· Soaring taxes at time of rising cost of living: Families and pensioners are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet, but Government taxes are making it even harder. Families have lost out due to the 10p income tax debacle and rising council tax bills. Higher, retrospective car taxes and new bin taxes are on the way. The housing market is slowing, tied up in the new red tape of Labour’s Home Information Packs and hit by Gordon Brown’s punitive stamp duty, compounding the effect of the credit crunch.

· Cuts to local services: In a Government programme of massive cuts, 2,500 post offices are being closed across the country. 1,000 shops which double up as post offices are expected to close if their post office business is axed. Another 3,000 post offices are under threat due to the end of the Post Office Card Account. On top of this, 1,700 family doctor surgeries could close down across England, under Labour plans for large and remote ‘polyclinics’ to replace local GPs.

· Silencing the voice of local communities: Under new planning laws being pushed through Parliament, local councils will lose any say over large, controversial planning applications. A new Labour quango – the Infrastructure Planning Commission – will take control, enforcing planning rules imposed by Ministers with no say for Parliament. The people of Britain have also been denied any say over the European Constitution (also known as the Lisbon Treaty), after Gordon Brown went back on his promise to hold a referendum.

Giles said:
“One year on from Gordon Brown becoming Prime Minister, the country is going in the wrong direction – with looming cuts to local services, a soaring cost of living fuelled by higher taxes and local people consistently ignored by Whitehall.

“Gordon Brown has no big vision for Britain and no answers to the long-term challenges we face. People in this country are desperate for change: to improve the NHS, to raise standards in schools and to fight back against crime. They need a government that is on their side and not on their backs like Gordon Brown.”