Thursday, 29 January 2009

New Nettleham Sunday Bus Service Begins

Stagecoach in Lincolnshrie, the company who operates the number 11 and number 3 bus services through Nettleham, have announced, following countless months of lobbying, that from Sunday, 1st Febraury 2009 a new bus service will connect Nettleham with Lincoln (southbound) and Grimsby (northbound) on the number 3 route.

Giles McNeill said:
"This is the sort of public transport improvement I have been lobbying for over the past three years. I welcome this development by Stagecoach in Lincolnshire who have adopted one om my two main points - namely the introduction of a Sunday Service and secondly, great Evening and Late Night Provision."

Services will run into Lincoln from Nettleham Green from 10:19 and then every hour thereafter until 18:19.

Services will run to Grimsby from Nettleham Green from 08:57 then at 11:57 and 14:57 and in between, hourly, to as far as Dunholme. The full timetable can be downloaded (pdf format) here.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Government to hike business taxes on local firms at time of recession

Average business rates bill in West Lindsey may hit £5,932 thanks to Gordon Brown

Labour Ministers in Whitehall were today accused of kicking local firms “in the teeth” as it emerged that the Government is pushing ahead with plans to increase business rates on local firms at a time of economic recession.

The Government is introducing a new law - the Business Rates Supplements Bill - which will allow town halls to increase business rates on local firms by leving a ‘supplementary’ rate on top of current bills. This comes at a time that business rates are already due to rise by a painful 5% in April.

• There are 2,572 premises in West Lindsey which currently pay business rates. The average bill in West Lindsey in 2008-09 was £5,417 raising a total of £13.9 million a year in tax in total from local firms, which is handed over to Whitehall.

• Due to the impending 5% rise, business rate bills in West Lindsey will hit an average of £5,688 from April. If a supplementary business rate were imposed on top, this could push the average bill on local firms to a record £5,932 a year.

• Supplementary business rates are likely to be used to fund local authorities’ current expenditure, rather than new infrastructure. Councils will be pressured into levying supplementary business rates to make up for funding pressures. Firms will not be given a proper vote on whether or not they support the new charge. According to the Government, supplementary business rates could increase taxes by up to £600 million a year if levied by every local authority.

• There will also be a business rates revaluation in 2010, which may increase the bills even more for many firms – especially shops, since retail property rents have risen sharply in recent years. Higher rateable values will worsen the impact of supplementary rates.

Giles McNeill said:
“I fear that supplementary business rates will be yet another backdoor way for Gordon Brown to hike taxes by stealth. At a time when local firms are struggling for their very survival, even higher business rates are a kick in the teeth from the Government.”

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Giles McNeill on the Start of Nettleham & Saxilby Division Campaign

Whilst for many the County Council and European Parliamentary Elections, to be held on Thursday 4th June, may seem a long way off; nothing of substance was ever achieved without hard work and to that end the Conservative’s campaign in Saxilby kicked off today with myself and Rupert Matthews, Conservative Prospective European Parliamentary Candidate for the East Midlands, out and about in Saxilby.

A good number of volunteers turned out to deliver leaflets to the majority of households in Saxilby, and for those of you who haven’t yet had a ‘Saxilby Matters’ it will be dropping on your doormat any day now.

Giles and Rupert inspect a 'Saxilby Matters' at the start of Milbeck Drive.

I was very pleased to have the opportunity to show Rupert around Saxilby. Rupert was curious about the Library and I was sorry to inform him that the hours had been reduced, but that, in my view, had Saxilby had a Conservative County Councillor – who would be listened to by the Council’s leadership – then the hours may not have been reduced.

It was really good weather to be out and about and meeting local people and chatting to them about the issues that affect them. Naturally the economy is at the top of everyone's minds and so I was please to outline what Conservative are doing at West Lindsey, County and National Level to help people.

After the morning session we went for a tour of a number of sites in the Nettleham & saxilby Division. We went to Odder, Burton Waters, Riseholme and to finally to Nettleham before heading into the City of Lincoln to meet with a local business owner who is having a particular problem with European Union regulation.

All in all a full day of activities and I am personally very grateful to Rupert for coming and visiting, campaigning and generally helping out for the day.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Defence Information Infrastructure

Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:
“The Ministry of Defence’s ambitious new £7 billion IT system, designed to replace hundreds of ageing existing systems, was badly planned in important respects. No proper pilot for this highly complex programme was carried out and entirely inadequate research led to a major miscalculation of the condition of the Department’s buildings in which the new system would be installed.

“In addition, the ATLAS consortium implementing the project - led by EDS, a company whose track record of delivering government IT projects has not been exemplary - underestimated the complexity of the software it had agreed to create. For over two years, it was unable to deliver a system that could safely handle Secret material.

“All of these factors contributed towards major delays to the project. There has been recent progress but the rate at which terminals are being rolled-out must improve rapidly if the Department’s latest deadlines are to be realistic.

“Given the scale of delay, the Department must head off the risk that existing IT systems, upon which MoD staff and military personnel rely, will fail. Detailed plans on the cost and timing of work to keep existing systems going must be developed, this planning to be funded from the management fee paid to ATLAS. And if the number of errors in the initial software design increases again, the Department must increase its scrutiny and not hesitate to turn down any claims from ATLAS for higher costs as a result.”

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 1st Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the Ministry of Defence, examined the difficulties experienced on the DII Programme in the past and the measures put in place to deliver improvement in future.

The Ministry of Defence (the Department) needs high quality information technology to achieve its goals, both on operations and in the United Kingdom. It is currently replacing hundreds of existing computer systems with a single new system, called the Defence Information Infrastructure (DII). The Programme to design, install and run this is being led by the ATLAS consortium. Ultimately, the Department intends to have some 150,000 terminals supporting 300,000 users at more than 2,000 sites, with additional capability on deployed operations and Royal Navy ships. DII must be able to handle material classified as Restricted, Secret and Top Secret. The Programme began in March 2005 and will cost an estimated £7.1 billion by 2015, if fully implemented.

The implementation of DII has suffered from major delays. Whereas 62,800 terminals should have been installed by the end of July 2007, only 45,600 were in place at the end of September 2008. The main causes of delay were the Programme’s over-optimistic assumptions about the condition of the buildings into which DII would be fitted, and the consequent selection of an inappropriate and unresponsive methodology for installing terminals.

The DII Programme also provides a range of core software such as word processing, email, internet access and security to run on the new system. This should all have been available in June 2006, but less than half of the requirement had been delivered two years later in June 2008. The slow pace of software design has been caused primarily by the ATLAS consortium’s inability to meet the Department’s requirements.

As a result of these problems, the Department’s existing computer systems have had to be used for longer than intended, with the increased risk that one or more of them will fail. The forecast cost of the DII Programme has also increased by an estimated £182 million. The Department has been able to protect benefits of the Programme, totalling an estimated £1.5 billion in due course, although some benefits will materialise later than planned.

In recent months, the performance of the DII Programme has improved somewhat, with some new software having been tested and 3,400 terminals being rolled out on average each month. However, rapid improvement to 4,300 terminals a month will be needed if the Department’s latest deadlines are to be met.

The Department has had a number of significant security breaches of personal data in recent years. An independent review of its data handling was held in early 2008 and the Department is in the process of implementing the recommendations.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Labour's Debt Crisis Campaign Launched

The Conservatives have today launched a nationwide advertising campaign to highlight the human consequences of Labour’s Debt Crisis.

The campaign includes a poster and an online film and shows a four week old baby alongside the slogan ‘Dad’s Nose. Mum’s Eyes. Gordon Brown’s Debt’.

Gordon Brown’s answer to the crisis has been to borrow even more money, taking our national debt to record levels. As a result a new born baby will come in the world saddled with a debt of £17,000.

Speaking at the launch, David Cameron said:
“We’ve got to stop this Government before they bankrupt our economy and bankrupt our children’s future.”
And he added:
“In the Spring, they will have another budget. And I’m really worried they’re going to do it all over again.”

Download Labour's Debt Crisis Report.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Next generation broadband could create next generation business

Jeremy Hunt MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport, has promised a Conservative Government will focus on ensuring the majority of the population have access to the next generation of high speed broadband networks within 5 years.

The Shadow Culture Secretary argued that next generation broadband offers a great commercial opportunity to the UK, because of the strength of our creative industries. He announced that the Conservative Party would be launching a wide-ranging review of the UK’s creative and creative knowledge industries this Spring in order to inform our thinking:
"There is no question about our talent for creating digital content, content that can be traded and exchanged in Bill Gates’ global village square. The question is whether we seize the opportunity presented by that talent to build the next generation of global businesses based on the new technology platforms that are emerging."
Giles meets with Jeremy Hunt in Lincoln, discussing various points including the knowledge economy.

Jeremy stressed that the key issue in the provision of next generation broadband is creating a framework which allows private sector investors to get the returns necessary to make the huge investment required.
"This means creating a regulatory environment that stimulates investment both by large incumbent players like BT, or where they are slow or unwilling to do so, by more nimble newcomers. To do this we should oversee wholesale deregulation of the current broadband infrastructure."
Giles McNeill said:
"This is exactly the right sort of proposal for an economy in recession, it not only makes sense for companies & business but for local people and communities."

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Keeping Britain Working

We face a very difficult time in 2009. Unemployment is rising, people are struggling to pay the bills, repossessions are going up, businesses can't get hold of credit. The situation is critical, so it is vital that any political decisions made now meet two vital tests.

First, we need to be sure that what we're doing is really related to what is wrong with our economy. The Conservative Party's biggest proposal - the National Loan Guarantee Scheme - is absolutely related to the core problem of this recession; the drying up of credit that is denying businesses cash flow. By making sure money can flow from banks to businesses again, our scheme directly addresses that.

The second test for politicians is that any action taken must be right for the future as well as for right now. What Labour have done is both short-term foolish and long-term foolish. The pointless VAT cut hasn't offered immediate help - in fact it's been condemned by both Next and M&S - and worse, it will add an eye-watering £12.5billion to our national debt.

Giles McNeill meets Shadow Cabinet member Andrew Mitchell MP at an event launching our new economic package.

Contrast that with our plan to abolish income tax on savings for everyone on the basic rate of tax. It's short-term wise - helping the forgotten victims of Labour's recession now - and long-term wise because it sends out the much-needed signal that saving is good. That's exactly the sort of practical, lasting help this country needs right now.

Giles McNeill
Prospective Conservative County Council Candidate for the Nettleham & Saxilby Division

Monday, 5 January 2009

Conservatives and the European Union

It is the Conservative Party’s view that Britain benefits from our membership of the European Union. The EU does much that is worthwhile. The Single Market allows services, workers and goods to move freely across Europe. The tangible benefits such as cheaper telephone calls, air travel and internet access are enjoyed by tens of millions of Britons.

The EU also provides a unique means for us to work together with our European partners on shared challenges which Europe’s nation states by themselves cannot deal with; and with enlargement, the goal of EU membership has persuaded not just governments but whole societies to raise their standards across the board. Britain has an enormous amount to gain through co-operation and free trade in Europe. That is why we want Britain to be a positive participant in the EU, championing liberal values.

I do agree with you, however, that the costs of EU membership are heavier than they should be. There have been improvements – proposed new EU laws are now assessed for their impact on jobs and businesses – but there is still too much red tape coming from Brussels and too much interference in matters that should be decided by Europe’s nation states, not the EU. On issues such as the Working Time Directive the effect on our businesses and public services is potentially serious and damaging. That is why if we win the next general election a Conservative Government will have as a priority the restoration of national control over social and employment legislation.

The EU budget also costs British taxpayers more than it should, not least because this Labour Government signed away £7 billion of Britain’s hard won rebate in return for nothing at all. A Conservative Government would robustly defend Britain’s financial interests in Europe and press for further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, which accounts for two fifths of the EU budget.

You may also like to know that Britain’s net contribution to the EU budget is £2 billion this year, forecast to rise to £6.5 billion in 2010/11.

We believe in an open, flexible Europe, so we opposed the EU Constitution in principle, and that is why, now substantially the same Treaty has been brought back as the Lisbon Treaty, we oppose that too. So the Conservative Party wins the next general election and the Lisbon Treaty is not yet in force we will put it to a referendum of the British people, recommending a ‘no’ vote, and if it is rejected then the Treaty will be finished. But if the Treaty is in force then in our view political integration in the EU will have gone too far, the Treaty would lack democratic legitimacy in this country and we would not let matters rest there.

We have further pledged that a Conservative government will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that any new EU Treaty that transfers competences – essentially EU legal language for powers – from the UK to the EU would be subject to a referendum of the British people. This is because we strongly uphold the principle that people should have freedom and control over their own lives, and it should no longer be possible for Governments to hand over power to the EU without the British peoples’ explicit permission.

We are optimistic that with a firm view of our national interests in mind and a clear vision of Europe’s proper priorities – global competitiveness, global poverty and global warming – we can succeed in reforming the EU so that it is fit for the twenty first century. It will not be fast. It will not be easy. But we believe it can be done.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

“It's time for change” - Giles McNeill’s New Year Message

Nettleham & Saxilby Division Conservatives
In Broadholme, Broxholme, Burton, Burton Waters, Grange-de-Lings, Greetwell, Nettleham, North Carlton, North Greetwell, Riseholme, Saxilby-With-Ingleby & South Carlton: It's time for change.

May I wish all of you a very happy New Year.

An important battle has been raging during 2008: the closure of the microbiology laboratory at Lincoln County Hospital which is set to close and all samples are to be sent to Scunthorpe, over 30 miles away. This is of such concern that the Health Scrutiny Committee, has used its ultimate power and referred the matter to the Secretary of State for Health.

Inspecting the sub-station housing at Riverdale in Nettleham.

2008 saw a change in political control at West Lindsey District Council. At the local elections on 1st May Conservatives gained 4 seats from the Liberal Democrats and took control of the Council. Since then, the new Conservative administration has been working hard to deliver on its election promises.
• Concessionary bus passes: in July the restriction on using bus passes before 9.30am was lifted and all day use restored.
• Flood prevention grants: a scheme has been put in place for victims of the 2007 floods to obtain up to 50% of the cost of flood protection devices for their homes.
• Green bins: as promised charges are scheduled to be scrapped for pensioner households from April 2009.

Wishing you all the best for 2009,
Giles McNeill
Prospective Conservative County Council Candidate for the Nettleham & Saxilby Division

Sat behind David Cameron at the Conservative Party Conference