Saturday, 28 February 2009

Tougher action needed against anti-social behaviour in Lincolnshire

Calls for new powers to tackle persistent troublemakers and yob behaviour

Giles McNeill today called for tougher police powers to tackle anti-social behaviour and crack down on yobs.

This comes as new answers to Parliamentary Questions show that across Lincolnshire, 40,099 incidents of anti-social behaviour were reported to the police last year. But because of the massive under-reporting of such low-level crime, the real number of actual incidents could be as high as 364,536 last year.

Under new Conservative proposals, firm action would be taken against the yob behaviour that blights neighbourhoods, as well as taking steps to tackle the underlying causes.
• The police would have stronger powers to remove troublemakers from Lincolnshire’s streets - taking yobs to the police station rather than moving them on, while new curfew orders could ‘ground’ persistent troublemakers at night after school hours.
• Licensing laws would be more robustly enforced, revoking the licences of any shops in Lincolnshire which systematically peddle alcohol to under-age children.
• Violent offenders would be prosecuted instead of being let off with a caution.
• More police would patrol the the streets, by cutting police paperwork and bureaucracy which pins them down to police headquarters on Deepdale Lane, Nettleham.

Giles said:
“This Labour Government has been soft on crime, and soft on the causes of crime. We live in a country where no one seems to say ‘no’ any more and nothing happens when a young person steps out of line. This has to change.

“With so many reported and unreported cases of anti-social behaviour, Lincolnshire’s police need the power to ‘ground’ young persistent troublemakers – so we can prevent them from getting into worse trouble. We need to get more police on the beat, prosecute serious offenders and tackle the underlying causes of crime such as drug addiction, educational failure and family breakdown.

“Conservatives are the party of law and order – championing common sense, strong families, united communities and a system which places the victim above the criminal.”

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Sign up to Honest Food Campaign - as Lincolnshire’s shoppers deserve better

Call to change law to end misleading labelling in shops and supermarkets
Giles McNeill, today urged residents across the Lincoln fringe to sign up to a new petition calling for clearer labelling on food packaging.

The “Honest Food” campaign launched by Conservatives seeks to end misleading claims and ensure compulsory ‘country of origin’ labelling. This will mean that meat products, such as bacon, sausages and ready meals, which carry a British label can only use meat that comes from animals born and bred in Britain. Conservatives are proposing a change in the law to make this compulsory.

Research into everyday products on supermarket shelves has indentified Tesco chicken dinners “produced in the UK” use chicken from Thailand; Marks and Spencer’s corned beef sandwiches emblazoned with the Union flag use meat from Brazil; and goods from the Birdseye “Great British Menu” range are made with imported meat.

The petition can be signed online at: The campaign has been backed by famous chefs, Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall, Clarissa Dickson Wright, Prue Leith and Anthony Worrall Thompson.

Giles said:
“People have a right to know where their food comes from, but there is nothing in food labelling regulation to stop food from abroad that is only processed here from being labelled as British.

“Conservatives would change the law to prevent unclear and misleading labelling so only meat from animals reared in Britain could carry a British label. Shoppers in Lincolnshire would see clearly where their food comes from so they can choose British food with confidence.”

Monday, 23 February 2009

Time to shift power to local people and rein in Whitehall bureaucrats

Bold new blueprint to give Lincolnshire more power – and make it more accountable

Local residents will have the power to instigate local referendums, will know more about how town hall money is spent and Lincolnshire County council will have more powers and funding under a new Conservative blueprint for local democracy.

The proposals to revive local democracy were recently unveiled by David Cameron in a major policy document, and have been endorsed today by Giles McNeill, Nettleham Parish Councillor. The new policies include:

• Abolishing all regional planning and housing powers in the hands of regional government, returning powers and discretion back to local communities.
• Creating bottom-up incentives for house building, by allowing Lincolnshire County council to benefit from the increase in council tax revenues from new homes.
• Allowing councils to establish their own local enterprise partnerships to take over the economic development functions and funding of East Midlands Development Agency
• Giving a real incentive for councils to promote local economic growth, by allowing them to keep the uplift in business rate revenues from businesses growing in size.
• Granting Lincolnshire County council a new discretionary power to give discounts on business rates, allowing them to help local shops and services, such as rural pubs or post offices, or even create new local enterprise zones.
• Making greater use of direct democracy, including allowing Lincolnshire’s residents to veto high council tax rises, or instigate a council-wide referendum on local issues if 5% of local residents give their backing.
• Requiring Lincolnshire County council to publish detailed information online about its spending – including the pay and perks of senior staff; and issuing new guidance to stop ‘rewards for failure’ to sacked town hall staff (highlighted by the recent Baby P scandal).
• Scrapping Labour’s new Infrastructure Planning Commission, which it intends to use to force through the environmentally damaging Heathrow expansion and other controversial projects.

Giles said:
“These radical plans will put local people in the driving seat, and cut back interference and meddling by Whitehall bureaucrats.

“The next election won’t just be about whether to transfer power from Labour to Conservatives. It will also be about whether to transfer power from the central state to local people.

“Greater powers for local government must also be accompanied by more openness, greater accountability and new measures to protect the pockets of local taxpayers.”

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Action needed to tackle overcrowded trains and soaring fares

Conservative proposals unveiled to improve Lincolnshire's railways

Giles McNeill, Conservative County Council candidate for the Nettleham & Saxilby division, added his backing to new Conservative plans to make rail services across Lincolnshire and Britain better. The proposals include giving Lincolnshire County Council the power to work in partnership with train firms to help deliver local rail improvements, and practical steps to increase investment in new trains and services.

By contrast, under the current Government, overcrowding is becoming an ever greater problem on the railways, and East Midlands Trains is increasing fares by 6% on season tickets and 7% on leisure fares this year.

The proposals, unveiled in a Conservative rail review, call for:

Longer, better franchises: Short franchises discourage private sector investment in better trains. Instead, 15-20 year franchises should be the norm to give greater certainty and encourage investment in new and better trains.

Innovation in local rail improvements: Funding for smaller scale capacity enhancements, currently dealt with by Network Rail, should be contestable and open to other providers, including train operating companies, local councils and Community Rail Partnerships.

A moratorium on building on disused rail paths: Any disused railway lines still in public ownership should be conserved for the moment, to keep alive the possibility of reopening them to rail travel in the future. Protecting these corridors will also allow their use by pedestrians and cyclists in the interim.

Setting the pace on high speed rail: There should be a new high speed line connecting Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, London and Heathrow. This would be the first step in a national high speed network which would see the line extended to Newcastle and Scotland with further new lines linking up major cities across the UK.

A new Passenger Champion: Passengers should have a one-stop-shop to complain to when things go wrong and to represent their interests; it would have the power to bang heads together to ensure that performance is improved, regardless of where the fault lies.

Giles said:
“The Government now has more control over the railways than in the days of British Rail. But after a decade of Labour, our railways are becoming more and more overcrowded and increasingly expensive, with fares soaring this year.

“We desperately need new capacity with longer trains, longer platforms and additional lines. These practical proposals would give a greater say for local people and less for Whitehall bureaucrats.”
Below, Theresa Villiers, the Shadow Transport Secretary, sets out our long-term vision for Britain’s railways and explains the changes a Conservative Government will make to improve rail services for passengers.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Job Done - Bus Timetables

Residents in Nettleham will hopefully be increasingly aware that there is now a Bus Service operating through the village on Sundays and Bank Holidays, supported by the Conservative run Lincolnshire County Council.

On resident brought to my attention that unfortunately, despite the new service begining on Sunday, 1st February 2009, new bus timetables showing the new services hadn't gone up, well following a little investigation on part I am pleased to report that new bus timetables have now gone up at the bus stops in Nettleham. So another little job done.

Giles McNeill
Local Conservative Action Team Co-Ordinator (Nettleham & Saxilby)

Friday, 13 February 2009

£3,000 Raised for Local Charities.

Giles McNeill writes:

Many readers will be aware that in the winter months I spend my time out and about in Lincoln and across the county with the Our Lady's Carollers collecting money for local charities.We had another good year which has been both rewarding and enjoyable for all concerned. We went to lots of events, the turning on of the Christmas Lights on Lincoln High Street, The Christmas Market, Saxilby History Group, amongst many others.

The Carollers raised just shy of £3000.00 for charity this year donations are to be made to:
1. Lincoln Disabled Inclusive Swimming Club
2. Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre
3. Lincolnshire & Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance
4. Mind
5. Lincoln & District Multiple Sclerosis Society
6. Lincoln Community Larder
7. Lincoln & Lindsey Blind Society
8. St. Peter & St. Paul's School
9. The Mayor's Charity Appeal (Lincoln Alzhelmers' Society/ Lincoln Breast Cancer Unit)
All the charities recieved donations of between £200 - £500

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Job Done - A46 'French' Drains

Good news; following one local resident getting in touch with me about his concerns over the standard of the drainage on the A46 near Danby Hill I am pleased to report that a team from Highways was there this morning doing some remedial work.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Ministers push ahead with plans for councillors to vote from the pub

Labour plans could undermine trust in Lincolnshire County Council warns Giles McNeill

Councillors throughout Lincolnshire will soon be paid for voting from their sofa or from the pub, the small print of Government documents revealed this week. Labour Ministers are to push ahead with changing the law to let councillors skip town hall meetings but still cash in on their council tax-funded salaries and pensions. This is despite overwhelming public opposition to the plans in a formal consultation.

Councillors to stay put on their sofas: In July, as part of a widely-derided ‘Community Empowerment White Paper’, Labour Ministers announced plans to allow “remote” voting in town halls. Lincolnshire's councillors will not have to turn up at meetings. They will be able to vote by phone or internet, from their home, their place of work or the local pub. The White Paper also included plans to introduce free doughnuts and prize draws for voting in elections; to remove controls on town hall propaganda; and to undo anti-sleaze laws brought in to stop ‘jobs for the boys’ corruption.

Anger at Labour Government plans: The small print of the responses to the Government’s consultation, published on 26 January, reveals widespread opposition to the changes. Less than a quarter of town halls backed the plans, warning that the move “erodes public confidence in democracy” and is “lacking transparency and accountability”. The responses note that “concerns were also raised about the practicality and cost of remote attendance and voting”, and stresses that “citizens want to be able to attend public meetings and see their councillors at work.” Alarm was also raised over the increased risk of expensive legal challenges to controversial decisions, such as planning applications. But the Government has simply ignored this opposition, and says it still plans to change the law, regardless.

Green light to skip meetings as town hall salaries rocket: It is thought that permission to skip meetings is being proposed by Labour Ministers to make it easier for Labour councillors to hold down multiple jobs, on top of raking in their councillor salaries. Yet in recent years, ever since Labour’s Local Government Act 2000 and the widespread abolition of the ‘Committee’ system, councillor salaries have soared. Labour Ministers’ plans come as council tax bills from April are due to hit record levels, with the average bill in England rising by £48 to reach £1,421 a year on a Band D home (equivalent to almost £120 a month).

Giles McNeill, Conservative Candidate for Lincolnshire County Council in the Nettleham & Saxilby Division, said:
“Lincolnshire’s councillors work really hard and they have have a vital role in standing up for the many local communities that make up Lincolnshire. But local decision-making by Lincolnshire County Council must remain open, transparent and public.

“At a time when council tax bills are to hitting record levels across the country and people are working harder than ever to make ends meet, it is incredible that Labour Ministers are effectively pushing for some councillors to do less work for more money.

“I fear that Labour’s plans for armchair voting and voting from the pub will create real cynicism amongst hard-pressed taxpayers.”

Friday, 6 February 2009

Sarkozy Slams Brown's VAT Cut & Economic "Mistakes"

Nicolas Sarkozy has become the latest world leader to condemn Gordon Brown’s decision to reduce VAT in an attempt to tackle the recession. The French President said Brown’s VAT cut had “absolutely not worked” and stressed he would not repeat Britain’s economic “mistakes”.

M. Sarkozy joins a host of high-profile figures who have condemned Brown’s economic policy, including the Chief Economist of the IMF, the Finance Minister of Germany, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, and the CEOs of Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencers.

George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, stressed,
“We said at the time that Brown’s flagship VAT cut would only make things worse and would be an expensive failure. That view is now echoed not just by British retailers, but by foreign governments, including France, Germany and Holland.

“Gordon Brown claims to have saved the world. It would appear that world leaders increasingly disagree.”

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Examples of Government Waste

This Government has a long track record of wasting taxpayers’ money. In just the last few weeks, when families are tightening their belts, Whitehall continues to waste money as the following examples demonstrate:

1. The Department for Transport spent £121 million on an IT scheme which will save it just £40 million. Current forecasts show that the ‘Shared Services’ Programme will cost £121 million; benefits over the first 10 years will be £40 million; and the net cost to the Department will be £81 million (Public Accounts Committee, Shared services in the Department for Transport and its agencies, 16 December 2008, p.3).

2. IT projects are nearly £2 billion over budget and 86 years behind schedule. Government computer projects are £1.6 billion over budget and 86 years behind schedule. The longest delay is at the Department for Work and Pensions where a new IT system to enforce child maintenance payments is seven years late (The Daily Telegraph, 27 December 2008).

3. NHS hospitals are paying agency staff up to £190 an hour to cover shifts. Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed some staff were paid hourly rates equivalent to salaries worth hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. Whipps Cross University Hospitals NHS Trust said it paid £188 an hour for an anaesthetics medical consultant – equivalent to an annual salary of £366,000. Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust paid £167 for an A&E doctor, equivalent to £326,000 a year, and Dorset Primary Care Trust paid £158 an hour for a prison GP, which would amount to £307,000 a year (ITV, 3 January 2009).

4. Thousands of pounds a day on celebrities in the NHS. The Department of Health increasingly uses actors, singers, television stars in their advertising campaigns. However it refuses to admit how much it pays these celebrities. Celebrities include The Bill’s Gary Lucy (to record video diaries outlining his struggle to quit smoking), Strictly Come Dancing winner Alesha Dixon (to advertise condoms) and model/TV presenter Melinda Messenger (to promote the 5-A-Day healthy eating scheme). Officials inside the Department of Health have claimed Jenny Frost, of the band Atomic Kitten, was paid £10,000 a day for her work promoting breast feeding (The Observer, 4 January 2009).

Concern over ‘100% Affordable Homes’ Development at Saxilby

Residents of Saxilby will be aware that an application has been made to West Lindsey District Council, who are the local planning authority, to develop 8 Bungalows and 11Houses, by Waterloo Housing Group, at ‘greenfield’ land on Church Lane. This land is approximately 10 hectares (that’s about the same as 10 football pitches) and is currently in use as arable agricultural land.

The site lies outside the ‘Settlement Boundary’ as defined on the adopted First Review of the West Lindsey Local Plan – Policy STRAT 4/5/6. The applicant is therefore reliant on the Authority releasing the site using the Rural Exception Policy (Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3) paragraph 30 refers).

Notwithstanding the fundamental changes to national planning policy introduced by this Labour Government in 2005, It is my understanding that policies in the West Lindsey Local Plan are ‘held’ until the emerging documents, in form of a Local Development Framework, are adopted; probably not before 2011. The Local Development Framework will then take forward the ‘new plan’ to 2026.

During recent years, most local residents would agree that Saxilby has had its fair share of newly built ‘affordable/social-rented’ dwellings. Furthermore, several small sites suitable for this type of development have been identified within the present ‘Settlement Boundary’ (Brownfield sites); indeed, at least 3 sites are vacant, derelict and calling out for regeneration. Furthermore, Planning Policy Statement 3 also states that priority for development should be on ‘previously-developed’ land.

The Saxilby with Ingleby Housing Need Survey published in July 2006 quotes reasons for needs that are unsubstantiated, unconvincing and do not ‘cut it’ with ‘Middle England’ residents. Moreover, the West Lindsey Need Study published later that year, in November, is hardly convincing using 2 separate Models to estimate the net annual need across the whole district; Model 1 results in a figure of 198 and Model 2 reflects a figure of 518. These disparate exercises conducted at considerable cost to the taxpayer and in the light of the current economic conditions, suggest that any rush into false conclusions and planning options would be, to most observers, unwise until the housing market recedes to a sustainable level.

In the circumstances, any encroachment onto ‘greenfield’ land at this time is totally unjustified. Indeed, approval of the application would clearly not demonstrate ‘joined-up’ planning objectives. The field on which the subject site is located would be capable of accepting anything between 315 to 515 dwellings at the density figures quoted in Planning Policy Statement 3. Not surprisingly, residents in the near vicinity perceive a mini ‘Ermine Estate’ in the making with all the related social and security concerns.

In consideration of the planning application (123430) in context with the West Lindsey Local Plan First Review indicates further reasons to oppose any encroachment beyond the defined ‘Settlement Boundary’. In particular:
Policy Res 6 – Affordable Housing states: at para 1.46, that:
“ ‘exceptions’ provisions do not override long established national and planning policies controlling development in open countryside.”
Policy Res 7 – Rural Exceptions Housing states at para 1.48 sub para iv, that:
“This policy will apply to small rural communities, therefore sites on the fringe of the Unban Area of Lincoln... and the villages identified as Primary Rural Settlements will not be considered appropriate.”
Furthermore, farmland extending westwards from the site is rural in character so ‘affordable dwellings’ in isolation would be detrimental to the visual amenity and nature of the surrounding countryside. Indeed, approaching the village from the northwest along the lane from Torksey affords the traveller fine views onto the rising terrain towards St Botolph’s Church, the only Grade 1 Listed Building in the Parish. Moreover, the visual amenity is further enhanced by the ancient ‘ridge and furrow’ grassland located beyond the junction of Sykes Lane and Church Lane.

Accordingly, I consider encroachment of development on land outside the present ‘Settlement Boundary’ is totally unacceptable before adoption of the Local Development Framework which will occur, hopefully, after full and meaningful community consultation during the adoption process; a far cry from the alert of this application pronounced on a grubby Planning Notice posted on a way pole in a country lane. I therefore strongly of the opinion that the application be refused on grounds of that it is inconsistent with the stated local & national planning objectives and the desired will of local residents.

Giles McNeill
Local Conservative Action Team Co-Ordinator (Nettleham & Saxilby)

Liberal Democrat Councillor Obstructs Ambulance

There has been plenty of media coverage today of Liberal Democrat councillor Colin Rosentiel following a complaint made against him to the Standards Board for England.

So for those of you who missed it let's recap: Liberal Democrat Cllr. Colin Rosenstiel stopped an Ambulance as crews tried to reach an injured person at a summer festival on common land in Cambridgeshire. Cllr. Rosenstiel rode his bike directly into the path of the ambulance, blocking the entrance, and refusing to move on the grounds that he claimed cars were not allowed on the grass.

The emergency crew did eventually manage to manoeuvre around him but, as the ambulance attempted to leave, following treatment of their patient, Cllr. Rosenstiel, it is alleged, blocked their exit again by locking the gate.

Ultimately driver paramedic Cliff Austine, of the East of England Ambulance Service, summoned a nearby policeman who ordered the councillor to unlock the gate.

Mr Austine decided to make a formal complaint to the Standards Board for England - the watchdog for councillors’ behaviour. The Standards Board found that Cllr. Rosenstiel had failed to comply with the code of conduct and brought his office into disrepute.

The Liberal Democrats do seem to be getting a lot of stories in the press of late, but alas for all the wrong reasons. (Click here and here for an interesting article of Adrian Heath, former Parliamentary Candidate for the Liberal Democrats in the Gainsborough Constituency.)

Finally, Sam Coates in The Times writes:
"Turns out Nick Clegg is launching his new education policies tomorrow morning at a school in north London. Unfortunately they forgot to tell the media. We found out almost by accident. The Lib Dem press office was somewhat surprised we weren't aware and suggested they might put out a calling notice tomorrow morning. Giving their poll ratings, they aren't helping themselves..."

Monday, 2 February 2009

David launches Maths Taskforce with Carol Vorderman

David Cameron and Michael Gove have launched a new Maths Taskforce to be led by Carol Vorderman and examine how to make maths teaching in Britain’s state schools as good as anywhere else in the world.

Under Labour, more than three and a half million children have left school without at least a ‘C’ in maths GSCE – and nearly half of all eleven-year-olds leave primary school without basic numeracy skills.

David stressed there are
“few things more important than getting maths in our schools right: Basic numeracy is not a nice-to-have, it’s a must have. From checking your bank balance, to doing the weekly shop or making the most of the sales being able to add, subtract, times and divide is something we rely on often without thinking about it.”

He described Carol as the 'perfect choice' to lead our Maths Taskforce:

“She’s a well-respected public figure who not only knows maths inside out, but also how to extend that knowledge to a wider audience in an interesting and inspirational way.”