Thursday, 30 April 2009

Demand a General Election from the Prime Minister

Conservative Future is today launching a campaign to put pressure on the Prime Minister to call a General Election.

Members and supporters will be writing to Downing Street to call for an election, so that the voters can choose who they want to lead them out of this recession. We are starting this campaign as it is our members’ generation that is going to be saddled with the debt of this Government.

The Government got us into this debt and we don’t believe it will be able to get us out of it.

The campaign has a standard letter (download) that members and supporters can download, sign, print and then send to Downing Street.

Investing for Development: the Department for International Development's oversight of CDC Group

Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:
"CDC Group, whose role is to help reduce poverty by investing in private businesses in poor countries, has shown that it is very good at turning a profit. And the Group built up its uninvested cash deposits to £1.4 billion by mid-2008, a far higher level than expected. We need to know, however, how effective it is at reducing poverty and so far there is limited evidence.

"CDC is government-owned but its obligations to report to the Department for International Development have been weak. Oversight by the department of how
CDC operated agreed remuneration arrangements was ineffective. These arrangements led to extraordinary levels of pay in a small, publicly owned organization aimed at fighting poverty. The Chief Executive earned £970,000 in 2007. The pay arrangements place too much emphasis on financial performance and too little on success in reducing poverty. "DFID needs to steer CDC to invest more in those poor countries with less well-known and less developed capital markets, rather than in countries such as China and India which are already successful in attracting foreign investors."
Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 18th Report of this Session which examined how effectively DFID has exercised its oversight of CDC to maximise its development impact.

CDC Group Plc, formerly the Commonwealth Development Corporation, is the United Kingdom's Development Finance Institution. It is wholly owned by the Department for International Development (DFID), which views it as a means to help reduce poverty by supporting private sector development. CDC is self-financing, having received no Government funding since 1995. It does not donate aid. Rather, it invests equity in private enterprises in developing countries in order to demonstrate to other investors that it is possible to make money in such countries, while at the same time creating sustainable jobs, paying taxes and following good social and environmental policies. It now faces the new challenge of investing effectively during a global recession.

DFID restructured CDC in 2004 in order to invest indirectly, through private fund managers. CDC invests largely in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asian enterprises in sectors as diverse as retail, financial, agricultural and manufacturing. Since 2004, CDC has grown rapidly, more than doubling the value of its assets to £2.7 billion by mid-2008. DFID's oversight of certain elements of business efficiency needs to be improved. High profits have led to CDC accumulating some £1.4 billion of uninvested cash, far higher than expected. And management of rising levels of executive pay has been weakened by misunderstandings, particularly as to when CDC should have consulted DFID.

DFID does not interfere in individual investment decisions but sets the overall framework for CDC's investment policy, which targets poor countries.
As a result, CDC invests over 70% of its resources in poor countries, a far higher proportion than for similar institutions in other donor nations. CDC has limited influence, however, where its fund managers invest within these broad criteria. Only 4% of its resources are invested in small and medium enterprises, which suffer a shortage of finance. And it has only recently reduced new investments in China, which has been relatively well served by other investors.

For DFID, financial performance is the principal indicator of CDC's development impact, but this information is not sufficient to assess CDC's effect on poverty reduction. In 2004, DFID and CDC set out plans to evaluate wider development results and to monitor compliance with ethical investment principles. But it is not doing enough to measure and report these aspects of performance, and work to remedy this situation is only now getting underway.

The level and nature of CDC executive remuneration are also relevant to business efficiency and management incentives. The Chief Executive's remuneration increased from £383,000 in 2003 to £970,000 in 2007, reflecting in part CDC's exceptional financial performance. Advisers concluded that CDC executives were paid below the median for this group. However, CDC does not compete for cash to invest, offers high job satisfaction, and has, since 2004, successfully recruited and retained talented staff.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Village Hall Refurbishment has Begun

Terry Williams, Chairman, Nettleham Parish Council has today responded to the article ‘Hall delayed’ published in the Lincolnshire Echo on Tuesday April 21 2009.
"The Parish Council is as anxious as the Village Hall Committee to ensure the provision of a first class community venue which Nettleham residents would expect.

"The Parish Council has been working on this matter with the Village Hall Committee over the past 11 months, in response to a request from them for assistance in the complete refurbishment of the Village Hall. As a result of that request a task group was established comprising of members of the Village Hall Committee and the Parish Council, and a Business Plan has now been produced. The next stage is the compilation of the necessary costings analysis by the Village Hall Committee, following which the Council will be in a position to make a decision on the most appropriate way forward

"In the meantime, the Council is pleased that the Village Hall Committee have already commenced work on the replacement of the windows and doors."

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Local Liberal Democrat Councillor voted UKIP at European Election

I was speaking Cllr. Frith earlier this evening at the Nettleham Parish Council's Allotments on Lincoln Road near Nettleham Heath and he confirmed that he is at odds with his party's pro-European positions saying:

"I voted UKIP last time... I've always been anti-European."

Monday, 27 April 2009

BUDGET RESPONSE: Labour Government “taxing the many, not the few”

Giles McNeill gives his analysis of Government’s tax and spending plans

Giles McNeill today delivered his verdict on the Budget, which sets out the Government’s plans for taxes and public spending. Giles expressed concern at plans to increase taxes on families and local firms across Lincolnshire.

• National Insurance will be increased for workers and for firms. This jobs tax will discourage businesses from hiring staff, cut people’s pay packets, and mean anyone earning £20,000 a year or more will be worse off.
• National debt will double to £1.4 trillion – this is equivalent to £22,500 of debt for every man, woman and child. Taxes are to rise by £1,000 for every family over the next two years.
• Fuel duty is up 2 pence per litre, and will continue to rise by more than inflation for the next four years, increasing the cost of travelling to work, taking children to school and going shopping.
• Alcohol duty, which was hiked up in December, will rise again as part of the Government’s plans to increase the cost of beer, cider, spirits and wine by more than inflation every year. This punishes responsible drinkers and is putting small local pubs out of business.
• Business rates are rising by £1 billion in the middle of a recession. Business rates are the biggest cost for firms after rent and staff costs. Bills have soared for local firms since the beginning of April, and further large hikes are expected next year too.

Giles said:
“In these tough economic times, families and local firms across (area) are going to pay the price for Gordon Brown’s failings. These aren’t taxes for the few; they are taxes for the many. At a time when people are losing their jobs or facing pay freezes, hard-working families now face smaller pay packets and a higher cost of living thanks to Labour.

“It’s time for change. Conservatives will work to repair our broken public finances and help lead the country out of recession.”

West Lindsey Distrct Council May Demolish Former Headquarters

West Lindsey District Council may demolish its former headquarters after failing to sell the building. West Lindsey District Council moved from the old Guildhall to the new Guildhall at the successful Marshall's Yard development in Gainsborough early last year. The local authority is paying £57,000 a year to maintain the old Guildhall building which stands empty and feels it would be cheaper to demolish it.

Cllr. Bernard Theobald, the Conservative Leader of the Council, said there was no point in paying for a redundant building.
"We could use that area for car parking and that would increase our income.

"My view is it's a redundant building and the cost of refurbishing it far outweighs any intrinsic value."

Cllr. Theobald added that the move to Marshall's Yard had been recognised as 'the best decision the council has made for many years' and it had made a 'huge difference' to staff morale.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

SPRING FORUM: Off to the races

Well today sees the beginning of the Conservative Spring Forum for 2009 in Cheltenham, Gloustershire.

Michael Gove will later this afternoon be outlining Conservative plans to allow Primary Schools to attain 'Academy Status' and there will be discussion on the NHS.

I will be attending the National Convention and voting for a new Chairman and Vice Presidents for the Party.

I will also try and post some videoblogs.

There is a European Reception tonight and the Freedom Association also have an event.

There is an interesting peice on ConservativeHome about how Lincoln City Council have halve staff absenteeism.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Plans to promote opportunity and neighbourhood pride in Lincolnshire

Giles McNeill welcomes innovative new housing policies to get Lincolnshire moving

Giles McNeill today welcomed plans for a radical overhaul of housing policy, thirty years on from the unveiling of the Right to Buy, which transformed council estates.

Under new Conservative proposals, tenants in social housing across Lincolnshire are to be offered the chance of genuine social mobility and equality of opportunity. Pride will be restored to local neighbourhoods, helping address anti-social behaviour and encourage social responsibility. Local homes will be built for local people, with the community – not bureaucrats in Whitehall – having the final say on the homes they want.

This comes as the latest analysis shows as the average house in Lincolnshire costs £164,255, compared to average earnings of £26,552. This means that the average house is 6.2 times average earnings.

The detailed proposals include:
• Rewards for good behaviour: Offering tenants with a record of five years’ good tenant behaviour a 10% equity share in their social rented property, which can be cashed in when they want to move up the housing ladder. This will give tenants a direct financial stake in the state of their neighbourhood, and reward law-abiding citizens who pay their rent on time, keep their garden tidy, and ensure their children stay out of trouble. By contrast, Labour policies reinforce and reward welfare dependency.
• A ‘Right to Move’: Introducing a comprehensive national mobility scheme for good tenants who wish to move to other social sector properties, and piloting a scheme which allows good social tenants to demand that their social landlord sell their current property and use the proceeds, minus transaction costs, to buy (and thereby bring into the social rented sector) another property of their choice – anywhere in England.
• Cutting waiting lists: Relaxing the rules that prevent thousands of habitable empty properties being used to house those on local authority waiting lists. 20,720 people are currently on the waiting lists in Lincolnshre, an increase of 47% since 1997.
• Local Housing Trusts: Allowing villages and towns to create entirely new community-led bodies with planning powers to develop local homes for local people, provided there is strong community backing. Affordable homes built by Local Housing Trusts will remain in local ownership in perpetuity, ensuring that future generations can benefit.
• More family homes and stopping garden grabbing: Reversing the classification of gardens as brownfield land, and allowing councils to prevent over-development of neighbourhoods and stop 'garden grabbing', which has resulted in a glut of flats, the demolition of suburban family homes and concreting over of their gardens.
• Incentives not top-down targets: Scrapping regional planning, and enabling councils to revise their current local plans to protect Green Belt land and prevent the unwanted imposition of so-called eco-towns. Instead, councils will keep more of the proceeds of new house building from council tax receipts, giving incentives to support new sustainable development.

Giles said:
“Given the average house in Lincolnshire is more than six times average earnings, we need to do more to help people get on and move up the housing ladder. We need social housing which promotes opportunity and social mobility, rather than reinforcing welfare dependency. We must also champion the vulnerable and help the 20,720 people on housing waiting lists in Lincolnshire.

“I welcome the plans to give an equity stake to social tenants in Lincolnshire. It will reward the socially responsible citizens who pay their rent on time and keep their kids in check, and help restore a sense of pride to all our neighbourhoods.”

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Blow to West Lindsey’s housing market from Home Information Pack red tape

New Government rules will make it harder to buy and sell your home

Giles McNeill today expressed concern for Lincolnshire’s fragile housing market, following the introduction of complex and expensive new Home Information Pack rules.

From 6 April, extra Home Information Pack (HIP) regulations will hinder sellers from putting their homes onto the market, mislead buyers and create a real danger of £200 fines from town hall officials.

• New delays if you sell your home: The Government is cancelling the ‘first day marketing’ provision – which allowed sellers to market their home if a HIP had been ordered, but had not yet been completed. Sellers will now have to wait even longer before they can put up a ‘For Sale’ sign.

• New untrustworthy Property Information Questionnaires: Also from 6 April, HIPs must have a so-called ‘Property Information Questionnaire’ completed by the seller. The Questionnaire is useless as unscrupulous sellers can sidestep difficult questions that could reduce their house price by ticking a “don’t know” box. The buyer cannot be certain that the information is reliable about such things as past dry rot or damp, insurance claims, experience of flooding, and whether past alterations had official permission. Honest sellers will also suffer, as disputes over information in Property Information Questionnaires will end up in the courts, with buyers suing sellers.

• Heavy-handed town hall fines: Town halls have been instructed to “identify specific cases of non-compliance and enforce the requirements” – and start fining homeowners £200 a time if they do not follow the new rules.

• HIPs are already harming the housing market: The Government’s own research has found that there is little public knowledge about, or interest in HIPs; that the industry thinks they are a waste of time; that they duplicate costs and that buyers are not bothering to consult HIPs. Ministers have emergency powers under the Housing Act to suspend HIPs, but have refused to use them.

Giles said:
“Home Information Packs have already damaged the market and discouraged sellers. Now Gordon Brown is making things even worse. You cannot trust the contents of a Home Information Pack, and these regulations will lead to yet more wasted time and expense.

“A Conservative Government will scrap Home Information Packs outright. If Ministers really wanted to help homeowners, they would use their emergency powers to suspend HIPs and provide a shot in the arm to the (area’s) ailing market. Only Conservatives are on the side of Britain’s home owners and the many people who want to move on and up the housing ladder.”

Thursday, 9 April 2009

“Control freak” Ministers water down new openness laws – Giles McNeill

Labour Government censors breakdown of government spending in Lincolnshire

Giles McNeill, Deputy Regional Chairman - East Midlands Conservative Future, today expressed disappointment at the Labour Government’s decision to water down new laws which would tell people how much taxpayers’ money is spent in Lincolnshire, across the East Midlands, and in every other part of the country.

A new law, called the Sustainable Communities Act 2007, and introduced by Conservatives, was passed by Parliament with cross-community support from local and national organisations. It could turn politics upside down - by giving local people the power to decide how their cash is spent in their area.

For the first time in British political history, the Government will publish a regular breakdown of the amount of public money spent in each community, and explain how much of that spending is controlled by local people and how much by Whitehall.

More and more taxpayers’ money is being spent by unelected quangos. In Gordon Brown’s first year in office, spending on so-called “executive non-departmental public bodies” rose by 16 per cent. The Taxpayers’ Alliance, has estimated that £64 billion a year is now spent by unelected quangos – equivalent to £2,550 for every household in Lincolnshire. So the need for proper transparency in public spending is urgent.

But in a consultation paper recently issued by the Government, the plans for reports on local spending under the new Act have been severely watered down. Only spending information by councils and NHS Primary Care Trusts will be published – and this is already in the public domain.

Conservatives are pledging to put this right and will:
• Use the Sustainable Community Act to publish detailed information on local spending by central and local government bodies, and devolve more funding down to local communities.
• Require Lincolnshire County Council and Whitehall bodies to publish online detailed figures on how they spend our money, so the press and public can scrutiny waste and inefficiency properly.

Giles said:
“It is completely unacceptable that control freak Ministers should try to water down these ground-breaking new openness laws. Labour are obsessed with trying to control everything from Whitehall. It speaks volumes that they want to stop local people finding out which areas gets a raw deal from the Government.

“The Sustainable Communities Act can give local communities a far greater say on how their money is spent. In this way, we can tackle ‘Ghost Town Britain’ and the ongoing loss of local shops, services and facilities. Only Conservatives will open up the books and give power and funding so local people can adopt local solutions.”

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Outline proposals for tourism in Lincoln unveiled

The Tourist Information Centre on Castle Square, Lincoln will stay open if plans for the City of Lincoln Council to work in partnership with Lincoln Business Improvement Group (BIG) to provide services are approved.

Negotiations about increasing the subscription given by the City Council to Lincoln BIG have taken place in recent days. As part of the plans, Lincoln BIG would take over the management of the Tourist Information Centre to provide a face-to-face tourism service in the city.

The decision is still subject to Executive approval and consultation with affected staff. If approved, plans would mean:

The City Council would enhance its annual subscription to Lincoln BIG.
Lincoln BIG would operate the Tourist Information Centre in uphill Lincoln.
Four full time posts would be retained.
Lincoln BIG would look at generating further income through its provision of tourist information, which could then be invested into the tourism service.

The agreement comes after an extensive review of the council’s Tourism, Marketing and Arts Service. The Executive recommended the closure of both Tourist Information Centres from September 2009 as part of the council’s need to reduce its annual budget by £2.5 million.

Following the decision, Councillor Darren Grice, Leader of the City of Lincoln Council extended a challenge to businesses in Lincoln to help provide a tourism service in the city, and he is delighted with the recent discussions.
Councillor Grice said:
"We’re still in the very early stages, but we have reached an agreement in principle that Lincoln BIG will take over the management of the centre on Castle Square, with the help of a grant from the City Council.

"The reaction to our decision to close the Tourist Information Centres was phenomenal, but the savings target was fundamental to that decision and it was imperative that we met that target for the future sustainability of the council.

"This option means we can still make the necessary savings, whilst retaining the Tourist Information Centre that people feel is most needed. The fine details of how this will work are yet to be drawn up, but this is an excellent opportunity to provide a top quality tourism service. I am overjoyed that we have made such progress and hope that residents, visitors and businesses will reap the benefits.
Ursula Lidbetter, Chair of Lincoln Business Improvement Group added:
"We are pleased that we have been able to reach an agreement in principle with the City of Lincoln Council for Lincoln BIG to take on the operation of a customer facing Tourist Information Centre on Castle Square.

"Lincoln BIG is funded by business ratepayers in the city centre and this agreement fits well with the other things that we do to improve peoples' experience of the city centre. It will safeguard the future of our warden scheme and compliment the work we are doing to create a wireless information network across the city centre.
Everyone has a role to play as ambassadors for Lincoln and we don't see this as just providing an information centre, but as the Tourist Information Centre acting as the focal point for over 600 information provisions in the city.

"We have ensured that this is an additional benefit but at no additional cost to our members. It will generate commercial revenues using the expertise of our members, better integrate events and information provision and the web and give the businesses more say in the operation and standard of tourist information in the city."