Wednesday, 31 March 2010


TWERPS is, of course, the Tunbridge Wells and Eridge Railway Preservation Society. From very small beginnings the society is, to use its own word, on the 'cusp' of making its vision a reality - through trains between Tunbridge Wells and Eridge which will connect at the latter with the Southern service between Uckfield and London.
It has been a mammoth undertaking, mostly by volunteers. The only problem is that passengers disgorging from trains at the Old West Station will have the joys of the Sainsbury car park to feast their eyes on. Something needs to be done to make the route between the station and the Pantiles more tourist friendly.

Consultation: Choose your GP Practice

The Department of Health has launched a consultation which closes on 28th May 2010 on choosing your GP practice.

For details and a copy of the consultation documents click here

Down Memory Lane (2)


For a number of years a successful community group known as ORCA, which stands for Oak Road Community Association, did much good work in the Oak Road area of Tunbridge Wells. Then there was a falling out between members of the committee.

A new organisation was formed by some members of the old ORCA committee. The new organisation is known as CORE: Community of Oak Road Estate. I played a very minor role, attending two of the group's early meetings, advising on opening a bank account and writing a constitution.

CORE has gone from strength to strength. It organises barbecues, sports days and fun days but it has no building apart from a very small room in an old pavilion. CORE moved into the pavilion when it was in a decrepit condition and smartened it up.

Now CORE wants larger premises so it can develop indoor activities: housing surgeries, youth club, coffee mornings and the like. To achieve this it needs to raise £165,000.

CORE is an excellent example of what a group of determined residents can do to improve life in their community.

CORE has a track record of achievement and I believe it will reach its financial target.

Today the bell tolls for Church in Society

Church in Society shuts down today. It is so sad. More than that: it is a disgrace. The Church of England has sent out a clear message in Canterbury and Rochester Dioceses that concern for the poor, the outcast, the downtrodden, the oppressed is low in its priorities. And yet, the Church of England has a history of concern for the deprived.

What has gone wrong? It strikes me that there has been a lack of imagination, courage, conviction and positive action to try and save CIS.

Will anything rise from the ashes? What plans are there for the continuation of social responsibility work? Nothing in the public domain, just as nothing has appeared on the websites of the two dioceses or the CIS website about closure.
I wonder if I will receive a response from Bishop Brian to my e-mails now CIS is defunct?

Cameron's Promise Today

The Tories have promised the following. Good intentions, but does the Tory High Command know how difficult it is to sustain community groups in areas of deprivation? Much more detail required.

Neighbourhood army” of 5,000 full-time, professional community organisers who will be trained with the skills they need to identify local community leaders, bring communities together, help people start their own neighbourhood groups, and give communities the help they need to take control and tackle their problems. This plan is directly based on the successful community organising movement established by Saul Alinsky in the United States and has successfully trained generations of community organisers, including President Obama.

A Big Society Bank, funded from unclaimed bank assets, which will leverage private sector investment to provide hundreds of millions of pounds of new finance for neighbourhood groups, charities, social enterprises and other non-governmental bodies.

Neighbourhood grants for the UK’s poorest areas to encourage people to come together to form neighbourhood groups and support social enterprises and charities in these poorest areas.

Transforming the civil service into a ‘civic service’ by making regular community service a key element in civil servant staff appraisals.

Launching an annual national ‘Big Society Day’ to celebrate the work of neighbourhood groups and encourage more people to take part in social action projects.

Providing new funding to support the next generation of social entrepreneurs, and helping successful social enterprises to expand and succeed.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Down memory lane (1)

I spent part of today throwing out old paperwork. Amazing how much I have accumulated. Memories of long-forgotten campaigns came flooding back, and none more so, that the struggle to build the Coalbrooke Road hostel in Tunbridge Wells.

I found amongst my documents a yellowing copy of the Tunbridge Wells edition of The Courier dated 23rd July 1999. The front page and a goodly section of the letters column were taken up with the battle by residents to stop the hostel. The following comments are typical:

There will possibly be alcoholics, drug addicts, prison releases. These are not the sort of people we want living in the local community.

What about the security of our homes. people will be on a 13-week rota and then we will get fresh people. What will they do for money for drink and drugs? We have young children and vulnerable people in this residential area.

These are not the sort of people we want living in the local community.

Opposition to the scheme was obvious, especially when we gleaned from three ladies who had had a private meeting with the housing association, that only registered paedophiles would be barred, but other, such as drug addicts, ex-convicts, alcoholics, beggars with dogs, glue sniffers, homosexuals and mentally unstable people would be accepted...

Please forgive us for not wanting to share our neighbourhood with alcoholics, drug addicts and people with mental problems.

A local councillor, the late Val Catt, who had achieved more than most to help people in the area was jeered.

The local church (Church of England) bravely publicly supported the hostel scheme and a few residents wrote to me supporting the scheme, but begged for anonymity as they feared reprisals.

When the scheme came to the Tunbridge Wells Planning Sub-Committee for a decision the officers recommended approval as there were no planning grounds for refusal.

I am proud that I moved the recommendation to approve the planning application. It passed by one vote. Shortly afterwards I started receiving abusive and threatening telephone calls.

Since the hostel was built there have been very few problems in the area caused by its residents.
I sometimes wonder what those who raised vociferous opposition then think now? I hope they are ashamed, but I doubt it.

Well said Peter Gilroy

Peter Gilroy, the Chief Executive of Kent County Council, was interviewed by the local BBC News today as part of a report on safeguarding of children in Kent. In particular, reference was made to the death of Tiffany in Sherwood at the hands of her father.

Peter Gilroy stated, quite rightly in my opinion, that we should not hound a social worker who in 30 years made one mistake. He went on to say that the social worker in question had saved many lives during her career.

Well said! It is encouraging to hear the head of an organisation robustly defend his staff against the rabble. It has been reported that the member of staff had been 'disciplined' and then retired. I think an injustice has been done to her. Decisions should be reviewed.

More rubbish from the Government

Hot on the heels of the Total Place nonsense the Communities and Local Government Department has delivered a dollop of tripe on petitioning. The new measures will add to councils' costs for no tangible benefits.

There are plenty of opportunities for people to complain about services and this latest wheeze does little of significance to add to them. The claim by the Department that the petitioning process has real teeth set to bite is a bad joke - more like hens teeth. After Total Place we now have Total Tripe.

Let's be clear: the process is not user friendly for hard to reach communities.

Details can be found on the Department's website . For the anorak, the statutory guidance can be read here

Desperate Dan times

The rumour I reported on a few days ago that Tony Blair was going to participate in the election campaign has proven to be true. There was the Great Liar telling us all that Dithering Gordon was Mr Wonderful. Desperate times at Labour Campaign HQ as yesterday's soiled goods are thrown to the front of the shop window.

Election 2010

The general election has to be held no later than 3rd June. Most pundits are forecasting the election will be on 6th May? Why?

The Conservatives have pulled out a 7 -10 points lead depending on which opinion poll you read. The timing of the election is for the PM alone to decide. What will Ditherer Gordon do? Hang on to the very end in the hope of a comeback which would put Lazarus in the shade, or go early to limit the electoral damage Labour will suffer?

Monday, 29 March 2010

Trust Wheeler

I see Stuart Wheeler, the spread-betting millionaire, has formed a party named the Trust Party and plans to stand in Bexhill & Battle. Vote for Stu - the honest bookie. He claims his new party will clean-up Westminster. Hm, not sure about that. The only time bookies clean-up is when pocketing punters' losing bets.

Bright Blue and POWER2010

A new organisation, Bright Blue, is for Tory progressives and has its own website. It is independent of the Party. Some regard it as a Tory front organisation. Its e-magazine The Progressive Conscience is supported financially by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Limited.
POWER2010 is an interesting organisation. Click here to visit the main website. Some Tory blogs claim it is a Liberal Dozycrat front organisation. It receives support from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Limited. The Trust is not a charity and therefore, unlike the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, can support political campaigning unfettered by charity law. Charities can campaign, but their power to do so is limited and is under the watchful gaze of Dame Suzi and her Charity Commission

Foodbank for Kent

A few of us are getting together to make a reality of a simple vision: that no person living in the Garden of England goes short of food.

Contact has been made with individuals in a number of towns in Kent and we have started to map existing need and provision.

There is much to discuss and do, with the emphasis on do, but we will achieve our vision, common humanity demands it.

I was encouraged greatly by the Kent & Sussex Courier newspaper article and editorial on 12 March this year which set out the stark realities of poverty and the reluctance of many to acknowledge its existence in their midst.

Strategic Housing shambles in Labour Copeland

Where is Copeland I hear you ask? It is on the west coast of Cumbria and the largest town is Whitehaven. The Audit Commission's Housing Inspectorate has published its report on a Strategic Housing Re-Inspection of the Labour controlled council.

Its conclusion: we have assessed Copeland Borough Council as providing a ‘poor’, no-star service that has poor prospects for improvement.

What a shambles. Public money is paying for this. Will there be resignations by councillors and/or officers? There should be.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Found it!!

At last, I have found a website which has the words 'Liberal Democrat' and 'Anna Arrowsmith' together. It is not either of the Liberal Democrat constituency sites, but a new site called

Anna for Gravesham

Anna is a porn film director, known professionally as Anna Spann. I just love her comment that: she has a long history of practical project management, making sure things get done. I bet she does: can't have a film going on for too long can we?

Climate change

I have no strong views on the subject of climate change, mainly because I cannot distinguish between the science and the propaganda, or determine who are seeking to make financial profit by 'talking up' the effects of climate change. Who are the charlatans?

On the one hand I am sceptical about some of the claims, on the other I am concerned that the human race is causing damage to our planet.

The problem is that scientific debate has been overtaken by financial and political interests, both of which are not renowned for truth, probity and objectivity.

Church in Society: Bishop Brian's Easter message

The Bishop of Tonbridge has published his Easter message part of which reads thus:

In that remarkable act, God was saying that although the forces of negativity and destruction are part of the world and even of ourselves, they do do not have the last say. Through God's help we can rise above them and transform them, just as the surfer can change the wave that could bring destruction into a vehicle which will take him to shore more quickly. Hope and new possibilities are always there, trying to break through in the darkest moments. Over the coming months, we all face challenging times as we need to make important political and economic choices. All of us, at some point in our lives, come up against hard times, tough dilemmas and difficult decisions that need to be faced. The events of Good Friday and Easter remind us that we do not have to be victims of this world and that new life can be found in the most unlikely places.

Well, what to make of that. The forces of negativity and destruction have done for Church in Society. No hope and new possibilities there, just redundancies and dissolution. I am curious to know where new life can be found in this context.

Oh yes, almost forgot: I haven't received any response from the Bishop to my e-mails concerning the demise of Church in Society.

Green nuts, Hazel nuts

Readers of this blog who do not know the Tunbridge Wells area may be surprised to learn that the dual-carriageway A21 road from the M25 peters out in to a single lane carriageway at Tonbridge. The single lane road is notorious: there have been many accidents, serious injuries and deaths over the years. It is also highly congested. A few miles further on there is a roundabout, the road off to the left leads to the new hospital, the road to the right to Tunbridge Wells retail park, leisure complex and industrial estate. The A21 continues straight on as a dual carriageway. There is often heavy congestion at this roundabout.

To deal with these problems the government has agreed, after years of intensive lobbying, to dual the single lane road between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells and build a flyover for the A21 at the roundabout.

The Green Party is reported in today's Kent on Sunday thus:

Hazel Dawe, Green Party candidate for Tunbridge Wells, said:“Kent Green Party does not believe that road building solves congestion problems. What is really needed are measures to make public transport and cycling more attractive alternatives to the car on this route.”

Mrs Dawe added: “We welcome the fact the Highways Agency will be calling a public inquiry to take a closer look at the justification for this road project. This is an opportunity to save the £125m which would be wasted on A21 dualling and spend these resources on traffic reduction measures including better bus services.”

Now it strikes me that if you are ill and need an ambulance to rush you to the new hospital then the new road will be a boon and potentially a life-saver. The Green Party would prefer you to die as it peddles the idea of bicycle routes and better public transport.

There is of course a public transport alternative already: it's called the railway, but it is at near full capacity between Tonbridge and Orpington.

What use is a better bus service if it is caught up in the traffic? The Green Party's policy is nuts Hazel.

Spot on, May

Below is a quotation, in italics, from an article by Tory, Theresa 'Shoes' May. A very clear exposition of the need to target causes of problems rather than putting sticking plasters on the symptoms.

My complaint against Total Place is that it seeks to apply failed policies more effectively and not tackle the causes of problems.

However, whilst I agree top-down alone doesn't work, it is for government to set the legislative framework of new policies. The voluntary sector may have the answers, but legislation is required for the sector is to be given the tools to do the job.

Conservatives have long argued that a successful strategy to tackle poverty must target its causes, including poor education, family breakdown, debt and worklessness. We have set out the co-ordinated approach that we would take in government, including radical welfare reform to improve back to work support for everyone on out-of-work benefits, increasing the number of good school places and ending the couple penalty in the benefits system.

Labour's failure on child poverty has been symptomatic of their failed approach in other key areas of social policy. Rather than taking action to tackle the causes of crime, or unemployment, or inequality, and trusting the front-line professionals and voluntary organisations who have the answers to many of these
problems, Labour's top-down response has failed vulnerable people.

A Conservative government will be determined to make progress on ending child poverty. It is an important and ambitious aspiration for any government – and a moral imperative as no decent society should allow children to grow up in poverty.

Watford Woes

No, not Watford Football Club, but the elected Mayor of Watford, a Liberal Dozycrat, Dorothy Thornhill. A good looking wench.

I quote from her blog:

What has happened to the world!!! When a council fails to safeguard children they are, quite rightly pilloried in every newspaper. Yet, when we take a positive decision to safeguard children, by ensuring that all children left at a supervised play session are only left under the care of qualified CRB checked and legit staff, we get hounded for it! One journalist even declared we were breaching the human rights of the parents we don’t want hanging around!!!!!!!

We run two great adventure playground facilities that operate as a drop off for parents after school and at weekends. We have done this for years, no worries, parents happy and appreciative.

At one playground a few parents started to stay around for all the sessions, this increased to the extent that staff felt they were spending more time worrying about what the parents were up to rather than watching and supervising the children!What has happened to the world!!! When a council fails to safeguard children they are, quite rightly pilloried in every newspaper. Yet, when we take a positive decision to safeguard children, by ensuring that all children left at a supervised play session are only left under the care of qualified CRB checked and legit staff, we get hounded for it! One journalist even declared we were breaching the human rights of the parents we don’t want hanging around!!!!!!!

We run two great adventure playground facilities that operate as a drop off for parents after school and at weekends. We have done this for years, no worries, parents happy and appreciative.

At one playground a few parents started to stay around for all the sessions, this increased to the extent that staff felt they were spending more time worrying about what the parents were up to rather than watching and supervising the children!

Dear me. The suggestion that every parent is a potential paedophile is insulting. More than that, it shows an authoritarian streak which is the opposite of what 'liberal' means to me. I would have thought parents should be encouraged to take an interest in their children, not use the playground as a means of off-loading them. There has been a spate of cases recently where children have been abused, starved, beaten and killed by their parents/guardians. In all these cases statutory organisations failed the children. Now we have a Mayor who encourages separation of responsible parents from their kids. Bonkers.

Who to vote for?

The result of the general election is in doubt. Despite the poor showing for Labour post budget, the Tories are not, as yet, popular with the electorate, whilst the Liberal Dozycrats have stalled.

I think it has a lot to do with the populations' disenchantment with the major political parties over the sleaze issue. In local government elections the Green Party has done well, UKIP keeps snapping at the heels of all pro- EU candidates and the BNP will cash in on the understandable disenchantment of the poor white working class.

The key to the result of the general election will be the differential loss of votes by the three major parties to the minor parties. I haven't seen any research on this, particularly in marginal seats, but there will be some surprising results, particularly in constituencies where UKIP, the Green Party and the BNP are well-organised and/or have a history of doing well in local elections.

All to play for in the few weeks before the general election.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Well done!

Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone Borough Councils have set up a joint scrutiny committee. The committee reported recently on mental health care provision for adults. It is an excellent well-researched report.

The only issue I take with the report is that its recommendations, though pertinent, do not go far enough. It would have improved the report if it had contained a recommendation for a process to achieve outcomes which meet the needs of funders, providers and users.

Another tragic death

The death of a mother of six children in her thirties is tragic. The circumstances surrounding her death included the failure of her GP to make a house call, which in itself was a consequence of decisions on house calls being made by non-medical staff at the surgery.

At the lady's inquest the coroner commented adversely on the house call arrangements. NHS West Kent is to mount an investigation.

The GP in question has given years of service to the local community. The surgery, next door to the Number One Community Centre which I was very much involved with a few years ago, is in an area of deprivation. The area has a host of problems which impact on health.

The local newspaper, The Courier, published a very fair and balanced report.

As in the case of Tiffany it would seem that one mistake may have been a contributory factor in the loss of a life. The two sets of circumstances indicate the need for vigilance by our public services.

We should not hound people on the front line who have given a lifetime of devoted service to the community. GPs and social workers in areas of deprivation are under enormous pressure. Our questions should focus on asking why there are these pressures and how to overcome them.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Run, run, runaway runway.

I belong to a campaign group opposed to a third runway at Heathrow, so I am delighted by the decision of the court that the consultation was flawed. Unlike those celebrating, I doubt if it is a fatal blow to the proposal for a third runway. This is the time for cautious optimism, not triumphalist celebration.

Should the proposal for a new high speed line to Birmingham become a reality, Birmingham Airport would only be 45 minutes from London. Transport planners should be looking at the potential of Manston airport in Kent, building a rail connection and running the high speed trains to Canterbury on to the airport. Such a line should be extended to Ramsgate enabling the existing line from Minster to Ramsgate to be closed. Thanet is a deprived area, developing Manston would bring huge economic benefits.

Do we really want more cars clogging up the M4/M25 round Heathrow and more passengers crowding on to railways already running at near capacity?

Boris may be right! Watch the bookie

I mentioned in a previous blog that Mayor Boris backs the bookies' judgement on the outcome of the general election

The bookies still predict a Tory overall majority.

The opinion polls currently suggest a national swing which would result in a hung parliament if reproduced at the general election.

However the Tory strategy masterminded by Lord Moneybags Ashcroft is to target marginal seats and in these seats the bookies think the Tories are doing better than in the national polls.

Labrokes is running a book on every seat in the country and is predicting the following result:

Conservatives - 331 seats Labour - 221 seats Lib Dozs - 63 seats

That would translate into a Conservative majority of 12 seats once other parties are added - Northern Ireland and nationalists.

Consultation: Southern Railway listened!!

Public transport from Tunbridge Wells to Brighton is a nightmare. The bus take almost two hours as does the railway. It doesn't matter if you go via St Leonards, Redhill or London Bridge. Use your car and it is about an hour door to door. Even so, I prefer the train: you can have a drink and read, although you cannot smoke.

Southern proposed to change the service pattern and one consequence would have been that all passengers from St Leonards for Brighton would be forced to change at Eastbourne. I participated in the consultation (as did 163 others) and, lo and behold, the through service is to be retained.

Something positive!

One of the problems for a blogger is that it can all become too negative. Mind you, there is plenty to be negative about as sleaze, lying, spin, incompetence and worse dominates the news with worrying regularity. There are lush pastures for a cynic like me to graze in.

So, I thought I would have a change of mind-set and be positive.

Currently I am engaged in a voluntary capacity on two projects, both at a very early stage. The first is how to provide life enhancing experiences for people in receipt of direct payments. I have come across a truly marvellous group in the West Midlands named Stepping Stones and I am hoping that the work they do might be replicated in Kent.

The second project is about how to ensure that people do not go short of food. Kent is the Garden of England yet there are people struggling to feed themselves and their families. I am working to bring together a group to commence the task of tackling this issue, possibly along the lines of a foodbank.


Thursday, 25 March 2010

Next to nothing?

On the BBC news tonight the presenter introduced an item about a man who sends balloons in to near space and takes photographs of the earth. It costs him £500 a go. According to the BBC this is 'next to nothing'.

May be next to nothing for the fat cats at the BBC, but for millions of people in the UK £500 is a small fortune.

Total Place Spin

Total Place to radically reform local services for all is the boast of the government. It claims also that the idea is new - but go back to the 1970s and the same concept was tried.

In 1972 there was an 'initiative' called 'total approach' which looked at six cities and examined 'total resources and how to transform them'.

The challenge is not to improve delivery of failed policies. The challenge, which the dozy lot at the Communities and Local Department have not grasped, is how to sweep away the policies that have failed and put in their place ones that work.

Total Place is a cruel diversion from the task of developing and implementing policies which tackle deprivation in our society. The last thing we want is to make the old, tired, failed policies work better. Not really worth the effort, but if you want to read the latest Total Place rubbish follow this link.

Greece Groans: Update

News has it that Germany and France, with IMF involvement, have agreed a 22 billion euro package to support Greece and that support will be available for the other members of the PIGS club - Portugal, Spain and Italy. It is now up to the leaders of countries in the euro zone to agree to the proposals.

Latest update:

Looks like a deal has been stitched together.

It's all a bit tight!

A YouGov/Sun poll puts the Tories only two points ahead of Labour which translates into Labour being ten seats short of an overall majority.

It's all getting a bit hairy. Will Cameron/Ashcroft/Pickles crack? Will Gordon make the biggest comeback since Lazarus?

A few weeks of fun ahead.

Still nothing about Anna Arrowsmith, porn mogul Liberal Dozycrat candidate for Gravesham, on the Party's two websites. Seems strange that someone in the porn industry is being kept under wraps.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

You couldn't make this up.......

There is an event called the British Parking Awards. Tunbridge Wells Borough Council won one of the categories and this has been publicised on the Council's website. Amongst the self-congratulatory guff is this little gem:

Councillor Paul Barrington-King, Portfolio Holder for Sustainability, says:

'This award demonstrates the Council’s ability to work in partnership with organisations to deliver excellent customer service and achieve a positive outcome that benefits the community'.

Dear, oh dear. Obviously the well paid spin department at the Town Hall can put a gloss on the most unpromising material, but why do councillors let the spin merchants put this rubbish into their mouths?

Health Fascists strike again

Totalitarianism comes in many guises as it seeks to snuff out individual liberty. It isn't all jackboots and Nazi swastikas.

The latest manifestation of intolerance comes from the Royal College of Physicians which is pressing for smoking in private cars to be banned. Why should I be banned from this activity? It is not a question of safe driving: if it was, then I could see the point of it. Listening to the radio can be even more distracting when driving, so should we ban all forms of 'in-car' entertainment?

The proposed ban on smoking in cars is aimed at preventing children from inhaling passive smoke. The reason advanced by ASH for not simply banning smoking in cars with child passengers is that it will make enforcement harder. Clearly cretins rule. Every day I see people driving and using their mobile phones, often with children in the car. Enforcement? It's a joke.

The RCP would better spend its time rooting out the disasters at some of our killing field hospitals. Drum-roll for Tunbridge Wells, Maidstone, Basildon and Stoke-on-Trent where death stalked the corridors unhindered.

The next step must surely be to ban all vehicles from the road to save lives either from vehicle crashes or vehicle fumes? Well of course we wouldn't be so daft....or would we? The health fascists are a miserable shower and probably won't be happy until we are all stopped from drinking and smoking and force-fed our five veg a day.

Dozycrat council chucks away £1.2 million

The Dozycrats who control Hull Council are planning to spend £200,000 on giant fibreglass frogs.

I thought that would take some beating, but now we read that the Dozycrat controlled Cheltenham Borough Council has lost £1.2 million as a result of losing a court case it brought against its former managing director.

Translate that vast sum into the cost of services and it is clear that this is a scandal.

The real losers are the people of Cheltenham. Rather than chucking money down the drain the Council could have backed a few of the nags running on the local racecourse. No more of a gamble than legal proceedings.

Budget a non-event?

Will today's budget have much influence on the electorates' voting intentions? Unlikely. What will strike home though are the tax increases from last year's budget which take affect from April onwards. That might spark a negative reaction.

The key will be the reaction of the financial markets. The immediate effect has been marginal, but as the consequences sink in the pound could come under pressure and interest rates might have to rise to attract lenders prepared to service the massive government debt.

Overall, grim times for us for years in to the future.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Putting a few myths to rest

Visit the Communities and Local Government site and you will find a document which seeks to debunk various myths about public funds going to faith groups. One section of the document states:


"If you engage with one faith community you will have always to engage with all the others in the same way, and all together."


Not true. Whilst public authorities must not discriminate against religion and belief organisations in matters of engagement and the letting of contracts, there are great differences in scale, capacity and skills between faith communities in different parts of the country, just as there are across the wider third sector. Faith communities should be engaged with as appropriate to this context. For example, in some regions or sectors a faith community or religious organisation may be able to take on a large service contract while another community in the same area, or the same community or organisation in another region, may not yet be ready to do so.

Now some of us representing Christian organisations in Tunbridge Wells have been saying this to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for years, as has our excellent MP, Greg Clark. But would the Council agree? Of course not, the Council claimed spuriously that equality legislation demanded a faiths forum even though non-Christian faiths have very small numbers and lack the capacity, skills and track record of Christian groups.

In Tunbridge Wells, despite the immense amount of work it undertakes in the community, there is no faith representation on the local strategic partnership as faith groups are lumped in with the voluntary sector.

Think I'll start stirring it up!

Parochial Matters

I live in a suburb of Royal Tunbridge Wells separated from the rest of the town by strips of greenery. Our councillors have asked for a Community Governance Review to establish whether our suburb should have a parish council.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is now going to consult with residents and interested parties and we are promised that information on the consultation will be delivered to you soon.

I cannot help but feel that those pressing for a parish council have a somewhat rose-tinted view of the powers of parish councils. My preference would be for an informal community forum which would not be constrained by legislation.

Greece Groans

The financial crisis in Greece has not been resolved for the reason that the European Monetary Union (EMU) cannot decide what to do. Germany in particular has no enthusiasm for a bailout.

It looks as though the impasse will be resolved by bringing in the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But this is not clear-cut as European 'Leaders' are saying anything the IMF does must be within European rules and the major contribution in the settlement must come from within the eurozone.

Remember: Italy, Portugal and Spain are all in the same boat as Greece: high unemployment, huge state debt and locked in to European interest rates. Effectively the four countries have lost the power to take strategic decisions about their economies.

It all has the makings of a slow motion crash which might just be the event which leads to the EMU unravelling. If this happens what chance the European Union will not go the same way?

Beware Greeks bearing gifts!!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Parliament's reputation in tatters

At one time political shenanigans usually meant some form of sexual impropriety/infidelity, but titillating though the stories were, they did not strike at the foundation of trust in Parliament. But not now.

First we had the expenses scandal. Now we have two more scandals. One relates to failure by MPs to disclose free trips paid for by foreign governments. This issue has engulfed MPs from all three major parties. The accusation is that MPs who benefited from this largess failed to declare an interest when asking questions, putting down motions or debating matters relating to the government which provided the freebie.

The second scandal is that in which Byers, Hewitt and Hoon have become embroiled after making, how shall I put it, injudicious comments about the influence they have in relation to government decision making. The Labour Party has suspended them from the Parliamentary Labour Party. Amazing what the lure of easy money can do to a person.

Foodbank for Kent

Foodbanks are big in the USA. For an example have a look at the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia website .

In Kent support for people who are struggling to put food on the table for themselves and their families, and there are many in such a predicament, is patchy, uncoordinated and very low profile.

In Kent I know of four very small scale foodbanks (run by faith groups) and probably there are more. Here we are in The Garden of England and there are people struggling for food. Just as serious is the issue of diet and healthy living.

The more I hear when I talk to people living in areas of severe deprivation, the more conscious I am that the problem of lack of food does not receive the attention it should. The effect on children of poor diet and/or lack of food can be catastrophic.

We must raise awareness of this issue. We must not leave it to small hit or miss efforts, laudable though they are. I haven't noticed any of our political parties straining to offer the benefit of their wisdom on this matter.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Good Works

Many people of faith engage in good works. What worries me is the extent to which some emphasise the faith to which they belong when promoting what they do.

This thought was sparked when I went a Googling for information about foodbanks in Kent. Not a great deal on the Internet, but I did find The Trussell Trust which looked interesting.

The website states the Trust is a Christian charity. Do we need to know this?

My comment is not aimed at the Trust specifically but at charities run by people of faith which fall over themselves to express their faith credentials. It's almost as though they are saying: look at us, we have faith and, gosh, we are good, we are doing good things.

The leading perpetrators of this approach in my experience are Evangelical Christian groups, an approach which makes it difficult for secular organisations to work with them as well as alienating potential beneficiaries.

Christians , indeed all faiths, should be out there doing good works in the community, but why broadcast the belief? Surely it is the work that is important?

Tory woes

It looks ever more likely that we shall have a hung parliament after the election - something I have been predicting for some time.

Boy Wonder 'Dave' will indeed snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. What has gone wrong? Indeed, what continues to go wrong?

I would love to be a fly on the wall at meetings between Boy Wonder Dave, Lord Moneybags Ashcroft and Eric Earthy Pickles. Sounds all Laurel and Hardy to me. I can just imagine Pickles as Oliver Hardy!

Another fine mess the Tories have got themselves in to.

Election 2010

A national newspaper in claiming that Tony Blair is going to be given a major role by Gordon Brown in the forthcoming general election. Can this be true? Surely not. The millions who opposed the Iraq War might consider voting for the one major party that opposed the war - the Liberal Dozycrats - if the Great Liar should make a political comeback.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Dubious Claims by Tunbridge Wells Dozycrat Candidate

Tunbridge Wells Dozycrats' first election missive landed on my doormat this morning. The candidate leads off with the statement: I will not take a second home on expenses'.

The candidate notes that the Tory MP has claimed £67,000 of taxpayers money for his second home in London.

So far so good. But then we have the claim: Tunbridge Wells to central London takes less than an hour on the train, a commute that thousands make everyday.

I bet that made commuters chuckle!

I reckon it takes twenty minutes to walk from Charing Cross to the House of Commons. If you want to arrive by 8.00AM you have to catch the 6.40AM train which arrives at Charing Cross at 7.40AM - less than an hour? The 6.56AM train arrives at Charing Cross at 7.50AM so yes, just under the hour, but there is still the journey to the final destination.

The House of Commons often sits until 10.00PM so, assuming a quick getaway, catch the 10.30PM train and you arrive in Tunbridge Wells at 11.26PM.

So I reckon a commuting MP would have between 5 and 6 hours sleep each night. Do we really want our MPs to make decisions when perpetually tired? According to our Dozycrat candidate we do.

I thought it would be interesting to compare the MP for Tunbridge Wells claims with those of the Dozycrat MP for Lewes which is a fair comparison - Tunbridge Wells is 36 miles from Westminster and Lewes 44.

In 2007-8 Greg Clark - Tory: Tunbridge Wells, claimed £23,000 in total, all on mortgage interest on his flat in SW London.

In the same year Norman Baker - Liberal Dozycrat: Lewes, claimed £21, 862 which included £1,320 for food. The Commons fees office refused a claim for a PC so he could listen to music and e-mail his family and friends.

Poor stuff from the Dozycrat candidate and an insult to our intelligence.

Of course, should he win, the Dozycrat candidate may choose to remain in Sevenoaks which would make his travel arrangements a little less onerous. Has he made a commitment to live in the constituency should he be elected?


Yesterday I told the sleazy story about 4 Dozycrat MPs who pocketed cash payments from the owner of the block of flats they lived in. The taxpayer picked up the bill for rent increases the MPs incurred.

Dozycrat Leader Clegg trumpeted that he congratulated his 4 sleazeballs as they had gone voluntarily to the House of Commons authorities, whereas Labour and Tory MPs living in the same block of flats had done nothing.

It now transpires that it was only after the Daily Telegraph had published what these MPs had done that they made the decision to admit all.

More spin from Clegg. Pass the sick bag please.

The Bridge Trust Sleep Out

The Bridge Trust is holding its 14th

Annual Sleep Out from

8.00PM on Saturday 24th April to

8.00AM Sunday 25th April.

For details of how to participate visit the Bridge Trust website

Friday, 19 March 2010

Don't let politicans near our railway

The domestic rail service between St Pancras and Ashford has freed up some capacity on the Tonbridge-London Bridge line. The train operating company has taken advantage of this by increasing the number of peak hour trains to and from Tunbridge Wells and also providing four trains an hour to Charing Cross from Tunbridge Wells off-peak - a 100% increase.

Cue for the politicians to stick their oar in.

First in the spotlight is Councillor Brian Ransley, a Conservative Party councillor on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. The off-peak service runs to a standard stopping pattern which includes Orpington. Cllr Ransley wants some of the trains to miss the Orpington stop. Orpington is a useful interchange station with services to a wide range of destinations across South London. His second idea is that some off-peak trains should be diverted to Cannon Street despite the fact that he acknowledges that over 75% of passengers wish to go to Charing Cross. Barmy is probably too kind an epithet for his ideas.

Next in the spotlight is Mary Varrall, the Dozycrat candidate for Bexhill and Battle complaining in The Courier about a proposal to divert peak hour trains on the Hastings-Cannon Street route to Charing Cross. Whilst any diminution in services is regrettable the plan to change the London terminus has to be seen in context. Trains on the Hastings-Cannon Street route have to change lines in the London area. Conflicting movements at junctions reduces capacity and is a cause of delays. Lines in the London area are at near capacity already and anything which improves operation of services will benefit all users.

I cannot see the change of destination having the dire economic consequences predicted by Mary Varrall and the barnpots at East Sussex County Council. Passengers can transfer to Cannon Street services at London Bridge, as thousands do daily. They can travel by Underground on the Northern Line to Bank or they can do what millions have done for many years, walk over London Bridge. Another option is to change at Waterloo and thence by The Drain, the line between Waterloo and Bank.

If our politicians must campaign on transport issues, then might I suggest they press for improved links between West Kent/East Sussex and Docklands. Trains from the former run tantalisingly close to services to Docklands but passengers are forced to take a time-consuming dog-leg via London Bridge.

Sod's Law

No sooner do I bemoan the lack of a response to my e-mails to Bishop Brian and the Tonbridge Archdeacon concerning the demise of Church in Society than what should I receive in today's post but a letter from The Venerable Clive Mansell.

My comments and concerns have been noted. And basically, that's it.

Peter Snell RIP

Peter Snell died recently. He was known affectionately as a 'colourful character'. A solicitor by profession, Peter spent his final years as a keen supporter of the voluntary sector and the social responsibility work of churches in Tunbridge Wells. He will be missed by his many friends and the causes he supported.

Evangelical Fury

Evangelicals in the Church of England will be enraged by the decision of the Episcopalian Church in the USA (part of the Anglican Communion) to appoint a bishop who is a woman and a lesbian.

I wonder what the clergy at St Nicholas, Sevenoaks make of this. Apoplectic, I imagine.

Dozycrat Spin

Four Dozycrat MPs have been instructed to apologise and repay money after falling foul of House of Commons rules over payments relating to second homes allowances. They accepted large one-off payments from the owners of an apartment block and in return agreed to pay higher rents. They took the money and the taxpayer paid the higher rents. You require only a modicum of common sense to understand that taxpayers were being ripped off as these MPs pocketed the cash.

Well, that give the lie to the Dozycrat candidate for Tunbridge Wells who claims the Dozycrats are the only party to clean up the MP sleaze issue. The truth is that MPs of all parties were at it.

Mr Clegg has praised his MPs for reporting their sleaze to the Commons authorities whereas Labour and Conservative MPs have done nothing. But not a word of condemnation for the sleazy behaviour described by a Commons committee as a 'serious misjudgement' . Classic spin.

Theological ferment in Sevenoaks

The Christian faith attracts its fair share of weirdos, nincompoops and barnpots: people who up t'North we say are a penny short of a shilling. It attracts also thoughtful, intelligent, reasoning people.

Over the years I have preached many times, been deeply involved in working with or for Christian charities and studied successfully for a diploma in theology.

I might disagree with a person's beliefs but I respect them. However when that belief manifests itself in ideas which are just plain bonkers I feel that I am relieved of any compunction to show respect.

Step forward the clergy at St Nicholas, Sevenoaks. St Nicholas is very much of the evangelical persuasion within the Church of England. The clergy has developed a new school of theology -which I shall call the Fundamentalist Literalist Ultra-Conservative Evangelical School (FLUCE), which has a great many similarities to the tenets of the Strict Bretheren.

One theory of this school, derived from its method of biblical interpretation, is that women are second-class citizens, who should obey their husbands, do as they are told and keep quiet. Understandably some of the female members of the congregation have not taken kindly to this teaching, nor has a female priest in a nearby parish. No room in FLUCE's thinking then for women bishops! Maybe we should withdraw the right of women to vote or demand that husbands mark their ballot papers for them.

Theological debate has been raging through the local news media. We must demand Harriet Harperson be sent in to St Nicks to bang clerical heads together.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Oh dear!!

I have come to the conclusion that I shall not receive replies to my e-mails to Bishop Brian and the Tonbridge Archdeacon Clive (smiler) Mansell concerning the demise of Church in Society.

Oh well, so be it. I shall concentrate my gunnery and fire off a salvo in a different direction. Hopefully I shall achieve a direct hit.

Good news for Kent...and the country

The City buzz that German state owned Deutsche Bahn (DB) might bid for the Arriva transport group is the best news I have heard on the transport front for ages.

DB owns Chiltern Railways the most dynamic of the train operating companies. Quite apart from the excellent service it operates between London Marylebone and Birmingham Snow Hill it has plans to open a new route between London and Oxford, as well as making a contribution to improving links in the south Midlands between Oxford and Milton Keynes.

If DB brings only a modicum of the dynamism it has shown with Chiltern Railways to the Arriva bus operation in Kent it will be good news for passengers. DB is interested in running trains through the Channel Tunnel in competition with Eurostar

Arriva owns the franchise for most of the rail services in Wales. It owns also the Cross-Country franchise which operates trains between Aberdeen and Penzance via Newcastle and Birmingham as well as the route between Bournemouth and Manchester. I bet DB would not put up with the nonsense that passengers from Ebbw Vale cannot get to Newport because Railtrack won't put a few points in to its system.

So, I welcome the bid. At a time when many local authorities are seeking improvements in public transport, but don't have the finance, DB has the financial muscle to make proposals for improvement happen.

Who knows, DB might one day own the Southern franchise and we may see Uckfield-Lewes re-open.

From my religious affairs correspondent

A burglar broke into a house one night. He shined his flashlight around, looking for valuables when a voice in the dark said, 'Jesus knows you're here.' He nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked his flashlight off, and froze.

When he heard nothing more, after a bit, he shook his head and continued. Just as he pulled the stereo out so he could disconnect the wires, clear as a bell he heard 'Jesus is watching you.'

Freaked out, he shined his light around frantically, looking for the source of the voice. Finally, in the corner of the room, his flashlight beam came to rest on a parrot.

'Did you say that?' he hissed at the parrot.'Yep', the parrot confessed, then squawked, 'I'm just trying to warn you that he is watching you.'

The burglar relaxed. 'Warn me, huh? Who in the world are you? 'Moses,' replied the bird. 'Moses?' the burglar laughed. 'What kind of people would name a bird Moses?' 'The kind of people that would name a Rottweiler Jesus.'

New railway station buildings at Uckfield

The new station buildings are a big improvement on the previous premises which were condemned when the booking clerk arrived one morning to be greeted by a rat. It is not recorded where the rat wished to travel to.

Neither of the two buildings is a patch on the old station which was situated on the other side of the level crossing. The line from London ends at Uckfield. It is only a few miles to Lewes. When this stretch of line was in use more passengers travelled from Uckfield towards Lewes than towards London. The line towards London has enjoyed a renaissance - trains will soon have to be twelve carriages long at peak times.

For people living in Edenbridge, Crowborough and Uckfield there is no reasonable alternative to the car for travel to Brighton. Most of the blame for this state of affairs can be laid at the door of the transport barnpots of East Sussex County Council. In many parts of the country local authorities are pressing very hard, indeed committing finance, to re - open stations and railways. A recent example is the support Warwickshire County Council is providing to see Kenilworth station re-open.

For details of the campaign to re-open the Uckfield-Lewes line go to the Wealden Line Campaign website.

Don't be shy!

Still no mention on the Gravesham & Dartford or the Gravesham Liberal Dozycrat websites about the Dozycrat candidate for Gravesham - Anna Arrowsmith, aka Anna Span, hardcore porn mogul.

What's the point of having a website if you don't use it to promote your candidate? Rather a poor show, or should that be 'no show'?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

More stench

Rose Gibb, the former Chief Executive of the Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Hospital Trust, wanted to stay and face the flak when the report on the investigation into the many deaths at the Kent & Sussex Hospital was about to be published. For that she deserves credit.

However, the Board decided otherwise. It wanted her out and agreed a huge financial compensation package as well as negotiating a 'gagging clause' to prevent Rose Gibb defending herself. She could have refused the package.

An overpowering stench emanates from the decisions of the Board egged on by the strategic health authority. Buy her off, gag her and let her take the odium. It should have insisted she stayed. Or just sacked her without compensation. What a bunch of creeps.

Poor Tiffany

How sad, a 25 day old baby dies in Sherwood, Tunbridge Wells.

The father is convicted of her manslaughter. Her mother is bereft at the loss of her child. Tiffany died the first time her mother had left her.

It is tragic. That KCC Social Services had received a warning about Tiffany's father which was not recorded adds to the sense of tragedy. It is right that KCC has acknowledged that the social worker who received the information made a mistake.

However the next stage, had the information been logged, would have been a 'multi-agency case review'. Would the deliberations of that review have saved Tiffany? We shall never know, but in my opinion we should not be harsh in our judgement of KCC.

Remember: the killer was Tiffany's father. The victims are Tiffany and her mother.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Silence is deafening!

Still no reply to my e-mails to the Bishop of Tonbridge and the Tonbridge Archdeacon concerning the disgraceful decision to allow Church in Society to go to the wall.

I have perused the Church in Society website, the Rochester Diocese website and the diocesan newsletter. Not a word concerning the imminent demise of Church in Society.

The decision to let Church in Society sink into oblivion when there are so many social problems in Kent, well-documented in the story in last Friday's Tunbridge Wells Courier about the problems faced by poor families, is a disgrace. More than that, it is shameful

The Church of England has a fine tradition of supporting the poor, the oppressed and the downtrodden. Robert Runcie, Hugh Montefiore, David Sheppard and William Temple must be spinning in their graves at the speed of turbines at the antics of the Church of England in Kent.

Once the church had lions roaring against social injustice, now we have mute mice.

Playing fast and loose with our money

The revelation that some local authorities have dispensed with their chief executives because of personality clashes between chief executives and leaders of councils or cabinet members is bad enough. Even worse is the size of payouts being made, up to £500,000 in some cases. For that money I would make myself obnoxious!

There should be a creative tension between the CEO and cabinet members as they have different functions. Cabinet members are elected to make political decisions. Chief officers are employed to carry out the decisions of councils and to give impartial advice, advice which the politicians might not like.

Unfortunately there are councils which are run by the officers as the politicians just aren't up to the job. Conversely, there are councils where the officers are regarded as merely being there to give effect to the whims of members of the cabinet.

The danger is that by effectively politicising officers a council will not receive the best advice, but the advice councillors want to hear and that is not good news for the public.

Cindy is pleased

My Jack Russell terrier, Cindy, is sleeping peacefully in the knowlege that the Government has abandoned within a week its barmy idea of compulsory insurance for dogs.

Just as the firearms legislation has never impacted on the criminal fraternity, so those who own dangerous dogs are unlikely to take out insurance. Why should responsible people have to pay for those who choose to be reckless or cock a snook at the law?

Draft Sustainable Community Strategy

Snappy title for the Tunbridge Wells Strategic Local Partnership document which will determine policies for the next fifteen years on subjects such as policing, health, leisure, housing, care for the elderly and all the other topics usually found in such documents.

Apparently you have to be on the Internet to comment (if the local press story is accurate). Well that cuts out a goodly number of potential participants.

To encourage the public to express their views there is to be a free prize draw. The goodies are: gym membership, free family swimming sessions and beauty therapy. That should get 'em in! Not much of an attraction to a single male who isn't keen on sweaty gyms. Pity the prizes weren't a little more exciting and attractive to a much larger section of the public.

I suggest the first prize should be lunch or dinner with Councillor Roy Bullock MBE, Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. At least the winner would have the opportunity to give him a right old ear bashing.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Not before time!!

So, Town & Country Housing Association has finally got round to doing something about the housing stock in Sherwood. Not before time. I suggested as long back as 1997 - yes, thirteen years ago, that the blocks of flats should be demolished and new houses should have tenures/ownership which would produce a better social mix.

In Stanhope, Ashford a programme is nearing completion to demolish flats, refurbish houses, improve paths/landscape and new build some of which will be for sale.

Next stop Showfields?

High Speed or a seat?

Adonis and little Theresa are agreed on the need, at a huge cost, for a high speed rail link to hurtle people up t'North. No doubt the price of a seat will be prohibitive to most people. I don't understand the rationale behind the proposal. The proposed route goes nowhere near Heathrow, which was to be expected given the geography and cost that would be involved. So the idea that the new high speed route will cut out many short-haul flights is demolished. The proposed route will not deal with the capacity issues at Heathrow and is not an alternative to a third runway. One reason people travel on short-haul flights is that it is often cheaper than rail travel.

It would be far better to use the £41 billion high speed rail will cost to improve existing routes and put back capacity lost over the last fifty years - putting down tracks ripped out years ago and re-opening closed routes. Already track is being re-instated along existing routes to increase capacity and a few closed lines have re-opened. We need much more of this, rather than high speed routes. Given the advances in IT technology we won't need to be hurtling around the nation to meetings.

One problem the proposed high speed route won't overcome is the severe overcrowding on railways in the south. The London- Brighton line is almost at saturation point and the same is true of the line between Sevenoaks and Orpington.

I note that Kent County Council hasn't any policy/plans which remotely deal with this issue of major significance to West Kent. Will the Great Leader enlighten us?

Kent County Cricket Club in financial mire

Kent County Cricket Club has announced a deficit of just over £802,000. the club's chairman has loaned the club 'several hundred thousand pounds'. He must love cricket!

Why is it that where sport is concerned business sense so often goes through the door?

'My' rugby club, Wharfedale, has the proud boast that it has never been in the red. Sport must learn to live with its means.

Grubby hands all round

As I mentioned yesterday the Tories must be secretly praying that there will be some high profile strikes which inconvenience the public, as most people associate the unions with the Labour Party.

The fact that UNITE has donated £11 million to Labour funds, has sponsored numerous Labour candidates (around 100 I believe) and one of their own (Charlie Whelan) is a close adviser to Gordon Brown will lead many to think that should Labour win the election it will be back to the pre-Thatcher days of unions dictating policy to the government.

It was inevitable that Gordon would raise his head above the Downing Street bunker to denounce the proposed BA strike by UNITE members. The UNITE leader, Tony Woodley, clearly outraged at this brotherly stab-in-the-back, sounded off and brought memories flooding back of Arthur Scargill. What a gift for the Tories.

The Tories though have not handled the Lord Moneybags Ashcroft business well.

The Dozycrats have their own skeleton in the cupboard. Not long ago one of their major donors, Michael Brown, was convicted of fraud. The Dozycrats refused to hand the money back so that the defrauded might get their hands on some of their cash.

None of the parties has acted illegally, but the stench of hypocrisy hangs in the air. Why is that where party funding is concerned it is all so grubby?

Coy Gravesham Dozycrats

Still no mention of Anna Span, hard core porn mogul, on the Gravesham Dozycrat website. Why so coy? You would have thought they would be keen to publicise their parliamentary candidate. According to the website, Bruce Parmenter who fought the 2001 and 2005 general elections, is still their candidate.

Barnpot Tory Council

A Havant resident pushed her wheelie-bin to the pavement and left it with the handle facing inwards. The refuse collector (dustman, or to please Harriet, dustperson), refused to empty her bin as it was the wrong way round. The Council did issue an apology- but really!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

What's in a name?

I see Kent County Council has appointed as Group Managing Director Katherine Kerswell , currently Chief Executive Officer, Northamptonshire County Council. Her salary will be £197,000 per annum, which is rather less than quite a few professional footballers earn is a week. Just shows how barmy football finances are.

I am curious as to why the new GMD is not to have the title of CEO as held by the person she is replacing. Does it mark a shift in duties and/or relationships and if so what are the changes and the reasoning behind them? If not, why change the title? Perhaps the Great Leader will enlighten us, after all it is being done in our name and with our money.

Bad management in sport

The past two years has seen a big increase in the number of football and rugby clubs going into administration. Apart from the supporters of these clubs the biggest loser is us, the public, as the Inland Revenue is unable to get its hands on monies owed to it.

Yet clubs continue in business paying large wages to their playing staffs. One of the problems seems to be that ownership of the club is separated often from ownership of the stadium. I suggest we need legislation to prevent a club which goes in to liquidation being permitted to rise from the ashes and play at the same stadium as though nothing has happened except for the loss of a few league points.

Alternatively clubs should have to enter into agreements with stadium owners that the latter will indemnify creditors of the club. Creditors must be given the opportunity to get their hands on assets.

Happy and unhappy PIGS

It is my custom to go for a long walk on Sunday afternoons, ostensibly to exercise the dog, but really for my benefit. Our walk take us past a smallholding. Today we saw a boar and two sows in an enclosure. The boar was wallowing in the mud looking very content with life. Pig in clover.

Wish the same could be said of the other PIGS - Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. Each country is going through trying economic times and the position is made worse by their membership of the EMU. They cannot devalue, unemployment is horrendous and social unrest on the increase as workers ask why they should be the ones to suffer for the blunders of politicians and bankers.

Greece is the worst hit country currently, but how to support it? The German public does not see why their country should bail Greece out. Unless something is done the EMU will explode.

At this juncture enter the German finance minister. He has suggested that the EU should form an organisation similar to the IMF to handle economic problems of countries within the EU.

The problem is that this would require amending the EU Treaty with the approval of all EU member states.

Whilst I have no doubt Labour and the Dozycrats would assent without giving the electorate a say, it poses a serious problem for Boy Wonder 'Dave'. Having wormed his way out of the Tories promise of a referendum on the last treaty, the formula he used to do so will oblige him, should he become PM, to hold a referendum on the proposed change.

Dozycrat wisdom

The Dozycrats love to lecture (indeed hector) us about their 'green credentials'. I note the Party's candidate in Sevenoaks lives in Tunbridge Wells and, yes you guessed, the Tunbridge Wells candidate lives in Sevenoaks. Just think of all the carbon emissions that would be saved if they swapped seats.

One candidate informs us that it is only the Dozycrats who can clean up politics after the sleaze issue. So another myth is born. As I recall the sleaze issue the Dozycrat MPs were not as white as snow, more a dirty slush colour.

One of the candidates complains that the Tory front bench is full of career politicians - but no mention of Labour career politicians. I wonder why? The reason why the Dozycrats do not have many career politicians is that for the most part people are not daft enough to vote Dozycrat, so political careers have not got off the ground.


I earn a few pennies by being a member of the internet panel of two polling organistions. Most of the time the polls are about dreary subjects: supermarkets, coffee shops, internet connections and toiletries.

More recently I have been asked my views on a range of political matters, including my observations on the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. Could it be that I played a miniscule role in the decision by Boy Wonder 'Dave' to say that his friendship with George wouldn't save the latter if moving him from his shadow post was deemed by Dave to be politically advantageous?

Election 2010

The campaign is hotting up! Labour is promising to reform the House of Lords and make it an all-elected chamber, probably to be called the Senate. Strange, didn't Tony Blair promise reform in 1997?

The Tory press is raising the spectre of the Winter of Discontent by placing emphasis on the growing power of the trade union UNITE in Labour Party affairs. The probability of strikes by British Airways staff (who are UNITE members) and railway workers is something the Conservatives must be privately praying will happen as strikes will damage Labour.

The Liberal Dozycrat leader is refusing to name the terms on which he will do deals with the other parties in the event of a hung parliament. He dare not show an inclination towards Labour, which many members of the Dozycrat Party would prefer, for fear of driving anti-Labour voters to the Conservatives. My guess is that where the Dozycrats were in second place at the 2005 election they will concentrate their fire on the incumbent member's party and suggest to the third placed party's voters that they vote for the Dozycrats. A clear case of political split-personality disorder.

Dozycrat Council Lunacy

The Liberal Dozycrats control Hull Council. The Council has decided to spend £200,000, yes two hundred thousand pounds, on 65 massive fibreglass toads to be located round the city to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of the poet Philip Larkin who was employed by Hull University.

Reason for toads? Larkin wrote two poems: Toads and Toads Revisited. Thank goodness he didn't write about whales or the residents of Hull might be forking out millions at the behest of the Dozycrats.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Kent Savers Credit Union: Update

I have membership application forms and information about Kent Savers. If you would like to join Kent Savers send me an e-mail (you will find my e-mail address by using the link on the home page to take you to my profile).

You can join Kent Savers through its website . Make sure you have your NI number to hand as this is the only evidence of identity you are required to supply.

Try again

Below is my latest e-mail to the Bishop of Tonbridge and the Tonbridge Archdeacon:

I am disappointed, but not surprised, not to have received a response to my e-mail.

The comment in the letter from John Barton that external funding had dried up shows how badly Church in Society has been managed. I work for a voluntary sector organisation and our funding is increasing. The reason for this is that we are pro-active, well-organised and seek out opportunities – all attributes lacking in Church in Society.

Whatever happened to the preferential option for the poor in the deliberations about CIS?

The Church of England in Kent has lost the plot completely in regard to social responsibility.

Perhaps the strategy now is to keep a low profile and hope the objectors will go away. I can assure you, they will not. My blog is working overtime to ensure the matter remains in the public eye.

A Blast from the past!!

I am including my letter published by the Courier on 17 October 2008 simply to retain it in case the website it was retrieved from goes down!

CONGRATULATIONS on your four-page special report on homelessness and also making it the front page story (Courier, October 10).

It is clear from the report that it is Christian organisations which are doing a huge amount of work to alleviate/overcome the problems faced by homeless people: The Bridge Trust (houses and street teams), Crisis Recovery, Soup Bowl, West Kent YMCA, Christian Alliance, Wayfarer Project and the Salvation Army.

Much of this work is funded by members of church congregations. Your correspondent, Mrs Grimes, stated that faith is decaying. In Tunbridge Wells the Christian faith is alive, thriving and undertaking much good work.

Contrary to Mrs Grimes' opinion (in last week's letter) there are many Christians whose faith "has been hammered out on the anvil of doubt" (Archbishop Michael Ramsay) or whose faith is not based on blindly accepting the Church's teachings. I don't recognise the caricature that Mrs Grimes sets up and then knocks down.

Apart from homelessness issues the Christian church is involved in the community through the Number One Community Trust, the Rusthall Youth and Community Project (congratulations to Mike Bassett on a well-deserved civic medallion) which started as a Christian outreach, the Rusthall Lunch Club, The Good Neighbour Project, the exciting community proposals at St Barnabas and the work of Pembury Baptist Church. Each is testimony to Christians living their faith and being true to the injunction "love your neighbour".

The news that Kent County Council is proceeding with plans which hopefully will lead to the formation of a Kent-wide credit union will be welcomed by Christian groups in Tunbridge Wells that supported plans to form a credit union covering West Kent.

The Christian church was at the forefront of the successful campaign to make Tunbridge Wells a Fairtrade town and is committed to supporting measures to combat the effects of climate change both locally and in the wider world.

Your full page report on the Horizon Project indicates, again, a Christian-based organisation (West Kent YMCA) working to support individuals.

The Christian church plays a vital role in Tunbridge Wells. Apart from the above there are two church secondary schools and many church primary schools, youth clubs, play groups, debt advice, Crossways – I could add to the list.

The Christian church has been reticent in publicising the work it does in Tunbridge Wells. Some argue that the work it does has been under-valued and under-estimated by statutory organisations and the community. I believe this is changing and not before time.

Your paper has done the Christian church and the community a great service by reporting in one edition the work of unsung heroes who are helping finance or are engaged, without any thoughts of personal gain, status or self-promotion, in activities for the benefit of others.

Greg Clark opens new flats

Today Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark officially opened the Bridge Trust's recently acquired flats. The flats enable residents who have been with the Trust for some time to experience almost independent living prior to moving on to non -Trust accommodation.

An item about Greg's visit will be included in the next Trust newsletter. To find out more about the Trust click on this link

It's all on the budget

Like two tired horses being urged on by their increasingly desperate jockeys the two main political parties are hurtling towards the final fence which will decide the race.

Will Darling be the darling of the electorate when the content of the budget has sunk in? Get it right and Darling will be credited with winning the election for Labour. Should Labour fall at this fence there will not be time to catch the Tories in the finishing straight, assuming the election is on 6th May.

The conundrum is: what does the electorate want to hear? Should the message be about austerity, cuts in public expenditure and hard times or about no tax rises and even handing out a few lollipops? The budget will be only about winning the election, not about what is best for the economy. Have either of the two major parties any idea what it is that will satisfy the electorate and help the economy? Have they gauged correctly the mood of the electorate?

Will either of the main parties do enough to see off the threat of the third runner sharing the spoils of victory?

Friday, 12 March 2010


A couple of snippets about Anna Span on

Her website did, until this morning, contain the interesting sentence "Anna is liberal and open-minded but politically she supports The Labour Party." As soon as Iain Dale drew attention to this it was altered.


Nick Clegg tells GMTV that the work of the Lib Dem candidate who directs porn films is "not exactly my cup of tea".

Just had a look at the Dartford and Gravesham Liberal Democrats website. No mention whatsoever about their parliamentary candidate. Rather a poor show.

Gravesend takes Anna Span in its stride.

Further visit to Gravesend today, that's three visits in eight days. Will my system stand it!

The residents of the town seem to be totally underwhelmed by the news that the Liberal Dozycrats have chosen a hardcore porn film director as their parliamentary candidate.

I note Anna is saying that she produces her porn from a female perspective and therefore her becoming a parliamentary candidate is a victory for feminism and equality. In that case surely she should have joined the Harperson Party?

Would Mr Clegg, the Dozycrat Leader, have any qualms if his wife/ children intimated they would like to be porn film directors or porn film performers? After all, as Anna's work has the seal of approval from Dozycrat HQ, isn't it a business the Dozycrats would wholeheartedly support their members and nearest and dearest's participation in?

I am disappointed Anna did not apply to be a Conservative Party candidate. I think she would have made it to the top of the 'A' List which has its fair share of political careerist fruitcakes. Anna would have been the perfect antidote, a breath of fresh air and jollied up no end of women and men in constituency associations.

It will be interesting to read what the faith groups in Gravesham make of Anna's candidature. Will she be denounced from evangelical pulpits and what will the liberals say? What will the Mosque think? Mind you, I doubt if most people would take any notice.

The bottom line is: would she make a good MP? She is brave and determined which is more than can be said of some of the present bunch. I wish her well.

Day Five and still no response...

....from the clerical duo. I'll send them a gentle reminder!

Poverty on our doorstep

Tunbridge Wells is affluent, but the poor are always with us. Today's Tunbridge Wells edition of the Kent & Sussex Courier carries a two page story about a family on low income. In an excellent hard-hitting editorial a number of key points are made:
  • Deprivation in this country is often overlooked.
  • The lady who is the subject of the article is like thousands of others, struggling each week to feed herself and her family
  • The families' situation is an all-to common one: They have found themselves in a vicious circle of spending too much and racking up debt. Fuelled by a mixture of poor budgeting, low income and easily accessible credit they are now in a particularly vulnerable financial position.
  • Such people are society's forgotten poor. They are not homeless and begging on the street, so it is easy for people to pretend such problems are not rife among us.

The editorial rightly argues that the current benefit system needs to be changed as it is hurting individuals and society as a whole by trapping people in poverty. The Courier has a clear understanding of the problems of poverty and is to be congratulated on publishing this story.

I make two observations:

1. The newly formed Kent Savers Credit Union has statutory duty to provide advice on budgeting and thrift.

2. Should we be looking in Kent at setting up a foodbank along the lines of those established in the USA? For an example follow this link . Foodbanks in Kent are small and not much is known about them. Perhaps an opportunity for a social enterprise?

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Porn Director for Gravesend

Talking of Gravesend, I see the Liberal Dozycrats have selected Anna Arrowsmith, aka Anna Span, a porn film director, as their prospective parliamentary candidate for the Gravesham seat.
Would be interesting to know what strident feminist and equality zealot Harriet Harperson makes of it.

I declare an interest! No, not that!! Anna Arrowsmith's company office is but a stone throw from my humble abode.

Day Trip to Gravesend

Gravesend is not a likely tourist destination. However, it has a large tourist information centre, probably the best civic centre in the county and much to admire: parks, monuments, the old fortress, the heritage quarter and the recently renovated Old Town Hall. And you can take a boat trip across the Thames to Tilbury!

Gravesend has many social problems, hence the decision to launch Kent Savers Credit Union, locate the credit union's office and concentrate the credit union's initial activities in the town (although anyone in Kent can join as of now).

Soon the credit union will focus on Swale and Dover districts.

Day Four: still no response from B & A

I am informed that a number of people in the dioceses of Canterbury and Rochester have not received replies to letters objecting to the wanton destruction of Church in Society.

Brian Castle and Clive (Smiler) Mansell have many questions to answer.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Here we go again

A fairly recent 'initiative' from the government is called Total Place. Some bright spark had the idea that it would be sensible for statutory organisations to work together to deal with problems as this might save administrative costs and target support more effectively.

It struck me then that the Maude Committee (1967), the Bains Report (1972), and the Local Government Act 2000 with its provision for community plans had all been there before.

Back in 1972 there was an 'initiative' called 'total approach' which looked at six cities and examined 'total resources and how to transform them'.

So, nothing new in Total Place.

The real issue though is not the better delivery of services. The issue is the policies behind the services. If the policies are wrong (which I believe to be the case), then it is the policies which should be changed, only then should consideration be given to the most effective means to deliver them. Simply delivering failed policies more effectively doesn't help the people or areas the services are intended for.

Total Place is yet another Labour wheeze which should have been strangled at birth. It diverts attention from the failed policies which blight communities and the lives of individuals. It is a pity Kent County Council has enthusiastically participated in this latest Labour initiative, but we should not be surprised. After all KCC is renowned as a willing lap-dog to this government.

Good grief

It beggars belief that a man was able to father eighteen children as a consequence of non-consensual incestuous relationships with his two daughters. It is a damning indictment of numerous statutory organisations and their staff that they had concerns but did nothing.

I cannot help but feel that political correctness had a part to play in this sad saga. Robust action would have saved these two girls from a life of fear, violence and sexual abuse.

Failing social services, hospitals that are killing fields, you get my drift. Intervention is too late - always. There is much hand-wringing, passing the buck and so forth but we know that more examples of gross incompetence by statutory organisations will come to light.

I wish the public would demonstrate its anger with a passion to match those who opposed the Iraq War or showed their contempt for MPs who regarded taxpayers as fair game to line their pockets.

Three days since..........

........I e-mailed the Bishop etc. Maybe the Bishop and Archdeacon do not think a response is called for. I'll send them a reminder in a few days if needs must.

Easy gambling

Yesterday I received a letter from William Hill the bookmaker inviting me to open a pre-approved credit account with a credit limit of £250 and a £50 free bet thrown in for good measure.

Yesterday saw the conviction of one Kevin Foster from Doddington near Sittingbourne for running a £34 million pyramid scam which preyed on people on low incomes.

Foster had over 8,000 people in his scheme which promised returns of up to 500%.

Of course there are more sophisticated forms of gambling as Lloyds Names found out to their last pennies a few years ago.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Too close to call?

As I mentioned a few days ago I am not at all sure that Lord Moneybags Ashcroft's millions poured in to Labour marginal seats will secure victory for Boy Wonder 'Dave'.

Low and behold an opinion poll shows that the Conservative are only equal with Labour in the key marginals; insufficient to achieve an overall majority.

Testing times ahead. Is Dave losing the plot, will Gordon hang on and what will be the fate of the Liberal Dozycrats?

Blurred at the edges?

When local government was 'reformed' in 1974 there was a massacre of council seats. District councils replaced borough councils, urban district councils and rural district councils. The new councils cover a wider geographical area than the ones they replaced. The new councils often have artificial boundaries that do not reflect patterns of living. Thus in Sevenoaks District Council's area there is little to bind Edenbridge and Swanley together. Likewise there is little to connect Snodland with Tonbridge which are in Tonbridge & Malling Council's area, or Speldhurst with Sandhurst (Tunbridge Wells Council).

The Local Government Act 2000 swept away the committee structure of local authorities. It was replaced in Kent by the cabinet system which places power in the the hands of a very few councillors. The dangers inherent in this are obvious particularly when one political party has a huge majority, as is the case with Kent County Council and some of the district councils. Non-cabinet councillors are confined to community liaison roles and pleading for scraps to be fed to their electorate.

When a party has a huge majority the risk is that the cabinet system may politicise local government officers, particularly senior officers who work closely on a daily basis with cabinet members.

It is vital that the role of elected councillors is kept distinct from that of officers. Officers must be independent and give impartial advice and not act as the administrative wing of any political party.

Has this distinction been blurred since 2000? Is the current relationship, behind closed doors, between officers and cabinet members too cosy?