Tuesday, 25 December 2012

New Blog

Now I have retired from my voluntary work the title of this blog is inappropriate.  I have started a new blog entitled Kent Old Grumpy to which I have transferred the content of this blog.


Monday, 24 December 2012


I do not subscribe to mega conspiracy theories: New World Order, Common Purpose, Who Shot Kennedy?,  the USA Did Not land a Man on the Moon, etc.

Of course there are conspiracies and cover ups and good investigative journalism may unveil them.  A good example of a cover up is the action of the police after the appalling disaster at Sheffield Wednesday's football ground.  Good journalism brought to public attention Jimmy Savile's sex exploits and most recently uncovered dirty work at the crossroads (or Downing Street's gates) in what is known as 'Plebgate'.

One aspect of Plebgate which intrigues me is that, as far as I am aware, Boris Johnson has not been mentioned, yet he is the political boss of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and played a key role in the departure of the previous holder of the post.  Given the damage Plebgate has done to the relationship between police and politicians and the uneasy accord that exists between Cameron and Johnson, the silence of Johnson is deafening.



France and Germany

For so long France and Germany stood shoulder to shoulder on the EU journey.  Not now.  Merkel gave her support to Sarkozy who promptly lost the French presidential election to Hollande.  Already there have been major disagreements between Germany and France with France insipid in its support for austerity demanded by Berlin to deal with sovereign debt crises.

Now the German economy, the engine of the EU economy, is slowing.




Friday, 21 December 2012

Happy Christmas

IPSOS sent me a Facebook App which enables me to make my own Christmas cards.  My effort is below.  Happy Christmas to my readers.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Of toffs and plebs

There is no reason why a toff should not describe a pleb as such, yet the left wing politicos/politically correct brigades are up in arms.  Indeed members of the religion of political correctness look on approvingly, indeed participate in baiting people for being toffs, as witness the Crewe by-election. Hurling insults is a British tradition which should be encouraged and we do need to retain or develop a sense of humour and not go all po-faced when insults are being hurled.

2012: a year to forget for the EU

It has been a bad year for the European Union.  From a pro-EU perspective the fact no country has left the eurozone is regarded as something of a triumph.  But at what price?  The  EC/ECB/IMF demand for austerity has swept through southern Europe. Technocrat government has been imposed in Greece and Italy and these nations along with Portugal, Spain and Cyprus have seen massive civic unrest at austerity measures  bite.

Will 2013 be any better?  The totemic euro may be saved, but the volatile mixture of austerity and recession will take its toll, particularly on those calling for ever closer political and economic union.

See  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/9755655/Europe-in-2012-disaster-averted-but-future-uncertain.html

Monday, 17 December 2012

Will the EU dominate political debate until the next general election?

Bill Clinton observed pithily that 'it is the economy, stupid' when it comes to the issue which decides elections.   It would be a brave UK politician who would go against the Clinton mantra. Public finances were in a shocking mess when the Labour government resigned. Indeed one former Labour minister left a note for his Conservative successor stating 'there is no money left'.

The Coalition had to restore public finances by imposing austerity. The argument is over the extent of austerity and on whom cuts in services and benefits impacts and of course the distribution of cuts and increases in taxation.  Allied to this is the question of the balance to be drawn between austerity and measures to stimulate economic growth.  The electorate's opinions on these issues and how they affect them will be a major determinant of voting intentions.

The issue of Europe will generate much political heat in the months ahead.  Will there be a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU? (I leave to one side the small matter of the referendum on Scottish independence and the competing claims on the effect independence for Scotland will have on its membership of the EU.)

Apart from UKIP which has a policy of supporting a referendum and seeking to leave Europe, what of the other parties?  The Liberal Democrats published a document before the last general election in which Clegg stated that it was time for a real referendum, and the party would support staying in the EU.  Labour probably will support the call for a referendum and campaign to stay in the EU.

The Conservatives?  Oh dear. Some want a referendum.  Some want to stay in the EU, others want out, whilst there are those who want to stay in but on renegotiated terms.  The hokey-cokey party, in-out-shake -it- all -about.



The current travails of the euro have been documented on this blog, together with the economic downturn in many eurozone states accompanied by civil strife.. Apart from the ongoing fire fighting, attention now is on the 'architecture' of the EU, how ever-closer fiscal and political union can be achieved.

The leadership of the Conservatives has suggested that it may be possible to repatriate to the UK some of  ceded to the EU. President Hollande of France has poured cold water on this stating that membership of the EU is not a matter of selecting items from an a la carte menu.

For what it is worth, my opinion is that it is no good holding a referendum based on the current EU 'architecture'.  We need to know what the structure of the integrated EU will be, in particular how nations outside the eurozone will be accommodated, before any referendum is held.










Still junk status.




What's this?
Coming off the fence?

See also:




Will he stand for election?  See:


Friday, 14 December 2012

Sherwood School knees-up opprobrium

When Keith Marden retired after 25 years as head of Sherwood Park Community Primary School the school governors decided to hold a party for him.  According to reports in the local press the party included a barbecue, plenty of booze and a hired band.  The school budget picked up the bill to the tune of  £6,000.   The governing body has resigned en bloc, although there is some doubt whether the chairman has resigned.

However one looks at it, the cost to the taxpayer of the party is grossly excessive.  What does surprise me is that no-one took the governors to one side before the event and warned them of the impropriety of making such a payment.  Who knew?  Why didn't those in the know do anything?

Keith Marden was very well thought of in Sherwood and for many years ran  very successfully a school in an area of severe deprivation.  To state the work of  a teacher at the school is challenging is an under-statement.    It was a sad end to Mr Marden's career that the school was put into special measures.

To put this in context:  Kent County Council has an appalling  performance record for primary school education.  It is one of the worst in the country. All this happened under a Conservative administration at county hall. Instead of sounding off about the cost of Mr Marden's leaving party, let us read of Councillor Tansley engaging in 'blistering criticism' (to use the local newspaper's phrase) of his cronies at county hall.  Oh, I nearly forgot, it is county council election time in 2013.


Thursday, 13 December 2012

Europe update

Spiegel On-line engages in a spot of German self-flagellation and then what Germans do best - attack the French.



France and Germany have resolved their disagreement over the scope of eurozone banking supervision and Osborne has secured safeguards for the City.  Will this prove to be a template for future deals for the UK? It sits outside the eurozone and fears the eurozone countries can gang up on non-eurozone states?








Roger Millman

Roger Millman died earlier this year.  He was a key figure in the early development of the Bridge Trust.  The Trust had many problems in the early days and it is a mark of his success in overcoming them in concert with Bob Wykes,  David Gilpin and Niall Willis that the Trust has grown to be a major provider of accommodation and care for homeless single people in West Kent. Roger's wife, Jean, worked for the Trust after Roger stood down.

Roger kept abreast of and supported the Trust's activities after he stood down. I recall spending some very cold evenings on 'guard duty' with Roger during the annual Trust sleep-outs in car park in Tonbridge.  

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Rusthall Community and Youth Project

Pleased to see the November minutes of the parish council on-line.  Keep up the good work.

One of the items discussed at the November meeting was the withdrawal of funding by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for Rusthall Community and Youth Project and a request by the Project for the parish council to provide funding.  The matter was deferred for further analysis of the Project's costs.

I hope the parish council does support the Project.  It has been running for many years and at least two of the parish councillors have been trustees/officers. The leader of the Project, Mike Bassett, was awarded a Civic Medallion by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in recognition of his sterling service to the Project.

Problems, problems, problems

The proposed Banking Union continues to cause division between France and Germany and now Van Rumpoy has put his oar in, much to the ire of the Germans:


Romania back in the headlines:


Monti's decision to hold an early general election in Italy has upset the financial markets. Interesting article below:






Update: 12th December:




Monday, 10 December 2012

More EU jottings:


All or nothing the only choice?







Will Super Mario stand in an attempt to see off Berlusconi?



A foretaste of things to come?  Or more a case of deja vu?

Towards closer union.


Hoots mon

Saturday, 8 December 2012

British Democratic Party: grim future for English Democrats

The problems facing Nick Griffin and the British National Party are well-documented: up to the gunnel in debt, riven by internal strife and losing members in droves..  Matters came to a head when Andrew Brons and Griffin contested the leadership of the BNP, the latter winning by a very small margin.  Brons resigned from the BNP and, as expected, now has formed a new party called the British Democratic Party.

I would not expect many of the remaining BNP members to jump ship and join the BDP.  But what of those who have left?  Some dropped out of party politics, some joined other right-wing parties, but the greatest influx of ex-BNP members was enjoyed by the English Democrats, including two members of Brons' staff.

Will the English Democrats retain their ex-BNP members?  They must be hoping beyond hope that they do.  Some ED members left the party when the ex-BNP influx began, joined the Conservative Party, or UKIP or gave up party politics.  I very much doubt ex- ED members will rejoin the party should the ex-BNP members shuffle off (or run) to the BDP.

The recent electoral success of UKIP has been a disaster for the English Democrats.  The ED 'puffed-up' its chances of beating UKIP in the Rotherham by-election.  The posts prior to the election on the website English Passport (recently re-named Kingdom of England Passport) controlled by a leading officer of the ED are hilarious.  http://kentcommunityactivist.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/english-democrats-humiliated-by-ukip.html

Having failed to demolish  UKIP (which in any event was not going to happen) the ED now is about to be assailed by the  BDP.

There doesn't seem to be anywhere for the English Democrats to go except downward, which in one sense is a shame as it is a party with a clear English civic nationalist message: that England should have an English parliament within a federal UK.  Unfortunately the party has accrued toxic baggage, so English civic nationalists will have to to look elsewhere for a political home.

A sad year

This year has witnessed the death of three individuals each of whom made a significant contribution to the welfare of people.

Kevin Lynes was a member of Kent County Council's Cabinet and worked hard for the people in his division, particularly the residents of Sherwood.  He was also a leading figure in the creation of Kent Savers Credit Union.

Val Griffiths was employed by Kent County Council as a detached youth worker.  She became a friend of numerous disadvantaged or troubled young people and helped them recover (or indeed discover) their self respect.

Cathy Gaunt was employed latterly by a charity based in West Kent. For much of her working life  she supported seriously disadvantaged groups.

I knew all three for many years and, in their own way, each was a 'one-off'.  Isn't it sad that we only recognise the true worth of an individual when it is too late to tell them.

Friday, 7 December 2012

EU jottings

A few recent articles.  Little to cheer.






The old cinema site Royal Tunbridge Wells

I have lost count of the number of times this blog has complained about the lack of progress in redeveloping the former Odeon cinema site in the centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells.  Now the Courier newspaper has commenced a  campaign, the Liberal Democrats have roused themselves from their deep sleep and started campaigning and the Civic Society has joined in.  The local MP has vented his frustration at the lack of progress in redeveloping the site.

All the above parties are urging action, at the very least that the premises are demolished and used as a car park or open space (presumably with seating) until such time as building work can commence.

Past and current Leaders of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council have raised the possibility of compulsory purchase.  The current Leader, councillor Jukes, ( currently the recipient of an ear-bashing for suggesting the Royal Victoria Hall in Southborough should be demolished and replaced by a community centre) has declared that nothing can be done regarding compulsory purchase until the summer of 2013.

The one comfort I take from all this is that those protesting about the lack of progress by the current owners includes the MP and the local press.  It is hoped their protests are heard and acted upon.  Then we might secure progress on redeveloping the civic complex.  Councillor Jukes is on record as stating that consideration of the future of the civic complex will come only after the future use of the Odeon site is determined.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Of roads, railways and airports

The Chancellor of the Exchequer's Autumn Statement included provision for £270 million to alleviate traffic hot spots and congestion bottlenecks on locally and nationally agreed priority schemes.  Will any of this be spent on improving the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury?

The Autumn Statement also included a commitment to extend the proposed HS2 line  to the North West and West Yorkshire.  However, it begs the question, when will the money be spent?  Delicious sense of timing with the courts currently hearing cases seeking judicial review of the proposals for the HS2 line between London and Birmingham.

See:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/9731680/Passenger-numbers-blow-apart-case-for-HS2-train-line.html

The future airport capacity of  London and the South-East has been kicked into the long grass, at least until after the next general election.  Hence the comments of Willie Walsh


Meanwhile Kent County Council is pressing the claims of Manston Airport:


More rail news:




Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Rusthall Parish Council: poor communication

At the time of writing this post the minutes of the Rusthall Parish Council meeting held on 8th October are not on the council's website.  There is a link, supposedly to the minutes, which brings up the notice of the 12th November meeting.

Having forked out in the region of £500 for the website it might have been anticipated by residents that the site would be kept up to date.  But, hey ho, its only public money thrown down the drain.

The council has 'form' when it comes to delayed publication of minutes, indeed the former borough councillor,  Robert Atwood, complained about this matter at a parish council meeting.  Alas, to no avail.

Update:  On 10th December the October minutes appeared on the website thanks to the intervention of the chairman of the parish council.

Latest from Wealden Line Campaign


Well come on Councillor Jukes (Leader, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council) and Councillor Carter (Leader, Kent County Council), lets see some action!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Trouble at mill

The French and Germans are falling out and the UK is stirring the pot.

From today's Daily Telegraph:

Germany finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says German lawmakers are likely to reject proposals giving the European Central Bank power to supervise all banks in the 17-nation euro area, while France's Pierre Moscovici called for ministers to avoid a two tier system where only some banks are supervised.
Mr Schaeuble said:
QuoteNobody believes that any European institution would be capable of supervising 6,000 banks in Europe - maybe not in this decade, to be very frank.
Mr Moscovici said:
QuoteWe have no remit for a dual system of supervision which would call into question the existence of a single system for some banks. The ECB must supervise all banks with a European passport.

Meanwhile the UK is voicing its objection to any development which affects the single market.


As the president of the European Commission bleats out the mantra of 'ever closer union' is this a foretaste of battles ahead?

No sooner said and this appears!:





What is the Boris game plan?

Boris Johnson probably is the most popular Conservative in the UK, although I acknowledge this is not saying much.  Nevertheless he strikes a chord with the electorate that Cameron and Osborne can only dream of.

This week he has been decidedly strident in his comments about EU membership, the move towards greater political and fiscal union within the eurozone and plans circulating in the EU for an EU banking supervisor.  Wearing his Mayor of London hat he is is justified in commentating on issues which might affect London as a financial centre and this inevitably spills over into other European issues.  However, he gives the impression of distancing himself from the Downing Street Two and giving tacit support to Tory rebels on EU issues.

A Leader of the Conservative Party in waiting?  He would have to be an MP before making a leadership bid, so it may be that he is waiting for the result of the next general election before making a move.  In any event I believe he is on record as stating he will see through to completion his current term as Mayor of London.




Sunday, 2 December 2012

Hand in Hand

People in Sherwood, Tunbridge Wells have come together in an informal group known as Hand in Hand for Sherwood.  The group provides food and clothing for needy people.  It also offers support for people having difficulty filling in forms for various benefits.

See:  http://www.thisiskent.co.uk/Self-help-group-Sherwood-set-provide-winter/story-17216010-detail/story.html

All this has been achieved without any funding from the local council or other organisations.  This is commendable and long may it continue.  As soon as councils and housing associations become involved they bring with them stifling bureaucracy.

Sherwood fares badly in the indices of deprivation, so it is good to see local people taking the initiative to deal with problems on their own doorstep.

So far so good.  The sirens of doom and gloom have yet to make an appearance, although I have no doubt the jealous and envious will parade their prejudices soon enough.  Such is life.

The leaders of the group have a heavy burden to bear as the services the group provides will be in demand for the long term. Expectations have been raised, delivery will be demanded.  Power to their elbows.

UPDATE: 3rd December from Hand in Hand

The demand for Hand In Hand for Sherwood. Food Bank and Warmth together. is astounding, in the 4 weeks or so since the group was founded it has helped well over 100 people, this ranges from food parcels, clothing, bedding to help filling out forms and claiming money they are owed. On a daily basis people are coming forward asking for help, never be embarrassed, at some point we have all been there, this is a non discriminatory group, who offer a rapid response to ANYONE in need!!!!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Kent County Council's version of localism

The Conservative Party has proclaimed the virtues of community engagement, community involvement and community action wrapping it up in the concept of 'localism' which in turn is part of the Big Society agenda.  One of the leading proponents of localism is Greg Clark the MP for Tunbridge Wells.

The theory looks good, however turning theory into reality is somewhat more difficult. Step forward Kent County Council, under the kosh for its poor showing in the primary school performance league tables. The Council is responsible for youth services and as part of its budget reduction measures has decided to reduce funding for the youth service and moved away from a grants process to a commissioning process.

Kent County Council's commissioners rightly are looking for value for money but in so doing are able to influence the way in which the voluntary sector works, by encouraging mergers to reduce administrative costs and by reducing the number of organisations it has to engage with.  Money talks, so the voluntary sector is controlled by the policies and decisions taken in County Hall.

A stark example of this is what has happened in Tunbridge Wells.  Two organisations have fallen foul of the new commissioning regime and their future work, indeed the very future of the organisations now is in some doubt.  At this point I declare an interest: I have been the chairman of both of the organisations, although my  involvement ceased a few years ago.

One organisation, Number One Community Trust,  put in a bid for funding, was unsuccessful and has been left high and dry.  The other, Rusthall Community and Youth project, was put off applying by the 107 pages long notes for guidance.

Both organisations feel aggrieved  that funding has been awarded to an organisation based in Ashford which will provide a mobile bus to service youth provision in the areas covered by the two organisations.  The real worry is that the cuts in funding could lead to the demise eventually of both organisations, each rooted in and supported by the communities they serve.  It makes a mockery of localism and reinforces my belief that when it comes to budgets statutory authorities  (with a few exceptions) know the price of everything and the value of nothing,.