All posts tagged 'Lib-Dems'

County Hall balances the books but worse is to come

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, February 14 2014

In the end, there wasn't quite as much political drama as there might have been at Kent County Council's budget meeting.

After seven hours of debate and the usual slew of opposition amendments, the figures remained exactly as they did before 84 members trooped into County Hall to consider the best way of spending £1.6bn of public money and whether to back the first council tax rise in three years.

The ruling Conservatives had managed to diffuse a potential flashpoint by dropping its original plans for a cap on the popular children's Freedom Pass.

If the new plans did not completely neutralise the opposition parties, they did enough to ensure that potentially disaffected backbenchers in their own ranks did not rebel.

Indeed, it was pretty obvious that the Conservative group were under instructions to rally round the beleaguered cabinet member David Brazier, who has come in for a lot of flak for the way things have been handled.

We were told - not altogether convincingly - that far from being a humiliating U-turn, the heroic Mr Brazier deserved credit for having 'listened to the people' and responding accordingly with different plans. (Or a U-turn...)

There is also some talk of bringing in a pay-by-installments scheme to ease the burden on parents who have to buy more than one pass. It remains a tricky issue for KCC however: the cost of the post-16 pass at £400 is likely to prove too much for many and given the bleak financial outlook for councils, it may be something that KCC will be forced to revisit.

It was interesting to see some strange political alliances among the opposition parties - notably UKIP teaming up with the Lib Dems and the sole Green councillor - and although their efforts to amend parts of the budget were all voted down, I suspect we will see more of this opposition rainbow coalition.

It was also interesting to see that the Conservatives have clearly decided to go on the offensive against UKIP.  The role of chief tormentor has been handed to Cllr Jeremy Kite - also the leader of Dartford council - who relishes verbally duffing up the Ukip group in the way he did with the Lib Dems.

In a sense, this rather flatters the 17-strong UKIP group, who six months on since the county council election are beginning to show signs of being rather more effective in their role than they have been, notwithstanding the occasional naive amendment.

The main message coming out of County Hall is that while the books are balanced this year, there is worse to come.

Leader Paul Carter indicated that the need to save a further £90m in the next two years was likely to result in more pain for taxpayers. Whether the "Facing The Challenge" programme can deliver transformation without cuts to key services remain to be seen.


Kent County Council carried out an extensive consultation over its budget plans this year and succeeded in getting many more people to respond than it has ever done before.

One interesting finding was that while residents clearly understood the need for restraint and broadly accepted the need for a council tax hike, when it came to whether there should be more privatisation or outsourcing to save money, only 13% supported the idea.

Underpinning this scepticism was the belief that private companies ultimately are more interested in how much money they can make from contracts rather than the quality of the services the provide.

KCC's transformation agenda envisages the council doing much more outsourcing and privatisation and is currently in the first stage of examining the level of interest there is among contractors to run services, including libraries.

The issue is whether, if contractors are not interested in some of these services, KCC feels able to continue with them given the financial cosh it is under.

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Categories: Politics

Dinner with the Camerons? I’d rather watch Strictly...

by The Codgers' Club Monday, April 2 2012
by Peter Cook

don't know about you but I would pay good money not to go to dinner with the Camerons.

That’s not a slight on Samantha’s cooking. I’m sure her shepherd’s pie and jam roly poly are “to die for”.

But can you imagine being trapped round a table for three hours or more with a load of fat cat business tycoons all bellyaching about too much regulation and how they’ll all leave the country if they have to pay the top rate of tax.

And on the other side a ghastly gaggle of Tory politicians bleating “deficit” like a flock of sheep desperate for the raddle.

Frankly I’d rather stay at home and watch Strictly. And as I have said before, I believe dancing to be an abomination of the Devil. Vince Cable goes dancing for heaven’s sake!

Seriously though, who on earth are we going to vote for come the next election? This lot have shown themselves to be economically inept, doing nothing to create growth, generate jobs and start paying down the deficit.

The last not were no better. New Labour were just Tories by another name and if anything were even more shameless in cosying up to big business and the Murdoch media.

As for the Lib Dems – well they’ve sold themselves down the river completely. No one’s ever going to vote for them anymore.

What we need is a new party. Something loud, proud and radical that doesn’t carry a load of baggage with it.

Who should we choose as leader? Actually I’m not all that busy at the moment. Why don’t we get together over lunch and discuss this.

Mind you, it’ll cost. Let me see. A quarter of a million could get you Premier League status.

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Categories: Moans and groans | Politics

The humiliation of 'Saint' Vince

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, December 22 2010

There are two schools of thought about what has happened to the business secretary Vince Cable.

One view is that he has been humiliated and humbled and was foolish to be so outspoken - albeit in comments he thought would never enter the public domain. He's been stripped of certain responsibilities and is a lesser figure than he was.

Politicians cherish and guard their power more than anything and he has been stripped of much of his. So, he's a diminished politician and a busted flush. As the BBC's Nick Robinson put it, he pushed the nuclear button but only managed to blow himself up.

The other theory goes that in articulating his views about the Murdoch deal and other matters, he has strengthened his position - at least for the Liberal Democrats - as the party's and coalition's conscience.

That may be the case but the net result of his entrapment is that he has been left with no clout over the issue he appeared most concerned about. And for a politician, that's not a good outcome.


Did The Telegraph cross the line in recording MPs? I'm not sure - some are questioning whether there was a genuine public interest case in doing so and whether the tactic exposed genuine wrong-doing or misconduct and not just indiscrete comments about policy differences.

I do know that it is likely to make politicians even more wary of talking to people and being candid about their views. One Kent MP told me today that he would now be extra-cautious when constituents came to see him and that the climate in which any comment or off-the-cuff remark could be turned into a headline made it all the more difficult to do talk freely.

Which is not necessarily beneficial for politics.  



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Categories: democracy | Politics | Resignation

University plans will leave legacy of distrust

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Wednesday, December 8 2010

Not long to go before MPs vote to fleece students and their parents for most of their lives.

Most Liberal Democrats are gearing up to rat on their solemn pre-election pledge not to increase university tuition fees. Like snake oil salesmen, MPs claim that the new scheme is fairer than the old one when it is nothing of the sort.

That their remedy will make you better however horrible the taste. Hiking charges by 300 per cent does not strike me as fair in any way. No business would be allowed to get away with such a massive hike.

Just because you raise the repayment salary threshold to £21,000 will make precious little difference to a young person facing decades of debt, possibly amounting – with interest - to more than £100,000. And that’s over and above housing and other costs of living. Not to mention the advice to put aside money for pensions that will continue to plummet.

There is nothing good about the proposal for students and parents. There is benefit for universities because they need to compensate for national revenue being stripped away. We want top quality unis.

Business needs skilled people and looks to universities to provide them. But it is not right to put all the onus on the individual to fund them. The state needs to invest more in higher education because the whole community benefits from a skilled workforce.

Universities should also publish the real cost of tuition for each course. The latest figure seems to have been plucked from the air. And why should English students pay so much when their Welsh and Scottish compatriots, no doubt subsidised by English taxpayers, are charged nothing? What's fair about that?

Many parents chose not to send their children to private school because they could not afford to. Now their offspring – no doubt with parental help - are being compelled to pay comparable levels of fees, yet household incomes have not changed much for the majority.

Only a minority of graduates will hit pay dirt. Most will be in jobs – if they can find one – that used to require A levels, and in some instances GCSEs. Good luck to the students who protest today (8) - keep it peaceful! - about a plan that is bound to deter a sizeable number of young people brought up in thrifty or low-income households from applying to university.

Cutting student numbers might well be one of the aims of this policy. But students' efforts will sadly change little because democracy does not work between elections. MPs will follow their leaders rather than their beliefs and instincts. What a poor lesson they are setting to young people about integrity, moral fibre and keeping promises.

It will leave a legacy of distrust to an impressionable generation. Never glad confident morning again.

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Categories: Business | Education

Well done Vince!

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Friday, September 24 2010

Two cheers for Vince Cable.

The Business Secretary has come under fire for his controversial comments at the Liberal Democrat Conference.

But he was right to point out the flaws in capitalism, the spiv mentality of city traders, the murky world of some enterprise, and greed.  Competition takes no prisoners and, yes, it often drives out the good.

It needs to be said because in some instances, it is true.

He does not have to be a robotic flagwaver for business. But a note of caution. He must beware of tarring all private enterprise with the same brush. Much of it, and many good people working hard in firms across the country, have made life a lot better for all and created the wealth that pays for public services. Public servants should look at our MegaGrowth 50 supplement to see where some of their pay comes from.

And for all its faults capitalism sure beats alternative forms of governance.

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Categories: Business | National Politics | Economy

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