Saturday, December 27, 2008

City Tories Call on Government to Revoke Compulsory Congestion Charge

Richard Normington wrote to the Labour Secretary of State for Transport, asking for the compulsory congestion charge to be dropped.


Text of the Letter


Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP
Secretary of State
Department for Transport
Great Minster House

Dear Mr Hoon,

Amendment to the Transport Innovation Fund Criteria

I am writing to ask if you will use your powers as the Secretary of State to amend the Transport Innovation Fund criteria to enable successful bids that do not include the compulsory road pricing element.

Your department’s ideological attachment to compulsory congestion charging shows that its agenda is the promotion of road pricing schemes and not closing the infrastructure gap for places like Cambridgeshire. I hope change will now be possible following the time of reflection after the Manchester vote on congestion charging.

Making this amendment would enable genuine local discussions to take place, without pre-determined outcomes based on the aim of introducing new stealth taxes.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Normington

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

'Cambridge has best research ideas' - Daily Telegraph

Cambridge has the best research plans of all British universities, according to an analysis of official data published. Oxford and Cambridge are leading the field among UK universities, with high proportions of their research graded as "world leading". But Cambridge has nudged ahead, claiming the top spot in a table produced by the Press Association.

Quango Boss in a TIF

Cambridge Evening News, Letters to the Editor

Dear sir,

Today’s News reports the chief executive of Cambridgeshire’s development quango is concerned that by rejecting the congestion charge we are also turning down money for transport in the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF)

He is looking through the wrong end of the telescope. TIF is not about the extra money, it is about the introduction of congestion charging. I suggest he turns his attention to the government and asks why Labour ministers have made the congestion charge compulsory? If Labour really cared about congestion, they would drop the compulsory nature of the congestion charge and let local people decide for themselves what is best.

As for the level of funding - it is fairy gold. We are dealing with a government that, while promising action, has actually delayed upgrading our existing roads, like the A14. It has reduced in real terms, every year, the grants allocated to the County Council to enable it to provide necessary services to the people of Cambridgeshire.

I am delighted that the voters of Manchester had their chance to reject the compulsory congestion charge and that Boris Johnson kept his pledge to scrap the extension of the London congestion charge zone. I too will campaign against Labour’s blackmail transport plan for Cambridge.

Richard Normington

Monday, December 15, 2008

The A14 Choice: Upgraded or Downscaled?

For users of the A14 at the next election, voters can choose if they want it to be upgraded by Conservatives, or 'downscaled' by the Lib Dems.

The recent comments by the MP for Cambridge and the ruling group on the City Council show how out-of-touch they are with the day-to-day needs of the city.

Residents' know that the fastest way to gridlock the city's traffic is an accident on the A14. The environmental harm of stuck traffic is much greater than that of free-flowing vehicles. Furthermore, the road is a major business artery, connecting the eastern ports to the many cities of the industrial midlands. It needs upgrading urgently, and we already see the problems caused by Labour's cancellation of the Conservative roads programme in the 1990's.

Richard Normington commented, 'Cambridge needs a new voice, ready to stand up for ordinary people. Conservatives are ready to take on the medievalist-luddite sect of environmentalism that has the local Lib Dems in its grip. Our candidates for the county council election will stand on the side of improvement for the A14. We will provide local families with the chance to use a safer, swifter motorway.'

Friday, December 12, 2008

Manchester’s Vote Must Be Heard in Cambridgeshire

Richard Normington, the City’s Conservative spokesman, welcomes Manchester’s overwhelming ‘NO’ vote to the Congestion Charge/Transport Innovation Fund bid.

“I congratulate everyone who worked for this result. In particular, it is a victory for the Conservatives in the Manchester area who stood up to Labour’s blackmail transport policy.”

“Let there be no doubt where the City Conservatives stand. It is wrong to impose a new stealth tax on hard-pressed residents. It is wrong to make that tax a compulsory part of the bid for extra money to improve transport. We need change, but not a compulsory charge.”

“I expect Cambridgeshire County Council to take heed of this result and drop congestion charging from its agenda.”

-----------------------------

Manchester's vote compares favourably to local government elections: Compare the turnout figures:


Manchester’s Congestion Charge voter turnout, 2008 – 52.3%


Cambridge City Council voter turnout, 2008 – 34.5%


County Council voter turnout, the last time it was held on a different day from the General Election, 1993, - 35.7%



Gordon Brown breaks his promise on Equitable Life



Shadow Leader of the House of Commons Theresa May asked about Equitable Life:

"I note that the Leader of the House announced a statement on Equitable Life in the first week back after Christmas. Last week, the Prime Minister promised to the House a statement on Equitable Life before Christmas. So will the Prime Minister come to the House to explain why his Chancellor is not doing what the Prime Minister promised the House he would do? Given that the Leader of the House, on numerous occasions, told us that the statement would be given in autumn, perhaps she can explain why this is the first time in living history that autumn has extended into January?"

Harriet Harman replied:

"The right hon. Lady mentioned Equitable Life. I acknowledge that we said that the statement would be ready in the autumn, but it is important to note that the issue has its roots in problems that started in the 1980s. In the summer, there was a substantial report from the ombudsman that needed consideration. We are talking about important issues, and if the Treasury needs to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, it should do so. Surely it is more important that the report is properly considered before it is brought to the House than for us to have an artificial timetable. The statement will be made in January."

It was more than moderately cheeky for Ms Harman to describe the Government's own (abandoned) timetable as "artificial".

Pensions expert Stephen Yeo commented to ConservativeHome:

"The delay is even worse than it seems at first. The Ombudsman's report took an unprecedented 4 years because the Treasury decided to submit 500 pages of prevarication in 'evidence'. Although the report was published in July, the Government would have had a draft in their possession for some months prior to then. If so minded they could have responded straight away, but they said they would do so 'in the Autumn'. Yesterday we learnt that meant January!"

Other Conservative MPs were also far from impressed. Congleton MP Ann Winterton led the charge:

"The autumn has long since gone but

“Now is the winter of our discontent”

because the Prime Minister reneged on a solemn commitment to the House, which was given in the debate on the Queen’s Speech last week, that we would have an Equitable Life statement before Christmas. What are we to say to our constituents, most of whom are elderly and many of whom live on modest means? Indeed, some have already died. When will the Government make a statement to ensure that those people are able to live better in the future, because they have been seriously disadvantaged through no fault of their own?


Ms Harman: No one thinks that this is not a serious issue, and it is because it is a serious and important matter that we wanted to ensure that the Treasury has the time necessary to consider it. On the question of what the hon. Lady should tell her constituents, she should say that the statement will be in January."

Andrew Mackay, who is a senior adviser to David Cameron, weighed in too:

"I am always anxious to give the Leader of the House the benefit of the doubt, so I accept that she was acting in good faith when she told the House in July, when the ombudsman’s report was published, that there would be a statement on Equitable Life in the autumn. I am less able to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt about what he told the House during the debate on the Address:

That was only a week ago. What has happened in that week? Has the Prime Minister saved the world but lost his grip here?

Ms Harman: What was said then was that there was an expectation —[Interruption.] Well, it stands to reason, does it not, that if the statement had been ready, it would have been made, so what was being talked about was a statement that was under preparation? The preparation has taken a bit longer than anticipated, but I think that Members are going way beyond things if they are asserting that there has somehow been some calculation about the timing and that Ministers are not acting in good faith. All we have been trying to do is give a reasonable estimate of when the statement might be ready, and the latest estimate is that we hope it will be ready on the week of the 15th."

See: http://conservativehome.blogs.com/parliament/2008/12/the-governmen-1.html

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Out of Touch on Tax

This letter from Andrew Bower was published in today's Cambridge News, but not in the online edition:
I WAS astonished to hear senior Lib Dem councillor Sian Reid declaring: "Tax is an extremely good thing" at a meeting of the city council on December 4.

She would have had a point if she had praised the principle of collective action for those in need, the provision of civic infrastructure or various public services.

She would also have been right to praise charity.

But by exalting taxation, which should be a means, not an end, she shows how out of touch the Lib Dems are.

Deputy Chairman (Political)
City of Cambridge Conservatives

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Congestion Charge Commissioner’s Credibility Gap

Sir Brian Briscoe, the Transport Commissioner appointed by the County Council, has a serious credibility gap.

As part of Reading Borough Council’s Transport Commission he proposed introducing a congestion charge and signing up to the Labour government’s Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) - which makes charging compulsory for local authorities.

Richard Normington, the Conservative parliamentary spokesman for Cambridge commented:

“Now, more than ever, is not the time to impose greater financial burdens on Cambridge businesses and residents. Cambridge needs the investment in transport, but not at the cost of Labour’s congestion charge.”

“Sir Brian himself has a serious credibility problem. His previous support for Labour's flagship transport policy puts his neutrality on the subject into question. He must work very hard to dispel the suggestion that this is a stitch-up.”



“The Commission proposes that Reading, with its neighbouring Councils, examines the case for road pricing - charging for the use of certain parts of the road system at particularly congested times.”

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saving, Not Spending

Letter in the Cambridge Evening News:

I AM instructed by Alistair Darling that I should go out and spend because he cut VAT on Monday.

Should I? I don't think so.

When I read the small print in his speech, I realised that I will be taxed more from 2011 to pay for today (Thursday, 27 November)'s giveaway.

And to pay for the interest on the extra debt that he will incur in the next three years.

Sounds like more extra tax than he has chosen to admit.

So I'm not going to spend, I'm going to save so that I am still solvent after Gordon and Alistair tax me to pay off their credit card.

Chairman
City of Cambridge Conservatives
Belvoir Road
Cambridge

27th November

Monday, November 24, 2008

Labour's Tax Bombshell

A Budget aimed at the pockets of Britain’s families.
Today’s announcement was a £20 billion temporary tax giveaway, then almost £40 billion of announced permanent tax rises – that’s almost £1,500 for every family. Hidden in the small print is another £100 billion of unspecified tax rises to come.

Labour’s Chancellor, in one move, has doubled the national debt to more than £1 trillion, and borrowed more than at any time in our history.


A Better Way…

Conservatives have repeatedly made the point that Gordon Brown failed to fix the roof when the sun was shining. This means we went into the recession with the largest budget deficit of any major economy.


We should:


Introduce an independent Office for Budget Responsibility that would make the budget forecasts and hold governments to account; and

Reduce the growth rate of spending in 2010-11 and future years below the levels currently forecast by the Government.


We need radical new approaches to get credit and money to start to flow again, including the establishment of new institutions to underwrite lending so that businesses can get the money they need. These measures could include government guarantees for new business lending, provided at a fee to protect taxpayers. And because the underlying fiscal position is so poor, a borrowing binge would only add to our problems in the near future. It would force the government to raise taxes, placing a bombshell under any recovery.

24th November 2008


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Success as BBC withdraws threat to independent local news

"Why should local newspapers have to face subsidised competition from the BBC?" asks Richard Normington.

He wrote to the BBC Trust Chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, calling on the BBC Trust to reject the proposal to spend £23 million a year of license payers' money on a local news video-on-demand service.


Sir Michael Lyons

Chairman, BBC Trust

Dear Sir Michael,


I am writing to object to the BBC's plans to use £23 million of license payers' money to move into the local news video-on-demand market that is already served by private providers, in my case the Cambridge News. This is not expanding choice, it is a state provider crowding out the existing private market. I suggest that the money be returned to licence payers or used to produce quality programmes on Radio Cambridgeshire, Radio 4 or BBC1.

Yours sincerely,


Richard Normington

Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman

Cambridge



Sir Michael confirmed the decision to withdraw the proposal:



Our ref: 16050469/2


Dear Mr Normington


I am writing to update you on the BBC Trust’s decision regarding BBC management’s local video proposal.


Last Friday the Trust announced that we had refused permission for the proposal because we had determined that it would not improve services for the public enough to justify either the investment of licence fee funds or the negative impact on commercial media. It was clear from the Public Value Test process we have just undertaken that, although licence fee payers want better regional and local services from the BBC, BBC management’s proposal was unlikely to achieve this. We also recognised the negative impact that the local video proposition could have on commercial media services which are valued by the public and are already under pressure.


Our provisional conclusions along with the supporting documentation, including the Public Value Assessment and audience research, can be found on our website, although we would be happy to provide a paper copy if that would be helpful (http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/consult/open_consultations/local_video_prov.html).


Our decision not to approve local video is now open to public consultation until 5 January at the above site should you wish to contribute. We expect to publish our final decision by 25 February.


I hope that this update is helpful.


Yours sincerely



Sir Michael Lyons
Chairman


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lights, Skates, Action!

A lovely Christmas lights switch on in the city. Together with Stacey and the new baby, we visited the stalls, watched the procession and cheered the countdown. Afterwards we walked home, stopping for a tasty bratwurst and mulled wine at the skating rink. Cambridge can be a super city to live in, and this was one of those days.

Thanks to everyone who made today possible - including the council, the Cambridge News and Q103.

Richard Normington

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Labour's 'Mugabenomics' Warning.

With the clock ticking down Gordon Brown’s time as Prime Minister, we should be aware of his scortched earth option – to borrow or print money while increasing spending on special interest groups, political allies and marginal seats. For him, this only needs to work until election day. For us, the effects would be felt for a very long time.

Unfunded borrowing adds to the national debt, the repayment charges become more expensive, the costs pile on for future years and the economy pays for it by being stifled by taxes for years to come.

Instead, we propose:

A responsible fiscal policy, with an independent Office of Budget Responsibility to hold every government to account;
Economic responsibility:
  • A responsible financial policy, bolstered by a renewed role for the Bank of England in monitoring overall debt levels; and

  • A responsible attitude to economic development, which fosters more balanced economic growth.

Fully funded tax cuts, not
unfunded "tax cons" from Labour:


A 2-year council tax freeze, paid for by cutting back on government advertising and consultancy fees:

£2.6 billion of tax breaks would be given to employers in total – and this would be paid for using the money saved on welfare payments. The scheme would create new jobs, boost the economy and reduce the damaging social costs associated with unemployment. As it would be funded from lower spending on unemployment benefits, it would be revenue neutral overall for the Government.

Also see
http://www.order-order.com/2008/11/gavyn-davies-advocates-mugabinomics.html

Thursday, November 13, 2008

End to Labour's Post Office Dithering Welcomed

The contract to run the Post Office Card Account (POCA) is to be awarded to Post Office Ltd. There was speculation that the Government were going to award this to another company, threatening an extra wave of Post Office closures.

Making more of POCA is part of the Conservative action plan for Post Offices, announced this summer.

Richard Normington commented, “The whole contract process produced unnecessary worry and destabilisation at a time when local Post Offices needed certainty. This was the right decision, but the dithering was damaging. Britain's postal service deserves better.”

13th November 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Clinton Toxic Loan Legacy

‘The origin of the subprime debacle was the well-intended affordable housing legislation passed under the Clinton administration that enjoined the banks, under pain of sanction, to lend to previously unqualified mortgage applicants’

November 2008

www.financialworld.co.uk

Another comment on laws of unintended consequences...

Or as the 1996 US presidential election bumper sticker said, "The road to Hell is paved with Liberals".

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Homes Threatened by Labour’s Law Changes

Ministers are to give bailiffs new powers to break down the door of family homes to collect debts, such as an unpaid parking ticket or TV licence.

Parliamentary spokesman, Richard Normington commented:

“Borrowers must be responsible for their debts, but Labour lacks any sense of proportion. The government is to allow unscrupulous lenders to force families to out of their homes for small sums, such as missing credit card payments.”

“First, families should not be forced to sell their homes to repay relatively small debts. That is why the Conservatives propose new rules to prevent anyone from being forced to sell to repay unsecured debts of less than £25,000.”

“Second, innocent people will but put at risk. I know from first-hand experience that the databases used by firms are often faulty. One company is trying to collect for a debt racked-up by someone who used to live in my own house; despite letters and phone calls to say they had left before I moved in almost a year ago!”

Further Details

Losing your home if you can’t pay your credit card: The Government is pushing through new laws to make it easier for lenders to obtain charging orders. These orders convert unsecured debt, such as credit card debt, into secured debt by giving lenders a stake in the borrower’s home. They are also the first step in obtaining an ‘order of sale’. The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 amends the law to allow charging orders to be granted even when the borrower is paying off their debt in accordance with a county court judgement. Although the new provision has been passed into law it has not yet been ‘commenced’. Conservatives are calling for the Government to pledge that they will not enforce this section of the Act, and the provisions will be repealed at the earliest opportunity.

New bailiff laws: Through the same Act, the Government is changing the law to increase bailiffs’ powers of entry and undermines long-standing common law rights dating back centuries. This also raises the prospect of such powers being used to enforce parking tickets, an unpaid TV licence, an unpaid congestion charge or unpaid credit card debts.

Over and above existing entry powers: Prior to this Act, bailiffs mostly only had rights of ‘peaceful entry’ - entering a home if they are allowed in, if the door is left unlocked or if a window is open. They cannot enter by pushing past people to get inside, by breaking windows, doors or locks, or if asked in by a young child. (House of Commons Library, Standard Note SN/HA/4103: Bailiffs, October 2006, p.4).

Public in the dark on new entry powers: A power to force entry does already exist for unpaid fines imposed for criminal offences, by virtue of a law passed by Labour in 2004. The Government has refused to publish in full its ‘bailiffs bible’ that has been produced on the powers to force entry under the 2004 Act, raising additional concerns about how bailiffs will operate when using their new powers under the 2007 Act (Guidance from HM Courts Service; issue highlighted in Hansard, 5 March 2007, col. 1354).

Government warned: Conservatives opposed these plans when the law was before Parliament. Shadow Minister, Henry Bellingham MP, warned: “When there is unprecedented debt in society, when huge heartache and grief are caused by debt and there is ever-increasing abuse by bailiffs – albeit only a small minority – it is not the time to be giving bailiffs extra powers and putting into reverse some key constitutional principles” (Hansard, 5 March 2007, col. 1354).

The Conservative Alternative. Conservatives are calling for new rules to prevent families from losing their homes as a result of relatively small credit card bills or other unsecured loans. We would introduce a new threshold to prevent borrowers from being forced to sell their homes to pay off unsecured debts worth less than £25,000. Unsecured debt, such a credit card bills, carries very high interest rates because, unlike a mortgage, lenders cannot take ownership of an asset if the borrower defaults. These high interest rates, often as much as 25 per cent, are the cost of this extra risk. But, currently lenders can charge extortionate interest rates and then obtain security through charging orders and orders for sale. We do not believe that families’ homes should ever be at risk as a result relatively small credit card debts, so will introduce new legislation to ensure that orders for sale are never issued for unsecured debts worth less than £25,000.

8th November 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hope trumps experience

On 4th November Americans voted for Barack Obama to be the next president. He represented hope for a fresh, brighter future over the past experience offered by John McCain.

Elections are about deciding who people want to lead their country for the coming years, and not just a referendum on past performance. With Labour's record, and the Conservative agenda for a better Britain, these are two powerful reasons why Gordon Brown has the most to fear from the Illinois senator’s success.

Plan to Halt Housing Nightmare

Cambridge Conservatives slammed renewed Labour attempts to force unsustainable levels of housing development on Cambridgeshire, including so-called eco-towns such as Hanley Grange.

Richard Normington, Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman for Cambridge, commented:

"We need more housing but Labour's top-down targets are a recipe for soulless dormitory developments, not real communities."

"Every time house building falls behind Labour's target, they simply increase the target. It's like Canute's advisers hoping that stronger language could stop the sea from coming in. Despite the Government's ambitious target, house building rates, including social have been stuck below the levels of previous Conservative governments since 1997."


"We should listen to what people want and build a more diverse spread of housing, including gardens and adequate parking, which would be more likely to attract support from communities."

The Conservatives have pledged to drop the 'top-down' housing targets and give local councils greater powers to decide what are appropriate developments for their areas. This includes the plan to sweep away unelected regional assemblies which could undermine attempts to put unpopular developments such as Hanley Grange back onto the table.

November 2008

Brown's Golden Botch

The Labour Government has sold 395 tonnes of gold since July 1999. The sales raised £1.9billion. At today's prices those sales would have been worth £5.7billion. Under Gordon Brown's direction, this decision has lost the country more money than it did on 'Back Wednesday' in 1992 when the pound left the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

At least Black Wednesday had the silver lining of ensuring that we never join the euro. There is nothing to redeem Brown's Golden Botch.

(as noted in today's Daily Mail and Conservative Home)

Richard Normington

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Today's Letter on Identity Cards

This letter from Councillor Chris Howell was published in today's Cambridge News:

I HAVEN'T led a particularly sheltered life, but I confess to never being in "difficult situations [where] the police need a quick and reliable identification" as described by Mr Gazeley in his recent letter. But then I also disagree that Cambridge is so dangerous we need to hold up undemocratic regimes like China, where police can stop you just to demand papers, as models for law enforcement.

If a police officer did need to question my identity, there would be no problem using a combination of questioning, examining existing forms of identity and applying thought and common sense - a test that would be failed by someone trying to hide their identity.

The last thing needed is the planned ID card backed up by a huge "big brother" database.

Police, assuming cards are infallible, will not question it if the information on the card is consistent with the full complex set of personal circumstances that actually defines an identity. Of course criminals will have fake ID cards - it only takes one person to infiltrate the thousands of bureaucrats in whose hands our valuable identities will then rest.

The ID card and database will then be an expensive white elephant that will hand my identity over to the state and put me more at risk from criminals faking their ID, which is why I will never co-operate with the scheme.

Coleridge Ward
Cambridge City Council

See some of Cllr Howell's blog posts on identity cards.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cambridge Conservatives Add Voice to Call to Give Local Firms Easier Access to Government Contracts.

Richard Normington commented, “These are tough economic times, and we need new ideas to help take us out of recession, not Labour's stale diet of borrow-and-forget. Our proposals are part of the Conservative plan to help small business across the country. We want to cut red tape, increase the transparency of the contract-making and give entrepreneurs of all sizes a level playing field to compete for contracts."

The key proposals are:

· Scrapping the rule requiring companies to provide three years of audited accounts when bidding for government contracts. This unnecessary rule locks start-up companies out of the procurement system – simply because new companies may not have three years of audited accounts.
· Introducing a single questionnaire to be allowed to bid for government contracts worth less than £50,000. This would only have to be filled in once and logged for future contract bids. This will radically reduce the administrative burden involved in bidding for government contracts.
· Requiring all government contracts worth over £10,000 to be published online, so that small companies can for the first time find out exactly what contracts are available. At present, it is not mandatory for contracts to be published online. As a result, over 75 per cent of small and medium firms report that it is difficult to find out about procurement opportunities.
· Aiming for 25 per cent of government contracts to be awarded to small and medium enterprises. This is something that United States federal government does, and would help overcome the risk aversion that leads to them being overlooked for government contracts.

He added, “Small businesses are an essential part of the economy, especially in rising industries like the ones found in the Cambridge area. Companies from all sectors will benefit from our plans. They include deferring VAT bills, cutting payroll taxes by 1p and reducing the small company corporation tax rate."

3rd November 2008

National Labour Advert Admits Tory Surge in City





Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Guided Bus Deserves Support

This letter from Chris Howell was published in Monday's Cambridge News, but not in the online edition:

THE Liberal Democrats' behaviour over the Guided Bus is the worst kind of political opportunism. Where were their alternative proposals when the Guided Bus decision was made? Nowhere, because they knew then and now that all independent expert reviews indicated this was the only one to make any financial sense, and therefore the only option that could be funded and delivered.

The Conservative County Council is well on its way to making happen a scheme that will significant improve public transport and cycling - and they will be accountable for the outcome. If the Liberal Democrats had any sense of responsibility to taxpayers, they would do all they could to make the Guided Bus scheme work, instead we get continual carping and made up stories like their latest 'pollution scare'. Listening to this nonsense, you would think having any buses at all in Cambridge was a bad thing. Like their previous 'opposition' to A14 improvements, their stance is one of cynical posturing, which would result in no transport improvements ever in the County. It demonstrates why they would be totally unfit to run transport in Cambridgeshire.

Cllr Chris Howell
Cambridge City Council

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Weekly Collection Option Ignored in City Recycling Survey

Cambridge’s recycling record has fallen behind other councils in the county. Starting from a similar level, it is now behind Conservative controlled Huntingdonshire.

The city council, to give it credit, is trying to catch up. As part of the work to recover its reputation, the council is carrying out a survey of residents’ views. Visit www.cambridge.gov.uk/recyclingsurvey to fill out a short 10 minute online survey form.

It is not a perfect form, for example question 22 is about the blue box but has a reference to a black box in it. More worryingly, the option of having a weekly collection for the some of the boxes is simply not there. If you want it, you have to write it in yourself.

The Conservatives are committed to increasing collection rates, and increasing the frequency is one of the more obvious options. By ruling it out from the start, the Liberal Democrats are doing themselves and our city no favours.

Richard Normington

22nd October 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Congratulations to the County Council.

After a debate in today's council meeting, Cambridgeshire county councillors today voted to oppose Labour’s ID card scheme.

I have to declare a personal interest because Councillor Susan Normington of Ramsey, my mother, contributed to the final motion that was approved by Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors.

Richard Normington

Monday, October 20, 2008

Who guards the guards?

Another day, another Identity-based embarrassment for the Labour government.

"Staff at the two government departments responsible for prisons and ID cards have lost or had stolen nearly 3,500 security passes in six years, it was revealed. Home Office and Ministry of Justice employees have mislaid 3,492 passes since 2001, official figures revealed. Between 2001 and 2007 passes went missing at a rate of more than one a day, the figures showed." (aol news).

Tomorrow the county council will discuss Labour's compulsory ID card scheme. The Conservative group will oppose the scheme, wanting to concentrate on delivering necessary services for our county, like schools and roads.

Richard Normington

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gordon should have read David's speech in March

This is part of a speech delivered by David Cameron on 28th March this year. The problems with the banking sector were recognised by the Conservatives. It took a banking sector shock and stock exchange collapse to get the government to catch up.

“As well as the reforms we have outlined for the UK financial system, we need reforms at a global level too. So let me suggest one important reform that needs to take place in light of the recent crisis in world banking.

“The Basel capital accords determine how much capital a bank must set aside for a given amount of lending. This makes good sense, and, for obvious reasons, it is right to set the rules at a global level. But economists have identified some key problems with the current Basel accord.

“First, the rules on liquidity, which has been at the core of the current crisis, are too weak. Banks can operate with enough funding only to survive for a couple of weeks, but still be within the rules. Second, we need to examine which asset classes and which institutions are covered by existing rules. For example, the zero-weighting of some triple A assets has led to distortions in asset allocation. Put simply, some of the debts were kept off balance sheet so they didn’t count as lending under the rules.

“Third, judgements about credit risk were delegated to rating agencies who themselves had incentives to expand the amount of lending that was allowed under the rules. Put simply, because they are paid fees for rating debts, credit rating agencies had an interest in there being as much debt as possible. Finally, market risk was measured by backward looking models which tend to exacerbate the credit cycle, not dampen it. When credit is easy, the models allow more lending. When credit tightens, the models reduce the amount of permitted lending.

“In short, liquidity risk was all but ignored, credit risk was delegated, and market risk was backward looking. And we now know that not only did the regulators not know, but too often the banks themselves didn’t know, the full extent of the risks they were subjected to.

This extract comes from conservativehome.blogs.com - a useful source of information, comment and opinion. The full speech can be found at http://www.conservatives.com/News/Speeches/2008/03/David_Cameron_A_Conservative_Economic_Strategy.aspx.

Richard Normington

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Laws of Unintended Consequences

The Financial Times reports: “Anti-terrorism powers were used on Wednesday to recoup money owed to UK depositors in a failed Icelandic bank… the freezing order was issued under the 2001 Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act that was passed after the September 11 attacks the same year.”

Earlier it was reported how the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) allows operations to fight terrorism as well as dog fouling, enforcing school catchment areas and fly-tipping.

Now, just imagine what mischief the government could do with the national identity database.

The ID cards, and their database, must be stopped before we all become victims of Labour’s laws of unintended consequences.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Back to Square One

When Labour came to power in May 1997, the stock exchange's FTSE 100 index was at 4,445 points. This morning it stands at 4,402

A typical with-profits pension, after saving for 20 years, is worth less than half what it would have been in 1997. The rates used to convert pension funds into income have also fallen by almost half.

Labour: Eleven Wasted Years.

Richard Normington

Lazy Lib Dems back Gordon Brown’s wasteful regime.

City Conservative plans to restore weekly rubbish collection were today rejected out of hand by Cambridge’s Liberal Democrats.

Richard Normington, parliamentary spokesman, said,

“What we got was a lazy, knee-jerk response from a council that is growing more and more out-of-touch with what residents want.

Residents want the chance for their rubbish to be collected more often than it is today.

If elected, a Conservative government will offer
central funding to all councils for a proper weekly collection, as well as comprehensive recycling collections. That’s an offer that should be looked at by councils, regardless of political control."

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Today's Letter on Housing Targets




This letter from Andrew Bower was published in today's Cambridge News, but not in the online edition:



Friday, October 3, 2008

A full-time Secretary of State for Defence?

"Mr Browne is to leave the government... He was offered another job but he felt it would be an insult to the armed forces to leave as defence secretary but take another job." (BBC News Online).

If that's the case, why did he and Gordon Brown think that it was not insulting to be a part-time defence secretary, sharing his working day with the Scottish Office?

Richard Normington

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Good News - Good Conference

This year’s Conservative conference had good news for Cambridge residents. The pledges that struck me as the best for making the city better were:
  • Restoring the weekly rubbish collections. Recycling and regular collection go hand-in-hand. Bringing back weekly collections also reduces fly-tipping, a serious nuisance to health as well as an eyesore.

  • Cutting the housing targets and the regional bureaucracy that is there to impose them. John Prescott may have left the government but the belief that we should shoehorn people into more developments to meet arbitrary housing targets outlasted him. Returning decision-making to local authorities is a common sense solution.

  • Freezing the council tax. This local tax has been used by Labour as a way to raise relentlessly the tax levels indirectly for millions of people; it is time to call a halt to stealth taxes.

  • Restoring Confidence in the economy. Labour inherited a golden economic legacy. It was squandered. We will all have to help clear up the mess. Until the General Election, the Conservatives will support sensible government measures and criticise short-term fixes. After the General Election, it will be up to us to reverse Labour’s legacy of failure.

Richard Normington

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Today's Letter on Weekly Refuse Collections

This letter from Councillor Chris Howell was published in today's Cambridge News:

I WELCOME the Conservative announcement that weekly bin collections will return if David Cameron wins the next election.

We need to be better at recycling, or to be more precise, we need to reduce the amount of waste we landfill. But the right way to do that is to make recycling easier and more convenient, and to work with manufacturers and companies to reduce the waste material produced in the first place, then trust people to behave responsibly.

Under Labour, there has been a different approach - extreme nannying to force people to recycle, with a whole load of more sinister bullying planned like micro-chipped bins and new bin taxes and fines so Big Brother can really try to control personally what people put into bins.

It is easy for local councils to forget that for many people the most readily identifiable service provided by local authorities is the collection of household refuse. And many people feel that by abolishing weekly collections the service levels they experience from their local council have halved. The latest Conservative announcement is great news.

Coleridge Ward
Cambridge City Council

See original letter and Cllr Howell's blog.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

No Need for Congestion Charging with a Conservative Government

A Conservative Government would drop Labour's demands for Congestion Charging to be included in TIF bids for vital transport infrastructure funding.

With the recent resignation of Ruth Kelly as Transport Secretary, Cambridge Conservatives call upon Labour to drop their congestion charging blackmail and allow Cambridgeshire to submit a bid for the funds that we need to support the growth planned for our area without having to wait for a Conservative Government.

Andrew Bower

Monday, September 29, 2008

Two-year freeze in council tax welcomed.

The announcement of a council tax freeze at the Conservative Conference will save a typical Band D household over £200 a year.

For years the council tax was used by Labour as the ultimate stealth tax. Now, instead of council tax bills going up year after year under Labour, people will get help at the time they need it most. The costs for the council tax freeze will be shared between local and central government. Any council that makes savings to keep its annual council tax increase to 2.5 per cent or below will receive extra money from central government to reduce council tax bills by a further 2.5 per cent.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Conservatives to Restore Weekly Rubbish Collections





City Conservatives welcome the news that a Conservative Government would help to restore weekly refuse collections.

The Labour Government has been bullying individuals, families and local councils with ever more draconian measures to force them to recycle, including land fill taxes for overstretched local authorities, the prospect of microchips in bins and encouraging neighbours to spy on each other.

Conservative-controlled Cambridgeshire County Council is streets ahead of the rest of the country with a recycling rate of 54.4%, compared with an average for England of 33.9%. A survey by the County Council shows that residents are enthusiastic about playing their part in looking after our planet. But many people, while willing to do their best to separate their rubbish out fully, find the two-week gap between collections leads to storage difficulties and hygiene problems.

The proposals from Conservative Local Government spokesman Eric Pickles include:


  • Changing Whitehall policy so that there is an expectation that councils should offer full weekly collections, reversing Labour’s policy of bin cuts

  • Offering central funding to all councils for a proper weekly collection, as well as comprehensive recycling collections

  • Scrapping Gordon Brown’s plans for new bin taxes

Local campaigner Andrew Bower says, "Improving the service experienced by residents does not have to lead to a reduction in recycling rates. With some imagination we should be able to improve both. These latest proposals from Eric Pickles are just what we need in Cambridge."

27th September 2008


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Liberal Democrats finally get a mention in 'The Sun'...

"Taxes for Libs"

"WE RARELY waste space on the unworldly Lib Dems.

They spend too much time trying to raise taxes, increase spending and surrender to Brussels.

That’s why they are on a miserable 16 per cent in the polls.

But what’s this? The sandal-wearers have had a brainstorm. They want to SLASH spending, CUT taxes and ditch plans to join the euro?

Why don’t they save time and just join the Tories?"

.... Because the leadership will say anything to gain a vote, is the most likely answer. Just as they chased Labour supporters in earlier elections to maximise an anti-Conservative vote, now the Lib Dems are trying to be 'more anti-Labour than thou' in search of Conservative support.

The choice at the next election is between a Labour or a Conservative government. Ticking the 'don't know' box will not move Labour out of Downing Street, and having a 'don't know'' MP means that the city will never get a voice heard at the heart of government, able to influence debates and stand up for the city's interests on the issues that matter.

Richard Normington

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lib Dems Refuse to Reform Scrutiny at Guildhall




Once again the Lib Dems running Cambridge City Council ducked an opportunity to improve the quality of decisions made by the council at a full meeting of the council last night.  They should learn from the County Council, which this year won an award for the quality of its scrutiny.


Since the Local Government Act 2000, district councils, like the City Council, have been required to adopt one of a number of 'strong government' models.  Cambridge therefore replaced the old committee system with a set of 'executive councillors'.


Unfortunately the Lib Dems have chosen to stuff all of the scrutiny committees with chairmen from their own group, rendering those committees completely useless at holding the executive to account.


While City Conservatives respect the right of the elected ruling Lib Dem group to try to implement its own set of priorities, the crony scrutiny system is unacceptable.


Both Lib Dem and Labour county councillors from within Cambridge have been known to praise the County Council for running an effective scrutiny system and allowing opposition councillors to chair scrutiny committees and even the Lib Dem leader, Mr Clegg, has praised (p. 6) his party in Kingston for running such a system.  We challenge the local Lib Dems to think again.


Andrew Bower



Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Today's Letter on Post Office closures

This letter was published in today's Cambridge Evening News, but not in the online edition:

Dear sir,

The letter (3rd September) from a Labour spokesman on Post Office closures was both eloquent and deficient.

He is right to point out the failures of the closure consultation process. The plans to shut St Johns Post Office in Hills Road are deeply flawed for reasons that he, and Chris Howell his Conservative successor as a Coleridge councillor, have set out.

However, from his letter there is no sense of Labour’s responsibility for the closure scheme in the first place. He does not, for obvious reasons, tell us that it is a Labour government that started the closure process. Labour have set the guidelines for deciding those closures with no positive campaign to find better ways of delivering Post Office services, or expanding into new services.

When even Labour candidates distance themselves from their own government, isn’t it time for change?

Yours faithfully,

Richard Normington
___________________________

Richard Normington

Parliamentary Spokesman

City of Cambridge Conservatives

Monday, September 8, 2008

Union reveals Cambridge City tax collection rate worsens.






Cambridge City Council’s tax collection rate worsened by £110,000 compared to last year, according to figures released today by the GMB trade union. 




A grand total of £1,139,000 of tax was not collected by the Liberal Democrat council.  It continues to hold the unenviable position at the bottom of the county’s collection efficiency league table.   




 




Sunday, September 7, 2008

More Reasons to Doubt ID Card Plans


Today the Government announced losing the details of a further 5,000 people, this time employees of the Justice Ministry. See “Data on 5,000 justice staff lost" - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7602402.stm.



These are 5,000 further reasons why the proposed national identity register, a necessary part of the ID Cards scheme, needs to be stopped.


The ID Cards database would become a government-hosted one-stop-shop for identity thieves.


Richard Normington

Thursday, September 4, 2008

If They Haven't Heard You, You Haven't Said It

If there are issues that concern you or your family, and you want to know where the City Conservatives stand on them, don't wait for the local press but use the feedback forms to get in touch.

If They Haven’t Heard You, You Haven’t Said It,” is a quote from a former Downing Street adviser. One of the roles of this website is to enable Cambridge residents to read views and comments that are not found in the local papers. This absence is not due to a lack of press releases, or not attending meetings, but because the information is not always taken up by the media.

Examples this year of news omissions or diversions include…
Richard Normington

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labour's Stamp Duty Dithering

Today’s announcement on Stamp Duty is almost two months after the city Tories called for action.

Richard Normington, the City’s Conservative spokesman, said, “We called for action on Stamp Duty on 4th July. Labour reacted two months later. Labour’s Stamp Duty dithering stalled the housing market unnecessarily. This is too little, too late.”


"We believe in encouraging homeownership, not putting obstacles in people’s way. And that is why the next Conservative Government will abolish Stamp Duty for 9 out of 10 first-time buyers. Anyone who buys their first home for under £250,000 will pay no Stamp Duty at all. This will take 200,000 people a year out of Stamp Duty altogether."


The economy has not improved in the two month dither:

“Today the OECD, an independent judge of Britain’s economic performance, predicts the second half of the year will see us in recession. So much for Labour’s supposed end to ‘Boom and Bust’. ”


2nd September 2008


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Action to Help with Energy Bills and add to the Post Office's Services

City Conservatives support proposals for helping less well-off families with their energy bills.

Parliamentary spokesman, Richard Normington, said:

“Many of the poorest households pay more for their energy and water bills because they do not have bank accounts and cannot pay by direct debit.

“A Conservative Government will reform Post Office Card Accounts so that they can be used for the first time to pay utility bills by direct debit.

“These plans will also bring in extra money for Post Offices, helping keep our network and stave off more Labour cuts.”


There are 8 million people in the UK who do not have a bank account or are effectively without a bank. Many of them use Card Accounts instead. However, because they cannot pay their bills by direct debit, they face higher prices for gas, electricity and water.

The aim is to reform Post Office Card Accounts so that families without bank accounts can benefit from the lower energy and water tariffs offered to customers paying by direct debit.

This could cut the energy bills of up to 4 million Post Office Card Account (POCA) holders by up to £100 a year.

1. How the policy will work.

The Post Office Card Account (POCA) is a basic cash account run by the Department for Work and Pensions, which can only receive welfare, state pension and tax credit deposits.

A Conservative Government will expand and widen the role of POCA, both enabling it to accept additional deposits – including housing benefit and any weekly wages – and create sub-accounts which can be used for direct debit payments on a full range of public and private sector bills, including utilities.

Based on evidence from industry, vulnerable customers ‘cost’ utility companies on average double the amount of non-vulnerable customers. This is because of higher collection costs.

The running costs of the additional functionality will be met in full by participating energy companies. A number of utility companies, including EDF, United Utilities and Water UK (the representative body for UK water companies) have endorsed this proposal.

2. Who will benefit

According to the latest Treasury figures, over 2 million people do not have access to a bank account (HM Treasury, Family Resources Survey, 23 July 2008). However, research by the social enterprise Saving for Poverty has shown that the figures for those who are unbanked or act as unbanked (because they withdraw all their cash on a week-by-week basis) is actually nearer to 8 million.

Not being able to pay bills by monthly direct debit adds a substantial penalty onto household bills – primarily because of the higher collection costs faced by energy companies dealing with unbanked customers.

Amongst the six main energy suppliers, direct debit customers save up to £80 a year over standard customers, and save £122 a year over pre-payment meter customers according to the latest available figures from Energywatch. These figures are even higher when compared to online direct debit payments.

Save the Children has estimated that the ‘poverty premium’ costs an average £1,000 per year. This figure includes fees arising from the use of non-mainstream credit lenders who can charge as much as 170 per cent interest.

Utility companies will use the cost savings generated through these customers paying through automated direct debit style processes – estimated by Saving for Poverty to be up to £800 million a year – to offer lower rates to these users, bringing them broadly into line with traditional direct debit customers. This equates to £100 per POCA customer.

3. Energy bills rising

Fuel prices have risen by an average 23 per cent since January 2008. The average family energy bill will now cost £1,126 (source: Uswitch website, August 2008).

Household energy bills may climb by 40 per cent by the end of the year, reflecting a 74 per cent increase in the price of wholesale gas from January (BBC News Online, 18 June 2008).

UK electricity prices, excluding taxes, are now the sixth highest in the EU 15, and 7.4% above the median price (BERR Select Committee report, Energy Prices, Fuel Poverty and Ofgem, August 2008).

The systematic rises across the domestic retail market has pushed an extra 600,000 people into fuel poverty since the start of the year. There are now 4.5 million fuel poor customers in the UK. Older people are more likely to be affected by fuel poverty than any other group. Age Concern has estimated there are now more than 2.25 million older households in fuel poverty in the UK.

4. Post Office Card Under Threat

The current Post Office Card Account contract ends in 2010. Gordon Brown’s Government is replacing it with a new contract (so-called ‘POCA2’), but due to EU rules, it has to put the new contract out to competitive tender. The National Federation of Sub-Postmasters has stated that 3,000 post offices will forced to close if the Post Office Ltd loses its contract for the Card Account. The Card Account is used by 4 million people each week to access pensions and benefits.

By contrast, under Conservative proposals, fees from utility companies for this POCA functionality are projected to generate £20 million in additional revenues for post offices each year. Post Office Ltd makes a saving of approximately £18,000 from the closure of each individual post office. The £20 million of additional revenues could therefore help to keep more post offices open and help suspend Labour’s programme of forced post office cuts.

26th August 2008

A Question for Labour...

Why do the armed forces get a part-time minister but the Olympic games a full-time one?

Richard Normington


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

News – But Not Reported in the Cambridge Evening News

If you read today's Cambridge News, you would think that only the Labour and Liberal Democrats spoke at the public meeting on Post Office closures.

Speaking as a member of the Question Time-style panel, Conservative spokesman Richard Normington said, "The Government doesn't know what it is doing. It can't make up its mind if the Post Office is there to make money and maximise profit or to provide a social service and public value. I believe Post offices are a vital part of our social fabric and local community and they must be preserved."

He added, "It is highly hypocritical of Labour ministers to propose closures nationally and then oppose them in their own back yards. If Gordon Brown's own the cabinet thinks the policy is bad, what are we to make of it?"


12th August 2008
Richard Normington

/

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rally for Chinese Freedom Taking Place in Cambridge

In a message to a rally in the city today in support of freedom in China, parliamentary spokesman Richard Normington said: "It is nine years since the Communist-led one-party state in China banned the Falun Gong.

Today the practitioners of Falun Gong, unregistered Protestants, “underground” Roman Catholics, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims can all face long prison sentences, torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Similar measures to control beliefs have been introduced in countries such as Cuba and Belarus.

I support freedom of speech and thought as one of the birthrights of Britons. Now they should be the right of every citizen in every nation, especially China.

I wish your rally every success in showing that the Chinese people’s demand for freedom is alive and commanding support from across the world."

Richard Normington