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.

City of Cambridge Conservatives
Belvoir Road

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


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 (

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

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

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

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