Thursday, 18 August 2011

Lets Bang Everybody Up!

I am not a hang 'em, flog 'em, lock 'em up type myself. I have done enough work in prisons to know what they are really like. I think every knee jerk bang 'em up type should spend a week in Lincoln Prison and let us know how he (it usually is a he) feels about it afterwards. I have worked with enough young people to know that in the majority of cases there are alternatives to prison. Sentences should be appropriate and so too should the nature of where we bang people up and thats a debate worth having too.

But: We are angry are we not. We have watched loads of "hoodies" piling into places and stealing, damaging and burning. We want order and we want revenge, lets be honest about that.

That's easier to play to than dealing with the underlying issues like a lack of youth support services. I don't mean youth centre's either I mean places for people to live and be developed in the way their parents should have done or been able to do. By youth I am talking 14 to 26. The building of confidence, education and options away from the gang culture that has claimed so many lives is a seriously important objective.

Government is presiding over a reduction in those services when this will cost more than it saves and more importantly it will cost quality as well as loss of life for people who could make a contribution.

It would be easy to say from my political view point that the Tories will drop this ball but will they?
Iain Duncan Smith
Ian Duncan Smith MP
Ian Duncan Smith has said that the Tory government under Margaret Thatcher may have "freed up the markets" but missed "the next bit". Mr Cameron has already promised to boost a plan to help 120,000 troubled families through early intervention and Mr Duncan Smith denied that such a programme was unaffordable.
"We're spending a lot of money sending them off to offenders' institutions, to prison, intervening at all sorts of stages," he said.
"You can save a lot of that by getting these interventions right, earlier on."
Measures would include remedial education, work programmes, job interviews and drug addiction rehabilitation, he said here. Is this the Christian compassion of a committed spiritual person or is he reflecting also new values he detects within a Government many of us feel is simply failing the people.
The models he espouse though already exist and are operating here in Lincoln but also in other places and they have worked in my experience with over 70% of the young people who have engaged with those services and they are the one's who stayed the course. I mention some of the organisations here that carry out such work.

I wonder if...........................


Friday, 12 August 2011

Lincolnshire Did Not Riot, Why is That?

I was on Radio Lincolnshire 8.30 this morning (Monday 15th August), it was a  round table about the respect agenda in relation to the riots. Rod Whiting led a discussion with Robert Dring (a retired Boston Head Teacher) and I. For a while you can find the broadcast here.  I thought it would be interesting to talk about why the riots happened and also why they did not happen here in Lincolnshire.
images of the community
  •      They did not riot, not in Lincoln, Boston, Stamford, or Grantham.
  •         They were calm in Sleaford, Alford, Mablethorpe and Bourne.
  •         There was not a hard word in Market Deeping, Horncastle or Spalding.
  •         Cows passively munched serene in Skegness, Spilseby and Wainfleet. 

None of our communities rioted

This is the Rod Whiting show, one of the most popular of the chat shows on local radio with its mix of serendipity and serious talk.
Tony McCardle Chief Executive Lincs County Council
supporting the opening of the Catch-22 Youth Advice Centre.

We discussed the need to ensure funding for LEAP, Catch-22, Framework & Nomad continued at their present levels supporting vulnerable young people. We also discussed the absence of a moral compass in our society and Robert particularly discussed what the man from Galilee would be asking of us, we should love our neighbour and I agreed with him.

    Rod now and again will ask a County person with a story to tell on to the show and we did that last year to chat about the range of things that have kept me off (and on) the streets over the last thirty years or so in this fair County.

    I noticed the take with Question time on Thursday night was to try to allow the public to bring out all of the real life issues and not just the politics. It happened again tonight with Young Voters Question Time. This is the BBC at its best, helping us to explore the issues, giving the people their voice.
    There was a point while I was listening when someone described a burning building and the fear of being attacked. I was swept right back nearly 40 years to the streets of Belfast where as a young serviceman I recalled a similar scene.
    David Dimbleby is another of my favourites and like Rod he will keep people on topic but also allows the human equation to emerge.
    He chaired the Question Time when the leader of the BNP was on the panel and although I had felt originally that he should not appear by the end I was very pleased that the public were exposed to his position and could make their own judgement. David enabled that.
    I have been a regular audience member and question “asker” for many years and once dined with David and the panel when the Labour panel member had to leave early.
    So I hope people can listen to what will be a very interesting take on the situation via and hear our various views in Lincolnshire.

    Wednesday, 10 August 2011

    August 2011 Youth Riots Why?

    As Parliament is recalled should it posture or lead?

    There are solutions but action is needed not empty words and Parliament may need to tell the Executive what to do.
    As part of the analysis that needs to take place the British Government of the last three years (both) need to see how far reductions in support to vulnerable young people has been reduced and in what key areas. So, for example, reductions to Catch-22 or YMCA services for example  will result in less support for young people (16 - 26) deemed in or likely to be in crime. This is not an excuse to excuse the thugs of the last few nights, If they had been residents in my old services I would want them dealt with but I would want to know why we had failed. If the service has been reduced however that might be the reason for failure. There is a need to understand why there is a problem now and what we do about it and its not enough just to highlight a lack of funding by the present Government or ring our hands over violence. Its not enough to put the issue thats our collective responsibility back on a Police service Government was trying to reduce either. The Police have done their job, now we must do ours and seek long term solutions.

    Youth crime was in hand until fairly recently and reducing, not perfect but getting there in many places. What changed and why?.

     I think we may find that short termism is part of the problem. Initiatives started under Major/Blair had started to work but towards the end of the Brown era the temptation to cut "old programmes" in the face of the bankers thuggery (Lehman Brothers and their friends have been just culpable as the rioters and have caused and continue to cause just as much misery). 

    In Lincolnshire youth crime has actually reduced for example, should we be looking at these figures and working out what worked?

    This Government should shoulder its share of the responsibility but so too must earlier administrations in treating youth support as a Cinderella service.


    What worked: Keep It, if it was cut and it related to youth support, look at returning it.
    Now is not the time for posturing or making fine speeches deploring violence - good as that will feel, now is the time for long term well tried solutions.

    A final but vital point:

    The vast majority of young people did not riot but stayed at home and looked after their friends and family.

    Sunday, 7 August 2011

    Why I want People To Vote Against the Death Penalty

    If you have already decided to oppose the death penalty proposal go here or copy paste this:
    First of all I am one of those people that doesn't like abortion, if it can be avoided and I don't like killing people if it can be avoided. I don't agree, usually, with the taking of human life.
    I have carried arms in the defence of the realm and I have witnessed a few conflicts. I appreciate that killing people happens as we all saw recently in Tottenham, sadly.
    There is a justification for killing people in an emergency as the only way of protecting innocents from harm and I have witnessed that. That's what happens in war, that's why those who have seen it first hand avoid war whenever possible. As soon as you bear arms in this country, and its not a right here, nor should it be, you become a soldier and you are subject to the rules of engagement. I happen to believe that only individuals so ordered by the lawfully elected authorities should carry arms in the defence of the people.
    As a Christian I can legitimately hold all of those views above. Every other world faith holds similar views although I appreciate individual Christians, including past Christian and other leaders have breached those views and laws usually in the pursuit of political power. Oliver Cromwell in this country was a good example and so was King Henry the Eighth & both of his daughters (I include Good Queen Bess). There have been Catholic leaders also who breached these beliefs and Catholic and other Christian leaders executed for opposing execution or state murder as it should properly be called.

    Taking a person who is in your custody and, for whatever reason and in whatever way, killing them is, according to the tenants of my faith, murder - because it is avoidable. Because it breaches the sixth Commandment.

    What if you are not a Christian or a member of one of the world's faiths?

    This argument was put by the petition creator Martin Shapland to oppose any change in our current position. Currently Britain opposes the death penalty here or in any other state.

     That the British people note that only 58 nations currently use capital punishment, as opposed to 95 which have abolished it, further notes the un-retractable nature of such a sentence in incidents of miscarriages of Justice, further notes the death penalty does not reduce crime or act as a deterrent and in US states which practice capital punishment incidents of homicide are higher than US states which do not, further notes the higher cost of capital punishment compared to life imprisonment, believes that British Justice should not be in the same league as China, Iran, North Korea, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Syria which do practice capital punishment on a routine basis and that the death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights and an affront to the values of British Justice.

    I think those are all points worth considering. There are many more arguments against I appreciate.

    Please just go here and vote against. Protect our Countries reputation as a civilised state.

    Friday, 5 August 2011

    Thursday, 4 August 2011

    The Joyous World of Libraries

    Windfield Road Library Today
    Stamford Library
    My mother would take me to the library from the day that I could walk, it was at the top of our road. By four years of age I could read because I wanted to explore this little library. It was at the top of Windfield Road in Garston, Liverpool and I read my first book there in about 1956. As a result of this and many libraries later I opposed, as the elected County Councillor, the closure of the Ermine library in Lincoln in about 2006. Sadly Windfield Road Library is no more and saw life as a chippy and then a hairdressers before its present sad demise. There is and always was a first class library a fifteen minute bus journey away within Garston called Bowden Road and I learned an affection for that big and more urban library but it was not that first love. When the small library went that little community lost something precious and it never came back. Ermine Library is still there and local people and local councillors will still campaign to keep it open. In the 50 years between the two libraries there has been a lifetime of that joyous exploration of the world that only libraries and books can bring. My first serious composition at the age of 14 was about a second hand book shop behind Lewis's in Liverpool that had been there since the 20's and I am writing this equally important missive now at the age of 58 still fascinated by the world of knowledge that books bring. My house is full of books probably as many as Windfield RoadLibrary held and my son is an avid reader and began as an explorer of that library. Then Stamford library came along, his first library and one of the most uniquely placed libraries I have encountered situated within the site of the old market. Its still there too and thriving. I remember using that library for research when planning some of the work to campaign for Stamford CAB, also still thriving. My wife too reads extensively and began in the same way brought up in Stamford. Now we have a library in my City Council Ward on Newark Road and the very impressive Central Library.
    File:Lincoln Central Library .jpg
    Lincoln Central Library
    Bracebridge Lincoln Library
     Yes, its difficult alongside new technology these days to understand why we have books for some. Some thought email and the Internet would destroy libraries but they adapted. I can see kindles and books in the same library as no doubt Greek libraries thousands of years ago had developing ways of storing the written word and as here the typeface replaced the gorgious calligraphy of the monks. That said, those forms are still around, preserved and often imitated. When all said and done though you can't beat the smell, texture and visual joy of a book, old or new.

    Tuesday, 2 August 2011

    Karl McCartney MP objects to my View regarding use of his expences

    Well I opened the Echo web site one day last week and found this:

    Lincolnshire MPs hired spouses on salaries of up to £40k
    Saturday, July 23, 2011
    Karl McCartney MP

    TWO MPs in Lincolnshire hired their spouses to run their office with salaries of up to £40,000, it has been revealed.
    The Conservative MP for Lincoln, Karl McCartney, and Boston and Skegness Tory MP Mark Simmonds both paid for the services of their wives to help with the running of their Westminster or constituency offices.
    The information was released by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (ISPA).
    Mr McCartney paid between £35,000 and £39,999 a year for his wife Cordelia to work as his office manager, the report revealed.
    He claimed £110,571 in total, including £85,455 on staffing costs and £12,916 on accommodation.
    He declined to comment.
    Mr Simmonds hires wife Lizbeth as his office manager with a salary of between £20,000 and £24,999 a year, claiming a total of £114,267 for staffing, accommodation and travel.
    Boston and Skegness Tory MP Mark Simmonds
    Hannah Daniel, spokesman for Mr Simmonds, said: "People will see the vast majority of MPs' expenses are spent on staffing costs. Mr Simmonds' staff are based in the constituency and in Westminster and all work incredibly hard delivering a first-class service to the constituents of Boston and Skegness."
    The data from IPSA shows each MP's overall expenditure on staffing, accommodation, constituency office costs, including office rental costs, general administration costs and travel and subsistence costs in the financial year 2010-11.
    Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Stephen Phillips claimed £58,334, including £47,795 in staffing costs and £2,366 on accommodation.
    Sleaford and North Hykeham Tory MP Stephen Phillips 
    Mr Phillips said: "Overall, I claimed less than 50 per cent of the amount I was entitled to. A total of £2,987 went towards the cost of my constituency office in Sleaford.
    "From my general admin budget, £1,922 was paid as part of the cost of setting up my offices and buying stationery. From my staffing budget, £47,795 covered the cost of employing three staff this year. From my accommodation budget, £2,366 went towards the costs of having to live and work in two locations.
    "And from my travel budget, which is unlimited, I spent £3,262 on travel to and from Parliament."
    Louth and Horncastle MP Sir Peter Tapsell 
    Tory MP Edward Leigh
    Louth and Horncastle MP Sir Peter Tapsell claimed £130,741, while Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh claimed £88,253.
    Tory MP John Hayes
    South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes claimed £111,148, including £87,331 on staffing costs and £6,480 on accommodation.
    Nick Boles MP
    Grantham and Stamford MP Nick Boles claimed £106,749, including £87,092 on staffing costs and £8,342 on accommodation.

     So I responded with this:

    Monday, July 25 2011, 12:21AM Lincolnshire Echo Website.

    Its not a surprise. I questioned Karl during the hustings on whether he would be a full time MP or would he take paid directorships and moonlight on our time. He said he would take paid directorships on the basis of being a "rounded" MP. His predecessor was a full time MP who did not give positions to members of her family.
    Karl came back with this:

    So I wrote back with this:

    3rd August 2011

    Dear Karl,
    Thank you for your reply to my email on the Coalition Governments proposed changes to DLA, Please do stop calling everything the Government proposes as “reforms”. Many of my and your constituents do not regard these measures as reforms but as “deforms”, measures which will reduce their income and leave them with less mobility and a lower quality of life. That said I am very grateful that you have forwarded our constituents concerns. I would like to return to this topic when there is a measured and speedy response from ministers.

    Thank you also for your response to my few words regarding our exchange at the husting’s and on the Echo Web Site regarding your decision to pay your wife Cordelia between £35,000 and £39,999 a year to work as your office manager.  I intend no personal offence by this I ought to say nor is this intended as an attack on the Conservative Party. The issue is about appropriate behaviour at a time when the Government you support and your political colleagues on Lincolnshire County Council are:
    • Sacking people without thought for the consequences and
    • Creating through economic incompetence a situation where people must take considerably lower salaries than £39k assuming that they can find a job at all. 
    The average person in the third sector doing vital work directly saving vulnerable lives could expect, as a manager responsible for 4 or 5 departments and perhaps a 100 staff and volunteers working very long hours to receive between £25k and £30k before the General election. That figure is now nearer £24k here in Lincolnshire. You must be a little insulated from the reality of your own constituents to be unaware of these simple facts. People living in your constituency often count themselves lucky to be earning £14k or over. So while I am sure Mrs McCartney does a sterling second job working for you (I understand she also runs a business) I have to question the salary level. I was a full time parliamentary agent for quite a few years so I might have some expertise here.
    I think your commitment, if that is what it is, never to become a minister because it would impede your ability to hold the Government to account is quite brave and worthy of the Beast of Bolsover (Dennis Skinner MP) who it seems we both admire.  I am also fascinated by your assertion that you can only hold the Government to account if you are of the right (presumably Conservative in power) Party. I assume that if Labour returns to power in the near future you will be resigning your seat should you have survived as an MP as someone in the “wrong” not in power party. 
    In terms of Gillian Merron’s position I know that she did not employ any family members because I knew all of her staff here and in Westminster Karl, so now you know, I hope that helps.  We can have a debate on Parliamentary expenses if you like but as far as I am concerned Gillian only claimed what all MP’s claimed and returned sums of £7k subsequently decided to be no longer appropriate to be claimed.  You are in fact elsewhere very critical of the new systems holding MP’s to account. Also I recall this nugget from the Lincolnshire Echo: “In December, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority also published details of MPs' expenses from May until the end of August 2010.
    The documents revealed Mr McCartney has claimed £20,954 since being elected in May – the highest of any MP in the county.”
    Despite your assertion that you hold the Government to account I can find only two instances of you genuinely voting against your Conservative colleagues, once about the transfer of income to spouses and again to oppose the use of the Commons by the United Kingdom Youth Parliament. I have ignored all the Europhobic voting where you more or less voted with some tiny rump of MP’s against everyone else (it was probably good fun). This makes two rebellions out of 297 votes.
    So, if I understand you correctly you will
    • shortly be apologising to Gillian Merron
    • Promising Never to Be a Minister and
    • Standing down at the next election after a national Labour Victory!
    Warmest Regards,


    Cllr Chris Burke.
    Lincoln, LN5 8DW. 01522 856296.City of Lincoln Children & Young Person’s Advocate.
    Colegrave House, Colegrave Street,

    Follow UP & Further Info:

    Karl McC's letter to me is wrong - it's a matter of public record that the Ministerial addition to salary is approximately half of what he says in his letter.
    All Ministers of all parties in all governments  - including every one of his current colleagues (from the Prime Minister downwards) - have a ministerial addition to their MPs salary because of the work, accountability and additional responsibility they are asked to undertake as a member of Her Majestys Government. Being a Govt Minister is public service, with responsibilities that the Prime Minister appoints MPs to do - it is not for personal gain, nor personally chosen. A 2nd job outside parliament is for personal gain, is personally obtained,and nothing to do with the interests of people across the country including constituents.
    He does need to get over trying to hide behind Gillian - he's been the MP for some time now and has to answer for his own actions including his staff and their salary.
    I have received good guidance now that the money Gillian re-paid back immediately was approximately £6,000 and the result of an over-payment. Her claims were independently audited some years ago by Sir Thomas Legg who confirmed that all was in order.