Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A little internal struggling and frustration

One of my favourite authors is Douglas Adams.  I have to confess I am a great devotee of the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy and all its humour, wit and great knowledge.  I love the random improbability drive, pangalatic gargleblasters and of course, the ultimate answer being 42.

The great thing for me about Adams is his ability to burst pomposity and send up those who think they know best.  It is one way to keep yourself grounded and to try and avoid putting yourself in the position of someone being sent up!

One phrase that sounds like it ought to belong to Douglas Adams is 'the power of ignorance.'  

The power of ignorance is, so far as I am concerned, the power all of us witness everyday where those who know less than you or me do, say or  attempt things that we know are wrong, stupid or simply won't work.  You and me are, of course, terribly smart because you see the flaws in what is being attempted; we can see the errors and the fallacies.  Matters get frustrating when you attempt to explain the fundamental errors only to be met with the 'power of ignorance' in other words what can seem like a wilful failure to address what you know and have shown to be wrong.  This arises largely because the 'ignorant one' simply doesn't get it, or understand it whatever 'it' is.

For both the powerfully ignorant and the well-endowed-with-knowledge this can be an intensely frustrating experience.  There is no meeting of minds - often there is a clash of un-feasibly large egos.

I'm going through this problem at the moment.  For reasons of decency and decorum I won't go into details - however I know that my limits of tact and diplomacy will be tested probably beyond my normal sang froid and good humour - if I attempt to engage further.  It reminds me of one of the most startling comments I heard in my day job.  

I was advising a company being prosecuted for health and safety violations after a very serious accident.  A worker had his arm amputated from the shoulder after having become trapped in an in running nip - ie in between two cogged wheels each running in to each other.  The local health and safety rep for the company was also the trade union shop steward.  I asked him why, in spite of all the training he and his colleagues had had the worker in question had done something stupid which had led to his arm being amputated.  The reply was 'You can't educate wood.'  The comment shocked me then, especially coming from a trade union rep.

The phrase still shocks me today - although I cannot think of a better way of explaining the powerfully and persistently ignorant - in other words those who don't attempt to check whether they are being ignorant or stupid.

One good reason to keep quiet is I'm ugly enough to realise that whilst I may perceive myself as being on the 'knowing side' this time - I am sure there are many, many times I have displayed the powerful force of ignorance myself.  Good reason to remain quiet and humble.  I may even be wrong this time - but I doubt it!

And now back to Douglas Adams:

“One of the major difficulties Trillian experienced in her relationship with Zaphood was learning to distinguish between him pretending to be stupid just to get people off their guard, pretending to be stupid because he couldn’t be bothered to think and wanted someone else to do it for him, pretending to be outrageously stupid to hide the fact that he actually didn’t understand what was going on, and really being genuinely stupid. He was renowned for being amazingly clever and quite clearly was so— but not all the time, which obviously worried him, hence, the act. He preferred people to be puzzled rather than contemptuous.”

Sunday, 28 October 2012

A big thank you to Cheshire police - oh and please be more vigilant

We're having a spate of break-ins in Frodsham at the moment.  The prime targets are sheds and garages but there have been the odd break-in of a house too.

Early on Friday morning - around 4am - my wife and I were woken by the police helicopter thrashing away above our house.  I have to confess at that hour in the morning I stayed in bed and thought little more about it knowing that Dianne and I had a trip to Edinburgh planned.  Friday was our 21st wedding anniversary! I thought no more about the helicopter.

However at lunchtime on Friday my 14 year old daughter phoned me to tell me that the police had called round.  They mentioned that there had been an attempted break-in next door - could they check our back garden to see if there was any evidence that the burglar had escaped this way?  She told me she had checked their warrant cards and let them into the back garden.

My daughter told me that everything was fine - but the police did want to talk to me on Saturday.

Dianne and I got home late on Friday.  I had a quick scout around the garden and saw immediately that someone had burst through our holly and hawthorn hedge (no doubt and some personal cost).  It immediately struck me that the police had not told my 14 year old about this.

On Saturday morning 2 members of CID called round.  They told me that the police were having extra patrols in Frodsham seeking to counter the break-ins and it was one of these extra patrols that at 4 in the morning had spotted a 'pair of legs' in the shadows of my neighbour's drive.  The patrol had called in the helicopter which arrived on station a few minutes later.

Unfortunately they weren't able to catch the prowler - although in the cold light of day the route of escape through the back gardens was pretty clear.  There is also a chance that my holly hedge has captured crucial DNA evidence!

I thanked the officers for their work and for looking to protect us with the additional patrols.  I also thanked them for not telling my 14 year old about the escape through our garden.

Interestingly the police also told me that in their extra patrols they are testing local security and local responses.  They are triggering security lights in the early hours - and are somewhat surprised that no-one has bothered to call the police to say there are prowlers - they want us to report in what we are seeing - even if it is to discover it is a plain clothed policeman.

Now on a personal level I do have a pretty secure rear garden.  It is surrounded by very tall, thick and thorny holly and hawthorn hedging - and is supplemented with wire mesh.   All designed to keep in 3 children and a labrador!  If anyone wants to attempt to burst through I do hope they end up having to pay a significant personal price assuming they are able to make it!

I'll also be putting up a video camera.  I hope all I end up spotting are foxes, badgers, squirrels and birds - however anything larger may end up being reported!

On reflection I have to say I am really impressed with our police.  They are responding to an increased threat.  They detected the prowler before he had broken in next door, they called in the helicopter.  They're analysing the evidence - and when speaking with my 14 year old they didn't scare her.  They came round and saw me swiftly - and they are trying to get the people of Frodsham to be more responsible.

Could you ask for any more?  A quality response.

Why I can't trust Labour and their campaigning methods

If you haven't noticed there is something of a campaign going on at the moment.  We have elections for the Police and Crime Commissioner on 15 November and for the last 7 weeks or so I have been out delivering leaflets for the John Dwyer our Conservative candidate.

John Dwyer's campaign is a positive campaign stating what he would intend to do to make sure policing is focused on the priorities of the people of Cheshire.

I've not been the only one out delivering though.  I have had some of the Labour literature handed to me.  Now I'm used to the rough tough world of political campaigning - but I have to say the Labour leaflet is the poorest and shabbiest piece of campaigning I have seen in many a year and I will be suggesting that a complaint is made about it.

First its tone is almost entirely negative and I find its content grossly misleading and inaccurate.  Others may be more charitable about it - but I'm not because they should know better.

The campaign material states that '250 police jobs to be axed across Cheshire.'  Now you might be mistaken into thinking this was a reference to falling police numbers but it isn't.  Read it carefully.
It doesn't refer to warranted to police officers - and for good reason as the number of officers are likely to rise this year.

Second the leaflet shows just why Labour can't be trusted either with economics or with our public services.  Labour are fixated with 'cuts.'  Their implication is that spending less money will in someway mean a poorer service.  This is simply rubbish.

Did you know that it is only recently that all police force helicopters have been brought together under one co-ordinated 'command.'  This means as a country and a county we now have a more efficient cost effective service than ever before?  We now have all north west police forces co-operating on policing our motorways - this saves money and provides a better service.  And the north west police forces are now looking at centralising fingerprinting services.  Yes, you've guessed it - this will mean a better service, provided more efficiently.  For Cheshire in particular this will bring an enhanced service, for a lesser price.  Frankly I find it astonishing that this sort of sensible rationalisation wasn't done years ago.

I've been chairing a policy development board at CWaC and we've been hearing how with all the public services working together on domestic abuse the public purse can save £6.5m over 5 years AND provide greatly enhanced and improved services to those suffering from this dreadful abuse or facing the risk of it.

Surely we all want greater innovation and co-ordination in our public services?  We want services to be improved and delivered more efficiently.  We are seeing that there is no automatic correlation between the money spent and the services being delivered.  In fact we are seeing that the drive to prevent unnecessary duplication and encouraging greater collaboration and cross support improves services and saves money.  Frankly I think it is criminal that in the 13 years that Labour was in government they did nothing to stop the silo working in the public sector that as we are seeing was and is so wasteful and inefficient.

Since CWaC was created on 1 April 2009 we have saved just short of £100m (ie £99.6m) on the cost of delivering services compared to what was being done before.  This has been done whist improving services and investing more in children's services and adult social care and investing more money in them.

Cheshire police are delivering an excellent service, cutting crime and delivering their services more efficiently.  For example they have entered into an innovative collaboration with Northamptonshire police to share back office personnel functions.  More forces look set to join this collaboration - and the net effect will mean more savings to the public purse and improved back office functions. 

The wretched Labour leaflet suggests that Cheshire police have been targeted for cuts and there is no plan to cut crime.  This is absolute nonsense - first Cheshire police has a fantastic record on cutting crime - crime has been falling consistently for the last decade and there is a current policing plan that does place emphasis on cutting crime.  Crime fell 6% last year alone.  The language used may give the impression that in someway Cheshire has been singled out for cuts.  It hasn't - it is bearing its share as with other police areas - however unlike many force areas Cheshire police receives an extra 'dampening' grant from the Home Office to lessen the effects of the cuts here.  Cheshire receives the 4th highest dampening grant in the country.  But Labour can't tell you that.

So if you are unlucky enough to receive one of these leaflets - read it, feel the impressions that the leaflet creates in you - and then test the facts against those impressions.  If like me you form the impression that it is misleading - reject them.

When you become mistrustful of the language used, when you realise Labour can only talk of 'cuts' and not the improvements to service delivery that are being made by Cheshire police whilst also cutting crime you will realise why I have the view that Labour can't be trusted to deliver effective public services efficiently let alone campaign in what I see to be an honourable or fair way.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Frodsham Windfarm granted permission

So, the Lib Dem Secretary of State Ed Davey has ignored the overwhelming sentiments of those of us living in Frodsham and Helsby and foisted on us a 19 x 125m high windfarm complex on Frodsham Marshes.   The scheme is for the turbines to be in two parts - the larger grouping in front of Helsby, with the others on the western end of Frodsham extending down to the Ship Canal.  They will be given permission to operate for 25 years - and then they must be taken down.

At 125m high the tip of the blades will be higher than 'Frodsham Hill.'

I am told we will have the dubious honour of having the largest windfarm complex close to a centre of population in Europe and the largest complex close to a motorway.

I have asked Steve Robinson the Chief Exec of CWaC to have the council's lawyers crawl all over the decision with a view to seeing if a legal challenge is feasible.  I have also asked him to second a senior officer to the local communities to assist us in discussions with Peel Energy - who have, so far at least, failed to engage meaningfully, in my view, with the local community.

I feared this decision was coming as Ed Davey has been talking up on-shore wind developments in recent weeks.  My cynical nature also highlighted the fact that this part of Cheshire has been a 'Lib-Dem' dead zone for years, not just from the last local elections in 2011 which saw only 1 Lib-Dem elected to CWaC's 75 man council.  So it is not as if his party will suffer at the polls locally in any event.

Ed Davey does talk of the need for windfarm developers to provide community benefits for the communities most affected by their developments.  Secretary of State please understand that most residents in this part of the world don't want to be bribed - and even if they were to accept it - the price we would demand would be much higher than is presently on offer. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Ince Park Air Quality Forum meets at Castle Park

It was March 2012 when the Ince Park Air Quality forum last met.  This forum came about through, amongst other routes, pressure that Cllrs Lynn Riley, Les Ford and I applied to Peel Holdings earlier this year.  Peel's Ince facility will process various types of waste - some of which will be by incineration.  We took the view that the northern part of Cheshire had many sources of potential pollution and the time had come for the community to seek reassurance that the local environment could stand yet more emissions to atmosphere.

In March 2012 the forum met and agreed that CWaC officers should make enquiries and with the consent of the forum should appoint an independent expert to advise the forum and in particular to devise an appropriate air monitoring regime for the our part of the world.

It has taken some 6 months for the officers to get to the stage where Professor Duncan Laxen of Air Quality Consultants Limited has been appointed to advise the forum.

Tonight was our first meeting with him - where he laid out his impressive credentials - which included advising the EU and the UK government on air quality and asked us to tell him what we wanted to see emerge.

It was pleasing to see that all of us around the table were in broad agreement.  We want to see monitoring starting as soon as possible so that baseline data can be obtained before both the incinerator at Weston is commissioned and Peel's facilities at Ince are built and become operational.  Where and how the monitoring is done and the determinands that will be tested for we will leave to the expert to advise us.  I raised the issue that I wanted the monitoring to go further and to consider all aspects of the environment - in other words encompassing land and water as well as air - after all, I argued, pollutants in the air have to fall out somewhere.  I also requested that we should ask our local GPs for input into the forum too.

Peel have agreed to fund the work of the forum the monitoring and the analysis reasonably.  It is too early to say what this will cost and what the commitments will be.  Enquiries seem to confirm that we will be the first community in the country to demand this comprehensive level of environmental monitoring.  It is interesting to learn that we are being more demanding of Peel and what they propose for Ince than our near neighbours in Halton have been with regard to the Weston incinerator.

The Ince forum is made up of local councillors and residents joined by representatives from Peel, the Health Protection Agency, CWaC's Environmental Health Department and the Environment Agency. We all accept we don't have the monopoly on wisdom and will therefore welcome anyone's ideas and suggestions when it comes to deciding what, how, why and when, when it comes to the monitoring and reporting to the community.  The whole point of this forum is to ensure open and transparent reporting of environmental information to the community independently, truthfully and faithfully and free from spin whether from operators or regulators.

By the way - we are very fortunate with some of our councillors and residents on the forum.  We have a Professor, several scientists, a regulator and an environmental and regulatory lawyer!  Anyway - if you want us to take account of anything you think we may have missed - let me know!

Monday, 8 October 2012

FTC Commemorates Greater Manchester Police officers with local grant

I proposed a motion tonight at FTC for our local council to give a grant to our local police, in memory of Greater Manchester police officers PC Fiona Bone and PC Nicola Hughes.

The council resolved by a large majority to donate £300 to our local police inspector for him to spend in Frodsham in improving relations between the police and the community. This followed an earlier proposal to donate FTC money to the memorial fund in Greater Manchester. The majority of the council considered it appropriate to spend the public money raised in Frodsham, in Frodsham and to encourage individuals to make personal donations to the memorial fund.

Friday, 5 October 2012

An inspirational evening with Forum Housing

I've been out in Bebington tonight - for the founding of a new Rotaract Club.  For those not in the know Rotoract Clubs are for adults between 18-30.  They are part of the Rotary family of clubs who blend friendship and fellowship with community service.  We all try to live up to the 'service before self' motto.

Anyway this evening was special not just because a new Rotoract Club was being created - although that is pretty special - it was special because this club was being established by Forum Housing with Birkenhead Rotary Club.  The youngsters forming the club have all had a hard start in life and have received help, housing and mentoring by Forum Housing to become model young citizens with confidence, aspiration and hope.  These are youngsters who have gone from receiving help and assistance themselves to now being part the outreach to those in need of help.

It was fantastic to see these new members of Rotoract present their business plan to promote their club and their community work to us.  They also performed flawlessly and with great panache and talent in an evening that blended music with speeches and much well wishing.

All in all very humbling and a tremendous advert for the work that Forum Housing do in helping turning lives around.

I've invited some of the Forum Housing team to Frodsham.  I'd love to see them doing outreach work in Frodsham, building the confidence and life skills of our youngsters and helping them become model citizens.