Tuesday, 31 March 2009

SORN - If Its Off Road Surely That's Enough?

Tonight I received constituent complaint about SORN.

SORN leaflet SAYS:
A SORN will automatically end if the vehicle is
taxed, or there is a change of keeper, before the
12 months are up.

A SORN is valid for up to 12 months and must then
be renewed if the vehicle is still kept off the road.

Constituent wants to know: why should he need to renew? Why can't they just assume it is still off the road, and if he later takes it on the road and gets caught by police for not having road tax, then fair enough. He feels it's a con that DVLA are working to raise money every year from people who don't realise they have to renew a SORN.

SO, What Are The Liberal Democrats Doing?

Out canvassing. People want to know what the Liberal Democrats are doing in Parliament. So here's a useful page.


Marine and Coastal Access Bill
Thu, 12 Mar 2009
Liberal Democrats who have long called for action fear this Bill will not commit the Secretarty of State to make things change

Vince Cable MP
Banking Bill
Thu, 12 Mar 2009
Lib Dems support the Bill but fear that more must be done

Lord Avebury
Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill
Thu, 12 Mar 2009
Lib Dems criticise Bill that typifies Government's failures on immigration

Chris Huhne
Policing and Crime Bill
Wed, 11 Mar 2009
Bill containing matters that are barely related was thrown together with no thought of purpose

Coroners and Justice Bill
Wed, 11 Mar 2009
A complete hotch-potch of a bill that fails to allow for proper scrutiny
David Howarth

Political Parties and Election Bill
Wed, 11 Mar 2009
Lib Dems oppose inadequate Bill that fails to take big money out of politics

Welfare Reform Bill 2008-09
Wed, 11 Mar 2009
Government masks the real problems in the welfare system

Sally Hamwee
Business Rates Supplements Bill 2009
Mon, 12 Jan 2009
Lib Dems concerned that cost for firms could rise

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Traveller Sites - Update

When Conservative run South Beds District Council announced traveller sites for Houghton Regis, even the 6 Lib Dem Councillors that represent Houghton Regis residents had to find out the news from the local newspapers.

The plans to establish new travellers sites were presented at Executive Committee on 13th January 2009, and quickly distributed to local newspapers. The announcement was swiftly followed by waves of angry phone calls from Houghton Regis residents to your Lib Dem councillors. The decision to make the announcement was made by a core of Conservative councillors who control the running of South Beds District Council. Lib Dem councillors have no say in these Executive decisions.

The chosen areas, include land off Sandringham Drive, Houghton Regis, Kingsland Former Community College, Sundon Road, and Thorn Turn, Thorn Road. View Map.

A group of Houghton Regis town councillors were invited along to a planning meeting at the S.B.D.C. offices on 17th February 2009. There we learnt that the decision was taken after paid consultants identified areas in South Bedfordshire District Council's region that would satisfy Central Government directives. Apparently South Beds is not providing sufficient sites for travellers, gypsies and showmen, and as a consequence of this, the S.B.D.C. officers complained that when they issue notices to remove travellers from illegally occupied sites, the courts determined that the S.B.D.C. was in contravention of regulations to provide sufficient sites for travellers.

Saskia Duncan, a spokesperson for the Joint Technical Unit S.B.D.C., told me "National and regional guidance was used to develop a set of criteria against which to evaluate potential sites and existing sites. All the sites brought forward from the various ‘calls for sites’ were subject to this assessment."

Of the survey undertaken by these paid consultants, (a heavy document was waved at us on our visit to the S.B.D.C. offices, as if the size of the document justified the expense), it has not escaped our attention that the only sites apparently available and chosen within South Bedfordshire are ones were Conservative support is poorest.

The Report to the Executive Committee is available online and provides a summary of the Study including the set of criteria used in assessing potential sites. The Report can be viewed on line at www.southbeds.gov.uk.

Saskia Duncan told me, "The Study will be subject to future public consultation later on in the year as part of the Local Development Framework process. Should you wish to be notified, your contact details can be added to our LDF database. "

Tell Us What You Think.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Council to charge more for wider graves

There are lies, dammed lies, and the Daily Mirror.

The news on Monday that the town council I serve on is to charge more for wider plots in the cemetery must have found its place in the nationals due to it being a slow news day. Houghton Regis's Environment committee met on Monday 23rd, and it took until the following Monday (March 2nd) for the Mirror to report with this story.

So, let's take a look at this Mirror-reported story.
1. "Fat people are to cost more". This is factually incorrect. To use their word, "fat", this can mean many things. But the actual lines on the agenda for which approval was sought, reads "... in the last few months there have been two burials that have required wider graves, thereby encroaching into what, under normal circumstances, would have been the next plot. It is suggested that in such circumstances it would not be unreasonable to charge a higher fee..."

2. "A council is set to charge an extra £75 to bury the obese" ... Hold on the bell, Nelly. Someone at your newspaper cannot add up. What school did you go to? The actual item on the agenda, continues, "... raising the cost of interment from £129 to £194". That is an increase of £65.

3. "It is the first local authority in the country to vary burial fees". Not so. If the Mirror writer had read the whole of the item on the Houghton Regis Town Council Environment Committee agenda, the item states, "...to charge a higher fee, which is believed is the practice at The Vale Cemetery in Luton".

At neighbouring Labour-run Luton, The Vale Cemetery & General Cemetery - published online fees for Interment are currently £360 for an Adult, plus "Additional width fee charged for casket, large coffin or excavating for a walled grave or grave chamber" an extra £120.

4, "It is the first local authority in the country to vary burial fees according to the dead person's weight." Not so. It is not to be a measurement of weight, it is a measurement of the space required for the coffin of the deceased.

5. "Cllr Keith Wakefield, leader of the council's opposition Labour group, condemned the increases as "appaling". Well, I have already shown someone at the Mirror to be not very good at sums, now it is shown that someone there cannot spell, either. Pretty apalling for a publishing organisation. What government were you educated under? Anyway, that is bye-the-bye. In case anyone out there in the real world feels mislead into thinking Keith might be an opposition councillor in Houghton Regis, let me tell you he is not. In Houghton Regis, we wiped Labour out completely at the last set of local elections. We are now 100% Liberal Democrat.

So, what do I think? Well, I'm not on the Environment Committee (yes, that was another Mirror-lie. We don't have a "burial committee" per se) and I am sure that the committee had good reasons for agreeing an increase. The cemetery is almost full. Maybe the next cemetery will decide on a larger standard size. Who knows. However, I am looking very closely at the Liberal Democrat Preamble to the Federal Constitution, and may yet argue against the increase at Full Council.