Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Clearing Rubbish From the Ward - Very Enjoyable!

Spent much of the day helping other volunteers to fill some 15 sacks of rubbish - mainly crisp packets, plastic bottles and fizzy drink cans - and we removed sundry larger items from an area of our Parkside ward in Houghton Regis. Apart from the fact I've scratched my hand, and been stung by nettles, I quite enjoyed doing it.

The project was lead by Parkside ward Town Councillors, Peter Carrington and myself, as part of the HOUGHTON REGIS TOWN COUNCIL VISION 2011 – 2015, part of which is to enhance public places by facilitating community litter picks. (Download the TC's Vision - pdf file - http://www.houghtonregis.org.uk/downloads/HRTCVision.pdf).

The approximate area cleared was Brentwood Close, and Enfield Close, including a community garden by Sundon Road crossing, that had fallen into a dreadful state.

Now, if we can just start getting a few more volunteers to come forward. You know what they say, from little acorns grow large trees. So now I wait to hear from the townsfolk if there is an area of town they'd like to volunteer to help clear up.

Monday, 15 April 2013

You Can Live on £53 a Week Says BBC DJ #IDS #Benefits

Jonathan Vernon-Smith, a self styled consumer champion, is a radio presenter for the BBC. He took up Iain Duncan Smith's gauntlet when the  Secretary of State for Work and Pensions famously suggested that it was possible to live on £53 a week.  On his programme today, for BBC Three Counties Radio, JVS said he lived on that, and had £7 to spare. 

Iain Duncan Smith: photo: Wikipedia
On April Fools' Day 2013, Iain Duncan Smith claimed he could live on £53 per week as Work and Pensions Secretary, after a benefits claimant told the BBC he had £53 per week after housing costs. Subsequently a petition was started on change.org for him to do so for a year; it reached 300,000 supporters by 7:30 P.M. the next day, with further names added that evening at a rate of 12,000 per hour. The petition was handed in one week later with 460 thousand signatures

Jonathan Vernon-Smith's breakdown was £18 a week for electricity and water based on 1/52 of his annual bills, £2 a week on cat biscuits (but queried if pets were not a luxury that should be discounted), £20 a week on food, £5 a week on  household and personal toiletries. This left him the remainder to fritter away on other luxuries that he famously craves, including his favourite wine, pinot grigio.

The reality was that he didn't actually live that sort of life. He was on his show every day that week, no doubt travelling around in his personal transport, enjoying heating supplied by the various offices he visits; he certainly wasn't slumming it at home.

I wondered if he factored in extra toilet flushes, extra loo roll, and extra heating costs, because he would have been spending more time at home consuming things like that, that the BBC provides for him while he's at work.

This lead me to wonder what else he'd left off? Is he planning to be buried at state expense? If not he'll need to keep up payments on insurance. I've paid £1.34 a month since I started earning, that will help with mine. Then there is insurance on home and contents to consider, unless he's hoping as a benefits person to get all that sorted for him, should a catastrophe arise.

Does he have gas? It's very important to factor in gas boiler maintenance, allow at least £3 a week to maintain that.

To the comment that he hadn't factored in clothing, he replied that people could buy clothes in charity shops. Fair do's. It still needs factoring in. I have purchased button up tee-shirts in the past from Age Concern, a third the cost of shop bought new, but you find they don't last - the collars go - so you would actually be replacing more frequently, so the longevity of such items is doubtful 

Maybe he was thinking of taking up knitting as a hobby, or making his own clothes rather than pay for shop bought ones. Fine. Just remember to factor in the cost of sewing machines, knitting needles, cotton, wool, and materials.

So, he's not going to listen to the BBC on radio or watch tv? I bet! Come on, add £3 a week. On the other hand, he won't have a car to sit in to listen to the radio, either, so with no tv or radio in the house he wouldn't actually need a tv licence. Besides, with all the time he'll save not watching or listening, he can bake (oops! up goes the electricity bill) a few scones to help eek out the food budget, and save for his non existent clothing budget. 

I'm still wondering how he's going to get around. He'll need to visit the library to use their internet service and computers as he won't be able to afford his own. His solution is to walk or use a bicycle. Nothing wrong with that. People walked everywhere before motorised transport was invented. Unless they were lucky enough to own a horse or ride on someone's cart, walking was the done thing. In fact, on my heritage blog I recall the story of a Houghton Regis lady who walked the 6 miles to Luton 6 days a week. But that was 160 years ago. But if you want a bicycle, JVS, you need to factor in the cost of buying that, even if it's second hand.

JVS on Facebook
JVS - show excerpt with Dame Anne Beg - audibo

Only 3% of DWP Budget Goes on Job Seekers Allowance

Only 3% of the benefits budget goes to people seeking work. Half the benefits budget goes on pensions. I had a look at the DWP source stats. You'll find a summary of those stats here.

Here's the pie chart I've drawn up from the data.
Click to enlarge.

Tip of the hat to Jon Leighton - his blog post was shared by thousands on Facebook. His chart is slightly different to mine.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Ding Dong!

I love this tune. If it's in the chart, the chart shows should play all of  it, but I hear the BBC is only planning to play a few seconds of it. Come on!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Parkside Litter Picking Tuesday 11 till 3

In Houghton Regis, Parkside town councillors are planning to lead a community litter picking session, next Tuesday. Depending on how successful this is, further community litter picking will be organised. Meeting in Brentwood Close from 11am to 3pm. Litter picking sticks will be available, if anyone has their own, fine. Helpers might also wear gardening gloves.
There's a lot of litter around. It's as good a place as any to make a start. Let's hope this generates a bit of pride in the area.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Thatcherism or Scargilism - No Choice, had to be Liberals

Thatcherism or Scargilism? No choice there as, frankly, I found them both mad, and both very divisive leaders. So I joined the Liberals in alliance with the newly formed SDP, two parties working together.

During the miners strike I provoked Barnsley folk to write to me, passed their letters round the pub and we had a little vote. Six one to the miners. And that from people living in Hertfordshire, well away from coal mines. But there again you had Scargill speeding up the motorway back to Barnsley to park in his driveway to try to outwit the police for speeding. That, and stirring up  moderate thinking miners with his Trotskyite rants.

Produced a Focus leaflet back in those days, running an article on mad cow disease. Surprising how many people told me that they had read the headline and thought it was going to be an item about Maggie Thatcher.

For all that, people somehow wanted to believe in her and show their appreciation of her stand on the Falkland Islands, so when the Dacorum Borough Council elections came along, and I was defending my seat with a bad back, some people pathetically told me they were voting for Mrs Thatcher. I told them she wasn't standing for DBC, and even though I increased my vote that year, the nearest Tory winning candidate just pipped me.

Of course, we now know that the Argentine's General Belgrano was sailing away from the Islands, and Maggie ordered it to be sunk against better advisers, causing the loss of over 300 lives. Had people known she was responsible for the loss of so many  before that election, my political life might have been very different.

She's died today. I'm neither happy or sad.

Proposed Temporary Road Closure- High Street, Houghton Regis

High Street, Houghton Regis

There is a Temporary Road Closure proposal at the above location to enable resurfacing works to be carried out in safety. Details are listed in the schedule below and having assessed the application the Streetworks Co-ordinator for Bedfordshire Highways is satisfied the request is justified.

An alternative route for this closure has been devised as below. The restrictions are to be in operation only when the necessary signs are erected on site. The Legal Order will be made to cover a four month period. Access may be allowed from time to time according to local signing.

If you have any observations you wish to make could you please let me know as soon as possible, so that I can pass them on for you.

Closure Dates

The closure is expected to take place for 8 Nights from

  • 8th to 10th May and 
  • 13th May to 17th May

between the hours of 21:00hrs and 07:00hrs. Access may be allowed from time to time according to local signing.

Alternative Route

Proceed along the High Street in an Easterly direction continuing on to East End. At roundabout take 3rd exit on to Park Road North. At first roundabout take second exit and continue along Park Road North. At second roundabout take second exit on to Poynters Road and continue to A505 roundabout, take third exit on to A505 and continue to A5 Junction. At crossroads turn right and continue along A5 to Houghton Road junction. At Traffic Lights turn right on to Houghton Road and continue on to site and vice versa.

Alternative Route Map Link

NB. The applicant will be responsible for taking down all Central Bedfordshire Council public notices immediately after the works requiring the Order have been completed.

Cllr Alan D Winter
Bedfordshire Highways Representative, Houghton Regis Town Council
Click here to write to me about this

Plymouth Brethren - Christian Religion or Secret Sect? (2013 article)

A Brethren Meeting Room, Bedford Rd, Houghton Regis

UPDATE 21 Nov 2013

A couple more comments added last night. If you don't have time to read all this, try this 4 minute youtube video

Please Sign This Petition!

== To save time, skip over this 8th April blog to read the Comments =======

Despite claiming a basic allowance for being a member of Central Bedfordshire Council, and another for being the "Executive Member for External Affairs", a post no one seems able to explain, Tory Councillor Richard Stay still finds time to post many blog posts almost exclusively about the The Exclusive Brethren.

To look through Cllr Stay's blog you could easily surmise that he is a man obsessed by the Exclusive Brethren. 

"Executive Member for External Affairs" is a role that does seem to have been created after he lost his position as leader of the council. "its so obvious that Cllr Richard Stay is a man of talent otherwise Central Bedfordshire Council wouldn’t have created a "job" at public expense when he failed for the second time to get the top job as Council Leader." wrote the Caddington Village News last year.

Exclusive Brethren, for all my passing interest can gleam from Richard's blabberings, is that it's a sinister religious sect with devious ways of defrauding the tax payer, with a bunch of people painted as crooks looking to line their own pockets through wealth creation. That, and the fact that members of the Brethren are trolling Richard's blog on a regular basis. (Oh, I do love trolls!)

Have you been affected by the Exclusive Brethren? Should the Charity Commission be looking into the question of whether the EB should retain their charity status and the tax concessions this brings them?

Does the EB destroy families? Tell me what you think.


Since starting to read Richard Stay's Blogs, its been quite a learning curve for me. I have received a steady stream of anecdotes, so many, and so varied that their authenticity could  not possibly be called into question. Read them below. And keep them coming.

UPDATE January 2016.
The premises are being sold.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Is it Important for Public Authorities to Spell Correctly?

Well, that's a question that Luton Borough Council are happy to answer "No" to.

Harriet wants a Work Programme

On the Marr show today the question was put to Harriet  Harman that 67% of people say the Welfare system  isn't working and by way of response she  launched into unemployed and people not having a work programme to go on. "You don't have a work programme, so that if people are offered a job and they don't take it, their benefits can be cut." And yet unemployed is just a fraction of the welfare state.

Says it all for me; she doesn't want to talk about other welfare issues. Why didn't she just say, that at the time Britain was engaging in an illegal nationally expensive war with Iraq, the Labour government was actively bribing the working poor to get their votes by increasing the size of the welfare state?

Harriet Harman wants a work programme and says after 2 years of being unemployed they will be provided one and they will have to take it or have their benefit cut. So, she wants the government to create public sector jobs and push up the national debt even more? What else could a work programme entail? I'm trying to have visions of a private sector company starting up to get unemployed people to pick litter from the countryside and sell it onto waste companies to turn into something new. But on the face of it it would not appear to make any sense unless she has those images of Indian folk doing just that in down town India,? But then they''re hardly making what we recognise as the minimum wage. Follow this through logically and you'll have politicians clamouring to scrap the minimum wage.

Governments don't create jobs; government is there to manage and govern. If the private sector can't find a way to make a job pay, then neither can government without it costing tax payers even more.

What is a "proper work programme" and how much would that add to the National Debt, now standing at over 18k per person?

Friday, 5 April 2013

New Busway Banner Provokes Lively Discussion

This picture of the busway in construction has provoked a lively discussion on the Facebook Busway News Page

I took the picture yesterday at the foot of Blows Down, Dunstable while I was out walking with a party from the Wildlife Trust . The occasion was the hand over of land to The Wildlife Trust to manage for wildlife habitats in compensation for land lost to the Luton Dunstable Busway.

This particular spot is close to the public footpath that runs through the middle of Jeans Way, Dunstable, and where I have always supposed the people living in that area might have had a bus stop. As it is at present, their nearest stop is going to be at White Lion Retail Park, which is a mile away, or almost 2 miles by car in the other direction to Toland Close.

The planned bus stops are:

  • Luton Airport
  • Napier Park
  • Luton Station
  • Clifton Road (LTFC)
  • Toland Close
  • White Lion Retail Park
  • Portland Ride

Any other stops would be off the busway.

The Wildlife Trust have put in a certain amount of wire fencing at their side. At about this spot on the Downs side, is a certain amount of wired picket fencing which I've been lead to believe will be removed. On the Downs side is a fairly wide "no man's land" between the Downs and the busway. My understanding is that that is likely to be left for walkers, and to facilitate access for any maintenance vehicles. The conversation on Facebook has raised the matter of loose dogs wandering through fencing, unless it is wired up, too.

Other concerns revolve around the loss of wildlife habitat, access for people on motorbikes, potential for rubbish dumping, whether or not anyone will actually need it or use it, about the cost of it all,  and suggesting that "they" should have built a tramway, a road, or just reinstated the trains.

Follow this conversation on Facebook, or comment below.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

IDS £53 A Week : 400,000 Have Signed Petition

I'm not sure how IDS is going to handle this one. One of his his lunch bill's probably costs him more than £53, before he's treated his guests.

Reporter JVS on BBC3CR says he's going to try living on £53 a week, next week. It's probably doable, but not long term without incurring a major depressive breakdown.


How Do You Make Shared Space Blind Person Friendly?

I think its a great shame that Shared Space was put in, in Court Drive, as the need for it was never clear. It didn't seem to be broke, so why fix it? I have noticed that for some lucky people living in Dunstable, the bus services can scoot through and undertake the traffic queue. But many other motorists cut across the hatched area into the bus lane to turn into Asda.

The scheme is installed, however, so what steps can we think of to improve it at minimal cost? Dogs for the blind can't distinguish tactile foot surfaces, so what about improving the surface for blind people's feet so they can recognise a safer place to cross? And what about having a pole, with a tactile surface on it, at hand height to reassure a blind person that its safer here? And what about painting those poles black and white or even illuminated, so that motorists are made more aware that pedestrians might try to cross here? And what about strong white whites painted where the kerb should be, so that a partially sighted person can steer themselves back onto the pedestrian area?


Rubbish Strewn Everywhere. Is This How People Treat Their Homes?

This is how modern HR rolls. Never mind that it's HR. It could be anywhere in this country. Took this image and reported for clearing up two days ago.. So sad.

There's even a dumped carpet behind the bush, centre.
You could walk down that path all the way into Luton and it is strewn with litter. Had a call from Amey this morning. They were going to take a look. Thanks guys. 

But really, I was brought up to treat outdoors like I treat my house; I guess some folks houses leave a lot to be desired.