Claygate Horse Crossing

Horse Crossing3On the afternoon of Saturday, 14 June 2014, following a collision with an unsuspecting motorist there was the tragic death of a horse. It was spooked by selfish fly-tipping, lost its experienced rider and in fear bolted straight out into the road. I have managed with the help of the Claygate community, the Equestrian Community, Claygate Parish Council and SCC Councillor Mike Bennison to raise enough money (£5,000.00) to rebuild with improvements the dilapidated horse crossing in Woodstock Lane South. A road safety audit determined what measures were required to implement the new crossing and it is now in place, improving the safety of everyone that uses this fast and busy road. There is now a large pen for horses to enter, secure and separated from the road. Site lines and signage have also been enhanced and the pedestrian footpath which runs alongside the track has been cleared so pedestrians and horses no longer share the same path. Thank you Claygate for trusting in me to deliver this project for the safety of our community.

Horse Crossing2

Slower speeds, safer streets

Damage after crashSurrey’s Conservative Leader, David Hodge, when giving evidence about 20mph speed limits to a House of Commons Select Committee in 2014 said: “The problem is that it is all very well putting in a 20mph limit, but unless somebody is going to enforce it you have wasted a whole lot of money. My view is that I have no intention of wasting public money putting in 20mph limits.”

John Furey, Surrey’s portfolio holder for transport told me that he had no mind to implement 20mph limits because it hindered people’s business and he wanted growth for Surrey.  But this view does not bear scrutiny.

Let’s do a quick calculation.  Most car journeys are under five miles long. They usually begin on a side street, pass along a few main roads and end on a side street.  Let’s assume that the journey is 5 miles long – 4.6 miles on main roads and 0.4 miles on the two sides streets at each end.  Let us also assume that the driver can drive at the maximum speed along the whole journey – hardly likely during the day (even at night either) – no stopping to give way at junctions, no traffic lights, no zebra crossings and no congestion. At 30mph the journey would take ten minutes door-to door.  Given that the maximum speeds in the side streets would be 20mph – the journey in such a case would be 10.4 minutes door-to door. The difference is 24 seconds.  In other words, the journey would take 4% longer.  The longer the journey the proportionally smaller the time difference.  During the middle of the day the difference would be too small to notice.  Yet for the sake of a few seconds lives are lost and injuries greater.

But the 20mph limit on side streets makes a greater difference. Surveys across the country have shown that mothers will cycle if the streets are seen to be safe and, more importantly, they will let their children cycle too.  In general mothers have more influence on their children cycling than fathers.  The greater the switch to cycling the lower the air pollution, the more pleasant the environment, and the healthier the people.

Given that between the ages of 5 and 40 the greatest single cause of death in Britain is being killed by a moving vehicle (whether driving it, being a passenger or being a passerby) it is important to reduce this loss of life.  Enforcing a 20mph speed limit on side streets would be the single most effective way for the police service to protect us.

Currently the cost of 20mph limits is a small 20mph roundel on every other lamppost.

Warning on public health cuts in Surrey

healthcareFigures released by the national department of health show the Conservative national government is planning to cut £2.2m from the public health budget across Surrey.

This will have a direct impact on efforts to improve health at local level because the public health budget relieves pressure on English NHS hospitals and clinics by helping people to solve their own health problems before they become serious.

For example, the budget helps finance work to promote exercise, give up smoking and tackle drug addiction.

Cllr Hazel Watson, Surrey’s Leader of the Liberal Democrats opposition, said: “These planned cuts of £2.2m to Surrey’s public health budget are the wrong cuts, made in the wrong way.  The public health budget is an important support system for our NHS and these planned cuts represent a false economy which will only end up costing the government and the NHS more than is saved.

Lib Dems urge Surrey to protect children

Childrens servicesFollowing an Ofsted inspection this June, which rated Surrey’s Children’s Service as “inadequate”, Surrey’s Conservative administration has published its plan on Children’s Improvement 2015.

“Inspectors concluded that there were widespread and serious failures that potentially leave children at risk of harm,” said ClIr Hazel Watson, Surrey’s Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition. “The Conservative administration has a huge challenge to turn around Surrey’s children’s services.”

Better recruitment and training

The Improvement Plan is a substantial report suggesting a host of actions, including better recruitment and retention of social workers, improved training for children’s services staff, more thorough management oversight and more efficient procedures. The publication of the report is the county’s pathway to the recovery of children’s services.

Liberal Democrats in Surrey will work with the Conservative administration and other political groups to ensure that the improvement plan’s actions are fully implemented.  The special focus will be on recruiting and retaining social workers who are experienced and can provide the best possible service for Surrey’s children. The current vacancy rate is approximately 20 per cent in essential social work teams in Surrey,”


heathrow_3_750Heathrow was a poor locational choice for a new major airport even when it opened in 1944 and replaced Croydon and Hendon airports.  Also the land for this new London Airport was forcibly purchased by the national government under special powers – the Defence of the Realm Act – without compensation to the landowners specifically to avoid public opposition.

A similar approach is happening today.  Notwithstanding, the impact of an enlarged airport on noise, air and ground pollution the proposed airport expansion does not make economic sense.  The assumptions used in the Davies report  – discount rates for investment, payback periods and PFI rates etc could be considered designed to ensure that the recommendation of the report  could only be Heathrow.

If it is considered that south-east England needs extra airport capacity then it should be in the Thames estuary if at all and while such an airport is being built then perhaps Gatwick could be expanded as a less dreadful choice than Heathrow.

At present Heathrow is running at too high a capacity – far higher than other airports. Heathrow should have the number of flights reduced so that it ordinarily runs at 80% capacity.  At such capacity the amount of stacking would be reduced, thus dramatically reducing air pollution and noise (saving fuel too) and also the airport would be able to cope better when the weather is not so favourable.

To do this the national government  – with one year’s notice  – should randomly withdraw six slots (flight movements in or out) a month (a week would be better but more unsettling for the industry).  The reason that withdrawn slots should be randomly chosen is to avoid any possibility that airlines could be seen to affect the choice of slot to be removed.  At the same time four of those slots would be leased by auction for, say, five years to the highest bidder.  The revenue would not go to the airport but to the state.  The revenues could be partly used to either compensate those who lived near the airport before it was built or to develop better landside connections to reduce air pollution from arriving road traffic or both.

Let’s Join the EU

Looking back over the history of the European Union I wish we had joined at the beginning in 1951 when the European Coal and Steel Community was inaugurated.  I think that Europe would have been a better place today had we done so – but there is no point crying over spilt milk.

British Empire

Back then Britain still had an empire of sorts and many in Britain could or would not conceive that the British Empire was about to fall apart; so one could readily understand the reluctance of the British people to join in the European journey.

Britain joins

When Britain finally joined in 1971 the original member states had already designed a Europe to suit themselves.  Many of their policies were not suitable for Britain.  For example, the protectionist and grossly inefficient Common Agricultural Policy was awash with grain, butter and beef mountains and wine lakes; with its high level of food prices it did not suit the average food buyer or third world food producers.  The poorly designed Common Fisheries Policy seemed to be determined to wipe out fish stocks.  There was no single market in goods and services.  Member states used all manner of means to protect their industries against their more efficient neighbours.  All meetings were held in multilingual settings making ordinary discussions difficult if not almost impossible.  The project was basically run for the benefit of the French – and who could blame them.

Britain makes changes

But what excellent changes have occurred through British membership.  Okay the Common Agriculture Policy is still around but it is much reduced.  Britain has substantially reformed the fisheries policy.  Britain pushed though the single market and encouraged the expansion of the union to include all Europe.  Britain made Europe look outwards – to be more competitive and created Europe to be the arbiter of global standards in trade and technology.  English is now the working language of the European Union with half the 500 million people having a functional competence in spoken and written English (apparently the average Dutch-person has a higher ability in English than the average Brit).

If Britain could make such changes over the last forty years just think what could be done over the next forty.  Of course there is more work to be done. By improving Europe we can help improve the whole world and, most importantly, make the lives of the British people better.  Britain cannot do this without getting engaged.

Britain cannot be engaged unless it adopts all European Union law – no opt outs.  In my view, the first items on the agenda are to establish the euro on a firm footing and to manage migration properly but there are medium-term to longer-term structural changes that need to be made too – like increasing democratic accountability.

Controlled Borders

Europe needs to manage its own borders. It should no longer rely on member states to do so.  Britain does not rely on Sussex to monitor our borders and nor should Europe rely on Greece or Hungary.  The processing, management and funding of non-European migrant should be entirely the responsibility of the European government.  I understand that 25% percent of recent migrants have come from Albania – nowhere near Syria.  It was pretty poor when I was there but it is not war ravaged.  Rather than let each state pass migrants onto Germany, Europe must set up border police and processing staff (where necessary a coast guard too) and these people must be directly employed by the European government – responsible to the European government using property owned, leased or rented by the European government.  I completely understand that such an approach is only a sticking plaster but Europe must get a grip.

Strong euro

Just like any modern country, Europe needs a currency and that currency must be backed by its government.  To properly function, among other things, there must also be an equalisation mechanism between the various member states.  Just like in Britain where funds flow from richer places like Surrey to poorer places like Northern Ireland (the average family in Surrey gives the average family in Northern Ireland £1,200 a year) so in Europe we should transfer funds from the richer part of Europe to the poorer parts.  It means that the European government provides directly to each European citizen a small monthly sum.  Very little is needed to completely stabilise the European economy.  True, European taxation would increase from the current 1% to 3% but that is nothing compared to the 40% that Westminster takes already.  The level of taxation would be limited by treaty so could not be increased without a referendum.

A further policy change that Britain would have to deal with itself would be to convert most welfare into a contributional framework.  There are two reasons for this: one because it is a good idea anyway (returning to the original basis for welfare when the Liberals invented it and Labour installed it after the war); second, because that is how virtually all the member states of the union work.  This policy would not end “welfare migration” but it would reduce it.  Welfare tourism is much lower than most people imagine it to be in any case.  A much more successful approach for Britain would be to resource the revenue staff to enable them to make sure employers are employing legal workers and paying them properly.

Britain could say to the other member states – we will join the euro and the passport area as long as the above measures are put in place and that every other member state also joins when we do.

No varied geometry, no opt-outs.  If you want to be in you are welcome to be in but the only other option is out.

Currently, Britain isn’t really in the European Union.  It is sort of semi-detached.  For example, one can drive from the Algarve, on the Atlantic, right across Europe to the Ukrainian border and you will not have to stop for passport control anywhere, or customs and euros are the currency in every country travelled though.  For nearly all Europeans, for all intents and purposes, Europe is already one country – it is just that the British, who normally fly, tunnel or take the ferry rather than drive (with all security that goes with them), rarely experience the freedom of moving around the world without borders.

We are in a time warp.

We need to vote in – really in.

Time to Review the Council?

Our border with Turkey

Europe’s border fence with Turkey in Bulgaria

Regarding the flow of people from Asia and Africa into Europe it has often been asked what is Europe doing about this? Well the answer is not a lot. But then we do not know much about what goes on in the place that the decisions are made.

First of all, the European government does not have the legal powers to control the flow of people across its borders.  It has control over goods and services but not people.  In other words, the European government may determine what and how goods and services may enter Europe but it has no control over how or where people may arrive.  The arrival of people is controlled by the individual states and once people have arrived in one state they are free to move throughout Europe (except Britain and Ireland which are semi-detached from Europe in this context).  It is as if Dorset lets in people from anywhere in the world who could then freely move to into any other county in England.  This means that if one member state is unwilling or unable to control its borders then those wishing to enter Europe will aim to enter via such a state.  For example, both Bulgaria and Greece have a border with Turkey but Bulgaria’s land border was made almost impenetrable in 2014 consequently people are flowing through to Greece at great risk to themselves.

Whatever ones view as to the categories of people who may travel across a border it seems to me that a free travel area must have a common external border such that entering in any part of the common area is equal in ease or difficulty to any other part of the common area.  Clearly this is not happening in Europe.

Despite all the news regarding the current migration of people little light, if any, has been shone on the European Union decision making.  It is no surprise really because many of these decisions are made behind closed doors. No European policy may become law without it being passed by the European Union Council – the upper house or senate of the European legislature.  Yet unlike the American senate the general public is not allowed to listen or watch all of the proceedings.  The European Union Council has 28 members – one for each member state.  They are not directly elected but appointed by each member state (in a similar fashion to the American senate in its early days). The party affiliation of the council is:

10 – People’s Party
8 – Socialist Party
7 – Liberal Party
1 – Conservative Party
2 – Independents.

Britain’s Conservative Party is the smallest party in the European Union Council.  Decisions are made, as far as possible by consensus.  Indeed decisions in foreign affairs; the function under which migration is taken, must be made by consensus. This means that to reach a decision to deal with the migration policy requires the agreement of all the ministers even that of the socialist member from Malta (the state with the least people) representing less than a tenth of a percent (0.08%) of the European population.

Put it another way if 1,250 people were to attempt to take a decision and any one of those 1,250 people had a veto over that decision then it is unlikely that any meaningful decision could be made.

It is amazing that the European Union functions at all.  Think that it is time to review the way the council works – ready for the next treaty change.

In the meantime it would be good if the BBC, ITV and Sky focused on reporting on the European Union Council  as the union’s upper house – because most people have not heard of it.

Elmbridge Youth Service

Youth Club smallSurrey is halving the funding for Claygate and Weybridge youth centres.  Given the cut is so severe, Surrey has given the youth centre management committees time to raise funds from other sources before withdrawing its own funding – although it will not wait for ever (or even a year).  If you are in a position to offer support then please get in touch.

How did this happen?

It began with the Conservative state administration reducing its contribution to
local government revenues.  This is particularly painful because local government in England (unlike in most countries) is heavily restricted in how it may raise its own funds.  Even the tax that it is allowed to raise is heavily controlled by the state.  For example, income tax, national insurance and VAT increase year on year with inflation but council tax decreases.  The state even proscribes local governments’ ability to keep council tax in line with inflation; a situation that would not be tolerated in America, Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy or Spain.

Surrey has chosen to cut its youth services across the county by 11% in nominal terms.  It could have cut the service in all districts by the same amount.  Fortunately, the youth service took the view that it was time to examine need across the county afresh.

The primary directive is to ensure neets (young people not in education, employment or training) get into sustainable work and then to reduce neets to zero.  To disburse funds across the county according to need, the neets have to be located and various other indicators of deprivation have to be assembled.  The county used eleven indictors and determined that Elmbridge would have its funding increased by 6% – despite the general county cut of 11%.

Surrey took this analysis down to town level within Elmbridge itself to match the service provision with need.  This has meant that some towns, for example, Claygate and Weybridge had their service reduced and others, for example, Cobham had theirs increased.  Ditton and Oxshott have no provision from Surrey.

Napoleon meets his Waterloo

Nepoleon Re-enactmentPainshill welcomes back the Napoleonic Association for a special re-enactment to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. On both there will be incredible sights and dramatic performances as the soldiers, officers and camp followers re-enact various scenes, including the raising of the flag, a drill parade and a skirmish. There will be lots of noise and smoke as the infantrymen fire volley after volley and manoeuvre to offer their fatal blow whilst deploying the crack skirmishing force, the 95th Rifles.

Visitors will also be able to walk through the living history encampment to see where the soldiers live, eat and sleep. The camp followers will entertain those who visit, with stories and their experiences of the Napoleonic period.

This exciting event which includes battles, skill at arms display and a living history encampment will take place on Sunday 30th and Monday 31st August Bank Holiday. The event is included in normal admission price.

For more details and to see the full programme click here

Adverts on Roundabouts

Advert-01Are you keen on having advertisements on our roundabouts in Elmbridge because you you see no harm in them? Or are you dead against them because they impoverish our beautiful borough? A number of proposals have already been withdrawn.  You can see what is proposed by clicking on a roundabout near you.

Sainsburys, Portsmouth Road, Cobham2015/1898
Claygate Lane/Kingston By-Pass, Ditton2015/1905
Lynwood Road/Woodfield Road, Ditton2015/1900
Embercourt Road/Hampton Court Way, Ditton2015/1903
Burwood Road/Severn Hills Road, Hersham2015/1894
Queen’s Road/West Grove, Hersham2015/1892
Hurst Road/Sadler’s Ride, Molesey2015/1901
Ashley Road/Stompond Lane, Walton, 2015/1908
Brooklands Road/Parvis Road, Weybridge,  2015/1907
Brooklands Road/Wellington  Way, Weybridge,  2015/1906
Monument Hill /Monument Road, Weybridge2015/1899