Fighting hate crime

Mary MarshallProposed by Liberal Democrat councillor Mary Marshall, Elmbridge Borough Council passed the motion below at its meeting on 20 July 2016:

“We are proud to live in a diverse and tolerant society. Racism, xenophobia and hate crimes have no place in our country. We, Elmbridge Borough Council, condemn racism, xenophobia and hate crimes unequivocally. We will not allow hate to become acceptable.

“Elmbridge Borough Council will work to ensure local bodies and programmes have the support and resources needed to fight and prevent racism and xenophobia. We reassure all people living in Elmbridge that they are valued members of our community.”

Elmbridge has a long established history of promoting and developing a robust Equality and Diversity agenda. It was the first Borough in Surrey to set up a borough-based Equality and Diversity Forum in 2007, which comprises representatives from statutory, voluntary, community and faith sector organisations as well as individuals with an interest in equality and diversity issues in Elmbridge.

The forum remit covers all areas where inequality and discrimination may exist and includes older people, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation and transgender identity, as well as other broader equality issues. Its mission statement is “to promote equality, celebrate diversity and support good relations in Elmbridge”.

Doctor Who says Don’t Bomb Syrians

Doctor Who

Peter Capaldi, as Doctor Who, is a tour de force in explaining why the British should not bomb the Syrian people in Daesh territories.  I have no idea whether or not the writers of this episode (from 30 mins 20 secs), Peter Harness/Steven Moffat, intended this drama to be an allegory of the decision facing the national parliament next week but it fits the bill.

The British have attacked this area of the world for many centuries, it began to occupy it in the late nineteenth century, and when the civilian population rebelled against British rule the British bombed them.  At the peak of its power in 1942 Britain controlled Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria.  Just as the British remember the Blitz, the people of Arabia remember the British bombing.  We do not serve our interests by bombing Arab civilians again.

Memories are long held.  Many in Arabia recall the Frankish invasions of the eleventh century (what Europeans refer to as the Crusades). It does not take much imagination to cast any military action that the British undertake today as a replay of those invasions.

It is the British government’s first duty to defend our land and the people in it.  The best policy is to deal with violence and potential violence within Britain using firm but fair justice. It takes time and can be frustrating but, in the long term, it preserve more lives and provides for a better quality of life for all.

Military action outside of British territory should only take place in support of a democratic state or under UN auspices.

Prime Minister Cameron does Britain no favours by dropping a few bombs in Syria – and it will be just a few.  It is pure tokenism based on dubious morality and untied to any process towards peace for the Syrians.  One of the worst type of violent actions.

I am not a pacifist. For example, I am absolutely clear that we should have recovered the Falkland Islands but this bombing appears to be a puerile, knee-jerk reaction to recent events.  I am saddened that so many of our MPs know so little of history and foreign affairs that they have got sucked in by the “we must do something party”.  After all it was because we did something last time that we got into this trouble in the first place.

An eye for an eye makes the world blind.

Watch the Peter Capaldi tell MPs what it all about on iPlayer from 30 mins 20 secs

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.

Heathrow

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.

Witness appeal following assault on Weybridge tow path

Surrey PoliceThe police service is appealing for witnesses following an assault which took place on the tow path near Desborough Island, Weybridge at around 7pm on Tuesday, 7 July.

A man was assaulted by a group of teenagers along the towpath and suffered serious facial injuries which required hospital treatment.  One of the male suspects had ginger hair, another female offender had blonde hair and there was possibly an east Asian man in the group.

The police is determined to find those responsible and bring them to justice.  They are carrying out a full investigation and local officers are carrying out inquiries in the area as well as reviewing CCTV opportunities to track down the offenders.  The police has also stepped up patrols in the area to provide a visible deterrent.

Anyone with information is asked to call Surrey Police on 101 quoting reference 45150059450 or by using the online reporting system.  Alternatively the independent charity Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Grotto Pub Site

Grotto Pub Site webMany of you will know of the Grotto Pub Site.  It was my local when I moved here over thirty years ago.

On Monday next a planning application (2015/2042) will be presented for the demolition of the pub and the building of nine one-bedroom flats.

There will be no provision for cars on the site because the site is adjacent to the town centre and therefore it is considered to be in a sustainable location.  What do you think the likelihood is that none of the new 9 to 18 occupants of this development would have a car?   Where would they park?  A local told be recently that if a development was not expected to be occupied by car-owners then that should be written into the lease of the occupancy – as it is in London.  Interesting idea – what do you think?

The junction of Monument Hill and Baker Street is not, to say the least, optimal.  The sight lines are poor – the new wall might make it worse.  The curvature of the Baker Street entrance encourages speed.  The new development will reduce the width of the pavement – presently people walk over the front of the Grotto to pass each other.  These are not the fault of the proposal.

The flats are entirely north facing – so the occupants could not be in their flats and overlook Hillcrest.

I welcome your views on this prominent site.

Cycling Strategy comes to Weybridge

CyclistThe Weybridge cycling campaign welcomes the move to set Weybridge as the town in Elmbridge to begin the new cycling strategy.  This five year strategy looks to the present and future needs of the town in planning new facilities for cyclists.  The main trust will be to plan for a network of safe cycling routes between Weybridge and its neighbours (Shepperton, Walton, Hersham, Cobham, Byfleet, Woodham and Addlestone) especially in relation to the main locations in Weybridge: the riverside, town centre, Heathside School/Brooklands College (along with the primary schools), station, Brooklands offices and out-of-town shopping.

The aim is for safe cycling between all of these locations.  Our aim is to catch up with the Netherlands.  They began a while ago but look at this video to see how they managed the change.

Surrey urged to fund 20 mph limits

20mphFor a background on why 20mph is so important see here.

The Surrey Liberal Democrats are calling on the Surrey administration to provide the necessary funding to implement 20 mph speed limits outside Surrey schools where requested by the school and the local community.

Introducing a 20mph limit on all our streets is probably the most important way of improving our health and quality of life.  Even more cost effective than spending more on NHS England!  The reason is simple.  If speeds on the streets are less than 20mph cycling and walking increases and as more people cycle and walk their life expectancy improves by six years on average.  Not only do people live longer but their quality of life improvise too.  All this can be done by a simple change in the speed limit law.

It is of upmost importance that children are safe going to and from school and 20 mph speed limits outside schools help to achieve this by reducing traffic speeds and improving road safety.  A reduced speed limit warns drivers that they need to slow down near a school and in general drivers do slow down.

In Mole Valley, Surrey introduced three trial 20 mph advisory limits outside schools and following the trial the 20 mph advisory limits were made permanent.  However, whilst making these trial 20 mph limits permanent, Surrey also decided not to roll-out the trial to cover the roads outside other schools in the district.