Monday, November 26, 2007

Waking up to Evan

Well, we were definitely woken by the Today programme this morning just after 7.30am. Vic seems to think that Evan Harris is always on when she listens to Today at mine. But I'm fairly certain that can't be the case.
I was deeply impressed by his forceful and entirely liberal arguments for free speech and even sharing a platform with individuals who hold certain distainful views. I'd much rather someone like Evan was on the same platform providing solid well spoken arguments as to why their views are absolute nonsense and hokum, than let them stand outside and not have anyone challenge their views at all.
Students' Unions across the country generally have no-platform policies. But this either builds in a level of bureacracy that hinders free speech, or allows ruling groups to define what they find unacceptable (eg in the 70s/80s when Tories were barred from speaking in SUs.)
I've recently been at the receiving end of this bureacracy as a debate had to be cancelled at short notice because the Labour and Tory student groups had failed to supply the necessary paperwork in time, whereas the LD student group had managed to fulfil the requirements.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Radcliffe rules himself out of England job

Today, I have formally announced that I will not be seeking the England managers job with the FA.
Now is the wrong time in my football managerial career to be stepping up to international level from simple fantasy league football management.
I will of course lend my full support to whoever is the unlucky guy who does get the job.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

fraud: a good and bad day

Yesterday I had a strange day.
Firstly, I had a call from my credit card operator to query some transactions in the previous 24 hrs. It turned out that my card had been the victim of fraudulent behaviour, although it maybe that they managed to stop the transactions early enough.
In the afternoon, I was chairing the Council's audit committee. We touched on the issue of cracking down on fraud against the city council. In the last two days the work of the Audit Committee has received some positive press coverage, despite getting some of their facts slightly wrong.
So after a long day of work and meetings, the last thing I expected was for the government to go and lose 25m peoples personal details!
The whole sorry saga does lead to some interesting questions. A particular area of work that local councils' audit teams do is something called the national fraud initiative. For that to work, details from national databases needs to be linked to other national databases, and local data to match whether there are people possibly taking advantage of different parts of the welfare and support system. For that to happen you need to be able to transmit and share personal data between local councils and government departments. I'll certainly be asking the question of our auditors to make sure we aren't sending CDs in the internal mail.

Monday, November 19, 2007

teignmouth's golfing attractions

After popping down to Devon to see Vic's mum, we managed to get a round in on the Teignmouth's excellent "adventure golf" course on the Den.
Not quite as busy as normal, well it is November, which also meant we weren't caught behind family groups with young kids not providing any coaching or guidance on at least hitting the ball safely, let alone towards the hole...
It was yet another close game, but this time neck and neck between Mrs M and myself going into the last hole. Unfortunately Vic had had a mare and was never in it.
That should be the last practice round before the big Boxing Day tourny. (Subject to the district council opening it, if not we'll be taking our own bat and balls, and jumping the fence).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cycling on pavements

1 pedestrian on the pavement killed in 8 years by a cyclist makes the news. But no mention of the 80 pedestrians on pavements killed by motorists per year.
Reminds me of the the Day Today sketch where Coogan as a pool security guard goes "In 1990 no one died. In 1991 no one died. In 1992 no one died. In 1993 no one died. In 1994 someone died. In 1995 no one died."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

HIP HIP hurray?

Well, we've had an interesting couple of months after making an offer on new house back in September. But over the last week we've had to pull the plug on the offer.
From a buyers perspective, the sooner HIPS are in place for all properties the better.
If we'd had sight of a survey, carried out at the expense of the current owner, then we would never had made a serious offer at the level we did. Indeed, I doubt the estate agent would even have tried to market property at the price they did!
As it is, someone else will eventually make an offer, and have to go through the same process of paying for a survey. There is only one beneficiary as far as I can see, and thats surveyers!
Fortunately its possible for our solicitor to sell on the results of property searches, but we can't sell the survey results to any potential buyer...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

wii-ze does it

According to the BBC website, there is currently a shortage of Wii's on the highstreet. As a consumer who's been trying to buy one, that doesn't come as any sort of surprise. Any shop you walk into, in any town will normally give you some form of "if they come in, then its on Friday, but we don't know how many we'll get, if any". Of course you're asking this question on Saturday or Sunday, when the sign says "out of stock".
But today, my new Wii arrived. I ordered it on Sunday evening, got despatched from on Monday morning, arriving by DHL this morning.
Good old fashioned German efficiency.
I strongly suspect that the supply shortage is simple a mechanism for Nintendo, and the retailers to maintain high prices. From it was just 254 euros, or about £170. There are some resellers offering it for £289...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Birmingham Mayoral debate: 8 months in

Today marks the 8th month of the Birmingham Evening Mail's "big debate" and petition on having an elected mayor for Birmingham. Fortunately, I'm here to mark the occasion of the passing of this date. Unfortunately, the Evening Mail seems to have lost count of when they started their campaign, and last week reported that it had only been going for 6 months. If they can't even count to 8 months, how are they going to count to 36,000 signatures accurately?
It would appear that very slow progress is being made towards the 36,000 signatures required. They have apparently verified 6000 signatures. So 1/6 of the way, in 2/3 of the time. Not that good I think!
The irony is that once they pass 13 March 2008, those most eager to see a referendum and first to sign up to the petition, will actually drop off the petition!
Fortunately for them, the Evening Mail editor is meeting up for a quick chat with the relevant minister to find out what "significant" means. The point being that the relevant legislation states that the petition has to be 5% or a significant number of petitioners.
I can only assume that he thinks that finding 36,000 residents of Birmingham to sign his petition is proving a little difficult. Maybe his readers, those who went to the derby match at the weekend, or local shoppers think its the important issue that he does. As a local council, we're going to continue concentrating on the issues that really matter to our residents: clean streets, a green environment and a safe city to live in. Why doesn't the editor stick to writing a newspaper. Maybe he'll have more readers?

Why Dave's Council Tax plan is plain stupid

Another day, another flakey tory policy proposal.
Davey C's floated proposal that Council's should have a referendum if they propose Council Tax raises above a certain %age certainly does sound like its devolving power and decision making right down to the people.
But I think there are two faults with this:
1) The %age trigger rate set by Government will effectively be a cap in all but name. No Council would ever try putting a referendum on higher taxes. Just like the Government doesn't have a referendum on capital punishment.
2) There are quite a lot of voters who don't actually pay council tax, or full rate council tax, either through benefits, exclusions (students, care home residents, monks/nuns) or discounts. Or those who pay council tax, but aren't permanently resident (owners of empty properties, 2nd home owners).
Should these people be excluded from the democratic process?
So nice sounding policy Dave. But another one that when you give it a moments thought is actually quite ridiculous.

Why not come up with a simple policy of scrapping the unfair council tax?

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Batemens do London village

Saturday was one of those days that ticked all my boxes.
An election count (well seeing someone press a button to show an electronic count), massive fireworks, and live music.
The election count was anti-climatic. Firstly I wasn't prepared for the particular result given the amount of work that had gone into the selection. Secondly, electronic counts are fairly boring for the observer... run the software... result...
We were lucky enough to be intime to pop down to see the Lord Mayor's fireworks on the south bank at 5pm. We managed to get a spot just past the festival hall, and almost on top of the launch barge. Which meant craning of necks as the huge mortars went off almost over head!
Finally we worked our way up to Islington to see a friends band play in the Old Kings Head on Holloway Rd. The band were on top form, and had a great new cover to wow the fans with: Eye of the Tiger.

I'm wearing my wifes knickers

Having seen the Armstrong and Miller show last Friday. I've been imagining Sir Ian Blair turning round to a camera and uttering this phrase whenever some committee or press conference presses him on continiuing in post.
One of his more outrageous responses was during the hearing at the GLA. He equated the call for his head with someone calling for the head of the british army or the head of a hospital to resign on the death of a soldier in combat, or a patient on the operating table.
My understanding of both of these situations is that the soldier has volunteered to be in combat (and being paid to serve their country), while the patient is taking a calculated risk of undergoing surgery (ie an improvement to their health and probably the risk of death in not undergoing the surgery).
Jean Charles de Menezes didn't have the risks of being shot 7 times in the head while using London's public transport system explained to him on that day in July 2005.

The last train to

On Saturday night we had the unexpected pleasure of being amongst some of the last passengers to use a Silverlink service from London to Watford. From Sunday morning they became LondonMidland.
The downside to this was that the last train was at the much earlier time of 2345 to allow them to de-livery the rolling stock. Which meant we had to leave the pub where we'd gone to see a band before the end of their 2nd set.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Corby featured in the Grauniad

There is an interesting piece in yesterday's G2 section of the Guardian that profiles the marginal seat of Corby & East Northants.
The angle the story takes is more about how Ashcroft is possibly distorting the electoral playing field with his personal targeting strategy, backed up by his wealth. This is played off against the use of the parliamentary communications allowance of £10k by the sitting MP.
The story doesn't mention how the LibDem vote actually increased in 2005, rather than being squeezed in this marginal constituency. I'd like to take some personal credit for that, but it should all go to Chris Stanbra, my agent then and stalwart of the local party who has invigorated the LDs locally, and ensured a prescence on the Corby town council.
The sorty becomes even more interesting when you look at the record of donations to the Corby tory party accounting unit on the Electoral Commission website. I can't see any sign of Ashcroft's donations. Maybe when Louise Carpetbagshaw comments on whats been received so far, she is actually covering for the fact that no cheque has been forthcoming?
The article does also make me wonder about tory campaigns. Why the need for a colour photocopier in the HQ? And surely the millionaire author can afford to help out by buying her organiser a more modern laptop, one with a USB socket...

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Byrne Mobile Phone Irony

It couldn't have happened to a more unlikely person. But my favourite minister, Liam Byrne, has been found guilty of using his mobile phone whilst driving. The BBC has the more complete story.
The irony is not only that Byrne is a Home Office minister. Nor the fact he's an ex-police minister (for about 2 weeks). But that during the by-election at which he was elected in 2004, his campaign was based almost completely on attacking Nicola Davies because of her employment as a Council Liaison Manager with the Mobile Operators Association.
Hoist by his own petard.
On reflection, Byrne's excuse of "taking a very important call on a deportation matter" is even worse than it sounds. The judge should have passed a higher sentence rather than cutting it, as he's openly admitted that he really couldn't have been paying proper attention to the road.