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Showing posts from January, 2005

Cabinet

Labour slammed the administration today for the fact that we had not resolved a budgetary problem in Leisure that has existed for at least 3 years during Labour's Administration. We were, however, able to explain what it was and how it will be resolved.

In the mean time if they would like new carpet at a price below £252 per square yard or even £169 per square metre (on average) they could approach Hammond Hill who offer a much better price.

Indeed they might even decide not to have top of the range carpet in their offices.

Village Jazz Phoenix rises from ashes

The Thursday Night Jazz Session at The Village will be reborn, hopefully this week. Anyone who is interested in Jazz Standards will be welcome to sit in. I need to spend a bit of time hunting up some horns.

The forms are the standard forms (preferred alternate chords in the Best Chord Changes for the Worlds Best Standards series). I will provide a rhythm section based around a Technics SX-KN7000 Accompanier which gives a good walking bass and drums. If, however, a proper bassist turns up then he or she can plug directly into the PA. There are three mikes for vocals or horns. Unusually jazz singers will be welcome - as long as they don't require real time transposition and can sing the songs in the keys in the book.



Bring Them Home

Discussed plans for a potential campaign to bring our boys and girls back from Iraq. Between 700 and 800 injured members of the British Armed forces have not been visited by those in government nationally unlike the US Government.

Now elections have happened there is no reason why British Troops should remain in Iraq. The tensions created merely by their presence make it clear that part of the recipe for peace is the removal of belligerent troops. This, however, causes the US some problems as one of their objectives for the invasion was to keep a military presence.

Notwithstanding that a phased withdrawal of British Troops should start as soon as possible. I am waiting to see what the government's position will be on this, but I have had preliminary discussions today about a "bring them home" campaign in the event that the government seem not to be acting properly.

Holocaust Memorial Day

I chaired Birmingham's Holocaust Memorial event in the Foyer of Symphony Hall today. This was an event both in memory of all atrocities and in memory of the Holocaust itself. It was very well attended with over 200 people there (the first event 5 years ago had about 20 people there).

We had a Normandy Veteran and a survivor of Auschwitz speak as well as a film of what happened.

It is worth dwelling on these matters to remember how bad things can get. There are many tensions in the world and things are being done which exacerbate the tensions.

In Birmingham I was quite clear that we are recognising all atrocities without limit. There are atrocities which continue today in many places in the world. There seems to be some debate nationally as to whether or not this particular event is inclusive or not. In Birmingham it was inclusive. I personally met Christians, Muslims, Buddhists as well as Jews who were at the event.

It saddens me really that people in government (cf Dubya a…

New PA and Keyboard

I have now got my new PA (1kW) and keyboard so should be able to go on the road (at least in Birmingham) with my jazz playing friends. My children are having some fun with the PA which has an onboard effects processor (in the mixer) which gives the standard digital mixes including pitch change - a really entertaining thing for a 4 year old.

If they will give me a visa to visit Bearwood (ask Labour Councillor Bob Piper for that) I might even play as far away as Smethwick.

Electoral Fraud - The Blair Government's Ace of Trumps

The Guardian reports on part of the story about Electoral Fraud.

Electoral Fraud has gone on for many years and there are voters you can find who were happy to give parties their voting card with the assumption that the party will get an informal proxy (aka Personation, which is a criminal offence) for them.

The big stress in Northern Ireland arose when one party started voting for the other parties' voters.

Meanwhile through a combination of incompetence and knowing creation of political advantage the massive increase of postal voting has occurred.

This in Birmingham (and many other large cities) has turned electoral fraud into a mass production industry. In one ward (Aston) I estimate between 1,000 and 2,000 ballot papers have some fraudulent element to them. It is, however, hard to prove fraud. We have two election courts being prepared for in Birmingham.

We may only be able to prove that something like 500 ballot papers were cast fraudulently in Aston (that's 2000 votes…

Broadband Brum

A positive outcome from Friday was a meeting which established Broadband Brum which is a collaboration between the private sector (eg BT), and the City Council to establish cost effective Broadband services in the City. This will be a unique thing for Birmingham.

The conclusion was that Content is a key part of this. A couple of hours later the Strategic partnership agreed to cooperate on this matter. This is something where the members of the BSP can achieve a lot.

Birmingham Strategic Partnership

Friday's meeting of the BSP (erstwhile CSP) was the first meeting that I have been to that seemed to take anything further forward. We are still having a certain amount of Omphaloscopy, but we did manage to move on to a wider consideration.

Where the Strategic Partnership can achieve a lot is by ensuring there is effective communication between different communities of interest in Birmingham and that we don't have lots of disparate groups of people going off doing random things in isolation. What it can do is actually achieve "partnership working". What it should not try to do from the perspective of philosophical principle is to try to control things in minute details. The next step is to have reports considered that are much much shorter. People feel there is a status in writing long and detailed reports. For something considering a city of a million people long detailed reports will be of no great merit if we want to move things on.

What was particularly nice was …

Birmingham offers fourth option for Council Tenants

There has been considerable debate about how to fund improvements to council housing.

Three options are generally made available by government:

Stock Transfer - where all the housing stock moves to an RSL (Registered Social Landlord - aka Housing Association)

ALMO - Arms Length Management Organisation - where the goverment gives the council about £4,600 per property if they set up a remote structure for managing Housing.

PFI - Which is where a contract for managing properties is created.

The fourth option is whereby the stock continues to be managed by the council potentially involving tenants as part of the management.

What Birmingham is doing which is unique is to offer tenants a positive retention option that can be funded. Housing Finance can be a bit confusing. In essence by recycling money that comes in from the sale of housing land we can fund the 4th option. (Which is required to make up the missing £165 Million.)

Essential things in housing, however include:
Efficiency - i…

Catch 22

The story so far:

Someone was run over with his own car in 2003 whilst it was being stolen. Another person was caught driving it the next day. On returning it to the owner it was found to have drugs in it.

Clearly it cannot be proven that the person driving it actually stole it. However, the police state that the CPS indicate that it would be "abuse of process" to prosecute the driver for "handling stolen goods" (or more precisely driving stolen goods).

The response from the CPS is that they need the name of the defendant to be able to search up the case and give their reasoning.

The police, however, cannot give the name of the defendant because of Data Protection Regulations.

Seems like Catch 22.

The story is not over yet.

*CPS - Crown Prosecution Service.

Boundary Inquiry

There is an inquiry into the Parliamentary Boundaries going on in The Council House today.

I have put forward our case that Yardley, Sheldon and Acocks Green should stay together (as has been the case for about 1300 years).

Whereas as far as Labour were concerned Bordesley Ward had a natural affinity with Washwood Heath in 2004 now Labour are calling for the following seats:

Washwood Heath, Hodge Hill, Shard End, Sheldon
South Yardley, Stechford and Yardley North, Sparkbrook, Bordesley Green
Acocks Green, Hall Green, Brandwood, Billesley

As usual Labour show no real consistency save self-interest.

Another example of Labour inconsistency is on the 2nd runway at BIA where Solhull Labour oppose it and Birmingham Labour support it.

Those Labour Office Costs

The Labour Group have expressed concern as to the accuracy of my earlier report on the refurbishment costs of the Labour Group Offices. To confirm the figures are:
RoomDecorationsCarpetLightingTotalM1872,3014,5453507,196M1911,8854,5457007,130M1853,1204,5451,050 + 3269,041M1832,5351,2357004,470M1772,9703,0258806,875M1792,6003,1857006,485
Total 41,197

Targets and Street Sweepers

I encountered our new Street Sweeping machine on the Coventry Road in Sheldon today. It had a flat tyre and had been sitting there for about 2 hours.

This shows the problems with managing things through targets and statistics. We don't have a statistic which measures how long it takes the depot to come out and sort out a flat tyre. Common Sense dictates that the depot should move reasonably quickly to sort this out, but Common Sense and the Public Sector don't make easy bed fellows.

There is no sense in having yet another statistic of "how long does it take to fix the street sweeper", but at the same time what is the sense of having the machine in existance if it is merely laid up with a flat tyre.

Art for art's sake - money for god's sake

Was part of a number by 10cc in the 1980s

Tablature for this is available along with the lyrics. (in the chorus).


Art for art's sake money for God's sake
Art for art's sake money for God's sake.
Gimme the ready Gimme the cash
gimme a bullet gimme a smash gimme a
silver gimme a gold make it a million
for when I get old


Which raises a number of questions.

The role of semantic art - music (with words), poetry, drama, fiction is not clear. What is clear is that it does not operate in isolation from reality.

Much of the saga with Bezhti has remained outside the public domain. This particular dispute was primarily driven by a large number of consultations which put the contents of the play "in the face" of the Sikh community.

I still believe that if the Birmingham Rep had not consulted on the play it would have passed with little comment. The fact was that they highlighted the whole thing with the Council of Gurdwaras then having asked them what they thought …

Biscuit Budget - Iron Angle

Iron Angle in The Birmingham Post on Saturdays is an equivalent of the Parliamentary Diary written about Birmingham City Council. Today it features me confirming that yes the City Council does have a biscuit budget.

The background to this is a debate at Full Council where the Labour Leader (Sir Albert Bore) criticised the Lib Dems for having lunch at £14.95 each on the general fund when we spent 6 hours unpaid on a Sunday reviewing council matters. He claimed that Labour paid for all their own group food.

I didn't quite believe this and therefore did some research to find that the Labour group spent thousands of pounds on food and that their group executive charged the Council Tax Payer £113 per month for food. Much that Sir Albert Bore claims that he had paid for it we could not find the cheque. Sir Albert was a bit miffed about this and said he would prove that they have paid for it and he wanted an apology. I am still waiting for the proof.

As part of this process my own g…

Bush's speech

One of the useful things about the internet is that you can go back to source. Whereas prior to the net it was possible to get hold of the original text. Now it is very easy.

Bush's inaugural speech

has various elements to it.

"So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

I suppose this is the key change. In the past the US was generally very introspective. Now the Project for a New American Century's ideology has come to the fore. This is not surprising given the Close Associations between the Bush Administration and PNAC.

"All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you."

Tyranny is set as Bush's enemy and Liberty is his objective.

Democracy
Democracy is supposed to…

City Housing Liaison Board

I attended last Night's City Housing Liaison Board for half an hour. Last time I attended there was an attempt to exclude me from the meeting which resulted in 22 votes for me to remain and 8 votes for me to be expelled.

Last night, however, noone objected to me being there as an observer. It appears that a number of those members of the board who backed Labour when there was a move to exclude me no longer back the Labour Party.

The tenants and leaseholders are unhappy with the Labour Government reneging on their promise of a level playing field for social housing. They also refused to have a briefing from the Housing Department on the "Our Homes Appraisal".

They rightly take the view that they voted overwhelmingly against Stock Transfer and as a consequence the government should accept that.

They agree with us that wasting £1.6 Million on yet another consultation about Stock Options (The "our Homes Appraisal") is a waste of money that noone needs. They wer…

Success of Trojan 3

Councillor John Hemming, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council and Chair
of the Birmingham Strategic Partnership has welcomed the success of
operation Trojan 3 dealing with crime and buses.

Working together the Police, City Centre Management Street Wardens and
Travel West Midlands Bus Inspectors ran an operation entitled "Trojan 3"
around buses and bus stops over a period of 9 days.

The team boarded a total of 392 buses, Checking 5699 passengers, 289 fixed
penalty notices were issued totalling in excess of £3000 pounds. In
addition 14 arrests were made, 1 for theft of dvds, 4 were wanted on
warrant, 2 for non co-operation, 2 for offensive weapons, 4 drug related
one of which was a an A class drug, 1 person was searched, his bag contained
hard core pornographic material, on further investigation he was found to
have absconded from Manchester where he was awaiting deportation. This
offender was known to the Wardens, he had previously been a street peddlar
on…

Graham Report - 10th report into public standards

The Graham Report has now been released.

I welcome the publication of the 10th Report into Public Standards. This report recognises that the current procedures where councillors have been sacked for:

- sitting in a meeting with a constituent without saying they are a councillor (Coleen Gill-East Riding-Lib Dem)
- writing to an MP (Coleen Gill-East Riding-Lib Dem)
- taking the wrong route out of a dinner (Blackpool-Labour)
- agreeing to the erection of gates (Tameside-Labour)
- representing a constituent as a solicitor (Tory)
- saying F**k - amongst other things (Peterborough-Tory)
- issuing a leaflet complaining about lack of action on anti social behaviour (Hull-Independent)
- revealing an officer's salary (Yorkshire somewhere - SDP)
- revealing an unlawful payment to a nuclear power company (Lancaster-Green)

are wrong.

It is important, however, that any changes fully recognise that the role of the councillor is to hold the system to account. If people are rude from time to tim…

Stunell Private Members Bill

Andrew Stunell MP has now issued his private members bill about planning controls on telecommunications mast.

It continues to surprise me that noone has noted that in the third quarterly report of DSTL into the TETRA system there is sign of a non-thermal effect from TETRA signals.

This is the key debate that the Home Office commissioned research was supposed to answer.

On the Police Reform website it says:

Results from Dstl studies show that TETRA signals have no effect on calcium exchanges in cells – the main concern of the Stewart report;

Yet in the third quarterly report from DSTL it uses the phrase:
"no statistically significant effects"

Note the important difference in the use of the adjective "statistically significant"

Whereas on Page 13 of the report in the graph it shows a clear effect (that does not always occur) when the signals are switched on and when they are switched off.



I would have thought they should have done substantially more testing of this p…
Birmingham Strategic Partnership
Birmingham's Citywide Strategic Partnership has had some problems, but I now feel that things are starting to move in the right direction.

There are many issues that need different bodies to work together. The best route to achieving this is through what is called "partnership working". In the past the City's Citywide Strategic Partnership has been dominated by vague discussions about strategies - with the usual problem with the bureaucracy of strategies having the ability to undermine action.

We have now managed to clarify the objectives of the Strategic Partnership and also clarify the membership (and broaden it slightly).


Robert Jackson - Alan Milburn's viewMr. Robert Jackson (Wantage) rose—
Mr. Jackson: The Government are going in the right direction, but there is some poetic justice here, in that the Secretary of State is being attacked in the same terms as the Labour party used to attack us when we were trying to free up the system. On reflection, does he not think that we should take that into account when we conduct our debates on this matter in the House? He is facing exactly the same charges about privatisation and two-tierism as we did. Mr. Milburn: Support from the hon. Gentleman is about as welcome as myxomatosis in a rabbit hutch—although I hope that it does not have the same deadly consequences. Hansard 7th May 2003
Planning and Paintball
I have just washed the pink paint out of my hair. For my now 12 year old's 12th Birthday we took him and 10 of his friends to paintball in Thornbury. Much that headshots did not count that did not prevent me being splattered on my head by 150 mph paintballs which went through the visor into my hair.

Good fun for the kids much that it is ironic how much effort goes into warning people in a war game not to slip in the mud and hurt themselves.

Being one to see these things I noted that they had set up in business and then applied for planning permission - with the argument that now people know what it is if they object. It seems that if they don't get permission then it won't cost them that much just to close down after 2 years trading.

The planning laws can be quite complex and challenging in those situations. I am still having a bit of a discussion with the Council following the local elections as to whether or not I have planning permission for on…
Polling Report
Polling Report is a new datasynthesis type website where the results of various types of opinion polls are found. I am not aware of any other source of this information for the UK which is as complete.

As someone who has been canvassing now almost for 30 years (actually 28 1/2) I find voting opinion polls a very rough source of information. Because they do not look at the situation in specific seats they do not pick up things that are picked up more locally. They do, however, give some guide as to how people's views are going.

Polling Report's ID analyses make interesting reading particularly this ICM poll.

The government's posturing on ID cards/database is driven moreso by trying to get an image of being "tough on crime" (after a 13 year old was caught driving drunk at 70mph in a stolen car having been banned twice before which my 14 year old finds full of irony).

The government accept that ID cards/database will do nothing to help with terroris…
Constituency Walkabout
I spent much of today walking around Yardley talking to local residents. I always find this a very useful way of finding out what the real problems are.

One local resident was run over by a thief who stole his car and then used it to run him over. Someone was caught driving the same car the next day. The police are saying that this particular person cannot be prosecuted for handling stolen goods (actually steering them through Stechford) because it would be "abuse of process" according to the CPS. It is not possible to prosecute the driver for stealing the car as it cannot be proven that he actually stole it.

That raises an interesting question as to what the abuse of process actually is. Issues like this, however, are important because of the wider impact they have on society.

I am also looking for alternative mechanisms for dealing with vandalism and graffiti. If we could make some progress with the civil law rather than criminal law that would …
NRF - Peace Breaks Out
NRF stands for Neighbourhood Renewal Fund. It is a sum of money adding up to £22 Million per year that is intended to be used for projects to assist with Birmingham (and 87 other local authorities) improving their performance on "Floor Targets".

Floor Targets are objectives defined statistically to improve certain matters (eg reduce crime, get better exam results). The theory is one that by bringing the bottom 88 authorities up we make progress throughout the country.

Most local authorities merely snaffled the money for their core budgets. There are certain rules of gamesmanship that apply to getting money from UK Government and the EU. There is a form of bureaucratic dance that occurs, but with people being very practised in the art of adjusting their projects to suit the funding the money often ends up being swallowed up for nothing.

Birmingham tried something innovative. We had spent £50K in each ward on projects identified in the ward from reve…
A surreal court hearing
One thing that tends to happen with politics is that things go down totally irrelevant routes. The court case today was something like that. The nub of the case relates to exactly what happened in the Prince of Wales public house on a day in May.

Facts that are accepted.
There was a dispute involving TK and JP.
JP ended up bleeding and concussed.
TK was later attacked by person or persons unknown thought to be in retaliation.
TK was arrested and bailed by the police.
TK was banned from the Prince of Wales pub and is still banned.
The police are no longer prosecuting.
JP is taking out a civil action for damages, but proceedings have not been issued.

TK has no legal advisors (nor does Martin, I was acting as his advisor). At one stage TK asked for a court order to prevent "BarryTheOtter" and 3 others from trolling*. We also had a discussion about mice. Whereas the previous case only had one journalist, this one had three - and it is only a preliminary he…
In Court Again Today
This will be the second time this week. I was in "court" for a few minutes on Wednesday to defend my first Employment Tribunal in 20 years of employing people (I currently have about 100 staff).

Later today I will pop in for ex Labour Councillor Tony Kennedy's Malicious Falsehood Action against Lib Dem Councillor Martin Mullaney. This will be its second part in court.

It last hit court on November 6th

The background is that there was a row in a pub which resulted in someone (jp) getting their head cut and concussed. Tony Kennedy was banned by the landlord and later arrested by the police.

Martin Mullaney made an email post to a yahoogroup stating that Tony Kennedy was about to be arrested and Tony Kennedy threatened to sue him unless he withdrew.

He did not withdraw and TK issued a county court summons online through a system that is supposed to mainly be used for debt actions and the like.

TK also sued "Birmingham Liberal Democrats". The…
Coleen Gill (2)
The previous post has all the details. Lets have a look at the things according to the APE that Coleen should not have done:
Attended a meeting without declaring she is a councillor. This is badly flawed. Council Officers should behave the same way regardless of whether or not a councillor is in the room. However, people do not do this. It is, therefore, useful for councillors to act as "mystery customers" to check that people are doing what they should.
Written to an MP before exhausting all the local procedures. Ho Ho Ho.
Advocated on behalf of someone. If one writes a letter to the council on behalf of someone with the information they have provided, this will almost unvariably be taken at face value (ie unverified) and partisan (ie not having all the facts). If it is required that a) one verifies all information and b) always provides both sidesof the story then you cannot do anything.
Turned up at a meeting when told not to do by a council officer.…
Coleen Gill
This is the judgement of the Adjudication Panel in the Case of Coleen Gill.

The essence of the case is that Coleen Gill was asked by Mrs "A" who was the mother of two children to get involved in a case. The case was one in which the Social Workers thought that Mrs "A" was being involved in a form of Munchhausen's by proxy.

Coleen Gill

a) Attended a case conference with Mrs "A", without declaring she was a councillor
b) Sent copies of the case papers to the local MP David Davis MP

The conclusion of the Adjudication Panel is as follows (taken from the PDF with the report in it). I have tried to include the main sections only and then comment:
================== From the PDF, comments in Italics =======================

1.1.1 The allegation was that the Respondent became involved in a child
protection case and in doing so had failed to comply with the East Riding of
Yorkshire Council’s Code of Conduct by:
1.1.1.1 Acting in a manner which comprom…
GOWM calls for Tube Stations
GOWM - the Government Office for the West Midlands appears to be calling for Tube Stations. This comes from their performance framework for the Strategic Partnership which refers to having Police Officers at Tube Stations.

One presumes, therefore, to have police officers at tube stations we need to actually have tube stations and if we are going to have tube stations we should logically also have a tube to go with them (Although Curzon St Railway Station has no Railway .... now).

On the other hand it could simply be that a document for the West Midlands has been copied from a document for London.

These things happen.

Reasonable Force
We are still stuck with the issue of defining what is "reasonable force". What I think it "reasonable" the tories may think is "grossly disproportionate". That is where the problem lies.

The law clearly needs to be changed to identify what sort of force is allowed to be used in:
Defending yourself
Defending your home
Defending others.

The current system is fraught with confusion as it is a matter of judgement as to what is "reasonable".

The CPS may have issued "guidance", but that is insufficient. We need clarity. Such clarity needs a public debate.

Roman Law is interesting and clear.

For example in table 12:
12. A person committing burglary in the night may be lawfully killed.
13. A thief in the daytime may not be killed unless he carried a weapon . . . .

Personally I would feel that is beyond "reasonable force". However, we do need some definition of what is "reasonable force". I believe the…
Labour lose it in Council
Another symptom of an early General Election (apart from the financial crisis embroiling the government and the disputes between Brown and Blair) was Labour's antics today in the council chamber.

Firstly, they don't want to keep the Yardley wards together. Yardley, Sheldon and Acocks Green as areas have been together since 699. The Boundary Commission supported by Labour want to split them up putting Sheldon in with Washwood Heath and putting Yardley/Stechford in with Small Heath and Sparkbrook. This means the road Constance Road by the Cricket Ground would actually be in Yardley Constituency.

This Council opposes this supporting an alternative more sensible scheme.

Secondly, Labour voted against our proposal to hold onto the PRG monies. We have about £8 Million sitting in a bank account. We would like to have this to spend on Social Care dealing with children, elderly people and the disabled. Labour want to spend it. The only specific project t…
Looks Like an Early General Election
One swallow may not a summer make, but it really does look as if the election campaign has started.

Firstly, Labour have kicked off making false claims about me on my record relating to Anti-Social Behaviour.
Secondly, Moazzem Begg has been released.
Thirdly, the Labour Party has gone over the top in the council chamber. There is a pot of money £8M that is not spent. We want to keep it to deal with the council deficit that Labour left. Labour want to spend it and make the council's financial problems worse.
I'm amazed
Labour seem to want to claim that I oppose actions to cut down on anti-social behaviour.

It is the Labour Government that have paid to teach people to be effective graffiti vandals. Evening Mail 24th August 2004.

It is the Labour Government that has undermined discipline in schools by forcing schools to readmit violent pupils (as happened locally in Yardley).

It is the Labour Government under which the highest proportion of school children ever are taking drugs.
See BBC report of Sunday Express

Their ID Database scheme is simply "more laws for the law-abiding".

Swan Underpass
I did my advice bureau tonight and lo and behold the Swan Underpass remains bereft of graffiti. Much that I am really not sure why it has to be closed off over the weekend when the graffiti had been cleared by Thursday.

We have also tried to make Puffins extinct. Puffins are those silly types of pedestrian crossings (replacing Pelicans) that don't have a light to tell you when to walk or not. They did permit a pedestrian to do a little dance on Kings Heath High Street - much to the amusement of drivers (not!), but there are no lights once people have started to cross. You just need to trust technology.

Hmmm.

Puffins were a nonsense idea from government.

In the mean time, however. The Adjudication Panel for England have decided to ban a councillor for doing casework. I kid you not. The whole system is going surreal. Check out the Coleen Gill case somewhere oop north.

On Thursday we had a regeneration meeting at which almost the whole meeting was taken up by pr…
Labour Launch Campaign - more laws for the law abiding
Labour launched their campaign in Yardley today. They attacked me. I have said that we need to act to deal with criminals. Labour intend to introduce more laws for the law-abiding.

Their plan with the ID Database involves keeping detailed records of honest law-abiding people and fining them if they don't tell the government if

a) They move
b) Their ID card is stolen
c) Their ID card is damaged

In the mean time, however, the ID card will not apply to Asylum Seekers or illegal migrants, but it also cannot be used to distinguish between illegal migrants and legal migrants or indeed holidaymakers.

It is a waste of time for dealing with terrorism and will not be able to deal with the vast majority of benefit fraud.

It is another example of Labour's more laws for the law abiding.

In the mean time Labour have the record number of drug using school children.



New City Park with grass
We passed the report through the city cabinet today. This was, unlike proposals which emerged under Labour, a proposal for a park with grass in it. This is, of course, not the sort of grass that is smoked on the No 50 bus service.

It was also confirmed that if the Snow Hill development goes forward that the Kennedy Memorial will be preserved to the satisfaction of the Irish Forum.
Aceh - the media picks up on the truth

The proposal to DfID:
Humanitarian Assistance in Aceh Needed
Name of District Dead Displaced (Estimate)
(1) Aceh Besar (Banda Aceh) 9,032 12,500
(2) Aceh Jaya (Takengon) 15,000 25,000
(3) Kota Calang 5,000 10,000
(4) Aceh Barat (Meulaboh) 3,400 10,000
(5) Aceh Utara (Lokseumawe) 1,540 50,000

Remember this is dated 29th December in a proposal to DfID.

From an Indonesian source:
English Update 1: Meulaboh, Lhokseumawe and Nias are in Desperate Need of Help
Jakarta, 29 December 2004
The Indonesian Civil Society Coalition for Earthquake and Tsunami Victims


In the forgotten ghost town, thousands still wait for aid
(see original Observer story for more)
The relief effort is under way, but pitifully little help has reached Meulaboh, 200 miles from Banda Aceh, where corpses still litter the streets

Jason Burke
Sunday January 9, 2005
The Observer

They are still bringing out the dead in Meulaboh. Two weeks after the tidal wave that destroyed half the tow…
Closure of Swan Underpass
They did tell me that they would need to close off the A45 to clear the graffiti. Indeed it was closed off today, but the graffiti was cleared off at least 2 days ago.

I did say that I didn't think the road needed to be closed off. This is one of those mysteries I need to get to find out the details about.

Noticing the start of Labour's General Election poster campaign I wonder if the following slogans are ones Labour will use:

Labour - highest ever monthly government deficit 2004
Labour - youngest ever drunk driver convicted driving a stolen car
Labour - highest ever proportion of school age drug users

Somehow I don't think they will.

DfID's Situation Reports show some understanding of the problems in Aceh.

They now say:
"Indonesia: Inter Agency assessment ongoing, starting to provide complementary
information to localised NGO reports. In accessible areas, relief efforts starting to
move along with serious momentum. Coordination remain…
That's life
Earlier this week I bought a new oven much like the one I already have. It was delivered this morning. Tonight I came in at about 10.30pm. I thought now was the time to replace the oven so I started to take out the old oven. I had it sitting on two chairs and was trying to take out the plug when I noticed it was in fact the new oven.

C'est la vie. My 14 year old daughter replaced the oven earlier today.

Although I have bad news *again* from DfID, there is good news that the Judge studying the Aston Election Petition, has expressed public concern. The fact is that Labour candidates fiddled the elections in many wards in Birmingham and in other cities. So did other parties, but not to the same extent. The funniest is one ward in which a Labour candidate filled in a few hundred ballots, but only with his own name not with the two other Labour candidates (hence we won two seats and he won one). Sadly we don't have a petition in that ward.

With a bit of luck…
Swan Underpass
Two bits of good news.

a) The swan underpass has been sorted
b) We have a commitment to get the Manor House Lane crossing resolved.

Sadly, however, DfID are still being intransigent about Aceh and Ampala.

Birmingham City Laboratories and Conservation
I spent part of this morning reviewing the food laboratory in Garretts Green and looking at some conservation issues in Acocks Green.

Both are important issues. We are what we eat and the safety of that and certainty of safety are both important issues. The nature of the built environment is important to everyone. There was a rather sad Sunday demolition of a property last year - which was to avoid it being listed. A old property property on Yardley Road is being messed about without planning permission at the moment. The wheels of bureacracy grind slowly, but should be able to get there.

Where are they?
DfID claim they are funding organisations active in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, but where are they?

I have had two reports from Sri Lanka that indicate the only organisation found on ground in Ampala is Birmingham's IR.

I received a text message: "situation here critical. Still discovering bodies, Thousands homeless, hungry,desparate.Pain beyond imagining.we can't let them down. Future generations will never forgive us."

Why won't DfID offer funding to an organisation that is actually on the ground. DfID's last Situation Report has committed expenditure (including not finally approved) of £13 Million. Theoretically they have £37 Million at least left. The fact is that urgent action is needed now.

Swan Underpass and Graffiti
For some time I have been working on getting the authority to keep the Swan Underpass (on the A45) clear of graffiti. This is a good example of how the authority has failed to do its job properly in the past. In theory the contractors are on site this week. However, I am getting a list of all the jobs to be done and when they are to be done for an audit.

Graffiti and flyposting are important issues as they give out messages about whether or not the local environment is respected. In the end they come down to enforcement, but removal is also important.

One of the oddest projects I found out about last year was one which was established to teach youths how to do graffiti and tags. I did not think that was a useful use of public funds.

In the mean time DfID are still not responding properly on Aceh. I have written to Hilary Benn.
Funding and South Asia
Have spent part of the day chasing DfID. Sadly it appears that they have hit their budgetary limits in South Asia. Perhaps the government have not told civil servants in DfID that they will match public contributions and that is the reason they are not changing their refusal to fund projects. Looking at the DfID website, however, and their fundiung of various projects it seems they just didn't feel like funding these particular projects. Or maybe the decision was made when the budget was not as big. Still the outcome seems a bit odd.

Sources from South Asia indicate that some agencies are distributing dry food when cooking water is not available and there are no cooking utensils (because they were washed away). These are the sort of things that would have been distributed if the DfID had agreed to fund the projects mentioned above.

Sri Lanka:
 Provision of plastic sheeting to families
 Provision of community tents to be used as public kitchen or clin…