Thursday, 25 September 2014

16 yr olds voting? - Then we need to do this....

The jury is still out for me on whether 16 year olds should be given the vote, although at the moment I veer towards the NO. However I could be persuaded towards a YES if we put in the right framework.

We often hear that if 16 year olds can marry (albeit with parents permission which is a crucial part of the argument towards a NO) and if they can have sex, then they can surely vote.

Well, er, no actually. those two things need to be mutually inclusive but everything else doesn't follow suit.

I remember when I went into a school to discuss whether David Cameron or David Davis should be leader of the Conservative group. this was a debate in a Politics class no less, with 17 year olds.

Some of them concluded that David Cameron was the better looking and younger so they thought he should be.

But then I had another experience in school with 11 year olds. I was delivering a citizenship programme and was left so impressed.
I'd separated the pupils into teams and they had to debate an issue and come up with one vote per team. One young lad had the opposite view to every member of his team and yet failing to persuade them otherwise despite his best efforts, he volunteered to be the representative. When I asked him why he was willing to talk about his team's stance when he so obviously disagreed with them, he said 'Well that's democracy and this is my team so I must let people understand why we came to that conclusion'.

Wow - I was impressed and added 'Welcome to the world of a coalition government' and he got that, no hesitation, no argument, he understood.

But so many 16 year olds have no understanding of the world of politics, instead having a romantic and idealistic view of the world and how things should just be done and done now. So if we are to allow this most cherished of responsibilities we have to also do the following:

1) Make politics compulsory from the age of 14 starting with the history, fundamentals of democracy and where it does and doesn't exist. They should be taught the difference between local and national governments and the different types of taxes plus difference between the elected and those that do the work behind the scenes.

2) Moving then into further years to understand the difference between the parties, what their values are and how they think they can deliver what people need and want. Showing them where they can learn more about their options. Some will be interested, as I was at 16, and others will not but if the lessons are made exciting and interactive I suspect most will enjoy it.

4) A trip to Westminster to understand how it all happens, with talks by MPs from all parties.

5) There should be interactive software that allows them to decide where money should be spent using the same budget that is held by their local county and borough councils with officers coming in to talk about where the money comes from and the difficulties they face.

6) Leading up to local elections they should discuss the real candidates that are standing, (or did stand if there's no election) take a look at their literature, websites and debate the merits of each one - perhaps even holding a question time with the candidates face to face at a local event just for pupils.

7) They should be taught basic economics as part of the curriculum before the age of 16 and it should form part of a GCSE.

This should continue right up to when they are 18 and perhaps this way, more adults will take an interest.

I know plenty of adults who could do with this education so please let's not unleash those that are not even an adult yet, into making decisions for the rest of us - unless we educate them.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Ipswich Public Meeting on Crime - Meet Your Police and Crime Commissioner

Tim Passmore, Suffolks Police and Crime Commissioner 
invites you to a forthcoming Ipswich public meeting on Monday 13 October at St John’s Church Hall
The meeting is open to anyone who lives or works in Ipswich and who wishes to hear about, or comment on, policing. Both myself and the Chief Constable will be available to take questions.
Tell us your views about policing in your area

Meet with Police & Crime Commissioner,
Tim Passmore
and Chief Constable, Douglas Paxton

Monday 13 October 2014
6.30 - 8.30 pm
St John’s Church, Cauldwell Hall
Road, Ipswich, IP4 4QE

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Money, debt and savings advice - Ipswich Borough Council

A week of action dealing with money skills, debt and loan shark awareness is being organised by Ipswich Borough Council and it's partners.

This is the culmination of a summer-long drive, supported by the Council's South West Area Committee and the National Illegal Money Lending team.
Councillors and Sid the Shark attended open air events and fun days across the town to promote local debt advice through the Ipswich Housing Action Group, Citizens’ Advice Bureau and the loan shark reporting line 0300 555 2222.
Next Monday, 22nd September, will see the promotion of school packs and lessons about keeping our money safe and safer lending and borrowing. Classes will also have the opportunity to take part in a poster design competition. The winner of each age group will have their design enlarged to cover the side of a waste collection vehicle, published and displayed as posters around town.

Other events include:

Tuesday 23rd: Councillors, staff and Eastern Savings and Loan representatives will hold a stall on the Cornhill all day to answer people’s questions and promote available help for money troubles.
Wednesday 24th: The Mayor, Councillor Bill Quinton, will present local organisations with their prize funding in the ‘Your Choice’ competition. The competition was funded from the proceeds of money seized from illegal loan sharks, with additional support from Suffolk County Council. 

Thursday 25th: Councillors from the South West Area Committee will continue the promotion to local residents at shopping precincts in south-west Ipswich.
Issued by the IBC press office, tel: 01473 432035

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Dispelling the Myths about Child Centre closures

It is Ipswich Labour's modus operandi to pick on a subject matter that is the responsibility of Conservative run Suffolk county council and then relentlessly allow mistruths, false facts and disingenuous articles to thrive in their horrible scruffy socialist paper and the media, in the hope it will win them a few more votes.

As the Leader of the Opposition, it is my duty and responsibility to hold them to account and in my short time since taking this position, have been forced to do so several times already.

Here is another one.

NO CENTRES HAVE CLOSED!  yes there it is.

Ormiston has all the old services still operating but most are being delivered remotely - no reduction in service levels

Since the General Election one new centre Ravenswood has opened so in 2010 there were 9 children centres in Ben Gummers constituency and now there are 10

Quayside, Wellington, Hillside, The Willows, Chatterbox, East Ipswich (formerly Ormiston), Hawthorn, Tree House, Wooden House, Ravenswood) -

-          County Council is proposing merging Quayside with Tree House: this is a matter of properties, not staff or services.

       Furthermore Ben Gummer has promised to keep Sure Start provision in this parliament and he has more than done that. Fact.
        Going forward Frank Field will be leading a high level review of early years services in Suffolk, which will help inform how they are delivered in the next parliament.
       So when you read the next bit of literature on this from Labour's scaremongering newspaper, ask a Tory what their side of the story is and as always

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

When it comes to Safeguarding, have we lost the plot?

I'm asking this question, not because I don't think I know the answer. I totally know what I think about Ashya's case and those that have gone before him. It's a purely rhetorical question.

Safeguarding children is a complicated business - we have awful tragic mistakes like Rotherham - which when lessons are learnt, need to be implemented - but why do we always go from one extreme to another?

Surely so called experts can tell the difference between loving families, who think they know best for their child - and probably do - to the rumour mill that suggests grooming and abuse has gone on.

This current case is so dreadful that I think everyone involved in getting those poor parents arrested and away from their child, need to be hauled up before a committee to explain their actions.

This reminds me of that poor Italian lady who had her baby taken away but sympathy seems to be far wider this time.

I can't even convince myself that this is for the long term benefit of Ashya - this poor boy could be traumatised for life by being taken away from his parents at a time when he most needs them.

I can remember when I was lost in a market at the age of 5, in the East of London, where I lived. I knew my address but somehow not being able to see my parents left me utterly convinced I would never see them again. I was distraught and I screamed my head off, crying out for my mum and dad, until a policeman found me and took me to a nearby station. The whole thing was an absolute nightmare for me and I can recall every single thing that happened.

But this is nothing compared to what Ashya is going through. This may not be a politically correct stance for a local councillor but I am so incensed by the whole thing that I feel compelled to show my utter disgust. Who are these people? How do they think? What are they achieving? Couldn't it wait until the treatment was confirmed before they decided to arrest the parents? Who would keep a sick child from the immediate family? What is this police state we live in when it comes to children?

As you will know if you've read previous blog posts, I have been helping a father, who has been kept from his daughter for 5 years because of lies from his ex partner. He has been able to prove many of these lies but it appears to have been ignored. I am now coaching him (with my business hat on) totally pro bono to help him deal with the mental anguish of not only the 'living death' he is suffering but because of the injustice of the lies. This is traumatic and now I feel the authorities are scared the child will suffer again if contact is resumed. They believe they have done the right thing but what trauma will this poor girl suffer when she reaches 18 and then finds out that her mother, authorities and anyone else in the court system systematically worked towards the alienation of her father with lies and then more lies, as the goalposts are moved. How will she feel at finding out her natural paternal grandmother, who might not even be alive at this point, was deprived of enjoying her company in her latter years? Why should all these adults suffer because they dare not even allow supervised contact?

However he will remain strong - I will make sure I play my part in that - and he will see his daughter - however long it takes but so many do not have that support. Some grandparents who try to stop their grandchildren from being adopted have been gagged, bullied and controlled by authorities and the family courts when all they want is to take over the reins. This should be an automatic right, in my opinion.

So many men and grandparents are treated so coldly and despicably that they end up crushed, some even committing suicide. Is an adult worth less that a child? I'm not sure I'd answer that easily but I do know we could do things differently.

We just need to find a middle ground and use a bit of common sense, have some compassion for parents and think a little bit more than a short term panicked decision, which is what is happening with Ashya's parents.

The Spanish judge is deciding tomorrow at 11 whether to let the parents out and I hope that he has the humanity and compassion to do what is right.