Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Police Council Tax Raised 4.99% to Top Up 'Slush Fund'

The Kent Police Authority (KPA) have voted to increase the police precept by 4.99%, the maximum likely to be permitted by the government with a 5% cap. This is in line with the KPA's policy as set out by its Deputy Chairman, Cllr Mike Hill, to raise the precept to the average of whatever other police authorities happen to charge. Mr Hill said at the meeting:

"We have an insoluble problem of having near the lowest council tax precept of any police authority. Therefore a strategy to bring it up to something like the average is right and we have to go for something higher"

KPA Member Cllr Mark Reckless, and Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Rochester and Strood, opposes this policy and voted against the tax rise. He said:

"We have plenty of money to pay for Neighbourhood Task Teams, and what Kent Police say they need to become among the best performers in the country, without raising the council tax at all this year. All we would have to do is limit staff pay rises, including the 45% hike for the Police Authority Chair, to the 1% set by KCC, and get rid of the slush fund"


1. On 10th December KPA Members voted by 9 votes to 4 to increase their own allowances by 45% for the Chair, 25% for Committee Chairs, 19% for the Deputy Chair and 12% for other members. Cllr Reckless has waived his increase.

2.The KPA have decided to pad all police budgets with an allowance for inflation that is twice as high as the Bank of England expects. This adds 1 ¼% to the tax rise.

3. The KPA had said it needed to hold £12.5m of taxpayers' money as an 'Insurance Reserve' (and then allowed KCC to 'invest' about that amount in Icelandic Banks). Cllr Reckless raised concerns that the money was not needed for its supposed purpose - to pay legal claims - and was instead being used as a slush fund for money taken in council tax but not needed. External advice since is that only £3.8m is necessary for likely legal claims.

4. Kent Police and KPA finance officers have nonetheless decided to keep £6.5m in the 'Insurance Reserve', the extra £2.7m being the exact amount left over from raising the council tax by as much as government allows once the entire 'Step Change' rise in spending requested by Kent Police is paid for.

5. Cllr Reckless has made three further criticisms of the 'Insurance Reserve':

- a. This supposed provision for uninsured legal claims is determined by Kent Police's Head of Finance without consulting the Head of Legal Services;

- b. Kent Police claims record is better than assumed as recording historically has been better for claims they pay than claims they don't have to pay - yet this is then cited as an argument for heaping up more money in reserve, not less;

- c. Motor claims have fallen sharply as police must now have obey road traffic rules, unless on emergency, but the reserve assumes accidents are as frequent as before the policy was changed, even though it is knows that they are not.


Saturday, 21 February 2009

Save The Great British Pub

With nearly 6 pubs closing every day of the week, and local pubs under threat, we believe that the Government should be doing more to save the Great British pub.

33% of the price of every pint goes in Beer Tax to the Chancellor.Now the Government plans to increase beer tax further.

We are calling on the Government to help save our pubs and safeguard jobs by:

- Cutting taxes on lower alcohol drinks such as beer and raising taxes on problem drinks like high strength ciders and alcopops in order to use the tax system to target binge drinking whilst ensuring that responsible drinkers and the traditional British pub are not unfairly penalised

- Enforcing existing laws to deal firmly with irresponsible drinkers & premises

- Trusting adults to make informed choices, not punish them for the actions of an irresponsible minority

- Supporting the British pub as a vital part of local communities

Sign our petition to show your support.

Jeremy Hunt, Shadow Culture Secretary:

"We all have our favourite local pub but up and down the country people have been losing theirs. Not only are they a critical part of our heritage but they are often hubs for local communities helping social groups, sports clubs and often even the village shop."

"For too long the Government has tried to tackle binge drinking by punishing responsible drinkers and landlords. With massive tax hikes and heavy-handed regulation, all Labour will succeed in doing is closing down more pubs. This has to stop. We should be proud of our brewers and proud of our pub industry and do what we can to support them - which is why we are launching this campaign."

Mark Prisk, Shadow Business Minister:

"The future of British pubs are under threat and we must do all we can to save these great British institutions. Pubs are often small, family-run businesses - not only are they the social heart of their communities, they also provide jobs, and support the British brewing industry. Now, in the face of great adversity, we must do all we can to save our local pub."

Friday, 13 February 2009

A Message From Carol Vorderman

Carol Vorderman is heading up a Maths Taskforce for the Conservatives, looking at ways to improve Maths standards in Britain.

Maths is critically important to the future of this country but Britain is falling behind the best performing countries.

In the last decade, 3.5 million children have left school without a basic qualification in Maths - a truly shocking statistic.

As a single parent of two children, and as a school governor, this concerns me greatly.

If our children are to get the best jobs in the future and Britain is to emerge stronger from the recession we have little choice but to sort Maths out now.

That's why I was delighted to accept David Cameron's invitation to head up a Maths Taskforce for the Conservatives.

Over the coming months, I'll be looking at ways to improve Maths standards in Britain. Amongst other things, I'll be examining:

- What we can learn from the methods other countries use to teach Maths in schools

- Whether tests in Britain are tough enough

- Whether the standard of teaching is high enough for what will be required in the coming decade

- How to break the culture of Maths fear in Britain

I am going to visit schools in every region and meet with experts, teachers, parents and, most importantly, children of all ages to find out what's needed to raise standards faster. I'll be posting regular updates, so keep checking back to see how I'm getting on.


But I also want to hear your thoughts on how we can improve Maths standards in this country. Simply send an email to and let me know what you think can be done to raise standards.