Saturday, November 06, 2004

West Midlands Regional Conference 

Today was spent at the Liberal Democrats West Midland Regional Conference in Solihull. I’d put an emergency motion down which as the Conference to call on Alistair Darling to scrap his M6 Toll Motorway plans. This motion was accepted and I had just four minutes to propose it from the Conference platform. I’d prepared in outline what I was going to say, as I find this much better than reading a pre-prepared speech. The motion was seconded by my good friend Richard Stevens Chairman of the Stone Constituency, and we had already decided the tack we would take, and which points we would each cover.

Mine and Richards speech went well, and we were supported by another couple of speakers. However, there was one speaker who was against the motion. Martin Lewis, another member from Stone opposed the motion not because he wanted the M6 Toll but rather because he said the motion called on Alistair Darling to scrap his consultation plans, and in martins views we should at the very least ask people what they thought! I’m not sure if he really believed this, or if he was just objecting to the motion to stimulate debate. Either way no-one rose to his bait and in the end the motion was carried unanimously. If you wondered which way Martin voted, the answer is simple. He didn’t. It turned out we was not a voting rep, and so was ineligible!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Small Business Difficulties 

This morning I visited Flairmet – an engineering company based on the Ladford Fields Industrial Estate at Seighford. Flairmet is a successful engineering company, which makes wrought iron railings, gates, and garden fittings. It is run by Jamie Calder – a women in a mans world. I wanted to visit Jamie to talk to her about the difficulties small businesses in the Stafford area are facing. I was surprised to hear one of the main problems is trying to find suitable staff. Perhaps working in an engineering factory is not as glamorous as sitting behind a computer in an office. What ever the reason Jamie does have problems! Also high on her list was the growing number of forms she receives from Government Departments. Currently she is struggling with forms which will allow her to be recognised as a sub-contractor by the Revenue which will give her advantages when it comes to reclaiming tax. It is clear that she spends a great deal of time working on these projects which add little value to her business. Small, successful businesses like Flairmet should be encouraged as they add a great deal too both the local and national economy, but at present they are being strangled by bureaucracy!

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