Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Sixth Form Election Day 

I spent this morning at Walton High School, along with a representative of the Labour and Conservative Parties. The event was designed to allow sixth formers the opportunity to listen to and question the parliamentary candidates for the Stafford Constituency. Unfortunately I was the only candidate to turn up, as David Kidney was in London, and David Chambers had just come out of hospital.

The audience numbered about 100 and they certainly asked some interesting and probing questions. All in all the morning was extremely interesting and certainly gave me a good insight into the minds of some young voters. The questions ranged from fighting terrorism to the damage the proposed M6 Toll Motorway would have on Stafford. However the one question that got the biggest round of applause was one on the future of top-up fees for higher education. It’s clear that our policy on scrapping the fee was well received and will ensure the Lib Dems will get quite a lot of support from young people in the General Election.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Burial Costs Up By 25% 

Tonight’s Borough Council Liberal Democrat Group meeting was very productive. The meeting concentrated on the Conservatives proposals for next years budget. Once again they have publicly stated they intend to keep any rise in Council Tax to the headline rate of inflation. This of course is causing problems when it comes to balancing the books and just like last year a number of services will cost more next year. One are we took quite a time over was the proposed increase in burial costs which are going to be hiked by 25%. It’s a pity the controlling group are taking this stance as it will hit local residents when they are at their most vulnerable, or then again perhaps this is the plan. When families are mourning the loss of a love one they are hardly going to notice the increase when it is presented to them as part of the undertakers bill! As might be expected I will be opposing this increase at the next Resources Scrutiny meeting and at Full Council which must finally approve the budget. However the Conservatives have such a large majority it is highly unlikely the budget will be changed!!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Remembrance Sunday 

Remembrance Sunday. Today was quite hectic. It started with the wreath laying and remembrance service at Haughton. The village service is always well attended and today was no exception. Everyone meets beside the Village war memorial just before 11.00am and after the wreath laying we all move to St Giles the village church for the service proper. As usual one wreath was laid by Matt Gymer. Matt has along army career and finally left the army with the rank of Major. Now in his 70’s Matt’s health has not been good, but he is always there when there is a village event and over the years has raised thousands of pounds for charities both local and national. It was Matt who was Councillor for Haughton before me, and I still have pangs of conscious when I remember knocking him off the Council over twelve years ago. The village would be a much poorer place without people like Matt.

Following Haughton’s service I went to Penkridge. As Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Stafford I’d been invited by the Anglo German Remembrance Association. The group holds a service of remembrance at the German War Cemetery on Cannock Chase and then returns to Penkridge for a reception. At the reception I sat next to a German Air Force officer who turned out to be based at RAF Stafford. It was an interesting hour or so, discussing the future of the RAF and the German Air Force. What I learnt was that the German Air Force is going through a similar cost cutting exercise to that in the UK, and that the Officer did not know if he would have a job to go back to when he returns to Germany in a couple of years time!

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