21 June 2016

Kid's last minute home made Euro plea

Seen in a north Kingston window this afternoon.  However, I'm still not sure it isn't about the European football...

17 June 2016

On guns and murder

While the murder of Jo Cox is deeply shocking, our thoughts should be with her young family.  But we shouldn't forget that this is not a unique event.  Stephen Timms was seriously assaulted at an advice surgery in 2010 as was Cheltenham Lib Dem MP, Nigel Jones in 2000 - where his assistant Andy Pennington was killed.

Andy was also an elected representive - a local councillor for Hester's Way ward - which has somewhat been forgotten in all the outpouring of grief in the Westminster bubble. 

The Guardian provides a history of attacks on UK MPs and it is not as rare as some might think.

But we should be grateful in this country - that despite the occasional outrage - we are relatively free from the sort of mass slaughter that is routine in the USA.  In this sobering map the outline of the States can be recognised just from the dots of mass killings since 2013.  Mass killings are defined as four or more deaths in a single incident.  More details here.

7 June 2016

Kingston Tory leader's Cannes flight mystery

Kingston's Tory Council Leader, Kevin Davis is determined to change the face of the Royal Borough with a series of  developments of increasing scale, height and numbers of luxury home and decreasing numbers of affordable homes for local people. 

Kingston's jet setting Council leader
While cutting youth centres and old folks' homes and putting up the council tax he has set up a £4m fund to encourage even more of his developer friends into the borough.  So it was of little surprise that he swanned off to Cannes in March for the annual property and booze fest that is MIPIM spending more than £4,000 of taxpayer's cash in the process.

So what did he get up to during his three day, four night Riviera junket?

According to my FoI request Cllr Davis attended three dinners courtesy of Scape Group, Countryside and the City of London Corporation.  He had drinks with the President of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a 'think tank' (whatever that may be) with the Mayor followed by lunch, drinks courtesy of Barrett and half an hour with ex England centre half Rio Ferdinand - who was apparently doing some sort of a double act with Housing Minister Brandon Lewis.  Strangely, Ferdinand appears to have no connection with property development whatsoever, so one can only imagine what the purpose of that meeting might have been.

To be fair to Cllr Davis, it wasn't all pleasure he also packed in a large number of meetings with the great and the good of the UK property scene including:
  • Countryside Properties - based in Brentwood, Essex
  • Berkeley Group - based in Cobham (one junction on the A3 from Kingston)
  • Tellon Capital - based in London W1
  • British Land - based in London W1 (and currently redeveloping a shopping centre 50 yards from Kingston's Guildhall)
  • Atkins Global - based in Chelmsford, Essex
  • Public Sector Plc - based in London N3
  • Hadley Property Group - based in Covent Garden
  • Bouygues Development - based in Canning Town
  • Thinking Place - based in Hull
  • St William Homes (Berkley) - based in SW8
  • Barratt London - based in Tower Hill
  • Transport for London - based in Victoria
  • U + I - based in Victoria
  • Anthology - based in London WC2
  • Buro Happold - based in London W1
  • Ktesius - based in London W1
  • Downing - based in Liverpool
  • Lend Lease - based in London NW1
  • Ocean Village - appears to be a marina in Southampton
  • Scape Group - based in Nottingham
One has to ask whether the same could have been achieved with a couple of zone 1-6 travel cards and a day return or two?

Which brings me neatly on to the most curious revelation - Cllr Davis appears to have forked out (from the public purse) £458.07 for a Nice to Cannes return flight. Now Cannes is a mere 17.5 miles from Nice airport and Cannes airport has no scheduled flights.  However there is a half-hourly helicopter service.

Azure Helicopter offer just such a service stating gushingly:
"Have you always wanted to make an entry in Cannes like a star? How about to land on the Croisette in a helicopter ? To mark the 2016 Film Festival and other events in Cannes ( MIPIM, CANNES LIONS FESTIVAL YACHTING, etc) AZUR HELICOPTER airline offers flights between Nice and Cannes in just 7 minutes, comfortably, and with stunning views on the Croisette!"
And at 160 Euro (+50 for a hold bag) each way the bill is spookily close to £458.07 once converted to good old British pounds.

According to the Cannes or Bust website the express bus takes less than an hour from Nice airport to Cannes and costs just 33 Euro return (or about 20 quid).

So did Cllr Davis 'make an entry in Cannes like a star'?  And did the poor old council tax payer stump up for it?  I think we should be told...

Edit - the kind people at the Kingston's Residents Alliance Facebook page have pointed out Ferdinand does indeed have a property connection through his initiative called the Legacy Foundation

3 June 2016

Friday favourite 142

It's been a while - but not as long as it has taken Hibs to win the Scottish Cup (which is the oldest football trophy in the world, by the way), so it's definitely time for a tune.

So here's some football fans celebrating winning it after 114 years.  It is of course the Friday favourite to end all Friday favourites...

25 November 2015

Kingston Council seeks illiterate communications chief

The benighted burgers of Kingston, who already stump up the highest Council Tax in London, are soon to stump up a further £60k for a new spin doctor for the Tory administration.

The gushing language declares they are  'looking for someone who is fully conversant with the full range of communications tools'  but with four typos in just six sentences proof reading is clearly not one of them...

Here's the full text:
There has rarely been a more challenging or opportune time to work in local government communications. Seismic changes in the way local government is operating means that it is no longer sufficient to simply tell local people and others what the council is doing - we need to really engage and win peoples support for a shared vision for the local area.

Kingston council has created a new role of Head of Communications to work closely with the Senior Leadership Team and leading members to ensure that the council not only tells it's story but builds real engagement with residents, staff and key partners.

We are looking for someone who is fully conversant with the full range of communications tools from excellent media skills and campaigning ability to the latest digital techniques and innovative ideas on community engagement, but that just gets you to, first base.

To be successful in this role you will be a leader, bridge builder, strategist and true innovator.

Above all you will have an absolute passion for public service and it's ability to improve lives.

If this sounds like you and you ready for the challenge of building the best corporate communication service in local government we would like to hear from you.

9 November 2015

Is this the UK's most sexist school?

If you can't read the text (taken from a poster on the rear end of a speeding bus in Kingston) it says:

Above the picture of a boy and pilot "Speed on the wing.  For a life in the air."

Above the picture of a girl and woman "Testing materials.  For a life in fashion."

You can presumably find out more about their equal opportunities policy at www.stgeorgesweybridge.com

6 November 2015

Balgreen Halt reborn

The ever excellent Liberal England - possibly overstretching his geographical remit - dug out some excellent footage of disused railways in Edinburgh, including footage of Balgreen Halt on the Corstophine branch line.

But Balgreen Halt is not really disused anymore with a tramstop of the same name on the increasingly successful Edinburgh tramline.  And my visit to Edinburgh last week wouldn't have been complete without a ride on the tram coincidently to Balgreen:

16 October 2015

The A-Z of Corbsplaining

Labour Uncut has a rather wonderful and humourous A-Z that probably reveals just a little too much of the internal machinations of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party.  It's just too good not to share.

My personal favourite is:

Burnhamite – A malleable substance that can bend and merge to form any shape required of it before ultimately imploding.

26 September 2015

Lib Dems still in denial

On Monday I spent an enlightening day at Lib Dem conference.  I've been mulling over events then and the various media reports and analysis for the week and although the majority are positive about the party's future I'm less sure.

The lack of corporate sponsors and the wide open spaces of the exhibition areas might have suggested a party on its knees - but the stories of hundreds of first time delegates and new found confidence were only slightly exaggerated by party bigwigs.  But, but but...

The Trident debate was a great traditional political occasion - more than a thousand voting delegates packed into the hall, party big wigs wheeled out to speak in front of the camera - including the venerable (but increasingly mistified Shirley Williams) - and also deployed at the back of the hall  to vote down the insurgents.

The vote was won narrowly on a single and very old argument - that the Lib Dems needed to have serious policies if they wished to be taken seriously as a party of government. There were some other really silly arguments including those of Gerald Vernon-Jackson who said we needed to spend £100bn on a weapons system to stop the poor in Portsmouth going to Tory foodbanks, but they were rightly discounted.

The reality is with just 8 MPs the Liberal Democrats are a very long way from being considered a 'serious party of government' in Westminster.  They are also a long way from government in Edinburgh and Cardiff.  Tim Farron gets to question David Cameron once a month alternating with the DUP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. 

The reality is actually the Lib Dems are a long way from being considered a serious party of opposition.  So the party need to stop playing by the old rules.  Having a small number of clear positions - different to Westinster establishment - would be a good place to start.  Unfortunately the leadership flunked it in Bournemouth on Trident.