Free education to end in Surrey


Tory Surrey County Council has a long record of failing residents and wasting their council tax money. Now they have announced something which Tory politicians have craved for a hundred years: an end to free education for all children.

The blundering leader of the council, Cllr David Hodge, recently gave this speech and said, “We can no longer guarantee school places for every school child in Surrey.”

A section of the speech - click to enlarge

A section of the speech – click to enlarge

I wrote to the Surrey Advertiser about this in October.

Tory Surrey County Council raised our council tax by the maximum allowed, for three years in succession. They are closing all the remaining care homes for the elderly. Our roads are crumbling and packed with traffic due to the lack of proper public transport. Librarians are being sacked. Community funding was cut by £300,000 to fund a massive pay hike for 50 Tory councillors.

In one of the wealthiest counties in a wealthy country, Surrey has become a right-wing Tory experiment: services cut, taxes hiked and more cash for councillors and the chief executive.

As the son of two teachers, I think this latest move, the ending of free education, is Hodge’s most callous yet. Conservatives are content to force families who can afford it to pay for private education and leave those who can’t without schooling. I was state educated and it taught me to live alongside and respect rich and poor alike. The ideologues on Surrey County Council do not want the next generation in Surrey to learn this.

 

Who is keeping Surrey safe tonight?


Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to spend time with armed Surrey Police officers and then sit in on the county’s Incident Handling Centre. I watched how police deal with incidents across Surrey which were life-changing to the people involved. I have written many times before about policing and my impressions from observing their training sessions. Viewing in real time how police keep Surrey safe is something which everyone who aspires to be an MP should do. It was eye-opening for me.

Armed police in Surrey carry out the counter terrorism function here so security is tight and I will respect their request not to identify operational officers and tactics.

IMG_1128.JPG

I visited the operational armed policing base in Guildford and had the opportunity to speak to officers, learn about tactics and handle the weapons and equipment armed officers use. An ARV is an Armed Response Vehicle which carries the specialist officers on patrol continuously. The question of whether ARVs should be sent to routine police jobs was what started my investigation.

In the last few days, US police have been in the news for shooting an unarmed black teenager and a child with a toy gun. The militarisation of police in the USA has trampled civil rights and leaves many people living in an effective police state. This hasn’t happened here and from what I have seen, there are no signs of it in Surrey yet.

Can you guess how many police were on duty across Surrey last night? And how many of those are armed? I won’t reveal the exact numbers but it’s fewer than you think. There are 1.2 million residents in Surrey and a very small number of police cover the whole area.

Being a police officer is not an easy job. I can vouch that wearing body armour and a helmet is uncomfortable and the weapons and ammunition feel heavy after a while too. They have to go anywhere, there can be no no-go areas for police. Police pay and pensions have been squeezed and they have to work longer before they retire. The sergeant who I accompanied yesterday might have been a teacher and had an outlook on life typical of many public servants: a desire to give something back to society and protect the vulnerable.

Like all public servants, police deserve to be properly led and fairly rewarded.

It is important that Surrey Police and other forces are funded appropriately. However, I hope that Council Tax is not raised again to compensate for central government cuts. Council Tax is a regressive tax and working people are already squeezed by the cost of living crisis in Guildford.

Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) were supposed to bear down on inefficiencies, not simply raise tax by the maximum allowed and spend it all. Abolishing PCCs would save millions which could be spent on policing.

Yesterday, I saw examples of firearms which have been seized or handed in by the public. I would like to see fewer firearms in circulation in Surrey, including legally held ones. Recently, legally held guns have been used to murder people in this county so I would like police to be able to charge the full cost of issuing shotgun certificates, for example.

Following police officers at their work has helped me appreciate the pressures they are under. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, said that police should tackle crime, and that’s all. However, I witnessed police being called on in Surrey to save people who were in pain emotionally and needed help which only police could provide in time. Contrast that with the news today about the former Conservative Chief Whip verbally abusing the armed police officer who was protecting him.

Thank you to Surrey Police, especially the sergeant who escorted me and the inspector in charge of the IHC, for being so open and allowing me to witness your work. I feel reassured and impressed by the people who are quietly keeping us all safe in Surrey tonight.

Keep your cool! Don’t abuse shopworkers


I was very pleased to offer my support to workers at Guildford’s Tesco store today. They are campaigning to protect shopworkers from verbal and physical abuse received from some customers. This is part of USDAW’s Respect for Shopworkers Week.

2014-11-13 09.56.56

I had the opportunity to speak to members of staff and hear their experiences. Thank you to Angie, Lyn, Sue, Lucy and Tasha for inviting me and telling about the occasions where customers lost their cool.

The relationship between customers and those who provide a service is sometimes very uneven in terms of power. In a similar way, the power relationship between employers and employees can be unbalanced too. When this happens there is the potential for the relationship to become abusive. It was this imbalance that led to the Labour Party being set up over 100 years ago and it is why we still exist today.

It was great to see that Tesco management were supporting the campaign today. They allowed me into the staff canteen for a cup of tea and a chat with staff on their break. Tesco realise that their employees deserve to be protected from abuse and that it is not part of their job.

Please remember the next time you are feeling stressed while shopping: follow the USDAW penguin’s advice and Keep Your Cool!

10414551_290629984468380_6842451189079581806_n

 

Getting the Avenue ship-shape


It is a source of great pride for Guildford to host the University of Surrey and the many students from all over the country and beyond who come here to study. They add so much vitality to the town and we all gain from having them here.

One group that gains more than most is the town’s landlords. They can charge rents on short-term leases to large numbers of students. This is perfectly legitimate, of course, and benefits students and landlords alike. Or, at least, it should.

I remember being a student, then a young graduate engineer, in private rented sector accommodation where I rented a flat with others in my position. Studying or working long hours in communal accommodation means everyone has to muck in to keep it ship-shape.

Rubbish in GPA today

Rubbish in GPA today

It is really important that we provide a comfortable clean living environment for our students and young residents. That is why I spent today in Guildford Park Avenue. I was investigating the reports I had received about rubbish being uncollected and the street scene deteriorating.

This street has a high proportion of buy-to-let student properties. I would like to turn this situation around and help Guildford Park Avenue become a model of town and gown living.

A PC World shopping trolley in GPA. They will soon have it back, one way or another!

A PC World shopping trolley in GPA. They will soon have it back, one way or another!

The first thing we have to do is clean up the rubbish and get it ship-shape and Guildford fashion.

  • The shopping trolleys won’t do – so I’ve contacted PC World and M&S to get them to collect theirs.
  • The cable TV/phone cabinets hanging open won’t do either so I’ve filed a complaint with Virgin Media to get them replaced and cleaned up. I used to work for this company as an engineer so I
    Dear Virgin Media, if you don't fix this you'll be hearing from me and my shipmates.

    Dear Virgin Media, if you don’t fix this you’ll be hearing from me and my shipmates.

    know these things are possible but only if residents complain loudly and repeatedly and I can do that quite well!

  • The piles of rubbish, mattresses, broken furniture and estate agents signs lying in bushes won’t do, of course. I have written to the council, as well asfillingintheirfly-tipping report, andIhaveemailedFoxtons estate agent with a photo of their discarded sign.

    Foxton's estate agent's sign lying in the bushes. I'm happy to carry it into their office if required.

    Foxton’s estate agent’s sign lying in the bushes. I’m happy to carry it into their office if required.

To get Guildford Park Avenue ship-shape will need a good crew. Would you like to help? I expect the University and the council will get on board once they see what needs done. If the companies I have mentioned don’t sort out their flotsam and jetsam then we will take their trolleys and signs and anything else round to their offices and hoist it all aboard for them in person.

The current state of GPA reminds me of my own student days. Now that I’m a Captain I want to show that it needn’t be like this. Let’s get this street ship-shape for everyone. Let’s live together as one ship’s company. Let’s have a community.

UPDATE 31 OCTOBER:

Here are some of the responses received so far:

PCW2543729CR, RE_ Your trolley in Guildford street

Guildford Borough Council Health & Community Care Services auto-reply

FW_ Foxtons

Foxtons 2

UPDATE 3 NOVEMBER:

We are starting to make some progress. These emails explain:

M&S Shopping Trolley

Rubbish outside 184 Guildford park Avenue [UNC]

UPDATE 5 NOVEMBER:

I did a quick inspection yesterday and the rubbish pile I complained about has gone. Foxtons have collected their sign, M&S have removed their trolley and the fly-tipped furniture I reported has been removed.

This is good progress but the Virgin Media cabinets are still burst open with wires spewing forth and the PC World trolley is still there although they emailed yesterday to say it will be collected soon.

UPDATE 16 NOVEMBER:

The PC World trolley is gone now. I reported the discarded mattress and broken furniture dumped beside it to the council and they came and removed it all.

Virgin Media have replied to my third complaint promising to sort out their broken street cabinets asap.

Guildford election battle lines drawn on NHS


22 October 2014 – for immediate release

NHS debated by Labour’s Richard Wilson and Guildford’s Conservative MP

Letters exchanged between two contenders to be Guildford’s MP next May reveal that the NHS will be the key battleground in the general election.

In August, Labour’s parliamentary candidate, airline pilot Richard Wilson, wrote to the current MP, Conservative Anne Milton, to ask her to clarify how her position on the NHS has changed since being elected. He asked her to vote for the NHS private members bill being tabled by Labour’s Clive Efford MP on 21 November to reverse some of the Coalition Government’s privatisation of the NHS.

Ms Milton replied to say she would consider the bill “in detail” before the debate. Since then, a senior cabinet minister has told the press that the Conservative-LibDem top-down reorganisation of the NHS was the government’s “biggest mistake”. On 20 October, Richard Wilson wrote again to request that Ms Milton tell the people of Guildford where she stands on the NHS.

Richard Wilson said, “David Cameron’s MPs were elected on a pledge to avoid top-down reorganisations of the NHS. Voters deserve to know if their MP agrees with cabinet ministers that breaking this pledge was a terrible mistake. I have asked Anne Milton whether she is in favour of restoring the 48-hour guarantee for a GP appointment and ensuring cancer tests and results are available to patients within one week. From speaking to many NHS staff and patients recently, it is clear to me that voters in Guildford place the NHS high on their list of priorities when deciding how to vote next May.”

ENDS

Note 1: Letter from Richard Wilson to Anne Milton 16 August

Note 2: Letter from Anne Milton to Richard Wilson 22 August

Note 3: Letter from Richard Wilson to Anne Milton 20 October

Photo – Richard Wilson meeting midwives outside Royal Surrey County Hospital during their 4-hour strike last week: 2014-10-13 07.57.09

Threat to Surrey’s Care Homes


16 October 2014 – for immediate release

Threat to Surrey’s Care Homes

The six remaining residential care homes for older people that are still maintained by Surrey County Council (SCC) are under threat, including Longfield in Cranleigh. At the SCC Cabinet on 21 October councillors will be asked to begin the process of closing them down and transferring hundreds of elderly vulnerable residents to privately run care homes.

Labour’s Richard Wilson said, “As life expectancy increases, we need to think more about how older people are cared for. We need decent, dignified, safe care for our mums and dads. I hope Surrey County Council are not considering washing their hands of this responsibility. Moving residents will be very traumatic for them, even the prospect of their homes closing will cause great distress to many vulnerable people. I am saddened that after raising our Council Tax repeatedly and awarding councillors bumper pay rises the Council claim they cannot find the money to maintain and improve these homes.”

If the Cabinet follows the recommendation next Tuesday, a consultation process will start and the final decision will be taken next February. SCC owns 30 care homes for older people but the running of 24 have been transferred to the private sector. The remaining 6 are:

6 care homes

In addition to the permanent residents, in the table above, there are around 89 “respite” residents who live there temporarily to give their carers at home some time off.

Around 500 staff work in the care homes.

The GMB union will be lobbying councillors on Tuesday 21 October from 1pm outside the front of County Hall , Kingston ahead of the cabinet meeting at 2pm.

ENDS

Note 1: Richard Wilson is Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Guildford constituency, which includes Cranleigh.

Richard Wilson

Richard Wilson

Note 2: This issue is item 16 on the Cabinet agenda for 21 Oct: http://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=120&MId=3690&Ver=4

Note 3: The table above comes from this document: http://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/documents/s17356/item%2016%20-%20SCC%20In%20House%20Residential%20Care%20Homes%20for%20Older%20People.pdf

 

 

Labour’s Richard Wilson supports campaign to make voices of people with a learning disability heard in general election


Press release 10 October 2014 – for immediate release

Labour’s Richard Wilson supports campaign to make voices of people with a learning disability heard in general election

Today, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Guildford, Richard Wilson, has signed up his support for Mencap’s Hear my voice campaign.

The new campaign is about empowering people with a learning disability and their families to have their voices heard by their local MPs and candidates in the lead up to the May 2015 General Election.

There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK but many feel they are not listened to by those in power and the issues they that are important to them – like hate crime, better healthcare and education – are often not talked about.

Richard Wilson said:
“People with a learning disability and their families are as much a part of our society as anyone else and deserve to have their voices heard on the issues that matter to them. I am listening and I hope that many more MPs and potential candidates will do the same by getting on board with Mencap’s Hear my voice campaign.”

Richard wrote the following on the Hear my voice website:
“I am listening because I believe it is a fundamental human instinct to take responsibility for each other and care for the vulnerable as a society. I believe this instinct is more powerful than the instinct to grab what we can for ourselves. This is why I am in politics. I want to fight for the most vulnerable and to persuade everyone else that this is the right thing to do for our society. It is morally right but also the instinct to take responsibility for each other is what defines our humanity.”

Richard Wilson is the latest to confirm his support for the campaign and joins a host of other MPs and future candidates who have signed-up to say they are listening to the voices of people with a learning disability on the new Hear my voice website: www.hear-my-voice-org-uk

Through the website, people with a learning disability and their families have a space to share their experiences with their local MP and, in return, MPs and candidates can show their support by signing-up to say they are listening.

Jan Tregelles, Mencap’s chief executive, said:
“It is encouraging to see so many MPs listening to people with a learning disability and their families about the problems they face and the change they want to see in the next Parliament. They are the experts in what matters to them, so prospective candidates should be listening to what they have to say when they are out on the campaign trail.”

Lord Brian Rix, Mencap President, said:
“There are 1.4 million people in the UK with a learning disability and 6 million more family members and carers connected to them. However they often tell us they feel they are not listened to by politicians and subsequently many of the challenges they face go unheard and unresolved. We are asking Members of Parliament and prospective candidates to listen to what people with a learning disability and their families have to say.”

The campaign has also given rise to a Manifesto, which explores the issues that matter most to people with a learning disability and their families and on which they want to see action from the next UK government. These include improving healthcare for people with a learning disability, ending disability hate crime and improving support in education.

Mencap Young Ambassador Aaron, who is 19-years-old, didn’t get the extra support he needed with reading and writing when he was at school. He said:
“If I’d had more support I could have got better grades and my life could be very different. I think there should be more training for teachers and people who work in schools so they recognise people who need support and understand people’s needs. I’m talking to you today because I hope you, as MPs, want to make a difference and stand up for people with as well. We want to go forwards, not backwards.”

To find out more about the Hear my voice campaign and Manifesto, visit: www.hear-my-voice.org.uk

-ENDS-

For more information, please contact Lisa Gilbert, PR Officer at Mencap, on 020 7696 6950 or lisa.gilbert@mencap.org.uk

Notes to editors

About Mencap
There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.
http://www.mencap.org.uk

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap Direct on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email help@mencap.org.uk

About Mencap’s Hear my voice campaign
People with a learning disability – and the millions of family members, carers and support workers connected to them – can make their voices heard on the issues that matter to them at the 2015 General Election.

Hear my voice is a campaign designed to provide a platform for people with a learning disability and their families to make their voices heard. There are a lot of different ways to get involved, from sharing what matters to you, to holding an event to get people with a learning disability registered to vote. Through grassroots campaigning, Hear my voice will ensure the next Government improves the lives of people with a learning disability.
http://www.hear-my-voice.org.uk

About learning disability
A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability, which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life.

People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.

Learning disability is NOT a mental illness or a learning difficulty, like dyslexia. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’.

Richard Wilson’s entry on the Hear my voice website is here: https://www.hear-my-voice.org.uk/listening/mr-richard-wilson

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