Monthly Archives: February 2013

Surrey Heath Council Tax Going Up

At the Full Council meeting of Surrey Heath Borough Council tonight, they voted to increase your Council Tax by 1.9%. The BBC reported tonight that 4 in 10 councils are raising Council Tax this year. Ours is one of them.

Surrey County Council have already decided to raise their share by 1.99% and the new Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner is raising his share by 1.99% too.

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, urged councils to freeze Council Tax and has branded councils which raise it by just under 2% as “democracy dodgers”. If Council Tax is raised by over 2%, the council has to hold a referendum to approve it. This would be costly and almost certainly fail to approve any rise.

Surrey Heath Borough Council is within the constituency of Michael Gove, Tory leadership hopeful. Even in his constituency, loyal Tories are saying, “enough is enough!”. Budgets have been cut too far and now we are paying the price.

SHBC still waste money on buying lavish meals for wealthy businessmen and propaganda magazines. They have voted for the most extreme cuts to Council Tax benefits in the country which will cost the council due to non-payments. Basically, they have messed up their finances and now Council Tax payers have to stump up.

DERA Site: Wildlife Decision

One of the biggest threats to Chobham and Windlesham is the proposed development on the ex-DERA site on Chobham Common. If the 1,700 homes and business park go ahead without the appropriate infrastructure, the traffic and community problems will be huge.

Also, the plans present a threat to nearby wildlife and countryside. There are sites on Chobham Common which are protected by European legislation because of the very rare species living there and rare heathland habitats. Councils are required to consider the effect on these sites of any new developments.

The Planning Committee of Surrey Heath Borough Council voted to hand over this responsibility to Runnymede Borough Council because 80% of the DERA site is in their area. However, much more of the protected sites are in SHBC area. The Windlesham Society committee asked me to write to the Leader of SHBC and explain that we thought it was best to retain this responsibility in Surrey Heath. We thought that if SHBC does not have enough expertise on these protected sites then they should acquire it because of how important wildlife and habitats are to local people.

The final decision on whether to hand over responsibility to RBC was taken at tonight’s Full Council meeting. I’m very pleased, and surprised, to report that the Planning Committee’s decision has been reversed and the agreement with RBC will not now be entered into.

This is a small but potentially important victory for the Society on behalf of Surrey Heath residents.

Eastleigh: Things Got Better

I had a brilliant time last week campaigning in Eastleigh for the parliamentary by-election. Today is polling day and I have been back there again. There is a tremendous buzz in the Labour HQ with hundreds of people bustling in and out. Labour MPs, shadow cabinet ministers and famous faces from the TV are all mixing with ordinary party volunteers like me.

Here are some photos I took of the walls where we all wrote our names:


I really enjoyed helping last time, but being here today was something special. The eyes of the country are on Eastleigh today, TV crews and photographers everywhere. I got to speak to John O’Farrell, our candidate, and many other Labour celebs.

Most of the day was spent door-knocking with two different teams:

Me, Tom, Rich and Steve

Me, Tom, Rich and Steve

Emily, me, Dave and Simon

Emily, me, Dave and Simon

There was great camaraderie within the teams. We all had a good laugh (including at two Lib Dem students who seemed to have forgotten that Nick Clegg trebled their tuition fees!). I picked up many good tips for campaigning locally which I will use as soon as I can to benefit people in Surrey Heath too.

When we were back at HQ for a short break, I got talking to an agitated elderly man outside in the street. His name was Michael and he had just been into the polling station nearby and had been told he couldn’t vote because he didn’t have his card. Now, I know that you don’t need your polling card to vote so I went with him back to the polling station. The staff explained that Michael was registered for a postal vote so he had to use that. Unfortunately, he didn’t know what had become of his postal ballot paper, or if he ever received it. The polling station staff said he had to go to the civic offices to get issued with a new one. I drove Michael to the civic offices and a very helpful assistant Returning Officer issued him with a new ballot and he filled it in then and there (in a private area where I couldn’t see, of course) and the officer accepted it. I drove him back home then went for lunch, late but feeling pretty good.

John O’Farrell wrote this yesterday to explain why politics matters. I found it really moving. Politics gave us the NHS. The polls close at 10pm. If you live in Eastleigh, do something meaningful today, like Michael did: Vote Labour!


Chobham Museum

Chobham Museum is a millenium project staffed by volunteers

Chobham Museum is a millennium project staffed by volunteers

There’s going to be an influx of party workers into Chobham during the next two weeks. Some people might not know Chobham very well so I can recommend a visit to the excellent Chobham Museum in between canvassing sessions.

Chobham has a fascinating history. Queen Victoria visited the famous Chobham Encampment on Chobham Common. Many of my fellow countrymen were among the British troops stationed there and they impressed passing artists with their Highland games. The pictures can be seen in the museum.

There are lots of photos and artefacts from World War Two as well. Remember that was when the DERA site, as we now call it, on the Common was seized by the government for tank design, research and building. We never got it back.

The museum is staffed by very knowledgable volunteers. I particularly enjoyed the story one told me about the so-called treacle mines on Chobham Common. During the Encampment, soldiers were given tins of molasses to celebrate the Queen’s visit. This wasn’t really to their taste so many troops buried the tins on the Common. They are not exactly bio-degradable so their contents can still turn up when the tins trigger metal detectors.

Chobham Museum is only open at weekends during the winter and is located beside the Co-op on Bagshot Road. Give it a visit when you’re here and don’t forget to sign the visitors’ book.

End Homophobia in Chobham

A couple of weeks ago, the Same Sex Marriage Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons. This triggered an outpouring of homophobia from some extreme political factions. Sadly, Surrey Heath, and Chobham in particular, is home to one of those factions.

Dinosaurs Not Yet Extinct

In this podcast, the President of the Surrey Heath Conservative Party, Geoffrey Vero, speaks out against David Cameron for taking a step towards marriage equality. Mr Vero went to Number 10 to lobby the Prime Minister to drop the Same Sex Marriage Bill. Cameron had brought this bill forward to try to show that the Tory Party is not full of bigoted dinosaurs. This backfired because a majority of Tory MPs opposed their leader’s bill. It was only passed thanks to Labour MPs supporting it.

Mr Vero could have lobbied the PM to preserve our Green Belt. He could have asked him to protect the NHS from unscrupulous private companies. He didn’t.

Chobham Councillor’s Hate Speech Against LGBT Minority

Later in the podcast, 4 min 20 secs from the start, county Cllr Lavinia Sealy (Chobham, West End and Bisley) exposes her real fear and hatred of lesbian and gay people. Cllr Sealy is the chairman of Surrey County Council. She doesn’t disguise that she believes discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation is acceptable. She discusses deselecting Michael Gove because he supports the bill. Now, there are many reasons local Tories should deselect Gove but his support for this bill is not one of them. Even the Daily Mail thought Cllr Sealy’s rant was beyond the pale.

She says that gay and lesbian couples shouldn’t bring up children and spits out the words, “medical ethics”, to show her contempt for this minority. The modern Tory Party’s mask has slipped in Chobham.

The Choice for Chobham Voters

Local Tories are showing how out of touch they are. They are used to sharing their comfortable old-fashioned prejudices with each other. When voters in Chobham hear what they are saying, they are appalled. Tory councillors don’t understand that the world has moved on and persecuting minorities is no longer acceptable.

The bill is currently in committee stage in parliament. We can send a message to MPs that the majority of people in Chobham are not bigots.

The Chobham Parish Council by-election is on 14 March 2013. Voters have a clear choice. If you believe that all couples deserve an equal right to show their love for each other by getting married, vote Labour for a candidate who can stand up for all minorities. If you don’t want the Same Sex Marriage Bill to affect you, don’t marry someone of the same sex!

Chobham Needs a Doctors’ Surgery

Chobham doctors’ surgery is part of a GP practice which includes the surgery in West End. There are plans to close both surgeries and open a new, large, surgery on a site between the two villages. The practice manager says that operating two separate sites is not sustainable.

Chobham's doctors' surgery is much loved by many local residents

Chobham’s doctors’ surgery is much loved by many local residents. It’s handy for Chobham Rugby Club too for patching up players after the match!

As the campaign for the Chobham Parish Council by-election on 14 March heats up, people have been contacting me to express their support for keeping a GP surgery in Chobham. It has been mentioned that the existing building should have better access for disabled people though.

The area surrounding the current location has sheltered and retirement housing and many patients arrive by mobility scooter. Also, it is within easy walking distance of relatively dense residential areas of northern Chobham. If it were to move a mile or two outside the village, people in this area would be severely disadvantaged. Public transport is not adequate here.

The small group of retailers in this part of Windsor Road could struggle if their footfall is reduced by the closure of the surgery. Would the pharmacy survive if the doctors moved away? Would the Post Office survive?

The doctors’ surgery is a vital resource for Chobham. Nearby elderly residents value their independence and wouldn’t want to be a burden on relatives who would have to take them to the doctors if they couldn’t walk there.

To ensure that primary healthcare is accessible to everyone in Chobham, free of charge, vote Labour on 14 March.

Things Can Only Get Better

I had a fantastic time today down the M3 in Eastleigh. There will be a parliamentary by-election there on 28 Feb because of the resignation of Chris Huhne. Huhne made his then wife take speeding points for him ten years ago then spent the next decade lying about it. He is awaiting sentencing for perverting the course of justice.

When a seat is vacated, the party of the previous MP gets to choose the timing of the by-election. The Lib Dems have called this one with indecent haste. They hope to bury the memory of Huhne’s disgrace quickly.

Below some famous names

Below some famous names

The Labour candidate is John O’Farrell, the broadcaster, satirist, Spitting Image writer and author of Things Can Only Get Better, among other things. I don’t go in for hero worship, but if I’m totally honest with you, the fact that John is the candidate was the main reason I drove there today to help out. I’m so glad I did – it was a brilliant experience, which I highly recommend.

Anyone can turn up to help at 69 Leigh Rd, Eastleigh. I just walked in and as I was signing the vistors’ register, Amy, the amazingly competent organiser welcomed me and immediately set me to work.

To start with another volunteer, Will (a student), and I phoned through a list of local voters and chatted about the election to them. Once enough people were gathered we formed a team of about 8, one of many, and set off to knock on doors in our assigned area. We were led by Tom, a young full-time party worker from Southampton, who carried a clipboard and sent us to a door each. Once we had chatted to the residents, or if they were out posted a leaflet through the letter box, we reported back to Tom with our findings and were given the next address.

Me, Raj, Brian, Will and Kerry

Me, Raj, Brian, Will and Kerry

We were a great team who immediately gelled, having so much in common already. Along with Will, Tom and me there was Brian, a former Eastleigh councillor, Jim and Angela from Fareham, Kerry, the Member of Parliament for Bristol East and Raj who is originally from Eastleigh and has come back to help out.

The weather was perfect and we had some really interesting conversations with voters, and with each other. Having such high morale in our team definitely rubbed off on the people were speaking to.

We had a break between canvassing sessions and talked politics the whole time. Kerry, a former lawyer, told us all about life as an MP and why she decided to stand for parliament. I haven’t met many MPs and it was great to have so much time to be able to ask about parliament and the Labour Party at the highest level. We discussed community organising, which is my priority, and which I pressed Ed Miliband on when I met him a while ago. I received lots of expert advice on campaigning issues I have come across in Surrey Heath.

Kerry McCathy MP and I met voters in Eastleigh today

Kerry McCathy MP and I met voters in Eastleigh today

Tom and Amy gave us advice on campaigning too. Tom talked about designing leaflets and Amy gave us some pointers on social media. We all swapped tips on leafleting, fundraising, organising, running elections and campaigning. We also gossiped furiously about the Tories and Lib Dems, especially Chris Huhne.

I had a great day and I’m going to go back soon. If you are a Labour supporter, I highly recommend going to Eastleigh for even an hour or two. If you are a Tory or Lib Dem, I think you should give it a miss.

With such great friendly young talented people driving the Labour Party forward, the future is inevitable: Things can only get better!

Vote Labour for a One Nation alternative in Eastleigh. Raj, Tom, Will, me and Kerry

Vote Labour for a One Nation alternative in Eastleigh. Raj, Tom, Will, me and Kerry

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