It was wrong for Councillors to vote to increase their allowances

Hardworking people in Kempston have been saving up for Christmas and are currently working out how to afford that extra stocking filler for the kids, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. At the same time, this summer, it came out that Bedford Borough Councillors had voted for an increase in their taxpayer-funded allowances. In total, allowances rose from £623,992 in 2013 to £633,235 in 2014, and the basic allowance (simply for being a Councillor) stands at over £10,000 every year – higher than some places in London.

While frontline services have had to be cut back due to our overwhelming national deficit, I think this is wrong. Local council workers, facilities, and services have all had to tighten their belts to deal with years of economic mismanagement under the previous government – why shouldn’t local representatives do the same?

As Councillor, I would have voted against the increase then, and I would vote against any future increase while cuts are being made elsewhere. If elected to represent Kempston Central & East, I will also be handing back a proportion of those allowances in the form of donations to local charities and projects – being a Councillor should be about duty, not about entitlement.

 

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Great charity do for The Children’s Society

Carol Palmers organised a fantastic event this Saturday at the Transfiguration, which managed to raise £300 for The Children’s Society. There were hand-made candles, decorations, and fancy glasses on sale, as well as scrumptious cakes and tea. Carol is a great representative of the Transfiguration church, as well as a dedicated Kempstonian. I may not have won anything on the raffle, but thought it worth celebrating this effort, along with others who put great work in, to raise money for a great cause.

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Remembering in Kempston

 

Kempston  lest we forget

This Sunday saw an enormous turnout to the fantastic Remembrance Service at Kemspton East Methodist Church, whose congregation then marched on towards the memorial in south Kempston to lay wreaths and pray or contemplate in memory of those in history who have fallen to defend our freedom. The march was led by the Cadets, Girl Guides, the Boys’ Brigade, and others. Obviously there is particular poignancy this year, as we remember the 100th anniversary of the outset of the First World War, the 75th anniversary of the outset of the Second World War, and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. In each of those occasions, brave young men from our local area gave their efforts, sacrifice, and sometimes their lives to defend their King, country, local town, family and friends.

It was great to see so many people turn out in respect and dignity, as our town remembered the fallen.

“With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.”

A Real Scare on Hallowe’en

For this Hallowe’en, if you want a real scare, just imagine Ed Miliband walking into Number 10 and Labour coming to power again in May 2015. As Deloitte brings out their ‘The State of the State’ report, analysing the UK’s public sector, it seems clear that – whilst some of us would like quicker reform – things are on the right track in Britain at the moment. People in Kempston and elsewhere are more likely to be in work than they were in 2010, more likely to face lower income tax, more likely to face lower jobs tax, and they have seen their fuel tax frozen – all while spending on education, health, and other crucial services  has been protected and the deficit reduced.

However, in the ‘nightmare on Downing Street’ scenario of Miliband moving into Number 10, analysis by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that Labour would borrow billions more if given the chance. Earlier this year, official Treasury numbers showed the full impact of Labour’s plans: a borrowing bombshell adding an additional £166 billion to the country’s debt in just one parliament.

‘The State of the State’ indicates that if Britain doesn’t eliminate its deficit, we will be paying more on purely servicing our debt than we would be spending on all public services – including hospitals, schools, defence, policing, and protecting the vulnerable – in just three decades. If Labour comes to power and our deficit isn’t dealt with, the cost of our debt would spiral out of control: that means taxes would have to be raised to untenable levels, rates would rise, and there would be less and less in the pot for essential services in the UK.

So, as people get dressed up in the standard capes and garb and worry about the ghosties and ghoulies, they should spare a thought for the most gruesome possibility next year and beyond for this country we love. When thinking what the taxman would be up to under Labour’s policies of spending and borrowing, I’m not so scared of being grabbed by the ghosties – I’m more worried about being grabbed by the goolies.

 

Happy Bandi Chhor Divas and Diwali in Kempston

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Happy Bandi Chhor Divas to Sikh people and happy Diwali to Hindus, both in Kempston and throughout the world.

Bandi Chhor Divas celebrates the liberation of Guru Hargobind Ji (the ‘True Emperor’) along with fifty two other princes from imprisonment in Gwalior; it is therefore also symbolic of the Sikh people’s eventual liberation from tyranny. The date is shared with Diwali because the True Emperor re-entered Amritsar during Diwali festivities, which I imagine put celebrations into full swing for Sikhs there.

Diwali is a ‘festival of lights’, and its literal translation is ‘a series (or row) of lights/lamps’. It dates back to ancient times in India, and signifies the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. In fact, the hope of Diwali is not dissimilar to what St Francis of Assisi from within the Christian faith prayed of his own actions:

“Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is discord, harmony; Where there is error, truth; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, lightAnd where there is sadness, joy.”

All in all, not a bad hope from the perspective of any religion or none! Happy Bandi Chhor Divas/Diwali.

Speak up, be heard

speak up

Since being selected as a Councillor candidate, I have knocked on doors across the whole of Kempston Central & East – from behind the Keep and by the river down to behind Sainsbury’s and near the Post Office. Having spoken to a lot of people in the area, I sense there is a real concern that the channels of communication and working out who to speak to about any particular issue are not clear. That is why I have set up a Facebook Group here, as well as giving people the possibility to contact me through this website.

Not everyone has access to a computer, and people sometimes don’t have the technological knowhow or time, so it is important to get out in the community and speak to people – that’s what I’ve been doing for the last year. From the doorstep, I’ve heard serious concerns about crime from people in Eastdale Close; concerns about parking from people in Littledale Street and Thornton Street; concerns about antisocial behaviour on Margetts Road and by Addison Park; concerns about shoddy public places and overgrowing trees from people between Bedford Road and Bunyan Road; concerns about traffic from people on Elstow Road; and much more. By getting out in the community, I’ve heard first-hand what people care about.

But it is impossible for your local representatives (of whichever party) to hear everything that’s going on all of the time – that’s why I have invested time into a Facebook group and website so people can contact me. For those who can make contact, please do: it would be great to hear what you think can be made better about Kempston Central & East or about Bedford Borough more generally. And if you know someone whose age, financial situation, disability, or lack of technical knowhow prevents them from getting in contact online, please get in contact on their behalf: that’s the kind of community it would be great to nurture in Kempston, where people are more engaged with their own ideas on how to make things better, and willing to get in contact for those who can’t.

By setting up these channels of communication, I hope to hear a lot from people in Kempston in the run up to the election. If I’m lucky enough to be voted in, I will then have the best possible idea of how to serve Kempston Central & East. Otherwise, what’s the point in running?!

Please get in contact!

 

 

St John’s Special School and College received ‘outstanding’ Ofsted report

I just wanted to celebrate St John’s immense success at recently having received its fourth ‘outstanding’ report from Ofsted in a row! Despite stringent Ofsted reporting, the school passed with flying colours, and is a real credit to Kempston. It would be good to hear how the school feels the local council can help support and sustain the outstanding contribution it offers to our local community, which is why I have got in contact with the interim Head to work out exactly what route we should take to ensure this happens. 

But in the meantime, party time – fantastic news in our local area, and something to be very proud of!

St Johns Special School

Anthony welcomes national insurance cuts to make people in Kempston more financially secure

Earlier this year, this government brought in a national insurance waiver worth £2,000 per year. This means that local small businesses in Kempston will be more able to expand their workforce, providing more jobs and growing in the community.

National insurance is a tax against jobs and a tax against the poor. It means that businesses are less likely to employ people due to the additional cost, and low and middle income taxpayers are dealt an extra stealth tax in their payslips. That is why I support this move to waive the first £2,000 of national insurance for small businesses, and that is why I would eventually like to see the tax completely abolished in a major shake up of the tax system. That would only be nearly possible with a Conservative majority, which is why voting Conservative ain’t a bad idea in May 2015, locally and nationally!