Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Corbyn plays May's political game.

On The Guardian website (to which I subscribe) a Jeremy Corbyn 'spokesman' is quoted as saying: “We’ve made clear that this election is a choice between a Conservative government or a Labour government; there is no other possible outcome".

Oh yes there is - a parliament in which each political party has MPs in proportion to its share of the total vote - the system which is used in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. This would be far preferable to one party having a majority of MPs on a less than half of the votes cast.

As a libertarian socialist, who hates seeing local government treated as less than the equal of national government, I am deeply, deeply saddened to see Labour and Jeremy Corbyn behaving like a centralist party happy to ignore the majority of voters in its own self-interest. In this respect they are no different to the Conservative Party, Theresa May and Liberals.

I would like the outcome of this election to be one in which Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MPs can only govern with the consent/support of other political parties represented in the UK Parliament and that their first act will be to introduce proportional representation across English local government and the UK Parliament using the voting system used to elect the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. Part of the same Act would abolish the House of Lords.

Perhaps The Guardian has misquoted Jeremy Corbyn's 'spokesman'. What do you think?

The decline of mums and rise of private landlords in Beeston. 'Lentonisation' in a word.

Yesterday I caught a glimpse of Beeston's future if market forces have their way.

I really do applaud the enterprise of Charlotte and Steve Purdie, who are the driving force behind a new kind of eatery on Chilwell Road. It's called The Milk Lounge and it will open next week, but mums and buggies were already going in and out yesterday morning. It's a great website and well worth a visit. It will explain the aims of the Purdie family far better than I ever can.

The Milk Lounge has two sides and the one on the right is laid out like a play/sensory area and its bee image captures the feel of what should be a fun place for babies, toddlers, mums and families.

Now you may wonder what this has to do with private landlords?

Yesterday we came home to find the postcard below had been pushed through our letterbox. It asks the question 'Do you know how much your house is worth to an investor in student property? We do!.'

Click on the card to enlarge the text and read clearly. Also visit the PurpleFrog website so you can see for yourself how Beeston as well as Nottingham is being targeted.

We live on the edge of what was once the Beeston Fields Council Estate in a former council house. With so many sold to occupiers after Mrs Thatcher decided it would be a good thing to scrap council housing. Today, the number of council houses is probably in a minority and there is a good chance that there are as many private landlord owned houses as owner occupied properties on the estate.

In other words private landlord 'investor(s)' can make a profit out of owning even a small council house by renting it out to students, thereby qualifying for council tax exemption. Living rooms can be turned into bedrooms. The garden may well be large enough for an extension to be built. It will be impossible for Broxtowe Borough Council to refuse planning permission when a private 'investor'/ landlord submits a planning application because it has no registration scheme limiting occupants and property types and many houses already have extensions.

The number of council tax exempt properties in Beeston is probably growing at the rate of one a day based on what information I have already from Broxtowe Borough Council. I am waiting for more detailed information, as I mentioned in my blog post dated 8 April 2017. Based on the information I have I estimate there are presently around 1200 council tax exempt properties in Beeston (in 2015 there were 519) — an increase of 681 in two years. I await the promised information with interest.

In the meantime back to Beeston mums and why they are vanishing. The simple truth is that young families are being priced out of Beeston by a mixture of house prices and rising rents because of private landlord investors. I call this process 'Lentonisation' and I have blogged about this before (most recently in November 2016).

The Milk Lounge will, I'm sure, be a success and prove popular with mums, but over time the number of Beeston mums using The Milk Lounge will decline. What the Lenton experience shows is that oldies like us hold on as long as we can, but first time buyers and young families are priced out.

Only time will prove me right, but one thing is certain, Nottingham University is going to continue to expand and will need ever more accommodation for students. There are ways around the problem, two year degree courses based on 46 weeks teaching instead of 30 weeks as at present. More distance learning.

Students are not of themselves the problem and many want to live in the local community, but because Broxtowe Borough Council does not regulate the number of council tax exempt properties they end up living in ghettoes and not a 'balanced/mix community' (the Council talks about the latter, but there is no evidence that they actually care).

I will save writing about the loss of council tax income across the Borough and County to another day. The truth is local government services suffer and I believe all three main political parties in Beeston and on Broxtowe Borough Council are culpable. They have all helped to create the situation I have described above.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Labour's collective madness continues - what else explains supporting May's call for the General Election in June 2017?

Nick Palmer's latest blog (20 April 2017) begins: 'I have been asked by Labour whether I’d like to be considered as our candidate for Broxtowe. I need to decide by this weekend, so I thought I’d consult you. 10% of the homes in Broxtowe get my emails, so it's a good sample'.

I have posted a comment as follows:

'Strikes me that you are between a rock and a hard place. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. This is a situation Labour has made for itself and I applaud the MPs who had the courage to vote against May and oppose having this unnecessary general election.
In the circumstances it has to better to go into the election with Broxtowe having a recognisable face and name like yourself. I agree with your analysis. If you have the energy go for it, it will be tough, but if you say ‘no thanks’ I, for one, will understand why. I will help as best I can, but I am presently recovering from open heart surgery seven weeks ago. I wish you well whatever your decision'.

Just like in 2015, important local elections are being shoved into the background in the sense that they will now be seen as a dress rehearsal for the main event in June. Last time it was the borough council election, this time it's the county council election. By the way, we are less than two weeks away from the county council election and still no Labour Party posters for Bramcote and Beeston North ward. Will I have to make my own again as I did for the Borough Council election in 2015?

The Brexit negotiations, assuming they take the full two years, will end in March 2019, leaving the Conservatives just 14 months to recover before the 2020 general election. Well, that would have been the case. Now they will have three years to recover. Corbyn's attitude, and that of many Labour MPs who otherwise oppose him, is a continuation of the collective madness which has possessed them for the past twelve months and I have blogged about before (click here for link).

Theresa May has done no less than I expected. She supported fixed-term parliaments when it was to the advantage of Conservatives and dumped them, despite saying she wouldn't, with the support of Labour MPs who, to be repeat myself, must be suffering from collective madness or hysteria of some sort.

The general election on 8 June 2017 is in danger of being one big national by-election, with low voter turnouts across the country. The lady in Bristol who went viral with her 'Oh no, not another one!' has caught the national mood wonderfully. When it comes to the news and the general election a good few of us are already reaching for the 'off' button or changing channels to watch yet another endless repeat.

As a Labour voter since my first general election in 1966, when I was aged 22, I say none of this lightly. In my lifetime this is the second most important general election ever. I was only 1 in 1945, but the working and middle classes had endured six years of war together and were ready for change. The media was more diverse and voters actually had to talk with one another, now they text and twitter. Westminster has become a cocoon for a political elite who have quickly forgotten the Brexit vote. As I heard someone say in Beeston High Road yesterday, 'Fuck the lot of them'.

This feels like 1983 all over again. Susan and I were there big time, with Martin Sloman, the Nottingham East Labour Party candidate staying with us in Lenton for six weeks, his wife in charge of BBC's radio election coverage and his dad deputy leader of Cardiff City Council. I was a full-time county councillor, an agent and Chair of East Midlands Airport. We acted as 'minders' for national politicians visiting Nottingham and were told more than once that Labour was doing well across the country. Nottingham, where we reported how bad things were, 'was different'.  I am in no doubt that this will be the case again. It has already started. I want to believe in a miracle, I really do!

If Nick Palmer does decide to take on Anna Soubry he will have my support, but he has earned the right to say 'Thanks for the opportunity, but no thank you'. She will be difficult to beat and I would not be surprised to see her back as a minister if Theresa May wins the general election. 

The working and lower middle classees are divided and that is never good for Labour. I will do what I can, but I tell you now I would encourage every voter who does not want to see a Conservative victory on 8 June to vote for the candidate with the best chance of defeating the Conservative candidate. In Broxtowe and other parts of the conurbation that will be Labour, but in Brighton I hope Labour voters support Caroline Lucas and in Scotland for SNP candidates, except where there is a Labour MP. Liberals even!

Labour has returned to the old politics at the first opportunity and runs a real risk of paying a heavy price. 

Only a seismic event during the next six weeks and six days will provide Labour with an opportunity to avoid the disaster which awaits. I will not vote for Corbyn again or any Labour Party leadership candidate who supported this madness. I have never wanted to be so wrong in my life. 9 June 2017 will come soon enough and we will all know if our next prime minister is to be Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May.

I will leave you with one final request: Read Clive Lewis in The Guardian yesterday.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The changing face of Beeston

A couple of months out of action and how things change in Beeston if you walk from Humber Road to Park Road. I'm sure I will have missed things, but here is my take:

Still in the same ownership, just no longer Mason and Mason.

Odin's Table now say it will 'only be open to the public for pre-arranged events' and has closed as an eatery. I wish them well in their new guise.

A string of eateries on the south side of Beeston High Road. Cafe 94 appear on my earlier maps as 'Coffee Cup'. The name change passed me by until now.

Down on the south side of Chilwell Road, close to Latino's. I will go in once I can drink pale ale again. Right now I am taking too much medication to risk drinking alcohol!

This new bakery on the south side of Chilwell Road should be opening next Tuesday (18 April). I met the owner, Fang-Ju Shen, a lovely young woman, who stepped outside and invited me in as I was taking this photograph.  She intends to specialise in breads, cakes and biscuit from Taiwan and China, perhaps Korea and Japan as well. She gave me some samples which varied in texture and sweetness. All were enjoyable, which we ate for our tea with some cheese we bought from Jo's Local Not Global Deli a few doors down, where Susan and I stopped for tea and cake.

I intend to go back to the Fang-Ju's bakery and will write more after my next visit. There are a few chairs and tables inside the shop. The name comes from two characters in a children's story book she has written. As yet there is no website or Facebook page.

Another new shop is aimed at our canine friends and whilst there, one dog went in and another came out.

A Broxtowe Borough Council planning application tied to a nearby lamp-post says someone wants to turn the old Crossplay Music shop into (yet another) café.

Seven weeks, seven changes along Beeston's east-west shopping thoroughfare. How many of these changes have you noticed?

Saturday, 8 April 2017

The devil is in the detail when it comes to student housing in Broxtowe

Yesterday I received two headline nuggets of data from Broxtowe Borough Council about student housing in the borough, with the street by street breakdown to follow.

As soon as I have it I will compile up-to-date maps and a table comparing 2015 data with 2017 data. Before I publish it I will share it with the Council just in case they have any questions concerning the way I have presented the data (it will the same format as in 2015. You can see the 2015 tables in the right-hand column across from this post).

You only have to look at the street by street totals for 2015 to understand why I say the devil is in the detail. It is going to be fascinating seeing whether the increases are spread across Broxtowe or clustered as in 2015. I have a good idea of what I expect the street by street data to show, so watch this blog for an update, probably towards the end of April.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The coal face of life and life in the slow lane after open heart surgery.

It's six weeks to the the day since my last post on 23 February about my pre-open heart surgery visit to Nottingham City Hospital and how I was treated like royalty.

Well, I did have my op on Monday 27 February as planned and it is a case of so far so good. I can only describe the treatment and care I have received as faultless. I was in hospital for ten days and everyone, from the hospital cleaners and catering staff, to the nursing assistants, the nurses, the physios and the doctors were caring and supportive. I bonded with fellow patients and saw that not everyone shared my experience. Some, by their own admission, struggle to cope and place extra pressure on themselves and hospital staff. In such situations I noticed that it was some of the doctors who struggled to communicate. The cleaners and the nursing staff live closer to the coal face of life and continually worked at trying to make more anxious patients feel better.

The attention was relentless, from day one in the Intensive Care Unit after my operation, where I had one-to-one support, to the two days in the High Dependency ward, where I shared two nurses with another patient, then my eight days on the cardiac surgical ward, which had beds for 20 men and 4 women during my stay. I had my moments when the buzzers sounded and I found myself surrounded by staff being fitted with extra drips and other things I cannot remember with any certainty, but they all passed and the mantra of all staff was so true that I suspect I have been hard-wired with the words 'You will have good days and bad days' for the rest of my life.

The food passed muster with a little help from home and being directed by knowing fellow patients to the Afro-Caribbean, Halal and Kosher menus, and there was always vanilla ice cream! Most patients didn't wander far, sticking for the most part to their beds and bays. I was one of the wanderers, who used the dining room and a small sitting area to read and enjoy areas most patients said were 'cold', whereas I found the wards hot and stuffy.

I can honestly say that I have yet to suffer any pain or discomfort as a result of my operation, even when being fitted with drips or having tubes removed.

I found the whole experience amazing and overwhelming at the same time, but having reached nearly 73 without ever having an operation or a stay in hospital, it was a whole new world as far as I was concerned. Having a general anaesthetic was a whole new experience. There was no counting backwards, just chatting with the theatre staff is the last thing I remember, then hearing Susan's voice saying 'Hello Darling' and another lovely voice saying 'Hello, I'm Michelle'. Susan later told me it was another hour before I was really wake. Twelve hours of being nowhere. I have written a short piece about it, which I will place on my seniorfiction blog in ther next few days.

Probably what amazed me most was the fact that I met only two other men who were having planned open heart/by-pass surgery like myself. Everyone else had entered the system as an emergency, some having been in hospital since the new year and coming from as afar as Lincoln, Newark and Mansfield, whilst others were still in hospital weeks after their surgery for a variety of reasons. A few who had the op on the same day as me went out before me, but I did have the added problem of lung fibrosis.

Going home ten days after my op was great, but having been the subject of four hourly checks and a daily visit from doctors and nurses, who fine tuned my treatment and medication daily, to be suddenly on your own at home took some getting used to. Fortunately my GP practice (Derby Road Health Centre) picked me up and have been supporting me ever since and, as always, have been truly wonderful. I have en had visits at home from a NHS/British Heart Foundation community nurse and I have found her visits reassuring.

I have been at home now for four weeks and until Monday (this week) my worst problem has been night sweats. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they have now passed. The other big problem which hit me out of the blue was constipation, which I solved after three days with the help of a laxative bought from a Beeston chemist, but those three days were truly awful.

I have been pottering for the past two weeks, walking for a little longer each day and picking up on little chores around the house and having the odd few hours out. I've been to Staunton Harold for lunch and a walk last week, to Table 8 this week for lunch with a friend from Birmingham and yesterday I walked down Wollaton Road with a shopping basket and visit Hallams and sainsbury's before catching an L10 bus back up Wollaton Road.

I have been making bread for a couple of weeks now and helping with little chores, even cooking my favourite meal last Saturday — poached eggs on toast! Sometime this has left me tired because it is easy to forget how a string of little tasks ends up being comparable to one large task I would not even think about yet.

I have to pace myself and have still over two weeks to go before I return to the City Hospital for tests and an x-ray to see how well I am progressing. It will be May before my six week cardiac re-hab program begins — which is a good measure in itself of how long and slow open heart surgery recovery takes.  If I am lucky, I may get to play some lawn bowls in Broadgate Park this coming July and I may just manage to plant some runner beans.

In the meantime, I have some things I can begin doing on my computer and posting to this blog, so watch this space over coming days. Before I signed off in February I was a little pre-occupied with a dispute I had with Broxtowe Borough Council over being refused access to data about council tax exempt properties in the borough. I came home to fid this email on my computer:

I replied to Sue Rodden that there was no rush, as I was recovering from open heart surgery, but I have now asked for the data, so watch this space.

March really did pass me by. How I would have managed without Susan I do not know. Family and friends have been attentive and supportive and part of the process has been reassuring them as well as myself. Ordinary people are extraordinary and I could write a book about the people I met in the City Hospital during my ten day stay. So many wonderful people. A bit like Beeston, a real home from home.

I'm not sure how informative this blog post has been, but I am glad that I am here to write it!