Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Why Tim tells us a lot about Ming

Oh dear. The wonderful Lord (Tim) Razzell is no longer LibDem campaign chairman. What a shame. But one nagging question remains. Did he quit because Ming was so horrible to his old chum Charlie? Or did he go because the LibDems flatlining electoral performance and he is only the golden boy whilst they win elections?

A one seat net gain in the local elections tells me its probably the latter.
Vic Elvin dies

I've just had a call from the EEN to say that Mile Cross Councillor Vic Elvin has passed away. Vic was a true community man, dedicated to making Mile Cross a better place to live. His shock election win - and subsequently holding the seat against a big swing to Labour - made him quite an electoral force! I know Labour were terrified of him and a good job too! He may not have done much jumping up and down in the Chamber but he worked long and hard for the community he represented and the council could do with more people like Vic Elvin.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.
Just what is Labour's views on Council Tax?

Just released:

Leading Norwich Conservative Antony Little has today welcomed the vast bulk of Labour’s new priorities for the City, but seriously questioned their commitment to keeping council tax down.

Commenting on the new political aims and aspirations document, released by new Council Leader Steve Morphew, Cllr Little said:

“We warmly welcome a lot of this document because it contains issues that all parties can agree on – including tackling anti-social behaviour, promoting recycling and cleaning up our communities.”

“However this document completely skirts around the issue of the council tax, failing to mention it even once. A lot of these schemes sound very expensive and Labour are coming into office without an aspiration – let alone a commitment – to keeping council tax down.”

“Unless Labour include an aim to keep down council tax in their political priorities list people can only conclude that council tax is set to rocket in Norwich.”
Diary Entries

It seems almost compulsory that I enter into an absolute rage at something Norwich City Council does everyday. Today it is the long running diary saga.

I am a City Councillor. I have a lot of meetings to attend, as a Councillor serving on committees and in the community I represent. I would rather like a small book to make a note of all the dates. Not too hard is it? Not so far. The Council provide us with diaries and they are better than the ones you buy at W H Smith because they contain all of the contact details and info about the council. Wow, two birds with one stone there then.

Apart from the fact that Council diaries seem to run September through to September and, yes you got it, ours aren't ready yet. The finanical year runs April through to April. The civic year runs May through to May. Yet the council bureaucracy runs September through to September.

Will I give in and buy one before then? Yes, clearly. Grrrrr!
"Wright Watch" Part II

Well, that didn't take long. An e-mail arrives to point out that Councillor Wright (LibDem, Fakenham) appears to be modeling his political career on that of his full-tine boss, North Norfolk's MP Norman Lamb.

"By that I mean living in Norwich but claiming to represent people who live miles away."

Very true. By checking the electoral roll, Mr Lamb lives just off the Newmarket Road in Norwich South but represents North Norfolk. Councillor Wright lives in Eaton, on the south side of Norwich, and represents Fakenham - that's over 27 miles away and in a completely different local authority. I wonder how many of Cllr Wright's constituents know this?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Future of Waterloo Park Pavillion

This has just been released:

Conservative Leader in Norwich, Cllr Antony Little, is to seek assurances from Norwich City Council over the future use of Waterloo Park Pavilion.

Currently the Pavilion is organised and run by Norwich Community Arts (NORCAS) but they are moving out in the summer and there are fears that the Pavilion could be lost as a community arts space. Norwich City Council will soon be looking at somebody else to take over the lease and they have not ruled out allowing the use to be converted to fully commercial premises.

Cllr Little said: “There are serious concerns that a business may wish to use this very special site and a lot of the community groups that currently access the space will lose out. I have been in touch with the Council to talk through the issue but they will not rule out a fully commercial use of the Pavilion.”

“We have very few genuine community resources of this nature and it would be a crying shame to see it lost. I would like the Council to guarantee that community groups will get first refusal in this building. Failing that, we should have a full report to see if the Council could continue to run the Pavilion for the best use of the community themselves.”

“Waterloo Park Pavilion is well worth investing time and money into – as has been the case in the past. I shall be strongly urging the Council to keep it for community use.”
Support for "road safety drive"

I was pleased to see the Soapbox column in Monday's Evening News dedicated to one Norwich resident (a real, genuine, non-party alligned one this time) supporting my view about a pro-active road safety campaign. Maybe this is the start of something that could cause ripples of change around City Hall>
Tories are challengers to Clarke in Norwich South: Poll

A new set of opinion polls has confirmed that the Tories are back to being the real alternative to Charles Clarke in Norwich South. Martin Baxter's Electoral Calculus, an extremely well respected organisation that averages out polling information, puts Clarke at 33% (down 4%), the Conservatives at 27% (up 5%), the LibDems at 24% (down 5%) and the Greens at 14% (up 7%). That roughly matches what we are seeing on the doorsteps at the moment. However, you might expect Mr Clarke to do better now he has more time to spend in Norwich. The LibDems, however, are clearly having a tougher time of it.
Who is Simon Wright?

Well, according to today's Evening News he is simply a regular resident of Norwich who just happens to be complaining about the Conservatives. However, is this an uncharacteristic lapse in the reporting of the EEN?

Simon Wright is a resident of Norwich.

Simon Wright is also a LibDem District Councillor.

Simon Wright is also Norman Lamb's full time director of communication ... a LibDem Federal Exec member ... and a party trainer.

Simon Wright is also putting himself about as the LibDem PPC in Norwich South next time around.

Mr Wright - sorry, Councillor Wright - is not all that he seems. Perhaps a "Wright Watch" feature is required? Stories to the normal e-mail address.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Leader of the Opposition?

Cllr Morphew might be mistaken for thinking that all of his religious festivals have come at once. The word at City Hall is that the LibDems are so annoyed with the electorate for dumping them that they do not plan to oppose - or even in some cases scrutinise - the work of the incoming Labour administration. With the Green Party under Labour's table hoping for some scraps to be thrown their way, it looks like the Conservatives accumulated council mass of two will be the principle opposition in the chamber. Or, as somebody once said ... the "real opposition"?
Blog roll...

What's being said by the bloggers this Bank Holiday? Well, Tory candidate for Kingston Kevin Davis looks at the Pope's diary, Guido finds a heterosexual LibDem, Ellee Seymour is nasty about our beloved Deputy Prime Minister (!), and ConservativeHome wonders why Tory A-Listers aren't applying for really tough parliamentary seats.
Sir Ming: An apology

Those poor souls who make up whatever is left of the Liberal Democrats in Britain have been having a hard time of it recently. I don’t like to comment on the woes of the LibDems … actually, sod that because they revelled in it when the Conservatives were struggling. Sir Ming is turning out to be the worst leader they could possibly have had – and YouGovs work in the Daily Telegraph shows his rating continue to slide. Even the anyone-but-the-Tories Anthony King had to concede the LibDems were struggling just to keep their head above the water. Then came news that they might go bust having to repay a nice man his £2.4m, then Home Affairs Spokesman Nick Clegg did-slash-did-not criticise Sir Ming, then the fiasco over the opening shots in the Bromley by-election … and now Deputy Leader Vince Cable has mooted £6bn worth of tax cuts without demonstrating where the money will come from. The LibDems always struggle bridging the credibility gap and this will not help them. My advice? Shut up about policy, Sir Ming must get batter at PMQs and sack somebody to underline his leadership (preferably the plotting Simon Hughes).
Middle class camping

We are back from a fantastic weekend in deepest darkest Suffolk – well, Centre Parcs actually. Our “middle class camping” holiday was fantastic. I managed to scare myself to death by abseiling (twice) and discovering the joys of archery. You see, I’m very “Middle Ages” at heart – in more ways than one! The whole experience was very comfy and the company was excellent – although as they read this blog, I’d be foolish to suggest otherwise. Emily seemed to enjoy herself and, whilst she was unable to go the more daring activities, Louise liked the get-a-way.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Public Meeting Announced

I miss the public meeting traditions of this country and I am pleased to advertise the fact that the "No Costessey Incinerator" campaign group (who I support) are holding a public meeting.

Where? Costessey Community Centre, Breckland Road, New Costessey
When? 7.30pm Monday 5th June 2006

Be there!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Big Brother Part II

I know I shouldn't care but tonight's show was so disgusting that Louise actually walked away and wouldn't watch. One housemate - a man so awful it doesn't bare thinking about - was systemically bullied by a group of so-called adults. I know I shouldn't care and I know I'll probably be the most hated man in the country (save our beloved Prime Minister) for saying this, but I thought that pack-bullying is the most unedifying sight in the world. He was/is an idiot and did stupid things, but they tore him shread-to-shread. Locking him out, throwing his food away, stealing his clothes when in the pool and loudly shouting about how much they hate him. And this is viewing for kids too, is it? Only once have I ever seen secondary school pupils behave like that and it is shocking. They have set an awful example to the country and I hope when they watch the playback they'll be stunned by their behaviour. They set about him en masse, including walking away when he sat with them. Shouting louder and louder is no replacement for debate, honesty and reasoning. If my pupils behaved in that way no matter what the provocation, then they would be in big trouble. Two housemates - Pete and George - deserve some credit. Worst of all was that the leaders of the bully-pack were the girls, and the older ones to boot. Reality TV may just have shown me a reality of British life that I just don't like.
No Net Presents (sic)

I spent a little while talking to a big player in the Norwich web-scene and was very impressed with what he had to say about politics. Interestingly enough this blog is a daily read for him - and he has nothing but praise for the party website both nationally and locally.

However, he found that the LibDem ones were pretty poor. The local one is a shambles and very very out of date. The national one is difficult to navigate. He believed it was because they were trying to play with the yellow/gold theme - I believe it is because the content is so poor. He said that they should abandon party colours and go with what works best. Failed LibDem PPC AAD used to have website but it was never (and I mean, never) updated and has now disappeared. Similarly, Charles Clarke used to have a website and now I can't find that. Norwich Labour have, to our collective knowledge, never had one. Only the Green Party have an up-to-date viable website.

I am pleased that both Cameron's Conservatives and the Norwich Conservatives lead the way in this field. E-Campaigning will become more and more important.
Best of the Blogs

It has been a good week for bloggers around here. Iain Dale (too many entries to link to, so just scroll down) has been in full persuit of Cherie Blair and her signed copy of the Hutton Report. In fact, Iain should take some credit for the issue finally hitting the headlines (and PMQs today).

Cambridge's finest and one-woman PR machine Ellee Seymour reports on the Conservative desires to be happy. Meanwhile, Tory blogger Kevin Davis muses on the new found Cameron lead on the issue of public services. Former PPC Marcus Wood has a good story about the LibDem decapitation strategy in Torbay - on themselves.

Finally, Norwich Tory Trevor Ivory asks what the point of election expenses is.
Cameron's eco-fundraiser

Conservative members could not have failed to be moved by Dave's latest fundraising letter. It comes with the normal gumpf - a letter from Mr Cameron, a booklet on why the Tories are great and a donation form. However, what it different is that this fundraiser is carbon neutral! Well, something like that.

Because all over ever bit of paper are the words: "Printed entirely on paper sourced from sustainable forests." The Conservatives really are changing.
Prescott: Gone but not forgotten

The Tory Leader in Norwich, Cllr Antony Little, expressed concern at reports of the Labour Government’s secret plans to increase council tax bills on homes with attractive features and home improvements.

As a testing ground for England, Labour Ministers are this month revaluing local tax bills in Northern Ireland. Under their brand new system, from April 2007, local tax bills will be a set percentage of the house price and will be unlimited – like an annual stamp duty on every home. Internal documents reveal:

• Taxed for your view: Under the new system, homes with scenic or ‘premium views’, adjoining parks or green spaces, or in Conservation Areas will pay higher taxes. Ordnance Survey maps and councils’ planning departments will be used to identify these features.
• 21st Century window tax: The internal and external specifications of the property will affect the tax bill. Patios, garden sheds, double-glazing, conservatories or extensions are ‘site positive’ features that will hike bills.
• House price tax: Tax bills will be based on the house price of the property, and be unlimited, unlike the present ‘banded’ system of council tax. Local residents will be charged 0.78% of their home’s value each year - local councils can vary the precise rate. In Norwich, this would mean a tax increase of £217 per year for the average home. Only Labour heartlands – like Tony Blair’s Sedgefield and John Prescott’s Hull may pay less.

Cllr Little said:
“I am very concerned over Labour’s plans for an unlimited house price tax. The Government wants to increase the tax burden on Norwich, and turn council tax into a tax on house prices and tap into the property boom.

“Northern Ireland is now being used as a testing ground for Government tax inspectors and the levying of a new house price tax. I fear hard-working families and pensioners who have saved and improved their homes now face soaring tax bills, without any improvements in their local services.”

Former Labour councillor, Sir Michael Lyons, conducting a Government review into council tax, is to publish his proposals later this year. His interim report in December explicitly stated that he was actively considering introducing the same system of local taxation that is now being rolled out in Northern Ireland. In January, the taxpayer-funded National Institute of Economic and Social Research also endorsed this new house price tax

All the news you need is always on the Norwich Conservatives website...

Conservative Councillor Antony Little has pointed to new evidence that Whitehall bureaucrats are planning to concrete over back gardens across Norwich and the country.

The Government has given £2 million of taxpayers’ money to planners and academics to investigate ‘urban densification’. Their recommendations include the following proposals:
• Development in suburban neighbourhoods should be double the current density.
• There is ‘considerable potential’ for back garden development.
• Back gardens over 30 metres should be sold off for building.
• Green Belt land should be built over and any “local opposition” ignored.

The Government is already consulting over new planning rules which will impose new higher density targets on new housing developments in Norwich. In practice, this means Norwich City Council will be powerless to stop leafy suburban back gardens being ripped up and the plot replaced with blocks of flats. Current planning guidelines, drawn up by John Prescott, already classify gardens as ‘brownfield’ land, making them easier to concrete over and allowing the Government to produce bogus statistics proclaiming the ‘protection’ of greenfield sites.

Councillor Little, who represents Bowthorpe, said:
"Norwich's open spaces are now under real threat from Labour’s bulldozers. Labour claim they want to regenerate urban sites, yet sneakily they don’t even class back gardens as ‘green’ space. Norwich City Council is increasingly powerless to protect against growing suburban sprawl and ugly ‘densification’. Councillors should be able to stop blocks of flats being dumped in neighbourhoods if out of character with the area.

“It is clear that Whitehall bureaucrats have our back gardens in their sights and is bankrolling ‘garden grabbing’ studies with taxpayers’ cash. But Labour fail to understand that young couples and families want new homes with gardens.”

Conservatives are supporting a proposed new law by Conservative MP, Greg Clark, which seeks to stop back gardens being classed as brownfield land. It is estimated that two-thirds of all brownfield housing development is now taking place on gardens.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Big Brother

Oh dear there goes the next 13 weeks. The normal collection of nutters.
Home Office troubles, the Fox finds his feet and my diary

I was always an admirer of Dr Liam Fox, the Conservative Chairman at the last General Election. His tactic of standing as a Tory Leadership contender to position himself for the next Shadow Cabinet seemed not to have paid off when Cameron offered him Shadow Defence Secretary and offered his old Shadow Foreign Affairs position to “party darling” William Hague. However, Dr Fox has been working hard (on both sides of the Atlantic) and nobody can doubt the energy he has put in. The recent Telegraph article about fighting the terrorist threat to our energy supplies is excellent and I glad to see him broadening the horizons of his portfolio.

Meanwhile, Shadow Home Secretary David “Basher” Davis has seen off another Home Office Minister – this time its Harrow’s finest Tony McNulty being shuffle out of Immigration and into Policing. However, to paraphrase DD, why should somebody who fouled up immigration be any better dealing with police reform? Funnily enough, David Cameron thinks the issue of police reform – the last great-unreformed public service – warrants a shadow minister of its own.

We have a clutch of by-elections locally at the moment – in North Norfolk, Diss in South Norfolk and now also in West Suffolk. I’ll post reports as and when I visit each.

We’re off for our first scan tomorrow and then the Council AGM. Oh, joy.
Oh dear...

According to one pupil I am now in the "Trafford Road posse". My joy can hardly be contained.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Up and running

My Council e-mail and associated facilities are on line now so please use if you wish to contact me about Council work and continue to use for Tory party stuff.
Review of the week gone by and the week to come...

Becoming a Councillor has been a bewildering experience so far. I’ve just finished my second day of training and still feel that the inner workings of local government are still way beyond me. I have been busy making contacts with all of the officers of the Council worth making contact with. I am been to a Bowthorpe Community Partnership and suffered death by a thousand issues – can there really be this much to do? And what to do when the council just says “no” – how far can opposition councillors change things? I am an optimistic and I believe that we can change things and that is what I intend to do. I also have a varied array of invites to various civic parties, most of which I intend to do to just so that I can say I’ve done it! I have also written my first “political” letter to the Evening News, although curiously they are yet to publish my “thank you” one (see below).

The other issue about being a Councillor is that suddenly the world wants to know you – in a NOC Council we seem to be the target of disproportionate overtures by the other parties and it feels like I’ve hardly been off the phone to media, other Conservatives or Council officials. The steady stream of “well done” letters, e-mails and telephone calls continues. Not only from Bowthorpe but from far a field as London, Suffolk, South Norfolk and Eaton … it may not be odd for party workers and members to phone you, but this gentleman was just a very committed Conservative voter who was thrilled for me personally. Apparently when I was the Eaton candidate in 2000 he was very impressed and has kept half an eye on me ever since!

Tuesday is the first full Council – but it is the AGM and civic ceremony of Mayoral making. It should be generally politics-free but the Greens always try and make some mischief, normally because they refuse to refer to the Lord Mayor as being the Lord Mayor. I may not agree with tomatoes but I recognise that they are tomatoes…

Cllr Morphew, the Leader of the Labour Group, will be busy plotting a takeover. As I understand it, Cllr Couzens is set to let him because of the bruising and overwhelming nature of their defeat. I believe Morphew’s problem will be forming an executive that commands respect across the chamber. Around half of his 16 Labour Councillors will have to be frontbenchers and I am afraid that you could name on one hand those who could command the council. Interesting times!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Norwich Conservatives select new Leader

Following Thursday’s election results, which saw the number of Conservative Councillors on Norwich City Council double, newly elected Councillor Antony Little, will take on the role of leading the new Group.

Councillor Little, 27, who won the formerly safe Labour seat of Bowthorpe, said:
“Becoming a Councillor in the Labour heartland of Bowthorpe and Earlham has shown people that the Conservatives can – and will – win in the City of Norwich. We are now fired up, enthused and ready to take on a Labour and LibDem City Council that has fundamentally lost its way and lost the trust of local people.”

“My years of doorstep campaigning and of being a parliamentary candidate in Norwich South last year means that I bring a wealth of experience to the job of being Conservative Leader in Norwich.”

Cllr Little, who works as a local High School teacher, will also shadow the Environment and Community Portfolio holders.

Fellow Conservative Councillor Eve Collishaw, who represents Catton Grove Ward, will take on shadowing the economic affairs and transport portfolio holders. Cllr Collishaw welcomed Cllr Little to the role and said: “We have a job holding the Council to account, and we will do that with renewed vigour.”

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Getting used to it all...

It is Sunday morning and whilst Gordon Brown is proving that he’ll lose the next election on the BBC, I am really coming to terms with being a Councillor. With a wife, one child, another on-the-way, Union Rep, School Governor, full time job, Tory Deputy Chairman, applying for parliamentary seats – it’s a full life. But I love it that way. I’ve been campaigning for so long that the though of not standing in elections for the next three years is quite scary. Before I’ve even got my feet under that proverbial City Hall desk, I have two requests for help from people in Bowthorpe. I want to help them now but I know how slow the machine is – we have to be sworn in on Tuesday, have our training on 19th and then have the Mayoral making ceremony on the 23rd May.

My next-door neighbour is shocked. He couldn’t believe that, of everywhere in Norwich, it was West Earlham, Larkman Lane, North Earlham and Bowthorpe that had a Tory Councillor. I’m not. Those are the areas most taken for granted by Labour and the area that is most in need of change. People used to vote Labour to make their lives better, but it always suited Labour not to improve things so that people would have more reason to vote for them next time. No longer – it really is time for a change on that front.

I wonder how the Bowthorpe Labour Party will react to all of this?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Making it on the blog-o-sphere

I am grateful to ConservativeHome for their profile of me, and also East of England's finest Iain Dale and Ellee Seymour for their support.

I am pleased to say that local Tory Chairman Trevor Ivory is making it on the blog-o-sphere too!

Friday, May 05, 2006

The second horse that fell at the first fence

The LibDems won praise for the stupidest leaflet of the campaign with their "either Labour or Simon Richardson can win here" effort. This was the first LibDem leaflet in 12 months and told voters how only a vote for them could defeat Labour. When I spoke to Simon he stuck to the line that only he could win. Yet everyone in Bowthorpe knows that it is a Labour-Tory marginal. OK, so the LibDems look a bit foolish ... so what?

Well, firstly their vote halved and they came fourth behind the Green Party. So we should note never to believe one of their election predictions ever again. We should have known better from the party that claimed only Hughes could beat Livingstone (he came a dramatic third), but hey-ho.

More worryingly, secondly it reflects on all of us. The public feeling is that if the LibDems lie (and that leaflet was a fib) then all politicians lie. Blair take note - where you lead, the Bowthorpe LibDems (or should I say, LibDem) follows...
That result in full...

BISHOP (Green): 290
BORRETT (Labour): 916
LITTLE (Conservative): 1055
RICHARDSON (Liberal Democrat): 268

Con gain from Lab, majority 139
I won!

Dear Sir

I would like to thanks all those people who voted for me on 4th May to be Bowthorpe’s first ever Conservative Councillor as well as those who helped directly in the campaign and those who sent messages of support.

After many years of campaigning on issues such as anti-social behaviour, fly tipping, housing and increasing litter, I look forward to being able to put my words into practice and represent our community. Most importantly I want to be an open, honest and accountable Councillor – one who works hard and keeps in touch with people about my work.

I am delighted that so many people chose to make their voices heard through me. It is a deep privilege to serve as a City Councillor for Bowthorpe and Earlham and you can rest assured that I will do my best to address the concerns of local people and take action to make our community a better place to live.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Antony Little
Conservative, Bowthorpe Ward
City Hall
St. Peters Street