Monday, January 29, 2007

Church vs. State on Adoption?

So Blair has ruled out an opt-out for Catholic and other church adoption agencies of the requirement in the 2006 Equality Act to facilitate the adoption of children by homosexual couples, regardless of the dictates of their conscience. Instead he has opted for a period of delay. 'When in doubt temporise and hope the issue will be forgotten about' - this is Blair's default mode; always has been. And the 'devout' Catholic Ruth Kelly (why is she always described as 'devout' when she has made it pretty clear that her religious convictions will in no way inhibit her political actions?) is reported to have given Tony's 'compromise' her Imprimatur.

The whole row was completely unnecessary. Gay couples have been able to adopt legally since 2002. Agencies and local authorities exist in large numbers which will facilitate their desire to do so. Catholic agencies, if approached by them, will refer them on to non-Catholic agencies which will help them. Other EU countries have allowed agencies to opt out on conscience grounds.

So what's the problem? The problem is that if you try to enforce absolute equality, you do so, inevitably, at the expense of freedom. In the case of this Act we are talking about Freedom of Conscience and also Freedom of Association.

This 'family man', this 'pretty straight kinda guy', has contrived to let his ministers create in Britain (which still just about survives as an entity) the first piece of legislation which puts many conscientious Christians (and Jews and Muslims) at odds with the State since the 17th century. They are doing this by pursuing 'a l'outrance' policies which, 20 years ago, would have been universally and rightly derided as those of the 'Looney Left'.

We learn today in a poll that thousands of young British Muslim men want to live in a state governed not by British Law but by Sharia Law. This is deplorable but, given our propensity to pass laws of this kind, is it any wonder?

This decrepit Government no longer believes in freedom of conscience or of association. I seriously doubt if it believes in freedom at all.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Housing Consultative 16th January

Last night we had the best attended Housing Consultative meeting we have had since, I think, 1998. It was a joint meeting with the Leaseholders' Forum but there was a high attendance by Residents' Associations.
The main matter in hand was the Budget consultation for 2007-8. A major problem for Kingston is the amount central Government extracts from the Housing Revenue A/c in Housing Subsidy. A couple of years ago this was just short of £4million. In the current financial year it is nearly £5million. Next year it will grow by another £1million to just under £6million. This seems to be a consistent Labour Government policy to bleed authorities like Kingston in order to feather the nests of favoured authorities elsewhere - and it's getting worse year by year.
What makes it particularly galling is that our tenants actually voted for this state of affairs when they voted to stay 'with the Council' and against a large-scale stock transfer. They were gulled into this by promises from some that Councillors would be able to help them if they stayed with the Council. Twaddle! Councillors are powerless to stop the Government from levying this 'stealth tax' which takes 28p in every £1 each tenant pays in rent and which could otherwise fund repairs and improvements. The levy doesn't apply to Housing Association properties.
Tenants are rightly worried about the loss of services which may well result from the cash shortage. There was much concern at the risk to the estate ranger service and the possible loss of the dog warden service.
If these valued services are at risk so is the attainment of the Government's much vaunted Decent Homes Standard and its soon to be announced sequel, the Decent Neighbourhoods Standard. The Labour Councillor, the organisation calling itself LATCH and Unison which backed them should be ashamed of themselves for what they led our tenants into. I doubt if they will be though.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Pickles on charging for waste collection

Eric Pickles MP, former council leader from Bradford (I believe) and Conservative Local Government spokesman has issued a very welcome press release supporting the line we took on 'chip 'n bin' microchips and their possible uses over the Berrylands trial (see earlier post.)

As he points out, the Labour government is lobbying Councils to use chips for just this purpose, whatever our local Executive member may say. It's worth quoting the release extensively:-

New town hall bin taxes will harm environment and poorer families
Conservatives oppose plans for army of bin inspectors and secret bin spies

Conservatives reacted with concern today (8th January 2007) at lobbying of the Labour Government by town halls, calling for local authorities to be given the power to charge families for collecting household rubbish - on top of council tax. This would require massive expenditure on a new army of municipal inspectors to check bins and ‘bin bug’ spies and compulsory wheelie bins to be installed in every home inBritain.
The Keep Britain Today Campaign has warned that these new rubbish taxes would cause a surge in fly-tipping, with families being hit the hardest by the new taxes.
Eric Pickles MP, Shadow Minister for Local Government, said:“There is already massive public resentment at the way working families and pensioners are being punished by punitive levels of council tax. Now every household in Britain faces the prospect of new rubbish taxes on top, combined with their bins only being collected once a fortnight. I fear the poorest households will be hit the hardest.
“Bin taxes would be deeply harmful to the local environment by causing a surge in fly-tipping, and cuts to the frequency of rubbish collection are already harming public health due to the increase in smells, vermin and infestations. Is it too much to ask for our streets to be cleaned and bins to be emptied ?”

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Drought again this summer?

This news item should disturb everyone:

Particularly concerned should be all of us living in London and the South East who were badly affected by drought in 2006. We need to 'get real', as the saying has it, about climate change. Part of that reality is that global warming has been going on, though not at an even rate, since the last Ice Age. This may well be due to natural forces way beyond our control, though that doesn't absolve us from the obligation to do the best we can to look after the planet we live on. Another part of it is that we are wasteful of water in a way that some other parts of the world, with far less annual rainfall than GB are not. I holidayed on Rhodes 25 years ago; hot, river beds bone dry for months of the year but swimming pools were full and gardens watered. What can we learn from them?

The question is, what can we do about the situation now?

We could:
  1. Set up a desalination plant to enable the use of sea water to make up the shortfall. Thames Water apparently want to do this in the Thames estuary but 'Mayor' Livingstone won't let them.
  2. Stop cramming ever more people into London and the South East. This would mean, among other things, getting a grip on immigration, but this government has (let's face it) deliberately let immigration rip as never before, loudly cheered on by 'Mayor' Livingstone.
  3. Scrap the plans of John Prescott for 4 million new homes in the South east and of 'Mayor' Livingstone for 0.5 million homes to accommodate an additional 750,000 Londoners.
  4. Scrap John Prescott, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and 'Mayor' Livingstone!