Don’t forget to vote for Graham Nickson, County Councillor for Hertford St Andrews on May 2nd

If you live in the St Andrews Division (approximately half of Hertford including Sele Farm Estate, Horns Mill, Campfield Road Estate, around Queens Road and the centre of town near Bircherley Green) I hope that you will have received a leaflet from me or perhaps you will have spoken to me on the door step. I am looking for your trust and your support to vote for me on May 2nd as your county councillor.

I live near Sele Farm Estate with my partner, who is a nurse at Isabel Hospice, and our two teenage children. I am a parent governor at The Sele School.

As your County Councillor:

  • I will speak up for local people working with local Tory councillors to secure the best deal for our community,
  • I will seek to guarantee funding for the Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) who work so hard to keep our community safe,
  • Safety on the road is one of my main concerns. I support a 20mph speed limit where people live and will work to introduce it if the local community demand one,
  • I will oppose the incinerator, which the Tories want to bring into Hertfordshire, that will poison our air. I will work with the district council to improve recycling rates and so reduce the amount of material going to landfill,
  • I will take action to have the pot holes in the roads in our area fixed quicker to stop damage to our cars,
  • I will work with the Police and Crime Commissioner to fund work to tackle the evil of domestic abuse and will support a ‘no tolerance’ policy to anti-social behaviour,
  • I will lobby for cheaper travel for all 16 – 24 year olds who are looking for a job.

Thank you

LABOUR’S MANIFESTO FOR HERTFORDSHIRE – 2013

A Hertfordshire that works – building a strong economy that creates jobs, grows businesses and provides a future for our young people

  •  Work with business to create a 1000 jobs in 2 years
  • Guarantee an apprenticeship, job or training place to all 16 -24 year olds
  • Create four new business incubation centres in the County
  • Work with the Local Enterprise Partnership to strengthen our existing business base and attract new investment to the County
  • Provide subsidised transport for 16 – 24 year old jobseekers
  • Introduce the Living Wage for HCC and promote it for the whole county

A Travel-friendly Hertfordshire – a transport system and strategy that enables people and businesses to move around the county more easily

  • Repair the roads and paths – fix potholes and broken paving quickly and ensure it is quick and easy to report them
  • Make bus routes work for passengers, not bus companies by devolving bus subsidy budgets to local communities
  • Improve East – West county bus routes
  • 20 mph speed limits around schools and gritting of all school routes not just those on main routes
  • Lobby for investment in our main-line railway routes
  • Introduce ‘smart-card’ travel

A Healthy Hertfordshire – defending the NHS and tackling health inequalities at district level

  • Establish and maintain a high quality Public Health function
  • A funded programme to tackle the main causes of health inequality including Smoking, obesity and lack of exercise

A Safer Hertfordshire – fighting crime and building strong communities

  • Switch the street lights back on in urban areas while a low cost/low carbon solution is found
  • Guarantee future funding for Police Community Support Officers
  • Support the Thriving Families Programme
  • Work with the Police Commissioner to establish a ‘no tolerance’ policy on anti-social behaviour
  • Tackle Domestic Abuse through a comprehensive action plan funded by all partners

A Caring Hertfordshire – practical support for children and families and high-quality council-run services for the elderly, disabled people and their carers

  • Guarantee the future of our Children’s Centres and build on their excellent early years provision.
  • Implement a Child Poverty Commission in Hertfordshire and take action on its outcomes
  • Provide the support that older people need so they can live independently as long as possible.
  • Ensure older and vulnerable adults are cared for with dignity
  • Establish Hertfordshire as a ‘Carer-friendly County’
  • Work with the NHS build better links between hospital and home for the elderly and their carers

A Local Hertfordshire –working in partnership with districts to put communities and local people at the heart of decision-making 

  • Devolve budgets and decisions as much as possible to local forums
  • Encourage young people to get involved for example by including 2 seats at County Council meetings for Herts UK Youth Parliament members and electing a County Youth Chairman
  • Use existing HCC facilities like libraries to deliver ‘front-door’ to county services for local people.
  • Work with young people to provide the services that they need locally
  • Address the long-term inequalities in educational attainment across the county
  • Ensure academy and free schools are accountable to students, parents and local communities 

A Green Hertfordshire – protect our environment and review the way we deal with our waste 

  • An immediate moratorium on building any incinerator in Herts while alternative technologies are evaluated.
  • Aim to achieve the highest level of recycling in the country
  • A county-wide programme for energy saving based on insulation and efficiency to both reduce householders fuel bills and CO2 emissions

 

It will take more than cheap beer to clear up the Government’s economic mess

The recent editorial in the East Herts Mercury observing that George Osborne’s 1p cut in tax on a pint of beer was designed to encourage us to drink and to forget how economically inept the Government is, is completely right.

Government borrowing is rocketing, the deficit is going up and growth is down – while millionaires laugh all the way to the bank thanks to the cut in the top rate of tax in April worth on average £100,000 to each of them.

Nowhere is the failure of this Government more evident than in the construction industry, a good barometer of a healthy economy. Last year there was a 12.7% fall in output from the construction industry. It is the biggest single reason for continuing economic stagnation with house building levels look set to sink to levels last seen in the 1920s.

Investing in house building will stimulate the economy, get people back to work and reduce the deficit over time. The Government itself recognises that every new house supports two people in employment for a year as well as providing a new home. Why are we paying labourers, tradespeople and engineers to sit on the dole when we could be paying them to build houses? Getting people back to work gives them the dignity of employment and reduces the social security bill.

The Government response is not to increase the supply of housing but to increase mortgage finance availability, a move that could fuel another house price boom and make houses even less affordable. Repeating the economic mistakes of history could be mocked if the consequences were not so serious for the UK economy and a generation of young people unable to buy their first home. It will take more than cheap beer to put it right.

Social Security Benefits Cap

On 21 January the ConDem Government pushed through a mean spirited 1% cap on working-age benefit rises. The Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill was passed through the House of Commons by 305 votes to 246. The 1% cap will affect a large number of Social Security Benefits currently being received. These include:

  • Employment Support Allowance,
  • Income support,
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance,
  • Some elements of Housing Benefit,
  • Maternity, Paternity and Adoption pay
  • Child Tax Credits.

Disability benefits and Carer’s Allowance will continue to increase in line with inflation. This move is simply playing politics and designed to wrong foot the Labour Party. I am proud that Labour stood up to this and voted against the cut. The majority of people affected are in low paying jobs – these benefits help them to maintain a quality of life which the ConDem Government is now attacking.

The 1% cap is being imposed alongside other caps in Social Security Benefits which will come into effect in April this year. An assessment published by the Government suggests that as a result of this cap 114,000 families will see their benefits reduced. 20% of these will see their benefits reduced by more than £150 a week (£7,800 a year) with the average reduction being £93 per week (£4,836 per year).

With families already struggling this is another kick in the teeth from an uncaring and out of touch Government.

The ConDem Government thinks that families will respond by starting work, reducing their non-rent expenditure, making up any shortfall in housing benefit using a proportion of their other income or moving to cheaper accommodation or area.

The full Impact Assessment for the benefits cap can be found here. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/eia-benefit-cap-wr2011.pdf

ConDem Government policies harm hard working families in East Herts

Unnamed critics of me who write to the local Mercury newspaper will often adopt a very typical Tory approach. The will voice support for policies that make hard working families poorer and more vulnerable and then demonise them for it. Have my critics ever had to choose between eating and putting the heating on or missing a meal so a child can eat?

The money spent by the Labour Government was to stop the banking system from collapsing. It is the current Government who have nationalised this debt and are unfairly imposing cuts to pay it off instead of getting the economy moving again. The Labour Government invested significantly in the NHS, our schools, 14,000 extra police officers in England and Wales, delivered 2,200 Sure Start Centres who provide crucial support to many young families, introduced the minimum wage and many other measures to strengthen society. I am proud of this record.

I am also sorry to disappoint my critics. I work full time locally in a non-political job as does my partner who is a nurse. Our two teenage children grew up in Hertford and are prospering as a result. As well as politics I am active in CHIPS, a local charity which organises playschemes for children with special needs living in East Herts and Broxbourne. I was at the same public school as Mark Prisk MP (he was in the year above) albeit I was there on a scholarship.

It is because I love where I live, and I am fearful of the negative impact of ConDem Government on East Herts and the rest of our society, that I will continue to speak out against their economically incompetent and ideologically blinkered policies.

Tories never let facts get in the way of a good rant

Tories never lets facts get in the way of a good rant and trying to score political points. When Labour left office in 2010; the UK economy was growing again after shrinking following the impact of the global financial crisis started in the USA.

Government policies since 2010 have caused growth to stall and debts to increase, not decrease as David Cameron and others like to claim. Just over a week ago the national debt hit £1,111 Billion and it is heading towards £1,400 Billion. This isn’t paying down Britain’s debt, its increasing it so that our children and their children are left with the legacy of the ConDem Government’s economic incompetence. Not that this will worry David Cameron and others, their only concern now is Tory Party political advantage in the run up to the 2015 General Election.

Labour did not do enough to regulate banking and paid too much attention to bankers. But this was in an era when the consensus was on light touch regulation and the Tory Opposition were calling for even less intervention.

I come back to the point, at a time of national financial hardship, when the Government tells us that we are all in this together, it is wrong – just wrong – to give a tax cut worth £3 Billion to millionaires while hundreds of thousands of people go hungry and rely on handouts from foodbanks.

Tackle extreme poverty worldwide, but don’t create more poverty at home

While David Cameron says – correctly for once – that the UN must aim to eradicate extreme poverty across Africa and the rest of the World, his Government’s policies are driving more and more people into poverty in the UK. The Trussell Trust, the charity providing food banks across the country, says that since April 2012 it has fed 240,000 people and demand is growing. Typical Tory – say one progressive thing while your policies have the reverse effect.

And now it’s the care of children that the Tories are cutting

The Government proposal to ‘improve’ childcare is confused and dangerous. As Labour MP, Lucy Powell outlines in her article (http://labourlist.org/2013/01/the-childcare-crisis-the-governments-plans-are-confused-and-dangerous/ ) the Tories want to allow child minders and nursery staff to look after more young children than at present. How can this be an improvement? Each child will inevitably receive less support with consequent concerns about child safety and less one-to-one with the adult. This inter-action is vital in the early development of a child’s brain.

This news comes at the same time as the release of research by the Labour Party showing that there are 401 fewer Sure Start centres now than in 2010 thanks to closures and mergers. Read more details here (http://labourlist.org/2013/01/sure-start-cuts-and-closures-in-numbers/ ) This ConDem Government needs to go before they do any more damage to the lives of ordinary people.

Tories aren’t creating the Big Society, it’s the Broken Society

There is nothing more stomach turning than rich Tory Ministers (including Mark Prisk MP salary = £98,740) cutting the income of some of the poorest members of our society because they  think it is fair. The 1% cap in increases  in social security payments recently pushed through by the Government will mean a real terms cut in income for millions of poor families – the majority of whom are in work – as the costs of energy, food and council tax continue to rise. Social security payments are needed to give a decent income. The Government itself admits that an extra 200,000 children will be pushed into poverty as a direct result of the 1% cap.

 

In financial terms; experts calculate that the change will mean a cut of £150 per year to the income of a couple with children. Now £150 may only buy one case of champagne for a Tory Minister, for a poor family it is the difference between getting by and missing meals.

 

But cutting social security payments in this way is a typical Tory policy – punish poor people for mistakes made by rich bankers and then reward millionaires with tax cuts. It’s ordinary people who suffer. As a result;  six food banks already operate in Hertfordshire (Welwyn Garden City, Broxbourne, Letchworth, Watford, Hemel Hempstead and Rickmansworth) with another two in Bishops Stortford and Borehamwood in the process of being opened.  What sort of society is this Government creating where people in the UK – the world’s seventh richest country – are so poor that they need to rely on handouts from food banks to stop them from starving? It’s not the Big Society, it’s the Broken Society.

Request for a 20mph speed limit on Sele Farm Estate rejected

So we enter the Looking Glass world of Hertfordshire County Council’s Speed Management Policy where black is white, up is down and high speed is safe where people live. 

This policy is based on the belief that if cars are travelling at a high speed they will not obey signs that instruct them to travel at a lower speed. The safety of the local community is completely ignored.

For Cllr Poulton, Chair of the Highways Panel, to claim that a 20mph speed limit is unaffordable is misleading. The 20mph limit option was not costed in the survey report of traffic speed on Sele Farm Estate only the vastly more expensive 20mph zone which was not asked for. So how does Cllr Poulton know it is unaffordable?

In Portsmouth 20mph limits on residential streets cost just £333 per street to implement as bumps or other physical measures are not required. An evaluation of their scheme in 2010 showed a speed reduction of 6.3mph in streets where traffic speed was 24mph or more before the scheme was introduced – the difference between life and death should an accident occur.

Also to say that the council wants to do ‘something’ is misleading. This ‘something’ will not be until 2015 at the earliest and even then is unlikely to be related to slowing down traffic. As the current Hertford and Ware Urban Transport Plan – Stage 2 Report says, “… safety is a secondary consideration for the UTP (Urban Transport Plan).” (page 51).

The massive cut in this year’s road safety budget by more than a quarter shows the Tory County Council’s true colours. They really don’t care about our road safety.