Let’s really Join the EU

Looking back over the history of the European Union I wish we had joined at the beginning in 1951 when the European Coal and Steel Community was inaugurated.  I think that Europe would have been a better place today had we done so – but there is no point crying over spilt milk.

Back then Britain still had an empire of sorts and many in Britain could or would not conceive that the British Empire was about to fall apart; so one could readily understand the reluctance of the British people to join in the European journey.

When Britain finally joined in 1971 the original member states had already designed a Europe to suit themselves.  Many of their policies were not suitable for Britain.  For example, the protectionist and grossly inefficient Common Agricultural Policy was awash with grain, butter and beef mountains and wine lakes; with its high level of food prices it did not suit the average food buyer or third world food producers.  The poorly designed Common Fisheries Policy seemed to be determined to wipe out fish stocks.  There was no single market in goods and services.  Member states used all manner of means to protect their industries against their more efficient neighbours.  All meetings were held in multilingual settings making ordinary discussions difficult if not almost impossible.  The project was basically run for the benefit of the French – and who could blame them.

But what excellent changes have occurred through British membership.  Okay the Common Agriculture Policy is still around but it is much reduced.  Britain has substantially reformed the fisheries policy.  Britain pushed though the single market and encouraged the expansion of the union to include all Europe.  Britain made Europe look outwards – to be more competitive and created Europe to be the arbiter of global standards in trade and technology.  English is now the working language of the European Union with half the 500 million people having a functional competence in spoken and written English (apparently the average Dutch-person has a higher ability in English than the average Brit).

If Britain could make such changes over the last forty years just think what could be done over the next forty.  Of course there is be more work to be done. By improving Europe we can help improve the whole world and, most importantly, make the lives of the British people better.  Britain cannot do this without getting engaged.

Britain cannot be engaged unless it adopts all European Union law – no opt outs.  In my view, the first items on the agenda are to establish the euro on a firm footing and to manage migration properly but there are medium-term to longer-term structural changes that need to be made too – like increasing democratic accountability.

Europe needs to manage its own borders. It should no longer rely on member states to do so.  Britain does not rely on Sussex to monitor our borders and nor should Europe rely on Greece or Hungary.  The processing, management and funding of non-European migrant should be entirely the responsibility of the European government.  I understand that 25% percent of recent migrants have come from Albania – nowhere near Syria.  It was pretty poor when I was there but it is not war ravaged.  Rather than let each state pass migrants onto Germany, Europe must set up border police and processing staff (where necessary a coast guard too) and these people must be directly employed by the European government – responsible to the European government using property owned, leased or rented by the European government.  I completely understand that such an approach is only a sticking plaster but Europe must get a grip.

Just like any modern country, Europe needs a currency and that currency must be backed by its government.  To properly function, among other things, there must also be an equalisation mechanism between the various member states.  Just like in Britain where funds flow from richer places like Surrey to poorer places like Northern Ireland (the average family in Surrey gives the average family in Northern Ireland £1,200 a year) so in Europe we should transfer funds from the richer part of Europe to the poorer parts.  It means that the European government provides directly to each European citizen a small monthly sum.  Very little is needed to completely stabilise the European economy.  True, European taxation would increase from the current 1% to 3% but that is nothing compared to the 40% that Westminster takes already.  The level of taxation would be limited by treaty so could not be increased without a referendum.

A further policy change that Britain would have to deal with itself would be to convert most welfare into a contributional framework.  There are two reasons for this: one because it is a good idea anyway (returning to the original basis for welfare when the Liberals invented it and Labour installed it after the war); second, because that is how virtually all the member states of the union work.  This policy would not end “welfare migration” but it would reduce it.  Welfare tourism is much lower than most people imagine it to be in any case.  A much more successful approach for Britain would be to resource the revenue staff to enable them to make sure employers are employing legal workers and paying them properly.

Britain could say to the other member states – we will join the euro and the passport area as long as the above measures are put in place and that every other member state also joins when we do.

No varied geometry, no opt-outs.  If you want to be in you are welcome to be in but the only other option is out.

Currently, Britain isn’t really in the European Union.  It is sort of semi-detached.  For example, one can drive from the Algarve, on the Atlantic, right across Europe to the Ukrainian border and you will not have to stop for passport control anywhere, or customs and euros are the currency in every country travelled though.  For nearly all Europeans, for all intents and purposes, Europe is already one country – it is just that the British, who normally fly, tunnel or take the ferry rather than drive (with all security that goes with them), rarely experience the freedom of moving around the world without borders.

We are in a time warp.

We need to vote in – really in.

Police Share of Council Tax

Police-on-patrol-001The Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey, Kevin Hurley, says that following extensive consultation with local residents he has decided to propose a 1.99% increase in the police share of council tax for the coming year, rather than pursue a referendum for a 24% increase.

One of his six priorities as Police and Crime Commissioner is to give local people a greater say in how they are policed. From the beginning of his research into the idea of a referendum on a significant increase in the police share of council tax to mitigate against continued funding cuts and allow us to invest in better policing, he said that it would be the views of the public that would make the decision. It is their money and their police force. A referendum would cost over £1m to hold and he would not put that money on the line if he was not certain that a majority of residents would support the proposed increase.

Having surveyed and spoken to thousands of people over the last few months, it is clear that, whilst there is a consistent level of support from around a third of residents for paying a significantly bigger amount towards policing in their council tax, the majority view remains against that decision and instead in favour of the smaller increase of 1.99%. That has made his final decision on our budget proposals very simple. He says that he is grateful to everyone who has taken the time to have a say.

Money is the biggest issue facing Surrey Police. From his first day in office he has been lobbying the national government to either protect service levels by merging forces or if not, to provide more funding to where it is most needed. We receive the second lowest level of funding per head of population in the country and independent analysis shows that we are losing out on as much as £6m government funding every year that we need to keep the county safe.

Grants available to the voluntary sector

Disabled peopleCommunity organisations have until 30 January to submit applications for Elmbridge’s latest round of voluntary sector funding.

Annual grants of up to £3,000 are on offer for use by voluntary, community and faith sector organisations from April 2015. Funding can be provided for equipment, project and running costs and in particular to support vulnerable groups.

Successful organisations have previously received grant funding to promote independent living amongst older people and carers, support people with physical or mental health issues, provide foodbanks and welfare advice, prevent homelessness and social exclusion, and offer access to healthy activity and food, family support, environmental improvement, ethical saving, plus counselling and mediation.

All applications must be received by midday Friday 30 January 2015. Applicants who are successful will be notified by April 2015.  Click here for the borough’s site.

Thames Flooding – More to come?

A new group has formed in Weybridge to highlight the risks to Weybridge by the Environment Agency plans for the Thames and Wey.

To help remove the flooding risks between Windsor and Weybridge a series of new works have been undertaken and more are planned.  Eventually they will enter the Thames as shown below.

Judging from the flows of the current river it will mean that there will be new pressure building up at the upper Desborough Bridge which is only 24m wide.  This pinch-point will cause the Thames to back-up and flood its banks (as happened in the recent flood). What makes matters worse is that the new cut from Chertsey will be up to 60m wide bringing even greater pressure on the Thames around its confluence with the Wey.

Thames Channel Map One

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One option is to effectively continue the new cut through the north west corner of Desborough Island.  This would keep the flood flowing within the main channel of the Thames.

Thames Channel Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the advantages of this plan would be that a new pedestrian/cycling bridge could be constructed like those that Sustrans build across the country.

Quay Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For background information please click here.

Mobile Mast in Weybridge Town Centre

Mobile Mast

Vodafone and Telefónica plan to jointly operate and manage a single mobilephone network grid across the UK.  The aim of this arrangement is to allow both organisations to:

  • pool their basic network infrastructure, while running two, independent, nationwide networks
  • maximise opportunities to consolidate the number of base stations
  • significantly reduce the environmental impact of network development

Vodafone and Telefónica are in the process of proposing to upgrade an existing site in the Weybridge.   There is a specific requirement for a radio base station upgrade at this location to improve the 2G/3G coverage in the area and allow for future 4G expansion.

Their preferred option is to swap out the existing 8m monopole for a new 15m dual-stack monopole supporting six antennas in Ship Yard.

More details are Mobile Mast Weybridge Ship Yard.

 

Elmbridge wins at the British Noise Oscars

dont-suffer-it noiseThe annual awards, dubbed the “Noise Oscars”, are hosted by the Noise Abatement Society and Elmbridge collected the local government award for its out of hours enforcement service run in partnership with Surrey Police. The service is in its second year and is conducted during the summer months (April – September) dealing with noise, alcohol and taxi licensing issues. The service was judged a great success, combining innovation with partnership working as well as offering great customer service.

The John Connell Awards recognise organisations and individuals for their outstanding efforts to reduce the impact of noise nuisance and pioneer practical and innovative solutions to noise pollution.

Baker Street Plans

As part of the planning conditions, Morrison has to pay for traffic calming in Baker Street.  The draft plans are below and have been sent to Surrey’s transportation development planning team to agree as a condition of the planning permission.  What do you think?

Baker Street Traffic Calming

 

 

 

 

You can open up a larger map here: Draft Baker Street Scheme-01

Elmbridge Cycling Strategy

CyclingEvery time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.  H G. Wells

Cllr Margaret Hicks, who represents Hersham at Surrey and is also the chair of Surrey Elmbridge Local Committee, has been keen to develop strategies in a number of areas under her purview.  This is all to the good in my opinion – it aids joined up thinking for one.

Margaret has already begun on a parking strategy and now it is the turn for the committee to develop a joint Surrey/Elmbridge strategy for cycling in the borough.

Vision  An Elmbridge of physically, mentally and spiritually healthy people of all ages enjoying fresh air and a high quality of life.

Mission To enable all the people of Elmbridge – who wish to do so – to cycle safely.

Strategy
To achieve our mission our strategy is based on our being:

  • Utilitarian. We focus on a person’s ability to cycle from home to the key places that make their life work: their school or workplace, their station, their town centre. Therefore routes to these places are dealt with first.
  • Network based. We understand that the benefits are far greater if networks are created
  • Inclusive.  We bring as many agencies, organisations and groups and people together to compound the benefits and spread the message.
  • Incremental. Although we have a clear and ambitious vision we know that many small steps made by many people eases the journey
  • Anticipatory. We take advantage of possible opportunities that might arise by anticipating requirements before they occur
  • Communicative. We engage with everyone and keep them informed
  • Sustainable. We strive to be socially and environmentally sustainable in everything that we do.

What would you like to see in a cycling strategy?

When I see most parents cycling with their children to primary school then I know we’d have cracked it.  It is much quicker to cycle than walk – although walking can be fun too.

All my family are fortunate enough to walk to school/work as they are so close.