When a Council Tax freeze is a 1% increase

The local Tories have been claiming that the Council Tax has been frozen by Rugby Borough Council for the fourth year in a row. For example, Cllr Michael Stokes  made the claim in a post attacking his former colleague Howard Roberts. Our MP Mark Pawsey wanted to use it to suck up to David Cameron, and tweeted this:

Regrettably not called at PMQs so unable to refer to Rugby’s Council Tax freeze for 4th yr in a row

— Mark Pawsey (@MarkPawsey) February 27, 2013

And the Borough Council’s press release is quite clear:

Rugby Borough Council’s share of residents’ council tax bills is to be frozen for the fourth year in a row, after councillors set the authority’s budget for 2013/14 on Tuesday (26 February).

The freeze means that the average charge for a Band D property will be £187.88 for the year – a small increase of 70p due to increases in parish council precepts.

The problem is that this is not true. For most of the Borough’s households the RBC part of the bill has risen by 1%

What has actually happened is the following: Read the rest of this entry »

Mark Pawsey replies – but doesn’t respond

Ok, so in my last post I mentioned that Rugby MP Mark Pawsey voted in favour of Nadine Dorries’ move to introduce ‘abstinence’ sex education aimed solely at girls. As well as my post, I wrote him an email directly. Here it is:

Sunday 22 May 2011

Dear Mark Pawsey,

I was disappointed to see from Hansard that you voted in 
favour of the Private Members' Bill introduced by Nadine
Dorries MP to change sex education.

During the debate, she made various statements that have been
found to be false. For example, she claimed to be citing Joan
Bakewell when producing statistics on prime-time
television. However, the statistics come from a US study from
about 10 years ago. The US definition of prime-time is later
than the UK one, and includes post-watershed programming. So
the statistics were irrelevant to a UK debate.

She also made misleading statements about what was taught to
young children in schools under the current system. 7 year
olds are not shown how to put a condom on a cucumber/banana - 
contraception is not part of the curriculum at anything like
that young an age.

Several of the incorrect statements made have been addressed 
here: http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/2011/05/10/dorries-abstinence-speech-the-fact-check/

The principle of changing the message to concentrate on girls
abstaining while not dealing with boys seems to be utterly
short-sighted. It will not address the issue of peer-pressure
from boys, and has the danger of increasing the propensity to
blame girls alone for under age sex. 

Additionally, while it seems at a superficial level a good
idea to encourage abstinence, it has unintended consequences.
An over-reliance on abstinence may mean that young people are 
ill equipped to use contraception. This may lead to more
underage pregnancies, STDs and other problems. 

In the light of this, do you still support the proposed Bill,
and can you explain your reasoning?

I would also like to ask if you are in agreement with the
comments that Nadine Dorries made recently suggesting that 
her Bill would reduce sexual abuse. This seems to be
dangerously close to suggesting that young female victims of
sexual abuse are to blame. 

Please note, this correspondence and the reply will be shared.

Yours sincerely,

Owen Richards

A reply came by post, and here is what it said:

Thank you for contacting me about Nadine Dorries' proposed
changes to sex education.

I am pleased that Nadine has raised this particular issue, as
it is one which is very important to the overall debate about 
educating pupils about sex. All maintained secondary schools
are required to provide sex education as part of the national
curriculum.

Additionally, schools are encouraged to provide a broader
programme of sex and relationships education (SRE) as part of
non-statutory personal, social, health and economic (PSHE)
education. This provides opportunities for all young people 
to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to 
resist pressure to have sex and support them to delay sexual 
activity.

An ongoing issue has been the quality of the sex education
that pupils receive. I am pleased, therefore, that the
Department for Education has announced an internal review of
PSHE education to look at how schools can be supported to
improve the quality of PSHE teaching, including SRE.

It is encouraging that the Government wants to see a change
in emphasis in the delivery of SRE, with a stronger focus on
relationships. I understand that this does mean the inclusion
of issues such as: sexual consent; respect; building young
people's capacity to say "no" to things that don't feel right;
and recognising the negative and positive portrayals of sex
and relationships that they are exposed to in the media

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Pawsey MP

So, did he answer my questions?

Nope. Not directly at least.

He did not address the distortions in Nadine Dorries’ speeches and other comments in support of her proposals. He did not address the fact that her Bill is specifically aimed giving one message to one gender and has no regard to the other. He didn’t address the shameful linking of sexual abuse of children to her idea, which by implication seems to be saying that if only girls said “no” they wouldn’t be victims of sexual predators.

He didn’t even say whether he still supports the Private Members’ Bill.

What I am not concerned about is that Mark Pawsey seems to think that Sex and Relationships education (SRE) doesn’t already include the issues of consent, respect, the capacity to say “no” and media portrayals. Perhaps he has bought the narrative being sold by Dorries and the media that it’s all about playing with condoms and empowering people to express their own sexuality.

In reality, sexual education at schools today already contains all of those, as well as the important issues such as what sex is, how to detect and protect against STDs, the reality of pregnancy, etc etc.

All of those things are important. An over-reliance on promoting abstinence can (as has been observed in the USA) lead to more problems of under-age pregnancy and STDs. I would rather that our MP was considering the issue based on evidence than, as it seems, based on the views of moral crusaders who distort the truth.

Pawsey backs the Dorries plan

A couple of weeks ago, Nadine Dorries moved her Private Members’ Bill to propose a law on sex education. She made several dubious claims in the debate, and so perhaps some MPs might have been suckered into accepting her argument.

But it wouldn’t take much to see that what she’s proposing is to treat girls differently from boys – to promote the idea that if only girls were taught to say ‘no’, that under age sex would not happen. That it takes two to tango appears not to enter into the thinking.

She made claims about what appears on TV in prime time which she put into the mouth of Joan Bakewell. This was not true. The stats bear an uncanny resemblence to those produced in a US study from ten years ago, and where the definition of prime-time is later than ours (and so includes post-watershed television).

Rugby MP Mark Pawsey voted in favour. Here’s an open question to our MP – if you knew that Dorries had misled the House, would you still have voted this way, and if so why?

Thanks for nothing, Pawsey

According to our MP, the proposals to reduce the Urgent Treatment services at St Cross Hospital is just a “tidying up exercise”. That’s what the Telegraph has quoted him as saying, anyway.

Yesterday I went to Coventry and saw the headline in the Coventry version of the Telegraph that should raise concerns for people in Rugby and Coventry: Coventry University Hospital facing record-breaking A&E figures. If more patients from Rugby are going to be going straight to University Hospital, won’t that put even more pressure on the A&E department there?

I was perhaps hoping that our main representative to the Government would be sticking up for the area, trying to retain important front line services, and would be trying to maintain the line he was taking before the election. As I noted some weeks ago, the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley came to Rugby to campaign for Mark Pawsey in the campaign, and said that there would be no service removals without a full review, and that he’d seen the plans that would retain emergency care at St Cross.

What proposals did Lansley see? Are they the ones we are seeing now? Because if they are, then he was being disingenuous, and so was our now MP. And if they aren’t, then does this not suggest that the Government are allowing front line service cuts even though they promised none, especially in the NHS?

Not that I expect answers. I had thought that Mark Pawsey had arranged a public meeting in order to represent his constituents. It seems he was more about promoting the views of the Trust.

Coventry University Hospital facing record-breaking A&E figures

The Tories and St Cross

First, an update on Mark Pawsey MP. Apparently he went to see the Trust heads about their proposals to cut the A&E department at St Cross Hospital. Let’s see how influential he is.

Before the election, Mr Pawsey was clear about his commitment to services at St Cross. He had the shadow Health Secretary of the time (and of course, now the actual Secretary of State), Andrew Lansley, come up to the town to campaign. At the end of the day, our MP can only get any concessions or changes if the Health Secretary is amenable to them

Before the election, Lansley said that he had seen the plans that would retain the emergency department. After the election, these plans involve at the very least removing the overnight provision, and possibly the whole thing. So it would be nice to know what it was that he saw.

Before the election, Lansley said that he would stop all proposals to remove services from district hospitals like St Cross until after a proper review had taken place. But these proposals are now going to be consulted on, so clearly he has not put a moratorium on them.

(source for last two paragraphs : Coventry Telegraph.)

Mind you, this is the same Andrew Lansley who before the election promised no large-scale changes to the NHS imposed from the centre, and today announced the policy to… massively change the way that the NHS is run by forcing GPs to hold the purse-strings. It’s also the same Andrew Lansley who flipped his house for profit and tried to get the taxpayer to fund improvements that increased the value.

Seen this, Pawsey?

In my last post I mentioned the Gove affair. While there’s loads of attention being paid to his four (at last count) incorrect lists of school building projects being cancelled and his subsequent apologies, I don’t need to dwell on that for the moment.

And I will only briefly mention the stupidity of the policy in the first place. To cancel projects to build new schools (some of which had been running for years and were very close to signing contracts, and some were based on plans covering large areas which will now need to be torn up), simply to help pay for the seed money for another bunch of new schools to be set up by middle class parents and private companies – these being ‘Free Schools’ they can be run for profit – is not actually going to save any money. But it does satisfy the ideological free marketeers of the Tory Party, so it will happen.

No, what I want to focus on is a local MP who has seen his area affected and has almost immediately announced plans to march on Downing Street in protest. Ian Liddell-Grainger, whose Somerset constituency has been affected by the Gove cuts in that at least three schools will not now be built there as planned, is a Tory. Clearly he’s got a bit of a problem with reconciling his support for a government making cuts all across the country and fighting hard to avoid cuts in his own area. Perhaps he doesn’t understand Tory policy in enough detail, or didn’t realise that the new government wasn’t only going to clobber Labour voting areas.

But at least he is going to represent his constituents and make a proper show of fighting against cuts. I look forward to Rugby’s Mark Pawsey taking note and doing something about St Cross A&E

St Cross to lose A&E?

According to the Cov Telegraph, the University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire Trust (UHCW) has decided to press forward on proposals to remove the A&E unit from Rugby’s St Cross Hospital.

When this was previewed last week, our new MP was quoted as stating his opposition to any cuts in service.

So where is Mark Pawsey today – lobbying the Health Minister? Speaking to UHCW to convey the feelings of his constituents? Nope, he’s opening a fete in Pailton. Glad to see our new representative putting his full attention into fighting to retain healthcare services.

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