Friday, 31 October 2008
Monday was an abortive attempt to carry out my civic duty - left work early to get to a scrutiny review looking at animal welfare in Haringey, but neither the councillor chairing the review or the officer scheduled to present evidence were able to attend. So, aside from a useful chat with the Director of Enforcement who was there waiting too, a wasted trip.
For Tuesday night's meeting of Audit Committee the Chair did turn up. We had a longer than usual meeting of that committee, and the discussion ranged from dogging to Alexandra Park and Palace - with a few things inbetween, fortunately. But is it any wonder that the Ally Pally fiasco has continued as it has, when you see the audit which shows they had no formal risk management or contract management?
Wednesday night I was, of course, at the football, but that got its own post last night... and yesterday was my mate Daniel's 30th birthday, so there were a couple of celebratory drinks after work.
Talking of work, today is my last day before heading to the Lakes in the morning. Blogging likely to be suspended for the week, as will mostly not even be in phone range, let alone near a computer.
And Happy Halloween to you all - as well as Happy 38th Anniversary to my Mum and Dad!
Q. What happens if the Bank runs out of money?
A. The Bank never goes bankrupt. To continue playing, use slips of paper to keep track of each player's banking transactions - until the bank has enough paper money to operate again.
Lib Dem Nick Russell 939
Congratulations to Nick and everyone in Camden.
Thursday, 30 October 2008
Of course, there has been lots of concern and speculation about the future of White Hart Lane. Most fans recognise we could do with a bigger capacity stadium to help the club grow, but most fans (including me) are very keen for the club to stay in Tottenham.
So I'm very excited about the new plans that the club have announced, called the Northumberland Development Project. The plans will be going out to public consultation and I will certainly be taking a very close look at them, but essentially we are looking at a 60,000 seater stadium on roughly the same site as White Hart Lane. As well as staying in Tottenham it means getting a new stadium without having to groundshare or suffer reduced capacity during a redevelopment.
Crucially, for me, it should mean significant investment in and redevelopment of the local area and a world class stadium which will let Spurs grow - both in terms of finance and fans going to games. Here's what the club themselves pick as the key points:
- A world-class scheme incorporating a new stadium with a capacity of 60,000, a Club museum, new shops, new homes, a new base for the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation and important new public space
- Delivered on the current site and adjacent land, ending concerns about a move out of the Borough
- No need for a temporary move during construction
- Significant local benefits and a huge boost to the area
- Potential catalyst for wider regeneration and further investment
With our first win of the season, a new manager, the stunning 4-4 draw last night and now this news, it's been quite a week of happenings - even by our standards.
Monday, 27 October 2008
You might have seen the original doom and gloom reports that thousands of people were missing. They made it sound as if we were talking about a bunch of kids on a fun run, dressed just in shorts and t-shirts and wearing trainers. What we were talking about was a bunch of experienced walkers and runners, well-used to bad weather conditions and difficult terrain.
You only have to look at the website of the Original Mountain Marathon to see that these are people who take the event seriously. In a ‘normal’ marathon, you do get people like me who are unfit/don’t train/aren’t properly prepared – but no one would take on the OMM light-heartedly.
For the media to stir this up into some sort of impending disaster of catastrophic proportions was irresponsible, as well as unfair to the organisers. Over the course of a few hours they did start to backtrack as the numbers of “missing” fell rapidly – and fortunately everyone was accounted for.
Anyway, I’m hoping for slightly better weather when I got to the Lakes for a week on Saturday. I’ll just be doing some walking though, no fell running for me – although my mate Paul who I’m going with has been known to do the Keswick to Barrow run a couple of times.
I’ll just stick to running on the flat and limiting myself to just a little over 26 miles – which reminds me, please help me raise money for Refuge by sponsoring me for the London marathon now!
Sunday, 26 October 2008
Thursday, 23 October 2008
It sets out four actions to help people out:
1. Cutting taxes for struggling families so you've got more money in your pocket. The Liberal Democrats will cut taxes for people on low and middle incomes, raising them for the richest so the tax cuts are affordable.You can read more details at www.libdems.org.uk/recoveryplan
2. Lowering energy bills so you can afford to keep warm this winter. As wholesale fuel prices fall - they have dropped 28% since August - utility companies must lower people's bills too.
3. Keeping people in their homes, so you don't need to fear unfair repossessions. We must ensure that banks only ever repossess people's homes as a last resort.
4. Lower mortgage payments and cheaper business loans through big interest rate cuts. People and businesses need help paying off their mortgages and loans, so we need substantially lower interest rates.
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
I am delighted to be part of the Refuge team for April's marathon and am aiming to raise £2,500 for them - so you can help me out by going to www.justgiving.com/matt4refuge and giving as generously as you can.
I'll be blogging about whatever attempts at training I do (I'm going for a swim tonight, for the first time in ages) and repeatedly asking for money between now and then - but why not get in early??
A big thank you from me and from Refuge for any money you are able to donate!
I have posted off my ballot paper, with my first choice being Lembit. As his campaign website says, "I pick Opik" (yes, that slogan was almost enough to make me change my mind).
I voted for Lembit because I know he has the ability to inspire and motivate members at a local level and has already done much to promote the party. Some of the negativity coming from other activists really disappoints me - and I don't think it is reflected in the wider membership.
He may not be the bookies' favourite to win, but he's my choice because I don't care if sometimes the media coverage Lembit gets isn't either political or tremendously helpful. The net effect of the politics against the celebrity is still positive for us - as a party who struggle in the national media to remind people we even exist (fortunately not a problem when it comes to sticking leaflets through letterboxes on a local level).
For people - within the party - to dismiss him because of some of the, shall we say, more light-hearted coverage he generates does a disservice to the hard work he has put in for the party over the years. Not to mention all he has to offer for the future.
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
And the next two matches, within four days of each other, are away at the Emirates and at home to Liverpool. So the turnaround will have to be immense, if we are not still to be rooted to the bottom of the table in 10 days time.
The only glimmer of hope I've seen this week is the interest David Ginola has shown in helping the club out... never mind backroom, get him on the pitch now...
Happier sporting news has been Andy Murray's fine form though. This week defeating Federer and taking a second Masters title, already comfortably qualified for the year-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, sitting nicely in 4th on the ATP rankings and of course, earlier in the year, reaching the US Open Final - it's been a superb season for him. Despite what he says, he is clearly our most promising and successful player for years - decades.
Also, the UK's Wimbledon champion (at junior level) Laura Robson has had her first taste of the senior tour. She put up a good fight against the world No.42 and still seems to be showing strong promise for the future.
So, is it time to abandon football completely in favour of my other sporting love, tennis? Well, no - painful as it is at times, I am a Spurs fan and always will be. If that were to mean watching Championship football next season and trips to Plymouth and Swansea rather than Man United and Liverpool, that would be what I would do. But, yes, I would prefer the Premiership though, thank you.
By far and away the best thing I have seen at the theatre for ages – which is good, after the disappointments of Fat Pig (so awful we left at the interval) and Under The Blue Sky (which not even Catherine Tate could save from mediocrity).
Just checked and Sh*t-M*x is only on until this Saturday – so book some tickets now. It was hilarious but also took an unexpectedly dark twist and just brilliantly put together and acted.
I really can’t recommend it highly enough. If you haven’t been before, Studio 2 of the Trafalgar Studios is worth a visit in itself anyway, so if you can possibly make it this week to see a gem like Sh*t-M*x, then do!
For a company whose sole business is delivering parcels, Home Delivery Network really aren’t very good at it. This isn’t the first time I’ve had problems with them (at different addresses over the years – all where I have had no problems with parcels from any other delivery company).
They repeatedly say they have attempted deliveries without putting cards through the door. In this case, I telephoned on Friday and booked in a delivery for Monday – taking a day off work to wait for it. When it got to about 3pm I thought I would call Home Delivery Network and see if they could give me an indication of when it would arrive.
At this stage they told me it was at the depot, the redelivery request had not been processed (despite the chap telling me very clearly on Friday that the parcels would be coming on Monday). They asked when would be convenient to redeliver… well, as they do not deliver on Saturdays and I had already taken a day off work for them, the answer was clearly “never”. I told them to return the parcel (worth around £80) to the supplier – I’ll be getting a refund from them and taking my money elsewhere.
Having first had problems with Home Delivery Network the Christmas before last – and knowing full well that delivery is not something they are very good at, see just this one other blog for plenty of examples – I deliberately avoid buying things from companies that use them for delivery. This one slipped through the net as I couldn’t tell they were going to be used, but I won’t be making that mistake again.
On a happier note, I did get a personalised t-shirt made up for my niece Catrin’s birthday – and am very happy to recommend Reinspire if you need a t-shirt printing and want a quick, professional and reasonably priced service. They took my order, emailed me over a picture of what the t-shirt would look like then got it printed and sent out in record time (they obviously don’t use Home Delivery Network).
They were really quick, the t-shirt looks really good and they were just a pleasure to deal with. No, I’m not on commission – but I’ll definitely be using Reinspire again if I need any t-shirts printed for anything!
Monday, 20 October 2008
Friday, 17 October 2008
From the Hornsey & Crouch End Journal website (thanks to eagle-eyed colleague Ed Butcher for spotting it), comes this story about another of my Stroud Green Lib Dem colleagues Cllr Richard Wilson.
I took a screen shot to save for posterity, as I'm sure Richard would not have wanted to lose this record of how the Journal think he will look in 50 years time. Yes, the caption for the slightly startled looking gentleman does say "Councillor Richard Wilson outside the electricity sub-station". For those that don't know, he looks rather more like this.
UPDATE: My colleague Neil Williams has both a better shot of the Journal webpage and a better photo of Richard on his blog here.
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Cllr Ed Butcher and my ward colleague Cllr Martin Newton made excellent speeches on the environment and the charge on the £37 million in Iceland was led by leader Cllr Robert Gorrie, deputy leader Cllr Richard Wilson and past leader Cllr Neil Williams. As always, if you want to watch the full proceedings you can see the webcast on the council website.
One good piece of news from yesterday was the defeat of the 42 day detention plans. It wasn't the democratically elected members of the House of Commons who stopped these undemocratic plans - and it certainly wasn't a costly political stunt that did it. It was the undemocratically appointed House of Lords, with a crushing defeat for the Government. Still doesn't change the need for Lords reform though - I may like their decision but I don't like how they got the power to decide.
Incidentally, seeing David Davis interviewed on television last night with the caption "Former Shadow Home Secretary" I wondered if he regretted his decision. Now he might be forever captioned as "Used to Nearly Be Someone".
Monday, 13 October 2008
We found out today that there is one good thing to come of the financial crisis. I have already blogged here, here and here about Haringey Labour's £12 million plans to move the civic centre - well, here's the Labour Leader of the Council in a statement this afternoon:
Council Leader Cllr George Meehan said: "With the current financial situation now having a real impact on local councils, it's right that we review our programmes to make sure that everything is fully focused at this time on essential services for our residents."
The phrase "at this time" does suggest that George doesn't think we should always be focussing on essential services - but, anyway, the splurge of cash for a new civic centre at Woodside House has been put on hold for now. Hopefully that means the current inhabitants can continue to provide community services there - and with luck the plans will now be scrapped for good.
Going back to the Icelandic banking collapse, a local resident in my ward has sent me this article from Money Week, which shows that some people at least were ringing the alarm bells six months ago:
Credit default swaps: how to spot the riskiest banks
By James Ferguson Mar 19, 2008
The whole point about the 'credit crunch' - is that it means banks won’t or can’t lend as easily or as cheaply as they once did.
The reason for this is that they are under-capitalised, either because losses have eroded their capital base or because they have had to take off-balance sheet loans back onto their books (in reality, much the same thing). This is a glorified way of saying that some banks are (at least technically) bankrupt.
Now, the system doesn’t like to admit such things - for obvious reasons - so we can expect the banks along with the central banks, such as the Bank of England and the regulators such as the FSA to try to keep it under wraps.
As such, it is highly unlikely that any bank will be allowed to fail (witness Northern Rock, which isn’t even a real bank) but that doesn’t stop the markets having a view as to who they are least comfortable lending to and which banks therefore need to pay more to get their hands on the cash they need to keep operating. We can get a view on this by looking at the interest rates the banks offer to us on their savings accounts - the higher the rate clearly the more desperate they are for cash.
However another way to gauge the risk of your bank account it is to look at the credit default swap market. Credit default swap (CDS) spreads measure the premium to the risk-free interest rate that a bank can expect to pay in the market for 5-year loans. The higher the CDS for any given bank, the riskier the market thinks that particular bank’s debt is.
So what is the market telling us now? Riskiest of all the major banks is HBOS, with a senior 5-year debt premium of 236 basis points (2.36% above the 5-year gilt yield of 3.8%, i.e. 6.2%). 6.2% is therefore what they have to pay the market for funds. (If they’re paying you much less that’s not a good risk/reward). RBS, Santander (Abbey National) and Barclays aren’t much better but HSBC and Lloyds are considered by the market to be the safest. If you can get a good rate from either of these banks, then given the risks the market thinks you’re taking, that’s a good deal and you should be able to sleep well at night.
Then, there are the foreign banks who are offering us internet savings accounts. The basic rule of thumb here is: if they’re ING, they’re no worse a risk than a UK high Street bank. If they’re Irish, they’re likely to be over leveraged and a bit more of a worry (especially Anglo Irish Bank).
But if they’re Icelandic, then be afraid; these banks are starting to be priced for bankruptcy risk.
Kaupthing is now having to pay almost 8.5% more than 5-year government bond yields (i.e. 12.3%) to raise funds. Kaupthing’s savings account pays just 6.5% AER, which doesn’t even come close to compensating us for the risk I’d say. The markets seem to be telling us that there is a very real default risk here.
Glitnir Bank is not much better and even Landsbanki (owner of the popular Icesave internet banking business) has to pay the credit markets 6.0% more than risk-free rates and 4.2% more than ING does, for funds.
Given that Icesave pays 6.05% on their easy access internet savings account and ING pays 6.0%, perhaps shopping around for the highest savings rate right now is not actually the best thing to do. Perhaps, just perhaps, we should pay more attention to the risk side of the equation too.
Saturday, 11 October 2008
Word of the week: post-turtle
A 75-year-old Texas rancher recently explained this term to a country doctor. The conversation turned to the US election, and Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential candidacy, and the old rancher observed: “Well, ya know, Palin is a post-turtle.” The bemused doctor asked what a post-turtle was, and the old man replied: “When you’re driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a post-turtle.” The rancher continued: “You know she didn’t get up there by herself, she doesn’t belong up there, she doesn’t know what to do while she is up there, and you just wonder what kind of dumb ass put her up there to begin with.”
Friday, 10 October 2008
Full by-election result 09.10.08:
Nigel Scott 1460
Nigel has already been working hard for the community for many years and will make an excellent councillor.
Thursday, 9 October 2008
Polling day this time much closer to home than other by-elections I've blogged about in the past. Alexandra ward is electing a new councillor today - to replace my Lib Dem colleague Wayne Hoban, who had to stand down after 6 years on the council as he's moved away for work.
Fortunately for residents in the ward they already have two other excellent representatives - Cllr Susan Oatway and Cllr David Beacham. Hopefully when polls close at 10pm tonight they will have a third hard-working Lib Dem, Nigel Scott, to combat the incompetence of Haringey Labour.
Out delivering this morning we did spot a few people delivering early morning leaflets for Labour too - which is unusual around here. No sign of the Conservatives though, perhaps they have given up already. Alexandra is another no-hope ward for them in Haringey - well, in that respect it's not much different to any other ward, the Tories have absolutely no councillors in Haringey (Hornsey & Wood Green or Tottenham).
Anyway, a busy day ahead for Nigel and the big team of Lib Dem helpers. For me, it's a very busy period at work so I'm on my way into the office. If you live in Alexandra ward, please do take a couple of minutes to go and vote today.
Away from the by-election, September was an incredibly busy - and exciting - month for me, which is why there has been no blogging. I'll try and do a round-up to fill you all in before too long.