Statement from Cllr Abdul Rehman

Abdul Rehman, Councillor for Corporation Park ward on Blackburn with Darwen Council has resigned from the Liberal Democrats and applied to join the Labour Party. Below is his official statement.

“I have resigned from the Liberal Democrat party because I no longer wish to be associated with a party that is happy to support cuts that are doing significant damage to the community in Corporation Park ward and the wider community of Blackburn.

This is the 17th most deprived Borough in the country and it has suffered the 5th highest level of government cuts. That is simply not fair and is a betrayal of everything that the Liberal Democrats have previously stood for.

Over the last few months it has been difficult not to feel embarrassed by the long list of Liberal Democrat broken promises but the severity and unfairness of the government cuts programme is, for me, the final straw.

I have applied to join the Labour Party because I have been impressed by the Labour controlled councils efforts to manage these unfair cuts so that, wherever possible, basic services can be maintained. I look forward to playing my part in this work in the future.”

Solving a problem we didn’t know we had – the government plans for Police Commissioners

Those of you familiar with American crime dramas like the Shield and the Wire will remember that one of the subtexts of these dramas was that the local Police Commissioners are often shown in a bad light because they are more concerned with getting re-elected than with fighting crime. Indeed, the anti-heroes of both these shows fight a lonely campaign for honest policing in the face of indifference and sometimes downright dishonesty from the Police Commissioner. The view is that this person, with an eye on re-election, spends a lot of time trying to agree to the demands of the different social groupings in his constituency and also, as a solitary individual, can often be pressurised by powerful groups including organised crime. Well, from 2012, these drama series could be set in England as the Coalition government have decided to scrap the existing, mainly voluntary Police Authorities and replace them by directly elected Police Commissioners.

The theory is that this will make policing more accountable with an identifiable person in charge instead of a faceless committee – but, given the size of the constituencies, ie the whole of Lancashire, it’s hard to think why the public will feel any greater sense of identification with this person because they have been elected than they do with the current Chair of the Police Authority. The other theory is that, in support of Nick Clegg’s demand for localism, it frees the local forces up from central Home Office control so that local policing priorities can be addressed more seriously – suggesting that, currently, this is not the case. It would be interesting to know what the government is using for evidence for this assertion and what percentage of the population subscribe to that opinion.

As a further source of potential confusion, the elected Police Commissioner will be responsible for policing strategy and finance but not the actual day-to-day operations, which will still be managed by the Chief Constable. In which case, given that most ordinary folks are only concerned with the physicality of policing – the number of incidents in my street and what is being done about them – the Police Commissioner may end up with a highly lucrative job that no-one actually cares about. A salary for the new role has not been set yet but the government expects that the cost of this changeover will be approx £100m – this, at a time; when council budgets are being decimated, tuition fees trebled, educational maintenance allowances scrapped and a fire sale organised for the national forests. It’s certainly hard to understand why this has become such a high priority for the government.

The older amongst us will remember that, in the 1980s, elected police chiefs was one of the demands of the so-called Loony Left and, as such, was regularly pilloried by the Tory press under the banner of ” policing on the rates.” Now, it’s become a priority for the Tory/Lib Dem coalition, I suppose it would be asking too much to expect the press to scrutinise it with the same vigour. If they did, they might even try to work out whether the Tories have had a genuine conversion to this previously much-maligned idea or whether they have been bounced into this by their Lib Dem colleagues as part of the coalition deal.

Anyway, there’s not going to be any public debate about it – the elections will take place in spring 2012 and, in what seems to be a victory for hope over reality, the government are expecting a higher turnout for these elections than for local council elections – apparently, because it will generate such interest among the public.

So, budding script writers should get their pens out – there’ll be a big TV series in there somewhere!

Tragedy as former Labour leader dies

The death has been announced of Jim Mason, a member of Blackburn Labour Party for many years, and a lifelong member of the Cooperative movement and a hugely important influence in the Labour administration that successfully ran Lancashire County Council from 1981 until last year.

In particular, Jim was the driving force behind the establishment of Lancashire Enterprises Ltd which became an example of the way that public authorities could support and enhance socially valuable businesses as opposed to simply allowing market forces to run their course. This was a controversial policy during the years when the Thatcher governments were prepared to blindly follow market forces wherever they led and whatever the consequences but this policy pointed the way forward for some of the Labour governments’ actions from 1997.

Jim died last weekend after a long illness and his funeral will be held at 1.15 pm on January 11 at Silverdale Methodist Church followed by a service at Lancaster Crematorium at 2.45 – Jim’s family would welcome the presence of old friends and comrades.

Problem issue? Simply ring the local paper and claim the opposite happened!

The Tory-led coalition are always spinning one yarn or another but this is impressive – even by their standards. The leader of For Darwen, councillor Tony Melia, had the gall to call the Lancashire Telegraph claiming that he had successfully lobbied for road repairs to be brought forward. In reality the opposite was the case. Nice work!

Row over Darwen pothole repairs schedule

THE deputy leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council has come under criticism for claiming to have brought roadworks forward by over a year.

Coun Tony Melia said that because of his constant nagging at Capita, pothole repairs scheduled for the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011 in Inverness Road, Manor Road and Borough Road would be completed by the end of this month.

But town councillor Dave Smith said he had a recent conversation with an officer at Capita and was told that surface dressing of Manor Road had actually been delayed, not brought forward.

Coun Smith said: “You would have thought that the deputy leader of the council would know these details.”

Coun Dave Hollings also confirmed that the work was originally in the 2009 schedule and accused Coun Melia of “spinning”.

Conservative councillor John Slater said he was “flabbergasted” by Coun Melia’s claims.

He said: “Ward councillors work hard to get improvements and to get work done.

“For Tony Melia to claim credit for this is a scandal.

“If a UFO landed in Darwen, the For Darwen Party would try to claim credit for it.”

Audio: Jack Straw soap box session on Radio 4

Following in the footsteps of journalists such as Jeramy Paxman, Paddy O’Connell from Radio 4’s Broadcasting House came to Blackburn town centre yesterday to see one of Jack Straw’s famous “soap box” question and answer sessions:

Tory candidate Michael Law-Riding was spotted shuffling past. Funny he didn’t stick around for long!

Blackburn Rovers 3 – 2 Burnley

Pascal Chimbonda celebrates after scoring the third goal. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images
Pascal Chimbonda celebrates after scoring the third goal. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images

Congratulations to Blackburn Rovers in the East Lancashire derby, cheered on at Ewood Park by many of our members, the majority of our party officers and two Labour MPs.  Commiserations to Burnley supporter Alastair Campbell(!)

Jack Straw’s open air meeting in Blackburn town centre yesterday was the lead featured on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House this morning. We’ll put the audio up later today.