Tories forced to reassess their chances as Cameron nowhere to be seen

As the dust settles on the magnificent victory by Labour’s Mustafa Desai in February’s Queen’s Park by-election there were glum faces amongst leading Tories, Michael Lee and Michael Law-Riding at the count.  Why could this be?

Sources close to the local Tory party have admitted that they had informed Conservative Party Central Office in London they were poised to win the seat. As a consequence, plans had been made for David Cameron to visit Blackburn on Election Day.  However, when by mid morning it became clear that their initial predictions had been a might over optimistic, a mad panic ensued as the visit was hastily called off and a chastened Mr Cameron was told to stay away.  In the end the Conservatives finished a poor third with only 15% of the vote.  In the supposed Tory stronghold of Guide it is believed that they received barely thirty votes.

The by-election results sent a clear message that the people of Blackburn are continuing to reject Cameron’s Tories.  Maybe Mr Law-Riding who previously thought that he had the Blackburn seat “sewn up” will be reassessing his chances after this disaster!

Waste not, want not – but please keep it secret!

The Tory led Council has again been shown up for incompetence and wasting money after pumping nearly £100,0000 of taxpayers money into a hare-brained Lottery bid they knew they were ‘highly unlikely’ to get.

Last month the Lancashire Telegraph revealed the council had run up a bill of £93,121 to put plans together for a £20million transformation of Blackburn Museum they knew was highly unlikely ever to happen.

Tory Executive Member Michael Law-Riding, who approved the spending, has aspirations to be the next Member of Parliament for Blackburn which bodes well for the Town if he should ever get elected.

However I can reveal that this is only a proportion of what the Coalition of Tories, Liberal Democrats and Darwen Independents have wasted since coming into office in 2007. Recent analysis by the Labour Group has also found the council has spent at least £750,000 on other meaningless feasibility studies and have also bought three million pounds worth of unnecessary buildings that are lying vacant and unused.

This is yet another example of the coalition wasting money left right and centre, and again worryingly they have tried to keep these facts secret from the residents and voters of Blackburn and Darwen. However with the help of my Labour colleagues and the pages of the Lancashire Telegraph the shocking true facts have come out and they have yet again been caught out wasting Council Taxpayers money.

Tory councillor: disabled abuse free transport scheme

We all remember the statement from Tory Councillor Allan Cottam blaming pensioners for abusing the concessionary fare scheme. He claimed some were using their free passes every day, and as a result he had a £ 400k shortfall in his budget. We all knew this was a nonsense and the Labour Government had given Blackburn more than enough money to cover the scheme. In fact they had £ 400 k extra, which they duly gave away to their Tory friends in the Ribble Valley, Blackpool and Preston leaving many of our residents without buses as the Bus Company faced £1million cut from Councils.

At the November Executive Board meeting I asked Councillor Cottam, why since the introduction of a £1 fare each way on Community Transport, and the new 48 hour booking system, had the usage gone down 20%.

He was quite proud in announcing that since disabled users, and those who found it difficult to use the bus service had to pay this fare, they now found that they could use the regular bus service, (if they are lucky enough to have one). Wouldn’t it be great if a serious illness could just disappear if you had to pay £1?

I probed a little further and he quite openly stated that users, disabled and elderly, had been abusing this service and now there was less need than six months ago. He was joined by another Tory Councillor, John Slater, who admitted that the booking system was a shambles, there was not enough staff to cope with the system and having to give 48 hours notice meant in his words not mine “these old dears are booking the travel then not using it” though he did, with puckered pride in his chest, tell me he was going to introduce a” three strikes and you are out” system to stop people booking travel then not using it.

They both have completely missed the point. If you suffer from arthritis or some other disability that restricts your mobility, 48 hours can be a long time and conditions can worsen quite quickly. Let’s face it those suffering a serious illness have good days and bad days, some worse than others with no warning.

With the promise of “three strikes and you are out” residents who desperately need this form of travel are scared to book in case two days later they are unable to get out of their homes, they don’t feel very well, or the weather is too bad for them.

I suppose if I was a cynic I would say that this will lead to a drastic reduction in use and allow the Council to say there is no need of this service which will allow them to cut it completely saving a significant amount of money. Just as they have done with Community Centres, Arts in the Parks, and possibly King Georges Hall and Libraries in the near future,

Michael Law Riding, another Tory who has aspirations of taking on “Our Jack”, has cut the events budget from £ 250k down to £50k,getting ris of the wonderful Arts in the Parks, and at the same time cut the funding for books in the Library by 25% in two years, and is definitely going to close some leisure facilities in Blackburn.

The next battle cry from the Tories will be, very few people use the Library, why waste money on having it.

Watch this space, because low cost airlines could learn from these guys.

Does Michael Law-Riding know anything about Blackburn?

Griffin Park School: not a Grade II listed Victorian mansion!

You’ve got to laugh sometimes when you’re at the Council meeting. The answers that members of the ruling coalition give to those tabled by Labour members vary from complete avoidance to the utterly bizarre. More than once I’ve been on the end of Exec members trying to dodge questions – usually Salim Lorgat, Executive Member for Housing; however, last week’s meeting beats them all.

Under the report for Culture, Leisure and Sport like my fellow ward Councillors in Mill Hill, Malcolm Doherty and Jim Smith, I was keen to comment on the success of last years’ Mill Hill Festival and how many people believe that Arts in the Park should be brought back. This was supported by many other Councillors.
Following on from this question I asked about the future of Griffin Lodge, a Grade II listed building situated in the middle of Griffin Park which the Council owns and which has been vacant and semi-derelict for the past four years. The listed building’s use has been under review and it is the subject of repeated and worsening vandalism.

In spite of the fact that this large Victorian mansion used to be occupied by the County Museum Service restoration department, when asked the question about its future Cllr Law-Riding – who is standing to be Blackburn’s next MP – confused the listed building with Griffin Park School.
Bizarrely – and to the chuckles of everyone in the Council chamber – he stated that he thought ‘it is an issue for the Executive Member for Childrens Services’. Later in the evening Cllr Thayne (Childrens Services) took some pleasure in batting the issue back, having been advised by his officer that it is nothing to do with his portfolio.

It’s nice to know that Cllr Law-Riding has a grip of his department!