Councillor Daly – New Group Leader

News from Bury Council Conservatives Group today as last night Councillor James Daly was elected as Leader of the Opposition on Bury Council. A couple of weeks ago the Leader for the past five years Councillor Iain Gartside surprised me at least  when he announced he was standing down as Leader. Iain has recently moved to a new job and felt it was the right time to step down. He will continue to serve the residents of Tottington Ward. Councillor Daly was previously Deputy Leader and his position as deputy Leader has now been filled by Elton Ward Councillor Mike Hankey. I wish them both well in their new roles.

Parliament Resumes

I am heading back to London today as the House of Commons resumes after Parliament’s half term recess last week. Business is scheduled to start with questions to the Department for Work and Pensions. This is then due to be followed by the remaining stages of the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill and then consideration of the amendments made in the House of Lords to the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill.

Business Rates

When I ran my own business I knew how much a worry the business rates bill was. The bill always seemed to increase at a faster rate than I expected. Re-valuation was a further worry. In the next few weeks all businesses in England will start receiving their bills based on a new valuation of their premises. Whilst overall the renewal is fiscally neutral in other words gainers are balanced by losers because the government has introduced some specific help as part of a £6.5 billion package of reliefs across the Country around three-quarters of all businesses will see their business rates either fall or stay the same. 600,000 will stop paying business rates altogether. the good news for Bury is that there will be an average reduction of 9.1% in bills primarily because of the number of small businesses we have.

Takeovers

Corporate takeovers take place all the time. Most never get any publicity. most are uncontentious, one company approaches another and makes an offer to buy it the directors and then the shareholders agree and the deal goes through.

Sometimes however company takeovers do reach the mainstream media. Currently the Deutsche Borse is proposing to take over the London Stock Exchange, 21st Century Fox wants to buy the 60% of Sky they do not already own and now the American food giant Kraft-Heinz wants to buy the Anglo-Dutch company Unilever.

Rules are already in place to ensure one Company does not become too dominant in a sector but what further role if any should the government play. I am frequently lobbied to encourage the government to step in and stop a particular takeover as ‘not being in our national interest.’ I think there are some instances where the national interest is a relevant factor but that should already be taken into account within the existing framework. British companies are always being encouraged to export and one could see the sale of an entire company as a single giant export. we should also consider the situation when a British company wants to buy a foreign competitor. If a shareholder wants to sell their shares to a foreign buyer is it really the job of government to say no?

Pennine Acute Hospitals

As The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust continues to make improvements following the very disappointing CQC report last year the new Chief Executive Sir David Dalton has announced a further £20.5 million is to be invested in frontline services from 2017-8. In addition to this £10 million will be spent on capital expenditure to improve North Manchester and Royal Oldham Hospitals.

The additional revenue resources will be used to recruit 35 more doctors and more than 300 more nursing and midwifery staff. There will be more money for IT, staff training and development. Plus more money for medical and clinical equipment. This together with revised governance and management arrangements will I hope mean that we can look forward to a much improved position the next time the CQC report on the Trust

The Referee

It appears there is a move to replace the Speaker of the House of Commons. Lots of people have contacted me urging me to support/oppose such a move. My view is clear. MP’s elect a Speaker at the start of a Parliament and my view is that the MP so elected has the job for that Parliament unless they choose to leave earlier. I see the role of the Speaker like that of a referee in a football match. The referee has to make lots of decisions and one side or the other will be disappointed, upset even. We should not be changing the referee just because there have been some decisions some MP’s would have reached a different conclusion on.

Copeland Reflections

Copeland is a large and essentially rural constituency set on the West coast of Cumbria. It is home to the large nuclear plant at Sellafield on which thousands of local residents rely for their employment. Politically, it is a seat which has been held by the Labour Party for decades. The name Copeland is relatively new, it was previously called after one of the largest towns in the constituency – Whitehaven. Although geographically large it is undersized in terms of the size of the population, around 63,000 if I recall correctly. The Conservatives were a couple of thousand behind at the last election.

Having visited the constituency a few times the one thing that strikes you is its remoteness. You do feel a very long way from Westminster. Incidentally, the area voted Leave in the referendum last year. Given that the Conservatives did not even win this seat in 1983 winning it now will clearly be a challenge, but not out of the question. The Conservative Candidate is local having lived all her life in the area and for anyone who still believes in the polls the Conservatives are ahead of Labour in the polls. Well, with the by-election  set for the 23rd a week on Friday we will know.