Somerset Conservatives are failing our children

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Just five years ago, in 2009, rural Somerset County Council was rated an “excellent authority” with “good and improving Children’s Services”.

The Director of Children’s Services had built his team over many years of service to Somerset.  He was a man who was passionate about care and was committed to his staff and service.

But in 2009, the Conservatives took control of the Council.  The County Councillor for Wells, John Osman, was handed responsibility for Children’s Services by his colleagues.

It should have been easy enough.

He inherited one of the most important and valued portfolios, a department in good shape, well-managed and motivated staff, performing well and consistently improving its services.

He had the opportunity to continue to help supporting young people and turning their lives around.

A real gift for an aspiring politician.

 

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Government announces findings of review into exports to israel

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The Government has today announced the findings of a review of licensed exports to Israel. It has found that the vast majority of exports currently licensed for Israel are not for items that could be used by Israeli forces in operations in Gaza in response to attacks by Hamas.

Twelve licences have now been identified for components which could be part of equipment used by the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza. Currently there is a ceasefire in place and the Government continues to urge both sides to respect this and to secure a lasting end to hostilities through the negotiations taking place in Cairo. However, in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities, the Government is concerned that it would not be able to clarify if the export licence criteria are being met.  It would therefore suspend these licences as a precautionary step.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“We welcome the current ceasefire in Gaza and hope that it will lead to a peaceful resolution. However the UK Government has not been able to clarify if the export licence criteria are being met. In light of that uncertainty we have taken the decision to suspend these existing export licences in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities.

 

“No new licences of military equipment have been issued for use by the Israeli Defence Force during the review period and as a precautionary measure this approach will continue until hostilities cease.”

The UK aims to have one of the most rigorous and transparent export licence regimes in the world with strict criteria governing the provision of licences. In the event of the renewal of significant hostilities, the Government’s concern is that it may not have sufficient information to determine whether the licence assessment criteria have been contravened, for example, whether a serious violation of international humanitarian law has occurred and whether equipment containing UK components has been used. It therefore would suspend licences while it establishes more information.

The Government continues to monitor closely the situation in Israel and Gaza, and if existing licences are found to be no longer consistent with the criteria, those licences will be revoked.

The priority remains lasting peace in the region that allows both Israelis and Palestinians to live alongside one other securely and peacefully. The UK Government will continue to work closely with colleagues in the EU and the US to help achieve this.

Tessa Munt

12th August 2014

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Why I'm boycotting Israeli goods and services

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This summer I’ve added dozens of additional advice surgeries to the usual 11 which I hold every month.

Last night’s surgeries were in and around Priddy, at The Queen Victoria pub and then on to the Hunter’s Lodge. Tonight I’ll be on the other side of the patch in The Trotter Inn, Crickham.

Having a job where you speak to hundreds of people every week is fascinating. You get a real sense of public opinion, far more effective than any opinion poll!

This summer, it’s not the potholes, traffic lights or broadband, not even poor local planning which is dominating discussions – although they are all high on the list and must be dealt with.

This summer, the majority of people I meet out and about are disturbed, upset and angry.

It’s clear that Israel has crossed a line.

It’s not ok to drop bombs on civilians and the sight of parents carrying the remains of their small children in plastic bags is sickening. Bombed hospitals and schools, an entire population stunned and damaged is criminal. It simply cannot be justified.

When civilians are targeted, a crime is committed against us all. By staying silent, governments allow these crimes to become the ‘norm’, thereby failing the public and future generations.

We cannot allow the scenes we are witnessing to become the ‘norm’. They are not normal.

In the meantime, there is something that can be done on an individual level. I’m a huge believer in ‘people power’ and whereas modern history has repeatedly proven violence to be not only ugly but useless, non-violent actions can be hugely effective.

The use of a boycotts is one example of non-violent action and whilst a protest march is effective in raising awareness and publicity, a boycott hits states and organisations where it hurts most – the wallet.

Israel exports all sorts all sorts of things from food to financial services into the UK and we all have a choice about how we spend our money.

I had hoped that Israel’s leaders might have heeded the suggestion by Nick Clegg, that they could surprise the world with“an unexpected act of political magnanimity, rather than sporadic military reprisal”.

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Bedroom Tax needs to change

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Tessa writes a regular fortnightly column in the Daily Mirror. Below is her most recent article, published earlier this week, on the controversial Bedroom Tax. Since the piece was published, a new Report has revealed that the policy is, in fact, not working.

No party won the General Election in 2010, but the Conservatives received the largest number of votes from the British public, and 307 Tory MPs packed their bags to head for Westminster.

57 Lib Dems were elected at the same time, roughly a sixth of the number of Tories, so when we agreed to enter coalition to form a Government, we knew difficult decisions lay ahead.

To sort out the country’s finances, lots of tough choices had to be made.  One thing was sure – the benefits system would have to be reformed. So many people felt the system was unfair – not just on those who worked hard, but also those who had been left to languish on the dole.

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