Chaos continues at County Hall

I’m pleased that the Conservative leader of Somerset County Council has finally accepted it was not right to pay such ludicrously large sums to his managers.

Children and young people placed into care, through no fault of their own, have a right to be safe and secure.  Those of us who pay our taxes have a right to know that these children and young people are looked after in ways that meet the highest standards of care.  The real problem in Somerset was, and remains, a lack of frontline staff whose job it is to identify children and young people who are at risk.

An emergency meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday this week to approve the Council’s new Human Resources policy. Having read the documents, I’m staggered to find that the Conservative-controlled Council has not made any of the changes necessary to stop the very practice that drew such enormous criticism from Conservative Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles, who slammed the situation as

“An outrageous use of public money”, and “an abuse of process”

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Tenants to be protected from retaliatory evictions under Lib Dem plans

MotionPassed

Tenants would be better protected from rogue landlords and retaliatory evictions under plans passed by Liberal Democrat conference today.

Current rules mean that landlords can evict tenants with just two months’ notice and without having to give a reason. Rogue landlords often use this provision to evict tenants  rather than carrying out much-needed repairs, knowing that they will easily be able to find a new tenant because there is such a high demand for rented housing.

Over the last five years, an average of 324,000 households each year have been the victims of retaliatory evictions, and one in eight tenants admits they have not asked their landlords for repairs to be carried out for fear of retaliatory action.

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The use of air strikes in Iraq

TessaOn Friday 26th September, Parliament was recalled to debate and vote on the UK joining air strikes in Iraq against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), also known as IS or ISIS.

The wording of the Government motion put before the House of Commons was:

“That this House condemns the barbaric acts of ISIL against the peoples of Iraq including the Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Christians and Yazidi and the humanitarian crisis this is causing; recognises the clear threat ISIL poses to the territorial integrity of Iraq and the request from the Government of Iraq for military support from the international community and the specific request to the UK Government for such support; further recognises the threat ISIL poses to wider international security and the UK directly through its sponsorship of terrorist attacks and its murder of a British hostage; acknowledges the broad coalition contributing to military support of the Government of Iraq including countries throughout the Middle East; further acknowledges the request of the Government of Iraq for international support to defend itself against the threat ISIL poses to Iraq and its citizens and the clear legal basis that this provides for action in Iraq; notes that this motion does not endorse UK air strikes in Syria as part of this campaign and any proposal to do so would be subject to a separate vote in Parliament; accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government, working with allies, in supporting the Government of Iraq in protecting civilians and restoring its territorial integrity, including the use of UK air strikes to support Iraqi, including Kurdish, security forces’ efforts against ISIL in Iraq; notes that Her Majesty’s Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations; and offers its wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty’s armed forces.”

Naturally, my postbag and email inbox were inundated with the views of local people. Some were for military intervention, some were against.

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Tessa takes Radiotherapy Fight to Downing Street

TNL

Tessa was joined by Top Clinical Oncologist, Nick Van As and England Rugby Star and campaigner Lawrence Dallaglio yesterday at Number 10 Downing Street.

The team were there to press David Cameron on increasing access to advanced radiotherapy for cancer patients.

Tessa said:

“In many instances, this type of cutting edge radiotherapy is more effective, quicker, less painful, and cheaper than drugs, yet the Government currently chooses to spend far more on pills, than radiotherapy.

After asking over 200 Parliamentary questions on this issue and countless meetings with experts, Ministers and people in need of treatment it was an important milestone to finally brief the Prime Minister.

He’s promised to go away and look at the problems and our solutions and we’re hopeful that he’ll come back with the right answers.

Tessa Munt

3rd October 2014

Fracking Consultation

Tessa has written to Secretary of State Ed Davey to voice her disappointment following the decision to press ahead with changes to laws which will make it easier for companies to perform Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)

If you would like to be kept updated on environmental issues, please drop Tessa an email on tessa.munt.mp@parliament.uk with ‘Environment’ in the subject line.

Tessa’s letter is below:

 

 

Ed Davey MP                                                                              

Secretary of State

Department of Energy and Climate Change

3 Whitehall Place

London SW1A 2HH

                                                                                                                                                                                              1st October 2014

 

 

Dear Ed,

Changes to trespass laws regarding gas shale extraction

I read with dismay the Energy Minister’s response to your consultation regarding changes to the trespass law.

I note the response from the DECC spokesperson and acknowledge that large numbers of the consultation respondents may have used the exercise as a forum to express their general concerns about the whole extraction practice.

However, with only 44 of the 40,647 people who completed the consultation expressing support for this change in the law, I am deeply disappointed that no notice has been taken of the proportion of those respondents who expressed their opposition. The strength of feeling against uncontrolled access and subsequent drilling under people’s homes, and fracking in general, is clear. It is completely unacceptable to ignore such a clear message as this serves only to further turn people off politics. Consultation is pointless if the Government pays only lip-service to the process.

I would welcome your views on how you suggest the public can re-engage with politicians in the future about this and the many other major environmental issues facing us.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

 

Tessa Munt MP

Member of Parliament for Wells

 

Failings at Somerset County Council

SCC

Somerset County Council is starting the process of closing two children’s homes, (West End Cottage at Chedzoy near Bridgwater and Appledore, near West Pennard) after concerns were raised over the way they have been run.

Somerset County Council has stated these closures are “due to poor management, sub-standard care and concerns over safeguarding”.

Concerns were first brought to the attention of Conservative run Somerset County Council in  January this year, yet it seems to have taken a visit from Ofsted last week to trigger action.

Tessa said:

“Ofsted inspectors visited Somerset again last week.

I’m alarmed, as other local people are, that it takes a visit from Ofsted for it to dawn on the County Council’s leaders that they really must act to protect vulnerable youngsters when the problems in these children’s homes were reported to the Council nine months ago.

These problems never spring up overnight.  Simply closing the homes is not the solution. It’s the over-use of temporary staff, a lack of training and a complete failure of regular supervision and communication that has led to this appalling situation.

Taxpayers have been charged vast sums (£741,000 last year alone) for senior managers, yet it takes nine months to react to a letter highlighting problems, problems which they themselves should have picked up and dealt with.  Failings, poor management, sub-standard care and inadequate safeguarding in our children’s homes should be identified and dealt with at the first signs of trouble. Why didn’t this happen?

Why did the County Council continue to place young people in these homes when investigations were already underway?

Vulnerable young people need stability, protection and care in order to prepare them for taking responsibility for themselves in adulthood.  The County has failed in its first duty as ‘corporate parent’ to these youngsters, some of whom will take years to recover from this episode in their lives.

The Leader of the County Council, Cllr John Osman, had personal responsibility for Children’s Services before his promotion.  He oversaw the catastrophic decline in Children’s Services from “Outstanding” in 2009 to “Inadequate”.  He chose to cut frontline staff whilst paying super-high salaries to his Executives.

I have written to Cllr Osman asking for an explanation.”

Tessa Munt

1st October 2014

Recall of Parliament: 26/09/14

Tessa

 

As you may be aware, Parliament will be meeting tomorrow to discuss the UK’s role in air strikes against Islamic State (Statement to follow).

This means I will not be able to attend my surgeries in Shepton Mallet and Chilcompton which are scheduled for tomorrow.

However, my caseworkers will be attending on my behalf, and will be happy to discuss any difficulties or concerns you may have.

If you would prefer to see me in person then my full surgery calendar is available here: http://www.tessamunt.org.uk/events/

Tessa

Somerset County Council

SCC

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 OF LICENSED EXPORTS TO ISRAEL

 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.

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Why I’m boycotting Israeli goods and services

Tessa

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”.

Likewise, Hamas could do the same and reject violence – doing so at this time would be likely to force concessions from Israel, when the eyes of the world are firmly on the region.

Unfortunately, shelling from both sides resumed earlier today. The first to die? Someone’s little boy, 12 year old Ibrahim Aldawawseh – innocent, but punished. Slaughtered whilst he played.

But it’s not just the shelling which is wrong.

Gaza is often referred to as an ‘open air prison’. People can’t come and go and access to goods and services is controlled by Israel.

We wouldn’t accept that in Britain and we can’t accept it elsewhere.

That is why I believe the time has come to use the methods that peacefully but successfully isolated South Africa during the apartheid years.

The time has come for me to choose how I spend my money. I must boycott Israeli goods and services and I would encourage others to consider doing the same.

Tessa Munt 

8th August 2014

 

 

Affordable Homes Bill | Commons debates

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Let me pick up on the point that he made. There is no automatic exclusion for people who have to sleep in separate bedrooms for medical reasons. I have had an ongoing correspondence with the Minister for welfare reform. He said that disabled adults are

“able to exercise a greater degree of choice”

than children, and can

“enter into living arrangements knowing that they may have to compromise their individual needs.”

I do not understand how it can possibly be the case that these sorts of couples either have to take in a tenant in the bedroom that is not spare or that they should separate in order to have their accommodation needs met. That is just absurd.

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Engagements | Oral Answers to Questions – Prime Minister | Commons debates

Is the Prime Minister aware that since 2012, when he promised to increase patient access to innovative radiotherapy, particularly for cancer patients, the number of cancers treated by radiotherapy in some hospitals has actually decreased by 70% and state-of-the-art machines are lying idle because NHS England will not allow doctors to use them? Will he meet me and other cancer cure campaigners, such as Lawrence Dallaglio, to discuss this scandal before more patients are refused treatment?

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Flooding (Somerset) | Westminster Hall debates

While we are on the subject of sluices, will the Minister address the problem of Bleadon sluice, bearing in mind that we have all talked about how any approach has to be for the whole catchment

area? My concern is with the Axe and Brue rivers; there is a need for dredging on the Brue, but my most important concern is the Axe, which drains out into the northern part of my patch and over towards Weston-super-Mare. Bleadon sluice was closed by the Environment Agency, which put a red notice on it in 2009. There has been a bundle going on—no one will take responsibility. I was told earlier this year that the sluice was going to be fixed at some point during the year, but we are a long way through it and nothing has happened. Will the Minister address that, since we are on the subject of sluices?

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Head and Neck Cancer | Commons debates

The hon. Lady refers to innovative radiotherapy and I wonder whether she is aware of how much work is being done on the indications suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford)—I congratulate him on this debate. I also wonder whether NHS England does not recognise that this type of radiotherapy can be used for anything except lung cancer.

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NHS Investigations (Jimmy Savile) | Business of the House | Commons debates

Child sexual abuse is always abhorrent. The victims are always innocent and nobody should be above the law. At the beginning of this month, six Members and I wrote to the Home Secretary—now we are supported by a further 104 MPs—requesting an investigation by an independent panel into at least eight cases of child sexual abuse going back over 30 years, where the evidence has been lost or destroyed by the police, by Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise and by other agencies, and where the cases have therefore been stalled or abandoned altogether. To date, we have had no reply, so can I ask the Secretary of State to encourage the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary, and anyone who else who might be moved to take the matter on, to do so, and accept that such an independent investigation is essential to search out the truth and to make sure that action is taken after that?

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Severe Eating Disorders (North-East England) | Commons debates

I recognise the similarities between what is happening in the north-east and in the south-west. We have young people being discharged from services when they reach the 18-week threshold or because they have reached a body mass index of 18, yet the Minister has accepted that this is a complex condition which sometimes takes five or six years to recover from.

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