Child Abuse Questions for the London borough of Richmond

Sir David Williams, former lb dem leader of Richmond Council - pic courtesy: richmond.gov.uk

Sir David Williams, former lib dem leader of Richmond Council – child abuse  ” specious rumours”pic courtesy: richmond.gov.uk

As the police investigation Operation Fernbank continues apace, questions are mounting over the role of the London borough of Richmond and its social services department over the scandal.

A report by David Pallister and me on the Exaro News website (http://www.exaronews.com/articles/4817/police-probes-richmond-council-over-vip-paedophile-ring )  that the police have requested and obtained documents from the council’s records dating back to the 1980s.

The council is in the frame because  documents written about Elm House guest house, raided by the police in 1982, name boys who were at the now closed Grafton House  children’s home and were taken  there to be sexually abused by prominent people. It suggests a link between kids under the care of Richmond Council and the notorious guest house.

One of the few prominent councillors around at the time was Sir David Williams, Liberal Democrat leader of Richmond Council for 18 years from 1983 to 2001 and appointed by Eric Pickles, communities secretary, to sit on the board of the soon to be abolished Audit Commission in 2011. He has been a councillor since 1974.

This is his view of the present police investigation into the Elm House guest house.

” I knew nothing about this until some time afterwards it was a rumour. It didn’t impact on the council at the time.

…” If the police do find something, well the police will find something. It is all specious rumour as far as I am concerned until someone gives me some hard facts. It is idle speculation as far as I am aware.

 “If it did involve children I didn’t know. I doubt if it did.”
Sir David’s reaction to put it mildly is interesting. If he is right the police are wasting their time launching a criminal investigation. But it is highly unlikely in these stricken financial times that the Met Police would waste our money without any strong leads.
What do you think or if you are  in Richmond  do you know more about this than meets the eye? Contact me if you have.

Death and rebirth? of Liberal Democrat England

 

Nick Clegg - not quite 100 per cent bad news

Today’s humiliating result for the Liberal Democrats -coming sixth with just 8.25 per cent of the vote in Barnsley,Central is a harbinger of a deeper change facing British politics.

Anybody keeping abreast of local  council election results in Labour strongholds will not have been at all surprised to see this collapse of a party  that has broken many of its election promises and got in bed with Labour’s traditional enemy -the Tories.

All that has happened is the Parliamentary lobby has caught up with a dramatic collapse of Liberal Democrats in working class towns and urban areas.

Less than a month ago a Liberal Democrat decided to stand in Worksop for Bassetlaw council and came bottom of the poll with 28 votes. Labour gained the seat from the Tories with 1174 votes. Other pathetic Liberal Democrat showings in the last six months include 67 votes in Bromsgrove, 45 votes in Wednesbury,98 votes in Swindon  and an incredible 10 votes in Rossendale in Lancashire.

 Labour should be pleased because in some of these pathetic showings it is enabling them to take seats from the Conservatives including coming back in Camborne, Cornwall. In other places like Warrington and Liverpool where they are taking seats directly off the Lib Dems they are being returned  with thumping majorities.

But before everybody gets carried away  with the total destruction of the Lib Dems  there is another story going on  in many (not all) Conservative rural areas. Here slowly but surely the Lib Dems are making GAINS against incumbent Tories in their heartland seats.

Examples  this year include two gains from the Tories -in rural Shropshire and Conwy in Wales. While at the end of last year the Lib Dems took a seat on Fareham council from the Tories with a swing of nearly 30 per cent since the May general election.

 Another surprising gain was in rural Newdigate in Surrey where the Lib Dems took a seat from the Conservatives in their Mole Valley heartland. And they beat the Tories to gain a seat on Bodmin Town Council when an independent stood down.

Of course not every result fits in this pattern, the Tories did gain a seat in South Lakeland from the Lib Dems (where Labour got a pathetic 32 votes) and the Lib Dems did take one seat from Labour in Truro in the same period.

But there does seem to be a bit of a pattern from these scattering of results which will be really tested in May. The scenario appears to be that the Lib Dems will be massacred in major cities by Labour and their collapse in other urban areas will probably cost the Tories control.

But in rural areas it looks like the Lib Dems could hold their own and even, if well organised, make gains from the Tories.

 Nick Clegg’s  and David Law’s realignment of the Liberal Democrats as a right of centre libertarian party appears to be giving confidence to Tory voters to trust them in their traditional heartlands while making Labour the only left of centre show in town. That could make a seismic shift in British politics.

Going Downhill fast: The Liberal Democrats bankrolled by RBS

Nick Clegg-party in dire straits and bankrolled by the Royal Bank of Scotland

In the week when student protest over tuition fees reaches a climax, public support and money for the Liberal Democrats is collapsing all the time. And it is now even more in hock to one of the banks that provoked the financial crisis in the first place

In article in the Tribune  this week http://bit.ly/eC4Xb5 I point out that the party has had a bad time in recent local council  by-elections  getting as few as 10, 45 and 98 votes in some cases. It is also in an appalling financial  situation getting less money in the last quarter than UKIP and  relying on a big donation from the taxpayer via the Electoral Commission  to keep afloat. Only after the 2005 election were the figures worse. 

 A closer look at the party loan book reveals a delicious further irony – the party is actually being bank rolled on a £1m indefinite loan from the discredited Royal Bank of Scotland – the bank of Fred ” the Shred” Goodwin- which itself is being bailed out by the taxpayer and subject to a still secret report from the Financial Services Authority.

 Given Vincent Cable’s high-profile attacks on the banks for the poor lending, the business secretary is much more cautious in lending his party money than RBS. He gave a £10,000 interest free loan to the party on April 13 but demanded his money back, insisting it was repaid on May 25. He was one of only two donors post the election who wanted their money back pronto, the other more understandably being Susan Kramer, defeated by Zac Goldsmith in Richmond.

As for local elections performance the best guide is on this website http://bit.ly/fWKVmT . Although it shows a small overall gain of four for the Liberal Democrats, this can be accounted for entirely by their performance on general election day,May 6, where they made a few gains. Since then, apart from taking one seat from the Tories and a couple from Independents in Cornwall, they have slumped.

And all of this is before the cuts and tax rises have to bite and student fees go through the roof.

No wonder Vince Cable wanted his money back. He’ll need it for his retirement.

Election Campaign:What the politicians and civil servants didn’t tell us

Are you voting without them telling you all the facts?

The election is virtually over. Tomorrow  you can cast your vote.  The parties will concentrate on their key messages over the last hours before polling day. But have all the issues been covered? No way.
 
Just as there is a black hole in all the parties’ planned spending cuts, there are lots of issues that have not been properly covered and many more that have been completely ignored.
They fall into three groups: there are issues that have been discussed but  not properly explored; there are issues that have been ignored by the political parties; and, perhaps surprisingly, there have been issues that Whitehall – not the politicians – has buried under the carpet.
 
The biggest issue that has not been properly explored is immigration. It was partly catapulted into the election by Gordon Brown’s “Bigotgate” gaffe after meeting pensioner Gillian Duffy, but the parties have tried to obscure the facts.
 
The Tories have promised to introduce a cap on immigration – but it will not apply to the 27 existing members of the European Community. They account for 80 per cent of immigration – according to Channel Four’s fact check file – almost 1.8 million people coming into Britain against 1 million Brits going to live in the EU.
 
While those coming from outside the EU account for only 20 per cent of immigration, according to a BBC analysis for the last recorded year, 8,000 more people left than came in. In effect this makes Cameron’s cap almost meaningless.
 
The Liberal Democrats, while promising to give an amnesty to illegal immigrants who have been here for 10 years, estimate it could help 600,000 – but, as Nick Clegg admits himself, nobody knows where they are. UKIP would block immigration altogether – but that will mean leaving the EU as well. The Liberal Democrats’ policy would mean hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants paying taxes, while Labour say they would deport them all, if they can find them. So more heat than light.
 
Then there are buried issues. The biggest is pensions and how we are going to fund an ageing population. The Tories have promised to raise the pension age to 66 but not until 2016, after the next election.
 
And while the election is taking place, more companies are ending final salary schemes, which will make it more difficult to get a good pension, and the cost of providing care is going up all the time. The parties have touched on the cost of care but the multi billion pounds for pensions has not even been debated. Anyone thinking seriously about this would know that something has got to give.
 
Similarly, for younger people, one issue that might have been raised is the draconian measure – rushed through Parliament just before the election – to curb illegal file-sharing.  There is now a law that could give the music and video business powers to demand internet providers disconnect people from the internet. This has been barely mentioned.
 
Other issues hardly touched on include the environment, overseas aid, transport and housing.
 
But probably the most surprising thing that happened during the election was a decision by Whitehall – which runs the country while the PM is busy campaigning – to ban the release of new statistics which would have revealed how much you are funding farmers and agribusiness through the European Union.
 
Last Friday the EU expected every one of their 27 members to release details of the billions of euros spent subsidising farmers and big companies to produce food for last year. Every country except the UK published these figures.
 
In Whitehall, civil servants took the decision that to release this information in the middle of an election campaign would be wrong. They justified this on the grounds that some Parliamentary candidates might be receiving the  subsidies. I quote the explanation: “This decision reflects the need to maintain, and be seen to maintain, the impartiality of the UK Civil Service, given the potential risk that … payment  information relating to any individuals involved in the election might be used as part of election campaigning.” Possibly as many as 80 candidates, mainly Conservative, and a few UKIP and Liberal Democrats are benefitting from this.
 
Extraordinarily, in Scotland – where there is a devolved government – the figures were released. They showed that 19,000 farmers and businesses shared nearly £600m of taxpayers’ money. The figure for the UK was over £3 billion the previous year.
 
But the effect was to close down any political debate on the cost of the EU to the taxpayer. Other statistics like hospital admissions, road statistics and all the economic data have all been released.
 
So it is not only politicians who have limited debate during the election.

This blog is also on the msn website as part of their general election coverage.