On inheritance tax

At present inheritance tax is charged on estates worth more than £325,000 (£650,000 for couples). The Conservatives want to increase this to £1m for couples. This is another give-away for the rich.

There are some who would scrap inheritance tax altogether. I think it a very fair tax. Inheritance is unearned income, and since we must have taxation this would appear to be the least punitive or disincentivizing.

The bulk of many estates, as far as I can tell, lies in property.

The Land Registry House Price Index for February 2015 shows that the average house price in England and Wales is £180,252. For the East of England the average is £202,394, and for Southend-on-Sea it is £172,024.

The threshold at present is generous enough, given that for a single person it is still over 50% above average house prices. For a couple the current inheritance tax threshold is more than three times the average house price.

Raising the inheritance tax threshold will do nothing for average families in average homes. It is a give-away for those not content with having more than the rest of us, they also want to be taxed less on it.

Blenheim Park Ward – intouch Issue 8

blenheimParkInTouchThe evidence on the ground suggests that in Blenheim Park the Conservative campaign is the second-most hard-working. There is little from anyone else, except Matt Dent who is working like a Trojan.

James Courtenay is another who cannot help himself when it comes to the rules – he uses his council email and telephone number on this election leaflet. The Tories are losing all credibility when it comes to playing by the rules.

He claims, on the reverse of this leaflet, that he is a regular blogger. I suggest everyone read this particular post – 1,017 Thankyous!

In this he writes: I made some pledges in my election campaign and I will stick to them all. One of them was to do a monthly “E-newsletter”.

He has issued not one E-newsletter – mark that down as a broken pledge. His blogging is also intermittent.

I am intrigued that this shiny leaflet is ‘Issue 8‘ – I make that one every six months at best. I do not think that is very regular at all, especially as most of the others have been issued at election time.

As one of your local councillors, I feel it is very important to make myself as accessible as I can to residents” writes James. Hmmm, I think that is another failure.

Jonathan Garston cannot follow rules either

Garston letterGarston leaflet

Jonathan Garston is writing to residents. He is also using his council email address and telephone number – both against the rules.

This is yet another Tory two-fingered salute to Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and the rules it has laid out for the use of its resources for electioneering purposes. Jonathan is so contemptuous of the rules he breaks them on both pieces of literature here.

The rules, in Tory minds, do not apply to them.

Jonathan plays rather loose with the reality of his time representing Milton. He was the Cabinet member responsible for Planning and did precious little to challenge some of the ugly developments that went up under his watch. He only began challenging when I arrived on the scene. He even told me, in one meeting, that I could not challenge all that I wanted to – fortunately I ignored this particularly bad piece of advice.

His letter is rather confusing, and attempts to conflate the General Election and local election results. He seems to suggest that Cheryl Nevin was not the positive choice last year – yet she seemed to get a convincing enough victory.

He repeatedly suggests that the weekly rubbish collection is under a threat – something he knows is not true.

He also (again) describes himself as a local shop owner. Untrue. His shoe shop is in Hadleigh, which is not even in the borough let alone the ward.

Again, Southend Tories snub Southend people

It is no news for me to restate that my election agent this year is Southend West resident Cllr Kevin Robinson. My Conservative opponent cannot make the same claim.

David Amess has opted for Castle Point resident Nigel Holdcroft. Southend’s Tories make a regular habit of choosing from outside of the borough – three of the last four Tory council leaders have not resided in the borough (Latham, Waite and Holdcroft). Only one-year leader Murray Foster was a Southend resident.

One can only speculate as to why they hold Southend people in such low regard. They regularly choose to have councillors from outside of the borough (Ann Holland and Adam Jones at the moment), which whilst not against any rules does leave wondering what they really think of the town and those that inhabit it.

Still, Nigel Holdcroft’s retirement from politics lasted less than a year.

Arithmetical mess, and a promise of instability

AmessWhat is noticeable in this leaflet is that David Amess is somewhat shy about his period as MP prior to 1997.

He starts: “I have been your MP since 1997“. He finishes: “Working for constituents for over 30 years“.

Each statement is true, but .. 1997 is a mere eighteen years ago. What of the other dozen years? Oh yes, he was in Basildon. He fled there when he noticed the writing on the wall. When he speaks of “working for constituents“, does this work include his flight from the fight with Angela Smith?

Between these two statements he writes little that can be described as accurate.

There is no threat of a Labour-SNP coalition. The country was in growth when we left office in 2010. An EU referendum promises instability at a time when we are still fighting to achieve a proper economic recovery.

He says that “only a Conservative Government would ensure that the recovery continues“, yet a two-year referendum debate threatens that recovery. Besides, it was the last Labour Government that oversaw a record period of growth and prosperity – a period only broken by the Tory’s friends in the banking community.

The leaders’ debate

I watched this, and learned little. This was never going to be a platform for new policy announcements, rather a minefield for the gaffe prone. I think all seven avoided any major mistakes. It did allow us, the voters, to compare, and here are my admittedly biased impressions.

Natalie Bennett (Green) was the weakest. She clearly learned from some pretty damaging interviews, but came across as humourless and naive. I like the Greens when they talk about the environment, I dislike them when it comes to the economy, jobs and the like.

Nigel Farage (UKIP) is normally a warm and engaging performer. Somehow this format did not suit him, and my impression was that a serious debate was a step too far. His attempt to label everyone else as ‘all the same’, and to blame all of society’s ills on foreigners and the EU just showed how vacuous UKIP’s message is.

Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat) came across as a beaten man. At times there were flashes of the 2010 Clegg, but far too often you could see the impending cliff-edge for his Parliamentary party etched on his face. Now his party has been under the harsh glare of administration it is very hard to play the ‘all things to all men’ game anymore. I could not get away from the thought, every time he appeared to challenge the Prime Minister, that here was a man who had five years to do something about it. Instead, he has spent five years more or less giving Cameron whatever he wanted.

Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) was too parochial. Despite her wonderful Welsh lilt, her message seemed to lack any real weight, and whilst she must push hard for Wales and her Welsh voters, she demonstrated why regional parties should not be admitted to national debates. Doubtless many beyond Offa’s Dyke will have found something to cheer about, the rest of the UK must have wondered what her contribution would do for them.

Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) was very good, and I am no fan of nationalism or nationalists. She somehow managed to overcome parochialism and deliver a punchy message. Her style was suited to this stage, although I still wonder why a party that only represents a fraction of the UK was admitted to this debate. I watched and wondered how Alex Salmond managed to keep her at bay for so long for clearly she is a better performer than her predecessor as leader of the SNP.

David Cameron (Conservative) was actually pretty good. This format, of seven leaders, allowed him some cover, yet when he spoke he did so with some authority. Those who have Conservative principles will have found little fault. I still found him a bit evasive, but am pleased that he managed to leave the aggressive and bullying side of him at home.

Ed Miliband (Labour) can appear awkward at times. Last night he struck me as relaxed, and he delivered his lines pretty well. He is always going to be more about the message than about how the message is given. He was confident, his body language was good, and he showed some humour. He had the strongest message. As only one of two likely Prime Ministers on display he also had weight behind his argument, and he managed to augment this with considerable gravitas.

Doubtless my views will not agree with everyone else’s. I have listed the leaders in order of who I thought was best; I call it an Ed victory, just ahead of Cameron (in terms of presentation). In terms of policy the order would be somewhat different, with Ed still winning but with a considerable margin over the others.

Chalkwell Tories ignore council election rules

Chalkwell inTouchI have lived in Chalkwell ward on two separate occasion, and was residing there when I first joined the Labour Party. I know the ward well.

I was in Chalkwell when the Liberal Democrats, in the guise of Bron Lister-Smith won in 1996 by 28 votes. She had to resign shortly afterwards, but she at least showed the ward could be snatched from the Tories. Interestingly, there was a dead-heat in Belfairs ward that year too, and Conservatives gained the ward on a coin toss from the Liberal Democrats.

My work in the ward shows that is a ward of contrasts; it has some magnificent properties, but also areas that look quite run-down. It also appears to be Tory-free in parts, and not just in party allegiance but also in respect of appearances by its councillors.

This leaflet includes an article from the Southend West Conservative MP. Sir David Amess MP says: The United Kingdom economy was literally on its knees in 2010.

Aside from the obvious observation that the economy is not actually an animal with legs and so cannot ‘literally’ be on its knees, Sir David is wrong. Whatever he thinks of the last Labour Government, when the we left office the economy was back in growth.

He also refers to his coalition buddies as the ‘Liberals’ (repeatedly). Did their name change pass him by.

Whilst on the subject of typos (OK, we weren’t, but I feel like pointing one out) – unless they have renamed a street in Thorpe Bay the author of this leaflet has misspelt Cllr Ian Robertson’s address.

Finally, despite being instructed not to use councillor email addresses on their election literature, the Conservatives have yet again gone ahead and done it anyway. They were repeat offenders last year too. Still, with their sense of entitlement they obviously believe rules are for other people.
Chalkwell inTouch pages 2 and 3

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