Wednesday, 30 March 2011

I'm Running for Medway council

Hi, my name is Chris Sams and I'm running for councillor on behalf of the Liberal Democrat party for the ward of Luton & Wayfield.
I was born here thirty years ago and spent the first few years of my life in Gillingham; although I moved away I maintained exceptionally strong family links and a love for Gillingham FC before finally moving back her in 2008.
I am married with a ten old month daughter and work shift work in London commuting by train every day.
I have been a member of the Liberal Democrat party for two years now because I believe whole heartedly in the freedom of the individual and that power should not be held in Westminster but be put back into the hands of people and local authorities such as Medway council. I also believe that we are the party that can make a difference; we are not tied down to the Unions or big business but to the principles of freedom, equality and working for you for what you want.
So why should you vote for me?
The quick answer is because I care about Medway and I want to improve things for you and for me.
Currently I work 45 hours a week of shift work in London on just under 20k a year, I'm married with a ten month old daughter who uses the local nursery and sure start centre and  my wife works part time for just under 10k a year in a local supermarket around looking after our daughter. I am a member of what Nick Clegg would call "Alarm clock Britain." but I would say that I am one of the many just like you.
I want our council tax and National Government money spent on good public services; I want parks that my daughter can play in, schools that will help her achieve her potential, a lower crime rate, decent roads and amenities for the elderly such as my 90 year old Grandfather who lives in Chatham. I want to be part of the solution and I want act as your mouthpiece with greater consultation as to what you the residents and tax payers want and don't want. I want to cut down Council waste such as the recently reported £2 million on stationary, try to make things more efficient and save money that can be ploughed back into our communities.
I'm not interested in the party politicking or blame game that the Conservatives and Labour seem hell bent upon, it solves nothing and who gets caught in the cross fire?
We do.
Please bear my candidacy in mind, I'm not doing this for power or money but for the greater community, a community that I am a part of and want to see improved and the things that we as residents want as protected as they can be.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Why Uk-uncut got it wrong today.

Before I discuss today's actions in London I want to outline a couple of truths. Firstly I have nothing against the TUC organised action day, I have a lot of respect for peaceful protesters and their message is a good one showing a lot of community spirit. Secondly I am also hit by the cuts, I am a lower end civil servant working in loosely for the department of culture and arts whose pay is frozen for three years and worse case scenario could be made redundant, I'm also a father of a 10 month old baby who uses the nursery and sure start centre nearby whose prices will only rise over the next three years and I commute by rail and the prices will rise as well. So I understand the cuts are hard, believe me I am painfully aware and have been coming George Osbourne's budget very carefully looking at any ramifications that could affect myself and more importantly my family, I am not a landed Tory who is looking down on those who are being oppressed.

Today's peaceful demonstration, much like the tuition fees demonstrations of last winter were hijacked by a small minority of anarchists and socialists who have now monopolised the news and media coverage with their irresponsible actions. As a peaceful march passed through Parliament square with their banners and listened to the speakers and music in Hyde park all hell was breaking lose in Oxford street. Paint was thrown at Police officers along with light bulbs filled with ammonia, banks and shops were taken over by protesters who broke windows, held sit-ins and spray painted slogans on walls, bins were overturned, Barclays sponsorship ripped from Boris bikes, attacked and occupied the Ritz and Fordham and Masons. I've even seen reports of an injured Police officer and the paramedics treating him were fired upon by
protesters using fireworks.

I've always believed in the ideals of the law, the fundamental being that any action that you do should not cause offense to another person's sensibilities or life and today this has been well and truly smashed. I have long disagreed with sit-ins as a practice as it stops innocent people from carrying out their day to day business and has 0 affect on the companies. Today's example is the Ritz, a symbol of the capitalist dream and a hotel for the upper echelons of Marx's pyramid of power which is no doubt why it was attacked but who suffered? Well yes the owners will have to repair the damage but this is but a drop in the ocean, glass can be replaced, walls repainted who has really suffered? The poor innocents who had paid £50's a head, yes £50's(!), to take high tea at the Ritz. These people aren't Lord Carstairs of Fothering hall but normal people who are spoiling themselves with a day trip. I went with my sister and mother in 2009 to celebrate my mother's birthday and I could barely afford it but I paid out. I would have been mortified and enraged if on that day a group of balaclava and hooded thugs burst through security and helped themselves whilst their brethren smashed windows. The damage may cause a company inconvenience for a week maybe a month but will put a blot on innocent people's lives until they die.
"Remember your mother's 57th birthday?"
"When all those protesters broke in and ruined it? Yeah."
 Also, on a Saturday, when I am off duty and going shopping I want to be able to access shops or banks not be forced out by flash mobs who are sitting in or vandalising the place. It doesn't attract support it deflects public sympathy from a just cause! This is not a nation that deals well with revolution, in our history there has only been one successful revolt that saw proper constitutional reform and that was the Civil war. During 1848, The American war of Independence in 1775-83 or the French revolution this country wobbled but never fell. It offends the sensibilities of law abiding folk and even the peaceful protesters in Hyde park to see hooded anarchists causing chaos, it doesn't attract support merely disdain. What do you think the headlines will say on tomorrows papers? Laurie Penny can't write them all.

Whilst watching the BBC news 24 coverage I heard one protester in Oxford street shout out:
"Police should be fighting crime not us."

Well I've got news for you sonny... Vandalising private property and assaulting a police officer are crimes. If we're going to get technical your demonstration that has taken over Oxford street is also "Obstructing the Queen's highway." Go on, grab a statute book and look it up, I did and yeah you can still get nicked for it. The Police force also agree with the message of cuts, they look to lose numbers and pay other officers at Hyde Park said they wished they could join the strike action and they sympathised so why are you alienating them by hurling smoke and fireworks at them? Even more importantly why are you terrorising the injured and the paramedics who are treating them? What has a medic done? Guess what? They also agree the cuts are bad but they are doing their duty and tending the injured! More importantly, all those man hours that the Metropolitan police force is paying for and redeploying crime fighting police officers is all because you are doing what you are doing! If you weren't running amok through the streets of our nations capital like a Visigoth rampaging through Rome then they WOULD be out tackling crime, drugs cartels etc...

Another thing... In North Africa the Libyans are fighting a gruesome revolution against a vicious dictator who is more than happy to bomb his own people and send tanks in to crush pro-democracy civilians. In Bahrain the Saudi army has moved in to crush revolt in the Pearl, soldiers have threatened medical staff with execution if they help the injured. Ivory coast civilians have been shot at as have protesters in Syria. In this country the UKuncut mob have broken all kinds of merry hell in the centre of London and been faced by police officers with batons because you worry a few public services are being cut and people will lose their jobs, basically because we as a nation are going to have to tighten our belts for quite a period of time... How can you claim #solidarity with these people beyond the sea? What have you got in common? Brutal dictatorship? Nope. Oppressive police force? Are you kidding me?! No basic human right to freedom of speech and protest? No I didn't think so...
So how can you compare yourselves? You sound like spoilt children whining that because you can't have it your way you don't want to play anymore and you are as neglected as a starving child in Africa. Grow up! We are all cross about things and some of the governments decisions but this is the adult world and we are all adults and one of the basic things you were taught at school (or at least I was) is that you can solve problems by constructive argument and debate than by random violence. This country has systems that you can use to lobby government and sign petitions, yeah they may not work but neither does trashing Oxford street! Do you think that will make George Osbourne look up from his cereals and say: "My God! We should stop cuts, that man has painted "STOP SEXISM" on HMV's window and you know what David? He has a point our entire economic policy is a sham!" ?
I also hear the word "Revolution" and the phrase "Bring down the system!" being thrown around... Do you have an alternative government in mind? Robespierre and Danton did, Lenin did, damn it the American congress did but I bet you don't. Do you have the backing of a popular movement that large or influential segments of the population belong to? No... So your revolution is basically a non starter and a guise you can hide behind to make yourselves feel better and justify your actions. Bringing down the state by daubing slogans on walls or sitting in Barclays. I'm sure the establishment are quaking in their boots. Also a lot of anti-Capitalist sentiment and attacks on retailers but I bet a lot of the protesters buy from HMV or Topshop, how many have Vodafone contracts? If you want to hit them where it hurts boycott the stores. Yes Capitalism is unfair, believe me I wish I had money so that I could have central heating or double glazing in my home and my family wouldn't be huddled around the one electric fire during a cold winter but I suck it up and get on with it. Life is not fair. Why should idiots like Ashly Cole get paid more money than he's got brain cells for kicking a ball around and I, who went to university and has a post grad and a 2.1 undergraduate scratch a living for a small amount of money? It is the way things are and no amount of cussing and petty vandalism is going to change that.

Now despite what I have just said there is one thing I do agree with... I do think that those people at the top of international banks and major companies who have off shore accounts and hide in Tax havens are wrong. They SHOULD pay tax like the rest of us. They SHOULD not receive hideous bonus' that pretty much 99% of us will never see in our lifetime let alone a year. Big question is, what can we do?
"The government should charge them more taxes" I hear you scream from half way up your lamp post.
What will that achieve? Nothing. The major banks will merely move their HQ's away from Britain to a cheaper domicile. HSBC are already thinking about Hong Kong and if they go others may follow. If they follow the financial ramifications for this country will be unbearable. You think its tough now you wait until they leave.
Unfortunately this is not the nineteenth century when Britain held the world in its grip and British was really the only way, the principal of multi nationalism and global monopoly means that if somewhere is cheaper and easier then global companies will up sticks and leave. This is part of the problem with all this action. Years
ago we built ships but continued union action and demands for higher wages mixed with lowering of quality meant that now our ships are built in Germany, HMS Invincible is being broken up in Turkey!!! We also built cars, British Leyland had the potential to be a major company on the world stage but same thing now our car companies are controlled by foreign companies taking money out of the country. The government are painfully aware of all of this, their decisions to cut the banks and companies some
slack was difficult. Your hate figure, Nick Clegg, stated that it makes him feel sick that the Bankers can continue to get away with things but his hands are as tied as ours. If we continually attack them they'll just go and this country might as well just close down.

One last point before I call it a night. Who do you think pays for the damage you have wrought? We do. The Boris bikes that were brought in for YOUR benefit, to encourage health and fitness and green transport in the nations capital, vandalised and broken came, in part from your council tax and part from Barclays sponsorship. If they remove their sponsorship then the system will lose out on much needed revenue and be cut back. The Police officers, the paramedics, the street cleaners, bins, cones, council graffiti removers, railings, fire officers... all of this comes out of the public purse that could be being put to saving jobs or boosting services not paying for your crime. Its not coming out of Osbourne's pocket, or Phillip Green's it is coming out of mine, my wife's, even yours! So what is the point?

I would like to tell you that this overgrown rebellious teenager act is tiresome and damaging not just to the country's current infer structure but also to the economy. Countless soldiers died in the last century to protect your rights and your freedoms so that you could say to your government "We don't like what you're doing" and you are repaying that debt by making a mockery of the system and causing anarchy. One elderly veteran said to me after seeing the results of the Tuition fees riot:
"We should have just stood aside and let them (The Germans) role in."
Your actions will never have the desired affect on Government, nor on the majority of the people of this country.

Yes to Protest, Yes to petitions and writing to MP's. No to mindless acts of vandalism dressed up in the pretentious guise of "Revolution".

Friday, 25 March 2011

House of Lords reform.

                                                                House of Lords reform.

The House of Lords is in dire need of reforming. There is no two ways about it. This party began work on changing the upper house a century ago and now we must finish the job. I'm not denying that an upper house is necessary, if anything an upper house keeps an eye on the lower house and acts as a further brake, slowing the rapid reform or change and make sure that Bills have been properly regulated.

The make up of the house has changed over the years and moved away from hereditary lords who can veto at will any bill coming through the Commons at will to a more regulated body that can make amendments and not defer legislation indefinitely. Slowly reform has meant that they have to ultimately bow to the power of the lower, elected house. However, and the AV and Electoral reform bill is a prime example of this, they can delay and delay with the reviews of the bills and drag it on and on slowing actual reform and change that could be a massive benefit to the whole country.

In my opinion the future of the country should not be decided by someone who was Tony Blair's best mate, or someone who has donated 4 Million Pounds to the Conservative party or even someone who is descended from a feudal landlord or someone who was exceptionally brave at the battle of Marlborough. What gives any of these people the right to determine which policy goes through and doesn't? Who are they ultimately responsible to other than the Queen? Should, in the twenty-first century, a first world industrial power still rely on a totally unelected body in the capacity that it does?

My two pence worth is that why not open the house up to a PR vote?  Lets face it the Lords do not have to have constituencies, they don't represent anyone in particular so if we are going to have them elected then why not have a PR vote? If there was a PR elected house of lords they would represent a clear picture of the nations politics and have a clear mandate from the people, this coupled with an AV elected house of commons would give the people their constituency MPs also thus creating the fairest possible system available. After all this country needs its constituent MPs, it keeps politicians on the responsible to someone and they represent the needs of the people, if the government was PR it would be difficult to tie one politician to one area but the Lords... 

Also it would give a good foundation for a Republic should the nation ever decide to move away from Monarchy - Although it should be noted I'm not advocating that as a definite or positive move!

Mr Clegg's blooper?

                                                                Mr Clegg's TV Mic slip up

(Unlike more normal blogs, which I tirelessly try and make sound neutral in tone this one is somewhat rushed and fed up.)

The media seem to have been whipped up into a frenzy in discussing Nick Clegg's latest mistake. The Sun newspaper even mentions it as being in the same vein as Gordon Brown's famous "Bigot Gate" slip during last years election. Others that he is showing his true colours as a true blue Tory.

But what was actually said?

Well the context was that he and David Cameron had been launching an "Enterprise zone" in Nottingham and the meeting had gone particularly well.

He turned to David Cameron and said:

Of we keep doing this we won't find anything to bloody disagree on in the bloody TV debates.

Well batten down the hatches!!!!!

If anything it is a good natured quip to a colleague. Also it is something that many Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have said since the formation of the Coalition! Both parties are generating joint policy for the better of the country so it will be difficult to debate past government policy when both parties signed up to it!

Also would it be better if the two parties were at each others throats and the two leaders did not get on? Would they prefer a government, whom at this present time of national emergency, that spent all its time in fighting or would it be better that they did get on and work together constructively?

The Media also took a brief moment to link this to Nick's earlier comment about forgetting he was meant to be running the country.
Which again was an ill timed but definite off the cup quip. You would have to be a dribbling moron on cloud cuckoo land if you had forgotten something that serious.

My main question to the collected media groups is this:

Why is this story making page 2 of the Sun and other papers giving it coverage and yet human rights violations abroad in Bahrain, Ivory coast and Syria aren't mentioned? This is a total non story.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Thoughts on the local elections

As the local elections for borough councils grow nearer I call on the political parties to leave the national politic point scoring for the national parties and not for the localities. I also call on you the voters not to vote thinking along party lines but for who will and has represented you on the councils well.

The landscape of national politics has changed somewhat in the last year, distorted by the massive deficiet and the change of government. The Coalition government has passed responsibility for spending cuts to the borough and county councils around England, and rightly so. Who else is better suited than local government to decide what the localities need and what is surplus? Would a single all encompassing national government edict that slashed and burned services regardless of geography and demographics be either wise or welcomed? No.

Local government knows what it can slim down and more importantly they know what YOU want.
Don't let local authorities tell you it is the government's fault for all of the cuts. They have the power to decide and it is they who have the responsibility. Yes the national government is responsible for the edict of "Cut your expenditure by 8%," but they decide where the axe falls and they should be listening to you, the tax payer, voter and citizen.

Some parties will use the cuts to their advantage, either by blaming the coalition and saying they would never cut if they were in power but then having too when they are in power because that is a national edict. Or and I think more disgustingly, making savage cuts and closing sure start centres, sacking staff etc and then blaming the coalition, just to score political points for the opposition party. If Mr Clegg's figures are correct, as stated in last Sunday's speech, in his comparrison of Sheffield and Manchester city councils then serious questions need to be asked. Sheffield, a LibDem council is only laying off 200 staff members, Manchester a Labour council, 2000! In Medway, the council is laying off two hundred workers. Now I admit that in Medway the Tory led county council is far from perfect and in recent times it has become happy go lucky with its money in respect to the new HQ building at Gun wharf, the new bus station and the whole City branding fiasco but they haven't closed a single sure start centre, cut valuable public spending or services. What is the response from Labour? Critiscism. They're opposing for oppositions sake, clinging to the safety blanket of opposition safe knowing they don't need to prove anything.
Well I say this:

Do not vote in protest to national politics! Vote for those who have either run your council sucessfully and performed good damage reduction OR get the party that has failed to do so out and a party that listens to the people and what you want in, be they Liberal, Tory, Labour or even Monster raving loony party, whichever makes the most sense and provides the best quality to you. That is what Democracy is about your voice and your representitives.

Lets face it... If you don't vote Libdem because you don't agree with Mr Clegg anymore or because you are angry about tuition but if the Libdems are ring fencing sure starts etc then surely that's not a clear headed decission. Also, Mr Clegg will still have a job!

(Of course as a disclaimer any party in opposition would do the same thing as Labour in other districts.)

Monday, 14 March 2011

Nick Clegg's speech 13-3-11 a response

My biggest regret so far this year was that I was unable to go to the spring conference in Sheffield. I would have liked to go as this was the first conference since the Indian summer of the Coalition ended with the debacle of Tuition fees. I wanted to see first hand how the party members would react, how the media reacted and what Mr Clegg and the parliamentary party had to say for themselves.

As i said though I missed it. From what I have gathered from news reports and the "Twittersphere" it appears to have gone really well with only a few demonstrators, an epic speech from my party president Tim Farron and of course the closing speech by the Rt Hon Mr Nick Clegg MP.

It would take far too long to review every speech and every motion but I am going to talk about Nick's speech.

Again, annoyingly I missed the live version but I did spend my train journey home from work reading a transcript with highlighter in hand.

So what was it about? Well in a nutshell it was designed to reassure the party faithful that the parliamentary party is carrying out the manifesto promises, giving examples of promises that have been carried out by the party in power including the removal of control orders, child detention, the cuts in income tax, the pupil premium and many more. Did he take credit for these accomplishments?

Do you know who did that?
You did that- everyone in this hall.
You did it. You designed the policy.
You voted for it at a conference like this one. You campaigned for it and now it's happening.

The Speech also encourages Libdem activists to go out and tell the voters what we have accomplished, encourage people to vote Libdem and hold our heads up high again.
He talked about why the Libdems were at the forefront of the new politics and the ones who truly represent the "Alarm clock Britain." a soundbite that had many meanings but something Nick went onto describe and basically means most of us who are at the bottom rung and working classes.

They have been failed for generations. Failed by the tired tribalism of left and right.

There were also sly digs at their coalition partners, outlining that without the Libdems the Government would not have had so many warmer fuzzy policies such as the pupil premium, removal of control orders etc whilst also reinforcing that they made the right decision to go into power and not absconding from the responsibility. He also paints a picture of Coalition life has not been easy and that he had not been kidnapped by David Cameron and that the party were still distinctive although declining requests to fight out in the open.

The deficiet figured highly within the speech and Nick told the crowd that it was not why he went into politics and that the decisions were going to be hard and times tough but we can't carry on spending £400m a day in interest. These soundbites may sound tired and over used but at the same time they are painfully true. The country's deficit is immense and Labour's sniping and quibbling about cutting too deep and fast is not constructive. They have the warm comfort blanket of opposition to cling onto and do not have to show us their plans or implement them. Party tribalism aside though.... We HAVE to deal with the deficit and as Nick says:
It is what we have to do - So we can do what we want to do.

There was even time to discuss the pros of AV with a witty comparison of the two sides and who stood for what. Encouragement to activists to go out and get people to vote yes in May and encouragement to bring in the new type of politics, from the middle to the middle. Providing responsible, caring, listening government and a stronger economy that we can all benefit from.

Clegg grasps the nettle of tuition fees and says university WILL become fairer. The Government will take steps to make top universities to open their doors to students from poorer backgrounds or lose their funding altogether. Unfortunately the media is still happy to portray the party as betraying its promise often at the cost of Liberal victories.
Other commentators have said, as Caroline Flint MP has, that the whole speech was totally meaningless.
After all, with the betrayal over tuition fees can Mr Clegg's word that any Government that he is part of would not privatise the NHS, or that the Government is listening to the concerns of the Libdems or even the voters?
I would like to believe so. I want to believe him, I want to agree with Nick again and for me this speech shows the strength and Liberal fire that he had last May -Lets hope it wasn't all hot air.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Voter apathy- Why we should all take an interest in politics.

People like me need to be stopped.

When I was a younger man I had an interesting view of politics. I dreamt of a nation where the state ran with a Hobbesian efficiency with the belief that the populous should follow the edicts and directions of the state because they are the state.

Every street corner would have an armoured stormtrooper to dispense justice where needed, demonstrations against government policy would be met with machine gun nests and armoured columns. Protestors would be hewn apart and government law sustained.
A secret police would be re-established to police what the people got up to and even bringing in the idea of "Night and Fog" laws. Compulsory ID cards, Police with the right to stop and search anyone, detention of suspects indefinately, removal of Haebius Corpus, capital punishment, militarisation of education, no more search warrants...

Democracy would have been removed from the people's hands in one foul swoop and freedom crushed below the heel of a jackboot.

Thankfully I grew out of this phase! My ideals changed as I matured and I'm dedicated to the ideas of liberty, freedom and cutting back on mandatory state control and the ideals of Mills. I'm glad that I have changed, I'm a proud member of the Liberal Democrats and even against public opinion.... I agree with Nick.
But there are still people out there who believe in what I used to, people to who would steal happily remove the democratic rights of people. Not the whole populous mind you but definatly groups.

Even political parties have been responsible for carrying out acts that I have mentioned. The former Government was responsible for bringing in the control orders, detention without trial whilst evidence is being amassed, compulsory ID cards and stop and search powers. The reaction by the Public was fairly neglegent... Rights were being taken away and no one blinked!

Even in the general election 2010, there was massive apathy.

"Does it matter if we vote? They're all the same as each other."


If people don't vote or even take five minutes to understand who stands for what and what they want to do then make an informed decission. There's no point in distancing yourself from politics and then complaining when a government carries out policies that it has always said it would.
It can also lead to hung parliaments and then people, whop actually voted and care about their party will become rightly cross when consensus agreements are made.

I know that politics can be dry, it can be very dull. (I've watched speeches that could put insomniacs to sleep) I'm not saying we should all be party members or out campaigning.
What I am saying is... centuries of protest, martyrs and oppression in this country, YOU have the vote, YOU have the power - Not the politicians! - YOU owe it to those who have died and campaigned to just take a little time, once every five years, to actually do something and make a difference.

Your country doesn't ask much of you really... A census every ten years and a vote to decide on your parliament.

Please help stop people like my younger self. If you don't pay attention he could get into power and then we're all in trouble and our hard fought rights will go out of the window.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Medway News :- Cuts strike Medway education.

As the ripples of the economic crisis continue to spread out to the local councils a new outrage has struck the Medway towns.
Local school, Delche Street primary, is looking to fire teaching assistants with the aim of putting the money towards hiring qualified teachers, thusly cutting the class sizes. Parents are so angered that they have begun a petition amassing 100 signatures.
One to one contact is very important for children at school and TA's provide invaluable support to teachers too. However would it not be better to halve the class size from 48 to 24? Would having more teachers not provide more jobs for our often over looked graduates and attract more professionals to our towns?

Further outrage strikes at Skinner street primary where catering staff are set to be laid off and the children will have to clear their own plates!!!
Shirelle Smith (19) says:

I don't think that it's right that the kids should have to clean their own plates. It's one thing to do it at home but not when you are at school.

Well quite. Why should children learn to be tidy and put litter in the bins? I know that it is probably an inconvenience and under better financial circumstances it would be amazing to have someone available to clean up after you. I could understand the complaint if you paid for the service as you did in a restaurant but...
Would the parents prefer the school to cut its budget in education facilities instead?

In other cuts news Medway council are under fire for using external consultants at high rates and laying off 97 staff. If this allegation is accurate then the council has a lot to answer for, especially if the consultants being used are for jobs that have recently been vacated. Yes it is acceptable to use this services for cover etc but to remove an officer who receives a salary of £30k and hire a consultant for a one off fee of £4k per job; All you need is to call out the consultant ten times and you have already over spent by £10k.
Greater transparency of council figures is needed as well as public scrutiny. After all its our money and our town services. It is also down to opposition parties to have more of a say and call them to account.

Friday, 4 March 2011

How much power should NHS health visitors have?

This is a personal experience that has sparked an investigation.

Our case centres around one family in Gillingham, I will keep their names secret for the moment but their daughter's name is Sophie. They moved into their address in 2008, it was inherited from the husband's paternal grandfather and was in a state of quite some neglect. There was no central heating, no insulation in the roof and a garden that hasn't been properly worked on since the late 90's. The couple themselves have not been particularly tidy nor motivated to unpack their boxes and stored them in the spare rooms, the husband works 45 hours a week in London and is effectively out of the building for 65 hours a week, the wife works locally at about 21 hours a week averagely. Although untidy the couple were never dirty nor unhygienic. The toilets and kitchen were cleaned regularly and the carpets regularly vacuumed.

On the birth of their daughter they agreed to sort out issues as quickly as possible. Their health visitor (To be referred to as HV from now on) said that they would contact Social services if the situation with the clutter did not improve.

Over the following six months the house was transformed, rooms were cleared, a nursery was created and had power point installed, insulation was installed in the roof and a new front door was placed to create a porch and cut out drafts. However the HV continued to call around almost monthly and each time would issue a list of things to be dealt with before her next visit. The wife found it difficult to relate to the HV or to discuss matters to do with baby Sophie's health or diet.

On a previous visit a suggestion was made that a family member would be coming to assist with the garden bringing with him a chainsaw and much needed industrial weed killer. This fell through and the garden was put as a low priority compared to sorting the house out or taking care of Sophie.

In early February the HV came on a visit and demanded to see the house and did a thorough inspection with only 4 cursory questions as to Sophie's health. At the end of it she gave the family 3 weeks to clear the garden or she would be contacting Social services.

The mother was distraught and contacted the HV office and requested a second opinion and asked for a new HV, someone she felt comfortable with and could talk to.

A week passed and the family heard nothing. The following Tuesday (15th February) they received a hand delivered note telling them that they had ignored all the advice of the HV and a Social worker and the HV would be around to see the house at 11.30 for a full inspection.
During this inspection the HV ignored requests to remove her shoes in the house, a house rule, and forced her way around. A follow up meeting was scheduled with the Social worker the following week to discuss the situation with out the HV.

Basically Social services have found no cause for complaint, the house is perfectly clean and hygienic, baby Sophie is friendly and well looked after and the parents loving and caring. The referral has been passed and all is in the clear. She also stated that the family were free to bring their daughter up the way they wanted and live the way they wanted.

The fundamental questions are though... What right does a HV have to tell someone how to live? Or to order a family around? I've read their referral and the words "Acceptable standard" are used quite liberally and ultimately what is this standard and who decides it? She also used words such as "Unhygienic" and "Squalid." I understand that Social services give families in particularly bad and squalid houses 24 hours to rectify situations or they will remove the child, the social worker on this case found no such evidence of either poor hygiene or squalor. From what I have seen this particular HV has treated the family quite poorly and dictated what "SHE" expects.

I have also read about another case where a young expecting mother said she had no need for a HV and was immediately threatened with Social services. There are also cases of HV's who have angered people in their homes with demands, reporting them for being aggressive to NHS staff!

It seems this particular organ of the state has abused its power in cases. They seem to believe they have the same power as the Police and demand access to homes and tell people how they live within them!

This case is on going and I will post updates as to the families struggle. They have complained to the trust and are requesting their right to a different HV or their other right, one they weren't told at first, to dispense with the service all together.