Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Meanwhile, Back in the States #4

Fight Crime, Invest in Kids (California) is one of the more unusual campaiging groups I have come across (and I`ve encountered a few oddities in my time !).

Made up of an association of Police Chiefs, District Attorneys and survivors of violent crimes, the group opposes cuts to California`s education budget, particularly with respect to pre-schools.

While it may seem far-fetched, they draw on what appears to be very impressive body of research to support their case, that pre-school education leads to higher levels of achievement and lower levels of criminality in later life.

To learn more about them, see Katy Murphy - Oakland Police Chief : Early Education Key to Crime Prevention, posted 27 March 2012 (updated 28 March 2012) at . Ms Murphy`s article also appeared in the Oakland Tribune.

The group`s website is at .

Quotation Station

"If we like a man`s dream, we call him a reformer ; if we don`t like his dream, we call him a crank."

William Dean Howells, American writer.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Democracy in the Dales

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has launched a six week consultation exercise, asking Dales residents and businesses to contribute their views/suggestions for the National Park Management Plan for 2013 - 2018.

Sources ;

Unsigned - National Park Scheme, 21 March 2012 at .

Unsigned - 5 Year Development Scheme Sought for Yorkshire Dales, 20 March 2012 at .

Interested parties are asked to visit the authority`s site at . When I tried to visit earlier today, they did appear to be having problems with the site. If you experience any difficulty, try googling the phrase Your Yorkshire Dales National Park, and that should sort it out.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Fields in Trust

Parks-and-playing-fields charity Fields in Trust has issued it`s response to the selling-off of publicly owned recreational land in the London area.

In a statement provided to the BBC, the FIT commented ;

"There is finite provision of outdoor recreational space in this country, particularly in cities, with London a prime example. Given these statistics*, it is vital that the future of the precious remaining  spaces are assured for community use. The potential quick monetary fix which a disposal might provide should be resisted because these places have a value far higher than the price they command at sale, today or any day."

To learn more about the FIT and it`s proposals to safeguard public spaces, click here ;

*The organisation was asked to comment on news that "parks, playing fields and allotments equivalent to the size of 67 football pitches have been sold by London councils over the last three years."

Celebrating the Commonwealth 2012

I`ve left it a little late to acknoweldge Commonwealth Day (12 March 2012) and the subsequent  Commonwealth Week events.

Undeterred, earlier today I posted a brief background etc under the heading `Celebrating the Commonwealth 2012` at .

However, if you can`t be bothered with me waffling on, you could skip that and try visiting these sites ;

I would not advocate uncritical support for every part of the Commonwealth. Apart from anything else, my experience of another, quite separate, organisation has made me think that too much uncritical support can be a poisoned chalice, leading to complacency and insularity. I do think the Commonwealth has a lot of potential, even if in places that potential is only imperfectly realised. But that`s another issue !

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Quotation Station ; Olympia Snowe

"For change to occur, our leaders must understand that there is not only strength in compromise, courage in conciliation and honour in consensus-building - but also a political reward for following these tenets."

Olympia Snowe, American politician.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Get Shirebrook on the Map

Get Shirebrook on the Map is a community-based campaign to promote this small market town on the North Notts/South Derbyshire border.

Shirebrook was once a mining town and, like many comparable areas, fell into decline after the pit closures of the 1980s.

Campaigners claim the area has now  bounced back, but that the grim reputation it acquired is proving hard to shake off.

The campaign was acually begun by a local schoolboy, Daniel Warriner, who applied for funding from the 02 Think Big scheme, which aims to give young people financial support for a project that benefits the whole community. 

Young Daniel`s project, which aims to generate interest in the history of the area and in the surrounding countryside, is supported by the local Town Council and by Shirebrook Academy.

The campaign`s site is at .

I wouldn`t normally do this, but just to make a suggestion, if anyone felt inclined to promote young Daniel`s cause by, eg, adding the `Get Shirebrook...` site as a link to their own blog/site, or by sharing it on Facebook etc, I for one would think that was a good thing.

Racing to Runnymede

Race relations charity the Runnymede Trust is what I always think of as a `Lord Pitt` organisation (Britain`s first black peer, Lord Pitt used to say, only half jokingly,  that radical elements found him too cautious and conciliatory, whereas more moderate types suspected him of being a closet radical. As he was being shot by both sides, he assumed he must be doing something right !).

Formed in 1968 by Jim Rose, who you may have heard of as Wing Commander Eliot `Jim` Rose, one of the World War Two Bletchley Park codebreakers,  and Anthony Lester (now Baron Lester of Herne Hill), the Trust`s main body of work is as a `think tank`, but it does some campaigning work and some work with schools. It is by no means a `protest` organisation, but it can assert itself when it needs to.  I am not generally a lover of the `think tank` type of organisation (I don`t even like the phrase), but I`ll admit to having a soft spot for the Trust.

Much of the group`s work involves commisioning reports on various issues from academics and researchers. It undoubtedly provides a much needed independent voice on what can be contentious issues, and generally a trustworthy one.  It does face difficult questions, particularly as regards legitimacy (who does it represent ? in what way is it accountable ? Does it talk to minority communities, or about them ? ). These concerns no doubt lie behind comments made recently by one of the Trust`s leading lights, Dr Omar Khan ;

"It`s important to be as clear and concise as we can and avoid language that is too distant from the reality of how people speak. We need all the allies we can get and shouldn`t alienate people needlessly."

One area in which the Trust is finding allies is with it`s work with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community. The Trust already publishes the work of representatives of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish Nationalist parties, in the Runnymede Platform series and in the book Achieving Race Equality in Scotland, but it`s work in the APPG (RC) takes this collaboration to a new level.

It may seem strange that an organisation whose leadership includes contributors to the anti-Coalition  Left Foot Forward blog should be working so closely with Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians, but there again strange alliances are sometimes the most fruitful. As I often say, some people build barricades, some people build bridges. I know which approach I prefer.  

More details ;

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Community in Cotmanhay

Earlier this year (20 Feb, to be exact), BBC TV`s Inside Out programme visited Cotmanhay, said to be the most deprived area in Derbyshire.

Presenter Marie Ashby noted that a quick trawl through the BBC`s archives showed that news teams only ever seemed to visit in pursuit of bad news. The Inside Out programme  actually broke with that tradition, looking at the work of the Cotmanhay-based Erewash Community Concern. 

Without wanting to sound cliched, this excellent organisation was formed `by local people for local people`, and has managed to recruit a `workforce` of 65 volunteers.

The basic way the charity works is that volunteers perform a variety of tasks in the community, usually to help elderly residents, and in so doing, acquire new skills and work experience.

Their work with the elderly has helped many local people who would otherwise be in care stay in their own homes. However, their efforts are not confined to the elderly as they provide support for young parents and assistance to those in the area who need help to undertake courses.

The group has been the subject of a study by academics Irene Hardill and Sue Baines, `Broadening the Base of the Volunteer Workforce` (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council*) and Professor Hardill appeared on the programme to describe them as "the Big Society from the bottom up". My natural instinct is to poke fun at that sort of thing, but on reflection, maybe it`s not such a bad description.

Funding comes in the form of private donations, suport from the Lottery etc and from the efforts of the volunteers providing DIY/laundry/gardening services in the surrounding area on a non-charitable basis in order to raise money.

ECC`s website is a touch out of date (they`re looking to launch a more up-to-date site in the not-too-distant future), but they can be found at  . Inside Out can be found at and  and is that rare beast, a BBC current affairs programme that actually understands the world outside Westminster !

*The Economic and Social Research Council are at , for anyone who wants to see the report. 


Monday, 5 March 2012

Humanists Revisited

The British Humanist Association has welcomed the launch of an All Party Parliamentary Group which aims to ensure that "every young person experiences a personally inspiring and academically rigorous education in religious and non-religious worldviews."

Humanists subscribe to a non-religious worldview, but the BHA supports in the project in the interests of giving youngsters the chance to make an informed choice, and as an initiative that may tend to counter religious extremism.

The BHA is a member of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, which also supports the new group,  and has informal links with the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group.

The BHA can be contacted at .

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Campaign for Ilkeston Train Station

A Derbyshire man has called for an "all-party community campaign" for the proposed train station at Ilkeston.

Peter Ball`s letter to one of the Derby Telegraph group of papers was prompted by a rather peevish little squabble in the local press between Cllr Helen Clark (Labour) and Jessica Lee MP (Conservative). While Mr Ball clearly tends to side with Ms Clark, the rest of us probably don`t really care which of the two, if either, came out best in the exchange.

More importantly,  Mr Ball points out that Ms Lee`s predecessor, Liz Blackman (Labour) was also a campaigner for the station, and that Cllr Howard Griffiths (Lab) "has pushed to get local cash committed to the station."

He points out that recent campaigns relating to train manufacturer Bombardier united Labour MPs, councillors from all parties on the local city council, trade unions and "a wide section of the community".

He ends his missive with a heartfelt plea for "an all-party campaign for a station everyone wants."

For anyone wanting to read his letter in it`s entirety, here are the details ; 

Peter Ball - Station Campaign Must be Fought by all Parties (reader`s letter) , 24 Feb 2012 at and .

I am presuming Mr B has no objection to my using his letter and mentioning his name as both already appear on two sites that are far more widely read than my humble effort.

Local paper the Ilkeston Advertiser has been running it`s own `Back on Track` campaign, and their coverage seems to confirm cross-party support at a high level ; 

MP and Minister to Discuss Station (11 Dec 2011)

 Shadow Minister Backs Station Plan (29 Feb 2012)  

(both at ).

It is unusual to see cross-party consensus at the upper levels of the two major parties and rivalry and petty point-scoring at the local level (normally it`s the other way around). This probably reflects the fact that both major parties need to demonstrate a commitment to the area tout suite if they want people`s votes.

Opposition has come from local campaigners Greensqueeze, who  have indicated their opposition to the HS2 rail link generally and point out the impact of a line in and out of Ilkeston on the local environment.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England* have indicated that they don`t currently see how the link can be achieved without a massive impact on the countryside, but are content to wait until there are concrete proposals available before making a judgement.

For more on the rail link issue see ;

*CPRE nationally has been fairly postive about HS2, with CPRE Chief Exec Shaun Spiers welcoming  the Government`s  "commitment to Britain`s railways" and stating that they have been "sensitive to the impact that HS2 will have on communities and the countryside", but acknowledging "there is still much more work to be done." (press release 10 Jan 2012).