Regular readers will have noticed that I haven’t written anything for a while. What with the demands of the snow, the day job, the fact that our childminder has been unwell and the run-up to Christmas I haven’t had the time to sit down and put thoughts into words. Anyway, and at last, here is my review of the past couple of months.
On the national political front the two main issues have been the tuition fees row and the recent revelations about what certain Lib Dems think about the coalition. On the tuition fees issue I have absolutely no sympathy with the student protesters whatsoever. It goes without saying that the perpetrators of violence and criminal damage should be pursued with the full vigour of the law. However I suspect that the majority will turn out to be members of the anti-establishment rent-a-mob who always turn out for a demonstration (other than the Countryside March, of course).
The students on the other hand should be extremely grateful for the Government’s policy. At present they have to front up fees to their college, either from the bank of Mum and Dad or else from the student loans providers. Under the new provisions they will not have to do that but must repay the cost of their education, up to a maximum of £9,000 per year, once their annual income exceeds £21,000 per annum. It is a graduate tax in another guise and in my view is a far fairer means of funding universities than the system inherited from the previous government. Far from deterring students from poorer backgrounds from going to university it will encourage them as they will not have to pay up front fees. The fact that the protesters do not seem to understand that is in my view an indictment of their intelligence and common sense.
I had the great good fortune to have my university tuition fees paid for out of general taxation. But the country simply cannot afford to do this any more. I would personally not object to the government now imposing on people of my generation a graduate tax. I have benefitted enormously from going to university and therefore I believe that it is right that those who have benefitted should be asked to repay the cost to the taxpayer of giving them that advantage.
I am not overly surprised about the remarks of Vince Cable and the other grumbling Lib Dems. They have had to take a lot of flak for the Conservative elements of the Coalition agreement which have been going through Parliament recently. However the focus will shift and anyone reading the right wing blogs and journals will see that there is a group on the right wing of the Conservative party who are spoiling for a fight. At the moment they are being led by the absurd figure of Simon Heffer, a man better suited to life in the 1950s than the present day, but sooner or later a leading Conservative MP – or even a minister – will be caught saying that Cameron has given too much up to the Liberals. Coalition government involves awkward and unpleasant compromises but the situation is dictated by the Parliamentary arithmetic. Surely most Conservatives and most Lib-Dems would rather be in power, getting the majority of our programme through, than being back in irrelevant opposition, only able to carp from the sidelines?
On the question of carping from the sidelines, one can see this at Elmbridge Civic Centre every couple of months or so at Full Council. The latest episode concerned car parking charges. Next year, Surrey CC are carrying out a major review of car parking across the county. They are likely to impose on-street car parking charges across a considerable part of the county including, I suspect, here in Cobham. The Residents’ Association councillors put forward a motion to reduce the charges in village car parks, and produced some evidence to show that income from these car parks had dropped recently. Indeed it has but that is not solely down to charges, it is due also to the rising cost of petrol and the general economic downturn over the past 2 years. It would not be sensible to change the charges in a small number of car parks now. Rather, we should wait to see what Surrey decides to do. After that we can have a thorough review of our charges.
Here in Cobham there is an exciting new project run by the Heritage Trust to restore the Riverhill region – the banking along the River Mole. The Trust needs to raise £100,000 in order to make this somewhat neglected area into something of which the town can be proud. I wish them the best of success and you can see the plans by following this link: www.cobhamheritage.org.uk.
Finally three cheers for the great Tony McCoy for winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year vote. 15 years in a row this unassuming and hard-working man has been champion jumps jockey. 15 years of turning out on a wet Wednesday in Market Rasen not knowing if you’re going to be thrown off at the first and break your collarbone again. A worthy winner. And fingers crossed for our boys down under for the back-to-back Tests in Melbourne and Sydney. England expects!