Monthly Archives: August 2011

Gas works update

Cars tailing back up Stoke Road today as far as the Esso garage. Hate to think what it was like at rush hour. Schools go back next week as well.

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Scotia Gas Networks

Your friendly gas supplier

 I spotted this on Cobham High Street the other day. It seems so friendly and innocuous, doesn’t it? “I’m sorry we’re about to dig up the roads again”, it is saying, “but don’t worry, dear friends because at the end of the day you are going to get a top of the range modern gas main that will make all your lives warm and lovely.”

Except of course that isn’t the reason the roads are being dug up. If you ring the number you will find you are connected to the Scotia Gas Networks company, where a recorded message directs you to their web site, here: http://www.sgn.co.uk/index.aspx?rightColHeader=9&rightColContent=15&rightColFooter=237&id=6251&TierSlicer1_TSMenuTargetID=70&TierSlicer1_TSMenuTargetType=1&TierSlicer1_TSMenuID=6

Had SGN decided to be entirely honest and straightforward, this is what the notice would have said.

“Dear Cobhamites. We are going to dig up the road because we want to make sure there is a proper gas supply to the new M25 service station, where all the shops and hotels will be spending lots of money on our gas. Ker-ching. Yes we could probably have done this work during the school summer holidays when there is less traffic on the roads, but doing it now makes the best commercial sense to us. So you just sit there in long queues of traffic as you try to get your kids to school, or walk past breathing in the fumes. Because we could not care less. And no, we didn’t bother to consult with your councillors, MP, or local community groups before planning this work, because we don’t have to. And time is money, right? All we need to do is tell some Surrey County Council pen-pusher what we’re planning on doing. He probably can’t find Cobham on a map, let alone know what it’s like to live here with main roads being disrupted. And even if by chance said bureaucrat had any points to make we don’t have to pay any attention if we don’t want to.”

“Oh, and while we’re on the subject, the sparks and the drains people will be digging roads up round here on and off from now till June. All this for a service station that hardly anyone in the area wants.  Enjoy.”

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The way we live now

This will be my 100th post since starting this blog just over 2 years ago. There is only one issue which I can properly address today – the rioting which we saw in our major cities some 10 days ago. It has led to some fairly apocalyptic comments over the past few days, warning us of the impending breakdown of civilization. Coupled with the financial problems we have been seeing, we could perhaps be forgiven for thinking that perhaps, after all, we are all going to hell in a handbasket. But I would like to think that we really do not need to be so pessimistic, provided we are prepared to take some difficult decisions.

There has always been an underclass in British society, a group of people unwilling to work and living in, or at the edges of, criminality. Read the novels of Dickens if you are in any doubt about that. If you lived in the Rookeries of London, you were largely out of touch with any form of law or civilisation known to the world outside. The only difference between then and now is that there are now far more people living in idleness or on the edges of criminality than there were in the Victorian period.

The root causes of the increase are the state of our education system, the impact of the prevailing leftist ideology of moral relativism, and the present system of benefits. The abolition of the grammar schools removed the  best route out of poverty for the clever child with few advantages. The percentage of state school entrants to Oxford and Cambridge is worse than it was in the 1960s, despite those universities spending thousands on outreach programmes. The drift towards child centred “learning” rather than an emphasis on reading, writing and numeracy has left us with a large number of school leavers who are functionally illiterate, with a reading age at 16 of only 7. These people are of little use in a world where there are few jobs available for those who cannot read or write properly. Even the less academically able had a basic level of literacy far higher than obtains today.

There is no prospect of turning the clock back to before the time of the “permissive society” and in any event I am of the view that the state has little role in regulating private morality. However the unwanted side effect of social liberalism has been an almost complete breakdown in respect for the institutions of this country. Admittedly, many MPs, clergymen, policeman and even members of the Royal Family have contributed to this, but there seems to be little residual respect for the institutions themselves, which nonetheless still have a vital role to play in our society. Parliament, the Churches, the police forces, and all such bodies need to take a long look at themselves and ask how they can regain that trust.

Our welfare state was designed to combat the threat of poverty and the misery caused by lack of the reasonable resources required for life. The problem now is that the marginal difference between the income available to someone on benefits and the income which can be obtained from a job on minimum wage is so small that there is not enough of an incentive to force people to choose work over a life on benefits. The phrase “only fools and horses work” is no joke in some parts of society.

I doubt that there is any prospect of increasing wages at the bottom end in the short term. The economy would not stand a significant increase in the minimum wage, even if its effects were mitigated by some form of tax relief for those taking on new employees. The answer lies in a root and branch reform of the benefits system. It is essential that choosing to work pays far higher dividends than staying on benefit. It cannot be impossible for some portion of the budget currently devoted to paying benefits to be channelled instead into a distinct incentive to taking up employment or training.

David Cameron now has the perfect opportunity to let Iain Duncan Smith off the leash. There is a public appetite for benefits reform – even if it has been couched in somewhat crude terms. He will never have a better opportunity.

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Top of the world

In 35 years of watching cricket, I have never been able to claim that the England team are the best in the world. I remember watching spellbound as Botham, Gower and Willis defeated the Aussies in 1981 – but that team were thrashed 5-0 by the West Indies a few years later. Now, England are top of the official Test rankings having spanked the previous number 1 team in three tests.

I’d like to see them beat the Indians in India, the South Africans in their own hemisphere and then pick up the World Cup as well before I’m absolutely sure they are top of the world, but this sure beats the 15 years of putting up with rampant Aussies which has only just come to an end…

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Heritage Day

A quick plug for the excellent Cobham Conservation & Heritage Trust’s annual flagship event, the Heritage Day which this year is on Saturday 10th September.

Year on year this event gets better and better. Church Street, St Andrew’s Churchyard and the fields behind  the church are filled with stalls, there are vintage cars and buses to see, tours of the Church belfry, a Punch & Judy show for the children, food stalls and of course the famous Duck Race along the River Mole. It is community engagement at its best. The day ends with a splendid concert in the Church.

The Trust are now very close to hitting their fundraising target for the riverbank improvement scheme which will turn this beautiful but neglected part of the town into a key visitor attraction. so I wish them all the best for a great day.

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Faraday Road, Molesey

On Wednesday of last week I was privileged to attend the opening of the new development by Richmond Churches Housing Trust (part of the Paragon Group which includes Elmbridge Housing Trust) at Faraday Road in Molesey.

This is a development of flats and 3 bedroom houses which are all available for social rent and I am absolutely delighted by the build quality, which would not disgrace a high end private development. The house which I saw had two bathrooms, three toilets, a lovely fitted kitchen and photovoltaic panels on the roof to generate its own electricity. Eahc house has a proper garden and  – joy of joys – a shed! The flats were generously proportioned, well fitted out and each contains a heat exchanger which recycles hot air produced by the boiler and bathroom to provide heating for the flat.

This is a long way from the grim concrete blocks and dilapidated terraces which used be the stereotype of the council house. This is first rate building for the 21st century and I am delighted to see that local people in this part of the country are benefitting from such enlightened development.

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