Injured birds and the RSPCA

This evening I rescued a bird from outside my office that was lying injured in the road. I know that sometimes they just go into shock and then recover, but there is no way that it would have survived in the middle of the road - it would either have been squashed by a car, or easy prey for a cat.
Unfortunately the bird has not recovered fully and I had no idea what to do. Fortunately the RSPCA are going to pick the bird up and hopefully nurse it back to health. It's times like this that you appreciate the work that charities do.

NHS Cuts

This morning I was at a meeting of the Associate Parliamentary Health Group for a discussion about the the financial challenges facing the NHS. Sir David Nicholson, the Chief Executive of the NHS has recently highlighted the need to find "efficiency savings" of between £15-£20 billion, (which equates to about £1 billion in Greater Manchester).

I was shocked to hear members of the panel, including the Acting Chair of the Care Quality Commission, arguing that politicians should take "tough decisions" and support the closure of frontline services - whether it be A&E departments or walk-in centres or even hospitals! I'm all for cutting the ridiculous costs involved in a new IT system, but not cutting vital local health services.
I will certainly NOT be supporting the closure frontline services. Unlike the Labour Party I didn't stay silent when Manchester PCT decided to close Burnage walk-in centre at the end of last year; nor did I stay silent when the Strategic Health Authority reviewed services at the Christie before the last election and doctors raised concern about the impact this would have on the future of The Christie.
People in South Manchester can be assured that any attempt to cut further frontline services in South Manchester will be vigourously opposed by me.

For more on the NHS cuts, see the following links articles:

NHS chiefs told to slash spending by £1bn - MEN - 25 February
Where NHS axe will fall to save £950m - MEN - 8 March

RNIB and Audio Description

This afternoon I supported an event held in Parliament by Royal National Institute of Blind people (RNIB) about extending audio description (AD). AD is an additional commentary that describes action, body language and movement that someone with sight loss would miss. It's available on digital TV, on DVDs, in the cinema, at galleries and museums and even major sporting venues and exhibition centres.
At the moment the Communications Act 2003 only requires 10% of TV programmes to be audio described, which limits access to people with sight loss. In 2006 Ofcom concluded that they could not recommend an increase to the 10% target for programmes with AD, but after much campaigning from RNIB Ofcom repeated their Access Service Review, and this is likely to recommend increasing AD to 20%.
The event in Parliament this afternoon was to raise support from politicians to ensure that if Ofcom do recommend an increase, that the necessary change to the legislation will be implemented after the General Election. I'm certainly committed to it, and the Lib Dems will support the change in legislation to make sure that we increase TV access for the blind and partially-sighted.

Liquid Scanning

This morning I met with the Chief Executive of a company called Kromek to discuss the issue of scanners at airports. They have developed a scanner that can identify liquid explosives without opening the container. The liquid is placed in a specially designed container in the scanner, which then scans the molecular structure of the liquid and is able to identify explosives within 25 seconds.
This technology could help to resolve the problem of passengers having to dispose of their liquids before going through security.

Burton Road Botch up!

After eight months of campaigning by myself and local campaigner Rob Mackle, the Highways department have finally admitted that the pedestrian safety issue had not been solved by the construction of the island, outside of the Old House at Home pub, Burton Road, in Spring 2009.
The Highways department have contacted me to inform me they are actively looking at installing a new zebra crossing or pedestrian island further up the road.
Rob Mackle and I had recieved a number of complaints from local residents, it was clear the new island was dangerous and completely ineffective at improving road safety.
Simply put, the island needs to be removed and a proper pedestrian crossing installed, possibly just yards down the road. Public safety should be worth the money, especially since we have been campaigning for this for many months and several accidents have already happened.

Campaigning in Chorlton

I spend the morning in Chorlton delivering leaflets, before we went out canvassing in the afternoon. Again on the doorstep we had some very positive feedback which is always a great to recieve.
I was given special permission to leave early to go and watch the City v Liverpool game, but I felt more than a little guilty leaving the rest of the team knocking on doors in the snow! Another uninspiring performance from City and a nil nil draw.

Prayer Breakfast & Nell Lane Clean-Up

First thing this morning I was off to St James' for the constituency prayer breakfast. These events are held every few months at a different church around the Constituency. Today was the turn of St James', and Nick Bundock had the opportunity to let us know about the work going on at St James and around the wider Didsbury Community.
After the prayer breakfast I went to join the Lib Dem Councillors in Chorlton Park for the Nell Lane clean-up. We've been doing these clean-ups for about 15 years, and once again we managed to remove 20 odd tonnes of rubbish from Nell Lane, Weller Ave and Houghend. The clean ups really help to cut down on fly-tipping in the area.
Thanks go to Ian, Dave and Andy for their help, as well as the two guys from the Council who had to work on a Saturday!

Chorlton Campaigning

Spent this morning & afternoon campaigning in Chorlton with Victor Chamberlain and Cllr Paul Ankers as part of the Action Weekend, the turn out was brilliant and the response we had on the doorstep was very positive indeed.
It was great to get out and meet so many Chorlton residents to listen to the issues that matter most to them.
I was particularly impressed with the amount of volunteers that gave up their Saturday to come out and help today, we even had a couple of reds with us in the afternoon. Lets just hope City can put in a better performance tomorrow than United did today!

Bingo Mad!

Had a really enjoyable evening with the office staff at Buckingham Bingo, Parrs Wood last night. I was sweating on a number for the National link game; really thought it was my lucky night!
Bingo Halls have been struggling recently with the recession, resulting in falling revenues and membership. I had previously raised the issue with the Chancellor of the Exechequer, voting to oppose an increase in tax that bingo clubs pay on their gross profits.
Bingo provides a great deal of enjoyment for many people in the local community to have a cheap night out, particularly the elderly. The industry has been hit hard by the Government in recent years and hasn't been helped by having extra tax placed upon them.

Is it ever acceptable to be offensive?

On the way to my office this morning I was listening to a debate on 5 Live about the decision of the Press Complaints Commission not to uphold the 25000 complaints made over the article written by Jan Moir in the Daily Mail, the day before Stephen Gately's funeral. Peta Buscombe, the PCC Chairman defended the decision claiming that the Moir column "just failed to cross the line".
During the debate, Matthew Parris, the former MP and openly gay journalist, was arguing that while he considered the article to be offensive he defended the right of Jan Moir to write the article.
So it is acceptable for a journalist to be offensive, but compare this to the reaction to David Wright, the Labour MP for Telford, allegedly describing Conservatives as "scum-sucking pigs" on Twitter. (He has denied it, and has claimed that someone had hacked into his Twitter account). I also remember the understandable outcry when my colleague Cllr Norman Lewis was likened to Frank from Shameless, and the residents of the Barlow Moor estate were likened to the inhabitants of the Chatsworth estate by a well-known Manchester Labour blogger (and Council election Candidate).
It's all very well talking about freedom of expression, but where do you draw the line? I was contacted today by a constituent who had read a tweet by Labour Councillor Val Stevens. She has claimed that I'm so worried about losing my seat that I've taken to 'comfort eating and losing my temper at random moments'. Personally I'm not worried by silly comments like this, and as a politician you have to be a bit more thick-skinned.
Everyone is entitled to express their opinion, but there is no need for it to be done in an offensive way. The Jan Moir piece the day before Stephen Gately's funeral was offensive, both in its content and in its timing. If it had been written by a politician they would have been rightly hung out to dry. Why should a journalist be treated any differently?

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