Monday, March 31, 2008

Liberal Democrats condemn uncosted promises

Barely seven days before election nominations opened, two major projects were announced. By convention, councils avoid making contentious decisions during an election period ("purdah").

Derek Vaughan, Neath Port Talbot council leader, promised that Gwyn Hall would be rebuilt and that there would be a major reconstruction of Pontardawe town centre. Neither has a price tag. So far as we know, the council has not even been told of the cost of the artist's impression of the Gwyn Hall rebuild.

We believe that it is wrong to insult voters' intelligence by holding out the possibility of these projects with no guarantee that there will be enough money to pay for them without further rises in council tax.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Crime: Labour tough on paper, not in fact

Labour is pinning its hopes on stemming the ebbing of their support in the May 1st council elections on frightening the electorate with anti-social behaviour.

Some points need to be answered:
"Remove licences or close down shops that persistently sell alcohol to under eighteens"
Will this include the major supermarkets, which Labour nationally has refused to challenge?

"Introduce local crime fighting strategies so that every area is kept safe [...] Work closely with neighbourhood policing teams to deal quickly with local hotspots for crime and anti-social behaviour"
We thought this was just what LibDem-led Swansea was doing?

"The Liberal Democrats opposed our tough action on crime."
How can a party which wants to put more policemen on the street (as opposed to cutting police budgets, which Labour has done) be described as not wanting to be tough on crime?

"[LibDems in Swansea have] wasted £80m on a failed IT project ... "
Initiated by Labour.

" ... failed to be straight with local people about the cost of the new leisure centre"
WLGA Labour group leader Derek Vaughan, who co-presented the launch of the manifesto, is also leader of Neath Port Talbot council. Last week, Cllr Vaughan announced two major construction projects: the rebuilding of the Gwyn Hall and a restructuring of Pontardawe. Both are uncosted.

The story of Liberal Democrats in Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham is of restoring financial competence to those councils after Labour mismanagement. It is no surprise that Labour is majoring not on value for money, but on their supposed competence on crime.

Meantime, the convicted terrorist Yassin Nassari has been let go under the Government’s early release scheme.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Justice Secretary, Chris Huhne commented:

“There is a huge discrepancy between the Government’s rhetoric on terrorism and its actions.

“Next week ministers will bring before Parliament unnecessary and draconian legislation on pre-charge detention in a desperate attempt to look tough on terrorism.

“People convicted of terrorist offences can be back in society having served less than half their sentence because of our desperately overstretched prison system.

“Measures to tackle prison overcrowding should focus on helping drug-addicts, inmates with mental health problems and non-serious offenders, rather than giving terrorists an easy ride.”

Saturday, March 29, 2008

No Jobs for Midwives??

No more than three days have passed since Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council were forced to admit that they could no longer afford the number of teachers currently employed by the Local Authority, we recieve yet another blow from New Labour. The number of nurses and midwives who are unemployed six months after qualifying has increased, nationally, by over 80% in the last three years.

The figures, quoted by Lib Dem News and acquired by the Liberal Democrats Shadow Health Secretary Norman Lamb MP, show that six months after graduating:

  • Almost three-quarters more nurses and midwives are now working in jobs outside of their profession than in 2002/3

  • Nearly a third more doctors are unemployed than in 2002/3

  • Over 1,000 nurses were unemployed in 2005/6, the most recent year that statistics are available

The Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb MP said:

"This is a disgraceful waste of human talent and a scandolous use of public money. Its no surprise that so many committed healthcare professionals have lost faith in the way that Labour has run the NHS."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Save Our Post Offices - Campaign Update

Thank You to all those residents of both Aberavon and Neath Constituencies who have supported our Save the Post Offices Campaign over the past several months. Many of you replied to the campaign by adding your signatures to the Focus Leaflets and mailing them back to us.

This petition has now been handed into Downing Street by the Liberal Democrat Party's Post Offices Spokesperson, Sarah Tether MP.

Over 50,000 signatures were presented calling on Gordon Brown to STOP Labours's Post Office closure programme now.

Liberal Democrats Lead Gurkha Protest

"Its quite simply a national disgrace" - Nick Clegg

Liberal Democrat News Report:

At a mass protest outside Parliament on Wednesday, the Liberal Democrat Leader was given a box full of medals by angry Gurkhas who have served in the British Army before 1997 and who are being denied a full pension and the right to British Citizenship.

"When I told people what you get from the Government in return for the years of brave, loyal, uncomplaining service, people simply don't believe it." Nick Clegg told the ex-servicemen. It is quite simply a national disgrace. I am simply saying you should be treated with the respect and honour you deserve as brave soldiers. I will do everything I can to end this unacceptable and immoral discrimination."

Nick Clegg later tackled Gordon Brown over the issue at Prime Ministers Questions. He said: " Two hours ago a retired Gurkha soldier handed over this medal to me in protest at the Governments refusal to grant him a British citizenship. Do you know what it means for a loyal British soldier to give up a medal that he won for his long years of service to this country? And can you explain to the Gurkhas why on earth you believe that Gurkhas who have served in the Army after 1997 are worthy of British citizenship but those who served before that date should be deported?"

Gordon Browns answer - that in 1997 the Gurkhas, who were then based in Hong Kong, moved to Britain - did little to pacify the ex-servicemen. Soldiers who retire after July 1997 recieve a pension on the same terms as the rest of the British Army. But those who retired before that date collect one-sixth of the amount recieved by a British soldier. It is believed that around 3,300 Grukhas who retired before 1997 are still resident in the UK and would be affected by the Legislation.

Gurkhas have fought for Britain since 1815 and served in conflicts including the Falklands and Afghanistan.

Liberal Democrat Defense spokesperson in the Lords, and former Defense Minister, John Lee tabled his Immigration (Discharged Gurkhas) Bill this week. " Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords are tabling a Bill which would allow all Gurkhas indefinate leave to remain on the same basis as Commonwealth soldiers," he said. "Having served our country with distinction, the threat of deportation hanging over thousands of Gurkhas and their families living in Britain is a national disgrace."

For more information and to follow the campaign go to:
Nick Clegg - Treatment of Gurkhas a National Disgrace
Retired Gurkhas Hand Back Medals
Gurkhas hand back medals in pension and citizenship protest

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tory councillor created hundreds of phoney voters

The full story is here.

The good news is that the man was tried and convicted. The bad news is that he nearly got away with it. As the law stands, Electoral Registration Officers have no power to reject an application for registration, provided the form is completed correctly, but must call in the police to investigate if suspicious.

Nor have the media in general given as much prominence to the Slough story as they should.

So far these scandals have been confined to England. There is no reason why voter fraud should not be attempted here, though, and we are sure that our EROs are not complacent.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Forces Focus

Nick Harvey and the Liberal Democrat defence team have launched a new web site. We feel, with Welsh men and women contributing proportionately more than England to the UK defence effort, that this is of particular relevance to Welsh Liberal Democrats.

Nick Harvey writes:

With increasing demands made of our Armed Forces and with continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, our Manifesto pledge has never been more pertinent: we should look after our Armed Forces so they can look after us.

Since this pledge we have repeatedly championed the concerns of the Armed Forces and remain distinct on defence. We opposed the unnecessary and costly war in Iraq, we have campaigned across the country for adequate recognition for personnel and for the rights for Gurkhas and we are the only party to have put forward our priorities for Forces welfare. I want us to continue in this vein and ensure defence remains at the top of the agenda.

It is for this reason that the Defence Team has launched this new website. We believe there should be a forum for us to discuss and debate how our liberal values should shape the defence agenda in light of the changing strategic landscape and international concerns, and highlight the work we, as a party, are doing on the whole gamut of defence issues; including disarmament, procurement, and welfare. It will also offer you the chance to keep up to date with the work of the Team in both Houses.

Please feel free to have a look and leave comments on the site.

Clegg calls for "broken politics" to be fixed

At the University of Sheffield’s Festival of Social Science last week, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg called for radical change to fix Britain’s ‘broken politics’.

He challenged the two establishment parties to abandon their vested interests to allow reforms of our political system to regain the trust of the British people.

Calling for a Constitutional Convention, led by a ‘citizens’ jury’ of 100 people, to build a new constitution for Britain, Nick Clegg also set out steps that can be taken now including:

· Adopting the Power Commission proposal of allowing every voter to donate £3 to a party of their choice via the ballot paper in a General Election

· Funding to support political parties to come from cutting the cost of politics in other ways, for example reducing the number of MPs by 150 and cutting the Government’s advertising budget

· Banning political donations over £25,000 and limiting political parties to spending less than £10m every year, not just election years

In his speech, Nick Clegg said:

“People care, they just don’t care about politicians. And that should give us hope.

“If we build a new kind of politics, that engages with people in a different way, we can harness the side of people that cares, that is interested, that is engaged with society around them.

“My party, the Liberal Democrats, is in a unique position. We’re on the outside of the system. So we’re the ones who can prise it open and drive the change we need. That’s why I’m in politics.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The Government had to change the law to prevent an anti-discrimination quango missing its own equality targets the Liberal Democrats have discovered.

After realising that the Equality and Human Rights Commission was set to miss the deadline for meeting internal equality regulations, ministers put down a statutory instrument extending the deadline.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Youth and Equality Spokesperson, Lynne Featherstone said:

“You have to question what authority this body will have in monitoring other public organisations if it cannot comply with its own rules and needs to be bailed out by ministers.

“Labour’s greatest concern has been to hush up this embarrassing delay, abusing parliamentary procedure in the process, rather than questioning why this top equality body is yet to lead by example.

“We need to send a message that equality is something that is taken seriously across the board.”

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cross-bench support for Members' Taxation Status Bill

All members of the House of Lords will be forced to pay full British taxes on all their income or leave under a Bill which received its second reading last Friday.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson, Lord (Matthew) Oakeshott, said:

“Lords with millions stashed in tax havens from Liechtenstein to the Cayman Islands must not vote on laws for hard-pressed British families paying their full whack of tax.

“I have joined forces with Labour MP Gordon Prentice to get a Bill through Parliament this session, to make peers who dodge British taxes pay up or pack up.”

Labour MP Gordon Prentice has agreed to sponsor Lord Oakeshott’s Bill should it pass the Lords before his own similar Bill clears the Commons. Lord Oakeshott will return the compliment if the Prentice Bill reaches the Lords first.

Lord Oakeshott’s Bill will require Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to consider all members of the House of Lords as resident and domiciled in the UK for tax purposes.

Its supporters include Lord Strathclyde, Conservative Leader in the Lords and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC (Labour).

There is one openly non-resident member of the House of Lords, Lord Laidlaw (a Conservative donor), and one openly non-dom, Lord Paul (a donor to Gordon Brown's leadership campaign). Other members who refuse to confirm whether they are fully resident and domiciled in the UK for tax purposes include Lord Ashcroft, Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party.

Trouble ahead?

Peter Black quotes a Guardian report that the Establishment may support the Prentice Bill but not the Oakeshott one, in spite of Gordon Prentice's declared support for the Lords Bill.

It will be interesting to see whether this is purely down to party political spite, or whether the-powers-that-be find that the Prentice Bill affords more loopholes.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Probation, Natonal Offender Management services in trouble

Government claims that it is giving £40m more money to the Probation Service are ‘totally misleading’ the Liberal Democrats said.

A Ministry of Justice press release says that ‘The National Probation Service is to receive £40 million of additional funding to provide more tough and effective community sentences.’

However, just six months ago the Government announced that probation service funding was to be cut by five per cent for each of the next three years. (The details can be found here.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:

“The Government is spinning this as additional support for the probation service but in reality it only goes part of the way in restoring funding cuts announced just six months ago.

“Tough community punishments are more effective in cutting reoffending than short term custodial sentences and this is due in part to the sterling work of the probation service.

“Today’s funding commitment will thankfully stave off some redundancies in the probation service but it is totally misleading to describe it as an increase in support for the service when it is the Government taking with one hand and giving with the other.”

Later in the week, the Information Commissioner issued a press release criticising the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) for replying to Freedom of Information requests slowly, Liberal Democrat Shadow Solicitor General, David Howarth said:

“It is not surprising NOMS is failing to respond to such requests when its computer systems are so catastrophic.

“It is unacceptable that requests are taking this long to deal with. NOMS must get its house in order.”

The Information Commissioner's Office is the UK's independent authority set up to promote access to official information and to protect personal information.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ffynnon Oer community fund: dramatic move

The county borough council is to set up a committee.

This is only two months after Labour AM Gwenda Thomas drew attention to the uneven distribution of the fund.

We commented on the situation in July last year and in June 2006.

County borough councillor Trefor Williams is reported as saying that they had been very proactive in the way they had handled this as a council.

Green light for non-green power generation

The Government has that it intends to approve the new Kingsnorth, Kent, coal fired power station.

Nick Clegg's comment: “At a time when the Government should be working to reduce the UK’s emissions, ministers seem determined to allow a huge new polluting power station. What planet is John Hutton living on?

“Without carbon capture and storage, clean coal is a total myth. This monstrosity will only emit 20% less than previous coal fired stations, and a massive 75% more than a gas powered plant.

“Kingsnorth should not be given the go ahead unless carbon capture and storage is part of it from day one.

“If ministers really want to take the lead on tackling climate change they must concentrate on promoting renewable power, increasing energy efficiency, and dramatically accelerating the development of carbon capture and storage.”

If anyone can point us to a power-station scheme which employers carbon capture and which is actually up and running, we would be grateful.

Friday, March 14, 2008

LibDem Conference resolves to improve banking regulation

At its Liverpool conference last weekend, in the light of the nationalisation of Northern Rock, passed a motion proposing reforms to combine genuine competitiveness in the banking sector with protection for depositors. It is also timely in view of the shakeout in world stock markets this week, triggered by the credit crunch in the United States.

Summing up in support of the motion, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable said the Government needed to decide whether to treat banks like a utility - tightly regulated but protected - or like a private company - which meant banks would need to operate in a genuinely competitive environment where there was the opportunity for new entrants to enter the market and for existing ones to go out of business.

To provide protection for savers in a competitive banking sector, the party is proposing to introduce a new Deposit Protection Scheme paid for by banks - as has proved successful in the United States - to provide 100% cover for personal deposits of up to £50,000. Depositors would have immediate access in the event of a bank failure. Effectively it would operate as a collective insurance scheme paid for by banks.

The full text of the emergency motion is -
Conference notes the nationalisation of Northern Rock on 18 February 2008.

a) Recognises that confidence in the British banking system has been severely dented by:
i) Imprudent levels of bank lending in relation to both consumer credit and mortgage finance.
ii) The use of unsustainable business practices by some banks, which have achieved rapid growth in consumer lending based on commercial borrowing rather than deposits.
iii) The imposition of unreasonably high penalty charges for customers.
b) Notes the failure of bank regulation and supervision which led to the first run on a UK retail bank for over a century, and the Government’s use of taxpayer funds to bail out Northern Rock which are yet to be repaid.
c) Believes that the long period of time taken by the Government to nationalise Northern Rock after it became clear that no suitable private bidder was willing to buy Northern Rock and repay taxpayer loans in a timely fashion has caused considerable damage to the UK’s banking reputation.

Conference therefore calls on the Government to:
1. Ensure that all taxpayer loans to Northern Rock are repaid as quickly as is reasonably possible.
2. Introduce a new regulatory regime to address the inadequacies of the current tripartite arrangements on the Treasury, Bank of England and FSA and strengthen the supervision of UK banks with particular regard to liquidity adequacy, systemic risk and robust stress-testing of business models.
3. Confirm the Bank of England’s independence of market supervision, but revise present arrangements concerning their ‘lender of last resort’ responsibilities; in particular ensuring that any bank which receives credit from the Bank of England in its capacity as the lender of last resort does so on condition that if necessary the Bank of England can take management control.
4. Introduce a new Deposit Protection Scheme paid for by banks - as has proved successful in the United States - to provide 100% cover for personal deposits of up to £50,000 and if necessary allow immediate access for depositors in the event of a bank failure and to make the scheme widely known.
5. To ensure that there is greater banking stability, using capital requirements as a tool to reflect the state of the economic cycle and therefore deter prevent large fluctuations in lending particularly in the housing market.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

New blow for Briton Ferry

Coming upon yet another street flood, towards which remedial work is only now getting under way, the further delay to the new health centre must come as a virtual kick in the teeth to Briton Ferry Residents.

It was clear at last year's AGM of the Health Board that the Briton Ferry centre was the top priority in the Neath Port Talbot area, and that necessary health service developments in other parts of the country borough were not being considered in any detail. It appeared that the plans were then set in stone, and that preparatory work was imminent.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gun control

It is pointless having the tightest restrictions on guns without the willingness to enforce them. BBC Wales recently reported that illegal replica guns were still on sale in Wales. See the video here.

Earlier this year, Chris Huhne commented on government figures which showed that the rate of murder by guns and knives had gone up.

“The increase in gun and knife killings is deeply alarming. Violent crime is still far higher than a decade ago and must be tackled much more vigorously.

“Police should devote more time to stop and searches for knives and guns, and there must be a major new effort from the Government to clamp down on gun and knife smuggling.

“Nine times more officials are allocated to tackling cigarette smuggling than gun smuggling, which is a crazy set of priorities."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Harvey launches 'Forces Focus' website

Nick Harvey, MP, has launched Forces Focus, a new website concentrating on the state of our armed forces.

Theme and Variations, by Vince Cable

Vince opened his speech to the Liverpool conference: "I don't want to overdo my Stalin joke. But I did, I think, capture the pathos of Gordon Brown’s sad decline: from ruthless to rudderless: bully to bumbler; from Brezhnev to Blackadder."

The speech in full should shortly be posted here along with the other platform speeches and summary of motions resolved.

However, it's worth quoting Vince's coda: "Liberal Democrats represent the millions of families ignored by this Government. Yes, we believe in enterprise. Yes, we believe in an open economy. But we don’t have to go down on our knees to the rich and powerful.

"We will stand up for fair taxes. We will stand up for green taxes.

"And we will fight for a more equal Britain."

Department of Work and Pensions: poor IT record

Department for Work and Pensions IT projects are running a total of 21 years late and £315m over budget, according to figures revealed by the Liberal Democrats.

One project, the Pensions Transformation Project, which aims to improve customer service and deliver efficiencies is running £169m over budget.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said:

“These figures confirm that Government IT projects are an utter shambles.

“Ministers seem completely incapable of delivering workable IT systems on time and on budget.

“Given the Government’s appalling track record on computer projects, it is essential that a full investigation is launched into this and other overruns.

“Gordon Brown is living in a dream world if he thinks larger IT projects like ID cards are going to be any different.”

Lembit says: Home Information Packs failing

The Liberal Democrats have said that the Government’s Home Information Packs (HIPs) are failing, following the publication of the scheme’s pilot studies report today.

The study found that:
- Almost 60% of buyers did not see the HIP early enough in the house buying process
- After their property had been sold, sellers were less likely to agree that their HIP had helped sell their property (fell than 44% to 22% of sellers)

- 58% of buyers did not agree that HIPs speed up the buying process
- Over three quarters of buyers said that the HIP had no effect on their decision to purchase their property

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson, Lembit Opik said:
“The Government has gone about this entire process the wrong way round.

“Even the Government’s own research shows that HIPs aren’t working as they should. Why weren’t these facts made public before the national roll-out?

“HIPs are now compulsory for all properties coming on the market but ministers have only now given in to our pressure and released the results of these pilot studies.

“I will be asking the Government whether they have any plans to suspend
HIPs until they can be proved to work.”

(Even the trumpeted energy assessment component appears to be too variable to be useful. A listener to BBC Radio's "Home Planet", who lives in a house heated almost exclusively by waste wood was told that is house is energy inefficient.)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Don't punish domestic violence victims by taking their children away

John Hemming MP, Chairman of Justice for Families and LibDem MP for Birmingham Yardley, has written to the Minister for Children, Kevin Brennan MP and Minister for Justice Bridget Prentice MP calling for the government to stop punishing women who are victims of Domestic Violence by taking their children away from them.

"The Government recently published," he said, "a report which looked at the reasons for care proceedings. If we ignore, for the moment, the fact that some concerns are not well founded when investigated properly, it is quite illuminating to see what the figures are. This report only covered 386 cases, but it does give a rare glimpse behind the secrecy of the Family Courts."

"The report reveals that 51.1% of women who have had their children removed had it done so in part because they were victims of Domestic Violence. The argument the authorities use is that the children are subject to "emotional abuse" because of seeing mother and father fighting. Without disputing the fact that there may be circumstances in which children may need to be in a place of safety because of this, it is wrong to take the children away permanently because mother is a victim of abuse. This creates a situation in which mothers are frightened to report Domestic Violence because if they do so then they will suffer the permanent removal of their children. We should be dealing with the abuser rather than punishing the victim."

"The report reveals some of the other reasons used for permanent removal of children. 58.7% - not doing what the social workers say, 59% inconsistent parenting/emotional abuse, 52.4% chaotic lifestyle (the dirty kitchen issue), 26.4% missing school, 37.2% not doing what the doctors say or missing appointments, 17.4% mum was in care"

"We need a better consideration of when it is appropriate for the state to intervene and remove children permanently from their parents. In essence the current interpretation of S31 a) of the 1989 Act allows intervention in a very large proportion of families and it is therefore the outcomes are pretty random. We should not just remove children, for example, because their mother herself was in care."

"One of the reasons greater openness about Family proceedings is needed is to work out exactly when the state should intervene. The danger in the current system which allows draconian intervention in a large proportion of families is that we end up missing the children at risk of significant physical harm whilst spending time with families who haven't done the washing up when the social worker visits."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Labour resists LibDem MPs clean government initiative

The Government last Friday blocked a Bill which would have forced public bodies
to disclose the money they spend on expenses.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker’s Expenses of Public Servants
(Publications) Bill was blocked by a government whip in the House of
Commons today.

Commenting, Mr Baker said:
“The Government has learned nothing. If they had backed my Bill, ministers
could have shown they were listening to the public, by making sure that
those spending taxpayers’ money were properly accountable.

“The public clearly want more openness and accountability when it comes to

“At least MPs are elected. My Bill would hold to account those shadowy
figures who are unelected but are spending large sums of taxpayers’ money
on themselves.

“Some of the expenses, like SEEDA Chairman James Brathwaite’s £50,000 taxi
bills makes MPs look positively frugal.

“Why has the Government blocked this bill, whose side are they on? Are
they on the side of the taxpayer or on the side of bureaucratic quangos
wasting taxpayers’ money?”

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Cabin: "publish the report"

The leader of Neath Port Talbot CBC, Cllr. Derek Vaughan, says that the youth centre in Cwmgwrach only needs a lick of paint to make it fit for use. Mrs Chattington and the community council say that The Cabin is falling down and that total rebuilding would be necessary if youth activities were to resume on the site.

These views are based on the same report by council officials, which few members of the public have seen. Liberal Democrats say: publish the report, and let the public decide.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Post Office closures: Tory & Labour hypocrisy

Conservative (and Swansea emigrant) Nigel Evans has proposed an Early Day Motion (no. 997) which “regrets the proposal to close up to 2,500 post offices”.

As you will see by clicking the link, the EDM has been signed by both Labour and Conservative MPs. This is a bit rich, seeing as how that, under the previous Conservative government, over 3000 branches were closed, and that the closure programme continued unabated under Labour.

At the Blackpool Conference in 1996, which set Labour's course for election victory in the following spring, Gordon Brown made an impassioned 30-minute speech. In the course of this, he promised:

a Labour chancellor will not waste money on consultancy fees for the privatisation of the Post Office. The Post Office will remain as it is, run in the public sector as a public service.

You can judge for yourself whether the salaries and bonuses paid to the Labour-appointed managers of Royal Mail are a greater or lesser waste of money than consultancy fees. What is certain is that Gordon Brown in power has been true to his socialist dogma, and it seems our local MPs are with him on this.

No private money has been allowed to reinvigorate the post office network, as Liberal Democrats propose, and it has truly remained to run - or rather run down - in the public sector.

As a public service, though, it is a shadow of what it was. I have always found sub-postmasters and their staff friendly and helpful. They are better promoters of the post office than expensive TV campaigns. The trouble is that one is decreasingly certain of finding a post office in even large villages on ones travels. Moreover, the government is deliberately removing the post offices' ability to access government facilities.

Frank H Little