"I have long argued that the giving of offence, and even hate speech, should be a moral matter but not a matter for the criminal law. That is as true on the football pitch as on the streets. We should always challenge racism. We should also always challenge attacks on liberties in the guise of faux antiracism." Kenan Malik

Archive for May, 2010

Councillors to press ahead with Norwich day centre closures

Campaigners fighting to keep open two day centres in Norwich appear to have lost their battle as county councillors are set to press ahead with controversial closure plans.

Norfolk County Council today confirmed it was going to set up a new day services partnership in city to replace the Silver Rooms and the Essex Rooms.

The new scheme is set to be approved by members of the adult social services overview and scrutiny panel next Wednesday and would involve a partnership with Age Concern Norwich and Norwich City Council to look at providing alternatives to the day centres.

Under the plans, the partnership will identify new locations for day care services to replace the two centres which are likely to be based in sheltered housing and housing with care schemes.

Both centres will remain open while suitable alternatives are created.

County Hall said the plans which followed a consultation would allow friendship groups to stay together and offer a wider range of facilities and activities. Staff will continue to provide the same high quality care, but in more suitable accommodation and the services would also be available closer to many people’s homes.

David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services, said: “We are committed to improving day services and widening the choice that people have, but we must make the best use of the council’s resources in tough financial times. The consultation on the Essex and Silver Rooms showed us that what mattered to people was friendship, inclusion and care – not the buildings themselves.

“The new proposals allow us to keep to our policy of specialising council services for dementia and re-ablement, but also develop better replacement services in collaboration with our partners.

Norwich South MP Simon Wright said he was seeking an urgent meeting with both Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council about the plans.

“I’m very disappointed if these day centres are to close. I felt very strongly that they should be retained and invested in,” Mr Wright said. “We have got a situation where we do have an ageing population where demand for these sorts of services is increasing in the future to give older people a really good social environment.

“What I think is so awful in this process is that I’m not convinced that alternative provision has been identified early enough in the process.”

Next week’s meeting, which will take place at 10am in the Edwards Room, at County Hall, members will also be updated with a report on work being carried out to safeguard vulnerable adults in Norfolk and a review of day activities for people with learning difficulties.



Seismic shift in East Anglia’s political map

East Anglia’s political map has been completely re-drawn after a seismic shift in power which saw the Conservatives increase their numbers and the Liberal Democrats lay claim to being the second strongest party in the region.

As David Cameron reaches out to Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to try and form a coalition government, his Tory MPs in Norfolk showed him how winning an outright majority should be done racking up victories in 13 of the 15 seats in Norfolk, North Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

There was delight in Great Yarmouth and Waveney as Conservatives Brandon Lewis and Peter Aldous snatched both seats from Labour.

The Tories also won the new Broadland constituency where Keith Simpson topped the poll with a 7,292 majority, and posted thumping five figure majorities in many of the others.

It was a good night too for the Liberal Democrats where Simon Wright pulled off the result of the night to win Norwich South by 310 votes over former Labour home secretary Charles Clarke, and his political mentor Norman Lamb also increased his majority in North Norfolk to more than 11,000.

Labour were wiped out in the region with Bob Blizzard, and Tony Wright tumbling to defeat in Waveney and Great Yarmouth alongside Mr Clarke, whose hopes of a victory by splitting the anti-Labour vote were dramatically ended at around 4.50am on Friday.

The party’s last hope of winning a seat in Norfolk was crushed when Conservative Chloe Smith also secured victory in Norwich North – despite boundary changes which many thought would help Labour retake the seat it lost in a by-election last year.

That means that Labour has no MP in the city for the first time since 1997 – and the result offers the intriguing prospect of putting to the test at a local level the idea of a Conservatives and Lib Dems working together.

Labour’s slump continued as the party was beaten in to third place by the Liberal Democrats in both North-West Norfolk, South-West Norfolk, and Mid Norfolk – seats where Labour had finished second in 2005.

Mr Simpson said the political landscape in the county had completely changed since 1997 with Labour wiped off the map.

“It’s a complete turnaround after 13 years,” he said. “I am the last man standing from 1997. If you look at all those elected or re-elected since 1997 Gillian Shephard and John McGregor and George Turner have gone, David Prior went then Ian Gibson and now Charles Clarke and Tony Wright.

“After 13 years Norfolk has fallen out of love with Labour and the Conservatives have been revitalised both at a local and a national level.”

The Conservative’s and Lib Dem’s success means that in the majority of seats East Anglia has a new youthful generation of fresh-faced politicians entering parliament for the first time.

But their arrival is timed with the dramatic prospect of dealing with Britain’s first hung parliament since 1974.

And it could see many of the issues crucial to the future of Norfolk and the wider region such as A11 dualling, could now hang in the balance.

There is also the intriguing prospect of whether controversial plans to create a unitary council in Norwich will now prove unstoppable despite the Labour setback because no single party has outright control in parliament to stop them.

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said the new intake were keen to work together to secure the best interests of Norfolk.

“In terms of the people who have been elected for the first time, there is a recognition that we really have to work together to deliver some of these things whether its road improvements, or high speed broadband,” she said.

Mr Simpson also echoed the theme that Conservatives in Norfolk were keen to work together on issues affecting the county, but he said that the hung parliament issue meant there was a lot of uncertainty about what could be achieved.

“My gut feeling is that at a local level both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems would be reluctant to see any formal coalition,” he said. “I think there area number of things which Cameron and Clegg could agree on, but Gordon Brown doesn’t have any moral authority to govern.

“But what is this going to mean for Norfolk? We have got a whole range of issues such as the A11, the ecotown and unitary and that’s where we have got to put markers down. I would like to get the Norfolk Conservatives together and see what can be done on all these issues.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said it had been a great night for the Liberal Democrats.

“It’s a complete transformation of the party’s position in Norfolk,” Mr Lamb said. “Go back a decade and we were nowhere, and now we have got two MPs and we are very clearly the second party in Norfolk. That’s an amazing change, and I’m very proud of what we have achieved. It’s always been my ambition to see North Norfolk break out of the sea of blue. It continues as a work in progress, but there has been a dramatic shift.”

And he said MPs of all colours must now look to work together in the interests of Norfolk.

“Inevitably these issues are up in the air as everything is, but I do strongly take the view that Norfolk MPs must be prepared to work together as we have done in the past,” Mr Lamb added. “It’s a very different scenario now with two Liberal Democrats and the rest Tories. We must bury our differences and work together for the benefit of the county.”