Congratulations to Tory controlled Walsall Council

Actually that really should be the EU who’s legislation has managed to drag an area of UK environmental practices into the 20th century* but we’re dealing with the new recycling scheme we’ve got round these parts.

Bit of background. A fortnight ago we got a new wheelie bin. One of those 120 litre ones that is now designated for non-recyclable waste – it’s black btw. The old 240 litre green wheelie bin is now for recyclable waste only and we’re allowed to keep the old green box that was supposed to be for recycling.

Here’s how it should work. The 120 litre bin should be collected on weekly and the 240 litre on a fortnightly basis. All good stuff although I’m curious as to whether the council would have bothered if it weren’t for the EU threatening to impose massive fines on councils but in general terms I like this arrangement as opposed to the previous ‘system’.

Given that Walsall MBC failed to collect my recycling box for the five years I had it and our genuinely positive attitude towards recycling here at Penguin Central I was looking forward to see how the new system would pan out.

A fortnight in and our black bin was collected last week but not the recycling one which is fine because last week we had a couple of bags in it as an overhang of our rubbish that had accumulated before we were able to actually separate everything out. This week we managed to cut our non-recyclables down to a single bag which is pretty good going for a family of four but the recycling bin was getting dangerously close to capacity.

Today’s bin day in our parts and thankfully the recycling bin was emptied. Oddly though, our non-recyclables bin wasn’t. The bin men couldn’t have missed it, it was sitting next to the other bin they emptied so what exactly is all this about? We were promised by my favourite Tory Councillor Rachel Walker who apparently has responsibility for Environment that weekly collections for non-recyclables were guaranteed. If I was in a particularly sarcastic mood I guess I could say this was a case stealth fortnightly collections by the back door but I’m not, they might just have accidentally missed mine.

There is however an important point to this. In a situation where the ability to put out non-recyclables has effectively halved, a missed collection is even more problematic. It is in the end just a good job that we’ve been so good at sorting out our rubbish here which means we’ve still got plenty of space for this week.

That said, I think there should be a little more care taken in how the bins are put back after they’re emptied. The pavements on our road were strewn with bins all over the place this morning which makes me rather glad that I don’t use a wheelchair or motability scooter because I’d have had no chance. It could of course be a clever method of creating temporary chicanes to stop the kids riding their bikes fast on the pavement though.

Well done Tory Walsall council, after 5 years of not collecting my recycling box you’ve managed now not to collect my new non-recycling bin.

*That was deliberate.

Do the Tories care about data protection?

I’ve been sitting on this one for quite a while now on the off chance that it might be worth mentioning but as the Daily Mail seems to consider it open season on Labour MP’s I thought it only just and fair to redress the balance a little. Here’s the Daily Mail article that outs Labour MP’s for not registering their offices under Data Protection Act.

So without further ado, here’s a nice little list of all the Tory MP’s that I can’t find any data protection registration for* (Note the asterix for those that are hard of reading, there’s an explanation at the bottom)

1. David Amess
2. Richard Bacon
3. Henry Bellingham
4. Paul Beresford
5. Brian Binley
6. Peter Bone
7. David Burrowes
8. Douglas Carswell
9. Bill Cash
10.Christopher Chope
11.James Clappison
12.Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
13.David Davies (no, not the saviour of liberty, the other one from Monmouth)
14.Philip Davies
15.Nadine Dorries (why am I not surprised)
16.Alan Duncan (Shadow Business)
17.Philip Dunne
18.Michael Fallon
19.Christopher Fraser
20.David Gauke
21.Robert Goodwill
22.Justine Greening
23.John Greenway
24.John Gummer
25.Stephen Hammond
26.Greg Hands
27.David Heathcoat-Amory
28.Nick Herbert (Shadow Justice)
29.Adam Holloway
30.Gerald Howarth
31.John Howell (New boy in Henley should we give him the benefit of the doubt?)
32.Jeremy Hunt (Shadow Culture)
33.Nick Hurd
34.Stewart Jackson
35.Bernard Jenkin
36.David Jones (As promised if any MP’s were registered and dropped me a line I’d say sorry and make an amendment). David has been in touch, he does have a registration (Z9069890) so well done that chap and apologies. It must have been the dates that threw me as the registration only appears to have started in March 2008 despite him being elected in 2005.
37.Edward Leigh
38.Julian Lewis
39.Andrew Mackay
40.Anne McIntosh
41.Andrew Pelling
42.John Penrose
43.Malcolm Rifkind (shocked at this one really)
44.Laurence Robertson
45.Richard Shepherd (Equally shocked given how long he’s been in the chamber)
46.Mark Simmonds
47.Keith Simpson
48.Anthony Steen
49.Andrew Tyrie
50.Ed Vaizey
51.Rob Wilson

I make that 51 Tories that I cannot find any Data Protection Registrationfor,  of which (and lets indulge ourselves in a bit of Daily Mail-esque outrage for fun shall we) shockingly shows the scant regard that the blue boys show for our legislation on data protection with a whopping 26.4% (more than a quarter!) of all Tory MP’s with no sign of a registration.

The Daily Mail also helpfully points us at what happened to the last MP that failed to register, a £200 fine and £500 in costs. So if all those 51 50 Tory MP’s check out then I make that an estimated cost to the Tories of £35,700. The question is, am I prepared to dob them in to the authorities? Well, if the Daily Mail considers it a matter of principle and doing your civic duty to crack down on naughty politicians ignoring the law then as a good citizen I can only do my own duty likewise. Consider a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office as good as sent.

*The disclaimer part. I have extensive knowledge of and longstanding experience of using the ICO’s data protection register. However it is not a perfect system and is highly sensitive and strict to the information queried against it. In the cases where I have found no obvious data I have used wildcards and different configurations of name and title to attempt to find a registration. In the case of those with double-barrel names I have tried both with hyphen, without, the singular of each name with or without the MP title. In the case of some names such as Nick and Rob I have tried variations on what they may be considered to be an abbreviation of such as Nicholas and Robert. In short I’ve tried my best to find a record and these 51 Tory MP’s still draw a blank. If you are one of these MP’s or a representative of them and you possess a valid up to date data registration then as the fair minded person that I am, I am prepared to amend the list. All I will require is the registration number so that I may check it against the national database of which you can supply me with via either the comments section or if you do not wish to appear there, through the dedicated contact page (link at the top of the site).

David Cameron plans massive increases in taxes

“If we had a budget surplus we could do more.” Indeed we could dear Davey boy but while the Gordon is off leading the world tackling the global financial crisis it is more telling of how economically illiterate and bereft of ideas the Tories are right now.

So here’s the rundown on how to produce a budget surplus of which I fully expect David Cameron to announce as Tory party policy at such time in the near future when he needs to get his mug on the telly.

Lessons on Swedish tax for starters. Swedish income tax is collected in two parts. Locally and nationally of which the local rate is between 30-33% yes, high isn’t it and if we add on the state income tax of between 20-25% then they could be paying anything from 50-58% income taxes. Of course if you’re of a religious nature you could always pay that tax too so add on another 1-2% an lets not forget burial taxes.

Of course Cameron could be trying to big it up on the Swedish Liberal Government’s recent announcement to cut corporation tax from 28% (same as the UK rate) to 26.3% but he might just be forgettng all the local taxes and signifcantly higher employer contributions to employees pensions.

That said, it’s easy to argue till the end of time about how much different allowances and rates are worth so we’re left with the best comparison method available to us. The good old tax take as a percentage of GDP which rather helpfully five days ago the OECD produced their latest comparison tables.

I’ll give you a hint, the press release on their website is called: “Denmark, Sweden still the highest tax OECD countries” and you can read it here.

So yes Dave, you can build up a budget surplus if you’re taking 49.1% of your entire country’s GDP in tax revenue which is probably a bit more tricky when you’re taking just 37.1% like we are here in the UK. (figures are for the last confirmable period from 2006 although the projections for 2007 don’t change much either).

Of course if you do have that much money to spend from taxation then it’s amazing what you can get for it. One of the best health and education systems in the world, some of the lowest inequality rates, basic state pensions worth nearly twice the amount British pensioners live on and of course one of the highest standards of living and life expectancy in the world but God forbid any of that hideous old fashioned tax and spend nonsense heh?

Tory u-turns and in less than a week – classic

Ah, the joys of living in Walsall. OK, Walsall’s always had a reputation for being a bit of a rotten borough and even at times when the other workings of our political system sometimes seem lifeless, there’s always the prospect that Walsall will come riding to the rescue and liven things up a bit.

So without further ado, I present you two rather curious pieces of reporting courteous of the last remaining bastion of impartial news reporting, our veritable own region’s favourite newspaper, the Express & Star.

First article here and second here.

At the risk of being accused of having some personal vendetta against Cllr. Rachel Walker as this is now the third time I’ve dared to criticise her/department I think it’s just fair to say I simply don’t like muppets with a propensity for cocking things up.

Here’s the scenario then. The other week local Government workers undertook a nationwide bit of industrial action over pay. Nothing wrong with that but it seems unlike every other local authority in, well the country I think, Walsall seems to have cocked this one up royally.

Unlike the others who seem to have sorted out any bins not collected on the days in question Walsall has ever so wisely decided in true huggy cuddly New Tory fashion to turn this into a nice bit of union bashing.

So up pops Cllr. Rachel Walker with the “we’re not going to pay those oikish filthy trades unionist scum extra money to collect the rubbish mounting in the streets that wasn’t collected while they we’re being filthy lazy sods and just so you hideous little proles out there know, we’re not going to let them pick up any extra bags the following week either so don’t even think about getting the service you’ve already paid for through your council tax either, what do you think this is a public service or something?”

OK, not the exact words but you get the gist of it.

Then, oh hang on, people ain’t happy about this. Bugger bugger the proles are complaining and it’s getting into the meeja, better call in the Walsall Council Communications Unit to sort this one out.

So now we have a new litter ‘hit squad’ with the obligatory “we’re still not going to let those oiksome trades unionist types get any extra money for striking because they’re scum I tell you, scum.”

Except, hang on a moment here. According to Cllr. Walker herself, these ‘Hit Squads’ (sorry have this really perverse image of blokes dressed all in black with balaclava’s on roaming the streets of Walsall SAS style) are made up of “extra teams of binmen”. So here’s a question.

These ain’t binmen on their normal rounds picking up a bit of extra rubbish on top of the normal. They’re dedicated teams that have required additional organisation and presuming that Walsall council doesn’t have an army of binmen sitting around doing nothing to be called in to sort stuff like this out then where did they come from because presumably all the other binmen would be working on their normal rounds.

They’re not by any chance binmen doing a bit of overtime perhaps?

I wonder how much all this extra organisation and staffing is costing the council to sort out a cock-up that could so easily have been managed within normal services at no cost whatsoever.

Incidentally, kudos to the local Tories for managing to get the timing spot on. Let rubbish mount in the streets during the hottest week to date this year, you couldn’t make up this level of incompetence.

Strangely the comments section on the two articles on the E&S’s website are closed. Heaven forbid people might be critical of a Tory council eh? Got to be trailblazers for freedom of speech you know.

Your data, safe in Tory hands

The last six months or so have been marked by the constant drip of criticism from the Tories that following Governmental departments having lost various pieces of people’s personal information that this leads directly to the ‘Labour can’t be trusted with your data’ mantra.

How apt then that it should be that on the eve of polling for what’s probably one of the most hotly contested by-elections in years that the Tories should manage to e-mail off the personal data including names, addresses, telephone numbers, voting intentions and socio-economic groups of 8,575 key voters in Crewe and Nantwich to some foreign journalists.

Apart from the obvious breach of data protection legislation of taking such sensitive data outside of the internal political party structure it does beg the question why they would see fit to simply e-mail such information around in th first place? Were they using encrypted e-mails or was it some whipper snapper sitting in front of their Hotmail account?

There will of course be some very serious questions that need answering to the Information Commissioners office tomorrow morning of which I’d just like to add this extra one.

Although not all of the recipients have been named, one that has is the Isle of Man based Manx Radio. Now for those not disposed of the knowledge of the geo-political status of that little island between us and Ireland it has an almost unique status being a rather nice cushy little tax haven for certain individuals.

To achieve this status it has to lie outside of both the EU and the EEA.

Now for those who know their onions regarding data protection registration there are some important clauses (actually they’re called ‘prinicples’) in the registration that is filed with the Information Commissioners office.

We of course need the answer to a question first. Under who’s jurisdiction in terms of the data controller for the Tories is said data?

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office there is no registration for anything like a local Crewe and Nantwich Conservative Association and this being a by-election where national parties step into the breach we can only assume that the national Tory party is in charge and here’s their registration:

Registration Number: Z5909711

Date Registered: 23 November 2001 Registration Expires: 22 November 2008

Data Controller: THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY

Address:

CCHQ
25 VICTORIA STREET
LONDON
SW1H 0DL

While we’re at it, here’s the statement of purposes for the use of data under their control, long I know but the important bit is at the end of each statement of purpose:

Purpose 1

Staff Administration

Purpose Description:

Appointments or removals, pay, discipline, superannuation, work management or other personnel matters in relation to the staff of the data controller.

Data subjects are:

Staff including volunteers, agents, temporary and casual workers

CANDIDATES

Data classes are:

Personal Details
Family, Lifestyle and Social Circumstances
Education and Training Details
Employment Details
Financial Details
Racial or Ethnic Origin
Political Opinions
Trade Union Membership
Physical or Mental Health or Condition

Sources (S) and Disclosures (D)(1984 Act). Recipients (1998 Act):

Data subjects themselves
Current, past or prospective employers of the data subject
Suppliers, providers of goods or services
Employment and recruitment agencies

Transfers:

None outside the European Economic Area

Purpose 2

Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations

Purpose Description:

Advertising or marketing the business of the data controller, activity, goods or services and promoting public relations in connection with that business or activity, or those goods or services.

Data subjects are:

Staff including volunteers, agents, temporary and casual workers
Members or supporters

CANDIDATES

Data classes are:

Personal Details
Family, Lifestyle and Social Circumstances
Political Opinions

Sources (S) and Disclosures (D)(1984 Act). Recipients (1998 Act):

Data subjects themselves
Suppliers, providers of goods or services
Political organisations

Transfers:

None outside the European Economic Area

Purpose 3

Administration of Membership Records

Purpose Description:

The administration of membership records.

Data subjects are:

Staff including volunteers, agents, temporary and casual workers
Members or supporters

CANDIDATES

Data classes are:

Personal Details
Family, Lifestyle and Social Circumstances
Political Opinions

Sources (S) and Disclosures (D)(1984 Act). Recipients (1998 Act):

Data subjects themselves
Suppliers, providers of goods or services
Political organisations

Transfers:

None outside the European Economic Area

Purpose 4

Canvassing Political Support Amongst the Electorate

Purpose Description:

The seeking and maintenance of support amongst the electorate by the data controller.

Data subjects are:

Staff including volunteers, agents, temporary and casual workers
Members or supporters
Complainants, correspondents and enquirers
Relatives, guardians and associates of the data subject

CANDIDATES

Data classes are:

Personal Details
Family, Lifestyle and Social Circumstances
Political Opinions

Sources (S) and Disclosures (D)(1984 Act). Recipients (1998 Act):

Data subjects themselves
Suppliers, providers of goods or services
Political organisations

Transfers:

None outside the European Economic Area

Purpose 5

Consultancy and Advisory Services

Purpose Description:

Giving advice or rendering professional services.The provision of services of an advisory, consultancy or intermediary nature.

Data Controllers further description of Purpose:

ADVICE TO INDIVIDUALS WHO MAY APPROACH CONSERVATIVE ASSOCIATIONS

Data subjects are:

Members or supporters
Complainants, correspondents and enquirers

Data classes are:

Personal Details
Family, Lifestyle and Social Circumstances
Political Opinions

Sources (S) and Disclosures (D)(1984 Act). Recipients (1998 Act):

Data subjects themselves
Suppliers, providers of goods or services

Transfers:

None outside the European Economic Area

Purpose 6

Fundraising

Purpose Description:

Fundraising in support of the objectives of the data controller.

Data subjects are:

Staff including volunteers, agents, temporary and casual workers
Members or supporters

Data classes are:

Personal Details
Family, Lifestyle and Social Circumstances
Political Opinions

Sources (S) and Disclosures (D)(1984 Act). Recipients (1998 Act):

Data subjects themselves
Suppliers, providers of goods or services
Political organisations

Transfers:

None outside the European Economic Area

Yes, that’s right. ‘None outside the EEA’ which is rather a bugger when you send your data to someone in the Isle of Man isn’t it?

I think a nice little e-mail to the Information Commissioner’s Office is in order. Just being helpful like…