Monthly Archives: December 2012

TedDemoc

Rory On the Dignity and the Glory of Politics

During the 2012 Nexus Conference, Rory was invited to join prominent international speakers to discuss the question, ‘how we can change the world?’

Additionally, the Nexus Institute invited the speakers of the Nexus Conference to give a short interview, which can be found below.

Rory at William Howard School

Rory supports ‘lab in a lorry’ science project at william howard school

Rory at William Howard School

Rory at William Howard School

Rory visited the national ‘Lab in a Lorry’ science education initiative at William Howard School in Brampton on Friday, meeting with pupils and seeing how the mobile science laboratory takes hands-on physics experiments to schools. The aim is to give students aged 11 to 14 the opportunity to experience science as it is really done as opposed to simply repeating demonstrations where the outcome is already known. Since its launch in 2005, ‘Lab in a Lorry’ has hosted over 150,000 students (primarily 11-14 yr olds) and visited almost 150 schools. Part of the project’s ethos is to use local volunteers – usually with a scientific background – to teach the experiments to the schools in their local area. The system has proven remarkably successful and has so far relied on more than 1600 volunteers.

Speaking on the project, Rory said: “It’s great to see projects that are encouraging pupils to engage with science in a new and entertaining way. I was particularly impressed by the fibre-optics experiment given the focus of broadband in Cumbria at the moment. It would be fantastic to think our younger generation are able to interact and understand the technology at a far deeper level than most of us perhaps can at the moment.”

“Part of me always regrets not paying more attention in science classes at school, and opportunities like this which offer the chance to learn outside of the classroom may ensure that these students avoid making the same mistake I did.”

Following the Lab in a Lorry class, Rory also had the opportunity to sit and discuss recent education reforms with the school’s headmistress Lorrayne Hughes.

Speaking afterwards, Rory said: “Many of the small primary schools in Cumbria struggle to remain viable, and with only a small number of teachers, a disproportionate amount of their time can be spent outside of the classroom dealing with HR and bureaucracy. I was therefore delighted to hear from Lorraine how William Howard is now working with many surrounding primary schools to share and absorb some of the HR, payroll and procurement workload. This integrated and holistic approach to education in our communities will help minimise the risk of further school closures, and I would love to see this model more widely adopted across the county.”

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rory invites planning minister to see upper eden community plan

Rory and Gordon Nicolson – leader of Eden  District Council – have invited Planning Minister Nick Boles to pay a visit to the area in the New Year to get a better sense of the groundbreaking Upper Eden Neighbourhood Plan.

The Draft Upper Eden Neighbourhood Plan – covering Brough Parish and 16 surrounding parishes in East Cumbria – is the first in the country to be successfully examined under the Localism Act. Following report recommendations by John Glester to Eden District Council, the proposed plan should now proceed to a referendum in March 2013, asking local residents whether it should be adopted as Formal Planning Policy for the area.

The Localism Act 2011 gave communities the opportunity to prepare planning policies (a Neighbourhood Plan) and have them adopted by the District Council as Statutory Policy provided they met with higher planning strategies and were approved by a simple majority in a referendum at the community level. The Upper Eden Community Plan has focused on policies which will address in particular, the problems of affordable housing, housing for the elderly, and housing on farms. In addition to this it may also put in place planning policy which helps deliver faster and more reliable broadband access to the local communities.

Malcolm Smith, Eden District Council’s Economy and Planning Portfolio Holder and Ward Member for Brough said: “We are very proud that Eden is at the forefront of putting localism into action. I hand it to the parishes of the Upper Eden who have seized the opportunity to produce planning policies that they feel suit their local circumstances. The next stage is the referendum, and I urge everyone in the area to participate.”

Rory said: “It is fantastic that time and again Cumbrian communities are showing how they are taking the initiative to bring about the changes that matter to them most. If successful, the Upper Eden Neighbourhood Plan will put local communities in the driving seat on policies such as affordable, rural housing and rural broadband – two of the most important issues to local residents in the area.  I am delighted that Nick Boles has agreed to visit and gain a broader understanding of this project, and potentially see how it could be replicated across Cumbria and the UK.”

Nick Boles, the Minister for Planning at the Department of Communities and Local Government said: “I would like to congratulate Eden District Council and the Upper Eden Community on being the first place in the country to have a neighbourhood plan successfully examined under the Localism Act. This is a significant milestone and represents a momentous achievement for the district of Eden. I wish them the very best as they proceed and I look forward to visiting Upper Eden and to finding out more about their exciting plans in the New Year.”

The Examiner’s report and details of the referendum will be published as soon as possible. For more information about Eden District Council’s work with local communities visit www.eden.gov.uk

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Rory pays Christmas visit to busy Postal Workers

In the lead up to Christmas, Rory paid a visit to Penrith’s postal sorting office to thank local postal workers for their hard work, in what is their busiest time of the year.

The local MP was given a tour of the office, where he learned that the branch will process up to 50,000 items per day over the Christmas period. The most significant increase is in parcels and packets, which more than double to 5000 items per day. Rory has recently sent out hundreds of his own Christmas cards across the constituency – designed locally by five year old Erin McCanny who won his Christmas card competition – many of which will be processed in the Penrith sorting office.

Speaking at the meeting, Rory said: “It’s often easy to forget the incredible complexity and hard work that goes on once we post our cards in the letterbox, confident they will reach the intended recipient. To successfully deliver 50,000 items per day is no easy task, and I thought it was only right that I pay thanks in person to our local postal workers over the Christmas period.”

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local MPs meet with the warwick bridge community to discuss future of the A69

Rory and John Stevenson ,MP for Carlisle, met last Friday with over
150 local residents from Warwick Bridge and the surrounding area to
discuss the problems the A69 continues to cause within the village
and surrounding area, and what options were now available to residents
in order to address these concerns.

The meeting was organised by local Conservative Councillor Nick
Marriner, and the large turnout at the Downagate Community Centre on a
Friday evening was indicative of the issue’s importance to the local
community. Local residents have been calling for a by-pass for almost
40 years, and are now the only village along the A69 which do not have
one. They are also one of the few remaining villages in the country
that are dissected by a main trunk road.

Approximately 8,000 vehicles pass through Warwick Bridge and Corby
Hill every day and between ten and twelve thousand trucks pass through
the village every week.  Rory had the opportunity to
meet with residents of Warwick Bridge prior to the community meeting
and appreciate first hand the problems that this level of traffic can
cause to a village community.

Rory said: “It is instantly noticeable that the village is cut in two,
with nearly all the residents living on one side of the A69, and all
the local amenities like the school, shop, post office and GP’s
surgery found on the other side. The community is forced to engage
with this busy and dangerous road, and families and the elderly in
particular, understandably fear for their safety.”

Volunteers from every local village agreed to help gather petitions to
highlight local support for a by-pass or de-trunking of the A69. It
was suggested in the meeting that Cumbria County Council now need to
approach the Highways Agency to make a de-trunking request from the
A69. Rory Stewart and John Stevenson both agreed to apply pressure on
the Department for Transport to ensure that the request is processed
and ratified as quickly as possible.

Speaking afterwards, Rory said: “Tonight’s meeting was a very clear
signal of how important this issue is to local people. In communities
of our size, it is not often that you can gather over 150 people in a
room to talk about a singular issue and I would like to thank
Councillor Nick Marriner in particular for his role in organising this
event.

Clearly de-trunking will only help address part of this problem, but I
think it is a useful first step to ensuring that the concerns of the
local residents are realised and acknowledged at the appropriate
levels. Even this measure will not be easy however, and will require
further negotiations and pressure from every level. John and I will do
whatever we can to ensure that government is aware and supportive of
local communities’ call for action.

It is fantastic to see local communities on the A69 seize this issue
and demand change. We do have to be careful however to not ignore the
concerns of communities on the A689 as well. One resident tonight
understandably raised his concerns that any gains for residents living
along the A69, could well be at the expense of those on the A689. A
careful and holistic approach is what is now needed to ensure that
neither community is still campaigning for change for another forty
years to come.”

 

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rory highlights dangers of fraudulent charities over christmas period

Rory is warning residents of Penrith and the Border to check they are giving to a registered charity when approached for donations this Winter. According to an independent ICM poll commissioned by the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB), 2 in 5 adults across the UK do not make any checks when approached by a collector for a charitable donation.

Christmas is a traditional time for giving and charities work hard to raise money during this time to fund their work. Almost half (44%) of donors give directly to charity at Christmas time, giving an average of around £46 to the good causes they care about. 81% of those who give at Christmas stated they will be donating similar amounts this year as they did in 2011.

Almost all collections are genuine, but some people will try to abuse the generosity of others
for their own gain. With some charities having experienced fraud, it is vital that the public know
that their donations are going to the right place. The Charity Commission, the independent
regulator of charities in England and Wales, and Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB), the
self-regulatory body for UK fundraising, have come together to highlight the risk of
fraud to donors and charities alike, and to issue their tips for giving confidently this Christmas.

Speaking on the matter Rory Stewart said:

“Cumbrian communities are perhaps some of the most altruistic in the UK, with the vast majority of residents involved in volunteer or community work. I would hate to think that anyone was donating their own money to a fraudulent charity that was preying on our generous nature, and perhaps creating a culture where people feel less inclined to donate money to good causes in the future. I therefore urge everyone to follow the guidance set out by the Charity Commission for the Christmas period.

Sam Younger, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, says:

“Whilst it is encouraging to see many people do take steps to check whether a charity is registered
before giving, this poll shows there is still much to be done to raise awareness of charity fraud to
donors and charities. It only takes a few minutes to check for a registered charity number and for the
FRSB tick, but these are vital steps in ensuring your money goes to the right place. In a
tough economic climate it is heartening to see that 81% of Christmas donors will continue to
give similar amounts this year as they did last Christmas, and the Charity Commission continues
to work hard to maintain the public’s trust in charities, and raise awareness of fraudulent
activities.”

Follow these tips to avoid charity scams this Christmas:

1.         Before giving, check the charity’s name and registration number.  You can verify this at the Charity Commission’s website at www.charitycommission.gov.uk.

2.         When approached by collectors, check whether they are wearing a proper ID badge and that any collection tin is sealed.

3.         If in doubt, ask the collector for more information – a genuine fundraiser should be happy to answer questions and explain more about the work of the charity.

4.         Genuine fundraising materials should feature the charity’s name, registered name and a landline contact number.  Be wary of those that list only a mobile number.

5.         Look for the FRSB tick logo indicating that the charity is signed up to fundraising regulation, encouraging you to give with confidence. www.givewithconfidence.org.uk

6.         To check whether a fundraiser is authorised to collect money in a public place, contact your local authority or, if in London, the police. If it is a private place, check with the owner.

7.         Take care when responding to emails or clicking links to a charity’s website to ensure that they are genuine. Instead, search online for your favourite charity to check you have the right web
address.

8.         Carefully review collection bags for clothing and household goods to ascertain whether they are from a genuine charity.

9.         After making these checks, if you think that a collection or appeal is not legitimate, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 and inform the Charity Commission.

10.      If in any doubt, contact your favoured charity direct to make a donation.

Alistair McLean, Chief Executive of the Fundraising Standards Board –
the charity fundraising regulator across the UK, says:

“More and more public complaints reported to us at the FRSB question the legitimacy of fundraising appeals. Where charity fraud occurs, it not only diverts much-needed funds from the nation’s charities, but it comes at an even greater cost of damaging public trust and future giving.”

“Although charity fraud remains rare, it is essential that we all do what we can to make it increasingly difficult for criminals to cheat charities and their supporters in this way. And that simply means being aware and, if in doubt, making a few checks to ensure your money ends up where you want it to be. Above all, don’t stop giving. Charities need your support now more than ever.”

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rory warns of threat to parish councils’ income

Rory has in his capacity as Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Local Democracy warned that the Government’s plans for reforms to local government finance risk undermining the financial independence of parish councils.

Recently announced plans from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to devolve control and funding for council tax benefit to Local Authorities will lead to town and parish councils becoming financially dependent on larger principle authorities and losing their current financial independence which comes from their power to charge an additional precept on the council tax bills of those living in their area. The response to a recent consultation on the proposed changes made it clear that the vast majority of parish councils favoured a system which meant that funding for residents whose parish precept is funded by council tax benefit would have to be passed directly to them.

Despite this the Government have proposed a system where the grant funding provided to fund the precept of those claiming council tax benefit is provided to the local authority, but parish councils will have to negotiate with the district or unitary councils to ensure that they get their share of funding.

Rory said: “These measures, as they stand, are extremely worrying for town and parish councils. I have written immediately to the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, to ask him to reconsider these ill-thought out plans, and to protect the council tax base; the impact on small councils could be very, very damaging indeed. The Government’s final position on the protection of parish and town councils’ precept income has come has a surprise to the sector, given previous reassurances that the Government would respond to concerns about the proposals. Without an unadjusted council tax base applied to the new council tax support schemes, local councils could see their tax based reduced significantly and this would force them to raise precepts or reduce services. I appreciate that the funding attributable to the parish precept will be provided to the billing authority through grant funding, but this will leave town and parish councils dependent on being able to negotiate an equitable deal with principle authorities (this, in itself, poses certain logistical obstacles which will be difficult for small town and parish councils to overcome).  Obviously I will continue to lobby DCLG very hard, both as a local MP with a large number of small local councils operating in my constituency, and as Chairman of the APPG on Local Democracy on behalf of parish councils across England.”

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rory urges constituents to check for their cold weather payments

Following what has been a very cold few weeks, the Department for Work and Pensions has automatically released additional support for thousands of local recipients in the Penrith and the Border area, which Rory is highlighting to constituents.

Cold Weather Payments are made to eligible benefit claimants who live in postcode districts linked to Met Office weather stations which have recorded or forecast periods of severe cold weather (0°C or below) lasting for seven consecutive days. For Winter 2011/2012, 5.2 million individual payments were made worth a total of £129.2 million.

The Shap MET office weather station recorded temperatures meeting the criteria between 30/11/2012 and 6/12/201 and all residents entitled to the payment within postcodes CA10, CA11, CA12, CA16, CA17, LA10 will now automatically receive an additional £25 of benefits for this week of cold weather.

Rory is urging all residents who think they are entitled to this extra support to check they have received their payments. He said: “We live in an area where rurality, high fuel prices and a low average income mean that the cold weather hits us particularly hard. This extra support will help thousands stay warm over the winter period. The payments should be made automatically, but I would encourage anyone who feels they should have received this extra help, to contact their local pension centre or Jobcentre office as soon as possible.”

Further information on Cold Weather Payments can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/cold-weather-payment.

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rory discusses afghanistan and travel with ullswater and QEGS students

Rory was invited to Ullswater Community College in Penrith on Friday, where he gave a slide show on his Asian travels, and took questions from 150 students from both Ullswater and neighbouring Queen Elizabeth Grammar School.

Rory introduced the history, the culture, and the religion of the Central Asian region. He showed slides on family houses, and described the position of women, marriage, and the experience of decades of war. He also described charitable work in Afghanistan. It was a lively interaction between the MP and students with questions going in each direction.

Speaking afterwards, Rory said: “it was a great opportunity to introduce a part of the world, which is very important at the moment but which we often know too little about. These are societies which are about as far removed from our own as we can often imagine. But they raise very important thoughts about life, war, religion and family. I’d love to do more such talks – it’s very exciting to be able to introduce such testing subjects to students – and I learned a lot through the questions and answers. I hope I have the opportunity to do more such events.”