Friday, 25 February 2011

Local Elections: Independent Candidate Recruitment Drive

The Independent Network is recruiting ‘Independent Candidates for Local Government Elections’ by placing advertS on the popular listings site Guardian Jobs,, Gumtree,

The Independent Network is the only campaigning organisation that promotes and supports independent candidates and non-party politicians. Ahead of the Local Elections 2011 it has launched a recruitment drive to encourage those dissatisfied with party political representation to stand for local government positions. Applicants are requested to “run as candidates for local government positions to represent their communities and consciences [treating] political opponents with courtesy and respect whilst being free from the control of any political party, pressure group or whip”.

The adverts are targetting people in all 279 English local authorities excluding London: candidates are also sought to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Applicants from London are receiving advice on how to organise a longer campaign for independent candidacy at the next London local elections in 2012.

Councillor Catherine Lewis, from Torfaen, Wales and recently short-listed for an ‘Online Councillor Award’, said:

“The Independent Network is encouraging people of all ages and all backgrounds to apply by posting adverts on, and as well as the high traffic Guardian Jobs site. Through targeting a variety of websites they are likely to capture the attention of a variety of possible candidates. It’s great to see such a widespread recruitment drive. Unlike national elections, it’s free to stand for government at a local level, so there really should be no barrier to getting involved with your local democracy.”


Independent candidates are being sent a new campaign manual, produced by the Independent Network for independent candidates standing in the May 2011 local government elections.

Jim Thornton, an Executive member of the Independent Network, and co-author of the booklet said:

“The manual, ‘Elections on a Shoe-string’, includes ideas from all round the country for getting maximum votes for minimum cost. Local press ideas, innovative canvassing tactics, cost efficient impact publicity, and the basic ‘need-to-know’ information is all included. Copies are being sent to independent groups of councillors and supporters of independently minded politics across the United Kingdom, and are available for free to all candidates endorsed by the Independent Network.”

Councillor Tom Bletsoe, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, 18 years old and the UK’s youngest councillor, said:

“I’m living proof that young people can get elected. The election campaign is a great experience where you have to learn a tool-kit of new skills, and if elected you’re given the opportunity to represent your communities and have a say in how your council is run. 2.5 million people are currently unemployed. 951,000 of those 2.5 million are aged between 16-25: that’s almost 1 million intelligent, energetic people who could get involved with local politics. Only 37 percent of 18-24 year-olds voted in the 2005 General Election – the lowest percentage turnout for any age group, but we are still interested in local issues and in political issues, we’re just fed up with party political tribes.”

Mayor Tony Egginton, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, the first independent elected Mayor, said:

“The recruitment drive offers solutions to disgruntled voters and those with some time to give – from new graduates to skilled labourers and retired businessmen. It could be an opportunity – in an employment vacuum – for young people and old to engage with a political system that does not appear to represent them. Over the last two decades membership of UK political parties has fallen drastically but most people remain interested in local issues. It’s so important that these people are encouraged to stand for election without having to sell-out to a political party.”

To receive endorsement from the Independent Network candidates’ commitment to the Bell Principles is assessed at a local level. The Bell Principles are the first code of conduct for elected representatives.

Martin Bell OBE, The inspiration for the Bell Principles, said:

“It is a time for the election of independents, without party baggage but with real world experience, to be a force for honest politics in local government. They will be answerable not to a political party but only to their constituents and their consciences.”


A training day will be held for independent candidates on Saturday 26th May in London, just six weeks ahead of the local elections 2011. The six weeks that follow are when the bulk of each candidates’ campaign is run. Representatives from the Electoral Commission, from the Independent Group at the Local Government Association, long-term councillors and new media campaigners will give workshops as the independent candidates gear up to the final make or break weeks of their electioneering.

Tamsin Omond, national coordinator of the Independent Network, said:

"Some people would like to run for local council positions but may not know that they can, particularly without selling out to a political party. We want to encourage them and show them that there is an alternative to party politics and that the Independent Network will support them. At a local level people want to be represented and many do not believe that party politicians will represent them.

"Independents are the only alternative to party politics. The Independent Network wants dedicated local people who are committed to the Bell Principles and to their constituents to stand for local government.”

The adverts can be viewed here:,, WISEOWLS AD,


Notes to Editors:

For more information please visit: Alternatively you can contact the press office at 020 7609 0777 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 020 7609 0777 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

The Independent Network is a loose non- profit association that provides support to candidates who do not belong to a political party. The Independent Network was established to provide support for independent candidates, as no other organisation existed to support them.

Independent candidates do not have access to a large national party structure with its human and financial resources. The Independent Network was formed to attend to this inequality and continues to encourage the electorate to acknowledge the success and influence that independents are having in local Government and can have in Parliament.

The Independent Network does not impose any political views on the individuals and parties it supports or that support the Independent Network. However, endorsed candidates must be non-discriminatory and adhere to The Bell Principles.

The Bell Principles require that all endorsed independent candidates:

  • abide wholeheartedly by the spirit and letter of the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by Lord Nolan in 1995: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership
  • be guided by considered evidence, our real world experience and expertise, our constituencies and our consciences
  • be free from the control of any political party, pressure group or whip
  • be non-discriminatory, ethical and committed to pluralism
  • make decisions transparently and openly at every stage and level of the political process, enabling people to see how decisions are made and the evidence on which they are based
  • listen, consulting our communities constantly and innovatively
  • treat political opponents with courtesy and respect, challenging them when we believe they are wrong, and agreeing with them when we believe they are right
  • resist abuses of power and patronage and promote democracy at every level
  • claim expenses, salaries and compensation openly so the public can judge the value for money of our activities.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Pensioners £80bn 'out of pocket' from underestimated inflation rate

Pensioners have lost out on around £80 billion because the rate of inflation was underestimated for the past 12 years, experts have warned.

Millions of pensioners missed out on hundreds of pounds a year because their retirement benefits had not increased to reflect the full rise in inflation.

The Bank of England admitted in its monthly inflation report, published this week, that the Consumer Price Index, to which many pensions are pegged, was 0.3 points a year higher than figures had previously stated between 1997 and 2009.

It meant that prices ended that period almost 4 per cent higher than recorded in the official figures released by the Office of National Statistics.

Experts said this meant that pensioners on the average pension of £16,500 would have seen their payments cut about £650 a year.

Many final salary pension schemes link pension payments to inflation. If the rate rises so does the annual payout to pensioners.

But the Department for Work and Pensions dismissed suggestions that benefit rates to pensions would be changed. It said this would be done only “if the official inflation figures were recalculated and republished”.

The CPI error came from a misreporting of clothing and shoe prices which were affected by heavy sales discounting.

The ONS “picked up seasonal falls in prices during the winter and summer sales, but did not fully capture the recovery in prices after sales had finished”, the Bank said.

The ONS changed the way it recorded the prices of clothes and shoes in January last year. But according to the report, the miscalculation was “likely to have a larger impact on the retail price index inflation than on CPI inflation”.

John Broome Saunders, from BDO Investment Management, estimated the cost to pensioners could be as high as £80bn.

“Had the inflation calculation been done correctly, many final salary scheme members would now find themselves entitled to a pension around 4 per cent higher than their actual entitlement,” he said.

“And this doesn't just affect pensioners – deferred scheme members have also been denied a similar level of increase."

Mike Smedley, a pensions partner at KPMG, the global accounting firm, said: "While these sound like small amounts, they add up over the life of a pensioner.

“This just highlights that the small-print lottery of company pension scheme rules will have an even greater impact than we previously thought."

Richard McIndoe, head of pensions at Strathclyde Pension Fund, one of the largest pension funds in the country, described the disclosures as “messy” and “unfortunate".

“Pensioners will feel aggrieved when they see this, and they think they should have received four per cent more,” he said.

A DWP spokeswoman denied that the changes to the calculation affected benefit rates or pensions.

“Inflation figures are determined by the ONS who regularly do work to improve their methods of calculation,” she said.

“Any changes in methodology do not mean that previous inflation rates were incorrect."

An ONS spokesman said the inflation measurement “improvements” were part of a programme to ensure figures were kept up-to-date.

“(The) ONS agrees with the Bank of England that the improved collection practices for clothing better reflects current consumer behaviour and have improved the measurement of clothing prices,” he said.

“Implementation of such improvements do not, of course, mean that there were measurement errors in the past.”

He declined to comment further. The BoE said responsibility for inflation calculations remained with the ONS.

Daily Telegraph

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Elderly care: Where now for the NHS?

The NHS in England is accused, by the Health Service Ombudsman, of failing older people.

A report into 10 complaints said the NHS was failing to meet even the most basic standards of care for older people.

The ombudsmen said these were "not isolated cases" - 18% of its complaints about the NHS last year were about the care of older people.

So what can the NHS learn from best practice?

According to The Alzheimer's Society, individual hospitals vary in their approach to looking after the elderly.

Some are taking the lead with measures such as "reminiscence rooms" to spark faded memories, colour-coded trays for patients who need help eating and clearer signposting to toilets and bathrooms.

The society produces a leaflet "This is Me" to support people with dementia going into hospital.

Relatives can add photos and information about family, favourite foods and medication to help nurses support the patient in an unfamiliar place.

Training is another approach that is being targeted.

Since September last year, the nursing and midwifery council made it mandatory for all nurses to be educated in how to care for people with a cognitive impairment, such as dementia.

Professor Ian Peate of the school of nursing at Thames Valley University said they teach students to treat all patients with respect, and as an individual.

"It's about promoting dignity, about looking at the individual as a whole person and making sure that the whole person's nature is taken into account as opposed to some individual aspect of their care."

Tender Loving Care

Other inspiration is coming from NHS staff themselves. Nicola Matthews, a nurse for 30 years, set up a website Kissing It Better, after going into hospital herself and being shocked by the standard of care.

The website, run with former nurse, Jill Fraser, is based on the idea that small simple things can make life easier for patients.

This includes everything from the central tenet of giving simple tender loving care to putting family photos in a frame by the bed to remind staff that a patient is someone's brother, uncle, sister or father.

"You want staff to know that they are a person," says Matthews. "A much-loved grandfather rather than a little old person in bed. No one is just a little old person in a bed."

She says "communication is the key to the whole thing". And if someone has concerns about their or a relative's care they should speak up immediately and stand their ground.

She acknowledges this is not always easy, particularly for older patients.

"Nursing staff are in uniform - a part of the institution. Patients are in their pyjamas, in a public place."

Matthews says the name "Kissing it Better" is based on the idea of a child having a wound "kissed better".

She believes not that much has changed, from the patient's perspective - since Florence Nightingale's day.

They still need fresh air, respect, good food at reasonable times, clean sheets, clean wards, and the assurance that all their needs will be met.

"We want nursing staff on our side," she adds. "Most are doing a fantastic job in immensely difficult circumstances."

Friday, 4 February 2011

Citizens’ Advice Bureau centres across the country are under threat from closure due to massive cuts in their budget.

In particular five CAB’s in Birmingham are faced with immediate closure as the council, which provides £600,000 per year has decided to stop funding its service. The government’s idea of ‘Big Society’ appears to be very different to that of the Community and Voluntary sector.

The Citizens Advice service is one of the largest volunteer organisations in the UK with over 20,000 volunteers. The majority of these are part time volunteer advisers. To cut funding further when historically CAB’s have been on the brunt of cuts before, is an affront to a decent society and yet another example of the brutal nature of these cuts.
All bureaux try to ensure their services are accessible to all sections of the community, so that provision can be made for the housebound, immigrant communities, rural inhabitants, elderly and disabled as appropriate.
The government has claimed that the way cuts are made is up to the councils, yet the amount of money they are asking to cut from their budget means unreasonable demands are being made. Washing their hands of it is typical, and unfair. Most cuts could be avoided if the government chose to ensure big corporations paid their due in tax or a levy against the banks that threw us into this mess in the first place was given back. The public bailout of RBS and Lloyds TSB cost the tax payer £1.5 trillion. In addition, the cuts that are being made are taking place too quickly and without thought.

Wise Owls are going to monitor and highlight the attacks the government are making on the vital services that affect the every day life of people who rely on those services.

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