Labour 4 Tory 0

It is interesting to note in Coventry how local Tories voted in favour of increasing the council tax by 4.9% whilst voting against the budget as a whole! No mention of why of course whilst ignoring the fact that because their government refuses to properly fund social care the rise would be 3% less.

No one wants to increase tax but equally no one wants to see care for our elderly and disabled further diminished either. Hence the need for the rise.

On top of that, at a time when workers need all the help they can get, we have the government ‘consulting’ on closing job centres in the city. Contrast this with the Labour councils continued commitment to the job shop which helped 7,506 people in the last year get out of dependence and into work.

Notice the contrast between a Labour Council and a Tory government?

Just to add insult to injury, it was announced last year, Amazon are due to open a European distribution centre in Coventry creating 1650 full time jobs. Tories in Coventry voted against it. Labour supported it.

Notice the contrast between Tories and Labour again?

Then they complain about crime rising in parts of the city and ask what the police are doing about it. Meanwhile, in spite of the Tory government cutting 20,000 police nationwide and another £12M cut from West Midlands police this year, the Labour Police and Crime Commissioner in the West Midlands is recruiting 800 PCs and 150 PCSOs to help tackle crime.

Notice the contrast between the Tories and Labour once more?

Democracy: for better or for worse

Just a few words about on-going controversy about Europe and so called Brexit (a made up word to describe something no one really understands, so very apt then!) and whether or not people knew what they were voting for.

You could always argue people didn’t know what they were voting for in loads of other examples.

Think about this.

Take every general election since virtually the dawn of time.
Has anyone voted in a general election where in one or any of the manifestos it said the government would go to war? Not as far as I know they didn’t. They would though have said that if they won the election they would defend the country.

Since 1948 has a mainstream party had in their manifesto that they would destroy the NHS? I can’t recall one. They all say they would defend the NHS.

Another example. Taxes. Parties generally pledge not to increase them, specifically income tax. 2001 may have been an exception where Labour pledged to increase National Insurance by 1pence in the pound for the NHS.

So what happens in the end? Unsurprisingly, events happen over time. We go to war not because we want to but because national security dictates we do. One can argue about the specific examples but you get my point I hope. We’re defending the country or our interests they will say.

Parts of the NHS have been slowly privatised and waiting times have gone up. It happens over time and the government can point to keeping their pledge with certain areas of spending increased but the evidence is there for all to see.

Taxes have been raised more times than we can all remember. VAT, National Insurance, Council tax. You name it, it happens!
Did anyone vote for any of this though? No is generally the response.

So my question is this.

When people voted in the European referendum last year, what were they voting for? To partially leave? To leave on good terms? To stay but change the agreement of our membership?

It seems to me the question was as straight forward as it could have been: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? Vote yes or vote no.

Your choice!

How all this will end up is anyone’s guess. The idea that we always know everything about what we are voting for is absurd. We may suspect of course in some circumstances!

However, that being the case, just like after every vote this country has ever had, the argument will and must go on. Our country must not descend further into the sort of intolerant abuse that too often these days blights public discourse. That’s the point of a democracy. Everybody, and I mean everybody, including Tony Blair, has the right to argue their corner.

To finish, I quote our American cousins and friends: ‘it’s the peaceful transition of power.’

Happy New Year! Jobs for 2017 and beyond.

It was recently announced that a big firm would locate to Coventry creating 1650 jobs. This was something I supported and publicly spoke in favour of to secure the investment. There were some dissenting voices, particularly local Tory Councillors who disgracefully voted against the plans at a planning meeting.

Why do I support these plans though?

I used the same public information available to anyone in coming to my decision. Coventry has higher than regional and national unemployment figures and has done for years. Secondly, we have a particular problem with young people seeking employment. Thirdly, whilst we have two thriving universities in Coventry, something I fully welcome, only about 40% of school leavers go. Fourthly, it will be built on the old Jaguar site on Browns Lane, a site which has had employment on it since the 1930s!

Which leads me to my final and most crucial point.

The company creating these jobs operate in a growing sector of the economy, a company used and known by just about everyone in the country. They have promised full time contracts, reasonable pay and conditions with opportunities for apprenticeships for all workers. Why would I deny that opportunity to Coventry citizens? And how could local Tories denigrate these jobs and deny opportunity for our own people? In short, snobbery is the answer! Tory Councillors would sooner see people languish with no hope or opportunity than actually support people to get up in the morning and go to work!

Fortunately though the decision was made positively by Labour Councillors and we move on. My work does not stop there though.

Jaguar Land Rover and the council are in constant contact about their ambitious plans to build and develop modern batteries for new electric Jags! Very exciting I can tell you! A lot of work still needs to be done and we need the government to help with infrastructure so these plans can come to fruition. It will not be without its issues and problems.

One thing I can guarantee you though whilst I am the Councillor in charge of Jobs and Regeneration: no stone will go unturned in our pursuit of sustainable, modern and good employment in all its forms for our people in Coventry. That is my pledge.

Merry Christmas and let’s make it a very Happy New Year for all workers and job seekers in our city.

Very light rail in Coventry?

A number of people have asked me recently for further details about a ‘plan’ to introduce trams back into Coventry. There has been some publicity in the local media about it and I thought I would take this opportunity to clarify what it is all about.

As you know, as well as being a local Councillor in St. Michael’s Ward, I am also the Coventry City Council Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration. In short, this is the policy area which looks at inward investment, redevelopment, transport, tourism and many other exciting areas.

So, one of the first questions I asked on taking the job was: is our public transport system good enough in Coventry?

In general, the answer has been a resounding no! The question then is what to do about it?

You will have heard about the proposed High Speed Two (HS2) train which the government are pressing on with. Whether, you, I or anyone else agrees with the principle, the government are progressing with it, the biggest construction project this country has seen for decades? Its first stop from London will be right next to the NEC which is just a few short miles from Coventry down the A45.

You will also be aware of the new Combined Authority for the West Midlands which Coventry is a member of. Again, this is a government construct which they are determined to press ahead with as part of their devolution agenda. It has many flaws that we are all aware of but one of its potential strengths is that it comes with new government money and borrowing powers. The idea is that this will encourage further investment in the area and create jobs for local people.

This got me thinking.

Other than road and the train to Birmingham, how will Coventry be linked up to HS2?

The answer? A bus I was told! A sprint bus to be exact. However, it is clear there is no great desire nor love for this idea so I asked about alternatives.

I was told we have a world class organisation in Coventry developing alternatives to traditional trams and buses! Very Light Rail (VLR) is its name. This is happening at the Warwick Manufacturing Group at Warwick University in Coventry. It is light, flexible and more importantly, cheaper than traditional types of trams. It doesn’t require heavy infrastructure alterations either such as overhead cables or road and bridge strengthening. Surely, I should ask that we examine and explore this opportunity? If we can get the Combined Authority to free up some of the £370M agreed as part of the devolution deal to join the authority, we will be in business.

You might ask why though? Well, why not?

When was the last time Coventry had a unique, new and revolutionary public transport system? It could be linked to Jaguar Land Rover in Whitley and beyond. Coventry could have VLR running in and out of Warwick University who employ thousands of people. And it could eventually be linked up to HS2 and even a new Birmingham Airport with a second runway. We could build it too.

The opportunity is there and the economic prize for Coventry and our population is great. It would mean new jobs, a new 21st Century transport system and yes, a tourist attraction for Coventry too.

I owe it to our citizens to at the very least see what is possible and practical.

Labour Today

I’m glad Labour appears to be putting the leadership election behind it and moving on. Whatever people feel about why there was a leadership election or what the result was, in the end it was done in a democratic way with a democratic decision at the end of it. Nothing runs smoothly in any political party which is full of different opinions and ideas of what to do or which direction to follow. What a successful party can do though is have our discussions in private, agree a position and then all pull together in the same direction. We have done it before and we can do it again.

We must unite to take on the Tories as once again they seek to both shape the country in their image whilst looking to divide society one against another. Take grammar schools as an example.

Any objective look at the proposal for their reintroduction across the country must conclude they are divisive and not just because of the entrance exam. They are divisive because we all know millions of parents think their child will be the one to get into the school so they will be alright. What happens when they don’t of course ends up being a complete lottery that they will almost certainly lose.

This is why as a party we need to challenge this policy not just by saying that it is all about segregation instead of education, but by putting forward a realistic alternative that offers hope to all parents whilst demonstrating best practice in schools of all types in our communities that offer great education and life chances for our children. That is what parents will respond to positively.

We should also unite to take on the Tories on the economy. They have torn up George Osborne’s fiscal rules and given up on the idea that they want to balance the budget in this parliament.


Because they know it can’t be achieved in exactly the way Labour has been saying for years. We need to go on the attack and stop the Tories painting us the wreckers of the economy which we all know was damaged by a world-wide recession caused by the banks and not by Labour spending.

We need to defend our record which we haven’t done very well since 2010 and point out that the Tories want to break their borrowing rules yet at the same time plan to continue austerity policies which adversely affect the poor far greater than anyone else. I suspect they are lining up sweeteners to lull the public into a false sense of economic security and Labour must be aware of that.

Whatever their motives are such as an early election or softening the country up prior to a hard Brexit, we must redouble our efforts to be seen not just as an affective opposition but a government in waiting. Hearing of MPs returning to the front bench is another good sign which will help to hold the government to account.

To quote directly from Clause 1.2 of the Labour Party rules book: Its purpose is to organise and maintain in Parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.

That is our purpose for being. We can only help those who need our help if we attain government so we can legislate to make our country fairer and our poor richer. But to gain the country’s trust, we must be coherent and united. Otherwise we will fail our great historical purpose.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!

As well as being a local Councillor for the St Michael’s Ward of the City, I am also privileged to be the Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration in the city. This means I am responsible for the policy area of redevelopment in the city centre, investment and job creation across the city and helping and supporting business across Coventry. It is exciting and challenging.

Coventry has many qualities and success stories. We are resilient and can bounce back from adversity. We are seeing Jaguar Land Rover expand and invest just a few years after it closed its Browns Lane Plant. London Taxi Company is now expanding with a new plant at Ansty just a couple of years after going into administration. Both companies have one thing in common: they now have owners who have invested and are seeing the rewards of this policy.

It doesn’t end there either. I am in regular contact with business from both this country and overseas looking to invest and grow in Coventry. We need more jobs with good pay and conditions for our young people who are struggling to get a full time job and don’t have the opportunities their parents had when Coventry was a boom town in the 1960’s and 70’s. I am confident I will announce new investments very soon!

That being said, we also have challenges. Our city centre needs to improve, a statement I am sure everyone will agree with. I hear and read a lot about the university taking over the city centre. It is true that Coventry University has grown massively over the last few years. So has Warwick University. One point which is always lost in this debate is that Coventry University employs about 4,000 people, 3,000 of whom work directly in Coventry itself. The figure for Warwick University is comparable too. That doesn’t include the thousands of students living, shopping and spending money in and around the city. It generates investment and wealth where without it, they would be nothing else.

However, it is true, we need a mix in the city centre, something I know both universities agree with having met with them. That’s why I am encouraging new schemes and developments in our city centre which will compliment and use current and often iconic buildings which we must utilise for multiple use whilst preserving the best of the post war architecture we have in our city. Again, watch for exciting announcements soon!

We must never rest in our pursuit of new opportunities for our citizens. In particular, I focus on jobs for our younger people who deserve the chance to get on the housing ladder and become independent. That way, we will see our city really begin to prosper.

Charterhouse Heritage Park and Trail set for go-ahead

I publish a press release today which I think lays out my thinking around the scheme quite nicely. As the Cabinet Member responsible for this area of policy, I recognised right away how important this scheme could be both for the immediate local area and Coventry itself. It adds a new dimension to our tourist offer which needs some work on it. This is just one strand of that work and vision. Daily life isn’t just about work. And neither is a city and its centre. It needs to offer shops, employment and places to eat and drink yes. But it also needs a cultural offer for citizens and visitors alike. This is a new and interesting aspect of that offer.

So, here goes…

Coventry City Council is set to approve plans for the creation of the Charterhouse Heritage Park and Trail.

The Council is working in partnership with the Historic Coventry Trust on the plans, which centre around the c14th Charterhouse and Paxton’s Arboretum Cemetery in London Road. Work on the trail will also include opening up areas of the River Sherbourne to create a river side walk.

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Coventry City Council’s Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, said:

“The creation of the Charterhouse Heritage Park and Trail will be brilliant for the city.

“Coventry has a rich history and an amazing heritage, but much of it is tucked away and largely unseen. The heritage trail will allow us to open up a green corridor connecting the city centre to the Charterhouse and helping local people and visitors to understand more about the amazing historical story that our city has to tell. The cemetery on London Road is a real hidden gem, designed by Joseph Paxton and opened in 1847 it includes a number of listed buildings.

“It will also create improved walking and cycling links in the area and encourage more people to get out and explore their area. It will also unearth our hidden river that to many has lain hidden underneath jungle of buildings and roads. If we can finally have our River Sherbourne free for all to see again after decades of invisibilty, we will have done a massive favour to the citizens of our fine city.”

The trail would include a two mile loop walk and cycle path along riverside parkland and through woodland. The first phases of the project at the Charterhouse and Cemetery have received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and designs are currently being worked up.

The Trust’s plans will be available to view by the public over the weekend of 11 and 12 September at Charterhouse as part of the Heritage Open Days event.

Jaguar Roaring Back in Coventry

It was back to the shop floor the other day when I visited the Whitley Plant of Jaguar Land Rover. In my role as Cabinet member for Jobs and Regeneration on Coventry City Council, I was accompanied by my colleague and deputy Cllr David Welsh to see for ourselves the work which goes on there. I have to say, I was both impressed and surprised.
Impressed, by the sheer diversity of the work which is going on there and surprised by the sheer numbers of employees. Coming from the manufacturing side of car building, I was a little sceptical if I am honest about the numbers of employees needed for some Research and Development which is a core of the business at Whitley. I needn’t have been!

3,500 people work on site and you can see as soon as you walk in that they need more space. People everywhere, carrying lap tops and having meetings in corridors and restaurants. On top of that, you come across product stored in corridors on pallets because they literally have nowhere else to put them.

Research and Development is key to any success for a company of the size and reach of JLR. It embeds product design here in Coventry and leads the way for further expansion of new products around the world.

However, they do far more than that at Whitley! They have a whole production line of prototype cars which will lead to full production in the near future. They have a whole department for demonstration cars for the media and press to test cars for reviews in magazines and TV programmes. Housed at Whitley as well is what is known as their power train. This is where engines, transmissions, drive shafts and differentials are tested to destruction to ensure their quality and reliability. This is really crucial these days as JLR now manufacture their own engines here in the West Midlands.

So, as you can see, the company are expanding not only in size but also in what it does right here in Coventry. That’s why I have agreed, on behalf of Coventry City Council, to help the company expand on their current site and surrounding area, which will give them the space they need to grow. This will be beneficial to the quality not only of the site but also to the products they are developing and building. It will also mean new jobs coming to Coventry, something we desperately need in our city.

Vote Remain in Europe on June 23rd.

Today I urge readers to do two things for me. You will no doubt be aware that there is to be a referendum on the UK remaining or leaving the European Union. This is such an important vote and I have some messages to help you make up your mind.

Firstly, please get registered to vote. If you are not registered you can’t vote. You must register by 7th June. Please go to or GOV.UK/register-to-vote. Remember, if you don’t register, your voice and opinion will be ignored. Is that what you want? In particular I urge younger people to register and vote. This is about your future. Don’t let it be decided without you!

Secondly, I want you to vote to REMAIN in the EU. And here is why.

I can tell you all about the fact that 3 million jobs in the UK are linked to trade with the UK. Millions of people have a right to paid holidays and protections at work. I can remind you that the EU is the UKs biggest trading partner in what is the world’s biggest market that has no tariffs meaning lower costs for goods and services.

I could mention the UK gets £26.5bn of investment each year from other EU countries that could go elsewhere if we left.

And I might mention that a rise of just 0.5% in interest rates brought about by instability if the UK left would mean on average an extra £150 per month on the average mortgage repayment.

The economic case is made overwhelmingly to stay.

But I want to talk about what I believe this referendum is really about. I believe this referendum is giving a fig leaf of respectability to the issue that many that want to leave don’t want you to know about.

Their views on Race and Immigration. The two in their minds are linked.

You will always hear the leavers like Nigel Farage saying the UK needs control of its borders. Can I ask you: who controls the UK border now? The French? The Germans? The Italians? NO! It’s the UK!

Ah the leavers say. It’s these pesky Europeans getting in legally though. Particularly the Eastern Europeans. We don’t want them the leavers cry. Of course, all this conveniently ignores the fact that there are 4.5million Brits living abroad.

But don’t let facts get in the way of a good bit of xenophobia!

Anyone would think we have never had immigration in our country before listening to them. And in that lies a danger.

Beware of believing the rhetoric of the leave campaign. They use the same language that was used in the 1950’s and 1960’s as people from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean landed on our shores. The same rhetoric that led to hotels and guest houses putting up signs that said ‘No dogs, No blacks, No Irish.’ If the leavers like Farage have their way, you will see him turn on UK residents who are not like him. Be assured of that.

Any country that is sure about its place in the world can cope with all challenges that as an open and honest society we face. And with that, comes opportunities too. To travel, to trade, to broaden our minds and our horizons.

Finally, think on this.

In an uncertain world, why now would we fall out with our neighbours and retrench to a little England that in truth has never existed for most of us? And finally, tell me this: why are countries queuing up not to leave but to join the EU?

On June 23rd, vote to Remain.

Bring back the cane……for the government

I can only believe the Tory government has finally flipped its lid. This happens when they start believing their own propaganda: lies for short.

The plan to force all schools to become academies is mad and it is wrong. Mad because it will cost money schools can ill afford. Wrong because there is no guarantee it will improve standards. If schools want to become academies then that should be up to the school, parents and wider community.

But this plan will fail. Why?

Because it is based on the lie that schools are “freeing” themselves from local authority control.

I wish someone could honestly explain what this daft notion of “freeing” is all about. As a governor of a community school over many years, the main role the local authority has had has been in helping when it comes to functions the school was not necessarily set up to deal with. This was often to do with legislative requirements brought about by government diktat. Or new government standards and preparing for a government inspection by OFSTED, the government’s school inspector.

Note all these are government requirements. However, according to the government, the council are interfering!

This will not end well.

On top of this you have the Free School agenda allowing schools to be opened in areas already well served by other schools, creaming off pupils at the expense of the others. Woodlands is the first of what will be other casualties.