Friday, 26 January 2007

Managing your hip replacement waiting list

Hip replacement waiting lists are not difficult to manage. Here is one way to do it. Do not worry about the target through September, October or November. In mid December write to the people at the top of the list offering them an operation on Christmas Eve. They will mostly refuse. This resets those patients' "time on list" rating to zero, and the hospital will achieve their hip replacement waiting list target.

I was told this had really happened by a senior orthopaedic surgeon. I haven't tried to verify it.

He apologised for putting hip replacement waiting lists top of the NHS political agenda in 1997 and all the target manipulation that has happened since.

Tax Tax Tax

Only 3 business days left to file your self assessment tax return. Time for the annual panic and rising of blood pressure.

I have a degree in Maths and Economics from Cambridge university. I have worked in banking for 14 years, advising some of Europe's largest companies on huge deals. I am financially capable. I should not need to pay an accountant to fill in my tax return.

Every year out of complete obstinacy I decide to do it myself (and always put it off and put it off.)

Vicky Ford's return should not be a difficult one - there is not a mountain of money out there waiting to be declared. This year it consisted of a bonus left over from my old employer, bit of interest at the bank and a property that I rent out. It is not as if I am running a handful of different small businesses. SO WHY IS THE FORM SO COMPLICATED?

It has taken me 3 1/2 hours, two excel spreadsheets and five phone calls to the inland revenue for advice. They have had to call me back twice while they tried to look up the info I needed. Is it any wonder that the average person is deeply confused and the "black economy" of undeclared income is growing.

Last year I helped the tax reform commission look at what is wrong with Britain's tax system. The final report was excellent. Read it please. We wrote "Tax should, as far as possible, be clear, easy to understand, of certain application, easy to calculate and easy to collect".

One of the first priorities for the next Conservative government must be to reform taxes.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Military cash crunch - you heard it here first

Todays Telegraph leads that defence spending is at its lowest since 1930 and points out that spending has fallen to about half what it was 20 years ago (in terms of GDP). A fact that I dug up a couple of weeks ago when I was concerned about proposed cuts to the Navy.

Too many politicians are frightened to mention the dreadful mess that our soldiers are fighting in in Iraq. There is an element of John Cleese "don't mention the war". My view is that we must not look at the past, but at the present and at the future. In the future we want to work out a safe way to bring our troops back home. In the present they are there, they are fighting in horrendous circumstances, losing lives for us back home. They should be properly funded and equiped whilst they are there.
However we read that ministers have ordered the defence chiefs to stop leaks about equipment shortfalls and cutbacks.

A "Government Spokesman" is quoted as saying that "the defence budget has actually been increasing its just that GDP has risen more quickly".

I would add "And taxes have risen even faster".

Big Gordon at number 11 takes more of our money than at any time for the past 20 years. Why is he cutting the amount that he gives to our military without proper public debate?

Friday, 19 January 2007


Is it right that residents of commonwealth countries who have stood by Britain for generations are put in second place behind residents of EU accession countries? See Iain Dale's Diary: I Want to be an MP to Fight for People Like This...">Iain Dale on this today

Load of Rubbish

I was listening to Gordon Brown on the Today program this morning. He said that all over the country people are asking for a "stronger sense of what our national purpose is". What a load of rot.

One of the things about being an "A List Candidate" is that I've been able to travel around quite a lot of the country recently. From the West Country to the West Midlands, the Thames Gateway to the Ouze. Some people even spotted me in Yorkshire and Nottingham.

I speak to people in shops, outside schools, at the park, in the pubs, on the bus, at the hospital. People tell me a lot about what they want but NO-ONE has ever said "I need a stronger sence of my national purpose". Come on Gordon get back onto our planet.

Can anyone explain what he is on about?

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Stormy Weather

Back when I was young if really bad weather was coming the radio used to say something like "You are advised to only start a journey if it is essential".

Today was the big doc's birthday so perhaps I only had half an ear on the radio but I definately did not feel warned about what I was about to recieve.

It took 4 hours to travel 45 miles of the M11, with flying trees and at least 4 upturned lorries. The police eventually did a good job, holding back traffic and then allowing vehicles out in convoys lead at 30mph. Perhaps this stopped some more accidents. Train lines have come down and many friends are stuck at work tonight unable to get home.

Loads of us could easily work from home on a day like today - was it really necessary for people to put their lives at risk?

Should the police have given us all a stronger warning. I think so. The police don't have enough time to think of those living in rural areas.

UPDATE: 11.30 Friday morning - OK I eat some humble pie. I've surveyed a dozen or so different people today and some had heard warnings to stay at home (some had not though). The TV was apparently running warnings the night before and yesterday morning. However I stand by my thought that throughout yesterday afternoon when the gale was raging. I was listening to local radio stations in Essex commuter belt and there was no warning to people to try to stay inside until the weather abated. Perhaps this should not have been the police's job - perhaps it should have been up to local councillors (I which case I am also guilty of shirking responsibility.).

Monday, 15 January 2007

Cost of being a candidate

Con-home website is on about the cost of being a candidate again. When I was selected as the parliamentary candidate for Birmingham Northfield one of the first things I did was go to visit the MG Rover factory, the largest employer in the constituency. I also bought a second hand Rover 25. It was the worst financial investment of my life. (You will remember that the company went bust in the middle of the general election.)

Despite this I love my Rover 25.

As the Conservative parliamentary candidate I got to fight for the issues I care about about, in the country I love.

I fought that battle for the Rover workers and others. For people that deserve an honest, decent, forward looking government.

Yes, being a candidate in a general election carries a high financial cost. Every candidate would be better off focusing on a "proper job". But please remember the experience as a candidate is one that can not be measured in money alone.

Friday, 12 January 2007

Saving the NHS

Well done Gerry Robinson and the BBC for his program on saving the NHS. I think we owe a big thank you to the doctors, nurses and managers who were brave enough to let their failings be aired in front of the whole world.

I would love to be a fly in the wall in every hospital around the country this week as the program gets debated. When I talk to different medical professionals around the country I realise the NHS's illness has thousands of different symptoms in different places.

Gerry won’t be able to cure the NHS single handed but around the country there are many who are thinking afresh about the symptoms that are presented in their own workplace. Part of finding a cure for the NHS is restoring faith and trust in the professionals that work in it - Gerry found this out.

Perhaps the outcome of this program will be that some of those local symptoms will be cured. This can only be helpful.

Friday, 5 January 2007

Money Muddle for the Military

We are told Britain's economic stability is the envy of the developed world. We know tax payers are contributing more of our economic earnings to the public purse than at any time for the past 20 years. So why can't we afford a proper navy? (Let alone decent homes for our soldiers' wives?)

The answer is that our current government does not view defence spending as a priority. Rightly or wrongly our forces are committed in two major warzones and many other "situations" around the globe. However defence spending has declined dramatically. From 4.2% of GDP in 1985-1989 to around 2.3% in 2005.

Like many civilians I do not want to try to second guess our military leaders and tell them what pieces of equipment, ships, aircraft or submarines they should be buying to defend me. But I do want to be defended and am proud of Britain's great military and naval history. Where in all those election manifestos did the Labour party they tell the British public about their plans to cut military spending so dramatically?

Another report in today's paper is that the US navy is hunting down al-Qa'eda suspects off the coast of Somalia. This sounds like exactly what I want a navy to be able to do in today's world. One of the ships they are using is a destroyer. The sort of ship that I read is almost "entirely useless" in today's world. Is it any wonder some of us on civy street are in a muddle.