Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Brighton Rocks!

Some idle musings from the Liberal Democrat Party Conference.

It's good to be back! This is my first party conference for 23 years, in fact my first Liberal Democrat one, the last one was a Liberal Party Assembly. Everything is bigger and shinier now. Better organised, more professional. Speakers appear on a giant video screen. There are so many fringe meetings it would take 6 months to attend them all. There are numerous training sessions on everything from snap general elections to taking better photos for Focus. The best thing hasn't changed though - the opportunity to spend a few days with other Lib Dems plotting to make the world a better place.

Sandi Toksvig's Q&A session with Ming yesterday was a highlight, a nice combination of wit and wisdom. Now it's time to plunge into conference again.......................

Monday, September 10, 2007


Making history - but gambling with local communities

We made history in Winchester this morning. The City Council's Licensing Sub-Committee heard the very first application anywhere in the country to licence a new betting shop under the Gambling Act 2005.

The first, because the Act only came into effect on 1st September and, boy, does this Act stink!

The Labour government loves gambling, hopefully less now under Gordon Brown, but it certainly loves the revenues it raises. When this means Supercasinos in cities that's bad enough, but when it means targeting a small parade of shops in a vulnerable residential area that's even worse.

What's wrong with the Act? Well, it presumes a right for bookies to set up shop wherever they wish. There is no provision for public consultation, the views of the community are irrelevant. The only notification is an A4 notice in the shop window for 28 days and a small ad in the local paper - no consultation of neighbours, only consultation of statutory authorities; and if a member of the public chooses to object there are only three possible grounds:
- encouragement of crime and disorder
- suspicion that the premises won't be run properly
- harmful effect on young and vulnerable people

Today's decision will allow Coral to open a bookies in Stoney Lane, Weeke. Sited in a local parade of shops its closest other neighbours are a Methodist Church with very active youth work, an adult education centre and a primary school. Coral's solicitor admitted that they expected most of their clientele to come from the local Weeke community, one of the less affluent and more vulnerable parts of our city. The Sub-Committee had representations from two local churches, from governors of the local primary and secondary schools and from Streetreach, the detached youth worker project all objecting to this licence.

I don't question the Sub-Committee's decision, their hands were tied by this iniquitous Act too. The blame must lie with the government that introduced this "Bookies Charter".

Bookies, coming soon to a local shopping shopping parade near you.

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