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Thought for the Day – Fluff or Substance? If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.




I like quotes that make me think (and it is nice if they make me smile too!).
I thus collect ‘Quotes of the Day’ as conversation pieces for students to browse in classes I coach.
Today’s offering:


“It is the same with men as with horses: those which do the most prancing are generally the ones which make the least progress.” (Baron de Stassart, 19th Century Dutch-Belgian politician)

A cautionary tale for all politicians?  Discuss?

A while ago, my best friend told me of a story she had heard where Mrs Gandhi once described two groups that she had routinely observed in the world: the group of those who wanted the credit and the group of those who wanted to do the work.  The payoff line is that Mrs Gandhi recommended that if you wanted to join a group you should consider joining the second group – there is less competition and the queue to enter is shorter.

I think public reward and recognition is important and has its place, not least to encourage others to get involved.  But I do believe it should come from respecting effort and skill applied for the benefit of others.

And my personal experience is that, if you can find the energy and opportunity, making a difference is its own highest reward.

Question? How can we create a supportive culture to encourage volunteers, appropriately recognise their voluntary contribution – BUT – still recognise that people need to make a sustainable living before they can test their energy and commitment to this ‘additional’ effort?

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Making the Case for Gosport – A Key Role for Our Future

I was recently invited to visit The Vyne (Do look it up as a possible great day out visit near Basingstoke) as a Hampshire Ambassador.  One reason that I am sad not to be able to go (the diary is already full that day) is that it is always good to be in the room with thoughtful people giving their energy to making the case for our County and area.

It reminded me, yet again, of the importance of Making the Case for Gosport – with enthusiasm and realism – as a key part of setting the context for business, community and local government efforts here in my home town.  There is much to celebrate.  And in recognising the best of what is here, energy is added to making things even better.
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I see myself as a Gosport Ambassador. And, when asked about what I can do as a Councillor, being a Gosport Ambassador seems like one key aspect in support of all our futures.

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Rumours from Central Government that Local Council Grants may be cut by 10%

No surprise that there are further rumours of cuts to Local Government Funding.  In truth it seems inevitable that there will be more to come. It is how we manage them and create the climate for future growth that will count.

Since 2010, when I was first elected a Councillor, there has been no time when budgets have not been on my mind.  I knew then, and it remains true today, that the economy internationally and nationally would throughout my term create pressures – there is a language that calls these pressures ‘challenges’, but I see them as requiring difficult decisions that in better times would not be considered and today are unwelcome but sadly necessary. In this climate, good decision making by people with experience and understanding of the implications matter hugely – and this is what I say when asked why I didn’t ‘run a mile’ from putting my shoulder to the local wheel of government and encourage others to add their shoulders and skills also.

Whilst there is a need to acknowledge and understand the economic world beyond Gosport, the difficult decisions that need to be made include ones that impact locally in Gosport.  Elected as a local Borough Councillor, my focus has been to understand this local dimension and to contribute to making the best plans for sustaining community and seeking to argue the case for economic growth.  I was elected to do my best for Gosport, to focus on Gosport, to help deliver for Gosport, whatever the national debate.

I believe firmly that realisable arguments exist for economic development (big projects, middle size and small) in Gosport even in this economic climate.  The evidence since 2010 demonstrates that GBC can be an excellent partner with business to deliver projects, led by the private sector but facilitated and supported by local government.  Success requires a very clear focus on our local priorities and a plan to create the partnerships that can deliver. These foundation stones have meant that, even with reduced funding available to the Borough Council, we have been able to build partnerships that can deliver high quality projects valued today and appropriate for the longer-term future of the Borough.

This effort for renewal and growth is essential to our brighter futures.  But there is a growing squeeze on even the smaller sums available for this work as the demand for the Council’s statutory services, including housing and benefits provision, stretches resources.  It is a credit to the efforts of very many professional people, Officers of the Council, Members, or people from partner organisations, that GBC has a deserved reputation for being economic in resource, pared down for efficiency and value-for-money.  But economies can only take us so far.  And we may well be at the point where all the ‘nice to have’ and many ‘flexibilities’ have gone.  The next cuts will almost certainly only be possible through a combination of changes in expectation (very hard on all those who had become used to, or anticipated a previous level of service) and through new approaches (essential to protect the most vulnerable and empower the majority to find sustainable employment).

Finding a way to a realisable and sustainable community and economic growth for Gosport and its people must remain the key to the future.  But managing transition in the next few years in service delivery will be demanding of the best skills and people to ensure we realise the potential within the Borough whilst sustaining services for those in genuine need, prioritising the most vulnerable in our community.

It will require people with ideas for how to succeed, how to improve, how to be more effective in delivery.  It will require partnership across agencies.  It will need leadership to recognise the difficulties but resist being channelled into hearing only those who can say ‘what is wrong’ without alternative and realistic plans.  In Gosport we must hold to our realisable plans, build on our successes and create new opportunities that contribute to a realisable future that continues Gosport as a place to work, live and visit.

And, back to the rumours of cuts, it will require fair and equitable funding support for those things which can only be delivered by government – including sufficient funds to deliver the policies national government delegate to us locally & empowerment to deliver them effectively in a local context. The people of Gosport deserve no less.

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G8 – Very Much in the News, so What is it?

When the group was formed in 1975, it was known as the G6, comprising France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The G6 was intended to provide major industrial powers of the noncommunist world a venue in which to address economic concerns, which at the time included inflation and the recession sparked by the oil crisis of the 1970s. Cold War politics invariably entered the group’s agenda.

Currently, the G8 comprises its six charter members, in addition to Canada, which joined in 1976, and Russia, which became a member in 1998. The EU is a “nonenumerated” ninth member; represented by the presidents of the European Council and European Commission, the EU participates as an equal. The aggregate GDP of the G8 makes up some 50 percent of the global economy.

While there are no formal criteria for membership, member states are expected to be democracies and have highly developed economies. The G8, unlike the United Nations, is not a formal institution, and there is no charter or secretariat. The presidency, a position responsible for planning ministerial meetings and the annual summit, rotates among the member states.

Policy proposals are hammered out at ministerial meetings that precede the annual summit. Finance ministers and central bank governors continue to meet as the G7 to discuss matters of international economics; this group comprises all the G8 states except Russia. All G8 states, however, participate in the foreign ministers’ meetings.

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SULTAN SHOW – Great Fun & Great Fundraising

Lots to see and do at the Sultan Show this weekend.  This is a firm favourite in the Gosport’s Calendar.  It shows the importance of this key military site for the community as well as showcases a little of of what goes on here day by day.

Sultan Show 2013

The lead up to this event could only happen with the enthusiasm of the people at HMS SULTAN and their partners, who sponsor the event and turn up to add their skills and thrills to make this a show not to miss.

And everyone can feel good about enjoying themselves because at the end of the day Service and local charities will benefit.

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Local Enterprise Partnerships & Economic Development for Gosport

Smith-logo Smith Institute has just produced a timely report on Local Enterprise Partnerships that addresses the particular of the future of LEPs, but also raises important issues over how local efforts for Economic Development connect with sub-regional LEPs and nationally.

For Gosport we should acknowledge two things straight away: Gosport knows the importance of Economic Development and Community Growth and for the last three years has given this a very high priority; and Solent LEP, one of the first LEPs in the country, is good news for Gosport as part of the Solent community and for Gosport particularly in the context of its potential contribution within the area.


The latest report on LEPs, highlights a key recommendation from Lord Heseltine’s excellent recent report (No Stone Unturned in the Pursuit of Growth) in which he recommends amongst a wide range of potential ways forward that ‘Councils should have a statutory economic development duty.’ Gosport recognises the central importance of engaging in this, but also is realistic about the need for partnerships where there are shared objectives and compatible contributions to the joint efforts to realise economic growth.

The Smith Institute’s paper recommends increasing the size of LEPs generally to better fill the space between very local and national efforts. It recognises that LEPs fill this space where they are founded on an identity that works for business and is also recognised by the community. This works very well for the Solent LEP, built as it is around a globally recognised brand of ‘The Solent’ that translates also to an identity that resonates very locally.

Both reports highlight evident issues that remain to be worked through, perhaps taking too long to be resolved. These include issues of: governance (I regularly challenge meetings as to where the executive authority lies to turn shared ideas into decisions); resources, since early funding and energy from enthusiasts must in due time be translated into motivation that is sustainable and funded because it delivers reliably; capacity to make partnerships alongside core business and organisational delivery – again it needs to be evidently added-value to this first responsibility and in partnerships that recognise both mutual and competing goals; and if LEPs and Economic Growth Duty are to become sustainable the model needs to work well enough that reinvention is not the top of the agenda.

Seeing success delivered will empower funding, commitment and partnerships. There is excellent potential to realise this in the Solent and for Gosport.

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Politics – The Value of Overview & Scrutiny

Today is the first meeting of Gosport Borough Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee for this Civic Year. And it brought to mind the importance in politics whether local or national of this key function.

For me, it is a function to be welcomed. Particularly if it is about shining a light on key questions for the people of Gosport. It is also about testing that those who are – for the time being – elected to lead do not forget to make their arguments for why their plans are the best that can be made on behalf of the residents.

There are times when this is tested at elections and I think this remains the most important test. It explains why I believe there are two aspects to political success: the first is laying out a plan that wins election; but this is nothing if it is not followed by a plan that delivers whilst in office; and then of course the electoral test is applied again when presented for re-election. This is true nationally, at the County Council level (just completed in May this year) and at local level here in Gosport for Councillor elections which next take place in 2014.

The current leadership of the Council has a plan and one that I believe is being delivered effectively across a range of major projects and the daily business of supporting people in the Borough.

Today, this sense that we in leadership have a good and deliverable plan, enables me to welcome the decision made with my colleagues to support an opposition party chair for Gosport’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee. I look forward to hearing of her agenda with her fellow committee members from all parties. I look forward to hearing how the work of this committee can highlight key issues and recommend how we can be even better at delivering for the people of Gosport.

And, finally, it is a good thing that we have the confidence to let this task be so appropriately led by an experienced opposition Councillor.

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WWII Commemoration at Ann’s Hill – A Continuing Mark of Respect

I was sadly not able to be present yesterday at this annual commemoration.  But I was able to pay my respect earlier today to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice and are commemorated at this annual fixture in the Civic and Community calendars of Gosport.  It is a poignant reminder of those who served, of casualties of conflict and of those who continue to serve or work in defence of our freedoms and security.  We will remember and value them.



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Visit to Job Centre Plus – Sharing views with an important Partner

It was very good to have the chance to meet the local Job Centre Plus Team this week.  I was invited to talk about the future Economic and Community Development of Gosport – something that was my lead responsibility for three years as Chairman of Economic Development and continues to be a major part of my efforts as a Councillor.

No-one should be surprised that the staff at JCP were very keen to hear how the priority strategy of the Council to create local jobs could most effectively connect to the JCP daily efforts to support individuals in finding employment.  And I was very interested to hear about their views on where we can help each other.

Some things were evident: we should seek to be specific in asking businesses within the Borough to employ local people; we should seek to understand from business what jobs might be on the horizon and what skills will be sought to fill them; we should be alert to the lead times for new jobs and encourage specific training and skills refresh for potential candidates; we should have a strategy with partners to create opportunities for all ages of job seekers to gain relevant skills.

There was no doubt that JCP is a busy workplace with motivated staff who want to deliver.  I was very happy to be with them and to be able to update them on what the Council is actively pursuing.  Our work has a lot in common as we seek, in complementary ways to create jobs and help people into them.  I look forward to further opportunities to exchange views.

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Gosport’s MP Made Small Business Ambassador by PM

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage has been appointed one of twelve Small Business Ambassadors by the Prime Minister, as the Government launched a new campaign to support small business at a Downing Street reception on 5th June.
As the south’s representative, Caroline is tasked with promoting and representing small businesses across the region, something she has consistently sought to highlight and make a priority.

Working in partnership across the public and private sectors is a key approach for economic growth, whether for major projects, medium or small enterprises.  And so having our MP nominated for this role will add another string to the bow that includes Parliament, LEP, County and Borough – all working together to support investment in our area and empower entrepreneurs and businesses across the private sector. 

CD Small Bus Ambassador 20130606