“Freemasons are blocking reform, says Police Federation leader”

Remember how Owl was taken to task for saying planners took more notice of Freemasons than town councillors …


Well …

“Reform in policing is being blocked by members of the Freemasons, and their influence in the service is thwarting the progress of women and people from black and minority ethnic communities, the leader of rank-and-file officers has said.

Steve White, who steps down on Monday after three years as chair of the Police Federation, told the Guardian he was concerned about the continued influence of Freemasons.

White took charge with the government threatening to take over the federation if it did not reform after a string of scandals and controversies.

The Freemasons is one of the world’s oldest secular societies, made up of people, predominantly men, concerned with moral and spiritual values. Their critics say they are secretive and serve the interests of their members over the interests of the public. The Masons deny this, saying they uphold values in keeping with public service and high morals.

White told the Guardian: “What people do in their private lives is a matter for them. When it becomes an issue is when it affects their work. There have been occasions when colleagues of mine have suspected that Freemasons have been an obstacle to reform.

“We need to make sure that people are making decisions for the right reasons and there is a need for future continuing cultural reform in the Fed, which should be reflective of the makeup of policing.”

One previous Metropolitan police commissioner, the late Sir Kenneth Newman, opposed the presence of Masons in the police.

White would not name names, but did not deny that some key figures in local Police Federation branches were Masons.

White said: “It’s about trust and confidence. There are people who feel that being a Freemason and a police officer is not necessarily a good idea. I find it odd that there are pockets of the organisation where a significant number of representatives are Freemasons.”

The Masons deny any clash or reason police officers should not be members of their organisation.

Mike Baker, spokesman for the United Grand Lodge, said: “Why would there be a clash? It’s the same as saying there would be a clash between anyone in a membership organisation and in a public service.

“We are parallel organisations, we fit into these organisations and have high moral principles and values.”

Baker said Freemasonry was open to all, the only requirement being “faith in a supreme being”. He said there were a number of police officers who were Masons and police lodges, such as the Manor of St James, set up for Scotland Yard officers, and Sine Favore, set up in 2010 by Police Federation members. One of those was the Met officer John Tully, who went on to be chair of the federation and, after retirement from policing, is an administrator at the United Grand Lodge of England.

Masons in the police have been accused of covering up for fellow members and favouring them for promotion over more talented, non-Mason officers.

White said: “Some female representatives were concerned about Freemason influence in the Fed. The culture is something that can either discourage or encourage people from the ethnic minorities or women from being part of an organisation.”

The federation has passed new rules on how it runs itself, aimed at ending the fact that its key senior officials are all white, and predominantly male.

White said he hoped the new rules would lead to an end to old white men dominating the federation: “The new regulations will mean Freemasons leading to an old boys’ network will be much less likely in the future. …”


How one local newspaper changed government policy

“The well-documented squeeze on local journalism, including cuts to staff numbers, pressure from social media and low pay is bound to affect the nature and quality of local news.

The Grenfell Tower tragedy is one shocking example of this. In November 2016 two residents blogged about the possibility of “a serious fire in a tower block”. Why wasn’t this warning picked up locally? The Kensington and Chelsea Chronicle, which had covered residents’ concerns, closed in 2014 and content migrated online to Get West London. Although the Kensington and Chelsea News reopened as part of another group, its sole reporter couldn’t afford to live in the borough and remotely covered the patch from his home in Dorset.

In the case of the vice-chancellor pay story [broken by local newspaper The Bath Chronicle], while to some it looked like a David v Goliath tale of a local rag taking on a giant local employer, the biggest challenge was possibly my newspaper’s business model. To attract advertising, reporters must strive for web hits – it’s a daily pressure in our newsrooms. Like all in Trinity Mirror, the Bath Chronicle is “audience-driven”, meaning that if a story is not getting enough clicks there’s no justification for continuing to cover it.

Even though it was clear there was an audience for scrutiny of the university’s upper echelons, the risk of reader fatigue was always there. I had to ensure that every story took a new and engaging angle and use a different picture wherever possible. I also used social media and tweeted each article directly to 40-odd interested people for them to share or comment.

Last year the BBC announced it had set aside £8m to fund 150 “local democracy reporters”, who will work for qualifying regional publishers and will cover council meetings and public services. It’s a clear attempt to strengthen local reporting, and hold politicians and services to account. The investment should mean that more important stories are covered and may ease pressure on local newspapers as they struggle to pursue leads that need long-term attention. If we don’t hold powerful institutions across the country to account, who will?”


Judicial review of changes to NHS given go-ahead – with capped costs – but final £12,000 needed urgently

FROM: Crowdjustice
Press Release
Website for donations:


“Update on Our NHS – comprehensive healthcare for all – STAGE 2

We have some very good news!

On Thursday 21st December our lawyers, Leigh Day, contacted us to tell us that a judge had considered our papers and those of NHS England and we now have permission for our JUDICIAL REVIEW to go ahead, at some time after 16th February 2018!

This is fantastic news as it means our papers and those of NHSE have been examined and the judge has recognised our legal arguments as a case that is important for public interest.

This is a real Christmas present.

And… despite NHS England stating that we should not be considered for a Capped Costs Order (the amount we have to pay the courts if we lose) the Judge has also agreed to a Capped Costs Order of £25,000.

Although this is more than than the £15,000 we had hoped for, the fact remains that the judge has agreed to it, which shows that he considers it is in the public interest for our case to be heard. It is a very positive gift for all of us. Capped Costs are not granted freely.

So the 999 Call Team have made the ONLY decision possible

We all voted unanimously that this was an opportunity we could NOT afford to turn down. We have notified Leigh Day we are going ahead and will campaign hard to raise the extra £12,000 to meet the £25,000 CCO and extra court procedure costs.

What this means is that we are going to have to open a new Round 3 of CrowdJustice fundraising to raise the extra money. We will be launching towards New Year’s Day as people begin to think of new opportunities, new adventures and new HOPE. Because that is what our Judicial Review offers all of us.

WE HOPE you can help us launch and promote it.

Today, just as we enter Christmas, you could forward and share this email with 3 or more of your friends – adding any personal message to help explain that Round 3 of our Healthcare For All Judicial Review fundraising is about to launch.

You could send them to visit our website page: 999 Judicial Review

You could highlight the fact that this case is not about one group or one region – it affects all of us, everyone up and down the country. Our JR is a real opportunity to bring into the open NHS England’s contentious contract for a new form of local NHS and social care organisation that is based on a business model used by the USA’s Medicare/Medicaid system. A system which only provides a limited range of healthcare for people who are too poor to pay for private health insurance.

Exposing this new NHS England contract to a review of its lawfulness is a vital step in protecting the NHS as a source of comprehensive healthcare for all who need it.

Thank you for all your support so far and we wish you and your loved ones a happy festive week ahead.

Please be on standby for the launch of Round 3. We need all of us now.”

Thanks from all the 999 Call for the NHS Team”

“Tories drop two flagship housing policies from key strategy document”

“Two of the Conservatives’ flagship housing policies have been dropped from a key government document, raising questions about the future of the plans.

The new “single departmental plan” published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) does not include a single reference to Starter Homes, which form a central plank of the Government’s commitment to increase home ownership, or of the planned extension of Right to Buy.

…In the latest version, five specific pledges to boost home ownership, including delivering Starter Homes and the extension of Right to Buy, have been downgraded to a single-line promise to “increase home ownership through schemes including Help to Buy”.

… Furthermore, a specific commitment to “increasing home ownership” has been absorbed into the broader aim of fixing “the broken housing market”.

… Ministers had promised to build 200,000 of them by 2020 but The Independent revealed last month that not a single Starter Home has yet been built. This led to officials admitting the policy remained an “ambition” – but have now removed all mention of it from DCLG’s housing objectives.

The previous iteration of the departmental plan included a clear commitment to the policy. It said: “We are delivering a major boost to affordable home ownership with Starter Homes and extending Right to Buy to housing association tenants.”

It reiterated a pledge to build 200,000 Starter Homes, including 30,000 on brownfield land – former industrial sites earmarked for development.

Labour said the omissions in the new document showed the Government had “given up” on helping first-time buyers.

John Healey, the party’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said: “With home ownership at a 30-year low and the number of younger homeowners in free fall, the Government has now given up on first-time buyers.

“We need much more affordable housing for younger people looking to buy their first home but ministers have erased new housing for first-time buyers from the Communities Department’s official objectives. …”


“Damian Green to receive £17,000 pay-off after being sacked for ‘lying’ about pornography on his computer”

What can you add to that headline? Except – can you imagine what May and her MPs would say if this was a politician from another party?


American dental charity offers help to poor in UK

Over the past 30 years Stan Brock has set up hundreds of massive temporary clinics across America, bringing dentists and eye doctors to the country’s poorest people.

Now this former cowboy hopes to bring his army of volunteer medics to a new region he believes is in urgent need: Britain.

Mr Brock contacted The Times after an investigation found that millions of Britons had no local dentist willing to take on new NHS patients. There are 24 local authorities in which every dentist is taking on only private patients, with stories of people resorting to pulling their own teeth out, drugged up on alcohol and over-the-counter painkillers.

His charity, Remote Area Medical (RAM), has put on nearly 900 such events, mostly in the US. The Times visited a clinic in Baltimore where 1,234 patients were seen in two days. A giant convention centre was filled with 100 dental chairs, supplied by RAM. Some 1,842 bad teeth were removed. Another 433 patients had eye examinations and 398 of them were given free prescription glasses.

At another recent event in rural Virginia 2,416 patients were seen in two days. The majority had no insurance cover to pay for dental work and nowhere else to go.

Mr Brock said: “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to equate the healthcare situation in Britain to that here in the United States. Healthcare for millions of Americans is accessible but not affordable. This dilemma reaches deep into the middle class when it comes to dentistry and vision care.”

In 2015-16 in Britain, tooth decay was the most common reason for hospital admission for children aged five to nine.

Mr Brock is confident that he has a corporate donor willing to transport his organisation’s medical equipment to Britain from the US. He believes he can round up scores of American and Canadian dentists and doctors who would be willing to pay their own travel expenses and work without payment.

But he faces regulatory hurdles. If bringing in American volunteers proves too complicated he is ready to try to attract doctors from across the EU.

For Mr Brock the project would be a homecoming. He was born in Preston, Lancashire. In 1953, aged 17, he travelled to what is now Guyana in South America and for 15 years lived as a vaquero, or cowboy, with the Wapishana Indians. One day his horse threw him and his colleagues brought unwelcome news. “They told me I was 26 days away from the nearest doctor.”

Mr Brock, a spry 81, was struck by the inaccessibility of healthcare across much of the planet. In 1985 he founded RAM, a non-profit organisation that now has seven donated aircraft and a fleet of trucks. Aided by some 140,000 volunteers, it has provided millions of eye exams, dental treatments, mammograms, cervical smears and chest x-rays to poor Americans. He still ferries supplies, piloting a donated Douglas C-47. He takes no salary and sleeps on the floor of RAM’s headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee. “As a loyal British subject it’s time for me to help out my home country,” he said.”

The Times (pay wall)

“We do not have ordinary people’ in North East Somerset says Conservative MP Jacob Rees Mogg”

So THAT’S why they are building Hinkley C there!

“Conservative MP and unlikely heart-throb, Jacob Rees-Mogg says there are no “ordinary people” in his North East Somerset constituency.

Instead the 48-year-old claims the area is filled only with “exceptional, brilliant and talented individuals of the highest and finest calibre”.

Mr Rees-Mogg’s comment was made in the House of Commons during a discussion about whether to publish an easy-to-understand version of a document about retained EU legislation.

The North East Somerset MP said he agreed with the amendment, but was then challenged by neighbouring Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, Wera Hobhouse, who asked him if he ever “tried to put any legislation in front of an ordinary person” and asked them whether it was easy to understand.

Mr Rees-Mogg appeared to take offense to the use of the term “ordinary people” and delivered as terse riposte to Ms Hobhouse, which he also posted a video of on Instagram.

“In North East Somerset, we do not have ordinary people,” he said.

“We have only exceptional, brilliant and talented individuals of the highest and finest calibre.

I have a serious point to make in that: we, as politicians, should never use the term ‘ordinary people’, implying that we are some priestly caste who understand the mysteries of legislation, whereas ordinary people do not. …”


EDDC spends half a million pounds on temporary staff in last year

A Freedom of Information request has elicited the following information:

“What the total spend on Temporary/Interim staff has been in the last twelve months?

£517,550 – December 2016 – Nov 2017”


Toys ‘R Us alleged tax avoidance could fully fund Devon’s NHS cuts!

Devon has to find £560 million if it wants to avoid savage cuts to its NHS.

Owl has found the money! Now all it has to do is find a way of getting it back from the BRITISH Virgin Islands (note: does that mean they belong to Branson!) to Devon!

“Toys R Us was last night accused of funnelling £584million into an offshore tax haven as it teetered on the brink of collapse – putting 3,200 jobs at risk.

The ailing retailer, which could go into administration today, has been criticised for the write-off of a mystery £584.5million loan to a company in the British Virgin Islands, a territory commonly used by firms for tax avoidance purposes.

Tax experts have called for an investigation into the accounts, accusing Toys R Us of secrecy and tax dodging. …”


“Hinkley Point: the ‘dreadful deal’ behind the world’s most expensive power plant”

This is a VERY long article, but well worth reading.

Our LEP is throwing all OUR eggs into this disgraceful basket, decorated with white elephants by French and Chinese companies. But, at least those members of the LEP with nuclear, construction industry and recruitment and training of those servicing our nuclear warheads will be happy!

Just a flavour of the article:

“… But the irony of Hinkley Point C is that by the time it eventually starts working, it may have become obsolete. Nuclear power is facing existential problems around the world, as the cost of renewable energies fall and their popularity grows. “The maths doesn’t work,” says Tom Burke, former environmental policy adviser to BP and visiting professor at both Imperial and University Colleges. “Nuclear simply doesn’t make sense any more.”

The story of Hinkley Point C is that of a chain of decisions, taken by dozens of people over almost four decades, which might have made sense in isolation, but today result in an almost unfathomable scramble of policies and ambitions. Promises have been made and broken, policies have been adopted then dropped then adopted again. The one thing that has been consistent is the projected cost, which has rocketed ever upwards. But if so many people have come to believe that Hinkley Point C is fundamentally flawed, the question remains: how did we get to this point, where billions of pounds have been sunk into a project that seems less and less appealing with every year that passes? …”

…”Andrew Stirling believes that there was a crucial, largely unspoken, reason for the government’s rediscovered passion for nuclear: without a civil nuclear industry, a nation cannot sustain military nuclear capabilities. In other words, no new nuclear power plants would spell the end of Trident. “The only countries in the world that are currently looking at large-scale civil power newbuild programmes are countries that have nuclear submarines, or have an expressed aim of acquiring them,” Stirling told me.

Building nuclear submarines is a ferociously complicated business. It requires the kind of institutional memory and technical expertise that can easily disappear without practice. This, in theory, is where the civil nuclear industry comes in. If new nuclear power plants are being built, then the skills and capacity required by the military will be maintained. “It looks to be the case that the government is knowingly engineering an environment in which electricity consumers cross-subsidise this branch of military security,” Stirling told me. …”

“… Given its commitment to building Hinkley Point C, the government had no choice but to make EDF an offer that was too good to resist. It offered to guarantee EDF a fixed price for each unit of energy produced at Hinkley for its first 35 years of operation. In 2012, the guaranteed price – known as the “strike price” – was set at £92.50 per megawatt hour (Mwh), which would then rise with inflation. (One Mwh is roughly equivalent to the electricity used by around 330 homes in one hour.)

This means that if the wholesale price of electricity across the country falls below £92.50, EDF will receive an extra payment from the consumer as a “top-up” to fill the gap. This will be added to electricity bills around the country – even if you aren’t receiving electricity from Hinkley Point C, you will still be making a payment to EDF. The current wholesale price is around £40 per Mwh. If there had been no inflation since 2012, the consumer would be paying an EDF tax of around £52.50 per Mwh produced at Hinkley. However, because it is linked to inflation, the strike price has already risen since 2012. (The price will be reduced by £3 if EDF develops another new reactor in Sizewell in Suffolk, as it is planning to do.) …”