Karen Allen

I fought South Shields at the May 2010 General Election for the Conservatives, gaining a 6.4% swing which was a 4% vote increase. The Conservatives polled 7,886 up from 5,207 in 2005. I was born in the North East and grew up in South Shields. I currently live in London and am employed as a Director at Lloyd's Broker Howden International.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Save the Pub - Axe Beer Tax

Knowing that more than 2,500 have been closed since the 2008 budget, I had an enormous amount of sympathy with Charlotte Bell, who runs the Cranny at the Nook, after reading about how the pub is threatened with closure. I have written to her personally offering her my support. Hearing how The Cranny is on the brink of closure, like so many pubs all over the country, is bad news for the pub as a British institution and one which is more likely to encourage responsible and social drinking than the binge drinking which can be a product of the cut price supermarket booze we see on the shelves. The Government takes 33% of a pint in tax. I think this is too much and we need to give pubs tax relief. This is why I am a supporter of Axe Beer Tax Campaign and I would urge people to join the campaign on line at www.axebeertax.co.uk
Our campaign was also reported in the Gazette:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Visit to Cheviot Care Home, Horsley Hill

with Beryl Anderson, Manager of Cheviot Court Care Home in Horsley Hill

I recently paid a visit to Cheviot Court Care Home in Horsley Hill Square. Mrs Beryl Anderson, manager of the home, was kind enough to give me a tour of the facilities, which included a replica "Old Smithy Tea Room" and other themed rooms, designed to stimulate residents, which include dementia suffers. There were dozens of activities listed for residents, which included day trips and it was plain to see the raport between staff and residents.

If only all homes were run like Mrs Anderson's Cheviot Court.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Supermarket Sweep at New Asda


With my parents due to arrive back home after three weeks away and the cupboards almost bare, I thought a trip to Asda would be in good measure, so I headed down to South Shields new Asda store on Coronation Street which had just opened on Monday.

It's a great new store, with helpful greeters to point you in the right direction when you walk in (so Mam will be pleased I did find everything for Sunday lunch!) The store brings 140 new jobs, in addition to the 350 full and part time staff who were already employed at the Ocean Road store - which incidentally the workers on the shop refit told me they are turning into a Primark. There was certainly a good atmosphere in the new store between shoppers and staff, but with over 1,000 applications for the 140 jobs, the demand for work in South Shields and unfortunately the lack of work available is very obvious.

What did occur to me and that was before I had read Curly's blog, which I see he observed also:

http://curly15.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/celeb-culture-disasters-in-south-shields/

was that there was no reason to continue along King Street up to the market place, when you could cut through at Waterloo Vale to Waterloo Square to go to BHS, Debenhams, River Island and Next before heading across the road to Asda. The new store further retracts shoppers from King Street, which I'm afraid only adds to its demise. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the new store - which I think is great, particularly with the new jobs - but perhaps the planning is ill thought out. The developments on Waterloo Square / Coronation Street actually feel quite North American to me, but without the palatial carparks and the fringe of town location - the key components to the success of the North American retail parks.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Shadow Transport Secretary visits South Shields with Lord Bates and Martin Callanan MEP

Left to right:
Martin Callanan MEP, Theresa Villiers MP, Karen Allen,
Barbara Musgrave (No. 2 on North East Europe List) & Lord Michael Bates

Theresa Villiers, Shadow Transport Secretary visited South Shields today, with Lord Michael Bates, Martin Callanan MEP, and Barbara Musgrave who is number 2 on the North East European List. After a quick cup of coffee at the newly refurbished Franchi's Bar in the Market Place we headed down to the Tyne. I wanted to show our visitors the Port and to discuss the Government's retrospective tax proposal on ports which is set to damage businesses in the region. Conservatives have been actively campaining against the backdated collection of this tax, with Lord Bates leading in the Lords and David Cameron leading from the top in the Commons:

http://www.conservatives.com/News/News_stories/2009/05/Cameron_slams_unfair_tax_hikes_on_port_industries.aspx

Talking to Theresa at the Ferry Terminal she commented:

My visit to South Shields and the North East region has reinforced my concerns about the devastating impact of Labour's retrospective ports tax which is hitting so many local businesses hard with huge unexpected bills at the worst possible time. When port businesses are already struggling with the recession, this extra blow is the last thing they need.

This retrospective tax is just another demonstration of Labour's lack of support and forethought to businesses, which is particularly vital in a time of recession. We are urging the Government to rethink.

With Lord Bates and Pat from Franchi's Cafe

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Has the Expense Scandal been good for the Conservatives?

I was thinking about this today, further to meeting and speaking to people and it’s occurred to me is that actually the expense scandal is acting as a voting motivator. I was asked recently, by the Shields Gazette, to comment on the Hansard Society’s report on regional voting pattern, so I know that the North East, despite being in the top percentage of people in the country wanting to be involved with decision making at a local level, has one of the lowest voting turnouts in the United Kingdom. Talking to people now; talking to those who I know don’t generally even engage in political conversation, there are some pretty strong views out there on what has gone on and I think this will be translated as a higher voter turnout at the next General Election in the North East.

People feel disgusted with the system; let down by the Labour Government and Speaker Michael Martin who have presided over and indeed overseen the authorisation of fictional and extravagant expense claims. We keep hearing again and again “but he / she didn’t break the rules.” The bottom line is the rules didn’t really make much sense and the expense system requires a complete overhaul – it’s my personal view we should do away with expenses altogether and have a single allowance granted to MPs. I would even go further to say that I believe in our modern age of technology that MPs could retain their profession, could be more constituency based and indeed still do a better job than I would suggest many MPs do now. This of course would also provide further savings for the tax payer.

The mood on the streets is never more did the North East want change. Labour has let the country down; the people of the North East have been badly let down. So I urge the people of South Shields to use their vote at the next General Election; assuring them that by voting Conservative they are selecting the party championing transparency and accountability.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

South Tyneside College Visit on Friday 22nd May


With South Tyneside College Principal, Jim Bennett and Lord Michael Bates

South Tyneside college has always been at the heart of the town's further and vocation education. It is a world renowned Marine and Technical College and I think it's very important we maintain adequate funding at the college, to ensure our young people starting in careers and those looking to retrain have the best facilities and access to courses available.

I am meeting with college Principal, Jim Bennett, to show support for the £102m new build project, which has recently incurred some delays. The work at the college will be a huge boost for the town, bringing money into the local economy from all over the world and it's critical this work goes ahead and is delivered on time.

Reading the Gazette on Thursday last week, I see the college's business students had a trip to Brussels where they met Martin Callanan, MEP for the North East. As college lecturer, Samantha Lavery, pointed out: "It is well known students are the least likely to vote in any political election... The trip certainly worked - almost immediately students were discussing the candidates and who they would vote for [at the European Elections]."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Time to shine the light on Town Hall, Government and MPs’ Spending: Calls to increase openness and accountability in spending of taxpayers’ cash

To not post on the subject of MPs expenses, I think would be to avoid what is perhaps the singular biggest recent cause of people not trusting politicians. HM The Queen quoted in paper today as being "deeply troubled" by MPs expenses is justly concerned - the actions of certain MPs has damaged parliament.

It would also be grossly amiss of me not to discuss the national Conservative blueprint for local government and councils to publish online details of all expenditure over a set limit, detailing all payments for goods and services. This has already been done by Boris Johnson in London’s City Hall (publishing information on items over £1,000) and by Conservative-run Windsor & Maidenhead (publishing figures over £500).

In light of some postings from other bloggers in South Shields highlighting some of the waste and dare I say, abuse of expenses on South Tyneside Council, surely this greater transparency and accountability being proposed by the Conservative Party would help reduce wasteful expenditure, saving taxpayers’ money. Both local residents and local newspapers could scrutinise this new information, creating a new citizen-led financial discipline on local government.

It was the Conservative Party who brought the press into council chambers in the 1960s, to try to bring more transparency to local government. In the 21st century, we should go further and use the power of the internet to shine the light on public spending and help improve value for money. Greater openness, in both local and central government, is vital to help restore the public’s trust and confidence in our political system.

At a time when the public finances are so tight, every penny counts and openness will impose a citizen-led financial discipline to South Tyneside Council, Whitehall departments and Parliament. The public should have a right to know how exactly their money is being spent.

As reported in the Shields Gazette on Monday 25th May 2009:
http://www.shieldsgazette.com/news/Shine-a-light-on-public.5299420.jp

Politics at the other side of the Pond

I was in Canada last week visiting some client for work. I arrived in Vancouver on 12th May while votes for 39th British Columbia general election to elect members of the Legislative Assembly were being counted. The electorate in addition to voting for the party of their choice were also being asked to vote for a second time in a referendum on electoral reform. The 'first past the post' system has been retained in Commonwealth Canada, but due to minority governments clinging to rule, the question has been asked over the years - should the electoral system be switched to Proportional Representation?

I had lunch with some clients the day after the election and asked them about their thoughts on the referendum and they mainly complained of the same thing - the two systems had not been explained very clearly and they were confused which way to vote.

I left Vancouver for Calgary and at a further meeting discovered I perhaps had more in common with one of my clients than I had realised. He is a member of a local Conservative Riding Association and also writes a blog!

www.calgaryrants.com

Alberta is solid Conservative, but is feeling the pain of the recession too, even despite its oil and gas glory days. I am sure Canada will pull through this recessions much more quickly than we will, however, of course fluctuating oil prices heavily influencing recovery. Certainly the Canada banks proved much more conservative in their investment models - chosing never to dabble in sub prime mortgages (although some investments were made into US banks) which has meant the Canadian Government has not needed to bail out banks and resort to the nationalisation we have seen in the United Kingdom.
I wish our Canadian friends the very best for the future. I always love visiting their country and was glad to have a bit of a break from meetings to take a run up to the Rocky Mountains.

I nearly didn't post this picture, in the fear it was almost Blearesque.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yob Culture Increased under Labour

I doubt when you read this headline it came as much of a surprise to you. Persistent Young Offenders have increased from just under 10,000 in 1997 to over 15,000 in 2008, with offences committed by these offenders up by an even higher percentage from 16,000 in 1997 to more than 28,000 in 2008. It's not surprising though, I'm afraid, as you just need to walk around any town in the country and you can find very easily the yob culture is prevalent.

These new figures very clearly illustrate to me that Labour’s criminal justice system is failing - young offenders are becoming even more persistent. The figures also make a mockery of Labour’s promises to tackle youth crime. Since 1997 there have been 47 Labour “strategies” to tackle problems faced, it’s blatantly though that none of these measures have worked.

Northumbria Police Force should be praised, however, for having a higher PYO prosecution rate than the national average. I am planning to visit the station South Shields in the next couple of weeks. Among other issues affecting the town, such as anti-social behaviour, I would particularly like to discuss with officers the amount of their time spent dealing with the same repeat young offenders that the criminal justice system fails to keep off the streets or rehabilitate.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Coffee at St Peter's, Saturday 13th June

We are going to have a series of informal gatherings around South Shields, inviting people to come along for a coffee and a chat. I hope very much that not only Conservative supporters will come along, but also people who might be interested in meeting their Conservative Candidate and have not perhaps voted Tory before. All are very welcome!

Our first gathering is on Saturday 13th June and will be held at:

St Peter's Church
Moor Lane
Harton Village

Starting at 10.30 until midday

The cost is £2 to include your coffee and cake!

If you live locally please come along - invitations will be posted shortly around the Harton Village area. Whitburn and Westoe venues to also be announced shortly.