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.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Conservative Council Tax Pledge

The new figures out this week revealed the soaring use of court orders and bailiffs to collect council tax are somewhat startling - but perhaps can be equated to the fact council tax bills have more than doubled across the country under Labour.

In South Tyneside bills have risen by a staggering 85% since 1997 thanks to Labour Ministers. Based on a band D property which would have paid £763 in 1997, but now pays (or not as the case of many) £1,410 annually. Bailiffs knocked at 5,513 homes in South Tyneside in 2008-2009 and 5 bankruptcy orders were obtained as a direct result of non payment of council tax.

We can look back to Whitehall guidance issued by John Prescott in 2004 which encouraged the use of bailiffs by town halls. It even recommends that in-house town hall bailiffs remove the official council branding from their bailiff demands. A preparation for the clunking fist perhaps?

Conservatives have pledged to work with councils to freeze council tax bills in England and provide additional central funding to keep bills down for the next two years. Scotland has already benefited from a council tax freeze, making bills almost £300 a year less on a comparable home north of the border. Labour Ministers have ruled out introducing such a policy in England. Good old, Jock Gordon - he shows yet again how out of touch he is with the plight of hard working families and pensioners. Thanks to Gordon Brown doubling council tax bills, a record number of families in South Shields and across the country are struggling to make ends meet. More people now face the threat of menacing bailiffs knocking at their door and this is a crisis of Labour’s own making.

Only a Conservative Government will work with South Tyneside Council to help fund a council tax freeze and bring real help to low and middle income families. Only Conservatives can deliver the change our country needs.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Turning Japanese

I arrived in Toyko this morning. I have worked with agents in South Korea and China before, but this is my first time in Japan. This is an incredible country. The tradition and courtesy is completely different to any other Asian country I have visited and the gadgets are something else! There's a selection of buttons to press for even the most basic of our daily routines it seems. Where ever I travel I am always interested in understanding more about the political system and the economy - but even more so with Japan - which is why I thought my visit was worth a blogspot.

For thirty years the Japanese economy was booming. As the 1990s dawned though stock slumped and real estate prices plummeted, marking an abrupt end to the Japanese asset price bubble. But the situation was exacerbated by domestic policies which had been intended to remove speculative excesses from the stock and real estate markets and the slump just went on and on and on. Interest rates were rock bottom, but nothing was really moving. Sound familiar?

The Spectator had this excellent article a couple of months ago, drawing comparisons between the UK recession and the early stages of the Japanese recession - it's a stark warning on how we could very well end up in the same long term trouble if our economy is left mismanaged and in the wrong hands:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Your views and input wanted!





Hopefully if you live in South Shields you've had one of these through your door or you are about to receive one (thank you to my committed deliverers). If you haven't received a survey, however, this is a printable version and thanks to the capabilities of the more technically able (thanks, Phil!) the survey is also available online on my website:

http://karen4southshields.co.uk/index.php?option=com_survey&task=survey_page&survey=1&Itemid=13

I have had quite a few responses back already, but would love to hear your views.

Also, if you have any spare time and would be willing to spend some of it (even if it's only an hour) delivering campaign leaflets in the future please drop me a line:

karenallen@southshieldsconservatives.co.uk

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mending Our Broken Society

Labour have presided over the longest and deepest economic recession since the war, but that is more than matched by the social recession we are stuck in today. Everyone hopes and expects we are out of economic recession, but unless we change the direction of government fundamentally, we will never find the path to social recovery. We can’t go out on like this. We need change to get this country back on its feet.

To mend our broken society, four areas of policy will be subject to our unremitting focus: fixing the criminal justice system, school reform, strengthening families and stimulating social action in our communities. Today, we published our full draft manifesto chapter that sets out how we will do that. For more information, please see:

http://www.conservatives.com

Friday, January 22, 2010

Unemployment Increases in South Shields

It's really worrying to learn that unemployment has increased in South Tyneside for the third month in a row, as reported in the Shields Gazette:

http://www.shieldsgazette.com/news/Jobless-figures-still-on-the.6001673.jp

We've now got 6,590 people claiming (JSA) last month - which is an extra 188 people from the previous month. This figure of course does not accurately reflect the true extent of unemployment in the borough - the long term unemployed, who may be on other types of benefit are not included in this figure. Nevertheless almost another 200 new claimants is really worrying.

Brown keeps banging on about how we're coming out of recession. As I think most people would agree, the real force of recession is felt when you loose your job. Even with credit less available and businesses failing around you, if you have your job and you are still being paid, then most of us seem to continue in a recession proof bubble. In fact many of us, who are working and have a mortgage are the best off we've ever been, what with tracker mortgages and our interest rate being 0.5%.

Nice to see Miliband is in touch with the issues in the town and is still boasting on his website:

"I am delighted that unemployment in South Tyneside has fallen consistently since 1997."

http://www.davidmiliband.info/constituency.htm




Monday, January 18, 2010

A bit of grit sticking

I know that we're over it all now and back to positive temperatures, but what happened in our cold spell - directly as a result of Labour incompetence, really was shameful. It was clear after the cold snap in February 2009 that the country was almost wholly dependent on just two salt suppliers and that when salt imports dry up when harsh weather conditions hit Europe, the two domestic producers just cannot pull salt out of the ground quickly enough to meet demand, even with 24/7 working.

The direct result of Labour's failure to broaden the range of salt suppliers on which the nation depends led to stocks of salt continuing to dwindle and local authorities asking to make bigger and bigger cuts to the amount of salt they use.

As a result, many people were unable to set out on the street or roads and were effectively housebound for days. This is just not acceptable and is yet another example of Labour's failure to learn a lesson and their gross incompetence.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Education Pledges

It’s somewhat ironic to hear Ed Balls banging on about a “class war.” We just need to look at the stark facts, after twelve years of Labour Government; we have an education system where there is an enormous gulf in achievement between independent schools and state run schools. It is Conservatives who want to close the educational gap between the fortunate few and everyone else. I have really strong views on this gap because I have seen both sides. I was educated at the local comprehensive until the age of 16 and then went to a Girls Public Day School Trust School from the age of 16 to 18. Also, working in the city I am alongside Eton and Harrow old boys and senior executives who barely scraped a CSE at their Secondary Modern School.

Michael Gove, Shadow Minister for Education, has outlined plans to improve the quality of teaching, give heads proper powers to crack down on bad behaviour and allow educational providers to open a new generation of independently run state schools. Only then can we reverse the widening gap which currently acts as a block on opportunity for the poorest.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sure Start Pledge

On Monday – which was my 31st birthday, so apologies for not blogging this then – David Cameron set out how Conservatives will help the poorest families in society. David explained how we will keep Sure Start, and how we will strengthen it by recruiting 4,200 new Sure Start health visitors to provide universal support to families with children under five and a more effective way of reaching out to the most vulnerable families.

We believe Sure Start needs to work better because the people who need it most – disadvantaged and dysfunctional families – are not getting enough of the benefit. We will improve Sure Start by taking it back to its original purpose of early intervention, increasing its focus on the neediest families, and better involving organisations with a track record in parenting interventions. Drawing on the key principles behind our wider public service reform programme – practicality, independence and accountability – we will create a new kind of Sure Start Children’s Centre to replace failing existing provision.

This is part of our mission to build the strong society based on the values of responsibility and aspiration. For that, we need responsible individuals. We can help people take more responsibility for themselves by focusing on the three areas where character is formed in our early lives – in the family, at school and through the influences of wider society – and take action to ingrain responsibility through each.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Council Care Homes Marked for Closure

The Gazette has highlighted this, but after being contacted by the very concerned mother of a resident at Connelly House, I did also want to mention this. Connelly House in Whiteleas is the town's only dementia dedicated care home - across both the public and private sector - it, with another two council run care homes, are threatened with closure. This is despite Connelly winning three stars for service excellence and its residents being very settled and happy in the facility.

As I understand the threatened closures are as a result of cost saving analysis, which highlighted the high costs of goods and services procurement for the homes. As many private homes are run with considerable profits (although I do acknowledge there are 200 vacant places in South Shields' private homes), I do think this we can question the efficiency of the Council procurement for care homes. I have been told that food bills for supply of certain items - by council approved suppliers - are as much as three times that of the retail price in Asda.

If all three homes were to closed this would also mean the loss of more than 100 jobs. We are all living longer than ever before, so I would have expected more care homes in South Shields and not less.... Or is it the staff are expected to find employment in privately run homes instead? Interesting policy for a Labour Council I must say.....

http://www.shieldsgazette.com/news/Tory-joins-fight-to-save.5999514.jp

Monday, January 04, 2010

General Election Start Gun Sounded

The clock seemed to have barely stuck midnight when it seemed the General Election start gun had sounded. We really are becoming more and more American, as we now appear to emulate the US election campaign - which actually David Cameron didn't start on 2nd January 2010, but realistically long, long before this - as our old, once much envied four week election campaign will now become seemingly endless to many.

We're set to hear a lot of announcements over these next weeks and months. Not least of all David Cameron's pledges on the NHS which will be released later today.

I was reading recently an article in which Martin McTague, North East Policy Chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), had it spot on when he criticised Labour. Mr McTague pointed at the Pre-Budget Report and had it absolutely right when he said the National Insurance contribution increase is a tax on jobs - which will effect 85% of small businesses. Mr MacTague also reports that a staggering 95% of FSB members feel the Government has done nothing to help small businesses in the region.

Of course Conservatives strongly believe in encouraging small businesses, which will form a key part of our recovery from the economic crisis. I will listen keenly to our central messages on business over the next few months and hope very much there's some good news in there for the North East. There are many, many things we need to be talking about - our civil liberties and mindless political correctness manifested in our nanny state - after of course the economic recovery - being pretty high on my list. We need don't need more laws; endless, expensive new installations of CCTVs cameras and more red tape - people will take responsibility if we create an environment for them to be able to do so.

I must wrap up this post, as I'm at Heathrow and about to board a flight to Singapore. I always find Singapore fascinating, particularly in terms of its governance. Dan Hannan in "The Plan" draws several policy proposals from the Singaporean systems - will post more on this later.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Snowy Shields



It was a scene from a Winter Wonderland waking up in South Shields on New Year's Day. As reported in the gazette today though the snow has brought a lot of services to a stand still in the town:

http://www.shieldsgazette.com/news/Snow-joke--and-there39s.5951463.jp

What the Gazette doesn't mention is it's no wonder King St was deserted this morning - despite the metro being down and it being generally difficult to get into the town centre - even if you could get there, without any gritting at 9.30am (I don't know if this changed during the day) you'd be mad to try to negotiate the ice on King St.

With more snow set to be on the way, I hope the council does has plenty of grit....