The Tewin Classics Show

August 24, 2009

Tewin Classic Cars 2009The Tewin Classics Show on Sunday was an amazing success with over 150 classic cars on display and many excellent stalls too. David Gregg and the Friends of Tewin have built up the event so that it is now a “must” for the classic car owner and enthusiast. The turn out was excellent even with local boy Lewis Hamilton on the TV in the European Grand Prix and England winning the Ashes. I went along with my daughter Sarah and really enjoyed seeing the cars, particularly the MGs. When I was younger I had an MGB and there were some fine examples on show. Some of the cars were much older with an MGP from the 1930s and MGAs too
Tewin Classic Cars 2009 bBut the range of cars was huge with a Ferrari Dino, old Rolls’s, a Ford Thunderbird, a Consul, the old Rover 3500 and many others. The St Albans’ Morris Men were doing their traditional dances too.

The photos show (1)Brian Farrett with his MG and me, Linda Crawford (Chair) and John Sheridan (Vice Chair); (2) me and David Gregg

The Brent Pelham Country Fayre

August 24, 2009

The Brent Pelham Country Fayre also on Sunday was a complete change after the Tewin Classic Cars with the emphasis on horses, dogs, ferrets and traditional games such as the coconut shy and plate smashing stall. It was good to see old friends and to applaud the standard of entries in the Dog Show. There was also a demonstration of hounds and many other attractions.

The photos show me discussing the harvest with Ted Barclay and passing the time of day with Jim Ranger.

Meet the MP Event at Westmill

August 24, 2009

Meet the Member at Westmill 2009 jpgOn Friday, there was a Meet the MP event at Westmill in a Marquee. There was a good turn out of about 60 and I was able to answer questions about the Afghan War, the economy and immigration control. There was also concern at plans to put 25 more travellers’ pitches in East Herts, particularly as there is no history locally of a traveller tradition. I explained that this was something which I have strongly opposed as it makes no sense to force travellers into areas they do not want to be.

Out and About

August 19, 2009

I was out and about in the south of my constituency this morning.  On a beautiful summer’s day, there are few better places to be.  I popped in to the Garden Centre at Cole Green for a couple of replacement blackcurrant bushes and then went to check on the condition of the oak tree I planted on the village green to mark the Millennium.  It was looking good.

I chatted to local residents in both Cole Green and Letty Green before moving on to Tewin. There I visited the only community-owned village store in the County. There is a fabulous story behind this.  Tewin Stores was about to close when local residents clubbed together to buy it.  It is now run completely by volunteers from the Community Association under Chairman, Tony Cook. They have had the Post Office franchise restored to the village and they are a useful information point for Government and local government initiatives.  They have recently opened a Tea Room and now an Art Gallery.  It is going from strength to strength. I had morning coffee with a group of ladies celebrating a birthday.  We talked about how pleasant it was to sit out in the sun and watch the world go by.

Closing down the pension schemes

August 19, 2009

Do you share my concern at the way in which Final Salary Pension Schemes are being closed to new members and now in some cases to existing members? These are schemes which have helped so many of today’s pensioners to enjoy a comfortable retirement. Companies in a recession may see closure as a quick way of showing they are keen to cut costs and we can understand that. But it is time it was realised that future living standards for the retired will fall, unless action is taken. Since there is little sign of working age people increasing their saving for retirement and employers are ducking for cover, the future is likely to be employees and companies paying for decent living standards for the retired through higher taxes.

The Government has no stature in discussions with employers about how to fashion a way forward for Occupational Pensions, because Gordon Brown’s 1998 Pensions Raid ending the dividend tax credit took £5 billion per annum out of Pension Schemes. Having plundered the Pension Funds himself, he can hardly take the high ground now and his poor stewardship of the nation’s finances has led to Britain’s weak position in the current recession.

His Party was also involved in rubbishing the idea of a funded national state pension scheme with money set aside and invested to help pay future pensions at a higher rate, rather than solely relying on today’s workers’ national insurance payments to pay today’s state pensions (Pay As You Go). This idea was supported by Conservatives and enlightened Labour thinkers such as Frank Field. In Canada the Canada Pension Plan has money set aside to pay for future pensions.

We are all pinning our hopes on better up-rating of the state pension in line with earnings, reform of the State Second Pension and the new Personal Accounts, but I believe we will come back to two issues. We need to look at ways of making Occupational Pension Schemes fairer for employers, but without employees losing the security of a pension which gives a defined benefit and we need to look again at the idea of setting aside an investment fund to pay for better future state pensions.

Local businesses pulling through the recession by pulling together

August 12, 2009
Oliver with Chief Executive Tim Hutchings and Yolanda Rugg

Oliver with Chief Executive Tim Hutchings and Yolanda Rugg

I have just come back from a breakfast meeting with the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Letchworth Hall Hotel. The Herts Chamber of Commerce has a good reputation founded upon these sorts of events which give the local business community the chance to get together and network. As their guest speaker my speech mainly covered the challenge for Letchworth of achieving growth while unemployment is rising, but I also described the effect of the recession on the skills gap and the the challenges faced by the High Street.

I believe that Letchworth is well placed for business success. Despite the recession, local businesses have responded to the challenge and as a result we are slightly ahead of the rest of the country in unemployment levels. I pointed to recent redevelopments such as at Spirella, North Herts College, the Cinema, Nexus House and the Broadway as a good platform for further planned development at the Wynd and Eastcheap.

As a Garden City, Letchworth has a strong sense of civic and community spirit that has led to many Garden City firms doing business together. Speaking to local business leaders I was reassured by their strong sense of pulling together and their commitment to growing out of recession. This local network of business contacts really helps local businesses to grow and therefore helps local employment too. The Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Foundation and North Herts Council all play their part in making the Garden City business friendly too.

Letchworth wants to remain true to its principles, without becoming a museum. Events like the business breakfast this morning show that the town has done just that. It is open to business and keen to play its part in the future. Economic development and regeneration have always been at the core of the Garden City vision and still are. Despite the recession, Letchworth has a strong business future.

Visiting the Letchworth Festival on Saturday

August 3, 2009

Letchworth Festival is certainly on a high this year and I thought the 50s and 60s themed event on Saturday in the Broadway Gardens was marvellous. I really enjoyed my visit.

Thanks go to Maria Iredale and the Letchworth Arts Centre team for all their hard work. The stalls covered some of the leading Letchworth businesses of the period with stands for Borg Warner, where technical whiz Michael Leach was displaying his Design Council Award. Many former workmates were clustered talking about their early working days. Shelvoke and Drewry had their stall with advertising literature for their rubbish lorries. Mr Drewry’s grandson laid on a display about Jim’s life as an inventor. Meredews had a furniture display. The Marmet prams were on show with dozens of examples of these coach built carriages. Dewy eyed owners spoke lovingly of the excellent start in a life a baby had with a Marmet made in the Garden City. There was then a pram race – it was hard to tell who won…

There was also music from local bands and an “Elvis” who made a good effort as the “King”. I met many old friends including the Stoddards, who had a great presentation of their dentists equipment manufacturing company. And we should not forget Harkness Roses and all the other exhibitors, who did Letchworth proud.

Me visiting the Stoddards stand at the Letchworth Exhibition

Me visiting the Stoddards stand at the Letchworth Exhibition