Wokingham Times, 17 Oct

Last week I went to Birmingham for the Conservative party conference. I spoke at four events, on growth, on our relationship with the EU, on schools and on public spending.

Sharing a panel with Matthew Hancock, the new Business Minister, chaired by Oliver Letwin, we discussed with the party members what additional cuts in spending could and should be made. I favoured making sure that foreign visitors using our health service pay for the treatments they receive, just as we have to when visiting their countries. We are losing hundreds of millions by faoling to invoice them or their insurance companies or the Euro card scheme. I urged the government to get on with its proposal to charge foreign lorries for using our roads, just as domestic haulage companies have to pay high Vehicle Excise duties. I proposed reducing the large programme of research at the Overseas Aid department, removing aid to nuclear weapons powers, and reducing that department’s rising overhead. I suggested cutting the numbers of appeals and follow up legal actions taxpayers pay for to foreign nationals who have lost their immigration or extradition case in the UK. The large audience seemed appreciative of these proposals.

In the meeting on growth we looked particularly at what Councils and local agencies can do to promote growth. There was general agreement that speedier planning decisions are helpful, and that plenty of free or cheap car parking is crucial to promoting a town centre. A good idea that has worked elsewhere where a town centre has too much empty space is the pop up shop. Spare shop space is offered free for a short period to people willing to try out shop ideas. If they work the person can then negotiate a rent and start paying for some of the spare space. In the meantime the shopping centre does not look so bare.

I dashed back to Wokingham to attend the first Founders Day at Oakbank school. Wokingham parents and well wishers have created the first secondary free school in the country. A hectic six weeks this summer saw part of Ryeish Green school buildings transformed into a clean modern space suitable for the first pupils. I had the pleasure of hearing the founding pupils read, sing and perform just four weeks into their careers at the new institution. I wish them and the teaching staff every success with their new venture. The Founders have shown great commitment and enterprise bringing it altogether.


  1. stan francis
    November 6, 2012

    Problem with this gov;t is that it takes ages to draw up a system and when drawn up then cannot join up the decisions(joined up writing still a problem)-once decided it’s hard for people to read this joined up writing so it doesn’t get implemented-Dental practices are still in then woods on CQC requirements even though it’s been on the books absolutely ages. Make it easy to understand and it will get implemented, you employ people that come up with the ideas and then trabslate it into jibberosh!!

  2. Alex
    November 6, 2012

    Mr Redwood, given that we have spare shop space (and this is unlikely to change as more shopping is done online), and a shortage of housing, it makes sense to facilitate the change of use from retail to housing. Is the planning process an issue here, and if so can anything be done to streamline the process?

    Reply: I don’t know of planning blocks on conversion. People with empty shops should apply for cvonversion if that looks sensible.

  3. Barbara Stevens
    November 6, 2012

    I agree wholeheartly with your first paragraph in its total content. If only we could get the rest of the Conservative party to agree as well, particularly Mr Cameron. You would then see a robust improvement in the polls, and in the party membership. I hope you will therefore fight to get what you propose with all your might. I note it was received with much applause, no wonder, and has your audience would be of your own ilk, but putting it here on your blog you will eventually find many more who agree like me. I wish you the best of luck and feel these points should be exposed to whoever feels they should listen, it was like a breath of fresh air. Many thanks.

  4. Kevin Marshall
    November 7, 2012

    Two of the great assets that the British possess is our sense of fairness and honouring of agreements. We are very generous hosts, without any requirement for others to reciprocate. We obey to the letter the tight rules of the EU, whilst most of our partners in Europe take a somewhat more pragmatic approach.
    The access to health care without reclaiming costs is an example. A few years ago I had to use the excellent A&E in Barcelona for my 3-year-old daughter. Back home, got a form through the post. It was simple to fill out, and enabled the Spanish Health Service to be reimbersed.

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