Four Scottish communities purchase their neighbourhoods

Helped by grant money, three community groups have succeeded in purchasing their land collectively

All abilites path on the Little Assynt Estate near LochinverToday on the Guardian’s Social Enterprise Network I write about two decades of community land ownership in the north-west Highlands of Scotland. Assynt Crofters’ Trust bought the land on which 13 townships stand on 1 February 1993, and the majority of the huge, but very lightly populated, area around Lochinver is now owned by its community. Today sees a further step, with a government-funded community purchase (the Scottish Land Fund, via the Big Lottery Fund) of the smokehouse in Achiltibuie, a little to the south – along with three announcements elsewhere in Scotland. Continue reading “Four Scottish communities purchase their neighbourhoods”

Cornwall council’s privatisation compromise

The west country council came perilously close to outsourcing a wide range of services to BT. Why did it change its mind?

Based on a set of interviews with councillors, and a trip to Bodmin to take a look at the Beacon technology park courtesy of Ann Kerridge – some images in the gallery above – this is my first piece in my second run as a freelance journalist, for the Guardian’s Society pages. Cornwall council is taking a pragmatic approach to outsourcing, trying to create and protect local jobs, increase efficiency and involve its local NHS trusts.

Continue reading “Cornwall council’s privatisation compromise”

Why you should vote in the police commissioner elections

Thursday 15 November 2012 sees the first police and crime commissioner elections in England and Wales outside London. Turnout is likely to be low, and some have said they will not vote in protest at the lack of information, the quality of candidates or the politicisation of policing. These are excuses, not reasons. Continue reading “Why you should vote in the police commissioner elections”

Further reading: the US elections, healthcare and Obamacare

Healthcare – specifically, the future of the current president’s ‘Obamacare’ plan – is a major issue in the US election. As Barack Obama joked last week about Mitt Romney (reported by the Independent):

He is hoping you come down with a severe case of Romnesia just before you cast your ballot… [with symptoms including] headaches, the eyes getting blurry, but don’t worry – Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions! Continue reading “Further reading: the US elections, healthcare and Obamacare”

Profiles of the Thames Valley police commissioner candidates

Added 12 November: Why you should vote in the police commissioner elections

A version of this article appeared in Chipping Norton News, November 2012

On Thursday 15 November, Chippy will get its first chance to vote for a police and crime commissioner, who for the next four years will have the ability to hire or fire the chief constable of Thames Valley Police. It is the largest non-metropolitan force in the country, covering nearly 2.3m people in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, and spending £371m this financial year. Our commissioner will be paid £85,000 annually, to be accountable for how crime is tackled in the three counties and to make the police accountable to the people they serve. Continue reading “Profiles of the Thames Valley police commissioner candidates”