Friday, 10 April 2015

GE2015 – Another follow-up letter to Polly Billington re Education cuts

Here’s the full text of my follow-up letter to the Labour Parliamentary candidate for Thurrock regarding the cuts to the education budget.  Poor Ms Billington is probably regretting answering my e-mails now.

Dear Ms Billington,

I actually find that separating issues into different e-mails makes it easier to know what has been covered and what needs to be put aside for more reflection or research before replying so I hope I’m not bothering you with so many different e-mails.

As a Community Co-option governor for Thurrock Adult Community College (TACC) I hope, although the emphasis will be on the likes of South Essex College and any Technical (or other) university that may come into the area (and quite rightly so as they are the places most likely to be attended by the younger learners), that the community-driven learning provided by TACC will not suffer unduly should Labour take power.

Not only does the community college afford those with a less than perfect academic career behind them the chance to up-skill, gain confidence in new subjects and earn qualifications in a safe environment, it also serves as a place of community building.  I, myself, helped try to integrate people with mental health issues into the community with two mental health awareness events as part of my duties as a governor (with too much time on his hands, unfortunately).  How much good the events actually did is a matter of conjecture but it was the openness to new community building ideas that enabled the events to take place and I hope that Labour won’t forget the important role of community colleges like TACC to the general well-being of the community.

I completely understand that you cannot promise to reverse all of the cuts in education and no one really expects that to be a possibility, we are in an age of austerity after all.  It’s admirable that you are not willing to make promises you may not be able to deliver on, however, it would be nice to think that any savings that must be made aren’t made at the expense of community learning providers.


Myles Cook

As usual, any reply will appear right here.

GE2015 - Follow-up letter to Polly Billington re: humane and sustainable farming

Here's the full text of my follow-up letter to Polly Billington, Labour candidate for MP of Thurrock regarding farming practices.

Dear Ms Billington,

Thank you for another comprehensive reply to my enquiry and, again, don’t worry about any delays in getting back to me.

I think the idea that Labour want the UK to be a world leader in food policy is an admirable one; however, policy is relatively easy compared to the financial aspects of the business of the agricultural industry.

Unfortunately we are living in an age of austerity and probably will be for many years to come, even under Labour’s plans to implement the cuts needed at a slower, less destructive pace to both the economy and the citizens of the UK and it worries me that to maintain a high profile in the international food market may still require the use of intensive farming processes that could jeopardise your attempts to limit the damage to the ecosystem in which we live and the animals therein.

To maintain productivity and remain competitive will surely take a great deal of investment in the UK’s agricultural industry, would a future Labour Government have the available investment capital whilst still being able to tackle the deficit?  And, if there is a plan Labour will be working to, is it actually achievable without causing drastic cuts elsewhere in government expenditure?  Can the high ideals of sustainable and humane farming practices be maintained and policed with what may amount to very little money to pay for an agricultural watchdog with the teeth to do the job properly?


Myles Cook

Any reply will be posted here.

General Election 2015: Letters to Thurrock's Parliamentary candidates – Tax Dodging Bill

Here’s the last of the letters I have sent out to my local Parliamentary candidates.  As usual, all letters and responses are included totally unedited.

The Letter

Ms Polly Billington

I’m emailing you concerning the campaign for a Tax Dodging Bill:

I have become increasingly concerned with the amount of money that is lost through some big companies not paying their taxes, both the UK and developing countries are losing billions each year.

In a recent poll 85% of the UK public agreed that tax dodging by large multinationals is morally wrong, even if it is legal.

I am supporting the Tax Dodging Bill Campaign, and calling on whoever forms the next Government in May to introduce a tax dodging bill in the first 100 days after the election.

This campaign is made up of a broad coalition of organisations campaigning against poverty and inequality both in the UK and internationally .

The Tax Dodging Bill will:

  • Make it harder for big companies to dodge UK taxes and ensure they’re not getting unfair tax breaks
  • Ensure UK tax rules don’t encourage big companies to avoid tax in developing countries
  • Make the UK tax regime more transparent and tougher on tax dodging

These measures could raise funds to help tackle poverty both in the UK and in developing countries.

I urge you to support this campaign by asking your party leader to make a commitment now to introduce a Tax Dodging Bill in the first 100 days after the election, if you form the next government. Please also show your support by tweeting using #maketaxfair and emailing the campaign directly with your position on: and, if elected, to support its progress in Parliament.

I look forward to hearing your response.

Best wishes,

Mr Myles Cook

Only one response so far…

The Response

Dear Myles,

Thanks for your email. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you - I get hundreds of emails a week and I like to make sure that I give each one a considered response.

I think that it’s morally wrong that we pay our taxes while some big multinational companies avoid paying tax. Every year the UK loses billions of pounds to corporate taxdodging. This isn’t right. Particularly when the rest of us are seeing are budgets squeezed.

I am backing the Tax Dodging Bill Campaign. The changes proposed would make the UK tax regime more transparent, making it harder for big companies tododge UK taxes.

If I was your MP I would be doing more to deal with this injustice. A Labour government’s first Finance Bill will act to tackle tax avoidance. Some of the measures include the introduction of penalties for those who are caught by the General Anti-Abuse Rule, closing loopholes used by hedge funds to avoid stamp duty, stopping umbrella companies exploiting tax relief, tackling disguised self-employment by introducing strict deeming criteria, forcing businesses to report more frequently to catch out dormant companies.

The HSBC scandal shows this is a dodgy Prime Minister surrounded by dodgy donors. He took the money, he gave a job to the head of HSBC with no questions asked, and time and again he has let the tax avoiders get away with it.

David Cameron and George Osborne have totally failed to tackle tax avoidance in the last five years. They have failed to close the loopholes we have highlighted. And the amount of uncollected tax has risen under this government. The next Labour Government will act where the Tories have failed.

A Labour government will close loopholes that cost the Exchequer billions of pounds a year, increase transparency and toughen up penalties.

I appreciate you contacting me in light of the HSBC revelations. I am serious about dealing with tax dodging and a Labour government would introduce measures to tackling this immoral practice.

If you have any other questions or things you'd like to talk to be about, please do get in touch.

Best wishes,


I just couldn’t help myself jumping on certain facts and sent the following letter:

The Follow-up

Dear Ms Billington,

Thank you for your most comprehensive reply and don’t worry about any delays as I am in no doubt that you are inundated with letters from people who hold the current administration in contempt.

I do, however, have to point out that the last Labour administration is hardly innocent of allowing tax avoidance to take place and, in fact, Cadbury was an aggressive tax avoider during that period whilst still a British company.  How can voters be sure that Labour will follow through on the measures you have outlined?

If you would rather speak to me on the phone or in person, I’m sure that could be arranged.


Myles Cook

I will post any other replies I get or any follow-up questions I pose right here!