Swan St Spalding closure – not yet it seems!

I had some disappointing news from the Lincolnshire County Council highways dept this am.  I had asked them to consider keeping Swan St in Spalding closed once the sewer repair work had been completed by Anglian Water, because the traffic flows in the town centre seem to of improved significantly since the work started.

Highways were willing to give the closure a trial period leading on from the sewer working, providing their informal consultation with local businesses showed overwhelming support for the idea.  Unfortunately, this was not the case, with a split of 60/40 in favour of closure for a trial period.  Because of this, LCC will now have to carry out a formal consultation exercise, contact any objectors and try to resolve their concerns and only then, initiate the trail!  To do anything else would leave them open to challenge and subject to official sanction for not following the rules! 

It would seem that some people have gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick on this one.  They seem to be under the misapprehension that it is the whole of Swan St that would be closed, rather than just its junction with Kings Rd, leaving the full length open for normal access from Winfrey Ave. 

Worse still, at least one individual, despite being asked for comment on behalf of the large retail outlet store he or she manages, responded by saying, “I object because it will take me longer to get to work”. 

I will try to be charitable as we approach Christmas and put this response down to a very busy manager, not really thinking about the long term implications of what they have written.  On the other hand, it could a short-sighted and self centred response from someone who cares little for his customers, the town of Spalding, or even for the increased carbon emissions caused by stop start traffic flows and tail backs that normally occur when this junction is open.

However, all is not lost and the highway authority has promised to look carefully at the responses they receive to the official consultation and to carry out a scientific analysis of the traffic flows if and when the trial period goes ahead, with a view to making the closure permanent.

Hopefully, our local press will pick up on this issue and encourage a wider group of Spaldonians to make their views known – only those in favour please ;¬)

More of our money to be spent overseas

Is there no end to this government’s duel fixations of climate change and overseas aid? These two issues seem to of now converged into yet another wasteful financial commitment, this time with a scheme to help Africa reduces its carbon footprint, to the tune of £1billion.
The government continues to tell us that all the financial pain they are visiting upon us is necessary and we just have to ‘suck it up’ and get on with it – it’ll all be worth it in the end. Tens of thousands of public sector workers are loosing their jobs, including many of the service personnel who have been fighting and dying in wars our politicians are so keen to participate in (but not literally of course).
I wonder how many more services will be cut and jobs lost in order to fund what seems to be an ever growing list of vanity projects?

Affordable housing con

In their housing bill, the government has suggested that developers should be able to renegotiate section 106 agreements for affordable housing contributions, in order to enable them to deliver currently stalled developments. At the same time, the government has found yet more money, in those treasury coffers that are supposedly bereft of funds, to provide £400m for guess what? – affordable housing!

Setting the stage for developers to wriggle out of providing an element of affordable housing within their developments, suggests a return to the council estates we have been working to get away from since Margaret Thatcher introduced right to buy.

The cynic in me sees more than a little collusion, or even out right conspiracy in these proposals. Developers have never liked devaluing their open market housing developments with affordable housing, even when they could afford it. Even then, they tried their best to bunch them all together in the back of the site – almost out of site out of mind (that’s a pun by the way, not a typo)

Now, with the government promoting the renegotiation of s106 agreements for this provision, whilst at the same time providing money for its delivery, it would seem that the developers are going to get their wish and we are going to see the potential emergence of a new clutch of sink estates.

Instead of giving developers a way of undermining local authorities ability to deliver affordable housing using their own policies, why doesn’t the government give councils the £400m? Councils could then use this money to subsidise developers and require them to maintain a mix of tenure within their developments. But of course the developers wouldn’t like that idea, so it’s never going to happen.

DIY SOS offers me a bizarre contrast

I watched DIY SOS on Thurs night. Nick Knowles and his team, along with dozens of local volunteers, were carrying out their biggest ever challenge, to modernise a rundown youth club in Norris Green, Liverpool.
Local people were shown saying how important the club was to their community and how it had saved many local kids from going off of the rails. Everybody who spoke was determined to see the club succeed and were committed to doing their bit both now and in the future.
We have a successful and popular youth club in Spalding, that was refurbished by the county council about 18 months ago. However, since then the opening hours of the club have been cut to only one day a week for less than three hours.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, a meeting I attended recently, along with a couple of other Spalding councillors and arranged by the county council, was asked for ideas on how to keep the club going beyond April next year. It seems more than a little ludicrous that the Nick Knowles team, along with dozens of volunteer tradesmen and women, spent nine days and an estimated 18000 man hours in Liverpool, creating something that Spalding may well be about to loose.

Immigration becoming yet another elephant in the room

Unashamedly lifted from the Conservative Home website, as I could not have put it any better myself.

Immigration comment
“The Coalition has declared its intention to get net immigration down from last year’s level of nearly 250,000 to the tens of thousands. But even that will not be good enough. In order to avoid the population reaching that 70 million, we have to get immigration down to 40,000 a year or less.” – Nicholas Soames and Frank Field in The Telegraph
“To put the matter brutally, neither David Cameron nor Theresa May has to live in Southall, Bradford or Tower Hamlets. They do not experience at first-hand the bitterness of traditional English people, who see their communities overtaken, their culture pushed aside, by people who force a path into Britain without the smallest desire, or even willingness, to embrace our ways or share our values.” – Max Hastings in the Daily Mail
“Ministers in the Home Office, from the Home Secretary downwards, should be under absolutely no illusion that failing to achieve the modest target set for them well before the next election will have a consequence: the public outcry they have faced these past few days will be as nothing to the wrath that unfolds.” – Express leader

What chance for the Big Society

Two issues I’m dealing with in the ward at present, offer a demonstration of the challenges involved in making David Cameron’s Big Society work on a practical level.

The first one is a fairly minor matter in the great scheme of things, but to the person affected it is a very real problem and one that is leading to some distress for the lady concerned. Her problem is with a neighbour who is neglecting his garden to the point that it is spoiling hers. Having spent good money getting her front garden made low maintenance, she now finds it blighted by wind blown weeds from the neglected garden next door.

Despite the best efforts of council officers to persuade the gentleman to do the right thing, he continues to do the bare minimum. This means that he doesn’t really fix the problem, but his neglect isn’t bad enough to justify any sort of legal action.

The second case is more serious, because of the activities of another bad neighbour. In this case, as well as having an impact on their neighbours, these people are allegedly carrying out certain illegal activities. Numerous comings and goings, often for less than 5 minutes at a time, suggest that these people are not coming around for a cup of tea. A large number of different vehicles, often taking up other residents’ parking spaces, also suggests that these are far from your normal neighbours. Some residents also report seeing scrap metal, farm equipment and even red diesel being handled at various times. It seems that our local police are ‘aware’ of these people, but have been unable to catch them in the act.

If we are struggling to deal with people who fail to be good neighbours and who spoil the quality of life of those around them, with our current but reducing resources, will the Big Society offer better or worse solutions?