Timely and welcome support from my fellow ward member

This is the text of a letter submitted by my fellow ward member, councillor Christine Lawton, to our local press.

“I am pleased that something amuses Mr Cronin, although I did not find his unhelpful attitude at the steering group which looked at the possibilities of building a community centre for Wygate at all funny. On the question of delay perhaps he should consider “motes and beams”.   

As to his central question “Why are the residents being restricted to a building?”, the simple answer is that the 106 money from developer was for a community building.  Like my predecessor (before your time Mr Cronin) I too am a simple soul – I believe that a facility which could accommodate such excellent groups as cubs, WI, dancing classes for children, a meeting place for the retired would be in principle a fine idea.  That is why the Wygate community is being surveyed  (by an independent charity) to ascertain the wishes and desires of the local residents.  That sounds pretty democratic to me!

I value team-work and loyalty and wish to associate myself with the efforts of Cllr Gambba-Jones and others in this attempt to discover the appetite for a centre for Wygate residents.  Let the people decide – it works for me.”

I’ve taken the liberty of adding the link to Wikipedia for those, like myself, who are unfamiliar with the parable, or just read the panel below.  I couldn’t have said it better myself – no actually, my education doesn’t stretch that far, so I couldn’t have said it at all; thank heavens for Christine!

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As well as firing blanks this time, he’s also got his eyes shut!

 

Independent election candidate, had his eyes closed when he came up with this.

Independent election candidate, had his eyes closed when he came up with this.

Below is the text of a letter I have sent to The Lincs Freepress / Spalding Guardian, in response to an extraordinary letter sent by one of my independent opponents.  You can take a look at what he’s got to say for himself here:  http://www.spaldingtoday.co.uk/news/latest-news/politics-a-community-is-built-by-giving-people-choices-1-6696891

I have to say, I couldn’t buy this sort of publicity, well I could, but the price would be a bit steep and probably break the rules on election expenses!   As mentioned in my previous post about the independents election leaflets, this candidate has a personal axe to grind with me on this issue.

Looking at the impressive list of things he’s inserted himself into within the district, he clearly feels robbed of the opportunity to add management of the Wygate Park community centre to it.  Far be it from me to suggest that he was angling for the job of centre manager, given his current employment status, but there must be more to his anger, than a simple difference of opinion with me.

 

Choice – exactly what’s on the table

In response to the letter about the community survey currently underway in Wygate Park, Spalding.  Clearly, the writer has allowed emotion to cloud his ‘view’ and has failed to read the covering flyer, or even the survey form itself.

Both of these documents refer to ‘a community facility’ not a building, although that is indeed an option.  The documents were drafted and approved by Community Lincs and South Holland District Council respectively, not by me.  As a courtesy, I was supplied with a draft copy of these documents, but I had no involvement in their drafting.  I also supplied maps of the area and lists of roads within a 10 minute walk time of the potential site for any facility.  On behalf of the highly professional officers from both organisations, I believe the writer owes them a public apology, for questioning their integrity, impartiality and professionalism.

Despite his previous profession, the writer continues to ignore the legal framework that made both the land and the financial contribution available in the first place.  A legal agreement, a section 106, was signed between South Holland DC and Allison Homes, the original developer.  Allison Homes agreed to build a community centre, on part of the public open space, adjacent to what is now the Wygate Academy School – nothing else. A new legal agreement would be needed to use the actual money for anything else; something that Kier, the new developer, can choose not to do.

The steering group was formed in the hope that the community would, either agree to seeing the proposed building managed by South Holland Community Church, for and on behalf of the community, or decide to form their own community group, to take on the task.

For various reasons, the first option is now off of the table, in part at least, because of the written hostility of the letter writer in emails he circulated.  I also believe that this aggression played a significant role in reducing the group’s membership.

The second option is still available to anybody, including the writer, wishing to take up the challenge.  The results of the community survey will become valuable evidence for any group when bidding for the additional grant funding, essential to making the project a success.

Finally, if you live in Wygate Park and are one of the 1435 households to receive a survey, please take the time to read it carefully and make up your own mind as to whether, or not a building is the only choice available.

Once you’ve seen for yourself that it isn’t – so there’s no need to spoil your ballot paper on the 7th May  – please do complete the survey and leave it outside your front door for collection on 9th May.  There are also details about how to complete the survey online.

Flyer delivered to 1435 properties by Community Lincs.

Flyer delivered to 1435 properties by Community Lincs.

Independent candidates fire blanks

bazookaThe two independents candidates, standing against myself and Christine Lawton on 7th May in the district council elections, have delivered their first election leaflets.

As always, leaflets from the opposition are essential reading, if only to understand where they are coming from campaign wise. In the case of these two, there are few if any surprises. There are however some clear misunderstandings when it comes to what can and cannot be achieved as a district councillor, but given that they are new at this, it’s understandable. I am however, not so understanding as to allow them to pass without comment, this is after all politics and there’s an election to win.

I’ll deal with their suggested policies first, before dealing with the ever present irony that is the ‘Independent Group’, to which they have attached themselves.

These are from the first ‘independent’ candidate’s leaflet.

1. A temporary cut in business rates to encourage small businesses.

Setting the business rates is not a district council function and cannot be done. The best we can do, is offer discretionary relief to a limited range of activities, such as the only pub in a village, a small village shop, or a non-profit making social club venue.

2. Waste and recycling collections to stay weekly

This has been the Conservative group’s position since it took control in 1999 and this has not changed.   Neither can it change in the near future, as we accepted grant funding from central government on the basis of retaining weekly collections for at least 5 years and we’ve no intention of giving back the £1.7m received!

3. A really good garden waste collection to serve gardeners in the town.

You wouldn’t intentionally offer a really bad garden waste collection, would you?

Only in the town, what about everybody else? What about every other town come to that?   This independent candidate is beginning to think and sound like a parish councillor already.

We are already working on a paid for green waste collection. This needs a significant outlay in capital and a more detailed survey, to identify potential users, will be carried out soon.

4. Make our environment as litter free as we can …….not just in run up to election…

Can you call a campaign that has been running for nearly 9 months, an election ploy? I think not. Had central government confirmed the local government finance settlement at the normal time and not the eleventh hour and 59th minute, as they did, we would have been able to start the South Holland Pride campaign some 12 months ago. This was the plan, but we could only find enough funding to appoint a part time enforcement officer at that time.

5. Better community policing

Yet another area over which the district council has no control. Lincolnshire Police raise their own precept via the council tax. This year that was increased by 1.9% to £197.64 SHDC’s council tax take was reduced by 0.5% to £154.84 for a band D property.

6. Better value for money when looking at provision of services….

I’d love to comment on this one, but I haven’t got a clue what its referring to!

7. More thought to planning applications, so that they benefit the town and not just the applicant…..

This is another one that’s got me guessing at to its meaning, let alone its ambition. The planning system isn’t there as a way of getting goodies, from the people who apply for planning permission, unless those ‘goodies’ are essential to making the application acceptable in planning terms.

Moving on to the second ‘independent’.

This one makes some pledges which reflect some double standards and a clear misunderstanding of what the overall role of a district councillor is.

1. I will not have any hidden agendas

My personal experience says otherwise.

2. I will work with any councillor…………..acting in the best interests of Wygate Park and Spalding!

Just because the ward is called Spalding Wygate, doesn’t mean it just covers the Wygate Park area, where this candidate happens to live.

As well as being limited to half the ward, the horizon of this independent only stretches as far as the boundaries of Spalding it seems.

As a district councillor, your role, first and foremost, is to represent the interests of all South Holland residents, not just those who voted for you, or happen to live in the ward you represent. This applies even when a decision might have a negative impact in your ward.

Some of the issues this candidate will support.

3. Pride in South Holland. My answer to this claim is the same as for the other independent and our manifesto actually contains a commitment to continue the campaign.

4. Highways – poor state of some pavements. This is a county council function. You don’t need to be a district councillor to get these fixed. Just report them on line, I do so regularly.

5. Road safety – road markings. Again, a county council function, not the district.

I submitted a defect report on these makings over 12 months ago. The answer from highways was very clear. It is not their policy to maintain any form of road markings within residential estates, when those roads only serve residents and have no other purpose, as this would not be a good use of their limited budgets. The road marking in question were put there by the developer, during initial build and were never a requirement of the detailed plans approval, or of the highways adoption process.

6. Community – Support for events…………Nothing new here, as all Spalding councillors have made financial contributions to such events.

7. Traffic – Stating the blindingly obvious here.  Again, something only the county council can rectify. Spalding Town Forum are already extremely active in pressing for a solution.

8. Planning – local services must keep pace.  Nothing offered here, other than a statement of wishful thinking. The planning system has no powers to require developers to provide funding for local services as a matter of law. Everything we achieve, outside of the planning policy requirements, is done by active negotiation and persuasion.

9. Licensing policy changes – another piece of wishful thinking, without any consideration of the reality. Like planning, the licensing system is controlled by national laws and policies, that offer the district council little leeway when it comes to resisting the granting of new licenses.

Now turning back to the various claims made about being unfettered and un-whipped independents.

The back of both very similar looking leaflets, has the same heading and the same piece of text, ‘A message from Angela Newton……..Independent Councillor and Leader of South Holland the Independent Group.’ ……………….

So, having declared themselves as intending to be, ‘Independent Councillors’ (sic) and not tied to any Political Party (sic) (they do like their capital letters don’t they!), they willingly attach themselves to somebody stating that, they are actually the leader of a group of independents. Using the word group and independent in the same sentence is an oxymoron isn’t it?

Splitting hairs, you could argue that Angela Newton is not leading a recognised political party, but it is very clearly a group involved in politics, making it, at the very least, a political group and therein lies the irony of the claims trotted out be these so called independents.

Just to add insult to injury. This non-group, group of independents, hold group meetings before full council meetings, in exactly the same way as the Conservative group do, but somehow they manage to make them last even longer than ours and there’s only twelve of them compared to 25 of us!

It must be all the effort required to be totally independent of each other, that makes their ‘group’ meetings last so long.

Spalding Today website infested by trolls?

internet troll – Web definitions
In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response …
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll

It seems the last place to go, if you want to get an insight into what people in South Holland think about a a local issue, is the website run by our local newspaper.
Oh don’t get me wrong, you’ll get plenty of opinion, but only from a very small element of the population – six at the last count. However, these opinions won’t be from what one could call right minded, or informed people, hence my inclusion of the above definition.
Although the screen names are different, the tone of their comments are not. To a man and possibly woman, they all display the same uninformed, spiteful, small mindedness.
Indeed, I’ve yet to read one that doesn’t sound like it’s come from somebody holed up in a darkened room and fermenting on the conspiracy theory that, all councillors are corrupt and the district council is out to destroy South Holland, one piece at a time.
Unfortunately, these trolls display little, or no grasp of even the basic facts behind the online stories they comment on – all they know is what they read on their screens – so it would be pointless to enter into any sort of constructive online debate with them. Indeed, I don’t think they even care about the content of story, they just see it as an opportunity to snipe and sneer at others.

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Only complaining via the letters page, achieves very little

Its always a bit disappointing when the first time you find out that somebody has got a problem, is when it appears in the letters page of the local newspaper.  It’s doubly disappointing when the person making the complaint is known to you, because you have had dealings with them in the past and have actually been successful in resolving an issue for them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not seeking to be the best thing since sliced bread – never really understood what that means – and be the go to guy for everything and everyone, but I’m just a bit nonplussed as they say, that this gentleman didn’t at least given me a heads up on the issue, at the same time as writing to the newspaper.  All that said, I have actually been looking into the issue of drivers allegedly ignoring the pedestrian crossing on Wygate Park, over the last couple of months, following a comment made to me by a resident sometime ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe comment was along the same lines as the letter in the press and although I have not witnessed any occurrences myself, it reminded me of my own concerns about this crossing.  Until the recent conversation, I thought it was just me and that I was somehow becoming less aware of such things and therefore needed to be on my guard when driving.  This is often a criticism of drivers of a certain age, so I had to consider it as a possible reason for my concerns, regarding this pedestrian crossing.  However, having heard these concerns from somebody of lesser years, I thought I’d do some further research.

For sometime now, I felt the crossing was somehow less obvious as you approach it in the car, than similar crossing in other locations – but only during the hours of daylight.  At night the opposite is true and I would defy anybody other than a blind person, somebody sleep driving, or somebody completely off their head on drink or drugs, not to see this crossing clearly.  Not only is it floodlit, it also has illuminated black and white posts, that work brilliantly in combo with the flashing yellow beacons that top them.

Unfortunately, during the hours of daylight, the beacons seem barely adequate and along with other surrounding issues, I wonder if this might be the cause of the alleged pedestrian near misses?  Does the background of nearby trees and branches make the beacons less visible than normal?  Is it the light units on top that leads a driver to see these as street lights, rather than the crossing illumination and warning beacons they actually are?  Could it the fact that the crossing actually sits on one of the traffic calming platforms, making the viewing angle from a driver’s perspective, shallower and the black and white crossing less obvious?

I’ve been in touch with the county highways department, asking all of these questions and they are of the opinion that there’s no problem with either the crossing, or its visibility.  As always, they are forced to look at getting the biggest bang for their ever decreasing buck, so they use the accident and incident figures for a given location, as a way of determining its priority.  In the case of this crossing, nobody has been run over yet and, thankfully, nobody has been killed, so it doesn’t even figure on the highways dept’s radar, when it comes to spending money on improvements.

I have made enquiries with a company that supplies beacons that have a ring of flashing LEDs around them, having seen how effective they are in other areas – Peterborough City seems to fit these as standard.  Unfortunately the cost, over £3000 per beacon (higher than standard, because of the integral flood light unit on top) makes funding any improvement from my ward budget almost impossible.  Just to make life a bit more difficult, county highways would still not sanction any changes, unless they received what’s called a commuted sum of £2,700, to cover the increased cost of future maintenance, or replacement due to accident damage.  Understandable, but nonetheless frustrating.

I really do hope that neither the letter writer nor myself, are proven right in our concerns and that the crossing continues to offer genuine safe passage to pedestrians crossing this increasingly busy road.

Look at all the stuff you can do online with SHDC

Just go to: http://www.sholland.gov.uk/doitonline/

Abandoned Vehicles Report an abandoned vehicle.
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Street Cleaning Report a road that is in need of sweeping due to accumulation of leaves, litter, etc.
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If I happened across a blog written by a moron….

If I happened across a blog written by a moron, that contained a personal attack on me, I’d probably respond to it something like this.

I’d suggest that they didn’t ramble on and on, like somebody just back from a binge drin20130922-232829.jpgking session and lacking the brains to go to bed and sleep it off instead of scrawling on their blog page. I’d also suggest that they read more carefully what they are ranting about before going off half cocked, like a spoilt child that’s just been told they can’t have a sweetie.

Finally, I’d tell them that, if they want to keep banging on about something written months ago, all of the above applies and that they shouldn’t think themselves so important that everything that was written all those months ago, was only about them.

Oh, and if I happened to try to find out a bit more about the writer of the blog and took a look at their profile, I’d be very suspicious if I found that it actually contained 1010754.largeabsolutely nothing about them, or anything else come to that. I’d also have to wonder what they had to hide and ask how they expect to be taken seriously, when they hide themselves from their readership.

Of course I’d only respond like this if I happened to come across such a blog entry.

E20130922-232534.jpgven then, I might think twice about bothering, especially if the site was saturated with tacky adverts, designed to make money and not really communicate with local people at all.

Likewise, if the site was just a regurgitation (vomit for short) of other people’s stuff, this would clearly show that the owner had a lack of original thought, so it wouldn’t be worth reading in the first place, so I’d probably never bother reading it and wouldn’t have to respond like this after all.

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