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!

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.

There’ll be no enlightenment from this Dark(ness)

litter chase not text

‘An officer of the district council, should follow somebody they see carrying a drinks can and when they drop it, they should give them an on the spot fine’. Cllr Graham Dark at a full council meeting.

According to this weeks edition of  Spalding Voice Graham Dark wishes to enlighten people on the subject of litter.

Using the letters page, this independent councillor and dedicated navel gazer,  has decided to get an early start to his 2015 re-election campaign.  He does this with a very brief offering of praise for the litter picking efforts of a young Conservatives group, all with Sandra and Tony White, dedicated and tenacious Spalding residents.

However, the real purpose of his politically motivated letter, is to attack the council’s Conservative group and in particular myself, as the cabinet member for waste and recycling.

Councillor Dark appears to be obsessed with use of tickets and fines, obviously a left over from his days as a police officer.  Unfortunately, his time as a cop hasn’t given him any understanding of the difference between having a robust policy and actually having sufficient resources to apply it regularly – certainly not to the extent he desires.  In fact, this desire is so compelling, he seems willing to see other council services suffer, in order to satisfy it.

Cllr Dark, having seen his previous obsession, a bandstand in Ayscoughfee Gardens gain financial support via Springfield’s s106 monies, has now turned his myopic gaze towards litter and the catching of those who drop it.  His repeated references to one thing in particular, enforcement, is becoming a little tedious.

I accept that, some years ago, an undertaking was made to empower certain council officers, to serve fixed penalty notices on littering offenders.  In practice, this was never a realistic option, given that few, if any, of our officers were ever in a position to witness, let alone act, when such offences occurred.  I am of course assuming that cllr Dark wasn’t expecting these officers to do this enforcement in their lunch breaks, but one can never be sure, when it comes to a member of the Independent group, as they seldom allow reality to get in the way of a bright idea.

I may of course be wrong on this last point because, if memory serves, at a recent full council meeting, he made the quite extraordinary suggestion, that potential litter droppers should be ‘stalked’ by suitably empowered council officers.

Graham Dark considers it acceptable for a professional Housing, Planning, or Environmental Health officers, to wander the streets of Spalding, looking out for anybody with a drinks can in hand.  The officer would then follow that person, keeping a careful watch on them and this potentially source of litter.  Should that person discard their can improperly, the officer would pounce on them, book of fixed penalty notices in hand, no doubt crying, ‘your nicked’, or something similar.  How far and for how long this stalking had to take place is unclear.  Suffice it to say, this procedure will not be written in to the council’s robust littering policy, anytime soon.

Incidentally, Graham Dark and his partner in crime Roger Perkins, are both members of a committee that has the role of scrutinising the council’s performance.  Despite this, at no time in their ‘years’ of allegedly banging on about it, have they bothered to get the issue of litter enforcement placed on the agenda of that committee, so that the council’s so called, ‘abysmal performance’ can be properly scrutinised.  I wonder if Graham Dark would care to enlighten me on the reason for this?

Littering is a serious problem and  a blight on our towns and villages. With its larger population and busier streets, Spalding suffers the most problems and presents the greatest challenges.

Finally, can I enlighten you as to what the future might hold.   There has been a major reduction in local government funding, due to the previous Labour government’s mismanagement of the economy.  As such, I cannot promise to commit any more resources to this problem, than those currently available.  We are however, doing our best to encourage and support the sort of community involvement and pride displayed by Jack McLean, young Conservatives, and Sandra and Tony White.  If you would like to offer your help, please do get in touch.

See what can happen when you have wheelie bins!

RUBBISH SERVICE
Idle dustmen caught out
By Telegraph Reporter

RUBBISH collectors were caught overloading a shop’s wheelie bin so they could avoid taking it away.

CCTV footage shows the two dustmen adding cardboard to the large bin before putting a black bag on top of the lid. They then photographed their work so they had “proof” that the bin was overloaded.

When Iftikhar Ahmed, the owner of Dars Express convenience store in Cambridge, who shares the bin with a Chinese restaurant, called the council to ask why the rubbish had not been collected, he was told that the authority had photographic evidence that the bin was overloaded.

Mr Ahmed said: “I could not believe what I was seeing. It is totally and utterly ridiculous. We checked our CCTV and couldn’t believe our eyes.

“This is a total disgrace and God knows how many others this has been done to. These lazy workers just could not be bothered to empty the bin.”

Jas Lally, Cambridge city council’s head of refuse, said: “We have written to the owner of the premises and apologised for this poor service which is inexcusable.

“Arrangements are being made to investigate this in accordance with the council’s disciplinary policy.”

Fly tipping initiative

Reproduced from: http://www.rsnonline.org.uk/index.php

Wednesday, 01 August 2012 14:38
Joining forces against fly-tipping
Written by Ruralcity Media

LANDOWNERS have joined forces with a local authority to make it easier to remove fly-tipped waste from private land.
The partnership between the Country Land and Business Association and Suffolk County Council aims to solve waste issues at a local level.
It builds on work already undertaken by the local authority on tackling trade waste.
CLA president Harry Cotterell said: “It costs around £800 to deal with each incidence of non-toxic fly-tipped waste on private land.
“Although we would like to see waste taken to local tips free of charge, we understand this is unlikely without a change in the law.
“However, the partnership with Suffolk County Council should help identify the barriers preventing fly-tipping from being dealt with.
“There must be a long-term sustainable solution, so we are pleased Defra is seeking to provide funding for the joint effort and, if successful, the outcome could be rolled out to other local authorities.”
One idea the CLA is keen to explore is a ticketing scheme for victims that uses a reference number to trace the crime, from the point of reporting the fly-tipping to the police or local authority to disposing of it at the local tip.
Mr Cotterell added: “The CLA will also continue to lobby the government to remove the potential for landowners to be prosecuted purely because they have not removed waste tipped on their land.”
The partnership was announced at a recent government summit on fly-tipping, chaired by Defra minster Lord Taylor of Holbeach.
The summit was a key government commitment to bring organisations across all sectors together to galvanise support for regional action on fly-tipping.
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60 Second Surveys. Let me know what you think

I would like to hear what our taxpayers think about a number of local issues, such as council cuts, anti-social behaviour, litter and speeding .  If you would to contribute please complete this very short survey.  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/W9BPV3P

I would also like to hear from residents about their views on refuse and recycling in South Holland.  Please complete this very brief survey to make your views known to me. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WCVNXQV

Thank you in advance for taking the time to let me know how you feel about local issues.  All information will be treated in confidence.  If I get a meaningful number of responses, I will publish the results.   Please respond by no later than 1st August 2012.

Healthy residents bonus for town halls

Andrew Lansley, the Heath Secretary, will today announce the restoration of the link between councils and improving public health. Councils had historically been responsible for public health, until the NHS was reorganised in 1974. £5.2 billion for this will be ringfenced and councils will earn funding based upon how well they improve aspects such as air pollution, tooth decay and truancy. Daily Telegraph – 23/01/12.

It seems that, whatever the politics of the government, the policy of making local government beg for funding lives on. No doubt many councils will jump at the chance to grab this money, even though it is unlikely to be without both strings and a time limit on the funding offered. The strings can be coped with, but the funding time limit is the killer, as having put a service in place, especially one local taxpayers value, withdrawing a service comes with serious political fallout.

Of course county councils won’t be looking at the longer term fund issues when bidding for this cash because they will only see it as further justification for their continued existence. Their reason for ensuring that they take on as much work as possible, is to do with the increasing discussions that are taking place on the future of two tier local government. I’ve little doubt that this debate will become more and more heated as budgets shrink and the fight for survival becomes more and more desperate.