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.

Bin the bags everybody

Prompted by the CPRE, I have written to John Hayes asking for his support to address the plastic bag blight our public spaces suffers.

John Hayes MP
South Holland and The Deepings House of Commons
London SW1A0AA

I am writing to ask for your support on the important issue of single-use carrier bags.

Last year was the second in a row to see an increase in the use of single-use bags. In 2011 a total of eight billion ‘thin-gauge’ bags were issued throughout the UK, which represents a 5.4% increase compared with 2010 (7.8 billion). I am very concerned that all of the net growth occurred in England, particularly as England remains the sole home nation not to have a single-use bag levy in place or to be actively seeking to introduce one.

Single-use plastic bags are wasteful of resources and all too often end up as litter, which takes hundreds of years to biodegrade, whether on land or at sea; strewn in our towns, countryside or beaches they are an eyesore, and often a hazard to wildlife.

In 2011, when commenting on 2010 plastic bag use, the Prime Minister said: “Progress overall went backwards last year, and that is unacceptable. Retailers need to do better. I want to see significant falls again. I know that retailers want to do better too but if they don’t I will be asking them to explain why not.”

Locally, I have tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade our local Co-op shop to stop giving out plastic bags as a matter of course, as these have proven to be one of the most significant and obvious causes of local littering. A legally enforced charge, would be a huge step to achieving my ambition for our community.

In October 2011, Wales introduced a levy of 5p per plastic bag. Since then retailers have reported a drop in plastic bag usage of between 70-96%, while Welsh public support for the levy grew to 70%. When Ireland introduced a plastic bag levy in 2002, plastic bag use fell by 90%, as did the amount of litter.

I strongly support the Break the Bag Habit campaign run by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society and Surfers Against Sewage, which calls on the Government to reduce litter and waste by requiring retailers to introduce a levy on all new single-use bags.

Please raise my concerns with the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman MP, and urge her to introduce a levy on single-use carrier bags in line with the successful actions being taken in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so that England is not left behind.

Yours sincerely

Waste & Recycling Survey results

Thanks to publicity in the local press, my recent online survey asking people for their views on our waste collection service, was a success. Even more so, my thanks go to the nearly 100 people who were kind enough to take the time and trouble to complete the survey.  I will be getting in touch with all those of you who ticked that box at some point.  The results were as follows:

I should remind readers that this was a personal survey, as the cabinet member with responsibility for such things.  It was not on behalf of South Holland District Council. 

Q1. How important is a WEEKLY WASTE collection to you?

 

% response

Number of respondents

Not very important

5.2%

5

Quite important

11.5%

11

Very important

78.1%

75

Q2. How important is a WEEKLY RECYCLING collection to you?
Not very important

9.4%

9

Quite important

19.8%

19

Very important

63.5%

61

Q3.  Would you be prepared to pay for a GREEN waste collection?
 

% response

Number of respondents

No

9.5%

9

Maybe

17.9%

17

Yes

72.6%

69

Q4.  Would you be unhappy if the council stopped providing BLACK refuse sacks?
 

% response

Number of respondents

Not at all

16%

15

Slightly

25.5%

24

Very

58.5%

55

Q5.  Would you be unhappy if the council reduced the number of GREEN recycling bags you could have?
 

% response

Number of respondents

Not at all

10.5%

10

Slightly

18.9%

18

Very

70.5%

67

Q6.  Would you recycle LESS if the number of green recycling bags you received was reduced?
 

% response

Number of respondents

No

31.9%

30

Maybe

24.5%

23

Yes

43.6%

41

Q7.  Would you recycle LESS if NO green bags were provided to you?
 

% response

Number of respondents

No

24.5%

23

Maybe

22.3%

21

Yes

53.2%

50

Q8.  Do you think most people use litter bins if they are provided?
Yes

35.2%

32

Sometimes

40.7%

37

No

24.2%

22

Q9.  Which age group is the WORST for dropping litter?
 

% response

Number of respondents

Young

47.8%

44

Middle aged

3.3%

3

Elderly

1.1%

1

All as bad

47.8%

44

       

Gore Lane Fly Tipping

Today’s press contains, yet again, a story about Gore Lane and the ongoing fly tipping problem there.  Although I gave the reporter a fairly comprehensive comment, repeated below, this was abridged for the press item.  

This is a long-term problem area, that is caused by a couple of issues.  The main area of fly tipping has been identified as the collection point for the refuse and recycling generated by adjacent properties.  This is not an ideal situation, but it does address the previous situation, whereby residents were dumping their full refuse bags onto the public footpath, despite many attempts to stop this anti-social practice.
Unfortunately, the creation of a collection point has not reduced the selfish practice of bags being disposed of in to the collection point when they are full, instead of only on the scheduled collection day.  This in turn has encouraged people to fly tip into the collection area.  Put simply, rubbish, attracts rubbish.
The problem of fly tipping is not just restricted to Spalding, or indeed South Holland.  In order to address it effectively, through the use of the law, we need to catch the offenders red-handed.  The very limited resources of the district council means that we need the help of the public to deal with these criminals.  I would therefore ask for the public’s help in identifying these ‘environmental terrorists’.  Without putting themselves at risk, we would ask anybody seeing suspicious activity, to make a note of what is being dumped, the type of vehicle being used, including its number plate if at all possible and a description of the people involved.  This information should be passed on to both the police and the district council.
Finally, the council is also looking at the responsibilities of landlords for the behaviour of their tenants and will be seeking to make them take a more proactive approach to this issue.

My final paragraph could, potentially, of given the reporter a stick with which to beat the council, as the area in question may well belong to SHDC.  That said, if it does, it also gives me a better chance of sorting the problem out as, in the worst case scenario, I will be pushing to have the car park closed, thereby limiting access to the dump site by any vehicles.

This rubbish doesn’t get there on its own and, in the case of a mattress, is unlikely to be carried through the streets by somebody without being noticed.  I have asked for the public’s help in fighting this crime because, without it, we are likely to be fighting a loosing battle.

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.

Steppingstone Bridge Spalding – update

25 May 2012 – Despite several online complaints, a full council motion by SHDC and a number of letters, with the last one being special delivery to the chief executive, nothing has changed since 16 March. A phone call from them today has now promised that the work will take place on Thursday of next week.
I have also now written to Grantham Magistrates’ Court, asking for advice on how to obtain a Litter Abatement Order against Network Rail.

I will be giving further updates via Twitter at: Twitter.com/gambba_jones

Steppingstone Bridge update

16 March 2012 – Some progress made on the Steppingstone Bridge cleanup campaign. The two overflowing skips have disappeared already – thank you NW, now what about the rest of it please?

A clean up team from SHDC has cleaned up the glass and used a portable vacuum to clean-up the dog ends and grime that had collected in the nooks and crannies. They’ve also cleaned up the litter and rubbish around the approaches.

No doubt it will be made a mess of again in a day or two, but we’ll just have keep redoing it until people get the message that making a mess of our environment is unacceptable and we won’t put up with it.