As forecast, first public comment was a negative

Spalding Common

Spalding Common

I had a bet with the blokes putting up the first one, about what the tone of the first public comment would be, regarding the new Welcome to Spalding signs. Being a fully paid up member of the cynical B’s club, I bet on it being critical, negative and tinged with an element of spite – and I was right! Pay up guys.
I suppose we should be thankful that at least somebody has not only noticed them, but has taken the time to put pen to paper, given the lack of interest displayed by many when it comes to local issues – apart from planning applications that is.
The writer of today’s letter in the Spalding Guardian, is a regular contributor to the page.  He obviously missed the postage stamp sized story on these signs, the first time around, or I would have expected to see his critical appraisal published back then.
No, the signs are not made of Perspex (a trade name for acrylic) Mr Sadd, they are aluminium, with the image printed on – durable vinyl material, designed for this use.
The signs are as temporary as you want them to be Rodney. If you can find the several thousands of pounds, probably as much as £10,000 would be my guess, to commission, design, manufacture and install something similar to the wooden signs that Spalding once had, I’m sure we would all be very pleased to see these signs replaced.
My guess is, that there isn’t anybody out there already writing the cheque for this work and that these signs will remain in place for at least as long as the embarrassing ‘lollipops’ that they replaced – come on prove me wrong for once, I dare you. That’s not an invitation to go and nick them by the way.

Bandstand argument now off track

I see the Graham Dark fan club is continuing to leap to his defence, although today’s letter is from the original writer so that’s hardly a surprise. As I’ve said previously, it’s amazing how quickly letters in the press drift away from the initial issue. This lady has now gone down the route of how wonderful the music events are and that she has never seen me at one! And your point is madam?
In retrospect, it probably was a bit too blunt to write that it was the only good idea he’d ever brought to the Spalding Town Forum, even if it is close to the truth.
What I should have said, was that a band stand in Ayscoughfee Gardens, was a suggestion made and promoted more than once by Graham Dark’s and that he had actually brought detailed plans for one to a previous Spalding Town Forum meeting. On that basis, why was this lady attacking me for making a passing comment, about something her hero is supporting and promoting?
Even his idea for a bandstand on the cheap, is ill conceived given his proposed location. The roofed enclosure behind the now disused paddling pool, is too small in length, or depth for a start. Suggesting that it can be made fit for purpose using local trades people, at a lower cost that building a bandstand from scratch, may be true, but it won’t be as cheap as suggested and is not backup with any figures.

As an aside, the original, original idea for a band stand in Aycoughfee Gardens, came from a previous councillor colleague of mine, Paul Walls. Paul’s other more ‘madcap’ idea, that I would really love to see happen, is a glass sided restaurant and viewing deck on top of the Spalding water tower. With that view, it could be our equivalent of Tattershall Castle!

Sorry madam, do you really mean him?

The writer of a letter in today’s Spalding Guardian, in which I am mentioned, must have experienced a case of mistaken identity. Either that, or somebody, who looks like me, is going around calling himself Graham Dark – that’s a scarcely thought on so many levels!

The lady writer is a jewellery shop owner in Spalding town centre and is referring to a newspaper report on the recent meeting of the Spalding Town Forum. At the meeting, a debate took place on the use of the section 106 money paid by the Springfields developer, to help reduce the development’s impact on Spalding town centre.

At that meeting, I made a passing comment that, if built, a bandstand could be there for a hundred years. I didn’t suggest that a town centre manager wouldn’t be a good idea, but I was concerned that, when the s106 money ran out after 4 or 5 years, and the position hadn’t become self-financing, that would be a negative outcome for all of us.

According to this lady, I should speak to one Graham Dark, as he has some really good ideas, none of which it seems, incredibly, include building a bandstand in Aycoughfee Gardens!

Her suggestion that Graham Dark has offered some good suggestions on how to spend this money, flies in face of the facts. The truth of the matter is, that Graham has been banging on about a bandstand in Ayscoughfee Gardens for several years now. Indeed, if memory serves, he has never really suggested any other use for the s106 money that is now up for grabs.

I’m not sure how this lady has ended up getting her facts so wrong, but I will be writing to the newspaper to put the record straight. After all, I get enough stick for things I have said and done, without getting blamed for things I haven’t!

Pickles calls for more parishes

As if to prove my point regarding Eric Pickles hatred of local government, he’s continuing his campaign to rid the country of local government, be it district, borough, county, or even unitary. I’ve long believed that the campaign to encourage quality parish councils, was part of central government’s ambitions to rid itself of the unruly brat called local government.

Let’s not forget that, unlike district councils and above, parish and town councils have to get all of their cash from local taxpayers via a precept. Also, very few, if any, of those elected to this the lowest level of local democracy, receive allowances. This combination of very limited funding, untrained and un-remunerated members and little in the way of professional staff, means that most of these councils spend their time fretting about very, very local issues, such as the length of the grass on verges or why the streets aren’t being swept more often.

Pickles and co are seeking to distract local people into thinking that they are having a real say in what’s going on locally, because they now have their own parish, or town council. This whilst also starving higher level councils of cash as a way of turning them in to no more than front men for central government policies. Westminster will then be able do what they like, without the inconvenience of being challenged by those in local government.

Given the continued uncertainty that we all suffer when it comes to our income and the cost of living, what chance is there that the people of Spalding would be willing to possibly double the amount of council tax they pay as the Spalding Special Expenses, in order to set up a Spalding Town Council?

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online 31 October, 2012 | By Kaye Wiggins

The Department for Communities & Local Government has set out a range of proposals that aim to make it quicker and easier for local residents to set up parish councils.

Following a call from communities secretary Eric Pickles to “remove red tape” around the creation of parish councils to “give local people a real sense of community control in their areas”, the department has set out a series of ideas that will be open for consultation until January.

In its consultation document, the department said: “We want to tilt the balance in favour of community groups, where there is the demonstrable support of a majority of local people. Where local people express popular support for the creation of a town or parish council, the local authority should work with the community to achieve that.”

The plans set out three possible routes to achieve Mr Pickles’ vision and are summarised below:

Option 1: Changing guidance

Guidance “could strongly encourage authorities to complete the process in less time”

It “could make it clear that the right weight should be given to what is effective and convenient for the local community, separately from for the local authority itself.”

It “could propose that as a matter of good practice, the local authority could carry out a review of a decision not to create a town or parish council if campaigners want one.”

Option 2: Legal change

The number of signatures required to force a council to consider an application for a parish council to be set up could be halved.

The DCLG document notes: “The disadvantage of this option is that lowering the threshold for a petition triggering a community governance review runs the risk that petitions which do not have sufficient community backing will be considered, potentially wasting resources or leading to the creation of a council which is not wanted by the local community.”

The timescale for a “community governance review” – the process by which a parish council would be considered – could be shortened to six months. Alternatively there could be a single limit of nine or 12 months for the whole process, from the receipt of a petition

Councils could be required to publish timescales linked to the electoral cycle, so that if a parish council is approved there would not be a delay caused by the wait for the next election.

Option 3: Neighbourhood forums

A neighbourhood forum could submit an application to trigger a community governance review, rather than having to submit a petition with the required number of signatures.