Friday, March 26, 2004


At last I’ve heard from the County Council about the site meeting to look at the new footpaths in Gnosall and I was annoyed to hear the engineer has made the visit on his own. I was even more annoyed that although he thought the work left a lot to be desired he seems unwilling to do anything about it. I don’t think this is because he doesn’t want to but rather than it would cause too much hassle as it would mean either closing the road again or using traffic lights. When I suggested the residents thought the contractors were more interested in meeting the deadline for reopening the road rather than doing a good job he did agree and said the Council would have been pilloried in the local press had they overrun.

I suggested he would get an equal blasting by the press when I told them about the poor work! At least he has now agreed to meet me on site next Tuesday so we can discuss the problem in more detail.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Care in the Community 

The last couple days – and evenings – have been hectic. On Wednesday evening the Liberal Democrat Party in Stafford Constituency held one of their regular executive meetings. As leader of the Lib Dem Group I’m invited to go along and report on what we are doing on the Council. It’s always a good couple of hours with plenty of positive ideas and discussion taking place. The executives are all very committed and work extremely hard.

Today I had the privilege – if you could describe it as that – of witnessing the County Council at work! Full Council meetings start at 10.00am and run for around three hours. I’m not sure if that time is dictated by the agenda or more by the fact that a number of the more senior and long serving Councillors have booked lunch for 1.00pm! This meeting was dominated by a number of reports that focuses on the future improvement of the Council. To help everyone get a better understanding three presentations were given. One, on an overall improvement strategy for the Council, was presented by the County Clerk, and if the plan is followed will make major improvements. The other two concentrated on improving Social and Health Care and on Working with Communities. The first really was an eye-opener and I’m sure left everyone with much to think about as the long and detailed debate that followed it reflected. During the debate I told the Council of the unrest that has been caused in Haughton by the recent opening of home, in the Village, for adults with learning difficulties. Don’t get me wrong I’m not against the idea of vulnerable people living normal lives in the community, but what has been the problem in Haughton was that no one was told what was happening. As you can imagine lack of knowledge resulted in so many rumours, that at times it was difficult to recognise fact from fiction. Answering my question on how we could let local communities be more involved the Director of Social Services admitted there was room for improvement but that he also wanted to keep these houses as normal as possible. I realise that there is a delicate balancing act in trying to integrate these types of homes into the community, but I must say we do need to get the community on side if they are to succeed!

Then tonight saw me at a meeting of Haughton’s Rural Crime Initiative which was attended by over 30 local residents. Guess what was raised - the question of the new care house in the village! Once again I went over the same ground as we covered in the last meeting, but was at least able to add the comments made by the Director of Social services earlier in the day. I was also able to report on my visit to the house a couple of weeks ago, and the fact I was arranging a meeting between the house manager and the young mothers who had been the most vocal at the last meeting. Hopefully this can take place in the next few days and will put to rest once and for all the rumours that are circulating in Haughton about the purpose of the home.

We also spent sometime discussing anti-social behaviour and the need to provide young people in the village with something to do. One of the residents suggested that a youth club or some similar type of activity could be organised. I’m all for it, and even gave the youth service a grant last year from my County Council money to set one up. However despite every effort – including using outreach workers and the mobile information centre - nothing came of the plan. I do hope the enthusiasm of the person who raised the issue will somehow see it through this time. To that end it was agreed to organise a meeting of the young people in the village to explore the idea. I’ve been asked to attend and I’m quite looking forward to it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Lack of Confidence 

No wonder most people lack confidence in local Councils. For 3 weeks the main road through Gnosall has been closed while it has been rebuilt. Anyway it was opened last Friday - bang on time. However since then I've been inundated with telephone calls about the quality of the new pavements. I must admit I was not ready for what I saw when I walked along them last night just as it was going dark. The local resident who told me they looked as if they had been laid by a D-I-Y'er was not far wrong! At first I thought that perhaps they weren't finished and that the workmen would come back and put on the final top coat, but as all the traffic cones, pedestrian barriers, and portable toilet had been taken away this did seem highly unlikely! It looks as if the surface hasn't be rolled properly. In places there are grooves and scratches, in other bits of the tarmac can be pulled out by hand, and if you suffer from sea sickness don't look along the length as there's more waves than there were on the sea at Southport at the weekend!

Today I've had an interesting telephone conversation with the County Council's Highways Department and yes of course the work was finished! It did appear however that the engineer in charge of the project was worried about the way the contractors tackled the job, but at the end he had only inspected the work from the safety of his car, and from that distance the pavements looked OK! I've now persuaded him to meet me site so we can both walk along and look at the work close up. No doubt there will be a fight to get them relaid - but considering the whole project cost local rate payers around £100,000 I would expect better than D-I-Y pavements.

On the otherhand last nights meeting of Haughton Parish Council was OK. For once it finished after only two and a half hours - that must be nearly a record. It's good to see local people dealing with local problems. Keeping the grass in the village cut and making sure the problem of dog fouling is tackled were just two of the items we all discussed. It is a pity the Council doesn't have more powers - and the money to go with them - as they could deliver just what the local community wants. However I suppose as the Council is made up of only seven Councillors and is administered by a part-time clerk it's probably already operating at its limits.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

A Weekend Away! 

A weekend in a wet and windy Southport is not everyone's idea of fun, but spending the time at the Liberal Democrats Spring Conference was a real boost. Its good to talk to other councillors from around the Country and swap ideas on how we can make a difference. I think the best part of the whole event was the fringe meetings where these ideas could be discussed and argued over under the supposed guidance of an "expert". However at times the audience seemed more in tune with the latest thinking than the group leader.

It was good to take part in the workshop that looked in some detail at public transport and I was pleased to be able to throw in a few comments about the bus services in the Gnosall area. It was obvious that some people were even worse off than we are. Rural Link certainly seemed to impress the delegates and so it should! Although everyone agreed it was no good starting such a service if central Government grant was to be cut just as it was getting well used.

It was also nice to rub shoulders with so many MPs! Sarah Teather - the Brent bye-election winner certainly is a star and stole the Friday night rally with description of her first few days in the House!

Charles Kennedy's speech went down well, although he didn't look at all well. After bashing the Conservatives and pointing out just how opportunistic they were he moved on to our killer "Axe the Tax" campaign. Surely Labour and Conservative politicians must see how unpopular the Council Tax is, but no doubt they are all just to proud to admit it! The Liberal Democrats must keep pushing the alternative of a local income tax as it is by far the fairer way to pay for local government and I'm sure it will be supported by the vast majority of the electorate.

Well lets hope the Autumn conference in Bournmouth is just as good and not so wet or windy!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?