Friday, April 16, 2004
In fact John was not going to be Mayor until forty-eight hours before the last election, when it became clear that our nominated person – Frank James – was likely to loose his seat. As the Mayor is sworn into office just a couple of days after the election it was necessary to have a fall back position so as Group Leader I’d asked John if he would step into the role if needed. Luckily for Stafford and for the Lib Dems he agreed. Considering the lack of notice he’s done a great job.
Tonight’ even was also great. John gave us all a talk on the history of the Mayorality and them there was time for a bite to eat and an informal chat. Needless to say local issues were never far from the centre of any conversation!
I’d never been to one of these distribution events before and it certainly was an eye opener. It was obvious there were plenty of people there as soon as we arrived as the street outside the church was packed with cars. Inside the queue snaked around the church hall and almost reached the door. It reminded me of the queue for a Russian supermarket. As it was raining hard everyone was dressed in some sort of coat and many wore hats and scarves which added to the scene of desolation. The queue shuffled forward towards a row of tables from which the passes and tokens were being doled out. It took my father just over 15 minutes of shuffling to reach the table. As he’s 85 I was quite concerned, but when you looked round the room he looked one of the more able! The church had tried to add a bit of comfort, by providing chairs around the walls of the hall, but the queue was no where near them and if anyone had sat down they would have needed to get up again almost at once so they could move one step nearer the tables. One good thing was that the church has also provided free cups of tea and coffee and this was going down well with the wet and dripping crowd!
I came away wondering what the Council was doing. Surely in this day and age we shouldn’t be making the elderly queue for their free handouts. I am going to raise this issue with the Council. Perhaps we could distribute tokens via the rent collection system for our tenants or use the network of local post offices or paypoint shops, or if this is not possible use some form of ticketing system similar to that used in many government benefit and tax offices. At least then the elderly residents could sit down while they are waiting to be served!
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Chris and David asked questions that I’m sure are on the mind of most of the tenants. They included “What would the compensation package will be?”, “Will the tenants be forced to take accommodation that is small than they currently have?”, and “What was the time scale for purchasing the houses back that have already been sold?”.
After 45 minutes I was more convinced than ever that the proposal was nothing to do with giving the tenants better homes, but was just a cynical way of getting the land back so it could be sold. What is becoming clear is that this Tory run Council puts the well being of local residents low down on its list of priorities. At the top is the need to make as much money as possible.
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Over the last few months I have been pressing the Council to get them move and did have some success a few weeks ago when they finally agreed this was possible. The only thing standing in the way was the lack of suitable accommodation. However this has now been sorted out and the couple are thrilled with the new flat that has been offered to them. However there is one problem – hence my visit to see them. The flat is in a poor state and needs decorating throughout before they can move in. The Council does help new tenants with a grant of nearly £200 towards decorating costs, but because this couple is transferring between two properties the grant is cut to a mere £30. I was able to tell them that as long as their existing flat is in good decorating order and the incoming tenant will not need to do any work the Council will look to increasing the £30 grant they have been offered on their new home. However it does worry me that I, as a Councillor, had to get involved before they agreed to this increase. I do wonder how many other young couples in the same situation have been left struggling to find the money need to decorate their new home?
The one thing I must say about the whole sorry story is that residents will come off worse. Although the scheme has still to be official approved by Cabinet and will then have to go through the scrutiny process the large majority the Conservatives have on the Council will ensure it goes ahead. There are still dozens of questions left unanswered!