Friday, April 30, 2004
Adbaston Lights Switch-On
I was really pleased on Friday night to be asked to be the guest of honour at Adbaston Church on the occasion of the switch on of the new lights which illuminate the long path from the road to the Church and the Jubilee Rooms. These lights were purchased with a £2010 grant from my County Council’s Local Members Initiative Fund and so I was asked to do the honours and official switch them on. I really didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at the Church Gates but was amazed to see at least fifty people had turned up to witness the big turn on, despite the wet weather.
I remember well my first visit to Adbaston Parish Council about a month after I was elected to the County Council two years ago. No one had told me the path through the church yard to the Jubilee Rooms – where the Council meets - was unlit so I’d not bothered to take a torch. However I soon learned how dark and dangerous it was, so I had no hesitation in recommending the grant when I was approached by the Adbaston Community Group. This organisation does a wonderful job I arranging community activities and bring a really sense of Village life back into this small village. During the refreshments that followed the formal part of the evening I was pleased to be able to talk to the Community Group organisers about other projects they had in the pipeline and promised I would find some money from this years grant to help them purchase some new furniture and fitting for the inside of the hall.
Liz Lynne's Visit
Today I’ve been trying to arrange a visit for Liz Lynne to Stafford as part of her European election campaign. Mike Dixon, from Liz’s office telephoned me a few days ago to ask if I could make the arrangements, but try as I might I cannot find anywhere in Stafford that’s suitable. Liz wants to arrive in her “battle bus” with the rest of the Lib Dem Euro Candidates and after making a short speech to launch the campaign be available for press photos. Unfortunately the only really suitable place is the Market Square, but the Borough Council are refusing to allow the bus access as the town is closed to traffic between 10.00am and 4.00pm. It looks as though Liz will now have to give Stafford a miss.
Meet the Public
The last Friday of each month is set aside for “Meet the Public” meeting at the Borough Council. These meetings start at 9.00am and residents of the Borough can, with prior arrangement, meet for ten minutes with the three group leaders (Judith Delgarno - Conservative, Jack Kemp - Labour, and myself) and David Rawlings - the Council's Chief Executive- to discuss any matters of the concern they might have. However today David was at another meeting in Birmingham so Malcolm Vickers one of the Council's Strategic Directors drew the short straw!
Over the past twelve months attendance at these meeting has been drooping off – although I have to say they have never been popular from the outset. Indeed I think the most that ever attended is three! Well this morning was therefore a bit of a shock as three people actually turned up. OK two were husband and wife, but after months with no-one at all it was nice to see so many faces. The contents of these meeting are always confidential, but needless to say the visitors did leave us with food for thought.
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Gnosall Annual Parish Meeting
Tonight saw me wearing my County Councillor hat at yet another Annual Parish Meeting - namely Gnosall. This event is always well attended and tonight is no exception. As Gnosall is a large Village the Parish Council is big enough to run a number of sub-committees and the main part of the meeting was given over to the Chairmen of each giving their reports on the past years work. These ranged from very detailed to the more superficial and some even managed to extract some questions from the floor. Following these Ken Williamson - one of the Borough Councillors for the Village gave his report and I followed up with mine which I found quite difficult has most of the subjects I intended to raise had already been covered in earlier reports!
Jim Muir - the County Council Cabinet Leader for Cultural Services had also been invited and sat next to me during the evening. He had been invited to give an up-to-date report on the proposal to open a Library in the Village, but as soon as he got to his feet it was clear he didn't know anything about what was being proposed. He did speak for a few minutes of the general principles involved in Library provision within the County but did not tell us anything about Gnosall. Indeed when it came to question I had to step in a fill in some of the details. All in all this would have been a great opportunity for the County council to sell its vision for the Library service in Gnosall but sadly it was lost. However during the buffet that followed the meeting it became clear that the Parish Council and the village are still committed to the concept of getting a permanent library in Gnosall despite the quite negative messages that appearedrred to give
Scrupulously Fair Inverviewing
Today I’ve been at the Borough Council Offices for over four hours interviewing candidates for the long list which will in turn lead to the post of Head of Finance. The panel today was made up of nine people – five Councillors and four Council Officers. I’m always impressed with the way the Council runs its interviews. They are scrupulously fair, with every candidate being given the same questions and the same opportunities to impress the panel. Even so on this occasion we did not come to any positive conclusions so the shortlist interviews planned for next week have been put back to a future date.
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Borough Council Meeting
To nights meeting of Stafford Borough Council dragged on and on and finally finished at about 10.45pm. Not bad going considering it started at 7.00pm!! Once again the meeting got bogged down on planning applications. Something really has to be done to get the system changed so fewer of these applications get sent up to full Council. Interestingly enough it looks as this might happen, as the Leader of the Council – Judith Delgarno put down a motion at the start of the meeting asking the Resources Scrutiny Committee to look at the whole question of how the Development Control Committee look at planning application. It certainly too early to prejudge the outcome of the Resources Scrutiny Committee’s finding but I’m looking forward, as a member of that committee, in coming up with a better way of working than currently exists.
Monday, April 26, 2004
One Night - Four Meetings!
This evening was one of those where I really needed to be in four places at the same time. As tomorrow night is a full meeting of Stafford Borough Council tonight was a Liberal Democrat Group meeting. Also in the diary was the annual parish meetings at Haughton, Bradley, and Adbaston all of which I should really have attended. It always difficult in this situation to know what to do for the best, but after a great deal of heart searching I decided to go to the group meeting and then on to Haughton Parish Council. I made this choice because firstly, as Lib Dem Group Leader, I needed to know the views of my Council colleagues on the forthcoming closure of RAF Stafford just in case it came up at the Council meeting. The meeting also gave us the chance to look at the Cabinet recommendations which had been published the Council Digest a couple of days ago, including the proposed demolition of the houses in South Walls. Having looked at this proposal, along with the dozen or so others that were in the Digest we decided to call in three for further scrutiny – South Walls; Changes to Housing Management Staffing; and a proposal to purchase a sports ground in Silkmore Lane. This will no doubt upset the controlling Tory Group, but at the end of the day the exercise is pretty futile as the Conservatives have such a large majority that nothing is ever rejected!
Having left the Council offices at 9.00pm I then went to Haughton Village Hall and joined the Parish Council Meeting which had started straight after the Annual Parish Meeting. I was told that I’d not missed much at the first meeting as only three members of the public had attended and one of those was the husband of one of the guest speakers! It really is a pity that not many people turned up at this meeting as it is an idea opportunity for then to ask questions of their Councillors. It was suggested that because no one had attended there must not be any problems in the Village but when one considers the number that turned up at a recent Village Crime meeting I cannot imagine this to be the case!
Sunday, April 25, 2004
Cannock Chase - Disabled Access Problems
This afternoon I meet one of my constituents in the middle of Cannock Chase to look at a problem! The resident in question was with his disabled wife who uses a wheelchair. Their problem was that the County Council have been carrying out forestry work ear to the Marquis Drive Visitors Centre and that this work has affected the paths that are designated as a wheelchair route. Unfortunately the weather was wonderful today so the muddy paths that I’d heard about on the telephone were just not there. However it was clear that quite a lot of damage had been done to the paths and that they were almost impassable in places to wheelchair users. As the County Council prides itself in access for the disabled I hope getting these paths reinstated will not be a problem, but in any case I’ll be taking this matter up with the County Ranger Service in the next couple of days.
While I was there I had an interesting exchange of views with a cyclist who I found taking photographs of my car. When I asked what he was doing I was confronted with a stream of abuse which translated seemed to mean I was parked in a conservation area and had no right being there. Just for good measure he was going to report me. I don’t think it helped when I said I was a County Councillor and I was inspecting the quality of the work, because he leap on his bike and yelled at me, as he peddled away, that I shouldn’t think I was above the law and he would sort me out! What was clear however was that there were no signs saying whether or not I was in a conservation are or if traffic was allowed along the road I was on!