Saturday, May 08, 2004

Annual Mayor Making 

Today’s Mayor making celebrations went off without a hitch; well almost if you disregard the long silence that followed the retiring Mayor’s request for nominations for his replacement. The council chamber in the County Building was packed for the event. It was Councillor Doug Davis who should have nominated Frank Finlay to be the new mayor, but he was miles away when his moment in history arrived. Luckily some gave him a nudge and the whole ceremony staggered back into life.

My role was to give a three minute vote of thanks to the retiring mayor – Liberal Democrat John Russell. I always enjoy these occasions as the speech does not have to be too serious and does not have to be political or indeed try to score political points from the opposition.

John has been a wonderful Mayor and has done a great job represented both the Borough and the Liberal Democrat Party to the wider community. This is even more surprising as had less than a day to get used to the idea of being Mayor.

The Liberal Democrat nomination for the job had been Frank James, but two days before taking up his post last May he lost his Council seat in the elections. As Group Leader I’d been watch how things were developing as the election day got closer and had had a number of meeting with the Council’s Chief Executive to discuss a back-up plan if Frank failed on polling day – as it seemed likely he would. As it turned out my fears were realised and John stepped into the breach. From day one he was excellent.

Unfortunately now the balance of power has shifted on the Council, and now the Liberal Democrats have only five Councillors it will be many years before there is another Liberal Democrat Mayor.

Friday, May 07, 2004

PPC Selection 

Tonight, I am delighted to say, I was selected by the Stafford Constituency Party to be their Prospective Parliament Candidate for the coming General Election. Having stood as a candidate in two previous General Elections in other parts of the County I had always wanted to stand in Stafford. As a Staffordian I believe passionately in the town and the surround area and know only too well the fears, hopes, and aspirations of the local residents.

So far two other candidates have been selected – David Kidney the sitting Labour MP and David Chambers for the Conservatives. In the past Liberal Democrats have done quite well in Stafford and in the earlier 1990’s came with an couple of thousand votes of winning the seat. Since that time the Party’s fortunes has slid but with the current political climate nationally I’m sure this is about to change.

Being a Borough and County Councillor will give me a strong advantage and will open quite a few doors. What is clear however that the coming months will be hard, but I’m sure enjoyable, work. Being PPC will give me a great opportunity to meet and help various groups something I am looking forward too immensely.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

American Visitors 

This morning I was at the Borough council offices at 8.00am to meet a party of visitors from Stafford sister town in the USA – Stafford Virginia. I have been involved with this twinning link for the past ten years and in that time have made many friends in the USA.

The party this time will be staying with host families in Stafford for a couple of days before travelling to the south coast to spend five days site seeing there. Following that they will return to Stafford to spend another three days in the town. During that time the Council will be marking the tenth anniversary of the friendship link and have organised an evening of entertainment in the Gatehouse Theatre next weekend.

I’m always worried about the way twinning is perceived by the public. To many it is a club, which is just dedicated to giving its members free or cheap holidays. I must say I do sometime wonder if this is the case as there does seem to be a large band of “professional” twinner’s in Stafford. It is evident as the same faces appear on the committees of each of the four twinning associations. I do believe it is important that twinning should be more than just the same people, and that for it to succeed it should appeal and be open to everyone.

The one thing I know is that in the past ten years I've always paid full price for my trips to the USA and have never received a free or cheap holiday. Now-a-days I prefer to arrange my own visits as I do find some members of the twinning group are to intent on ensuring the trips are run for their own convenience rather than the furtherance of good will and understanding between the two communities!

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

New County Council Boundaries 

At long last the Boundary Committee for England has published it report on the new County Council boundaries. My own division will see some massive changes. I’ll lose Western Downs and gain the whole of the Borough Ward of Seighford, all of Doxey and the new Timberfields estate. In some ways this does make sense as the majority of the area gained is rural and as such will have the same problems and inspirations as what is left of my existing division. However Doxey and Timberfields will certainly be the odd ones out, as they can only be described as urban. Unfortunately the process of redrawing the boundaries is more to do with numbers than the joining together of similar communities.

The one saving grace is that Doxey residents have recently submitted a petition to the Borough council asking for their support in an attempt to get a Parish Council established in Doxey. At the Council meeting last week when this was reported I was pleased to speak in support of this move. As A parish Councillor myself I firmly believe that Parish Council’s do benefit the communities they serve and can provide a useful, and local service.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be starting my campaign to raise my profile in the new areas of the division!

Monday, May 03, 2004

Stafford Castle Medieval Fair 

This afternoon I had an enjoyable visit to the Medieval Fair at Stafford Castle. Although this was purely a social visit it did give me the opportunity to see how well the Borough Council had organised the event and speak to some of the staff on duty.

I must say it was well attended, although I was disappointed at what was on offer for the £5 entry charge. While the whole event was billed as focusing on the living re-enactment / living history displays the main focus seemed to be on the various stalls selling items with some historical connection. There was no clear indication as to where the living history section was or indeed any description of what you were looking at. Even the main arena seemed to be an after thought and we waited over an hour and a half before anything happened.

On the other hand all the Council staff I spoke too were enthusiastic and welcoming and were working hard to make everyone’s visit an enjoyable one. Mark Hartwell the Heritage Site's Manager certainly leads from the front and was right in the thick of it on car-park duty when we arrived, which cannot always be said for some Council senior staff who like to play the role of managers and walk around looking important rather than getting down to do some hard work!

All in all I thought the afternoon was over-priced and would certainly think twice about going again especially as when I came to get something to eat at 3.00pm the catering van had run out of food except for crisps!

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