Saturday, May 15, 2004

Stafford Virginia 10 Year Anniversary 

Stafford has been linked with Stafford Virginia USA for ten years and tonight that event was celebrated in style at the Gatehouse Theatre. The evening was hosted by the new Mayor Frank Finlay. The main formal part of the evening was taken up with speeches by the Mayor, Bob Gibbons – a member of the Board of Supervisors at Stafford County (the Board is equivalent to our Council), Jack Kemp the Chairman of Stafford County Friendship Association here in Stafford UK and Sara Fartro his counterpart in the USA. The speeches were followed by an exchange of gifts. We gave the USA a turned wooden bowl with an engraved silver centre and they gave us a Stafford lamp again with a suitable inscription.

With this part of the evening out of the way the Stafford Morris Men took the floor for a twenty minute demonstration. I have to say I’m not a great lover of Morris Dancing, but our American guests enjoyed it so that is all that matters. The American party were staying with various host families around the town which is the good thing about this friendship link, although I have to say that I am concerned it does seem to be becoming dominated by “professional twinners”, but as the Association has tried in vain to get more members of the general public involved without these folks the friendship link would just not happen!

After the buffet, the evening finished with a barn dance – another activity I not keen on - and judging by the number of people who were leaving at the same time as me they were of the same opinion! However I was told that those that were left thoroughly enjoyed themselves and the last dance saw everyone on the floor.

I must say that a number of people worked hard to make the evening and the visit in general a success and they should be thanked for the efforts. The Borough of Stafford benefits greatly from this friendship link and long may it continue.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Ranton Parish Council 

Tonight saw me wearing my County Council hat and attending Ranton Parish Council. There meeting are always short and too the point, so I do enjoy going.

Mark Winnington, who is the Borough Councillor for Seighford Ward, is a member of the Parish Council so I usually get an easy ride. As usual the hall was packed with members of the public – well one, which is not unusual for any of the Parish Council’s I attend. Perhaps the lack of attendance is a reflection of the fact that the villagers are happy with what is happening, but I suspect that it more the fact the Parish Council is not held in any particular high regard. This is a real pity as Parish Council’s can make a real difference and should be supported.

In Ranton’s case the main thrust of their work seems to be the mowing of the grass throughout the Village, and this meeting was dominated by a discussion of the mowing equipment, insurance for the equipment and operator, the quality of the work, and who should carry it out. It is clear however that if the Parish Council did not carry out this maintenance task the village would be a poorer and more untidy place, as the County Council only cut grass in the village 8 times a year!

Monday, May 10, 2004

Conservative Power 

Tonight’s Council meeting was the usual one-sided affair. It was just twelve months ago that the Conservatives won control of the Borough council with a huge majority, and tonight they showed just how effective that is. The meeting was the Annual Council meeting at which the Council appoints its leader and cabinet and the committee and outside bodies membership is decided.

Having survived last weeks leadership challenge from Doug Davis, Judith Dalgarno was again elected Council Leader for the second time. Even though Doug had mounted the unsuccessful challenge to her she still left in him with his cabinet post as leader for Planning and Regeneration, which many think says more about the lack of other suitable and experienced members on the Tory benches rather than an olive branch being offered by Judith! The other cabinet posts were left with Mike Smith (Leisure), Trevor Reeves (Housing) and Stan Highfields (Environment and Community), while Mike Heenan was brought in to the role of Resources Leader to fill the post vacated by frank Finlay who is now mayor.

One thing is clear is that the leadership challenge will leave some lasting scars in the Tory group and it will be interesting to see how they develop over the coming months. One criticism levelled at the Tories over the last twelve months was they lacked any kind of direction and with nothing changing tonight I don’t think things will improve.

When it came to the distribution of places on outside bodies the Tories used their full voting power to get their own way. In all about nine different outside bodies were voted on and in ever case the Tories voted as a pack and won every vote 32 votes to 14 or 15. Even if every Councillor had been present (59) they would have still won by miles.

One must question if having such a big majority is good for democracy as decision are now taken in Conservative Group meetings, behind closed doors and away from public scrutiny.

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