Friday, July 02, 2004

A Restful Evening 

Tonight I spent a restful, but quit entertaining couple of hours at the Spittle Brook public house in Queensville. This was the first “Pint and Politics” evening that Stafford Constituency Lib Dems have organised. It was a real informal get together. Although politics did get discussed this was far outweighed by conversations about puppies, children, and the rights and wrongs of smoking – a habit I have to say a couple of our members did indulge in! I’m looking forward to the next evening in August.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Norbury Parish Council 

Norbury Parish Council was a quiet affair this evening. Indeed it was so quiet it was over almost before it had started. High on the agenda were three planning applications which were all discussed in detail before the Council came to a recommendation. I do worry that Parish Council’s take their work seriously only for it to be completely overlooked by the Borough Council’s planning department. Time and time again I’ve sat in Parish Council meetings knowing full well they are wasting their time sending their views to the planners. At the Planning Committee, or in letters back to the Parish Council’s, the officers will say the objections that have been raised are not for planning reasons and have been ignored. I firmly believe planning is about people, and that people living in a Village probably know it better than some officer miles away in the Civic Offices. If the Borough Council asks the Parish for a comment they should at the very least give it proper consideration.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Tory Contempt 

Tonight’s meeting of the Borough Council showed once again just how much contempt the Conservatives have for the rest of the Council. At the start of the meeting a Labour Councillor asked a question to Mike Heenan the Cabinet Member for Resources about grants to outside bodies. Under the rules once the question has been answered further questions can be asked until ten minutes have gone by. It was here that the Tories showed their true colours. Firstly Mike gave a series of very vague answers that in no way addressed the question, and then the planted questions from other Conservative Councillors appeared. It was so obvious that these questions had been planted as Mike blatantly read the answers. Of course these questions received full and detailed answers, as they asked for information about the successes. Any question from opposition Councillors about the failures in the system got an almost standard noncommittal response. The was the Conservatives run the Council is starting to make a number of opposition Councillors wonder if it’s worth attending. Without the ability to ask probing questions no proper scrutiny can take place and the Council will just do what it likes!

Monday, June 28, 2004

Haughton Local Action Group - Lessons To Be Learnt 

Tonight’s meeting of Haughton Parish Council turned out to be another action packed event. At the end of last week I was contacted by a reporter from the Staffordshire Newsletter who asked for my thoughts on the vandalism that had taken place earlier in the week on the Village playing field. He went on to tell me that the porta-cabin that had recently been placed on the field as a meeting place for youngsters from the Village had been smashed up and was now unusable. I had to admit I did know anything about this, but offered to find out some information and get back to him.

To cut a long story short it appears that the cabin had been provided by a group of parents as part of the Village’s Local Action Group initiative. The LAG was set-up a few months ago by Staffordshire Police and was designed to get the local community involved with solving problems in the area. On of the issues raised at one of the group meetings was lack of facilities for young people. PC Steve Wilson, the Police co-ordinator had responded by setting up a sub-group just to look at youth issues. This had resulted in the porta-cabin being placed on the playing field. As a Parish Councillor I was surprised that this had happened as I could not recall the Parish Council giving permission for this to take place.

It was this matter that dominated the Parish Council meeting. All the Councillors agreed that there was a need for youth facilities in the Village, and indeed as a County Councillor I had recommended a grant to be given, from my Local Members Imitative Money, to the youth service to re-establish a youth club in the Village Hall. What was more disturbing was how the parents had gained access to the field as the vehicle gates are kept locked. Without planning permission and insurance, someone could have been in deep trouble if an accident had occurred. Two members of the public added their support to the parents but did agree the whole project could have been better planned. After along debate we had certainly not made much impression and perhaps knew no more than when we started. I’m not sure if some of the Councillors knew more than they were saying, but in the end we did agree to formally write to all the key holders to find out who had unlocked the field gate. I also suggested that the Council invite PC Steve Wilson to the next Council meeting so we could discuss the relationship being the LAG project and the Parish Council.

I would certainly congratulate the parents on their efforts to get something done but can only thank God that no accidents occurred while the cabin was on the field uninsured. As a matter of interest the remains of the cabin was broken up and carted away by a group of parents on Friday night!

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