Friday, July 09, 2004

David Blunkett's Dog 

David Blunkett’s dog Sadie stole the show this morning. David was giving the last major speech of the LGA Conference. It was well delivered and certainly thought provoking, but it was very hard to concentrate on what he was saying as Sadie wandered around the platform picking up what ever she could find. At one point she took a real interest in a loudspeaker that was placed on the platform just in front of the lectern. I’m sure I was not the only one to wonder what would happen if she had decided to spend a penny against the box. They say electricity and water don’t mix so perhaps Bournemouth’s electricity supply would have suffered melt down. Luckily it appeared Sadie is house trained so I, and the rest of the audience, will never find out!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Michael Howard's Howler 

Michael Howard was the main speaker at the Conference today. I have to say I wasn’t all that impressed. Indeed if the heckling from some parts of the hall was anything to go by so weren’t most of the rest of the audience. His biggest howler was his grand announcement that a Conservative Government would scrap Comprehensive Performance Assessment – a hoop that every council has to jump through to get a rating by which it can be compared with other Councils across the Country. While I support the concept of monitoring a Councils performance the CPA is taking up more and more Council time and money. Michael’s announcement was met with general support, but he then lost the good will of the audience by say the Conservatives had not yet decided what they would replace CPA with! After thirty minutes I. along with all the other non-Tory Councillors present left the auditorium convinced that Michael Howard was not Prime Minister material and that the Conservatives had little chance of winning the next election!

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

New M6 Toll Motorway Announcement 

Alistair Darling – the Secretary of State For Transport has announced that the Government are considering building a Toll Motorway next to the M6. If this plan is implemented the new road will have a devastating effect on Stafford. Already the two sides of the argument are forming. The Conservative run Borough Council are on the side of building the road as they see it is important for the economic development of the Borough, while the residents who live near to the existing M6 are, as you would expect, against it. I’ve already pinned my colours to the mask and said I’ll oppose the scheme. So has David Kidney but as yet David Chambers the Conservative candidate has made no comment. My argument has never altered since the M6 widening debate. The Government is saying the new road is needed because the M6 is congested. However I’ve been arguing that the M6 around Stafford runs smoothly and that congestion only occurs nearer to Birmingham or Manchester. It’s clear this plan is yet another move by New Labour to work closely with big business and let them take the profits of the scheme. I’d hate to be in David Kidneys shoes at the moment because every where he turns his Government seems to be running down Stafford. In the past few months they’ve close post offices in the town, started to close RAF Stafford, and are now planning to build a new four lane motorway around the edge of Penkridge and Stafford. Tony Blair not only seems to think Stafford is expendable, but also that David Kidney is too as everything they do at the moment looses him votes!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

LGA Conference 

This morning I travelled down to Bournemouth for the Local Government Association Annual Conference. Every year the three political group leaders and the Borough Council’s Chief Executive attend this event. The four days spent at the conference gives me a real opportunity not only to network with other Councillors from across the Country, but also allows me the chance to listen to expert speakers on a host of topics relevant to my work in Stafford. Also the four days away with Judith Delgarno – the leader of the Council, Jack Kemp – the Labour Group Leader, and David Rawlings – the Chief Executive allows us all to exchange ideas; explore issues that the local community; and also to pick up useful gossip about the Council and its plans!

Monday, July 05, 2004

Stafford Shakespeare 

Tonight I attended the open air production of The Comedy of Errors at Stafford Castle. This play is the latest in the long running annual series of Shakespeare Plays put on by the Borough Council as part of the Stafford Festival. For once the evening was fine and quite warm, so the whole event was very pleasant. I was disappointed with the size of the audience, and if you consider that most of the seating area in front of the stage was filled with members of the civic party, there were very few “normal” audience members there! The only problem with going to the play as part of the civic evening is that I’m sure most other people think we get free tickets which is certainly not true. In fact every year June Kelegan the Mayors Secretary who arranges the event gets a number of complaints from people who organise a party and cannot get party discounts!

After the play I was invited to meet the cast and was delighted to talk to Rene Zagger (PC Nick Klein from The Bill) – the star of the show who told me Stafford Festival Shakespeare was ranked third in Country after Ludlow and Chichester Festivals. I really not surprised considering all the work the Council puts into the event, but I do worry that as budget constraints begin to bite the Festival might become an easy target for cuts!

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