Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Regeneration meeting on Wednesday

There is a meeting tomorrow evening at 6pm at Brookside Community Centre where residents can meet the architects appointed by Telford & Wrekin Council to handle the regeneration.

Here are the details the council have provided ...
As I think you will all be aware, tenders are expected back on Monday from contractors who are bidding for the construction contract for the new Brookside shops.  We will be looking to appoint the successful contractor later this month with a view to them starting work on site on the 25th March.

We now need to turn our attention to the refurbishment and extension to the community centre (which will include the new youth centre) as well as to the public realm, which will include consideration of the open space to the rear of the school.  To lead on the design of these areas we are looking to appoint an external firm of architects who will work with the community and Council officers on this phase of the regeneration scheme.

There has been a competitive tender process for this design work but before we make an appointment we would like you all to have an opportunity to meet with the architects who have submitted the best tender so that they can share with us some of their previous work and also how they propose to carry out the consultation process.  We want to be sure that they have the skills to work with the wide range of stakeholders who have an interest in this scheme.

It would be great if as many of you as possible could come along to the main hall in Brookside community centre on the evening of Wednesday 27th February at 6pm for a short presentation and discussion session with the architects who are from Baart, Harries, Newall based in Shrewsbury.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Brookside visited by Hilary Benn MP, apparently

I discovered on Thursday that Brookside had been visited earlier that day by the Labour Party's Shadow Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, Hilary Benn.

Apparently Hilary Benn toured Brookside local centre with Labour councillors and David Wright MP and then toured the parish council offices before taking questions from an invited audience of residents.

I'm a bit cross about this because I didn't even know it was happening.  I don't think it's unreasonable to expect to be told if a member of the Shadow Cabinet is visiting the ward I represent and visiting the offices of the parish council I sit on.  And as for the "invited audience" - the parish council's offices are paid for by local residents and they should all have been made welcome, not just a cherry-picked few.  I haven't heard any resident talking about the visit so it would be interesting to know which residents were actually invited or if it was just local Labour Party activists.

I have asked for this matter to be put on the agenda of the next parish council meeting so we can get to the bottom of why the Labour Party are using council facilities for party political reasons.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Groundworks at Brindleyford school site

Some residents have expressed concern at the unannounced work being done at the Brindleyford school site involving heavy machinery.

Telford & Wrekin Council didn't seem to know what was going on there so I called Bellway myself and spoke to the area supervisor who also didn't know! He did, however, confirm that no actual building work would be taking place without him knowing about it.

Bellway have outline planning consent to put houses on the site but they haven't got the actual planning consent they need to start building them so anyone concerned that they're about to start throwing houses up needn't worry just yet.

There was another issue that residents had with the work and that was lorries parking up on Brookside Avenue opposite Brindleyford waiting to be called on site.  The lorries were causing obstructions, especially when they were parking close to the bus stops.  I explained this to the man from Bellway and he said he would speak to the site supervisor.  It looks like the lorries are no longer causing a problem so let's tentatively chalk that one up as a success but it does give an early indication of the kind of challenges we're likely to see when they do start building the houses there so something will need to be done to mitigate that.

If anyone has any more concerns about the work being done at Brindleyford or if the lorries start causing problems on Brookside Avenue again then please 

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Parish council tax precept frozen

A couple of weeks ago the parish council agreed to freeze the parish precept on council tax using the council's reserves to make up the difference.  The precept is how parish councils get the majority of their income and is included in your final council tax bill.  The police and fire service also apply a precept to your council tax bill.

To increase the parish council's precept by enough to cover expected costs would have been something like 40p a month for each household but instead the decision was made to spent a few thousand pounds out of reserves freezing the precept even though Telford & Wrekin Council intend to put council tax up again this year and that increase will be pounds, not pence.

Freezing the precept without cutting costs isn't sustainable.  At some point in the future the precept is going to have to be increased because even if the parish council cuts costs (and it has this year) inflation means things are getting more expensive all the time.  It's 40p a month now but in 2 or 3 years' time it might be £1 a month or £2 a month or maybe more.  Prices don't rise gradually in a straight line due to inflation, they go up exponentially like in the graph below because they go up by a percentage of the current price not the price from years ago.

By freezing the parish council's precept now we are storing up a bigger increase in council tax in the future.  To freeze it next year will cost more than this year and the year after it will cost even more.  Eventually it will become too expensive to freeze the precept and the costs will have to be passed on to residents or services will have to be cut.

I voted for an increase in the council tax precept for this year - the only councillor that did - because the amount of the amount of the increase was negligible and anyone so down on their luck that they'd notice the extra 40p a month is almost certainly in receipt of a council tax rebate anyway.  I don't think it is a good use of the council's reserves subsidising a freeze on the precept when the amount of the increase in question is the price of a packet of crisps.  The council's reserves are there for emergencies and with so much uncertainty around funding for local authorities at the moment it is important that the council doesn't spend them on something that isn't necessary.  I also said that I would like to see spending reduced so that the precept doesn't need to go up next year.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Update on flooding by Windmill School gate

Last month I asked Telford & Wrekin Council's drainage officers to take a look at the flooded footpath outside the Windmill School gate nearest the netball courts.

It was mentioned again today by another resident so as I had an appointment at the school I went to take a look and took the pictures below.  Purely by coincidence the Head at Windmill School received an update from the council while I was there that someone was due to come out for an inspection this afternoon.

Stirchley Interchange temporary sort-of repair

To the causal observer I might be considered to have a bit of an obsession with potholes but there is a very good reason for making sure they fix potholes in a timely manner: the bigger they are, the more of our council tax they have to spend fixing them!

I escalated the damaged road surface on Stirchley Interchange yesterday as it was getting worse by the day and the biggest holes were partially filled yesterday afternoon so they're at least shallower.  A temporary repair will be carried out shortly - probably this evening.  A bigger repair job (perhaps even resurfacing) is due to be carried out in April, along with a couple of other junctions on the A442 and the dual carriageway itself between Randlay and Stirchley Interchanges.

I have also reported the smallish pothole on the junction of Beaconsfield and Brookside Avenue and the bigger holes on Bembridge right on the junction today and hopefully they'll be dealt with quickly as they're two of the busiest roads in Brookside (school and shop).

I still have six cases outstanding with Telford & Wrekin Council for roads and footpaths and the oldest one is dated the 21st of December.  Hardly inspires you with confidence does it?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Suspected murder in Blakemore

Picture from Shropshire Star
A young woman has been found dead in Blakemore today.

The police are treating the death as suspicious and have a man in custody suspected of her murder.  It is believed that the woman was pregnant.

The police haven't released any more details and the post mortem was inconclusive.

People don't get arrested on suspicion of murder without good cause so there's need to worry unduly and Brookside is still, despite this terrible crime, a statistically safe place to live.

My condolences go to the victim's family and friends.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Defending England on the BBC

I was invited onto BBC Radio WM today to "defend England" against accusations that the English are arrogant and think they're the centre of the world.

I have campaigned for the creation of an English Parliament for many years and although there is an institutional bias against England and all things English in the BBC I've been on various BBC radio shows (including BBC Scotland) talking about devolution and English identity and culture.  BBC Radio Five Live also invited me on this morning but they messed me around and didn't call back so I went to McDonalds instead.  I guess I must be doing something right if the BBC are phoning me up asking me to do interviews!