Sunday, 30 June 2013

Telford Food Bank: a real life experience

Earlier this year I was contacted by a newly-arrived resident experiencing some real difficulties settling in to her new home in Brookside with her son.

The pair of them were forced to move from their previous home in quite appalling circumstances which I won't go into and decided to make a new life in Telford.  All was going well until her son was offered a job and the Jobcentre decided to stop his benefits while he was waiting for some background checks to be completed and a start date to come through which left them both with literally a few pounds a week with which to feed themselves.

Being a councillor doesn't remove endless layers of bureaucracy, nor does it count for much with the likes of the Jobcentre with their remote and dispassionate call centres.  I did my best for these people though and they tell me that what I did was a help but it didn't seem like enough at the time. The biggest help of all, though, was something that I can't take the credit for - Telford Food Bank.

The food bank is part of Telford Crisis Network which is run by Ironbridge councillor, Jake Bennett.  He spends hours coordinating food parcel deliveries, collecting donations and taking enquiries from people like me who want to help someone but aren't sure what services are the best to direct them to.  If they haven't started polishing his medal at Buckingham Palace yet then they'd best get a move on because the man is a saint.

I was surprised to find just a few months ago that I was the first councillor in Telford & Wrekin to make a referral to the food bank.  Probably not as surprised as Jake was that the first would be a UKIP councillor as the media likes to portray us all as posh right wing ex-Tories! (For the record, I've never voted Tory in my life and I'm certainly not posh).

I know that the food parcels donated by Telford Food Bank to these particular residents was a huge help and without them they would have both gone hungry.  They didn't have a choice to make between paying bills and eating, they had no money for either.  They weren't frittering away their money on booze, fags and nights out - they simply had no money because of a broken system and intransigent Jobcentre staff who made a mistake and wouldn't put it right.

I'm pleased to say that the lady and her son that benefited from the food bank this year are back on their feet now and want to make their own donation to the food bank to help other people.  There is no doubt that there are a great number of people who take advantage of the social security system and live a life of relative comfort without a care as to who pays their bills but equally there are a great number of people who find themselves in such dire straits that they have to go without food through no fault of their own.  These are the people that need our help and I would urge anyone in a position to do so, to support Telford Food Bank.

If you or someone you know is in a similar situation and needs the support of the food bank then please do get in touch with me.  If you live in the Brookside area and want to make a donation to Telford Food Bank then please let me know and I will be happy to collect what you have and make sure it gets to a food bank collection point.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Proposal for Holmer Lake & Stirchley Park ward

At our parish council meeting on Tuesday we were told of a proposal to remove most of the parts of Brookside ward around Holmer Lake from the Brookside ward and create a single member Holmer Lake ward on the parish council.  This suggestion has come from the Local Government Boundary Commission for England.

The timing was perfect as it happens because the impending election in Brookside (4th July, don't forget to vote) highlighted to me once again what a nonsense it is for the Brookside ward to cross Brookside Avenue.  The two areas are like chalk and cheese and there is no common sense of identity between Holmer Lake, Stirchley and Brookside.  The idea of a separate ward for Brookside without was already forming in my mind prior to the meeting but the proposed single-member ward covering just Holmer Lake doesn't cut it for me so  I abstained on the vote along with Cllr Watkin who also has reservations about the proposal (although possibly different from mine, we didn't get much time to discuss it).

I have submitted the following counter-proposal to the LGBCE for the creation of three wards in Stirchley & Brookside Parish ...
Dear Sir/Madam,

I would like to make an alternative suggestion to that which is proposed for Strichley & Brookside Parish Council.

The current draft proposal is that the area around Holmer Lake should form a single member parish ward of its own with a corresponding decrease in the number of councillors representing Brookside ward by one.

As a current parish councillor for the Brookside ward I understand entirely the need for Holmer Lake to be represented separately to the rest of the Brookside ward.  I make a conscious effort to include the Holmer Lake area and the parts of Stirchley that are within the Brookside ward in everything that I do but the fact that they are so distinct from the Brookside ward both physically and in terms of identity and demographics makes it difficult.  The residents groups and borough council initiatives that are present in Brookside ward concentrate exclusively on the parts of the ward within Brookside Avenue which is a natural (albeit man-made) boundary which is clearly to the detriment of those other parts of the ward.  The needs and priorities of the residents on the inside of Brookside Avenue are so divergent from those on the outside that initiatives and residents groups would find it very difficult to cross that boundary and still be effective and relevant.

In my opinion, the needs of the residents in both Holmer Lake and Stirchley Village would be best served by forming a larger Holmer Lake and Stirchley Park ward incorporating the following:
  • Holmer Lake
  • Tadorna Drive
  • The area around Sandino Road area and Grange Close
  • The streets to the south of Brookside Avenue adjacent to Holmer Lake School (eg. Cygnet Drive, Lake End Drive, etc.)
  • The whole of Stirchley Village and Stirchley Park currently in Brookside and Stirchley wards (eg. Swansmede Way, Grange Farm, etc.) making Grange Avenue, Randlay Avenue and Arundel Close the boundary of the new ward with the Stirchley ward and Brookside Avenue the boundary with the Brookside ward
  • Lambeth Drive, Bournside Drive and Bournbrook Gardens
  • Mount Pleasant Drive (which is currently part of Dawley and Aqueduct Ward)
  • The parts of Bridgnorth Road and Aqueduct Road and adjoining streets on the Brookside side of the Silkin Way
I absolutely agree with the idea of separately representing those parts of the parish that are distinct from the Brookside and Stirchley wards but I doubt that a single member ward will do much to improve their representation and in all likelihood the councillor returned for that ward will not reside in that ward as it has such a small population.  The above would see three reasonably similar sized wards form the parish with boundaries based along more obvious lines with similar demographics.  It would increase the size of the parish by a few hundred electors by including the parts of the Dawley and Aqueduct ward that fit within the more obvious boundary of the parish but needn't result in additional councillors.

The following is a roughly-drawn suggestion of the new boundaries:

If you would like to submit your own views on the proposal to create a Holmer Lake ward you can email

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Power cut at Community Centre

The building works in the centre have resulted in a loss of power to Brookside Community Centre.

Take 5 Café will be closed all day and events will be disrupted.

The café will be open again on Thursday, usual hours of 9am-1pm.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Lynda Hogger for Brookside?

Residents should have received their ballot papers by now for the by-election on July 4th to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of David Holloway.

My UKIP colleague, Lynda Hogger, is standing in the by-election.  Lynda lives in Dunmaster way which is in the Stirchley Park part of the Brookside ward.

Lynda moved to Telford with her husband Jim in 2007, living first in Hollinswood and then in Stirchley.

Whilst living in London, Lynda volunteered as a counsellor for battered women, an experience which she describes as “eye opening”.

With the help of Randlay & Hollinswood Parish Council Lynda set up the Coffee and Chat group and organised an “Open for All” Day to get people using Hollinswood neighbourhood centre.

Since moving to Telford Lynda and her husband have been involved in Friends of Telford Town Park, Ironbridge & Severn Gorge Lions, Telford & Wrekin Senior Citizens Forum and fundraised for the PDSA.

Lynda and Jim have fundraised for the Ironbridge & Severn Gorge Lions and were the first “Friends of Lions”.  Having secured lottery funding, they both helped to lay a new footpath and build a new bridge to the island in the lake at Grange Farm View.

Through the Senior Citizens Forum, Lynda coordinated an information gathering exercise and the repair of potholes and damaged footpaths all over the borough.  She was also interviewed for Telford & Wrekin Council’s Leisure and Culture Review.

Labour have put up Nedge borough councillor, Nathan England, as their candidate.  If the name sounds familiar it's because his dad, Arnold, is already a borough and parish councillor for Brookside.  With four couples already on the council, adding Cllr England Jr to Cllr England Sr would leave just 3 councillors on without a relative on the parish council!

From memory, Cllr England Jr who represents the Stirchley ward on the borough council has attended just one parish council meeting and two electors' meetings since I joined the council in 2011.

The Lib Dems apparently had a candidate but didn't realise when the deadline was for submitting nominations despite the vacancy being advertised on the parish council's website, the borough council's website, on this website, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google+ and on the parish council noticeboard.  The Conservatives don't appear to have been able to find a candidate.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Take 5 Café opens tomorrow

Take 5 Café is being run by Brookside Community Interest Company (CIC), a special type of company that is run along charitable lines and set up by local residents.

Skate park vandalised again

The skate park was vandalised again this week with one of the ramps put out of action.

The parish council is responsible for maintaining the skate park so this is local residents' money that is being wasted on repairing mindless vandalism.  If you have information on who was responsible for the vandalism please contact the parish council.

Kimberley Russell died of natural causes

The coroner has ruled that Kimberley Russell died of natural causes at her house in Blakemore in February.

Police believed that pregnant Kimberley was murdered and arrested Darren Edwards but later released him without charge.  He said he has been forced to leave the area because of the accusation.

John Ellery, the coroner for Shropshire and Telford, recorded a verdict of death by natural causes saying that the most likely cause of death was a bleed on the brain.