Thursday, 4 December 2014

Stirchley Medical Practice lighting

A resident asked last week if anyone could help with getting some lighting installed on the ramp outside Stirchley Medical Practice so I've made some enquiries.

The area outside the medical practice belongs to Telford & Wrekin Council and has previously been lit by lights on the school. The lights are now broken and the school doesn't intend to fix or replace them as it's being demolished next year.

Telford & Wrekin Council streetlights team have said that the council doesn't have an obligation to light the ramp even though it represents a health and safety risk because they haven't lit it before and they don't intend to light it either.

Clearly this is unacceptable because it leaves elderly and vulnerable people visiting the doctors and pharmacy at risk of injury. The patient's liaison group wrote to the council in May asking for the lighting to be sorted, there is no excuse for it to still be in darkness in December.

I have spoken to Cllr Hilda Rhodes, the cabinet member for highways, today whose remit includes street lighting. She has promised to look into it and get back in touch to let me know the outcome.


Monday, 1 December 2014

Frozen family Christmas at Stirchley

Free Frozen family Christmas event at the Sambrook Centre, Stirchley on Thursday 4th December from 3:30-5:30pm.


Sunday, 30 November 2014

Appeal for help finding missing Madeley man, Daniel Hodgin

West Mercia Police are appealing for information and help to find a Madeley man who went missing in Shrewsbury last weekend.

Daniel Hodgin was at the Buttermarket in Shrewsbury and has been seen on CCTV falling and banging his head on a wall. He phoned his mother to tell her he was walking home but didn't know where he was. He said he was in an industrial estate and could see a Mini and a white wall. His mother drove to Shrewsbury to find him but was unable to.

If you have any information on his whereabouts or remember seeing him on the night - or have seen him since - contact West Mercia Police on 101 quoting reference 228 of the 23rd November.


Monday, 17 November 2014

Brookside Big Bang 2014

This year's free firework display is being held on the 28th November at 7pm at the Windmill school.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Telford Community Store

We popped up to the Forge Retail Park today for the official opening of the new Telford Community Store with food and milk paid for with money we collected in the office.

The Community Store is home to a large number of local charities and social enterprises and national charities that operate locally including Telford Crisis Support, Telford Food Bank, Age UK, Stay, Mainplace, British Red Cross, Telford & Wrekin Citizens Advice Bureau, Thrive and Shropshire Community Project. The idea of getting all these charities and social enterprises in one place is that they can all support each other and people needing support can find the help they need in one place.

You can help make this amazing and unique community service a success by taking donations and of course by using the store.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Open meeting to discuss improvements to the dip

There is an open meeting at the Surestart Centre at Windmill School on the 24th between 7pm and 9pm to discuss improvements to the dip (also known as the hollow) between Bishopdale and Blakemore.

It's a great open space but it collects rubbish and attracts fly tippers. There has been some really good feedback already on how it can be improved and this is a further opportunity to put across your ideas.


Monday, 15 September 2014

Burnside Temporary Road Closure October 20th-22nd

The roadworks that have been blighting drivers between Brookside and Aqueduct have made their way onto the perimeter road and will result in a temporary road closure in Burnside next month.

Burnside will be closed from number 7 to number 8 and across to the electricity sub-station behind number 83 from October 20th to the 22nd.


Saturday, 6 September 2014

Police Appeal For Information After Sexual Assault In Brookside

West Mercia Police is appealing for information after a sexual assault in Telford between 2am and 4am this morning (Saturday 6th September).

A woman in her 20s was walking along Brookside Avenue, Brookside, when she was sexually assaulted by an unknown man who pushed her and touched her inappropriately.

The man is described as white, in his 20s, approximately 5’9" tall, of moderate build, with short dark hair and an accent local to Telford.

DS Jeremy Gardner said: "We would like to stress that incidents of this nature are rare in the area but this was clearly very distressing for the woman involved.

"We are urging anyone who may have witnessed the incident or seen a man matching the description in the area at the time to contact police."

Anyone with information should call police on 101, quoting incident number 0324S of 6/9/14. Alternatively, you can give information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or at www.crimestoppers-uk.org


Monday, 1 September 2014

New bus stops by Bridgwood will make school crossing more dangerous

Back in May the parish council supported my motion to ask the borough council to put a pedestrian crossing in at the bottom of Brookside Avenue by Bridgwood where the kids cross the road to get to school.

Last week contractors started work on two bus stops by the island where the pedestrian crossing should be. Placing bus stops that close to an island is dangerous in itself but locating them where school children cross the road when they have been told that there is a safety problem there just isn't good enough.

I am awaiting more information on these new bus stops (including why the parish council wasn't notified or asked for comment as it should be) and what urgent plans the borough council has to make the corner safe for children crossing the road now that they've made it more dangerous.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge

I did the ice bucket challenge yesterday after my eldest son kindly nominated me. I think the kids enjoyed pouring water and ice over my head a little too much.

video

There were so many people I wanted to nominate but in the end I went for my second oldest son, a couple of colleagues from work, a former colleague and my mother-in-law.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Boy rescued from pool in town park

A Telford boy was taken to hospital yesterday after having to be rescued from the blue pool in the town park by a fisherman.

The boy got into difficulties whilst swimming in the pool with a group of other children. He was pulled out of the pool by a fisherman and when an ambulance crew arrived the boy coughed up a litre and a half of dirty water. He was taken to the Princess Royal Hospital as a precaution against lung spasm and blood poisoning. The ambulance crew told the other children to come out of the pool but despite having seen one of their number almost drown, they refused.

There are a lot of pools in and around the town park, Stirchley and Brookside and it's tempting in weather like this to jump in and cool down but it's dangerous. There will be those who say people have been swimming in these pools for years and we shouldn't wrap kids up in cotton wool but there are stories going back decades of people getting into trouble in these pools, probably longer.

Pools are dangerous, they've always been dangerous and going into them without understanding and respecting the danger leads to things like this. Or worse.

Picture: TelfordFishing.com

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Brookside Big Local

Last night I was at the Mallard with other members of the Brookside Big Local steering group and partners from the police, Telford & Wrekin Council and Stirchley & Brookside Parish Council to sign the memorandum of understanding for the Big Local partnership.

It takes a lot of time and hard work to get through the Big Local process and finally get your hands on the £1m of social regeneration money. I don't think anyone involved knew quite how much time and hard work it would take and that's probably a good thing because it probably wouldn't have happened if they did!

By signing the memorandum of understanding, partners agree to support Brookside Big Local and to help deliver the plan which will shortly be going out for consultation. You can get more information on Big Local at the summer event at Windmill School on Saturday.


Monday, 9 June 2014

Telford & Wrekin withdraw plans for building on gymkhana field

I wrote about the council sneaking around making plans to sell off the gymkhana field last week and submitted an online petition to the council calling for the field and all of the town park to be protected from development.

Today I received the following response from Telford & Wrekin Council confirming that my petition has been rejected because they've decided not to build on the field after all:
Thank you for your recent request for an e-petition reference land known as the Gymkhana Field at Stirchley Road/Stirchley Lane.

The Council had been investigating the development potential of the land fronting Strichley [sic] Road among options in Stirchley to fund reinvestment in the Town Park. This led to enquiries about the adjacent ‘Gymkhana Field’. Following concerns from Friends of the Town Park and in consultation with Cabinet Members, the Council is absolutely clear that it will not continue these investigations to develop this site.

For this reason, we will not allow the petition to go ahead as we cannot justify hosting a petition objecting against plans that do not exist and given that the Council is clear there will be no development plans brought forward for this land.

The nearby site of former school due to its previous use is however considered a brownfield site and therefore, subject to planning permission, suitable for a minor development. This site will be brought forward in due course. The land surrounding the former school will not be considered for development.

I trust this clarifies matters.

Nigel Newman
Communications Manager
Co-operative Council and Commercial Delivery Team
This is great news of course but the council have promised not to build anywhere in the town park before and here they've been caught marketing part of it behind residents' backs so I will reword my petition to take out specific references to the gymkhana field and resubmit it.
Here is the wording I originally submitted:

Telford & Wrekin Council have plans to build houses on what is locally known as the gymkhana or show jumping field in Stirchley.

This field is inside the town park boundary and has only ever been farm land and park land. Planning officers have agreed in principal to building houses on it and the council's property and assets team have been soft marketing it to housing developers. They have behaved in a sneaky and underhand manner to try and stitch up a deal to sell part of our park.

Telford Town Park is our most valuable community asset and all of it needs to be protected, not just the bits you can see from the council's new offices at Southwater. There should be no houses built in the town park.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

No building on the town park

Telford & Wrekin Council have plans to build houses on what is locally known as the gymkhana or show jumping field in Stirchley.

This field is inside the town park boundary and has only ever been farm land and park land. Planning officers have agreed in principal to building houses on it and the council's property and assets team have been soft marketing it to housing developers. They have behaved in a sneaky and underhand manner to try and stitch up a deal to sell part of our park.

Telford Town Park is our most valuable community asset and all of it needs to be protected, not just the bits you can see from the council's new offices at Southwater. There should be no houses built in the town park.

In Tuesday's planning committee meeting I proposed a motion to go to full council calling on the parish council to formally oppose Telford & Wrekin Council's plans. The motion was approved and will be discussed at the next full council meeting. I have submitted an online petition to Telford & Wrekin Council on this and am waiting for it to be approved. Once it's approved I will share the link and print off some hard copies.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Report from the council's AGM and Electors' Meeting

What with all the excitement of the election, a minor family emergency, work and several days of sleep deprivation I haven't had an opportunity to touch on the council's AGM and electors' meeting last week.

Telford & Wrekin Council's plans to build houses on the gymkhana field off Stirchley Road was the main topic of discussion in the electors' meeting and everyone seemed to be of the opinion that building on the field (which is part of the Town Park) was a bad idea and must be opposed.

We have changed the committees on the council this year as there was too much overlap on the Community & Leisure and Planning & Environment committees. Going forward we will have a Neighbourhood Services committee which roughly covers everything the Community & Leisure committee did and the non-planning aspects of the Planning & Environment committee. We will also have a Planning Committee which will only meet when there are planning applications to consider. This year I am on both the Neighbourhood Services and Planning committees, the Personnel committee, Policy Committee and the Emergency committee.

There generally isn't a lot of "regular" council businesses discussed at the AGM because it takes so long to sort out the committees and get through the wads of paperwork but there was time to discuss my proposal to lobby the borough council for a pedestrian crossing at the bottom of Brookside Avenue by Bridgwood where the kids cross the road to get to Lakeside Academy and the shops. I'm happy to say that it was unanimously supported by the parish council and we will lobby Telford & Wrekin for a crossing. It doesn't mean it will happen though but fingers crossed!

The winning team ...

Thank you to everyone who voted UKIP last week in the EU elections and helped the party achieve a historic victory.

This is the first time since 1910 that Labour or the Conservatives have failed to win a national election and the scale of UKIP's victory is even more monumental against the backdrop of a trade union-funded campaign of misinformation, intimidation and violence to try and stop UKIP challenging Labour.

An enormous amount of hard work went into this election campaign and the West Midlands euroregion now has three down to earth, hard working UKIP MEPs representing our interests in the EU parliament.

Jill Seymour MEP, Bill Etheridge MEP and Jim Carver MEP
Picture: Express & Star

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Use your vote wisely: help cause a political earthquake

Polling stations open tomorrow at 7am for the EU elections and close at 10pm.

UKIP has been polling over 50% in the West Midlands in the last couple of weeks and with a Telford councillor - Jill Seymour from Kynnersley - at the top of the list there is even more reason for Telford people to vote for UKIP tomorrow.

The polling station for Brookside is at Windmill School. You should have received a polling card in the post a while ago. If you can't find your polling card then don't worry, you can still vote by visiting the polling station and giving your details to the staff there. If you received a postal vote and didn't use it, you can still go to the polling station in person to vote.

Beware of cheap imitations, look for the £ sign!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Parish Council AGM and Annual Electors' Meeting tonight

Stirchley & Brookside Parish Council's Annual General Meeting (AGM) is tonight at 7:30pm, preceded by the Annual Electors' Meeting at 6:45pm.

The Electors' Meeting is an opportunity for any elector to come along and ask questions of the parish council or to raise anything that they consider to be of importance or interest to the parish. The meeting is convened by the parish council and the chair of the parish council (or deputy) chairs the meeting but it is not a parish council meeting, it is a meeting of the parish itself.

The AGM is the biggest parish council meeting of the year, where the chair and deputy chair of the parish council are elected, members are voted onto the council's various committees and appointments to outside bodies are made. This year's AGM also includes discussion of the lease for the council's current office, the lease for the council's new offices in the new school, a partnership agreement with community organisers and my resolution to lobby the borough council to put a zebra crossing near Bridgwood to make the crossing point safer for kids walking to Lakeside.

Cats poisoned with antifreeze in Brookside

A number of cats have been poisoned in Brookside in the last day or so, resulting in several deaths.

There were a spate of antifreeze poisonings in Telford in 2010 that didn't coincide with cold weather and were thought to be deliberate poisonings. There are antifreeze-related deaths of cats every year but obviously these occur during the winter when there is a reason to use antifreeze, not in the summer.

There are some distraught cat owners on Brookside at the moment as you can imagine and my advice would be to keep your cat indoors for as long as possible until the source of the poisoning is found. It is, of course, a criminal offence to poison a cat.

You can get advice on the effects of antifreeze poisoning on cats from the RSPCA website.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Pot your own day 2014

Pot your own day is back again this year, from 10-12 outside Stirchley Library.

For those who aren't familiar with Stirchley & Brookside's Pot your own day, you simply turn up on the day, make a donation to charity, pot some fruit and/or vegetable plants and take them home to grow in your own garden or window box. There will be tea and cake, gardening experts to ask for advice and an opportunity to give feedback for the neighbourhood plan which is a statutory planning document that will define what new housing developments in our parish look like.


Thursday, 1 May 2014

Bullies drive Brookside boy to take his own life

By now many residents will have seen the sad news that 12 year old Dylan Stewart from Brookside has died.

Dylan was a pupil at Lakeside Academy and unfortunately he suffered at the hands of bullies for a long time and ended up trying to take his own life. He spent several days on life support which was switched off yesterday. He was breathing on his own for a while but passed away last night.

Lakeside have introduced a zero-tolerance policy on bullying as a result of Dylan's death but you have to ask why there wasn't a zero-tolerance policy on bullying already in place. Some people try and make excuses for bullies - a difficult home life, personal problems - but there is no excuse for making someone's life a misery for your own pleasure or as an outlet for your anger at whatever personal problems you have.

Some of the kids at Lakeside are starting their own anti-bullying campaign and that's likely to be more effective than anything the school or any adults could put together because peer pressure matters to kids far more than the opinions of their teachers, parents or a group of strangers. It may be small comfort for Dylan's parents to know that their son's death has inspired a lot of adults and children not just in Brookside but all over Telford to take a stand on bullying and I hope they do take some comfort in that because I can't imagine what personal hell they must be going through because of the actions of some stupid, selfish children.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Council carrying out safety audit on Forge Roundabout

A few weeks ago I wrote to Telford & Wrekin Council highlighting the dangerous new layout of the Forge Roundabout and the girdlock caused by the changes to the Malinslee roundabout by the new Asda. I have had the following response:

Forge Roundabout

This junction was designed by a consultant on behalf of the Highways Agency due to the links with the M54, we have undertaken monitoring at the junction over recent weeks and have raised a number of issues in conjunction with the police. As a result an independent party will be undertaking a stage 3 safety audit in May to recommend any alterations or additions required.

Malinslee Roundabout

Monitoring of this junction has also been undertaken following the installation of the signals and alterations have been made to the signal timings however there were road closures in place in the town centre when you experienced heavy flows on Hall Park Way which would obviously affect traffic flows elsewhere. We have identified possible alterations that may be undertaken regarding timings and intend on making changes during early to mid May to assist with existing and proposed traffic movement restrictions while work progresses.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Easter celebration

Brilliant afternoon at the Easter celebration organised by Brookside Event Group today. I was one of the judges for the Easter bonnet competition, +Joseph Parr won the guess the number of mini eggs in the jar competition and +Sophie Parr spent most of the time looking for insects in bowls of dirty water!



Saturday, 29 March 2014

The traffic island "improvements" around the town centre are dangerous

I have sent the following email to Telford & Wrekin Council regarding the dangerous new layout of the Forge Roundabout (the M54 island by the Park Inn) and the island at Malinsgate by the Bridge Builder.
I spoke to someone at Highways a week ago about the new road layout on Forge Roundabout but I've yet to receive a response. I'm told by the Mitie shuttle bus drivers that they're seeing near misses daily on that island and every time I've been on it it's chaos because the lanes don't make sense and they have the dangerous short second lanes as you exit the roundabout that the council have been hatching out elsewhere in the borough. I appreciate that the Highways Agency are responsible for the island but the council approved the plans and the new layout is dangerous. I am going to write to the Highways Agency myself but obviously the council's Highways department are the people who should be getting it addressed.

I am also concerned about the island near the police station at Malinsgate which has recently had traffic lights installed. The island is too small to hold traffic at lights and that is evident by the amount of traffic that is building up around it at busy times. At lunchtime today the traffic was queueing from the island, past the Land Registry, over Hall Park Roundabout and half way to the Forge Roundabout. The road past the police station is closed of course but the volume of traffic is the same and the island must have been gridlocked. I am told by a colleague that it can take an extra 5-10 minutes to travel from Lawley to St Georges in a morning using that island because the traffic can queue back as far as the Old Park Roundabout. The roadworks are not the cause of this traffic, it is a fundamental flaw in the design. The island at Malinsgate is too small for traffic lights and they are hindering the flow of traffic, causing dangerous tailbacks.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Metal thieves targeting houses in Brookside

Metal thieves have targeted Brookside over the last couple of days, stealing lead flashing from porches and Holmer Lake School.

I had the lead flashing stolen from my porch roof last night which has also caused other damage in removing it. I know of at least four other properties on Briarwood that have had lead flashing stolen from their porch roofs and one in Birchmore. Lead has also been stolen from the roof at Holmer Lake School, causing around £1,500 of damage.

If you have been a victim of these thieves then please report it to the police on 03003333000 (free on most inclusive call packages) or 101 (15p per call). The more people who report it, the more seriously the police will take the investigation. Scrap lead is only worth about £1.45/lb (65p/kg) which means they're probably making about £10 for each £100 of damage they're causing stealing it from peoples' houses. They have been operating in the area for several days now and not much appears to be happening to catch those responsible.


Sunday, 9 March 2014

Speeding crackdown planned for Randlay Avenue

The police are planning a crackdown on speeding motorists on Randlay Avenue, including use of mobile speed cameras.

According to the speed camera partnership over half of drivers break the speed limit on Randlay Avenue and 15% drive faster than 38.1mph. They also say there have been 11 collisions in the area (but not necessarily on Randlay Avenue) in three years and "a high proportion" were attributed to speed.

I'm not a fan of speed cameras at all - they're a lazy way of policing that is more about generating revenue than improving safety. A speed camera is no substitute for a police officer making an informed judgement on someone's driving, it deals in numbers and you can drive as dangerously as you like as long as you stay below that number. You could drive backwards through a speed camera wearing a blindfold and 5 times over the drink drive limit and as long as you aren't breaking the speed limit you won't get a ticket.

The wording from the speed camera partnership is, you will note, very careful. There have been 11 collisions in the area in three years. Those collisions could have been on Stirchley Avenue or Grange Avenue or any of the side roads. There is no mention of the number of casualties (anyone who is seen by a medical professional, even if there is nothing wrong with them) which would suggest there weren't any or that it's very low because that is the speed camera partnership's favourite statistic. They also don't mention the number of collisions that were attributed to speed, just that it's a high proportion which is a strange word to use when you're talking about just 11 collisions. Attributing speed to a collision means that speed could be the only cause of a collision or it might be just one of them. It might be a major cause of the collision or it might be a minor factor where the collision would have happened anyway. It doesn't even mean the speed limit was exceeded, just that speed was a factor.

Having said all that, I'm not opposed to the idea of mobile speed cameras being used on Randlay Avenue or anywhere else but it should be part of a package of measures with actual police enforcement being the main one. I would also like to see enforcement on Stirchley Avenue, Grange Avenue, Holmer Farm Road and Brookside Avenue, all of which have problems with people driving too fast (which is different to exceeding the speed limit). This enforcement should be in place of the speed camera van that can be found on Stirchley Interchange most days catching speeding motorists on a perfectly safe stretch of dual carriageway whilst people are racing past it around the island and on into the housing estates.

Friday, 7 March 2014

UKIP councillors have best attendance records

According to the Times, UKIP councillors have the best attendance record of councillors from any other party by quite a margin.

It's not unusual for the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems to tell voters that UKIP councillors are ineffective because there are less of them and usually there are only one or two on a council dominated by councillors from other parties but this research shows that if you want a councillor that will work hard for you then your best bet is to vote UKIP.

I don't think Stirchley & Brookside Parish Council publish attendance records for parish councillors but I'm pretty sure mine is close to 100%. From memory I think I've missed two meetings in the 3 years I've been a councillor and I have a meeting most weeks, sometimes more than once a week.

Friday, 28 February 2014

I've been nominated for a Tommy award!

Erm, it appears I've been nominated for best Telford political tweeter alongside David Wright MP, Cllr Shaun Davies and Cllr Clive Elliot!

The nominations have been made by readers of Telford Live and it was a pleasant surprise to find myself on the list alongside two borough councillors and an MP so thank you whoever nominated me.

You can vote for your favourite political tweeter (hopefully me!) and others on the Telford Live website.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Community Litter Pick

I haven't been able to make the last couple of community litter picks but I got back on the wagon this morning. Even though only four of us turned up we picked up three bags full of rubbish and we spotted these fly tip and litter trap issues that I've reported to Telford & Wrekin Council for action.




Monday, 17 February 2014

Ironbridge Floods

I went down to Ironbridge earlier to check out the flooding and the flood defences. Even though the flood defences are up and the shops and houses along the Wharfage are protected, there are still plenty of people down there keeping an eye on things in miserable weather. The river peaked this afternoon so hopefully the worst of it is behind us now.

Here are a few pictures of the flooding in Ironbridge ...




Saturday, 15 February 2014

Planning application for car parks - help protect the green

Telford & Wrekin Council are applying for permission to extend the car park at Beaconsfield and to create a new car park on the site of some of the (soon to be) demolished flats.

At one of the public meetings on the regeneration project the council promised to protect the remainder of the green outside Windmill School once the car park was extended by giving it village green or fields in trust status.

I have commented on the application supporting it subject to them keeping their promise and when this application comes before the parish council's planning committee I will be proposing that this is the parish council's response as well.

You can view the application and leave your own comments on the Telford & Wrekin planning website.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Zip zags (again), drainage (again) and fly tipping (again)

I have reported the following issues this morning:

  • The newly painted zig zags outside Windmill School on Beaconsfield have been partially removed by roadworks
  • There are drainage issues on the footpath alongside the green outside Windmill School on the right hand side where the shrubs have been removed as you face it from the road
  • A bed has been fly tipped overnight on the footpath alongside Brookside Avenue near the junction with Briarwood – it wasn’t there at 8:30 last night but it was there at 3:30 this morning

I have some shocking fly tipping statistics for Brookside which I will share later.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Brookside drug dealers jailed


A pair of drug dealers from Brookside have been sentenced to 32 months in prison after they were caught in an undercover drugs operation.


Nicola Firth and Gary Warren dealt heroin and cocaine to an undercover police officer several times at the community centre, flats, houses and cars in Brookside. They were both drug addicts and dealt drugs for a share of what they were selling rather than to make money.

It's great to see another drug dealer off the streets - especially when two of them have been taken out at the same time - but there's a growing drug problem everywhere and no less so in Brookside. Many people are turning to drink and drugs as an escape and there isn't enough support for people who are struggling to cope with the effects of mental health problems, long term unemployment, deprivation and addictions. Taking out the dealers is vital but tackling the reasons people turn to addictive substances in the first place is just as important.

Details of drug and alcohol support services in the borough can be found on Telford & Wrekin Council's Telford MyLife website.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Council Tax and budgets

Last night's full council meeting was long and challenging with some difficult decisions to be made around budgets and council tax made more difficult by the uncertainty around funding for local government thanks to the changes the British government has made to council tax grants.

The changes to the council tax grants mean that in 5 years' time all money spent by parish and town councils will come from the council tax precept rather than a mixture of precept and money from the British government as it is now. It means that the £10k or so a year that Stirchley & Brookside Parish Council gets as a grant paid out of general taxation towards the cost of statutory services it provides will have to be added on to council tax instead or services will have to be cut elsewhere to cover the shortfall. It's basically a way for the British government to raise taxes and deflect the criticism away from themselves and onto local councils.

At last night's meeting we finally had a clear view of what the parish council's income was going to be for the next year and that meant a reassessment of the budgets that had already been agreed by the three committees at the end of last year. These budgets cover staffing costs, office costs, environmental maintenance, community initiatives, etc. and come to about £240k a year. It sounds like a lot of money and it is but the parish also gets a lot for that money. That doesn't mean that we can continue spending that much money though, especially when so many people are struggling which is why I couldn't agree with a rise in the parish council's council tax precept.

The parish council has a budget shortfall this coming year and for the foreseeable future and it is going to get worse. There are increased costs for existing public sector pensions for council staff thanks to underperformance of the superannuation scheme and the legislation that requires employers to provide a contributory pension to all employees also applies to the parish council which is another cost that will hit us next year. Add to that the swingeing cuts to the council tax grant and constant demands on the parish council to provide services that are being cut by the borough council and the British government and it paints a dismal picture.

At last night's meeting several options were presented for the budget, all of which involved spending money out of the council's reserves - money that is set aside to pay the bills for a few months if something goes disastrously wrong. These reserves have been dipped into the last couple of years to subsidise spending against my advice making the difference between income and expenditure increasingly large year on year. The council voted to increase the parish council's council tax precept by about 3% which is about £2.60 for the year for a Band A property, or 5p a week. To cover the shortfall in funding the council also voted to spend a few thousand from reserves.

Myself and Cllr Watkin abstained from the vote. I don't know Cllr Watkin's reasons but from past experience I suspect they were the same as mine - although the amount of the increase is tiny, it's still an increase and we should be looking at how we can reduce costs instead of increasing taxes to carry on spending at the same rate.

I pointed out that £7k could be saved without cutting services by abolishing councillors' allowances which predictably attracted zero support. There are next to no costs involved in being a parish councillor other than your time and a few phone calls. I think we need to cut costs with South Telford Rights of Way Partnership - it's a great service which maintains and promotes mainly "rural" footpaths and rights of way and the council gets a lot of value from it but it costs us £5k per year to do something that the borough council is supposed to do. The Gorge Parish Council have already withdrawn from STROWP leaving just three parish councils footing the bills. I think the parish newsletter also needs to be re-evaluated. There have been problems with delivery meaning some people often don't get the newsletter and in this internet age the majority of people have access to the internet and can get whatever information they need online. Doing away with the printed newsletter would save £2k a year.

So with no option of cutting costs instead of raising tax I abstained on the vote on setting the precept. I didn't vote against it because from an accounting point of view it was a sound decision but I won't agree to a tax increase without first looking at ways we can cut costs. I will continue to look for ways to save money with minimal impact on services but with some of my fellow councillors talking about increasing services while we are looking at a financial black hole, I don't hold out much hope of meaningful change this side of next year's election!

Friday, 24 January 2014

A question on adult social care

I put a question to Cllr England who is the cabinet member for adult social care (amongst other things) at last night's borough council meeting at TCAT. Last night was the first time public questions had ever been asked at a borough council meeting.
Without social services’ support, many carers will be unable to continue to care for loved ones at home.

The planned cuts to the adult social care budget will result in more adults needing full time professional care in care homes at the council’s expense.

How much is care home use expected to rise and what is being done to ensure there is adequate provision?
He gave a comprehensive response explaining where they thought they were going to save money and that they don't expect an increase in care home use. I disagree with the conclusion and believe that the savings will be outweighed by the additional costs. Many carers simply wouldn't cope without the comprehensive support of adult social services and the care and respite that they facilitate. The people with complex needs who are the hardest to care for at home are the ones who will cost a fortune to keep in a care home. Spending £15k on a care package for a severely disabled adult to allow them to be cared for at home is much more sensible than withdrawing support and footing the £75-80k cost of providing full time residential care for them.

Interestingly, the Conservatives have prepared an alternative budget and say they would cancel the Pride in Your Community programme which they consider to be pointless window dressing and spend the money on keeping down the cuts to the adult social care budget. They may have a point on priorities but figures released recently show that crime rates in Woodside have dropped by something like 60% in the 10 years since the regeneration was carried out there. There is evidence to show that physical regeneration reduces crime and anti-social behaviour and increases self-esteem which has a corresponding positive impact on levels of worklessness. Of course, Woodside had something like £74m spent on it eventually which is significantly more than the anywhere else in the borough is likely to see.

My conclusion is that both parties have clearly thought about their budgets but neither of them has the right answer. I don't know where the money would come from to maintain adequate funding for adult social care but it's clear to me that not finding the funding will cost the taxpayer more money.

Monday, 20 January 2014

First litter pick of 2014

The turnout for yesterday's litter pick was excellent with a mixture of new and old faces, including one family who spotted us while we were picking up litter and decided to join us there and then.

Between us we collected 18 sacks of rubbish from Burford, the spinal path and the park.

The next litter pick is next Saturday at 10am, meeting outside the community centre.

Monday Matters


Sunday, 19 January 2014

Fundamentalist Christian councillor blames floods on homosexuals

A UKIP councillor from Henley has reiterated his belief that the floods we've experienced recently are divine retribution for same sex marriage.

Cllr David Silvester says that the floods are a punishment from God for allowing same sex marriage which the bible says is a sin. He says that "God wants all gay men to repent and be healed".

This has caused quite a lot of negative press as you can imagine and the fact he's a UKIP councillor has been used by some to paint the party as bigoted and homophobic when of course that's simply not the case. This isn't Cllr Silvester's politics talking, this is his religious fundamentalism and his crazy, medieval views on homosexuality are not at all representative of the party.

I would suggest that if Cllr Silvester wants to wage a war of religious righteousness on homosexuality then he should take a look at the Christian Party who have similarly intolerant and antiquated views as his own because he's not the sort of person that I want to be associated with.

Update:
Cllr Silvester has been suspended from the party pending disciplinary proceedings.


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Youth Services Public Meeting

I went to a public meeting about youth services in Stirchley & Brookside on Thursday organised by community organisers Leigh Ricketts and Kathryn MacDonald.

The general consensus was that youth provision in both Brookside and Stirchley were poor. A couple of people went as far as to describe it as sh*t.

There were lots of issues and suggestions raised at the meeting, including:

Issues

  • Bullying at youth club in Brookside
  • People don't know who is in charge of youth services
  • Even people living next to the Community Centre don't know what's happening there
  • Drugs and drink at park
  • Community Centre didn't feel like it belongs to the community
  • Nothing locally for children with special needs
  • Brookside has 100% more youth provision than Stirchley
Suggestions

  • Something through the letterbox saying what's on
  • Kids have their own communication network which can be used to spread the word about services
  • Youth engagement for conservation programme has secured funding and is about to start
  • Youth café
  • Scouts and cubs
  • Young organisers group could be set up
  • Kids helping at community café
Another meeting is planned in the next couple of weeks to see how residents want to tackle these issues and put some of their ideas into action. If you want to get involved in changing youth services in Brookside and Stirchley then you can contact Leigh through his website.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Planning & Environment Committee meeting on Tuesday

There is a meeting of the parish council's Planning & Environment Committee on Tuesday.

Amongst other things, a progress report on the Stirchley & Brookside Parish Plan and a planning application for signage at the new hairdressers in Brookside.

The meeting starts at 7:30pm at the Sambrook Centre and members of the public can speak in the public open session at the beginning of the meeting.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Fly tipping and litter in Burford

As I walked to Burford yesterday I was disappointed to see that after just a few weeks without litter picks, the streets are covered in litter and fly tips again.

I reported four fly tips in Burford yesterday and the remains of a large fire between Burford and Burtondale. I will also talk to BIG about restarting the litter picks as soon as possible in an attempt to get our estate looking reasonably tidy again.