Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year

Christmas has come and gone, so has 2009.

It is time to look forward, I believe 2010 will be a better year.

My hope is that progressive ideas are to the fore in 2010, for me, it is essential that government develops policies that tackle inequalities, that people are generous to their fellow citizens.

In times of uncertainity it is easy to blame others for their own misfortune.

For me, after 4 weeks away, it is also time for work again.

Together, we can make 2010 better.

Friday, 11 December 2009

What a great line

When Rafa Benitez was asked about the criticism levelled at him by messers Klinsman and Souness, he retorted that the fans knew there records as managers is fantastic.

Great response.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

denial anyone

So the Comprehensive Area Assessment have been published on OnePlace website that measures the performance of our local public services.

And surprise, surprise Mendip District Council does not meet minimum requirements of service and performs poorly.

No one should be surprised by this judgement!

Twelve months ago the Audit Commission stated that Mendip's Housing Strategy was poor, saying "(mendip DC) poor information on housing condition and housing need", pretty damning stuff.

So this week the OnePlace website rates Mendip not meeting the bare minimum standard on;
  1. managing it finances
  2. governing it's business
  3. managing resources

They are just adequate in managing performance.

It is reported Mendip are not doing enough to support the district through the current recession.

Mendip's partners are unsure what Mendip trying to achieve and have no way of measuring the results.

Mendip have very little judgement if they are achieving value for money.

Mendip has a higher level of homelessness than other Somerset authorities and too many people are living in temporary homes.

Mendip has no measure to know if there services impact fairly on the communities they serve.

Mendip are slow at turning around small planning application, these tend to help small businesses, helping in this time of recession.

This is how a conservative council is run, poor leadership that arrogantly concentrates on political advantage than running a high quality council.

It must be noted that Mendip Council are in a spiral of poor performance, they cannot claim additional central funds because of it this coupled with a small tax base.

The Conservatives are failing, but there failure is hurting the local residents.

It's certainly time for change here in Mendip.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The 200,000 pound question

We're on this merry-go-round, the Town Council has just over £200,000 in a capital fund, the receipt from the Councils old property in Great Ostry and monies put aside from the tax payer.

Some of the Council want a new council office and meeting area. Another option buying a shop. Some want to spend this capital receipt on a new combined sporting club.

But never a decision.

This evening I called for a report to go to the Town Council, that would include renegotiating a new lease, the costs and terms, with pros and cons for the above options.

My view is, if we can negotiate a long term deal that is favourable, we should use the council receipt on a combined sporting club for the Town.

We need to use the £200K for the benefit of Shepton, but whatever the decision, we need to get on with it.

Monday, 7 December 2009

"we're all doomed"

This afternoon I had the undoubted pleasure of attending a meeting at Mendip Council to discuss how we could spend the remainder of the s106 monies from the Tescos planning decisions, I thought this included the dobbies s106 and the THi.

I thought we are getting somewhere, and thought this a good initiative by Cllr Jeanette Marsh.

So when we sat down at 4.00pm and told we would only talk about the Tesco money and let's finish by 5.00pm, I thought ok.

My view on regeneration that there are three strands put simplistically;
  1. Improve the environment, Town Street through High Street North needs resurfacing. The lighting needs attention and the entrances into the High Street needs work from the car parks. An enhanced Marketplace with new seating.
  2. The Town centre needs promoting and hold more events to encourage footfall.
  3. Business support to allow businesses to run efficient businesses.

The Officer suggested that an Urban Design study, I thought this was reasonable, as this would draw in the strands above, this did not meet with the approval of our district councillors, we then spent an hour talking about entrances into the Town Centre, lighting, seating until another officer stated in fact we'd gone around in circles to get back to a design study, I think they agreed to look at each of the issues.

All I could think was these people cannot think strategically, their officers tell them they do not the expertise on urban design, so we muddle through.

I left the meeting thinking of old Mr Frazer (dads army) "we're all doomed".

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Speeding all the way

Over the two previous years some really good road safety work has been done in Waterloo Road.

We finally had flashing lights installed to warn motorists of the school entrance, we had new painted lines to visually warn motorists to try to moderate speed. There was a community speedwatch operating and a Speed Indicator Device (SiD) by the school.

All these measures came from the Partners and Communities Together (PACT) meetings, the community had asked and the relevant authorities delivered, simply, local government working.

All these measures had some success, but of course there are a hardcore of motorist who will not slow down and believe they do not have to comply with sensible speeding limits, 30mph in a road where there is a infants school.

The tradegy is now, Conservative councillors has removed funding for the SiD, the community speedwatch has ceased to operate.

I will be calling for the SiD to be funded by the Town Council, also I will continue to call for the police to enforce the speed limit.

The real solution to the problem of speeding outside the school would be a pedestrian crossing, but perversely the County Council will not fund, because the speed of traffic is to fast.

The school has repeatly tried to employ a lollipop crossing person, but the road is too dangerous for people to feel safe doing the job.

So I will continue to campaign for;
  1. Funding for the SiD in Waterloo Road
  2. Police to enforce speed limits
  3. A pedistrian crossing outside the school and associated traffic calming measures

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Can we afford not to build affordable housing

In the previous twenty five years we have lost one million council houses, this through the right to buy scheme.

Housing policy in this country is about home ownership, with limited affordable housing through section 106 legal agreements, usually too few, these are then transferred to housing association, either for rent or shared equity schemes.

We have seen growth in home ownership, we have seen growth in the buy to let schemes, we have seen ridiculous lending from the financial sector.

Then we had the financial crash, with the ridiculous situation of the British tax payer bailing out of banks that had toxic debt that had been accrued from the sub prime American housing market.

Our government would not build council houses for low paid workers, but in effect would pay for boarded up properties in America.

It is the time for this government to act.

Banks are, for the foreseeable future not going to borrow money to fund unsustainable mortgages, nor should they.

The current situation is not sustainable, providing affordable housing through section 106 cannot deliver the numbers of homes required.

In our district there is a social housing backlog of 1363 properties.

The average income for our district is £17,566 with the average for housing is £211,725 this equates to 12 times salary.

This leaves a situation of higher than average house prices combined with below average income, and a major shortfall in social housing, it is no surprise that waiting lists are growing for affordable housing, this situation is getting worse.

It is clear home ownership is a major aspiration for people, but this increasingly is out of reach for many, affordable rented housing is crucial for people to live in their own communities. Alan Brunt, from Mendip Housing spoke to the local paper about his concerns.

So the question is, can we afford not to invest in socially affordable rented housing?

I think not!