Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Shoot them all!

Tonight I attended the most recent meeting of the community to discuss how to maximise efforts to improve our Town Centre.

There were about 30/40 people at the Salvation Hall.

Like my previous blog, I volunteered my labour to support put on events in the Town Centre.

The meeting voted to set up a Community Benefit Society, it looks like the steering group will take this forward.

My councillor colleague was irriated when a member of the meeting said "he would like to shoot all councillors", Will Dunscombe pointed out that it was everyone responsibility to lobby Mendip Council on free car parking, but the member of the meeting was not bothered to distinguish between the different tiers of government or individual councillors opinions or efforts.

Whether after 15 years my skin is a little less thick, but I felt there is a undertone of anti council/councillors at most meetings I attend, yet our interest in the Town means we still attend such meetings and volunteer our efforts.

Moreover, for example I have attended meetings on monday night, Tuesday night, this evening and will be out tomorrow evening on community activity, I've dealt with tens of emails to do with Shepton this week so far, this a typical week for a parish councillor.

The average parish councillors probably does the same.

So I can understand Will losing his temper with people whom lazy talk could be considered both ignorant and wrong, parish councillors do not receive any renumeration (nor seeks it) and have Shepton at heart.

So coming back to tonights meeting, I wish this group well.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

New Labour Leader

The political party I am a member has today elected Ed Miliband as leader.

I had four votes, one Labour member, one trade union and two socialist societies.

I have always been a supporter of one member one vote, the electoral college a left off from the early 1980s.

I look forward to this leadership election being the last under the electoral college where MPs, members and affiliates vote.

I look forward to Ed Miliband leading the Labour Party, from the political centre, to build a consensus around a platform around a social democratic vision for this country.

Building a mass movement against the regressive coalition government, this conservative government.

So I wish Ed Miliband good luck and hope Labour has started it's route back to government.

Public Meeting

The latest public meeting to discuss the Town Centre will be held on Wednesday 29 September in the Salvation Army hall in Commercial Road at 6.30pm, I hope to attend, but I have another engagement in Taunton that afternoon, so I may not make it.

It would appear the ideas that up for discussion are;
  1. A cider shop with a cider making heritage element
  2. A marked walked town heritage trail around the Town
  3. A Community run allotments in tandem with a community run shop selling local produce
  4. A milk bar as a focus for young people
  5. A centre for learning crafts and contemporary skills
  6. Create a series of popular events in market place.

My views on the Town Centre are there are three particular elements that need attention;

The Environment, some progress has be made in recent years with improved shop fronts, however the market place and Town Streets paving is poor, cracked paving slabs with a mish mash of paving slabs, I take the view, a road should be reintroduced into Town Street to recreate a street scene and this would allow service vehicles to use, saving the cracking of the paving slabs.

There needs better lighting within the Town Centre, access from the car parks through to the shops in Great Ostry and Regal road needs attention. The Street furniture needs upgrading, some just needs better maintenance.

The District Council has now received their Urban design statement, these issues have been highlighted.

Town Centre promotion, there are many tremendous shops in Shepton Mallet High Street area, I often wonder if the average consumer knows whats on offer in the retail area, how the retail sector is strengthened by promoting the right shop for the right business? Finally on promotion does the average consumer wants a retail centre to thrive in the High street area?

Business support, is it too simplistic to say, if your shop sells the right product at the right price with the right level of of service and consumers know what's on sale, the business is more likely to succeed?

The other issue is free convenient car parking.

I have pressed for years at the Town Council for the funding of Town Centre events, for me, these events deal with two issues, firstly they attract people into the retail area, secondly they deal with the community engagement of the Town Centre being seen as community space, a place you want to go. This to breakdown the negative atmosphere that sometimes exists around the Town.

I have seen several community led groups form and I have supported them, whether the taskforce, or the Market and Coastal Town initiative (MCTi), having met with the Regional Development Agency on the successful application for the MCTi funding, my advice to any community group would be to keep it simple.

From the MCTi public consultation the main public concerns were;

A New Indoor swimming pool

A New Community Hall

To Improve the Town Centre

Better Bus Services into and out of the Town

From those priorities a lottery bid was submitted for an indoor swimming pool at the Leisure Centre and failed. The Town Council invested £355,000 and the District Council invested £150,000 to improve the outdoor swimming pool.

The new community hall was morphed into a Community and Training Educational Centre, that grew Topsy, with an increasing number of consultants reports, the average Sheptonian wanted a basic community hall, CATEC has not been built nor has a community hall, this community aspiration not met.

Better Bus Services - Shepton has still no direct bus services to Bath or Bristol, other than National Express, so no improvements to destinations, but the Cycleway on the Strawberry line has made progress and the Milestones have been painted.

So, my advice to any community group would be to keep it simple, be very clear on whats to be achieved and keep Sheptonians informed.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Time is running out

We are seven months away from elections for the Town and District Councils, last night we saw the first embers of the coming campaigns.

It seemed to me that point scoring was back in fashion.

We saw the standing orders abandoned for an attack on cllr Garfield, to be fair the Lib Dem District Councillor over stated his attack on the Town Council and it's management on allotments, but the Town Council's waiting time for allotments is too long, it would be better for cllrs working together rather than playing such naked opportunism by both parties.

Myself and cllr Will Dunscombe tried to use the councils capital fund for additional monies for professional fees to conclude the enhancement of the Cenotaph, we argued that we needed to use the community development pot of money as budget to put events and create interest in the Town Centre, however we lost the vote 11 to 2 so this community budget will now be used for the additional fees for cenotaph enhancement.

As I have reported before, the Town Council has a capital budget of £230K, it seem there is a three way fight for this spending, one option is to develop the toilets in Collett Park and maybe develop Office space for the Town Council, the second, to secure a office/ associated hall for the Town Council and the third, development of sporting facilities in the Town.
I have repeatedly called for the Town Council to decide which option the council wants to pursue, wouldn't it be good for Sheptonians to be asked their opinion?

The Town Council are interested in discussion with Mendip about the transfer of ownership of West Shepton Playing Fields, having held discussions with sporting clubs the Town Council are seeking to secure the playing fields long term future, also developing the site for sports.

Mendip Councils long awaited Urban Design Statement for the Town Centre has been produced I raised the point that the Town Council and public should be able to discuss, we await developments.

Tomorrow evening I will going to the Labour leadership hustings in Bristol, I will write a blog on my choice for leader.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Tapping and the media

Today Tessa Jowell says she had her telephone tapped 28 times, this she claimed being told by the police and it's alleged a major News corporation being involved.

The Conservative leader has the former News of the World editor as one of his advisers, earning a £140,000 a year, yet many websites allege that Mr Coulson, whilst he was editor of the News of the World illegal activity was conducted by a private investigator working on behalf of that paper, although Mr Coulson says he knew nothing of it.

Despite this, the press complaints people did nothing, the Metropolitan police took no action against the paper or their direct employees, I take the view that the media should not be above the law, nor should the law be partial.

I remember whilst the cash for honours investigation by the absolutely remarkable Yates of the Yard, how the media seemed to be there when Lord Levy was arrested etc.

Yet the same remarkable Yeats of the Yard could find no evidence of illegal activity by the News of the World when phone tapping against government ministers.

Partial? Your guess.

I believe a high level inquiry by a High Court Judge both into News International and the Metropolitan Police actions needs to be conducted, to give transparency and confidence of the media and the police.