Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Tarmac, Concrete etc Part 2

Yesterday John went right through his file on Newsam Rd and found everything he could relevant to the grass verges - complaints about how badly scarred they were, consultation about hard standing, complaints about vehicles etc. So now he's written to the relevant officers asking for the results of the consultation held in 2003 and a reason for the change to tarmac and bollards. Meanwhile he's delivered a letter to each of the residents telling them that we're looking into it and we'll get back to them.
On a brighter note, Suzanne was sent a photograph of herself as Mayor serving someone on the One World Week Fairtrade stall on Saturday at Newtown, so we can put that into the file of evidence of public engagement for when we apply for Fairtrade Town status.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Tarmac, Concrete and Trouble

There's an old saying "You can't do right for doing wrong". It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense but I've always understood it to mean that however much you try to do the right thing someone's always going to be upset. This week it could easily be our slogan! As part of the Western Area Transport Strategy it was agreed a few weeks ago that the grass verge on the north side of Newsam Rd would be hard surfaced in order to provide a cleaner, safer way to school for the comprehensive children and to make it easier for wheelchair users etc to make their way along the pavement. The pavement has always been too narrow for comfort and the verge generally looked a bit bedraggled and messy. Three and a half years ago the residents were consulted on whether to have block paving instead of grass, but told that the change was dependent on funding being available. Unfortunately, now that some funding was available, tarmac was used instead. And in order to protect the pavement from vehicles wanting to park on it, posts were introduced. Not nice-looking cast iron ones like in Butts Lane or in Maritime Rd in Stockton, but concrete ones. Our phones have not stopped since - not one person is in favour of them it seems. Some oil is needed for troubled waters but I've no idea where we'll find the right kind or sufficient quantity!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Exciting Times

This week our new website was released to us to experiment with and check over. Great excitement and great fun as two of us tried adding new stories, uploading past editions of Focus, trying all of its features. We were like children with a new toy. Now I can't wait to put it onto our public site so that residents can see it and take part in local decision making to a greater extent than they could till now. It should happen some time next week all being well.

Today was exciting in a different way. Common Purpose held one of their events for young people to learn about leadership and help them develop their leadership skills. I was invited to be part of a group of 3 councillors taking part in one of the sessions. These young people, 13 & 14 years old, had some really serious questions about issues that concerned them. I'm afraid that I may have incited rebellion in one school whose students told us that their staff don't listen to them and their School Council is appointed, not elected. They didn't feel as though they had a voice and I suggested that they should arrange an election to set up an alternative council - they looked excited at the thought of rebellion. I don't think the rather "establishment" Tory councillor was at all excited!
But then I wasn't very pleased at something he told me in a brief gap in the proceedings. We'd made a joint decision on Wednesday evening with the other opposition parties and now today he'd decided to do things differently, completely on his own. Not a team player at all. I have yet to speak to others in the Lib Dem group about how we deal with the situation, but I know that the Independents are fuming.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Weekend

After a pretty busy few days it was good to have a weekend off. As my husband reached 60 this weekend we felt it a cause for mild celebration. So Saturday night found us enjoying a meal and stimulating conversation with old friends and today we took ourselves off to Whitby. The weather was hazy and chilly but nevertheless it was good to wander the old town again. Fortunes were closed, with a "sold out" sign up, but the smokehouse was working well in readiness for sales tomorrow.
Home just in time for a web conversation with the family in Derby, complete with the camera working. Emma did look a trifle confused at the hazy picture of Granny & Grandad on the computer screen.
Then to a quick read of e-mails and general catch-up before tomorrow's jobs.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bill Bryson's Visit

Bill Bryson is Chancellor of Durham University, which includes Queens Campus at Stockton, and yesterday he paid a brief visit to the town. He's been to the University several times but had commented that he'd not seen the town itself so he was invited to visit. I was fortunate to be invited to the reception and to join him on the town trail afterwards. He's an easy person to talk to and very interested in the town which is home for the students for 3 years or so.
After that I had a short break for lunch before going to Durham Lane school for a meeting of a governing body committee. It was a very intensive meeting and very useful but I had to rush away the moment it finished in order to get to the Town Hall for the inaugural meeting of the Adult Care Partnership. Again, useful but intensive. It finished a little earlier than I'd expected so time to go home and open the post before going out to Stockton again for my final meeting of the day.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Disappointing News

A really productive morning spent with IT staff working on a database for tracking casework. If it all works as planned it'll be a real boon.
A quick detour to the supermarket so that I could stock up on some of the basics that were running low and then home to sort through the post - not usually very exciting on a Monday. My heart was in my mouth as I turned over a large brown envelope bearing the insignia of the Planning Inspectorate. Sure enough it contained the decisions on the two appeals by McCarthy & Stone for The Avenue. Both appeals granted - the inspector had taken everything they said at face value and rejected everything we'd said. So now no doubt they'll build the first of them, the bigger and more intrusive one. I really feel for the residents on Ashville Avenue who'll be most affected. The inspector seems to be saying that having one or two big buildings in an area means that any application for another one of the same mass should be acceptable, despite the fact that the character of the area will be completely different if the diversity disappears. Needless to say the residents are devastated.

30 years ago

30 years ago today I was in hospital, the proud but exhausted mother of a very new baby. Happy birthday K!
Today however, she's a grown up daughter living on the other side of the world, so has already been celebrating her birthday for almost a day before I rose from my bed.
Meanwhile, this morning I have a meeting with one of the Council's IT gurus who is developing a database for councillors to help us to keep track of casework. It'll be interesting to see what he's come up with so far. I've also got to report in all the things that cropped up over the weekend which I couldn't do because the e-mail system was down and there's no-one there to take phone calls.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


The council system linking councillors to the server has fallen over again - Since Saturday lunchtime we've been without e-mail links, no link to all the documents stored on the intranet, no links to the GIS mapping system. In fact total deprivation. People have had to resort to the telephone, knocking on doors, posting letters - all the lovely old fashioned things we used to do before the government encouraged us to go to e-government.

Yesterday and today I spent some time at Preston Hall at the Forge In of the British Artist Blacksmith Association - over 100 blacksmiths and apprentices working together to produce a new set of gates to the Period street in the museum. Craftsmen & women are always fascinating to watch, but this was a truly amazing experience. I'm looking forward to the gates being completed and hung in the near future.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Lottery fund grant

Success at last on arranging for some overgrown bushes to be trimmed back so that people waiting for the bus at Preston Park can see whether there's a bus coming without stepping out of the shelter into the rain. The officer trying to find the offending shrubbery was handicapped by being given the location by his admin section as the station rather than the park!

The rest of the morning was spent at Preston Hall at the official announcement of the Heritage Lottery Grant for refurbishment of the Winter Garden there. I remember it as an exotic place to visit but it's gone downhill over the last 30 years and now it's just draughty, damp and dangerous - some of the window glass is loose and cracked. However, it's going to be restored to its former glory thanks to the grant so the local TV station was there as well as the newspapers. The mayor was there to say thank-you on behalf of the Council and I was there as a ward councillor. I look forward to seeing the finished project.

Then on to the Municipal Buildings to a meeting about the Western Area Partnership Board, a quick bit of shopping and home to catch up on some paperwork and housework before ward surgery in the evening.
I took the rest of the evening off to have a meal with my husband at our local vegetarian restaurant, not because we're vegetarians but because the food is just too good to be left solely to vegetarians. AND they use Fairtrade tea, coffee, sugar, some of the wines, fruit and so on.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A wet and chilly autumnal day today. No meetings scheduled, so a chance to do a bit of catching up. Or so I thought. Somehow everything took twice as long as expected - maybe it was the weather!
The order arrived from Traidcraft, so that was to unpack and check then sort out the things which were special orders and the stock replenishment. Already I'm starting to plan my next order, things are selling so well at the moment.
This evening I visited our local Brownie pack, taking their certificate from the Care for Your Area awards. The garden in front of the Parish Hall is still looking colourful as they've now planted up troughs of pansies. They really deserve their award.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Vote now, or for ever hold your peace!

So far I have 3 votes - 2 from people who represent Yarm on the Borough or Town councils, and one from the other side of the world, though to be fair Thribble was once a resident of Eaglescliffe. Unsurprisingly perhaps the votes are currently 2 for the completion of the route to Yarm Station and one for the footway in Eaglescliffe. Voting will have to close soon, but as this blog isn't widely advertised it's unlikely to generate much interest.
Yesterday was a day off - spent visiting our daughter, son-in-law and grand-daughter. Great fun as always, with the photos on Flickr for those in the know.
As we were leaving Eaglescliffe I noticed that the Speed Camera van was parked on the footpath, in the narrowest place, forcing pedestrians into the cycle lane. It didn't seem like a very considerate place to park, given the fact that 2 or 3 metres either way wouldn't have made any difference to being able to catch speeding motorists, so a complaint accompanied by incriminating photograph will be winging its way tomorrow. Whilst I approve of the use of speed cameras to make people slow down and drive more safely I don't approve of it being at the expense of pedestrian safety!
Unfortunately yesterday I decided to do some tidying up in the garden while we were visiting and managed to stab my toe with a nasty sharp object lying hidden on the ground. My own fault entirely for gardening in open toed sandals, especially as A had offered me trainers. It makes walking uncomfortable and driving very difficult. Consequently my long-suffering husband needed to take me to church this morning, along with boxes of Fairtrade goodies to sell. It meant that he was extremely early for his service, which starts half an hour later than mine!