Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Despondency, Challenges and Hope

I spent the morning in a meeting with colleagues, catching up on progress, or lack of it, in a number of fields. Problems with the planning process in Stockton don't go away and in fact seem to grow. Meeting venues are no more accessible than a year ago. The Bus Users' Forum was a flash in the pan because the council needed to tick a box in order to put in a bid for something. And so it goes on. We've had a year now of the new Tory leadership in Stockton and nothing much seems to have improved - still too much bureaucracy and not enough action for people.
We decided on what we needed to do next to move things forward and left to get on with being councillors.
The afternoon was taken up by a routine hospital appointment for my mother, over a bit sooner than anticipated so there was time for an unplanned visit to a supermarket with her to stock up on a few extra bits of shopping. Another accessibility issue here - the disabled parking bays are wider than normal parking bays but not separated by hatching as in most places now. Consequently if someone parks right over near the line it's difficult to get out into a wheelchair in the adjacent space.
The early evening was taken up with a meeting of Stockton Renaissance, the local strategic partnership. The agenda didn't look terribly interesting - several things which I'd already seen in other places, but there was a very interesting presentation on the Environment and Regeneration partnership of the LSP. They are extremely busy working out how best to spend the latest round of government money which is coming to help combat unemployment in the borough. The chairman also gave us some upbeat statistics on unemployment and business start ups in the borough - both significantly better than the national trend. Sadly, the rate of business failure is still too high, but there was a real ray of hope in his presentation. Of course, having got all the people who are relatively easily employable into work, we still have a big skills shortage and the people left out of work don't have the skills, nor in some cases the ability to aquire them. That's the big challenge of the future, along with how to retain the graduates from the two universities on our doorstep.
How we cope with these challenges in the next year or two will make or mar our borough for the next generation. Frightening thought!
And so home, to emails and phone calls that had been stacking up during the day. Some of them tricky, some straightforward, all worth while. The best of all was from a young person wanting to get more young people involved in the democratic decision making processes in this area! Hallelujah!! While there are people like that around there's hope for the world.

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