Sunday, June 21, 2009
A Friday off (almost!)
A whirlwind morning which included driving for the first time for a month in order to fit everything in - public transport just wouldn't work for the timetable I had. Then packing, making sure the house was safely locked up, and I was off to the station for the train to Sheffield. I was going with others of the Lib Dem council group from Stockton to a conference organised mainly by councillors for councillors, so some real grass roots politics for a day. To make sure that the brain was working properly on Saturday we'd opted to go down early and enjoy a relaxing evening in this great city (especially so since it has a Lib Dem council of course).
I was down in Sheffield last autumn for the Fairtrade Campaigns day and was impressed then by the lovely water features with their imaginative use of steel on which so much of Sheffield's past greatness was founded. It was no different this time - still a stunning welcome to the city when leaving the station. Outside the hotel was the Peace Garden though it wasn't very peaceful on Friday afternoon with dozens of young people having great fun running through the water spouts. There were no objections as far as I could see - they were enjoying themselves without harming anyone else.
I went with Alan to look at the City Hall, a splendid building with marble interior. Talking to one of the civic officers it was obvious that there's great pride in the building and how it's used but a sense of disappointment that so many tall buildings are being allowed in the vicinity, dwarfing what they felt should be the most important building. I could see what he meant. The very hotel in which we were staying was one of the culprits.
The evening started with a welcome drink in the Winter Gardens, with a brief visit from the local MP who also happens to be leader of the Liberal Democrat party. He spoke with great enthusiasm about Sheffield and the way in which it's changing and improving with a Lib Dem council, about the need for such delegation of real power to people and the need for Fair Voting systems to allow real representation.
Follow that with a super meal and we were all ready to get on with the next day's agenda, renewed and refreshed.
And in case anyone is thinking otherwise - it was all paid for out of our own pockets - travel, accommodation and conference costs. No expenses claims here - it wouldn't be right to have such things funded out of the tax people pay for services.