Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Licensing application for Eagle Service Station continues to provoke comment and activity.  The agents for the applicant have written to people who made representations telling us that we've been given some misleading information but not telling us what.  There is now to be a drop in session apparently tomorrow evening to enable people to ask questions and make suggestions.  I've only found out from another resident - they might have rung me but they didn't leave a message.  So much for community consultation.

I have still not heard anyone in favour of granting this licence but we must see what the Licensing committee do.
Meanwhile this morning was all about Parish council work.  First of all Memorial Garden to decide on the position for the new flagpole to be erected in time for Armed Forces Week.  Then over to Amberley Way to discuss with the artist, an engineer and our link man and expert on all things to do with play equipment the best position for the play sculpture to be constructed.  That play area is such a success, it's just wonderful to see the children enjoying what they helped to design. The final stop was Kingsmead to look at some possibilities there for improving the play offer.  Some really imaginative thinking from SBC officers means it might be possible to have a huge improvement for relatively little money.  We shall see.
Later came the confirmation of the change of ownership of the shop in Station Rd.  Later this month it will cease to trade as Mills and reopen a week or two later as a Tesco One stop.  The inexorable rise of the supermarket chain!
Finally, a word for Mr or Mrs Anonymous who'd like something doing about cars & vans parking in cycle lanes.  We do try - we regularly report vehicles to the police and to parking enforcement officers.  If there's a particular stretch of cycle way or pavement that you have in mind please do email me and let me know the details.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A New Mayor, Leader and Cabinet

Two and a half weeks after the election comes the Annual Meeting of Stockton Council.  There have been discussions galore over the intervening time, ranging from whether this or that coalition can be sustainable to who should represent Stockton Council on community bodies in the borough.  Most things were agreed before the meeting and needed to be confirmed today but there were some on which agreement hadn't been reached so there were votes to be taken.
Now Stockton Council has a new leader, Cllr Bob Cook, who appointed his Cabinet of Labour and IBIS members and took the opportunity of that majority to ensure that scrutiny will probably not be as effective as in recent years by putting Labour chairs of most committees in charge of challenging Labour cabinet members and allocating positions to some who were only elected a fortnight ago and have yet to experience scrutiny in Stockton Council. 
Outside of party politics we had the installation of the new mayor.  Colin Leckonby retired after a very busy year in which he became probably the first mayor of anywhere in the UK to compete in a River Rat Race.  His successor is Paul Baker who represents Newtown ward.  Speeches were made, flowers were presented and kind words were said all round.  A buffet lunch provided by Tees Cuisine gave the opportunity to mingle and meet some of the new councillors, as well as to congratulate the new mayor.  And all a lot more economically and conveniently than the venues that were originally suggested.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Why does Great-aunt sound older than Granny to my ears?  Having become Granny for the first time almost five and a half years ago I suddenly feel a lot older this month, having gained 2 great-neices and a great-nephew in the space of a fortnight.  I've only seen photos so far as the two girls are in America and the boy is only a day old, but they all look beautiful.
Such family matters are a welcome distraction from politics and I'm enjoying them to the full.  I shall be back into the thick of things soon enough, with the Annual Meeting of Stockton Council on Wednesday and some positions still unresolved.  Meanwhile the nitty gritty work of the ward goes on.  A further part of Aislaby Rd is to be resurfaced later in the summer, good news for those who have to travel along it every day.
The issue of HGVs parking on the pavement while waiting to offload at shops is being looked into, and there are more discussions to be had on Witham House.  So life goes on!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Witham House

Many residents were disappointed when Witham House closed after being transferred to Erimus from Stockton Council.  At the time that the transfer was decided on the hope we cherished was that it would be rebuilt to give Eaglescliffe much needed affordable housing for older people who need a bit more support than they have in their house but don't want to move away from friends and family.  Sadly, as time has passed, that hope has been worn away and today it was almost completely dashed. 
Erimus organised a community consultation afternoon with "indicative layouts" on display, but no sizes shown.  If Erimus has its way most of the apartments will be for sale, at the market rate for 2 bedroomed flats in Eaglescliffe; there will be no support on site for residents so anyone wanting that kind of sheltered housing will need to move elsewhere; the building and its car park cover almost all the available site and so there is no garden, nowhere to take a little stroll in the fresh air, nowhere to sit out and watch the world go by.  Even the outside of the building is uninspiring.
Apparently some of the residents who left Witham House have been to look at the plans and expressed an interest in returning to rent one of the available rented flats.  I hope that if they succeed it turns out to be what they need. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Power Sharing

The long week of cross-party discussions in Stockton has ended in a coalition of Labour and Ingleby Barwick Independents.  Every party has been involved in conversations, trying to find agreement on the way forward for the borough.  For the Liberal Democrats it was important to find common ground on at least some of the issues facing us other than the big things we all agree on - keeping the borough safe, clean, well educated etc.  We were keen to ensure that the opportunities offered by the Localism Bill are embraced when the time comes, to get Fairtrade back onto the agenda because being a Fairtrade Borough isn't a certificate that's awarded and then nothing more needs to be done. 
We have no idea how the new cabinet will function nor how the efficiency reviews will work out but we will work as always to try to ensure that the borough comes through the recession and the cuts in the best possible shape for everyone.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lords Reform or ....?

I've been involved in local politics for long enough to know that most people don't care about the detail of the party manifesto or the underlying philosophy of a particular party.  They do care about whether the place they live is a pleasant place or not - whether the roads are swept or the grass cut, whether the schools do a good job of educating their children, whether there are places for people to go in their leisure time, places to receive medical treatment when needed and police to prevent crime and catch criminals when needed and places to work.
So this evening I ask myself why the party seems to be placing so much emphasis on Parliamentary reform.  Having a reformed House of Lords is an aspiration, but should it be a priority in this Parliament?  Isn't it more important to ensure that necessary reform to the NHS isn't an excuse for almost destroying it? Or to make sure that necessary reform to the benefit system doesn't hit the vulnerable people who can't live without that support?  Or to fight tooth and nail for the green heart to our policies that we've always held dear?  Why is the Green Investment Bank not able to start lending now?  Why are licenses being granted for exploration for shale gas? Why is the country stumbling towards a reliance on nuclear power without making the effort to find alternative renewable sources of energy? 
For this voter at least, these are more important questions than the reform of the House of Lords which has stalled for decades and won't hurt the country irrevocably if it stalls for another handful of years.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Do we need another off licence?

As many residents will know there is an application currently with Stockton Council for a 24 hour a day licence to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises for the former MPG garage at 502 Yarm Rd.  62 representations have been received from concerned residents, none of them in support of the application.  The grounds for objection centre on the lack of need for such sales in a quiet residential area; the probability of increased problems related to the Park on the doorstep which cannot be closed overnight owing to the number of gaps in hedges, fences that can be scaled, footpaths leading into it and the right of way running through it and the probability of noise and litter nuisance.
I sincerely hope that the Licensing committee refuses this one - there may be places to have an overnight alcohol licence but it certainly isn't on a quiet stretch of Yarm Rd.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Stop please!

Fascinating though it has been to read the conversation which went on under comments on my last post I think the time has come to call a halt.  I don't generally block comments from people because I believe that as a politician I need to hear what's being said around the ward.  However, I do get tired of people who don't give a name. If there's a genuine complaint about somewhere or something then please email and let me know the details so that I can take it up with the relevant authorities.

Having your words taken literally or out of context goes with the job, but thanks to those who have written supportively.
For the record today's problems have revolved round empty houses which are left to go derelict and cause problems for the neighbours, HGV drivers ignoring the weight restriction on Urlay Nook Rd, grass being ruined by vehicles being parked on it or driven over it.  Not one of them has been solved but people have been contacted and action is being taken.  All in a day's work.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

A week is a very long time

The election is over and the referendum is finished.  For better or for worse the electorate has spoken and we live with the decisions.
Watching the count yesterday I was struck by how many people ranked their choice of candidates 1,2,3 and wondered if it was a statement about their approval of AV or because they thought that if they voted Yes in the referendum they had to put it into practice.  I shall never know of course.
On a personal level I'm very sorry that Lesley Lewis wasn't elected to replace John Fletcher.  She'd have been a real asset on the council.  At the same time I'm surprised and honoured to have topped the poll for the Parish council as well as being re-elected to the Borough council.  It places a huge responsibility on me to do my very best for the residents over the next 4 years. 
The referendum result was a disappointment but not a surprise.  There hadn't been a particularly good national campaign to explain the proposal and also it wasn't the best system that could have been offered, but it was offered and rejected so we are stuck with the even less good system of first past the post.  That's democracy.
Tomorrow is a day of rest and then on Monday the new councillors take office and the work carries on. There are potholes to mend, litter to be swept and meetings to be arranged.
And in between all the important things there are decisions to be made about who should be the council leader and who should fill cabinet positions, committee chairs and the like.  All to be decided by the Annual Meeting on 25th May.