Time Out

Time Out

I’m going to take some time off of my blog.

When a newspaper Editor like John Elworthy decides to attack you relentlessly there’s really nothing you can do about it.

You are powerless to do anything but watch the character assassination take place.

People believe the horrible stuff that the newspaper prints even when it is a pack of lies.

I’ve always had thick skin, but there’s a limit to what anybody can deal with.

I think its best if I take some time out as its really getting me down and its also affecting my family.

.. And So It Begins…

.. And So It Begins…

So apparently, the intention of the collected opposition is to try and “brand me” with a new unpleasant nickname :)

A fairly standard tactic of cheap opposition is this “isolate and target” of one individual. It serves three purposes. To try and make them feel isolated. To try and demoralise them. And to try and repeat a name often enough that people not involved “believe” it.

This is not the first time they have tried this. In the past, I just “owned” the stuff they were saying.

So, if you live locally, expect to see the Usual Suspects using the same (broadly false) phrases in letters to the newspaper (which will be immediately and uncritically printed, of course), in social media and in person.

I don’t know if its just me that has the honour of being the target, or if they will try the same thing with others. Either way, it’s going to be a … um … colourful few months.

Yours Sincerely,

“Mr Nasty” (apparently) :)

St Peters Car Park : Update

St Peters Car Park : Update

I said earlier that I would publish the written response I got from the Officer at FDC regarding St. Peter’s Car Park. I have now received it and I am publishing it (below). I have removed some bits for confidentiality and made some minor changes for clarity, but this is otherwise exactly what I received.

Dear Councillor,

It was good to speak with you earlier and I apologise for not contacting you in regards to the work in advance of it taking place.

The changes within Church Terrace Car Park are being undertaken in part as routine maintenance and in part as minor improvement works to remove some of the kerbed island obstructions that have prevented the car park layout from being reconfigured into the intended layout that was designed
back in 2002 and to which the then new street lights were positioned.

Additionally there are a couple of trees that have already been removed or are planned to be removed which were identified as either diseased or non thriving from a recent Picus survey.

The kerbed islands and some small areas containing shrubs and bedding plants which were funded by FDC for the In Bloom scheme are being removed so that we can facilitate the 2002 layout. Ultimately this will improve the operational flow and safety
of the car park whilst creating some additional parking bays.

Not all the works will be undertaken this year as we do not have any Capital funding for the scheme and as such we intend to only carry out small aspects of the works over the next two years. What we are aspiring to do this year is remove the small central islands, undertake patching repair works and then reline the main body of the car park.

The planting areas and perimeter trees will all remain as will the large tree island opposite St Rapheal’s Club along with the island opposite the FDC toilets.

The large island in the middle with the temp informal footpath will remain but will need to have some kerb line amendments undertaken to make the island more square in shape.

Once the car park has been reconfigured there will be some triangular areas which will not be suitable for parking. These can be looked at with a view to reinstating some raised planted or bedding areas.

I hope this provides you with a sufficient overview, however should you need any further information, please contact me or feel free to pop into our offices.

In regards to St Peters Car Park

In regards to St Peters Car Park

I had no idea the work was happening as the Ward Councillor. Nor did any other Town Councillor to the best of my knowledge. I was as surprised as everybody else.

This morning I have phoned the Officer in charge of the work and spent much time on phone to him getting the information as to what is going on.

I will try and explain what is happening as per what I have been told. I am as frustrated by it as everybody else.

What I have been told:

I am told that this work dates back to a 2002 plan which was agreed and then could not continue because the funding dried up. The Officer have been doing bits and pieces of the work ever since whenever some funding became available.

I am told that this was was considered basically routine maintenance and that is why they did not notify Town Council or any of the Councillors in Town. They did, however, notify the In Bloom volunteers, they say. I am also told that the flowers/plants planted by Street Pride were funding by the office doing the work originally, that all the plants with some worth have been safely removed and can be replanted. Trees that are being removed have been identified by a professional survey as requiring removal as they are sick, or “not thriving.”

I am told that the removal of the bays has been on the cards since 2002 and that it is part of a complete redesign of the layout and markings which will improve the car park and make many more spaces available as the space and layout is currently not optimal. The work also includes relining and resurfacing sections of the car park as part of this.

I am also told that the Officers are very surprised that there has been an outcry over this as they considered it routine work and that they felt that had let the In Bloom team know in good time and also explained to them that the plants would be removed and replanted.

Finally, I am told that the intention is to make new flower bed areas once the work is finished – putting them in the places where the cars cannot park in the new layout.

What I have said:

I have explained that I am very unhappy about not having been notified of this work as the local Ward Councillor and I am sure my other Councillor colleagues feel the same. Had we known in advance we could have warned that they had misunderstood the feelings of local people. We could also have helped them negotiate a plan that would not upset our local volunteers who have spent so much time working on making the car park look nicer.

I have asked the Officer to put everything he has said to me in writing, and when I receive that I will share it with you all.

I did write to the Officers last night asking them to hold off any work until we had time to look at what was going on. Unfortunately, most of the work was done very quickly and those islands are already flattened and bare – ready for their completely removal. The Officer has informed me that none of the larger islands around the edge of the Car Park are being removed, although a piece is to be “cut off” of the edge of the one in the middle which splits the car park in two.

It is very frustrating that this has happened without me being given any notice whatsoever. At a bare minimum I should have been notified long in advance, and in my opinion so should the rest of Town Council. We were not. I cannot turn back the clock, but I will be making it very clear that this is unacceptable and must never, ever happen again. I will write to the Cabinet Member at FDC in the strongest terms, and also raise this as an issue at Wisbech Town Council.

I feel very sorry for the hard-working volunteers who have spent so much time trying to make the car park look nicer. They are true champions of the town and it is, in my opinion, unfair that this has happened in this way. But it appears to boil down to a misunderstanding by Officers as to the level of upset it would cause – one which I have endeavoured to put them straight about.

I am as unhappy as anybody – I live near the car park and use it every day. I liked the islands of green too. But the Car Park *does* need relining and surface work. I just wish they’d considered the possible consequences of the action rather than relying on an old plan without any consultation.

In Regards To Wisbech Castle

In Regards To Wisbech Castle

Some people are talking about Wisbech Castle and its future.  I’m not involved with the team making the Business Plan on behalf of the Town Council, but since some people are putting around misinformation, this is my position:

At the moment this is a County Council issue and it is County Council who are making these calls. I am not a County Councillor.  So right now, I have little say in it.  At some point a proposal will be made and I may need to vote.

If the suggestion is that Wisbech Town Council take the Castle on then I’d be looking for a very convincing business plan to cover how it would be paid for and what it would be used for.

If that plan involved a high level of subsidy by the taxpayer then id want to ask the people of the town for their approval.. as we did with the Christmas Lights and keeping the street lights switched on.

I dont think this is an unreasonable position and would support any sensible costed plan.

I have every faith in the people looking at a possible business plan.  If a viable one can be found, they will find it.  If it cannot, there are still other options.

Observations On Landlord Licensing and the Tenant Tax

Observations On Landlord Licensing and the Tenant Tax

A year ago, the Conservative grassroots website ConservativeHome published an interested piece about how Labour Councils are introducing Landlord Licensing schemes and why this is a sad state of affairs.

The article is worth a read and can be found here:

Labour councils are bringing in a Tenants Tax – while failing to tackle rogue landlords

Labour-controlled Croydon Council had a go at it back in 2015/16

http://www.croydonadvertiser.co.uk/plan-charge-fee-landlords-faces-challenge/story-26820053-detail/story.html

Croydon’s Landlords and Tenants had a champion though in Cllr. Mario Creatura, who worked with his Conservative colleagues to oppose the Tenants Tax introduction and even used his maiden speech to challenge them.  It’s here:

http://croydonconservatives.com/teams_blog.asp?WardID=27&BlogID=869

Croydon’s Labour-controlled Council ignored the Conservative opposition and introduced it anyway, to the great cost of Landlords and Tenants.  Conservative Councillor Alison Butler continues to ask them very difficult questions about the scheme’s activities, here:

http://www.croydonconservatives.com/teams_blog.asp?BlogID=1878&WardID=27

Labour-controlled Enfield Council didn’t manage to fleece their Tenants and Landlords though.  They were strongly opposed by the Conservative opposition group, including valiant defender Cllr Terry Neville.  But it was the Landlords who defeated them in the end, through a judicial review.  The courts overturned the Landlord Licensing, which failed to prove a causal and direct link between private tenants and high levels of antisocial behaviour in a limited geographical area.  Story is here:

Council forced to cancel licensing scheme debate after legal challenge

That turned out to be quite expensive for the Council, who had pushed ahead with the scheme despite failing to meet many of the criteria and who ended up footing the expensive legal bill and being embarrassed as they had to cancel the scheme entirely.

The issue has proved contentious in Weston-Super-Mare too where Landlords have banded together to challenge the policy.

https://www.landlordtoday.co.uk/breaking-news/2016/7/landlords-oppose-licensing-scheme

Milton Keynes faced such stiff opposition that it completely gave up its own plans to introduce Landlord Licensing.

http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/news/city-scraps-landlord-licensing

Labour-controlled Liverpool City Council couldn’t wait to implement Landlord Licensing, of course.  It’s not worked out particularly well for them and they continue to face criticism for the poor system.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/council-under-fire-over-landlord-10826762

Liverpool Landlord Licensing is deeper in the mire

The Labour Party have always been a party that thinks piling regulations and fees up will solve issues.  But not everybody on the Left agrees.  Here’s an interesting article in the New Statesman, of all places!

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/04/private-landlords-dont-need-more-regulation

Then Conservative Housing Minister Brandon Lewis had strong words about the Landlord Licensing:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ending-the-tenant-tax-to-help-tackle-rogue-landlords

“Housing Minister Brandon Lewis pledged to end the “tenants’ tax” that pushes up rents and imposes unnecessary red tape on decent landlords.”

Here’s an article in the Guardian (yes!  I know!) making the point that Landlord Licensing will hinder, rather than help, Councils tackle rogue Landlords.  They say: “… an underfunded, ill-conceived scheme (that) will fail in its purpose and simply drive rogue landlords further underground.

https://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2012/jul/23/newham-council-rogue-landlords-licensing-scheme

What seems to confuse the proponents of Landlord Licensing is that it is just as strongly opposed by tenants as it is by Landlords.  But it shouldn’t confuse them.  There are plenty of tenants who know the basic rules of supply and demand.  Do they think them all economically illiterate?

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/tenants-fear-rent-rises-as-a-result-of-landlord-licensing/6528465.article

In Hastings, the Labour-controlled Borough Council introduced Landlord Licensing.  It was strongly opposed by the Conservative opposition and by the local Conservative MP, Amber Rudd.

Amber Rudd MP said: the officers failed to demonstrate why the proposed sum of £415 would be necessary. This would raise over £4million. The equivalent charge in Scotland is £11, after a one off registration. The opposition from landlords is not to the principle of the scheme but to the cost, which will be passed on to tenants and lead to higher rents.

http://www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/news/landlords-and-mp-challenge-council-s-licensing-scheme-1-6562591

While we are on the subject of Conservative MPs, back in Croydon Gavin Barwell MP had this to say:

Croydon Council is consulting on introducing a ‘Selective Licensing’ scheme for private rented accommodation. Despite the title, there’s nothing selective about it. Every private landlord in the borough would have to pay £200 a year to the Council for the privilege of renting out a property. If they don’t, they could be liable to a fine of up to £20,000.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out what will happen if this scheme goes ahead: landlords who make the payment will simply pass the cost on to their tenants. Lest I be accused of scaremongering, the Council admits this.

Quite damning, huh?

http://www.gavinbarwell.com/news_detail.asp?StoryID=120

The same argument is going on in Coventry, where commentators are well aware that the cost of this money-spinning wheeze will pass commonly onto the tenants.  The (you guessed it) Labour-led Council is gung ho for Landlord Licensing anyway.

http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/thousands-could-face-770-rent-11894307

You have to wonder if the “consultations” for all of these ill-considered schemes were the same:

How much antisocial behaviour to you think originates from Private Rented Accomodation?
(1)  All of it
(2)  Most of it
(3)  A very great deal of it
(4)  The Majority of it
(5)  Absolutely none at all.

The local debate continues…