Category Archives: Christmas

Wisbech Christmas Light Switch On 2017

Wisbech Christmas Light Switch On 2017

Christmas Diary Part 1

Christmas Diary Part 1

The first week of December marks the beginning of what, for many of us, is the most frantic month of the year.  Loads of Christmas things to do, but the normal day-to-day work doesn’t conveniently take a pause and so we often find ourselves overloaded.  I’m no different to most, so as the new Month rolled in I knew it was going to be hectic.

On Monday I was at work here in Wisbech, and in the evening I had a NECCA Officer’s Meeting to attend (something of an eye-opener, that one.)  Tuesday I was in Hertfordshire at my factory there, and in the evening I was at the Newton & Tydd Conservatives Christmas Meeting (and very pleasant it was too, as we have snacks and drinks alongside the regular business.)

On Wednesday I had several conflicting duties to attend and it was a challenge to decide which were more urgent than which.  The evening featured several visits to see constituents who had issues they needed help with in both Medworth and Peckover.

Thursday I had to travel to Kings Lynn for two meetings there as part of a project I’m working on (more about that in the New Year) but I did get the evening off to spend some time with the family and the only early night of the week.

Friday I spent the day working on the accounts of two of my businesses and chasing up debts, but had to rush off in the late afternoon to attend a meeting in March of the 20Twenty Productions group (with whom I am a trustee.)  I drove immediately from that to the Alexandra Road Conservative Club where I was the quizmaster for a Fundraising Christmas Quiz with supper and drinks.  That was a great evening and a big “Thank you!” to all the people who came along, participated, and made it such fun.  Commiserations to the Farmer Team – who almost always win quizzes but who were pipped at the post (literally on a tie breaker point) by the Brunton Collective.

On Saturday I had business as a DJ; first at a Child’s birthday party, then straight on to run the disco for the Newton Village Free Family Disco.  No rest for the wicked Tory because I was then straight on again to the King’s Head for my final gig there of the year – good turnouts at all the events and I enjoyed them though I was shattered by the time I finally got home.

I was up early this morning to get some household chores done and try and finish my December Councillor’s newsletter – which I hope to put out next week.  This afternoon I was invited to attend a Carol Service at St. Augustine’s Church on Lynn Road.  It was a lovely event, well attended and supported.  It has a beautiful atmosphere in that particular church, even more so on a dark December afternoon with dozens of Christmas Trees all around (they have a Christmas Tree Festival ongoing) and glitting Christmas Lights.  I enjoyed it very much and would like to thank Julie Mills who invited me.

This evening I have a meeting with a Town Councillor who shall not be named.  Yet.  The meeting is to finalise some paperwork.  There may be a surprise coming.  :)

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Light Extravaganza

Christmas Light Extravaganza

The Christmas Light Extravaganza had a lot of hype to live up to.  From the soundings on the street and on Facebook it did just that.  A truly phenomenal event, latest estimates have the crowd at three thousand strong – by far the largest ever for a Wisbech Christmas Lights event.  The atmosphere was really very special – older people and younger people, English people and Eastern Europeans, families and couples and individuals in a sea of excitement, good will and merriment.  If you weren’t there, then I’m sorry for you – because it was Wisbech at its truly finest.

We should remember that none of this happens on it’s own.  It takes a team of amazing volunteers and dedicated local people who put in many hours of very hard work.  It’s impossible to name them all but we must not forget Cllr Samantha Hoy (Chairman of the Festivals Committee), Cllr David Oliver, Cllr Jessica Oliver and Barbara Oliver (the Oliver Family are priceless and are behind the scenes on so much good that happens in town), Jonathan and Susanah Farmer, Angie from Tinfish who volunteered so much of her own time, money and resources (the Town has no greater supporter), Cllr Sam Clark who was around all day to help, the amazing team of stewards who sold tickets enthusiastically and handed out mince pies cheerily and helped lost children find their parents throughout the afternoon.  The Frozen Princesses and their entourage, who were like rock stars today.  The entire Tanfield family.  Aigars Balsevics (Landlord of The Angel, the Kings Head and The Three Tuns) and his team of Eastern European muscle men, who lifted and moved and leapt to help any time anything needed doing as though energy were something they had bottomless resources of.   David Gutteridge (aka The Viking) who single-handedly sold nearly 200 draw tickets before the event even began and who worked like a trooper all day.  Terry Jordan (Town Clerk) who provided such boundless good spirit and enthusiasm from dawn ’til dusk.   Cllr Stevo Brunton – who is always there to nurse wounds and treat injuries, should they occur.  The Lions who provided help, organisation and – Santa!  The Globe, Costa Coffee, Loafers and the other businesses who extended their opening hours and who decorated to add their own cheer to the town.  Particularly to Cats Pajamas and the lovely ladies who run it – who were part of the Festivals Committee and gave selflessly of their time and resources to help the event succeed.  I’m sure i’ve forgotten some people, but it wasn’t deliberate.  There are just so many great people.  The Mayor and Mayoress who brought joy to the Festival, the wonderful performers who shone on the stage, the pantomime people, Cllr Reg Mee and his excellent band, the sound and light crew, the electricians who installed all the light fixtures in such a short space of time, and the many Town Councillors who turned out to work with us today.  This town has such a great team.

But, as ever, the real thanks go to the people of Wisbech and district.  Who may occasionally be grumpy and may occasionally be demanding and are quite often cynical – but who never miss a chance like this to provide energy, enthusiasm and spirits bright enough to light up the dark Fen landscape, long may they continue to do so.  This is why this town is so very awesome.  Thank you all.  Merry Christmas!

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View of the stage.

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Another one.

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The Christmas tree.  Cool, huh? :)

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Massive Crowds.

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More massive crowds.

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The funfair area.

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A legendary mythical creature.  The Jamie Edwards.

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The Viking and Cllr Stephen Brunton

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Tanfields and friends.

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More Tanfields.  Cllr Michelle and Richard.

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Cllr Sam Hoy and Cllr Sam Clark.

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Aigars Balsevics, purveyor of mulled wine and strong volunteers.

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Happy people.

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Cllr Sam Hoy and Angie from Tinfish.

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More Happy People.

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Even More Happy People.

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Even More Happy People.

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Even More Happy People.

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Even More Happy People.

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Even More Happy People.

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Even More Happy People.

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Cllr Sam Clark, the Mayor and Mayoress, the wonderful Sandra Skinner.

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Some colourful characters, with me.  :)

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Sam Hoy & the Frozen Princesses.  Dreams can come true. :)

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More happy people, of which I am one.

It’s That Time Again

It’s That Time Again

I’ve not blogged for a few days because it’s been one of those crazy busy weeks.  I’m busy on almost all fronts.  Work is hectic, my new enterprises are also quite demanding at the moment, I’ve got lots of Councillor casework to get my teeth into and this is the time of year when there are lots of events to attend also.

This week I’ve been all over the place what with a trip to London and another to Hertfordshire, helping Steve Barclay deliver surveys to my District Ward and trying to resolve some tricky problems in both Medworth and Peckover.

On Friday night I was in my old stomping grounds, Roman Bank, Gorefield to be specific – as the quizmaster for a fundraising quiz in support of the Fenrats.  It was nice to see all my old friends again and we had a giggle.  On Saturday evening I was at another fundraiser – also in Roman Bank – this time Newton.  A different bunch of old pals but just as enjoyable a time.

Of course tomorrow is the “big day” since it’s the Christmas Light Switch On in Wisbech.  I’ll be out from dawn ’til dusk, lugging stuff around, being a steward, putting stuff away, and helping make sure the event runs smoothly and hopefully successfully.  I’m excited about the new lights, which I haven’t seen “on” yet but which look promising in their “off” state.  Given that this is only Phase 1, it still looks like we’re going to get a significantly improved show.  It feels a little like a “legacy” – mostly because the opposition and their friends in the local press tried so hard to stop it happening but the people of Wisbech absolutely did not agree with them.  In the end, the vote was clear, the policy rushed forwards and goodness I hope it all works out well!  No doubt there will still be some folk who aren’t happy – there always is.  But we listened, to asked and we actioned.  What more can you do?

Christmas is just about here.  Have a very very merry one!  It’s that time again. :)

 

CIL Seminar & Other Stuff

CIL Seminar

I attended a Member’s Seminar today at Fenland District Council, which covered details of the new Community Infrastructure Levy, or CIL for short, which can replace the old Section 106 funds.  If this sounds bureaucratic and wordy, that’s because it is!  Both are ways that developers who build on land in an area can be asked to put some of their profits towards infrastructure for the local area.  Both handle the matter differently to one another.

I won’t go into the details here – they aren’t exciting unless you are a developer, a Councillor, or a Planning Buff.  Suffice to say the gist of the meeting seemed to be Officers telling Councillors why they didn’t much want to “opt in” to the new CIL method.  Their arguments seemed fairly sound – more bureaucratic, expensive to implement, unlikely to raise much more money.  But I still think it needs some consideration, as there are also areas which are quite interesting.  Namely that a quarter of the funds go directly to Town & Parish Councils.  District Councils don’t seem to get a lot (which probably explains some of the reluctance.)

I don’t personally have a view on where the money might be best spent.  There are great Parish and Town Councils, and ones that are not so great.  Same with District Councils.  But if the new CIL is genuinely so expensive to implement and run, somebody needs to tell Parliament.  New systems should be simpler and easier, in my view.

I will be reading a little more about CIL versus Section 106 before I make my mind up.  Not that I don’t trust the word of Officers, but Councillors aren’t elected to just take things on blind faith.

Other Stuff

  • I heard a rumour that was simultaneously juicy and worrying, which relates directly to local UKIP representation at County Council.  I want to check the details before I write about it, but if it turns out to be accurate then it’s a big deal and people need to know.  More on that soon, if it resolves into anything tangible.
  • Got caught up in the debate about Estover – the large patch of park and open lands in March that has controversially been faced with potential building applications.  It rather seems to me that a few people are using the issue as a vehicle to pursue their own political ambitions and, in some cases, vendettas.  Which is a perfect way to muddy the water and damage a potentially important campaign.
  • Over in Wisbech I have washed my hands of trying to work with a certain Independent Councillor on the issue of local Taxi Drivers.  In my opinion, the man is just too opportunistic and untrustworthy.  We’d come up with a pretty solid plan to resolve some of the issues, but he didn’t bother coming back to me and the only thing I heard from him was a bunch of nonsense about Christmas Lights.  He has announced that he has been talking to Council Officers and has “sorted the problems out and things are moving forwards.”  When pressed for details about when he had done this “sorting out”, with whom and what the details and timescale were – there came no reply.  So your guess, dear reader, is as good as mine.
  • We (those Members of the Wisbech Town Council working on the Christmas Lights Project) hope to have the Christmas Lights Question put to the public next week, with a voting deadline of the following week.  The question will hopefully be a simple one.  We would like to do X, X and X, and it will cost £X which will be paid for from the Town Council’s reserves and then followed by fundraising to try and recoup some or all of the funds over the next couple of years.  People will be able to say “Yes” to that, or “No.”  If they say “No” it won’t mean we will never upgrade the Christmas Lights, only that we’ll have to do it more slowly and raise the money in a different way.  Or ask again some other time.  If they say “yes” then we’ll *try* and do it this year.  If we don’t have time – which is quite possible given the date – then we’ll look to put the new lights in place for next year.  Either way, in the end, the choice is down to those people of Wisbech who bother to respond to the question put to them.  What they say, the majority of them, is what we’ll do.

Christmas Lights Debate

Christmas Lights Debate

The other evening I had a chat with local newspaper Editor John Elworthy and pointed out to him that the Independent Groups claims about the Christmas Lights were all a bunch of nonsense.  He said they were not and he knew this because he had “read my blog” and it provided all the evidence.  I said I was sure this was not the case.  I couldn’t remember every word I had written months ago but I couldn’t imagine I would write something I knew not to be true.  Well, the blog post I wrote back in May can be found here and, as I thought, it is perfectly clear in what it said.  Now it’s fair to say that I didn’t write it in the expectation that a team of determined opposition people would pore over it trying to make it fit their narrative, but simply to give information as I always do.  But even so, his and their argument does not stand up.

My blog post written back in May:

My motion to Wisbech Town Council tonight was unanimously approved.  It took quite a bit of debate to get there and I had to reword the motion several times in order to meet everybody’s approval, but we got there in the end.

The motion was to ring fence £30,000 of the Council’s Reserves for spending on Christmas Lights – hopefully this year if time permits.  However, this would not happen automatically.  A Working Group would be set up from the Festivals Committee, with Councillors and some members of the public welcome to join in.  The Working Group would look at designs and costings over the next few weeks.

In six to eight weeks time the Working Group would look to put up a solid, costed proposal for how £30,000 might be spent and to then hold a public consultation on whether the proposed new lights were worth £30,000 and whether the Public supported this spend.

The Working Group would propose the exact method of this consultation, but it was suggested that the local newspapers would be a good place to start.

If the Public indicated their majority approval of the plan then it was hoped that the lights could be purchased this year and implemented at Christmas 2014.  It must be said that there are many variables at work here and nothing is guaranteed – but that’s certainly our keen aspiration if the public are supportive.

This whole plan would run alongside a continuous public fundraising campaign – with local individuals, groups and businesses encouraged to put money in the pot to help the Christmas Lights Project.  If there was indeed support for the plan, we’d hope to try all sorts of innovative community fundraising ideas.  Monies raised would replace the money spent from the reserves where possible and if enough was raised might even go beyond that.

So let’s examine their claims.  First, they claim that the original idea was to hold a consultation immediately, and before we had a plan and/or a quote.  Well you can see this is not true.

In six to eight weeks time the Working Group would look to put up a solid, costed proposal for how £30,000 might be spent and to then hold a public consultation on whether the proposed new lights were worth £30,000 and whether the Public supported this spend.

As you can see, there is no doubt that the public consultation was ALWAYS set to happen after the proposal had been put together and fully costed.  It says it quite plainly in the passage above (the highlighted underline is my addition for clarity.)  You could not possibly hold a consultation on whether the proposed new lights were worth £30,000 if you did not know what the proposed new lights were, now could you?  Which is why the word THEN is used.

Now it is fair to say that back in May we hoped this would happen in six to eight weeks.  But we could not be aware of how difficult it would be to get suppliers to meet with us, and to supply quotes.  We also did now know how difficult it would prove – over the Summer – to get people to make meetings with the Working Party and with the suppliers while many were on their holidays and the like.  However, we did anticipate that things might not go smoothly, hence the line in my May blog post:

It must be said that there are many variables at work here and nothing is guaranteed – but that’s certainly our keen aspiration if the public are supportive.

We are, none of us, lighting experts, electricians and the like.  So we did our best, and things proved to take a bit longer than we’d hoped.  Perhaps the Opposition Members think it is clever to criticise volunteers trying to put together a plan – but I notice none of them volunteered to help.

The final claim made is that we are trying to “rush through” the plans or “bully the Council” in some way.  The only sliver of truth to this is that I would, personally, like to rush the consultation a little, yes.  Because I’d really like to make this happen for Christmas 2014.  Time is now very short, and there probably isn’t time to do it this year, but I cannot say where the harm is in trying to do so, if the people of Wisbech approve of the idea.   Which, so far, it rather seems the majority do.

What I think the Independent Group really hate is that we’ve listened to the Public, we’ve put together a plan, and it’s proving quite popular.  I believe this is because they have their eye on the elections next year.  If so, I think it’s pretty sad.  We have the chance here to do something great for the Town.  It may be that none of us are still here this time next year – perhaps the Town Council will be dominated by a bunch of crazy racists who want to paint everything red and white and blame all their failings on people who are different to them?   Anything is possible.  Wouldn’t it be nice, if the people of the Town approve, to just do this?  I think it would.  But my opinion doesn’t matter.  Your opinion, dear reader, is the one that matters.

 

Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights

My motion to Wisbech Town Council tonight was unanimously approved.  It took quite a bit of debate to get there and I had to reword the motion several times in order to meet everybody’s approval, but we got there in the end.

The motion was to ring fence £30,000 of the Council’s Reserves for spending on Christmas Lights – hopefully this year if time permits.  However, this would not happen automatically.  A Working Group would be set up from the Festivals Committee, with Councillors and some members of the public welcome to join in.  The Working Group would look at designs and costings over the next few weeks.

In six to eight weeks time the Working Group would look to put up a solid, costed proposal for how £30,000 might be spent and to then hold a public consultation on whether the proposed new lights were worth £30,000 and whether the Public supported this spend.

The Working Group would propose the exact method of this consultation, but it was suggested that the local newspapers would be a good place to start.

If the Public indicated their majority approval of the plan then it was hoped that the lights could be purchased this year and implemented at Christmas 2014.  It must be said that there are many variables at work here and nothing is guaranteed – but that’s certainly our keen aspiration if the public are supportive.

This whole plan would run alongside a continuous public fundraising campaign – with local individuals, groups and businesses encouraged to put money in the pot to help the Christmas Lights Project.  If there was indeed support for the plan, we’d hope to try all sorts of innovative community fundraising ideas.  Monies raised would replace the money spent from the reserves where possible and if enough was raised might even go beyond that.

Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights

There’s no need for me to write much about the triumphant Wisbech Christmas Lights Switch On event, since the news about it is everywhere.  And for the first time ever there don’t appear to be any naysayers!

It was a stonking great event, full of excitement and fun.  Fifteen hundred or so people turned out to pack the market square from wall to wall.  To say it was rammed would be an understatement, but everybody was in a fine festive mood and the crowd seemed to have a brilliant time.

Such a lot of people came and joined in.  I saw Dean Reeves and his Wisbech Labour crew (including Cllr. Reg Mee and his band, of course), the We Are Wisbech Folk, virtually  every Conservative in the town, various Wisbech Oh Dear! contributors, Newton and Leverington and Tydd St. Giles Parish Councillors, Aigers (the landlord of the Angel) with a huge team of Eastern European volunteers (darn those Eastern Europeans, coming over here and helping us run our festivals!) and dozens of voluntary and charity group members.  Not to mention hundreds of Wisbech families and their excited (and well behaved!) children.  And let’s not forget all the schools whose pupils performed on the stage and did them (and the town) proud with their talent and enthusiasm.

I have to admit to being quite nervous that my little panto was going to be performed.  I know that if it hadn’t worked then I’d never have heard the end of it.  So when I heard the kids all joining in, people laughing at the Christmas Cracker jokes and could feel the excitement building it was a great relief.  It worked.  (Thank you Snow White Panto people, for delivering it so well.  And thank you Mr Bear, for being such a great MC.)

The Festivals Committee have delivered another successful event for the town.  The committee included Wisbech Town Councillors (and their families), Angie and the Tinfish company team, the Lions and a bunch of other dedicated volunteers.  Local businesses including all the supermarkets chipped in to help.  Many hours of work and discussion paid off with an event to remember.  Particular note should go to Angie (Tinfish), the Mayor Cllr. Samantha Hoy, the Deputy Clerk Susannah Farmer and the Town Council leader Cllr. David Oliver and his daughter.  These people led the rest of us humble volunteers and without them this event would not have happened.  That said, without the rest of the team and indeed the mighty crowd it wouldn’t have happened either. Let’s call it a team effort and all be proud!

As ever, there were some people who did nothing at all and couldn’t be bothered to turn up to help.  People who are happy to run the town and the council down whenever they can, but have no interest in doing any work to make it better.  They were the same people they always are and I won’t name them again.  Not least because they’ll probably report me to the Standards Committee if I do.  Never mind that, as ever, it’s true.  They aren’t Conservatives or Labour, I’ll say that much.  You Know Who They Are.

Merry Christmas!

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