Category Archives: Fenland District Council
The Socially Distant Blog Post
Writing this simply because I have some limited free time and thought I should update the blog.
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been working with Sam Hoy (and others) covering Wisbech and the surrounding villages (Leverington, Tydd St Giles, Elm, Friday Bridge and others) as volunteers with Fenland District Council. We are running errands, shopping and picking up medication for elderly and/or vulnerable individuals who have no other support and need urgent help during the Covid-19 Crisis.
Initially it was very hard work, as it was just Sam and I covering the entire Wisbech area on behalf of the FDC line. We managed to keep up, but it was a struggle on occasion as calls were literally flooding in. It was quite upsetting as some of these people were very frightened and in panic mode and some were absolutely desperate. The “normal” routes of care struggle when everybody is overwhelmed with fear and you lose huge swathes of your regular volunteers and carers to isolation and illness.
It was disappointing to see a local newspaper invent a completely false story and present a narrative that had little bearing on the truth. But I guess even in a pandemic a leopard doesn’t change its spots. It was also disappointing to see some opposition types looking to invent a story where one did not exist, but luckily that was quickly closed down by clear guidance from the very top in the virus response team at regional level.
Nevertheless, as the situation has progressed things have got better. More volunteers have come on board. The work done by other groups like 50 Backpacks and the Red Cross have been exceptional. County Council has been delivering emergency food packages to many vulnerable people too. All these different streams of help have been coming together and finding the best ways to support one another and work.
During all this i’ve had several jobs. As Portfolio holder for Communication at FDC i’ve been making sure lots of information is pushed out with regular press releases. I’m working directly with senior officers to do everything we can to make sure people have easy access to help when they need it and all the *accurate* information to help them. I’ve also been trying to encourage people to stay calm, The Covid 19 virus is a horrible one and it is certainly dangerous, particularly for the elderly and vulnerable People should follow Government guidance, stay safe and stay calm. Fear is also a killer, and this is obvious by what volunteers are seeing when they are out helping vulnerable people. Caution and care is vital, scaremongering is unhelpful. Getting the balance right is important.
Presently I am spending about 11 hours on most free days going back and forth to shops, chemists etc helping people who have no other support. All of this is done with maximum precautions for those who we are helping – 2m distance at all times. Hands washed before and after every visit. Following the most stringent protocols for every person we visit, exactly as instructed from those running the operations at the highest regional level. It’s a long day and its sad to see how utterly terrified some folks are. I wish there was more that we could do to help them.
Lots of other volunteers have joined the team now. We have FACT working in many areas and regular folks are also helping their own elderly and vulnerable neighbours. It’s a tough time, but I feel we will get through it working together.
I hope all my readers are well and safe. If you need help in Fenland call 01354 654321 for the Fenland Helpline. You are not alone.
FENLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL
February 27, 2020
Council agrees motion against plans for Wisbech incinerator
Members of Fenland District Council will be writing to the Energy Secretary making clear its opposition to plans to build an incinerator in Wisbech.
The move comes after councillors almost unanimously backed a motion against the waste facility at a full Council meeting last week.
The motion was put forward by Cllr Steve Tierney, a Wisbech town councillor and Fenland District Council’s Cabinet member responsible for Waste and Recycling (strategic) and Communications.
The motion states that the Council does not support the construction of an incinerator in Wisbech, and will write to Alok Sharma MP, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to stress its opposition to the plans.
It also states that the Council “will take any and all legal avenues and processes available to continue to fight on behalf of the residents of Wisbech, the surrounding villages, and Fenland as a whole and to challenge this unwelcome scheme every step of the way”.
Cllr Tierney said: “The district council is not in favour of waste being tackled through incineration and we will do everything within our legal power to fight these toxic plans. We need to raise awareness of these plans so people understand the full implications, and make our voices heard.
“The 50 megawatt plant would be positioned in Algores Way, close to the Thomas Clarkson Academy, and there are fears it could impact air pollution, health and congestion. With a 95-metre high chimney it would also dominate the skyline and be visible for miles.”
The scale of the proposed development is such that the planning application will be decided by the Secretary of State, rather than by Cambridgeshire County Council.
“It is essential for local people and local councils to make their views known,” added Cllr Tierney. “It is also important that local people see that Fenland District Council understands the strength of public opinion against the incinerator and that it is willing to stand up and be counted in the campaign to try and prevent it ever happening.”
- A public meeting about the incinerator, organised by Wisbech Town Council, is being held at the Queen Mary Centre in Wisbech on Friday, March 13, at 6pm. The meeting will provide more information about the proposals and seeks to unite those opposing its development. There will also be speakers, including Steve Barclay MP.
- A copy of the motion agreed by Fenland District Council can be viewed at: https://www.fenland.gov.uk/localgov/documents/s5684/Motion.pdf
FENLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL
February 24, 2020
Golden Age Fair a hit with older residents
Fenland District Council’s first Golden Age Fair of 2020 was a huge success, showcasing the various services available to over 60’s in Fenland.
On Tuesday, February 11, residents from across the district braved the cold to visit the event at Walsoken Village Hall with 22 partner organisations also in attendance to provide advice, help and assistance to the older generations in Fenland.
A vast selection of services were available at the event with Freedom Leisure offering health checks and service information, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Against Scams Partnership providing scam avoidance advice and Careline offering a range of guidance including financial safety advice.
Elsewhere at the event, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service were exchanging electric blankets and offering fire safety advice, Everyone Health provided fitness MOTs, Peterborough Environment City Trust gave energy information while the Alzheimer’s Society offered benefits guidance and referrals.
Cllr Susan Wallwork, the Council’s Portfolio Holder for Communities, said: “The feedback we received from visitors on the day was once again fantastic; everyone who completed a feedback form felt that the event was either good or very good and all respondents indicated they would recommend the fair to others.”
She added: “The Golden Age events have long been a popular staple in our yearly calendar and the advice, support and sense of community at these events is invaluable to the older generations. I encourage everyone to look out for an upcoming Golden Age event near you.”
The event was the first of four Golden Age Fairs that will be held across Fenland this year and preparation for the next event is currently underway. More information on the next Golden Age Fair will be announced later in the month.
*This blog post written in a personal capacity only, as per my disclaimer.
The Conduct Complaint that was thrown at me by the usual suspect/s has been thrown out.
No case to answer. No further action.
What A Weekend
That’s quite a weekend I’ve just had. Spent Saturday at Wisbech Castle running the Cafe and it was a busy one. Then I had to rush home and pack the car with disco equipment as I provided the free disco for the FACET charity fundraising party in March.
Despite the late night working I was up early to help set up Armed Forces Day in Wisbech Market Place and then manning the Air Cadets stall with cadets and other volunteers.
In the afternoon I had the great pleasure to attend the Nine Lives Live show at Wisbech Institute. It was an incredible, exceptionally, inspirational show. These guys just get better and better. I have always enjoyed their shows before, but this time my Son was part of the show with two solo songs and lots of other acting and singing parts and even some tap dancing. My Wife and I were very proud parents.
Unfortunately, the day ended a little sadly as the Castle CCTV and a local witness saw kids trespassing into the Castle grounds. They did some minor mischief but nothing major. We have very clear pictures of them and know exactly who they are. We will be alerting the Police.
The week ahead is pretty crazy. Now that I’m a Cabinet Member at FDC its pretty “full on” with meetings almost every day this week alongside my normal jobs. I’m enjoying it though. I’ve long felt that Communications (a part of my new portfolio) needed a shake up and that’s precisely what I am trying to do. Officers have been very helpful so far and I think a lot can be achieved.
New Council At FDC
We have only had our first meeting today, so its very early days, but I do feel pretty excited about the way things have started.
With a lot of new faces and some old faces in different places, I really had no idea how it was going to go. Broadly, I think it went pretty well.
Almost all of the various opposition, Indies, Lib Dems, etc, have formed an opposition party/group called the Fenland Independent Alliance. Which isn’t a terrible name, particularly concerned with some that have gone before.
They put in a handful of motions and the motions were what you would expect, a mixture of ideas and political shots fired. But they were well put together and seemed to be well-intentioned. There were some amendments and some discussion, but it was all fairly good spirited. I enjoyed it, and I have the feeling that most other Councillors of all stripes did too. There was a feeling of change and of a fresh start and for the most part people seemed happy with that. Sure, we disagreed, debated and verbally jousted, but most of the bitterness was gone and it seemed like the Council was ready to move on in its new incarnation.
After quite a few years as a backbencher, I was appointed to a Cabinet post by the new Leader, Cllr. Chris Boden. I have been given the role of Cabinet Member for Communication and Transformation, which I think is a pretty good “fit” for me and I’m excited about the promotion. I am particularly pleased as I think Chris Boden is going to be a fantastic Leader and I want to be a part of this fresh start and new journey that I believe he will lead us on. I will, as ever, aim to do the absolute best I can do in the role, for the people of Fenland.
For anybody interested in knowing the whole of the new Cabinet (and what the roles entail), this is it:
Chairman: Kay Mayor. Vice-Chairman: Alex Miscandlon.
Chris Boden – Leader of the Council and Finance: Finance/Budgets (Financial & Performance Management); Benefits (strategic); Corporate Governance; Electoral Services; Business Rates; Policy & Resources; Capital Programme; IDBs (strategic)
Jan French – Deputy Leader of the Council: Benefits (operational); ARP; Parking; Member Services
Steve Tierney – Transformation & Communication: Customer Access; Marketing & Communications; ICT & Broadband; Waste & Recycling (strategic); Energy Conservation; Equalities; Emergency Planning
Sam Hoy – Housing: Housing Strategy; Regulated Providers (strategic); Private Sector Housing; Homelessness; Rough Sleeping; Environmental Health (incl enforcement)
Sam Clark – Social Housing and Leisure: Regulated Providers (operational); Licensing (incl. enforcement); Travellers; Sports Development; Leisure Services
Chris Seaton – Social Mobility and Heritage: Skills; Transport; Rural Affairs; Community Cohesion; Education; Children & Young People; Tourism; Conservation; Heritage; Dilapidated Buildings & Enforcement;
Peter Murphy – Environment: Waste & Recycling (operational); Cleansing; Grounds Maintenance; Parks & Open Spaces; Markets & Events; War Memorials;
Ian Benney – Economic Growth: Strategic Assets & Management; Growth; Inward Investment; Port & Marine Services; Job stimulation; Asset disposal; Renaissance; Emergency Planning Deputy.
Maureen Davis – Communities: Health Inequalities; Health & Wellbeing; Supporting Vulnerable People; Golden Age Fairs; Community Partnerships; Community Grants; Police Liaison; CCTV; Community Safety; Pride in Fenland
Dee Laws – Planning: Local Plan; Neighbourhood Planning; Building Control; Planning Policy; Planning Delivery; Planning (operational); Building Communities & Neighbourhood Management; Section 106 & CIL; Flooding & IDBs (operational)
Going forwards I expect a number of challenges, no doubt. To quote Captain Ahab <ahem>: “Nothing is plain sailing.” It is going to take some original and innovative thinking to make sure that we can deliver better services, better savings for the taxpayer and a modern Council that will be able to face the future boldly. But this is a team I’m proud to serve alongside and I’m excited to get started.
That Was Quite Something
Wow, that was an eventful campaign.
I was very sad to lose David Oliver and Garry Tibbs to FDC. It’s unfortunate for Walsoken and Peckover too, as they’ve replaced two hard-working, decent men for … well, you know. But, as my old pal Rollinson used to say if electorate who vote in people like this: “you get what you vote for.”
The mixup of Independents, Lib Dems and otherness that now form the FDC opposition isn’t a massive change from before really. Having opposition who were never really Conservatives move from being in your ranks to outside of them is really just the same people doing what they do a little more openly. I would not rule out one or two more “surprises” even after the elections are over. I think its actually quite healthy for individuals to be revealed for what they really are, rather than what they pretend to be. At least, when the dust settles, the picture is clear.
All in all, given the national trend delivered by the Brexit Fiasco, we did well compared to many areas. I was particularly pleased that Wisbech Town Council remains almost the same and actually had a slighter better result than four years ago. Then, the voters delivered us four opposition (two Independents and two ‘Kippers) and this time they delivered us three. It was nice to take a District Council seat from the opposition in Waterlees and to secure three Town Council seats there. The new Conservative Councillors will be a great team.
Hill Ward was brilliant. A great deal of effort was put in to take this from us, including the massively biased local press doing everything they could (as predicted) right up to the eve of election front page attack article (as predicted) and they must be absolutely fuming that the effort failed. In the current political climate that’s really quite a feat to have overcome such a gargantuan #Fakenews effort. Well done to all involved. Peter Freeman was the only opposition candidate who I noted was a gentleman about the whole thing. Fair play for that.
I rather enjoyed getting blamed by the opposition for everything (as usual). I don’t mind. I am the bogeyman of the opposition, who spend many hours in their tiny moist online hideyhole frothing about me and believing I am responsible for everything from the big bang to the end of time. As with many other events over the last few years, if they believe I am somehow behind everything that happens that makes them angry it’s no concern to me.
It’s a different local political landscape, for sure. Interestingly, an area where some people say they want “party politics out of local Government” have just elected probably the most political Council this area has ever seen. The speed with which an “Independent” “Group” forms and gives itself a leader and Special Responsibility Allowances will be a sight to see, I suspect. How long before the first “group meeting” is called for the party that isn’t a party? But I could be wrong. Maybe they’ll all stay true to their “Independent” claims and not form a group etc. We shall see.
A sad day to see some truly wonderful Councillors lost to our area. I suspect we will feel the consequences of those losses in the months and years to come. But onwards and upwards. Local Conservatives will now have to work even harder for our towns, for Fenland and for the people that live here. I feel confident that’s what we will all do.