Category Archives: Fenland District Council

The Retreat

The Retreat

I went to FDC Planning Committee today to speak in support of The Retreat, a local business that wants to protect itself from vandalism with railing on its windows and wants to keep the uPVC Windows that were installed a few years ago (by a company who had assured them the proper permissions have been obtained.)

I wanted to support The Retreat because they are a great local business.  Real community supports, local employers, doing their best to bring a great service to our town.

I also wanted to support them because we should support entrepreneurs and businesses in our area.  As a Conservative, I believe in supporting local business.  I think we should be removing obstacles, not putting them in the way.

I also also wanted to support them because the rules are just plain stupid.  They serve nobody.  They are a paradise for bureaucrats, penpushers and over-promoted box tickers.  They are supposed to protect our “heritage” but they don’t even do that.  They are so woefully out-of-date and poorly-structured, that they are little more than a joke.

And so we have it that this business, sandwiched between two nightclubs, a vandalised public toilet and a car wash, is considered to be in a zone of such beauty that it requires protection.  The form this “protection” takes is to load it with such archaic conditions and rules and associated costs that it is crippled.  Oh well done, FDC.  Slow clap for you.

I pointed out to the committee that the vast majority of the public support The Retreat.  It’s not that we don’t love our heritage – we do!  It’s that we recognise the common sense observation that some very nice uPVC windows are better than a burnt-out old ruin or a crumbling structure that nobody can afford to repair.

I pointed out that Wisbech Town Council almost-unanimously supported a motion to support The Retreat on this issue.  They didn’t give a stuff. They don’t care what the local Councillors think about it, or what the local people think about it.

How does this look to the people of Wisbech?  Everybody I’ve spoken to wants the Retreat to be able to get on with their business.  They support the right of local businesses to protect themselves from vandalism.  They think this crazy uPVC / Conservation Zone rule can be considered on a case-by-case basis so that it can be applied on areas of real interest, but not used to scupper and harm small traders who are just trying to improve the town and make ends meet.

I’ve long thought that being a Councillor for too long leads to people “going native.”  They become unable to think outside the box, they look only to the guidance of officers, who in turn can only make decisions to the precise letter of the law.  Common sense is the sacrifice to the altar of the petty bureaucrat.

All in all I am left very disappointed.  I am disappointed with a Planning Committee that has been shaky for a number of years in my opinion, but seems to have now entirely lose its heart and soul.  I am disappointed at a committee of people claiming to know what is best for Wisbech, none of whom are from Wisbech.  Most of all I am disappointed that the views of the people, the business owners, the Town Council, and the Mayor of Wisbech were essentially sneered at.

I hope The Retreat will get through this and go on to prosper.  I am very sorry for the decision which was taken, which I believe was utterly and profoundly the wrong decision.

Sarah Bligh

Sarah Bligh

So today’s news is that my colleague, Cllr Sarah Bligh, has crossed the floor to join the Liberal Democrats.  To be honest, I think Sarah probably is more of a Liberal Democrat than a Conservative so I cannot say I am surprised.

Obviously, its disappointing, as I’ve known Sarah since she first became interested in local politics.  But people have to do what they think is best and I have no doubt Sarah will continue to be a strong Councillor on the opposition benches.

She joins Gavin Booth and Stephen Court, both of whom are very nice fellows, even if I don’t always agree with them politically.  I’d like to wish her all the best.

Church Terrace Toilets

Church Terrace Toilets

People were asking why the Church Terrace toilets are all closed.

This is the answer I have received from Officers at FDC:

“Just to update everyone, I have spoken to service engineer who was called to church terrace toilets wisbech regarding coin and door locking mechanism to one of the toilets, on his inspection all of the mechanism on the doors have been condemned with the doors not opening or not locking and a high chance of  persons  being locked in which is why engineer was called, to safe guard the public  I have made the decision to close the block  to eliminate any chance of anyone being locked in till this has been rectified.”

New Leadership Team At FDC

New Leadership Team At FDC

I’ve been away for a week and in my absence the new leader of Fenland District has been announced and his choice of top positions laid out by the Wisbech Standard here.

This is interesting, since it takes a meeting of Full Council to elect a new Leader and that hasn’t happened yet.  But I guess what the Wisbech Standard is saying is that its got wind of what new Leader the Conservative Group has chosen and is presuming a foregone conclusion.  So, not entirely accurate, but still probably a fair assumption.

The “New Leader” (to be confirmed at Full Council) of FDC is the veteran Councillor, Chris Seaton and the newspaper goes into some depth about the people he has chosen as his leadership team.

I feel cautiously optimistic with the news as reported.  I’ll be honest, I’d expected Chris Seaton as Leader would be just the same as John Clark as Leader, with broadly the same faces and broadly the same choices.  I have nothing against John Clark, who I always found to be a genuine man with honest intentions, but I am certainly one of the Conservative group who has hoped for some fresh ideas and a new approach.

It would appear that I have underestimated Cllr. Seaton.  Because, against all expectations (on my part, anyway) he has made some fairly radical changes.  Cllr. Mark Buckton in for the Leisure and Young People portfolio is a good choice, I think.  Cllr Buckton has long been an underused individual whose talents were crying out for a bigger role.  Tourism, in particular, needs a shot in the arm urgently and I think he may well be able to gain some ground in this area.

Even more importantly, Cllr Dee Laws is taking on the Planning portfolio.  In my opinion this is an inspirational choice.  Planning is an area which FDC has really struggled with in the last couple of years and given how important it is for our communities that the correct forward-thinking decisions are taken, getting the right innovative person in place is a key consideration.

Cllr. Ann Hay takes on the Finance portfolio.  I don’t know Cllr Hay very well and I think she probably sits on a different “wing” of Conservatism to me, but her reputation is of somebody whose skills would be well-suited to this role and I am sure she will excel.  I’d like to see a lot more challenge of figures presented by Officers and I hope she will lead on this.

I would have liked to see Chris Boden in a Cabinet role.  Nevertheless, by making him Chairman of Overview & Scrutiny, Cllr Seaton has made a very smart placement.  Cllr. Boden is an analytical thinker of the first order and under his guidance I would expect O&S to take on a sharp, focused and insightful direction.  The purpose of any O&S committee is to challenge, review and act as a critical friend.  Run properly, a strong O&S Committee will catch poor policy early and put it right or stop it outright, amend, suggest, propose and consider in such a way as to make decisions more robust, more accurate and more likely to deliver decent outcomes.  A strong O&S Committee can make life uncomfortable for a weak Leader and it shows a strength of character to put somebody like Cllr Boden in charge of it – it represents a real desire to see the job done well and done right.  Very commendable, in my view.

I was away during the week this all happened and my information is gleaned from reading the Wisbech Standard – which may yet turn out not to be 100% correct.  But if it all pans out as the newspaper claims then I would think that a very positive outcome.  Cllr Seaton appears to have understood what needed changing as a priority and what did not, and has taken decisions that will earn him some grumpiness in some quarters, but in my opinion are pretty good choices as a starting point for a new direction of healthy travel*.

Bravo.

 

*I should stress that you should read no implicit criticism of previous office-holders in my writing.  Each Councillor serves as best they can, in the positions as assigned by the Council Leader.  I have no doubt that the previous office holders worked hard and did the best they could.  Nevertheless, I reserve the right to the opinion that these are positive changes for the Council and for Fenland as a whole.  There remains a lot of work to be done, of course.  And this new team will be tested by challenges and circumstances.  I wish them all the best.

John Clark Resigns

John Clark Resigns

Last week, somewhat out of the blue, Cllr John Clark – the Leader of Fenland District Council and its Conservative group, resigned his post as Leader.

Some of the things he said in his resignation speech I didn’t agree with, but there’s nothing wrong with that.  People don’t always agree.

John and I have not always seen eye-to-eye on policy (I once stood against him in order to prevent Paid Parking being introduced in Wisbech.)

But all in all John has been an honest Leader who has worked hard to unite an often-difficult bunch of Councillors (myself included.)  I think he can be proud of his time as Leader and I respect his decision to step aside now as an honourable one.

There was some rumours I might stand.  I’m not going to do any such thing.

But I wish all the best to whoever does take over the position.   It’s an important one that will only become more important as things change across the country in the future.

I’d like to thank John for his work and dedication to the role of Leader and I look forward to working with him on the back benches – or wherever he ends up.

Manic Thursday

Manic Thursday

I was off this morning delivering leaflets across North Ward / Waterlees to remind residents of our Councillor’s Coffee Morning at the Oasis Center.  I was joined by most of the Conservative North Ward team and a bunch of residents with issues they’d like resolved, and ideas they’d like to share.  We drank quite a lot of coffee and it was a useful way to meet with residents and get their views and concerns.

Then, on with my “Mayor hat.”

This afternoon I visited the St. Augustines Day Care Centre for their Christmas Carols and Afternoon Tea. We were entertained by some excellent singers from the Walsoken Church and a very nice time was had. I always enjoy spending time with the St Augustine’s gang, lots of laughs and merriment.

I had to leave before the end in order to make the Magdalene House Christmas Service at St. Peters’, where the children were responsible for most of the singing and bible readings. Proud parents watched on and, I am sure, had just as lovely a time as I did.

There is always so much happening in Wisbech, but never more so than Christmas!

A quick drive to March followed, where I switched hats again and attended the last FDC Full Council meeting of the year.  A fairly straightforward agenda was cleared in short order and that’s it for FDC for 2017!  Since CCC had its last Full Council meeting on Tuesday that means we only have next Monday’s Town Council meeting to go and then it’s holiday time!  For a few days anyway.

Extra funding to support vulnerable residents

FENLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL

PRESS RELEASE

December 13, 2017

Extra funding to support vulnerable residents

More disabled people living in Fenland will be able to get help they need to continue living in their own homes thanks to almost £84,000 of additional Government funding.

Fenland District Council has received an extra £83,600 of Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) funding to help people make adaptations to their homes and live independently for longer.

The funding tops up the district’s 2017/18 DFG allocation of £944,000 which has been spent making more than 100 households more accessible since April. The extra cash means other people will be able to get the support they need now rather than have to wait until next year when the 2018/19 funding becomes available.

The funding provides grants to disabled people and their families to help them make changes to their homes. Adaptations could include widening doors and installing ramps and handrails to improving access to rooms and facilities with a stair lift or downstairs bathroom. It could also adapt heating or light controls to make them easier to use.

Councillor Will Sutton, Fenland District Council’s Cabinet member responsible for building communities, said he was pleased the needs of Fenland’s more vulnerable residents were considered when the additional DFG funding was allocated.

Neighbouring authority Cambridge City Council was awarded £66,000 of extra funding, with South Cambs District Council receiving £61,000 and East Cambs District Council £51,000.

“This extra funding means we can help more residents get the help they need to live independently and safely in their own homes and also get help more quickly,” said Cllr Sutton. “Enabling people to stay in their own homes for as long as they want and are able to do so is not only better for them, but it also reduces the pressure on our healthcare services.”

Energy saving improvements

Energy saving improvements make a splash at Fenland leisure centres

Fenland’s leisure centres have been given an energy efficiency makeover as part of Fenland District Council’s work to cut energy use, reduce carbon emissions, and tackle climate change.

New energy systems and energy saving measures have been rolled-out across the district’s four leisure centres to save energy and cut energy costs in order to protect leisure services and reduce the Council’s carbon footprint.

The £800,000 upgrade will reduce the leisure centres’ carbon emissions by 281 tonnes a year, a reduction of 21% across the four sites, and cut the Council’s annual leisure energy costs by a third – around £100,000 a year – on top of significant operational maintenance savings.

With popular facilities including three large swimming pools, and early to late opening seven days a week, the leisure centres represent the Council’s largest energy consumer by some margin. And with some plant equipment reaching the end of its life, a different approach to managing maintenance costs, as well as their energy consumption, was needed.

Research identified the RE:FIT framework, an award-winning initiative championed by Cambridgeshire County Council and other partners which supports public sector organisations with energy conservation.

Working closely with appointed delivery partner Bouygues E&S FM UK Ltd, a retrofit scheme was developed to reduce carbon emissions, cut energy costs and upgrade the leisure centres’ facilities through a combination of low-cost energy saving measures, renewable energy measures and new energy efficient systems.

The new systems, including combined heat and power, plant equipment and energy management systems, will improve service reliability for users who may also notice the addition of solar panels on the roofs of the buildings and new LED lighting within the centres.

The works have taken place over the last nine months and been completed on time and in budget.

Councillor Michelle Tanfield, Fenland District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Leisure, said: “The RE:FIT programme is the largest energy conservation project ever to be undertaken by the Council, demonstrating our commitment to the environment and signalling a new approach to reducing both our energy use and energy bills.

“The retrofit will help protect us against rising energy costs, reduce maintenance costs and improve our energy efficiency rating while also ensuring our residents can enjoy efficient, reliable leisure services on their doorstep.”

“The project is a great example of what is possible when several bodies from the public sector work together with a key supplier from the private sector.”

Miles Messenger, Energy Engineering Manager at Bouygues, said: “We are really pleased to work with Fenland District Council in delivering their strategic goals to reduce carbon, save money and improve their leisure centre assets. This ambitious project combined low-carbon and renewable energy generation with energy efficiency technology to deliver a significant improvement in energy performance.”

New street drinking rules start to take action

New street drinking rules start to take action

Alcohol has been seized 14 times in the first five weeks of new powers being launched to tackle street drinking issues in Wisbech.

The amount of alcohol-related litter in the town’s St Peter’s Church Gardens has also been halved ever since Fenland District Council introduced the new Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) on October 20.

The figures come as an initial period of education to make people aware of the new rules comes to an end, and enforcement begins. Anyone caught breaching the PSPO from Monday, December 4, could be issued with a £75 Fixed Penalty Notice.

The order restricts alcohol consumption in three street drinking hotspots – Tillery Fields, St Peter’s Church Gardens and the memorial garden in The Crescent – and enables authorised police and council officers to address alcohol-related antisocial behaviour across a wider area covering Wisbech town centre.

Officers have been carrying out extra patrols and engaging with individuals to warn them about the new powers, and also signpost dependent drinkers and vulnerable residents to support and help available to them through the Wisbech Alcohol Partnership.

In the first five weeks of the order coming into force, officers confiscated and disposed of alcohol from the three locations on 14 occasions.

Early observations from the Council’s environmental services staff also indicated a significant reduction in the amount of alcohol-related litter collected from St Peter’s Church gardens, estimated to be around 50%.

Councillor David Oliver, Fenland District Council’s Cabinet member for community safety, said: “We had an initial period of education to let people know that the PSPO had been implemented, and how it would impact on their behaviour, and we are really pleased with the effect of the new powers so far.

“From Monday, December 4, we will begin enforcing the order; with officers having the option of issuing a Fixed Penalty Notice to anyone caught breaching the new rules.

“We will continue to offer help and support via a number of agencies to those who need it, however, we will take action against the small minority who continue to behave in an anti-social manner. We will also monitor the order to ensure the problem is not dispersed elsewhere. It’s a great start though and shows what we can do when we all work together.”

Look out for the elderly and vulnerable this winter

FENLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL
PRESS RELEASE

November 14, 2017

Look out for the elderly and vulnerable this winter

Fenland residents are being encouraged to look out for elderly and vulnerable relatives and neighbours this winter – and help make sure they don’t suffer in silence.
Older people and those with long-term health conditions are particularly susceptible to illness and isolation at this time of year, yet it can sometimes be difficult for those at risk to admit they need help.

With winter fast approaching, Fenland District Council and its partners are urging people to look out for those who may struggle as the temperatures drop as part of the national NHS Stay Well This Winter campaign.

People can help make a difference to elderly and vulnerable people they may know by following these top tips:

  • Drop in to see them and check if they are well at least once a week – and more often if the weather turns very cold.
  • Encourage those who haven’t had a flu vaccination to get one – it’s free for people aged over 65 and with long-term health conditions.
  • Check if they are feeling well. If they are feeling ill, encourage them to visit their local pharmacist or GP without delay – and give them a lift if you can.
  • Offer to collect any prescriptions they need or take them to their GP for any appointments.
  • Tell them to call 111 if they feel unwell when GP surgeries and pharmacies are closed – a trained NHS health care adviser will be able to help them.
  • Make sure their home is heated to at least 18°C throughout the winter.
  • Ensure they are eating well and have a good supply of food – and offer to help them with shopping if they struggle with mobility.
  • If it snows, clear their path, front steps or doorway areas for them.

Information packs with advice on how to stay warm and well during the winter have been distributed to GP surgeries across Cambridgeshire as part of the campaign, including Trinity Surgery in Wisbech and New Queen Street Surgery in Whittlesey.

The packs, which include a room thermometer, are also available at Fenland District Council’s four @ Your Service shops and community hubs, and at the Golden Age Fair, the Council’s popular event for the over 60s, being held at March Braza Club on December 4.

Councillor Mike Cornwell, Fenland District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Communities, said: “Winter can be a very isolating time, preventing people from seeing friends and family and going about their daily lives as normal. This can impact on people’s health and wellbeing in so many ways, making them more likely to become unwell or injure themselves.

“Older people, those with long-term health conditions and people who live in poor quality housing, are particularly vulnerable during the winter, and many of those sometimes find it
difficult to ask for help. If we all look out for our vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours, we can make a huge difference to how people in Fenland get through the winter.”

The Stay Well This Winter campaign in Cambridgeshire is being supported by Cambridgeshire County Council, Peterborough City Council, district councils, the voluntary sector, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

For more information on staying warm and well this winter, including grants available to help people if they are struggling financially, call 0345 6500 280, or visit the Golden Age Fair.