Category Archives: Medworth
Christmas Newsletter 2016
My four-page colour monthly newsletter is being delivered this week to all my Medworth constituents. This is the special Christmas edition. I hope you enjoy it. (Front page sample below.) Please let me know if you live in Medworth and do not receive one by next Wednesday. Thanks!
South Brink Speeding
At the last Full Council meeting of Wisbech Town Council I proposed that the portion of South Brink which runs from Tesco up to the Malt Drive Estate would be a good place to benefit from this year’s Minor Highways bid.
One of the most common complaints I get as a Councillor is speeding and that section of South Brink is that part which causes the most concern in my Ward. It is a “rat run” for people wanting to escape traffic along Cromwell Road and because it is long, quiet and very straight it seems to encourage fast and dangerous driving. To compound the problem, this is an area which has an above average number of pedestrians and users of mobility scooters, many of whom feel threatened by the speed and carelessness they perceive in some drivers.
All year I have promised my constituents that I would try and get a Minor Highways Bid through to address this. We took Speedwatch there on a few occasions and that helps a little, but what the road really needs are some speed reduction measures to discourage the temptation to race along there.
The County Councillor for the area, my friend and colleague Samantha Hoy, agreed with me and has seconded my proposal. Town Council supported my proposal and it was put forwards to County Council as our official bid this year.
At this point I have kept it deliberately vague. We have a meeting with the County Council Highways Officers on-site next week to look at what measures would be best and what can be afforded within the limits of the Minor Highways scheme. But I am very pleased to be able to keep my promise and push this another stage towards resolution.
TCA Part 1:
This morning, first thing, I was in Thomas Clarkson Academy for their “drop-in” Open Day and I was shown around the school by two exemplary students. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the school before but this is the first time I’ve seen it all and all I can say is: “Wow.” Compared to the dingy old war bunker of a school I went to, this place looks incredible. It’s like a cross between a University Campus and an airport. Clearly a great deal of effort has gone into getting the design just right to create a positive uplifting atmosphere and to assist in operational challenges.
I am really excited that my Son will be going to the school in September – which is a far cry from the way I felt a decade ago about the old school that used to occupy the same site. If any parents are thinking of sending their Son to the school but have been put off by the things some naysayers have told them then my advice is – go see it for yourself. I suspect, if you went to School in the Seventies/Eighties/Nineties you will be as gobsmacked as I.
I was so eager to tell my Son all about it. So when he got from home I was filling him in on everything cool about his soon-to-be school, the after school clubs, the sports opportunities, the blooming enormous climbing wall, the generally wide, open, airy atmosphere in the place. Unfortunately, as is the way with eleven-year-old boys, his eyes glazed over and I could tell I was getting the “pretend to be interested in Dad” face. :) Never mind, I know he’ll love it when he actually goes there.
There followed a meeting of the Wisbech Community Development Trust, on which I sit. This is the Trust that manages the Oasis Centre. It was mostly a housekeeping meeting with some good news that disagreements with County Council over a lease have finally been resolved.
TCA Part 2:
Then I was back to the Thomas Clarkson Academy, this time in my role as Deputy Mayor. I was there for the Read It Again Awards. A selection of illustrated Childrens Books are read by children in primary schools all over the County and then the kids are asked to vote on their favourite. At the awards all the authors are there to meet the kids, sign their books, do little drawings and find out who the winner is. School kids from miles around attend to meet the author/illustrators and are clearly very excited by the whole thing. It really is a brilliant event. I can’t speak highly enough of it. The kids all know who their favourites are. Each author gives a little talk about themselves and what they do and the kids hung on every word. When the winner was announced, which was “Super Happy Magic Forest”, the children went nuts. Clearly a crowd favourite.
Friends Of Tillery Fields & St Peters Church Gardens
It was then a rush to get to the “Friends of” meeting to help the Committee address issues in those areas and make plans for the future, including those for Rose Fair.
I have some other meetings tonight, but I’ve had a few minutes to grab a cuppa and write this blog post. It’s been an interesting day of rushing from meeting to appointment to meeting.
Councillor Surgery This Saturday
Can I remind people who live in the Medworth Ward that my Monthly Councillor Surgery is this Saturday 28th May, 3PM – 5PM at The Angel Inn.
Come along, share some coffee and cake, report problems, suggest ideas, or just have a natter with your Town & District Councillor.
Hope to see you there!
Newsletter & Surgery
My November newsletter has been going out this week. If you live in Medworth and don’t have a copy by the weekend, please let me know!
This Saturday 21st is my monthly Councillor Surgery. 3PM – 5PM in the Angel Inn on Alexandra Road, in the downstairs room (suitable for families.)
Free tea/coffee/cake/biscuits for Medworth residents.
Come, chat, discuss, suggest and report problems. Or just share a ‘cuppa.
Hope to see you there!
On Being Chained To A Tree
The latest local issue to have lit up Facebook is a Wisbech Standard exclusive, that the Town Council may intend to dig up some trees. I know, it’s not the stuff of a Daily Mail headline, but it has nevertheless got some people into a royal rage.
On the thread, John Elworthy, who lit the fuse in the first place, asks why “other Councillors” haven’t commented. He means Samantha Hoy and I, of course, since we are the only ones who frequent that particular site. I don’t mind though, because the whole thing lets me blog about the two issues that really bug the hell out of me. In fact, these issues are framed beautifully by the tree story.
One issue I have said over and over again, to my colleagues, on this blog and to anybody who will listen is that all of our local Councils suffer from the same core problem. That core problem is communication. Regular readers will have heard me mention it in recent blog posts. Over and over and over again we find ourselves amidst a media, or a social media, storm. When this happens the opposition clap their hands with glee and immediately start concocting some load of old guff to make best use of the chaos. Petitions, dramatic photo shoots, declarations of “incompetence” and “corruption” and all the other “go to” buzzwords to put a hate on the local Council. And it is so damn easy to avoid. That’s what irritates me.
Communication fails at every level. Officers don’t properly brief Councillors. Lead Members don’t properly brief their group and the wider Council. Cabinet don’t properly talk to backbenchers*. People get into positions of special responsibility and seem to immediately lose any knowledge of when and how to communicate what they are doing. So when stories come out, it is quite often in some colourful piece in the local newspaper, which immediately gets shared around two dozen social media groups. Before you know it everybody has an opinion, people begin spouting “facts” that have no bearing on reality, other people take those facts and have an opinion on them. And so on, like some twisted Council version of Chinese Whispers.
Social Media is the reason for all of this. The world has moved on, people communicate instantly, ideas are shared, stories are told, actions and reactions reverberate outwards in every direction. Meanwhile our local Councils, and many Councillors, are still sitting by their old telephone and thinking “well, it’s not ringing, so everything must be fine.” All of our Councils, and most of our Governmental institutions around the country, are hopelessly out of date. By the time some of them have learnt to Tweet, Twitter will be in the history books and we’ll be Whooping, or Snarking, or whatever the new thing is. Yes, of course, many people don’t use Twitter, Facebook and the like. But a solid thirty or forty percent do and that’s growing every day – and even the ones who don’t will often be talking to somebody who does.
This is a big problem for local Councils and the tree issue is a good example. Now I am not on the Markets Committee who have authority over this stuff and I don’t know the full scope of the plans for the Market, but Cllr David Oliver is a clever guy who often has good ideas and it may well be that the trees have to come down due to structural damage, or because they are sickly. But at the moment the story reads: “Evil Council chopping trees to make concrete wasteland.” That’s probably abject nonsense, but if nobody is responding to questions being asked then the story grows and grows out of all connection to reality. Before you know it, you have what we have today, which is what should have been a positive story about the Town Council doing exactly what people always ask for and improving the Market Place into people threatening to chain themselves to trees. All because of a complete lack of proper communication.
Which brings me on to the second thing that irritates me, and the reason I have recently taken some time out of Facebook. You see, I am sick to the back teeth of being the visible face of every ill-thought, poorly judged or just badly communicated story. The only Wisbech Councillors you regularly see on Facebook are Samantha Hoy and I. So every time anything happens, regardless of whether I am anything to do with it, often even if I don’t support it, I am the person who gets all the questions, the name-calling and the abuse. I don’t mind a bit of abuse, but what I resent is being the punchball for other people’s failure to communicate.
The reason for this is that so many Councillors think Social Media doesn’t matter. They stay off of it, usually saying they “don’t understand it” or “aren’t interested.” I think they wish it did not exist. That’s all very well, but wishing something doesn’t exist does not stop it from doing so. It is there, people are on it, if you don’t come up with some way to address that then you will always be playing “catch up” on every issue, every story, even media fanfare. Which doesn’t work, because by the time you’ve gotten involved, most people have already made up their minds and moved on. This is what happened with Estover, with the Hudson name change, with many other issues. But we never seem to learn.
So I was asked what I thought about the possible plan to cut down the trees as part of the market place redesign. I don’t know, I haven’t seen all the details. The idea to streamline the market for future events isn’t terrible. I love the idea of a bandstand or performing area in the middle and in order to do that some stuff probably does need to go. Sometimes, if trees are growing and doing damage to structures around them they do need to be cut down. But to be completely honest, I’ve not been involved. This is Cllr David Oliver’s baby, which has not yet come to full Council. So David Oliver should be the one on Facebook and elsewhere answering questions about it.
If there are no answers forthcoming, or if the answers aren’t good ones, then I will ask my Medworth constituents what they think. And if what they think is that we shouldn’t cut those trees down then maybe I’ll be right there alongside Pam “Greywitch” Thompson chained to a tree. Which will be a new experience, if nothing else.
*And before anybody says: “Oh what you need is the Committee System” – no it is not. The Committee System is equally susceptible to poor communication, as can be seen by the broken authority that was Cambridgeshire County Council. The Committee System would take all of this and add more bad things to the mixing pot. What is needed is for people to properly consult and communicate, in advance of taking decisions that will bug the hell out of everybody involved. And for them to be sufficiently foresighted to recognise what those issues are.
On Saturday night I was emerging from the top of Post Office Lane at ten to one in the morning when I heard an almighty crashing and smashing from the road into the Market Place. I listened for a moment and it continued, including the sound of glass smashing.
I walked up the high street towards the noise and saw a man emerging from the doorway – or rather through the doorway – carrying what appeared to be two till boxes in his arms.
He started up the road towards the Market and I followed. As I came parallel to the QS doorway I saw it was a wreck and at that point I gave chase, shouting something at the robber.
The criminal looked back at me and then turned to sprint away, making a mistake as he did so. In his sudden dash, he was still partially staring back at me and he ran directly into a lamppost/pole thingy. It was a nasty collision which sent him tumbling to the ground, dropping the tills. I ran towards him, in the hope of apprehending him, but he jumped to his feet and sprinted away (leaving the tills behind.)
He dashed directly across the Market Place, cutting diagonally to the alleyway by Hughes. I am ashamed to admit that I am too old and unfit to catch up with him, I would guess he was in his early Twenties by his build and the way he moved. Instead I went back to secure the fallen tills – at least he had not gotten away with his loot.
The Police arrived (by chance, actually, not by design) within a few minutes. I was in the process of explaining to some people who had entered the Market that I needed them to call the Police (I didn’t have my mobile phone with me) when they materialised by sheer luck anyway.
I spent twenty minutes with them as they secured the scene and bagged the evidence. With some luck the CCTV in the Market Place will have caught a better view of the crook than I got. I wish I’d arrived a little earlier to save the damage to the shop’s door, but at least the scumbag didn’t get away with anything of value.
It is not every day that I get to chase a robber through the night while dressed in pajamas, so it was invigorating and interesting in equal measures. (Why I was in pajamas is another story entirely.)
A friend of mine on Facebook commented that my life sounds like a page from the Beano. :) Yes, sometimes it does, at that. :)
Hello. As promised, here are the list of my Councillor Surgery dates, so that residents of Medworth Ward in Wisbech can come see me, report problems, suggest ideas or just have a natter. Refreshments will be provided. All welcome.
Location: The Angel, Alexandra Road. In the lower room (suitable for families.)
30th May 3PM – 5PM
27th June 3PM – 5PM
25th July 3PM – 5PM
19th September 3PM – 5PM
24th October 3PM – 5PM
28th November 3PM – 5PM
19th December 3PM – 5PM
My newsletters will resume with the first one hopefully out before the end of this month.
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. :)
Diary – 8th November
It’s been another varied week full of strange happenings. I continue to receive a surprisingly large number of calls from residents. I think I am getting more now even than I did when I was a County Councillor. Some are quite easy to deal with – like the disturbance in Tillery Fields the other night with a large group letting off fireworks at 11PM. (I just walked down, explained why their behaviour was unreasonable, and asked them to leave. And they left.) Or the issue with the young man whose Council Tax bill had come in much higher than he’d expected (he was entitled to a discount.) Others are more challenging – like the popular idea to reopen the closed road on the South Brink side of the top of Weasenham Lane. I explain that one is a County Council issue, and worst of all, it’s Cllr Lagoda, who – even by UKIP standards – is the Scarlet Pimpernel of elected representatives. We can but try.
Thursday, I attended my first Full Council meeting at FDC as an elected Member. It was an eye opener for a variety of reasons even though this was far from a “normal” meeting due to the Estover debate, the presence of a large number of the public, activist Editor John Elworthy videoing the procedures (luckily, Alan Lay wasn’t there to shriek his disapproval of being put on video, and Gordon Gillick wasn’t there to demand his rights as a member of a Performer’s Union). Even outside of that I was surprised by a number of things – it is entirely more informal that County Council ever was for a start. The “Motion” that was put in regarding Estover was bizarre and I cannot imagine it ever would have made it to a Full Council meeting at County Council, but it had no problem at District Council because, apparently, there is no process by which proposed motions are vetted by Officers for appropriate procedure. Seems very odd to me, but I guess different Councils have different styles. The meeting lasted four or so hours, which seemed to be considered very long to most Members. I didn’t find it too bad, but then when you’ve sat through an interminable, life-sucking Full Council on the annual budget at County, four hours seems tame. :I was advised by another Member to “stay quiet for a few months” before the meeting began. I know that the advice was given in good spirit and I’m sure they meant well, but clearly they don’t know me at all. :) Sit quiet? I don’t think so. That said, there’s no danger of me being seen as the “one who speaks too much” with Cllr Gavin Booth in the same room. I like Gavin very much, but goodness he can talk. :)
On Friday Morning I had a series of appointments with senior officers at FDC as part of my “Induction Training.” I found them all to be knowledgeable, passionate and very friendly. The Officers at County were also, but that organisation was so huge and employed so many people that it could never quite shake an atmosphere of bureaucracy that all huge organisations have. FDC, on the other hand, feels more like a small (but very professional) business – a tight team who work well together, an apparently complete absence of “silos”, a dedicated bunch all reading from the same page. I think I’m going to enjoy working with them very much. It feels like a place where it’s possible to “get things done” and where people genuinely want challenge, scrutiny and input. I don’t know what I expected, but I feel very positive about this indeed.
On Friday evening I was helping run a fundraising event for our local Conservative Association, but just before I left the phone rang. I cannot, at this point, relate exactly what the contents of that conversation were. But I was made an offer of a role that was simultaneously challenging, exciting and terrifying. I hadn’t expected it at all and was a little shell-shocked. I have me some thinking to do (but don’t worry, it doesn’t jeopardise my current roles at all.)
Friday Evening’s “That’s Entertainment” Dinner, the Annual “big fundraising event” for North-East Cambridgeshire Conservative Association went down a storm. Formal dress, table magicians, a comedian/impressionist, a speech by our local MP, and then a disco until late run by yours truly was well-received by a sold-out crowd of local people. I thoroughly enjoyed taking part. The event was organised and run by our Organising Secretary Debbie Clark, who is (in my opinion) the very heart and soul of the local Association and who always excels at everything she sets her mind to. I wanted to mention it here because I don’t think she is told anywhere near often enough how truly awesome she is.
The date for the end of our question at Wisbech Town Council about the new Christmas Lights has now been reached. I have no idea what the results are as I haven’t had time to pop in and see, but the update I got earlier in the week sounded quite positive. So fingers crossed.