Category Archives: Wisbech
One Thing, Then Another Thing
I’ve had very little time to blog recently and so all sorts of stuff has passed by without comment on this page.
The Christmas Light Switch On went perfectly, despite a few hiccups behind the scenes, the whole event was fab and the turnout broke records, again. Each year we have to move everything up a notch and more and more people come along. Yes, there was the usual handful of whiny political moaners, but they did nothing to dim the success of this amazing event.
Meanwhile our MP became Brexit Secretary sparking a great spectacle of emotion, opinion, joy and fury. From the point of view of Hard Brexiteers like myself, its disappointing. But I’ve known Steve Barclay a long time and I just don’t buy the idea that he’s “sold out.” I hope and believe that he is playing a long time, smiling along with the Prime Minister while knowing full well this ridiculous deal will never get through Parliament. If this is how things go then he’ll be an important man, negotiating our way through the inevitable No Deal situation.
Tomorrow, we have royal visitors. Prince Charles and Camilla will be coming to Wisbech to visit St. Peters Church and meet representatives from many local voluntary organisations and heritage organisations. Wisbech Castle has a stall, as do many others. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are, of course, VIPs on a massive scale and preparations are well underway for the big day. I won’t personally be meeting them, I ceded my place on the stall to allow an extra volunteer to go. But I’ll be outside the Castle at the appropriate moment with other volunteers, hoping to catch a glimpse. A great day for our Town.
I’ve got to get my November newsletter out this week (running out of days in November) and we are still wall to wall meetings and planning for Christmas events so there’s really no spare time before Christmas at all. Never mind, who needs sleep? :)
Castle Of The Dead – Finished!
After three huge, sold out nights of Castle of the Dead, the event is over. Time to move on to the next thing!
Wisbech Castle team would like to thank Tony Reader for all his hard work with our lights and electrics. Pam and Roger Rawson for being briliant with guests who needed help recovering from the fear and Unknown Beauty (Nicole Handley) for her brilliant make-up work. https://www.facebook.com/UnknownBeautyOfficial Finally we must thank Nine Lives Theatre company https://www.facebook.com/ninelivestheatrecompany/ for their incredible performances. Also Ben Prest Photography https://www.benprest.co.uk/ and David and Jess Oliver for their First Aid support. We could not have run Castle Of The Dead without these people and all the other amazing volunteers.
Most of all thanks to our incredible actors and volunteers, too many to list, who made such a fun show possible.
Wisbech Bowls Club
There are some problems with the current situation regarding Wisbech Bowls Club and the recent newspaper article in the Wisbech Standard highlights them.
For me, what this boils down to is what a Council-run Leisure Centre is actually for, and how the decision was taken that got us to where we are.
Now if a Council-run Leisure centre is exactly the same as any other private Leisure Centre, to deliver sports and leisure services that will make money and be popular, then its quite hard to argue against the current plan to remove the Bowls’ Hall from the club that has used it successfully. After all, the claim is that this change will not only get an additional half-million pounds in investment, but will save the Council £140,000. There are about 140 members of the Bowls’ Club, I am told, so the cost of “keeping” the Bowls Club is £1000 a head. In a time of budget difficulties, that is not easy to ignore.
The problem is, I don’t think that a council Leisure Centre DOES have the same role as a private one.
After all – if you want to do exercise, spinning or whatever else the new investment is buying, there are already private institutions in the Town where these sort of activities are available. Is it really the Council’s job to compete with private enterprise in this way?
I think that the job of a Council Leisure Centre is to fill in the gaps. To provide exercise and activity for people whose needs are not likely to be met by the private sector. If you are looking at running a club purely on a financial basis then you’d probably do away with the swimming club too. Probably also the swimming pool, actually. But we wouldn’t want to do those things because we value a local place for our kids to learn to swim and a pool for everybody to enjoy. We see a public good which has value above and beyond the immediate commercial gains of a private institution.
Now Bowls is a sport for all ages, but I don’t think its a great secret that the demographic that is more common in the sport is older than the one which indulges in some other sports and activities. The place offers light exercise for people who might not otherwise get enough light exercise, a place to meet friends and have fun. Given the regular importance placed on keeping fit and combating loneliness and social isolation, the hugely successful bowls club is an example of a service whose value is far greater than the price tag might suggest. Things like the gym are a useful way to subsidise the less profitable activities and I support them fully, but should not become the sole focus.
When the Council makes the claim that it will “ensure the club survive” that’s all well and good. But if they are taking away their hall, what does that promise actually mean? To the best of my knowledge there isn’t another local indoor bowl’s facility anywhere nearby, so what’s the plan? Try and relocate them to some distant town? Build a new Bowls Hall (and thereby make the current “savings” pointless?) No answers are given, leaving us all a little unsure what is meant.
And how did it come to this anyway?
When the Council broadly supported investigating if a private firm could run a leisure centre more cost-effectively for us, nobody ever said “but it’ll mean closing the Bowls Club.” Of course they didn’t, because on that basis it would never have been supported. This stuff was all discussed around the same time as the Bowls’ Club was saved previously, so there would have been an enormous kickback against such a proposal.
Some of the other comments in the newspaper article are sad to see, also. Don’t get me wrong, I know that you can’t trust what you read in the press and some of this story could be misleading or wrong. But on the subject alone I was sorry to see the silly comment about how “it’s always Wisbech Wisbech Wisbech.” This kind of attempt to pit one town against another is childish game-playing and should be avoided. All Councillors do their best to highlight the areas they were elected to represent. Why wouldn’t we? Of course it is not always “Wisbech Wisbech Wisbech.” Which is why other towns and villages have had investment, new facilities and endless discussion about the streetlights and other local issues. To try and deflect from a damaging policy decision by making the discussion parochial is unhelpful and incorrect. This is not something new that Wisbech seeks to secure from FDC funds, but something existing and valuable that FDC’s decision will remove from the town. We are not all different countries, we are close Fenland neighbours and friends. This is not a competition. A little perspective?
I fully accept we have to save money and I fully accept that we all have a responsibility to help meet our difficult budget demands. But if this matter had been through the political groups and through the council as a whole, and the issues of the Bowls Club discussed earlier, it may have been possible to seek a different “deal” with the private provider. Those who have made the decision will of course say: “We investigated all avenues” or “this is the best deal we could get.” Maybe so. Maybe not. But since the rest of us weren’t involved, we can’t ever know, can we?
Last I heard the deal had not been signed. My advice would be to go back to Freedom Leisure and say: “Let’s have another look at this and see what we can do” and then involve the whole Council and all the elected Councillors in the discussion. This is how you avoid a massive and unnecessary ding-dong with a lot of finger-pointing and wagging. It’s not too late to have a rethink, even at the 11th hour.
Fun Times Ahead
As has been mentioned elsewhere, the 2019 Election Campaign seems to have begun early.
The usual old tricks from the usual suspects are all out there; character assassination, general nastiness, name-calling, false claims of wrong-doing. Petitions “demanding” things that are already happening, so that they can then pretend they “saved the day.” Par for the course. Nothing new here.
But this time around there appears to be a new tactic being used.
Claims to victimhood. Here we have people who have literally spent the last couple of years making personal remarks, attacks and telling outright lies, suddenly attempting to portray themselves as “victims.” People claiming to have been “personally attacked” even though they have barely even been mentioned and certainly not in any “personal” way.
Well, it’s reverse psychology, of course. Not particularly developed or considered reverse psychology, but reverse psychology nonetheless. It’s like the schoolyard bully who is caught out and then says “no, no! It was them who bullied me” while wiping the blood quickly from his knuckles.
Will it work?
I doubt it. It was possible in the old days for them to get away with it. There wasn’t several years of clear evidence stacked up to prove them liars. But things are different now and that’s why these cowards have an ever-shrinking base of support. As i’ve always said, the truth is out there and given enough time people do find it.
I have also noticed as increased attempt to “lure” folks into saying or doing something that can then be complained about. So they will make some claim that somebody is “scared” of somebody else, in the hope that the person in question will respond in a way that could get them in trouble with the Conduct Committee. It’s all about headlines and narratives and this is an attempt to get some steam under the forthcoming campaign of negativity they are planning. It’s the same thing they do every time. It’s not worked before, so I don’t know why they think it will work this time, but God bless them for being predictable, at least.
Just imagine if, one time, people campaigned on actual issues and policies? Discussed opposing views on how to solve problems logically and respectfully. Wouldn’t that be nice? We can but dream.
Wisbech in Anglia in Bloom 2018
Another great achievement for Wisbech in the Anglia in Bloom Competition.
A Gold Award – 11TH successive Gold Award
Category Winner of Best Large Town in Anglia
Category Winner of Best Business Improvement District (BID) in Anglia
Best Overall Entry in Anglia
Winner of the Anglia in Bloom Trophy
Brain Massingham – winner of The Mike Ames Award
Wisbech Park – Gold Award
St Peters Church Gardens – Gold Award
The General Cemetery Wisbech – Silver Gilt Award
Peckover School – Winner of the Bill Webster Young Peoples Project (under 12 years)
The General Cemetery – Nominated for the Conservation Project Award
Wisbech Park – The A `Mazing Orchard – Nominated for the Community Project Award
North Ward / Waterlees
A Gold Award
Category Winner of the Urban Communities Award
Christine Stevens – Nominee for the Mike Ames Award
Rose Lodge – Nominated for the Sheltered Housing/Care Homes Garden Award
Twin Park Community – Nominated for community Floral Display Award
Waterlees – Nominated for the Environmental Quality Award
Community Gardens – Nominated for the Biodiversity Award
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.
WisBEACH Day 2018
Incredible day. Incredible weather. Huge crowds. Awesome atmosphere.
Couldn’t have asked for more, really.
Well done all my colleagues at Wisbech Town Council and all the brilliant volunteers. Another one knocked out of the park!
I enjoyed spending Tuesday night with the local PHAB club, where I was providing the disco that found the centre of the festivities.
It was a lovely evening and it was great fun to see everybody enjoying themselves to much.
A particular shout out to Tammy – in all my years of charity DJing I have never had somebody hand me a letter during the disco detailing not only their song requests, but solid reasons why those are their song requests! I was charmed and, as you might imagine, the requests were certainly played!