Category Archives: Wisbech

Wisbech Bowls Club

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

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

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

Events At Wisbech Library

Events At Wisbech Library

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.

Vote For Ben – 7th May

Vote For Ben – 7th May

WisBEACH Day 2018

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!

Phab Disco

Phab Disco

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!


Stinging Nettle Alley Volunteer Fly Tip Clearance

Stinging Nettle Alley Volunteer Fly Tip Clearance
Yesterday on Wisbech Discussion Forum (Facebook)  somebody reported a fly tip on the alleyway between Lynn Road and Clarence Road on this forum yesterday.
I reported it to FDC who said that they couldn’t clear it because it was on private land.  (Not precisely sure it actually was/is on private land, but I digress.)
So a few of us thought: “what the hell, let’s just go and clear it ourselves.” How long could it take?
Well, that was a lot of rubbish. We’d filled forty bin liners and had barely touched it. As we got down the pile there was a lot of rotten food that was squirming with maggots and worms. There were old nappies, old filthy flea-infested clothes that smells of urine. And it got worse.
One of the volunteers vomited several times during the cleanup. We sort of felt like we needed one of those special teams they bring in to clean up crimes. Extreme cleaning.
Anyway. We got through the majority of it, filling nearly fifty bags of stuff. We then piled all the bulky waste which FDC agreed the Rapid Response team would come and take away – this is the stuff we couldn’t fit in my car; sofa, mattress, a couple fo TV husks. Everything except the kitchen sink. Except there was also a kitchen sink.
Thanks to the volunteers; David Gutteridge. Ben Prest. Jamie Edwards David Topgood all of whom saw the report on Facebook yesterday and agreed to help.
It was a couple of hours of truly disgusting work. Disgusting in the real sense. My car was used to transport the waste to the dump, who agreed to take it helpfully. My car stinks and will be in need of a deep clean all its own later today.

New Secondary School For Wisbech

New Secondary School For Wisbech

Today I spoke before a Committee at County Council as a local member, in support of a new senior school in Wisbech.

The committee unanimously voted to proceed with the plans at the end of the item.

Such good news. Huge investment in Wisbech education now secure. Includes a new Junior school and lots more as well.