Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Choices choices

Monday evening we held the monthly Mendip Council scrutiny committee meeting.

The more I attend council meetings the more I fear councils are out of touch with the world I occupy.

We are told the county council will have to make £105 million of cuts over the next four years, this with the Tories promises of no council tax increases. One tory said there was more fat to be trimmed, but essentially they want to move services in the voluntary sector, they want to structure of local government as a funding centre to fund services run by others, this with the consequence of poor services for ordinary people and the wealthy can buy the services they need.

The county plan makes statements on improvements to education in the county yet the council wants to rationalise children's centres with likely voluntary input, Academies competing for students, so less collaboration, schools poaching children from school catchment areas and making it harder to plan decent education.

I asked about when contracts are to be awarded should they not insists that a living wage and decent contractual arrangements be made.

We know the vulnerable children services had a poor ofsted report outlining poor leadership.

The infrastructure of our county is poor, the roads are disintegrating, the bus services are poor and the digital broadband is also poor for too many communities. Yet the county say they want to create a strong economy, without the infrastructure building a strong economy will be difficult.

It is my belief the county council needs to honest about what they can achieve and this should be independently verifiable, too many reports have too many words and not enough progress to build better economies, deliver good public services and creating a more equal society.

Without a clear aim, any county plan is a report to sit on a shelf.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


With the District Council trying to submit it Local Plan, the issue of housing is at he top of local discussion.

Last month the District Council produced it's three year housing strategy document for the next here year.

I have very real concerns over this three year strategy, the document talks about the opportunity to have a decent home, yet, any strategy should be providing decent homes for all.

Mendip Council has plans to provide 120 socially rented units per year for he next three years.

I have real concerns that the Council is far to relaxed with their relationship to private landlords, I think it is interesting that MDC licences taxis, this includes regular inspections of cabs and drivers providing evidence of good health, yet the very basic need of private rented housing, they have vague standards, surely every private rented home should have as a minimum of double glazing with energy efficient homes, with listed standards of management and accreditation.

The provision of socially rented housing is insufficient to meet the need and insufficient protection for private tenants.

This in the context of low paid insecure work and high levels of personal debt.

It has been suggested as the economic will come at some point, the level of mortgage repossession are likely to increase, if his happens then there will be more pressure on a rented sector that is becoming more expensive.

The national governments policy's are also making the situation worse, charging 80% of the market rent and short term tenancies as the norm, this with the bedroom tax and a minimum of 20% payment of council tax, the District Council housing strategy looks increasingly complacent in the face of huge housing challenges.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

This weekend I did my sponsored bike ride in aid of Somerset Churches and Chapels and the Shepton Mallet Skate Park. I would like to thank for all the sponsorship that people gave this will add to the funds of the two groups.

I had the good fortune to ride with a group from Kilmerston, they are raising money for their church. I love looking at churches, they are oar inspiring buildings, the quality of the buildings and the features contained within them are magnificent. Although you do realise that the cost of maintenance is high and continuous.

The beauty of the landscape is breathtaking, with hills and fields, the reservoir with the boats and the magnificent houses in pretty villages, this a rural idyll.

Yet, this picture box scene, is this to lived in by those with deep pockets, large cars and the access to wealth to buy the services they need.?

Governments talk about a great deal about supporting rural Britain, yet the proposed sell off off of the Post Office is a classic anti rural community policy.

There is no doubt that the postal services within the urban areas is profitable and easy to provide, yet rural communities, little hamlets and villages in the middle of nowhere are more difficult and costly to provide for.

The universal  service will be secured no doubt, but what kind a service; once or twice a week deliveries?

These services are not nicety's they are services that make rural economies work, electronic media is fine, but how many rural communities have fibre fast telecommunications? So the cost will increase or the service will rationalise, either way not good for a rural community.

The loss of bus services again hinder rural communities, the notion that only profitable routes should be supported is anti to public service, in many places bus services can be called less than basic.

There is no doubt our rural settlements are increasingly becoming gentrified, with the wealthy buying their piece of paradise and where are the small housing schemes for the aspiring young who wish to stay in their own communities?

Under the beauty of our rural idyll, the hidden problems of urban Britain remain, maybe just a little better hidden.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Must do better

I have somewhat neglected this blog since the May elections, the simple message to myself is that, I must do better.

Since my election to MDC in May, I have been allowed to join the Scrutiny committee. This is a interesting committee and in the three months I have served, several interesting items have been discussed.

The District Council have set up a new licensing arrangement for taxis and the housing strategy for he next three years.

Last week I attended the planning meeting to speak against the proposed use of Hitchen Lane for access for 10 four bedroom development on the disused railway line, my objections were that Hitchen lane is an unsuitable access, this application would landlocked another development opportunity, the development would affect the strawberry way cycle track and there is a breeding colony of slow worms and I was not convinced they would be protected.

The MDC Planning board refused the application.

On Tuesday the Town council recommended refusal for the unwelcome Redrow planning application off the Old Wells Road, it is clear this is opportunistic and speculative.

MDC inability to support a sufficiently large planning application land bank has allowed speculative planning applications to be considered as if the land contained within the emerging local plan, this was used by the planning inspector who works for the Secretary of State, if you were cynical you might say the government wants more building as they have failed to rebalance the economy and the last chance for growth is housing. The government are offering councils little support.

The town council also supported a youth council and appointed Susan Gibbs as the link councillor.