Friday, March 30, 2007
So tonight our happy band of leafleteers descends upon unspuspecting Sedgley to begin the process of delivering leaflets there too. It is a sobering thought that in the next month we will probably post a very large number of pieces of paper through people's doors in Prestwich. Possibly quite sobering for residents as well, as porches and doormats may not be able to cope with that volume of paper each...
I jest, obviously. The problem with blogs is that even the most absurdly sarcastic statements are typed entirely devoid of vocal tone, and thus rendered ever-so-slightly plausable. I assure readers, that last one about thousands of leaflets per house was meant as a joke.
We'll be out a few times over the weekend. Tonight at 6pm for instance, and then tomorrow at 12 and again at 5. I am then taking my long suffering girlfriend Tamsin out on Saturday evening, for a Chinese meal and then probably the cinema. We are celebrating her latest essay mark for the M.A. in Education that she is doing. Having got 78% with her first essay, she managed a truly shocking 93% this time round, prompting me to come to the conclusion that either the tutor marking the paper was drunk, or I am living with a genius. Given her taste in men, I can only assume it to be the former, which is disappointing for her because I think the essay is very good indeed.
If indeed we do make it out tomorrow, I shall resist the urge to post the restaurant menu through any nearby letterboxes, or walk quickly from ticket booth to ticket booth in the cinema dropping pieces of paper in each. Such habits have arisen lately as my leafleting moves from a twice weekly habit to a nightly addiction. It is perhaps no co-incidence that Cllr Vic D'Albert's mobile phone ring-tone is "Re-hab" by Amy Winehouse (this is true, not a blog-based piece of sarcasm, and a perhaps disturbing insight into the world of Prestwich Lib Dems... My own ring-tone, by the way, is "Here Comes the Rain Again" by The Eurythmics, in particular the line which goes "Talk to me like lovers do." I thought this would be funny for a phone tone, but nobody else does, and I'm stuck with it now).
We do have the problem of choosing what film to see tomorrow though. There's not much on, so with any luck we will eat enough Chinese food to make subsequent movement nigh-on impossible, and stagger home instead. I can consider a strategy whilst pounding the streets with leaflets between now and then. So if you see me and I look miles away, I am thinking about celluloid and dim sum, that's all.
Have a good evening,
Thursday, March 29, 2007
The Papers are in
With that in mind, tonight sees a return to the leafleting trail after my night off last night watching the Andorran dirge. Much of the latest St Mary’s Focus and Annual Report has now been delivered, so we have the remainder to do, and the next Sedgley Focus as well to get on with.
The election is five weeks today. Thirty five days of campaigning on issues that matter to the people of Prestwich – the future of schools, protecting our parks, saving local post offices and sorting out the traffic. It’s going to be a busy time listening to residents and seeing how we can best respond to their needs. But Liberal Democrats believe in giving power to local people. We don’t want centralisation and the vesting of decision-making in Whitehall and Town Halls. We want more decisions made locally by people who know about the issues and can provide the best solutions to problems.
That’s what the campaign in Prestwich will be about. The Liberal Democrats have listened to local people about schools, hospitals and recycling. We were at the forefront of the Save Prestwich Arts college campaign, and led the fight against changes to Fairfield Hospital. We have successfully forced the Labour group on Bury Council to invest in 28,000 extra recycling bins.
Labour don’t listen to local people. They have ignored the residents of Prestwich time and again over education, policing and The Retreat. With Labour in charge, taxes are going up, and services are being cut.
And the Conservatives in Prestwich can’t win. They were miles off the pace in 2006, and have done nothing since. Their candidate for St Mary’s Ward lives miles away in Unsworth. If there is no Conservative living in St Mary’s who is worthy of standing, why are the Conservative’s worthy of your vote?
The Lib Dems in Prestwich do listen. I am proud to say that I live in the ward, and have spoken in person to every single resident who has contacted me on any issue. I intend to continue this if elected. I want to help people sort out their problems and make Prestwich the place that we all want it to be. I want to equip local people with the means to improve the lives of the whole community. Labour aren’t doing that for Prestwich, and the Conservative’s can’t. The Lib Dems can and do. And we will in the future as well.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Signatures and Football
I am obtaining the last signatures on my nomination forms tonight, so thanks once again to the people of St Mary’s who have offered to lend their name to the forms. It is much appreciated.
After I have finished the paperwork I am having an evening off, attempting to unwind watching England take on the mighty Andorra. If Saturday’s paltry display against Israel is anything to go by though, I imagine a reduction in stress is the last thing that will happen.
Tulle Court - Planning approved, but disappointment for residents
Perhaps more disappointing was the lack of representation made available to residents at the meeting. The rules state that each side (those in favour of the application, and those against) may speak for two minutes. Ward Councillors may then speak, then members of the Committee, and then there is a vote. Unfortunately, two of the St Mary’s Councillors are on the Planning Committee, and so couldn’t speak for residents. The third was unavailable as well. This left local people without representation. I volunteered, but could be of little use because I am not a councillor. I arranged for Cllr Vic D’Albert, the Lib Dem Councillor for Holyrood ward, to attend and speak instead of a ward Councillor. Not only is he the Councillor for the ward next door, but he is Chair of Prestwich Area Board, and a resident of St Mary’s. Unfortunately, he was prevented from speaking, and the residents had no extra help. I am very disappointed by this.
Whilst I appreciate the potential for appeals should the rules be broken in this way, it would have been fairer, in my view, to seek a compromise position with the applicants rather than reject the offer of help from Cllr D’Albert out of hand. He wasn’t making his offer of help to score political points, but out of a genuine desire to help. Residents are entitled to representation, and could not receive it. It is my view that special arrangements should be made for alternative Councillor assistance should no ward Councillor be available.
The decision on the planning application itself was not entirely what residents wanted. But it will be accepted. The process though has left a sour taste with those of us who believe that it was rushed and completed without adequate consultation. Although we will all be happier with Tulle Court renovated and back providing housing for local people, last night’s events have sullied residents’ opinions of the Council and the democratic process, and were a shame in my opinion.
People entrusted with power should remember who entrusted them with it. At a time when faith in the political process is low, turnout in elections is falling, and opinions of politicians are poor, we have a duty of fairness to residents. I think there was a failure of that duty last night.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The perils of modern communications
I returned home still none-the-wiser, only to see mum's car parked outside the house. In it she sat, waiting calmly for me to return from work to commence the leafleting. The look of heartbreak on her face when I told her it was done, and her hour long wait outside my house was in vain, was pleasurable only for the fact that it confirms my suspicions that she actually quite likes coming out with us!
So that was my leafleting adventure tonight. Other than that, the day was spent at work of course, and in between work and leafleting I popped in to see a local resident about a landlord and tenant issue he is involved in at the moment. I have also been talking to my neighbours about signing my nomination papers for the election. All candidates need the signatures of 10 local people, so it's good to know that I have at least that number of people willing to sign their name to the cause!
Monday, March 26, 2007
Focus, Tulle Court and Charlier Brooker
Still, now that the clocks have gone forward there is enough light to allow for leafleting in the evenings without the perils of slipping over on dark, wet concrete and hurtling towards serious injury at the bottom of someone’s driveway.
On the menu for the evening is more Focus/Annual Report distribution – this is becoming a common theme of late, and I apologise for the repetitive nature of these postings. But believe me, it’s easier reading about it than it is doing it!
8 o’clock sees the residents’ meeting on the Tulle Court development, which I will be attending. Also in attendance will be Cllr Vic D’Albert, the Lib Dem member for Holyrood ward. Although not a ward Councillor for the Tulle court development technically speaking, Vic does live in St Mary’s and so makes amends for the fact that our own Cllr Donal O’Hanlon can’t speak up on behalf of residents because he is on the Planning Committee himself.
Residents (like me) can speak for or against any planning proposal for 2 minutes, but Councillors can speak for as long as they want. That’s great, but for St Mary’s it’s a little unfair given that two of the three ward Councillors are on the committee, and the other can’t attend the meeting. So Vic steps into the breach.
There’s clearly still some concern from residents that a number of the issues raised at the first Planning meeting are still to be addressed – parking, privacy and alleyway safety to name but three. We shall see how the Committee pans out tomorrow.
PS - I am a big fan of Charlie Brooker, who writes for The Gurdian. His columns often have me in stitches - it's like somebody has entered my brain and dragged out my darkest thoughts before scattering them liberally in the newspapers. His column today about not understanding the finer detail of current events is not especially funny, but does resonate particularly with me, as someone so often in awe of the complexities of the news. Take a look.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Sunday Sunny Sunday
I also discovered the most taxing gate in Prestwich. Frequent leafleters - like postmen, I imagine - encounter all sorts on their rounds, from the simple latch type, to the grandiose ones with sliding bits and floral accompanments and enough metal to construct a nuclear submarine. But I had never come across one quite so rusty and utterly unwilling to budge as the one I came across this morning. A battle between man and gate ensued, which thankully for the human race I won, eventually. And the lucky resident with the rusty gate received an annual report and Focus. I can only assume that the person who lives there is a world-class weightlifter, because otherwise the simple task of getting in and out of his house must be quite a trial. Anyway, all is well in the world of gates...
We'll be out group leafleting at 12 and 5. And in between, my weekend takes a turn for the wilder as I do some ironing.
Last night's meal at Sam's Chop House was pretty nice, food wise. After the leaflet frenzy of yesterday I thought I'd reward myself with a slab of meat the size of a Yellow Pages.
Once again though I thought the service was pretty slack. The food took an age to arrive, and they got a couple of things wrong with the order. They also served my drink in a glass with a crack so large that it actually classed as a geological feature.
I don't know if it's the type of restaurants I frequent, but this service problem seems to be happening an awful lot these days. Pretty much every time I go out. Where once there were attentive waiting staff and slick service, now there seems to be a shortage of everything, food taking ages and even when it comes coming in dribs and drabs so that my food is luke-warm by the time other peoples' arrive. Strange. Still, it was very tasty.
And at least my being out meant that I missed the England game. It's a shame bookies don't take bets on games just being "a bit rubbish". If they did I'd have won a fortune by predicting the outcome of last night's! Although, having said that, they'd have been offering very short odds. It was England away after all.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Hectic Leafletting, Prestwich Hills and Tulle Court
After that meeting, it has been non-stop leafleting. First off the Riverview / Fitzgerald estate near to the bottom of Butterstile Lane. Then I joined Cllrs O'Hanlon and D'Albert for Scott and Shakespeare Roads at lunchtime, and then came home to do Clifton Road, Dashwood Road, James Street, and Kingswood Road.
I also spoke to a resident about the Tulle Court development. There was a meeting of residents today where some of the issues were discussed. I didn't find out about it until afterwards, but I do intend to go to then next meeting on Monday, ahead of the final Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday. The meeting is at 20.00 at 26 Church Lane (the residents' meeting that is - the Committee meeting is at the Town Hall), so if you are interested, come along.
At 5pm I will be back out leafleting with other local campaigners. As yet I don't know where.
And then tonight, Tam's parents are treating us to a meal out, as a belated birthday present to her (although it is actually closer to my birthday than it is to her's!). So I will finally get the chance to relax ahead of more leafletting tomorrow!
Friday, March 23, 2007
Visit to Heathlands
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Presentations and Strategising
And then tonight will see both leafleting and a campaign strategy meeting, bringing together candidates and activists from across Bury to discuss the campaign and our activities leading up to May 3rd. Unfortunately, I suspect that my suggestion of blowing the entire budget on a solid-gold fifty foot high statue of myself to replace the glass wall in Prestwich Village will be rejected, even after I withdraw the idea of it permanently revolving so as always to face the sun (this is my secret bargaining tool). They tell me that this plan might be less effective a vote-winner than writing and delivering Focuses… Well, you learn something new every day, I suppose... We'll see how it goes.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Brown's Budget Bad for Bury
But what does the budget mean to Prestwich and Bury? Well, Mr Brown has failed to grasp the opportunity presented to him by the Lyons Review on local government finance, the findings of which are published this week. It recommends creating two new Council Tax bands (one at the very top and one at the very bottom) and re-valuing homes to make the bands more up to date. Whilst the Review is a step towards a fairer local tax system, it doesn’t go far enough in terms of relating a tax system to the taxpayer’s ability to pay it. And because Mr Brown has done nothing on this issue, the criminal under-funding of our local Councils will continue. As a result, Bury Council, like all the others, will be forced to ask their residents for more through the unfair Council Tax. The people of Bury will pay more. The people of Prestwich will pay more. The Lib Dems propose much fairer local taxation, whereas Labour stubbornly stick to the unfair Council Tax.
Mr Brown’s investment in the NHS is welcome, as always. But as a resident of Prestwich myself, I wonder what the impact will be on local services. Will we get to maintain maternity provision in Bury? Will local GPs throughout the Borough provide an acceptable out-of-hours service again? Will the crisis in NHS dentistry in the Borough get any better? Or will the money go to fund yet more centrally-driven targets at the expense of services really improving for Prestwich people? The Lib Dems champion true localism in the NHS, giving power to Doctors and Nurses, not performance managers.
Has Mr Brown made Prestwich residents’ lives any easier in terms of transport? No, I don’t think so. Petrol duty has gone up, but there’s been no mention of providing affordable alternatives to the car. The situation for Prestwich people is particularly bad now that the Metrolink is closing for months, so where is Mr Brown's solution here? And whilst road tax for “gas-guzzlers” has gone up a little bit, what incentive is it for local people to use greener cars when a £60,000 BMW X5 attracts VED of just £300? It costs less to service it! The Lib Dems welcome the abolition of VED for the greenest cars, but would also have provided much more for public transport improvements for local people as well.
Will Mr Brown’s budget make the people of Bury feel safer in their homes and feel more confident in the justice system? Again, I don’t think so. The pressure on our courts will not be relieved with the tiny increase in provision for the services. Local people’s access to justice will be lowered with such a small settlement. Again, Labour have let local people down, whereas the Lib Dems Five Steps to a Safer Britain would do the opposite for Prestwich – giving more power to local people to make troublesome areas safer, putting more police on the beat, and ensuring honesty in the sentencing of offenders. Tonight I received a very distressing call from a pensioner widow scared to leave her own home at night. Where is Mr Brown's solution to this lady's problems? Our's are clear.
The people of Prestwich have been let down by Labour on Education before – Prestwich Arts College was to close until the Save Our Schools campaign, championed by the Lib Dems, secured the school’s future. But again education in Prestwich will suffer after the budget. Where is the cash to reduce class sizes for our youngest pupils? Where is money for expert teachers in science and maths in our secondary schools? And where is the money for employing foreign language teachers in our primary schools? The Lib Dems would target money into these areas. Only last week the government grabbed the headlines when announcing foreign language teaching in schools. But who's going to pay? It looks like you and me, through the Council Tax!
So when you read the Budget analysis over the next couple of days, take in the national picture of course. But remember the likely effect on Prestwich, carried out by our own Labour Council. More unfair Council Tax, but less services. The Lib Dems would do better for local people.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
In the bleak mid-winter
I say that of course, but all rests on the ability of my hands and fingers to withstand the temperatures, which have plummeted in the last couple of days. This morning, for the first time in its five year life, my car wouldn't start. Although, after a stern look from me it relented and propelled me to work as normal.
Other than being at work, I haven't really achieved much today, so there isn't a huge deal to report, other than the fact that now over twenty people have joined my election campaign group on Facebook, so if you want to become the latest member, and receive campaign updates and news, visit the site and search for my group.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Hilton Lane junction petition received
Over 400 local people have signed the petition, which Cllr D’Albert will now present to the Council in his role as Area Board Chair.
This junction is a major crossing for lots of people including pupils at a number of local schools, and those wishing to access the shops on the corner. Simply standing watching the traffic flow for a minute will show how many cars use it too. It is only a matter of time before somebody is seriously injured or worse.
As seems so often the case with local issues, the Lib Dems are the only party taking things seriously, and taking forward the interests of local people. This petition is not the end, and our campaign for increased safety features will continue.
The photo above shows me with local residents at the junction, receiving their petition on behalf of St Mary’s Liberal Democrats.
Prestwich Lib Dems to raise money at Great Manchester Run
I will be part of the Prestwich Lib Dem team which ill also include Cllr Tim Pickstone of Holyrood ward, and we will be running in aid of the George House Trust, a Manchester charity working with people with HIV. I am currently collecting sponsorship for this very worthy cause indeed, and am tonight asking for readers’ help.
As I say, this is a fantastic charity working with people who are often in great need of support. This event is one of the George House Trust’s major fundraising activities, so let’s see if we can raise as much as possible.
If you would like to donate, please visit my online donations page here. It is easy to give money online, and is 100% secure.
Thanks in advance,
Focus Update - Lib Dems fight local Police cuts
The Lib Dems are actively challenging Tony Blair in Parliament, and the Labour Party across the country as they preside over rising taxes and falling service levels in police and other services. We have sensible and practical solutions to these problems.
Bury’s Labour Council has overseen rising Council Taxes, whilst the national Labour government has imposed ever heavier burdens on local government without giving proper funding whilst it indulges in its expensive and unpopular mistakes – ID cards, the war in Iraq, police chasing targets instead of chasing criminals.
The Police is just another issue where we are the sensible alternative to Labour’s mistakes.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
We can cut crime
Whilst there I met Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Nick Clegg MP to discuss with him the findings of a survey of residents about crime that we’ve distributed to local people across St Mary’s. And now we have the photos!
We’ve had surveys back from hundreds of Prestwich residents, and it was great to meet Nick Clegg MP and discuss with him the concerns and experiences of residents of the local area. He was genuinely interested and has a real understanding of the issues.
Labour’s posturing and tough talk on crime has done nothing to cut crime. Unfortunately, the people of Prestwich are living with the consequences of having a Labour government more interested in catching headlines than criminals. We have rising anti-social behaviour, nuisance crime and occasionally even serious violence like the attack in St Mary’s Park at new year.
By contrast, Liberal Democrats back a strong set of proposals called Together We Can Cut Crime. It outlines our Five Steps To A Safer Britain: put more police on the streets rather than waste money on ID cards; restore honesty to sentencing; make education and training in prisons compulsory; make prisoners who work pay into a victims compensation fund and give communities more powers to close problem pubs and clubs. This plan is an example of real policies which work in practice, not just tough talk. And it's just the type of policy we'll be fighting for if you put your faith in us at the local elections on May 3rd.
There's a reason we have elections in the spring...
Which is why today's apocalyptic weather was even more annoying than it would otherwise have been. I thought, when I got into this game, that we could take a rain-check when the going got tough. Sadly not.
Still, there is something satisfying about requiring the use of a convection heater and a towel when returning from a stint of leaflet distribution. Rather like the look of pride after a hard day's graft. No mere weakling could have survived... It takes fortitude...
And the important thing is that despite the balls of granite-hard freezing ice that came pounding directly from the sky onto my head, the good people of Albert Avenue in Sedgley now have their Focuses.
Tomorrow sees the printing of the new St Mary's Focus, the delieveries of which will continue all week long. Hopefully the weather will stop its evil cackling and return to tranquility, otherwise I will need to invest in protective clothing of some kind. My frail cardigan and recycled leaflet bag weren't made for such trials...
The day is one of unique events for us both. Not only does it mean a free feed and a present for Mum, but it also means a Sunday without leaflets for me! Although the weather may have seen to that anyway, as it did last night when the rain forced an abandonment of our attempts to do Meade Hill Road in Sedgley. All of a sudden I feel like an international cricketer, having to call a halt to proceeedings when it rains - although this wouldn't necessarily be such a bad thing for the England team at present.
The problem with rainy and leaflets is that they are reduced to pulp. My face looks pretty bad on them at the best of times, but when in liquified state it suddenly becomes less of an ugly mug and more of a simple affront to decency. So we have to give up and go home. Thankfully, being stalled by the rain is where the cricketing analogies end, because whereas batsmen have to flee from balls hurtling towards them in bad light, we casn carry on leafleting into the wee small hours.
Enjoy your Sunday.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Believe everything you read. And then some more...
First off Labour's plans to change Area Boards. Whilst nobody really thinks they work in their present format, plans to get rid of the open forum element are wrong in my opinion. We should be strengthening residents' access to Councillors, not weakening it. Councillors locally should be given more of a control over the Bury Council budget so that they can get things done that people in their neighbourhoods actually need. And I applaud Conservative Councillor Michelle Wiseman's stand on this issue, which is coming from the same point of view. Unfortunately, whilst Cllr Wiseman (the Chair of Whitefield and Unsworth Area Board) gets a big picture and interview in the paper, nobody came to ask our own Lib Dem Chair of Prestwich Area Board Cllr Vic D'Albert for his views. Which is a shame given that the Advertiser is a Prestwich paper!
The other story concerned Bland Road, and the traffic calming measures introduced after a residents' survey over rat-run concerns. Although the plans are controversial, the Area Board heard from dozens of local people and decided that they should be approved. The plans will make the streets safer for local residents, especially children, and may help to tackle the car-jacking problems that some residents have suffered. It is good to see that the Sedgley Labour Councillor Gill Campbell is happy with the result, although in the interests of fairness it would have been nice for the paper to have interviewed either of the two Lib Dem Councillors as well!
So, for one week only, DO believe everything you read in the paper! Just remember that we'd have said pretty much the same thing!!
Friday, March 16, 2007
Hilton Lane junction - activity tomorrow
Leaflet expansion - sure sign of campaign fever
I am no stranger to the phenomenon myself of late, but that's more to do with a desire for exercise and the mild evenings than any campaign madness. Now though we're all at it, a sure sign that lections may be looming. Where once it was OK to go out as a group only at the weekends, now my Friday night is gone, and next week Thursday as well!
All of this is merely a prelude of course to the nightly activities of April - a slow ratcheting up of the pace, rather like that stretching machine from the film "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." And tonight saw us in Holyrood again, taking in the Heaton Street area and the houses near the Metrolink line off Heywood Road.
We'll be back out tomorrow at lunchtime and again at teatime. But that's on Saturday, so it won't feel quite so strange!
Spring Vale success!
Unfortunately my colleague Cllr Andrew Garner beat me to it in informing the resident, who answered the phone to me simply by saying "I know already!"
Still, it can't hurt to know that the Prestwich Lib Dems get things done...
Thursday, March 15, 2007
More on street cleaning
They have confirmed that every street in the Borough is subject to cleaning on a six weekly rota, using the sweeping machines. In Prestwich, Bury New Road through the Village is actually swept and cleaned by hand twice a day, by the same person who empties the bins.
The resident who originally contacted me was a bit disappointed that the reply from the Council didn't consider our point about extra bins on West Road, and the problems of cleaning on the stepped / pedestrian parts of the road itself. So I have written back asking for more details. Something must have worked though because I was contacted later on by the same person to say that the steps on West Road were being cleaned there and then, for the first time in months! So another victory for Prestwich residents, and I'm glad the Lib Dems could help oil the wheels!
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Action update - West Road and litter
I am impressed at how often my own street is cleaned, but then it is fairly busy. We also have the advantage of a couple of waste bins to deal with the litter generated from the takeaways on Bury New Road. Unfortunately, too often some of the other roads in the ward are left out.
I have raised the issue with the officer in charge of street cleaning in Prestwich. I asked him how often West Road and the other streets around here are cleaned, and whether alternative arrangements are in place for uniquely challenging streets like West Road itself, which is too small for the normal vehicles. I also asked whether further bins could be installed along the Village and in nearby streets. Too often my front garden resembles a waste recycling facility or the back yard of a takeaway, and I'm sure I'm not the only one!
I await the response from the officer, and will update you when I get it.
Join the campaign on Facebook
You can find the group here, although you will have to log on to Facebook first (it's free, and great fun!).
In the meantime, as ever, if you have an issue you want to discuss or for us to take to the Council, please get in touch via the blog or using the contacts on the back of Focus.
Lib Dem Candidates for Local Elections Announced
Sedgley Ward will be contested by Steve Wright, and Cllr Wilf Davison will defend his seat in Holyrood.
I am delighted to have been selected to fight St Mary’s by the local party, and if the people of St Mary’s put their faith in me at the election, my promise to them is that I will try my best never to let them down.
The selections in the other Prestwich wards are excellent too. Cllr Davison has served Holyrood with distinction for many years, and I hope he is re-elected to continue his good work. Steve Wright is an excellent local campaigner, steadfastly committed to local issues, a leader of the Save our Schools campaign and a genuinely passionate local resident. The people of Sedgley could not ask for a man more determined to do good on their behalf.
It would be a privilege for me to serve the people of my local community – the people of St Mary’s where I live, and the people of Prestwich where my family have lived for three generations.
I thoroughly enjoy the challenges and rewards of campaigning in Prestwich with the Lib Dems, and as I speak to local people and try to help them resolve problems, the one emotion I feel strongest is the common desire to see Prestwich become a more vibrant, more successful and more cohesive community.
I want that too, and I’ll be asking for your votes to help us achieve that together.
We’re lucky in St Mary’s – there are problems, yes, but there’s some beautiful open space and woodland, some fabulous shops, great transport links, and friendly local people.
But there’s much to be done. For too long now we in Prestwich have been forgotten by the power-brokers in Bury.
Prestwich may be the southern-most tip of the Borough, but it’s just as important as everywhere else, and deserves to be treated as such. If elected I will join my Lib Dem colleagues on the Council in trying to secure the very best for Prestwich.
The flow of traffic along Bury New Road needs urgent attention. Discussions on the renovation of Prestwich Precinct needs to be a top priority – it needs to be done sympathetically, to benefit local people and local businesses. We need to increase parking provision and fix our local roads. We need to keep on supporting Prestwich Arts College and all of our local schools. We need to make our road crossings safer and our pavements free of holes and cracks. We need to work with the police and the Council to crack down on crime and give our young people more to do. We need to cut out anti-social behaviour.
I give my utmost support to residents trying to sort out these problems. I am a local resident too. I’ve helped people with pavements, with anti-social behaviour, and with traffic issues. I’ve worked with local residents about Tulle Court, the Retreat and Prestwich Hospital. And I know that in helping them, we all get the rewards of an improved Prestwich.
I live on Clifton Road in the heart of St Mary’s, and I’ve had problems with traffic, parking, and anti-social behaviour myself. That’s why I got involved with the local Liberal Democrats. And now I have the chance to make a difference as a local councillor – if you put your faith in me to work for you.
Cllr Donal O’Hanlon has led the Lib Dem fight in St Mary’s all year, through Focus leaflets and on the streets campaigning – on The Retreat, fighting to save schools, making sure recycling happens. Now I have the chance to join him, and to add to his good work. This is just the start of the campaign for me and the Prestwich Liberal Democrats, and I look forward to talking to more local people as we move on together towards the elections.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
This evening's plans...
It was a gorgeous blue sky this morning, as I prepared for an 8-hour stint indoors. But now that I am going outside it appears to have clouded over and will doubtless start to rain the moment I set foot out the door. But such is life. It mocks me, and I’m used to it.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Green with envy?
This was pretty annoying because we Lib Dems have long been the standard-bearers for policies on the environment that are practical and workable but still reflect the seriousness of climate change and the threat to our environment. I know I’m biased, but neither Gordon Brown nor David Cameron are the most sensible when it comes to the environment. We are!
In fact, all of our policies have a “green thread” running through them, because Liberal Democrats have long understood that environmental policies aren’t just a flight-tax here and a road-charge there. They’re about much more than that. They’re about the environment being at the heart of policies on health, education and the economy. After all, climate change has the potential not just to damage our environment, but also impact on personal health, impoverish economies and weaken communities.
The Lib Dem Green Tax Switch campaign goes far further than piecemeal measures like the Conservative plan to tax flights. It’s about more than flights, and crucially it’s about more than tax rises. It’s about cuts in tax for green behaviour as well.
Mr Cameron may appear to be taking a tough line, but he’s stopping at flight taxes when he could be doing far more to reward green behaviour and provide practical greener alternatives to frequent flying. Lib Dems would. We’d reward people who drive low-emission cars by cutting road tax, and we’d pay for it by charging drivers in higher-polluting vehicles more. To encourage more fuel efficient aircraft we’d press for multinational agreement on aviation pollution, and meanwhile implement per aircraft rather than per passenger charges, based on aircraft emissions, to encourage more efficient aircraft and higher passenger loading of aircraft.
What’s the point of simply raising air taxes and doing little else? There needs to be incentives as well as taxation, or else Mr Cameron will turn people away from environmentalism, rather than towards it.
Why stop at flights Mr Cameron? So much energy is used in so many other walks of life. Liberal Democrats are committed to providing well thought-out, wide-ranging policies on our environment, from the generation of our power through to how and where it is used. On the issue of taxing air travel, we make this simple promise:
We would scrap all airport departure taxes paid by passengers - which simply raise money for the Treasury and do not encourage more sustainable aviation and replace this with a duty to be paid by airlines for each commercial aircraft - passenger and freight (which currently pay nothing under the current system) - taking off from a British airport. (The new duty would be set to raise the same amount of money as the old).
Here are the Liberal Democrat promises on other aspects of the environment and climate change:
Encourage Combined Heat and Power schemes to reduce the energy wasted in power generation, a set a target for 30% of electricity used in the public sector to be generated from Combined Heat and Power by 2015
Domestic Energy Efficiency
Make building regulations tougher. We would cut fuel bills and reduce pollution by requiring all new housing to meet improved energy and water efficiency standards through the use of environmentally friendly building materials and techniques.
The Kyoto Protocol and Emissions targets
Place Britain at the forefront of climate change negotiations, pressing other nations to ratify and implement the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Ensure that Britain achieves its own target well before the deadline, and establishes a new target of a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2010, setting an example to the world. Our long-term target is for a 60% reduction by 2050.
Promote a new Europe-South initiative for a long-term global framework to cap CO2 emissions through contraction of greenhouse gases emissions to the level needed to stabilise the climate, and convergence to equal emission quotas, with common institutions to ensure and support compliance under democratic control ('contraction and convergence').
Make urgent preparations for participation by UK firms in the European Union Emissions Trading scheme which will become mandatory by 2008, particularly by drawing up a fair National Allocation Plan which will achieve real emission reductions,
It’s a shame that the announcements by Mr Cameron and Mr Brown, which represent little more than tinkering at the edges of this massive issue, get all the publicity. In reality the Liberal Democrats have been the only party to give serious consideration to these issues for many years, and they are the only party with serious ambitions to address the problems facing our environment today.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Exec Meeting tomorrow - not really much before then!
Tomorrow is the Bury Lib Dem Exec meeting - the final one before the election on May 3rd. So I imagine it will be a rallying cry to the party membership to really get us in the mood for the spring campaign. The pace of leafletting has already speeded up, together with crime surveys to residents across Prestwich as part of the "We Can Cut Crime" campaign. Tomorrow is also the night when the candidates for the elections will be formally adopted, so I will let you know the news as to who the Liberal Democrats have chosen to fight for the Prestwich Wards.
This evening I shall be concluding my "rock and roll" weekend with a large dinner in front of the TV. Tamsin is out at a "thank you" meal from the owners of the dancing school she teaches at two evenings a week. So I am all alone with the time that used to be given over to Top Gear. Tonight there is an interesting-sounding programme on about freedom, and how we've managed to go about losing it of late. I am hoping that this may be an elongated party political broadcast for us, but somehow I suspect they'll manage to avoid it. Never mind.
And then tomorrow I am back in work which, for the time being while all my friends are otherwise engaged, markes pretty much my only form of social interaction. Which is just about the saddest thing I've heard all week!
Enjoy your evenings,
Saturday, March 10, 2007
How big IS Bury?
Tonight my rock and roll weekend continues as I settle down in front of the second half of Middlesbrough v United for a spot of ironing. It runs out that not a single friend is available to me, and thus I may even have to sink to an all time low and watch "Dancing on Ice," or whatver it's called on ITV1. Although, honest to God, I think staring at a blank screen would be better for me. Thankfully I have Lynne Truss' new book "A Certain Age" to keep me going. It's a collection of monologues (along the lines of Alan Bennett's "Talking Heads"), and the first few that I've read have been excellent. Hopefully the rest will keep me detained until bedtime!
Friday, March 09, 2007
Rock and Roll Lifestyle
I have been deserted, slowly but surely, by all of my friends of late. One has emigrated to America, one has emigrated to Australia (a disturbing pattern is emerging...) and several others have left Manchester for pastures new yet closer (Swindon, for instance). Two of the remaining few have decided to go to Paris this weekend, leaving me with a very limited field from which to choose from indeed. And since Tamsin dances on a Friday night, I find myself here, with nothing to contribute to the week's-end party scene than a stern look of rejection.
Still, aside from my relatively batter-free dinner this evening, I have leafletting to look forward to over the weekend, as once more we step into the streets of Prestwich armed with nothing more than 200 leaflets each, and a smile.
Lord only knows what I'll do when the night falls tomorrow. I may have to go to the pictures alone - Tam has an essay to write for her MA, and, as we've discussed, there really is nobody else left.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
The winds of change
It was strange to see so many of my old toys and games. Old school exercise books, kids books that I read, old magazines... I saw a great preview for the 1990 World Cup up there. All of it has fleeting sentimental value, but absolutely none of it has any financial value, so the choice was either to invest in storage space at one of these new "self-storage" warehouses that have sprung up for people unable to throw anything away ever, or cast aside the sentimentality, set my face to "stony" and chuck the whole lot in the bag for the charity shop. Which is essentially what we did. So nip down to Oxfam in Prestwich Village next week and you may well end up playing with one of my old toys!
But the sad part of the evening was a trip to my Grandpa's house. A more ghostly place I could scarcely imagine. The whole house just echoes with decades of memories, all gone now. And it really does echo, because where once there was furniture, there's just empty rooms. It's worse for my Mum, who was raised there (and, as I pointed out, to the subsequent embarrassment of us both, was conceived there in all likelihood. "Just in that room there Mum...Look!").
All I can think of when I'm there is Grandpa tottering down the stairs, or sat in his chair. Not so much all the times I stayed over, or played in the garden, or was there for family parties or meals. They come afterwards, when I've been there for a while. The first thoughts I have are recent ones - him taking an age to get to the front door, or sitting with nothing but vacant eyes and a worried frown.
But time hurries on, and even that has gone forever now. My grandparents lived there once, but it's all in the past. Hopefully in the future, the recent memories of him as old and her as gone will be replaced, and when I see the house again, with someone else living in it, I can remember how it was when I was young.
But before that, there's trips to the tip, and lugging wardrobes between houses. Now THAT'S something to look forward to!
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Area Board frustrations
Last night’s Area Board was a huge disappointment though in terms of the plans we can make for road repairs in Prestwich. It is the job of the Area Board to select which roads are put forward for repair, and last night the Council officer responsible for highways presented the Board with a list of the 12 most needy roads for them to select from (including Spring Vale, the cause of resident communications recently).
Alongside the name of the road were high-level cost estimates for the repairs to footpaths and roadways, with the total amount needed to replenish all 12 (remember that these weren’t the only 12 roads in Prestwich needing repairing – just the worst 12) being around £500,000. The Labour Council has allocated just £130,000 for the year ahead for Prestwich road repairs, which is barely a quarter of the amount needed.
I think this is a disgrace, and is symptomatic of the catastrophic funding difficulties that Bury Council has got itself into under Labour control. We don’t get enough money from central government, and what we do get is often prioritised wrongly on gimmicks and short term vote-winners. Liberal Democrats in favour of sustainable solutions and thought-out policies that reflect our core beliefs are frustrated at every turn.
Half of the roads on the list last night were also on the list last year, but no money was forthcoming then, just as now.
The majority of local people don’t expect much from the Council. Their bins emptied, their streets clean, and their roads safe. Obviously there are exceptions, and there are complicated cases where people’s needs are more difficult to meet. We need to meet the needs of everyone. But there needs to be honesty and dialogue with local people about what this means to services and to taxes. When we fail to provide the basic services – when we are forced to choose which of our streets to leave dangerous and unpleasant – we are letting down every one of our residents. Even these basic expectations aren’t met, and nobody quite seems to know why.
At the moment there is no dialogue with local people. Taxes go up, services get cut, and nobody knows why because decisions are made centrally and local communities have absolutely no power.
Local community politicians like the Councillors on the Area Board need more than just the power to pick streets at random from a list. They need to control the budgets for their areas, to engage with local residents about their priorities, and to engage in honest dialogue about tough choices. At the moment that isn’t happening, and it’s no wonder people aren’t engaged in the political process.
At the moment, plans put forward by Bury Labour appear to down-grade Area Boards even more. Where they should be given more power to decide how local money is spent and which local needs are prioritised, they are being given less. More powers are being squeezed from locally elected politicians towards central bodies or unelected groups. This needs to be stopped.
Liberal Democrats are the true champions of localism. We are the only party advocating real power for local communities – power devolved from central bureaucracies and into the hands of local communities. We trust local people to engage in dialogue, and want to help communities solve their own problems. We don’t just hand down an inadequate sum of money for road repairs after a budget decided in another place decreed that priorities lay elsewhere, with no explanation.
We mightn’t be able to replace every needy road, but at least people would know why, and would have a say in the matter. At the moment this isn’t happening, and it should change.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Area Board and absolute madness
One thing that will be spoken of as a matter of urgency is the latest spate of vandalism in the area, which has now spread from broken car windows to the same gang of youths bringing down street lights. Aside from the annoyance and high cost of this activity (£20,000 of public money has had to be spent on repairing the lights, rather than on caring for the sick and old or any of the other Council services), it is becoming more widespread. Over half a dozen lights have been shaken from their foundations in recent weeks. It is incredibly stupid behaviour, and I hope the perpetrators are caught, prosecuted and punished as a matter of urgency. The lights are heavy pieces of street furtniture, and knocking them over is dangerous to traffic, pedestrians, residents and everyone else. Live wires are being exposed and roads and pavements damaged. It must not go on, and hopefully tonight's Area Board will be the latest step towards stopping it.
I will keep you updated on the outcome, and on other things from the Board. In the meantime, if you experience any incidents of vandalism, in particular street-light vandalism, please let me know after contacting the Police.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Focus tonight, Area Board tomorrow
I am still trying to get to grips with the desktop publishing software we use, which refuses to do as I tell it despite looking very easy to use back in the training session… It also makes my face look extremely pointy in photos, something that I can’t imagine being true in real life!
Tomorrow night is the Area Board, at 6pm at Butterstile Primary School, where, incidentally, I am a governor. So if you want to have your say on anything that’s going on in Prestwich, make sure you go to the meeting – all Area Boards are open to the public, with time set aside for questions. Tomorrow night’s agenda includes discussions on which of the roads in Prestwich will be repaired in the coming year, with the allocation of budgetary funds to ensure that work happens where it’s needed most. So if your road has a pot-hole in it, go along and have your say!
Sunday, March 04, 2007
5 tests for Brown, 1 test for me
The whole weekend re-affirmed to me that the Liberal Democrats really do offer viable, credible alternatives to policies in so many fields that just aren't working under Labour. Inequality is increasing, and we have sensible plans to address it through things like cutting tax for 28 million lower and middle income families. The fear of crime is rising, but we have 5 steps to cut crime. Civil liberties are being eroded like never before - rights to protest, judicial independence, trial by jury - and we have the plans to reverse this trend. Much of our foreign policy seems like it's set in Washington and rubber-stamped by our Parliament. And we will stop it. And on climate change, the government hesitate, whilst we propose radical changes in the tax system that penalise polluters and free hard-working people from ever more punitive income taxes.
Harrogate was a wonderful weekend - my first conference, but not, I hope, my last. HJearing our parliamentarians set forth the party's vision for the future, and hearing the success stories from places where the Lib Dems are leading today (Councils like Newcastle, Milton Keynes and Liverpool, and of course the Scottish Parliament where we work with Labour) show that where we lead, we succeed.
Unfortunately, whilst Gordon Brown is challenged to meet 5 of the most pressing issues of the day, I didn't quite manage to negotiate a challenge of my own this weekend, spectacularly failing to sit down without banging my head on a ledge. Yesterday, having spent many hours in fringe meetings and discussions, I thought I deserved a well-earned sit-down. I hadn't reckoned on an errant shelf jutting out into the space that my head would naturally occupy when sat on the couch I had my eye on, and there was the inevitable coming-together of ledge and skull. Ouch. I heard that Lembit Opik MP had a similarly painful collision with the same ledge when slumping down on the sofa today but, as we know, he gets comforted by a Cheeky Girl, which I imagine is somewhat of a compensating factor.
Back to work tomorrow where, unlike this weekend, I will be the only Lib Dem in the room. Ah well, never mind.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Where's the camera?
We seem to be the only major party to bother with Spring conferences these days, and Harrogate is lovely at this time of year. Sadly I haven't seen much of it, because I have been in a number of exciting sessions. We have learned some interesting campaign techniques, and I made a special effort to go to a session on speaking in schools - hopefully if I ever get the chance to serve in Bury I can use my relative youth to try and enthuse other young people and get them involved in politics too. I also went to a talk at lunchtime by the leader of Milton Keynes Council and others about the future role of Councils as "place shapers," which again was very exciting as a way of showing how Lib Dems can make a real difference locally. The only disappointing element so far was my decision to rush out to M&S at lunchtime to buy a sandwich, only to discover on my breathles return that lunch was provided.
We arrived last night in time for the "We Can Cut Crime" rally, where speeches from Nick Clegg MP (our Shaadow Home Secretary) and Sir Menzies Campbell MP (Leader of the Lib Dems) were very well received and set the tone nicely for the conference. I must confess I missed the Trident debate today (I was in a training session at the time), although I heard it was quite explosive (ho ho...). I think the end result is the right one though. I was always on the side of the motion put forward, and having read the policy papers I think the amendment would have been a step too far.
Later on today I hope to get the chance to meet Nick Clegg and talk to hm about ways to cut crime. There are another few training sessions for me to choose from, as well as talks from all sorts of interesting people from local and national government, thinktanks and policy institutes. And then tonight we can let our hair down a little prior to Sir Ming's speech in the morning. ANd then it's home in time for leafletting, so I'm told. Which almost makes me want to stay...