Tuesday, 24 February 2009

10 days

I’m not in the habit of simply processing Waverley press releases, but this one is certainly worthy. In the light of the economic circumstances, the council will aim to pay as many bills from local businesses as possible, within 10 days. A challenging aspiration, but a good one.

There’s no specific target as yet, but I’ll see if I can get a measurement after the first month.

Muzzled? No way.

I'm 'Annoyed of Wrecclesham' today, following an email last night that gave instruction not to engage in any kind of debate on the issue that I posted about yesterday.

Here are my reasons why I just don't get that attitude:

  1. We don't live in a Stalinist state.
  2. We do live in a constitutional monarchy, with a representational democratic political process.
  3. It is foolish to assume that the council meeting tonight will contain all (i.e. pre meeting debate is fantastically important to sort out the right answers, as well as the chamber) the necessary debate (both in quality and quantity) to produce the best decision.
  4. It is arrogant to assume that the opposition is not able to spot benefits that we as the group in power, have missed.
  5. It is condescending to assume that all Tory councillors are unable to be clear and precise in their communications, and confident enough in what they've said, to defend themselves if necessary.

Can you tell how annoyed I am?

Finally, how does a Tory group with a majority - that's right, a majority - of 45, get so scared of openess?

Monday, 23 February 2009

Council Tax does not equal Rent Increase

Had a good swap of emails with an opposition member yesterday, regarding his proposal to reduce cyclical maintenance in the budget, in order to peg the increase in social housing rent, to be the same percentage as the proposed council tax increase.

At first glance, the principle of keeping the rent as low as possible drew my interest, and I'm always one to investigate such a possibility, whether it comes from a Tory colleague, or the opposition. However, on further detials, and consideration, I believe that the proposal confuses good aspirations, with a slight lack of medium-to-long term thinking, and, a simplistic view of percentages.

The budget for cyclical maintenance has been pretty low in recent years, and both main parties in Waverley held the same desire to increase this, but both have operated under the same horrendous constraints of the negative housing subsidy. However, even in this envrionment, it is myopic to think that saving money now on maintenace, will not translate into greater costs in the long-term.

Therefore, deciding to increase this maintenance budget by 60% for 2009/10 is a considered, and responsible step. A proposal to reduce it in order to align two percentages, which don't in reality relate, may well be more political posturing than community compassion.

In the words of a fellow councillor:

Rent is a charge for the right to occupy a dwelling and for it to be maintained by the landlord (in contrast to homeowners who meet their own maintenance costs as well as paying mortgage charges in most cases) while Council Tax is charged for the services provided to all occupiers, irrespective of the nature of their tenure.

As landlords it is imperative that we are honest and accurate about our budget needs, and certainly must do our very best to maintain our housing stock to as good a standard as possible. This year's increase of 60% represents that judgment, and adjusting that to match council tax as a percentage, and thus make a good headline, is not good leadership.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Blink and you missed it

That's the quickest AGM I've ever been to. Probably a reflection of the skills of our chairman, fellow councillor John Ward, and also the agenda being mostly compiled of business / admin items.

Anyway, it was a only a little over 30 minutes long, and there were no questions from the floor! That was the bit that surprised me.

I'm also pleased as on a Sunday I'm really loathe to attend political meetings. It's a family day for us, and from now on I'm going to follow the example of our MP, Jeremy, who keeps it a private day.


A member of the opposition on Waverley Borough Council has just emailed all councillors with information about a potential budget cut that would allow us to reduce the proposed increase in rent for our housing.

I'm certain that colleagues would tell me that there's many a pitfall here, as line items in budgets (printed in agenda) will never tell the whole story. However, at first glance it seems as though there may be an option here, and, with my over-riding desire to see residents get the very best possible service from us, I've emailed to follow-up and find out more.

For the outcome you can attend the meeting on Tuesday evening at the council chamber, or, watch online.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

How local is local?

This week the Conservative Party issued a paper on local democracy (you can see it here): sections 3 and 4 have some sound, sensible, and essential proposals that will help change the nature of 'local government.

But before I go further, and risk giving the impression of a sweeping endorsement of the paper, I am struck by the question "How local is local?" Today, some neighbours from across the road, who've been here a few years, and who like us, live just 7 minutes walk from the Farnham Pottery where we have our farm shop and coffee shop, came up for coffee and cake this afternoon for the very first time. After two years.

I'm sure many before me have asked this question, and possible answered it in many ways. I'm thinking about what non-physical barriers there are - such as circle of friends; living in a town that acts simply as a place for commuters to sleep; working so many hours that very little interaction takes place in the evenings nearby; driving everywhere meaning that no-one bumps into each other and chats on the way to or from somewhere; and, possibly, the irony that in this time of communication coming out of our ears, (where anyone is wants to be can publish everything they do on the internet for all to see), it can actually be fairly difficult to either tell everyone, or find out, what's going on locally.

Considering these items then drew me to think on whether the existing constructs of local government are expressions of natural communities, centred round historic centres - towns, markets etc. - or whether what we have now is more the consequences of decades of political posturing, leaving us with un-natural boroughs and districts etc.

Ask 10 people what local community means, and I think you'll get 10 different answers. But, ask 10 people if local community means their respective council, and I'm pretty certain that 9 or 10 out of 10 will say "No".

And so, while resonating with most of this paper from the Conservative Party, I hope that in the not too distant future, another paper will be released, that outlines the vision for revising local representation such that the natural geography, economy, and history of our communities, is counted as paramount.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Social Networking - charm or curse?

I've been using Facebook as an online social network for some time now, and although I wouldn't call myself a facebook junkie, I certainly find it immensely useful.

However, now that I'm also a twittering councillor, I've (a) managed to link the two together so that my facebook status is the same as my twitter status, and (b) decided to mention it so that if anyone would like to find out more about what I do / think etc., you can.

Of course, if none of this makes sense to you, or you're not interested, no worries. Otherwise, see you on facebook sometime soon!

Wrecclesham Youth Club

Great news about the Wrecclesham Youth Club hit my inbox. It starts up again on Monday 16th March.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Final (hopefully) update on refuse collection catch-up

All things being equal, this will hopefully be the final blog post from me about the refuse collection catch-up after our week of snow and ice. John Sandy, portfolio holder for this area, has been steadfast in his communications to councillors, and assurance of clear messages on the Waverley website. Here's his latest email:

The normal day collections have been proceeding as planned.However at the end of each day afew roads have not been completed due to the excessive volumes, in spite of the extra vehicle, but in every case the missed roads have been picked uo first thing the following day. If there are any unfinished roads by close of play on Friday, they will b e collected on Saturday. We anticipate normal collection arrangement to be in place onMonday 23feb.

The telephone calls to the team peaked during the period 2nd to 13th feb but have now returned to normal

Actions, not words

A quick snap to show that actions are being taken to rectify the water leakage on Pottery Lane. The two carrying out the work haven't sourced it yet, but in any case will put in something that's known as a 'correlation point' which will measure where the leak is coming from.

However, I'm sure that will only work if it's a leak from the mains, and if, in actual fact, it's simply groundwater - from an extremely high water table round here - I don't know whose accountability that will be. Must find out.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

STOP PRESS! Again...

My brother-in-law tells me that the guys from yesterday were back again this morning. Apparently they were doing a bit more of a survey, and think that the water leaking onto the roads is a mixture of ground water, mains, and perhaps even some drainage. Let's hope we find out soon.

Planning Applications 18th February 2009

(Click here if you want to go the Waverley planning search page, and select 'Ward' from the left hand list of options)

WA/2009/0133: 27/01/2009
Proposed Development: Erection of single storey extension following demolition of existing. Installation of rooflights. 4 Copse Way, Farnham.
E: 482690 N: 144731
Case Officer: Mr Stefan Enslin

Applicant: Mr Devaney, 18a Tilford Road, Farnham GU9 8DL
Agent: Mr G Phillips, Phillips Associates, Vernon House, Thursley Road, Elstead, Surrey GU8 6DH

WA/2009/0154: 09/02/2009

Proposed Development: Conversion of garage to kitchen and utility room; erection of infill extension between garage and house. 28 St Peters Gardens, Wrecclesham, Farnham.
E: 482662 N: 144862
Case Officer: Mr A Griffiths

Applicant: P Lechev, 28 St Peters Gardens, Wrecclesham GU10 4QX
Agent: Mr A Cutler, Fiducia UK Ltd, 27 Gillian Close, Aldershot GU12 4HU

WA/2009/0156: 28/01/2009
Proposed Development: Erectio of a two storey extension. Firlands, 16 The Avenue, Farnham.
E: 482878 N: 143561
Case Officer: Mrs J Hammick

Applicant: S King, The Avenue, Rowledge GU10 4BD
Agent: Mr Wright, Wrecclesham Farm, Echo Barn Lane, Farnham GU10 4NJ