Friday, 29 February 2008

If only for the summer BBQ...

Receiving some agenda papers by email this morning has prompted me to post about the local conservatives in South West Farnham. We're called a 'branch' of the local constituency party, and have a committee made up of about 10 of the over 100 members locally.

However, we punch above our weight! :-) During elections we get out and knock at least once on all the doors in the area, we send literature to all the homes so that everyone knows what we are actively doing, and (most importantly some might say), we hold fund raising events throughout the year that have garnered something of a reputation in the constituency.

Especially the Summer BBQ!

Held on a Sunday lunchtime and afternoon in July each year (13th in 2008), it inevitably turns out wonderful, and usually attracts over 130 people. Local councillors can of course be found behind the barbecue itself, and the bar... and eating and drinking the contents of the barbecue and bar.

If you are interested in helping us out in our campaigning on local issues, and getting to know like minded people, do email me or go to the South West Surrey constituency website. We'd love to hear from you, especially if you're under 60!

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Food, food, glorious food

Farnham Local Food Initative
A couple of weeks ago I attended the launch of the Farnham Local Food Initiative (FLFI) at the Farnham Maltings. Robert Simpson is a passionate, enthusiastic advocate of things edible in the fields of Farnham, and I'm behind the effort completely.

Yesterday I received an email update from him, and so want to give the initiative some publicity. The FLFI website is already up and running, and contains everything you need to know about how to get involved. I suppose I should declare my interests straightaway - being one of the owners of the farm shop and coffee shop at the Farnham Pottery means that local food is close to my heart!

Robert's looking for as much help as possible, and I'm certain he's keen to hear from anyone who'd like to get take part and offer their help.

The next meeting is on Tuesday March 11th, at 7.30 pm in the The Long Kiln Room at The Farnham Maltings. Anyone can simply turn up to hear more. Enjoy - I can't make it myself, but have let Robert know I'd be mentioning it here. Do let him know if you are from Wrecclesham and go the meeting!

Wrecclesham Play Areas

Many of you will have noticed the work going out at both play areas in Wrecclesham - down by the recreation ground, and at Beldham Road. Having an 8 month old son, I sense I'll be spending quite a bit of time at both in the near future!

Hence, I'm both personally and publically delighted to write that there will be official openings at both areas in March -

Wrecclesham Recreation Ground : March 17th, 3.30 pm
Beldham Road : March 31st, 3.30 pm

Waverley have enabled the refurbishment through the investment of more than £800,000 in upgrading and refurbishing 32 playgrounds, and parents and children were asked for ideas in order to identify local preferences.

Unfortunately the slide isn't big enough for me!

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

South, West, North.... no, East... again

It's time for the latest planning application for East Street to be published. Prior to becoming a councillor I wondered why on earth we weren't bombarded by quotes, statements and the anecdotal from our elected representatives about the scheme, and thus get to know their real opinions. I now know that the line between landlord and planning authority is a thin one to tread, and whilst it's allowable that these roles are filled by the same body, it's one that needs care and cautiousness.

I write this not being a particulary outspoken person about this development, or a member of any planning committee. Thus, I have some latitude when it comes to commenting about applications, as I play no part in the decision-making process.

However, this post isn't about to turn into a diatribe on either side of the argument. It is though, an appeal - I would like to hear from everyone in the ward who has an opinion about the scheme. And not just those against - it's typical to hear the loudest voice, and that can often be the one against a thing. I want to hear voices of those in favour, as well as against, and I promise to listen hard to all.

This doesn't negate the need for objections to be submitted to the council's planning department - this is the only way for objections to be formally registered. The public consultation phase of the application begins today, for 28 days.

And please ensure that you are directly familiar with the actual application before signing petitions or responding to "surveys" or sending in circular letters. Planning objections are treated in a prescriptive (legislatively and regulatively driven) way, meaning that petitions are treated as on objection only.

The application is large and complex, and so it will be available physically and electronically on a dedicated computer, at the Farnham Locality Office, or at the Godalming Office.

Click here for direct access to the Waverley Planning page with this information.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Consult, confer, clarify...

Tonight sees the second meeting of a group of likeminded and local individuals, seeking to find out the needs, hopes and aspirations of the people living in South Farnham. Unfortunately I won't make it as I'm away on business, but I hope this post can contribute by spreading the word.

Kenton Sparks of the Farnham Christian Community Trust has convened the group, including youth workers, town and borough councillors, local churches, voluntary groups and residents. The FCCT have already carried out such a 'consultation' elsewhere in the town and "in some ways, the model of the work done by the Farnham Youth Consultative Group and then subsequently in the development of 40 Degreez is an example of how this might develop to a successful and productive conclusion."

If you have any suggestions about what's required, or would like to offer your time to this endeavour, I know it would be much appreciated. Contact Kenton via the FCCT.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Jews and Gipsies

I'm in Krakow, Poland, and have today walked around the Jewish quarter of the town, Kazimierz, and listened to a wonderful concert of Jewish and Gypsy music at the Glicia Jewish Museum.

Krakow is a common starting point for trips to Auschwitz, and whlist I won't be going there this time, walking in the old town, around the sites of the synagogues and visiting the museum - a photographic exhibition - is enough to leave one aghast at the depravity of mankind, and determined that the abuse and tyrannical wielding of power from which the Holocaust led, should not be allowed to happen again.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

13 Pence a Week

This morning, over a black coffee, I managed to browse the Farnham Herald and take in the coverage of the budget. Understandably the headlines were the 4.4% increase, and the car parking charges. Richard Gates was fairly represented in quotes from his speech, and the comment about Ken Reed's lengthy rebuttal very fair indeed!

I suppose I'm a little frustrated by the reporting bias, and it's true that increases of any kind are not welcome, but I do believe the decisions were right. Reference to the Lib Dems' last ditch attempt to persuade the administration to reduce the increase by 0.3% are a bit overstated - the budget is such that to make a statement of this nature, whilst listing off various 'savings' but not having an alternate statement revealing how the budget would thus balance, is a pretty unstructured and unconvincing way to persaude. And perhaps it wouldn't make front page prose, but a reference to the lack of any diligent, coherent treatment of car parking income over the past four years, would have made much more sense and honesty out of the situation. The present administration is rightly balancing the disappointment that increases bring, with the responsibility to manage the borough residents' money appropriately.

However, my last comment must be that I was pleased to see that the front page report did mention the specific amount of the increase attributed to Waverley. It's too easy to simply focus on the total increase across all the authorities in the council tax - Town/Parish, Borough, County and Police - but when in actual fact, this borough budget means only an extra £6.39 over the entire year for a band D household. That's less than 13p a week.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Yesterday I was in London on business, and in the late afternoon, before catching the train home, I caught up with the two editors of the leading political blog of the UK,

Tim Montgomerie and Sam Coates are passionate about their role as the voice of grassroots activists in Westiminster, and punch way beyond their weight in whatever subject they engage.

If you want to know about the latest thinking of party members, including MPs and members of the shadow cabinet, or information about selection of candidates for seats, and especially to read the very best of challenges to the status quo of our government, this is a great place to start.

I could list lots of other blogs here too, but actually, if you visit Tim and Sam's site, you'll find them all there -

Members and Tenants

On Wednesday the Members' and Tenants' Special Interest Group came together to review the results of the mock inspection of Landlord Services in the borough. A thoroughly comprehensive report of over 200 slides of presentation (usefully summarised to 60 at our meeting...), demonstrated the value of such an exercise, directing us to both practical and strategic issues we must address before our official inspection in October this year.

Building on our last inspection when Waverley were given a promising one star, we're aiming for two stars this time. That means the continuation of the good work on grounds and maintenance, the further development of the council's approach to anti-social behaviour, and a renewed equality and diversity policy across all the services.

Oh, and I should say that if any tenant of Waverley wishes to be involved, then the Tenants' Panel would be delighted to hear from you. Pat Wright is the chair, and details can be found at

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

2008/9 Budget

Tuesday night was the budget meeting for the next financial year. The papers were massive - three times as long as normal - but that's to be expected: the budget is an incredibly complex process, and witnessing it for the first time as a councillor, I have come to appreciate much more fully the difficulties faced in balancing the budget, and yet still achieving the good things that we wish for the borough.

The budget represents an thorough approach to the challenges of next year. It properly funds the workings of the council, whilst also seeking to encourage others that deliver services that are central and critical to the lives of residents, via the Sponsored Organisation Scheme.

I suppose much could be made of the 'mud-slinging' that Councillor Mrs. Savage perceived to be occuring, as the debate roved backwards and forwards through the differing interpretations of the previous administration's handling of the borough's funds. However, I'm looking forward not back, and believe that this year will see even more diligent and appropriately innovative reviews of the borough's function and form, and see an even better value budget next year.

Oh, and I'm not saying I understand every single piece of local government jargon just yet! The budget is full of phrases that I always have to look up and check, but, I do know that we're headed in the right direction.