Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Mark Oaten to stand down at next General Election
It's difficult to find the right words in this situation. Mark has been a friend and a central part of Liberal Democrat campaigning in this constituency for many years. He's been called "the best MP Winchester's ever had" with some justification. I'm pleased that Mark will continue to serve the people of Winchester for the remainder of this Parliament and I feel, in the circumstances, he has made the right decision. I'd like to wish him and Belinda and the girls all the very best for the future and say "Thank you" for all the hard work and effort.
The current Winchester seat will be the basis for two new constituencies: Winchester (which includes Olivers Battery and Badger Farm) and Meon Valley. Both new prospective parliamentary candidates, when they're selected, will find Mark Oaten MP a tough act to follow.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Tory U-turn saves Whiteley!
The first concerned the County Council's proposal to build a new Primary School on the playing fields next to the Meadowside Recreation Centre in Whiteley. The previous Lib Dem administration had refused to release this land because:
- It would have involved building on the "green centre" of Whiteley
- It would have destroyed a major community facility
- It would have completely removed any opportunities to expand the Meadowside Centre
- There was other land available for the school a few hundred meters away
The new Tory Cabinet initially caved in to their County Council colleagues and agreed to release the land. After a wave of protests and local opposition they performed a last minute U-turn and returned to the Lib Dem position. The City Council supported this on Wednesday evening and the Meadowside land is saved. But I understand that certain members of the County Council are "spitting blood"!
The second item was the funding for the new Outdoor Sports Centre at Bar End. I wrote about this in a previous blog entry. In the event, the Tories gave all sorts of assurances that funding for other sports developments in the City would not be adversely affected and we therefore decided to tolerate the financial model proposed. The meeting then gave the green light to what will be a hugely important new sports stadium for Winchester and the surrounding district.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Are local Tories going off the tracks?
Of course, funding is always the issue. Winchester City Council needs to find approximately £1m as its share of building this new outdoor sports centre. £600k will come from the Winchester Town Open Space Fund (this is money collected from developers when they build in Winchester, and is intended specifically for sports and recreation projects). This seems to me to be wholly appropriate, although it will use up all of the Town Open Space Fund.
The interesting twist is that Cabinet has recommended taking the remaining £400k from the Town Open Space Fund too. As the money for this isn't there, the Council will loan £400k from its General Fund to the Open Space Fund and claim the money back over a period of years as more money accrues to the Open Space Fund. Now, you could see this as a clever accounting wheeze; or you could see it as mortgaging the future. The Town Open Space fund will be denuded of cash for years ahead, so where will the money come from for improving football pitches, or new cricket nets, or tennis courts?
I think the City Council should recognise that this new sports centre is for the whole District (and beyond) and should put its money where its mouth is. The additional £400k should come directly from the City Council’s General Fund and not from future open space provision for local residents. Let's have a open air sports centre we can be proud of; and let's have on-going funding for other sports and recreation activities too!
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Badger Farm & Olivers Battery News
Following reports from a resident, I investigated the state of the PayPhone in Meadow Way. It was not operational, due to vandalism, and I have reported this to BT and requested action. I also reported that the other local PayPhone (outside Olivers Battery shops) was not accepting cash. BT have got back to me and confirmed that the OllieB phone box has now been fixed, I am still waiting to hear about Meadow Way.
The huge shrubs completely overgrowing the pavement have now been cut back. Further work has been requested to trim the tree in the courtyard area of the road, this tree is currently a significant problem for residents.
Some work has been done, following my request, on the overgrown clumps of trees and bushes backing onto Broad Chalke Down. This is, of course, HCC Highways land. As of late last week more work was required and the particular problem with a tree pushing against a resident’s fence had not been attended to.
St Anne’s Close
Following a request from the Chairman of Badger Farm Parish Council, I took up the issue of uneven hedge cutting to the rear of some of the properties. The following report comes from the relevant Winchester City Council officer:
“The stretch of the hedge adjacent Nos 69 & 66 has been cut to height of approximately 2.5 metres. The remainder of hedge has yet to be cut.
I visited No 69 and noted that the resident has maintained a conifer hedge to the inside of the council’s Laurel hedge. This suggested that the resident at No 69 has chosen to maintain the Laurel hedge at the same time as the conifer hedge. I will write to the resident to confirm this.
I will contact SERCo in order to establish when they propose to carry out the summer maintenance to the remainder of the hedge.”
Again at the request of the Badger Farm Parish Council Chairman, I asked for a fallen shrub to be removed. I understand that this has now been done.
Rooks Down Road
I have reported the faded SLOW markings near the Rances Way corner to HCC Highways. Charlotte Bailey has also taken up this issue. Clearly this is a potentially dangerous corner and also a point at which many pedestrians cross the road.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Conservative Councillors in Hampshire are set to close five older people's homes as part of a package of cuts that will hit the elderly and most vulnerable hardest.
Charges for care services are to be hiked massively. If someone can't pay the full cost of care they will be left with just £1 per week to spend on 'luxuries' for every £5 they were previously allowed to keep.
And the Conservatives who run the County Council are also looking at changes that will prevent many people from qualifying for care at all! Under the plans, only those whose need has been classified as 'critical' will qualify for care.
Cameron's Caring Conservatives in action!