Friday, 30 December 2011

A look back at 2011 - and look forward to 2012

It is 4.00pm on Friday 30 December and for the last time this year I sit down to write my blog.

It's been a big year for me personally having been elected as District Councillor for Thringstone and Parish Councillor for Whitwick and not least as Leader of the Labour Group on North West Leicestershire District Council but it has, far more importantly, been a very difficult year for the residents of the district.

As I look back to the start of 2011 I think about how tough it has got economically for many families. Nationally our government has continued to introduce initiatives, such as the increase to VAT, which have affected the working family far more disproportionately than the well off and locally residents and businesses have suffered.

Of course, in May, I was disappointed that Labour did not take control of our district council but in hindsight I am delighted to say that increasing our number of seats from 5 to 16 vindicated our message of a realistic alternative by connecting with local people significantly more than many other parts of the region.

I feel very honoured that across the district huge numbers of voters chose to place their trust in Labour once more. Thank you, I hope we have not failed you.

Since May Labour has focused with renewed vigour in holding the Conservative administration to account.

We have continued to highlight the continued profligacy and wastefulness of the Whitwick Road Tories (£10,000 on new signs anyone? or, a million on consultants?) whilst at the same time showing just how out of touch the Leader and Cabinet really are with ordinary people with their flip-flopping on parking charges.

A personal highlight for me was how Nick Clarke led our campaign against parking charges with the result that I firmly believe  local people recognise that it was Labour who were instrumental in forcing the turnaround from the administration.

I am also delighted that all parties worked together to seek to preserve the Green Wedge through the emerging Core Strategy. There have been significant strides forward but the battle is not yet definitively won.

But there have also been disappointments.

I am disappointed at the lack of movement in improving Coalville.

I am disappointed at the plans for leisure centres (improving public health is a service not just a profit and loss sheet) .

I am disappointed that the administration failed to support our proposals for the adoption QEII Fields Challenge.

I am disappointed by the Tory plans for community grants,

and not least I am disappointed by how the current administration has sought to silence opposition by all but eradicating scrutiny and now refusing to let Labour councillors speak at meetings.

It is my fervent hope that in 2012 all parties will work together for the better good of the district.

We will be faced with many challenges such as museums, major planning applications and for the slightly nerdy amongst us - potential governance changes.

But in particular, I believe, we must have two main objectives of delivering meaningful regeneration of our town centres and villages (bringing jobs to the district) and doing whatever we can to mitigate the effects of a fast deteriorating economy on local people.

It is my fear that what we will see is the rich continuing to protect the rich and beggar all else.

I can reassure every reader of this blog that 2012 will see me doing all that I possibly can to bring positive change to every resident of this district who is feeling the pinch in these dark times.

I want Labour to support people through tough times and work with them in delivering better ones.

Have a Happy New Year and I fervently hope a better 2012 than 2011.



Saturday, 24 December 2011

A Christmas Message

I sit and type this on Christmas Eve morning with a cup of strong coffee, Taylors of Harrogate Christmas Blend if you are interested (it's very nice), and I contemplate the upcoming horrors of the 'food shop'.

We haven't yet even begun to contemplate the Christmas Dinner. What meat to have? What about veg? Don't forget the crackers!

You could argue that this is last minute but my argument is that it would have been done earlier, however yesterday was lost to buying the presents!

It's been hectic over the past few weeks. Clare has been snowed under at school, I'm busy trying to balance work, school governor and council business AND it seems like there have been more Christmas shows from the kids than ever before.

Now though we have the time to get properly ready for Christmas and the spirit and peace is coming down on me.

Truth be told I haven't given Christmas much thought over the past few weeks and certainly haven't prepared (the Christmas tree only went up on Monday). Christmas isn't going to be the Kinkade perfection you see in those dreadful oil paintings but it doesn't matter.

Christmas is a time for just being. Being with family. Being with friends and loved ones. Being happy.

I truly hope you are more prepared than I, but whether you are or not, I hope that you take the time to be.

Have a wonderful Christmas.

Leon



Tuesday, 13 December 2011

NWLDC Conservatives backtrack on parking charges

Earlier this evening North West Leicestershire District Council held its monthly Cabinet meeting.

The only agenda item which was of any interest to the vast majority of local people was Councillor Nick Rushton's report on 'Facing the Financial Challenge', particularly the section which was proposing the introduction of parking charges in Ibstock, Measham and Castle Donington and confirming previously proposed  increased charges in Coalville and Ashby.

But instead of confirming the contents of the report we were in for a shock.

Presenting the report Councillor Alison Smith (Nick had rightly declared a personal and prejudicial interest in the matter) announced that the administration had decided to drop the proposals against increased charges (which Cabinet had approved of just two months ago) and against extending chargeable locations (which the Portfolio Holder had presumably approved of just two weeks ago).

Now first of all I am delighted that the Tories have seen sense.

In the present economy increased charges were wrong for hard-pressed families and would have been potentially fatal for struggling local businesses.

But the question must be why backtrack now?

The answer, I believe, is simple.

Labour listened to the concerns of local businesses and families and mobilised a community based campaign against these ill-judged proposals.

Our spokesman for Business and Economic Regeneration, Nick Clarke, launched a petition which in just a few short weeks had gathered over 1000 signatures and was on course to gain at least three times that figure by the time of the February budget meeting.

Huge numbers of local people were rightly angry and Labour had given a voice to that anger.

The only responsible action for the Conservatives to take was to backtrack and I applaud them for realising in time that they had made a serious mistake.

The purpose of any opposition is to listen to and represent the often silent majority and we will continue to strive to do this over the coming weeks and months.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Cameron's NHS plans will cost £36 million in Leicestershire

MEDIA RELEASE
Labour has today revealed the hidden cost of the Government’s wasteful NHS reorganisation in Leicestershire. New guidelines will force the local NHS to put aside £36,006,147  from their budget this year and next to pay for a costly NHS restructure that David Cameron repeatedly ruled out.
Leon Spence, Leader of North West Leicestershire Labour Group said:
" These shocking new figures show the Government’s reorganisation is costing the NHS even more than we first feared. It is scandalous that they are telling our local NHS to hold back millions of pounds for their own reckless plans whilst thousands of nursing jobs are being axed.
"Leicestershire County and Rutland PCT has already seen a 65% increase in the number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment since Cameron became Prime Minister.
“Before his plans are even fully through Parliament, David Cameron's reorganisation is hitting the NHS hard and costs are now topping £3.4bn across the country for the first time. Spending this amount on an unnecessary reorganisation is totally unjustifiable when every single penny should be focused on maintaining standards of care.
“At the election Cameron ruled out top-down NHS reorganisations. But only weeks after entering Number 10, he ripped up his own words and ordered the biggest and most dangerous upheaval of the NHS since it began.
The financial request is buried in the Government’s new NHS 'Operating Framework' document and takes the nationwide cost of the NHS reorganisation above previous estimates of £2-3bn, with Primary Care Trusts now holding back £3.44bn over two years.
Last Thursday evening leading doctors from the British Medical Association voted to call for an immediate halt to the Government’s costly and controversial Health Bill.
Leon Spence added:
The people of Leicestershire did not vote for it and our doctors, nurses and patients have already expressed huge concerns at the plans. Yet Cameron is ploughing on with his Health Bill, ignoring public and professional opinion. The time has come for him to listen, put the NHS first and drop his dangerous Bill.”
Labour is running a major national drive to unite the country in a call on the Government to drop its unwanted Health Bill and people are being urged to add their name to the Government online petition by Dr Kailash Chand at epetitions.direct.gov.uk.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Great news for Thringstone

Since being elected in May the thing I have been asked for more than anything else by local people is to try and improve local play facilities for children.

The new Miners Welfare coincided with the removal of the pocket park off clover place which was recognised as being a regular site for anti-social behaviour.

In particular comments have been made that there are no play facilities for children on the cusp of leaving primary school and starting high school.

As a result Dave Everitt and I have been working closely with council officers to seek to improve the Melrose Road play area and develop it into a designated playhub, a larger play area with a wide range of facilities.

I am absolutely delighted to report that at the Coalville Special Expenses meeting last night the working group approved a significant grant for the development of the play area.

Exact specification has to be worked out but depending upon Cabinet approval (part of the formal budgeting process) and neighbour consultation we should see a range of skating, scootering and sports facilities being installed in 2012.

Great news!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Car Parking Charges

Councillor Nick Clarke, our spokesperson for Business and Economic Regeneration has asked me to put the following media release on this blog.

MEDIA RELEASE

Local politician launches petition against hikes to car park charges

A local politician has today launched a petition against proposed increases to car park fees in North West Leicestershire.

Councillor Nick Clarke, Labour spokesperson for business and economic regeneration, said ‘The Conservative administration at London Road have proposed major changes to parking charges on council car parks in response to their efficiency program.’

Councillor Clarke continued ‘At a time when families are finding it tough to make ends meet businesses throughout North West Leicestershire are struggling. Now is not the time to deter local people from using our towns and villages.’

At a Cabinet meeting of North West Leicestershire District Council on 18 October proposals were approved for consultation to increase long stay parking charges (3 hours and above), extend chargeable hours, introduce an overnight charge and to instigate a feasibility study to introduce charging to other currently free car parks throughout the district.

Councillor Clarke said ‘Huge numbers of local people and business owners have expressed to me their deep concern about the effect that increasing parking charges will have. Irreparable damage could well be caused to retailers, our night time economy and the service sector throughout the district as a result of these changes.’

Councillor Clarke continued ‘At worst these increases will contribute to numerous businesses being forced to close, at best we will see significant problems with increased on-street parking. Whichever way you look at it these Tory proposals will be bad for North West Leicestershire.’

Labour party members will be collecting signatures to the petition throughout the district over the coming weeks or alternatively e-signatures may be made to an e-petition which will available through the district councils website.

Ends
31 October 2011

I will post a link to the e-petition just as soon as I have it.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Facing the Financial Chellenge or Ideological Cuts

I went on to BBC Radio Leicester this morning to talk with Nick Rushton about the Tory controlled North West Leicestershire's plans for cuts to our council over the next three years.

The future is bleak.

To make books balance the council needs to reduce revenue spending by £1.5 million per year over the next three financial years - this really is a tough ask.

The resulting cuts will see:

  • Parking Charges hiked up
  • Leisure Centre creches closed
  • Coalville's Picnic in the Park stopped.
  • Community Grants reduced
  • ... and Nick cancelling Christmas (or very nearly doing so)
All this comes at a time when everyone is tightening their belt, not least many local businesses who are suffering.

My question is 'are these cuts really necessary'?

The truth is, just like the national picture the Tories are taking the opportunity to make ideological cuts and use the financial crisis to cover them up.

Let us look at the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) which went to Cabinet in September.

It said the projected revenue shortfall in March 2015 will be £1.26 million a year NOT the £1.5 million savings that is being aimed for - the report suggests that £1.5 million is a prudent level of savings to aim for but arguably a savings target of £1.4 million would do the job equally as well saving £100,000 of services being slashed each year.

The MTFS is always written as a best guess. Within the report is made the assumption that Council Tax will not go up in 2012/13. What the report doesn't provide for however is that the Government has since announced they are to increase grant funding next year to effectively make up for not increasing Council Tax. In other words grant funding will be more next year than the MTFS anticipates.

Finally the report is very clear about how much needs to be saved each year. The report says that in 2012/13 the Council needs to save £276K. Why then is Nick proposing cuts for next year of £768K?

That's half a million more than Nicks own report says needs to be cut next year.

We are very much in danger in North West Leicestershire of seeing the Tories mirror their national counterparts. The cuts are too deep too soon and there is a very real danger that they will cause serious damage to our communities.

Of course Nick will say all Labour want to do is spend more and not acknowledge the true financial position. So here is a suggestion.

As Leader of the Opposition, because of the number of hours I work additional to that of a backbench councillor, I receive a Special Responsibility Allowance. I'm the only Labour Councillor to receive one.

According to my best guess at least 9 Conservative Councillors get an allowance for Special Responsibility which is more than mine.

How about us voluntarily foregoing 10% of our allowance in recognition that times are indeed tough? According to my calculations that will save the Council £6K a year.

It might not balance the books but it will show our acknowledgement that we really are all in this together.

I'm up for it if you are...

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Autumn in Grace Dieu Woods

For anyone who reads this blog occassionally you will know I try to visit Grace Dieu woods on a periodic basis to capture some of the beauty of our local countryside.

In the brief Indian Summer we experienced last weeks I took the opportunity to go to the woods to see them in their autumnal glory.

If you get the chance pop out into your local countryside this weekend or next to see first hand what, for me, is the most stunning time of year.

You might even find some Conkers!

The problem of payday loans

Would you ever take out a loan where the APR was 4214%?

Thought not but 4214% is the representative APR shown by Wonga.com on their homepage as being typical interest rate.

Have you ever heard of Wonga.com?

Possibly not, but Wonga is a typical example of one of a large number of payday loan companies designed to service that ever increasing sector of the market outside normal credit services who find themselves not being able to make ends meet until payday.

For want of a better description, actually thinking about it it's a perfectly valid description. Wonga (and others) are legal loan sharks.

The big concern is that the number of people not being able to make ends meet is growing significantly.

Noone knows the exact figures but here is an example.

In 2009 1.2 million people took out 4.1 million payday loans amounting to £1.2 billion.

In 2011 Dollar Financial, which owns the high street payday loan chain The Money Shop said that their high street network could expand from 350 shops to 1200.

Payday loans are not sustainable and effectively when you are in debt up to your neck they just manage to pull you all the way under.

Of course the economy is worsening, more so for the poorer in society.

Of course we need to turn people to more ethical financial products, such as credit unions.

But most of all we need to say that such levels of APR are not socially acceptable.

Stella Creasy is Labour MP for Walthamstow and is working hard to address this issue. If you want to know more (and what you can do) you can read a much more detailed explanation of the problem by clicking here .

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Labour Supporters Network

Are you fed up with the current Coalition Government?

Do you want a better future offering equality of opportunity for everyone?

Do you regularly vote Labour but don't want to go the whole way of joining a political party?

If you answered 'yes' to ANY of the above why not join the Labour Supporters Network?

The Labour Supporters Network doesn't cost you a penny and you won't be asked for anything (other than you views in developing Labour policy).

Why not join today?

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Motorway madness or sense?

I have always said that when the Tory-lead government gets something right I will say so.

So in that respect I say well done to Transport Secretary Philip Hammond for launching a consultation on raising motorway speed limits from to 70mph to 80mph.

I'm really pleased the government have decided to look at this issue after all how many of us have not driven safely at 80mph on a motorway, although I'm not sure how sensible it really is.

There are strong arguments that increased speed limits will improve the economy through reduced journey times.

Incidentally it is also probably true that increased speed limits will swell government coffers through increased tax revenue brought about by poorer fuel economy (you tend to get less miles per gallon at 80 mph than 70 mph).

On the other hand, safety has to be a major consideration.

Yes, I know speed limits are higher in France and even the US but from plenty of personal experience driving abroad there is a big difference. Motorways in those countries (outside of approaches to cities) are far less congested.

The simple fact is France and the US are just much bigger than Britain.

How many of us have come back from a holiday driving through France and commented 'it was a pleasure to drive'? We never say that in Britain because of already congested roads (and more roadworks).

We have to consider that increasing the speed limit may well cause more serious accidents, more deaths and probably (although not so importantly) more congestion.

I am sure most of us have driven over the speed limit, I know I have. Most of us have never got tickets for doing 80mph on the motorway because I have always been lead to believe it is seen as 'acceptable speeding' by pretty much everyone.

The question is what if the speed limit is increased to 80mph? Does 90mph become the new 80mph?

It could quite validly be argued that it would make sense to increase the limit to 80mph but enforce speed limits much more vigilantly. How socially acceptable will it be to get a ticket for only a couple of miles over the limit?

Now I must confess that these days I don't tend to go above 70mph. I like to conserve fuel and more pertinently with young children I am much more conscious about safety.

Not least we don't live in a big country like France - it is pretty difficult to take such a long journey in Britain that going at 80mph will have a major difference.

In the motoring equation going on in my head the benefits of travelling at 70mph always seem to make more sense than saving what is only likely to be a couple of minutes journey time.

Now I appreciate that this is only my view and many will disagree.

In fact I would suspect that raising speed limits would be very popular. But being popular doesn't necessarily make good law.

So my suggestion would be this.

Why not keep speed limits at 70mph but increase them on a variable basis to 80mph when road conditions allow?

Variable speed limits are now commonplace but when we encounter them mentally we tend to veer more towards the 'standard' limit, in other words we tend to go a bit over the variable limit. So why not keep the standard limit in place but let drivers know when it is safe to go faster?

Just a thought...

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Tories take steps to prevent scrutiny

A fundamental aspect of our democratic process is the right of backbench councillors to scrutinise the decisions of the (in our case) Conservative administration.

Scrutiny should be an effective check and balance to ensure that the Cabinet are not overstepping the mark.

In recent years there have been three separate scrutiny committees at NWLDC.

Quite rightly it has been argued that the job of these three committees could be done by one. I completely agree.

But...

If there is to be only one committee then it should be strong and have the power to properly investigate the decisions of the executive and hold them to account.

Tonight Council has approved the constitutional structure of the new committee (now known as the Policy Development Group).

Labour are disgusted with the resulting scrutiny rules.

I firmly believe that scrutiny should always be lead by a strong and effective opposition.

Tonight we asked for two basic, but I believe essential, changes to the proposed rules.

Firstly we asked for limitations on call in not to be based on the current double jeopardy tests of a numerical limit (per year) on call in items AND a vexatiousness test determined by officers to just a vexatiousness test incorporating both political leaders as final arbiters in the process.

In my comments to Council I said:

'To have both (tests) is disgraceful and suggests nothing less than an administration trying to stop all effective scrutiny to railroad their decisions.'

'To rest final decision with an officer, no matter how good and professional they are, only goes to highlight the impotence of the scrutiny function and the disdain this administration shows for it.'

Secondly we asked for chairmanship of the committee to rest with the opposition party, irrespective of who that party is.

I commented:

'Scrutiny is always most effective when lead by opposition... Irrespective of which party is in control of this district the role of chair should be in the gift of the opposition.'

You will not be surprised to learn the Conservative leadership turned our reasonable requests down.

My final comments to Council were:

'I, as Labour Leader, would also call for a recorded vote. I want to be able to tell members of the public which Tories voted against democracy.'

I can confirm that indeed ALL Conservative members present and the one Liberal Democrat Councillor voted against our proposals.

It is a sad day for the future of our Council when the executive can effectively ride roughshod over the democratic process.

The true cost of consultants and redundancy

In an often ill tempered council meeting Tory leaders at North West Leicestershire District Council have revealed tonight how much taxpayers money they have been spending in recent years on consultants whilst at the same time clarifying the cost of getting rid of redundant posts.

Following questions from Labour Councillors Ray Woodward and Lesley Massey figures revealed for the first time this evening show that in 2009/10 our Conservative administration spent over half a million pounds on consultants (£514K).

In the two years following £442,042.45 (2010/11) and £80,929.45 (2011/12) has been shelled out.

In total in just two and half years over 1 million pounds has been paid out on consultants by Conservatives at London Road.

In his formal response Councillor Nick Rushton said 'The Council buys in advice and consultancy each year as and when required. Whilst we have a knowledgeable and experienced team of officer we could not justify having permanent staff whose skills might only be required occassionally.'

Of course, Cllr Rushton is correct however his views do appear a little anomalous when you consider the second piece of information revealed tonight.

In that exact same period our District Council have spent more than £700K on the cost of making people redundant (2009/10 - £113,195, 2010/11 - £400,243, 2011/12 - £194,887).

Can anyone really say none of the consultancy costs could have been cancelled out by utilising existing staff and thus negating the need for all of those redundancies?

I seriously doubt it.

We are constantly told that the Conservatives are the party of fiscal responsibility but all of this spending has happened on their watch and a long time after Labour were in power at North West Leicestershire.

To spend £1.7 million of council taxpayers money in two and half years on costs, which in many cases may have cancelled each other out, smacks of mismanagement.

The Conservatives are directly responsible for these astronomical figures. Every one of the Tory leadership should be questioning their financial management credentials in the wake of these revelations.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Boundary changes - What to do next

After the shock of the boundary review announcements last week the dust is now settling.

We know that the plans for our constituency of North West Leicestershire are major. To show just how major you can see the proposed new constituencies of Bosworth and Coalville and Keyworth below.

Proposed Bosworth Constituency

Proposed Coalville and Keyworth Constituency

It's my firm belief that these proposed constituencies hurt communities. I wrote before that Coalville and Keyworth have no community links - this remains true.

What we also see is the fact communities are being split. Not only the historic links between Ashby and Coalville but the more direct splitting of towns and their immediate neighbour villages in the case of Coalville with Hugglescote and Ellistown.

You might be asking why all of this is important? The answer is simple.

We want our MP's to be passionate about the areas they serve. We want them to promote and support our communities from the rooftops. We want them to forge close links with businesses and local authorities for the betterment of their electors.

Where a community is split do we honestly think this is going to happen?

Moreover, where a constituency includes distinctly separate communities with distinctly different demographic makeups what chance is there that conflicts in representation will more readily arise with one distinct community being better served than the other?

The question however, is what can be done?

If you believe, as I do, that the constituency of North West Leicestershire should be retained (potentially with some villages drawn in to equalise voter numbers) it is vital you let the Boundary Commission know your views.

It is my firm believe however that in saying community is important it must be the community (not just political parties) that are making the point.

To have any realistic chance of changing the mind of the boundary commission we need individuals, community groups, schools, churches and any other organisation that plays a role in our community to have their say.

You have a choice in how you make your views known.

There are public hearings all over the country, the nearest is in Derby on 27 and 28 October, where you can have the opportunity to speak. To register to speak at the public hearing click here .

Alternatively you can make any comments online up until 5 December by clicking here .

If you read this blog and you have views on the proposed constituencies please take the time to respond to the consultation.

Similarly, please pass the message on. The only way we have a chance of retaining our historic links is by showing in massive numbers that this is important to us.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

When is £3,000 per month over budget value for money?

In July 2010 Leicestershire County Council announced that they were to appoint a new Head of Communications.

The salary for the post was a significant £74,000 per year.

The Hinckley Times reports that more than 40 applications were received for the post but noone was ever called for an interview.

Instead the County Council appointed a consultancy firm called Westco to do the job.

How much did the County Council pay for Westco? Not less than the advertised salary but instead £10,000 EVERY MONTH!

Whilst over a year later LCC have now decided to appoint a new Communications Manager at £48,390 they have the audacity to say:

“...when balanced against the monthly saving on the vacant head of communications post, the net monthly cost of the service is approximately £3,000. We believe that represents good value for money.”

I don't believe for one second that Communications is a superfluous function. On the contrary in a complex customer facing organisation positive communication is essential.

But we must also realise that given the wider economic picture public services must be subject to tight budgets.

£74,000 is a lot of money BUT £3,000 a month is a lot more OVER budget.

I get upset when I read articles in the right wing press about 'non jobs' in local government but when you hear of waste like this it's difficult not to see why.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Boundary Commission Review

Tomorrow the boundary commission will unveil its review of parliamentary constituencies which, subject to consultation, will come into force in time for the 2015 general election.

The stated aim of the review is to equalise the size of parliamentary constituencies and in doing so reduce the total number of MP's in Westminster down from 650 to 600.

There will be very few constituencies which go completely untouched in the review but our own constituency of North West Leicestershire will be one of the most affected.

Leaked copies of the proposals show that North West Leicestershire will be split into two.

Ashby De La Zouch will be absorbed into the Bosworth constituency, thus presumably making it even more steadfastly Conservative.

Whilst Coalville and its surrounding villages will go to form a new constituency with the towns of Keyworth and Ruddington which currently form part of Ken Clarke's Rushcliffe seat (the proposed constituency will be called Coalville and Keyworth).

It could be argued that this will potentially make Coalville (and Keyworth - must get used to the new name) a more marginal constituency given that the two towns do not tend to return Conservative councillors wholesale unlike much of the rest of the district.

But, to me at least, this is not the point.

Parliamentary constituencies should be designed on the basis that they reflect an identifiable geographic area. In other words to reflect communities.

Everyone knows that Coalville and Ashby are very different towns politically, economically and socially however they also have a great deal in common (much more than simply sharing a district council).

We have history, heritage, close transport links and not least the fact that for many of us when we go out shopping or for entertainment we might 'pop' into Ashby or 'nip' to Coalville.

What links do we have with Ruddington or Keyworth?

Both towns I am sure are lovely but what do we have in common with what are essentially suburbs of Nottingham?

I am pretty certain that anyone sat in Ruddington right now will be asking the same questions about Coalville.

Has anyone from Coalville ever 'popped' out to Keyworth (or vice versa)? I doubt it but we may well soon be represented by an MP of whatever party who must try to show they have an intimate knowledge of both distinct areas.

Will this really be the best representation voters can expect?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Grace Dieu Rosary Rally

Since I was a young boy every August I have been making the annual pilgrimage to the Rosary Rally held at Grace Dieu School and organised by the Association of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

This years Rosary Rally, held earlier today, marks the 25th staging of the event and I have been to every one (admittedly I was dragged there in my teenage years).

It is a great testament to the dedication of a small group of hard-working and dedicated people that such a wonderful event, which attracts pilgrims from all over the midlands, continues to thrive.

May there be many more.















Saturday, 20 August 2011

Talbot Lane - An update

You may recall that back in February I, along with the then District Councillors for Thringstone Dave Everitt and Ray Woodward, expressed our views on the hazards that are faced daily on Talbot Lane by both residents and motorists.

For those that do not know Talbot Lane it is a relatively minor, but busy, road which skirts Thringstone. It is also a fast road - particularly where it spurs off Talbot Street as on the face of it you are going downhill and have a seemingly clear view.

The only problem is that oncoming traffic also have the same driving conditions.

The result: the potential for traffic picking up speed and meeting at the hollow in the middle with dangerous consequences.







Now, Leicestershire County Council have tried to address the problem by building traffic calming measures. The have installed priority filtering and road narrowing as well as an illuminated sign.

Look closely on the lower photo and you can see the sign, which perfectly illustrates the problem.

You see, for at least 50% of the time (I was called out by a resident and we stood watching traffic for an hour) motorists don't slow down for the filter - they race to beat each other through it!

Of course the traffic calming doesn't make the situation safer in these cases, it makes it worse. The resident I spoke to informed me that on a least 5 occasions he has witnessed kerbs mounted at high speed or bollards knocked down.

I believe that traffic calming is needed on this spot (as it is working for around 50% of the time) but what we have currently is not sufficient. I would suggest that the County Council consider installing a table in addition to current measures to further slow traffic down.

I am conscious, however, that I am not an expert in traffic calming and so would not profess to know exactly what measures should be used, mine is simply a suggestion.

What I do know without doubt however is that the current measures are not sufficient.

Highways are a County Council issue and I would therefore call on our County Councillor, Tony Gillard, to take this regularly reported matter forward to County Hall.

I noticed in a recent edition of The Coalville Times that Cllr Gillard had been successful in dealing with a similar matter in Whitwick, I call on him to do the same for Talbot Lane.


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Publicly owned banks - funding of illegal cluster-bomb munitions

Amnesty International have recently highlighted that publicly (part) owned banks, RBS and Lloyds, are investing in arms manufacturers which make illegal cluster bombs.

The reason that cluster bombs are outlawed is due to the indiscriminate damage they do to civilians wherever they are used.

Please take the time to take a look at the video below:


If you are as outraged as me then please visit Amensty's website to take action: http://action.amnesty.org.uk/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1194&ea.campaign.id=11583&utm_source=aiuk&utm_medium=homepage&utm_campaign=arms&utm_content=clusterbomb_action_main

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Rose and Crown, The Green, Thringstone



The Rose and Crown has been a fixture of Thringstone life since the 1840's, but as we all know in an ever changing society which has witnessed the widespread closing of pubs the Rose and Crown shut its doors for the last time two years ago.

There have been rumours circulating around the village for many months as to what will happen with the Rose and Crown next and one potential answer is now on the table.

A planning application has recently been made to North West Leicestershire District Council to demolish the pub and replace it with a 'A1 retail unit, associated access and car parking' (in other words a convenience store operating 7 days a week).

Full details of the application can be found at the link below:

http://plans.nwleics.gov.uk/public-access/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=LP94NXLR0DD00

I have already asked that this application be 'called in' for consideration by planning committee as I believe that whether it is approved or not will have a significant effect on the life of our village in the coming years. I also believe that local people have a right to voice their opinions about the application.

It is my intention to speak, as ward member, to planning committee when the application is heard to represent the aspirations of the residents of Thringstone.

However, at the present time I am open-minded about the application.

I am sure local people will have views and I would love to hear them in order that I can represent my constituents to the best of my ability.

Please feel free to leave a comment on my blog or e-mail me at cllrleonspence@gmail.com

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Cheap Shot Mr Bridgen - You should look to your own party

I was completely astonished when reading this mornings Coalville Times and the story 'MP Bridgen criticises Labours planning rules'.

The article explains our MP is condemning Labour planning rules which meant that three Ashby Councillors (2 Conservatives and 1 Labour) could not take part in two controversial planning committee decision to approve around 400 houses in Ashby.

Mr Bridgen says 'It was the previous Labour government who institued rules which mean councillors who represent a ward are unable to voice opinions on planning applications in their area, as was the case with the Ashby councillors this week.'

All I can say is what misinformed and misleading tosh.

There is absolutely nothing to stop a ward councillor taking part in a decision in their ward unless they have either a prejudicial interest or have predetermined their decision.

We regularly see councillors take part in applications concerning their ward, I am aware of several in recent months alone.

The reason that the three councillors concerned did not take part in the decision was that they acted properly, after taking legal advice, in declaring prejudicial interests.

Certainly in the case of Councillor Sheahan as Chair of Governors at Ashby Ivanhoe School, who would benefit financially from approval of the applications, I believe he acted entirely correctly in withdrawing.

The simple fact is that Planning Committee acts in a quasi-judicial function and what reasonable outside observer would be satisfied that someone who represents an organisation which would benefit significantly from a positive decision could reasonably be expected to be impartial on it.

I would respectfully suggest that if Mr Bridgen wants to make cheap political points on the issue he should look to his own Conservative Councillors.

What our MP doesn't mention is that the plans were approved overwhelmingly by Tories. Labour overwhelmingly voted against them!

Why are we all experts in rioting?

Over the past few days every one of us has been disturbed and angered by the riots and civil disturbances that have been taking place throughout our country.

The actions of a mindless minority are abhorrent to every right thinking person and of course tough police action is required to bring any incidents under control.

But, why all of a sudden has everyone turned into an expert on rioting?

If you read any social media, particularly at the riots seeming nadir on Monday night, everyone was espousing the use of water canon, rubber bullets and armed forces.

I must confess I know absolutely nothing about police tactics.

That is what senior police officers are for and I would support them completely in knowing what is best for dealing with a mob.

For example, I didn't see any reports of them using kettling techniques which suggested to me at least that they determined such methods were not suitable in these circumstances.

What we have seen over the past days and nights are very concerned people desperate for the problems to be resolved swiftly and a heavy police presence over the past two nights has rightfully been used to achieve this.

Hopefully, after two relatively quieter nights, we are now over the worst of the incidences and parliament is recalled today to debate the matter.

Now is the time to be rational.

Tough policing is a fundamental part of ensuring we do not see these incidents recur.

But we must not forget that these events are part of a wider problem of an ever increasing underclass who are completely disenfranchised from normal society.

The individuals carrying out these riots see criminality as normal.

Of course a considerable reason for this is about upbringing and living conditions otherwise why didn't we see riots in the likes of Epsom or Alderley Edge or Coalville for that matter?

We must now reflect on what can be done to address this? What can be done to educate? What can be done to ensure these people in the future can participate in a civilised society?

Our society works only through consensus in the power of law, after all can we really afford to have 16,000 police officers on the streets of London every night? How do we ensure that those outside of that consensus are embraced into the norm?

I don't know the answers but my suspicion is that tough law and order isn't the only answer.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

New district signs - the true cost

A couple of days ago I wrote about the new signs adorning the district highlighting the fact that motorists were now entering 'North West Leicestershire'.

I queried that whether in these tough economic times (when cuts are the norm) had taxpayer money been used on frivolities rather than essential services?

I now have the truth.

The total cost of our admittedly eyecatching signs was £16,718.40 (inc. VAT).

It's true that a contribution of £3,097.20 was made from the National Forest.

But once one takes into account the authorities VAT exemption our District Council have spent £10,834.80 of Council Taxpayer money on signs.

To put that into perspective that equates to the total Council Tax paid by more than 100 homes to North West Leicestershire* this year.

My question therefore is this:

Did we really need signs so badly that when essential services are being cut we had to spend the equivalent of more than 100 hard working, and in many cases struggling, families Council Tax to buy them?

I will be asking the Conservative  administration to answer this one simple question.





*Based on a Band A property

Monday, 11 July 2011

New district signs - but what are the costs?

I don't know if you have seen our new roadsigns yet when you enter North West Leicestershire but if you have missed them they are very nice.

The signs have been installed at some of the 'key entrances' to the District and establish in the words of Councillor Alison Smith 'a clear identity for North West Leicestershire'.

Clearly this is done by telling us (for example) that Ibstock has been making bricks for absolutely years - as it says on one sign.

Whilst this is great I am not sure that anyone living in the district would be unaware of the fact and furthermore I'm not absolutely certain that a sign would help to promote tourism or encourage new business, unless of course there is a passing delegation of brick enthusiasts...

Despite my slightly facetious comments it does not bother me that we have new signs.

What does strongly concern me is how much have they cost at a time when services are being cut and we are all facing a period of austerity?

Can we honestly say that these signs are needed when people are losing their jobs?

Have our Conservative administration at Whitwick Road spent money on frivolities when that same money is needed for essential services?

The official press release for the new signs says:

'The District Council is proud to be working in partnership with the National Forest Company, whose support has helped us to install and finance our new signs.'

Whilst it appears that the NFC have assisted financing the signs the fact that the word 'helped' is used implies that there has been a direct cost to the taxpayers of the district.

I am currently trying to ascertain the true cost of these signs and will feedback as soon as I have further information...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Why we must be careful with the future of journalism

Undoubtedly the single most important news story of the past week has been that centering around the News of the World and the deplorable actions of some of its staff.

There can be no excuse for the alleged intrusions that have taken place in the lives of victims of crime and tragedies such as the families of Milly Dowler and those who lost loved ones on 7/7.

Those who are responsible, including those who are vicariously responsible, should be brought to book with the full force of the law and yes, those who finance News International in any way, including advertisers, newsagents and customers should consider whether they wish to do so.

It is of course correct that an inquiry takes place which looks thoroughly at the actions of the press in this case and whether similar techniques of intrusion have been used more widely by the media.

However, I believe that we are at a fork in the metaphorical road and we must be careful that we take the right track.

Some members of the journalistic profession have been guilty of serious wrongdoing, however, many have the highest standards of integrity and a deeply held personal belief that we, the public, have the right to truth.

There is a long tradition of investigative journalists revealing major wrongdoings in the public interest, whether that be the Washington Post in respect of Watergate or the Daily Telegraph revealing the parliamentary expenses scandal.

We must be careful that in addressing the current News of the World scandal we do not give way to those who may wish to limit valid investigation.

We must remember that for every Glenn Mulcaire there is a Woodward or Bernstein, who the public owes a real debt (or at least thanks) to.

It is a truism that bad cases make for bad law. There is no case worse than this current debacle and therefore we must be careful that we do not take kneejerk reactions which may hamstring the journalistic profession and detrimentally affect our right to the truth for years to come.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A Government of Dilettantes?

Margaret Thatcher was a Prime Minister who evoked emotion.

Looking back on her in her pomp noone was apathetic about her. She was either a heroine or something akin to Satan - it's fair to say everyone had a view.

It would probably surprise very few to know that (and I will put this mildly) I wasn't a very big fan.

Now as much as I disliked Mrs Thatcher there is no doubt you knew where you stood with her.

Remember the famous line 'the lady isn't for turning'?

All I can say is that it is a good job she hasn't passed away because if she had she would be spinning furiously right now.

Have we ever seen a government which takes U-turns with such regularity?

Today it's the anouncement that the government are reversing their plans to reduce prison tariffs where the accused pleads 'guilty' at an early stage in the trial process.

Below we see a list of just some of the most notable about-faces this government have taken in only a year of being in power:

  • School sports partnerships
  • Forestry commission sell-off
  • NHS reform
  • Cancelling free school milk
  • Gaol for those caught carrying knifes
  • Danny Alexanders 'no negotiation' ultimatum
  • Prison sentence reform
Of course, what you will be told is that the government have listened and made adult decisions.

It's not a simple as that. Any responsible government should do the listening before going off half-cocked with ill thought out policies which cause distress and consternation to the general public.

We haven't got a listening government, what we have is a bunch of dilettantes...

Saturday, 18 June 2011

A summer of discontent?

Every time I turn on the news or open a newspaper I see that one union or another is balloting its members about strike action.

Let's be clear that a strike, particularly in the public service, is never something which should be entered into lightly.

A strike which directly affects the lives of countless people throughout the country through the suspension of public services should always be a last resort.

It is also true that in these dark economic times the vast majority of workers, whether in the public, private or third sector have experienced job losses, at best no increase to wages and being constantly asked to do more by their employers.

However, surely there must come a time when any worker must say 'enough is enough'.

Workers in the public sector have been placed under exactly the same strains as those in the private sector. They have seen large scale redundancies, constant extra duties and yes, increases to pension contributions.

It should be the right of every working person to be a union member and to use the collective power of the workforce to take industrial action for their benefit.

Incidentally it is also the right of employers to dismiss striking workers but lets face it to do so would be ruinous to any business.

Many observers question the wisdom of unions taking action on 'gold-plated' pensions typically highlighting that final salary schemes have long since been closed in other sectors.

Whilst public sector pensions are some of the best schemes around we should understand that for many contributions have significantly increased, benefits have been reduced and previously advantageous age limits phased out.

To put the matter simply a very large number of public sector workers feel that they have been the target of a government, prone to u-turns and errors, making nothing more than a ideological stand for too long.

It is very easy for a government to point at 'inefficiencies' in the public sector but we must remember how 18 years of Tory government left our public services.

Health professionals were leaving the NHS in their droves, schools were falling down and initiatives such as Compulsory Competitive Tendering were based entirely on cost and not delivering a service that was worth anything to anyone.

Is this something we want to return to?

We must remember that the vast majority of public employees are hard working and dedicated people who do not take strike action lightly.

Yes, the rhetoric is being stepped up by the Unions but when Government ministers are stating that their cuts are 'take it or leave it' there is no wonder that strikes are being called for.

And if these cuts are enforced without defending the rights of employees then what terms and conditions will be unilaterally withdrawn next?

Strikes are a last resort and let us hope that both parties (the unions and government) can negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement but if discussions stall I for one will be supportive of any workers right to strike.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Fox site developments approved

Last night the Planning Committee at North West Leicestershire District Council considered an application to demolish The Fox public house in Thringstone and in its place develop a care home for elderly people.

This application has been on the books at the council for some time.

In fact the application was first made in 2008, however, local people (and neighbours in particular) raised some serious and real concerns about many aspects of the proposals, not least regarding sewerage, parking, local wildlife and the general look and overbearing nature of the building.

After three years the developers have listened to these objections and come back with a much better solution that addresses each of the pertinent issues. This in itself is a great example of the real power that neighbours have when they raise their objections to unacceptable development proposals.

Last night I spoke in favour of the application at the planning committee. Whilst I understand that some local people still have a few reservations I am encouraged that the use of planning conditions (numbering around 30) in the application will ensure that the worst worries will be averted.

I am pleased to say that the application was passed subject to those planning conditions.

The construction of the care home will not only remove an eyesore, which is regularly subject to vandalism, from our village but in the long run will bring around 70 jobs to Thringstone and will prove to be a boost to local suppliers.

I hope that the care home will prove to be a real boost to our community.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Leaders week - preparation for cabinet and council

As Leader of the Labour Group I have previously said that I would post regular personal blog entries outlining what I have been up to in my role.

This week has mostly seen preparations begin for the next council cycle of cabinet and full council.
  • I have received a briefing from the Monitoring Officer on various constitutional and process issues.
  • Along with our Shadow Cabinet member for Housing and Customer Services I have received a briefing from the Director of Services.
  • I have undertaken consultation and preparations to formally respond to outline terms of reference for Policy Development Group.
  • Begun preparations for submitting pertinent member questions to full council.
  • Arranged with the Chief Executive assistance with promoting surgeries (on a non-political basis for all members) should councillors wish to undertake them. I should add that surgeries have historically had different levels of effectiveness in different areas and some councillors conduct other effective methods of conducting casework with their constituents and therefore surgeries are not always pertinent, however, where they are it is fantastic that we will receive support in promoting them.
  • Arranged to speak at planning committee in respect of proposed development at The Fox site, Thringstone. It should be noted that on this issue I will be speaking as a ward member and not as group leader. It is my intention to speak in favour of the proposed developments whilst supporting sufficient planning conditions to ensure that neighbours are not detrimentally affected throughout the construction and operational phases.
In addition to the actions outlined above as Leader of the Labour Group I have also been asked to provide comment by local media in respect of the election petition recently made against Council Leader, Cllr Richard Blunt. I have released the comment below on this matter which I think is self explanatory:

'An election petition is a private matter between the petitioner and respondent. The Labour group will await the outcome with interest but will not be making further comments on how this petition may affect Cllr Blunt's membership of North West Leicestershire District or Leicestershire County Councils.'
 
All in all it's been another busy week but hopefully we have started to make small but significant steps to being an effective opposition for the benefit of our community.

A community day bringing back memories of how things used to be

Yesterday we had a fantastic day out at the Thringstone House Centenary Celebrations and Scarecrow Festival.

The turnout from the local community (and further afield) was amazing with apparently everyone getting involved in the many activities which were organised around the village.

Being born and growing up in Thringstone I remember days like this at the village fetes as a kid.

It was great to talk to so many familiar faces, all of us reminiscing about those times and hoping that the Community Centre can work through its current difficulties to face a bright future of delivering another hundred years of such celebrations.

Some photographs of the day are posted below:







(Special thanks are given to Holy Cross School, Whitwick for the loan of Harry Potters tie!)






Saturday, 28 May 2011

Leaders Week

When I was elected to the role of Labour Group Leader at North West Leicestershire District Council just over a week ago one of the things I said I was going to do was seek to make my position transparent to my party and the general public.

As a result I said I would regularly summarise my activities, as far as possible on a weekly basis, and publish them to this blog.

So here goes...

In the past week I have:
  • Following group AGM submitted (with Deputy Leader) group officer paperwork to Officers.
  • Held an introductory meeting, via telephone, with Leader of the Council, Cllr Richard Blunt.
  • Held an introductory briefing with Chief Executive, Ms Christine Fisher.
  • Over the weekend worked with Group Whip on finalising nominations to external community bodies (for approval at Council).
  • Also over the weekend finalised Labour Group shadow cabinet for the forthcoming year.
  • Attended evening Labour Group and Council AGM.
  • Attended evening Standards & Code of Conduct training for members.
  • Arranged briefings for shadow cabinet members from officers.
  • Assisted local people with casework including holding a meeting with officers to discuss the (re)establishment of Woodside Residents Association.
I have no doubt that this week was not usual being more about administration rather than the community work of a councillor, however, as the term beds down I'm sure much more of that will come along.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

A blast from the past

Yesterday I was doing some tidying up down at my mums bungalow. As I was putting some paperwork into the desk I found one of my grandad, Walter Johnon's, election addresses from 1970.

At that point Walter had been a long-serving member of Coalville Urban District Council. I believe that this address was issued when campaigning for what was his last term in office.




Saturday, 21 May 2011

It's been a very busy week

I just realised it's nearly a week since I posted an entry on my blog, very unlike me, however it's been a very busy week.

Aside from regular parenting duties it's been very busy with casework  in Thringstone ward. This week alone I've been liaising with officers and councillors on issues as varied as public waste bins and road safety through to investigating the possibilities of establishing tenants associations and credit unions. It's only two weeks since the elections but I'm hoping to move forward on these issues in the coming weeks and months.

We also had the inaugural meeting of Whitwick Parish Council. Understandably much of that first meeting was about housekeeping and the handover from the idea stage to what is now a fully fledged council.

The refreshing point however is that everybody is very optimistic. Councillors have a real desire to work for the village and that many were sat in the public seating area reflects that that view is shared amongst local people. I believe that the parish council will really be a positive benefit to the residents of Whitwick in the coming years.

Perhaps most notably I was very honored to be elected as Leader of the Labour Group at the District Council on Thursday night.

Following the local election Labour now have the strength to be a serious opposition to the Conservative administration for the benefit of local people. We can scrutinise and challenge the Tories when it is necessary but we can also influence and work with them for the better good of the district.

It's going to be a big role in these tough economic times but with the support of a team of dedicated and professional councillors working with me we really can Labour to the next level and make North West Leicestershire a better place to live.

Now, I have a scarecrow to make (more on this later)...

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Meeting up with our local beat officer

Today I along with my fellow Labour Councillors Dave Everitt and Ray Woodward went to Thringstone Green to meet up with PC James Broomfield, our local beat officer for Thringstone.

James conducts regular beat surgeries in prominent locations within the area where local people can meet up with him to discuss concerns about crime, anti-social behaviour and other police matters within the village.

Normally James has the use of a 'mobile office', i.e. a van! But unfortunately today it was off the road and so we had to make the most of sitting in the back of a police car - my first time, honest!

In any event James was able to appraise us of current police issues in and around Thringstone, most notably a spate of fires in Grace Dieu woods, and provide reassurance that action was being taken to catch, educate and where appropriate take enforcement action against the culprits.

Clearly these fires are being set by young people who predominantly need to understand the actual and possible implications of their actions.

It's clear that the Police are working with partner agencies, ie. Fire Service and Local Authorities to prevent further incidents which are both dangerous and a costly burden on local taxpayers.

James is always happy to meet up with local people, and if you don't encounter him when he is out on the beat you can always visit one of the upcoming surgeries.

The next scheduled surgeries for Thringstone are:

July 17th from 3.00pm to 4.00pm on The Green

September 14th from 3.00pm to 4.00pm on The Green

November 3rd from 3.00pm to 4.00pm on The Green

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Stepping back in time

25 years ago the BBC decided to undertake a new Domesday project, a survey for modern times to give a snapshot of life in Britain.

Contributions were made largely by schoolchildren in a mix of written testimonies and a few photographs (remember no digital cameras back then).

Once data was submitted it was then saved digitally to state of the art laser discs for future use.

Unfortunately laser discs then became obsolete and nothing could be done with them. The data had become useless. Until now....

The BBC have now managed to access the data and have uploaded it to the internet, and it's wonderful.

Times have changed, I guess noone even only 25 years ago would have foreseen digital cameras, GPS, mobile phones and particularly the world wide web, and as a result the contributions appear dated BUT they still have a sparkling resonance.

Unfortunately, it appears no data was ever collected for Thringstone or Whitwick but there is plenty of information for Coalville and other surrounding areas.

I particularly love the article on Shepshed's local language (it evokes memories of my grandparents) and in the Coalville block 'Deborah Allen's School Day' (I must have been about the same age).

On a serious note many of the concerns expressed and images written in words are still prevalent.

They paint a picture how in some ways our towns and villages are much better and yet in other ways we are so much worse off.

Take a look at the Coalville block article about The Broadway Shopping Centre and the wide range of shops available. Take a look at The Belvoir Centre today. You'll see what I mean.

We need to do so much more to carrying on the improvements whilst addressing the deteriorations.

If you want to take a look at the website (and It's well worth it) visit www.bbc.co.uk/domesday

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Contact Details

A key tenet of Labours election campaign was that we would be councillors representing all of our voters not just at election time but throughout the entire period of our four year terms.

We said that we would publish contact details where you could reach us at any reasonable time.

For me this is more than just having our details on a council website but proactively getting this information out to you through a variety of sources should you need to get in touch in a hurry.

My details are:

Telephone: 07828 194768 (please no later than 10.00pm)

E-mail: leon.spence@btinternet.com (this may change once a NWLDC e-mail has been set up)

Please be assured whenever you contact me and I act on your behalf I will keep you informed how your case is progressing.

Friday, 6 May 2011

District Election Results - A reflection...

As I sit here typing I've been reflecting on the past 36 hours.

36 hours of 'getting out the vote', standing outstide polling stations, bacon sandwiches in the middle of the night, waiting, elation and commiseration.

The cold hard facts are that I along with my Labour Party colleague Dave Everitt were elected as District Councillors for Thringstone.

Labour increased our total number of seats on North West Leicestershire District Council from 5 to 16, taking 6 seats from the Conservatives, 2 BNP, 2 Liberal Democrat and 1 Independent.

The Tories still have a narrow overall majority, but the voters of North West Leicestershire have shown their trust in Labour by allowing us to create a strong and effective opposition. Challenging and scrutinising the administration where necessary and working with them in developing a better district.

The past 36 hours, however, have been a great deal more than cold hard facts.

There has been some wonderfully funny moments - just one example:

Yesterday whilst standing outside a polling station, rosette on lapel, it brought a smile to my face when a voter started shouting at me in all sorts of colourful language saying he would 'never ******* vote Labour', only to come out a moment later to say that he wasn't on the '******* electoral register, do you have any suggestions'???? I did think of one, but kept it to myself...

There was sadness in trying to commiserate friends and colleagues. Potentially outstanding councillors who had worked tirelessly in election campaigns only to be pipped at the post in alarmingly close circumstances. I hope with all my heart they will be back to try again.

There was genuine emotion in saying farewell to some dedicated and experienced councillors of different political parties, not least our own Felix Fenning (and maybe a wry smile at the departure of one or two).

And of course there was elation as name after name was called out for us...

Labour has put forward a team of truly dedicated candidates with an imaginative and realistic agenda for the next four years.

Dave and I fervently hope we can now contribute to forming a positive opposition for the benefit of all residents of Thringstone and North West Leicestershire.

Thank you to those who voted for us, and even if you did not we will try to represent you with honesty and integrity to the best of our ability.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Local Elections Tomorrow - 5th May

After many months of campaigning and canvassing election day is nearly with us and so a final few jottings before I spend the next two days on the final push to get elected.

Proposed Hustings

First up unfortunately tonights proposed hustings event hasn't proved possible.

I did hear from one of the Conservative candidates who to his credit expressed an interest in attending. Unfortunately, and after much deliberation, he felt he would not be able to attend as he was extremely busy with campaigning. Whilst it is disappointing that the Conservatives felt that they could not take part all candidates must campaign as they think best and I would like to thank the Conservative candidates for at least considering the idea.

I have heard nothing from the Liberal Democrat candidates.

Polling Day

Don't forget to vote, and vote early, tomorrow.

Shown below is our 'Get Out The Vote' card. It's self explanatory and if you need a lift to your polling station please don't hesitate to call us.




And Finally...

Thank you to everyone for taking the time to read my blog over the past few months. Hopefully you have found it informative in setting out Labour's promises should we be fortunate enough to be elected (and not too boring).

If you have have any questions on our views which you need clarifying before the election please don't hesitate to leave a comment or e-mail me directly at leon.spence@btinternet.com . I will aim to get back to you straight away.

Irrespective of whether you have voted Labour in the past both Dave Everitt and myself are passionate about our village. We will aim to be the best possible advocates for Thringstone.

Go on, give us a try...