Thursday, 31 January 2013

The world has gone mad when you are charged to open your gate!

I have recently been contacted by a resident of Thringstone, a council tenant of 35 years, who called to say she thought someone was playing a joke on her.

She had received a letter from North West Leicestershire District Council, which said that because she had a gate at the bottom of her garden which gave her access to a publicly owned playing field she was to be billed £20 per year for the privilege.

Never mind that the only purpose she uses the gate for is to be able to maintain her fence and to mow a small part of the councils field, in order to keep it tidy.

She doesn't 'enjoy a benefit' she is simply being a decent citizen who now is going to be charged because they do the right thing.

But now I learn she is not on her own. Many people throughout the district are receiving similar letters or even worse bills for £90 because they may drive down a council owned track in order to park their cars on their back gardens.

There can only be one word to describe it. Ludicrous.

So, alongside other councillors I have been in touch with officers seeking an explanation and, more importantly, a commonsense solution.

The reply I have received says everything you need to know, and I quote:

'The review was undertaken in order to ensure that all residents accessing Council land were treated fairly and consistently.

Where people are gaining access over District Council owned land they can continue to do so but a fee would apply for the benefit of access. The review identified that it was important to regularise the position with a formal licence agreement to prevent land sterilisation issues which could potentially limit the Council's ability to manage and use land in the future.'

...so everything's crystal clear then!

The simple fact is that this 'licencing' scheme has been created as a stealth tax to fill council coffers and there is simply no reasonable justification for it.

The lady that phoned me says she has no intention of paying such a bonkers charge. I wouldn't blame her for a second.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

For the sake of jobs and sanity we must say no to HS2 in NWL

I have lived, very nearly, my whole life in North West Leicestershire.

I love this place. We have history, fantastic countryside and some of the most decent and hardworking people you could ever have the privilege to meet.

I want the very best for my district, our district.

I want to see North West Leicestershire benefit from the economic regeneration it deserves.

I want to see local people in good, well paid jobs and children receiving the very best education.

I want to see our elderly cared for and the disabled contributing as much to our community as the able bodied.

I want North West Leicestershire to be a place we can all be proud to call home.

It is for these precise reasons why I believe we must respond loudly and strongly to the government's announcement this week on the proposed route of the HS2 railway line from Birmingham to Leeds.

We live in an area which suffered since the close of the pits.

Our strength has very much become our location. We are blessed that our place in the country means we are an ideal place to distribute goods.

Over the coming years our position as a logistics centre will strengthen. We know, for example, a company called Roxhill want to build a major distribution hub bringing 6,000 jobs to the area.

Or they did until HS2 proposed a high speed route right through their proposed location.

I don't want HS2 to ruin the prospective livelihoods of thousands of families.

But just as importantly I don't want HS2 to ruin the economic and psychological wellbeing of thousands more families whose lives will become blighted by this issue for decades to come.

If HS2 goes ahead along it's proposed route hundreds of families in this district will face massive devaluation to their properties.

Just as many will face noise disturbance on a constant basis.

And existing employers will be forced to relocate their businesses, potentially out of the district, or not expand as they had previously planned.

Every single one of us will face years of inconvenience brought about by construction on a scale previously unknown to us.

And not least future development in our district will face such uncertainty that planning blight will become inevitable.

And all of this for absolutely no discernable benefit. We don't even get a station near to us.

It is precisely for these reasons I believe we must say right here and now 'No to HS2 in North West Leicestershire'.

I am not saying HS2 shouldn't happen. I am well aware that some areas, particularly those who will or would seek to host a station, would welcome HS2. Good luck to them.

I am saying HS2 is wrong for our district.

Over the coming months and years I will fight to keep HS2 out of North West Leicestershire and will stand alongside anyone who seeks to achieve the same aims.

This isn't about party politics it's about listening to and working for the people of our district in what is the biggest threat to the future enjoyment of our area in living memory.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Gritting Update

Over the past few days I have received a number of calls from local residents asking about the possibility of locating grit bins in Thringstone.

I am delighted to say that tonight, at a meeting of the Coalville Special Expenses Working Group, I received unanimous support to my proposal to investigate (and hopefully implement) a program of grit bins throughout the special expense area.

What this means in the real world is that, all things being equal, we will see additional grit bins being placed around Thringstone and most areas of Coalville by next winter.

Overall a good day!

Monday, 21 January 2013

A personal loss from Coalville's High Street

This evening I am sad.

Sad at the news of losing another shop from Coalville.

But also sad at the loss of a constant part of my families life.

Today the Midlands Co-op has announced the closure, in the next six months, of the Coalville Department Store.

It is a shop where as a toddler I accidentally smashed a dinner service which had been put on display.

It is a shop which brings back memories of my first visit to Father Christmas.

It is a shop where my dad always used to buy electrical goods from (because he liked the customer service and interest free credit)!

And it is a shop where we bought all of the nursery equipment for our own firstborn - and where I bought his very first toy.

Tonight I am sad that we will lose another retailer from Coalville with the potential for another empty unit and maybe more jobs lost.

But I am also sad tonight that a little part of me has gone.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Gritting fiasco

Main Street, Thringstone at 10:30 Sunday 20 January
Over the past couple of days I have been receiving comments about gritting in Thringstone, following Friday's major snowfall.

In particular local residents have expressed concern to me about a complete lack of gritting on Main Street.

This morning I have taken a walk around the village to check out how our streets are faring.

It's very disappointing to say that with the exception of Loughborough Road most of the village remains ungritted, two days after Friday and with snow once again forecasted by the Met Office for most of today.

Many of Thringstone's road are hazardous and in all likelihood will get worse during the day.

As Leicestershire County Council continue to make cuts it is on days like these we can physically see their impact.

I have contacted the County Council to urge them to ensure all streets in Thringstone are gritted, but in particular our main thoroughfares.

As always, don't hesitate to contact me if you need assistance.


'Adopt' an elder person

With the severe weather forecast to last for a few weeks more the time has never been better to 'adopt' an elderly neighbour.

Many older people don't see another soul for days on end and when snow stays on the ground even more are worried if they leave the house they will suffer from a fall.

Why not take the time to check on your older neighbours?

Do they need any groceries fetching? Do they need the drive clearing? Or do they just need someone to chat with for five minutes?

'Adopting' an older person need not be onerous and doesn't have to be restricted to when it snows.

The best thing is checking on a neighbour doesn't just help the person your visiting it makes you feel good too, knowing that you are doing something worthwhile.

Why not 'adopt' an older person today? It's what community is really about.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Could you live on £65,738 (plus expenses)?

£22,425.

In case you are wondering what £22,425 is it's the average wage of a resident of North West Leicestershire for 2011.

It's a wage which many families in this district where I am privileged to serve have to live on.

Many, many families right here in North West Leicestershire live on a great deal less.

Many, many familes are facing no pay rise this year.

Many, many families are facing real term cuts to benefit.

Coincidentally £22,425 is also around one third of the wage paid to an MP of £65,738 - before expenses, pension, second home allowance (and not forgetting external income).

But according to our MP, Andrew Bridgen, £65,738 may not be enough.

You see, in an interview on Radio 4 tonight, according to Mr Bridgen £65,738 is the sort of wage which means, and I quote, you have to 'look you children in the eye when it's Christmas say you can't have what you normally have because Mummy or Daddy wants to be an MP'.

Mr Bridgen may represent the people of North West Leicestershire but making comments such as these shows he doesn't understand or empathise with them.

If you think that £65,738 (plus expenses) is the sort of wage that makes it difficult to make ends meet all I can say is 'you don't know how hard it is for many families these days'.

Mr Bridgen I have a suggestion for you.

Let me take you around my ward, in your constituency, or the ward of any of my council colleagues.

Let's ask a representative sample of people on the streets of those wards whether they think £65,738 with all the trimmings is enough.

You might be surprised by the answer.


Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Local views sought on number of councillors for North West Leicestershire

The following media release has been issued by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England.

Please take the time to make your views known.

The independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England is asking local people how many councillors they think should represent North West Leicestershire District Council.

The Commission wants to know whether the district should continue to be represented by 38 councillors or whether there should be more, or fewer, district councillors in future.

The six-week public consultation is the first part of an electoral review which will also consider changes to the number, names and boundaries of the council’s wards.

Max Caller, Chair of the Commission, said: “This is your chance to shape your council for the future.
“We are asking people across the district if they agree that 38 councillors is still the right number to represent North West Leicestershire in future.

“We want to know if you think 38 is the right number of councillors to be able to take decisions effectively and whether it’s the right number to represent the interests of all North West Leicestershire’s communities.

“If you don’t agree that North West Leicestershire should be represented by 38 councillors, we’d like you to tell us your alternative and why you think there should be more, or fewer, members of the council in the future.

“Once we have taken a view on the number of councillors, we will re-draw ward boundaries to accommodate those elected members and we will be asking local people to have their say during that process as well.”

Further information about the review is available at www.lgbce.org.uk
Residents can have their say directly at consultation.lgbce.org.uk
Or email reviews@lgbce.org.uk to find out more.

LGBCE TwitterFollow the Commission on Twitter @LGBCE

The current phase of consultation closes on 18 February 2013. Once it has considered the evidence provided by local people and organisations, the Commission will publish its proposal on the total number of councillors in March 2013 and then begin to gather information to help draw up new ward boundaries.

The Commission aims to publish its draft recommendations for a new pattern of in August 2013 when it will consult local people again. Final recommendations are due to be published in January 2014 and the new electoral arrangements would come into effect for the council elections in 2015.

To have your say, write to:
The Review Officer (NW Leicestershire)
Local Government Boundary Commission for England
Layden House
76-86 Turnmill Street
London
EC1M 5LG

Or email: reviews@lgbce.org.uk

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Lighting switch off in Whitwick and Thringstone - the facts

A main street in Whitwick which shows how dark it is.
Have you been out in the middle of the night recently?


Strange question maybe but with Christmas and New Year just finished the answer may well be an affirmative.

If the answer is yes you will have noticed how dark everything has become.

You see in the past few months, after midnight, Leicestershire County Council has started turning off street lights.


In essence I don't disagree with the Councils reasoning for switch off, (although I do think implementation has been very poorly handled - little consultation, and the rollout costs are vey high - over £100,000 for Whitwick alone).

But, in fairness, very few people have a need for street lights in the middle of the night, a great amount of money can be saved and there are environmental benefits.


The County Council also rightly identify that for safety some lights need to be kept on. Junctions need to remain lit and so do other areas of potential risk, for example flooding hotspots.

And this is where the problems arise.

I have received calls from a number of residents about lights switched off which should still be on, lights on junctions or where there is some other risk.

And so last night I went to investigate around Whitwick and Thringstone to see for myself if there were problems, and the findings were interesting.


First of all it's astonishing how few people there are out at that time. In the hour I was driving around (between 1.00 and 2.00) I saw less than a handful of cars and absolutely no pedestrians - it really did prove to me why partial night switch off is the way to go.

But it was also disconcerting that a number of small junctions were either completely unlit (Aspens Hollow, Springfield) or partially lit with lamp posts nearer to the junction being switched off (Rosedale, Pares Close and Swallow Dale).



Perhaps worst of all a flood zone, highlighted to the County Council by Whitwick Parish Council, on Grace Dieu Road is completely unlit. It's only a few months since that road was under water and next time it happens (if it happens in the night) noone will see there is a flood there.

We must ensure that just because less people are about road safety isn't detrimentally affected.


Just because a junction is minor doesn't mean that risk is removed and lights can be switched off, in fact, one could suggest that as such junctions tend to service small number of homes on cul-de-sacs a driver could be even more blasé because they are 'nearly there'.

I will be taking my findings to the County Council and asking them to look at the problems.

Any large scale project needs fine tuning to get right and a good solution isn't a million miles away. Let's hope that they listen.