Thursday, 28 March 2013

What would you like to see done to make Whitwick and Thringstone better?

Over the past few weeks I have been asking local people what they want done to make Whitwick and Thringstone better places to live.

Here are just a few of the responses:

'Street lighting has affected us. It is very dangerous on a main road that doesn't have cats eyes, and very dangerous when cars are parked at the road side.'

'Stop dog fouling! It's disgusting and continually seen on footpaths in Whitwick - so unpleasant when walking the children to school.'

'No street lights after 12 midnight / Grit bin placed at the top of the hill / Revamp Coalville Town Centre - Get better shops.'

'I live alone and in a quiet residential part of Whitwick. The loss of night street lighting has made my area Dickensian. It has depressed me beyond words and I feel unsafe. Regarding gritting, I did not (dare not) leave the house for 21 days.'

'Street lighting in our street - it makes it very frightening and dark.'

All of the comments come from ordinary residents.

All of the comments relate to services provided by your local Conservative controlled Councils.

The same Councils who tell us about the great job they are doing.

I cannot promise that if you elect me everything will magically be sorted. I do promise that I will work tirelessly to address the issues that matter to local people.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

HS2 update

Councillors Leon Spence and Paul Bayliss
Today I and a delegation from the North West Leicestershire Labour Group met with Councillor Paul Bayliss, Leader of Derby City Council, to discuss the potential impact of HS2 on our respective areas.

The North West Leicestershire Labour Group, alongside the district's Conservative leadership,  have been clear that we are strongly against proposals to bisect the district through the construction of a high speed railway line, proposals which will jeopardise thousands of jobs, cause planning blight and  years of construction disruption with no discernible benefits.

At the same time Councillor Bayliss and his team are putting together a strong economic case for the benefits which HS2 could bring to Derby, a city with a rich engineering heritage.

I very much hope that the potential for rerouting HS2 in a direction with broad support and a viable business case is an option which the Government will seriously consider.

I am sure both of our groups look forward to working together to bring a desired aim to reality.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

NWLDC's Core Strategy must be approved

Tonight North West Leicestershire District Council will consider a number of significant, and hopefully final, changes to it's proposed Core Strategy - a planning policy document which sets out the authorities strategic direction until 2031.

The Core Strategy is a massive document, quite possibly the biggest the Council will ever consider, and deserves a great deal of consideration.

For many reasons there is much that is worrying about the Core Strategy.

Councillors are being asked to approve a document which allows for thousands of new houses to be built in Coalville but provides no guarantee, or expectation for that matter, of a Bardon relief road.

We are being asked to consider additional housing in Ashby which, in all likelihood, due to environmental issues surrounding the River Mease will necessitate the introduction of 21st century cesspits.

We are being asked to approve a concept of building 440 homes in Measham which if all goes to plan will see HS2 plough right through them.

You could therefore rightly ask why would anyone approve a policy with so many shortcomings?

The answer is two-fold.

Firstly, the Core Strategy must be looked at as a whole.

Secondly, time is of the essence.

The Core Strategy, to me, is very much like a football match. Not every pass will be completed, not every shot will be scored. But the aim is to come out with an overall win.

Despite some drawbacks there is much to be said in favour of the Core Strategy.

It is good to show that North West Leicestershire is open for business through the identification of 164 acres of new employment land and showing support for a strategic rail freight interchange which will provide for 6,000 jobs.

It is good to see an onus on town centre regeneration which will seek to make all of our towns, but most notably Coalville, better places to live.

It is good to support a strategy which places a priority on sustainable travel, including better cycle facilities and calling for the reintroduction of a National Forest railway line.

Most importantly it is imperative that the district council has a plan where to put houses in our district. Not to do so will leave the district open to planning applications virtually anywhere in North West Leicestershire.

That is why time is of the essence.

My own ward of Thringstone, which incorporates parts of Whitwick, would be directly affected by planning applications to build on our precious Green Wedge.

Not to approve the Core Strategy will give a green light to developers to apply to build on land we want to see protected.

And that is the biggest asset of the strategy.

There are significant and valid differences of opinion as to what type of development is acceptable in North West Leicestershire, matters I feel certain will be revisited over the next 18 years, but the bigger advantage is making clear to developers what is not.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Have you got an idea for your community?

Do you live in the Coalville area (Coaville, Whitwick, Thringstone, Ibstock)?

Do you have an idea that can benefit your community?

If you do you may be able to receive a grant of up to £5,000.

The Coalville Community Forum has £15,000 available to fund community projects in the area.

Which projects receive funding are decided by YOU!

If you would like to know more about applying for funding or being part of the 'judging panel' click here.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Why the #bedroomtax IS a tax

A couple of days ago I had a telephone call from a local resident. She was distraught.

The lady called me to say she had had her housing benefit notification letter for the coming year and she didn't know what to do.

Her housing benefit had been cut from just short of £18 a week to just over £2.00 because the bedroom tax doesn't take into account income, it's based on 'eligible rent'.

From somewhere the lady in question has got to find the best part of £15.00 EVERY week.

Now my caller isn't what is euphemistically described as a shirker. She is a single mum who works hard in a low paid job a walking distance away from her home.

She doesn't claim full benefit but because of her low income but she needs help to make ends meet.

And now she doesn't know what to do.

She can't find £15.00 each week when her budget is so tight to begin with but she can't easily move because there is a massive shortage of smaller homes in her area and she won't be able to walk to work if she moves further afield.

And there lies the problem and the reason why the bedroom tax IS a tax. defines a tax as 'a strain or heavy demand'.

What is a new bill of £15.00 each and every week when you simply haven't got the money if it isn't the very worst kind of strain? says that a tax is 'a burdensome charge, obligation, duty or demand'.

What greater burden is there than not knowing whether you are going to be able to provide a home for your family? Or keep your job?

And of course the bedroom tax provides a great obligation on those having to pay it. Cough up or be evicted.

Unfortunately because the bedroom tax is a regressive one designed to hit the poorest in our society it's not one that can be easily avoided.

No, decent hardworking people are facing a tax they have no way out of.

Just because money isn't being paid to the treasury in the wider definition it doesn't mean that the bedroom tax isn't a tax to those families hit by it.

Next time a Conservative tells you it isn't a tax, it's a 'spare room subsidy' just remind them of my caller and the true impact of this disgraceful burden.

Potholes - Update

Parsonwood Hill, Whitwick
Over the past few weeks a number of local people have spoken to me about the problem, after a long cold winter, of potholes.

A number of areas have been particularly badly affected, notably Parsonwood Hill in Whitwick and Dalkeith Walk in Thringstone.

I have reported the Parsonwood Hill problems to the County Council but haven't yet received a response.

As Dalkeith Walk is an access road I have also reported this issue to North West Leicestershire District Council and can confirm officers have now been out to check on the problem.

Dalkeith Walk, Thringstone
I have been advised that as the road has 'delaminated beyond repair' and the extent of the damage is over a 'considerable area' that the council are proposing repairing a section of the road covering.

A site meeting of council staff and contractors has been arranged for 19 March and hopefully repairs will be carried out shortly after.

As always my top priority is to work hard for the residents of Whitwick and Thringstone.

If you want to report a pothole or other problem don't hesitate in letting me know.

Do you live in Whitwick?

Do you live in Whitwick?

If you do Whitwick Parish Council wants to know your priorities.

What do YOU want from YOUR Parish Council?

Do you want grit bins? New street furniture? Better play facilities for children? Or none of the above and the lowest possible council tax?

To let the Parish Council know your views you can either complete the questionnaire in the latest issue of 'Close-Knit' magazine or fill in the online version by clicking here.

One lucky resident will win £50.00 for simply completing the questionnaire.

Go on, it only takes 5 minutes and not only will you be helping your village but you could be a few pounds better off.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Thringstone Co-op - request of permission to utilise Thringstone Green car park

Construction is rapidly progressing at Thringstone Co-op
It will not have escaped the attention of any Thringstone resident that the redevelopment of the old Rose and Crown into a brand new Co-operative convenience store is continuing rapidly.

As the store gets ever nearer to opening the developers have determined that they will need to move the containers currently located on what will be the car park (to the left of the building) in order for construction to be completed.

As a result the Co-op are requesting permission to relocate two containers on to the car park on The Green for a period of 4-5 weeks from approximately the end of March to allow for necessary building work to take place. The developers expect that their temporary usage of the car park will take up three parking spaces.

A copy of the developers proposals are shown below.

I have been contacted today by officers at the district council asking for my views on the proposals.

Obviously I will strive to represent the views of the residents of theThringstone  ward.

If you have any views as to whether The Green should be temporarily used to allow construction to be completed I would be very grateful if you would let me know no later than Friday 22 March.

Proposed usage of The Green

Monday, 11 March 2013

Local people explain why they are endorsing Leon Spence

'If you want a councillor who loves and cares about our community then vote for Leon Spence, who was born and grew up in Thringstone'
Jim Dutton
Retired Vice Principal and Technical Director of  Youth Arts Leicestershire
Thringstone Resident

'As a lifelong local no one works harder for our community than Leon.'
Nita Pearson
Whitwick Parish Councillor

'Leon has a longstanding passion for education.  He works tirelessly to support children, young people and their parents through seeking to maintain first rate public services.
He demonstrates a fine ability to deal with matters of concern to the electorate ranging across local, regional and national issues - from road safety around local schools to national infrastructure projects like HS2 and employment.
From personal experience, I know Leon can be relied upon to serve the interests of our community to the full.'
Tony Gelsthorpe
Retired Headteacher
Thringstone Resident

'Leon understands local people are finding it tough financially right now. Leon works hard for our community to improve our standard of living.'
Keith Timson
Retired Miner

Sunday, 10 March 2013

What do your County Council candidates have to say about education?

'Education, Education, Education' - Tony Blair

'Education is the Silver Bullet. Education is Everything.' - Aaron Sorkin

Education IS everything.

Not just education for the well off, but for children from every walk of life.

Not just education for the bright, but for every ability.

Education has never been more important.

It is education that drives our hospitals, drives our innovation and drives our economy.

Without a world class education system Britain WILL regress against comparable countries and WILL be overtaken by the education systems of emerging nations.

Never has there been a time when education is more important to our country.

Education is in a period of transition. The last Labour government introduced greater autonomy for schools through the introduction of the Academies programme.

This government has taken a step further forward, both in ideological and practical terms, with free schools, studio schools and the growth of the 'publicly independent' model.

A much greater emphasis is being given to parent power and professional deliverables.

Some counties, including our own Leicestershire, have been relentless in urging schools to follow the path of academisation, many would argue - whether they want to or not.

A county wide Local Education Authority, both leading educational standards and delivering high quality services, has rapidly become a thing of the past – and in all likelihood will never return.

The fact is that in Counties such as our own some schools will strive to carry on under the LEA banner, others will thrive as academies and sadly a significant proportion may well struggle (until they get taken over by one of the national chains acting in their own way as a market driven LEA).

The role of the County Council in education has changed irreversibly.

That, however, does not mean that the County Council role is less important.

There are many areas where Leicestershire County Council should AND must continue to lead in education. There are many areas where different political approaches make a real difference.

I believe that Leicestershire County Council AND individual councillors must act as CHAMPIONS for parents and children in our county.

Now, more than ever before, we must be going to Whitehall and demanding the best funding settlements for LEA schools and Academies for our pupils.

Just because the County Council, in many cases, is not responsible for schools anymore does not mean we should ever stop being advocates for them.

As a County Council we must work in partnership with schools. We need to plan well in advance where additional places are likely to be needed in the same way as we need to work with schools, on behalf of parents and children, wishing to change the age range of their provision.

Although the framework of education is changing there are many things that the LEA must still deliver.

We need to make sure that affordable home to school transport is appropriate and available.

We need to lead all schools in ensuring that they engage with their communities and, in particular in the case of academies, that they are of a size and purpose that fit properly in the towns and villages they are located in.

Most of all we need to ensure that the County Council continue to provide the highest standards of care and support to vulnerable children.

We cannot let budgetary pressures be seen as just cause for failing those children most in need of support.

If I am elected one of my top priorities will be to call for urgent reviews of both the special educational needs service and the children's social care service, both of whom many professionals would argue are creaking under the pressure of financial constraints.

The County Council elections are coming in less than 2 months.

Candidates will be knocking on your door.

If you have children or grandchildren I would strongly urge you to ask those candidates what Leicestershire County Council's (and their own) role in education is.

If you are told that the LEA doesn't have a role these days or 'it's all Academies now' think carefully before you vote.

County Councillors STILL have a vital role in the way our children are educated. If candidates don't appreciate that do they deserve your vote?

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Debt Write Off Scandal

At a meeting of senior NWLDC Tories earlier today Portfolio Holder for Resources, Nick Rushton, submitted his periodic report to write off debts owing to the council.

However in amongst the usual writing off of Council Tax and Business Rates debts (for entirely justifiable reasons) a little secret was hidden.

In a section of the report entitled 'Sundry Debtors' it has been revealed that  debts totalling £39,760.96 has had to cancelled BECAUSE THE COUNCIL HAS RUN OUT OF TIME TO COLLECT IT!

This colossal amount has been remitted because it is 'statute barred', in other words in the normal course of events it has already been owing for more than 6 years.

What's more the entire debt has been caused as a direct result of the Council OVERPAYING HOUSING BENEFIT!

Now Council's are never going to be able to completely stop paying too much benefit, there are many reasons why this happens, but it is outrageous that debts are allowed to go on uncollected for so long.

At their regular meeting Councillor Rushton always likes to make great play of the fact that if circumstances are appropriate a balance can once again start to be recovered. Of course the fact that this amount is 'statute barred' specifically means that this is not the case.

The Conservative administration at North West Leicestershire love to point out their economic management skills.

The simple fact is that whilst they are going full steam ahead in cutting front line services, such as valued Street Enforcement Managers, they are allowing massive debts to go uncollected.

I would say in actual fact that far from being prudent economic managers they are a party of financial irresponsibility.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

#Gardengatetax defeated

I'm delighted to report to local residents that the Conservative #gardengatetax, sending bills of between £20.00 and £90.00 for access to properties, has been defeated.

Over 200 local people, some who had been using their garden gates for over thirty years, had had letters demanding payment for access over NWLDC owned land.

Local Labour Councillors took the fight to the administration demanding charges were dropped and a review carried out to see if so called 'access licences' were absolutely necessary.

At a meeting of the full District Council on Tuesday local media, residents and Labour Councillors forced the Conservative administration to back down on their ill thought out policy.

As Leader of the Labour Group I am absolutely delighted that the administration saw sense in reversing a policy which caused a great deal of damage to the reputation of the Council.