Saturday, April 15, 2006

Promises and lies

My Liberal Democrat opponent has finally decloaked and has been revealed as the editor of 'Focus,' one Iain Bowen. Try and act surprised. Traditionally, candidates had to hide their lights until the campaign proper kicked off, so were described as 'campaigners' or something similar. This was because it used to be the case that the moment you were described as a candidate was the moment when your campaign spending limits kicked in and there were a number of embarrassments when candidates ran out of money well in advance of the election. Now, far more sensibly, you are a candidate from the point when the candidates are all announced.

He reckons he'll be a worthy successor to Frank Coyne, the former LD incumbent. I know I shouldn't say this, but I quite liked Frank. He can't help it that he was in the wrong party. Frank was a decent man who did a good job for the ward and I wish him well in his retirement. I won't be making a habit out of praising Liberal Democrats, but in this case, I will. To coin a phrase, Mr Bowen, you're no Frank Coyne.

I've just received his latest leaflet, which includes an attempt to spin the cuts outlined in the District budget. It describes them as 'efficiency savings' and that the councillors have decided to 'take more time to look at this budget to ensure there are no cuts to front line services.'

As I pointed out below - these ARE cuts to front line services. I don't believe that there is 40% slack in the pest control budget, nor that a quarter of our school crossing patrols aren't required. £80,000 is also being slashed from the sports and leisure budget and more cut from community development.

To say these are just savings is just wrong. They are cuts. Pure and simple.

Of course, if he (or any other of the candidates) had bothered to turn up at the District Committee, he would have known that.

A partial victory

For a while now, I've been waging a campaign with the residents of Francis Road against a ludicrous scheme to build flats on a patch of land at the end of the road.

It isn't that they have a problem with bringing this bit of canal-side brownfield land back into use for housing, but the scheme is outlandishly large and would add to the problems that the road already faces.

It is a narrow road with no turning spaces and currently, even the refuse trucks can't get down it to collect the bin bags. Cars are damaged on a regular basis and residents are used to having to go to the top of the road to collect deliveries.

The idea of adding a further 19 properties (most with two bedrooms) to this road is clearly daft - there was insufficient parking for the expected vehicles and the building was entirely out of keeping with the neighbourhood. There were objections from West Midlands Fire Service, who found problems getting an engine down there and other objections from the environmental services department and other elements of the council. Surprisingly, when the application came to committee the other week, it was approved, despite huge local objections.

Fortunately, the application submitted was only an outline, so the plans as such are irrelevant. The applicants will need to revise the plans and return for full approval within a few years. All that has been approved is that the site is suitable for residential development - which it is. A few years ago, someone did apply to build houses on the site and there were no local objections. NIMBYism isn't part of the issue, but this is an entirely unsuitably development plan and we'll continue to oppose it.

Development should be an important issue for the ward - we have too many flats appearing virtually overnight and far too many fast food restaurants are being granted permission without consideration of the impact that they have on the local community. I've lost count of the number of complaints that I've received over litter. Fortunately, we have a pro-active local community police officer who is happy to work alongside environmental services to stop litter louts and issue them fixed penalty notices. I know that they complain that he should be out there catching murderers and rapists, but he's doing a cracking job attacking an issue that causes people real anger.

As far as development goes, it needs to be in keeping with the area and appropriate. If it isn't, I'll oppose it.