Thursday, 29 September 2011

Letter in Shropshire Star: Mark Pritchard on the EU

The Shropshire Star published a letter of mine in last night's paper about Mark Pritchard MP.

Mark has had a Road to Damascus moment about the EU since he burned his bridges with the leadership of his party by going public about the threats and bribes from the whips over his circus animals ban.  He's decided that being part of the EU isn't a very good idea any more and we should leave.

But rather than do the sensible thing and ditch his party, which not only wants us to stay in the EU but wants to give it more power over us, he is staying as a Conservative MP and in doing so is giving David Cameron a mandate to continue refusing us the referendum he promised.  If he doesn't lose any MPs over it, he's never going to change his mind is he?

You may be thinking "this is nothing to do with a parish council" but actually it's quite relevant.  According to the one of the parish clerk associations (I forget which one), well over half of all regulations affecting parish councils come from the EU.  So even at the very lowest level of local government the EU is behind so much of what we do.

Anyway, here's the letter ...

Why Take So Long?

It makes a refreshing change to hear an MP call for a referendum on membership of the EU, but why has it taken so long for Mark Pritchard to decide that actually it might be sort of, you know, democratic if they were to allow us proles to make decisions from time to time?

To be fair to Mr Pritchard, he has voted against most EU power grabs except where it involved handing over control of our financial sector and billions of pounds to bail out the euro.

There are reportedly over 100 Tory MPs like Mark Pritchard claiming to be 'mainstream eurosceptics'.

What sets their 'mainstream euroscepticism' apart from normal euroscepticism is that they don't believe in leaving the EU.

So not exactly eurosceptic, just the same old rubbish about reforming the unreformable EU.

I'm sure these 'eurosceptic' Tory MPs will force David Cameron to make some vague promise about the EU but, as we know from his 'cast iron guarantee' to give us a referendum on the EU Constitution/Lisbon Treaty, his word is worthless.

Every MP who stays in the Conservative Party gives David Cameron a mandate to pursue ever closer union with the EU. Mark Pritchard isn't part of the solution, he's part of the problem. There is only one party that opposes the UK's membership of the EU and that's UKIP.

Councillor Stuart Parr
UKIP Brookside

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Retune your digital TVs again for the last time!

You will need to retune your digital televisions today to make sure you continue to receive all channels.

This is the last retune planned as part of the digital switchover.

The reason this final retune is required is because of changes to the multiplexes (groups of TV channels bundled together into one channel which is decoded by your TV or set-top box) on the Wrekin and surrounding transmitters.

The Wrekin is now using frequencies that yesterday were being used by neighbouring transmitters.  This means that the frequency your TV thought some channels were on yesterday are now on different frequencies, hence the need to retune.

If you need help retuning your TV, there is lots of information on the Digital UK website.

Fly-tipping and broken "danger" fencing

I went for a walkabout around the estate the other night and have reported the following problems:
  • Fly-tipping in Burtondale
  • Fly-tipping in Burnside
  • Damage to fencing in Blakemore
© Google
The last one is quite interesting because the fencing appears to be (or should have been) blocking off what I assume are gas pipes. There is a yellow sign on the gate warning of danger and concrete blocks on the ground to make sure nobody drives into the pipes.

The fence, however, has been kicked in for some time judging by the fact that even Google Streetview shows it in that state and they came round taking pictures a couple of years ago!

If whatever is inside the compound is dangerous enough to warrant putting a "danger" sign on the gate then surely it's dangerous enough to repair the fence so that people can't just walk in?

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Vandalism at new Redgra park

Construction work stated on the new play equipment near the skate park outside Windmill School on Wednesday morning.  Vandals came to visit on Wednesday evening.  And again on Thursday evening.  And again last night.

Luckily the play equipment so far seems to have survived the mindless vandalism that has wrecked the security fencing put in place to stop people from climbing on the half finished play equipment and hurting themselves.

I contacted the police on Thursday evening about this and the anti-social behaviour problems in general around the skate park area.  You may remember the building work that extended the school grounds so the Surestart Centre could be built - the building site and security fencing was vandalised then.  The floor of the skate park has to be replaced soon because of a number of fires that have been lit in there.  A fire was started next to the skate park a couple of weeks ago.  These are just specific examples of things that go beyond the low-level anti-social behaviour that is ever present in that area.

I also escalated this to the borough council through our parish clerk as they are the ones building the new park. As a result of this, the council's contractors, TWS, will be checking the site today and tomorrow to check for damage and putting the security fencing back if it gets knocked over and vandalised again.  The borough council have also asked the police to step up patrols in the area because of the anti-social behaviour problems and electrical contractors will be out next week to repair/replace the CCTV camera as the picture quality is poor.  I asked if a floodlight could be put in place inside the school grounds to light the building site as it's pitch black there at night which encourages anti-social behaviour.  Unfortunately there is no budget for a floodlight and it was too late in the day to arrange anyway.

It's a shame that this investment of several thousands of pounds of taxpayers money is being rewarded with mindless vandalism but it's up to the responsible and law-abiding majority to make sure that the new equipment is respected and not destroyed before it's even finished.  If you see people vandalising the security fencing or equipment than please phone West Merica Police on 0300 333 3000.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Break-in at 1st Brookside Scouts

Brookside Scout hut was broken into last week and a first aid box and flag stolen.

Yes, you read that right: a first aid box and flag.

The thieves used a screwdriver to break the lock on a rear door, probably causing more damage to the door that the value of the flag and first aid box.

Scouts is a registered charity and is run entirely by volunteers.  Any equipment the group has is paid for with money raised by parents and the leaders.  The rent on the building and all the bills are paid for from donations.  Repairs to the building caused by this pointless theft will be paid for from donations.

This was a selfish and pointless crime.  You can't get much lower than stealing from children and charities.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

There's something in the air tonight ...

There's a quite strong smell of manure in Brookside tonight which started some time during the day today.

There isn't exactly an abundance of farmland around Brookside so where the smell is coming from is a bit of a mystery.

It seems to have coincided with Nick Clegg taking the stage at the Lib Dem party conference but Birmingham is 30 miles away, surely the smell of bovine excrement couldn't travel this far?

Any other suspects?

Monday, 19 September 2011

Travellers illegally camping on Stirchley Playing Fields (again!)

Travellers have set up camp on Stirchley Playing Fields again, only a month or so after being evicted from the exact same spot by Telford & Wrekin Council.

These are the same travellers as last time and they visit the area periodically to visit a family friend who lives nearby.  The possession order granted to Telford & Wrekin council last time the travellers set up camp there is still in force and the travellers should be moved on shortly by court-appointed bailiffs.

The subject of travellers and illegal sites is topical at the moment with the aborted attempt today at evicting the former travellers who have been living at Dale Farm for the last decade.  You may have heard me on BBC Radio Shropshire this morning offering my opinion on travellers and illegal sites.  I believe that if someone makes the lifestyle choice to live in a caravan rather than a house then that is their choice and it's wrong to try and force them to live in a house.  However, just as I couldn't decide to buy a plot of land and build a house on it without getting planning permission, neither can travellers build houses or toilet blocks or even permanently site caravans on a plot of land they've bought without getting planning permission.

The law applies to travellers just as much as it applies to people who live in houses, tents, cars or on the streets.  Moving around the country, sleeping in a caravan and disengaging with society doesn't mean you can opt out of the law.  Local authorities have an obligation to enforce planning regulations and in the case of Dale Farm I think they were right to seek the eviction of travellers from that part of Dale Farm that cannot legally be used as a camp site and the demolition of buildings that have been illegally constructed (part of Dale Farm is a legal camp site, just not all of it).

I understand the argument about the travellers having nowhere else to go but they've had months at least to look for alternative sites and have been offered pitches by other traveller communities.  I understand that their children will have to leave the local school which is unfortunate but thousands of children every year are forced to change schools when their parents move to a different part of the country.  I understand that there are elderly people living there who will lose their homes of the last 10 years but thousands of elderly people every year are evicted from their homes or forced to move for medical reasons.  The only difference, then, is that they describe themselves as travellers (despite having lived in the same place for a decade) but in the eyes of the law that makes no difference.

Which brings me back, in a roundabout way, to the travellers on Stirchley Playing Fields.  They may have a valid reason to visit Stirchley (not that they need one) but they have no legal right to camp there.  There is a campsite in Tweedale, no more than a couple of miles away - walking distance in fact - from where they are now which I am sure they would be able to get a pitch on if they tried.

It cost the taxpayer over £1,000 to move these travellers on a few weeks ago and clean up after they had gone - money which could have been spent on more useful things like libraries or schools.  There won't be any legal costs to have them removed this time because the court order is still valid but Telford & Wrekin Council will still have to spend time applying for enforcement of their court order and the courts will have to pay bailiffs to move them on and the council will have to pay to clean the site up - the bill for all of this falls at the taxpayer's feet.

Of course, making more space available on the council-run travellers sites might help cut the number of illegal sites the council has to deal with on a yearly basis but they cost money to build and run and if travellers such as these won't pay to use a legitimate, private caravan site within walking distance of where they are illegally camped now, they are unlikely to pay to use a council-run site on the other side of the town.

Anyway, if you've made it this far down the post and are still interested, the travellers camping illegally on Stirchley Playing Fields should be moved on some time tomorrow.

Virgin Media cabinets targeted

Virgin Media cabinets have been targeted by vandals/thieves on Brookside over Friday and the weekend.

Photo: Alan Stanton
The doors have been pulled off the cabinets which has left the cabling and transformers exposed.

The green cabinets are full of copper wire which is probably why they were broken into in the first place.  The copper wire clearly hasn't been stolen out of them otherwise large parts of Brookside would be without cable services and it wouldn't have taken the whole weekend for Virgin Media to come and repair them!

Although people losing their cable phone, TV and internet is obviously a problem, much worse is the risk that children may decide to investigate the inside of the cabinets which are wired into the mains.  If you've walked up the path from Windmill School towards Birchmore, the loud humming noise you can hear is the noisy transformer inside the cabinet servicing Briarwood flats.  Curious children poking their fingers at the transformer are likely to get a shock.  A potentially fatal one.

If you do see an open cabinet then please report it to Virgin Media.  If you think someone is in danger because of the cabinet being open then report it to the police on 03003333000.

I have already reported the two cabinets near Birchmore and Bournbrook Gardens which have been repaired and I have reported the one to the rear of 170 Briarwood today which should hopefully be fixed soon.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Boundary changes: a former MP's view

I had to go to Telford Central train station yesterday to pick up some tickets for a colleague and bumped into Chris Gill.

Chris was the Conservative MP for the Ludlow constituency between 1987 and 2001 and is now a UKIP candidate.

Proposed Bridgnorth & Telford South Constituency
One of the things we talked about was the proposed change to the Telford constituency which will see Albrighton, Bridgnorth, Broseley, Much Wenlock and Shifnal become part of a Bridgnorth & Telford South constituency and Oakengates and Trench move into the Wrekin constituency.  Brookside will be part of the Bridgnorth & South Telford constituency.

The new constituency (assuming the boundary changes go ahead as planned) will see David Wright lose his seat if previous elections are anything to go by.  His majority last year dropped to just 981 and none of the five towns that will join the constituency are Labour-voting areas whilst the two areas that are being moved into the Wrekin are.

There were some aspects of the proposed changes that I hadn't considered but which Chris, having been an MP, has.  The main one was the problems the new MP would have dealing with two different local authorities, especially when one is largely a rural local authority (Shropshire Council) and the other a predominantly urban local authority (Telford & Wrekin).  How can an MP properly represent the interests of his or her constituents (as articulated through the councillors) when those interests are conflicting?

When I get hold of a polling district breakdown for last year's election I will have a better idea of how the proposed changes will affect our constituency.

(Thanks to Shropshire Live for pointing me in the direction of the maps)

Monday, 12 September 2011

Change to Telford constituency

News of the planned boundary changes for Westminster constituencies for the West Midlands euroregion have been leaked.

If they are implemented, we will see big changes in Telford with Bridgnorth and Much Wenlock (and presumably Broseley to fill in the gap) becoming part of a Bridgnorth and South Telford constituency.

This will change the demographics of the constituency considerably by adding traditionally Conservative-voting rural parts of the Ludlow and Wrekin constituencies to the traditionally Labour-voting housing estates in the Telford constituency.

Fire started at Brookside skate park

Arsonists stole wheelie bins and set fire to the contents next to the skate park on Saturday night.

No damage appears to have been done to any of the equipment but it doesn't bode well for the new play equipment that Telford & Wrekin are planning to install later this year.  There is already a lot of damage to the floor of the skate park caused by fires which will need to be repaired this year, taking up the entire annual maintenance budget of £1,000.  Hopefully this latest case of arson doesn't put the borough council off providing the extra play equipment in Brookside.

There is CCTV near the skate park which will hopefully help police identify those responsible.  If you have any information about the incident, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or give me the details anonymously.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Storm warning for Monday

The Met Office have issued a yellow alert for storm force winds of up to 80mph across the UK on Monday.

Hurricane Katia
The tail end of Hurricane Katia is heading across the Atlantic and will most likely hit Scotland hardest but of course it will affect the weather in the rest of the UK.  Even if the storm lands further south we should be sheltered from the worst of it here in Shropshire by Ireland and the Welsh mountains but high winds are still expected.

My advice is, if you have a gazeebo or similar in your garden then take it down this week just in case.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Retune your TV on September 28th

On September 27th/28th work will be carried out on the Wrekin transmitter as part of the digital switchover.

On the 28th you will need to retune all of your digital TVs to be able to continue to receive all channels and services through the √¶rial.  This switchover work doesn't affect Sky, Virgin or BT Vision.

If you need help with retuning your TV, you can contact Digital UK who are the agency set up by the British government to handle the switch from analogue to digital.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Fly tipping in Briarwood (again)

I have reported more fly tipping at the electricity sub-station in Briarwood today.

This seems to be a common dumping ground for furniture so I have written to the borough council's Environmental Maintenance department drawing their attention to the problem and asking them if there is anything they can do to help stop it.  I don't recall seeing any signs other than the danger of death ones on the sub-station itself so perhaps a few signs warning of fines might put off at least a few potential fly-tippers.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Fly tipping cost Telford & Wrekin £183k last year

Fly-tipping in Telford & Wrekin cost £183k to clean up last year, according to figures obtained by the Countryside Alliance.

I regularly report fly tipping as you can see if you go back through previous posts and it's almost always sofas, garden waste, clothes and general household rubbish.  It's pretty obvious that this is a consequence of the fortnightly bin collections and charging for bulk waste collections.

I believe that the bulk collection service is loss making even without taking into account the cost of increased fly tipping as a result of the charges.

Fly-tipping in Birchmore and staffing the Community Centre

I have reported fly tipped garden waste in Birchmore today - I had already reported a large tree branch in the footpath several weeks ago by phone but it wasn't moved and now more has been dumped with it.

I have also asked if there is a specific reason for the apparent abandonment of Brookside Community Centre.  For weeks, every time I or a member of my family have been to the Community Centre it has either been open but unsupervised or locked up in the middle of the day.