Sunday, 9 May 2010

Post-election feeback

For those of you who don't already know I was not the successful candidate for Drake Ward, instead current councillor Steve Ricketts was re-elected. I was not shocked with the defeat as it is very difficult, as an independent, to get into politics. What did seem clear is that people were voting with the general election in mind and went for tactical voting rather than voting for the individual they actually wanted to be their councillor.

Before I chat a bit more about Tactical voting I wanted to share a few observations from the count and declaration of votes held at the Plymouth Guildhall. Basically here are my own personal criticisms:

All of those involved with the event were given free parking permits and the car park adjacent to the Theatre Royal car park was closed to the public; what exactly is it about councillors that means they don't have to pay for parking or can't use public transport? Why should the tax payers of Plymouth lose a days parking revenue?

Why were over 75% of successful candidates obese or morbidly obese? What example does this set to the people of Plymouth? Have these overweight politicians read the Governments change for life initiative?

Why is the Guildhall bar still a private tenure? Shouldn't the bar have be run by Plymouth City Council (PCC) for PCC taxpayers? Why are the Guildhall kitchens still out of use so that any major or minor function requires food to be brought in externally limiting the potential use of the building? Why has the newly refurbished guildhall tower not been opened up to the public?

Why did the count need copious amounts of expensive looking floral displays throughout the guildhall that, no doubt, were paid for by taxpayers?

Why is the Guildhall still not properly promoted as a a venue, it is poorly advertised on the internet, overpriced when you consider its lack of facilities and underused because of its limitations. Perhaps PCC should take some ideas from the newly refurbished Devonport Guildhall to see how a building can be fully utilised to offer the best to the community.

Anyway, I digress, back to the results; Tactical voting has also affected the general election with people cowardly voting for Cameron even though they may have actually preferred to see Nick Clegg as leader. What saddens me is that we are now stuck with an almost identical local council as we had before and we still aren't clear as to exactly who is going to govern us nationally either. It seems that already people have forgotten about the MPs expenses scandal; we have seen no criminal action against any accused MP and even in Totnes, where we saw one of the worst examples of abuse of expenses from Anthony Steen, another Conservative was elected in for the area.

In many ways I am relieved that I did not get voted in as I know that although the role of councillor is meant to be part time I, no doubt, would have attempted to change the ward overnight and would have been ploughing in way more hours that I could have coped with. I had been excited at the prospect of tidying up the ward, looking at the idea of introducing gull guards to replace the ridiculous Hessian sacks we have at present. I was even looking into the idea of a new community centre within the ward to provide more opportunities for both old and young.

So now it is back to normality and time to concentrate on both the art of dance; we will be re-applying for Community Interest Status and will be expanding into our current timetable to include some youth classes in conjunction with Neighbourhood policing as well as some specialist classes for voluptuous ladies who want to develop their self confidence and posture whilst toning up and increasing their fitness. The Pole Dance Community also requires my time; we are slowly introducing standards and guidelines into the pole dancing industry to clearly define modern fitness as an amazing way to stay physically and mentally fit..

As for Drake Ward I am afraid I expect to see little change. If our 2 current councillors, Ricketts and Fox, haven't made changes in the past I doubt they will introduce them now. Expect to see the same problems with litter and fly-tipping as we have seen over the last few years, expect the same council decisions to misspend our money and sell of our assets and don't necessarily expect to get a reply to any e-mails you send - I hope that I am proved wrong on this one but doubt that I will be.

Thanks to those of those who did vote for me and who offered me support throughout the election. Thanks again to my husband for being my election agent and to my Mum and Chris for helping me to canvass. Thanks also to David Santillo for offering me support and advice. There is of course one thing I can continue to do to support my ward and that is to continue to frequent the fabulous local real ale houses throughout Greenbank! (see previous posts for a list of pubs and links to their locations). I think I also have every reason to hassle my councillors to do their job properly!

Sam x

p.s. If you do want to know more about what I will be getting up to in the future check out my Herald blog - Pole Star Health Tsar.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Election support.

Since my blog yesterday I have received some more e-mails offering support and assuring me of more votes for May 6th. I also noticed a lovely letter of support in today's Herald from former Independent Candidate David Santillo, click here to read the letter. Thanks to David for the assurance he has provided to all the Independent candidates in this years Plymouth local election. I hope David understands how much his advice, and communication throughout the run up to the election, has been appreciated.. As this is the first time I have stood in an election I have had to learn quickly about the process of standing as well as the regulations and restrictions that accompany the role.

I must thank Mike, Ian and Tamsin from the Plymouth electoral office for putting up with my numerous phone-calls as I have checked out pre-election information and deadlines.

I also want to thank my Husband for acting as my election agent and helping me with my flyers and posters and I must thank my Mum for walking several miles with me during canvassing. Also thanks to friend Chris and his children for also helping me to deliver flyers door to door. Let's hope all our hard work pays off on Thursday and I get the chance to proudly represent Drake Ward and turn it into the beautiful, litter-free ward it deserves to be.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

More updates

I mentioned in  previous blog that a few people I had spoken to wanted to see a list of candidates standing in their area; click here for a full list of Plymouth local election candidates courtesy of the Herald.

I have just done another few hours of canvassing and seem to have picked a day when nearly everyone is out although I have met some very lovely cats! I did manage to speak to a couple of local residents who have indicated that they are going to vote for me so the walk was not completely wasted. I am shocked again by the amount of rubbish in and around local properties, some streets in Greenbank look so messy it is shameful. As a Greenbank resident I don't mind picking up the odd bit of rubbish but I do get frustrated with the amount of fly-tipping that seems to go on in the area as well as the overflowing bins I see daily. The bins at the junction of Mount Street and Armada Street have been left uncollected for over a week now and the seagulls have already started to attack the clear plastic P.C.C. bags so no doubt there will soon be rubbish strewn all over the place.

With less than a week till the election I feel confident that I have done most of work that I wanted to make my election campaign successful. I will be rounding my election campaign up on Wednesday night with a tour of a couple of the local pubs within Greenbank and any of you are welcome to join me, the aim is to have a last minute chat with local residents as well as supporting the great local, friendly pubs within the Ward. I will be commencing proceedings at the Hill Park Inn at 7.30pm then going to the Clifton for 8.15pm, the Providence for 8.45pm, the Friendship for 9.30pm and then finishing off in the Seymour Arms at 10pm (times are approximate).

Please be advised that this is not a pub crawl as such - sensible drinkers only please!! If you happen to be a fan of real ale then you can be assured that all the aforementioned pubs have an impressive selection of ales between them. (f you want to know more about real ale just visit the Camra website.)

By the end of Thursday al the votes will have been cast but we will have to wait until Friday for the results as the parliamentary count takes place first.

If any of you have any questions for me prior to the elections feel free to e-mail me

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Re-opening of Devonport Guildhall

Please feel free to read my previous posts or click here to read my personal blog about my visit to the grand re-opening of the Devonport Guildhall last night.

More news to follow very soon.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Canvassing update & Lord Mayor's Day.

With the elections fast approaching it is interesting to see the press coverage regarding the election race. I think that many people will vote tactically rather than voting for who they actually want to stand and this seems a real shame. I also hope that people can understand the difference between the national and local elections which are being  held on the same day; many people I have spoken to are confused by the new ward boundaries as well as misunderstanding which candidates are standing at local level and which are standing at parliamentary level.

One gentleman from St Budeaux did raise a valid point by stating that it would be nice to see a full list of candidates for each ward prior to the elections. I know that the Herald are running a series of articles listing such information, click here for full list of Westcountry candidates for parliament. You can also contact the council and request the lists of those standing. Here is a list of the candidates standing for Drake ward for the local council elections:

Sam Remmer - Independent
Steve Ricketts - Conservative
Michael Ellison - UKIP
John David Smith - Labour
Colin Trier - Green party
Rebecca Trimmell - Lib Dem

So far I have received a very positive response from both local residents and University students who are currently living in the area.  I have much more canvassing planned over the next week so will keep you psoted on all updates.

I also hope to blog in the next few days about the incinerator protest I attended on Monday outside the council chamber as well as my visits to some of Greenbanks hidden public house gems: The Seymour Arms, The Hill Park, The Providence, The Friendship and the Clifton.

Lord Mayor's Day 2010 & the Mad Hatters Tea Party.

Yesterday I attended the Mutley traders meeting to discuss plans for this years Lord mayors Day and the Moor View Mad Hatter's tea party. This year Lord Mayors Day will feature a walking procession from Moor View Park in Mutley, down North Hill, to Plymouth University. The porcession will have a nuaticla theme. The event will be proceeded by a visit to Mutley by the Lord Mayor who will be entertained by the University of Plymouth Thai boxing club before visiting local businesses run by sole traders on and around Mutley Plain. After the Mutley tour the lord mayor will then be invited back to Moor View park for tea and games before the start of the nautical themed processions. This looks set to be a great day for all the family and I think the colourful procession down North Hill will crest a vibrant atmosphere, it is great to see this part of the city involved with the annual event. If you want more information on Lord Mayor's Day 2010 which will be held on Saturday 22nd May just click here.

Another event taking place just outside the Drake Ward will be the Mad Hatter's tea party which will be held in Moor View Park on 12th June. I will be attending another traders meeting in conjunction with the Mutley Greenbank trust on 13th May to find out more about the tea party and to help with its organisation.

More news to follow.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Latest Canvassing News

It has taken me just 3 days (approximately 2.5 hour per day) to canvas over 75% of Drake Ward. I have been lucky enough to have the help of My Mum on  of those days and the help of my friend Chris and his 3 children today. The experience has been fascinating with me discovering streets I didn't even know existed, I have also met loads of lovely people who really care about Plymouth and Drake ward.

What has been eye-opening is the amount of rubbish around Drake ward. Here are some pictures I took last Thursday just 2 days after the bins were collected.

The picture above doesn't really show you quite how bad the lane is; these service lanes at the rear of Guildford Street in Greenbank have had problems over the last few years and residents say they are constantly phoning the council to try to resolve the problem. One resident I spoke to said she was sick of ringing the council, spending time wasted on holding systems and never actually getting the problems dealt with. I have to agree with the people who said they were sick of paying such high rates of council tax yet seeing such poor service in return from the council. Most of those I spoke to agreed that they would rather see their money spent on grass roots issues such a bins and tiding up local neighbourhoods rather than lavish projects such a the Life Centre.

Another issue that came up today which was of interest to me was the proposed incinerator for St Budeaux. From what I can gather the research into the incinerator and it's long term health effects for Plymouth's residents is not extensive enough and I, like many fear another asbestos style set of illnesses in the future as a result of the incinerator. Some of the Drake residents I spoke to do not see the incinerator as a problem for them as they do not live in St Budeaux but with the strong coastal winds that affect Plymouth this really is a problem for all of us.  We really need further research into alternative ways of dealing with our waste issues and, as I have mentioned in previous posts, we need to reduce the sources of waste as well a dealing with end waste product. A serious reduction in the packaging of retail items and a drive to ensure that manufacturers have to use recyclable packaging in their products would be a good start. Click here for the latest article on the incinerator from the thisisplymouth website.

Lastly I wanted to mention some of the wards hidden gems such as Shaftesbury cottages and Skardon Place, these small roads have some great community spirit as well as beautiful architecture. It is nice to know that despite the wards faults there is plenty that is great too.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Bins / Rubbish update

Just a quick post today to talk about Bins and Rubbish within the Drake ward. Many of the properties within Drake Ward do not have space to house wheelie bins and therefore we rely on the hessian sacks provided by the council. I personally find the sacks to be awkward to store as we have no front garden and a very small rear courtyard. The sacks are also difficult to keep clean and despite the small weight contained within the bottom of the bag I often find my hessian sack has travelled half way down the street after the bin men have been. In addition to the general awkwardness of the hessian sacks they do look unsightly especially after they have been emptied and their presence certainly does not enhance the look and feel of the neighbourhood.

I have looked at several solutions and one of them seems to have worked in other areas with similar issues. The Gull Guard (see picture below) is a simple device that fits on the outside of your house and contains a sack to enclose your rubbish keeping it safe from seagulls. The beauty of the device is that you do not need to carry the hessian sacks in and out of your property and once the bin men have collected your rubbish bags then the external sack simply slots back into its steel housing leaving no unsightly mess! Anyway, see what you think by clicking here to view the gull guard in action.

On the subject of bin collections I want to talk about recycling. We currently have a fortnightly recycling collection in the Drake Ward but in that time period I can fill up to 3 green hessian sacks. I would love to see a weekly recycling collection alongside the collection of my general household waste.  In addition to asking the council to look into a weekly collection that may encourage more people to recycle I think we need more action against supermarkets and retailers to enforce a reduction in excess packaging.  How many items that we buy now have multiple layers of packaging which are simply not needed? If we can reduce packaging at source then we reduce the burden on the council for rubbish collection, we help reduce the environmental effects of landfills and we might even see a slight reduction in the cost if items as we would not be paying for the excess packaging.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the subject of rubbish and bin collections within our ward. Don't forget if you want to contact me you can do so using my contact details which are shown at the bottom of my blog page.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Time to vote for change.

As you will know from my previous blogs I feel an immense amount of anger at the recent MP's expenses scandal and so was even more infuriated when I read a recent article in the Western Morning News on Conservative MP Anthony Steen. Click here to read the article.

Anthony Steen was one of the MP's caught up in the expenses scandal and he has now been asked to stand down; in the act of standing down he is guaranteed a pension of well in excess of £1 million pounds and a payout of nearly £33,000 to help him 'adjust to life' outside Whitehall. Bear in mind this MP already lives in a mansion that he compares to the Queen's Balmoral residence and is the same MP who stated that the public were merely jealous of MP's expense, he has since apologised for that statement but it seems to little to late.

When you consider that many disgraced and retiring MP's are going to receive a total of over £153 million pounds in payouts and pensions (Click here for the Times article on the payouts.) you really can't help but wonder if any of the three main political parties actually care about the country at all.

When I spoke to some of the local conservatives today, who were canvassing along Mutley Plain, I laughed at their pledge to tackle MP's expenses and threw the Anthony Steen case back at them for response. Not one person could give me any genuine reassurances. I was proud to explain why I would not be voting Conservative in either the parliamentary elections or the local elections as well as proud to announce the fact that I am standing as an independent candidate.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

It's Official.

So the nomination papers are in and I am now an official independent candidate in the forthcoming local elections to be held on Thursday 6th May.  I now have to start my campaign plan in the hope of getting elected. My tag line of "Spring Clean the Council" is already being well received by those I have been chatting to.

My first day of talking to people in my ward has already proved fruitful with lots people assuring me of their vote. I was quite surprised how many people are either not on the electoral role or who are on the electoral role but can't be bothered to vote as they think it is a waste of time. One of my neighbours hit the nail on the head when I called on his door, as soon as I mentioned the words "I am standing for council" he replied with "Don't tell me which party you are standing for as they are all as bad as each other", when I explained that I was standing as an independent as I shared his lack of confidence in the major parties his attitude changed completely, and he even forgave me for interrupting his football programme.

One comment that keeps coming up is "Well, you can't do a worse job", it wasn't quite the tag line I was looking for but does kind of sum up people's attitudes.

Of course many of the people I have spoken to have raised the classic issues of parking and bins and I have already been taking these comments on board in the hope that if elected I may be able to bring about positive change and some common sense ideas something which seems to be lacking in our current council. The other main issues seem to be over-development within the area and a lack of trust in the council's planning department.

What I have found is that there is an amazing sense of community within Greenbank and a really diverse mix of people in the area and some room for improvement in encouraging integration of these groups. I am already involved with plans for several local social events including a Mad Hatters tea party in Moor View Park and a procession linked to Lord Mayor's Day. I am attending a meeting in the next week to finalise some of the details so will let you know all about these exciting events that will be open to all.

My work over the next few weeks also includes plans to liaise with neighbourhood policing to provide some more activities for young females within the area; after meeting 2 vulnerable young 15 year old's on Thursday night I was reminded of the importance of providing youngsters with opportunities for them to develop their social skills and to learn how to respect each other. The 2 ladies I spoke to on Thursday night explained that they spent most of their time hanging around on the streets and they get drunk most nights, they do not have a stable family to look after them and without intervention and support their future looks bleak.

Lastly a quick update on the Mutley Plain closures; I attended a Mutley Traders meeting to discuss the road closures with both traders and council representatives. Councillor Richard Ball, councillor for the ward of Compton, spoke well and tried to reassure those present that the council were working hard to minimise disruption and to look at getting compensation from Wales and West utilities although we all agreed that compensation is unlikely. I, personally, have not had my business diversely affected by the gas works as I do not rely on passing trade. If anything I have benefited from the increased traffic through Seaton Lane, where my business is situated. I have also noticed an increase in street cleansing as a result of the road works and an increase of the number of patrolling police officers and traffic wardens, this has lead to a cleaner, safer environment and Vanessa Collins, chair of the Mutley Traders group, asked if this good practice could continue after Mutley re-opens.

Although I have not suffered personally I know that many small business have noticed a severe decline in trade and I think the main issue now is getting trade back to Mutley and finding ways of encouraging people to use Mutley more often. I asked the council if we could look at having a weeks free parking to coincide with the re-opening of the Plain and was told that it would be looked into. I also asked for some positive press coverage to let people know when Mutley Plain is back open and was assured by Councillor Ball that this was something he would take on board. We will watch to see how the re-opening goes and if trade recovers quickly.

More news soon.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Mutley Plain closures.

I wanted to write about the recent meeting I attended about the closure of Mutley Plain for essential gas works. The emergency meeting had been arranged by Vanessa Collins, chair of the Mutley Traders association and she had invited representatives from both Plymouth City Council, the Highways department (a partnership between Plymouth City Council and Amey).

For those of you who aren't fully aware of the whole road closure saga here are some links from The Herald to elaborate on the story so far as well as my comments on each article:

First press release about the closure, this is the story that caused the most panic as the majority of residents and traders had not been given any details about the pending closure and the general feeling by the traders is that the story resulted in people avoiding Mutley Plain before the work had even started. I personally don't blame the Herald as they need stories and headlines to sell papers, what annoys me is that the Council and Wales and West Utilities (the company responsible for the gas works) did not effectively communicate with residents and traders prior to or at the same time as the press release.

Second press release about the closure, this story highlighted the fact that traders were still left in the dark about exactly what was happening and how they would deal with issues such as deliveries to their properties.

Press release regarding the emergency meeting about the Mutley Plain closure, this is the story that really annoyed me as the headline 'Mutley Traders turn on gas company' was not strictly true, Carl Eve's reporting of the story was not entirely factual and was definitely misleading, the article made traders like myself seem unreasonable which I think is unfair. What I think it is fair to say is that none of the residents or traders have any problems with essential gas works being carried out, the point we were trying to make was that the planning of the closure had been poor and the communication between Plymouth City Council/Highways and Wales and West was simply appalling. Quote from Herald "Compton councillor Richard Ball criticised the firm for not making a definitive map of the work and diversions available, stating he had specifically asked for such a map before the meeting.", this statement was supported by us all as we all felt that if we had been informed we could have made plans to minimise disruption, the fact that the emergency meeting was being held the day after roadworks had commenced only added to our frustration.

We did receive some kind of apology from a council representative but it seemed to little to late. When we asked if the council may be able to formalise the apology via reduction in business rates or free parking for shoppers after the roadworks were complete the council representative said that he could not promise anything.

Press release - post meeting. At last some honest, sensible reporting from Keith Rossitter!

Press release on a manned pedestrian crossing for Mutley throughout the road works.

I should point out that I have written to my local councillor Steve Ricketts about both the closure of Mutley Plain and why I wasn't informed and also regarding the introduction of evening parking charges to the Mutley Plain car parks. I have not had any response whatsoever.

So the full Mutley closure to vehicles starts on Monday and we will see exactly what extent the works have for residents and businesses.

My second pre-election blog

It is now less than 50 days till the elections and I am waiting for my copy of the electoral role so that I can get my 10 signatures to complete my nomination papers. The whole process is a little daunting for an independent candidate and I am sure if I was standing for a political party a lot of the work would be done for me by an election agent, however I think I have got my head around the process so far and hopefully by 9th April all the relevant papers will have been submitted and I will be an official candidate.

If you have read my first pre-election blog you will know that I, like many, have lost my faith in the main political parties and have serious concerns about the way parliament and local government are being managed, The recent news coverage concerning Lord Ashcroft certainly highlights some of the problems that are angering the general public, click here to read the BBC news coverage of the Ashcroft controversy.

Anyway, back to the pre-election process. I have decided to stand for Drake Ward as it is the area I live in and know best. It is a small ward with big issues and a population mix dominated by university students and elderly residents both with very different needs. I do feel that it is important that we look after both parties; The University and it's students are essential to the Plymouth economy and provide a much needed extra revenue source for local businesses. We need to balance the need to look after our students whilst still protecting the residents and caring for the local area.  As our elderly population grows we need to ensure that the elderly residents are not forgotten and that they are cared for within the community. I have seen some great efforts by local community groups to ensure that all areas of the community are cared for and given the opportunity to integrate.

So now all I can do is wait to hear back from the electoral office, I will keep you posted on developments.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Pre-election experiences so far.

picture above - view from Mountbatten looking towards Plymouth City Centre. 
I have wanted to stand for council for some time and have decided that in light of the current lack of faith in both national and local government that 2010 is the year to have a go! With all the recent expenses scandals involving our MP's and with voter numbers at an all time low it seems my wish to stand as an independent candidate could be well placed. From my initial conversations with potential voters many have lost trust with the three main political parties, Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat. Some voters are tempted towards the BNP and UKIP but seem to be voting for these parties as a protest vote.

I personally have very little confidence in any of the current political parties and feel we need some radical changes within both Plymouth City Council and National Government and that is one of the reasons why I am standing as an independent and not choosing to join any of the current political parties.

So, the decision to stand was made and I made my first contact to the Plymouth City Council electoral office to register my interest. Someone took some details and I was told that I would hear back, but, no calls or mail arrived. I spoke to a friend who was also planning on standing and he asked me if I was attending the pre-election meeting to be held on the 3rd March at the council chambers, I had not been informed about such a meeting so called the electoral office again to find out what time the meeting was being held at, I was told 5.30pm. On Monday 1st March I decided to call the electoral office again to check that the meeting was still happening on the same date and time, I was told on this occasion that the meeting was at 5.15pm so was glad I had phoned to check, it wouldn't really look good to turn up late for your first visit to the council chambers!
 Picture taken within the council chambers. Image belongs to Plymouth City Council

So on Wednesday 3rd March I arrived at the council chambers at 5.15pm to find I was still late, it seemed the meeting had started early! The meeting was a pre-election meeting for anyone wishing to stand for either local election or parliamentary election as both elections are scheduled to take place on the same day with local ballot papers being printed on yellow card and general election papers being printed on white card to hopefully avoid confusion. The election will take place on Thursday 6th May 2010.

All those attneding the meeting were given handouts including their nomination papers. After leaving the meeting I set abut reading the forms in preparation to send my nomination papers to the council, at the bottom of the nomination paper were the words 'please read the notes overleaf' yet there were no note overleaf! A few day laters I contacted the electoral office again and got through to Tamsin Thurgood (she was very helpful) who agreed to send me out another nomination paper with the notes printed overleaf, as we chatted it became apparent that despite registering my interest in standing nearly 2 months before my details had not been kept and that is why I had never received the news about the pre-election meeting or the been sent nomination pack.

So, hopefully after the initial teething problems I now have a proper nomination pack in the post which will include the correct notes so I can complete the forms and get on with my election campaign and start thinking about my polices in more detail. 

Here, according to Plymouth City Council, is the role of a councillor:

A councillor's primary role's can be summarised as follows:

    * represent the interests of the constituents of the ward, dealing with their enquiries equally and without prejudice
    * liaise with other organisations and services to develop the quality of life and community well being within the city
    * contribute to good governance through the decision making process of the Council
    * take into account the views of local people and to actively encourage community involvement in the Council's decision making process
    * explain the reasons of how and why decisions are taken by the Council

Having read the roles above I feel that perhaps I should send a copy of this to some of the exisitng local councillors to remind them of their duties.

Anyway with less than 60 days till the election I need to get serious move on if I am to stand any chance of getting elected. I plan to use this blog to keep people informed about my campaign as well as to give a guide to the process of standing for council as an independent.

Whether or not I get elected I can promise to be honest and transparent throughout the election process and I can genuinley say that I care passionately about Plymouth and the people that live within it.