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.