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Stourport Town Council – Motion from the Labour Group

Posted by labourblogger on June 26, 2011

Stourport Town Centre

We made a commitment in our election literature to use the town council as a voice for Stourport. In this motion, we return to a subject Labour has tried unsuccessfully to table at district level. The town centre is a Labour priority because the commercial and civic centre of any town is an essential part of its identity.

5.7.2011 Motion from the Labour Group

Council expresses its continuing deep concern about the current physical appearance of the town centre and the threats to its current and future commercial viability. As a first step to encouraging constructive debate within the town, Council resolves to convene a meeting, or a series of meetings, of town centre stakeholders, including British Waterways, TESCO, the county and district councils and the owners of certain prominent town centre buildings, to find a way forward.

Councillor Vi Higgs

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Tory Localism Fundamental Flaw Number Four – Jamie Shaw, Wyre Forest Labour

Posted by labourblogger on March 15, 2011

Tory Localism sees no need for strategic thinking. At the moment, there is copious media coverage of this failing in their plans for the NHS. However, sticking to the Localism agenda, I will focus on Forward Planning. By this term I mean the process by which new development of the built environment is zoned through the allocation of land, in a timescale of up-to-twenty years.

Localism sees no need for a regional, or even county-wide, perspective. Every council, be it a Birmingham or a Wyre Forest, is free to plan its own developments, irrespective of the wider picture, hence the Tories’ abolition of the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy. Among the policies discarded is that which sought to regenerate housing supply within the Black Country. Its aim was to stem the outward flow of population, creating more sustainable communities in which people would live and work, and relieving pressure on the surrounding shire counties. Now, alas, without the mechanism to co-operate, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell, South Staffordshire, Redditch, Bromsgrove, Wyre Forest etc, etc, will be more likely to take an insular view, required to look no further than their own immediate circumstances.

Repeat the Housing scenario over the whole field of Forward Planning, including, for example, Industry & Commerce, Transport and Retail, and the fourth fundamental flaw of Tory Localism becomes clear; no coherent long-term strategy for planning the future.

Jamie Shaw, Wyre Forest Labour

Tory Localism Fundamental Flaw Number Three – Jamie Shaw, Wyre Forest Labour

Tory Localism Fundamental Flaws One & Two – Jamie Shaw, Wyre Forest Labour

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Tory phantom £500,000 savings is quoted as a feeble justification for £11.5m Tory Towers Folly

Posted by labourblogger on March 12, 2011

Two recent debates at Council and one examination by a Scrutiny committee have not managed to identify how Wyre Forest Where is the phantom £500,000 Savings generated by the £11.5 million Tory Towers folly? says Vi Higgs, Wyre Forest Labour

Nevertheless, I told myself I would be prepared to believe our Conservative leaders, if I could find evidence in their budgets for future years. I reasoned that, if the building is to be occupied in June 2012, there should be an extra £500,000, the savings, available for expenditure on services from the financial year 2013/14 onwards.

I consulted the budget projections for 2013/14 and 2014/15, as presented to Council on 23rd February : nowhere is there an indication of service improvements it could fund; nowhere is there the restoration of a presently-unaffordable deleted post; indeed, nowhere is this £500,000 saving even identified.

I am forced to the conclusion that this is a phantom £500,000, quoted as a feeble justification for a £11.5m folly.

Vi Higgs Wyre Forest Labour.

Kidderminster Shuttle Tories claim new HQ will benefit Community

80% say No to Wyre Forest ‘Tory Towers’

Labour response to District Council Cabinet Letter on 10.5Mill new offices.

Wyre Forest ‘Tory Towers’ projected savings plan is based on flawed evidence says Barry McFarland

‘Tory Towers’ Press Release from Wyre Forest Labour Party.

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Tory Localism Fundamental Flaw Number Three – Jamie Shaw, Wyre Forest Labour

Posted by labourblogger on February 28, 2011

I return to the example of Free Schools and Academies because it is an area somewhat more clearly defined than the vague notions of Neighbourhood Planning, community-run libraries and charity-provided, rather than professionally-staffed, public services.
Schools policy sees the role of the local authority removed from Academies. Power, and public funding, is transferred to each school’s governing body. It can be argued that this is the essence of Localism’s beneficial effect, devolution to a more local base. However, it is power without accountability. The governors may wish to use their powers to amend the school’s admission policy, the range of subjects taught, the priority accorded to Special Needs, the schools in the local pyramid with which they wish to co-operate, etc, etc… How is that power to be challenged, should there be dissent? There is no mechanism to do so, because schools are free of local democratic control. Free Schools are even more undemocratic, since they can be established with public money to cater for special interest groups, irrespective of the damage they could do to community cohesion or educational fairness.
This, then, is fundamental flaw number three, ironically for a policy entitled “Localism”, local public services unaccountable to any local democratic forum.

Jamie Shaw, Wyre Forest Labour

Tory Localism Fundamental Flaws One & Two – Jamie Shaw, Wyre Forest Labour

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Tory ‘Localism’ is Fundamentally Flawed says Jamie Shaw, Wyre Forest Labour

Posted by labourblogger on February 17, 2011

I’ve read the Conservative-led government’s briefing paper on its Localism Bill, through which, it claims, it will de-centralise political power away from Westminster. I can’t say I disagree with all its sentiments. For example, it promotes a Power of General Competence for local authorities. I seconded a motion on this very issue at the Association of District Councils’ annual conference as long ago as 1992. However, the disagreements I have are fundamental. I summarise a couple of them below and will make further comments in my next couple of blogs. In the interests of brevity each comment will include only one example as evidence.

As manifested in its educational policies promoting Free Schools and Academies, the Conservative vision of how society works most effectively is so bad as to be morally objectionable. It maintains that an arrangement of autonomous units, such as its favoured schools, loyal to nothing higher than their own self-interest, competing against each other and co-operating only when it is to their immediate advantage to do so, is the best means of achieving higher standards. This is extreme right-wing dogma, not practised in the educational provision of any other liberal democracy in the entire world. In my view, it is fundamental flaw number one.

The Lesson of History
The Localism Bill promotes the seemingly unexceptional idea of different organisational solutions for different geographical areas. Of course, it is already the case that structures are different in different areas, for example, two-tier Worcestershire and unitary Birmingham. However, this “Localism” proposes to go much further in denying the need for any common coherent structure for the reliable delivery of public services. Councils could have a bewildering mix of joint, opted-out, privatised, balkanised or community group-based services. The model the Conservatives are rejecting is that which began to be established in Britain in the 1830s and has been built upon since, in all other liberal democracies as well as Britain, based on a partnership between central and local government and responsible to an electorate. This is fundamental flaw number two, an impossible-to-manage chaos of disorganisation, based on a rejection of the structures of government of the last one-hundred-and-eighty years.

Jamie Shaw, Wyre Forest Labour

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Barnfield Road : Job Done!

Posted by labourblogger on February 4, 2011

Vi Higgs and Jamie Shaw inspect the site

Finally, in January ’11, Wyre Forest Community Housing has erected bollards around the grassed area at the lowered-numbered end of Barnfield Road. Their purpose is to prevent access.
This outcome follows two years of work by residents, Cllr Jamie Shaw and the Walshes Tenants Consultative Committee. The residents presented a petition, Jamie battled on when the proposal was initially turned down and the tenants’ committee provided half the cost of the work from its Community Fund.

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Betty Dawes Hill : Job to be Done

Posted by labourblogger on February 4, 2011

Vi at Betty Dawes Hill

Vi is seen here surveying the rubbish-strewn bank near the bottom of Betty Dawes Hill. She says,
“Wyre Forest Community Housing does a good job of keeping tidy most of the land it owns. However, I know that, frequently, my colleague, Cllr Jamie Shaw, has had to remind its local office to clear this area. He’s done so again this week.”

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Tory Cuts are ideological not an economic necessity says Vi Higgs, Wyre Forest Labour

Posted by labourblogger on January 13, 2011

What a Difference a Change of Government Makes!

Last summer, my colleague Cllr Jamie Shaw praised Conservative-led Wyre Forest District Council for the number of affordable* houses it had been able to build, in partnership with Wyre Forest Community Housing and other Registered Social Landlords. Of course, he was talking in the context of a wider housing strategy, involving a regional dimension and targets for each council. These were elements of the national government’s policies, a Labour Government, of course.
How circumstances have changed in just a few months! The new Conservative-led government has removed the regional tier of decision-making and reduced available capital. The consequences of its slash-and-burn, anti-public service approach were revealed in a report to a district council meeting on Thursday 6th January : 367 new affordable homes “in the pipeline”, thanks to Labour’s policies, but now unlikely to go ahead because of Conservative cuts.
Let’s be clear : the severity of the cuts being imposed is an ideological choice, not an economic necessity. These are Conservative values at work. We will oppose them with all our strength.

*For rent or part-purchase

Vi Higgs Wyre Forest Labour

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Takeaway-Food Shop Planning Application, 2 Queens Road

Posted by labourblogger on December 28, 2010

Jamie Shaw working hard for Stourport and Areley Kings

Decisions on planning applications in Stourport are two-stage. First, the application comes before the town council, as this application did on 2/11/10. There was a unanimous decision to refuse permission, because of the likely effects of disturbance to local residents, in terms of traffic, probable litter and noise. However, although hopefully influential, the town council’s decision on any planning matter is only advisory. The key decision comes when considered by Wyre Forest District Council. However, before this second stage was reached in this case, the application was withdrawn.
A further application could be made at any time by the same individual or by anyone else, but I would expect the same planning grounds for refusal to be as valid in future as they were on 2nd November.

Jamie Shaw

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Lack of Scrutiny for projected savings for ‘Tory Towers’is Dereliction of Duty.

Posted by labourblogger on December 18, 2010

The Local Government Act 2000 enshrined the concept of “Scrutiny”. The term means “detailed examination of proposals, decisions and their effects.” Wyre Forest District Council uses scrutiny effectively in much of its everyday municipal life. How strange, then, that Conservatives and Liberals should decline to scrutinise its biggest single item of expenditure, the £10.5m on the construction of its new offices.

On 1st December, a Labour motion questioned the £680,000-per-annum savings claimed for the new complex. The motion was supported by a paper showing detailed financial research, a copy of which was supplied to all councillors days before the meeting. The motion proposed scrutiny of the financial assumptions behind the project and showed how Labour had reached the conclusion that the savings would not be £680,000 per annum, but under £100,000.

One would have thought that financially prudent councillors would wish to establish whether a capital outlay of £11.5m was justified for a return of under £100,000 in revenue savings. Alas, no; Conservatives and Liberals voted the motion down. I believe they have made a serious error : I accuse them of dereliction of their public duty.

Vi Higgs
Wyre Forest Labour

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