Friday, 30 January 2009

30th Jan 09

My Wednesday entry about 14 days advance notice to hold us to account at full Council Meetings has provoked some replies about the length of the notice required.

And my apologies - I got it slightly wrong. Whilst it's 14 days for Councillors to put forward written questions to a full Council meeting, the public only have to give 2 days notice. Apologies for any confusion caused!

Well today's grumble is that there is snow forecast over the weekend. Children in the villages will be ecstatic if the schools are closed on Monday - my two will be walking with fingers and toes crossed all weekend - but for myself it's a blow to my decision to dust the bike off in the garage and get back out there and practice U turns (of a motoring rather than political nature) before I take my bike test again.

I have owned my bike for an embarrassing length of time and have promised my nearest and dearest to either finally take my test or sell it this year.

I may have to wait another few weeks ……….

Jan 29th 09

At a time when life is very challenging for so many people, it was really heartening to stop for a few minutes during the News bulletins this evening and look at what can only be described as a true celebration of a life.

Bill Stone, one of the last veterans of the First World War, was buried today in a ceremony that was a celebration of a life lived to the full. What has always struck me whenever I’ve seen him interviewed was the beaming smile on his face. He just exuded an infectious happiness.

I was truly struck by the dignity of Bill and his two colleagues at the cenotaph in November when they laid wreaths for their fallen comrades. The wonderful Remembrance Day refrain of “they gave their tomorrows that we might have our today” begs the question – have we made best use of the gift we were given?

I don’t have a glib answer but it is my thought for the day.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Jan 28th 09

It’s been one of those hectic days where it’s only now when it’s finally quiet I can find a few minutes to put thoughts to paper and muse over the things that I’ve done today. I’ve never been one to keep a diary in the past but there’s something strangely cathartic about bashing out my thoughts in a Blog.

I spent the morning catching up on emails, the afternoon looking at the proposed closure of Wessex Place and the evening in Comberton at what can best be described as a lively discussion over the two proposed sites for affordable housing.

But what has really made me think was an email from one of my constituents unhappy at the recently announced Council Tax rises. I don’t have a glib answer and I’m putting it out there just as food for thought for my political colleagues of all persuasions and parties.

This person wrote to both my Conservative opponent and I, prior to the by-election in November, about our thoughts on proposed Council Tax rises. Now that the Council have announced their Council Tax rises and the Lib Dem Group have made our own recommendations, I’ve been back in contact with this person to give them an update.

Their reply: “If I write to my Liberal Democrat councillor, I am told that it is the fault of the Conservative majority, and she can do nothing about it. If I write to the Conservative Council, I am told it is the fault of Labour government for not providing sufficient central funding, and they can do nothing about it. If I write to my Conservative MP, it takes three months to get a similar response………….. In short, everyone points to everyone else, and I am left feeling disillusioned with politics and politicians, not to mention considerably poorer as a result! If there were any way that I could effectively make my views count, I would leap on it like a shot.”

Well there is!

When you find that going through the usual channels doesn’t work – and sadly sometimes it doesn’t – all I can do is urge you to use your right to turn up and put us on the spot at full Council Meetings. You need to give 14 days notice prior to a meeting, but you elect us and you have the right to hold us accountable!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Jan 27th 09

It was a chilly early morning start that saw Cllr Stewart and I out in The Pastures in Hardwick at 08:00 this morning pressing the Highways Department for something to be done about the treacherous junctions and lack of designated parking spaces. Hopefully we’ll have something concrete to let you know about soon in the form of a safety survey .

Tonight is my last Parish Council meeting of the month (Hardwick) and it’s intriguing to see the very different approaches taken by all of the Councils in the way they run their meetings. Some are quite short – some not so! – but all are one of the best ways of feeding back to me where I need to be following things up for local constituents. Many people have phoned me with issues that they’d like me to raise and almost to a person have apologised for disturbing me. I simply can’t stress enough that I need local people to let me know how I can help them to be able to get things moving. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need help.

From a Shire Hall point of view I’ve spent the afternoon at a Scrutiny Committee looking at the impact of the A14 improvements and how it will affect local villages. In particular the proposed Clay Borrow Pit at Junction 14 of the A14, which I will report back on to the folks of Madingley next week.

It’s a quiet time to sit in Shire Hall as everyone leaves after the meeting and a good opportunity to quietly catch up on some paperwork. I’ll be out pounding the streets of Caldecote on Thursday morning doing a survey of local residents about an improved bus service and also asking them to sign a petition to help speed up removal of the speed bumps (not quite what they are referred to locally!). After the election I was shattered and super fit and have to admit that like almost everyone else post Christmas the exercise and fresh air will be very welcome!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Back to the Blog !

I’m finally back to my blog after a few weeks during which the residents of the Whelan household went down like skittles with bug after bug. We didn’t quite have to resort to painting a white cross on the front door but it felt like it at times!

The first two months of being a Councillor have flown by and I still pinch myself for what a fantastic opportunity I have been given. My enthusiasm for the job grows day by day. The most often asked question is “what do you do?” and I recently spent a morning with Year 7s at Comberton Village College telling them all about Councillor’s work during their PD day when they set up a fictional Parish Council. Quite a few were interested in the job but once they found out how much we earn that number quickly dropped!

What I “do” is just about anything I get a phone call or email about. Sunday saw me out in raincoat and wellies looking at the poor access to a field in Comberton where new houses are being proposed. Saturday saw me hosting a thank you party for all those who helped during my election campaign (my mother’s recipe for Irish Soda bread is on it’s way to all those who asked for it). Amongst other things (and trust me this is not an exhaustive list) I’ve been to 8 Parish Council Meetings, a meeting about the new Comberton Education Trust, 2 meetings in relation to the proposed closure of Wessex Place and a Scrutiny committee (all Councillors sit on at least one committee and I sit on the Health, Community and Adult Services Scrutiny Committee). I’ve been looking at broadband access in Coton, recycling of plastic wrappings (more of that to come), and on the border of Haslingfield and Barton I’m involved in proposed changes to the Railway Bridge. I've helped a Barton resident get benefits and access to household support and in Caldecote I'm working hard to get an additional daily bus through the village at a time when residents can use it. In Hardwick I'm plugging away with the Parish Council, District Councillor Jim Stewart and Andrew Lansley MP to get an improvement to the traffic chaos in Cambridge Road. And that’s just this month - which isn’t yet over. Oh and the small matter of being in the paper and on the radio over gritting of roads and cycle paths locally.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been contacted by lots of local residents throughout the 10 villages, and all I can say is please keep those calls coming. I need you to tell me about issues you so that I can help.