Bloated bureaucracy bogus democracy

A veteran Independent councillor states plainly what he feels is wrong with our local government.

ballot_box10:39 Monday 4th January 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: On the subject of this idea that’s on the front of the Peterborough Telegraph this morning, a new Eastern super-council, apparently talks are going to get underway soon which will encompass Peterborough and Cambridgeshire and Norfolk and Suffolk and Fenland and bring all that together. On the subject of that Pete says “I’m in favour of it all in consolidation Paul. Less management, an economy of scale for procurement. It can only be a good thing. Besides, living in Fenland we are ignored. Everything goes to Cambridge, so we have nothing to lose here.” says Peter. Do we need a revamp as to how our county, and Fenland of course as well, and Peterborough are governed? Council bosses in Cambridgeshire have been told that the county is too small to be given devolved powers from the Government. So it’s no good Peterborough and Fenland and Cambridgeshire county councils teaming up. Too small. It could mean that we have to buddy up with Norfolk or Essex or Suffolk, and get all those extra powers. Well the news has left one councillor, a former County Council Leader Martin Curtis, to call for a complete review of how councils are drawn up, and how we’re all governed. Well with me now is Peterborough councillor Charlie Swift. He’s seen it all and more in his years on Peterborough City Council. Morning Charlie.
CHARLES SWIFT: Morning young man.
PAUL STAINTON: Is this the Emperor’s new clothes, or a brand new idea?
Continue reading “Bloated bureaucracy bogus democracy”

Fletton Quays proposals ‘bland and indifferent’

town_hall_peterborough07:08 Tuesday 8th December 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Plans for the Fletton Quays development in Peterborough lack vision and should be deferred until better plans are made. Those are the views of the Peterborough Civic Society, ahead of the decision on whether outline planning permission will be given to 280 homes, 14,000 square metres of office space and a hotel on the huge riverside plot. Peterborough City Council’s planning committee will assess the latest proposals this afternoon. This has been rumbling on for years, and the South Bank is still bare and still really a bit of an eye-sore. Back in July our reporter Will Fyfe went down to the site for a look round.
WILL FYFE: For sometime now Peterborough has been considered one of the fastest growing cities in the UK. But if you step just 500 yards outside of the busy city centre over onto the other side of the River Nene you’ll be confronted with something more like this, no cars, no people and certainly no shops. I’m stood on the South Bank of Peterborough. In theory it’s 20 acres of prime riverfront land, but in reality it’s nothing more than a derelict car park. Just over the water in front of me you can see the outline of the iconic Peterborough Cathedral. The site used to be home to a Matalan and a B&Q about ten years ago, but they decided to move across to the other side of town. And it’s very obvious standing here that in that time nature has risen up and taken back the site. There’s literally buddleia bushes about nine, ten feet high where cars should be parked in the car park. And alongside a lot of the vegetation here there’s also a darker side, graffiti, beer cans or drug paraphernalia. For all the shortcomings however, pretty soon we could see quite a big change on this side of the river. £120 million has been put on the table by investors who want to see this land become the site of more homes, offices and leisure facilities, even including a 160 bed hotel. So what would people think to such a drastic change? I caught up with June and her son, who have been walking their dog down by the site for the past decade.
JUNE: The only thing is it’s been left derelict, and it’s such a shame, because we just think, when we go to York or Lincoln and you’ve got that river and you’ve got some life on there, it’s pleasant, and it draws in the people. So there’s fors and againsts. Maybe if they did do something nice it would attract people to be on the river. It will just go to derelict rack and ruin, and I’m not being funny, and then you’ll get squatters maybe. Like I say it would be nice. It depends what was over there.
SON: They could do up maybe the trees as well and make it look a bit more better, the river front, because everything’s just overgrowing.
WILL FYFE: So describe it for us now. We’re literally stood on the opposite side.
JUNE: Just over-run with overhanging trees and bushes, innit.
WILL FYFE: If the idea makes it through planning then we could very soon see this stretch of waterfront turned from rubble in to riches.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Will Fyfe reporting there back in July. So in terms of who is responsible for these plans which have been put forward for this development, Peterborough City Council is in a joint partnership with a developer called Lucent. Together they form the Peterborough Investment Partnership. Lucent provides the funding. The City Council provides the land. They’re working together to come up with a vision for this area. However, David Turnock from the Peterborough Civic Society thinks there’s not really enough vision going on. Morning David.
DAVID TURNOCK: Good morning Dotty.
DOTTY MCLEOD: What’s the problem then with these plans?
Continue reading “Fletton Quays proposals ‘bland and indifferent’”

Cambridge Central Library cuts and the shape of things to come

cambscc08:20 Thursday 4th June 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Should a councillor from Ramsey or Whittlesea be able to decide what happens in Cambridge city centre? Well that’s exactly what happened with the controversial decision about Cambridge Central Libray earlier on this week. It’s prompted new calls to make Cambridge a unitary authority, the same as Peterborough.  Let’s speak to the Group Leader councillor Ashley Walsh. So what benefits do you think there could be to Cambridge of a change like this?
ASHLEY WALSH: Well I think Cambridge is now a city of huge national importance, it’s rate of growth, the importance for the Eastern and Southern economies, (such) that we really have to be able to control our own destiny in terms of how we want to grow, what sectors of the economy we want to develop into. And we don’t have the power to do that at the moment, because most councillors represent parts of the county that have very little to do with Cambridge, and centre around places like Peterborough, or places around Norfolk. And they just don’t get what Cambridge needs and what it needs to do in the future.
DOTTY MCLEOD: There is a flip side to this of course, which is that if you became a unitary authority in Cambridge, you would no longer have the power to decide on things going on in Ramsey and Whittlesea and Wisbech. Would you be happy with that?
ASHLEY WALSH: Well I think when councils work together very well, as the City Council and South Cambridgeshire do over developing housing, then you can have the power to do that, because you influence each other and you work together. But the Central Library is ust one eaxmple of where Cambridge has suffered because people representing elsewhere in the county have not been able to develop beyond their own parochial interests.
DOTTY MCLEOD: It’s just democracy, isn’t it, the fact that people in different areas decide on one thing that might affect one other area?
ASHLEY WALSH: That’s true. I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with having two layers of local government. The big problem now is that because cuts have been so bad, it’s now becoming an argument about defending your own local area from the scale of the huge spending reductions. So although it might sound like a high ideal to be democratic and represent the whole county, because we have very little money around, people are just defending their own interests. The reason I think that we’ve had to lose the third floor of the Central Library is because Conservatives have historically underfunded branch libraries in the county. And Cambridge is now having to pay that price.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK. Well let’s talk about what happens when a council becomes a unitary authority. One man who knows a lot about this is counciilor Charles Swift, an Independent councillor for North ward in Peterborough. Been a councillor more more than six decades, so seen many changes, not least Peterborough becoming a unitary authority. So you’ve been a councillor before and after Peterborough became a unitary authority. Has it been good for the city do you think?
Continue reading “Cambridge Central Library cuts and the shape of things to come”

Boundary Commission on Peterborough Council

holdich07:07 Wednesday 16th April 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[D]OTTY MCLEOD BBC: Our population is growing and therefore we need more councillors to represent us. Or do we? Advice by the Boundary Commission to Peterborough City Council suggests they need at least another three.

MARCUS BOWELL BOUNDARY COMMISSION: One of the most important things we do in an electoral review is we talk to the council at an early stage about what their expectations are, how they want to run their authority. And the Council came to us and proposed the small increase in councillors.

PCC CLLR HOLDICH: I’ve got some sympathy for having less councillors. If it was my business of course I wouldn’t want 57 or 61 directors of that company. But that’s not our decision. Our decision from Government is purely and simply that we need so many councillors per so many electorate. And in this proposal, and we did ask them, Charles Swift put it to them that we needed less councillors. But the Boundary Commission insisted you needed so many councillors per electorate.


The Subversion Of Local Democracy

peterborough_town_hallMonday 4th February 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[L]OUISE NEIL: A Peterborough councillor is planning to write to the Prime Minister to ask why the city needs 57 councillors. Charlie Swift says the outsourcing of services has left him feeling pointless. Katie Prickett reports:
KATIE PRICKETT: Traditionally local services were provided directly by local councils, but in recent years housing, libraries, care and bin collections have all been outsourced. And more and more schools are becoming independent of local government control. Peterborough City councillor Charlie Swift says it’s left him unable to intervene if somebody has a problem, and feeling as if there’s no place for a councillor. So he’s planning to write to David Cameron to ask why there are so many councillors, and what their role actually is now.
Continue reading “The Subversion Of Local Democracy”

Immigration And The Housing Shortage

eric_pickles17:41 Friday 18th January 2013
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[C]HRIS MANN: According to the Peterborough Conservative MP Stewart Jackson, the Government isn’t doing enough to prepare for the arrival of migrants from Bulgaria and Romania next year. It’s after MigrationWatch released figures suggesting up to 50,000 people could come here next year, when they get the right of free movement across the EU. The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles admitted that more migrants would have an impact on social and affordable homes. So we thought we’d try and shed some light on this, and find out what effect migration has already had on housing in Cambridgeshire. (TAPE)
ERIC PICKLES: The truth is I don’t think anybody entirely knows the number that are going to come from Bulgaria and from Romania. Given that we’ve got a housing shortage, any influx is going to cause problems, not just in terms of the housing market, but also on social housing markets. Continue reading “Immigration And The Housing Shortage”

Terry Rich – An Apology

08:08 Thursday 19th July 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: We’ve talked extensively this past week or so about this consultation on closing two care homes. Well, today, a new purpose-built care home should have been built in Peterborough a long-time ago. So says one Independent councillor in the city. The consultation on the possible closure of these two care homes has already begun, and the Independent Party in Peterborough are putting forward quite a few suggestions. Earlier councillor Charlie Swift suggested building a new home that would house residents of both Greenwood and Welland House. He told us there are plenty of sites around the city available to build on. Continue reading “Terry Rich – An Apology”

Longest Serving Councillor on How To Run a Council

07:06 Thursday 19th July 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

INDEPENDENT CLLR. CHARLES SWIFT: If they’d announced they were going to build a new home for a kick-off, there would have been none of this kerfuffle whatsoever. It’s all totally unnecessary. What they should have done, if, and there’s a big if attached to this, if Greenwood House and Welland were not fit for purpose, they should have got on with announcing that they were going to build a new home, so that everybody’s got security of tenancy, and also the staff have got some job satisfaction, and they’ve got something to look forward to. It’s been very badly handled, and it’s all wrong. Continue reading “Longest Serving Councillor on How To Run a Council”