22 The Chronicle, Thursday, 19th November, 2009. www.chronicleseries.co.uk
SI T TI BI
Forget “X Factor Come Dancing In The Jungle” or whatever’s on the telly next Saturday; instead head off to Congleton Town Hall, where the Tories’ next candidate will be selected.
As is pointed out in a letter this week, you might as well turn out for the American-style primary because barring a major PR disaster or upset, like a concerted campaign not to vote Tory because of parking fees, the selected candidate will probably win the seat and then hold onto it for a long time.
As the Conservative Party has given us the chance to be involved in the selection process, we should make the most of it; if nobody turns up, it’s unlikely to be repeated — and even Labour voters might as well see which Tory they dislike the least. What is for sure is that you won’t know any of them. None of the candidates has Congleton connections, though the candidate who worked for Tory head offi ce has not made it through either.
The short list consists of a Shrewsbury bookshop owner, a Northwich solicitor, a Nantwich nurse and health expert, a farmer from Malpas, a politician (at least a former member of Cheshire County Council) and a journalist from Cheshire.
At the meeting, the candidates will be introduced to the audience before being interviewed. Audience members can pick their candidate on coloured voting slips (as long as they stay for the full meeting, 1pm prompt, to 6pm) and the fi rst person from the shortlist to receive 50% of the votes will, “after being offi cially accepted by the Conservative Party”, be the next Tory candidate.
The meeting is on Saturday, 28th November at Congleton Town Hall and anyone from the Congleton constituency aged over 18 and on the electoral roll can attend. If you want to go to the meeting, you need to register by calling 01477 533834 from 9.30am to 1.30pm or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
There’s been a lot of debate about “Call of duty: modern warfare2”, a computer game that involves killing lots of people. It’s rated 18 and while the average age of gamers is 33, it’s been bought by lots of young teenagers — video games seem to have higher sales fi gures and earn more money than either music or fi lm, and are often the “must have” for street cool.
My own son, who is 14, was aggrieved at not getting it immediately it came out, on the grounds that everyone else did, but was surprisingly interested in the moral debate. After playing the game he guessed that the row centred over a bonus scene in which players have to go to an airport and massacre innocent civilians, and indeed it did. But he dismissed the row as adults being hypocritical, because they watch equally violent fi lms.
This view was echoed in Parliament when Keith Vaz asked the Government to take steps to protect youngsters, saying the scenes of “brutality” should not fall into the hands of children. But fellow Labour MP Tom Watson, while admitting the game was “unpleasant,” accused Mr Vaz of jumping on a “Daily Mail” bandwagon “to create moral panic”.
Given that teenagers playing the game have already played many games that involve killing people, it’s hard to argue that any new game goes too far, given that the graphics and the violence are highly stylised and it’s also hard to take issue with Mr Watson: “Die Hard 4” was on television recently and has an extremely unsettling view of human life, with the baddies mowing down civilians with complete abandon. This was possibly to make the fi lm seem more adult: the fi lm makers reduced the “F” word count to get a lower age certifi cate, with only one occurrence in “DH4” as opposed to 50 in the fi rst “Die Hard” and 93 “Fs” in “Die Hard with a Vengeance”. At the end of the day, you could argue that turning terrorist atrocities into gaming entertainment is morally wrong, but then you’d have to ask why copious swearing makes a fi lm 18 but callously gunning down people in cold blood but not cussin’ as you do it makes the fi lm acceptable for 15-year-olds.
email your views to firstname.lastname@example.org
Council expected parking charge objections to have died down by now
Dear Sir, — It appears to me that the objections to the car park charging are actually increasing and I would urge anyone who has not expressed their view to the council to do so. You never know, the impossible may happen and we may yet stop it by proper democratic means. I am sure that the council expected that objections would have died down by now.
I had tabled a question to be asked at the recent Cabinet meeting asking why, particularly in view of the large number of objections, there had been no consideration given to a public enquiry.
I was advised by Mr Brickhill that my question was tabled later than the deadline and it would be down to the chairman’s discretion if this question was to be asked. Since I had no confi dence that my question would be raised at the meeting, I saw little point in spending the money, and paying the parking, to attend.
I did, however, write to Mr Brickhill as noted below: “Mr Brickhill: I acknowledge your response and accept that my question may have been tabled later than the deadline.
“It is of no particular signifi cance to me that I should raise the question and receive an answer at the Cabinet meeting. I see no reason why you, as the portfolio holder, could not answer this question directly. As a council tax payer in Cheshire East, I think that I am entitled to an answer from the person responsible for pushing through a policy which appears to have little popular support other than in the Cabinet.
“As far as I can see of the situation, you have proposed a policy which has received, by the council’s own admission, a large number of objections. I gather that a signifi cant number of the objections relate to the negative economic impact on trade. The council response to this is, essentially, that there is ‘no clear evidence that the imposition of appropriate charging is a key factor in a customer’s decision to visit a town’. You have stated that you have been unable to fi nd any evidence that charging will have a detrimental infl uence on trading but I have seen no ‘evidence’ from the council to support the council view. It appears that the view expressed in the council Response to Objections is purely that, a view, and has no more validity than that of the large number of objections.
You will be aware that the “Chronicle” has asked for evidence from traders to support the self evident fact that the imposition of charging can only have a negative effect, particularly in a time of recession. In the interim, however, and if you are serious about looking for evidence that car parking charges have a negative effect on trade, may I suggest that there is a wide body of evidence from traders in the following towns which have been subjected to car parking charges during recent times: Bedale, Northallerton, Stokesly in North Yorkshire; Beverley, Hedon, Bridlington, Hessle and Willerby in East Yorkshire; Coventry; Salisbury.
“This is only a short sample but there are also places such as Southampton where parking charges have been slashed by 50% due to drop off in trade.
There is evidence there if you are prepared to look.
It appears to me, and to many others, that the council has adopted a dubious policy, said to be based on attaining continuity across the
various towns, has received a large number of objections, has dismissed the objections without evidence for the council stance, and is not prepared to hold a public enquiry into its actions. Looking at the factors which members ought to consider when deciding if a public enquiry is needed, the complexity of the proposals, the nature of the objections received and whether members are able to take account competing arguments the logic of not allowing a public enquiry falls down on two of the three points.
“The objections received were extensive and the dismissal of the objections is not evidence based but is a view, arguably, a minority view. The members cannot realistically consider competing arguments when the council offi cers appear not to have made any efforts to research similar situations and advise the members accordingly. The whole scenario is based on a council policy decision that a harmonious approach across all towns is essential. This is, in my view, at best, debatable.
“If you read the local press, which I am sure that you do, you will be aware that there is a great deal of unease about the council’s apparent disregard for public opinion and the need for democracy and openness which you disregard at your peril.
“I would appreciate a proper response to these concerns and, indeed, I still await a proper response to my original email to you of fi ve November 2009 where I asked for the logic behind the one size fi ts all policy across all of the towns.”
PS I note that Mr Brickhill has responded to some of my points in this week’s “Chronicle” but I still consider the response to be totally inadequate. Firstly, unless my hearing was going completely at the public meeting, Mr Brickhill did clearly imply that the revenue from car parking charging would be used for the upkeep of the car parks, running of the car parks and any surplus could be used elsewhere. If I recall correctly, someone at the meeting asked if this was the same as road tax being used exclusively for road maintenance, as it was originally stated to be.
I also note what Mr Brickhill has to say about the budget provision but, again, I fi nd this diffi cult to understand. A fi nite sum of money is put into the budgets as projected income from car parking without any decision to implement charging in Congleton, Sandbach, Holmes Chapel and elsewhere. If this fi gure is, as now appears to be the case, sacrosanct, a failure to implement charging in the new towns would surely have required signifi cant increases in the charges already in existence elsewhere in the council area?
I also fi nd it interesting to hear the current situation relating to staff car parking charging. We were told at the public meeting in the summer that this had been raised and was being considered but we are now awaiting a “detailed paper in March 2010”.
Is Cheshire East proposing their own version of “Yes Minister” with Mr Brickhill taking the role of Sir. Humphrey as portfolio holder for Lost In The Long Grass?
The fundamental question that I, and others, have asked of Mr Brickhill is: why is a policy of one size fi ts all necessary when each of the towns is different for a range of reasons?
As I pointed out in my email to Mr Brickhill, Macclesfi eld, for example, offers a greater range of the larger named shops and people are prepared to pay for that facility.
Perhaps Mr Brickhill would like to address this point. —Yours faithfully,
G A GOODWIN
It’s clear car park policy’s in disarray
Dear Sir, — I attended the public meeting held at the council offi ces on Tuesday, 10th November, at Crewe council offi ces.
I am a resident in Sandbach very angry about the way the council is handling the introduction of car park charges in the borough. Following the meeting, I am also very annoyed about the arrogance of Wesley Fitzgerald running the meeting and very, very concerned about the disarray the policy is clearly in.
I believe Cheshire East Council has been given a cross borough petition of over 12,000 signatures with 3,300 signatures from Sandbach alone.
I am astounded that this has been totally ignored by the council; it did not get a mention at the meeting.
With greater resource we could have got three times as many signatures! It is very apparent that the vast majority of residents have a real problem with the council’s car park charges plans (or lack of them!).
How can you justify ignoring so many people? This kind of arrogance will not be tolerated by the people of the borough.
We also submitted a survey report, which was admittedly the day before the meeting, but it shows the effect that the council’s plans will have on the businesses in Sandbach town centre.
Given that one person gathered this information in one week while working a very long week at his day job the day before, it was the best we could do.
Given more time, I guarantee we could conduct a far bigger survey perhaps members of the media could help out with this. I suspect that Coun Brickhill has not conducted such a survey (feel free to correct me) given he avoided the question to the damage to small businesses one of my colleagues submitted.
I am afraid that I walked away from Tuesday’s meeting with the impression that our council was a bunch of people so far removed from the realities of the real world in their own ivory tower that it’s a real concern that they cannot effectively run the council anymore.
Maybe it’s complacency that has set in after so many years under Conservative rule — I am not a politically motivated person, I just want to see councillors listening to their clients, the general public just as a private sector company would.
I was particularly annoyed by the attitude of Wesley Fitzgerald who made no allowance for the members of the public who took the trouble to submit questions and were treated with contempt when they made etiquette errors.
I was so annoyed I came very close to making a scene at the meeting but instead I remained professional, despite Fitzgerald’s inexcusable attitude.
A big concern was that it was clear the car park policy is in disarray, which became apparent during the questioning from the town councillors (who did have a handle of public feeling on this matter).
Major decisions are still to be made and yet the council is ploughing ahead with the project, this will clearly waste taxpayers’ money.
It was admitted that some of the parking meters would lose money — how can this be good use of our money? I suggest that this proposal is put on hold until the council understands the effect on the community and has a full plan
in place that will not result in wasting taxpayers’ money.
I hope the council accepts that the points raised are very genuine concerns and this is the fi rst time I have felt this strongly about a subject, specifi cally how it is being handled, that I have had to take such action.
I run a software development company and I am well versed on making the most of the internet — a very powerful tool for the “little people”. I am afraid that if the council’s attitude does not change, the only way I can make a difference is by using this knowledge to organise a campaign against the council.
The campaign will affect opinion on the council at a time when an election is not far away as well as its revenues, let’s hope it does not come to this.
My previous email to three councillors was ignored bar one two-worded reply, “point noted”. This quite frankly is not good enough. — Yours faithfully,
Car parkers could input vehicle reg
Dear Sir, — I feel that something must be done about the parking in Sandbach but feel the council is out of touch and takes no notice o those who elect them and pay thei salaries.
Parking charges will affect the trade in Sandbach, even more than any effect created by a supermarket.
Cars are parked all day and every day, especially a working day, in Sandbach and, perhaps, employers should provide parking spaces fo their employees and not rely on the council to provide parking. Perhaps the best solution is to allow free parking for, say two hours, then introduce some form of charge.
The meters in Crewe request the vehicle registration number in order to produce a parking ticket (this is so they cannot be passed on) but such a system would allow the parking for a vehicle for two hours before it incurs a charge.
Surely this intermediate suggestion and the wishes of the townsfolk, should be given serious discussion before an undemocratic decision is made?
MP candidate: I am quite happy to have a candidate wished on us by a party, but NOT before all local candidates have been seriously considered.
I am totally unhappy with introducing a public fi gure or a celebrity who does not know the area and does not live in the area, at the expense of a more suitable, local candidate.
Parade: the parade went well after the council had removed the chairs blocking the routes and the roadworks had been removed. I had to warn each individual group about the very high pavement they would encounter on leaving the square. I did this in order to avoid any injury due to slipping or tripping on this pavement.
The matter was brought up before the square was completed and was totally ignored. I did consult a qualifi ed civil enginee who indicated it would be a simple job to create a neat, cobbled ramp on either side of the raised pavement on the church side of the square. This was not accepted and the project was completed despite concerns.
The ramp on the sorting offi ce side is an eyesore. Yet anothe example of the powers that be ignoring the people and, in this case, what I feel to be commonsense. Yours faithfully, GLYNN ROBINSON Wg Cdr.
(Rtd) Parade Commander.