Monthly Archives: May 2013

Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group AGM 20 June


AGM invitation1AGM invitation2

Vote for our next MEP


Within the next few days you will be able to vote for the next MEP for the South East of England. Well, only if you are a fully paid up Labour Party member.

Our Euro Constituency

Our Euro Constituency

The next European Parliament elections will be next summer (the exact date hasn’t been set yet). All MEPs, all over Europe will be up for election for a fixed 5-year term. There are about 750 MEPs in total and, at the moment, there are 10 MEPs in the South East of England. I think the exact final numbers have yet to be decided.

MEPs are elected using proportional representation. Each party has a list of candidates and they are allocated a number of MEPs proportional to the percentage of votes they receive within the constituency. This is called the D’Hondt method.

This means that the first candidate on each list is extremely likely to be elected and the 10th one will not be, barring North Korea-like voting patterns. The order of candidates on the list is therefore crucial.

The last time these elections were contested was 2009, the nadir of Labour’s opinion polling. For this reason, we only have one MEP at the moment, Peter Skinner. Peter is standing down this time so, since he is a male MEP, we will be selecting a female candidate in top spot.

As an aside, I wholeheartedly agree with the party’s policy of trying to increase the number of women MEPs and MPs. Hopefully in years to come these measures, including all women shortlists, will not be necessary but for now they are essential.

Since the first candidate will be female, the second on the list will be male, the third female, etc. Labour members (who have been members since the start of the year) will soon receive two ballot papers to vote to decide the order of the 5 female and 5 male candidates. You can order the candidates 1,2,3, etc on each ballot paper. You don’t have to put a number beside all 5. For example if you just want to vote for one candidate, put a 1 beside their name and leave the rest blank. Voting will be online or by post.

Why is this important?

The turnout in Euro elections is very low and extremists try to take advantage of this. In 2009, Nigel Farage was elected as one of our MEPs. He hardly ever turns up but claims huge allowances and uses it as a platform for his xenophobic and homophobic views. Another of our MEPs is the Tory Daniel Hannan who wants to abolish the NHS. We need strong candidates to counter these characters.

Meet the candidates

There is a hustings event for Labour members in Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire this Sunday, 2 June, so we can meet all 10 candidates. It starts with an informal snack lunch at 12.30pm in Owen House, Heathside Crescent, Woking GU22 7AG. The candidates will each speak at 1.30pm then there will be a question and answer session.

There is a multi-storey car park across the road and it is very close to Woking railway station.

The candidates are (in alphabetical order):

Phil Bloomer

Anneliese Dodds

John Howarth

Maggie Hughes

Karen Landles

Farah Nazeer

Del Singh

James Swindlehurst

James Watkins

Emily Westley

They are all excellent candidates and I’m going to campaign enthusiastically for the Euro elections regardless of what order they appear on our list. It’s going to be a really tough decision to place them in order on my selection ballot paper.

Regular readers might remember I met Emily Westley while campaigning at the Eastleigh by-election. Emily also helped out in Surrey Heath during the county council elections so I know how committed to helping local Labour parties she is. I have endorsed Emily on her website and I will vote for her first on the female ballot. I’ve also been delivering her leaflets to local party members.

I haven’t decided who to endorse on the male list yet but I was very impressed by James Watkins when he phoned me to chat about our campaigns and priorities in Surrey. Also, Anneliese Dodds sent me a very persuasive letter through the post and I think I’ll vote for her second on the female list.

I’ve had emails from the other candidates and I’m keeping them to reread to prepare for the hustings. I like to receive these emails although I have heard other members complain about them. I enjoy being part of the electorate, especially when all the candidates say things I agree with. Like all voters, to a certain extent I favour candidates who promise to help me. It sounds selfish but small CLPs need help and support (and guidance) from experienced activists like all ten of these candidates.

I’m looking forward to the hustings in Woking and I’ll try to keep a reasonably open mind about who I’m going to vote for until then. See you all there!

Windlesham Fête 8 June 2013 – Can You Help?


fete

Surrey Heath Site Allocations Consultation Closes 26 May


It’s a tricky problem: everyone accepts we need more housing in this country, but nobody seems to want it built near them. Big builders are sitting on huge land banks but they won’t build the houses we all need there because they want to keep prices high. Government is now offering to back people’s mortgages so that demand is pumped up which might entice the developers to build more. What developers really want is to build on greenfield sites in the countryside rather than brownfield, previously developed sites.bagshot exhibition

Our borough council, Surrey Heath, is asking the public where new housing could be built. They have come up with some suggestions. Their website is here. They have also run some public exhibitions. I attended the Bagshot and Windlesham exhibitions and chatted to officers and councillors about their proposals, and members of the public about all sorts of issues.

SHBC leafleted houses in the borough asking people to come to the exhibitions and make their views known. Perhaps the council should consider more engagement exercises like this. They could consider combining it with other council functions and other layers of local government like the county council and police.

Page 1 and page 2 of SHBC leaflet.

The number of new homes planned for each area

The number of new homes planned for each area

 

I was particularly interested in the sites planned for Windlesham:

Windlesham sites

 

Windlesham map1

 

Heathpark Woods is planned as a new housing site

Heathpark Woods is planned as a new housing site

I think some of the Heathpark Woods site is Green Belt and the planning officer told me that there are no plans to remove any land from Green Belt in Surrey Heath. Here is my submission to the consultation on this site:

I would not like to see site H/WIN/6, Land East of Heathpark Drive allocated for two main reasons.

Firstly, developing here would be harmful to the natural environment. This would be in conflict with the NPPF. The site contains flora and fauna which enhance the area and it provides vital green space for the settlement of Windlesham.

Secondly, and in common with H/WIN/9, there is a shortage of local amenities and infrastructure. The doctors’ surgery in Windlesham closed last year and residents struggle to access other surgeries. The public transport connections to Windlesham are the worst of any nearby settlement. I believe that before any significant new housing is built here the deficiency in local services and retail should be addressed. Provision for new retailers and community buildings should be included in any development. Also, the local bus service should be improved by increasing frequencies before new homes are built.

Another part of the consultation covers provision of travellers’ sites. SHBC should have provisioned 19 new pitches between 2006 and 2011. They didn’t allocate any. This means that new unauthorised travellers’ sites have a defence in court against being removed. They can now apply for planning permission on this basis. This is bad for both the traveller and non-traveller communities. I wrote the following submission to the consultation on this:

The council should choose option 2 and allocate small travellers’ sites across the borough. The current policy of doing nothing risks planning permission being granted for travellers’ sites in inappropriate, unplanned areas. The existing sites are all in the eastern part of the borough. Sites should be spread throughout the borough.

Under-provisioning of travellers’ sites is bad for the traveller and non-traveller communities and is a failure by the council in its duty. Travellers suffer unsuitable accommodation and face uncertainties about whether they will be allowed to stay. This has a negative effect on families and children. Non-travellers fear that unauthorised sites will become permanent due to the lack of provision. This could lead to loss of Green Belt land and pressure to approve other inappropriate uses of such land to prevent travellers’ sites from appearing. For example, Willow Farm in Chobham might become a highly unsuitable mansion because residents are worried about its potential to be used as a new unauthorised travellers’ site. This breeds resentment between the traveller and non-traveller communities and leads to prejudice and discrimination.

The consultation closes tomorrow at midnight, so if you want to have your say, you’ll have to be quick!

Update 4 June:

20130604-121335.jpg

M3 Motorway Consultation Ends 24 May


The Highways Agency has a plan to increase the capacity of the M3 on the section passing Windlesham. As I wrote before, I agree with the ‘Managed Motorway’ plan in principle but I have some reservations.

The consultation period ends on 24 May, so you only have a week left to make your views known. Here is the latest reply I have received from the Highways Agency. The webpage for the project is here

They say that there will be ‘public exhibitions’ next month. I’ll look out for these and post details here when available.

If you live in Windlesham, you will probably have had the Windlesham Society leaflet through your letter box about the consultation. For anyone who has missed it, here it is:

Leaflet published by the Windlesham Society

Leaflet published by the Windlesham Society

Latest News on Windlesham Field of Remembrance


Tonight was my first meeting of the committee of the Windlesham Field of Remembrance. I have written about this before. It was great to meet the team who run such an important part of our village and hear about the progress towards realising the new pavilion. I was struck by how interconnected the voluntary organisations in Windlesham and beyond are. I am the Windlesham Society representative on the committee and other members represented other groups too.

I had a bit of catching up to do on current issues affecting the Field but I could see the committee give huge amounts of their time and effort to it. I hope I can contribute as an individual and also by leveraging the joint efforts of other organisations I’m involved in.

The plans for the pavilion are very impressive and fundraising is about 20% complete. This is based on an estimate of the total cost which could come down. Hopefully more donors will come forward, large and small, and building could start soon. There are a few administrative issues to tie up first, which should be easy to resolve.

Although vandalism is at a historic low, some of the Field’s banners were recently vandalised. These will be fixed and we’ll move on. The other negative issue was the sheer quantity of dog faeces to be dealt with. The committee spends £2,500 per year to maintain the dog poo bins (I was relieved to hear collecting it is not a duty of new committee members). However, a few dog owners still allow their pets to foul on the open field. This is where children play football and letting dogs expel excrement there is really anti-social. We discussed various methods of encouraging pet owners to be more responsible. I’ve never owned a dog so I don’t really know what would motivate people to collect up their dog’s poo and dispose of it appropriately. Maybe I’ll ask the Windlesham vets the next time I see them for suggestions.

Anyway, fundraising is progressing well and we will be at Waitrose on, I think, 20 July, and of course the Windlesham Fete on 8 June.

The Windlesham Field of Remembrance is a registered charity, so if you donate (please donate!) you can use gift aid to add 25%.

It’s great to be involved in another community group. I’m encouraged by the mutual support these groups can give each other and I’m looking forward to helping out however I can.

Who Was That Masked Man (or Woman)?


For the last couple of years Surrey Heath, and Lightwater in particular, has had a participant in local political debate who has given a whole new perspective. The anonymous blogger Left of Lightwater has been a uniquely well-informed and articulate honest-broker on local issues. He (or she) recently announced that they will be leaving our area and, due to their new job, will be unable to opine on the blog or twitter any more.

I feel sad about this and I’m sure I’m not alone. However, nothing lasts forever and people move on in life. LoL has impressed (nearly) everyone by writing so credibly and relevantly and maintaining grace under fire. It is no surprise that promotion and opportunity beckons. I’m pleased for her (or him) and, although I’ll miss them very much, I wish them the best for the future.

It’s the end of an era and rather than feeling sad, we should remember what we’ve had and use what we’ve learned.

Social medium with a message

I’ve learned from Left of Lightwater that social media can be used to communicate a coherent message and have a conversation about important issues. Like many people, I had previously considered blogs and twitter to be dominated by ill-mannered ranters with nothing worth listening to. This is not correct. There are lots of blogs and tweeters and many of them are worth reading, LoL was a prime example, providing a knowledgeable and readable take on local and ideological subjects. We didn’t always agree but we shared the same terms of reference and could persuade each other to change our minds, sometimes.

There are a few other bloggers and tweeters locally who engage in lively, informed ideological discussions but, outside the Surrey Heath Labour Party, they are very rare (I’ll think of one in a moment, I’m sure). The lesson from LoL is that everyone should be able to do this nowadays. You don’t need a full ideology, if you believe in something, anything, please tell us about it! I know local council officers could inform our debates and I wish that some way could be found for them to participate. They would definitely be worth reading.

“I don’t care what you believe in – just believe it.” – Shepherd Book, Serenity

I’m Spartacus

This isn’t an obituary. Left of Lightwater is not dead. His (or her) spirit lives on but we need people to step up and tell us what they think and convince us with their arguments and points of view.

You don’t have to live in Lightwater, or be a lefty, to step forward. It’s easy to start a blog, just type WordPress into Google. You can even remain anonymous. The tricky bit is writing something interesting to others. If you are reading this, you obviously think about what is going on around you. Surrey Heath needs you!

Don’t let them take the Left out of Lightwater. In memory of this chapter in our political debate, let’s see some more people start up blogs and tackle local and national issues in our borough. You’ve got it in you and we’re waiting to hear from you.

So long, and thanks for all the blogs

So, Left of Lightwater, whoever you are, thank you for guiding us through the last two years of issues, for advising and encouraging us to step up and make a difference. From everyone who enjoyed your blog in Surrey Heath, good luck and clear skies for your next journey. We’ll miss you, man (or woman).

Farewell. 

 

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