On the first of this month I posted my Pinch and a Punch post as I do and mentioned the recent lack of posts on our local councillors blogs; “local councillors who used to blog regularly and about local issues just don’t anymore.”
I don’t really know about anyone else, but I find it very difficult to work out what is going on within our local government, the press releases from the council don’t usually convey very much, those from the Labour group aren’t balanced with ones from the conservative group. Indeed the only press release I have ever received from the Conservative group was last week, saying that a local councillor had resigned the Conservative whip. A message that in itself is in a kind of code that suggests a group of people rather whipped up with their own jargon and yes I do know what they mean, but frankly as this is the only message from this group since the new cabinet was formed, it hardly reflects an attitude of wanting to explain what they are doing locally to govern us.
I suppose there is an argument here that, if we really want to know what’s going on within our local government, we should read the massive amount of official documentation that they produce. This is however a bit of a “wood from the trees” situation, what concerns me more is that many things, that from the outside seem rather strange or even bizarre, occur locally that seem to probably emanate from local government and yet explanation, even when one asks is pretty thin on the ground.
Recently here in Ramsgate, for instance we have had some problems with the drains, normally one assumes that it is only in very underdeveloped countries that sewage gets where sewage shouldn’t be and I would suppose that most people assume that local government look after all the mysterious plumbing of the place, or at the very least have something to say to the people who do. There is also the business with large local developments, plans appear, if you know where to look, often the development doesn’t appear when we expect or sometimes even the size we expect, sometimes the development is cancelled, although often one only finds out In a random way. Another example of what I mean is the large amount of council owned properties, either that have been empty for years or where some sort of activity is occurring. The simple information i.e. what is going on just isn’t forthcoming, rumour abounds, bizarre things happen, like Westcliff hall appearing in a residential auction, work starts like the pavilion although what is actually going to be achieved in terms of a usable building remains a mystery.
What is indeed very difficult to find out, from the outside, is what the council are up to, what they are doing on our behalf. An example of this relates to where I work and trade, twenty three years ago I moved here to what was a busy trading street, since then there have been good and bad economic times, Conservative and Labour government at national and local level, much of what were the shops that formed this busy trading street, have turned into social housing or private landlord residential conversions and many of these conversions don’t seem to have produced good and desirable residences. Much of what is left of the shopping part of the street has been fragmented by conversions. Was this and is it part of some undisclosed plan, or has it all happened by accident, by this I mean do the council intend the whole street to become residential and if so why don’t they say, or do they intend the street to return to being a busy trading street and if so why do they have some sort of plan to achieve this. This isn’t an issue of money as the whole street pavements and road have been completely re-laid twice since I have been here. Going from a busy two way through road, to a one-way street that leads nowhere much, but the plans for pedestrianisation vanished along the way and the cramped pavements needed for the two way road remain. In fact despite all of the money spent, broken, uneven and potholed is what we have.
So what of these councillors blogs, well one has come up with a post that seems for the most part to say that another councillor posted a comment on his blog, over a month ago, and that he doesn’t like it. See http://marknottingham.blogspot.com/ in amongst this is a problem about building on some land that the local children play football on. Something that could be important and I suppose this is a “could” because it begs the question, where will they play football if the land is built on? If the answer is in your street, through your window, against your car, you may think it very important.
Reading the post does not inspire much confidence on local government. Further to that is the obvious thought why in public and are we the public being asked to make some sort of judgment here?
Another councillor has put up a post http://birchington.blogspot.com/2010/09/sunday-politics.html and reading the local code, mostly in that it part of it relates to the same bit of land that local children play football on, one supposes the two posts are probably related. In this case social housing is mentioned. Now when I hear the phrase “social housing” particularly in conjunction with urban areas of Thanet, my ears prick up. Just where I live there is a lot of social housing and this seems to have been misused to some extent as a tool of “social engineering” you have to live in the middle of this Brave New World to really appreciate it.
Here for instance there is nowhere for the older children to play football, apart from in the street, or the council flats garage area that has steel garage doors, something that makes a considerable noise when struck by a football.
Of course social engineering by moving tenants of a type into one small area may be some sort of solution, but if this happens then appropriate support needs to be moved in with them.
Of course the problems on our large housing estates need to be solved and one way of solving these problems is to move out the people causing the problems, I gather this has worked very well in Newington for instance where the crime rate has dropped like a stone. The problem though remains that the people still have to be housed, commercially moving the problems to the town centres may not make much sense, but then this rather comes down to what aspirations local government has for its town centres. At the moment they seem to be using the American model, an out of town shopping mall surrounded by deserted town centres, this may all be part of the plan.
Anyway back to the small green space, which is what I think these two blog posts is about, after all what councillor A said about councillor B and even the possible unsavoury activities of group of councillors X, for most of us pales into insignificance against issues like will our living room, shop, window be the next goal.
Anyway here is this argument about a local square and where the development should or shouldn’t be, mixed up with what councillor A said about councillor B and frankly I don’t understand who is in the right or the wrong or even if they are all somewhere in the middle.
Perhaps some pictures would help, or perhaps a map would be better, pictures of the green space and Dalby Square I mean, not the councillor,s a map though perhaps of Dalby Square, probably not one of where the social housing is and where the councillors live.
Oh and there were some pictures of Ramsgate today, se http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/910/id3.htm work on the Pav something happening on the Pleasurama site and more of the building in Kent Terrace that shorter that expected.