It has been a busy month given it has been Christmas.
The big news is the motion on speed limits was finally discussed, voted on, and was passed unanimously, having been bumped off the end of 3 previous meetings. Given the outcome, it was a surprisingly long and argumentative debate, largely because the Ashfield Independents proposed an amendment calling for increased police enforcement in the face of the police cuts since 2010. Whilst laudable, this amendment would have jeopardised the main motion, and the rare chance of actually getting something done. We had been offered cross party support for this motion by the Tories, if we altered the original motion to call on the council to look into the feasibility of 20 mph limits. It was disappointing that when Cllr Clarke seconded the motion he stressed this word so much that you might have thought he was opposed the motion. However I know everyone does understand the importance of this issue and I trust that this motion will lead to a real change. Most importantly the motion also called on the council to look at road design to reduce speed, and I strongly believe that this is the way to ensure speed limits are adhered to.
The longer I am a councillor the more I (as a driver) realise just how much we have ceded to the car. Some people are unreasonably upset by changes to the highway-code, but why is it any more selfish for a bike than a car to take a whole lane in a built up area? Clearly it is good to be considerate but we all pay for the roads through general tax and council tax. Right now I am infuriated by the consequence of ill thought out legislation passed in 2020 which means that it is not possible to put in simple painted bike lanes any more. The unintended but predictable consequence of this is that it is now almost impossible to put a cycle lane anywhere someone actually needs it, as most congested roads are too narrow and there is not enough money for the major redesigns that would be required.
The other motion passed at the County meeting was a motion from the Tories on poor nutrition in Nottinghamshire. This is something I have had a long interest in professionally (we use MRI to see how different food stuffs are handled by the gastrointestinal tract and so how they affect how full you feel after eating.. the short summary is ‘eat soup’!). The motion instructs the council work out how to ‘actively engage with residents’ on the issue, and make Nottinghamshire a “Healthy Food Sustainable Shire”. This is all well and good but right now we know that shamefully the main barrier to good nutrition is a lack of money to buy nutritious food, and a lack of time to spend preparing meals. Sadly this will only get worse in the next few months. I didn’t initially like Food Banks as people lose dignity and agency by having to take charity and without their own money to spend- but now unfortunately we have no choice but to support food banks if our government won’t look after the population.
At that meeting I also presented a petition from local residents who have been affected by the new gates that have been installed around the City Ground to prevent cars being used as terrorist weapons near the club. It is causing a huge amount of inconvenience and frustration to people who have lived next to the ground for years and would never choose to go out around the time of a match unless it was essential. One problem seems to be identifying who is actually responsible between the football club, police and County Council. This highlights the need for publicly accountable control of the public realm. I hope a solution to this problem is found soon.
There has been a spate of break-ins to cars, sheds and occasionally houses in West Bridgford. This is obviously unsettling and upsetting. I arranged for the local PC to come out to talk to residents in Abbey Park this week. He was really impressive and thoughtful, and he talked about the ways that poverty and drugs lead to crime. He had some good suggestions, in particular that if we register property with immobilise.com then not only are we more likely to get stuff back but we also reduce the value of theft in an area. One thing the PC said was that the police can no longer attend every break in. They only attend if either they think they will be able to gather evidence or if they think the complainant is vulnerable. I had a break in about 7 years ago and the police came that night and the following day. I think it is safe to assume that this is one of the results of cuts to the policing service over the last 10 years.
In other news…
The County was very concerned about lack of care staff over Christmas, so much so that they called for volunteers to provide help if required. In the end they made it through with their own staff doing more, but this just goes to show how precarious the care system is, and how much we have undervalued and often under-respected professional care staff. I think it is time to take a lot of care back into Council control to ensure accountability, provide a career path for staff, and enable a more rational organization of provision. A friend in the Labour Party is giving me information on alternative models for care provision across the UK. I’m also going to start arguing for local under-the-pavement recycling hubs, since many terraced streets simply cannot cope with too many recycling bins. It would be sensible if these were considered when roadside electric charging is installed.
Finally Partygate- yawn. I think this whole circus about parties is a massive distraction from the damage being done to our country by this government. Not only are they presiding over a large fraction of the population hurtling into poverty, but they are failing to tackle the climate crisis and they are destroying the basic pillars of our democratic systems and rule of law. I am astonished how major organizations are unwilling to stand up to the smallest pressure from far right Tories (e.g. the BBC, or the over turning of health and safety systems to avoid making people wear masks in crowded university lecture theatres). If we don’t stand up and be counted now, what will happen in the future?