It has been a very busy autumn in West Bridgford.
When I was elected and first went into County Hall, I have to admit I was surprised by the amount of space and how well equipped the offices were. I was also shocked that in 33 years of living in Nottingham, I had only once been in the building. Apparently in years gone by Christmas Markets with a Santa’s Groto, and It’s a Knockout were held in the building or in the grounds. Why is this no longer happening? It doesn’t have to be like this. Last week I did host a group from West Bridgford Junior School at County Hall (they had some great questions which I can take up with officers, and they managed the microphone system much better than the councillors!)
This majestic building was paid for by the people of Nottinghamshire, belongs to the people of Nottinghamshire, and should be available to the people of Nottinghamshire. Given its location right next to two internationally famous sporting venues and close to a couple of others, it really should be a prime location for hotel and conference facilities which could enable access to the public through events like Christmas Markets, coexist with key council activities, and also providing an income stream. Clearly I’m biased as my division includes County Hall but since it has excellent public transport and road connections, many councillors who live a long way off don’t mind coming to County Hall.
So, it is a bit of a shock that following a fire in the Tory councillors’ corridor in the summer, apparently out of the blue the Tories have decided to sell it off to developers, for flats. I stood in for another Labour councillor at a meeting that was apparently reviewing all the Council’s buildings and was stunned to find out that not only have the decided to sell County Hall but they have already been in discussion with developers to get outline plans and budgets.
They say they don’t need the space for staff now that people are working from home. I think that this is a rather premature conclusion, given we do not know how young staff will integrate and new staff will train when lots of people are working remotely, and in any case although it may be greener not to drive to work, it is also not green to be heating everyone’s house (at least until we improve our housing stock). Importantly, it really isn’t clear to me that the money that will be raised by the sale will actually be enough to pay for the extra building required at the new building at Top Wighay. And although finance isn’t my thing, but is this really the time to be selling property? Id have thought it would be better to wait for the market to improve.
I certainly agree that there is room for new housing next to the main building at County Hall; I certainly agree that County Hall should be better used (particularly by the general public); but once the family silver is sold off it is gone for good. This feels like a case of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
Most people know that the canal running through Gamston and Lady Bay to the Trent at the City Ground, was complete dry for several weeks in the summer, which had bad consequences, including distressing incidents for the wild life. Working with a resident, I arranged a public meeting which was so well attended we had to then arrange another meeting in a bigger venue. The Canal and River Trust, the Grantham Canal Society and other organizations came along and we now understand that the primary problem is likely to be the redirection of waste water to a new treatment plant near Cotgrave. This was done to reduce pollutants in the outflow but has had the unintended consequence of reducing our water flow. Fortunately, with the recent rain the canal has filled; unfortunately it would appear it might now be overtopping at the north end but further work is ongoing to try to get to the bottom of that.
We are now trying to set up a local group to take a comprehensive approach to managing the stretch of the canal running along side LadyBay, working with the Friends of Lady Bay Canal Association, the Grantham Canal Society and the Canal and River Trust. If you are interested in taking a role in leading this group (anything from working party coordinator to treasurer) please do get in touch.
As you will have probably gathered, we are likely to lose some of our fire service at both London Road and West Bridgford Fire Stations due to a lack of funding from central government- this isn’t a general problem across the UK: Nottinghamshire has one of the worst funding settlements in the country. Unfortunately, the local Tories decided that rather than working together to try to do the best for our local communities, they would instead put out a leaflet in West Bridgford blaming the Labour Party (as we control the Fire Authority).
We put out our own leaflet across virtually all of West Bridgford, asking people to sign a petition and to respond to the fire authority consultation and attend a public meeting that we held last week at which a Fire Fighter spoke and explained how dangerous the situation was for them. I would like thank the many people who helped delivered 1000s of leaflets over a very short period of time. The details of what is going on are explained in the preamble to this petition.
The petition was signed by 1133 people and so I presented it to Full Council this week. At the same time, we and other councillors asked questions of the leader of the Fire Authority, and you can listen to the robust explanation of what is going 17 minutes into the recording of the council meeting.
We need to maintain the pressure to keep our service: respond to the Fire Authority’s consultation and write to our MP to demand a fair share for Nottinghamshire, so the Authority doesn’t need to balance one community against another.
Fundamentally the government is putting the lives of residents and fire fighters at risk: it is failing in its primary duty to protect its citizens.
Before the council meeting this week, the matter of mileage paid to care workers was highlighted to me. The problem is that the companies who deliver care for the council pay their staff much less mileage than the County pays its own staff. These care workers are some of the least well-paid members of society and we are asking them effectively to subsidise council tax (or companies’ profits). Mike Pringle asked a question about this at full council (43 minutes) and the person who responded was squirming, as they clearly knew the situation was wrong. I’m not an expert at procurement but I would have thought this should have been detailed in the tender for a company to run the service.
As you probably know, Notts County Council are consulting on setting up an East Midlands Mayoral Authority. I have always believed that decisions should be made as locally as possible, so I am broadly in support of the principle of devolution. It would be great to have an integrated transport system for a region, or a locally-designed adult education sector. However, I am sceptical about the details of this plan. First we are told we must accept it because it will be bringing in so much money over the next 30 years, but in fact it will only bring in about £17 per head per year, (assuming that future governments don’t renege on promises made now) and given the historical under-funding of the East Midlands compared to other regions we should have been given that money without strings attached.
But there are other issues, Clearly the name is odd: is there an expectation that Leicestershire or Lincolnshire will join in the future? How will the new authority link to other organizations like the EMDC, the Freeport and the enterprise zones? We risk having an alphabet soup of competing groups trying to run things locally. (I am opposed to the Freeport: we want good jobs and good employers – if employers need support it should be more targeted).
Then there is the structure. In London there is a directly elected assembly who provide direct democratic representation and accountability. In the East Midlands we will have one mayor who supported by a small cabal of county, city and borough leaders. How will these be selected? Without involving all boroughs directly, the system seems to be being set up to cause division. Importantly, we have been assured that the Mayor won’t raise a precept on the Council Tax, but this isn’t what the bill says and it seems likely that they will want to raise money directly in the future.
In the meantime, in West Bridgford we have a democratic deficit. In contrast to the rest of Rushcliffe which has Parish Councils, we do not have a Town Council.
This may seem like yet another unnecessary layer of government, until you realise that we already pay a Special Levy to run things in West Bridgford but instead of deciding how we spend it, it is decided for us by a committee of Rushcliffe Borough council. This committee has the political make up reflecting the whole council (not West Bridgford which is dominated by Labour, Green and Liberal democrat councillors) and which is chaired by a Tory councillor who does even not live in West Bridgford himself. Last week that committee met at 4 pm, which is particularly annoying as, in contrast to many of the other councillors, many of the West Bridgford Councillors have jobs. I could only join by Teams from 5pm. That wasn’t too late for me to realise that it is really not clear that our money is being spent on the things we want.
For instance, the WB Special Levy pays for the Christmas Lights in central WB. It is great that the turning-on last week was clearly enjoyed by people from the City and the whole of the Borough but financial benefits to business will benefit the whole borough in rates income. Furthermore, why can’t we have lights at the Melton Road or Abbey Road shops? It seems to be too late for this year, but I hope to arrange those next year, though it may need to come from my Councillor’s funds, which will take money from the other possible good causes.
There are other things we miss out on as we don’t have a council. I am taking every opportunity to promote the residents’ associations, so that, for instance, both Lady Bay and Abbey Park are now involved in the County Lengthsman scheme allowing them to be paid to undertake local ground maintenance in the way they want locally, but other parts of West Bridgford are unable to benefit from this opportunity and it is all a bit ad hoc.
And then there is planning. I hope that one day we will be able to establish a Neighbourhood Plan as the Local Plan is designed for the whole Borough and in my opinion, it doesn’t fulfil the needs of the urban region.
Meanwhile Rushcliffe Borough Council got money for Street Wardens (private security guards) to reduce antisocial behaviour in West Bridgford but didn’t bother to inform or consult the local councillors.
If we had been consulted we might have said we don’t want street wardens, we want traffic wardens, enforcing parking and driving restrictions.
It is great that Nottingham Forest are in the Premier League and that they started to get into their stride as they approached the break in the season, but we have to acknowledge that the traffic is causing considerable problems for residents.
The West Bridgford Local Area Forum had a meeting to discuss possible solutions, but NFFC didn’t send any representatives and the Cabinet member for Transport didn’t accept the invitation either.
It isn’t just the fact that cars are parked everywhere, with some rich people treating fines as parking charges, but also that the road network is brought to a standstill disrupting bus services and traffic. We need stewards managing pedestrians, incentives to use Park and Ride and public transport, and ultimately for cars to be towed away.
I asked a question about it at full council (47 mins in) which produced an unsatisfactory answer. I now plan to do another petition on this for the next council. We need to keep the pressure on NFFC and NottsCC to do something about this now, not sometime in the future.
Well thank you if you made it this far!
2 thoughts on “What’s been happening November 2022”
Thanks for the update. Very informative. I would very much welcome increased parking enforcement and the establishment of LTNs in WB.
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Look out for a petition, coming soon