Cllr Chris Ash, Liberal Party: Don’t just take the bag of sweeties

Cllr Chris Ash

Cllr Chris Ash

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Time for more ramblings from this grumpy old man, not of course that I see myself as old and I don’t mean to be grumpy.

From my experience on planning committee I know only too well that you can only please some of the people some of the time, the rest won’t like your views or comments. Committee members carefully weigh up the pros and cons between what most people would like and what is permitted in planning law. Putting the two together is never easy (well for me anyway).

We have to accept that government puts a lot of pressure on local councils to cover key issues and abide by rules made in Westminster .

However I do feel that our leaders on the top table could stand their ground on our behalf and sometimes seem a little to eager to accept the bag of sweeties that the government have dangled in front of us.

Two topics currently in the local news spring to mind.

The first is the lamentable lack of good quality homes to rent. This does not entirely rest within the council’s blame. There was a time when councils could build homes. Then there was Margret Thatcher and the policy to sell council properties to tenants. Don’t get me wrong I have no issue with councils giving a helping hand to those that who wish to buy their own homes. The problem was and still is that the council or housing association built homes sold are no longer available at rents that folk can afford. The idea of the council sub letting from a private landlord in Parnwell to provide temporary housing is a poor substitute for building more homes but at first look better than nothing.

However reports suggest that current tenants are to be evicted – will they then be rehoused in the same properties the council is renting as a quick fix for homeless families?

The Blair government pushed councils to part with housing stock . A policy readily embraced by the local Tory administration and also those that followed Tony Blair’s government in Westminster. The few of us that objected locally were firmly told our stance was jeopardising future housing developments and improvements . (We now hear the same over devolution.) They even sent somebody up from the then Office of the Deputy Prime Minster in London to give the few of us who did not support the idea a telling off. If I recall Charles Swift in no uncertain terms told the representative to go back to the ministry and tell them they were bunch of un-nice people (or something similar). I think the system of licensing landlords is a step in the right direction . It is though far from perfect and there are national government rules restricting what can and cannot be covered. One for our local MPs to address in the Commons perhaps?

Point two is academies , another Blair policy taken up by both the previous coalition and current Tory government. As I see it schools have been passed over to private companies to run these academies. Most of these companies are not based locally and the top management will, I suspect, have no hands-on understanding of local problems . In good times the government will say haven’t we done well; in bad it will – together with the press – chastise councils. Yet the amount of control councils have over these organisations is very limited. I am told that only firm action can be taken when things have become pretty bad. By that time the council would have been expected to have stepped in sooner – if only they could. Another one for our MPs to look at I think.

John Mansfield School was an early victim and in spite of the efforts of local people , councillors and the board of governors it became part of the gargantuan Thomas Deacon academy. Having lost that round we all fought on to retain the facilities and we have the John Mansfield Centre. When it comes to education I am reminded of Ray Pobgee’s very last words “it’s a sad, sad story “ and indeed it is .

I kind of feel sorry for those working hard to make sense of it all.

But we must never give up on trying to improve things and trying to does make us a bit grumpy but we should not resort to personal attacks and grievances nor give up hope of a better world.