Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Minister for Europe has not read all of the Lisbon treaty

I'm sorry but I couldn't resist highlighting this.....

Caroline Flint, the Minister for Europe, made a stunning admission in the House of Commons yesterday - that she has not read the Lisbon Treaty. During a European Committee session, the following exchange (not yet online) took place between the Minister and Mark Francois, her Conservative shadow:

Mr Francois: "Given that the treaty is integral to the documents we are debating this afternoon, I am a little surprised at the continuing vagueness of the Minister's answer. This is a really simple question: has the Minister read the elements of the Lisbon treaty that relate to defence?"

Caroline Flint: "I have read some of it but not all of it."

Mr Francois: "What!"

Caroline Flint: "I have been briefed on some of it."

Mr Francois: "That is an extraordinary answer. The Minister for Europe has not read all of the Lisbon treaty. That is an absolutely extraordinary revelation. It is a bit like the Irish Prime Minister saying that he had not read it before the referendum. That is an incredible answer. If she is Minister for Europe, why has she not read the treaty?"

Monday, March 30, 2009

Jamie Oliveoil recipe for Agricultural Fudge

After a number of comments from farming friends I would just like to clarify my thoughts on this:

This You Tube video was produced by the Taxpayers’ Alliance in support of a report they produced on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The report suggests the policy has led to higher food prices, taxes and costly EU red tape but warns it is doing little to help British farmers and that the main recipients of CAP money are large corporations and Government bodies.

The issues it raises are important ones but what is not dealt with here (and this is important) is the disparity between farmgate and retail prices in the UK, with falling farmgate prices rarely passed on by processors and retailers to shoppers. In fact we find ourselves in the ludicrous position where farmers as ‘the supplier’ have to stand the cost of some special offers seen by supermarkets as loss leaders for other product lines.

It should also be noted that the video fails to mention the recent reforms of the CAP. These broke the link between support payments and food production and as a result the Single Farm Payment (SFP) is now made to farmers in return for sound environmental and land management practices. The sad thing is that the return for farmers from the marketplace is such that to a greater or lesser extent they are still reliant on their SFP to subsidise food production.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Enforcement Action means unsightly area in Newport must now be tidied

The situation regarding the condition of the land known as Land East of 3 Canal Side West in Newport (just behind the play area) is coming to an end, with successful enforcement action through the courts having been taken against the owner.

The owner has been to subject of many complaints from residents for well over a year now. The East Riding of Yorkshire Council carried out an investigation, and agreed with residents that the land was in such a state as to be damaging to the amenity of the area.

Requests were made to the owner of the land to have the land tidied, but this did not happen. A Waste Land Notice under s215 of the Town and Country Planning Acts was therefore served on the 9 April 2008 and gave until the 11 June 2008 to comply with the notice by tidying the land.

Unfortunately the notice was not complied with and the owner made an Appeal to the Goole Magistrates Court. The owner's appeal was rejected at the Goole Magistrates Court on the 3 March 2009 and he was ordered to pay Costs of £3,449.50 The notice now takes effect on the 1 April 2009 and the land must be tidied by the 1 May 2009.

Hopefully this will send out a clear message to those individuals who persist with wanton acts of selfishness in allowing gardens and land in general to become eyesores, that damage the amenity of our communities.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Review of Car Parking Charges
in the East Riding of Yorkshire

A series of roadshows are taking place across the East Riding in the next few weeks on the subject of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council Parking Review Panel's proposals for new car parking car parking arrangements. The roadshows will be drop-in sessions, where people can view the proposals, ask questions and give comments.

All roadshows run between 4.30 and 7pm and are to be held as follows:

Thursday 2nd April @ Memorial Hall, Beverley.

Tuesday 7th April @ The Bell Hotel, Driffield

Monday 27th April @ Goole Leisure Centre

Thursday 30th @ Royal Spa, Bridlington

Monday 11th May @ Hornsea Secondary School

Thursday 14th May @ South Holderness Tech College, Preston

Monday 18th May @ Hessle Town Hall

Tuesday 21st May @ Pocklington Rugby Club

Thursday 11th June @ Cottingham Civic Hall

Many people have raised the issue of the proposed changes to car parking charges across the East Riding. I can see the pro's and the con's and have yet to decide which way I will vote when the vote comes to the Full Council. My decision, along with that of many fellow Councilors will only be made when we've seen the results of the consultation, therefore I encourage as many of you as possible to give your views.

It's not just the Police working on 'Crime and Disorder' issues in Howden and Howdenshire

One of my roles is to chair the Howden & Howdenshire Police and Partners Community Forum (PPCF), and we recently held the spring meeting in North Cave. The East Riding Safer and Stronger Communities Action Group (SSCAG) also attended; this group involves the Police, Fire and Rescue Service, the NHS, the Police Authority and various Council-led teams dealing with areas such as crime and disorder reduction, anti-social behaviour, domestic violence, youth offending, substance abuse, licensing, and the Children’s Service. Coupled with these were the Neighbourhood Action Teams (NATs) and last but not least the Local Action Teams (LATs).

The meeting was a chance for all the different partner organisations working in the area of crime and disorder to meet with the public as one, giving the opportunity to listen to residents and demonstrate that it is just not about the Police working alone, it is about Police Officers working with the Local Authority, partner organisations and the community to address problems in this area.

"It is important that we have partnership working and that all have a common approach to solving the problems we face. It is equally important that we do not have organisations duplicating their efforts and separately trying to do similar things with the same target groups of people, as this is a very inefficient use of time and resources".

"The East Riding is very much at the forefront within the whole country of having partners sitting around a table, cooperating and exploring ways of working together, both at the senior management level and at the delivery level. It is the local coordination of service delivery that is important, and the Local Action Teams (LATs) are at the forefront of this".

The subjects of speeding traffic and parking, along with incidents of anti-social behaviour were again the main issues raised by the public. It was acknowledged the East Riding as a whole is a safe place in which to live and crime levels are low. The subject of Police visibility was also discussed with the message coming across that people would like to see a greater Police presence.

Divisional Commander Chief Supt Paul Davison talked about confidence in the Police, but most of the concerns raised were about minor things, which cause residents real problems. He sympathised with the problem, but was not sure if speed cameras were the answer. He took the opportunity to ask residents about the scale of the problems of speeding vehicles in Howdenshire villages. He referred to the debate on public confidence and satisfaction with the Police in general, and specifically regarding people who were charged for speeding. He explained that cameras did reduce fatalities, but also caught people who were maybe only one or two mph over the speed limit but otherwise law-abiding citizens. He was more concerned about anti-social use of vehicles on the road, suggesting that the police should be stopping speeding before it happened and targeting those who used the roads recklessly, not those who occasionally strayed marginally over the speed limit.

"As Chairman of the Police Authority Forum I welcome the Police and partners listening to what residents have to say, and how changes and improvements can be made. I am more of a critical friend to the Police, and as such I understand some of the problems they face, mainly from targets imposed by central Government. I feel they need to be unshackled from the bureaucracy they are burdened with and allowed to get on with the job of being policemen and policewomen. I am a great supporter of PCSOs who are probably the nearest thing we will get to a local Bobby; they have a positive influence particularly with young people. The PCSOs show respect to the young kids, and this respect is returned multiplied and does a lot to address the issues of anti-social behaviour".

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Holme On Spalding Moor Parish Plan held In high esteem

The year sees Parish Planning celebrating its 40th birthday, from those humble beginnings in 1969 we have seen some 4,000 town/parish plans completed or underway and action plans put in place.

A very good example of this is the Holme On Spalding Moor (HOSM) Parish Plan, completed in 2006, which is held in high esteem not only within the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) but also many other organisations. This was demonstrated when representatives from the Parish Plan Action Committee (PPAC) shared their experiences at the ERYC Corporate Issues Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and more recently at a Regional Empowerment Meeting that I also attended.

The Parish Plan is a valuable community resource for the PPAC, the Parish Council, and for all groups working in the community. I also find the Plan very useful for me as an ERY Councillor particularly on things like deciding how commuted sums (community contributions from developers) are spent.

As we have seen in HOSM - Parish planning can get residents involved in community and civic activities, tailor ERYC services and those of other organisations more towards local priorities, attract additional funding, and can result in more residents taking responsibility for tackling things rather than expecting others to sort things out. Importantly it ensures HOSM has a voice.
There are numerous actions and projects that have come to HOSM as a result of the Parish Plan and are testament to its success. Some of the examples are as follows:

* The plan showed that 58% of respondents wanted to see improved CCTV around the village. The Village Hall Committee responded and CCTV has been extended and improved around the village hall area. This has been further extended with the aid of a grant from the Police Property fund.

* 46% of residents wanted to see flashing vehicle-activated signs for limiting speed, these have now been erected in partnership with the Parish Council and ERYC.

* The significant issue of youth activities was very high on people’s lists of concerns. This has begun to be addressed in a number of ways and by different organisations and their projects, and including trips to the indoor climbing facility organised by the PPAC, the provision of the youth bus and drop-in centre provided by the Christian Fellowship working with other groups, the youth shelter project (a thing that I have been pushing for) is hopefully coming to fruition as the Parish Council and the Village Hall Committee work together to deliver.

* 32% of residents indicated a need for swimming. Rather than look to build a pool in the village, a free Swimming bus was provided with this project being led by members of the Youth Forum and supported by PPAC, with funding from the Children’s Fund.

* The issue of litter and signage around the Village Hall was also high on your list of priorities (55% of residents) and has been addressed by extra bins, litter picks by the Youth Club, extra signs in the Village Hall car park and notice boards provided by the Hall Committee.

* It is widely acknowledged that one of the major issues facing communities such as HOSM is rural transport – it is not that easy just to jump on a bus like in urban areas. This was identified by some 38% of you as a priority in the Parish Plan, and is being partly addressed by the PPAC with some of its members becoming volunteer drivers who regularly drive groups on trips to the cinema, theatre, and other events such as the Lincoln Christmas fair, as well as the community bus which runs weekly shopping trips to Market Weighton and Pocklington, (which are on average 80% full).

* The exciting news is that a new community bus is to be based in the village, so trips for young and old alike will continue and I thank the PPAC and others for their efforts in achieving this and I hope that its potential will be maximised.

There is a saying that “failing to plan is planning to fail” but this is certainly not the case with HOSM and I congratulate the PPAC, the Parish Council and all the other groups and organisations for embracing the Parish Planning process, but more importantly I hope all organisations can work together in partnership, to continue down the road of delivering the PARISH PLAN.

Copies of the Parish Plan are still available; please contact me if you require a copy.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Affordable Housing Provision in Rural Villages

One issue constantly being raised by residents is that of affordable housing. It is increasingly difficult for young people to find accommodation in rural villages because of both availability and cost.

At the present moment, East Riding of Yorkshire Council has 65 applications on the waiting list for houses in the Howdenshire village Holme on Spalding Moor (HOSM), and a further 239 applicants requesting consideration for re-housing into the village as one of their areas of choice. But the council has just 45 properties in the village – almost all occupied.

In areas such as HOSM, where homes are required, much new affordable housing is linked to new housing developments where a proportion of those new houses are affordable. But this can mean that unless there is allocated building land in the village, there is little scope for building the required affordable properties. This can be overcome by working in partnership with specialist affordable housing providers who can build on Green Field sites.

Gaining this dispensation is dependant on the communities bidding for affordable housing to match the identified need – those villages that want to grow by allowing children to leave home to live alone or with spouses/partners, without leaving their communities to do so.

Affordable housing required could be a mixture of not just rented accommodation, but also Homebuy shared ownership – which means young people, who would not have the opportunity to conventionally get onto the first rung of the property ladder, then have the opportunity through this shared ownership – paying part rent and part mortgage.

Allowing young people to remain in the villages in which they grew up is a very important element of community cohesion in most rural settlements. This is why it is important that local people, such as the HOSM Parish Council, who, through the Parish Plan, have identified the housing requirements of residents, make decisions on affordable housing.

So, in a nutshell, if affordable housing is to be provided in rural villages, the priority must be given to those who have a connection with the village, rather than further afield. This can only improve the village by allowing people to live and stay in their own community, and I fully support Parish Councils in what they are doing in this area.